Going through my photos from 2018 has reminded me of how many good moments we had throughout the year, and how much I have to be grateful for.
The year kicked off in a dark place with Mom’s cancer diagnosis, but after chemo, surgery and radiation (and now oral chemo), we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The experience, plus some other incidents this year, taught me that no matter how much you may try, you’re never really in control of your destiny. An illness or an accident can so quickly end or derail whatever you’ve got going on. Worrying about that happening doesn’t do any good either – you just have to swing at the curveballs life throws at you and hope for the best.
This year I got out and did some exciting things – I marched in marches, and I ran in 5k’s. I learned how to cut glass, make a slumped glass vase, make fused glass ornaments and I am currently working on my second stained glass piece. I travelled to Vermont lots of times to visit Mom, Indianapolis for a work trip, Maine for a family get-together, and the grand finale of course, was our impromptu trip to Costa Rica!
So, despite whatever bad things happened in 2018, they were far outweighed by good things and positive experiences. I’m sure 2019 will be the same – while you might not be able to control your destiny, you can certainly control your attitude along the way.
So much for my “life purpose” of sharing my experiences so others can know they aren’t alone. Failure!
I won’t bore you with excuses for why I haven’t written all summer. None of them are really valid reasons. The truth of the matter is that I am just lazy and unorganized.
Today I write to you from the shores of Lake Champlain. I am up here to help my mom recover from her mastectomy. She is doing really, really well. It’s so awesome. The chemo was incredibly challenging, especially the last couple of doses of the cocktail I mentioned in my last post called the Red Devil.
I had been worried about her all throughout chemo, because it is really hard for me to accept that in order to fight the cancer, they have to practically poison you to death to do so. The Red Devil was no joke. She felt worse than ever. Her blood counts were incredibly low. After her last dose, she had to get a blood transfusion because everything was so low. However, within a few days of the transfusion, she was feeling much better. She said she went from feeling like 40% of herself to about 70%, and that now (5 weeks post-chemo) she feels like her normal self again!
Obviously chemo is a tried-and-true method, because her tumors shrank significantly, and one of the smaller ones disappeared completely. The cancer that had been in her lymph nodes was nowhere to be found at the time of surgery.
As for the surgery, they removed her affected breast but only took out a couple of lymph nodes. This made the surgery a lot less invasive than it could have been. It also means she won’t have to worry about lymphedema, which is a condition that can develop if you get all the lymph nodes taken out of an area.
I can’t believe how well she is doing for someone who just had a part of her body removed. I was expecting her to be bedridden and immobile, but if you saw her out in public you wouldn’t even know she’d had surgery less than a week ago. Well, unless you saw the drain poking out of her shirt. Ew!
Well, time for me to take the doggie for a walk. One of my goals this week is to get back into the blog and plan out the content for the next few months. I’m taking requests! Let me know if there’s an eec-related topic you want me to talk about, or if you would prefer I philosophize about some aspect of life in general, I could obviously do that too.
I haven’t felt much like writing lately. I have felt more like burrowing deep into my home and not coming out for an indeterminate amount of time.
I suppose we could blame my melancholy on the time of year, although I am hyper-aware that each successive morning and evening is a little brighter than the one before, thanks to the ever-changing rotation of the earth’s axis. Yeah that’s right, I have a science degree.
Perhaps we can blame it on my mom’s cancer, because you know I’m already milking that for all it’s worth. “Sorry, that thing you invited me to? I can’t go, because… my mom is sick.”
Meanwhile, she’s 300 miles away, so it’s not like I can do much for her from my own home. But, I did go up to visit her last week. At this point my function in visiting her is to bring tidings of comfort and joy. I brought books, magazines, games, and of course, my winning personality.
We shared a hermit-like existence for a few days, which are my favorite kind of days. Introvert life! We sat around reading and drinking tea, slowly plodding away at a puzzle, and when she took her naps, I worked on my artsy things or took the dog out for a walk. In the evenings, we’d enjoy dinner while watching a movie. It’s the lifestyle I wish I could live every day. Except for the cancer part, of course.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what to do next. I’ve been trying to nurture my artistic side as much as I can, and my writing, although many days it’s a challenge to come home from work and plop down in front of my laptop, or at my art table, although it pains me more when I neglect to do so.
Lately, I feel like I am frustrated so much of the time. I feel like there’s never enough time to do the things I want to do. (See above paragraph about reading, puzzling, making art and taking long walks…). I feel like there’s got to be a better way to balance my life.
Speaking of balance, one thing I have done to improve my life lately is join Weight Watchers. I lost 2.4 lbs in the first week, so that was cool. I’ll have to write more about that in another post because my eyes are ready for bed now. It looks like tomorrow will be a work-from-home day, thanks to the storm that’s coming.
So stay tuned, friends, and let’s venture into the unknown together… or, we can just hang out in the same old, predictable middle-class lifestyle… eww, just kidding. Let’s check out the unknown.
“Get it! GET IT!” my teammates shout as the gleaming white volleyball hurtles toward me like a meteor.
More defensively than athletically, I stick my palm outward to shove the ball away from my face. My face – always the target of flying objects – as if all the surgical trauma wasn’t enough.
The ball makes an unsatisfying thwack sound as it makes contact with my hand. Seconds later it hits the floor.
Everyone groans. The gym teacher’s whistle blasts piercingly and we rotate. I shuffle into the next spot, praying that the ball will somehow avoid coming anywhere near me.
The other team’s server can’t get the ball over the net. At least I’m not the only gym class failure here today.
Our team serves. The more athletic girls volley the ball back and forth over the net. They actually seem to be having fun. What is that like? I wonder.
Suddenly, the ball is coming my way again. My pulse quickens as my brain tries to decide the proper course of action. This time it is to step out of the way to avoid being hit.
The ball sails out of the court and my teammates groan and roll their eyes at each other. Why is this girl such a loser? I can hear them asking each other.
I allow myself to feel empty. Feeling nothing makes it easier to bear the shame and embarrassment of being so physically inept. If I could vaporize into thin air, I would do it.
The minute hand on the clock moves ever so slowly. I consider that the clock might actually be broken. It will surely be an eternity before I am allowed to change out of the unflattering gray gym clothes and feel the comforting weight of my books in my arms.
Today’s date is a significant one for me – it is Gram’s birthday, first and foremost. She would have been 95 today. If she was still alive, the McKelvie clan would have gathered together to celebrate with a nice dinner, and, more importantly, a nice dessert. I suppose we could have gotten together anyway, and had a celebration in her honor… but it’s not the same without her.
In other news, four years ago today, I started this blog!
Today was a good day for me – perhaps Gram was somehow guiding my hand, but I actually did everything on my to-do list! I made an appointment with a career coach, and an appointment with a nutritionist, AND I took care of my dad’s big birthday gift which we will present to him in a few weeks. I think I’ll take the rest of the week off.
1492 Crewman on Pinta sights “land”-a few weeks early (look out Native Americans…)
1780 Benedict Arnold joins the British (traitor!)
1836 HMS Beagle anchors at St Michael (aww, Darwin)
1878 British physician Dr. Charles Drysdale warns against the use of tobacco in a letter to The Times newspaper in one of the earliest public health announcements on the dangers of smoking (damn! and people STILL smoke.)
1919 US president Woodrow Wilson suffers a breakdown in Colorado, his health never recovers (I didn’t even know this happened!)
1926 Henry Ford announces 8 hour, 5-day work week (Dammit Henry… couldn’t you have gone with 5 hours per day, or perhaps a 3-day work week? I have hobbies!)
1965 Children find trunk with corpse in Amsterdam canal (WTF.)
1974 US performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site
1974 Scientists first report that freon gases from aerosol sprays are destroying the ozone layer (1974 was a bad year…)
1981 Sandra Day O’Connor sworn in as 1st female supreme court justice (woot!)
1993 Action TV series “Walker, Texas Ranger” starring Chuck Norris debuts on CBS
1997 “ER” is performed live on TV (I remember that!)
There’s a ton more events on the actual page… a lot of it is related to sports and politics, so bleh.
Before I sign off, I’ll mention that I have been working on a post entitled “Losing my Religion” where I get into all the things that happened on my way out of Christadelphia. It’s been interesting for me to look back at everything that happened, and now that it’s been more than a decade, I can actually see everything so much more clearly. I almost wish I could travel back in time and rescue myself much earlier… but I suppose that I needed to go through all that ish in order to become the person I am now. It is also draining to rehash all those feelings and emotions I went through. It will probably end up being a series of posts, otherwise it will be so long and unbearable that no one will read the whole thing.
Alright – it’s off to bed for me… I promise to share more about the career coaching thing too, once I have more to share. 🙂
Yes, it’s been approximately two million seconds since I posted last. I’ve been spending a lot of time with myself.
It started when I got sick after conference, and was lying around recovering and thinking. I realized that I’d been spending less and less time on self-care, and it had been wearing me down and making me a miserable brat. So I resolved to return to doing things to help me feel better and be healthier. Here are a few of them:
The first thing I knew I had to do was get back to meditating every day.
Perhaps I was impressed by the fact that he actually trained to be a Buddhist monk, but I really felt like his intentions are to help people learn to meditate. It is a paid app, but it’s less than $100 for a year, whereas I looked into doing Transcendental Meditation and was disappointed to find that it’s like $1500. Namastay away from that one.
Over the past several years, I’ve read a ton of books about mindfulness and meditation – mostly while flying somewhere on a plane. (Planes are perfect places to meditate!) Some of my favorites are:
Since I’ve been using a fitbit, I can see how many hours of sleep I’ve been getting each night. I’ve always known that I’m a night owl, and if left to my own devices, I could easily stay up until midnight or the wee hours of the morning. Which would be fine, if I didn’t need to get up and function the next day. My fitbit was telling me that on average, I wasn’t getting more than 6.5 hours a night.
For some people, that’s probably a decent amount of sleep, but for me, I know I need at least 8 hours to really feel refreshed. I have spoken with others who have ectodermal dysplasias and found that they too need nice, long sleeps, or else they feel sluggish, have more eye problems, and get sick easier.
So now, I make bedtime a priority, knowing that anything that’s not life or death can just wait until the next day. I’ve also made arrangements to go in to work a little later, which gives me some more time to sleep in the mornings, and also gives me more time for my next life-improving activity:
Getting my walk on!
I truly love taking walks at the beginning and end of the day. Morning walks are nice, because everything and everyone is just waking up. It’s quiet and calm, and you’ll see wildlife – deer, rabbits, tons of birds, squirrels and chipmunks, turkeys – and even the occasional skunk.
I like evening walks even more, because the light after the sun sets turns everything into a Monet painting. All of the colors and shapes soften and blur – it’s very calming. Plus, I like looking in people’s windows when their lights are on. (Just in passing – not in a creepy way!)
For a while a tried running, but I felt like poop half the time, and I decided that since I don’t actually need to lose weight, and have no plans to run a marathon, I should quit suffering and just go back to walking.
Eating like I give a damn
I have a bumper sticker on my car that says “Eat like you give a damn”. I’ve always meant for it to remind people to think of where their food comes from, and that you should give a damn about it and not eat crap, and not support factory farms and not eat animal products. Yet, I tend to get lazy about the vegetarian food I eat… I will eat salads for lunch every day for a week, but not really pay attention to whether I’m getting enough of what I need. I will eat bagels for breakfast, because they are easy to throw in the toaster and heat up – but deep down, I know they have very little nutritional value. I will eat more carbs and veggies for dinner, but again, whatever is handy for me to just throw together quickly. I love vegan chick’n and veggie burgers because they are easy to make, but I know that even though it doesn’t contain meat, it doesn’t equal healthy food.
So, I’ve resolved to make a better effort to buy healthy stuff in the first place, and take more time to prepare my meals in advance. It’s going to be the hardest thing for me because I really don’t enjoy food prep. But I have to make the commitment if I want to be healthier… otherwise, what’s going to fuel all that walking?
Let’s see how long my resolve to do all of the above lasts. Most of it is normal daily routine stuff, but I tend to fall out of these habits and make excuses about being too busy to be able to fit them in. But that’s just foolishness. I’m going to MAKE the time, baby!
Pro tip: Not being Facebook is a totally rad way to gain more time in a day.
On July 1, 2017, my brother John married his longtime love Cara, in a beautiful Vermont wedding.
The party began on Friday afternoon, when many of the guests began arriving at the Echo Lake Inn in Ludlow, VT. It was raining off and on, so we were mostly confined to the porch, where everyone was gathered at tables, drinking beer and wine and getting to know each other.
Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration. Some people were getting to know each other, but my family was clustered together at one table, trying to catch up with each others’ recent life events. Still, I did get to meet some of John’s college friends and Cara’s friends and family.
After a BBQ dinner, the plan was to have a bonfire, s’mores and lawn games – like the customized cornhole game that Cara’s dad had made, and the giant Jenga blocks that my dad made. However, the weather was being uncooperative, and after only a few s’mores had been constructed and only a few corn bags tossed, the rain picked up and everyone ran for cover on the porch.
Kris, Grey, Nick and Matt, Bruce (my dad’s dog) and Dave and I all shared a condo that weekend. It was in a separate building from the Inn, though not very far away. We had envisioned that we would be up late in our party condo, sharing hilarious tales while we drank and played games into the wee hours of the morning. However, by the time we got back to the condo, we went right to bed. (We had to save our energy for the big day!)
Saturday dawned rainy and dark. Checking the weather forecast left us with little hope of the day clearing up in time for the 3:30 pm wedding ceremony. We ate breakfast in the inn and proceeded to play some Jenga during a break in the rain.
After a while, the rain picked up again and we retreated back to our condo. Dad and Lisa brought us sandwiches from the general store and we all ate lunch while watching reruns of Roseanne. I began working on my hair, although I knew it was probably a waste of time since the humidity was guaranteed to undo any styling efforts I put forth.
We rushed back to the porch to be in time for our 1:30pm photo session, only to find out that the photographer had gone to Echo Lake Lodge near Lake George, NY – a vast two hours away! Luckily, one of Cara’s friends offered to take some photos of us while we waited for the hired photographer to get there.
Birth order, prom photo style…
It’s odd that I’m the only one not touching my face here.
Dave and I
As the afternoon went on, the rain would let up for a few minutes at a time before returning at full force. Would we be able to have the wedding ceremony outside or not? We all hoped for a miraculous clearing of the clouds, but alas. It was not to be.
It was interesting to watch the Inn staff turn the reception tent into a wedding tent in less than 10 minutes. I suspect they might have done this before.
The ceremony was beautiful. Cara looked stunning in her gown and birdcage veil and John was handsome in his navy blue suit. Their friend Dana officiated and did a really nice job of it. No sooner had the ceremony begun, when the sun broke through the clouds and a sunbeam shone right through the plastic tent window.
I was honored to participate in the ceremony by reading a wedding blessing. I rarely get emotional at weddings – but as I looked up from my reading and saw John and Cara watching me intently, I was filled with emotion. I steeled myself and finished the reading without full-on weeping, but the floodworks burst forth when they exchanged their vows (which they had written themselves). To be fair, I think everyone in the whole tent got misty-eyed.
Watching my little brother, now all grown up, marrying the love of his life tugged at my heartstrings like nothing else. It made me feel nostalgic, sentimental, happy and excited all at the same time, and it all came leaking out of my eyes. I think the fact that they have already been together for 10 years and been through many ups and downs made their professions of love for each other all that more meaningful.
That night, the reception was filled with laughter and fun. John and Cara’s bridesmaids and groomsmen gave hilarious speeches about the two of them. The tent was decorated in a constellation/starry night theme, with twinkling lights wrapped around all the poles, a star projector shining up on the ceiling, and custom centerpieces on all the tables.
The tent flooded at least once during the party
Cara’s dad made this backlit sign
We love light-up stuff.
We hit the dance floor and the party didn’t stop until 11pm, which must have been the curfew set by the Inn. We all migrated to the bar in the cellar of the Inn, though unfortunately we could not get the dance party to resume there.
The next day, we gathered for breakfast together before all heading off on our separate ways. John and Cara would be going off to Portugal for their honeymoon!
Regrettably, I did not take more pictures during the weekend. Actually, most of the above photos are thanks to Kris McKelvie, Grey Houle and Kaitlyn Clifford. So thank you all for letting me use them in the blog.
After we said our goodbyes, Dave and I were off to Londonderry, VT, where we would spend the next few days relaxing and exploring the great green mountain state. Stay tuned for more of our adventures in Vermont!
I am writing this from my bed at the Pillar and Post Inn in Niagara on the Lake. Not to be confused with Niagara Falls – it is NOT the same place. (Though the Falls are not far from here.) This is wine country. Continue reading Hello from Ontario!→
If I’ve ever loved anything in my life it has been the Little House books. Last year, my mom gave me a new book, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, and I was once again able to connect with a kindred spirit from so long ago.
The book contains some early drafts of Little House in the Big Woods, and reading them just melts my heart. I intensely relate to the feeling of being a tiny girl in a big, vast world and being so eager to learn about it all. I just want to transport myself to that little cabin, even though in real life it probably smelled weird, had fleas and was dead boring during those long winter days.
I don’t even know how many times I read Little House on the Prairie. I remember my mom giving it to me one evening and telling me that it was a story she thought I would like about a little girl during the pioneer days. Right away, I fell in love with Laura and Pa’s adventurous spirits, and the thought of being able to explore the wild, undeveloped woods and prairies of early America.
As I grew up, we would often look back and laugh at some of the situations described which would now be considered highly inappropriate for a children’s book – Ma describing Indians as savages, Laura demanding that she wanted to have the Indian baby with the beady black eyes, the scene with Pa in blackface… (I had NO idea what that was about and didn’t even comprehend that it was a racial thing until like, 20 years later.) Not to mention the fact that they built their “little house” in Indian Territory. Of course, I wouldn’t understand any of these things until much later.
Those things never took away from my love of the stories or of the people in them. Times change, and people learn from past mistakes. I will always hold Laura Ingalls Wilder as one of my favorite storytellers and hope to follow in her footsteps with some books of my own someday.
What do you think? Average-Sized Ranch in the Suburbs doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out.
I wrote this post last spring, and it’s been sitting in my drafts folder ever since. I’m not sure what held me back from posting it then, but reading it now makes me smile. Everything I wrote here still holds true. I take comfort in these memories.
Yesterday as I knelt in the garden to clear away the winter rubble, I thought of you. Of your scarf tied down over the curlers in your hair as you showed me how to pull up a whole weed – roots and all – so it couldn’t grow back.
I think of you when I stand at the sink and scrub potatoes. Your fingers could so nimbly skin a whole pile of them, with a knife, no less, in the time it took me to fumble the peeler over just one lousy potato.
Sometimes just the smell of soap as I walk into my bathroom will remind me of the tiny bathroom at your house, and I’ll think about how you kept three toothbrushes at once so that you would never brush your teeth with a wet toothbrush.
When I’m driving with my windows down and the breeze through my hair – too fast, of course – I smile and remember how they called you “Leadfoot Lois.” You were brazen when you wanted to be, but mostly you were calm and level-headed and I always felt safe when I was in your presence. Okay, except for a few times when you were driving too fast.
On the weekends, when I prepare coffee in the afternoon, I smile to think of how you and Uncle Rob would have your late afternoon coffee and chat.
I often think of the joy I felt in my heart upon seeing you for the first time when you’d come to our house to visit, or arrive at meeting on Sunday mornings. You always dressed so smartly and wore your trademark lipstick, so you didn’t “look dead.”
Sandwiches always tasted better at your house. To this day I can’t pass a loaf of marble rye without my mouth watering at the thought.
It’s been more than two years since you’ve been gone. I hope you’ll forgive me for being sentimental. I was so fortunate to have a Gram like you, and I really do miss you every day. I know there will always be a part of you in me – you have touched my life so deeply.