Archive for the ‘next steps’ Category

Why do we even call it homeschooling at this point? I guess our home is still our base, the HQ of her education, but this year, more than ever, Z is ranging out far and wide to meet her educational needs. She is actually taking more classes outside of the house than in and I am only teaching five of her seventeen subjects.

Seventeen? Really? Wow! How are we managing that? I don’t know! I have been really lucky finding local resources that are a good fit for Z, especially her homeschooling school, which is she going to two full days a week this year. This year she is doing more subjects but spending less time on each of them. We will see how that works out.

Here they are:

Math: Holt Fuse Algebra app for the iPad  – 3 x wk

Piano: private lesson –  1 x wk + practice –  3-4 x wk

History/Geography : Post Revolution stuff I’m cobbling together/ Around the World in 180 Days – 2x wk

Current Events: OnlineG3 – 1x wk + homewrk (With Z’s favorite teacher Headmistress Guinevere.)

Reading: Right now we are reading The Great Gatsby and various poetry. After TGG we will start on Master Pieces of Short Fiction from The Great Courses.

Language Arts: Another one that I am teaching, we are still using Michael Clay Thompson Word within the Word, Advanced Academic Writing, Magic Lens, and Poetry– 2x wk

Odyssey of the Mind: a collaborative creative problem solving class she is taking at our local homeschool school. – 1x wk

Model U.N.: another collaborative class at her homeschool school where the students are doing hands-on/roleplaying learning about current events, international relations, diplomacy and problem solving. – 1x wk

Naturalist Training: Her 3rd class at the homeschooling school. Described online as teaching an awareness of the patterns of animal behavior and the key characteristics of plants, maintaining a nature journal, creating a plant and animal census, participating in a Hawk Watch, learning to use a variety of field guides, using a compass, making watercolors and sketches, and drawing maps. – 1x wk

Writing Workshop: Her 4th class at the school. This is the same class she took last year where the students made their own newspapers, wrote lots of poetry, participated in Nanowrimo, and wrote and performed a 45min play. I don’t know what they are going to do this year but I expect it will be great. – 1x wk

Biology: a high school class for homeschoolers. Most of it is stuff she already knows but it is cool for her to have access to labs.- 1x wk + homewrk

French: private lessons – 1x wk +homewrk

Musical Theater: Z is finally getting to fulfill a dream she had since she was 3 or 4 to be in Les Miserables. This is a local theater production for middle and high school students. – 1x wk

Circus Aerials: Z moved up to the advanced class this year. – 1x wk

Art: Another class I facilitate. We just do a lot of random projects. Zoe enjoys anything hands-on. – 1x wk

Girl’s Choir: This is Z’s second year at Girl Choir. – 1x wk

Hebrew/Religious School: When we changed temples I moved Zoe back a year (she was grade skipped) so that she (actually so I) would have another year to get ready for her Bat Mitzvah. The verdict is still out on this new Temple. . . but I feel like we just need to stick with it. We can’t keep changing communities this close to her Bat Mitzvah. – 2x wk

Don’t those classes look great?! Some of those might need to drop off in the Spring if, as I fear, we over-scheduled ourselves.  But, even with all those classes, I have managed to protect some free time for her every day. She uses it to write music or stories, read, swim, design outfits, hang out with her friends, play, etc. She is a creative girl and she needs that downtime to create, to be herself, find herself, create herself, etc.

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I guess everyone knew it was going to be harder for me when Zoe went to sleep-away summer camp for two weeks than it was going to be for her. Not that Zoe isn’t adorably attached to me, we are still as we have ever been, the closest companions. But going away on an exciting adventure is fun and diverting in a way that being left behind usually isn’t. Except it was.

The initial five days were easy. Brian and I had our first alone-for-longer-than-a-weekend vacation  in years and years. We slept in every morning. We spent some part of each day outside, hiking up to waterfalls, riding zip lines, or ski-dooing around the lake. Every evening we ate and drank at a fine French restaurant. It was decadent.

And the next week, all alone during the day, my time was my own. I could go when and where I wanted, eat where and when I wanted, watch British movies on Netflix, read, write, and nap. And that felt even more decadent!

I was totally prepared to miss Zoe fiercely and painfully. Her summer camp doesn’t allow cellphones or email. I thought I might only hear from her two or three times and, in between, I would be worried and wondering if she was happy and safe. But her camp has this cool system where I can send her an email and they print it out and give it to her and she hand writes me a letter and they fax it to me. My dear girl sent me nine letters in two weeks. They were short but long enough to let me know she was happy and having loads of fun. So there was nothing to worry about.

So, this little experiment of mine, has been a success, at least on my side, and by all accounts, for Zoe as well. I decided to celebrate this last afternoon of my vacation with a slice of cake. I’m not celebrating Zoe’s absence or her return, but the not small triumph of things turning out better than you thought they would.

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New House Blues

So we are getting a new house (fingerscrossed), and we close in <three weeks. I am alternately very excited about our new house (especially the swimming pool) and also feeling resentful and stressed at it. Is that weird?

I just loved our last house. Loved, loved, loved it. For whatever reason, it just kind of fit me. It pleased me and I felt natural in it.

Our new house is pushing some buttons in me:

For awhile I was all “It’s too big! We are being greedy consumerists!”

Then I was all, “Who do I think I am? I don’t get to have a house with extra space and a pool.”

Then I was, “Am I going to turn into a Stepford Wife with matching non-IKEA furniture and a tennis bracelet?”

And of course I worry, “Does a  clean and updated house mean that I have to be clean and updated? Or can I still be a messy weirdo?”

My poor husband really doesn’t get it, he grew up in a clean updated house with clean updated parents. I come from a long line of messy weirdos. And Z is all “Pool! Pool! Pool! Pool! Pool!”

I do realize that the house is really NOT that fancy. It is not a mansion or even a McMansion. I also realize that I probably left therapy too soon if four bedrooms, some wainscoting, and powerflush toilets can trigger both my inferiority complex and my fear of being turned into a robot wife.

Anyway, here are some pictures of our really not very fancy and non-Stepfording (I hope) house.

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I’ve lived a lot of places, really really a lot. Not all of them have been homes, some of them I can hardly remember. But whether I lived there for a short time or a long time, each location, neighborhood and even the layout of the house somehow shaped my life.

Like my first house, across the street from the elementary school, I learned to ride a two-wheeler in the parking lot and got blisters upon blisters on the monkey bars.

Once we moved to Florida there was telling myself ghost stories  in an attic bedroom, then with grandma, then in a house with a palm tree and sidewalk that I drove my big wheel up and down, and a triplex where a friend’s mom banished me for being a “lesbian.”

Then there was the duplex in the neighborhood with all the kids and the empty lot where I climbed trees, built a clubhouse, and stepped on a rusty nail, leading to my first tetanus shot.

In 5th and 6th grade we lived in a townhouse near a lake and some woods and Scott Tullman, who put me in a full nelson the day I learned that I wasn’t always going to succeed at everything I put my mind to.

Then I was back to grandma’s, then the one bedroom “house” in the ghetto – a real ghetto where someone was selling crack on the street. And finally into another townhouse, the house I ran away from. Actually I didn’t run away from the house, more like the booze, the turmoil and the instability.

But hey… where was a going with this trip down memory lane? I didn’t intend to end up on skidrow. So, let’s skip a few houses and… a few more.

Now I am a grown-up, in the first house I am living alone in. It’s not really a house. It is more of a “house,” a pool house to be exact. But it is the first time I lived alone. It’s small but doesn’t seem too small to me. There is only a hot plate but who wants to cook food anyway? I live on cereal, pepperoni sticks, and soda and I absolutely love it. I had dreamed and yearned of a place all to myself and I was happy there.

In a couple years I somehow end up in Fort Lauderdale, within biking distance to it’s famous Spring Break beaches. Life is nice there. We find a HUGE tv on the street that says “Works Sometimes” and haul it home. That was my life then, it worked sometimes, until it didn’t.

Then I was living in a version of Friends: Ft. Lauderdale style. I had a bunch of mates. We all worked together and lived in the same apartment complex. Sometimes we all hung out in the hot tub after work. I was stressed and Brian offered to give me a back rub. That was some back rub. (and I am really talking about a back rub.)

Virginia was where our baby was born. But that apartment was no home. And soon Brian took me “home” to L.A.. But we moved around a lot there too, priced out of the housing market, we rented one place after another. I didn’t give my heart to those places. They were like unsuitable boyfriends that you know you are just wasting time with, except I never did that.

So, that is how we ended up in South Bend in the perfect house, in the perfect neighborhood, in city that was really just too damn cold. I loved that house. I really did. And the town was uncommonly beautiful. It inspired me to write Dream Girl and Brian to build Zoe a castle, a CASTLE for god’s sake! Zoe had friends and a type of “old-fashioned” childhood, chasing fireflies, skipping rocks on the river bank, decorating her bike for the neighborhood 4th of July parade. We found and rescued a dog. I became the “Halloween Party lady.” Brian and I both started running and pounded the pavement in the Northshore Triangle. We lived a good life. We had good neighbors. We made good friends. That house was a healing place, literally and figuratively. I healed from my cancer treatment there. I also healed from some childhood wounds. We had some special magical moments there, and I am so grateful for them.

Now we have a new house on the horizon. What kind of home will it be? What adventures will we have there? How will it shape my life? How will it shape Zoe’s? What will I do that I will have only done because of that house? How will the landscape influence the path of my life? It is all very exciting. I am looking forward to making that house our home.


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New Normal

Well, it only took about a year for it to really sink in. I have no breasts and there is no going back. At least not for me.

It is physically possible that I could get reconstructive surgery. I have enough fat to spare to make like six extra boobs, if I wanted them. But, I finally realized, I really don’t.

When I made the choice not to get reconstruction I felt very strongly that I was making the right decision. My surgeon disagreed. He said something about it being sad to have two fewer boobs in the world. He also said things like “You’re still young and attractive.” (uh.. thanks) and “They will be pert and firm even in your eighties.” (uh… ew?) and “We can make them tasteful.” (boobs! yum!) But I was just like “No.” “No, thank you.” and “Dude, I said no.”

But, there was still that thought niggling around in my mind whispering doubts like “Maybe it would be better. Maybe I would be prettier. Maybe it would be easier.” And, every time I would remind myself that it is just not worth it, not for me anyway. Still, the doubts would come creeping back, tempting me and making me feel unsatisfied, if just slightly.

Until yesterday, when something shifted, and slid into place and fit there comfortably. I am not going to change my mind. This is it. It is what is right for me. There are always going to be lots of maybes and what ifs in life, like “Is this the right house for me?” “Is this the right educational path for my child?” or “What if I took that job offer?’ But, thank god, there are also times when the what ifs and maybes fall away and you are where you are and you like it, maybe even love it, or it just feels right, even if it is not perfect.

I am happy for even this small amount of acceptance. When so much of life is up in the air, it feels good to be able to let some things go.

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Celebrate good times

I like to celebrate. I celebrate birthdays, holy days, TGIF, quitting time, the start of basketball season, accomplishing a hard won goal, the release of the next great book (or movie) in a beloved series, graduations, milestones, transitions, the longest day of the year, the longest night, and the days when the day and night are the same length. 😉

I like excuses to eat special food, decorate the house, maybe even buy some special gifts to commemorate the event. Celebrations don’t really stress me out. Maybe because I usually keep it low-key. But, sometimes, I really don’t. *cough*Halloween*cough* I guess I like to make life more magical. I’m kind of still a kid in that way (and in many other ways too :P)

Today is another big milestone for me. Today is my one year anniversary of being cancer free. Last year, at this time, I was being taken into surgery to have a bilateral mastectomy. They found 2 tumors, one was stage 2 and one was more like stage 0. After my surgery, I was, for all intents and purposes, cancer free.

I was SO scared in the couple weeks leading up to the surgery. Not about the cutting or the loss or the pain. Nope. I was scared of going under anesthesia. I really hated the idea that I could be put to sleep and never wake up again. I knew it was extremely unlikely, but still, the idea haunted me.

I had, just recently, bought remastered versions of every Beatles’ album on CD. And I decided that, if I did die, I wanted to leave something to my friends. So I wrote the names of my friends on slips of paper and put one in each CD. Then I told Brian “If I don’t wake up make sure my friends get these.”

I pulled out some special books from my library to give to other friends. I wrote Zoe a letter. I told Brian my final wishes, etc.

But then, a couple days before the surgery, I let the fear go. Or maybe it let go of me. I realized that if I did die, well I wouldn’t even know. And that there would be nothing for me to be sad about. I knew my family was strong and that they would be okay without me. And my friends, well hopefully whenever they heard certain Beatles’ songs they would think of me and be happy they knew me.

This morning, when I woke up, I lay in bed and tried to remember the series of events leading up to my surgery last year. I remembered the brown coat I wore to the hospital. I remembered the velcro things they wrapped around my legs to keep me from getting blood clots, I remembered the dark warm room where they drew x’s and lines on my breasts. I remember trying to keep things light, for Zoe’s sake and holding Brian’s hand.

There are parts I can’t remember, because the anesthesia has a amnesic effect. But I do remember struggling to wake up in the recovery room. And I remember part of my drug addled brain being super-freaking-fantasically-happy to have woken up.

Then I found out that the surgery went really well. I got to go home the next day. And, over the next few weeks, I healed quickly and without complications.

I had to do chemo, just in case there were any stray cancer cells still in my body. But there was no reason to think there were. My margins were really good and so was my surgeon. So, as far as we know, December 10th 2010 I had no cancer in my body. And, as far as we know now, I still don’t. :)IMO, that is definitely worth celebrating.

I suppose if my friends lived nearby I might have them over tonight for a happy little party. Hmmm, that would be cool. Maybe for my 5 year anniversary. 🙂 Maybe then I’ll take those slips of paper out of my Beatles’ CDs too.

My plans for today are to go to the mall, by myself, and buy a fancy dress to wear to Brian’s company Christmas party. I am looking forward to it because I don’t really get a lot of time to myself. I might treat myself to a holiday latte and maybe some cute new shoes too. Tonight I will do something with B and Z. Brian is downstairs concocting a family game for us all to play together. I might request some serious snuggling time as well.

I don’t think you have to do all that much to celebrate. It is more of a mindset. You just decide the day, the hour, the moment is special and make it so. But, I definitely and legitimately have something to celebrate today. 🙂


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Last night I was feeling kind of insecure about mistakes I’d made earlier in the day, about times when I was not my best. My mind went to the old familiar place of shame and fear that I am not good enough. Then I went to the next habitual place of “what can I do to be better?”

I think I set a lot of challenges for myself, like Nanowrimo, or this month’s, “exercise everyday for 60 min”, for not totally healthy reasons. I think I am often trying to better myself as opposed to loving myself. And maybe, probably, those two things don’t have to be opposed. But for me, loving myself hardly ever enters into my mind, or my life. I am not sure I even know how to love who I am, without the constant striving. I have a really hard time forgiving myself for not being better.

But that is not how I treat people that I love. I love my husband, my daughter, my friends, for every little part of them. They don’t have to be perfect, or better than they are. I love the whole package.

So, how do I turn even a fraction of that love towards myself? Last night, in my quasi-dream state I thought I might make it into a challenge (of course I did), something like “Try loving myself for 30 days.” Heh.

I am really not sure how to do that. I have some vague ideas about being attentive to what I am feeling when I am eating, drinking, walking, reading, etc, to see if I like how I am feeling, as well as notice my self-talk and try to develop a more loving “inner voice.”

I don’t know. I feel like I have come a long way in the last few years. Therapy and avoiding situations that reenforced a negative self-concept have really really helped. But there are so many layers to this onion. I need to keep working at it.

So, how do you love yourself? Do you have any insight? Practical, spiritual, psychological? Cause I would like to feel better about not being better.

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