November 23, 2011, 9:03 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This is the eve of being grateful and thankful, and this year I am struggling to be either of those things at all, what with the terrible awful.

But if Catholic guilt has taught me anything, I know that when I am feeling the least thankful and grateful, that’s when I need to be the most. Because I still have things for which to thank God, luck, my family and my friends.

And if it’s cheesy, I don’t care. I need to say it more now than ever before, because I need to remind myself of it the most right now, to get me through whatever is coming next.

1. I am first and foremost thankful for my family. We might be small, and we might be spread all over, and we might be loud, and we might have a tough time showing affection, but when things get rough and scary, we throw all the love and prayers and hope and kindness and comfort food we can find at each other. Things are hard right now. But without these people and all the love? It would be so much harder, for D, and for every one of us who love her. I wish that were enough. I hope it is.

2. In a close second, I am thankful for my friends. My kind, supportive, loving, helpful, funny, smart, beautiful, wonderful friends. We don’t have to see each other all the time, talk all the time (although sometimes we do), or even like each other all the time. I love that I’ve surrounded myself with a group of women (and men, I guess) from elementary school all the way to this year who get me in such a wonderful way. I’m honored that they consider me a friend. And let me drink wine with them. I’m glad I don’t waste time or energy on anyone but Good People. 

Everything else is in no particular order.

3. I am thankful for my pets. Not even my family and my friends give me that level of blatant, unconditional adoration. Well, the cat doesn’t, I guess. But she’s so pretty, I guess it’s okay. They’re all hilarious and loving and cuddly. Okay, again, Dora isn’t cuddly except when she wants to be. But still.

4. I am thankful for the opportunities I have. I am so happy doing what I’m doing. I’m so happy with my research, my classes, and what is coming next. Yes, it stresses me out, scares me, and is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But the scariest things are the ones you have to do the most. 

5. I am thankful for central heat. I just am. It’s awesome. 

6. I am thankful for how well I sleep. Seriously, you guys who have a hard time sleeping because of insomnia, or children, or uncomfortable beds, I really and truly do not understand how you get through the day. Sleep is awesome. 

7. I am grateful for my food. Not my ‘diet’ or any of that junk. I really love the food I eat most of the time. I love that I make most of it myself. It makes me feel strong, independent and well fed. 

8. I am grateful for my faith, my God. You don’t have to agree with me. I’m grateful for what I have, because I don’t know how much I would be capable of without it. If that makes me weak, so be it. I am weak, but I am strong with God.

9. I am grateful for the people, situations and things that piss me off, upset me, challenge me and even hurt me. When I have to deal with something or someone difficult, I learn something about myself. I have a long way to go before I’m the person my dogs think I am, and the hard stuff is the crucible to get there. This, at least, is what I tell myself in the moment. (My cat knows exactly what kind of person I am, and she is rightly disdainful)

10. I am grateful for my husband. He is the best person I have ever met. I want to be him when I grow up, even when he makes me spitting mad. Of everything I have ever been given, he is the greatest blessing I will ever have. Of that I am certain. 

So! Now that I’ve made you nauseous with my sap, what are you thankful for? Family, friends, indoor plumbing, quality hair products? Tell me! I’m likely grateful for them as well, and need to be reminded. 


November 4, 2011, 3:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’d like to tell you about my family.

On my dad’s side, I am, by far, the baby of the family. My dad was in his 40s when I was born, the product of his 3rd marriage. My brother was 13; our two cousins were 15 (G) and 17 (D). My Grandma referred to me as her ‘favorite surprise’. My dad only has one sister. To say the least, we are a small family.

On my mom’s side, I was the first grandbaby. But it’s a small family there, too. My mom is 1 of 4, but she and her sister each only produced 1 daughter, and my uncles never married.

Thus, I only have 3 first cousins and 1 half brother. Teeny tiny. What we lack in numbers we make up for in volume, at least on my mom’s side.

My dad’s family has always been spread out. He and his sister grew up in Lancaster County, surrounded by Mennonites and cows. She married and they moved away, eventually landing down south. My dad moved one county north. My grandparents were close; my aunt, uncle and cousins were not.

But we tried. We were the only family we had, after all. We saw them a few times a year, less when my cousins and brother were in college. We all came together when my Grandpa died. My oldest cousin D was married by then. She and her husband drove me to the restaurant after the funeral in their tiny sports car. They played Prodigy on their fancy CD player in the car. I did not like Prodigy, but I thought they were totally cool and nice. I started accompanying my Grandma to the beach with my aunt, uncle and cousins. For about 4 or 5 summers, I spent the week with them down there. Again, I thought they were totally cool and awesome. D happened to be visiting PA around the time of my junior prom, and she stopped by to see me off and take pictures.

I left for college. I saw them a lot less then. It seemed like whenever they visited PA, I was unable to get across the state at the right time. D had a little girl, at last. G lived in Erie and came to Pittsburgh to take me to dinner. We all emailed occasionally. They came to my graduation party. They came to my bridal shower. They came to my wedding. They are good people. I wish we were all closer; I wish there were more of us.

D has stage 4 adenocarcinoma lung cancer. She’s in her 40’s. She has a little girl. Our grandma is 97 years old with nothing wrong with her but an aged body, and her very first grandbaby has stage 4 cancer. D’s birth was the reason Grandma got on an airplane for the first time in her life. She’s been healthy her whole life. She eats right, she exercises, she doesn’t smoke, she takes care of herself. And yet.

And yet.

I can’t tell you how much this sucks. I know it sucks terribly for her, her husband, her little girl, her parents, her brother. But it sucks for the whole family. My heart hurts for her, and for all of us. It feels like I’m in a bad dream. I know it’s cliche, but it does. I keep expecting to wake up. Except when I do wake up in the morning, the fact still remains.

I don’t know what else to do. What’s strange is I’m feeling this a lot more intensely than I remember feeling my dad’s illness 6 years ago. Perhaps I have blocked that out; perhaps I was blocking it out when it was happening. Perhaps it seemed less acutely unfair: he was, after all, in his 60’s, in poor health, after not taking care of himself very well his entire life, and both of his children were grown. She is young, in good health, takes very good care of herself, and her child is not grown.

This is unfair. I know life is unfair, I know cancer is particularly unfair. But damnit! This is really unfair!

I don’t know what else to do, so I’ve prayed about it. I’ve talked about it. Now I’ve written about it. I guess the next thing to do is knit her a shawl, and make some comfort food for myself.

I don’t know what else to do.