Posted in cancer, gratitude

A small tribute to Michelle

I was 31 when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

It was around then that support groups for young adults with cancer and survivors of cancer were starting to pop up.

I learned about one called I’m Too Young for This (some years later renamed Stupid Cancer). No idea how I learned about it, but through them, I met Michelle. She was the Phoenix coordinator.

Michelle was an amazing, fierce woman who didn’t take crap from anyone. She was in remission from a bout with colon cancer, had a husband, two young kids, and a fiery spirit.

We clicked and easily became good friends.

She was part of my support crew when I started my health and wellness business, when The Kid was born, when I went through my divorce.

I was part of her support crew when she coordinated the most successful Phoenix Undy 5000, when she was diagnosed with a recurrence, and in the last weeks of her life.

Different people gift different things to us. Michelle’s gift to me was strength. There was not a thing in the universe I couldn’t conquer with her behind me.

She was using in-home hospice and was looking for someone to stay with her for a few hours one morning. I took the day off and went out to visit her (we lived about an hour’s drive apart).

A few days later, I texted her and mentioned I would be available to come out the following day, if she wanted company or needed help.

“I wish I could say yes, but I have plans. Raincheck?”

It’s the last text I have from her.

One of her bucket list things to do was to run a half marathon. (I was reminded of this when reading through comments on an old Facebook post I’d made about my first triathlon, five years before her death.)

Two years ago, I ran the Phoenix Half Marathon in her honor.

(I have no need to run any more half marathons—longer than I would like to run—but it was the perfect storm: I had been running with a running club and was feeling really good about my running and had started to think that maybe someday I’d do a half marathon. Then I saw Michelle’s old comments about wanting to run one. Then I met The Climbing Daddy who was running all kinds of crazy stuff. And It Was So. That one was for you, girl. I hope it was sufficient!)

Michelle, I miss you. I miss our conversations. I miss the strength you gave to me (and to everyone around you, I suspect). You would love The Climbing Daddy. You would continue to be amazed at The Kid. (Remember when he used the word translucent? And how smitten he was with your chickens?) Thank you for all that you shared in our short time together. I am eternally grateful our paths crossed.


Posted in about me, differences, meandering

“I’d have nothing to do.”

I have heard people say that they can’t retire, or their spouse can’t retire, because they’d be bored. They’d have nothing to do.

I can’t imagine. There are so many things I want to do and learn and try that I suspect that if I retired immediately and lived 50 more years, I would have plenty to do.

(That doesn’t even include all of the traveling that The Climbing Daddy would drag me along for.)

(That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy traveling or that I’m an unwilling participant in the traveling—I have loved the places we’ve gone and things we’ve seen and done. It’s just not really on my radar. I’m a homebody.)

In no particular order…

I’d like to write more. I’ve prioritized it in the last few months, and that has been great! But I’d still like to spend more time writing.

I want to draw and paint more.

I’d like to learn photography and get good at it.

I want to finally get this house all put away, clean, tidy. (Is this even possible?)

I’d like to get solid exercise every day. And use the foam roller and have a long stretch. Every day.

I want to talk with people and learn their stories and have intimate conversations.

I’d like to get better at swing dancing and learn other types of dance.

I want to read all the books on my wish list, even as the list gets longer faster than I can read.

I’d like to play my ukulele more. And maybe learn to play bassoon.

I want to share meals with people more often, whether I cook said meals or meet people at restaurants or eat at their homes.

I’d like to be fluent in Spanish and sign, and maybe revisit German.

I want to try more new recipes with fewer time and energy constraints.

There are half a zillion other things. Those listed are close enough to the top of my list that they’re all at least getting a little bit of time now. (Some more than others. Except  bassoon.)

I can’t imagine being chronically bored.



Posted in education, gratitude, storytelling

Gratitude and musings: impactful teachers

I saw a meme that depicted a student climbing a ladder where the rungs were the arms of teachers and coaches. I saw a video of a recently-retired band teacher honored with a surprise concert and a massive instrument donation to his school. I reread a note from a former student who I had taught in 5th and 6th grade, written well after she’d entered adulthood, saying I was the best teacher she’d ever had.

I have been fortunate enough to have many great teachers in my life so far. Some of them, I remember only scattered details about content but remember how I felt. Some of them, I remember content. (Some of them weren’t explicitly in teacher roles.) But I’ve never had a teacher who left a positive impression on me who didn’t recognize my humanity.

One of the things I loved most about teaching when I started (and hate most about the limitation in my current assignment) was getting to know kids. They’re interesting and insightful and funny. Typically more willing to share what’s inside of them than adults are. In most teaching jobs that I have had, I’ve learned at least as much as I’ve taught, if not more.

I took time a few years ago to write thank you notes or letters to former teachers, if I knew how to get it to them. There was one who I feel deep gratitude and affection for, who I feel like I can’t say thank you enough times (though after a while, it would just be weird, so I did once or maybe twice and that’s all).

Jon Gluckman was my 7th grade English teacher. I had his class last period of the day.

As a 7th grader, I was introverted, shy, anxious, completely unable to make conversation with people unless I knew them well. (To my frustration, some of those remain true. Another post for another day.)

As a 7th grader, I hated being at home. I’ve mentioned bits and pieces around here, so for now we can just say: home was not an emotionally safe place to be.

As a 7th grader, I was in a new school. Our district at the time had K-6 elementary schools and one junior-senior high school.

As a 7th grader, I loved reading and writing. They had always been two of my favorite things to do, and I was endlessly disappointed in elementary school that I would test into gifted (pullout) math but not language.

I don’t remember when it started or how it started, but I would always pack up my books slowly and be the last one out of room 122.

One day, he asked me, “What’s the latest gossip?” That’s a question nearly anyone can answer, and so we talked. I have no idea what the latest gossip was at that point.

I don’t remember how often this happened, but we would talk for an hour or more after school on a regular basis. I would get in trouble at home for being late, so I used to make up clubs that I was in so I could stay for “meetings,” when really, I was hanging out and talking to Mr. Gluckman.

It filled a giant emotional hole in me. An adult who was interested in talking to me. On a regular basis.

For anyone whose mind went there, there was never anything remotely inappropriate about it.

I remember very little of we talked about. But I remember being safe.

When I moved on to 8th grade, I would sometimes stop by his room after school and say hello. And I started a “publication” called The Gossip that I gave him every so often. (I would love to see those now. I don’t have electronic or paper copies. I’m sure they were entertaining in the English Department office.)

Once I became a teacher, I thought back on those days and how much time he gave me. It still amazes me.

I took a creative writing class with him over the summer between 8th and 9th grades. I had a Facebook trip down memory lane about that class a few years ago. So many of us remember so many random details about it … so long ago. I can still recite Buffalo Bill’s by e.e. cummings. Thirty years later.

I took a creative writing independent study with him in 10th grade.

I’ve seen him a handful of times since. We’re going back East this summer. Maybe I’ll see if he’s around.

I wanted to use a picture of he and I for this post, but I don’t have any. Memories it is.

What teacher had a huge impact on you? Have you let them know?





Posted in food, know better do better, physical health, tips

Turning veggie: a tip

Tagging on to the post the other day about eating vegetarian…

If you change your diet to have less or no meat, besides taking things out, you will likely need to add things in.

Our most common meals growing up included meat as the main, veggies and bread on the side.

Meat + veggie + bread – meat = boring (and not very filling)

When I went vegetarian, getting recipes was critical. (Still is!)

A friend gifted me with “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” by Mark Bittman, and it was wonderful. And still is. If you’re not offended by language, check out Thug Kitchen’s blog, and if you like their stuff, their recipe book is also full of tasty things. (And when I started, neither Pinterest nor the Instant Pot existed yet.)

Pick some that aren’t too complicated but look tasty. Wade into bigger gambles after you have a few wins under your belt.

Be aware of false friends: all of the “healthy substitutions” are different from what you want. Veggie burgers—made of a wide variety of things—can be really tasty, but they’re not burgers. No matter how you cut it, cauliflower isn’t rice. This isn’t to say that the substitutions are invalid or don’t work. But if you’re expecting it to be the same, you’re going to be disappointed, angry, disgusted, or some combination thereof.

Hit me up if you need help.