Vassar: Exploring Transfer & a trip to Paris (via Oh Happy Day)

As most of you know, I’ll set off on a grand adventure Thursday.  I’m driving to New Jersey to spend a final evening with J and then checking into the dorm on Friday for 5 weeks. I’m all packed.  Two bags.  Two fans.  Lamp.  Laptop. Printer. Good case of nerves.  I cannot believe that I am going back to college, like for real.  When I started school again the best thing about it was the fact that I didn’t have to live in the dorm and coud legally buy alcohol… These were perhaps the two things that also lead to my demise at SDSU.  Hard to tell, it was so long ago it wasn’t even in this century.

Many of you are boggled by what in the world I am doing.  I am one of 30 students participating in a 5 week program at Vassar.  If you, like me, have never heard of any colleges north of the Mason Dixon, Vassar is in Poughkeepsie, NY.  It’s a liberal arts school. Apparently one of the best.  Unfortunately the infamy was lost on me.  However I have been accepted to what I now refer to as an all inclusive academic boot camp.  I will arrive Friday.  Move into a dorm room.  Ahem.  A DORM ROOM.  Then we will have some sort of opening ceremony, no doubt ice breakers will be involved.  How I love college bonding games.  I will go sleep in my DORM ROOM.  Take a shower in a COMMUNITY SHOWER, go on a campus tour, be handed my class schedule, books and kiss my life a Gone With The Wind worthy kiss goodbye.  I found a ladies blog who participated in 2008 and she essentially blogged the first three days and then typed 10 fleeting posts about lack of sleep and work as she had never known. I will take two classes, we had three options and we’ll see if I get my picks.  I took one with the director of the school because when I interviewed with her I knew that it didn’t matter what she taught I wanted to take it.  We finish July 22, and I am expecting to want to do nothing but sleep when I return.  I can tell you now that sleep is not in the cards.

I am turning off technology while I am there.  I just know that it will be too tempting to put off work to catch up on status updates, baby pictures, and political rants.  I think I will miss Words With Friends the most.

Let me just say that being an adult and going back to school has been one of the more challenging things that I have done.  It is also forcing me to learn boundaries.  To say no.  To meet my limits.  School has been academically invigorating and exciting, but it has also meant that we have had to give up our social lives, the ability to initiate with friends, be perceived as on top of things.  It’s been a financially difficult decision, 2 incomes are better than one.  However, I have to say it has been one of the best decisions of my life.  My family has shown me a level of support that I find both humbling and unbelievable.  Honestly, I thought they would be a bit ‘over’ my attempt to go back to school and abject poverty… Nope.  They are so proud and nurturing and helpful.   I am so deeply grateful, please hear me when I say I would not be as successful in this as I am if it were not for the sacrifices and considerations that J has made and for the generosity and encouragement of my family.  It is a gift that so many of my fellow students don’t have.  What a gift.  This may be a challenge, but it is also a thrill.  And as I am learning from AM, attitude literally changes tragedy into adventure!  So here’s to the craziness of the unknown adventure ahead!!!!!

I also wanted to let you know about a contest going on over at Jordan Ferney’s Oh Happy Day.  (You can follow her on Twitter – she and David Liebowitz are my favorite and they are both in Paris!) She has a Facebook Page for Oh Happy Day and the website is having a sale on GORGEOUS letter press business cards right now.  Anyway.  She’s celebrating her blog’s birthday by giving away a trip to Paris.  And let’s face it, who couldn’t use a trip to Paris.  If not just to stalk Liebowitz’s favorite restaurants and the Ferney Family?  So head over to Oh Happy Day and check in on Jordan on Twitter (her husband Paul is also on Twitter and is an incredible artist!) like her on Facebook, and spread the word.  Everyone deserves a shot at Paris, and if you don’t win, I promise that Oh Happy Day will be a nice addition to your life no matter what, we can live vicariously through the blog…

They say it’s your birthday…

This guy turned 55 today.  I know.  Seriously.  That’s what I told him.  Double numbers are lucky.

I never knew what a difficult job he had until I got married.  He fell in love with AM suddenly one night, and then the next thing he knew he found out it was a package deal.  5 siblings, 6 nieces and nephews and a maltese came with the deal.  Little did he know that one of those nieces would make herself quite at home in his life.  Suddenly he went from having one woman, to two.  And having transitioned from him being the main man in my life, to adding J has required some skill I did not realize it required.  I also realized how good he had it when both AM and I were devoted to only him…

Old double fives is a native of Brooklyn.  He recently told me Poughkeepsie is upstate New York.  I am pretty sure that he believes that.  He’s the baby.  Two older brothers.  I tell myself this is why he loves busting chops so much.  His dad was a fiery longshoreman, and I believe this is why my Uncle is such a stand up guy.  You have to be a stand up guy to incorporate  a 16 year old into your life.  He runs marathons.  He loves AM more beautifully than any other love I’ve seen in my life.  I hope we grow up like them.  He is funny.  He turns red when he has too much to drink.  He is an incredible system of support.  He has been known to finish marathons and then come back and help me finish mine.  He spent plenty a night mediating tension between his two women. He sees random friends in Paris, has a friend named Juggy in Florida, and when we walk into his favorite neighborhood bar in Brooklyn they still yell “Effing (edited for those of pure ears) Kenny W&*#^@!!!” I love it.  When people die, like big people, he and his friend Bobby R race to be the first to call and ask for the dead person.  It might sound irreverent to you, but I think it’s hysterical.  I try to play, but I never win or I feel like a jerk for delivering bad news.  I don’t know.  I just don’t have his comedic timing.

I know that I am married to the man that I am because UK showed me what real men are.  He’s no nonsense.  I kid you not.  But he is always generous with the kleenex when AM & I are watching Extremem Makeover: Home Edition.  He loves the democrats.  He can laugh at himself.  He laughs through tears, ours and his own.  He wasn’t afraid to expand his heart to a teenager.  He loves his family.  He has been one of the most supportive and generous individuals I have ever met.  Twice in my life he has taken the time to tell me how much he loves me.  But you know what, he is who taught me that you don’t have to do that.  When you live right.  When you love right, you don’t need all those words.  He shows me every day in every way that he loves me and he is looking out for my best.

But what he does the very best, is love AM.  He calls her Blondie.  He takes care of her.  She doesn’t often need taking care of, so he figured out how to love her around it.  Then, one time, she did happen to need some support he has been the most incredible support structure I have ever seen.  He makes her laugh.  He is her best friend.  He is patient, kind, constant, steady and snarky.  He has been the kind of husband and friend that my friends and I have remarked we always hoped we would find.  He goes to movies like Bridesmaids and watches the season finale of Oprah.  He taught her to love NY.  He took her to Paris and he will take her to Italy.  He hold her hand, he gives her kisses and he never once cramped her space – she is her own woman and he doesn’t resent that he empowers it.  Like TLC sings, “What a man, what a man, what a man, what a mighty good man…”

As far as songs go… When I got married he picked a song for us to dance to.  He picked the one in the video that I am putting at the end of this post.  It is true.  If I would not have fallen, he would not have found me.  His love has been one of the most stabilizing, healing, self-esteem building things of my life.  He proved to me that someone who didn’t share my blood would choose me, just like I was.  AM’s love grew me, nurtured me, inspired me, and pushed me forward.  UK’s love truly helped heal me, but it never held me. He has lived to see me “up” rather than “down.”   He held me with open hands, and even though I’ve flown away, I know that even though home has to be somewhere else now, I will always have a safe place to land.

Happy birthday to you my UK.  Thanks for showing me perfectly how to go from a main man, to my mens.

Fighting Cancer and Bell Ringing Celebrations

Like many of you I have been wondering how AM was really doing. It’s been a few long months since her diagnosis and it’s been a struggle to be far away when I want to hover and check in and see what the hell is going on with my own eyes!

So for all of you in my shoes here’s my brief take on the haps around here. When I got home and saw her in person the first time, I cried. For a couple of reasons, one because she looks beautiful. Absolutely beautiful, she is bald, with little patches of hair that grows back in between chemo treatments. She has incredible color. I watched her like a hawk and in as much as I can tell she is strong as an ox. I am not even kidding. The first morning I was here we went for a run and I almost died and she slowed down for me. We ran three times this week.

She’s definitely different though. Her strength is chosen and forged. She has three wigs, a sundry of hats and scarves for when her head gets cold. And though the bald head is novel, she is anxious for when her hair will return, an obvious sign of normalcy. She lives her life like normal, amidst all this abnormality. She goes into work, she schedules her appointments around phone conferences and managing programs. She eats out with her friends, mails birthday cards on time, cooks dinner, chats on the phone, surfs her iPad… But life remains anchored to the rhythm of this treatment. There are no weekends away, there are entire weeks that she has to take it easy, not be where sick people or germs are. She hears dates according to how they fit into her treatment schedule. This is not an inconvenience or a burden, this is the silent reality of cancer. She looks great, for the most part she feels great, she is carrying on with life with enthusiasm and optimism, and for four hours today they poured poison into her body to kill this impostor, chemicals that kill this disease.

And that’s the hard part of it all. I love her more than I ever have. She is empathetic and kind to her fellow sojourners. It’s obvious that her doctors and nurses love her. Her friends have rallied beautifully by her side and UK is a steady anchor in the storm. She has her bearing, it seems she never lost it. She is her same optimistic, positive and pragmatic self. She knows the situation and feels a deep sense of relief that she has been so incredibly fortunate. She may have cancer, but she is not a victim. Her life may be upturned, but she just turned it right side up and has created a new normal. This may be ‘hard’ and ‘unfair’ but she simply sees it as incredible fortune that this is the first major bump in her road.

This was most beautifully represented today at her last chemo treatment. It’s a four hour process, she’s in a room with about 8 other patients and their family. They re-scheduled it late yesterday, so she resigned herself to re-scheduling a phone conference and declining another. Then she just moved right along. We arrived, I nestled in next to her. They hooked her up to bag after bag of clear liquid and as each one emptied I could see her excitement build. The patients there have an unspoken bond, and she and the lady across from her were each other’s quiet cheerleader. They competed to see who would finish first. The other lady did. Then, knowing it was AM’s last treatment, she explained to her husband that it they were going to wait to leave… They needed to see her ring the bell. So the woman sat patiently and waited for AM to pick up a bell that sits on a well displayed shelf, the bell you get to ring when you’ve completed your final round of that treatment (she’ll do it again at the end of radiation.) AM rang it joyfully as a room full of people receiving chemo cheered her on. She cried and I cried and my heart felt ebullient for her. She glowed. She had made it. Well, she’s got a few days of side effects ahead of her, but the worst is behind her. Her chemo friend walked out behind us and joined us in the elevator down. She gave me a loving squeeze as I tried to calm my tears down. As we left we wished her luck and celebrated with her when we heard her next treatment is her last!

If you want to know how AM really is, better than ever. Better than ever. Her body may be in a battle, but she is a stronger, deeper, more empathetic, energetic, optimistic version of the woman we all know and love. Just when you thought she couldn’t get better, she did. She even makes cancer something good.

Enough tears and blogging, I have to them cook dinner. You know, she does have cancer…

Smiles & Sunshine

Some people think that happiness is, ugh, I do not know…

Leprechauns?
Grandchildren?
Inner-peace?
Salvation or for arguement’s sake – invisible rapture?
Fairies?
An orchid blooming the second time?

This morning on my hike I thought about the things that make me happy, and I knew this would be of the utmost interest to you and the blogosphere… Naturally.

Happiness is (obviously)
Temperatures that nestle between 90-100.
Headaches from sangria margaritas.
16 straight episodes of Parks and Rec on the couch.
Broken benches and laughter.
Having your chops busted by your family.
The last round of someone’s treatment, second only to the day in October when it’s all really over.
Meeting your friends babies.
Puppies.
The Economist.

There you have it.

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