Posts from February, 2012

Ann’s Diary: The Other Male

I met a long, lean hunk of a male in Mexico. And he swept me off my feet.

I know this will shock most of you, if not all–after all fidelity is a cornerstone of the Catholic faith I was steeped in. Not that folks can’t cheat and recover–I know they can. But as many times as I’ve been propositioned in my lifetime I’ve never taken anyone up on it–and didn’t plan to.

Until today.

Maybe I was swept off my feet by the crashing waves and sunny skies of this quickie vacation I am on with my cousin Sarah, whom I call “Sistahcuz” because she is just that–my sister/cousin. Maybe it was the fact that his eyes met mine from a view off the roadside and I just couldn’t look away. But mostly it’s due to my sister/cousin, who saw that look in my eyes of daring adventure and life-long fantasy that only a family member can extract from what to the naked eye would register as a passing flicker–and she made it happen.

Thanks to Sarah setting it all up–yes she was in effect my pimp on this zestful joyride of life–I was spirited away in the cool waters of Cancun by a warm-blooded male I can only describe as majestic.

And for this woman of 46 years young, battling breast cancer and braving all that life has to throw at me, the fact that I stepped into a life-long dream and in one hour that dream had come true is truly one of the most magical, wonderful moments of my life.

And to my wonderful husband Sandy I can only say this:

don’t worry, dear. I’m talking about a dolphin.

Posted February 28th, 2012 by
Ann's Diary: The Other Male
Posted in: Ann's Diary

Ann’s Diary: Patterns In The Sand

On a flight out of San Francisco to Cancun, Mexico this week I was able to see the mounains of what I assume was Nevada out my eastern-facing window. It was a clear clean day, one the stewardess marveled was “highly unusual” for this trip, and she suggested we passengers lucky enough to be seated on the left-hand side of the plane soak up the sensational view.

As we reached cruising altitude I looked down and saw the ripples of mountains so far below me that instead of appearing as gargantuan forms of rock and other earth, they appeared more like sand structures on a long and lovely beach. Maybe it was the light-headed air in the cabin, maybe it was that at 5 thousand feet in the air I feel as close to Heaven as I get in this lifetime, or maybe it was the exhale from a long, emotional week for me that made those mountains looked less like natural, age-old formations and more like God doodling His finger in the Earth and leaving patterns of beauty only He could achieve.

I don’t usually get into the God discussion here because a) unless it’s an apparition I’m sharing I’m not a preacher, nor am I a saint. And b) as for God, many don’t believe in a specific One. He either hung on a cross or burned a bush or is the wind and the ocean, or any number of other definitions existing in this world–all of which represent something “else.” Something more than what one’s eyes can see in front of them in a day. And I celebrate that. I think wherever someone finds God is important because they found Him, not how they got there– just that they got there at all.

Of course many people don’t believe in God. And to them I say whatever keeps you safe and grounded, on a path of goodness and faith, hopeful and happy in your world is your god.

I myself have had a long week of wondering what the world–and maybe God–were trying to teach me. I had to work through deep stuff, emotional issues–some that made sense to me, some that didn’t–and find the courage to get through pretty scary moments as I creaked and groaned my way to a new level of self-awareness. And backing up to the saint commentary above, I called God’s name more than once this past week and let me tell you it wasn’t in prayer.

So the moral of this story, or at least the point of this one blog, is twofold: first that I made it through that difficult journey I blogged about last week and I’m happy–I’m elated- to say things have turned around for the better in my world. I won’t delve into detail for fear of invading privacies, but I can tell you this: when all appears lost that old song refrain can actually come true: “what a difference a day makes”–or in my case, 7 of them.

And the second point is that God is not something I completely understand, much less see every day looking out an airplane window–but I saw Him this week in those mountains. That’s important for me. I don’t exactly know how or why, and I’ll marinate this in my mind in the days and weeks ahead for a higher meaning because with anything ‘God’ that’s what I do; but this week filled with so much angst and fear demanded much from me–most importantly a faith. Faith in myself. Faith that I hadn’t backed myself all the way into a corner. Faith that things that are worth fighting for can be won, or won back.

I also found comfort in the reminder that this lifetime isn’t all about me–I mean that in a good way. I mean it is about me, but it’s about you, too. It’s about all of us–you and me, that guy over there, that child playing in the sand, that old lady putting her tray table up to hobble off to the airport lavatory. There is something holy and real about community, this community, the one we’ve all been born-at-the-same-time-of-life in, the one that we all wake up to these days.

We are the community of this planet at this very moment, whether encased in metal flying over the country, typing madly on this blog or walking arm in arm down a dusty path reaching out for forgiveness. And that means something. What it means, I haven’t the faintest idea–not today. But tomorrow is coming, so I’ll work on that answer tomorrow. As for today, the first thing I did when I hit the beaches of Cancun is celebrate the joy and relief of my life moving forward. And it is a joy.

I took off my shoes and stuck my toes in that gorgeous sand and strolled calmly and comforted down a long stretch of shoreline previously unvisited by me. Under clear, sunny skies, as waves washed around my feet and pulled back to the ocean readying to lunge back for more of my ankles, I looked below me in search of newly-made sand patterns of beauty reminiscent of a certain view from 5-thousand feet that I’d now always remember–

and I found them.

Posted February 27th, 2012 by
Ann's Diary: Patterns In The Sand
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Ann’s Diary: Beating The Beast

I’d like to thank the reader who wrote this to me this week after I admitted to having a very hard time in my life right now (NOT cancer.)

“I go to that same place sometimes. How can you not–it’s tough playing a warrior, survivor and inspiration all the time.”

That was from Louise, whom I’ve never met but who just gave me the greatest gift of all–a moment of emotional rest.

Those who know me will tell you that I like being helpful. I like making a difference. I also like real conversations, getting down to what’s honest and important. I detest phoniness and a false sense of ego. Arrogance I have zero time for, and guilt I work at pushing away. I also can’t mend all that breaks inside–meaning sometimes stuff goes wrong and though my skills at honesty, forth-rightness and faith are sharp, they only work when met with the same. I guess that means I can’t fix everything or every person. Is that a news flash to anybody, or is it just one to me?

And so with all this alleged intended purpose comes a price: emotional exhaustion. And instead of sleeping next to my warm husband and our children breathing deeply and slowly in their beds next door, I find myself upright with a cup of calming tea writing a blog at 3 a.m.

As a breast cancer fighter I meet the challenge every day of simply getting out of bed. It’s not a complaint it’s not a challenge it’s not even an opinion, it’s a fact. The world’s a scary place with a disease dumped on your back–or in my case, your front– and for me the best way to cope is to get up, get out and get moving so that the beast does not kill me before I ever die.

I want to live, breathe, help, laugh, love–all those things the Hallmark Cards tell me to do–without fear taking me over and ruining my day. Not just my day but my week, my month, my relationships–my life.

But fear, I’ve come to learn, is not that easily tamed. Like cancer, it’s a beast that will not be satisfied. And sometimes even the best attempts at controlling it bring such unexpectedly awful results that it’s hard to say which was worse–before or after.

At least that’s how I see it. And there’s the rub: because it’s not about how I see it, it’s about how each one of us sees it. Whatever it is that’s nipping at our heels, crashing over our heads, dragging us into places we’d run screaming from if we could–it’s however each one of us decides what’s working and what’s not, what pieces are missing and which ones can’t be reclaimed, or which ones are worth fighting for and getting back at all costs, it’s whatever individually we think that matters, and what eventually gets us through. Of course what works for you may not work for me…

The world is a scary place, and things don’t always go right. Take it from a metastatic breast cancer fighter, because I’ll back you up on that. But with any luck we can find a place to believe that the best things in life are still out there to be had: faith, hope and belief–in something other than fear.

I may sound like I’m preaching to you, but the one I’m preaching to is me.

As I struggle through emotionally draining days, I will be mindful of my limitations and grateful for my expectations–of myself, my life and what I can achieve in a day, cancer be damned. And I pray the same thing for anyone reading this blog–the one I’m writing at now 3:30 a.m.

But mostly, I’d like to thank Louise, who by her wise words has reminded me of two things: first that I am an inspiration and with that comes both beauty and beast. And second, that I can’t save the world all in one day. But I can keep getting up and out of bed and meeting each new morning–so that the beast of cancer and its cousin, the beast of fear, are beaten back another day.

And I plan to hop out bed tomorrow to do just that–that is once I jump back into bed tonight.

Posted February 23rd, 2012 by
Ann's Diary: Beating The Beast
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Ann’s Diary: The Answer

I am having a huge fight with my inner child tonight.

On the one hand, I want the kid to just lighten up and let it go. I’m having a terrible moment (NOT CANCER) and I just want to not be so angry and hurt–I want to not care any more. I want to live and let live. I want to get my heart back from the place I flung it after I came to this sad place. I want to look the world in the eye and say, “okay, fine. I give. I don’t get it, but I will give.”

And then my child sits up and says, now wait a minute. I am sad and I could cry–in fact I am crying right now. Just the thought of all the hurt and the sadness around what’s going on–I can’t even bring the thoughts back from the place I’ve stuffed them tonight so that I can maybe get a non-fitful night’s sleep. But the mere lingering of my mind on it all* sends my stomach aching. What’s an inner child to do? Be a grown up, yes–but how?

*Though I blog I do not fillet my life and all its personal ups-and-downs for the masses to read about. That’s invasive and frankly boring because my life is not that interesting. But staying private and blogging for me is difficult, since what I work out in my life–my thoughts, my feelings–comes out here for me to write, read over and eventually learn from. I don’t know why it is but when I type thoughts out they’re no longer stuck inside me, threatening to make me miserable. They live out in the world with the rest of us. And with luck I–maybe you too?–learn something from them in the end.

So back to my child. She is lost in grief but damned if she’ll be lost too long–there is too much living to be had. And grief sucks. Kids shouldn’t use that kind of language but I’m a grown-up, so I can.

And maybe there’s an answer in there. I’m a grown up. If I can drive a car, put kids to bed and use salty language, I must be able to figure this out. Yes this feels awful now but tomorrow is another day. And somewhere inside me is the answer I need. I don’t know where, but it’s there.

I just have to put my inner child to bed tonight and be a big girl in the days and weeks ahead long enough so I can hang in there to find it.

Posted February 21st, 2012 by
Ann's Diary: The Answer
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Ann’s Diary: Not Much

Recently I wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper and it ended up as a column.

CLOSING THE GATE ON OUR CHILDREN. by Ann Murray Paige

My child recently did not get accepted to what’s called the “GATE” program at the local public school.

GATE stands for “Gifted And Talented Education” and it’s a way for the public school to offer “higher learning” to kids who want it. What “higher learning” is I’m unclear, but it involves a lot of homework. Which is why my child didn’t want to do it anyway, and so I’m lucky that my little one didn’t get accepted.

I wasn’t sure about GATE any way, but not for that reason–in fact I like the sound of higher learning. But I don’t like how the program separates the GATE kids from the rest of the class. That’s a by-product of the program–the school literally keeps the kids in GATE away from their non-GATE peers. They don’t share Science, Computer or Library time. If they sit next to each other in the lunch room I’ve never seen it. They’re set apart–literally and figuratively from the other “typical” kids. And I think it’s that figuratively part that’s getting me down.

When something is separated from something else it’s noticeable. Take oil and water–you can see they don’t mix. You’d never put tigers and deer in the same pen. And I’d never wear heels with a mini-dress–not only am I 46 but I’d probably look like someone who’s looking for a good time, if you know what I mean.

Assumptions are awful things, of course, because they’re not well-founded and they never show up on an action plan at a school board meeting. But whomever decided that separating a class based on its ‘gifted’ and ‘talented-ness’ must have been denying their inner child–the one who didn’t get picked for kick ball in third grade. Because one of the worst things I think any child can be told at any age is that they are not gifted nor talented.

Yet I wish my child had tested into GATE–I wish I could say “in the public school system’s eye, this little person is gifted and talented” because the assumption now is…you follow me? I know that’s not what the program intends to do, but it’s a sad repercussion of the testing process–indeed of the program as a whole.

I don’t want to sound like sour grapes. I don’t want to say “get rid of GATE” just because my child didn’t make the cut– all my child’s peers seem to have gotten into the program–another stab at my motherly ego. And I know this isn’t supposed to be about my ego–but I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t hurt, insulted, and a whole lot confused. I think my child is smart–so the public school system doesn’t?

And here people whose children tested into GATE will say, “no, it’s not that. Your child is wonderful. My Johhny just learns on a higher level.” That’s fine, I’m happy for Johhny. But what about Susie, who doesn’t test well but loves to learn? Can we label her and put her in, say, the “STAR” class? Because ‘She Tests Average Really’–but she’s a STAR just the same.

When my child found out of the denied acceptance into this ‘smart club’ there were no tears–in fact, there was joy. My kid made it clear that extra homework on nights and weekends was not my child’s idea of a good time. I was relieved at the reaction and my husband and I both gave each other the “phew” look because we sure weren’t prepared to properly handle a bruised 3rd grade ego—those can be hard to fix.

But it was the day or two after when I realized the real bruised ego was my own. I was and still am fighting a feeling of resentment, hostility and anger toward this program that based on one test labels 9 year-olds ‘gifted’ and ‘not-gifted.’ Whose idea was this anyway?

Don’t get me wrong–if there are children who need more in a class, if they learn on a different level, I want them to get what they need. In fact I hope they do.

I just wish is wasn’t on the back of my child and all the other kids who, for some reason that may have nothing to do with being “gifted” or “talented”, didn’t make the cut on a divisive and polarizing program like GATE.

Now I have to tell you that I wrote this for me; because I was feeling bad about my child not being accepted. I wasn’t feeling like I wanted the program ripped to shreds, or pulled off the agenda. My feelings weren’t that evolved. I was feeling what I and too many parents I’d spoken to were feeling; that this program was an “us vs. them” program that was polarizing the as-yet-formed 4th grade class of 2012-13.

And because I love this country and the First Amendment Right to Free Speech, I wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper. And 31 comments later I now realize I have stepped into a firestorm of opinion that will not be changed or moved by my letter–only irritated and agitated by it.

What these people who read my ‘column’ and feel strongly about it can not understand is that the issue–this GATE program–is interesting to me, but not my world. Anyone who reads this blog or follows me on Facebook knows that I (sadly) have far too many pressing, poignant and heartfelt fears addressing my world on a day to day basis, so that anything else–like an education program, while important and worthy of review if not fully satisfactory to the taxpayers funding it–will never stick in my viewfinder as a day-by-day energy taker. And by the letters I’ve already read, there’s a lot of energy devoted to this issue–somewhere between ‘so much’ and ‘too much’ if you ask me.

And I don’t have the luxury of sending my energy that way. Larger, more pressing matters await me: my children not having a mother at 16; my husband marrying another woman to mother my children when I am gone; that $#%@@ 401K I put so much effort into padding may not be spent by me, but by some other person–someone I don’t even know. The home we haven’t yet bought but hope to find this year, that I may never be able to live in.

These are the issues–along with the milk that we’re out of, the hot lunch check I need to write, that GAP bill that’s overdue and those friendships of mine that need tending now that reality has hit for some of my pals that being friends with a sick woman may take more stamina than some of them have or are willing to give–that are pressing to me.

Believe me, the local educational system is important, yes. But if I’m not here in 5 years to find out how it all turns out, how much time can I let it take up in my life past today? Too much? So much?

The answer for me is: not much.

Posted February 20th, 2012
Posted in: Ann's Diary