Truth is…

My friend arrived home from Mayo Clinic with no answers. They did a lot of tests, and a long list of things were “ruled out”. I kept hoping for a Pet scan. It shows everything. But that is part of the problem.  A lot of things would glow green. It could lead to a lot of unnecessary tests. It is a test used a lot to see an area that has been already diagnosed. Cancer is one example. Many of us remember when Augustus told Hazel that “he lit up like a Christmas tree” during his Pet scan. It meant his cancer had come back with a vengeance,  it was terminal. The Pet scan saved Jake’s life. The mass of bacteria was hidden from x-rays, MRI’S and Cat scans.  I knew the Pet scan was a long shot for my friend; it’s also very expensive. I so hoped they would find something hidden away reeking havoc in her body. And it would be easily treated. Nothing. Her symptoms could be a sign of infection, cancer or autoimmune.  I asked Jake’s doctor, and her doctor said basically the same thing. Sometimes there are no answers. We wait. The cause either runs its course and subsides, or it finally erupts.  It may suddenly become an emergency, life-threatening or critical. In the meantime she waits, living with the symptoms- many painful. Jake’s weird, unnamed “virus” that went away after 6 weeks in 2001 was giving us symptoms. Several doctors guessed, but could not diagnose or fix. It was very frustrating. We waited many more years until 2012, when someone could put a name on it. It couldn’t have been diagnosed before then. It hadn’t really even been identified.  We were told it would be a nuisance,  but not life threatening, until it was in 2014. Again we had no diagnosis for almost 8 months. After being critically ill for 4 of those, we thought we had a cure. No. A year later, my son was facing cancer and a bone marrow transplant.  Now when I Google his 2012 diagnosis of natural killer cell deficiency,  there is more information.  Jake is actually a pretty classic case- his signs and symptoms were right in front of us. But yet a mystery. His doctor is making a program for doctors all over the world to use for diagnosis. I forget how much Jake has  been through. I was hoping for a quick answer for my friend. I will continue to wonder if there is some parasite, bacteria, virus or fungus that she picked up while in Mexico hiding inside her.  Hopefully it will subside soon. I don’t think many of us realize the long journey that many people face trying to diagnose an illness…

Priest clothes

When my daughter was young, she dressed like a boy. I didn’t encourage it, but I didn’t fight it. I let her choose her clothes. She outgrew it. My nephew used to dress like a Catholic priest. I actually made him several robes. My sister borrowed the special robe her priest wore for Christmas mass, and I made a replica for my nephew for Christmas.  He was thrilled- probably the best gift ever. They got him a Communion playset. The kid played church everyday for a very long time. We got a kick out of it. My mom and her friends used to dress up like nuns and walk around. We played Communion with Necco wafers.  One day, out of nowhere, my sister asked me, “What if one of the kids is gay?” What makes you say that?  “I don’t know. Do you think the priest thing is a little odd?” I think it’s awesome! He has a wonderful imagination!  He’s like Molly. They are creative. There isn’t one thing that makes me think he’s gay. That reassured her. I kept going. Let’s say he is gay. We will love him. Nothing will change. We will go shopping with him and have a wonderful time. We will accept him, and it won’t matter. We will still love him. She thought about it a minute, and said, “Thanks.” When he outgrew the priest phase, he liked to play school. He wanted to be the teacher. We decided that he just liked to be in charge- the boss. He and Molly were each other’s first friends. They are still best friends. He likes girls. She likes boys. The 4 of us have a lot of fun together. As they get older, there have been many times I have thought about Molly with her short haircut, her Old Navy flag t-shirt and my nephew in his so they would be twins.  They were creative, stubborn, funny and difficult at times. We let them do their thing, and we don’t regret it for a second…

Politically correct

My mom was known for her bluntness. She’d say anything. Some people absolutely loved this about her. Others were probably horrified. We definitely had a lot of fun at her expense. One time a lady started choking at a local restaurant. People started to panic and slapping on her back. My mom said quite loudly, Let her choke! Everyone was stunned. It was absolutely the correct thing to do; it just sounded bad. The lady was coughing and just needed a second to catch her breath. Pounding on her back was not the appropriate move. We laughed at that for years. She never got the hang of saying African Americans.  She would invariably say Afro Americans in an attempt to be politically correct. She was more likely to make an observation like, There aren’t many colored people in Destin. MOTHER! Oh, excuse me, I meant, “There aren’t many Afro-Americans in Destin.” MOTHER!  One morning mom walked into my kitchen. Jake was on a step stool, and we were making brownies. Marianne!  I thought she was commenting on my mess. You’re going to make him queer! “Seriously, Mother, you think stirring brownies at age 3 is going to determine his sexuality?” She thought about it, it might. “Mother, if stirring these brownies has made my son a homosexual, then I guess I’ll just have to love him anyway.” She let it drop. She probably worried until one day many years later when she asked Jake if he ever noticed girls in his class wearing bras yet. “Everyday,” he replied. Whew! That was a close one…

Different

It wasn’t very long ago when blacks and whites were segregated in this country. It wasn’t very long ago when I found out that one of my best friends was a lesbian. It wasn’t very long ago when a classmate of mine began living her life as a man. I cringe thinking about the fear, hatred, prejudice and unfairness we as a species may invoke. The best thing being a teacher did for me was to open my eyes to tolerance.  Many of the literature stories were chosen to help students consider another side of the story, to consider how someone else may have felt, to consider the feelings of others, to have empathy. I also taught science and health. Those subjects brought up many subjects. The junior high kids were interested, and they asked a lot of questions. I know they would ask me questions to get me off the subject of direct objects, but any question could turn into an opportunity for me to stomp out ignorance. That’s gross, Mrs. Meister.  Why would somebody do that? That’s just wrong. The students were interested in homosexuality and Transgender topics as well.  My main objective always was to explain as simply and effectively as possible, but promote tolerance and acceptance. There was always someone outspoken and intolerant. They couldn’t consider themselves in the situation, but I was always aware that there could be a student in my class secretly struggling with his/her own sexuality. This was my attitude and I shared it frequently.  I don’t think it is my place to judge anyone else on this Earth. I’m a happier person when I like people. What if this was my child? That often got their attention. They hadn’t considered that. Before you make comments, before you pass judgement, before you hate, what if this was your child? It opened up dialogue, and if nothing else, I hoped it helped them consider what it might feel like to be in their shoes. There has been a lot of talk about Bruce, now Caitlin Jenner. I cannot begin to understand how she must have felt her whole life. I think it is tragic that she waited so long before living as a woman. If I was in a public restroom, and she walked in, I would not be offended. I would not be scared. I would not protest. I would go about my business in my private stall. I would wash my hands and check my eyes for smudged mascara; check my teeth for pepper or spinach. Then I would go about my business.  My own business…

Dog hair

At any given moment, I have dog hair on me. At any given moment, you could find a dog toy on my floor. At any given moment you could get licked or barked at in my house. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Neither would Dave. We take our fur babies seriously. They live better than many humans on this earth. I’m a firm believer that if you are going to have a dog, that dog will live in your house and use the furniture. That dog will eat premium dog food. That dog will be talked to and treated like a human being. If someone can’t give a dog these luxuries, don’t get a dog. You should have two dogs because they like the companionship. My daughter has described our behavior as pathetic. She loves dogs as well, but she may be holding onto some built up resentment. When she was a little girl, there were times she would come into our bedroom- afraid. Dave was very firm that the kids would not sleep with us. Ever. One morning Jake was on the floor by the bed. He didn’t even ask. One night Molly came in and pleaded to sleep with us. “Molly, go to bed.” I cannot believe you let 2 dogs sleep in your bed but not your own child!” She stomped off. We are a little pathetic.  We will avoid going places or go alone so one of us can stay home with the girls. We have 3. We borrowed $6000.00 from his parents so we could buy a house within a year of our wedding so we could get a dog. We brought Millie our miniature schnauzer home. I called my mom, Hi Grandma…She raced through town going 60 miles per hour. She was not amused to learn her grand baby was a dog. Millie cried that first night, and I put her in bed with us. We bought a station wagon to take the dog with us. She always sat on a pillow on my lap in the front seat. Dave would have been stuck in the back before that dog would have ridden there. We drove cross country multiple times, stopping and eating in the grass by the car so Millie wouldn’t smother in the car. Later we has a Golden retreiver. When Chloe died, Dave was heartbroken. It wasn’t long before we brought Ellie home despite already having 2 other dogs. When Molly goes to college, she predicts we’ll replace her with a puppy. Another Golden or a little dog that I can carry around like a baby?…

Gossip

When I hear juicy gossip, I have a small group of 4 that I immediately contact. They will not take the story any further. I completely trust them. When I need to vent just to get over something, they are my go-to-girls. When I want more information about a rumor, I widen my circle. I have a few friends that are my sure-to-know-something-about-it.  Depending on the story might determine which direction I go. I have high school friends, teacher friends, friends at my husband’s school, friends of my kids, parents of my kids’ friends, my dad, my mom’s friends, the beauty shop, etc. I don’t think I am unique or special. I imagine a lot of people have social networks like my own. There are things I might say just to the 4. There are other things that I might say out loud at the beauty shop. There are times that I have shot my mouth off and later thought I shouldn’t have said that… this is not something I am bragging about. I am not necessarily proud of this. I cringe thinking that someone may have been hurt by something I said. Most of the time, my words are kept to the little circle that goes no further. I listen to things, and then I am very careful about to whom I might share. Again usually the small circle where it stays put. My cardinal rule is that if a friend is venting/griping about another friend,  I listen, empathize, chose my words carefully, and keep it to myself. I would not tell the person they were being talked about unless I felt like it was etremely important. …life or death important. I keep secrets, but if it was life-changing important,  I would tell the person who needed to know. The other day someone I love was told about a lie that had been said about her. This person did so well on something that another person accused her of cheating. Then her mother got on board and started making phone calls. Thankfully this was one of those appropriate times when someone came up and told her what was being said. The person confronted her accuser. The accuser may or may not have believed her. I wonder how many people heard and believed that she cheated? Hopefully people who know her would say, “No way- I don’t believe it.” But how many would say, “OMG? Really?” and then spread the lie as fast as they could? That would be hard to resist. My go- to attitude is always, God knows or Jesus knows the truth. As I have grown older and wiser, I try to not jump on the gossip train, and I am the first to dispell a false rumor. I might enjoy hearing a juicy bit of gossip, but I am wise enough to know it may not be true…

Gifted

My kids are gifted academically. I feel thankful and blessed. I do not take credit other than we read to our kids, and we didn’t baby talk. Jake, look there’s a Cardinal at the bird feeder as opposed to Wook, Jake there’s a wittle birdie at the feeder. When the kids were 3 and 5, we were in the car, and Jake wanted Dad to give him math problems. 32-7.  I was literally digging through my purse for a pen and paper, Jake was debating if he wanted easier problems and Molly stated “25”. I was amazed, Jake was mad, and Dave was laughing because I couldn’t do it in my head. I’m just not confident- I need the visual.  The competition began. As the kids grew up, they continued to compete with each other. They would get into debates for the sport of it. I would run downstairs thinking Dave and Molly were in a fight. We’re just talking, Mom. Molly would fill me on on her day, tell me gossip, make me laugh. But with her dad, they would have deep intellectual conversations. Her knowledge of things amazes me. When Jake was a freshman, he aced his biology final. The teacher accused my husband of giving Jake access to the final ahead of time. He didn’t cheat, he wouldn’t cheat. He certainly didn’t need to cheat. When Molly decided she wanted to go away to college, I decided to prepare a solid list of reasons why it wasn’t a good idea. There was not one reason that she did not have a thoughtful, solid argument comeback. She had done her research.  She wasn’t interested in colleges that didn’t have a good ranking for students passing the MCAT. I went to bed after our debate- she smoked me by the way- thinking my kid’s going 30 hours away to college, and I actually feel good about it. Prior to that my attitude was completely the opposite. Many, many, many people over the years have complimented me on my kids’ academic accomplishments. I’m proud, but humble. Everything, every grade, they have achieved on their own. Molly did everything on her own from kindergarten on. I never once helped her on any assignment.  She gave her Valedictorian speech last night.  It was funny and clever. It was her own. She wouldn’t have asked or wanted my help. My biggest wish is that Jake will be able to return to college this fall. He will be thin and weakened by the chemotherapy.  He will probably struggle to get back into the swing of things. He’s been hospitalized more the past 2 years than not. He will be determined to succeed.  My other wish is that Molly loves her university; that she continues to flourish and that she achieves the goal of becoming whatever she dreams to be. For the past 10 years, it has been a pediatric oncologist. She’s done her research. She knows what it entails. Whatever she decides, I’ll be proud….

Preparation

Nothing prepares you for the future better than just doing it. I can read about and research the Big Mac. I can watch movies, see demonstrations, write essays about the Big Mac. I can be tested and memorize every detail of the Big Mac. I can study the Big Mac for days, months, years. I can yearn to make a Big Mac. I can be told I’m too underqualified or overqualified for the Big Mac…none of this will matter  (to me) until I have a chance to put my hands on those ingredients and make that Big Mac myself! I am a believer of apprenticeships. The first McIntosh in my family to come to America was a doctor’s apprentice during the Revolutionary War. (He was playing for the other team, but stayed.)  The classes I took in college did not literally teach me how to be a teacher. Teaching is where I learned to be a teacher.   I also learned how to sew because my grandma taught me the basics. It was many years later that I really learned a lot about sewing by sewing and sewing and sewing. I became a certified pharmacy technician by working in a pharmacy.  When I was a student, I was naturally good at English and spelling. I could memorize terms and puke it back out on a science test. Math was harder. It didn’t click. I realized later when I taught 3rd and 4th grade summer school math that I enjoyed manipulatives. I could understand fractions if I had a cardboard “pizza” sliced into pieces in front of me that I could rearrange and see the fractions- not just think about them. I think there are a lot of jobs I could learn to do. I don’t necessarily want to go back to college, and classes like biochemistry scare me. Sitting in a classroom, in the traditional sense isn’t appealing to many people. For some it may seem impossible.  It doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent; they may learn differently. It saddens me that many smart people don’t work to their full potential because they don’t obtain a 4 year degree. I went to college and finished my Master’s. I didn’t love the academics, I just did it. I think I would like to be an apprentice. Show me how, let me do it. The thought of going to Hamburger University (yes, it’s a real place) and studying the Big Mac isn’t nearly as appealing as being able to make it…

Bandwagon

It is hard not to get caught up in the negative. I will be the first to admit that it wouldn’t take much to get me riled up about something. A friend posted something about being upset about being disappointed for someone not getting rewarded for hard work. Someone else was rewarded because of personal connections. Because she wasn’t specific, I assumed in my head all kinds of possible things that might have happened. I started reading the comments trying to look for clues as to whom was wronged. There was a lot of hometown bashing. “If you don’t have the right name in this town,” “can’t wait to leave this town,” “this town is horrible,”….that struck a nerve….I considered the people who made the comments. Negativity is what I would have expected so I should have moved on. I sent the original poster a personal message because she usually is not negative. I decided to comment. My sole purpose was to clarify that it isn’t just a problem in our hometown. Every town for thousands of years could have examples of someone achieving personal gain from someone they know helping them. Hence the phrase it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. That’s life. It’s a fact of life. Take advantage of it. Many people supported and agreed with my sentiments. A couple of them personally attacked me. I blocked them. I don’t have time for people who are narrow minded, but won’t consider the other side of the story. There is always another side. For every person who is thrilled to get that job or spot, there will be 5 who are crushed. We as a species cannot let those disappointments crush us. Many of us realize that. We move on. We leave the negative people behind us. Happiness and positivity is a choice. One of them expressed she could not wait to move out of this town. Go ahead -get a fresh start. Maybe it’s just what you need. Hopefully it is life-changing and you thrive. Or in time, you may find you’re just as negative and life is just as unfair no matter where you go. Chances are you won’t recognize it…you’ll just keep pointing fingers at everyone else responsible for your misery…

Scholarships

Our kids did not apply for any local scholarships.  They both went through high school with straight A’s. They both scored high on their ACT tests. We are lucky and proud. They both received merit scholarships, and we started saving for college when they were born. Do they deserve academic scholarships? Sure. Many scholarships are based on need. We decided a long time ago, we didn’t want our kids to take a scholarship away from someone who needed it more. I’ve served on scholarship committees before. Do people lie and try to make their child look more deserving? Sure. I will never forget the father who was divorced and retired.  He retired from his job a millionaire.  He did not mention his ex wife’s salary. He put his occupation as being “unemployed “. His salary was 0. Being from a small town, we all knew his financial situation. Hey, you can’t blame a guy for trying…. needless to say, she did not get the scholarship.  I think it was for 500.00. A different kid got it.  My husband happens to be the principal at the high school. I was asked to be on the scholarship committee a couple of years by the librarian. I didn’t really want the responsibility of making those choices.  Yes, I knew some of those kids. Some I didn’t know. The names of the kids are blackened out, but I could figure many of them out based on other things- activities, occupations of parents, etc. There were several on each team. Not just my decision…thank goodness – too much pressure. 5 great applicants, but we have to narrow it down to 1. My husband was not about to put the teachers in a position where they might feel obligated to chose their boss’s kid. He did not want to give anyone the opportunity to say, “Well she got the scholarship because of who her dad is.” He didn’t want people comparing his salary to someone else’s.  I will be clapping for the kids who get the scholarships. I will not know who applied for what scholarship so I won’t be sad or angry for the ones who didn’t get it. There will be people who are sad, angry and financially burdened because a scholarship went to someone else’s kid. Maybe one or two kids will appear to get all the scholarships.  I will be happy for them. We chose to have kids, and we started saving for college.  I never expected or dreamed anyone would help us pay for college. My kids have done better and taken classes I can’t even imagine- AP History, AP Calculus,  AP Literature, etc. Some may scoff and say we were stupid to not apply for scholarships at the local level. Maybe, maybe not. It was our decision motivated by what we felt was the right thing to do….congratulations to all the graduates!