Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Open Letter to the Treehouse Zumba Instructors

Dear Treehouse Zumba Instructors,

While trying to convince my clumsy feet to salsa the other day, I decided I ought to write you all a letter. But since I'm always in a frantic rush (even when I'm not in your class), I thought I could maybe multi-task and write your letter as a blog post. Hope you don't mind.

First, I ought to tell you who I am. I'm sure you've noticed me. I'm the one in the back of the room wearing big baggie clothes and going right when I'm supposed to go left, forward when I should go back, and up when everyone else goes down. Oh, and I wear an ugly compression sleeve on my arm. Yeah, that's the one—I knew you'd figure it out. And that's one reason for writing—to explain the sleeve, since I'm sure you've wondered but have been too polite to ask.

To explain, I need to go back to 2009, and with apologies to those who have patiently followed this blog over the years, let me do a quick recap: September of that year I was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer. Always the over-achiever, this particular cancer was super aggressive. My oncologist told me that when the team of doctors got together to discuss my treatment, they looked it over and decided I needed every treatment currently available.

And so began an intense regimen of surgeries, chemo, and radiation. After that I had a reconstructive surgery that failed. Plus I'm now on about five prescription meds that are pretty cruel to the body but hopefully will keep the cancer away.

The person I am in 2011 is vastly different from the fit and healthy person I left behind in 2009. On the upside I'm filled with gratitude and sentiment. Happy to be here. Happy to be anywhere. Loving my family, my grandbaby, my hubby, my friends. All of it.

On the downside, I've lost both boobs and gained twenty pounds, which gives me the figure of a pine tree. I have a hairstyle that's a little too long to be cool but a little too short and dark to be me. I have a stupid arm that swells up and requires that ugly compression sleeve (twelve positive lymph nodes). And overall I feel more like a grandma than the mother of a young boy (I happen to be both, but I used to feel more like a mommy than a grandma).

Despite all the bad stuff, my prognosis is good. Not great, but good. I have just another year and a half of holding my breath and hoping IT doesn't come back. After that I'll party.

So now the reason for writing. Again, those that have followed this blog know that even though I've been a Treehouse member for years, I've had issues with going during my treatment. Partly because I have restrictions with my arm. But mostly because I feel like a big fat blob when I'm there. I tried a few classes off and on, but mostly stayed home with my treadmill and hand weights.

Then one day I decided to go wild and crazy and try a Zumba class. Even took a friend. And it was . . . um . . . interesting. I kind of left half-way thru. Yeah, it was fun and all. But it wasn't for me. Too many ultra-fit ladies strutting their ultra-fit stuff; and me tripping over my very unfit feet.

But there was one thing the class had going for it: it didn't require me to put any weight on my swollen arm. Every other class I'd tried required I make modifications while the rest of the class did their pushups or planks or updogs. And since I seriously need to move my fanny to fight the effects of these fat-inducing drugs, I eventually decided to give it another shot. I can't say I enjoyed the class that time either. It wasn't until the third, maybe fourth time, that I decided I could actually do this thing. I think it was when I stopped worrying about my feet and the skinny ladies in class and just started moving to the rhythm. Yep, it was actually fun.

And would you like to know how I feel while I'm in the class? Well, let's see...I feel fat, awkward, clumsy, old and out of shape. Sorry, I know you were hoping for more.

But don't worry, it gets better. Because there's something else I feel: ALIVE. That's right—for the hour that I'm in that class trying my best to jump and bop and gyrate my hips in a way that somewhat resembles what you're doing, I feel truly alive for the first time since that awful diagnosis.

And something else: I feel hopeful. Not hopeful that I'll ever look or move like you. But that I'll eventually look and move better than I do now.

And that's why I'm writing. To thank you for giving me that.

Yours Truly,

Suzanne, from the back of the room (Zumba-Hey! Zumba-Ho!)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mushy Mommy Sweet Spots

The sentimental bug has bit again. It's like an infestation lately. But this time I have a good excuse. My baby boy, the one I rocked for years, well beyond the appropriate baby-rocking time; thinking every time he'd let me that this could be the very last time. I don't remember the exact last time, but I'm sure I had that thought.

Fortunately he's still a sweetheart. On the night of his birthday we snuggled next to me to watch a movie, even though there were multiple comfy spots in the room. And during the movie he grabbed my hand and whispered in my ear that he loves me. Hearts are known to melt that way.

When our kids are babies, those simultaneous heart-melting whilst bursting moments come frequently. All they have to do is say 'please' with their adorable eyes wide open and your heart goes to mush. It takes nothing more than putting a train properly on a track (like my little grandbaby on his birthday this weekend), for the heart to swell with pride. (Just ask his momma.)

But those sweet moments become fewer and far between, and therefore all the more precious as they transform into small adults. And I really do love the age of twelve: that gianted-footed awkward age of walking a tightrope between childhood and adulthood, always a little off balance, never sure their place or appropriate behavior for their age. They still want toys for their birthday, and only want boys at their birthday party, but they need the cool clothes and hair. Of all my children's stages, that age ranks among my favorite.

Which brings me to a video. First I have to apologize for posting it again, I know many of you have seen it. But I didn't include the story of why it was one of the sweetest mommy moments of my life.

The pre-story is that Brandon was chosen to be in his school talent show (this was a pretty selective talent show, no mind readers or bubble gum blowers or gifted bodily orifice noise makers). The auditions were a full month before the talent show, and while Brandon did well enough to be selected, he didn't know the words, moved awkwardly, and there was this horrible bridge in the middle of the song where he just stopped singing, leaving the audience to shuffle uncomfortably in their seats.

So I informed him he'd need to work on these things if he wanted to be in the show. But of course the show was a whole month away. As the days drew near he worked on the song from time to time, and became much improved. There wasn't much that could be done for moving awkwardly. He's almost twelve with giant feet. That's how it goes. And then there was still that horrible bridge solo. He'd attempt squawks and squeeks, but they were worse than the awkward silence. So finally the night before the performance I lay down the law and say he's got to work out that bridge. He absolutely can not just stop singing in the middle of the song.

So we turn to Youtube and watch other performances. Some of them do a dance. Awkward. Some sing. Beautiful. Some cut the bridge out. Wimps. (And since we've already turned the minus track in, we don't have that option.) So Brandon decides he'll sing. The night before.

I plop myself next to the hubby and grumble that I've been warning him about this all month. He's just got to stop procrastinating. yadayadayada.

Before I go on, I have to backtrack with the story of the video camera. Ours broke last year, which is a crisis when you have a son who performs. Last summer we borrowed a camera to record his singing performance at the state fair. But it took hours to get it onto the computer, and then seconds for the computer to crash and burn up the vids. So Rob bought me a new camera for Christmas, but it was a flip and did not have the zoom or audio for our needs, so we took it back. Which meant I absolutely needed something for this performance.

In the weeks that he was supposed to be practicing, I was hunting for the best features for the value, and ended up buying one just the night before. Of course that meant I wasn't absolutely sure how to use it. So I arrived early. Early enough, in fact, that the principal sent me to the front row. I didn't even need the zoom. I got the camera all set up on a tripod, turned on, focused on the person setting up the mike. I'm practicing the different functions when I see Brandon waving frantically in my direction. We try lip reading and sign language, but it becomes clear that I must turn off the camera and tiptoe my way across the front of the auditorium to see what he needs. His message is that he's first, not second as we'd been told. So I head back to the camera, but before I do the principal announces the student body, who are standing on the same side of the room as me. I figure I won't confuse anyone if I step forward now. I most definitely don't look like a jr. high SB officer. But I might embarrass my son if I suddenly step into the limelight. So I wait until they're onstage, introducing my son's performance, and then I stoop over and try not to step on too many toes while I rush back to my precious camcorder. I miss the intro where they say how amazing he is, but I do get it on time for the performance. Good thing he dragged me away from the camera to warn me.

Anyway, I'm frantic over the camera and nervous for him and my stomach's all full of butterflies. And then he opens his mouth and the most pure, angelic sound comes out. My heart turns all kinds of swollen up mush. Within seconds the group is clapping. They don't slow down or lose their enthusiasm, even when he gets to that bridge.

If you watch, you'll see him look my way with a bit of panic in his eyes. If you could see me you'd know that I'm holding my breath. But then he looks away and takes a breath of confidence and gets through it. Not perfect, but he ends strong enough that nobody seems to care. When he ends the song, the crowd roars their approval, with me heading up the lead. I decide not to stand--that old embarrassing your child deal--but I wanted to. This was one of those indescribably joyous moments that makes all the messes and tantrums and nagging and childbirth and expenses worthwhile.

And a quick followup, two days later I pick him up from school, and as he approaches the car a group of very tall junior high students surrounds him. My Mommy Antennas protrude. Brandon shakes his head and nods and pushes his way through. He gets in the car looking glum. I ask what that was about. Of course I'm wondering if I'm going to have to go talk to the principal. Maybe I should just go take those boys out myself. Teach them a thing or two about bullying. And then he says, "That's how it's been ever since the talent show." After more prodding I learn that the boys said: "So you're the singer." Brandon: "yeah." Boys: "Good job."

"You did say thank you? Right?" Because I always ask him that, and he always promises me he does. But I think he just does it through telepathy because I've never witnessed it. Anyway, I continue to say, "But you love it, hah?" "No I don't" he insists, with a little curl of a smile playing on his lips.

That's my cutie. Provider of Sweet Mommy Moments Everywhere.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

New Pics

I'm not sure how I feel about this picture. It's a fine little portrait. The photographer did a good job. My hair is how it's supposed to look. Makeup is good. Outfit is a nice color. Can't find a thing wrong. Except for maybe one. The woman here is much older than the one that looks out through my eyes. Maybe that's normal? Maybe my treatment put the aging process into fast forward? Maybe it's just my imagination? I don't know. But here it is. Me in 2011. (And for the record, I'm really really glad there is a me in 2011. Even if she is an old lady.)

Signature Line - Help Needed!

I realize I haven't been around much. (At least around here. I've been around, believe me.) But I'm going to do better. I must. I have two new books in the works, along with a new website, facebook page, blog, etc. I will go into details later. But for now I'm looking for a signature line. You know, the clever little sentence under your name. I do not have one, which I'm thinking is a message in and of itself. As in, this person is much too boring to have a signature line. So I'm coming to my friends for help.

I'll list some ideas here, and I'd really really like your feedback. I get so embarrassed when I ask questions and no one answers. I know, it's my fault for not hanging out in the right places, but I'm asking any way.

So here goes: (Oh, I only stole one of these. I'll be curious to see if it gets a different reaction from the others. And no, not gonna say which one.)

1. Some smiles are actually frowns being optimistic. They get extra credit.

2. When I grow up, I want to be an old lady.

3. I write fiction since nobody would believe my real life.

4. Life is so beautiful only because it is so hard.