Welcome to my world

I am a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister and a friend.
I've learned that who you have in your life matters more than what you have.
Thank you for stepping in to my world!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1684

Since last fall, K has been working with six other kids in her grade as part of a DI (Destination Imagination) team.  

For those of you unfamiliar with DI, here's a little information:

The Destination Imagination Challenge Program is a fun, hands-on system of learning that fosters students’ creativity, curiosity and courage through academic Challenges. 

In laymen's terms, students form teams of up to 7 members, select their preferred Challenge and work together to develop a solution to the Challenge. They research and prepare how they want to compete in their chosen challenge, and then they do all of the work involved...from writing a script to building all props to designing costumes.  Oh, and all under a team budget of $150!  Team managers and parents can not "help" in any way other than to supervise and mediate. 

The second part of the competition is called "Instant Challenge".  Teams can practice different ways to attack an instant challenge (IC), but they can't really prepare for it - they don't know what their challenge is until they compete.  Sometimes it's a building challenge, sometimes an improv skit.  It's a think on your feet, work well with your team and accomplish something on the spot in a few short minutes kind of thing.  No pressure. Ha!

This is K's first year to participate and we had no idea what we were getting into!  Since October her team (Metallic Chickens) has met weekly (often several times a week) working on their challenge.  They chose the Scientific Challenge:

Their unlikely location?  An ancient Chinese garden.  Their attraction?  An animatronic dragon.

Five months ago, when this concept was first taking shape, the idea of it was overwhelming to me.  I'd never been involved in DI, so to see everything happen from the ground up (since I was recruited to be a team manager...ha ha) was interesting to say the least.  These kids have a lot of great ideas, a lot of energy and a lot of opinions.  To see seven different personalities come together and work on a huge project like this is impressive.  

EVERYTHING has to be done by the team.  Adults can supervise (such as when they are using a soldering iron, staple gun or table saw!) and keep them on track, but nobody except the team members can contribute to the creation of every aspect of their solution to the challenge.

The Metallic Chickens painted an AMAZING backdrop for the Chinese garden.  They built their animatronic dragon named ODIS ("Our Dragon Is Supreme"), which utilizes hydraulics and oscillation for movement.  They built a pedestal and bushes, designed all their own costumes and wrote a complete script explaining the presence of ODIS in the garden and how he affects the unlikely location.

In February they competed against 13 other middle school and junior high teams at the regional tournament.  Only the first place team advanced to the state competition.  

Metallic Chickens won first place!

Wow.  Ok.  My fellow team managers and the team parents knew these kids were smart.  We saw how hard they worked, how many hours they put in, the fantastic ideas they came up with.  Did I have any idea they would compete so well, well enough to win first place in the region?  No way.

ODIS lives to see another day.  (He's a bit of a diva.... high maintenance and fragile even though he's cute).   Our team had five more weeks of rehearsals and work days to get ready for State.  Our script was tweaked to perfection and the props were spruced up a bit. 

This past Saturday was the State Competition in Mansfield.  We left on the bus at 6:45am.  It was 86 degrees the day before.  On the way to Mansfield the temperature was 29.  There were SNOW FLURRIES floating around when we arrived.  It was just the start of what would be a surreal day.

I don't have any idea how many total teams participated at State.  It was held at three different contest locations (high schools), but it seemed like everyone was crammed into one building.  Teams were lined up throughout the school, down hallways, in the cafeteria.... eating lunch on the run, dressing and putting makeup on in the middle of the chaos.  Our team had IC first, shortly after we arrived.  They aren't allowed to talk about the specifics until after Globals so as not to give anything away, so nobody besides the team members, the judges and the one team manager allowed in the room know what their IC was.  

When the Metallic Chickens came back to our "home base" in the cafeteria I asked how they did.... thumbs up or thumbs down?  They looked at me and kind of waved their hand back and forth.  The team manager that went with them said they did well, but they didn't KNOW they did well because they didn't really understand the challenge.  They worked through it, though, and she said they did it, even though they didn't know it.  ha ha   IC has definitely been a challenge for our team, so for her to be smiling about how she thought they did left us feeling good.

After lunch it was on to the Team Challenge.  Makeup was finished up, costumes were donned and props were unpacked.  We checked in with an appraiser and the team enthusiastically described their unlikely location and props.

They competed at 1:40pm in a classroom with half a dozen appraisers (judges) around the room ready to watch.  Our team had a room full of family and friends there for support.  Even Mr. Light, the school district superintendent, came to support the Wylie teams!

The performance went well.  There was a stumble over a line or two, and a malfunction with the crown (for once ODIS wasn't the problem), but other than that, good job Metallic Chickens!  

As a team manager and parent, I was apprehensive.  I knew they were good.... they made it to State!  But Saturday's performance was not the best they've done.  Things didn't all go smoothly.  But they did it and did it well.  About an hour after they competed we were able to get their raw scores.  These tell you how the appraisers scored them based on the different elements of their challenge.... but that's about it.  You don't really know how you did until you know how they scored everyone else!  

Our scores were really good.  Only slightly lower than our regional score, and everyone said that was to be expected.  After all, at State you are going against all #1 teams!  We were happy with the score, and even happier with the appraisers' comments:

We had several hours to pack up the props, change clothes and eat dinner before the awards ceremony that evening.  The Chickens blew off some steam and refueled at a restaurant near the field house. 

If you ever look up "mass chaos" in the dictionary, you would probably find a picture of a DI awards ceremony.  
Holy cow.  People everywhere.  Hyper kids, exhausted team managers, loud music, beach balls flying, glow sticks all around!  It's loads of fun but also seems endless.... just give us the results!!!!!

It seemed to take forever because there are a handful of different challenge categories, and for each one there are several different age levels (elementary, middle and secondary.... some even had university level).  So having to listen to them announce the top six or eight (depending on the challenge) teams in every age group of every challenge.....  even though they went quickly, we were getting very impatient.  And very nervous!  

The top six teams advance to Globals in Knoxville, Tennessee.... but in our challenge we were up against 19 other teams.  And we had no idea how they did!  We were not able to watch anyone else's.
When they finally started announcing for Unlikely Location my stomach was in knots.  The kids were on the edge of their seats, hands clasped in prayer, watching the screen avidly.  I did not want their hearts broken.

Sixth place....not us.
Fifth place....not us.
Fourth place....not us.
Third place....not us.

Oh God.

Surely we weren't top two?



To say I was stunned is an understatement.  To say I was proud is an even bigger understatement.  I went from ready to cry for their disappointment to shocked and elated in the span of ten seconds.....

So yes.... ODIS lives to see ANOTHER competition.  There are some more repairs to be made, and the next five weeks will be filled with rehearsals and work days..... just like the last six months.  (I just thought softball season never ended!)  We will leave for Knoxville on May 21 and the competition starts May 23.  There are a lot of details to take care of between now and then and right now we're on information overload, but still.... I couldn't be more thrilled for my girl and her teammates.

Monday morning on the way to school, she sent me this text from the bus:

That says it all, doesn't it?

If you've read this entire post, thank you.  The Metallic Chickens have traveled a long road, and they aren't at the end yet!  Please say prayers for safe travels to Tennessee and for them to do their best at Globals.

For those of you who haven't been able to see them, here is their State performance that earned them a trip to Globals:

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1677

Random thought..... ass-kicking day 2000 will be February 20, 2019.  For some reason that seems like a momentous occasion.  Maybe I should plan a party.  I mean, two THOUSAND days of beating cancer.  I suppose I have some time to think about that since it's over 300 days away.  Let's not put the cart ahead of the horse.

Today, day 1677, is the

Do you know why today's society is full of lazy, irresponsible, entitled children, teenagers and young adults?  I'll tell you why.  It's because there are more and more lazy, irresponsible, entitled ADULTS in this world.

Someone I barely know told me yesterday that I'm always so polite and happy, and that it was refreshing.  That was a nice compliment, because I really do try.  I mean, life is good so why not be happy?  

They probably wouldn't have said it about me today.  

For the past five years I have volunteered with a non-profit organization (youth softball league).  Most of the time I enjoy it (obviously, because I'm still there after five years!).  My daughter started in tee ball when she was 4 years old, and this is her eighth year of playing.  I have grown to love the game, and I love watching her play.  I also love that my love for those two things has presented me with an opportunity to give back.  When you work with the public in any capacity, you have to expect that you will interact with a diverse group of people.  Sometimes that's a positive.  I've made some very good friends and have worked alongside some incredibly dedicated and enjoyable men and women.  On the flip side, it's not always sunshine and roses.  In fact, this is going to be my new business card:

Like it?  I'm going to hand it out to everyone who complains about something not going their way and unrealistically expecting me (or any other volunteer) to appease them.


Honestly, you would be amazed at how many selfish, inconsiderate, petty people there are in this world.  Everyone is in it for themselves and what they can get out of it.  If one little thing goes wrong, instead of adjusting their sails and going with the flow, everyone seems to make mountains out of molehills and they aren't satisfied until they feel validated.  It's getting ridiculous.

I spend hundreds of hours of my own time "working" for this organization.  Most of that time is spent on my computer, on my couch in the comfort of my own home.... but it's still time that takes me away from my family and other things I might want to do.  I can't even take a guess at the number of phone calls, texts and emails I send and receive each week.  I'm surprised my phone hasn't blown up.

As league secretary:
  • I am the primary records keeper for the league.  
  • I prepare minutes of every board meeting, e-mail copies of minutes to Board Members, and provide hard copies to be read during the next board meeting.  Along with that I prepare a summary of electronic decisions to be read into the next regularly scheduled meeting. 
  • I work with other officers and the scheduler (me) to develop an annual calendar of events.
  • I lead the effort to prepare and set up for spring and fall registrations, prepare and submit registration dates and other pertinent information to local media.
  • I prepare and distribute flyers (schools, churches, etc).  This year we passed out 2000+ flyers.
  • I prepare and submit roster insurance documents (282 players this spring) and provide registration numbers to Division Reps.
  • I prepare draft lists for each age group, and notebooks for coaches before draft.
  • I prepare team forms for player, coach and parent shirts.
  • I collect and file completed code of ethics forms for all coaches.
  • I collect insurance and waiver forms from each team.
  • I have to ensure every coach has turned in a coaching application and completed their background check, and I am the one who nags every single parent to send in their player's birth certificate.  
  • I enter insurance information on the District 11 spreadsheet and communicate with the  appropriate person at District 11.
  • As scheduler for the league, I schedule games and practices for 25+ teams.  I coordinate with at least five other leagues to cross-schedule games so our teams have a variety of opponents.
  • I develop and communicate the park opening and closing schedule.
  • I prepare all-star information for closing ceremonies.
  • I am the primary avenue of communication between the league and the coaches & parents.  I keep Facebook updated and I design and maintain the league's web site.   
  • I plan, advertise and schedule tournaments throughout the year, preparing coaches packets, making the schedules and purchasing the trophies/medals for each tournament.    
  • I coordinate with the district umpire in charge, making sure every game has an umpire.  I work with the league treasurer to ensure the umpires are paid the correct amount each week. 

I also spend countless hours at our league's facility.  Although my lymphedema prevents me from doing a lot of the physical work at the fields, I try to do my share by picking up trash, emptying trash cans, cleaning the bleachers and/or press box area, purchasing and stocking softballs and trophies for the league season, and I've even been known to hop on the Toro machine and drag a field or two.  I have cleaned bathrooms, thrown away your trash and even served nachos and frito pie.  As one of only seven board members, I am on the schedule about a dozen times this spring to open and/or close the fields on game nights.  

Do you know why I do all of that?  I volunteer because it's my way of giving back.  I like being around softball, and I like knowing that I'm doing my part to help give kids a fun, safe place to play ball.

But you know what?  MY KID DOESN'T EVEN PLAY IN THE LEAGUE!!!!!!
She plays softball, but she plays on a travel team (tournaments only, most of them out of town).

You want to complain because you didn't like the way someone spoke to you?
You want to complain because you don't like where someone parked?
You want to complain, quit & then ask for a refund?
You want to complain about who your child's coach is (or isn't), but you haven't stepped up yourself to coach?
You want to complain about having to help close the fields ONE evening during the 8 week season?
You want to complain about being asked to participate in a fundraiser?  A fundraiser that will help a NON-PROFIT league provide equipment, truckloads of dirt, bases, field machines, scoreboards, chalk, and dozens of other things so YOUR CHILD can have fun playing softball?  A league that was bankrupt three years ago?
You want to complain because a mistake was made on your team shirts or your parent shirts?
You want to complain that you had to wait five extra minutes for your nachos/hamburger/fries?

I'm sorry, but your complaints are falling on deaf ears.  

I listed everything I do for this league day in and day out.  And I'm just one person.  There are others who bust their asses for this league (and all of the other volunteer-run leagues), the same as me.  People with jobs, people with families, people with lives outside of softball.  People who are out at the parks until after midnight getting fields ready to play on the next day.  People who work hard to solicit dozens of sponsors to help the league financially (because trust me, the $75 registration fee that you complain about paying barely scratches the surface).  People who do softball instead of their own jobs at work because a city inspection had to be done at the complex or irrigation guys had to be let on the field or a financial report had to be completed or repairs needed to be made in the concession stand. 
What do you do, besides show up for games and practices and leave when you're done?  
Some of you do step in and help without being asked, and we greatly appreciate it.  But you are the minority.

There are a million and one things that have to happen, both behind the scenes and at the fields, to give your child a fantastic place to play softball.  And you know what?  We have seven board members.  Seven volunteers.  Seven people who spend their time and energy year-round volunteering for almost 300 kids.  It doesn't happen by magic.

So let me ask again ....before you complain, have YOU volunteered?

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1674

It has been almost two months since I lost my BFF.
The grief is always there.... sometimes quietly under the surface, and sometimes it hits like a tidal wave.  Today Hubby and I had a movie date.  We went to see I Can Only Imagine.

I'm very familiar with that song, but I had no idea that one of the members of Mercy Me had written it.  The movie was excellent.... very intense and emotional.  Toward the end of the movie, there's a very touching scene where "Bart Millard" sings his song in public for the very first time.
I cried.  I cried because it is a beautiful song.  I cried because it was a beautiful moment in the movie.  And I cried because one of those tidal waves of grief hit me in that moment.

I know Trudy is in a better place.  I know her body has been healed.  I know she is watching over us from heaven.  But I miss her, dammit.

For so long, I prayed for strength and healing for Trudy.  She's healed... 100% healed... in heaven.  I still pray for Trudy, but my prayer is different.  I pray that she can show me the way when I feel lost.  I pray that she can give me hope when I need it.  I pray that her light always shines down on those of us who loved her.
Trudy grew so much in her faith over the last few years.  I know.... I KNOW.... that she is happy and at peace in the arms of our Lord.  I know that she was ready to go home.  I can only imagine how content she must be..... free of sickness and pain, surrounded by God's glory.

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk, by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When you face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
Surrounded by You glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1636

I'm sitting here late at night, everyone else in their rooms asleep, as is often the case.  I'm watching womens hockey.  I'm not really a hockey fan.  I'm really not really a womens hockey fan. 

But.  It's.  The.  Olympics!

Gold medal game between Team USA and Canada.  Whether you love hockey or not, that's exciting!

I love watching the Olympics.  Not only because I love sports and these games are the best of the best in each sport.  I love everything about them..... the locations, the history, the athlete's stories.

Some of the sports I have zero interest in.  Curling, for one.  I just don't get it.  At all.  Most of the skiing events are kind of boring to me.  (Moguls just look painful)  Watching figure skating is my favorite.   Always has been.  I love watching speed skating.  I love the bobsled (those quads!!!!).  During these two weeks every four years, I become a fan of ski jumping, biathlon, snowboarding and a dozen other sports that I otherwise never ever watch.

You can't tell me you're a true American if you were not screaming and cheering when Shaun White came from behind to win his third gold medal in the half pipe.  What a truly amazing moment for him, and for Team USA.

I love the traditions of the Olympics.  I love how not only are the athletes competing against each other, but they are often competing with themselves.... to better themselves.  The Canadian ice dancers...... flawless once again.  The mens bobsled gold medal competition ended in a tie.  Yes, a tie.  In a sport where time is measured in hundredths of a second..... through four different runs, two teams ended up with the exact same time.  Craziness.

There are hundreds of storylines during the Olympics.... some sad moments, a lot of victorious moments.  People crash on the mountainside.  People fall on the ice.  People get hurt.  People live up to their potential.  They kick ass and take names, reaching the pinnacle of their sport, allowing the world to cheer them on.  These athletes jump dozens of meters in the air, landing on 3" white skis.  They speed down a mountain faster than I drive in my car (and I drive fast).  They hold each other upside down while spinning on the ice.  They defy the odds time and again, and the world cheers for them.

The Olympics bring out the ultra-patriotic athlete in all of us, and I'm always sad when they are over.
Go Team USA!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1634

Today was the second Monday in a row that I didn't go to work. 

Normally that would be cause for celebration. 
Last Monday I was recuperating from flying to the east coast for the second time in two weeks, and being away from home for 7 out of 11 days. 

This morning I stayed home because I was sick.  I'm not running a fever, so I don't think it's anything serious.  Given my medical history over the last five years, though, it doesn't take something serious to knock me flat for several days. 

Even before my cancer diagnosis I was dealing with a compromised immune system.  About a year before d-day I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, as well as Epstein-Barr virus (the virus that causes mono).  Both of those are basically a "once you've had it, you're stuck with it" kind of thing.  Even though I don't have active symptoms of either one anymore, it takes a lot of effort for my system to fight anything off.

Yesterday was a couch day (for all of us, not just me!).  I read, I had chicken soup for lunch, and we watched the Olympics all day.  All of that resting didn't help me bounce back.  I woke up this morning with the same headache, the same sore throat, the same worn out feeling.

Thankfully I am blessed with a boss who happens to be my husband, and he is very understanding about my limitations.  I had brought work home with me last week, so I was able to accomplish something today besides keeping my electric blanket company. 

It's so frustrating that something as ordinary as a cold can knock me flat and make me feel like I have to climb a mountain to bounce back.

Last night, in the middle of the night, I was hit with a wave of grief so sharp I couldn't sleep.  It has been fifteen days since my bestie became an angel in heaven.  It has been nine days since she was laid to rest.  I don't know what set me off last night, but the reality that I'll never see her, never talk to her, never laugh with her again hit, and it hit hard.

I can vividly recall every moment I spent with her during her final days.  I remember everything I said to her, and everything she said to me.  I remember what her hair looked like (dark!) and what her hand felt like in mine.  I remember hating cancer so much, every single minute I was there.

Trudy has not been a part of my every day life for a long time.  Decades.  There were years we didn't even see each other once.  There were months we didn't even talk once.  But she was always, always there.  Just a phone call away.  Just a text away. 

I have a thousand different wonderful memories with Trudy.  She's in heaven, and all I have are those memories.

I have so much love for her, with nowhere for it to go.
It breaks my heart.