Cancer and You

There has been a lot about cancer in the media this week. We have lost musicians, actors, artists, mothers, fathers, children, sisters, brothers, friends, teachers, sons and daughters to this terrible disease. I don’t think anyone on earth is unaffected by the ramifications of cancer loss.

My own story is one of celebration and survival and for that I am grateful. Still, every time I see someone taken too soon because of this disease, I am sick to my stomach.
Sometimes I feel guilty because my story wraps up with a pretty, little bow. Other times I am mentally and emotionally brought back to that moment that I sat alone in the doctor’s office and my world was forever changed. Sometimes I get angry when I see how cancer is viewed…how people often comfort themselves by assuming it only happens to those who have brought it upon themselves through poor diet and life choices.

These emotions can either be all consuming or used as fuel to help others. In an effort to bring purpose to what happened to me, I choose the latter and one way that I feel I can help is by shedding some light via first hand experience.
People are always asking me how they can help their newly diagnosed friends and I never tire of hearing the question because it means people care enough to ask.

Here is some insight:

1) Anyone in any walk of life can get cancer. Vegans get cancer, non-smokers get cancer, athletes get cancer, young people get cancer, babies get cancer. I was in the best shape of my life when I was diagnosed. I don’t say this to scare you, but to remind you to have empathy. Do not email articles about better nutrition to your newly diagnosed friends. In fact, if you do not have a phd in medicine, do not speak to the nature, causation or cure of their condition at all. It is hurtful, not helpful.

2) Do not make a person’s cancer diagnoses about you. It may indeed make you uncomfortable, sad, scared, anxious…and you need to find someone to talk to about that, just don’t choose to unload onto the person who has been diagnosed. They don’t need to deal with the guilt of causing you pain on top of being sick and scared out of their mind. Also, don’t disappear from their lives because their cancer is too hard on you. That’s a level of selfish I’m confident you don’t want to be.

3) Be present, continuously. Most people diagnosed with cancer receive a great deal of support in the beginning. This support tends to naturally tapper off as the shock wears off for those outside looking in however, the affects of treatment and the really, really difficult stuff happens much, much later.

4) Show up. Watch kids, clean houses, make meals, buy funny, little presents…don’t be satisfied with the “let me know if you need anything” thing. We all say it. I still say it all the time and it’s not a bad statement but if someone you’re close with has cancer, they probably don’t have the emotional energy to ask. Just do stuff.

5) Don’t dismiss their concerns. If they don’t feel well 6 months after treatment and are worried about recurrence, don’t say “You’re fine. It’s nothing.”
I know this is said in an effort to be helpful but it isn’t.
A) You can’t possibly know that they are fine. You are not a CTscan.
B) It is dismissive.
Just listen and console with things like “it must be really scary to feel that way” and always suggest following up with their doctor. Take them seriously even when you feel there is nothing seriously wrong. I had a pimple on my neck yesterday and thought it was a lump and almost had a panic attack.
Immediately after I finished treatment I lived with a mindset of ‘when my cancer comes back’. After about a year I was able to move into thinking ‘if my cancer comes back’…and I am just now moving into a place where I am starting to believe that it never has to come back. It’s been 2.5 years and I still have side effects from treatment and I still have worries of recurrence. Cancer doesn’t end when treatment does.

We’re damaged goods, be patient with us.

6) Encourage, pray for, laugh with, cry with and do life with your sick friends. If your friend or family member has received a metastatic or terminal diagnosis, don’t mourn them while they are still here. None of us are promised tomorrow but that doesn’t mean that we walk around mourning impending death. I realize that cancer changes things and I cannot imagine the immense sadness that comes with knowing your time will be cut short, especially for young parents, so make every effort to find joy in the every day experiences on behalf of your friends and loved ones. Cancer is messy and painful and often times a very undignified way to die. No one deserves to die that way or to live that way for years at a time but try to muster up the energy to be the one who celebrates love and life while your loved ones are still here. Don’t wait for the eulogies.

To those who have had or are dealing with cancer, you are tough as nails. I remember hearing a very angry gentleman ask why having cancer was considered a fight. He was going through a diagnosis himself and said that laying in a bed being pumped full of medicine didn’t make him feel like much of a fighter… And it’s true, to an extent. I did not single-handedly destroyed my cancer because my will to live is stronger than those who passed away from it. I have always and will always hate the term ‘lost their battle to cancer‘ because it isn’t fair and it isn’t true.

You fight cancer with your attitude. You fight cancer by holding onto precious relationships during a horrible time. You fight cancer by being and doing as much good as you can even when you feel like doing nothing at all. You fight cancer by not allowing it to kill your spirit. It may scar you, bald you, hurt you and it can even kill you but you defeat it by not letting it kill WHO you are.

Since being diagnosed and becoming involved with Young Adult Cancer Canada, I have met more people with cancer than the average person my age. I have mourned the loss of more people from my peer group than most 32-year-old women have ever had to do. It is a unique challenge for us in this network. A person usually has many more years of life experience before they have to navigate through this kind of loss and fear of mortality but I cannot in good conscience distance myself from this community just because it would be easier on me. I cannot allow what has happened to have happened for no reason, for no purpose. Instead, I believe that God has given me the strength to recycle that which was meant to harm me to give me and it purpose, His purpose: To see everyone on this earth well loved.

Cancer sucks, but you can help to make it suck less.

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Why I’m Going Back to School

In April 2001, I was a few short months away from finishing high school and a few more months away from starting university. I was brainstorming what it was I would do in post-secondary and needed to make that decision quickly because the academic advisor from Memorial University was coming to my high school and I had to be ready.

I knew the area of study that interested me the most was psychology. It intrigued me. I could get excited about it. Physics? No. Math? Gross. The workings of the human mind? Bring it. Thinking about pursuing a degree in psychology brought me a fresh wave of passion for learning. It’s what I wanted to do.

One Sunday while at church, an older gentlemen that I had known for years asked me, “So, what do you want to do in university?”
“Psychology.” I answered, smiling.
His face turned downward, as if even his eyebrows were frowning in disapproval. “Don’t do that. You won’t get a job.”

I don’t believe for a second that he intended for those words to be as powerful as they were but for me it was a total game changer. That comment would completely change my impressionable 17 year old mind. Prior to that, I wasn’t even thinking in terms of getting a job. I was just excited to be pursuing subject matter that interested me. So, like any 17 year old would do, I panicked and made a bad choice.

Nursing. I’ll do nursing.

Now, 32 year old Kathy looks back at this decision and laughs heartily. Not because nursing is a poor career choice or a lesser education. Quite the opposite. I know that I wouldn’t have lasted 2 months in nursing school.

Truthfully, I found school very easy until grade 11. I applied myself very little and was still among the top 5 in my class each year. I would totally brag about this if it weren’t for grades 11 and 12 when things like physics and math and chemistry did not make sense to me and like a deer in the headlights of confusion, I barely passed. My lack of ‘need to try’ had turned me into a lazy and poor student. I didn’t know how to study (and nursing students STUDY) and I had 0 passion for actually becoming a health care professional. I just panicked and chose an area of study where I could emerge employable.

Nurses are an amazing group of human beings and I unfortunately was not created to be one of them.

I didn’t know this at the time. What I knew was a) I wanted to move to St. John’s and go to Memorial University and b) it was stupid to get a psychology degree. Apparently.

I applied to the faculty of nursing right out ot high school and given my near bombing of physics, math and chemistry, I (shocker) did not get in. I did however get accepted to MUN and began a full course load of nursing pre-requisites. I was as bad a university student as I was in grades 11 and 12. I slept past morning classes, I never studied, I was the girl saying, “psssst, do you have a pencil?” during final exams. I stayed up all night, took naps at 5pm, organized social events via phone because facebook and non-dial up internet was not a thing…school was at the bottom of my priority list.

I somehow passed two semesters at MUN and applied for nursing school again. This time I got a letter saying I was on a ‘waiting list’ and to go ahead and get my shots and medical records up to date, just in case. I didn’t do that…because a day later I was on a plane to the USA for the first time to work at a Salvation Army summer camp…and guess who I met there?

There’s a reason why people call bible camp, bridal camp.

I came back to NL with a long distance relationship and no desire to be a nurse. I did one more semester of school until I decided, “I have no idea what I want to do. I quit.”

Quitting school was a good decision at the time. I felt free. So free in fact, I moved to Kitchener, Ontario by myself to try life on my own. I lasted 6 weeks and came home with my tail between my legs. Three months later I was engaged to a stranger. Five months after that I married him. It worked out.

I would try and sum up everything that has happened from then til now but it would be the size of your grandmother’s collection of encyclopedias so I’ll skip ahead.

We had a kid when I was 22. On my 24th birthday, I was chatting with my mom on the phone and she told me about a high school friend of mine who had become a lawyer.

Waaaaait a minute. I wasn’t old enough to be a lawyer so how was he? I was married with a baby, sure, but my generation weren’t finishing their degrees yet and certainly weren’t becoming lawyers…were they? Indeed they were.

It dawned one me. The world didn’t wait for me to catch up. I think somewhere in my weird, poor math applying mind I thought I could take a ‘break’ from school and then I would hop back in and catch up to everyone else.

Nope. They were double lapping me.

That was one of the toughest birthdays I have ever had because it was the first time I felt ‘too old’ to do something. I had missed the boat.

Jump ahead. We moved a bunch, did a lot of stuff, I wrote a book, I had another kid, we got rid of all of our posessions and moved to Canada, we started from scratch…the whole immigrant’s tale, I’m diagnosed with cancer, I start chemo, I lose my hair, I get chubby, I get sicker, I get scanned, I find out I’m better, I’m in the shower and bam! I realize that I have cheated death! I am 2 weeks shy of 30 and I feel like I can do anything! I can be anything! The world is my oyster!

What have I always wanted to do?

First thought: Finish my degree.

Before the shampoo has been thoroughly rinsed off of my bald head I have already talked myself out of it.

Preston is too little, it’s too expensive, you still need to focus on getting better and…what kind of degree can you get that  will get you a job?

That voice. That ‘a degree is useless unless it’s a means to an end’ echoed in my head and bounced from ear to ear.

It’s too late anyway

Fast forward…I have hair now, my music career is going well, I’m able to earn an income through performing/song writing while also spending ample time with my boys, I volunteer a considerable amount, I’m still chubby but I have hair so it’s ok. My youngest boy starts kindergarten and I am struck with the realization that my babies are not babies anymore.

One month ago  I was sitting in a church event and this question was posed: “What is your God sized dream?”

………..*crickets*………….

Get through the day? I don’t know. I was stumped.

This started a stirring within my heart and mind. I realized I had no vision for the long term. I am considerably busy with kids and work and volunteering but I had no long term goal, no bucket list, nothing to aspire to except fitting back into my skinny clothes which…let’s be honest…isn’t going very well….

I began to pray about it and suddenly it hit me, while watching my sons at swimming lessons. I was sitting on a hard bench in the pool observation deck, reading a book entitled “Faith and Doubt” when I was struck with the spiritual equivalent of a forehead slap.

I want to finish my degree!

Why? Well….BECAUSE I WANT TO. I’ve always wanted to…and not as a means to a job but as a means to becoming a deeper, richer, more well rounded version of myself. I don’t believe education equals success but for me it will because it’s something I have always wanted to do and haven’t out of discouragement and fear. This is my everest.

I want to learn and acheive and challenge myself for the sake of learning and acheiving and challenging myself.

I saw this vivid picture of elderly me, regretting everytime I said, “It’s too late, I’m too old.” I remembered everytime I got a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye looking at pictures of people in caps and gowns with diplomas and instead of thinking “Too bad that’s not me.” I thought, “Why not me?”

It was the oddest shot of excitement out of nowhere that I have ever received and I knew I had to act before I (or someone with an unsolicited opinion about my life) talked me out of it.

I first talked to Jay. He was incredibly supportive. He is in a career he rocks at with a company he loves with extra-curriculars he enjoys and is always such a rock and support for me. He was on board but urged me to keep it quiet for a while because he knew, discouraging voices needed to be avoided at all cost.

I met with an academic advisor and he was amazingly affirmative. We looked up my transcripts and they weren’t terrible. I passed every course I took and discovered I am close to 1/2 way to a Bachelor of Arts already.

I decided that I wanted to do a Bachelor of Religious Studies with a minor in Psychology. Will this translate to a job opportunity the day after graduation? Probably not but it certainly won’t hurt my future endeavours!

I’m going to take my time and get this done. It may take four years. It may take ten. It will be done in alignment with my priorities. As long as it is financially viable and doesn’t take away from my family’s quality of life, I’ll be enrolling in a class or 2 (or 3 or 4!) each semester until the day I get to wear a cap and gown of my very own…and that day will be incredible, not because I am somehow better off or more employable because of my newfound education…but because I accomplished a goal I at one point thought I couldn’t.

And that is why I’m going back to school.

 

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Dear Mr. Jim Cuddy,

On July 11th, 2013, here’s what was on the go in my neck of the woods:

image

Prior to 2013, I was living the dream. Stay at home mom to two gorgeous boys by day, gigging musician by night. On January 21, 2013…it all changed when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 29 years old.

After 6 months of surgeries, treatments, tests and procedures, I was finally done. Cancer was over, remission was starting and I was elated. I made a sign. I brought cupcakes to the nurses in the chemo unit. I ate one too. For months, July 11th was the day I waited for. The day I dreamed about when I shaved my long, brown hair with tears in my eyes. The day I longed for when I was too weak to play outside with my children. The day I could sing again because my throat wouldn’t be sore from chemo. The day I thought I could finally get back to being ‘me’.

Little did I know, Cancer doesn’t end when treatment does. My husband compares a beatable Cancer experience to climbing a mountain. You have a goal but it’s steep and hard. It hurts your body. It plays tricks with your mind. It makes you feel weak and winded. You get tired but you can’t stop climbing. You want to, but you can’t. After hours and hours of trudging and struggling upward, the summit is right there. On the horizon, within your grasp, only a few tired steps away…then, you’re there. July 11th. The Mountain Top. For a brief moment, you catch your breath and enjoy the view…but then…you have to come back down.

Nobody tells you that coming down hurts more. Nobody tells you that you have to cautiously watch every step because it’s really easy to fall. That you have to go slow when you feel like you should be able to move more quickly. Nobody tells you that coming down takes longer…and truth be told, it’s been almost two years and I’m still coming down.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to be well. I know so many other Cancer fighters who may never hear the words “Cancer free.” My challenges pale in comparison to that of someone who will fight Cancer indefinitely…however, my brief stint with Cancer has changed me and although the climb and the descent was difficult, its gotten easier with time. If I may use this moment to comfort those in recent recovery, it’s normal to not feel normal and it will get better each day.

Thankfully, I don’t jump every time I sniff or sneeze anymore. I check my neck for lumps and bumps then continue on with my day. Last year, I found the anniversaries of the previous year very difficult…this year, I forgot them. I was blissfully unaware that January 21st wasn’t just like every other day…I wasn’t haunted by the words that changed my life forever 2 exact years before.

I’m getting back to ‘me’. Although my excess weight is still on, my thick, long hair fits nicely into a pony tail and that makes my day, everyday. I have the health and energy to date my husband, lead/teach/play with/snuggle my children, sing and play music with and for people. Normalcy has never tasted so sweet.

Cancer is becoming more and more a distant memory and it’s becoming easier and easier to believe I’m fine. I’m really, really fine. I’m grateful for it. It was all kinds of hard but it has shaped me.

So you may be wondering, “that’s an interesting story but what in the world does this have to do with me?”

Well, that’s a fair question.

On July 11th, 2015, you will be rockin’ out in St. John’s, Newfoundland with none other than the incredible and legendary Rod Stewart. As a musician and massive Blue Rodeo/Rod Stewart fan, you can imagine my elation when I heard that you would be performing together on my two year ‘Cancerversary’. I bought my tickets as soon as it was humanly possible and I cannot wait to celebrate kicking Cancer in the teeth with the musical backing of you and Rod Stewart. It’s the most epic of coincidences.

What I would love and cherish for all eternity is the opportunity to sing ‘Bad Timing’ with you during your show. Cancer showed up at the most inopportune time, messing with schedule and dreams and relationships…and that song is a hauntingly beautiful reminder that it’s in the past.

“And maybe soon there’ll come a day
When no more tears will fall
We each forgive a little bit
And we both look back on it
It’s just bad timing that’s all.”

There is a harmony line in that song that I always belt proudly when I hear it and I can think of no greater honour than to celebrate life, love and music by blending voices with a fellow Canadian musician I admire on a song that means so much to me on a day that I’ll never forget.

I would like to say that I’m not ‘playing the Cancer card’ although I probably am…I certainly don’t mean to abuse my ‘club membership’ and definitely do not recommend anyone become a part of this exclusive group.
I’m not looking for tangibles or free access to the show. I already bought my tickets. I’ll be there, no matter what, wearing the Rod Stewart shirt my husband hates so much…;)

I would however love it if you could consider bringing a Newfie girl up on stage to sing with you for a brief moment. It would be a Cancer-beating celebration to remember for a life time…and I intend on living a long, long life.

If you’ve taken the time to read this, I thank you so much and regardless of whether we ever meet face to face or sing with one another, I’ll see you on July 11th where I will be celebrating every breath.

Keep rockin’.

Sincerely,

Kathy Stock

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Justice

A few evenings ago, I wrote my dear friend Kris a letter and wanted to address/mail it. I jumped on google for a quick whitepages search to remind myself of her mailing address and all of a sudden my google search brought me straight back to an incident…a blog I had written in September 2013 called ‘A War on Home Schooling’. It was a story about my dear friends who were wrongfully arrested based on false testimony for homeschooling their children in a way the State of Florida simply didn’t like. The blog, the backlash, the twisting of words and the meanness of strangers came flooding back. In my google search, the articles popped up…the ones that painted Kris with an unflattering brush and accused me of fear mongering and lying and stupidity…and I was reminded of how badly this initiative back fired during one of the most emotionally exhausting times of my existence…only weeks after finishing 6 months of cancer treatments.

Bad timing. Bad times.

My intention when I wrote about the Spell family was to advocate for my friends with sincerity and honesty. In hindsight, I realize I know too little about Florida law and home schooling regulations to have ever written such an article but in all fairness, I never expected this blog to go viral the way it did or to shine a negative light on my friends. I just thought it would be an educational tool to reach anyone who wanted to know more about this situation, help or be positively involved.

I can say with all honesty that I have 0 regrets about standing up for Kristina Spell and her family. They are an incredible group of people with a less than perfect history but a powerful testimony of overcoming odds (self inflicted and otherwise) to become some of the most selfless and inspiring people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Show me someone who hasn’t messed up and I’ll show you…well…Jesus.

I do however regret some things about the blog post. The title for one…I realize now that they were not victims of ‘A War on Home Schooling’.  At the time I thought the title was a clever synopsis of the situation. Nothing more. I certainly didn’t intend for it to invoke fear or anger. Plenty of Florida families home school without issue. I simply wanted to engage support. In actuality, the Spells weren’t being attacked for home schooling…they were being attacked for their uncommon, yet still perfectly lawful use of ‘umbrella schools’. It would be like trying to criminalize a Florida motorcyclist for not wearing a helmet…even though in the state of Florida, it’s perfectly legal not to wear one.

At least it was when I lived there…

Now, I don’t know enough about Florida motorcycle law to write intelligently about that either so I will learn from past mistakes and not even try…

The fantastic news is that this case eventually went before the court, with support and testimony from Brenda Dickinson (a home schooling big wig in FL) where it was dismissed. The State wasn’t satisfied so they appealed and the saga continued, adding up to a combined total of 4.5 years of court fees, anxiety and needless tax payers money being wasted. I remember Kris calling me and telling me she had been arrested while I was giving my baby a bath. That baby starts Kindergarten in September. That’s how long this has been dragging on.

In the end, the Spells came out on top with one judge after another seeing no fault in their methods and questioning the State’s motives in singling out this family. After making its way to the highest court in FL, this case and all charges have been dropped.

The Spells have happily resumed their unconventional but wonderful life, home schooling some incredible kids who have and are growing into exceptional adults who receive a quality home education. They are well taugh, well rounded, bright, amazing humans.

You should meet them. You’ll be better for it🙂

So, because they received their much deserved happy ending, I took the controversial blog down and replaced it with a blog very similar to this one. There was definitely some copying and pasting that went on😉

Truth is, I have no need for it any more and neither do they.

Personally, I learned a lot from this. I learned that my skin isn’t thick enough to be a journalist. I use to want to be a writer. I now have 0 desire to write anything of controversy or to have my writings go viral. The tone of my online communications has changed and I’m OK with that. I’m cool with just blogging about my feelings and happenings for an audience of 20 or less who want something to do as they skim the internet.

I’m not built for public scrutiny. It hurts my heart.

I’ve also learned that no matter what, I will go to bat for my friends. It hurt and I lost sleep over it but if you knew Kris the way I do, you’d have done it too. We all have that person, that incredible person we love in spite of and because of themselves…and Kris is one of those people for me. I aspire to be more like her all the time. She motivates me, inspires me and blows me away, constantly. I miss her like crazy.

I also learned to choose my words wisely. I don’t think I did such a good job of that with the original blog. Although the information I presented was to the best of my knowledge truthful and accurate, my verbiage could have been better. I’m going to go ahead and blame chemo brain for that one. I’m honestly amazed that I had the strength to handle that backlash with the state I was in. God definitely kept my head up.

For anyone who is wondering, I am 20 months in remission from stage 2 hodgkin’s lymphoma and doing great🙂 So great that I’m not wasting another minute of my precious time involved with internet drama.

I also learned how ‘not to be’ from the actions of my naysayers. I want to be kind and if you’re not kind online, you’re not kind. Period.

I don’t want to hide behind my computer screen and shred people I’ve never met. What would that teach my children? That kind of behavior has caused irreparable damage to this generation. People have committed suicide and had psychotic breaks due to the cruelty of words written behind the cowardice of a stranger’s computer screen. I don’t want to be a part of it. I don’t want to do it or have it done to me. There are words written online about me and Kris and Steve because of that original blog post that are incredibly unkind…and it is beyond my power to remove them. It is however within my power to walk away from them. Deleting the original blog and replacing it with an update is one way of doing just that.

Now, if anyone would like to read the original blog post, I am more than happy to send it your way. Message me or leave me a comment with your email address and I can send it along privately.

I’m not ashamed of it, I’m just done with it. I don’t need it anymore, because justice has (finally) been served.

I want to thank those who supported (both verbally and financially) the Spell family to help them through this time. Court fees were constant and time missed from work to attend proceedings definitely caused financial strain. Your help and kindness made a world of difference.

I’m so happy for my friends and proud of how they handled themselves throughout this battle.

Justice doesn’t always prevail but it does today.

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Facebook Free February

Well, it’s March 1st.

February is behind us and Spring is around the corner. Hopefully.

Those close to me know that I have a very active presence on Facebook. Contrary to popular belief (and a few random jokes at my expense), I don’t spend an excessive amount of time online in any capacity because…well…I’ve kind of got a lot going on off of the internet…but when I am on Facebook, I’m not quiet. It takes about 20 seconds to update a Facebook status and I was probably doing that 6-8 times a day. A solid 2.5 minutes of typing a day, but enough to be considered ‘over-the-top’.

In real life and online life, I enjoy making people laugh. I’m also an extrovert to the max, so FB has served me well during times when I am unable to actively socialize. During the kid’s sleepy times, waiting in my doctor’s office to calm my nerves…I can distract myself and join my friends no matter where I am by typing a whitty status.

The truth is, Facebook has been an extremely useful tool for me over the last few years. It has helped me promote my business and share my work as a singer/songwriter, giving me easy access to clients and a free marketing platform. I use it often as a fundraising site to get people connected to things that matter…like helping young adults with cancer and sending funds to orphans in Guatemala City. Facebook also keeps me connected to my friends from all over the globe. We’re an international family with relatives and friends across Canada, the US and Europe. I can share my life and the growth of my children with the ones I love in a 2 second photo upload. Facebook is excellent for creating events, messaging people whose phone numbers or emails you may not know and of course, remembering birthdays.

There are many pros of Facebook which is why if I met Mr. Zuckerberg, I would thank him for this wonderful tool that has served me well…and I would ask him to buy me a steak dinner because come on, that’s pocket change for that guy.

There are however cons in the world of social networking as well. When you put yourself out there and there’s an opportunity for people to comment, it’s not always pleasant. I’ve had my share of mean digs disguised as jokes. Tone is often lost online which can lead to friends hurting other friend’s feelings, either intentionally or unintentionally. There’s the passive aggressive and sarcastic comments on statuses and photos that put a negative spin on your day. People are sometimes the wrong kind of brave on the internet, saying things they wouldn’t normally say to someone’s face because a computer screen is less threatening. Bottom line, if you’re not kind online, you’re just not kind.

It can also be a major distraction and time suck. How many times have I jumped on Facebook just to shoot someone a message and got pulled into an article about Kate Middleton’s latest dress. Oh come on, you’ve done it. Even the most minimalist internet user has wasted time on there.

The biggest con I have personally felt with social networking is how self centered I have become through using it. Yup. I’m going to call it like it is. It has bred in me a habit of being in one-sided relationships and I am disliking this about myself. My relationships are 100 miles wide and 1/8 of an inch deep. Lots of ‘likes’ does not equal lots of friends.

Facebook became a useful tool while I was going through cancer treatment. It kept people in the loop so that I didn’t have to relay the same message 100 times. It allowed me to have control over information, what was said and when it was heard. It removed the ‘walking on egg shells’ part of my social interactions. Everyone knew everything that I wanted them to know, and the rest was deeply, deeply private. My father was the only one who caught onto the fact that if I was silent on FB during chemo, I was having a really hard day and literally had nothing good to say.

Since that time, I feel like (to a certain degree) this one way communication needs to come to a stop…or at least be outdone by the amount of time and energy I spend listening. I’m a talker so listening is a struggle for me both on and offline, but my online presence was becoming almost all one way communication. I had become content with updating my status and then putting my phone down. Firing off a photo and walking away. I would share my opinions, my day, my life with people and not take the time to hear from others. People knew my comings and goings and that was good enough. Self centered, eh?

With the removal of my wisdom teeth in late January, I found myself at home, bored, medicated (thus sleepy and lazy) and spending unusually ridiculous amounts of time on my phone’s Facebook app…to the point where my neck started to hurt from looking down at it. I found myself becoming affected by my online existence. I was over thinking people’s comments, I was becoming bothered by people’s opinions, irritated by thing after thing after thing…until I finally thought, “I wonder how much more peaceful I would feel if I weren’t on here?”

I decided to give up Facebook for February and I did. I never checked, cheated, peaked or logged on for the full 28 days. I deleted the app, steered clear of Jay’s account and remained 100% FB free.

The result: I loved it. I loved it SO much.

I was shocked at how easy it was. I didn’t want to be on there. It was weird for the first day because I was in the habit of using it but less than 48 hours later, it was out of my system. I literally didn’t want to check it.

I started writing and calling friends directly to communicate with them…which meant hearing back from them. Two way communication, even via text message, is SO much more rewarding then just blanketing faceless crowds with statuses about my life and hearing nothing about others.

I never started a day disgruntled by something I had read online. I explored some other apps like Instagram and Twitter which I REALLY enjoyed and I discovered those particular sites are much easier for me to find balance with. Twitter allows me the outlet to share short bursts of humor but then bores me within 3 minutes so I waste little time on there. Instagram is just an easy way of sharing joy through photos. Some days I would add 5 pics, a lot of days I wouldn’t add any, I would just enjoy other people’s pics of nature, family, food and fun. No one posts pics of things they hate. I like it there. It’s peaceful.

Some other things I discovered this month:

It is nice not keeping people in the loop. In some weird way, I almost felt like I had a responsibility to do it. Not sure where that expectation came from but it’s definitely false. I like coming and going inconspicuously. It’s actually lovely.

Having downtime is totally, 100% OK. If that’s scrolling through Facebook for you, do it. If that’s uploading 10 photos in a row to Instagram, go nuts. You’re not unproductive, you just love photography! If that’s sitting on the couch after the kids are gone to bed and playing solitaire or Candy Crush or Farmtownvillecity, or playstation knock yourself out. If that’s a TV show or a Netflix series or whatever, allow yourself time in your day to be down and OFF and don’t feel guilty about it, regardless of whether or not other people deem it a fit use of your time. It’s your time, not their’s.

Facebook is useful. Within 12 hours of being off of Facebook, I got wind that a friend of mine was feeling sick. My immediate thought was, “I’ll message her on FB to see how she is!” Realizing quickly that wasn’t an option for me, I was bummed that I had no other way to connect with her. I also missed my cousin’s birthday party and a girl’s night out because both events were created and updated on Facebook. I have recently started mascotting (yes, you read that right) and I was in costume at an event one day when I saw a friend from high school. She had no clue it was me and I had no outlet other than Facebook to write her and say, “Hey! That lion who high fived you today was ME!”
I couldn’t share Caden’s fundraising link for his Shave for the Brave fundraiser as efficiently as I could have on FB. I couldn’t create an event for the women at my church in February because I had no means of promoting it online. I couldn’t actively advertise my business or my gigs to my Facebook audience.
My children’s grandparents felt very disconnected from their grand babies without the daily updates and photos. Bottom line, I would actually LOVE to get rid of Facebook and never turn it on again, but the pros of connecting with people, creating events, leading initiatives and building community on/offline make being on FB worth it.

This will not be my last Facebook break. I’ll be taking a lot of Facebook breaks in the future. It was amazing. Highly recommended.

For now, I’m back on the ol’ FB, enjoying the pros, making my presence known and dealing with the cons as they arise. I think I’ve spent about 15 minutes on FB today and I’ve already been rubbed the wrong way. I shall do like Taylor Swift and ‘shake it off, shake it off.’ I’m sure she wrote that about her interweb hate. Poor, gorgeous thing.

March definitely came in like a lamb for me because I gave myself time and space to find balance and quiet. It was peaceful and lovely…but in many ways, it’s also nice to be back.

I missed you.

 

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Trying Something New

I am currently enrolled in a Dale Carnegie class. It’s a 9 week program designed to aid a person with developing skills like public speaking, relationship building/strengthening, confidence, goal setting, memorizing and much more.

Dale Carnegie developed many principles by which to interact with others, manage stress and worry and lead.

So far, I’m really liking it.

One of the things I have heard in class is, “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.”

This is my year to be proactive and make changes. Since 2005, I have been focused on raising babies with everything else being secondary. My babies are no longer babies and do not require as much attention (although, they will always be my babies and among my top priorities).
Then cancer came along and took over an entire year of my life followed by another year of picking up the pieces and repairing the damage it caused…learning my new normal…my new brain (post chemo), my new body (a larger, hormonally unstable, slower version, also thanks to chemo…and brownies), my new fears and anxieties, my new opportunities to help and reach out. It hasn’t all been bad…just confusing and different and energy consuming.

Seasons are necessary and passing. I feel like I’m turning a corner into a new one.

It’s time to cast vision and set goals and make changes. I’m excited and proud to say I’ve already started.

A friend of mine once said that I should look at my life story as one long sentence instead of segmented chapters. I like that. Chapter endings are so final and there’s a lot of pressure not to go backwards or jump ahead. Instead, life winds and turns, like a symphony with pianissimos, fortes, crescendos, haunting minors and uplifting major chords. I’m excited for the next few bars of my life song.

I’m going to keep trying new things and see where it lands me. Except heroin. I won’t try that.

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Grammy Bullying

I often feel bad for famous people. Anyone who has worked their way into the lime light, whether through music, beauty, dancing, acting, speaking, writing, hilarity, sports or simply having an incredibly large booty.
I know they are ‘living the dream’. Great homes, amazing cars, elbow rubbing with other stars and wanting for no material thing but I can’t help but feel bad for how viciously we talk about them, openly, publicly, as a means of entertaining ourselves and impressing others. All in good fun, right?
Specifically on award show nights. I’ve done this, so I’m speaking to myself here. Sitting on the couch with a cup of tea, maybe a cookie and watching the Grammys or the Oscars in my pjs after the kids have gone to bed. That opening act was weird and obviously auto-tuned. What was she wearing? Gross. Why does his hair look like that? He looks like an idiot.
I have heard artists ripped to shreds on Twitter after they sang live while hanging and swinging from a trapeze by people (like me) sitting home in our jammies, criticizing it.
I’ve done this year after year. ‘So and so’ looks bad, sounds bad, reads bad, dances bad and I’ll make sure everyone knows it with a sarcastic joke at their expense and a clever hashtag.
I’m not sure what opened my eyes…maybe it’s turning another year older or seeing my children grow up in a world that can be needlessly cruel…maybe it’s been reading my own book/blog reviews online and hearing people who don’t know me form unjust opinions about me…but I’m personally done with making a running online commentary about other people, weird or not. Famous or otherwise.
Thumper said it best, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Fact is, as someone who claims to follow Christ, openly mocking people via my social media platform is probably the most anti-Christ following thing I could do. WWJD during the Grammys? Probably not verbally rip individuals to shreds behind their backs and laugh at their expense.
We wouldn’t walk through the mall doing that. “Hey! Food court! Listen up! See that woman on the escalator? What is she wearing? She looks like she slipped and fell in a toilet full of paint! HASHTAG UGLY!!”
You know what we teach our kids that is? Bullying. Online bullying is even worse because you can’t escape it. You pick up your phone or your computer and it’s there. It seeps into your home and into your mind, relentlessly reminding you that guess what? There are people out there who don’t like you and they want you to know it.
Our kids watch us. They watch the way we talk about celebrities and athletes and politicians and they learn from us what is and what is not ok to say to and about other people.
The Grammys were on last night. I watched. I enjoyed some and didn’t enjoy more. I’m a musician so trust me, I’m the first to become frustrated with the state of modern music. The gimmicks, the auto tuning, the costuming, the lack lustre lyrics…it can be disheartening to see that music isn’t about the music anymore but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel and to tear those individuals down who have made it in the industry, for whatever reason.
It just doesn’t.
If we represent Jesus, this is even more important. Imagine updating your Facebook status 10 times in a row about how stupid Miley Cyrus is only to bump into her next Sunday morning at your church where you serve?
#fail
Love is patient, love is kind…even when you don’t like their singing voice or their style.
Let’s do our part to (for lack of a better phrase) make the world suck less by being kind in all things, in all avenues in all areas to ALL people.
I will drop the ball on this so I’ll need you to remind me. I’ve done a lot of this needless meanness in the past but I’d like to do a lot less of it in the future.

#bekind

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