Love and Dating

Paris — a city of love and romance. This photo was taken on our trip there back in 2005.

Last week was Valentine’s Day — a day of romance and love.  But like most holidays, I don’t think romance and love should be limited to one day’s celebration.  It’s like Earth Day — we need to protect our planet every day, not just on April 22nd.

After 19 years of marriage, my husband and I continue to make an effort to go on “dates.”  We use this word loosely.  Dates, for us, does not mean dinner out.  Dates, for us, does not mean a babysitter for our son.  Dates, for us, are fit in while our son is at school.

But no matter how old we get, or how long we’re together, dating still isn’t easy.  Though now the reasons have changed.

And on that note, I’d like to share that my personal essay, “How Dating My Husband Has Changed Since Becoming Chronically Ill” has recently been published on The Mighty.  You can click here to read it.

Loving Day, Every Day

A few years ago, I wrote a personal essay for MomsLA about Loving Day.  You can read it by clicking here.

A few days ago, my husband and I finally watched the 2016, Oscar-nominated film Loving.  The movie is based on the real life story of Richard and Mildred Loving whose own interracial marriage and legal battles ultimately made it possible for my husband and I to marry.

And on this day, Valentine’s Day, I’m thinking of Mr. and Mrs. Loving with gratitude. 

My Kind of Teaching

One of my special teaching activities: a “poet-tree” created by my fourth graders!

Today, my son’s elementary school is hosting their 100th Day of School Walk-a-Thon.  It’s essentially another fundraiser for the school, with the goal of each child collecting $100 (at least) for the first 100 days of school. 

When I taught kindergarten, the 100th Day of School was a big deal.  Kids were learning that zeros mattered, that a zero didn’t always mean “nothing.”  After all, there’s a big difference between 1 and 10, and between 10 and 100.  (In fact, my personal essay, “Zero the Hero” was included in Ka-Pow!, an anthology about superheroes).

On the 100th day of school, my kindergartners participated in a variety of 100-themed activities. They would do 100 jumping jacks, build a tower with 100 blocks, clap their hands 100 times, take 100 steps around the classroom.  Each child would share their 100 Collection with the class.  (Pennies were always common).  And we’d celebrate with a special treat.  One year, I brought in a large sheet cake, and we piled on 100 different toppings!

When I moved to 4th grade, the 100th day of school wasn’t emphasized the same way.  Naturally, by this time, kids that age (my son’s age) have an understanding about zeros.  Still, I felt that completing 100 days of anything was a milestone that should be recognized.  So my students and I did.  We wrote a list of “100 Reasons Why We Love Our Class.”  And we celebrated with a special snack — 100th Day Trail Mix.  I’d partner my students up, and they’d count out 100 raisins, 100 mini marshmallows, 100 chocolate chips, 100 pretzels, 100 Cheerios, and so on.  We’d mix it all up creating our class trail mix, and then each child got a cupful to enjoy.

Those are the things I miss most about teaching.  Giving my students those extra experiences.  My son loves his school and his teachers, but there’s always a part of me that is sad that they don’t do for him what I used to do for my students.

Because those are the things kids remember.  Those are the things that stand out.  Because those are the things I remember too.

Undercover

This photo was taken a few weeks after I first became ill. My son was two years old at the time.

 

I am an “undercover disabled woman.”  I don’t look disabled.  Or at least, disabled in the way I had always thought disabled people look.  Disabled like my grandma — a woman who, on a good day, could slowly get around with her cane, and on most days, was reliant on her wheelchair.  A woman who didn’t drive, whose body was ravaged from the effects of rheumatoid arthritis, strokes, and breast cancer.

I’m not that bad.

But one of the things I’ve learned in the seven-and-a-half years I’ve been living with an autoimmune disease, is that there is no black-or-white definition for any of it.  No clear-cut way a disabled person looks or acts.  No concrete way in which to explain an autoimmune disease.

So I write about mine, in the hopes that it will reach someone who needs to read it.  Someone who is also dealing with medical issues, or who knows someone who is.

Which brings me to one of my personal essays that was recently published on The Mighty. You can click here to read “Why I Can’t ‘Wear My Scar’ With Pride.”

 

A “Sort-Of” Travel Writer

Have you ever been to Harmony, on California’s Central Coast? We were there this past summer.

 

When I was a girl, I kept a large plastic container under my twin-sized bed.  This container was my “travel box.” 

I’d read the Travel Section of the Sunday Los Angeles Times and find 800 phone numbers to call and request free brochures (these were the pre-internet days).  I’d cut out articles and pictures from the paper.  And once the brochures arrived in the mail, I stored them in my travel box.

I’m turning 42 this year, and most of the places that were in my travel box remain on my “someday” list.  Someday I’ll visit my pen pal in Japan.  Someday I’ll eat gelato in Italy and ride a real gondola in Venice (even though the one in Naples, Long Beach was quite charming).

For now, my family and I take our yearly California trips.  We try to do two a year (though last year we had to cancel one of our trips due to my health).

And, on a regular basis, I write about different neighborhoods and cities all around Los Angeles.  It allows me to be a bit of a virtual explorer, and hopefully my writing is inspiring others to take a day trip or explore a new area of town. 

Click here to check out the Neighborhood Guide I’ve been working on for MomsLA.com.

All Reading Is Good Reading

Fourth grade classroom, 2010. The carpet hadn’t yet arrived.

 

When I taught, I always made sure to have a “cozy” library corner — pillows, stuffed animals, and hundreds of books.  Because I’m a firm believer that all reading, however it’s done, is beneficial.

I have always loved to read (you can find me on Goodreads, by the way), and I’m proud to say that my son, Ryan, also loves to read.

You can click here to read one of my latest personal essays “All Reading Is Good Reading – Even Comic Books” on MomsLA.com.

Playing Tourist

The external tank on view at the California Science Center

One of the reasons I appreciate living in Los Angeles is the sheer number of experiences I can provide my son.  We are a museum-going family and visit several of our favorites on a regular basis.

Last week, we saw the only external tank on the planet, and then a few days later, we saw the fossils for the state dinosaur, the Augustynolophus. 

Unfortunately, I think locals sometimes forget to take advantage of all their city has to offer.  So here’s a suggestion for the new year — play tourist.  Visit the California Science Center or the Natural History Museum.  (We were at both last week).  Check out the Petersen Automative Museum or the GRAMMY Museum.  (We were there fairly recently).  And, if you’re still unsure about where to go, check out some of the guides I’ve written for MomsLA.com. You’ll find guides to the L.A. Zoo, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and more.

 

My Year’s Focus

A new year is upon us, but I no longer make new year’s resolutions.  Because, like I told my son, I believe people can make a change, a fresh start, at any time. 

And, like I saw from last year, there really is too much I don’t have any control of.  Last year, I got sick within the first couple weeks of the new year — a mystery illness that was just the beginning of a very health-challenging year.

So this year, I’m trying to stay flexible, or as my son likes to say, “go with the flow.”  Because, really, no one knows from one day to the next.

In lieu of a resolution, I am designating a focus for the year.  That focus is my writing — the personal writing I do here on this blog, as well as the personal writing I send out into the world.  (I’m very proud that one of my personal essays will be included in an anthology titled Chronic Illness Truths that will be published later this year).

Barbara Abercrombie, an author and fantastic instructor in the UCLA Extension Writing Program explains it well: 

“… we all go through strange and painful periods in our lives and one of the reasons we read is to find out how other people, real or fictional, navigate the hard times.”
(This quote is taken from Barbara’s book A Year of Writing Dangerously).

That is one of the reasons I read.  And why I write.

 

Middle Age

Silly picture of Ryan on his ninth birthday! (Under the Mario hat, he’s wearing a birthday crown)

We are days away from a New Year.  My son is quite excited about 2018, because it’ll be the year he enters “double digits.”

I’m trying not to rush things; I’m trying to savor the here and now.  And on that note, I’d like to share my newest publication with you.  “In the Middle” is my personal essay about middle age — my own as well as Ryan being in the middle of his childhood. (You can click here to read it at Parent.co). 

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank you for reading my work each week.  I appreciate your support. 

May the year ahead bring us all love, peace, and good health!

Holiday Wishes

Our Christmas tree is decorated, and last night we lit the menorah for the last time this year.  My son, Ryan, is super-excited about Christmas, and not only for the presents.  In fact, the other day when I asked him what he was most excited about, Ryan answered, “Giving everyone their gifts.” 

Unlike Ryan, I’m not expecting to wake up Christmas morning with packages under the tree.  Though if I had the chance to ask for a gift, I have a big request.  It’s not easily given, not found in a store, and can’t be ordered from Amazon.

The gift I would most like is good health for my family.  This year has been a really challenging one, for me especially.  I found myself in a doctor’s office, undergoing tests, and/or subjected to procedures almost every month this year.  (The only exceptions were June and, so far, December).  And I’m not talking your run-of-the-mill, routine doctor’s appointments.  I’m talking about procedures that took hours, about referrals to specialists, about tests I’d never even heard of before.

It was hard, in every way.  Hard to be so sick and feeling so unwell.  Hard to wait for results.  Hard to receive results.

But now it’s Christmas time.  And all I really want is to keep us all healthy and safe.

With that, I wish all my readers a very happy, healthy, and safe holiday season!