Thursday, September 3, 2015

GOING GOLD.

It's September.
Time to wrap up the summer and get things started for a bright and shiny new school year.

New backpacks, new lunchboxes, new shoes, new haircuts, new friends, new teachers... new, new, new.

For years, to me, September represented a fresh start.

Summer was done.
Gone were those hot, sluggish, dog days and ahead were those cooler days of September that smelled like new books and freshly sharpened pencils.

September brought new beginnings.
September was filled with anticipation.
It always felt like anything was possible in September.

September ALSO meant that my most favorite month was right around the corner.

OCTOBER.

I can almost smell the word October.
It's crisp, it's pumpkin-y, it's gold and burnt orange and deep red, it's Halloween, it's jean wearin' weather... and it's what I look forward to ALL. YEAR. LONG.

Or, I used to.

That is, until my brother died.

While September used to feel like a new beginning to me... it now feels like the beginning of the end.

As soon as we get that first fall-ish night at the end of August... where the temperature drops and you can sleep comfortably with your bedroom windows open...some switch flips in my brain.
Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's the smell, ... but 5 years ago suddenly feels like just yesterday.

You would think that after 5 years I would maybe feel a little bit... LESS.

Or maybe feel a little bit more... detached.

But the senses are funny that way, aren't they?

Take music, for instance.
Certain songs trigger specific memories...and you can see them so vividly in your head.
20 years feels like a split second ago, right?

The end of summer is like that for me.

It's melancholy.

It's the feeling of wanting to hold on a little bit longer... savor the final moments....

because your mind knows they won't last forever, and your heart, your poor heart is BEGGING these moments to just -- STAY.

I don't remember when it happened, but sometime after my brother died, September became Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month.  In the past few years, every September we've been urged to, "GO GOLD" and "Spread awareness".... encouraged to share the facts and statistics about pediatric cancer.

September.
Pediatric Cancer.
Go Gold.
Be Aware.

I'm aware...and here is how.

My brother's cancer took a turn at the end of August, 2010.
We knew it was coming, but we couldn't quite bring ourselves to admit it.
His cough had gotten bad.  He couldn't catch his breath a lot. Going up a flight of stairs was work.
We knew...but we didn't want to know.

We took a family photo in August - that was the last family photo taken.
Since then, it's really just unbearable and kind of unthinkable to take one of all of us without him.
We aren't us, without him.  Besides, it hurts too much.

September came and my brother was admitted to the hospital for the last time.
September 23rd.
He never came home.

I remember the night that I saw him alive for the last time.
Tuesday, October 19th.
I took the train from CT to Grand Central Station.  I met my older brother and a best friend from college at a bar just outside the train station.
We had a drink because.... I needed it.
My friend brought me an umbrella that he had stolen from a closet in his office.
It didn't look like rain but,
"You never know. I'm Jewish.", he said. "We do these things."

My brother and I walked to the hospital together.  We tried to talk, but what's to say when your little brother is dying?

I remember the morning that he died.
October 22nd.
My mother called me.
I was standing in my laundry room.
Before I answered the phone I knew.
I just knew.
Our babysitter was at our house and I went upstairs and choked out the news.
And my five year old daughter kept saying over and over again...
"Big Charles died?  Big Charles died!"
Over and over and over and over again.

It was like she didn't know what it meant.

OF COURSE she didn't know what it meant.

I didn't even know what it meant.

I remember driving to the funeral home with my parents and brother.
My cell phone rang and it was an old friend from grade school.
He was crying and so distraught about the news.
I remember thinking how strange it was that I was on the way to make arrangements for my brother's funeral and I was consoling someone on my cell phone.

I remember the wake... and standing next to my father as people came through the line to give their condolences.
The endless line.
My father did this weird thing that day...straightening people's collars while he spoke to them.
It was like he didn't know what to do with his hands.

I remember the funeral...and holding onto my mother as we walked down the aisle of the church, behind my brother's casket that was surrounded by his best friends, his pall bearers.

There are things that happen in your life and you have an imprint of them on your brain that you'll never forget.

These are the things I think about in September.

We talk about being aware... spreading awareness.

And most of us think that by changing our profile picture on Facebook or posting a meaningful quote about pediatric cancer that we're doing our part.
But really... is that enough?

No, not when only 4% of government funding is solely dedicated to childhood cancer research.

They say that pediatric cancer is rare.  RARE.

How rare is it really when my brother had the same cancer as three other young men...all in their early 20's... all at the same hospital?
All four of them are gone now.
Gone.

This is unacceptable.

Every day - 43 children are diagnosed with cancer.
12% of the children diagnosed with cancer DO NOT SURVIVE.

If you have children, if you have nieces, nephews, grandchildren, students, friends(so basically ALL of us) ... THIS STATISTIC SHOULD FRIGHTEN YOU.

It frightens me. It keeps me awake at night sometimes.

Every year I try to do something in my brother's honor and memory.
I've run a few marathons, a half marathon, a Tough Mudder... .all in the name of raising funds for pediatric cancer research.

This year, I'm trying something a little bit new.
I've created a virtual fundraiser - through Alex's Lemonade Stand. (the link is at the bottom of this post)
Alex's Lemonade Stand is changing childhood cancer, one research grant at a time.
They have already donated millions of dollars to support life saving childhood cancer research.
If you want to be inspired - read Alex's story.  I couldn't get through it without crying.

So no, I won't be running, or getting muddy. You won't be getting lemonade or a cool shirt for donating.

HOWEVER -

I'm giving you all an opportunity to DO something you can feel good about.

September should be Pediatric Cancer ACTION month.
It's not enough to just be aware... We need to be DOING something.

Think about this -
Americans spend 20 times more on potato chips than on pediatric cancer research.

Um. What?
That can't be real.

Really, America?
We love our chips more than our kids?
Come on. We're better than that.

Maybe this month instead of that bag of chips - you put that money toward pediatric cancer research?
Or instead of stopping at Dunkin Donuts on your way to work - you put that $3 toward this cause.

Or maybe... $1 a day for the month of September... $30 in total.

SOMETHING.

I am hoping this post will motivate even just one person to help me make a difference -  because I can't let September pass me by without doing something.
And this may not be much, but I believe if we all do a little something - we'll achieve something really big.

We have to try.

I have to try.

For September.

For my brother.

Thank you for reading.


If you'd like to make a donation - please use the below link.  EVERY dollar counts.

www.alexslemonade.org/mypage/1181370


PEACE LOVE & RIGHT NOW


























Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The end of the year CRAP

Yes, I know I posted about this previously...but this subject has me so up in arms and in a tizzy that it definitely requires another rant.

Here goes.

END OF THE FREAKING YEAR.

Now that we've reached the end of the school year, my head is spinning once again.

Places to be, end of the year events to attend, money to donate for gifts....teacher gifts...coaches gifts, piano teacher gifts, choir teacher gifts....the endless list of gifts is unreal.

Money is flying out the window - $5 here... $10 there... no big deal... I'm made of money.

I have a tree outside in back that just grows it.

You want a gift? You got one. End of the year? Here's your gift.

It's like Oprah.  YOU get a gift! YOU get a gift and YOU get a gift!

EVERYBODY GETS A GIFT!!!

I don't remember getting gifts for coaches at the end of every season of a sport. Did we DO that?

Did our parents do it behind our backs and that's why I don't remember? I don't know.
I don't think so.

But then I don't remember getting a trophy just for participating either - we didn't, right?

You got a trophy if you won the final championship game...and you held that trophy up for the team photo and you were DAMN proud.

Now everyone gets a trophy... and it's like.... "oh... yea... cool... let me add it to my collection of trophies on my shelf... with the ten other trophies I've already gotten..." ....at the ripe old age of six.

RIDICULOUS.

Anyway... I digress.

Back to the end of the year chaos.

Is anyone else wondering why the teachers wait until the end of the year to send home papers from September?

My kids roll in after school and empty their overflowing backpacks on the living room rug and I'm in full blown panic mode.

Suddenly I'm seeing stuff that they made in the fall... pictures they've drawn, old homework that is just now being sent home...and it's EVERYWHERE.

THAT CRAP IS EVERYWHERE.

And seriously?
There are certain things that just need to be thrown out. AT SCHOOL!!!

I don't need paper flashcards being sent home in a small envelope or a drawing from the second day of school.
Honestly.
Because it only turns into a huge ordeal here with my kids...It becomes Let's Make a Deal.

"If you throw out the paper clock you made when you were learning how to tell time(I'm still not sure they know how to tell time, btw), I will let you keep this fantastic drawing you made of Pokemon"

And really? I don't want the damn drawing of Pokemon either! Because we already have TWENTY drawings of Pokemon here.  I see Pokemon EVERYWHERE.

WHAT IS POKEMON!!?!?!?!?
I just don't know.
But I don't like it. And I certainly don't want it.

Teachers - please - I BEG you.

THROW STUFF OUT AT SCHOOL.  DON'T SEND IT HOME. 

And please... I know you're cleaning out your classroom and getting rid of pencils, erasers, old rulers, and books from 1982... but for the love of GOD, please don't send them home with my children.

I don't need books from 1982 in my house. I don't.

And if I my kids come home with another pencil, unsharpened, sharpened, mechanical, or otherwise,

I'm going to FLIP. MY. LID.

NO MORE EFFING PENCILS.

I have three... yes THREE... pencil boxes filled with pencils and yet, when it's time to do homework... guess what? MY KIDS CAN'T FIND A PENCIL!!!

Lord have mercy.

And then there are allllllll the very very very many activities and events that are planned for the end of the school year that the parents are invited to and encouraged to attend.

Super!  Let me fill in my calendar... Oh look! I'm at the school every day this week.

My mom was never at the school when I was a kid - EVER.

In fact, I was in class one day in elementary school and saw my mom walking up the sidewalk to the school.  It was SUCH an anomaly to see her there, that I shot up from my seat, ran to the open window and shouted, "HEY! MOM!!!" and waved to her!

I also had to stay after class and get a lecture about why it is inappropriate to yell out the window of the school to your mom.  

But the point is... she was never there.

I, on the other hand, am ALWAYS there. And I'm not bragging about this. At all.
I don't want to be there.
There is time for home. And there is time for school.
I should be home. And my kids should be at school. That's it.

I DO like going to the school occasionally... a concert here... a book reading there... an ice cream social....

But when an "author's share" is scheduled for 2:30 on a Thursday afternoon, after I've already been on a field trip earlier in the week and I know I have to be at the school on Friday as well...

Well, frankly, I'm pissed.

# 1. 2:30 is close to the end of the school day... but it is NOT the end of the work day.
So in order for all of those parents that work in an office to attend, they have to take a half day of work.
A HALF DAY!!! They have to use part of their vacation or personal time to attend an author's reading of something their child wrote and brought home three rough drafts of for you to read - so it's not like it's anything new they are sharing with you.

 Are you kidding me?

Why can't we have these events at 9:00 AM ... half hour... boom, done, leave for work. Get to work a little late...work through lunch...whatever.
Nope. 2:30 it is!

#2. I have twins. Inevitably their school events are scheduled for the exact same time. Convenient.
So unless both my husband and I are able to attend(which, in most cases, at 2:30 in the afternoon...he's staying at work) ... I'm there... splitting my time between two classrooms...running back and forth like a lunatic making sure I'm sharing myself equally.  Usually in a full sweat-- hearing nothing but white noise in my head.

#3. I have another child who is NOT in school.  And yes, he still naps. So 2:30 in the afternoon is not only inconvenient, but it's the Holy Grail of time for me. It's quiet. It's peaceful. It's when I get the majority of my work done...and now I have to wake the little dude up and drag him to the school?!?
This one is majorly not OK.

So what's the other option? Don't go? I don't HAVE to go.
But I'm home. I work from home. How do I NOT go?

How do I disappoint my kids who see alllllll the other parents there...

and by the way...how on earth do alllll of the other parents attend every. last. event?!?!?

DO THEY NOT WORK??? I really don't get it.

Why can't some of these things be planned for ... I don't know... the evening???

I remember when I was a kid... we had concerts... chorus, band, & orchestra concerts...and we got all dressed up in our finest healthtex wear...and we went to the school at night.

The school looked different at night. It SMELLED different at night.

And the gym was decked out with risers and it was dark...with stage lighting and the cafeteria was filled with kids waiting for their turn to go on stage - playing UNO "quietly" with a group of friends.

And it was all really magical.

And everyone went to Friendly's for an ice cream cone afterwards to celebrate.
And it was awesome. Seriously.
AWESOME.

Ahhh... memory lane and the smell of Salt Brook School cafeteria.

ANYWAY - BACK TO NOW -

Now everything is scheduled for during the day - AT THE END OF THE YEAR-- and parents at the school all have that same look on their faces like, "Oh hey... isn't this great?"(No.) and

"Didn't I just see you??" (Yes. Because we were both here for Field Day YESTERDAY.)

STOP. THE. INSANITY.

And don't even get me started on the last two days of school being half days...

It feels like I'm being cheated out of my last meal in prison.
Please.
Just let me have two full days.
I have my kids for the whole summer... and I've attended your picnics, and concerts, and field trips and shares,... I've been the recipient of papers and pencils and old books from 1982... the LEAST you can do is give me TWO FULL DAYS on the last days of school.  You owe me this much.

**SIGH**


My daughter just came to me with three binders of school things asking...
"What should I do with this?"

THROW IT OUT!!!!!


Peace,  Love and RIGHT NOW