Life & … Gratitude for My Classroom

Better with you

(Student Work)

I am very lucky. I love what I do for a living.  Actually I never thought I would love it as much as I do and some days are better than others but on the whole I count myself among the fortunate to find joy and fulfillment in my job. I am an elementary school teacher.  I currently teach highly capable third and fourth graders, or what some call “gifted” students. I spend my days listening, teaching, learning and discovering new ways to ignite the spark of curiosity and the love of learning, in young minds. The particular group of little people I get to spend my days with are unique thinkers, they are typically more out of the box processors and determined truth seekers. They are little humans with big ideas and VERY different ways of explaining or figuring things out. These kiddos keep me on my toes for sure. They work hard, they get frustrated, they cry, they deep breath, they push and they explore. They are quirky and different and I love teaching them.


This group of kids that I teach, the one that is highly capable, tends to be really hard on themselves. They tend to have an internal pressure sensor to do well at first attempt and have a skewed idea that if they make a mistake it means they are a failure. They tend to be hyper-focused and desire to work individually, collaboration is not their idea of a good thing. These students, when in a regular classroom, are usually the ones who understand concepts and finish work quickly. These are the kids that yearn for more challenge not just another worksheet to pass time. They arrive at answers or solutions in a way maybe you haven’t even seen before and although it may take them some time to explain it to you, they get the answer nonetheless. This student, when not challenged in the right way or at a deeper level, can find themselves distracted or distracting others, which at times can lead to troubles while trying to occupy themselves, waiting… BUT once they land in my classroom the playing field is leveled, the waiting is over.  


All the kids in my classroom have some gifted-ness and therefore no one student is “the-anything” anymore; the “best”, the “smartest”, the “fastest” or has it the “easiest”,etc., they simply are learners in a community of learners.  This leveling out can often be difficult at first, I ask parents to give me a month… to trust me, trust the process and thankfully they do. It begins, these students are finally challenged in a way they have not been before. In those first 30 days, tears are usually more frequent, frustration is palpable and the big-deer-caught-in-the-headlight look is often seen. But after that something magical happens.  The fog lifts, the pressure releases. These kids find that they are lifting each other up, encouraging one another to try and try again, they work hard to not be so critical and they realize they have found their peeps.


You see the biggest challenge for these kiddos is their ability to develop a “highly capable” social and emotional acuity. Typically they are the kids that when in a regular classroom might feel a bit different, odd, or left out. Much of this is because they simply do not think the same way other kids think. They are an outlier… but once they end up in my class, they are with all the other outliers, their peeps!  It is amazing to watch, year after year this is the truth, they come from all over our district and finally feel like part of a group, a community, a class of learners all working hard and being challenged. We begin to develop a kind of family. We rely on each other, trust, find support and comfort in the safe environment we create together.

Awesome earth

 (Student Work- A Kind Notes for Foster Children)

These kids are fascinating, powerful, creative little humans and they are only 8, 9, and 10!  I am so grateful I get to spend two years with my kiddos, this enables me to support depth of knowledge, stretch their brains further, help develop a more socially and emotionally well rounded student. They are our future, as corny as that may sound, and I hope that above being intelligent they are kind human beings.


The social and emotional piece is huge in my classroom, H-U-G-E!  This type of learner often feels a intense sense of righteousness and injustice. They are often very black and white and are challenged when having gauge other people’s emotions or feel empathy.  Because of this my teaching partner and I have intentionally developed and continue to create opportunities to strengthen social and emotional IQ. (Side note: I have an amazing teaching partner that is happy to take on my ideas just as much as I take on hers.  We work extremely well together and I am so grateful for her. I recommend teaching partners for everyone, someone you can trust and be open and honest with that holds a mirror up for you and is the yin to your yang for teaching. This is a true gift!) We have three rules in our classroom that house all our expectations: show respect, make good decisions,and solve problems. Under these three simple expectations we are able to support the growth of our community in a respectful way while engaging students in the development of autonomy. This also enable us to continually work hard on social-emotional IQ throughout our day, all day, every day!


We have a letter writing campaign where students write kind letters to a different peer in our classrooms each week.  Each student anonymously looks for things throughout the week to write about, acts of kindness that they see the person they are writing to.  When the letters come the readers are just as inspired as the writers. This is a heart-warming moment in our class, the kind words that are shared between students is beautiful; joy becomes palpable, trust is gained.  This time becomes an invitation to be more kind.


(Student Work- Kind Note For Foster Children)

We sing songs about kindness and being part of a community making this world better. We read and collect inspirational quotes to share with the group.  We set time aside each day to celebrate acts of kindness in our community where students use the sentence frame, “I would like to thank _____ for their kindness when…”, to nominate others for their acts of kindness throughout the day.  We fill a basket with these nominations and celebrate with a Kindness Party (A.K.A. popcorn party) every time the basket is full. We also use this as a teaching tool, emptying some of the basket when something really hard, or unkind happens.  The power of this act is intense, silent… palpable. The discussion that follows is how one unkind act can reach our whole community, how we are better when we lift each other up instead of tear one another down, how when we show up for one another we are ALL better!  The community that we have established is safe, powerful, and forgiving and when something unkind happens in our community it affects us all.


(Student Work- A Kind Notes for Foster Children)

We celebrate kindness outside our classroom, too.  We perform all-school/community plays about improving our life through small kind, thoughtful acts. We fund-raise each year for a local and global social justice efforts. We invite families to a shared meal, at the beginning of the year, to help foster community for the parents of these students.  The idea to kindle and stoke the fire of kindness is ever present and is what I am most grateful in my job.


Test scores and data, standards and curriculum, memorization and fact fluency are all important but let me be clear… these are not the things that will take our kids safely into the future.  Kindness, gratitude, empathy, love, support, and recognizing that we are better together is the most important lesson I can teach. I do hope I live up to these expectations, I am so grateful for the opportunity to try.


Happy Thanksgiving to you all!





Life & … Dating My Husband


It is a little quieter in the Taylor house these days. Our daughters are both getting older and doing their own things.  Addison is busy at college and Delaney is busy as well, with her junior year, enough said, right?!. My husband, Kaycee, and I have found ourselves with a little more time on our hands as we are not having to do as much for the girls. The obligations of dividing and conquering to get it all done seem to be thinning, disappearing slowly and consistently like fog lifting.  Though we knew this time was coming it seemed to hit us suddenly. In truth it has been a long gradual release of our daughter’s into the world of responsibility and a slow, intentional process for us to prepare them. But now that is has started, it feels like it is too soon, probably not for them (insert teenage eye roll), but most definitely for Kaycee and I.


Recently, there have been days where I have come home and found myself a bit lost, wandering and wondering what I should be doing… time, it seems, is something that I have not had any “extra” of for a long time.  Sure I could fill it with more work (house, school, yard, etc.), or more exercise, more volunteering or cleaning (yuck) but instead Kaycee and I have decided to fill it with intentional dating. We are trying to circle back to each other, to connect like we used to when we were younger and had more time. See here’s the rub, we love each other, in fact we really like one another too, but over the years we have become a bit lax, complacent, comfortable and less creative with the ways in which we approach our love/like of each other. We knew our love was always going to be there and that we could count on it but we did not give it any extra attention. This new found time, however, has shone a light into the neglected corners of our courting practices.


While Kaycee and I are not trying to “catch or get or convince” one another like in the beginning of our relationship we are trying to find those commonalities, interests, and excitement in the things we like to share and do together. For the past 19 child raising years we have been happily absorbed into the activities of the girls and what they liked to do or whatever programming they had…. that was what drove our daily, weekly, yearly schedule.  We loved it.  Being parents and supporting their interests was what we had signed up for in the beginning and we will continue to do so. But now as our daughters continue to grow away from the daily family routine and branch out into their own big, beautiful, independent lives,  Kaycee and I are left to find new interests of our own and rekindle interests of our’s from years past.


Truth be told, we were never one of those couples that felt we could afford date nights. Being a stay at home mom and educators our finances were limited to necessities.  Yes, I know our relationship was and is a necessity but we chose to stay at home with the girls most of the time. Our nights typically were spent whole family. We were proud of our commitment to nightly family sit-down dinners and looked forward to our family time together. This was something that Kaycee and I planned even before we had kids. Before the girls came along, we intentionally talked about the things that were important to us from our childhood and what we wanted to bring to our family once it began. Honestly, I will miss this regular nightly connection with our girls… in fact this thought alone brings tears to my eyes knowing that our new normal will not include them daily to share in all the small moments.  I recognize that now the time spent with our girls will be the kind that we look forward to; cherished and even seen as a little bittersweet because of the time spent apart.


With this discovery of time Kaycee and I now plan a weekly date night, alternating between weeks. Sometimes it’s just an hour; phones down, distractions limited.  Happy hour tends to be our go to but sometimes it is a walk in a park, a stroll through a bookstore, a movie, or dinner. We are also trying to plan weekend getaways every quarter where we go overnight somewhere to rest and recharge, free from the distractions of regular life and work for 24-48 hours.  We are intentionally seeking ways to surprise and plan something the other would really enjoy, to bring back some of the sparkle, freshness and unexpectedness of dating.  It has been fun. It takes time and effort and we can become distracted from this goal and fall back into the ease of not “dating” but we are are relying on each other to hold the other partner accountable.


Please understand, I love the comfortable routine of our years together.  I adore that I can count on Kaycee to be there always and usually know exactly what to expect in any given situation. I love that I can glance at him and easily read his mood, whether he got enough sleep, had a good/bad day, if he has energy to make dinner or if I need to step in. Like many couples, we have developed a way to communicate with each other without even talking. We can laugh together over things from the past, our shared history, family stories, and inside jokes from the last 26 years.  I can count on him to recall the end of a story I may forget or help fill in the details of a story we can tell better together. We have been married for 22 years, not all easy, not all good, but all hard fought and beautiful because we were in it together.  Our vows, like many other couples vows, stated,  “For better or for worse” (been there done that), “For richer or for poorer”, (check), “In sickness or in health”, (unfortunately, walked this path too much).  We have lived by these promises to each other even in the hardest of times.


Over the past few years we have had more hard times than the easy, for sure. This has taught us a bit about living fully, taking in each day and trying to find joy in the simplest things. Now that the stressors of a major health crisis are dwindling we are working hard to be the best versions of ourselves, together and individually.  This is beneficial for all involved: us as a couple, ourselves individually, our family and for those we interact with everyday. We are exploring new places physically, mentally, and emotionally.  We are sharing new experiences and remembering all that we have accomplished together while looking forward to what we can create and experience in the future. 


We are entering this new season of life intentionally.  I use that word, intentionally, because we are active in this goal.  We are thinking, planning, discussing and sharing our needs and wants for our new found time. This dating process is not a passive experience. We are not just letting time go by while life rolls along as per usual.  We are working together, seeking out opportunities to learn and grow, involving ourselves in our own lives and recognizing challenges or roadblocks in order to reframe and refocus our individual needs and our needs as a couple. The truth is we are in this together. The end goal is something that we are both fighting for.  We are not opponents, we are the fiercest of allies.  The goal is to enter this next exciting phase or chapter of life with zest and grit, to bring forth as much love, laughter and affection as possible, together.


An although, like many,  when we got married we though, “Whew, no more dating!”,  I challenge us instead with a new vow… “Date your partner like there is no tomorrow.  Say how you feel everyday.  Be honest about your needs and feelings.  Work as hard as you did in the beginning.  Show them the creativity, the spontaneity, and all the fresh exciting love in your heart, everyday.”


Cheers to the next season of life!





Life &… Shoes

Image result for damenschuhe arten

I like shoes. No, I love shoes. In fact, I can admit I have somewhat of a shoe obsession.  I like to have shoes that complete any outfit and since each ensemble is different, from sweats to dressy, I have a lot of shoes. I enjoy when shoes can be a statement or a fun and exciting accessory to my wardrobe. I love the feeling of a comfortable pair of tennis shoes or slippers when my dogs might be barking.  I even like having just the right support for a workout or working outside. I believe I can always find a use for more shoes… even if I my husband thinks I have enough. Sometimes I like a pair of shoes because the are simply pretty or unique; different than any other shoe I have ever seen or worn before. I know that I don’t need anymore shoes, but that doesn’t stop me from shoe shopping (usually virtually, actual purchasing is less often than it sounds).  It is fun for me, even rewarding to find the perfect pair of shoes that compliment, comfort, support, complete, dazzle, or improve my overall look or outlook. You know that pop-culture saying, “There’s an app for that”?  Well… I have a different one that plays on a loop in my head, “There’s a shoe for that”!


Since I feel like I have a deep-ish understanding of shoes I have found I can use them as an analogy to talk about relationships. I have used this to help myself and my own daughters navigate the sometimes turbulent friendship/relationship waters.  I think friendships and relationships can be like a shoe collection… stay with me, folks.


We, as humans, shop for shoes for many different reasons…comfort and protection usually being the first reasons, especially when we are younger.  And just like we look for comfortable shoes when we are younger, we seek out friends that are safe that can add comfort to our lives.


Often we buy the same type of shoes over and over because they are tried-and-true (Birkenstock for me).  We know the fit of these shoes to always be the same, we are aware of what we are getting and we know we will be satisfied.  There is little to no wearing-in that has to happen with these shoes because there is a long history of muscle memory. These shoes are usually what I think of as my oldest-dearest friends, the friends I have had since childhood or those that have been collected throughout the years that possess that life-long-friendship quality.  Most of these friends have seen me through the ugly, awkward and difficult phases with grace and have devoted equal time in the beautiful, easy and good times of my life. This small group of people are the kind that no matter how much time has passed we are able to slip back into the comfortable ease of where we were before. These are the friends you can count on in the most joyous and the most difficult of times.  


Relationships may be fewer with the people in this group. These shoes are hard to come by but once you own them you will never let them go. These tried-and-true comfort shoes are the kind that support and love you without judgement, they are honest and real.  They live comfortably in the back of your closet, always… just waiting patiently to be worn. They are not demanding of your time but celebrate every second when the time comes for you to be reunited. Because there is a shared history, a strong foundation of wear, they know you almost better than you know yourself… your rough spots and curves, your cracked heals or manicured toes.  But most importantly these shoes are understanding and available at a moments notice. They don’t have to be worn all they time…but ohhhhh when they are worn you know it in your soul (or down to your sole, pun intended). You are rejuvenated by their presence, their touch, by their constant love and support and you are better because of them. You fit well together. You and that pair of shoes were meant to be lifelong friends.


Then there are the shoes you wear for going out on the town; fun shoes, colorful shoes, shoes that often look fabulous but can sometimes leave you with a shoe hangover the next day (AKA blisters).  These shoes are fabulous, no doubt, but can leave a mark for better or for worse. This particular group of shoes are always there for a good time, they like things to be easy and fun. Long distance walking or support is not really their style… they were not built for that. These shoes are often tucked away in a box or hidden behind other regularly worn shoes, waiting to be taken out for special occasions. These are the friends or relationships that you look forward to but for limited amounts of time, shorter periods of wear.  There is not a deep emotional connection to these shoes but you can typically count on a good time and something different than your regular everyday routine. These shoes can be SO MUCH FUN but can also be a little exhausting if worn to often.


There are also the shoes that get worn every week, often multiple times per week. Sometimes these shoes are worn for shorter, seasonal spurts, other times they are worn more long-term.  They are the basics, the shoes you count on to be there for your daily support, carpooling, comradery, hard work and determination that gets you through you daily life.  These shoes are made up of friends you call acquaintances, coworkers, neighbors, and other kids parents that you hang out with at theater rehearsals/productions, softball games, swim meets etc. (insert your child’s interest/activity here).  Sometimes these shoes become a pair you wear more regularly because you learn you can count on them for support on a deeper level. Sometimes these shoes can even become a pair you rely on and thus slide into the tried-and-true category. Often though, this particular group of shoes are worn for a season of use. They are perfect for work but when you get home you slide right back into your slippers. They fit great during the performance or swim season but when that is over you rarely reach for them in your closet.  It is great when you bump into them and sometimes you may go for coffee to catch up but you recognize that you don’t have as much in common with these shoes as the other shoes in your closet.


Sadly, not all shoes last forever.  There are shoes that need to be removed from your closet.  Sometimes this can be easy, other times this can be really hard to reconcile. The hardest is the pair of shoes that you have worn for a long time, you have come to rely on their strength and steadiness when suddenly they start to pinch or squeeze.  Without warning, the shoes that used to feel so good and comfortable now hurt and do not compliment anything in your closet. These are shoes you have invested time, energy, love, laughter and connection in but realize something has changed in your relationship and you need to let go… somehow you have to  get rid of them or donate to someone else.


These shoes represent relationships that no longer serve you.  They are the people in your life that had a valuable place in the closet, for some time, but that through life circumstances or personal growth no longer support you being the best version of yourself. These are hard relationships lost, friendships that have ended and they are not easy to get rid of because of the memories of what they used to provide. Sometimes these shoes sit in a donation bag, ready to go for a long time before you can actually let them go. As hard as it may be to remove these shoes from your closet you are often better for it in the end.  Later, when you see these shoes on someone else’s feet, and you will, you can hope for relief knowing you were able to love them and then let them go… but it can also be devastating.


In order to move through this life and to grow personally I realize that sometimes I need to clean my closet; to make space for new friends, there must be room in the closet. This can be hard… SO hard, but also necessary.  New friendships and relationships take time and space to create. New shoes need to be worn to determine whether they warrant a place in the closet. Through wear, trial and exploration you may find a new pair of shoes that fits perfectly!  New shoes can be just what you have been searching for for a long time or you may find they just do not fit… and that is okay, too. Either way you give them a try.


My closet is not limited. I have shoes for work, shoes for exercise, shoes for play and shoes for parties.  I have tall boots that feel like a hug and short booties that lift my mood. I own shoes for hot weather, cold weather and weather in between.  I have shoes for sand-between-my-toes and shoes for uneven rocky surfaces. There are shoes in my closet for all of life’s occasions… I do not try to exclude any shoes but I do try surround myself with the shoes fit ME the best.  Each occasion is different and may call for a different pair of shoes to be retrieved from the closet.


I feel blessed with all the shoes I have met in my lifetime and I can’t wait to see what shoes I get to try on in the future.  


So whether you are choosing to wear:


Shoes for comfort

Shoes for a statement

Shoes that look great but may give you blisters

Shoes that no matter how long it’s been between wearings, still fit and feel fabulous

Shoes that support your feet

Shoes that lift you up

Shoes that ground you

Shoes that are easy to slip on

Shoes that may have complicated lace up, zip up, tie or all of the above

Shoes for just the right occasion

Shoes that leave you thinking about them for days to come

Shoes that people like to talk about

Shoe that can listen with all their heart

Shoe that are tried-and-true, like Birkenstock for me, that never disappoint…


…Whatever your shoe choice is, choose wisely.  





Life & … Your Shopping Cart

Image result for full  costco shopping cart

The other day I was shopping at Costco to kill time while new tires were being put on my car.  It was after work around 6:30 and I was starting to get a little peckish, not a good time to be shopping but… what do you do?  As I wandered around Costco I found many of the things: basics that are always on the shopping list, items that I have seen before but never grabbed, things that I added for work/social event, and the “bright shiny light” purchases that I never even knew I needed.  You know the ones I mean…. Sometimes these things just seem to jump right into your cart and then you get home with what seems like a lifetime supply of an item you’re not even sure you will like.  


Well, this particular night was a bit different. I was trying to limit my purchases since I had just spent a boatload on new tires, a necessary evil.  I had my basics, T.P., popcorn, greens for smoothies, Coconut Clusters, green beans for my dogs, canned coconut milk, some Christmas gifts (already available in September!!!), some pepper for our staff room -we’d been out for days and I love pepper- and a random smattering of a few more necessary/unnecessary things.  I tossed in a pre-made spinach salad the size of Texas but for the same price as a Starbucks latte. (Buyers note: I ate off this salad for a whole week until it was no longer good and I had to pitch the rest, could easily be dinner for a family of six.) I knew I needed dinner and this seemed the most economical, convenient, and somewhat healthy option at the time.  Since I don’t really care for the gelatin-like poppyseed dressing that comes with the salad I looked to my cart to substitute for the provided dressings’ role. Aha! I found the “bright shiny light” avocado mayo that I just had to try, plus the aforementioned pepper and a vat-sized balsamic vinegar…I could definitely MacGuyver a dressing from these ingredients and it had to be better than the poppyseed goop, right?  I popped over to the food counter and asked for a plate and fork so that I could eat my salad in the exclusive Costco dining area, tres chic.  (I do find it hilarious that in a warehouse of oversized items the fork you get from the food services might be the tiniest, wimpiest plastic fork I have ever seen…? Just saying, it is ironic.) I parked my gargantuan shopping cart in the corner at the farthest side of the dining zone, sandwiching it between the table and the display of air conditioners, you know the spot I mean every Costco is the same, right?  


Here, I would to be able to solitarily mix my salad like a mad scientist without really getting noticed or so I’d hoped.  I opened the salad and began to pile the spinach, avocado, bacon bits, egg and tomato on my plate with said tiny fork. Nevertheless, determined to make this salad dressing work I began to dig into the jar of avocado mayo.  I carefully eyed my neighbors and made sure no one was watching. I got a big glop out and then as I was transferring it to the plate it dropped on the large plastic salad lid. Miracle of miracles that made me realize that I should in fact toss the salad there, a much bigger salad-tossing-surface.  I proceeded to dump the plate of lettuce et al on the lid, crack the pepper over the top and pour some balsamic in for just the right tang. Mixing this mess up wasn’t pretty but I hoped that it would do the trick. I took my first bite of spinach, which by the way was whole leaves of spinach so I had to fold the pieces into my mouth very caveman-like and with my wee plastic fork.  I thought to myself (with a grin and probably some spinach poking out of my mouth), “Not bad for a Costco-scientific-dinner-experiment”. At least the store was pretty empty at almost 7pm.


It is then, as I went in for my next bite that I heard my name… “Sarah”… that couldn’t be for me but I heard it again, “Sarah”…. I looked up and there were two of my co-workers smiling and waving and walking over to my table.  The reveling in the success of my culinary-genius-Costco-ninja-style-chef-creativity suddenly felt very exposed and to be honest a little bit crazy… okay a lot crazy! I was caught, in fact not alone. The couple are teachers at my school and were on a date when they decided to pick up a few items for school, they said.  They had left their cart far enough away that I could not could not see what they bought, but my cart, just sat there exposed, open, filled with all my purchases that begged me to take them home… in secret. Add that to my mad-scientist dinner show that was all over the table in stages of deconstruction and a very odd feeling of embarrassment and shame swept over me.


I was suddenly self conscious of all my purchases, like somehow they defined me.  And my science fair dinner project didn’t help support my sanity… good ole’ insecurities started to bubble up to the surface.  The judgements of yesteryears, of events from throughout my life, started to come up. The kicker is I am friends with these two people, I have know them for years and I work with them everyday so nothing in my cart should feel embarrassing or odd for them to see.  It wasn’t like I was running into them at some seedy underbelly of society. But for some very odd reason I felt a sense of unease and felt very naked, exposed.


We chatted about the size of the salad in front of me and the congealed dressing that accompanies it.  I told them about my alternative dressing and that I had made it out of ingredients from the cart. This gave way to a discussion on the merits of what makes a fine mayo.  My friend is a staunch Best Foods man, he had tried the avocado mayo but it was a hard pass for him. (I have to admit I agree with him about this, although it’s not bad as a mixture in a salad dressing).  We giggled about the massive pepper grinder I had in my cart as he too had just purchased pepper for our staff room the night prior. Then we said our goodbyes and that we would see one another in the morning.  A deep sense of relief washed over me.


After they left I wondered why this encounter was bothering me so? Why did this meeting with people I knew well, affect me so much? Why would past-life insecurities come up so quickly in this moment?  I felt like I had shared way more with them that just a quick chat. What about them seeing into my shopping cart and my crazy dinner show left me feeling so vulnerable? I had to sit for another hour, contemplating this, before my car was ready when it hit me; looking into someone’s shopping cart is like looking into their world, taking a peek into the current status of their life, their ups and downs and their state of affairs.  And this encounter was with no ordinary shopping cart, this was a Costco shopping cart which for some reason often brings forward the whims and snap purchases that later can bring buyers remorse and possible shame. But WHY?


Why shame? Nothing in the cart was hurtful or evil.  Nothing was an embarrassing or out of character… so why did I feel this way?  The next day I went to school thinking about this encounter and I talked to my co-worker.  I explained that last night was not my ordinary shopping trip, that it was a wasting-time-trying-not-to-buy-too-much shopping trip.  She quickly responded by saying, “Oh, I know you should have seen what was in our cart. All those snacks were not for us. It was all for the kids at the school.  We don’t usually buy snacks like that. In fact, we are going to be doing Whole 30 again soon and we can’t eat any of the stuff we had in our cart.” The funny thing was I had NOT even seen their cart.  I had no idea what they bought but she felt just as exposed as I did. She too felt compelled to explain and justify her purchases.


This conversation made me think maybe we should all be looking into one another’s carts more often, metaphorically speaking.  Maybe we need to know more of the everyday benign details about each other so that this random and innocent encounter doesn’t leave us feeling like we need to explain away all our actions and purchases.  Maybe we need to make more of an effort to connect with people on a daily basis and witness the crazy in everyone. Interactions at work, at the store, in the park etc. should become the building blocks for creating safe and comfortable relationships with those who surround us everyday.  Our shopping carts should not be the way we learn about people… but rather the continuation of a relationship we have already invested in.  Judgement, shame and insecurities begone! Let our shopping cart be punchline of a joke we share together. Then the feelings we are left with upon meeting/bumping into someone in any situation, Costco or otherwise, will be about connection, relationships, engagement… not connecting the dots of one’s life through items, purchases or appearance.  


I have been trying to I practice this more often, since that night in Costco, by making a commitment to intentionally seek out opportunities to connect; to spend an extra five minutes chatting or learning more about the people I am with everyday.  I realise that over the last few years, while my hubby was battling cancer, I had isolated myself pretty well. I was able to avoid any additional feelings (judgements, insecurities, shame, etc.) by limiting connections to a very select few people. This was necessary then, to navigate the day-to-day living of cancer survival.  But now, I am ready to open back up to the world and to people. My goal is to seek out one extra five minute connection, with someone different, each day. This “silly” encounter at Costco was obviously important, not so “silly” afterall … it stuck with me and made me seek out answers to why… why shame and insecurities? Evaluating self action/reaction in any situation is not ever easy but I believe it is necessary to live life as my best self.   


I needed to begin again, to re-focus once more on making real and meaningful changes in myself so I could better engage with people. Isolation and interactions with only safe people was not helping me to live my best life.  I needed to take the time to go beyond the cart, go beyond the surface stuff and connect with people in my world on a deeper level. I believe that if we all could just take the time to look past “the messy daily stuff”, the items on the surface or in the cart and dig down to heart of people we might find something more meaningful, more human. If we all could just give ourselves a break from the shame and judgement of perceptions,  the chance encounters might instead bring us joy and happiness instead of wonderings and worries. That sounds pretty good to me…


So, if you happen to see me in the corner of the fine dining area of Costco, next to the air-conditioners, whipping up some crazy concoction, come on over and join me.  I invite you to look into my cart and beyond…make a connection. I’d love to share a meal with you, no judgement, no shame. And no more avocado mayo.






Life &… Kindergarten vs. College


We have all been there at one time or another… the start… the beginning of something new.  Sometimes it feels scary like a tall looming cliff, an edge to unknown territory. Sometimes it can feel exhilarating, like stepping into something you have always dreamed of, or pictured in your mind’s-eye.  But one thing you can be sure of it always brings a bevy of emotions, Starting something new is about all the feels.  


If you can try to think back to your first day of kindergarten, or if you are like me and that memory might be a bit harder to access, try instead to remember the first day of kindergarten for your child. I can remember Addison’s first day of kindergarten clearly.  I remember getting myself ready for her first day almost as much as I remember getting her ready.  Addison was excited and filled with buzzing nervous energy, I was terrified and melancholy about this life changing start. You see I had been a stay at home mom since the moment she and I locked eyes on each other in that hospital room… and the past five years were a daily diary of loving, snuggling, playing, developing, supporting, interacting and managing her and her younger sister.  This was going to be a huge change in my current job description. This was the start of the gradual release of Addison.


The walk to the bus was filled with non-stop chatter and questions from Addison. I tried to quietly respond while toting her three year old sister, Delaney,  and trying to imagine the day without her nearby. When we arrived at the bus stop Addison’s energy and anticipation, along with the other kids waiting at the bus stop, was palpable. But as I searched the faces of the other parents to share a commiserating look, none of them made eye contact. They seemed just as lost in their own thoughts. Most of us at the bus stop were first time kindergarten parents and those who were seasoned at this were keeping their distance.


The big yellow school bus pulled up to the curb with a familiar squeaking noise. As the doors to the bus yawned opened so did the distant memory from my childhood of riding the bus. This sound of school bus brakes squeaking was now part of my daughter’s collection of memories… a new sound inviting my child to step away each day from the soft comfortable routine of her last 5 years and into the embrace, good, bad or ugly, of all that public school and life from here on out would offer her. I took a deep breath, looked into Addie’s big blue eyes, smiled a confident you-can-do-this smile and had to hope that all would go well.


I felt the triple squeeze of her warm hand, a signal meaning I love you from years of practice.  Her tiny arms quickly wrapping around my waist for one last hug followed by a quick peck on the lips of her confused sister as she smiled brightly and scrambled up the too-tall steps.  There was fear and doubt, mostly mine, but she was brave. Once seated she turned to the windows and waved with glee as the bus pulled away from the curb. We all waved until the bus crested the hill then quietly, like a dance, everyone at the bus stop turned and began their walk home.  I blinked back tears. These tears were filled with acknowledgement of the first goodbye in a lifetime of goodbyes and letting go. As Delaney and I walked home I breathed deeply and prayed that she have a good experience. It was a BIG deal for sure. A huge cliff.


The nagging questions kept cropping up all day as Delaney and I stumbled through our new routine without Addie: Does she have to tools to be successful?  Will she be kind to all her new classmates? Will they be kind to her (please, please, please)? Will she remember to get on the right bus home? Will her teacher like her?  Will she like her teacher? Will school be something that she loves or loathes? Will she do well academically, emotionally, socially? Will she be safe? Will she make friends?  Will others get her boldness? Will others see the amazing kiddo that she is? Will she be happy? Will I? And many, many more. Life was changed that day at the bus stop, it shifted and morphed into what was now the new routine.


It never ends, this saying goodbye to our children.  Delaney followed Addie to school two years later with the same energy and gumption to take on the world.  I was lucky I guess, some kids are terrified….mine ran into the world like a rookie firefighter running into a building knowing there were risks and braving them anyway. The beauty of this gradual release is the ability to say hello again at the end of the day.  Each night our family sits down to dinner together and we share what we are thankful for and then a meal…some nights quickly and sometimes for hours. This is our time to say hello again and recharge, repair for our next goodbye. We have said our goodbyes and reunited with our hellos thousands of times, you would think we were well prepared for what was coming, but the next goodbye was going to be bigger… an enormous cliff.

Addie chose a University only an hour away, though she would not have a car so it could have been a world away.  The drive the morning we took her to college was filled with constant chatter (mostly Addie), a signal we learned over the years was Addie’s coping mechanism to calm her nerves.  Questions and comments filled the car. “Mom, did you remember to put in XYZ? Mom, did I pack the ___? How much longer until we get there? I wonder if my roommate will be there yet?  I wonder what my roommate will be like? I think we might be early. I wonder if there will be parking? Where am I supposed to go to register?” Etc. Delaney sat silent next to her sister, internally mourning the loss of her best friend, while trying to remain externally happy and supportive.  I answered the questions with short answers, knowing there would be more questions coming. Dad, well he is always the cool, calm collected voice of reason so he drove and patiently kept his eyes on the road. The anticipation of this new journey was vibrating through us all and we were all dealing with the looming goodbye in our own way.  As we pulled up to the campus and the doors to our van opened we saw busy students all working to haul their stuff to their new rooms and keep their emotions in tact. It was a hive-like atmosphere; the energy buzzing around us, parents, students, siblings all humming and vibrating with anticipation.


We settled her into the dorm, officially checked in with the University walked around campus, explored little neighborhood shops nearby, attended the convocation and then it was time to say goodbye. It was time to drive away and leave our beautiful, bold, confident, determined, kind, brave and strong daughter behind.  And without fail the nagging questions from kindergarten cropped right back up: Does she have to tools to be successful? Will she be kind to all her new classmates? Will they be kind to her (please, please, please)? Will she remember her way around the campus and to the safety of her dorm? Will her professors like her?  Will she like her professors? Will college be something that she loves or loathes? Will she do well academically, emotionally, socially? Will she be safe? Will she make friends? Will others get her boldness? Will others see the amazing kiddo that she is? Will she be happy? Will I? And many, many more. Life, again, was changed that day as we pulled away from the dorm, the routine was changed, again.


This time it was if crack had been created in our hearts, severing a portion that would have to heal without the daily rip and repair of hello and goodbye.  This goodbye meant more time and space between our connection, more individual work and effort to repair the hurt from goodbye on our own. Sure we could talk on the phone, or face-to-face (thank you technology) whenever we wanted but we would be unable to connect in the ways we had in the past.  In fact, we ended up limiting phone calls and facetime to lessen the ache of not being together. Don’t get me wrong, we were excited to send her off to college and she was thrilled and ready, but it still hurt our hearts and we miss her mighty presence in our house, daily. Missing her is difficult to manage at times and at times it is quite easy.  It is a wobbly ride and we are trying to get our bearings. I know there will be calm steady times and there will be rocky disorienting times… remember her sister is only two years behind her…yikes!


Then it happened… the day that parents of past college students tell you about. Addie called about a week into orientation.  Classes still didn’t start for another few days and she was desperately ready for a regular routine. She was going to be coxswaining for the University men’s team but that didn’t start for another month.  Clubs had not been set up and her roommate was gone, a lot. She was lonely, tired from the week of orientations and adventuring, hungry because she was not eating for fear of running out of dining dollars before that term was over, holed up in her dorm room and she was crying.  This was SO HARD! She needed me and I was not there… rip… I felt that familiar kindergarten feeling from years past…I took a deep breath, looked into Addie’s big blue eyes (thanks to technology), smiled a confident you-can-do-this smile and had to hope that all would go well.


Goodbye for now,




Life & … the Emptying Nest

{ High School Graduation Day Brunch}

After a LONG hiatus from writing, I am feeling that I need/want to return to the keyboard. It has been a relief to begin to reabsorb back into a somewhat regular routine of life.  So much has happened since I last processed my feelings and thoughts through written word. Kaycee is almost 2 years cancer-free. Delaney, our youngest at 16 now, is heading in to her junior year of high school and Addison is 18 and in two days off to University of Puget Sound! Yikes… I have to take all that in, slowly and with intentional thought or I become overwhelmed.  Though being overwhelmed is not a new or unique feeling to those of us sending our kids off to college, I am experiencing a kind of time vortex. Somewhere, somehow, I have been fast-forwarded to a season of life that I am not well prepared for. Let me explain…

See, I feel as if I lost 2+ years with both my girls.  I remember very clearly when Delaney was in her 8th grade year of middle school and Addie was a sophomore thinking, “Well, we better start thinking about looking at schools for Addie next summer”, then BAM the vortex hit.  The suck of time and energy that goes along with a stage four cancer diagnosis hit our family like a freight train. It sucked the vibrancy our of our little family unit and pushed us down, deep into a dark and murky space where you want to leave many of the memories. However, my girls, in all their wonderful glory and resilience, still grew up and and changed.  I want to write they changed right before my very eyes… but I can’t. The reality is, I had my sights focused on Kaycee and getting him healthy, that I was not the parent that I dreamed of being for them. I was not a bad parent, but I was not the present-for-my-children-parent I always thought I would be. Our girls in turn had to grow way beyond their years in those 2+ years also.  

{2015 September- Sophomore/8th Grade}

It is only the last few months that I feel we are truly emerging from the dense fog of being sick to realize all to clearly that time did not stop.  My girls are beautiful, strong, empowered, sensitive, caring and kind young women ready to take on the world. They have coping skills that some adults struggle to obtain.  They are intelligent, determined and empathetic learners. They possess a deep bond of trust, love and understanding that goes way beyond the regular close sister bond. How did that happen?  I know I was there, but life marched on carrying all of us along with it.

{2018- High School Graduation Day}

Though much of the details of the cancer years are very hard to remember, the goal during that season was clear… get Kaycee healthy and keep the family in tact.  Often much of the weight of what was happening at home was heaped on Addie’s shoulders while Kaycee was in and out of the hospital. She cared for her little sister, grocery shopped, took care of the pets, often cleaned the house, learned the love/hate relationship of laundry. She overcame her fears of walking around Seattle by herself so that she and her sister could visit their dad in the hospital. We had family, friends and acquaintances that supported us whenever we asked and checked in on the girls often during this time but the fact of the matter is that Addie had to grow up, instantly! Adulthood was forced upon her because of the circumstances (though she stubbornly refused to get her license until she was 18).

Meanwhile, in the last year I have watched her thrive.  With the weight of cancer lifting from our house she has grown into a strong adventure seeker, leader, and goal achiever.  I admit, I am in awe of her. Her strength and conviction of character is light-years beyond where I was at that age…. Maybe even where I am today.  She traveled to Africa to analyze primate and predator population, She continued to lead both the adult Master’s Crew team and her peer BIR Crew team as the coxswain to victories, landing  herself a seat as the coxswain of the men’s crew team for UPS. Most recently, she completed a seven day training camp, BLAZE, for young women, something she dreamed of doing for 3 years. This camp was incredible and so empowering.  Run only by women fire fighters, these young women trained at the North Bend fire fighting training facilities to rescue victims, retract car metal with the ‘jaws of life’, put out wildlife and building fires, climb out into the void of a 110 foot ladder etc..  But most importantly she learned she has a power deep within that is fierce. She can and will accomplish anything she puts her mind to. This will not be easily and may take time but she is more than capable of great things.


{Camp BLAZE Fire Drop Off}

 {North Bend Training Facilities}

We dropped her off at this camp thinking it would be a great week; a unique “camp” experience.  What we came to realize when we went back for the graduation ceremony was that she had changed. In that short time she proved to us and to herself that she is ready to take on the world.  She is capable of failing and picking herself up to try again. She demonstrated that with her determined spirit and focused nature she can succeed. I would like to think Kaycee and I had something to do with helping shape and guide her life choices up to this point but the truth is she, Miss Addison Rose Taylor, has become even more that we could have imagined.

{Graduation Day From Fire Camp}


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{Fiercely Fighting the Fire Beast- Taylor}

So yes, I am sad that she is leaving us. I will miss her daily smiles and quirky sense of humor.  I will miss all the Star Trek, MASH, Supernatural, and Anime jokes that go right over my head. I will miss her pitch-in attitude and her heavy-healed stomping that wakes me in the night.  BUT… I am so proud of her. I am so excited to see who she will become this year, next year and for the years to come. I am determined to stay present in her life without being that mom that has to check in all the time, just a few times per week.  Because the reality is… time keeps charging on whether we are present or not.  We are all (hopefully) changing everyday, striving to become better, versions of ourselves.  Addie is ready. She is open to learning and growing more. She is eager to fly and spread her wings.  I have no doubt she will continue to amaze us and inspire us. I know there will be failure…in fact, I hope so. I say this not to be insensitive, I say this because failure often drives the spirit to try even more, create a richer more diverse and authentic path to success.  This girl, she will change the world, in her own way, through her determination and drive.

{University of Puget Sound- Go LOGGERS!}

Meanwhile, I will be crying a bit as I mourn the space she is leaving in our home and in our hearts.  I know it is not permanent she will return, although, it will never be the same and that is the loss that I will work to reconcile.  To all of you moms, dads, sisters, and brothers out their…good luck! We can find each other crying or laughing or both at Starbucks for the months of August and September.  Together, we have helped shape our future by sending these beautiful minds off to do great things.





Life & …Therapy

Image result for stage black and white

Therapy comes in all forms.  For some the norm is a traditional office therapy setting; sitting and sharing your feelings, anxieties, worries and pains.  For others, peace may be found in exercise; individual or otherwise.  Some may seek therapy in food or a bottle, drinking with friends or alone, or simply taking time off/away from what ails their heart and soul.  Others still may find solace in expressing themselves creatively by writing or painting or other mediums. I was surprised that writing became something that helped me heal.

As I began to write I noticed I started looking forward to the process; revising and editing my thoughts, crying at the keyboard.  I could adjust my inner-self privately, so I could face the world with my outer-self better prepared, stronger.  I saw my writing process as a way of biting off the “issues of cancer” in small digestible bites until I was ready to share the situation publicly, with family, friends and community.  Facing others without first processing was too much for me to handle, I found I couldn’t control my emotions.

This writing/digesting process became my therapy.  At first I felt like a fraud.  I am not a writer by trade.  I was sharing my soul.  I was scared and vulnerable but I had to find a way to grieve the world that was changing faster than I could readily accept.  I had to DO something.  You always hear “journal your feelings, write it down”, so I tried it.  The discomfort I felt by posing as a writer was incredibly challenging, it was stretching my boundaries, causing both mental and physical nausea, but in a good way.

The cycle, each time I wrote, sounded a bit like this in my mind: fraud alert (I am not a writer), to you are a terrible writer (no one is going to want to read this shit), to whoa! I am sharing way too much (depressing!), to I kinda feel better after getting this down (digesting, remember?), to time to hit the post button (a bit like the first drop on any roller coaster, scary but exhilarating), Oh, my God what have I done will anyone read it and or understand me (kind of like the first day at a new school).

All of these feelings were just what I needed.  They were something that pushed me to do the mental work of healing and managing my emotions.  People read the posts responding with kind words, saying that what I had said helped them heal a little bit, too.  That my words had meant something to someone else, became a powerful tool for me.  This feedback fueled the therapeutic cycle I found in writing; supplying me with a little more armor, each time, to face the reality that was ravaging my world.

So, I kept writing.  With each update the cycle continued, my metal armor got stronger.  The daily challenge of harnessing emotions became easier, I became a soldier in the cancer battle raging war on my husband, my family, my world.

Now, it has been a while since I have written.  I have missed it.  Life is cancer-free for Kaycee for the last 6 months, though we have to make it to 5 years to claim the official cancer-free golden ticket.  However, life is not back to normal, nor will it ever be.   The battlefield that was Kaycee’s body is still working hard to be restored to a somewhat normal state.  There are good days, okay days, and down-right shitty days. But all in all, survivorship is a great stage to be in, for us all.

I speak only for myself when I say that my emotional therapy is still a work in progress.  I have found that I am in need of therapy still, and I have found it again in yet another unexpected way.  As many of you know I have always loved to sing.  I started taking voice lessons, in the eye of the chemo-storm of last summer, just to have time to focus on something that was completely non-medical, it was a selfish 45 minutes and it was a blessing.  This practice and focus rekindled my desire to try, to challenge myself, to put myself out there. So, I auditioned for the next show our local theater was presenting and made it in the cast.

The show is Big Fish.  I had seen the movie years ago, 14 years ago, to be exact, and remembered it as weird and fantastical but didn’t particularly love it. This opinion of the movie, when I think back to the time in my life, stemmed from the younger, idealistic version of myself; I-am-young-and-will-live-forever-and-cancer-will-never-happen-to-my-life-because-I-haven’t-been-affected-by-anything-like-this (yet), mind.  Boy, how time changes people: our perceptions, our realizations, our abilities. At least time and life has changed me, for the better, I hope.

Now, Big Fish, the musical is a fantastical, beautiful and heart-wrenching story of father and son.  A bitter sweet tale that reminds us that sometimes the people that we are closest to are not always what or who we think they are.  It is a show that echoes a familiar theme: that life is short, but if you live it surrounded by those you love, it can be magical!

I did not realize how close to my reality this show would come when I accepted my role in the ensemble.  In fact, it wasn’t until the first read through that I understood that I was going to have to build up my emotional armor in order to be able to actually do this show without falling to pieces in the wings.  Now, each rehearsal is a digestible bite in my ongoing therapy. I look around at the cast as we run through our rehearsals, I am not alone in this.  We are all connected, through our life, through our stories, to the therapy of processing emotions, our realities onstage or otherwise.

I am using this new theater-therapy to continue to build my armor, a way to focus on healing my heart and my soul.  The added benefit is that have rediscovered a love and a passion for performing I shelved so long ago.  I am happy too, to have found another outlet to add to my healing process besides writing.  And though each of my personal therapeutic challenges brings the vicious cycle of doubt, curiosity, relief, discovery and strength… and I am so very thankful for the process.


P.S.  If you are a local and want to see a great show, Big Fish is running in May at BPA.  Come see it, you won’t be disappointed! Oh, and bring tissues.

Life &… The New Year 2017


Well… here we are, 2017.  Every new year seems to hold endless possibilities for people. For some, these possibilities, are terrifying. For others, the possibilities can be magical. Either way, there seems to be a universal consensus about this new year: uncertainty. This particular new year marks a political uncertainty with a tsunami-like force as new President Elect and the constant devastating wakes that follow his appointment land ashore, each day. Uncertainty like this is very scary, daunting, overwhelming etc. Conditions like this can can create a feeling of isolation and hopelessness. However, after living through the “shit-storm” (pun intended)  of the past year; a constant terrifying uncertainty and all the unknowns that went along with fighting the battle of cancer, I am trying to see 2017 with a new perspective.  I am vowing/trying/hoping to open myself up to the endless possibilities that everyday small changes and experiences can bring.  I have pledged to view life through a new lens; with intentional focus, on the positive, the beauty and the possibilities in every day.  I know, easier said than done (especially when it comes to politics!).

Having Kaycee headed full-throttle in to survivor-ship, YIPPEE!!!,  and with recovery from his last surgery going much better now, we in the Taylor household are each trying to figure out what life looks like without cancer being our primary focus.  Throughout all of last year my updates were titled “Cancer and … “.  This year I decided to start a real blog, thanks to all the positive feedback from those who read this.  When trying to name the blog I realized I did not want it to center around CANCER because, lets face it, cancer is frankly depressing… Real, but depressing.

I decided I am going to call it “Life and…“.  Life, though it can be depressing at times, is what we are really all dealing with.  Life can encompass, big hardships and  small terrible moments. Ours was filled with just these things: cancer allows you to experiences the big and the small terrifying and difficult all at once. BUT life can also be filled with joy, laughter, tears, pensive moments, monumental decisions, journeys of discovery,  well-intentioned mishaps and so much more.

This new blog is my way of telling the story of both good and bad, the easy and the hard. I want this new place to be somewhere I can share a verbal tapestry  woven with the threads of my real life, being lived as honestly as I know how. I found such therapeutic benefits in writing “it” all down last year.  You see, to me, life is phenomenal.  It is not something that I take for granted…anymore. A lesson I am still learning after the last year. In this lesson I also discovered that life is something we should all  be doing together, something we can all share, something we can celebrate or commiserate over.  We are better together than we are alone, stronger as a group than one lonely voice.   But we have to be honest.

The other day, at the very start of the day while I was busy taking attendance,  I had a student come up to me extremely excited, “Mrs. Taylor, Mrs. Taylor”, the boy squealed in a giddy high-pitched voice.

“Yes, honey what’s up?” I questioned without looking up.

“THE TREES HAVE LEAVES!!!!”, he exclaimed!

I stopped and slowly turned, puzzled at this declaration (he is 8 years old he knows that trees have leaves).  What I saw was the brilliant innocence of pure discovery.  You see the boy had his new-first-ever-pair of glasses.  In theory, he knew tress had leaves but, visually, he had no idea the individual shape, size and color of each of these leaves until he was granted a new lens with which to view the world he was living in.  His whole perspective changed in one swift moment.  All day long he kept slipping his glasses down to his nose, delighted to compare his new clear view with his old unfocused one. I reveled in the beauty of watching him experience his new perspective.  He was beaming with delight all day… all week, really.

What I found most fascinating about this was how quickly and happily he adapted.  When faced with a new challenge or way of looking at things are we as adults ever as quick to accept change? Do we look at opportunities for new perspective with even a fraction of his innocent acceptance?  Do we relish in the pure delight of having something new to focus on?  Can we re-train ourselves to be as open and flexible as this little guy?

I know, I know I can hear the audible sighs of resignation as you read this…  our adult changes in perspective usually pose bigger realities/challenges than the discovery of tress having individual leaves.  But I ask, when was the last time you stopped to focus on all the little details individually, to help you accept the whole picture?

Last year my focus was only on the big picture, the end result: get Kaycee healthy and into survivorship.  Now that we are there I need a new focus.  I need to re-train my brain to see the small things that were forgotten over the last year, left behind in the devastation of the storm.   I need to focus on the little details that support the big picture while we learn to celebrate, accept and adapt to our new life.

I am trying, some days successfully, others not so much, to examine each day with a clearer perspective.  A perspective that looks at the smaller moments as a blessing, a gift, something to value.  I want each leaf to be clear to me. I am hoping that through this intentionally focused viewpoint I can see, find, acknowledge,  and understand the beauty in the whole tree.  I want to live more presently in the moment so that life and all its challenges are equally celebrated parts of my narrative. So, I am putting on my “new glasses” and learning, again or anew, what each detail looks like.




Cancer & … Recovery

Cancer and … Recovery

2016-02-25-20-10-07I get asked, every day, how are you? How is Kaycee?  How are the girls? These well-meaning questions are hard ones to answer truthfully.  I have skillfully learned the art of redirecting the question and sometimes I simply answer fine (what a loaded word, eh?).  But, really, the answer is we all are in recovery and it is a great place to be but it is harder than hell!  Recovery from whatever ails you, cancer, surgery, chemo, a cold, a death, a divorce, pneumonia, a broken heart, a hangover…is hard to explain.  However, I will try to explain a little more in depth about what recovery means to me…

What I know about recovery: What it IS and IS NOT

Recovery is hard.  Much harder than I was expecting and obviously even tougher on Kaycee than on me.  I thought recovery would be the push for the finish line, the relief of breaking through the ribbon and the deep breathing that comes with a return to the regular rhythm of life.  Recovery sounds like the end…and yet it is only a new beginning of tremendously hard daily work.  Recovery sounds good to the observer or bystander.  It was something that I thought would be easier than all this shit that we have endured, but recovery may be even more exhausting and invasive to the whole family than the cancer treatments… Maybe?  Maybe I just feel this way because, as far as we know, the cancer is gone and now we have a cancer-free man that is vastly different physically and mentally than the man from just a little over a year ago.

Recovery is not about long naps that leave you refreshed and ready for adventure.  Usually sleep is not even an option but a constant requirement.  The recovering body is demanding.  It needs lots of breaks from the sheer exhaustion of simply being awake.

Recovery is not lounging around indulging in all your favorite things.  Although, recovery involves loads of sitting and couching, often with endless T.V., there is very little rest.  There is, however, constant discomfort, repositioning, concern, monitoring and passing of endless time.

Recovery is not about eating all your favorite foods or gluttonously enjoying all the things you’ve missed over the last year.  It is more importantly about the challenge of finding what you can stomach; chewing and swallowing becomes a chore.  It is a constant battle to find food with nutrients that feed the healing process and fill the void without adding any discomfort.

Recovery is lonely. Everyone involved with the recovery (patient, children, spouse, friends) feels alone with their own worries, fears and effects that the said recovery is having on them, personally.  Recovery is unique to each person.  Sometimes even sharing what is going on with recovery can be lonely as it clearly paints dividing line between recoverees and healthy, yet concerned, listeners.  As the patient, you are left alone all day every day while the healthy people around you go on with their daily lives/work/school/routines.

Recovery is painful.  Getting the body to respond in ways it hasn’t in months or years, hurts.  Sensations you may have never experienced are your new routine to learn and become accustomed to. Incisions have stitches and soreness; the body aches and skin is irritated.

Recovery is emotional.  Tears, heaving sighs and sobs from exhaustion, physical brokenness and metal fractures are expected.  The toll of piecing back together a normal existence leaves everyone aching for calm and serenity.

Recovery is SLOW.  Much slower than we thought or imagined.  The micro steps forward often get swallowed up by the giant leaps backward, leaving you feeling as if no progress has yet been made. Recovery is a gradual stage of this awful slog and I am very grateful to be here and not where we were a year ago.  However, the doctors say it could take up to 2 years for physical recovery and even then, the mental recovery could be a life-long process.

Recovery is frustrating.  Especially around the holidays when family is in town and everyone is getting together, you are home recovering, left behind, missing out.  It is equally as frustrating leaving for the party alone. The person you want most to be with at the party stays home to… say it with me now… recover.  It is frustrating because any conversation may be interrupted at any time, no matter how important or trivial, to focus on the recovery or attend to needs that go along with said recovery.  There is no time to share stories of your day or talk about anything in depth.  For the care-givers, I recommend, having some type of hobby (writing, singing, playing and instrument etc.) to fill that void.  Something else to focus on while waiting for the person in recovery to “be available”.  As a care giver, I highly recommend getting out whenever you can. Even though guilt often follows you around, leaving the house and getting breaks is imperative to be a better care giver to everyone.

Recovery is isolating.  No one knows your thoughts.  No one can feel what you are feeling.  It is impossible to put yourself in the “shoes” of someone recovering. Empathetic people are a beautiful gift but honestly it is not something you can totally understand unless you have gone through it and I do NOT recommend this.  Recovery is different for everyone.

Recovery is life changingWe will never be the same as we were before.  Our world is now viewed through a different lens.

Trying to explain recovery is not easy.  But after I read this to our youngest, Delaney, I asked her, “What do you think? Too much?”  Her answer was clear and concise, “It’s depressing… but it’s true and real.”

I am thankful for recovery.  I am happy we are here instead of back at the beginning.  I am wishing for time, patience, acceptance, forgiveness and kindness.

Happy Holidays/ Merry Christmas


P.S. If you like reading what is going on in our life… I will be posting updates on a blog.  Stay tuned for the blog address as soon as I get it up and running.

Cancer & …Waiting

Cancer and Waiting

Sitting in waiting rooms can seem endless.  Waiting is not something I enjoy and it, definitely, is not something that I ever wanted to become good at.  It is not something that I needed to excel at or conquer and yet, I have become an expert.  I know where to sit in waiting rooms to avoid talking to people.  I know the appropriate items to bring to look “busy” and how to successfully avoid making small talk. I have learned to recognize the way most people demonstrate their stress: tears, nervous laughter, useless chit-chat, quiet solitude, vapid reading of any/all magazines provided and of course lifeless gazing at cell phones in hopes of escaping reality.  I feel like I have heard all the jokes the receptionists cycle through with patients. The jokes are not unique, though the kind folks that check you in are and try with every patient to make them feel like they have never heard the joke before. I have created a sort of game involving fictional names, reasons for visit and back story, including superpowers, for each person in the waiting room.  This all seems to help pass the time of waiting until the sudden moment when that ominous feeling you have been trying to avoid crashes down.  All this happens with the simple call of a name. The moment your loved one, friend, son or daughter, mother or father gets called.  Mental stability and situational avoidance shattered.  You follow the call, by gathering your belongings and trudging in to the unknown behind the closed door.

In this room you will wait some more.  The clock seems to tick at and unbelievably slow pace; one minute forward two minutes back.  The heaviness of the atmosphere seems to settle, a weighted blanket over your body.  There is an actual feeling of gravity pulling you down, anchoring you to your seat. This sensation takes root deep in your joints and muscles as fear seeps deeper into your being and starts pulsing through your veins.  The shear vastness of the situation starts the panic rising, almost overwhelming you until the knock on the door sends it flying from your joints into your throat.  You try to choke the feeling down, anxiously awaiting the “news” of the results.  When you finally get to see your loved one, friend, son or daughter, mother or father, a realization washes over you, the moment you look in to their watery eyes; they had it worse.  All the pressure and stress you may have been feeling is reflected ten-fold, leaving you with a guilty understanding that whatever you were feeling is nothing in compared to their fear.

Waiting is painful.  Waiting is fearful.  Waiting with fear and pain is debilitating at times.  Waiting in rooms for the doctor, waiting in lobbies to be seen, waiting for scans, blood tests, diagnosis, plans of treatment, chemo, radiation, surgery, answers… it all takes time. This time takes its toll on the mind and body.  The reality is when one person in a family gets cancer… the whole family get cancer, hell, the whole village gets it. The effect is wide-spread.  In this I have learned that just like it takes a village to raise our children, it takes a village to care for one another, too.

Tuesday marks a whole year of undeniable stress and fatigue, anxiety and relief, tears and heartbreak that would have been unfathomably hard without the love and support of our village.  The village mindset is powerful!  This way of living, thinking, and surviving allows ALL participants to bear SOME of the load, thus enabling us to have strength to persevere.  So, I sit here enduring yet another wait while Kaycee is in surgery, trying desperately to keep the panic at bay.  I can do this knowing that the village is out there praying, sending love light and good juju our way (I also have imagined that everyone in this waiting room has the superpower to heal and fight off diseases with their powerful minds and patience as they wait for their loved one’s results, too). We still have a lot of waiting to endure but as each wait ends a new step to recovery begins.


Cancer and … The Wizard of Oz

Cancer and The Wizard of Oz


Remember the scene that starts the story of the The Wizard of OZ?  Dorothy caught in her house as it whirls around nauseatingly spinning, caught in the tornado. There is a blur of objects, drained of color, flying by the window, the mean and nasty witch-like lady chasing Dorothy through the air on her bike, Dorothy flailing and losing her footing.  The whole scene intending to convince the viewer of a complete loss of control and creating a visceral connection to the chaos on screen.  Until, suddenly, the house lands…in OZ. What is behind the door, now?

There’s quiet. There’s unknown. There’s extreme color.  There’s a yellow brick road to follow.  Dorothy, cautiously, carefully opens the door and tiptoes out with curious trepidation.

That is kind of how we, the Taylor’s, have been feeling for the past 11 months and roughly 15 days (but whose counting?).  We have been caught in an uncontrollable tornado, being thrown about in the madness trying to balance and navigate our way to a safer, healthier, happier place.

Well, I am happy to report the (metaphorical) house has landed.  Last week, Kaycee received the results of his first CAT scan post chemo and we are happy to report he is CANCER-FREE!  This is the first of many scans to come, in fact every 3 months for the next 2 years then 6 month intervals until 5 years out when they will declare him cured.  We are now in a stage that they called survivorship.  This is a good place to be, a great place to be really but there is still a lingering feeling of concern and caution about what could be lurking around the corner.  It is hard to relax and feel the relief…this I believe is where the term cautiously optimistic comes from.

And Toto we are not in Kansas anymore!  What we knew as normal-life does not exist anymore. We now are living an adjustment to that life, a parallel existence of sorts.  Just like Dorothy we are taking small steps out on to the yellow brick road to Oz.  There are weird lollypop kids (scans and additional tests) and good and bad witches (doctors and hospital visits and surgery Oh My!) in the most unsuspecting places.  Recovery is the crazy unpredictable road and Oz is the cure, the new-normal we are looking forward to easing into.  But as each brick on this road gets bigger the path to Oz widens as our optimism grows. Along the way we have encountered new friends and old friends, all have become comrades in this fight to survive.  They have lifted us up and carried us when needed and we look forward to a time when we can reciprocate their generosity.   There are still times when the yellow brick road will be scary and bumpy and we may feel lost. I mean remember the tress that throw apples, the dark forest where we find lion and the flying monkeys?  We are prepared to continue to lock arms and skip down the road.

Kaycee still has another surgery to endure and this surgery comes with a lot of unknowns.   The recovery can be very difficult and then there is the job of figuring out what our new normal is.  So while I feel like I want to be singing, GOOD NEWS, like Galinda in the opening scene of Wicked (yes, I am a fan of the Wizard of OZ in all forms) it is hard to be too excited.  Holding back the emotional tidal wave until just one more clean scan or recovered surgery or glimpse of OZ is the state of being right now, cautiously optimistic.

So no Toto we are not in Kansas anymore… and we probably will never be back in Kansas again.  We hope to have some sort of new-normal that reflects all the good parts of the old-normal.  A life filled with joy and happiness, hard work and good friends and family.  But this new normal will be in full technicolor.  It will have a vibrancy that you get only from living through whatever dangers and obstacles that you encounter on your road.  Oz really is just a state of mind, a mindset to finding your way back home, to what really matters.  I wish it was as easy as in the movies; three clicks of your heels and thoughts of the people you love, and POW! you wake up from the awful dream.  Reality is a bit more brutal.  But the simple truth is, there is no place like home.  A comfortable place, to find the new normal, filled with love, family and friends, free of cancer and all those damn flying monkeys!


Cancer and … Countdowns

Cancer and Countdowns

I have never been one to count-down days unless it is to celebrate something very special or go on a vacation.  I have been the kind of person that is fairly comfortable with change whether it be the end of something or the start of something new.  Life continue to move on even if I count-down the days, months,  or years.  What I try very hard to do is to live in the moment.  I focus hard on the job at hand, hoping that my presence in the moment makes it memorable or more real.  Don’t get me wrong, I have goals, I want to have good outcomes for my life, work, personal relationships etc.  I guess I have been a ‘more-about-the-journey’ kind of person rather than a ‘destination-person’, until that one fateful fall day in November 2015.

Imagine you are in a doctor’s office, one you never planned to be in in the first place, as a wet stormy Seattle winter brewing outside the window.

You hear the doctor (surgeon) say,

“It’ll be about a year before we can really say if this has been successful.”

Then he goes on to say,

“It will be at least 12 months until you feel normal again, but it will be a very different normal. You will endure 5.5 weeks of radiation and oral chemo, 8-10 weeks to recover before surgery.  Surgery will take about 5-10 hours with a stay in the hospital for anywhere from 3-10 days. After that you will recover for 2 weeks then start 9 rounds of IV chemo, every other week, which takes about 6-8 hours to deliver in the Swedish Cancer clinic.  You will go home with a pump that delivers chemo for an additional 48 hours and return to the clinic for a disconnect 2 days later.  Barring no infection (HA!, we all know that didn’t happen) you should have another surgery in the early fall and be done with this part of the cancer saga around Thanksgiving 2016.  After that, if all goes well you should estimate about five years of follow-up testing after that until we will be able to say whether or not you are cancer free.”

Holy countdowns Batman. That is a LOT of countdowns to get through.  What are countdowns really?  Why do we rely so heavily on them?  Are they just parameters to use support our eager anticipation of an event? A way to ease the excitement?  Are they guidelines to focus on so that the daunting tasks of everyday turmoil and chaos can be seen in small increments instead of huge overwhelming chunks?  Are they another coping mechanism provided to help navigate the unknown?  Maybe they are all of the above…  And if these countdowns are ways to ease the chaos during a difficult time maybe the journey becomes more of a struggle to stay present in and the focus is placed on the destination.  I feel like this is what has happened at least while dealing with this slog.  All I want is to be at the end, the “new normal” phase.

Needless to say, we are still in the midst of countdowns but are happy to report to be more than halfway through.  With only 1 more IV chemo to go we are starting to feel like there is some ‘normal’ just around the corner.  There is still another surgery and many tests that Kaycee will have to endure, but the bulk of treatment is over, thank God!

As I have played the main caregiver role in this cancer countdown I have had to find some ways to cope with the countdowns. The role of caregiver is a hard one.  B.C. (before cancer) I was happily a caregiver to my children, my students, my husband, my friends.  This is what we do in life, we care for those we love.  I knew my job and how to do it, most of the time and through it all I had the support of Kaycee.  But when Kaycee unwittingly switched roles from partner in all this to patient, my main support system dropped away.  He no longer had the physical or mental stamina to be the active supportive partner that he was (and any of you who know Kaycee already understand he was an equal partner in the life-force that is our family). His only job now was to beat cancer.  Though he will hate that I am saying this, his main role became that of patient, a hard pill for anyone to swallow (pun intended) but especially someone so vital and strong.  I had to figure out how to now add to my job description, nurse to my husband.  It is a hard role to participate in. I don’t mean that I couldn’t or didn’t want to do it but it is hard to distance your heart enough from the patient (your husband) to provide care without emotional attachment that is often necessary.  A clear head was needed.  My heart was so connected to Kaycee, my husband, that I had to find a way to harness my emotions so I could level headedly engage with the job of caring for Kaycee, the patient.

Let me explain better…Often, over the last year I found I was drowning in an emotional storm, unable to see the surface of the water. I was fragile and holding life together with what felt like tissue paper and staples.  To say it was overwhelming seems an understatement. It made all my other chosen life roles; mother, teacher, friend, suffer a bit.  Over the summer, I had 2+ months or about 63 days, to find things that made me feel good again, that had nothing to do with caring for others.  Another countdown, I know.  I realized I had to start caring for myself.  This is a hard thing to admit but, I knew I needed to find a way harness my emotions and get to a place of calm.  I have found a few things that make me happy, feel good in my soul and warm my heart.   I started writing more, taking voice lesson and bought myself a ukulele and am teaching myself to play. These things became my therapy, my self-care program.  Now, whenever I need a shot of soul-strengthening-goodness I head for my computer to write or grab my ukulele.  I countdown the days for my voice lessons and relish each of the 45 minutes spent trying to learn to sing (with abandon).  I feel like I have learned to look for the self-care life raft  before going under the emotional waters.  But I have done so with the support of countdowns.

So through countdowns I am trying to find a balance between the journey and the destination.  Though we are all looking forward to the destination of Kaycee’s cancer journey and the day we can say he is cancer-free, I don’t want to get so lost in the counting-down that I forget to see the moments that are what makes the destination so sweet.  Over the last few days I have seen many people posting pictures of their “babies” going off to college, driving away from the hearts, minds and souls they have cared for all these years. My heart is filled with awe and wonder for both the parents and the kids as they have to learn to find a new way to balance their new journey/destination countdowns.  Our baby is only 2 short years from this same path and I want to enjoy every moment until then.  See what I just did there… in one short sentence countdowns and small moments became entwined.  I guess that is just how it is.

As I write this I am counting down the hours until have students in my room, at the moment less than 48… so I am enjoying the sway of the trees and the dappled sunshine of my backyard. Once school starts life gets even more complicated.  I will need to remember self-care in order to better care for all those I love.  I guess I am coming to realize is that finding the balance in life is what allows us to float in the calming sea. Countdowns are only numbers to guide us to the destination, a way to organize the chaos. Balance is the key to enjoy the moments within the chaos.   Okay, now only 46 hours (yippee)… and so it goes.