Mind Your Language!

It may not come as any surprise to you that I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for words, meaning, phraseology, etymology and all things language. Due to Mummy interference, I expect, my kids learned to read very early on, the latest taught himself. I can validate just about anything; waffle and buzz words are a specialty and my poetic license renews quarterly, but I think this shortest kid, currently 5, is going to outstrip me. The imagination is amazing! I’m actually thrilled! 😚

Tonight’s moment:

VERY SMALL CAT (VSC):

Hiss! Scratch!😼

MASTER 5 (M5):

Ow! Aargh! (Genuine fright and real tears follow) 😢

VSC: exits quickly stage right 💨

M5: is gathered up by next youngest brother and mummy for cuddles

Sniffle. Sniffle. (2 minutes maximum)

M5: I want VSC to apologise! 😡

MUMMY: How would you like her to do that, sign language or meowing? Has an ‘I am hilarious’ look on face.

M5: 😠 I just want her to say sorry for hurting my foot and my feelings.

MUMMY: I know, but how can she do that? ‘Meow-ry, M5’?

M5: I have to tell her she’s not being pleasant and when she does that, I feel like she wants all the love and doesn’t want me to have any love.

MUMMY: 🤤😲😨 Pardon? (Apologies, but WTF would seem appropriate here.)

M5: repeats previous statement, with feeling and lip quiver. 😭😢

Where does he get these things?!

Last week we caught up with friends at an indoor play centre. M5 appeared to be immobilised in a very small ball pit by an unknown Miss 3 waving/hitting with a small kids’ book. From 3 metres away, I could see the look of surprise, shock and indignation on M5’s face, “Why would she do that?!

I called to him to move away, a few times actually, before he shook off the apparent petrification and took two steps backwards. Miss 3 followed, book raised. By this time, all five of the mums with me were watching, interested in the stand off. Miss 3’s mum realised what was happening and stepped in to move her daughter.

Noticing all of us watching, M5, totally serious, raised his still tiny forefinger stiffly and intoned with purpose,

“If she does that one more time…

REVENGE!

I am thankful that I was sitting on the floor. We all fell about laughing, much to M5’s disgust. He walked away to more mature interactions in the cubby house.

I did feel the need to tell my friends, still laughing, that we don’t teach revenge as a matter of course in our home.

Love the odd little being so much!

🤣 Eski

Things that make you go, “Hmm.”

Sometimes families are wonderful. I love my ‘little’ nest of people and the small menagerie we have accumulated. Sometimes they drive me to distraction or make me long for a distraction, sure, but they are there and they love me. They tell me so. In words, in teacups, in cooking, washing, technological assistance and cleaning up cat poo.

Sidenote: I am a grown woman with 4 children but I cannot clean up after cats without gagging. This appears to be my kryptonite. Which, when you think about it, makes far more sense than actual kryptonite. Pretty green stones vs icky cat mess. It’s a no brainer.

Anyway. Love is obvious in these and many other ways in my household.

Throughout my extended family, love is shown in other ways. We don’t live in the same city, so visits are always wonderful. Phone calls, texts and emails are also appreciated. Invite me to stay. Pay for a trip. Buy coffee. Hug me. Talk. All say, “I love you.”

My in-laws are a mystery to me. They say “family is everything” but I’m left wondering when inaction speaks louder than words. And even of words, there are few. Mostly mine.

The kids and I will be in town for these dates. Let me know when we can see you, please.

Nothing.

Arrive tonight. Let me know when we could catch up.

Nothing.

?????????

What is going on? I do not understand. No acknowledgement. Certainly no possible plans. Just nothing.

Hmmmm.  I’ll try Facebook. I’ve seen your posts, I know you’ll see this.

GROUP MESSAGE:
Kids and I arrive tonight for 7 days. We are planning our time and would love to see you. Will you let me know what might work please?

An hour later, I receive one (of 6 possible) replies:

I’ll let you know. Busy with work as I’ve been promoted.

I get it. Work is busy. I know that in my own life. But 24/7 for the next week? No time for coffee? Hmm.

A day later:

***** has left the group.

Well, that’s pretty clear.
And after that:

One (who is widely considered THE most unreliable in family) writes:

How long are you here for? I’d really like to introduce my new partner. My phone number has changed since last time so if you’ve tried to text me, I didn’t get it. New number is *******. I’ll call tomorrow when we can work something out.

Well, seems like the same old deal. It’s always this way. He’s rubbished by many family members and sometimes drives you nuts, but he ALWAYS makes time for us. ALWAYS. Actions, right?

The week before, having received no reply via text, I created a Facebook event for the youngest’s 3rd birthday. His actual birthday is just days after we go home, so why not get everyone together for a little cake? Right? Nope. Not a single rsvp from the same people. Friends from my high school days, some of whom I know better now via FB than I did at school, have replied in the affirmative. Family in law? Not one. (This happened for two consecutive years!)

I don’t know what else to do! For my own sake, I couldn’t care less, but for my children and my disappointed husband, I care a lot. What message is this sending them? Hmmmm.

Let me tell you what I’m hearing:

– You aren’t worth my time.
– I don’t want to see you.
– I don’t care that you live at the other end of the state.
– Niece? Nephews? Grandchildren? Who?

And that hurts me for their sakes.

What I want to do is tell (some of) them where to go. I want to send them this rant. I want to go visit and say it straight out. I want a reason. I want my husband to feel like a valued family member. What I want to do is tell (most of) them to stick it.

What will I do? Probably make a phone call and try to squeeze ourselves in. Make children visit so they can be roundly ignored for the allocated hour; or be told how naughty, rude, goth, lazy etc they are.  Try to make polite conversation and hope that I can communicate, pleasantly and perhaps too subtly, how important family is to us.  This will be agreed with and then ignored again til next time. Try to comfort my husband by playing nice and making more of an effort to insert ourselves where it appears we aren’t wanted so that others don’t look bad for not having seen us.

Things that make you go, “Hmmmm.”

Veritas,

Eski

Underneath It All

If you, like me, have battled, are still living and expect to keep dealing with depression, and if you, like me, have children who also have anxiety and depression as a constant illness, then you, like me, should not listen to “Dear Evan Hansen” music alone in an office at the end of a long week.

If you don’t know the story of Evan Hansen, you can find the full run down on the Wikipedia page. Warning: I’m likely to give away at least some of the story here.

Until recently, I didn’t know of it either, but my daughter started to share the music and I noticed a theme running through the lyrics. Although the story is not scene for scene the story of my family, too many of the lyrics ring true. Here’s the parts of the first song, sung by two very different mothers, both trying to negotiate normal families, social anxieties and, unknown as yet, suicide attempts.

****

Can we try to have an optimistic outlook, huh?

Can we buck up just enough to see the world won’t fall apart?
Maybe this year, we decide
We’re not giving up before we’ve tried
This year, we make a new start
Another stellar conversation for the scrapbook
Another stumble as I’m reaching for the right thing to say
I’m kinda coming up empty
Can’t find my way to you
Does anybody have a map?
Anybody maybe happen to know how the hell to do this?
I don’t know if you can tell
But this is me just pretending to know
So where’s the map?
I need a clue
‘Cause the scary truth is
I’m flying blind
And I’m making this up as I go
Another masterful attempt ends with disaster
Pour another cup of coffee
And watch it all crash and burn
It’s a puzzle, it’s a maze
I tried to steer through it a million ways
But each day’s another wrong turn
-happen to know how the hell to do this?
I don’t know if you can tell
But this is me just pretending to know
So where’s the map?
I need a clue
‘Cause the scary truth is
I’m flying blind
And I’m making this up as I go
As I go

****

Now I am aware of the normalities, anxieties and ideations of my family, I think, and I am flattened once again, knowing that I have still not been successful in ‘fixing’ those. So, alone in the office, I cry. And sing along.

Were this anyone else’s post, I would be hitting the comments button and assuring them that no one’s mental health difficulties are my responsibility, but parents and significant others in my situation will testify that it isn’t as easy as telling yourself that. That’s my baby, despite the age; that’s my responsibility.

I used to be able to kiss it all better and now I cannot even slightly improve your outlook with a million hugs and kisses; ongoing psychiatric or psychologist appointments or 20 iterations of medical prescriptions. I hear you. I see you. I love you. And yet, that isn’t enough. God formed you, I carried you; and I would carry you in my arms again if that would mend your broken heart/soul/feelings/brain/self-worth/mental health…….but it doesn’t and I can’t.

I feel responsible because of the statistics that I have seen. Approximately 1 in 7 young people experience an affective depressive disorder (beyondblue.org.au) in Australia. Children whose parents have experienced the same are 4 times more likely, and children who have one or more grandparent who have experienced mental health issues are apparently 20 times more likely to experience some sort of mental health concern than others. How could I not feel responsible? This has been my story. And now it’s an inheritance.

Mostly, mostly, I don’t get stuck in this state. I don’t know why today is different. Perhaps because I feel alone when I’m surrounded. Perhaps because I am tired and need a good sleep (for a few weeks). Perhaps it is musically induced melancholia. Perhaps, and not so surprisingly, perhaps it is my depression coming to the fore in response to all of the above. Whatever.

Mostly, mostly, I live a Nike slogan and JUST DO IT. Whatever it is on the agenda for that day and planning for the next few. Just the same as people everywhere ad infinitum. I’m not alone in it, for which I am grateful and neither are you, for which I am exceptionally grateful.

So, what now?

Now I pack up my today; pick up another child and go home. Now I buy bread and milk and ice cream, because they are the essentials tonight. Now I wipe my face, put on different music (duh) and then cry by myself in the car, wipe my face again and smile hello as I greet my family. I’m going to be ok and, God help me, they will, too.

So despite ‘evidence’ seen from outside, we will keep doing what we think is right. We won’t push for employment and we will ignore or face down detractors who believe we are enabling millennial entitlement. We will smile, a little stiffly perhaps, at those who believe, “If you just….(insert your values here)” it’ll all be ok.

And maybe every now and then I will cry with and for my family and make all the plans, suggestions and appointments (even with bloody Centrelink) that I think will help in any small way. And I will write my fears and feelings – and lyrics that I think 5 Seconds of Summer should record. And despite my best efforts to the contrary, I will listen to musical soundtracks like “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Be More Chill” (don’t ask, the trend is actually alarming me). And I will keep going. And I will be ok. And that’s what it is to be honest, and live and love. And that’s good.

**An hour later**

I have travelled the gamut of emotions in the past 60 minutes.

I picked up the recently employed child who offered to buy me dinner – win! We had a wonderful time and I felt a bit better, which was nice tonight. However, as I have explained, I am exposed to new music via my children, and tonight was no exception.

“Mum, I really like this song and I don’t really know why. Can I play it to you?”

“Sure.”

I’ve linked the song he played below. Your job now is to decide whether my reaction was:

A) understand immediately why he liked the song and proceed to have discussion on the merits of music genres followed by singing along to John Denver and The Proclaimers (separately, ’cause that’d be weird). This interspersed with buying previously mentioned milk, bread and ice cream.

B) crying silently with my face tilted slightly away from the passenger seat because the song describes and repeats what my eldest has tried to describe and repeat, underlined by minor chords. This interspersed with buying previously mentioned milk, bread and ice cream.

C) both A and B and wanting to vomit and gripping the steering wheel tightly in an attempt to distract one pain with another.

THE SONG

The ice cream was mediocre btw.

My Mum the Shearer

It seems that I’ve inherited my mother’s ability to find, be found by and adopt any lost sheep. In some cases, her ability is literal. We adopted a large, lost sheep. We were in Central Australia, the year I turned 9. We’d been travelling for 6 months around the country and now had taken up residence in a single carriage of a converted silver bullet train (something like this). My bed was over the hot water service in the ‘laundry’; Mum and Dad had a fold out bed in the lounge room so my brother and sister could share the double bed in the single bedroom that there was.

When cattle or sheep were rounded up, little ones would often be brought into the community, almost like a toy, and, as toys often are, they’d be discarded and forgotten. This had happened to Sheepy. He had been around the place for a while. He was no longer little and cute, but full grown, fat and fluffy. Well, he would have been had his overgrown wool not resembled a large and fibrous tumbleweed, complete with spinifex grass and felted matting. Sheepy had wandered into our yard one day and, as I mentioned, Mum is genetically predisposed to be unable to resist something or someone in need of assistance. Sheepy became her personal project. She blunted the few pairs of scissors we had, regardless of their original purpose, trying to create a coiff from a conglomerate. The community thought it was hilarious, but I could understand her concerns. Desert days are not cool and Sheepy was lumbered with inches of filthy thermal insulation. Each day, scissors of various sizes and Mum waged war against Sheepy’s many extra layers.

With time and perseverance, Mum won the war against the wool. Sheepy bore his new, attacked by vicious lawn mower, wool cut with lightness and freedom, if not pride. His accepting personality was overcome, layer by layer, with the more realistic taciturn nature of a scruffy, hot male specimen. So Sheepy left his temporary home and ran off to rejoin the community at large. And, not long after, and not shared with the shorter siblings, Sheepy made a guest appearance at a local barbecue. Such is life, I suppose.

Not my story, obviously.

I can see why some people aren’t sure if Sam’s story is real or not. I mean, I’m a 41 year old woman, not a 16 year old boy. I don’t have the requisite parts to have testicular cancer. This is true. And so is Sam’s story.

“Nuts, A Ball and other 4-letter Words.”

He’s a real person. Not his real name for the sake of privacy. This is his journey for a short/horrifically long period of his life so far. This is the story, too, of anyone who has been dealt the punch to the face (knee to the groin?) that cancer is. It’s also the story of winning. Of not spelling cancer with a capital C. Of making it. Of living life anyway, of growth and regrowth. Of sharing instead of hiding. Of kissing and sex. Of separation and belonging. Just Life. It’s the story of family and yet it isn’t.

I spoke to most of Sam’s family while his personal story bubbled in my head and came flowing out in words both his and mine.

I spoke to his big brother who, although uncomfortable in some ways talking to a relative stranger, made his love love for his family, even an annoying younger brother, very clear.

I spoke with his little sister, who thought I was a little crazy and made a rude comment about my shoe choices….fair call, though. The two of us forged a friendship that was close, for a while, and sang the real lyrics to Mumford and Sons’ ‘Little Lion Man’ really, really loudly, just because we could. Now she’s not a ‘little’ sister any more, but a beautiful, engaged young woman with whom a coffee date seems elusive. And I spoke with Mum.

I wondered if she thought I was odd, a teacher and mother of children of my own, befriending her kids. Apparently not, thankfully. And I loved them. Hearing their stories; getting a little into their lives.

Weird, isn’t it, how quickly that depth of feeling can come? And go. Not the feeling, just the actual spending time. It just drifts off sometimes. I don’t really know why. Happens far more often than I’d like, that sort of fading. Anyway, I’m getting morose.

So Mum let me hang out. And talk to her kids. And to her. She told me all of her experiences of Sam’s diagnosis, treatment, surgery and eventual recovery. I think I expected more tears, more drama. But you’ve already read that’s not her style. So it was fact and explanation of both circumstances and emotions.

I always meant to write the whole story. The whole truth for the whole family, but I couldn’t write Mum’s perspective. When I voiced her, my pen stopped. I, who had children of my own and knew how mums felt when their children hurt. I, who could scrawl out the story of a teenager’s masturbation and fantasy, couldn’t find the words to share this mother’s battle for her boy.

Why?

I’m sorry that I couldn’t find your voice with my pen. I’m sorry that I couldn’t express your fear, or the knowledge that you just had to do what you had to do. I’m sorry ’cause I wanted to tell of your courage, your love. I wanted to write more. I don’t think I could go there, you know, because it would have been bloody hard. I haven’t looked at my notes in years, but I have one thing that I’ve always remembered.

When mums hug their children, we often put our hands on their heads, ruffle their hair up a bit. And it’s a sign of affection, of casual ‘love ya, mate’ warmth. But for you it became more. Discreetly, under the guise of casual, you’d check your not-so-little boy’s scalp and neck for the telltale heat of fever and bumps of possible infection. I already knew how I felt when I held my ‘babies’ and I think I couldn’t find your voice cause I didn’t want to even imagine having to watch them so closely, so scared. I knew I didn’t know, couldn’t even guess and I didn’t want to do you or your feelings injustice.

So there it is. Honesty. I’ve finally made myself look at it as more than just writer’s block.

If you haven’t read Sam’s story yet, you could start here.

Love,

Mandy. 🐛<<
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Nuts, a ball and other 4-letter words! A young man’s story of testicular cancer. Part 1.

A number of years ago, I wrote a short memoir in first person perspective for a young man who I knew through a school I previously taught at. I had recently broken both my ankles whilst on holidays in Indonesia (perhaps more about that in another post) and needed to do something that helped me look outside myself and my situation. Here’s the first installment:

Hey,
Found you on face book and thought I’d say hello and ask you a couple of things that maybe would be harder to ask in person. I’m doing a lot of writing at the moment, since walking is out of the question, and I wondered if I could ask something. I know you’ve been ill this year (that’s about all I know about it) and I wondered if you might consider sharing your story with me. I would be honoured to write it, if you feel like sharing. Maybe it’s something you want to do yourself, so that’s ok too. I don’t know you real well, so if this isn’t ok, let me know. Just thought I could ask and you could honestly tell me what you think.
Thanks for even thinking about it,
Mrs Ross

It’s one thing being monitored for a condition to do with your nuts when you’re 12. That’s one thing, that’s a Mum thing, that’s a thing we don’t talk about. Well I don’t! It’s quite another to have to say to your mum, when you are 16, that not only have you been hit there, hard, during a footy game, but you think there is something wrong. How do you say that?

“Ah, Mum, my balls are hurt. Kinda swollen or something.”

And then the kicker,

“Can you have a look?”

Not easy to ask and harder to let her do it. You can probably imagine how it went from there. Both of us a bit embarrassed, mostly me, but this is mum after all. She’s pretty cool, but this isn’t good. Did I mention we were in the car on the way to footy training when I told her? Now that would’ve been hilarious if she’d had an accident then. Just to have to tell the police what she’d been doing and why she had her hand off the wheel. Anyway, we got through it and she agreed with me that there was something else going on. So then we take it (them? ha ha) to the professionals.

This isn’t that unusual for me. Apparently I have this hormone that is supposed to stop doing its stuff when you’re about 12 and mine didn’t. It’s caused docs some concern and I’ve had to be checked out every 6 months or so, with ultrasounds since I was 14. The first thing I thought when we got referred for an ultrasound was; pregnant women have ultrasounds, don’t they? And I’m pretty damn sure that whatever these odd hormones have done to me, I’m not pregnant!

They monitored me for changes in hormones and a benign epididymal cyst that I figured was like having a smaller third testicle and that’s what I told anyone who ever questioned me. So, having to strip in the doctor’s surgery is not new to me. About now, you’re probably thinking one of a couple of things – I’ve heard most of it before:

a) Shit! I’d hate to do that, imagine if the doctor touched you and….well, you know…?

b) Oh, that poor boy. That would be very traumatic through his puberty; I wonder how it is for his self esteem?

c) No way! Not now, not ever – keep it to yourself, man!

Or some combination of the above. So, let’s leave me there for the moment. In front of doctor, flat on my back, knees up, letting the guy with the gloves feel around my balls…

As I said, I’ve been checked out more than most guys my age, but apart from that, I’m pretty average I reckon. Got an older brother, younger sister and we get on ok I guess. My mum and dad split when I was 8 and I’ve always been pretty close to my mum. Pretty into football, been playing for 4 years and this year I’ve made the A grade. I’m supposed to make this as honest as possible, so I’ll tell you that I was pretty buff then. Training 3 nights a week and games on the weekend will do that for you. So I was feeling alright. And, before you ask, yes, I’ve got a girlfriend. She’s hot. I’m playing A grade and going out with Tash for about 6 months. School is ok. Life is pretty good. Then some *#@!wit gets his shin up hard in my groin in the second match of the season. I go down, winded, and that, I reckon, is where it all really starts.

I don’t know yet where it ends, but it’s been a long journey and it’s only been nine months since it started. There have been good days and bad, ups and downs I guess you could say. Each time I go down it feels like I can’t go any lower, but rock bottom is a LONG way down. I wonder whether it’s harder to fall when you’ve been so high before that. As I said, I’ve led a reasonably average life, but I’ve had it better than some.

{More to come next week.}

Updated: Part 2 is available here.

No fear of flying!

There is nothing like the feeling of flying – even if it is down a concrete path in a wheelchair!  A boy I don’t know very well, from year 11, who makes me laugh and teases along with the best of them, offered to push me back down to the next class I was helping with.  Actually, he first asked if he could sit on my knee and I could take him down to the ITD building.  I’m not sure who was more surprised when I compromised and said I would only take him as far as the concrete path went cause I didn’t do “off road” real well.  I think I would have had my bluff called if he had agreed, but I’d like to think that we would have given it a good go.  So I think that taking me to my next class was the trade off.  I certainly could have done that bit on my own, but I think there is a certain buzz from pushing people in wheelchairs, maybe it’s the control, so who am I to say no?  Sam is not careful.  Well, that’s what I reckon it looked like as we whizzed down the hill.  The three of us flying.  Me in the chair, Sam running behind me, holding the handles carefully as he pushed, and Josh trying to run and laugh at the same time beside his best mate.  I think I was more worried for the innocents who might inadvertently get in our path; there is no such thing as power steering on my wheelchair.  Although I did promise (some might say threaten) as we flew, that I would hunt him down on crutches if he let me go, I actually felt amazing.  Yes, I like being the centre of attention.  Yes, it’s exhilarating and a bit of adrenalin on a Monday afternoon can be a good thing.  But it’s more than that.  Sam’s been sick.  I haven’t asked him about it and I don’t know many details, but it’s been a long haul for him this year.  Cancer and chemo don’t make for a party sort of feeling.  Tears started for me when, at a staff meeting, he was given special uniform dispensation, cause apparently his formal one just “felt too heavy.”  There are the highlights though.  He’s back in his formal uniform now, as scruffy as they seem to be able to make it look, and having your best friend have his head shaved at the same time as you in solidarity and support must feel pretty good.  I’m going to have to ask, maybe.  Maybe it’s not important that I know.  But my guess is that if I felt like I was flying, I’m pretty sure that being able to run like that, laughing, in control of a teacher’s transport and scattering juniors as you go must have felt pretty good too.  Maybe I’m trying to make it into something it’s not. All of us were breathless as they stopped me at the door and wandered off – there was no ‘moment’ – but it was great!