I turned 42 just over a week ago.

Having a birthday right now is weird. It was weird.

But it wasn’t bad. I expected to be lonely and sad. I never take my birthday off from work because I like being around people telling me happy birthday. I like being celebrated.

My mom and Cortney did a great job of making me feel very celebrated upon turning 42 years old this year despite all the social distancing.

My mom showed up in our front yard in the morning waving and smiling like the wonderful woman she is. She had a bag of “birthday snacks” for me and wanted to yell HAPPY BIRTHDAY from the yard. I love that she surprised me AND that she was a goof while she did it.

I got out of the house and drove to our local Bigby to get a birthday latte by way of drive thru.

It was sunny and lovely.

Cortney gave me the new bookshop Lego set I have been eyeing.

(I almost have it finished already!)

We ordered pizza.

Cortney had a cake for me, so there was singing and blowing out of candles.

There was happiness and joy and after the kids went to bed, Cortney and I played Animal Crossing on our Nintendo Switch (that our kids don’t even know we have because we haven’t told them because we need fun too!) and did Legos.

I shouldn’t be surprised that the day was so great. I underestimate my family sometimes.

Of course I would have liked to go on the date night Cortney had planned. I would have loved to spend the evening with friends and drinks and good food and lots of laughter.

But this was good too.

No. It was perfect.

The Walking Man

My paternal grandfather, Philo Clyde Riemersma, died last week. My dad asked me to write something to read at the funeral–which was graveside with a small number of people who stood far apart from each other. It was odd, but also Ok. My grandfather had told my dad after my grandmother passed away last year that he didn’t want a funeral. “Just put me in the ground next to Ortha and be done with it,” he said.

So that is what we did. But we made sure he had his military send off as well. Below is what I wrote and read at his funeral.

my grandpa and grandma as seniors in high school

My grandpa was famous. Sort of.

In high school a classmate was talking to someone about the “old guy with a stick” that walked all over town picking up cans and other things. I butted into her conversation to ask, “wait. Was this old guy about yay high? Glasses? Walked like this with a stick that was more for picking through stuff than for walking?” “YES!” she said, “have you seen him too?” Me, “every Sunday. That’s my grandpa!” “You’re grandpa is The Walking Man?”

Yup. My Grandpa is the Walking Man.

He walked all the time. He had routes he would take for the best “treasure hunting.”

 My cousin, Lesly, reminded me that he never came home from these walks empty-handed. When he would see you, he would point his finger at you and then disappear to the basement or garage and come back to hand you something he found on his walk that he thought you might have a use for. Everything else ended up in his basement or garage or the barn. We all joked a lot over the years about grandpa’s immense collection of “treasures,” but it was pretty handy to have someone who seemed to have at least one of everything. My brother Chris was always so impressed with grandpa’s vast amount of junk, that one year for Christmas, my grandpa filled up a box with junk, wrapped it in Christmas paper, and gave it to Chris. We all laughed, but Chris LOVED it. When Chris got older, he and his buddy always knew they could ride their bikes to grandpa and grandma’s house if they couldn’t find a part for a go kart or something.

But walking was not my grandpa’s only mode of transportation. In fact, he was a big fan of anything with an engine or motor. You see, my grandpa was a tinkerer. My grandparents had a one-stall garage, but no one ever parked in it because there was always something in there on cinder blocks. His barn was packed with cars and tractors all in varying stages of assembly. Don’t even ask my dad how many tires my grandpa had.

But he didn’t just collect parts (although it seemed that way sometimes). He did actually finish things too. My cousin Molly remembers grandpa’s big black Ford Galaxy and how he showed up to her parents’ house and took her and her family for a ride down South Shore Drive. 

Grandpa and Grandma’s wedding photo

He was always willing to give a ride, and it didn’t have to be in one of his fancy cars. He gave Lesly rides on the lawn mower around the yard, and my brothers and I all remember riding in his various trucks. Interestingly, when I asked them about those rides we all had the exact same memory: asking grandpa how to put the seat belt on since we couldn’t find it and him telling us, “ya can’t. Aren’t any.” While he could do a lot of things, a perfectionist he was not. He wanted something to work correctly. How it looked was absolutely not important.

But my grandpa DID value hard work. He was not one to shy away from a tough job. He enjoyed working on cars and other things with a motor or engine, but he also puttered around doing every odd job imaginable. After college, my grandparents rented me the house they owned next door to theirs. It needed work before I could move in and my grandpa got right to work next to my dad and me. He redid some plumbing, put in a fridge and stove, and even made me a flower box to put in the front. He mowed my lawn, and fixed drippy faucets. And he did it all in too-short cut off jean shorts much to my grandmother’s chagrin.

When I got married and moved into my current house, Cortney and I decided to put a cement pad down in the back as a patio. My grandpa and dad showed up with a small cement mixer. My 80-something grandfather spent hours mixing cement while my dad took loads to the back of our house with his Kubota tractor. Another time, my brother Chris wanted to assemble a large swing set in the back of his house in Grand Rapids. My dad and grandpa showed up to help. There was my almost 90-year old grandfather again: sitting on the roof of the swingset putting pieces together like he was in his 20’s or something. All that hard work is probably why my brother Mike remembers his handshake as being so strong… ”like shaking hands with a vice,” he told me. And Lesly remembered that his hands always smelled like comet cleaner from all the scrubbing he would do to get the oil and gunk off them.

Grandpa didn’t talk much about his years in the marines, but he was proud to have served his country. He enjoyed participating in the annual Memorial Day parade in Zeeland. He drove his Galaxy, and before that a red Ford Mustang he redid, always with fellow soldiers riding along. After he sold those, he walked, of course. When he could no longer walk that far, his buddy Howie Bowens drove him up until Howie’s death just a couple years ago.

Grandpa was also an avid hunter. Every fall he would spend time with the Riemersma men at the cabin up north for deer hunting season. I am sure there are quite a few good hunting stories, but the one that came home with the guys years ago was when he decided to take Chris’s stuffed dog, Barry, and string him up so he was hanging from the top bunk. Chris was decidedly unhappy about it at the time, but it’s a good example of how my grandpa liked a good laugh…even if it meant poking a little fun at those he loved.

My cousin Molly also remembers how much he loved to joke and laugh before his hearing got bad. When we were little, he had nicknames for my brothers: Paco and Pedro. He knew it drove them nuts, so he, of course, made sure to only refer to them by those names. And when Molly told him they were going to name their younger son “Clyde” after his middle name, Grandpa laughed, told her he didn’t like it, but followed up with, “well, I guess it’s better than Philo!”

It’s those small things that make us smile: his love of black jelly beans and ginger snaps. The way his whiskers tickled your cheek when he hugged you. His disdain–that was really a life-time of love–for the Detroit Tigers. The way he called peanut butter “peen ter butter” and the toilet a “ter let”.

But it’s hard to imagine Grandpa without Grandma. They were quite the pair. He would complain about how she “oomphed” the knife when she cut dessert, and she would tell him to be quiet. He would want you to “toughen up,” but Grandma would commiserate and hand you a cookie.

When Grandma passed on, Grandpa’s life was over as far as he was concerned. He has been existing for the past 10 months, but he gave up living when Grandma was gone. Now he can live again because he’s back with her for eternity. Probably driving her crazy with his comments on how she does things, but also hearing everything she says back and walking hand in hand with her for the first time in a long time. 

And laughing. I imagine there is lots of laughing.

Rest well, Gramps. See you on the other side.

Crossing Over

In February, Eddie had a major milestone: He crossed over from cub scouts!

Eddie asked to join cub scouts just before 1st grade. I remember because we had an outdoor church service that Sunday. A member of our church who happened to be the cub scout cub master at the time, stood up and talked about scouting a little (our church is the charter organization for the cub scout pack and the boy scout troop that Eddie became a part of). He mentioned the Pinewood Derby and had sample cars along.

Eddie was in. He begged to join.

So that fall we signed him up as a Tiger scout.

I took him to his first meeting and I remember thinking, “oh boy. Those kids have so much energy,” and “no way will Eddie stick with this.”

But stick with it he did!

In 2nd grade he became a wolf.

In third grade he became a bear.

In fourth grade it was a Webelos

This year he was an Arrow of Light working toward completing his time in cub scouts. The idea is that once you have completed your arrow of light, you can “cross over” to boy scouts.

Eddie has chosen not to move on to Boy Scouts for a few reasons, but the big one is that he admits that he is not super self-motivated and to achieve ranks and advancements in boy scouts, it’s pretty self-directed.

I am so proud of how he has stuck with scouts all through elementary school though. Most of the work he did outside of den and pack meetings was done with my dad.

He earned a bunch of outdoor things over the years with Grandpa including fishing and canoeing badges and some other environmental things.

He also created and raced every one of his pinewood derby cars with grandpa.

Together they took home a trophy all five years!

Cortney and I definitely had our doubts about whether Ed would stick with it. And I admit there are some things about BSA that clash with my own ideologies, but the pack that our church sponsors was welcoming and inclusive and ended up being an extremely positive place for Eddie.

We are all super proud of you, Eddie!!

Next year is 6th grade and new adventures.

A Little Late on Eight

Dear Charlie,

Two weeks ago you turned EIGHT!

It was a weird birthday because it was also the last day of school before the governor shut down Michigan’s schools until at least April 6. My district actually didn’t have school Friday, but I am so glad you did. It was just a half-day, but you were able to bring in your birthday treat that we baked together and see all your friends and teachers one last time before going into this shut down we are currently in.

You requested dad grill hamburgers and for me to make vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting and batman on them. We did not disappoint!

In total Charlie Fashion, you took your shirt of in order to blow out your candles that you insisted we put all in one cupcake. I don’t know what you wished for before you blew those suckers out, but I hope it comes true.

Dad and I got you a new bike for your birthday. You were getting a little too tall for your old one, so we decided it was time for an upgrade. You were very excited that you still have a red bike, but this on has handbrakes and, according to you, goes SUPER FAST.

This past year has been full of big things: In the spring of 2019, you qualified for special education services at school for your emotional impairment of anxiety. With your new IEP goals and accommodations, you have made some tremendous leaps forward in coping mechanisms and work completion at school. Dad and I continue to be so proud of you. We know things that seem easy or routine for some people just aren’t for you. And you still try. You still work through it. You are so tough!

That is not to say there haven’t been some challenges. You are definitely teaching me and Dad that not all kids can be parented the same. You are helping us learn to be equitable parents to you and your siblings. Because even when we identify what you need and how it might be different from what Alice needs or Eddie needs, there still has to be a level of equity. Daddy and I have had to learn to say, “I just don’t know.”

Let me tell you a little about yourself:

You love sleep and to be warm and cuddley, but you despise being hot and uncomfortable and would prefer to sit around in your underwear if we let you. We do not.

You are all the way on the left on the bench.

You love to play outside and be active. You were in soccer in the fall and loved it. Once that was over and the weather started to get yucky, that is when we saw and uptick of having a negative attitude toward school and yourself. Keeping you active is key!

You love stuffed animals more than almost anything else in this world. You have like a million of them living in your top bunk. At night you hunker in under them and sleep as if you are all one pack. You love that you are unique, but you are also self-conscious about it.

You started piano lessons in January. You love them. You love having a talent that your older brother does not have. You also love that it’s one more thing that you and I have in common. Since this whole quarantine thing started, Mr. Costello has offered to do your lessons via Zoom, but you are super uncomfortable with that. You can’t really describe why, but you get very anxious around video calls too. But it’s Ok. You can continue to practice what you know, and when this health scare lifts, you can go back to your weekly lessons with Mr. C.

You want to play the drums someday and hope Mr. C will continue to be your music teacher for that too. In fact, dad got out Guitar Hero for the old Wii and you have found a new musical thing to love.

You love to be silly and make people smile. You also love to try to think about things in ways other people might not. You try to see new uses for things that other people might not think of too. You strive to be innovative and creative all the time.

Charlie you have always been, and continue to be, my very favorite middle child. I can honestly say hanging out with you is fun and that we always have really interesting conversations.

We are different in a lot of ways, but the ways in which we are the same bond us in a way that we just can’t bond with anyone else.

I love being your mom and I am so proud of you.

Mom Mom

Gimme Five!

Dear Alice,

Nineteen days ago you turned FIVE! That is a big deal! You are a whole hand of fingers now!

Let me tell you a little bit about who you are at age five:

You are SMART! You started pre-school this fall with Mrs. Y and Mrs. B in the fish room. You also go to the Jungle room for wrap-around care, so you are at school full-time, three days a week! It can really wear you out, but you do love it a lot. You love all your teachers and friends and you are learning so much so fast!

Since school started you now know all your letters, can write almost all of them, can sound out simple words, and can count to 30 by ones and 100 by tens!

First day of Preschool!

You have BIG opinions. And you get quite angry when we don’t know what you want before you even tell us. Some things you LOVE: mermaids, princesses, candy, unicorns, and books.

I mean…you really like princesses.

You also love gymnastics! You started right around when you turned four, and this winter you had another chance to do it. You are HOOKED! Once this crazy Corona Virus thing passes, daddy and I are excited to watch you again this summer. We are considering signing you up at an actual gymnastics gym rather than just through the rec program.

You also love to play with your brothers. I’m not going to lie to you, friend. They do not always want you to tag along or join in. But when they do, you are in heaven. Charlie is especially good at being your playmate. You two often play restaurant or house or just ride bikes around the neighborhood.

This year we also redid your room from a baby nursery–which it has been for almost 10 years–to a “big girl room” complete with getting rid of the crib and replacing it with a bed.

As you get older, you get to participate more in all the things we do. This past summer we went to Pentwater with Grandpa and Grandma again. You took walks, played on the beach, and played games with all of us. It’s so fun to watch you become independent and spunky!

Speaking of independent, whew. You are one bossy lady! You are fierce and stand up for yourself and your ability to do what you want. That does not always go so well for you because, well, you are just five. But you see your brothers doing things and you want to be included too. And if you are left out? Oh boy do you let us hear about it.

You are my little shadow. I want to always remember how much you love being by my side. How much you love to help me bake and clean and do all kinds of things. How you want me to play babies and barbies and read books. How you want to sit next to me at the table when I do my work so you can color or do your “work”.

I know someday you will not want to be around me, maybe at all. So even though I can get a little impatient with you, know that I really do love how much you want to be with me.

People say you look and act a lot like me.



While you love to play with me, Daddy is your hero. He is silly with you and tickles you and lets you do his hair and make-up.

Did I mention you love candy? Oh my goodness. Unfortunately, you have inherited your dad’s “soft” teeth. You’ve had a few cavities already and when you were two, you had your front teeth capped. You have always hated the dentist, but now that you go to Dr. Tom, you are coming around to being more brave.

Before turning five, you lost a tooth and you’ve lost another one since turning five! You are a full year younger than both of your brothers were when they lost their first teeth. And, because you like to be different, you lost the two top left teeth first instead of bottom teeth.

It’s adorable and fits your adorable personality perfectly. I love your confidence and attitude–even when sometimes we clash.

You are my best girl. You are so smart. So thoughtful. So loving.

Celebrating you this month has been pure joy.

As I write this, I wonder how much you will remember some day about this time of becoming five.

Will you remember how much you missed your friends, Ms. Carolyn, and teachers?

Will you remember how you kept saying to me, “I wish we could go to…, but we can’t because of coronavirus”?

Or will you remember goofing around with your brothers?

Daily bike rides with Daddy and your brothers?

Baking cookies with me?

Watching movies and eating popcorn in the middle of the day?

I can’t tell you what the future of this next trip around the sun will look like. We can have our plans and dreams, but if this month has taught us anything, it’s that we have to go with the flow.

And we will go with the flow together, my Alice Beans.

Happy FIVE!

I love you to the moon and back,


Taking My Space

Yesterday Cortney took care of the last of the blog bugs that were keeping me from writing in this space.

I have lots to write about. For the almost thirteen years that this blog has existed, I have always written birthday letters to my kids. Since the blog was down, I wasn’t able to do that for Alice and Charlie. So those are in the works.

We are doing the whole self-quarantine thing with the rest of the country and that is…interesting for someone who has anxiety and a child with anxiety.

I miss my job. I miss my students. I miss going somewhere that my children are not.

(Listen, I love them and time with them is a blessing and all that, but it’s also exhausting.)

I opened a new post earlier today with all the possibilities swirling in my head and then was side-tracked. I was just about to come back here when my dad called.

My grandpa died last night.

There is lots to say about that too.

I’m happy to have this space back.

Grandpa in the Memorial Day parade.
Thank you for your service, Gramps.
And for a life well-lived.
Rest easy.

This is a test…

We moved my blog over to a new server. This is a test post. Also this is what Coronavirus has done to my house.

What I Read: 2019

Typically my last post of the calendar year is a list of what I read. I’ve already admitted to neglecting this space, so we shall take Elsa’s advice and “let it go.”

Here we go.

My 2019 goal was 45 books and I read 48. I bumped 2020 up to 50 for funsies. Here is what I read last year.

The ones in BOLD are the ones I recommend the most. The ones wit (YA) are young adult lit, (MG) are middle grade books, (P) are novels that are written in verse/poetry, (N) are nonfiction, (CB) are children’s books (aimed at an audience younger than middle school), and (C) are comics.

  1. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (YA/P)
  2. Super Diaper Baby 2: The Invasion of the Potty Snatchers by Dav Pilkey (C/CB)
  3. The Best Class You Never Taught by Alexis Wiggins (N)
  4. For Everyone by Jason Reynolds (P)
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (MG)
  6. Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow (YA)
  7. The Elements of Academic Style by Eric Hayot (N)
  8. Naked by David Sedaris (essay collection/humor)
  9. Emily Hamilton and Other Writings by Sukey Vickery
  10. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (N)
  11. Contending With Gun Violence in the English Language Classroom edited by Shelly Shaffer, Steven Bickmore, and Gretchen Rumohr (N)
  12. Graduate Study for the 21st Century by Gregory M. Colon Semenza (N)
  13. The Size of the Truth by Andrew Smith (MG)
  14. From Student to Scholar by Steven M. Cahn (N)
  15. Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (MG)
  16. Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters by Michael S. Roth (N)
  17. The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater (YA/N)
  18. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmin Ward
  19. Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
  20. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
  21. Dig. by A.S. King (YA)
  22. Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts
  23. The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden (MG)
  24. Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson (YA)
  25. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  26. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (MG/YA)
  27. Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson (MG)
  28. Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
  29. None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio (YA)
  30. El Deafo by Cece Bell (MG/C)
  31. The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
  32. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  33. Epic Fails: Race to Space by Ben Thompson (CB)
  34. Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
  35. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (YA)
  36. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (YA) (audio is awesome)
  37. The Dark Fantastic by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas (N)
  38. The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline (YA)
  39. Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction by Grace L. Dillon
  40. House of Purple Cedar by Tim Tingle (YA)
  41. Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds (MG) (another awesome audio)
  42. Lunar Braceros- 2125-2148 by Rosaura Sanchez
  43. In the Middle by Nancie Atwell (N)
  44. Wishtree by Katherine Applegate (CB)
  45. Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (YA)
  46. Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt (P/MG)
  47. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (MG/YA)
  48. Dogman: For Whom the Ball Rolls by Dav Pilkey (CB/C)

I think I enjoyed almost all of the books I read this year that I chose for myself. Some of the ones for class were good, but maybe not ones that I would recommend as my favorites.

This year, I am counting books I have re-read (something I didn’t do before and then was scolded on Twitter about) and audio books–something I have gotten into at the end of 2019. I marked the two I at least partly listened to in 2019, and I downloaded my library’s app for audio books to my phone, so look out 2020!

My current grad class is one on Refugees/Immigrants in Comics, so I am excited to dive into more comics than before which will hopefully help me to add to my classroom library and connect to my students.

Here is the link to my students’ wish list of books.

Year in Review

I still can’t add photos, so a bunch of words it is!

(Cortney has told me he is working on this though, so hopefully in 2020 we will have a fully functioning space here again).

Because I’ve been lame about getting over here and updating things, I thought I would write out a quick month-by-month review of 2019.


  • Cortney had jury duty. He didn’t mind it.
  • I finished radiation.
  • I started on tamoxifen to block estrogen to try to avoid a repeat of breast cancer. I get to take this for 10 years. Almost one down!
  • Eddie started basketball.
  • Charlie’s behavior at school required multiple meetings.
  • Cortney bowled in the State Bowling Tournament (he’s a bowler, did I ever mention that? Like a good one. With 300s and stuff)
  • I started my 3rd PhD class.


  • We had a Sluiter family reunion.
  • Ed finished his basketball season by earning the Most Improved Player award.
  • I met with a neuropsycologist about possibly having Charlie tested.
  • I had my port removed–no more treatment foreseen!
  • Eddie participated in the Pinewood Derby with Cub Scouts
  • Cortney bowled in the City Bowling Tournament


  • Alice turned four!
  • Charlie turned seven!
  • Eddie did a Saturday class called Theater Games.
  • I turned 41!
  • I had a mammogram that came back clean.
  • We saw Book of Mormon with friends for my birthday.
  • I saw Laurie Halse Anderson do an interview, reading, and book signing for Shout.
  • We continued to have meetings with school regarding Charlie.


  • Spring break!
  • Bowling is done!
  • Charlie went through testing for a variety of neuro-issues as well as mental health issues. The results came back later in the month letting us know he was on the autism spectrum by a fuzz and that he has pretty severe anxiety.
  • Swimming lessons started for all kids
  • Baseball started for Charlie.
  • Charlie’s testing at school wraps up and he gets and official IEP.


  • We go to the Tulip Time parade and eat a bunch of junk food.
  • Swimming Lessons wrap up.
  • I get a thumb’s up from my surgeon for all my great healing.
  • Mother’s Day was celebrated.
  • Memorial Day was celebrated.
  • My grandma died.
  • I finished the 2018/19 school year.


  • The boys finished up 1st and 4th grades.
  • My mom and I took Alice to Princess Day at the Zoo.
  • Baseball finished up.
  • Eddie advanced in cub scouts to his final year.
  • My nephew, Harry, was baptized.
  • We took the boys to a Whitecaps Baseball game (local minor league team)
  • Cortney and I celebrated 14 years of marriage.
  • Alice had two weeks of gymnastics.
  • Eddie turned 10!
  • The kids help me move from my classroom across the hall to a new, bigger classroom.


  • We celebrated the 4th of July
  • We swam in pools with friends.
  • I went to Nerd Camp.
  • The kids do more swimming lessons.
  • We saw friends from far away.
  • I made lots of homemade ice cream.
  • We played on the beach with cousins.
  • The kids all spent a night at “Granny Camp” with Cortney’s mom and stepdad.
  • We went to the cottage with my parents.


  • I get two thumbs up from my oncologist.
  • I start year 17 of teaching in my district.
  • Eddie starts 5th grade.
  • Charlie starts 2nd grade.
  • We go to preschool openhouse for Alice.
  • We take the kids to Chicago for Labor Day weekend and go to the Lincoln Park zoo.


  • Alice starts preschool.
  • I start my 4th PhD class.
  • Charlie starts soccer.
  • We start the month with a pool party with friends and end it with a fun family night with same friends.
  • There are scouts and soccer and bowling and grad class and ALL THE THINGS.


  • All of the things continue and we are super busy.
  • Charlie’s great start to the school year starts to crumble.
  • Soccer wraps up.
  • Eddie goes to Scout survival camp…and survives.
  • Alice does more gymnastics.
  • Cortney and I get to help our friends warm their new home.
  • Halloween is a mess.


  • 75% of our nieces and nephews have birthdays.
  • We warmed another friend’s new house and celebrate her strength.
  • Eddie did basketball camp.
  • Charlie did a pitching clinic.
  • I went to the NCTE and ALAN conferences
  • Charlie’s mental health plummetted.
  • Cortney’s uncle died.


  • Basketball camp wrapped up.
  • My grad class ended.
  • First semester of the 2019-20 school year wrapped up.
  • Charlie started medication.
  • Cortney turned 41!
  • The kids participated in the annual Children’s Advent Service at church: Eddie as a reader, Charlie carried the star, and Alice was an angel.
  • Alice and I participated in the 3rd annual Granny’s Girls Bake-a-thon with my mother-in-law, sisters-in-law, and my nieces.
  • Cortney’s best friend was in town from Denver.
  • Christmas!

and tomorrow is New Year’s Eve.

Somehow typed out like that, it doesn’t seem as traumatic as it was. But man. We had some emotional poop this year in the middle of all that.

But look at all the fun we had too.

Here’s to more fun and less emotional stress in 2020.

The Unquiet Year

2019 has been pretty quiet here on the blog since I finished my cancer treatments. But the year has not been uneventful. It seemed like conquering the Big C would mean everything else would feel simple, right?

Not at all. In fact, I would argue that the rest of what we have been going through has maybe been harder on me than chemotherapy or radiation.

The blog went quiet in October. I never shared the Halloween photos. Or Thanksgiving photos. Or any of the ones in between. My blog is being weird and needs updates that I don’t know how to do, and I’ve been entirely too busy to do it. So no photos. Which makes me sad.

But that is not what has made the first semester of this school year so difficult.

I’ve thought often about how or if I should talk about this, but I found that I would be a massive hypocrite if I didn’t. I spent years in this space talking about the importance of telling our stories about mental illness in order to get help and destigmatize.

But that was my story. This one is not wholly mine to tell. The problem is, I don’t want to wait until it is mine to tell–when it’s too late–to share.

Charlie has been struggling.

It seems my little mini-Cortney has inherited his mother’s brain.

The school year started out fantastic. Charlie was doing so much better than last year in first grade and we were really hopeful that the rough times were behind us. He was playing soccer and participating in school. Around mid-October–when I stopped blogging–he began to slip.

Charlie has gone through lots of testing both by an outside psychological resource and by the school. He has been placed on the autism spectrum with a very hefty load of anxiety. This fall I watch that anxiety trigger depression in my little boy.

I watched, with a broken heart, as my little guy walked the same path I did almost 10 years ago: paranoia that he wasn’t good enough, rage, and even thoughts that life was too hard and it would be easier to quit.

I sobbed with him.

We have taken several steps since then. It’s been about three weeks, but things are looking a bit brighter.

Being on break from school–a place that he loves and hates at the same time–I think will be good. It will give him the opportunity to let some of the strategies and steps we have taken to work without the pressure of school, and then start over in the new year.

As you can imagine, this has been so difficult for everyone, mostly for Charlie. I see Cortney in Charlie in every possible way, and then to suddenly see the worst trait he could have inherited from me take form was very triggering to me. While trying to be the one who “gets” him, I’ve also been falling apart.

Cortney and Eddie have been worried. It’s hard to understand if you don’t have the depression voice whispering lies in your ear. It’s hard to get why just doing your work can be impossible. It’s hard to understand how someone can go from fine to wishing life was over in about 10 seconds. It’s just hard to watch someone you love struggle so much.

Alice, who seems to be unaware, is anything but. She craves attention. Her brother needs attention. She has been seeking it in very screamy, demanding ways. While she doesn’t understand what Charlie is going through, she does understand that he is getting a LOT of one-on-one and “extra” love lately. In her 4-year old eyes, it is not fair.

The worry affects every bit of life. My brain has been completely elsewhere since October and my lesson plans and grading and relationships with students and co-workers and friends and family show that. Even my classwork for my grad class dipped in November. Nothing felt like my best.

The first half of this year saw the end of my cancer treatments. I had radiation burn and a bald head, but I was cancer-free.

Going into 2020 we are holding fast to each other and fighting another illness. Mental illness is just as real and life-threatening as cancer. And we need to be able to acknowledge and talk about them both. We need to advocate for treatments and cures and research for both.

We are extremely thankful for all the resources we have and all the people who have shown up for both me and Charlie and the rest of the family this year. It’s been rough, but we know we are not alone.

Thank you for being part of our team.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...