Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pay No Attention to that Girl Behind the Curtain!

One of my very favorite places in the world is the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. This is despite the fact that they spell it "theatre" when it's supposed to be "theater"- the theatre is the art, the theater is the place... and the Fox is definitely a place. But, anyway.
I love this place despite my spelling issues.
I don't even know how many shows I've seen there. I ushered there in high school and college so that I could see a bunch of shows on the cheap. Ask me anything about the place... I probably still remember a lot of info from usher training.

Is there a better place from which to watch Cats? I mean...
Even the hallways to the bathrooms are awesome.

I took my kids there last summer for a Wiggles concert. It was ridiculous how much I loved seeing them in that place.

And then, back in college, I had the most amazing opportunity. I got to perform at The Fox with the Georgia Tech Chorale in the Atlanta Ballet's run of Carmina Burana.

I can not believe I still have this flyer.
During the run of Carmina Burana, I got my first really good look at the Fox Theatre curtain. You know, the big, red curtain on the stage:

because I was right there on the stage and I could even touch the darn thing  if I wanted to 
There's something important about that curtain, and it's been bugging me. There's a connection I'm supposed to make between that curtain and performing at The Fox and cancer. I hadn't been able to nail it down... until a couple of nights ago. In that place right before you fall asleep, I finally got it. I want to try to articulate it.

The curtain on the stage at The Fox is very heavy. It's a deep red and it feels like velvet. It probably is velvet... but it's very thick and very heavy. That's important.

When you go to the theatre (I know) for a performance, you enter the beautiful auditorium through the beautiful lobby and look for your beautiful seat. When you're first seated, the curtain is firmly closed. Then, the music starts, the curtain opens, and a carefully choreographed and rehearsed performance starts. You see only what brought onto the stage.

The audience knows that, somewhere backstage there are people working the lights and props, rooms of costumes and make up, and who knows what all back there to make the performance happen. But, though they know these things exist, the audience isn't really aware of them during the show. The hours of rehearsal that went into creating the show before them... all the work that went into this performance... it's appreciated. But not really recognized. Does that make sense?

When you're on the stage at The Fox and the curtain opens, this is what you see:

This picture is way better than the ones I took* from the stage. 
Except when the house lights are down and the stage lights up, you can't really see this many seats. It's like two rows and then darkness. But those big, white lights there under the balcony? Those jokers are bright and catch your eye about 200 times per performance. Anyway, the stage view? Just as magical as the view from the audience.

When the curtain is open.

When the curtain closes, the audience stays in the beautiful place. But for the performers, the show ends. The backstage isn't as beautiful as the front of the house. At The Fox, it makes sense. When they were restoring the theater, they went for the places that people who buy tickets would see. The backstage areas aren't as restored. At least they weren't when we sang there. The backstage was old and in need of some repair. It needed paint and the orchestra pit would blow a fuse if it got lowered all the way. The handrails on the stairs were a little shaky and the stairs were steep and narrow. It's not glamorous back there. I think that made me love The Fox all the more... getting to run around backstage and downstairs and learn some of that old, haunted place's secrets.

<I have pictures of us backstage at The Fox, but no scanner! Bah!>

But that part is not what you're supposed to see. That thick, red curtain is a boundary. It's a concrete line between the performance and the audience. And the perspectives from either side are interesting.

The audience thinks that the show is up there, on the stage. They're wrong. The performers know that the show isn't on the stage- it's in the audience's minds. What's happening on the stage is just costumes and hitting notes and remembering to fix that thing we talked about after the matinee. It all gets turned into something meaningful when the audience sees it. What's happening on the stage isn't real. The show is in the audience's mind. how very Gestaltian of me.

A lot of work goes into making sure the audience just sees the good parts. They only see what they're supposed to... all the work that it took to get there is hidden. All the messy, backstage places are out of sight.

The show is great. It's magic. But you can't perform all the time. Sometimes, you have to be backstage in the not-so-pretty places.

On this whole cancer journey, I'm not in a pretty place right now. This part is confusing and weird and tiring. And I'm sorry that I can't be as perky and optimistic as I was when I first got my diagnosis. This part isn't as pretty- I just can't seem to make it that way. But it has its own character and can still be pretty awesome.

I'm hiding behind the curtain for a while. If you don't mind the "character" of things back here, you're welcome to take a peek. I'll do as many pretty posts as I can. But please understand when I sometimes get tired of being ok with things.


*Ok, true story. People took a LOT of flash pictures of us at Carmina Burana. A lot, usually after the show. So... yeah... at the last performance, when people started taking pictures at the end of the show, I may have accidentally pulled out my own camera and started taking pictures back. Allegedly. 

Just Another Wednesday

I'm processing a lot of information right now. The short version is, I'll probably have radiation at the end of April. The long version involves a lot of variables that aren't that interesting. Meh. We're keeping the faith that it'll all work out this time.

Meanwhile, today was whackadoo. By the numbers:

Hours in the dentist's chair this morning: 3
Hours in the car, driving to UAB and back: 5
Hours at UAB: 3.5
Number of burglars I found in the house when ADT called because the alarm was going off right before I drove to UAB: 0 (however, the dog looked like she'd been up to something)

Here are some highlights:

I got in! I got an appointment at UAB endocrinology before the April 2nd appointment I was originally given. Woot!

So, I got there after the dentist and super-long drive and I barely made it on time. But I made it. It counts as a win.

I met with the new doctor and it's going to be ok, I think. We talked about the options and he wanted me to go right over to nuclear medicine while I was still there. Hooray for saving a trip to Birmingham! I was supposed to go back to the waiting room and wait for an escort to show me how to get to nuclear medicine because it really was a ridiculously confusing route. So I went back to the ginormous waiting area.

And waited.

And waited.

After an hour, I got bored, so I started to explore. I got really excited when I saw this:

because I LOVE herpetology and I was stoked to find some little friends to play with. Then I realized that it said "Hepatology" not "Herpetology" which was just really disappointing because there were no snakes and anyway, I don't even have a gall bladder anymore. But then I thought that it might be odd for a hospital to have a reptile department anyway. And then I remembered that it was 3:30 in the afternoon and I had had anything to eat yet that day because of the dentist and then driving really fast to Birmingham. So that's when I asked the nice people at the desk if an escort was really coming or if this was some sort of hazing for new patients. And that's when one of the endocrinology people walked me to nuclear medicine herself.

So the doctor had told me that I would have to assert myself with the nuclear medicine doctors to show that I understand the treatment, what's involved, and the risks. I had to convince them that I was making an informed decision. But the way the doctor said it... I started psyching myself up. I was totally preparing for a throw-down. I was going to assert myself all over the place.

What I didn't prepare for was a time-warp. The nuclear medicine docs were in a lab that was the spitting image of EVERY lab I ever saw at Georgia Tech: six computers and a mini fridge in a big room. And the doctors... were of a familiar type. I didn't have any trouble communicating with them... four years at Tech more than prepared me for that conversation.

After a quick stop at the lab for some bloodwork (p.s. that lady got me on the FIRST stick- absolutely unheard of!) it was time to go home.

Because at home, there are people like this guy who reads old 6th grade science books during his hair cut:

And that was Wednesday. A long, long Wednesday.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Here's to a Great Week!

Being in my last year of teaching is oddly liberating. I'm not as worried about what people think of me. After all, I won't have to work with them next year, and they won't have to work with me. Instead, I've been focusing on just doing the best job I can according to my own standards. Without the distractions that come with worrying about pleasing everybody, I've got a lot more attention to give to my kids. It's been great! I've gotten to a place where (in some ways) I'm enjoying this year of teaching more than I have any other.

In related news, getting diagnosed with cancer, even lame thyroid cancer, is oddly liberating. The C word brought my priorities into sharp focus and my mind seems to filter out the unimportant things. But you know what my mind doesn't always filter?

Between being a last year teacher and being in cancer testing and treatment for the entire school year so far, I've not always filtered my thoughts as well as I should. Sometimes I wonder if I should be more careful... But then I remember that I think I'm pretty hilarious and move on.

So I've been thinking about the upcoming visit by the state monitors to our school. Every public school teacher knows what this entails. SACs or Advanced Ed or Dance Puppets!... whatever you want to call it... it's stressful. Everybody wants their school to shine when The Visitors come for their inspection. But here's the thing... I'm not stressing. Maybe it's the cancer, maybe it's the last year mentality, maybe the cancer has spread to my brain and taken out my give-a-flip. Whatever. I'm not worrying about it. But I have been thinking about it. And I have been preparing for it. Here is my

Top Ten List of Things I May or May Not Have Done 
to Prepare for This Week's State Inspection:

10. Had some of my students' most impressive referrals matted and framed. Because we need things to look nice and professional. It's all about the finishing touches, people.

9. Enhanced the "artistic" etchings in my classroom furniture by rubbing liquid paper into them.

8. Captured some of the larger spiders that live behind the window frame in my classroom  (Aragog!) and provided them with a new, circus-themed terrarium home.

7. Baked special Red Bull-filled breakfast muffins for my students to enjoy this week.

6. Harnessed my 7th graders new-found protractor skills to rotate all the posters in my classroom twelve degrees.

5. Replaced the terms on my Word Wall with the filthiest German profanities I could find. Because who's going to admit that they know those words? That's right. If you call me out for that, you're just telling on yourself. Geschenkartikel!

4. Planned a Kevin Bacon movie marathon. You know, for science. Because these kids need to be prepared for the real world. Huh. Maybe I should switch that to a John Hughes movie marathon...

3. Upon hearing that we should absolutely not, under any circumstances, wear jeans on Tuesday, I immediately ordered some new clothes. Overalls are definitely NOT jeans.

2. Told my students (yes, MY students) that there is an upcoming surprise intruder drill and, if they see any strangers enter our classroom, they are to immediately begin throwing anything they can find at the intruders. And aim for the head. Safety first, kids.

1. Created this list.

Hey, here's hoping everyone enjoys this week at your job as much as I may or may not enjoy mine.

Admit it, you totally googled that German word.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Answered Prayers

I am all kinds of feeling like a quokka.

The official mascot of Mandiland

So many good things have been rolling my way. I have a strong suspicion that they're the result of a certain friend who added me to her prayer list. She seems to have a direct line to the big man, because her prayers got answered much more quickly than mine. I need to bake her a cake or something.

The answered prayers:

Kids' strep: They're fine. Both monsters are acting fine, rashes are fading, pustules are dry... it's such a relief.

My strep: Three doses of amoxicillin and I'm feeling loads better. No more sore throat or chills.

The parent/teacher conference: We had our first parent/teacher conference as concerned parents. It turned out better than I ever considered it could. It's a huge relief.

Cakeless: I took this week off from cakes so that I could have a little break. And it was starting to really bug me. I was itching to bake something. Like a physical compulsion... it was stressful! And then... someone happened to call and request a cake. And they were so nice and they wanted some of my favorite decorations... so I just pulled a polka-dotted cake out of the oven. And I feel better already. I'll decorate it tomorrow night and get my fix.

Radiation: The earliest appointment I was able to get at UAB was April 2nd. So I've been waiting. Last night at the strep doctor, I told her about my recent worries and the biopsy I had Tuesday. She wrote a note in my chart and said she would try something. And guess what? Today, a cutie pants girl from my doctor's office called. She was able to parlay my newest problems into an earlier appointment at UAB. Much earlier. February 27! So we're thankful for the newest symptoms that helped me get an earlier appointment.

But there's more... the UAB appointment is Feb. 27 in the afternoon. But I don't have to take another sick day to get there. Why? Because I already took that day for the first* three-hour dental repair session. So it's perfect.

I'm feeling so much relief right now. There are no words.

*Turns out, having thyroid cancer can cause some problems with calcium absorption. And I haven't been asserting my dental concerns as much as I should have in recent years. So there's some damage that needs attention. Luckily, we have dental insurance. It'll be great before you know it!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Happy Connections

Tonight, I was cruising around town in my car. I love my car. It's blue and it frequently has cakes in the back. So, I was cruising around town in my beloved car and I was reflecting on how lucky I am.

I went to the doctor tonight which is a pretty great thing. How many people have a doctor who they like and who actually takes all kinds of time to listen to them? I do! I actually have a few of them. And how many people can get an appointment with their doctor after work? My doctor takes appointments at night! I went at 6:30. Cool, right?

And so, I have strep throat. No big deal. But the good doctor sent my prescription to my pharmacy right from the exam room which is pretty commonplace these days, but still pretty darn cool if you think about it.

Off I went to the pharmacy... hey, did you know Target Pharmacy closes at 7? Not at 8 like we thought. Huh. But, thanks to the marvels of modern technology, I called the doctor's office at night o'clock and they transferred my prescription over to the CVS. I am so freakin' lucky that this whole thing was even an option. Now I'm home with antibiotics, new toothbrushes, and some ExtraCare Bucks.

On the way to the CVS, I was percolating on how lucky I am to be sick in modern day in a developed country. And then... Benny and the Jets came on the radio.

This led to an avalanche of happy connections.

Because you know who really loves some Elton John? My niece.

And who else does said niece love? Walter.

Walter reminds me of Jay who reminds me of coffee... good coffee. 

Do you see how much happiness is in that chain?

It's like today... I was talking to a student about how viruses spread. And I said they can go from person to person... "like the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game."
And the kid looked at me blankly so, as an educator, I explained how the Kevin Bacon game works. Then, I demonstrated with Brad Pitt.
"Brad Pitt was in Interview With the Vampire with Tom Cruise who was in A Few Good Men with Kevin Bacon. See how they're connected?"
And then, as God as my witness, that child looked at me and said, "Who's Kevin Bacon?"

And that's how I decided that a Kevin Bacon movie marathon would be a good way to spend a day in my classroom. I thought it'd work best on the day that the Advanced Ed people come for the school's inspection. Because then the state inspectors would see that we're dedicated to teaching what matters. But then I decided that you can't have a Kevin Bacon movie marathon without Footloose, and the overarching theme of Footloose might not be the message I want conveyed to my particular brand of student. And then I got all tickled at myself and today turned out to be pretty good after all. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Another Day, Another Copay

Another day, another biopsy. Today's was an endometrial biopsy. I'll spare you the whys and hows. I should get the results next week and there's more testing coming in early March. Until then, there's not much to report. Just... ouch.

<Do NOT, by the way, search "ouch" in google images for an adorable image to go in your blog.>

Is it thyroid cancer-related? Maybe. The most likely explanation is that there was something going on but the thyroid stuff masked the symptoms. Now that the thyroid is under control(ish), the other thing is making itself known. At least, that's my theory. And it's no good speculating on what it is... nothing good comes from considering the possibilities. So... let's consider the happy!

The good news is that I have a doctor for this one that I know and I trust and who has always taken very good care of me in the past. I mean, hey, he's the one who caught my cancer! I couldn't be in better hands.

Also, there are amazing and happy things afoot! The girl has lost her first tooth!

She was very proud of herself.
The boy's scarlet fever is clearing up! So is the girl's strep! And both of their crazies have returned full-force.

And, in the last week, I have received hugs from both a former student and a former teacher. Both very needed at the time. I mean, what's better than that?

I have this upcoming weekend off from caking! How cool is that? A whole weekend of family time sans deliveries or coloring buttercream. What will I do with myself? No, really. What should we do? (My apologies to the cake orders I turned down in order to get this free weekend.)

The flowers I got for Valentine's still look and smell really good:

Roses with swirly centers are my favorite. And snapdragons. And peonies.
And there are only 66 more days of school (I hear). Then I'll officially be a full time bakerpreneur:

Not cool, tiger. Do you know how long it took us to make that???

There are unopened Girl Scout cookies in the kitchen... temporarily.

My phone contract is almost up and so there's a good chance I can upgrade my phone on the cheap(ish).

Cheapish is fun to say.

It's a new Dance Moms tonight.

I no longer feel the need to have a Ghosthunters night at school (which IS haunted, I don't care what you say) because I had a personal Ghosthunters moment at a recent cake delivery. So, you know, we can mark that off the bucket list. I'm good. Don't need to do that again.

Diet Dr. Pepper.

Ulysses S. Grant:

And this was cool. Remember the Starry Night cake?

Apparently, it inspired someone to try to make their own. Check me out, I'm inspirational.

Oh, and I got this on clearance yesterday at Target:

You know Palpatine never dispensed delicious gumballs.

I tell ya... if I were any better, I'd be a quokka. They look like this, in case you were wondering:

I'm also a great Scrabble word!

So... I guess.. days are full of moments. Some moments are biopsies that you have to get through. Some moments are talking Darth Vader gumball machines and pictures of beloved college mascots clutching a cake dummy that you spent hours making. You don't have to have a biopsy every day. But you can have a quokka moment everyday.

So it balances tips WAY toward the side of good awesome.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


The doctor upped my meds again. The fatigue, peeling fingernails, and crankiness were symptoms of hypothyroid. The other stuff... unfortunately... not. So it's off to another doctor on Tuesday to see what's causing the weird pain stuff. But, for now, we celebrate the upping of the meds!

Up to the purple pill now.

If you've never experienced an increase in a synthetic thyroid hormone, you're missing out. This is my third time experiencing this particular ride. That's an apt description... ride. You know how, on the teacups ride at Disney, you're all loopy and exhilarated? It's like that. Slightly out of control, a little spinny, but enjoyable. And I either have more energy:

or else I just think I have more energy:

And sometimes it's like this:

But mostly it's like this:

I should really take a break from reddit for a while. :/ But hey, at least I'm feeling better. Today is day one on the new purple dose. I should level out by next week. In the meantime, I'll enjoy the wackiness.