Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Big 3-0

Today I turned 30. The big 3-0. This seems to always be the big one.

You can't wait to turn 10 because then you can do things like stay up late and go into a store by yourself. At twenty you are only one year away from being able to drink. But at 30, life begins.

Thirty is the kickoff of to middle age. At thirty, most people are beginning to settle down, to get married and have kids, to launch in a career or otherwise define who they are. Thirty is when the bills begin to add up and you have to make hard decisions about your life. Thirty is when your perspective begins to change and you see more than just where you are, but also where you have been and where you are going. It is the time you start thinking more about what you are trying to get out of life.

At 30, I am realizing just how hard it is to let go. I have been married 8 years this year, knowing my exceptional husband for an entire decade now. I have an amazing, smart, talented and independent 6 year old little girl who is rapidly gaining confidence in herself as she discovers who she is. I have a wonderful life and I want it to last forever, just how it is right now.

However, life is always changing, we always grow older and are constantly evolving. That includes our children. Zoey is now to the point in life where she is figuring it all out for herself. She doesn't need me to hold her hand or direct her anymore, now she can read the signs. She doesn't ask to be carried anymore because she wants to go in her own way. She doesn't need me to pick things out for her anymore because she has her own opinions.

I am so proud of her and the magnificent lady she is becoming. But we live in a scary world where nothing is guaranteed. I realize that my last post was called "The Mortality Realization." I named it that trying to be witty because it is a title using the same formula as "The Big Bang Theory." (They have titles like "The Vengeance Formulation," "The Large Hadron Collision" and "The Adhesive Duck Deficiency.") Instead, the name really hit the nail on the head. The post was about a fatal traffic accident that happened here in Seattle last week. That is just one of many tragic things that happen all the time. The realization that life is fleeting has been stuck in the back of my mind for a while now.

I didn't even realize how hard this thought was hitting me. It is hard to let her grow up. I don't care what clothes Zoey wears or that she doesn't want to hold my hand, that kind of stuff doesn't bother me. I just want her to be safe. It is a scary world that we live in and I'm just leading her into it to find her way. I'm there of course, and she knows she can always come to me, but I can't always protect her. I suppose I never really could.

Several years ago now, I had three miscarriages. Honestly, that changed my life as much as having children. It is hard to have no control in a situation.

It is hard to let Zoey be her own person and just trust that she will be alright. I know she is so smart and already has a good head on her shoulders. She can navigate around downtown ridiculously well. She learned the bus system here last year as quick as I did. She is careful when trying new things (depending on the situation almost too careful.) She knows more about Pluto than I do. She excels at video games that I don't even understand. She makes friends everywhere she goes. I am confident that she will be great at whatever she decides to pursue. I know all of this, but it is still hard.

I used to be there for her all the time while she was small. We have spent most of our time together from the moment she was born until she went to school. Now, she goes through huge chunks of her day that I know nothing about except what she decides to tell me. It is a transition that is hitting me harder this year than it ever did last year. I think now, I see that she is growing up, developing opinions and feeling confident in her independence. Good. I'm glad that she is. I encourage her and I am proud of her.

Stephen says I need to stop focusing on all the negative stories in the world and start focusing on the positive ones. I think he is right. I just have to live each day to the fullest, focus on what is important in this life and say "I love you" every chance I get.

Wow, I didn't know 30 was going to be so emotional. I'm too young to have a mid-life crisis!

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Mortality Realization

On Thursday, September 24, a fatal accident happened in Seattle. A "Duck Boat" swerved running into a charter bus carrying students to sight see in Seattle.

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Ride A Duck is an organization that creates a fun atmosphere to tour a city on an amphibious military grade vehicle that goes on both land and water. The Duck Boats in Seattle, a common sight to see in the city, go through downtown and across the Aurora Bridge to eventually putter around Lake Union. It is a fun adventure that we have been on twice now in Seattle and once in Boston.

Yesterday while going across the narrow Aurora Bridge one Duck Boat collided with a Charter Bus full of North Seattle College students, including several international students, killing four and injuring several more, about eight severely.

I debated about writing on this topic. I couldn't decide whether to comment on it or just let it go and quietly work out my own emotions. Tragedies happen all the time, usually when we least expect it. I mean, there is nothing you can do to prevent something like this. The Duck Boats are all inspected each morning by members of the Coast Guard before they are allowed to operate. Everything was cleared that morning. Sometimes there are just accidents. Sometimes those accidents are fatal.

That is scary.

Like really scary.

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I put my daughter on the bus every morning and wait for her in the afternoon and all I can do is trust that she will be okay out there in the big bad world. I go to work in the mornings and hope the same thing. Same for my husband and my mom and all my other family and friends that I care about.

I actually have a hard time reading the news (and sometimes Facebook) because stuff like this comes up all the time. I have a hard time dealing with mortality. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

We live in a cruel world and life is not a guarantee. I guess that's why I decided to write about this, because I realize that we can't be afraid of the unexpected. It happens, it sucks and there is nothing you can do to prepare for it. But, that just makes life that much greater. We will not live forever. Every moment we spend with family and friends and for ourselves is vital. Both parties on either vehicle in this wreck were looking forward to a relaxing day touring the city. Neither suspected their life would change (or end) that day.

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My heart goes out to all those affected by this accident. There has been a huge outpouring of aide from the community, including the Woodland Zoo and several restaurants opening it's doors and serving food to first responders and others involved in the crash.

A few articles about the wreck:
The Seattle Times
King 5 (Local News)

And just because life is full of coincidences, I also want to share this video title "Adieu" that we watched last night on "Hit Record on TV" starring Joseph Gordon Levitt. It is in French and about death...just watch:

So take that one last hug before you leave, give that one last kiss before bed and you can never say "I love you" too much.

What is Normal Anyway?

For the last, going on, four weeks now, I've been waiting for that normal routine where I will be able to get so much writing done and I will feel great and rested and well...sane. However, it's been one thing after another preventing my perfect schedule from becoming a reality.

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First, there was a week of free time between summer camp and school. That week was planned for and I looked forward to all the time with Zoey. But then the teacher's strike happened, adding 6 more days that Zoey was home when she was supposed to be in school. I enjoyed the time with her, but we had no routine because she could go back to school any day. So it ended up being a free for all where we looked for things to do and in the end beat her Skylanders Trap Team video game that she got for her birthday with of all that extra time.

Finally, she got back into school, but there was an issue with transportation. For an unknown reason, the bus wasn't picking her up in the morning and arriving extremely late bringing her home in the afternoon. This caused me great stress and time trying to figure out what was going on and what we could do about it. This is still an issue going into the third week of school.

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Just to top things off, my work schedule was changed this week due to an overnight shift to complete inventory. The evening went well enough, but it always messes up my internal clock. It got my non-existing routine off even further because my body has an unusually lethargic process to get back into the order of day and night. I felt tired and off for a couple days after that one. I'm so thankful that I was working part time or I couldn't imagine the stress I would have had during the strike. As it stood, we managed, only sacrificing routine (and writing time).

So now it's been a good three weeks since normal, and only about four weeks since my part time schedule kicked in. I still haven't had this magical time where I can write and get everything else done. I still feel overwhelmed and off balanced.

So, I propose this question...

What is normal anyway?

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I'm beginning to think "normal" is a fairy tale, an imaginary place, that we can only dream about. Thus, I'm done letting my circumstances and timing control me. I'm tired of letting things happen to me. It's time to be proactive! I'm going to sit down and make it work. So here I am, at a computer once again and let me tell feels good to write.

Focus on the other hand is still a problem, but steps.

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Looking back on my posts, I'm publishing about once a week. I want to make that three times a week. However, what you don't see are all the words going into Google Docs that make up my novel. That is what I'm really excited about. I still put thoughts on a page, but it is different to really get into the story and spend time developing characters and plot. I'm looking forward to getting into the heart of my story.

And we'll see what ends up on my blog. I love the space for thoughts and rants like this. I would usually hesitate to post something like this, but the more writers and artists I meet the more I see that these trivial things, like real life, get in the way of our creative ambitions. It's nice to know that I'm not alone in the distractions and the quest to balance family, work, social life and the need to express myself creatively. I hope to be encouraging to someone else who is going through a hard time trying to balance everything. This is my outlet, my communication and my way to understand things, including my own confusing emotions. I'm not perfect, far from it, but I'm trying. Sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's hard. But no matter what it is, let's do it together. You are not alone, and neither am I.

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So what is normal? I believe normal is whatever we want it to be. I don't like feeling overwhelmed and my fear is that is becoming "normal." I want to change that. So, here I am writing it down and demanding a change of myself. No more fretting about getting things done. It all happens in it's own time. It's time to take a step back, write it down, take a deep breath, edit what I wrote down and begin all over again.

So here it is...imperfections and all. What is your normal? Does it need to change?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Best Decade Ever...Happy Anniversary My Love!

Ten years ago, September 22 fell on a Thursday. On this day a neighbor and mutual friend of mine and Stephen's invited us both to a pot luck dinner. Neither of us knew that this seemingly insignificant event would change both our lives forever.


Nine years ago, September 22 fell on a Friday. I had high hopes for the day as I traveled from Clemson University in South Carolina to Orlando, Florida to visit my boyfriend who as working at Electronic Arts at the time. It was our one year anniversary and I couldn't wait to see him. What waited for me was a huge surprise: flowers, wine and a ring. I didn't hesitate to say "yes" to Stephen's proposal.


Eight years ago, September 22 fell on a Saturday. We spent the day with family and friends on a beach in Treasure Island, Florida. We said "I do," smashed cake in each other's faces and drifted away on a cloud. I was then, and still am, so proud to call myself Mrs. McCusker.


This year Stephen and I have been together for 10 years. That is a whole decade of living together, sharing life together and supporting each other.

A lot happens in a decade. You become a different person after ten years. Think about it. When you are age 10, you are kid. At 20 you are an adult. So wouldn't it seem logical that at 30 you become something different entirely. That every 10 years would bring a defining characteristic about yourself that you may not be able to define previously.

One of the things that I truly believe make a couple work together over time, besides honest communication, is the ability to let each other change, grow and mature. It is surely true in romantic relationships, especially marriage, but the need is there in any type of relationship.

For the last 10 years that Stephen and I have known each other, he has been playing and writing music. His music is one of his greatest assets, one of the many things that made me fall in love with him. It allowed me to see who he was and how he thought through different events and emotions. Music is how he first told me he loved me. He wrote a song and played it for me at a park in Clemson, SC one week after we met. It was a perfect evening, especially since I already knew I loved him too.

Now, 10 years later, I feel like his music has a piece of me in it. Over these years while we have met many different types of people, lived in many places, worked several types and levels of jobs, been in and out of church, witnessed births and endured deaths of several people we loved including our own three miscarriages. We have also created a life together that we cherish dearly, our daughter Zoey.


We have grown and changed and overcome many obstacles together. I love that I am able to share my life, hopes, dreams, fears and short-comings with this wonderful man who always makes me feel like I am the most precious person in this world. I can do anything when he believes in me.

I has been the best decade. I am so grateful and damn lucky that I found this man that makes me better and loves me with his whole being. I can't wait to see what the next 10 years will hold. And the ten after that...and so on and so forth. I am so glad that I get to spend my days and years with him.


Happy Anniversary, my love! It has been the best decade. It is the greatest life. I love you!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Life During the Teacher's Strike

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The fact that the Seattle Public School teachers are on strike is very surreal to me. I've heard of strikes before, but I've never truly experienced one. It's never been something that has affected me before, especially since South Carolina, where I've lived most of my life, is a non-union state.

Since moving to Washington, I've realized that strikes really aren't that rare. Although, most of the time, life pretty much goes on as normal.

The teachers strike; however, is hitting us right at home.

I've previously covered the details of the strike and what each side is fighting for so I won't retell that, please see my post "The First Day of School...But Not Quite Yet" for that information.

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Zoey was supposed to start school on Wednesday, September 9. Today would have been her 5th day in school. Instead we are home, trying to enjoy our extended summer.

The problem is this...Zoey was really ready to go back to school. She was all prepared with her new school supplies stuffed into an Elsa backpack. She was ready to see her new classroom and her teacher. Most of all she was ready to see her friends again. I believe that is what she is missing the most.

I am trying to keep my anxiety as low as possible as we go through the days of unknown. The last time the teachers went on strike it took three weeks to get the issues resolved. That is a long time. Negotiations are proceeding, but things seem to be moving slowly. Only time will tell whether the latest agreement will move forward to allow the 53,000 kids to get into the classrooms for the 2015-2016 school year.

A little peek into our mornings lately. I used to do preschool activities like this with Zoey and now she wants to do first grade activities. It has been quite a fun adventure, though I know she will be glad to go to school.

I was all geared up for Zoey to go back to school as well. I was ready with all of my notes and tentative itinerary to get some serious writing done and new routines created. It feels like life just went on pause. It has been challenging balancing everyone's needs and making plans because our information is day to day.

I fully support what the teachers are fighting for, so we are making the best of our time. We're doing a few school lessons at home during this time, including writing in her journal, reading and completing activities in her 1st grade workbook. Seeing her eyes light up over learning and writing again let me know how excited she is about school. It warms my heart that she loves it, not only the social aspect, but also the academics.

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This is at Zoey's school, Lowell Elementary

In light of the strike, I am very thankful that our family has the flexibility so that Zoey can be home and that we do not have to find child care options. Since I went down to part time recently (a decision that keeps proving to be the absolute right choice), Stephen and I are able to easily tag team throughout the week so that one of us will be home and the other still gets all the work needed done in the week. I can not imagine the anxiety level I would have if we had to worry about that aspect of this strike like so many of the parents must.

At the end of it all, I am thankful to live in a place that will fight for our children and also what they need to fulfill their own needs. It is a struggle, but one well worth it. I know for one thing, I will not be taking school for granted, ever.

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