What I Would Say to Cancer

For the past three years, preparing for a century ride has become a natural part of my life.  Cycling season is as real to me as winter, spring, summer and fall.  I think daily about cycling.  Routes to try, weather conditions, jerseys to wash, pedals to tighten, miles to log, hills to climb.  Since a large chunk of my limited brain space is occupied by all things bike, it’s ironic to me that I don’t often think about the big picture.

This year I’m riding for The Lance Armstrong Foundation as a member of Team Fatty.  Actually our full name is Team Fatty: Fighting For Susan.  Susan is the wife of Fat Cyclist.  Fat Cyclist doesn’t have the luxury of forgetting the big picture because Susan, a mother of four, is in the fight of her life against cancer.  She is has battled cancer before and it’s back for more.  Previously I understood that riding my bike and raising money to cure cancer is important, but I didn’t fully get it until I watched this clip, What I Would Say to Cancer.  Here’s what I’d say to cancer:

You have taken too many children long before it was their time.  You leave mothers with drawers full of onesies fresh with the scent of baby.  You have taken mothers  leaving children longing to hear just one more bedtime story snuggled in the crook of their mommy’s neck.  You have taken fathers, leaving daughters to walk the aisle alone on their wedding day.  You have taken husbands and wives, leaving one side of the bed cold.

Here’s the worst part of you, cancer, you’re greedy.  When you can’t take a life, you take whatever you can.  You are a sneaky thief, taking lungs, breasts, brains, limbs and other parts that don’t belong to you.  You have no conscience, no heart.

But I do.  In fact, I’ve been told that my heart is freakishly strong and you can’t take that away.  So, for all my loved ones and loved ones of my loved ones who have battled cancer, I’m pulling on my Spandex, swinging my leg over the crossbar of my bike and getting ready to ride 100 miles.  I could go on, but I won’t because each pedal stroke is my answer to you, cancer, and I’m going to keep on pedaling until you get what I’m saying.

Funny Money

It was one of those days.  Rainy day recess created the perfect storm of too much energy and not enough paying attention.  Lunch was a welcome break.  After some grown up conversation and deep breathing, I trudged back to my room, fingers crossed that the yard duty would give me a good report.  She approached.  I cringed.

“Your class is sweet.” she said.

“Yes, they are.”  I said, reminding myself.

“They adore you.”

“It’s mutual.”  I chirped.

Even on bumpy days I could still say that with one hundred percent sincerity.  I do have the best job in the world and my time with these little ones is coming to an end quickly.   All rainy day toys were put away and my students were in their seats ready for the read aloud.  As I walked to the front of the class, several students piped up

“We made something for you.”

“What did you make?”

“We made you money.”

“Oh, wow.  That’s a lot of money.  I’ll go put it in my purse.  I’m going to Costco today.  Do you think I can pay with this?”

“No, Mrs. McCauley, it’s funny money.”

“Why did you make me all this money?”

“It’s teacher week and you don’t get paid enough.”

Classroom books from the book fair: $73.

The pair of shoes I ruined yesterday on our field trip to the creek: $29.

Getting a raise from my students: priceless.

Shy Girl Magma

Growing up I was painfully shy.  I walked to class with my head down, fearful of making eye contact with anyone.

On my way to Mrs. Johannsen’s second grade, I ran smack into a pole because I refused to look up.

In third grade I cried and cried when my mom informed me that if I wanted people to come to my birthday party, I’d have to call them myself.  Actually talk to people and ask them to come over?  NO WAY.

I was even placed in a club for social spazzes.  It was called The Garfield Club, named after the famous lasagna lovin’ comic cat.  I know, so nerdy.

I survived junior high and my shyness lessened in high school.  My immediate circle of friends was a conglomeration of AP geeks and music nerds, but I was also able to come and go as I pleased amongst other groups.  This shy girl had somehow become friend to all and nobody was more surprised than me.

As an adult, my shyness lies dormant ninety-eight percent of the time, leaving two percent of the time for it to explode in spurts.  Last Saturday I zipped down to Chico for the Northern California Writing Project Summer Institute Orientation.  (Wow, that’s a mouthful.)  I absolutely loved the Summer Institute last year.  It changed who I am as a teacher in powerful and exciting ways.  I was thrilled to be accepted again this year.

And yet my stomach was boiling with nerves.  I would be in a roomful of people.  People I didn’t know.  People I’d have to talk to.  As I closed in on Chico, my nerves threatened to erupt and spew bits of shy girl magma all over my car.  Walking upstairs to the classroom, my upper lip dotted itself with sweat beads. Entering the room, I said hello to one of the directors and made a beeline for a desk without neighbors on either side.  I sat there for a moment, looking around at the other participants.  All of them had their noses buried in the folder of handouts.  The singular noise was the shuffling of papers.  This is ridiculous, I thought.

So, I made a bold move.  I gathered up my stuff and plopped down in a desk between two women.  Then I made an even bolder move.  I introduced myself and asked where they were from.  Somehow my lava flow of shyness had cooled and crystallized into a coherent mass of functioning social skills.  The sweat beads dried up as we chatted.  I found out that the woman two seats to my left is one of my mom’s colleagues.  And in a surprising turn of events, the woman two seats to my right is training for the Tahoe century ride.  By the end of the day, I’d managed to find myself a carpool buddy and a cycling companion.

In addition to being welcomed back to the Summer Institute, I was also selected to attend a writing retreat at a spa/resort in Arizona.  In July I’ll spend four days writing, learning about writing, thinking about writing, and reading about writing.  It sounds heavenly.

Except for the fact that I will be surrounded by people I don’t know.  People I’ll have to make eye contact with.  People I’ll have to actually talk to.  I can feel the deep rumblings of my shyness already.  The only thing that will save me is also the cause of the rumblings.  Upon arrival I will have to make eye contact, maybe even shake a hand or two and utter the most terrifying word in the English language.  That’s right, I’ll have to say hello.  Either that or I can die in an extravasation of sweat and molten timidity.

Right now it’s a toss up.