Susan WonderStone's Blog


Bloedel Reserve

I recently made my first visit to the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island. The grounds are beautiful! It’s 150 acres with different garden areas and trails throughout the property. There are many types of birds and other critters who choose to live there.

Mama duck and a pile of baby ducks

There was a baby grand piano in the house that a visitor was playing. It was fun to hear!

I was happy to see the poster in the hallway of the house. I have many more pictures, but you’d be better off going to see for yourself. It’s easy to hike the grounds and different seasons bring different views!

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan



Featherfolio at Bainbridge Island Museum of Art
June 1, 2017, 11:20 am
Filed under: Gratitude, Inspiration | Tags: , , ,

Chris Maynard  is an artist who uses feathers as his medium. We went to the Bainbridge Island Museum of art on Tuesday on the way to our hike and got to see his show. Chris’s work is amazing! They have about 40  of his pieces on display. He carves designs in feathers and uses the feathers and the pieces he cut out to make shadow boxes.  I had never seen anything like it. The intricate details were incredible!  He uses tiny scissors and other tools that used to be used for eye surgeries.  There were two groups of kids field trips in there at the time. I’m guessing there’s no way they will be able to explain to their parents what they actually saw.   One of my friends went a couple weeks ago and in no way did he come close to conveying what we saw.

The show only runs until June 4, so go see it if you’re available! Plus, if you’re on the Seattle side, the ferry ride was fun!

Both of my friends got shadow boxes and one of them gave me the print “How dragons breathe fire”. Someday I’ll frame it, but it came on a foam core with hooks already in it, so I hung it within minutes of walking in the door. I love it and hope to someday have one of Chris’s shadow boxes!

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan



Good enough. Good enough for me!
January 15, 2017, 11:36 pm
Filed under: coaching, Death, Inspiration, recurrent metastatic melanoma
The following started out as a facebook comment. I realized more than the person I was writing it too, needed to hear it. I like this picture better than the one last night because my arms are in it. I’m excited to see my transformation!img_0554
Doing what I can! For me, the most important thing has been continuing to do what makes me happy! Several things are missing due to $, but for the free things, hiking in the forest,playing in my garden, creating food and crafts (I have a canvas with my vagina painted on it hanging by the front door. My son is glad my art skills are more abstract), dancing naked in the house, dancing fully clothed wherever I feel like it, doing things to make people smile (I go to parades wearing a Wonder Woman outfit), randomly laughing to see how many people I can get to laugh too, connecting with people of all walks of life, giving random dogs butt scratches, taking care of my body with food, exercise, orgasm – lots of orgasm!, body scrubs, soaps and moisturizers I make…
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It’s good enough. You know what it is.

I’m sure there’s more.
My point is, do what makes you happy. If you want to fish every day for the rest of your life, do it. If you want to do memorable things with people you love, do that! Nobody was put here to do the things you want to do, but you.
Cancer is a shitty way to leave the planet. There are so many better ways to go! If I don’t jump out of an airplane into an active volcano, I’ll probably be the first to die that way, whatever it is.
It seems I’ve been trying to prove myself most of my life. Only a few people along the way told me I sucked, would never achieve my goals or not good enough. Good enough for who? People who tell others they’re not good enough, or even imply it,  feel inadequate and want more at their party. Why did I choose to listen to them over the ones who told me good stuff? I’ve finally figured out I’m good enough exactly how I am! The more I believe in myself, the more people believe in me! We all have so much value!
Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were 5? Do you remember who you wanted to be when you were 20?
Do you remember the dreams you pushed aside for whatever reasons?
Some people call it a bucket list. I call it life. Make that list and start checking things off. We’ll never finish everything on our lists, but it sure is fun doing them!
You don’t know what you want? Then step one is: connecting with 1 new person every day and asking them what’s on their list. Eventually, you’ll have so many ideas along with new friends to do them with.
Live every day to the fullest! We don’t know how many we have left!
Love, gratitude and blessings
~Susan


Why did you lie to me? Why didn’t you tell me?

Why did you lie to me? Why didn’t you tell me? They aren’t always the same.  My ex husband would call me a liar for omitting what he considered to be important information. To him, withholding information was identical to lying. Learning what he thought was important vs what I thought was important was the miscommunication.

The last few weeks, I’ve been lonely, sad and confused, wondering why people who I thought I was close to had been lying to me. I mentioned it to my son, who quickly enlightened me. The last few weeks weren’t about being lied to, it was about opening my eyes and seeing the truth. A few quick checks when I originally felt the incongruency of the words I was being told vs the way it made me feel, would have revealed the truth months ago. Was I so lonely that I wanted to maintain those relationships even though I knew something was off?  A few quick phone calls and internet searches later… The FAA had no record of the husband who had been the pilot in a Beechcraft King Air plane crash with a fatality of a passenger. The police department had no premise records of arrests made at a specific address. Google images and Zillow revealed that the address wasn’t in a multi-million dollar gated community with a giant pool, but a small neighborhood of condominiums off of a busy road with a Walmart at the closest stop light and the nearest pool in a backyard of the next neighborhood over. County records revealed that the roommate I was told was an unattractive beer drinking buddy, turned out to be a wife. Friends asked to borrow money and showed me documentation, indicating when they were getting paid. That day is long gone. Even though it didn’t feel right, I didn’t want my  past money screwovers to make my current decisions.  I’ve often slipped, but try not to punish current people in my life for injustices of people in my past. When new people treat me in the same poor ways as people no longer in my life, I’ve noticed that I’m the common denominator. Funny how when I see problems, I’m always there! (Ho’oponopono)

Just kidding! I’m thankful for the truths you showed me!

When my first husband didn’t get the job we moved to Seattle for, he became a private investigator. I didn’t remember how much I enjoyed finding the truth. Well, finding the truth – the answers, to other people’s questions. Why did it hurt when I discovered the truth wasn’t what I thought it was from some of the important people in my life?

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Cameron and I were talking more about lying vs the truth. He reminded me those people are only being my mirrors. He asked me how I’m lying to myself. I told him I didn’t think I was. The conversation went on a tangent, talking about the trails we were hiking. Unknowingly to me, it cleverly went back.

“Mom, do you have cancer?”

“I don’t know.” Pretending I’m the healthy person I see myself being, but not totally honest by saying yes or no.

“Nailed it!” Cameron said.

“Nailed what?” I asked.

He went on to remind me that I do have cancer on the back of my neck, on my chest, on my left leg and possibly on the back of my head. Right now, the skin is intact, but I can still feel the lumps under the skin. We are working with energetic healing techniques for awhile before I black salve the areas again. Plus, as effective as it is, black salve hurts and I’m filling my time with things that feel good!

He asked me how I can let the go of the cancer if I won’t acknowledge its existence. You won’t change something that you don’t think is a problem.

Oh my! He’s been listening! All these years, I’ve been teaching him things and now he’s showing me the part of my mirror I was missing! He’s right! When things are working, we don’t normally change them. It’s when things no longer work that we want something better.

I do my daily treatments and continue eating my ketogenic diet, but I don’t think a lot about why I do it. Once in awhile, someone will ask about my scars and I tell them I have melanoma. It has become something I live with, not a life threatening disease. The looks on their faces tell me I should be more concerned. Sometimes, it scares me and I think about it too long, scaring myself more.

Because of current statistics, cancer is seen by many as a death sentence. Most people are devastated when they get the news that a loved one has cancer. Some patients don’t want the sadness from friends and loved ones, so they don’t tell anyone. I was considered “terminal” for over a year before I told my family. If I thought I sounded sick, I wouldn’t answer the phone and would call people back when I felt like I could fake it and sound good enough that they wouldn’t ask questions. My mom noticed I coughed a lot when we talked on the phone. It was such a normal thing, I denied I was coughing much. I tried to tune it out. Since even back then, I had stopped going to doctors, I don’t know if cancer made it to my lungs or not. Now, after learning about the mold that grows inside saline breast implants, the coughing could have been from mold toxicity.

When I finally told people I had been dealing with recurrent melanoma with liver and lymphatic system metastasis, they didn’t ask why I lied to them, they asked “Why didn’t you tell me?”

I talk to cancer patients who keep their diagnosis a secret, a lot. The “I” I’m about to speak of is only a percentage of cancer patients, but it is a common theme.

Especially around the holidays, I make excuses why I can’t spend time with family or friends like I used to. Too much going on at work, nobody to feed the fish or put compost in the worm bin. I do my best to only show up when I feel like I look good. I don’t want people to treat me like I’m dying. Sometimes, whether from the cancer or the treatments, my memory doesn’t quite work like it used to. I forget birthdays, anniversaries, doctor’s appointments, lunch dates,payment due dates. Things that are important to me. I feel like shit when I let you down. I tell myself I will try harder, but I forget again. You quit calling. Would you still be mad if you knew I was dying?  Would a forgotten birthday be remembered, along with your refusal to communicate, after I’m gone? Would you ask “why didn’t you tell me?”

Just because a friend or family member is being distant, doesn’t mean they have cancer or any other disease they don’t want to admit to. It does however mean, they may need your love now, more than ever.

Those who purposely lied to me. I’ll love them at a distance.

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Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan



Are you in?
November 5, 2016, 12:54 am
Filed under: ASEA, coaching, fitness, Gratitude, Inspiration

img_0179One of my mentors recently said “Bite off more than you can chew and chew the hell out of it.” My thoughts are “Bite off more than I can chew and just keep chewing, just keep chewing”. Then I hear Dori singing “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

Its been awhile since I’ve set any big goals, other than waking up tomorrow. I hope it doesn’t take a terminal diagnosis to make you appreciate waking up every day! I’ve been relatively happy when I wake up, most of my life, but it escalates every time things have gotten bad and I didn’t know if I’d make it thru the night.

One of my coworkers posted a thanks and plank challenge on facebook. “I’m in!” Immediately after typing it, I wondered what I was getting myself into. 30 days of thanks and planks. Great for the first week! By day 30,  it’s a 5 minute plank! Is that even possible? What (tf) are we trying to prove here?! I work with mostly physically fit people, so it’s a challenge I accepted and I’m going to meet! I love the competition!

On Halloween, a friend changed her profile picture to a picture of the 2 of us when we were at a bodybuilding competition. I was helping the competitors and she was the guest poser. It got me thinking about competing. I wondered why I stopped, even though I loved it. Then I remembered the cancer that was trying to take over my body for the last 12+ years. I did compete several times with active cancer, but it was a competition for myself more than competing against others. I let it get to me when 2 guys I knew from the gym, told me I should be embarrassed that I wasn’t as competitive as I should be. It had always been my goal to win, but it turned into something to help me plan on being alive for.

Thanks and planks. Join me?! It’s a 30 day goal. You can do it! Catch up or start on day 1.

This next part is scary. I believe that if a goal doesn’t scare me, it’s not big enough. Over the next 25 weeks, aside from continuing to write my books, focusing on my coaching clients and speaking engagement(s) -(I’m expecting more than the only one currently on my calendar!) and continuing my daily cancer treatments, I will be training for another bodybuilding competition. I’ll decide after the first of the year what class I’ll compete in, but my training focus will be in bodybuilding.

I don’t have a posing suit. All the others fit the double D’s. 25 weeks from now, my cute little boobies might look like deflated balloons. They’ll still be cute to me!

I don’t have a gym membership.

I get winded walking up the stairs, how am I going to do cardio?

Being on my modified ketogenic diet for the cancer, how will I modify it to get me to my goal, while continuing to live?

How can I deplete my water at the end without causing a kidney problem?

Those are a few of the questions swirling through my head. I know I have the answers for all of them, I just don’t know what they are yet. It’s a big goal for me! It’s giving me something to live for, but I’m also training to be in the best shape of my life, so far!

Come on! You can do the plank challenge with me! I’m also challenging you to set a 25 week goal. Let’s achieve them together!

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan

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Wonder Woman at Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival

 

Once again…Wonder Woman showed up for the Mukilteo Lighthouse festival. For those of you I met for the first time and a recap for the rest of y’all who follow my adventures…

For those of you who took pictures of me, please send them to me here, susanwonderstone@yahoo.com or on my Facebook page https://Facebook.com/susan.story.71

My son Cameron and I have been participating in the parade since he was in 2nd grade. He turns 20 this week.  Since the festival is always near his birthday, we invited his friends to celebrate with us. Sometimes we had a party after the parade,  complete with singing and birthday cake. At some point along the way, he decided to make a “FREE HUGS” sign. He would run from side to side along the parade route, with his arms out offering hugs to anyone who wanted one.

In the beginning, when I first made my outfit, I realized that when people saw me they often smiled, laughed  and asked to take pictures with me. We all tend to smile when someone smiles at us. It’s just as contagious as a yawn! People who were together, but not saying anything, would smile and communicate with each other. Regardless of whether they are having problems with relationships or work, recently lost a fur kid or other family member, have health challenges, are “drugged” from the crap food they just ate…or, whatever other things are going on in their heads, comnecting and communicating with another human always makes life easier to deal with. I’ve continued doing it, not to make it easier to deal with my own stuff, but to bless others with my will, in hopes that they’ll find their own.

Friday at my retail job, I dealt with the biggest jerk I’ve ever dealt with in the store. It spun me for a bit, because I really thought I could change the constipated look on his face into a smile before he left. I wondered what could be so bad in his life to make him nasty to not only me, but several of my coworkers he also interacted with. After about 30 minutes of wanting to chase him down in the parking lot, and tell him that I’d pray for him because his terminal cancer and putting his dog down this week must be challenging to his entire existence, I realized that jerks only show up in my life to check my own attitude. I really paid attention to myself for the rest of the day, still having the goal to make everyone I came in contact with, a little better than before they talked to me. I try to always make it a goal for me, even when I’m in so much pain I should be at home in bed. Like after the parade, when I slowly wandered around the Festival.  I did my best to smile. I talked to everyone who made eye contact with me. I met a beautiful woman named Demetria, who after a health challenge of her own, started a business providing  shoes to low income and foster children.

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People are amazing when you give them a chance to tell you who they are!

What’s my story?

As many of you know, my first melanoma diagnosis was in March 2000. I had two more surgeries in 2002.  In 2004, aside from skin lesions on my face and just about every body part, I had an open 2inch hole on my right butt cheek and the cancer was in my liver and lymphatic system. In August that year,  my doctor told me I probably wouldn’t make it through the summer. I knew, based on the conversation I had with my dermatologist in 2002, that there were no treatments that would give me hope. I cried  daily for months, wondering what I could do to save my life.  I researched and implemented everything that made sense. Over the years, I’ve stopped things that no longer seem to be helping and added things newly discovered.  A few days ago, my friend Armi, who I met in Tijuana, suggested I put raw honey in the hole in my leg. Why had I forgotten how many times raw honey had helped the skin lesions?   I filled the hole with raw honey, aside from the other things I’m still doing, and after two days it looks so much better!

In 2007,  I broke my back in a skydiving accident. It was my third jump. I had an L1 burst fracture. The staff in the emergency room told me I would probably never walk again. I must have said 100 times “Thank you God, I can move my toes!”  I believed that if I could move my toes I would walk again!  I kept telling them that they did not have my permission to touch any cancer they found in my body. I believed  what I was doing was working, and didn’t want biopsies or other medical treatments to interfere with my healing. My neurosurgeon  asked where the cancer was. Even though I still had lumps in areas of lymph nodes, he showed me the CT scan if my liver. There were no spots on my liver. I KNEW  if I could eliminate melanoma from my liver, I could recover from a broken back. He put me back together with screws in L2 and T12, with flexible plastic rods in between to give me full range of motion. They made me walk soon after I came out of anesthesia, three days after the accident.  I have walked every day since! It took me awhile to get my courage (or stupidity- however you look at it) to skydive again. I have 40 jumps now. Someday I’ll travel and jump in every city, state and country I can!

I’m not going to list all of the challenges I’ve faced, because it seems when I signed up for this life, that I agreed to face most obstacles others do, so I could empathize with the masses.

After I made my rounds at the festival, I went home to do the cancer treatments I didn’t have time for in the morning. I was so tired, but didn’t have time for a nap before I was supposed to be back for dinner with my Northwest Photo family.

I love my spray tan, sponsored by Oasis Airbrush Tanning!

 

The evening was just as amazing as the day!

While looking for the kids, I spun a wheel and won a month of free karate classes. I later found them giving hugs to the people who were within ear shot of the dude yelling at everyone, telling them they’re going to burn in hell for eternity. I’ve never understood how anyone thinks anger, hatred and fear will help convert another to their ways. Meanwhile, the Sikh group was dancing, hugging and appeared happy. But…that’s another story.

Dinner was great! Sunset was great! Connecting was great! Fireworks were great! I fell asleep with my feet soaking in Epsom salt, apple cider vinegar and frankincense.

 

Life is good!

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan

 



When life•••••• It’s time for a new perspective
September 8, 2016, 2:20 am
Filed under: coaching, Inspiration, Skydiving

•••••• insert negative adjective here.

When life sucks, it’s time for a new perspective. Okay, to be clear, when some parts  of life suck. Saturday will be 12 weeks the tumor on my leg has been open. I’m still believing  it’s a drain for all the bad stuff to flow out. Buddy dog. Jake, Anna and Jordan. And a few other things, but I don’t want to share too much negativity.

I’m currently not qualified to jump at my home drop zone. Going there, is tough because there’s nothing I want or need more than to jump. Okay, there’s something. Oh, there’s someone too, but jumping is high on my list. Since I can’t jump, when the  opportunity to fly came up, I jumped on it!

We’re  familiar with the area, and know better than to fly thru some of the clouds. Sometimes, mountains look like clouds. After accidentally flying thru clouds on a birthday skydive, I know they’re soft and fluffy. Mountains, not so soft and fluffy.

Up, up, up. Decrease power. Roller Coaster! He called them maneuvers, I called it Roller Coaster.

I didn’t have to ask,  but we did not do maneuvers over the poop pond. Hat island looks so little out there in the water.

 

 

imageimageimageAgain, without prompting, we flew right over my house. It’s just south west of the wheel.

I’ve always said I’d rather get out of the plane high than at lower altitudes.  This is especially true, around 3000 feet, where I can see and count cows, cars and people.

We had a conversation about perspectives. Right now, I’m sitting on a couch in my living room. I’m feeling the heat From the TDP lamp, hearing the ozone generator and the time clicking away on the clock. I’m aware of the room I am in. It’s not the same for me in a commercial aircraft, but in a little plane, everything changes.  Not only am I aware of my surroundings inside the plane, but the vastness of everything outside of the plane. The water, the mountains, all the homes  and cars, the  largest volume building in the world, right next-door at the Everett Boeing plant.

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That corn maze seems to take forever when you’re in it, but so small from  2000 feet. 50 years!

What’s big? Small? What’s important? It’s all a matter of perspective.

I had so much fun!

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan



More Connections
August 31, 2016, 12:53 am
Filed under: cancer, coaching, contact me, Death, Inspiration

 

You may say I’m a dreamer,  but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will be as one. John Lennon

When I had my first boyfriend, my mom told me to not spend so much time with him and to remember my friends. I didn’t have many friends, but the ones I did have, took a back seat to my new guy. He played football for the other high school in town, so if I went to a school function, it was a football game for my rival school. My two closest friends, became best friends with each other as I spent more and more time with “him”. It only lasted 4 months, but that was long enough to lose a good part of my best friendships. Not only did I lose him, I felt like I lost both of my best friends too. When I started dating my next boyfriend, I was in “Health Occupations”, a work co-op that allowed me to leave high school at lunch and work in a doctor’s office every afternoon. My co-workers were 10-40 years older than me. They weren’t my friends. My new guy also went to the other high school, so we usually spent time together instead of going to school functions at either school. He was a year ahead of me in school, so I planned ahead, took summer school and graduated early so I could go to college with him sooner.

When that relationship ended 15 years later, I had few friends. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach.  Looking back, I wonder how different things would have been if I had friends and a support system of people, other than my family, who I didn’t want to talk to about how lonely I felt.

Last month, a young man texted acquaintances, saying he was going to kill everyone at a large party. He shot 4, killing 3 of them. One of them was his ex girlfriend. I wonder if he felt like I did when my first relationship ended. I wondered if he felt like I did when my second and my third relationships ended. Was he lonely, wondering how he’d accomplish anything, being in so much pain? I’ve read studies that say the emotional pain of a broken heart can be as painful as the physical pain of a broken bone. The loneliness I experienced wasn’t as intense as the pain I experienced and still do from when I broke my back, but probably close. I’ve often said the pain of a breakup is worse than cancer. Okay, that’s bullshit, but I have said it.  When my last relationship was coming to an end, the cancer exploded. I isolated myself again, but this time I was having intense physical pain. Not intentionally, but I started doing things with friends from my past. New connections formed. I joined meet up groups. I stayed in a hotel room with people I’d never met.  I drove long distance to meet a facebook friend. I took meditation classes and met more new people. I went to ecstatic dance classes and made connections without words. This time, the emotional pain was more like when I broke and dislocated my finger in 10th grade. I wanted to cry, and I did, but I still laughed enough to get yelled at in the emergency room.   It hurt! It throbbed for months whenever my heart rate would increase. I’d run anyway. I’d also find things to laugh about. Like with the broken bones I’ve had, the emotional pain from losses lasts long beyond the time everyone else even remembers it happened. Life doesn’t stop for emotional pain. Having connections to many people, made it easier to deal with. Many of the connections I’ve made, aren’t with people I’d spend a lot of time with, but our stories have helped each other.

Would the shooter have done what he did, if he had more genuine connections, than mostly those on social media? The more connected we feel to others, the easier it is to deal with whatever stresses, challenges or losses we experience. He doesn’t get a do-over. Our friends are gone.

We can learn so much from others without having to make our own mistakes! Every single person is unique! We all have our own set of gifts that nobody can do for us. We are here to do whatever it is we do. The lessons you’ve learned and gifts you’ve been given will help so many people! Why are you keeping them to yourself?

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I’m challenging you to meet at least one new person every week. Give them your contact information. If they give you theirs, BONUS!  What’s their story? You’ll either know someone or meet someone who’ll benefit from their story.We are all connected anyway, let’s figure out how!

Connect, Communicate & Celebrate Life!

 

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan



Missed Opportunities or Distant Friendship

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Another beautiful story about friendship and connections. Written by Darian Clogston, another of my son Cameron’s best friends. And a little Harry Potter spoiler…

 

I went to Jake Long‘s memorial service this weekend, and it was the most difficult funeral I have ever been to.

Not that I have been to a whole lot of funerals, but for a twenty-year-old, the few I have been to already feel like far too many. Jake’s was different for me though, because he and I were not friends…not until after he died. Prior to a week ago, when I had been asked if I knew Jake Long – and I had been asked before, on at least a couple occasions – my answer was, “The name is familiar; I would probably recognize him if you showed me a picture…” His profile picture on Facebook would jumpstart my memory, prompting me to add on, “Oh, he sat with the group of guys behind Blake and I in Mr. Schillinger’s calculus class my senior year”. Not really a significant connection to bring up, considering that I essentially never talked to, or even really acknowledged, that group of guys sitting behind us. I’ve thought about that class every day since Jake died though. There were 180 school days where I could’ve tried to talk to them. 180 missed opportunities where I never said, “Hey”, or, “Good morning”, or anything. I’d just walk in every day, glancing a little skeptically at Will Kramer rocking on the back legs of his chair – that drove the stage manager side of me nuts – and then I’d take my seat next to Blake. And Blake is just such a friendly and positive human to sit next to at 7:20 in morning; It made sense to mostly just talk to him and to ignore everyone else as much as possible.

I know I can’t fill my mind with the what-if’s though. That’s not fair to myself, or to Jake, or to anyone. That class was years ago, and I can’t change the fact that I never talked to Jake when I had such a prime opportunity to. The connection between Jake and I started to grow even years before that though. The problem was just that neither of us knew it.

Jake had taken part in the Summit program, through which he grew a group of guy friends that became a very solid, tightknit bunch. Cameron – one of my two very best friends now – was a part of Jake’s group then. I’ve heard a remarkable amount of stories and anecdotes in the past week about what Jake was like back then and about the shenanigans that this group of guys was able to get into together, and everything I hear makes me love Jake a little more.

And let me tell you, he’s amazing. I’m not going to re-cap all of the stories I’ve been able to hear about him, or share all of the photos I’ve seen of him in the past week, because other people have shared those with me, and I feel like their memories are better left in their own hands to keep sharing. But either way, there is no denying that Jake is one awesome guy. From what I can tell, he and I would get along so well if we had ever had the chance to hang out together.

One of the biggest differences between us is the fact that Jake loves baseball and I love theatre. But within our own realms, each of us thrives. We’re both driven and passionate when we get involved with something. Baseball and theatre are our outlets. They allow us space to practice, and to persevere, and to overcome obstacles, and to build community, and to engage, and to inspire. These activities keep us going. They give us something to look forward to.

Attending Jake’s memorial service was surreal in a way. It is one thing to know and love someone, have them pass away, and to then grieve for them by reflecting on their life, celebrating their achievements, and sharing the stories you have about them. But to begin to know and love someone after they’re gone – that is a whole other beast to tackle. Responding to the question, “How do you know Jake?”, was harder than it ever had been before. I hadn’t even known that Cameron and Jake had been so close until after Jake died. And Cameron has been the biggest contributing factor to me learning about Jake, but I have also witnessed an outpouring of love and stories coming from the other friends that Jake and I share, as well as from his family at the service. So simply saying that we have a mutual best friend doesn’t seem to sum it up. It feels more like Jake has become one of my best friends himself.

Late on the night of the funeral, when I finally went home, I was welcomed by new groceries that my mom had picked up that day. It was late, and I was sleepy and I wanted to go to bed, but I also didn’t quite feel like I could sleep yet. So, being the huge nerd that I am, I sat down in our living room and started thinking about Harry Potter. Often, I find myself using the morals found in Harry Potter to get me through rough patches of life. It’s as if J.K. Rowling has a direct line to my heart through her writing. This past week, I have been drawing inspiration specifically from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Spoilers from this and other books will occur if you continue reading). The end of the fourth installment to the series is where Hogwarts loses one of it’s students, Cedric Diggory, to the hands of Voldemort, and where Dumbledore tells his school that they must band together for the light to rise out of the dark. I have found this part of the series very relatable this week because Jake, Anna, and Jordan are all a little bit like Kamiak’s Cedric Diggory. The sense of community and love felt at the end of the fourth book was exactly what I was reflecting on when I looked up and saw two copies of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sitting on the mantle. Now, I love Harry Potter. I love the books, I love the movies, I feel kind of iffy about all the spin-off books and movies, but they are all an extension of the Wizarding World that I consider myself to be a part of, so I love them too. BUT all of that being said, when I picked up my copy of this new book, I didn’t know anything about it. I had heard it was coming out soon…but I had no idea what was inside. I opened the front cover to read the inside flap; it informed me that this was actually not a book at all. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a play, and so I was holding in my hands not a book, but a script. Continuing to read the inside cover flap, I also learned that the play is already in production in London’s West End. The world premiere was July 30, 2016. The date that Jake, Anna, and Jordan died.

I took all of this as a sign. I needed to start reading. The timing was too perfect, and a play about Harry Potter – yes there are already other Harry Potter-related plays, but one that J.K. Rowling wrote and brought to life – it felt like it was meant for me to start reading immediately. I made a snack, took my new script up to my room, and jumped in. I made it three scenes before falling asleep. So the next day when I woke up, all I did was read. I read until I finished the play, only stopping for a bathroom break or two. And it AMAZED me how much of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child depended on Cedric’s death. The entire play is about the idea that while you can’t change the past, you can allow the past to inspire you to live.

My favorite part of the script, the part that resonates with me the most, is this exchange between Harry and a portrait of Dumbledore:

DUMBLEDORE attempts to reach out of the portrait – but he can’t. He begins to cry but tries to hide it.

DUMBLEDORE: But I had to meet you in the end…eleven years old, and you were so brave. So good. You walked uncomplainingly along the path that had been laid at your feet. Of course I loved you…and I knew that it would happen all over again…that where I loved, I would cause irreparable damage. I am no fit person to love…I have never loved without causing harm.

A beat.

HARRY: You would have hurt me less if you had told me this then.

DUMBLEDORE (openly weeping now): I was blind. That is what love does. I couldn’t see that you needed to hear this closed-up, tricky, dangerous old man…loved you.

A pause. The two men are overcome with emotion.

HARRY: It isn’t true that I never complained.

DUMBLEDORE: Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.

HARRY: You have said that to me once before.

DUMBLEDORE: It is all I have to offer you tonight.

He begins to walk away.

HARRY: Don’t go!

DUMBLEDORE: Those that we love never truly leave us, Harry. There are things that death cannot touch. Paint…and memory…and love.

HARRY: I loved you too, Dumbledore.

DUMBLEDORE: I know.

Jake, as well as Anna and Jordan, were taken from us too soon. And we can’t ever change that. But through the memories and love that they instilled while they were alive, they gave so much light to everyone around them. And so we have to live for them, spreading their love and memory and light along with our own, Always.

*Upon reading this, Jansen – another member of Jake and Cameron’s Summit friend group and another friend of mine – wrote me this: “I remember him saying that you were in Calc together. He said that he didn’t know you too well but he thought you were cool and he wished he got to know you better in Calc[…]Jake knew how much you meant to Cameron and what a great person you are. He heard it from me, as well as from Cameron. Even though you never became good friends, you now feel close to him in his death, hearing all about him from Cameron. And he knew how important you are to Cameron. It wasn’t 180 missed opportunities, instead it was 180 days of distant friendship, both incredibly important to each other and to Cameron.”

I love our distant friendship and how it has evolved. I love you, Jake

by Darian Clogston

Jake will be missed by so many! We can’t bring him back, but we can live our lives even bigger than anything we’ve ever planned before.

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan

 

 



Mukilteo Mourns at Kamiak High School

imageI’ve often said that there are few “bad” things I haven’t experienced and overcome, that allow me to help others get to the other side of the trials they face. From car accidents, moving when I didn’t have a choice, watching my dog get run over by a train, breakups including 2 divorces, 7 miscarriages, being accused of being a violent drug abuser with my son temporarily being taken away from me, getting fired from a job I loved, having to file bankruptcy, breaking my back and being told I’d never walk again, losing friends in other skydiving and airplane accidents, my dad dying from cancer, 2 dogs and too many close friends and acquaintances also taken too soon…to my own terminal cancer diagnosis and the daily struggles that came with it…including having to go outside of the country to get the treatments that have kept me alive, having countless doctors refuse to help me because I won’t allow more biopsies and recently finding out that the toxicity of my breast implants could have been the reason my immune system wasn’t healing my body – even though I was doing all the right things.

As I write this, so many other things fill my head. The roof leak that caused over $11,000 damage and the insurance company threatening to drop my coverage unless I replaced the $16,000 roof in the middle of a chapter 13 bankruptcy. One of my dogs dying 4 days after a cat bite. A police officer telling my son I was overreacting from someone attempting to break into our house, only later to have “the suspect” admit he had broken in at least 15 times and had stolen from us. Answering the 911 call from a neighbor describing my house being on fire (it was my neighbor’s house, but it took another 30 seconds to find that out. They weren’t home, but the cat and bird died in the fire), then a year later when my supervisor advised me my son had called in and our kitchen was on fire (my firefighter neighbor took care of it before the fire department arrived)…then I think of the stressful 911 calls I took for over 6 years with people hurt, dying or dead, amongst all the non emergency stuff…

The traumas other family members have faced. My oh my! How thankful I feel right now! None of that was on my mind to write about.

None of those things could have prepared me or anyone else for getting the news that three people were killed and one in serious condition at a party in my community. Like I said yesterday, I got messages way before my alarm was set to go off. I knew that when the news reports said college age and teenagers in the same sentence that I would know the people involved. I’ve lived in Mukilteo since 1992. Many people in this community have lived here for a long time too. Several hours after getting the initial news, I opened Facebook and saw that one of my son’s good friends had been killed. I was at work and managed to stay through the end of my shift,  but not without crying…a lot.

Shortly after I got home, several kids sat in our living room crying and telling stories.  There was a vigil Saturday night, at Kamiak high school. I was going to go, but after talking to my mom and my brother the kids were already home.  We all cried more. Rayla  was so upset, she was throwing up. She went to bed early, while Cameron and I stayed up talking.

Most of the day Sunday, was filled with tears. There was a community vigil being held Sunday night that I was going to.  Cameron decided at the last minute to go with me. I couldn’t count, but there must’ve been 500 people there. There were people from different  churches and faiths,  who spoke along with the mayor and the governor.  Many of the kids who graduated in 2015 were at the vigil. Many of their parents were there with them. People from the community who were unrelated, were also there to show their support.

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There were families I’ve known since Cameron was in kindergarten. Several of the kids at the party, were in the summit program. Summit is Mukilteo’s  gifted program. The kids who are in it, come from different schools in the district. They form close relationships.  The parents seem to be more active with school functions then many of the non-summit kids’ parents.  Even though the summit kids took different paths in high school, they remained connected.

Some summit, some not, were at the party, hanging out before they went back to college for their sophomore year.

Based on the news stories, the shooter was jealous over other guys after breaking up with his “dream girl” Anna. He shot and killed her. He fired 20 rounds total, killing Jake and Jordan and critically injuring one more.

One choice. 3 dead. So many lives changed forever!

We worry about our kids drinking and driving or being in an accident with a drunk driver. Being killed at the hands of one of their classmates isn’t something most of us have ever thought about.

How can we tell them  everything’s going to be okay? How can we trust that they’ll be safe wherever they go? So many questions! Very little of it makes sense to me!

Cameron and I were only going to stay an hour, but ended up being amongst the last to leave. Hugging, crying and holding kids and parents who were upset was more important than going home. The trauma every kid (technically they’re adults) at the party suffered, was more than most of us will ever experience.  I talked to some of the church leaders about dating violence and the importance of teaching the signs of it before it escalates into a tragedy like this. I talked about survivor guilt and they looked like they hadn’t even thought about it. The family and friends of the shooter have suffered loss too. He and Anna dated over a year.  They don’t need to feel isolated at this time either.

Most of us think our first love will be our one and only. When we really love someone, breaking up is never easy, whether it’s the first, third, tenth or whatever number it is. Since everyone is different, how do we help our friends and loved ones deal with a breakup, death or loss of any kind?

I feel like my past experiences have prepped me for a lot and am willing to talk to and share with the families affected by this tragic event, starting with Cameron and his friends who are still alive. So much I’d love to tell you that I learned last night, but being so fresh, will allow time for healing before I do.

On a lighter note, one of the kids last night, said he’ll always remember meeting me. I volunteered in the classrooms a lot. Shortly after he moved here, I had gone to the school to eat lunch with the third graders. He was eating a raisin bagel and a raisin fell out and onto the table. He said that I said “Look, it pooped!” He was grossed out, threw it away and didn’t eat anything else for the rest of the day. He said he still won’t eat a raisin bagel. I don’t remember it, but he might always remember my  3 words!

Love yourself. Love your friends and families. Reach out when you need help and reach out when you see someone who appears to need help. Don’t expect someone else to do it. If we truly are one, let’s find ways to take responsibility, help each other and stop blaming.

Life is good, let’s make it better!

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan