Susan WonderStone's Blog

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.


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




Parenting question?
February 12, 2014, 10:39 pm
Filed under: cancer, parenting

Catching the newcomers up to speed… My dad died from renal cell carcinoma in 1998. My brother is still alive, but was given a very small chance of making it thru a stem cell transplant for non Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2000. My original melanoma diagnosis was also in 2000, but it spread to my liver and lymphatic system in 2004. Several years later, my mom had a melanoma removed. Many times over the last 10 years, I’ve been told I have very little time left. Sometimes I’ve believed it. The last time was 16 days ago. It has not been a “fun” way to live, but has allowed me to LIVE from a very different perspective.

I parent very differently than my parents or anyone I know. Good or bad….it is what it is. My son Cameron and I have a very different relationship because of the cancer. Again, it is what it is. In 2nd grade, his teacher told me “he daydreams a lot”. In August before school started, he was in the lobby at my doctor’s office when he overheard her yelling at me, telling me because I hadn’t had surgery on the 2 inch melanoma on my butt, that I probably wouldn’t make it through the summer. Did I talk to him about daydreaming? Sure. Did I scold him for it? Absolutely NOT! He said the teacher kept talking about the same things and he was bored. I remembered all the repetition in school and would prefer he dream about bigger and better things than to be bored going around in circles waiting for his classmates to understand the lessons.

In 3rd grade, he read all of the Harry Potter books. I have now, but I hadn’t read one book that size, all through school.
In 4th grade, he started what our school district calls the “Summit” program or the “highly capable program”.  If it sounds like I’m bragging, of course I am!   I think very highly of him! Many parents took their children out of the program in middle school, because it was held in a school with a high crime rate in a much lower income bracket than the rest of the schools. I felt like it was a good thing for him to potentially be exposed to drugs and violence. See…probably not a parental view many people have. I wanted him to learn the ways of the world as early as possible. Many children in the school district rarely see poverty and have no idea what to watch for when there’s about to be a knife fight. Luckily after his first year there, the police department brought in a full time police officer.

In 9th grade, he was getting an F in English. They had a student led discussion about a book they had just finished. Cameron led the entire class period. His teach emailed me that day, asking my permission to move him into honors English. She stated that he was obviously bored and needed the challenge the honors class would provide. It was 6 weeks into the class and he would have to take his F with him. He got his final grade in honors Engilsh up to a B.

Okay, I’m getting to the point. Cameron has all 3 years of high school math he needs to graduate. He’s taking a algebra 2/trig honors now, but doesn’t feel like he’s learning enough to stay in it. It’s the identical book and material as last year’s algebra 2/trig class. More repetition. He still needs an “occupational” class to graduate. There is room for another student in the class he wants. Next year, he will be taking most of his classes at the community college. Because most of my money has been going to my alternative cancer treatments, Cameron is not the typical car driving high school student. He is doing way better than his dad or I did in high school, so I’m not complaining. Not being allowed to take the occupational class, will provide a hardship getting him to the high school and to the community college.

Cameron met with the principal this morning. He was told it was against policy and would not be allowed to switch classes. He was also told if he dropped the math class, he would receive an F, which would affect his gpa. The principal gave Cameron his phone number in case I wanted to call him.

Big mama was pissed and a phone number wasn’t good enough. I drove up there. The principal seemed very pleasant, not knowing who I was or why I was there. He showed me to his office. I was also pleasant…for about a minute. Shortly after he began justifying his decision with “it’s our policy”, I quickly interrupted, reminding him they had already broken that policy in 9th grade when they switched him into honors English. I read their mission statement on the wall “Working together to build a culture of student success.” He wasn’t budging. I told him he obviously didn’t give a shit about the success of my child. He couldn’t handle the word shit. I got a little worse and essentially called him a moron. (Way toned down from what I was thinking!) I could have left out these details, making myself look like a “proper” parent, but that’s not me.

The principal got up, told me we were done, touched my chair as if he were going to help me up (apparently my “look” told him he better not touch me!) and walked out. I didn’t move. We weren’t done. His response was not to my satisfaction. Cameron found me. We both sat in the principal’s office until the principal came back about 45 minutes after he stormed off. He wouldn’t look at me. He told Cameron he would allow him to drop the class without getting an F.

I’m still not satisfied. He still needs the occupational credit, but the principal won’t allow him into the class.  I no longer believe the cancer is taking me out this time, but knowing the statistics, I have to stand up for my son when I believe he’s being treated unfairly.

What would you do?

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Love, gratitude and blessings