#CRU11TOUR, Golf Fights Cancer, Healing, Make it count., More Beautiful Than Before

February 6th, 2018.

Last week at Powell’s bookstore in Portland, Oregon, I approached the information desk to ask about a book a very wise friend recommended.

The young gal in charge, Portland requisite cap and tats, typed furiously on her keyboard.
“Hmmm” she said, moving closer to the computer screen. “Looks like we just got a copy in today. I will have them find it for you.”

Ten minutes later, she placed it reverently in my hands. “I hear this is a good one,” she nodded. Karma.

I pushed it into my bag. I didn’t really want them to find it.

One year ago to the day, two young men I knew lost their lives. One would have done anything to stay. One made the most extreme effort to leave. As family and friends navigated the past twelve months a question keeps presenting itself with every book, blog and helpful friend: Do words help?

More Beautiful Than Before, by Rabbi Steve Leder, a small, unassuming book that I can palm with one hand, navigates grief and survival and the subsequent reincarnation of the self. I don’t read it. Instead, I write my son and tell him I love him on the anniversary of his best friend’s death. I write my girlfriend a text early this morning, I say “I LOVE YOU,” hoping my love, in capitals, can soothe this day a little more. I think my words help.

I still can’t open the book.

How Suffering Transforms Us reads the subtitle. The book lies next to my laptop. I think, in my snarky inner voice, I can answer that, so can my friend, my son, my family, their families. Look at us!

I read the first paragraph of the introduction. But, Leder spars back, can you make that count?

I write my son a second text. I tell him he has changed me and the world around him by his profound love and actions since his best friend died. I write my girlfriend again, and tell her that she has changed me with her unflinching honesty and love of her son. They transformed their suffering into fundraising for cancer research and education on suicide awareness, even while consumed with grief. They have made this year count. Despite.

On an anniversary day that leaves me a little breathless I honor these friends and family.  I honor those boys that we loved.

May I be blessed with the wisdom to transform this next year, to find the words to make it all count.

 

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Budding Quince, January, Green Lake, Seattle, 2018

 

 

 

 

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Be Brave., Carcinoid tumor, Coping, Friendship, Good, Kindness, Support, Whoop!, writing

Short and Sweet: We Survived It.

This day, this morning, December 31st — the absolute last gasp of 2017 —  a choice presents itself. Shall I whinge? Shall I whoop?

What I leave behind in 2017: my 50’s, my ovaries, appendix and assumption of immortality. On politics? I gladly leave behind any further fury or speculation. On writing: I leave the year with barely any pages in my files. A new woman looks back at me in the mirror. I lost the other one in April.

But. The gains!

So so many acquaintances and friends gave me unexpected love, stepped forward and shepherded me through the two surgeries and recoveries, ones I didn’t even know had my phone number. I reconnected with far-away family. Writer friends patiently read my work over and over as I got my anesthesia brain cleared, never judged, their patience putting momentum into me once again. Friends and family and strangers pulled off a wedding in a hurricane. A young woman preached self care to me daily and gave me courage.

A son-in-law. My children achieved success. 4,500 people read my blog posts. A tumor shrunk. A new belly button. The Nest awaits me.

In an hour I will take a bubble bath and put on my Gronk socks, wrestle the pot of chili next door, listen to football f-bombs and laugh. It is what it is on this last day of 2017. Importantly, I also know what I want it to be in 2018 and what I believe I can do. Despite.

A friend said to me in April, “You have to be brave.” But I also would say, “So many people will help you do that. Let them.”

The WHOOP won. Welcome, New Year. Thank you, readers, critics, friends and strangers for all you have given me. It far outweighs the other. We survived it.

Let me make this short and sweet so you can get back to your bubbly.

Kicking your butt out the door, 2017.

See you in 2018.

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Good, Halloween, pay it forward, sexual predators, Social Media, Support

May They All Fall Down

 

I am nostalgic for simple things today — tiny costumes, frost, crisp leaves and the Halloween of days past when I safety-pinned tails and veils and walked door to door at dusk arms full of coats and extra tissues. But delusion, that life is simple, is on the auction block this week.

Sexual predators and manipulators in the form of celebrities, chefs and politicians have been steadily outed this month. Dropped by the media, the public and sponsors does not begin to rectify the enormous damage, to both women and men, that denial has fostered. Yet this feels like a slow roll towards something: illumination, education, vindication? The news just came through of truck carnage in NYC.  I find it hard to catch my breath.

What is good.

I need to reward the good people around me more. Thank them often, send them notes, praise their accomplishments, foster kindness and respect. I cannot expect them to just know that they have touched me with their goodness but I can show them in simple ways. We should all start fixing and polishing what is around us one word, one gesture, one act at a time. I choose to believe this will pay forward towards a better culture. Who does not feel better, more powerful, more motivated after praise?

After the news broke in NYC today, I went outside and nailed up a plastic illuminated spiderweb at the bottom of my stairs. Threaded down a 40-foot extension cord so the spider’s eyes could glow. My pockets are full of tissue for my own cold. The children next door make an effort to come up my stairs and get candy at some point every Halloween, even though the neighbors give out full-sized candy (come on, no contest, I agree). But they support me and my presence.

In return, I will dump the contents of my plastic pumpkin into their bags and spike their end of the night candy count quite nicely. I will cheer them as they tackle the stairs to my door, trains and swords and light lasers in hand.

May the people that harmed all fall down. May the goodness in others, and you, get rewarded, over and over. It is the only way to stand up strong.

Tonight, may your candy count be amazing.

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#metoo, keeping silent, Me, Too, Social Media, Support, Women

Me + You

Me, Too.

Two little words. Every one of these posts, raining down on Facebook and Twitter from my women friends, colleagues and family feels like the moment the ice bucket challenge water hit the top of my head. The goosebumps just keep rising and won’t go away.

Just like when I was groped, at fifteen, in a movie theater. Just like when the pant-less man jumped out at me on Anderson Street. Just like when the passenger standing over me on the train parted his raincoat (seriously, how cliché) and showed me his penis. Just like the lewd emails I received from a male writer after a conference. Just like the tainted martini. I felt sick. I fell silent.

Do I look like an idiot? No, I look like a woman. And what did I do? Moved seats, crossed the road, sat still and hoped it would go away, deleted the emails, tried to forget. Never told my daughters. In other words, acted like a woman taught to keep her mouth shut, not stir up trouble, smile and pretend.

Those of you that know me might just have snorted. But that reaction has been ingrained. Period. In every instance, through my entire fifty-nine years, my response has been I am powerless against this man. Nothing I do will change what happened. Not worth making a fuss.

But these two words, posted again and again by women I love and admire, makes my heart skitter. We are confessing, yes; Me. But together we are building powerful, irreversible awareness with the second word; Too. 

I suspect every finger hesitated, every woman wondered, “should I do this publicly?” The answer is yes.

Because if you are nervous about going public consider something: each generation reaches higher standing on the shoulders and accomplishments of the women before them. But how staggering that women of ALL ages are posting these two words Me, Too and #metoo.  This is power. This is momentum. This is all of us, together.

Solidarity breaks things. Silence. Ignorance. Powerlessness. Domination. Wrong.

Wow and Wow. I admire each and everyone of you.

We are women. Not,

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Begin anew, Carcinoid tumor, Coping, Healing

What Comes Next.

Sitting under a Pacific Northwest sunset, freshly shucked oysters in hand, a friend asked me last night, “what are the top take-aways you have from the last three months and what you have been through.”

The first thought that came to mind? I can heal. No matter how much I thought my body was broken. I have never been health challenged before. I did not know what came next.

The second thought? I was wearing a long, white linen skirt. I twirled it a little. Then said, “I realized saving this was ridiculous and have worn it almost every day.”

What came next for me, when I woke up one morning and realized I could make tea and walk the dog and make it past nine o’clock at night, was a sense of magic and wonder. Every day is a good day. Even if I feel crummy and sit curled up on the couch, resting. Here I am.

If I focus on the what if of that now-removed but large carcinoid tumor I will never get out of bed, or get dressed at all. So that feels like a waste of all my body has been through. I am breathing, right?

Now that I have thought about this, I like the image: Drag the broken body out into the sunset. Decorate it with a long, impractical but divine white linen skirt. Twirl in the sparkle of the setting sun. Pat the stomach pains and remind self: I got this today.

What came next was an understanding: The sun will come up and go down, despite. Every day. I want to watch it, eyes wide open. Surrounded by friends and family, preferably wearing that impractical skirt.

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Mt. Rainier, Restoration Point sunset, July 2017.

 

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Coping, Fear, Strawberries

Hold. On.

 

This week marks one month since my second surgery that removed and rebuilt a portion of my colon. As the four weeks crawled by I struggled to adjust to healing all over again. I stayed upstairs for a week, fear and pain ruling me. I stared all day long at a blue whale print propped across the room and listened to a nature app on shuffle just to breathe. The discomfort was relentless. Night and day were interchangeable. It was easier to close my eyes. Who was this person?

It took me a few weeks to have both the energy and the courage to look down again at the new swelling, stitches and bruising, the new topography of my belly, taped up tight with steri-strips. Then I went back to bed.

Once upon a time I thought exams were a tragedy. I wept nightly into a dorm pay phone my third year of college over an English paper while my mother sat silent on the other end. Soon after she mailed me a small card. I opened the envelope while curled up in a ball on my single dorm bed, eyes swollen. The front pictured a cute little mouse nibbling on a bright red berry. Inside she had written, in her strong, loopy cursive,

Relax and have a strawberry for god’s sake!

Dollar bills fluttered to the floor. Wait. This was sympathy? I have to take care of myself? I have to get on with things? I got off the bed and went to dinner, miffed. Exams ended. I still had good grades.

A flat of farmer’s market strawberries made me turn the corner again this week. I got off the couch at week three and made compote. I spooned the jam straight from the jar and closed my eyes as it sparkled in my mouth. She was right.

Then I took a bath and slowly peeled off the stern-strips. And I had a brand new indent in the middle of my abdomen.

The surgeon smiled as he checked my incisions last week and asked how I liked my new belly button. My reputation was at stake, he said, I couldn’t leave you like that. So he stayed on and did some plastic surgery. We high-fived and I thanked him. His eyes twinkled. We had a good laugh that rolled down the oncology floor.

It’s the little things.

Is life as simple as a field strawberry, red and sweet and full of the sun, perfectly orbed and bursting with remarkableness? Definitely. Do I believe in the kindness of strangers? For sure.

I kept the card from my mother, cutesy little mouse and all, because I count that little piece of paper as one of my big HOLD ON moments: while wallowing in self-pity my mom pushed me to get up and get on with it, ace the difficult and remember how good a strawberry tasted. And it worked.

However, the nature app has to go. Every other track includes the sound of rolling thunder. Olive my Scottish Terrier —  chief nurse and caregiver who has not left my side for ten weeks —  does not consider that restful. It’s me or the app she finally huffed.

I have learned over the last ten weeks that I can and will heal. That is the miracle of my body. The potential of more cancer, the active surveillance by my doctors, will be on my calendar for years to come. That is the risk of my body. This new bodily state can not dictate my life or rule me with fear.

I have so much to do. You can find me at the market, loading my basket with strawberries.

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Diet, Health vs. Beauty

Toast and Eggs and Toast and Eggs.

This morning I looked down at my breakfast with no affection or desire. The sixth pile of toast and eggs in as many days. I felt a tired resignation and appreciation that the carbo-loading marathon week was over. My body has been reluctantly eating pasta, bread + butter, rice and potatoes for the last seven days; the suggested diet to store up energy for the second surgery tomorrow.

When my mother was very, very ill and very, very thin she looked at me and said, “how I regret all those damn diets now.” With her voice echoing in my head I soldiered on last week, stuffing in all the food groups I had literally eliminated from my diet for the last five years. Bread? Where’s the butter. Pasta? Let’s stuff that with cheese and ricotta please. Potatoes? Slide over that sour cream! A diet contrary to everything I believed was now good for me and you had better believe I was following the rule book.

The process of taking care of myself has rearranged and shifted what is important: Food as medicine even when I have not a lick of an appetite. Surgery as preventative medicine, despite how close this is to the last one. New sheets as medicine, just because. Taking naps. Lying down when I need to. I just had a practice run six weeks ago for this recovery X 2, and will therefore forgive myself the couch time, the extra needs.

That moment when your life swivels, that shiver when your blood stops in your veins?  My pathology report was that moment. This plate of eggs? Doesn’t matter what I want to eat this morning. This is what I need to eat. Want and need have changed their relationship, every morning performing a complicated dance in my head, in my hips, in my heart.

I will wake up tomorrow relieved that this step is over, anxious to move on to recovery and health, my book project or any writing that emerges, my daughter’s wedding and the budding peonies. Olive will need her teeth cleaned. Lists will need to be made. And I will follow whatever diet prescribed, for as long as I have to, as that is the new order of taking care of myself.

I dream of salad Niçoise. And that créme brûlée brioche from Tatte on Charles Street. Mmmmm.

Just saying. A girl can dream.

Peonies

 

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