Monday, June 19, 2017

STOP PUSHING!

Here's my reflection for this week. It struck me--with some help from my Buddhist younger brother, from my favorite new book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F..k, and from my brother, Jesus--that I torment myself every time I resist my life, push back against sorrow, suffering, and things out of my control. Like:

--swollen ticks on my dog;
--my second accessory stomach;
--slow, erratic drivers;
--the fact that at 71 years I no longer have forever.

In the wonderful book cited above, the author writes: Wanting positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one's negative experience is itself a positive experience."

I thoughtfully scratched my one-inch curly, apres chemo hair (uh, oh, another push back!) and wondered--how much energy do I waste resisting things I don't like in my life? And conversely, when I DON'T resist hard times, how much better is that for all of us?

I remember my surprising cancer diagnosis in the fall of 2015. Not fun. Scary, of course. But my attitude then was essentially: BRING IT ON, BABY! Do the two surgeries; give me the poison that will kill those damn, marauding cells; give me the Rx to help wobbly legs; and, oh, yeah, give me some legal dope to smoke for hard days. Though I admit to far preferring a good, crisp, cold Chardonnay (Toasted Head, are ya listening?) to vaping, which makes me cough.  The point is that by not pushing back against incoming suffering, worry, and pain, it actually made the whole experience easier on me, my husband and kids, and friends. Possibly my dog. 

I need to remember this when I am behind an impossible driver who is talking on a hand-held phone, texting, and petting his dog. All at the same time. I have to breathe deeply and feel some compassion for how crazed he is.

When my legs get wobbly again, just pop some Gabapentin and smoke a little weed. Read my fabulous, entertaining Jane Yellowrock series (by Faith Hunter) on my kindle and just relax, not complaining: I wish this had never happened to me. How could I get cancer? Me, who exercised regularly and actually ate OATMEAL for breakfast (instead of chocolate croissants)?

When I confront the fact that my daughter (who is still beautiful on the inside and once was quite glamorous) is now transitioning to the male gender, I think: "How cool is this. This is about him, not me. And the person I birthed and loved for so many years is still there. They have not gone away." And now I have two sons! Amazing.

When I bemoan my pooching-out stomach I catch myself and think, "At least you've got a stomach, babe. Remember that woman at Baystate undergoing chemo for her stomach cancer. She lost 75% of her stomach to surgery and can hardly eat
." Be grateful. Stop complaining. You are upright, breathing, laughing, making great food, loving up your honey, surrounded by friends and family, embedded in a faith community, held by God, and living in a place where the beauty of nature surrounds you every single moment of the day. Remember.




Thursday, May 25, 2017

YEARNING TO BE ILL?


If anyone had told me a year ago that there would be times when I wished I were still sick, I would have stared at them in dismay, fallen to my knees, laughed hysterically, then sobbed.

Are you f...ing KIDDING me?  Why would anyone still want to be hauling down to Baystate for weekly infusions, going to NETA for more weed (see earlier post about my wild confusion between ounces and grams, sigh), crashing on the couch, and drinking gallons of water per day to flush out my kidneys.

When I had my last infusion, I thought--I'll be doing the tango in the parking lot. I'll throw confetti out the car windows. I'll go to La Strada and buy a pair of 4" black stiletto heels to celebrate. Who cares if I can't walk in them?

I had a friend on FB who commented that when her treatments for breast cancer ended, she kind of missed them, "Because I felt we were fighting my disease, we were doing something!"  I didn't get it then, but I do now.

The toddler part of me still wants my beloved husband to bring me tea (milk and sugar, please) at the drop of a hat; to make me a thin, lean hamburger which I could digest; to pour me a small glass of white wine (who cares if the protocol says no alcohol when getting infusions!); and to spread a fuzzy throw over my legs on cold nights.

I don't need that any more, but I sometimes want it--that feeling of being held in someone else's care, in loving, tender hands, surrounded by wishes for my comfort and good health.

I think that once you have had cancer, you ever quite lose the desire to be cared for and nurtured. Because who the hell knows what the future holds?  I remember when my step-mom was in a near-fatal accident years ago and was in ICU in Baystate. As we entered her room she was wailing, "I want my Mommy, I want my Mommy!" (Note to self: never bring a ten year-old daughter to visit distraught grandma in hospital. Ever.)

I get it. I want my mommy at times, also my dad. When I was at the beginning of the cancer journey and talking with my adult son, Ben, on the phone, I burst into tears and wailed, "I want my Dad. I wish he were still here!"

If we had great parents--and I did--then I'm not sure we ever stop missing them completely. If we are lucky, we have partners and friends who can wrap us in this kind of comfort. And if we are REALLY lucky, we believe in an all-merciful, grace-filled, loving, abundant God who holds us in her/his hands, always and forever.




Wednesday, April 19, 2017

ARE WE THERE YET???

Those of us who have had the amazing gift and grace to be parents will remember car trips with our kids. We once had a ginormous van with bucket seats, individual lights, heat, and air-conditioning controls front and back seats--perfect for long trips. But despite the luxury I remember the dreaded phrase, "Are we THERE yet? How much longer? I have to pee. I need a new action figure, I'm hungry."

I would hand out books to read, snack bars, and sometimes throw little riddles written on scraps of paper rolled up in an old film container to my kids in the back. Wonderful days. Tiring days. Days when you shoveled everyone into bed, hoping you hadn't damaged their tiny psyches for life and longing for the oblivion of bed.

But now I am in the "Recovery" stage from cancer; from 3 separate kinds (in case you are interested), 2 cancer surgeries (in case you want to know,) and many months of chemo--carbo/taxol (in case you are interested).  Things are better, no question about it. I am not kvetching about where I am now. Far from it. I am grateful for: the marvelous medical treatment I received; the support of friends, family, and faith community; the love of my dog; the beauty outside our decks; God's love; and the fact that I am upright, walking around, and still cooking and praying, two of my favorite activities. Outside of sex and talking with my honey. 

But here's the thing--I am an impatient broad, and I want it to be OVER already. I am so done with fatigue, wobbly legs, foggy brain, strange hair, and the sense that my life is still on hold until I know if the cancer is really gone.  I feel like someone who has begun a conversation on the phone when suddenly a voice interrupts, "Can you please hold?" I am on hold, waiting for someone to pick up the phone and resume the conversation. I realize I am mixing my metaphors here, but I have chemo brain.  I have a free Hall Pass for the next, oh, two years, maybe five.

I had lunch recently with a close woman friend who is recovering from major surgery who complained, "I can't believe I still have to take naps. I get so tired. I can't even grocery shop." I get it.

We both want to be beyond the recovery stage. We want our old lives back, whatever that means. I'd like to take up running again, but suspect that won't happen. I'd like to think about writing a book about cancer and tarting up my blog, but I don't have the spoons for it yet. (Remember: www.butyoudontlooksick.com)  My friend would like to go for long walks on the bike path, make luscious dinners, sing in the church choir, and generally have way more energy and strength.

Me too.  I am like my kids from long ago, waiting restlessly in the back seat, kicking my heels and sucking up the dregs of
my Micky D's pepsi, asking, "Are we there yet? When will we be THERE?"

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I AM A WW FAIL!

No, that is not World War II. Though in some ways, I wish it were. Because then we would be talking about bravery, courage, sacrifice, and friendships that survive catastrophe.

No, I am talking about Weight Watchers. Every 3-4 years, I decide that I weigh too much, that my stomach is pooching on out, and it is time to get serious about losing weight.  No one knows I do this except for my best woman friend and my husband, both of whom say--"You are fine as you are, don't worry!" But I do. Because I am am a 1950s-60s broad who grew up with an insane idea of female beauty. I thought I should look like Ginger Rogers, wearing a swirling dress, high heels, and dancing about the room with the seriously cool Fred Astaire.

So--despite surgeries and cancer--I think my body needs to be whipped into shape. Steroids will do that to you.

Alors, I rejoined Weight Watchers, but this time using the Online Plus, because I hate, loathe, and cringe at WW meetings. Simply awful. Kind of like AA meetings without the bad coffee and cigarettes. Just with all the expensive WW food they try to sell you and the insanely cheerful leader who has lost 100 pounds. God bless 'em, but I will avoid the meetings.

I signed up, full of anticipation, resolution, and a kind of shaky courage. THIS time I will do it right. THIS time I shall lose the 6+ pounds I have accumulated, like a bad Federal loan debt. With this new system I find it is fun typing in the points for the food I eat; then registering the steps I've taken during the day, as I have a Fitbit 2 which tracks my steps, even in the shower, saints preserve us!

All goes swimmingly for the first month or so. I lose about 3 pounds and feel virtuous and sanctified.  Then I begin to waffle--cheating on the amount of Smart Points I log in (that mouthful of granola surely doesn't count...), minimizing the count for mini muffins I bake at home. (Turns out, you have to use THEIR recipes if you want to put in 2 points for mini muffins. Mine classify as being soaked in vodka or something, as I stir in granola, nuts, raisins, and all kinds of goodies. They are "mini" only in my imagination.)

The next steps is to start cheating on the Smart Points for my wine at night. I have even ordered--at great expense--little wine glasses with lines incised on them from WW, so I will know how many ounces I have consumed.

God save us, the whole  point of drinking wine is to enjoy and become mellow as you eat fabulous food. So I log

8 points for 2 glasses of 5 ounces of wine, but I suspect I am fooling no one but myself. Or, as my husband gaily puts in, "You are seeing other calories."

Do ya think this is why my weight stays stubbornly at 143.3?  Sigh. I either need to get way more serious about this (1 glass of wine, 1, 1, 1) or give it up, even though I've paid for 3 months of WW. It is a struggle, and I wish it weren't, but here I am once again--a WW fail.






Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WELCOME THE STRANGER

If you are listening at Mass and not scrolling through messages on your iPhone, you will eventually hear about welcoming the stranger during Old Testament readings. Deuteronomy reminds us that "You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." (Deuteronomy 10:19) Therefore, we are to extend to others the welcome we once received in a new land.

As we have seen, the current administration seems to have no connection to either the Old Testament or the New. "Welcoming the stranger" has been changed to--"Expel anyone who does not look like us." (Meaning, with brown skin.) Or, "Forbid anyone to enter this country who has a different religion." (Meaning, Muslims.)  It is beyond belief and deeply saddening that a country which was built on the skill and talent of immigrants should be closing its doors. But let me share a small, cheerful story in the midst of this chaos and worry.

Yesterday's Writers' Meeting was held at my house, high on the windy hill with clouds scudding by the windows and finally, sun appearing as we sipped tea, talked, and shared our writing news and manuscripts. My husband had wisely taken himself off to a nearby upscale coffee house with WiFi access, but as soon as he walked in, he saw it was crowded and noisy. As a man with ADD, noise short-circuits any kind of focus or work.

Driving into Northampton, he seated himself inside McDonald's, where all kinds of folks make themselves at home for a time. Nearby a man talked to himself, not into a phone, carrying on a solo conversation. At another table, a mother and father spoke European Spanish to their little girl, who responded in perfect Castilian Spanish. "The diction was so clear," Rick said, "I could understand most everything."

A few other folks looked as if they had either been sleeping rough or bunking at a homeless shelter in town. All of their belongings were stuffed into plastic bags at their feet, and they nursed a cup of coffee and sometimes a donut to pass the time.

As Rick recounted this, I thought--this is the way to welcome the stranger. Come on in. Sit yourself down. Have some hot coffee and maybe a donut. Put your belongings by your feet, and no one will ask you to leave.  If you are starring in a narrative within your head, that's fine, as long as you don't scare the customers. No one will bar you from entering due to skin color, religion, shapeless bundles, or mumbled words. Come on DOWN, my sister, my brother!

We have come to a pretty pass when McDonald's exemplifies biblical values far more than our government. I think we should invite The Donald to visit the fast food place, seat him with some coffee and fries and say, "Look around, honey. Open your heart to the stranger."

I wish. I suspect the only way I am going to survive the next 4 years with sanity intact is by remembering that The Donald's story is not God's story, and @realDonald will not have the last word. Or, as God so mercifully told me when I was in despair over the election, "My story is bigger than this story."

Keep the faith: remember that grace is God's breath; do whatever you need to do to resist, work for change, help the marginalized, the immigrant, the refugee, and know--this is not forever. Even if it feels like that sometimes.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

CATHOLIC BROAD COOKS--2

SIMPLE MADE HARD

Could be the title for this blog piece. Honestly. I am a danger to myself. Here I am on a damn cold and windy day, wondering what house project to tackle, or perhaps, an old novel that could be taken out and dusted off. Making comments in the margins counts as writing, right?

But, no, the lure of the kitchen sucked me in. As usual. I got out my Weight Watchers cookbook to see if they had a decent recipe for tuna casserole. Side note: My husband and I have been cooking ridiculously complicated and often undigestible meals (for me, at any rate) from--Blue Apron, then Plated, and soon to be given a try--GreenChef, vegetarian. Because of this spate of fancy-dancy, elite cooking (Trump would hate it), I couldn't just make a simple tuna casserole.  

If you've ever done Blue Apron, you know that any recipe will use every single bowl in the household, every utensil, each chopping board, and at least 4 pans. So--I got out two cans of albacore tuna, assessing how seriously dead the meat looked inside and thinking I really should never, ever buy this stuff again which is ravaging our oceans. Then, laden with guilt and staggering slightly I found some egg noodles which had only expired 2 years ago, set the kettle to boil, and got ready to make noodles.

Meanwhile, I looked at the WW recipe, which was rather loathsome as they were using frozen peas, frozen corn, and a can of mushroom soup (mushroom soup! Are you kidding???) and more. I couldn't do it. My gourmet heart would shrivel to the size of a walnut. I remembered I had some fennel stalks in the fridge, from when I made the Mediterranean Shrimp recipe, and I got those out and chopped them into smallish pieces. As the noodles were boiling, I cooked for 5 minutes some chopped fresh carrots to use in the vegetable layer of the casserole which I was rapidly inventing. I also toasted 2 slices of my home made sourdough wheat bread to use for breadcrumbs later on.

Vegetable Layer: swoosh a tad of butter, a splash of olive oil, turn on the heat, and WE'RE OFF, sauteing onion and garlic, fennel, later adding the carrots for 10-15 min., and giving all a splash of balsamic vinegar at the end, along with a handful of fresh spinach for kicks.

Sauce: melt 2 tablespoons in a medium size saucepan; heat to boiling point almost 2 cups of 2% milk in microwave. When butter is melted, stir in 2 heaping tablespoons of white flour--stir--then add heated milk, whisking steadily until thick. 

Spices: Add about 2 tsp. of za'atar (I can't help it, it's my favorite new spice), a pinch of curry, and mix. Put in handful of fresh, chopped parsley and delicately sprinkle a small amount of "Chrystal Louisiana Hot Sauce" into the mix.  Turn off heat. All burners are turned off now as I drain the cooked noodles. Then I took my home made toasted sourdough wheat bread and grated it into small crumbs against a box grater, trying to avoid shredding the blue plastic gloves I am wearing, to protect my recent manicure with "Bodega something." By now I can feel sweat beginning to accumulate above my eyes, and I think my nose is about to run. Perhaps I am allergic to complicated recipes?

Assemble: spray Pam on inside of 4-quart casserole: spread layer of noodles on bottom. Top with half of cooked veggie mixture; then half of tuna, and pour half of sauce on top. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and a bit of cheese. Next layer do the same, topping it all with more breadcrumbs and cheese. Cook in 350 degree oven for at least 1/2 hour, while you stagger to the couch, drink cold tea from this morning, and groan softly. Really, I needed to make it so damn complicated? Bet it will be good, though. I'm ready for comfort food. And clearly I have no spoons left to drive through windy, freezing weather to go to Mass. Sorry, God. Out of spoons.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

CATHOLIC BROAD COOKS

In my old blog, which was fancier and niftier, I had a place where I could post recipes 'cause I am such a devoted, at times frenetic cook. (Ask my husband. He will tell you the warp speed I achieve in sneakers in the kitchen while cooking.)

Ever since posting a picture on FB and Instagram (what? I have no life?) of the "One-Pan Dinner--Mediterranean Shrimp" (from "Cook's Country issue, Dec./Jan. 2017), a number of folks have asked for this recipe. Since it takes too many spoons (reference spoon theory at www.butyoudontlooksick.com) to type it up and email it, I had the brilliant, perhaps even sacred idea of posting it on my blog. For all to see. If I'm lucky, I might even manage to post the picture of the dish as it was completed. 

INGREDIENTS:
--2 lbs. fresh jumbo shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled, deveined, tails removed & defrosted if frozen. (They prefer natural shrimp, no sodium or preservatives.)
--1,1/2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2" thick. (This is about 3 cups, and you can use red organic, unpeeled.)
--1 Fennel bulb, stalks discarded, cut into 1/2" thick wedges thru stem end by 2" long.  
--3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, & extra for drizzling.
--salt & pepper
--2 tsp. dried oregano
--1 tsp. grated lemon zest, plus lemon wedges for serving. (I use 2 whole organic lemons & grate them for more flavor.)
--1 cup of crumbled feta cheese
--1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
--2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley.

PREPARATION: AT LEAST 45 MIN. TOTAL (I prep all veggies first, bag them up, and put in pan in fridge; same with shrimp--defrosted & tails cut off.)

1/ Put oven rack in lower-middle position and preheat to 450 degrees. Toss potatoes, fennel, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper in large bowl. Spread vegetables evenly in single layer in baking pan and roast about 25 minutes, until tender. I tucked 9-10 lemon slices in between veggies for flavor. (I poke potatoes with fork to test for doneness.)

2/ Pat shrimp dry with paper towels. Toss shrimp in bowl with oregano, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.(I usually omit both pepper and salt, as feta is salty.)

3/ Remove roasting veggies from oven and flip them with spatula so browned sides face up. Spread shrimp & feta over the top. Return to oven and roast until shrimp are cooked, about 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle olives & parsley over top and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with lemon wedges.
Serves 4-6, probably will have left-overs.

This goes well with a fairly robust Chardonnay, like Toasted Head, or a milder Sauvignon Blanc, like Wither Hills. You only need bread to complete this.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

HERE COMES LENT!

Here comes Lent, a word coming from the German, meaning "springtime." It's good to know what the heck we are getting in for, as in--you may think it's about springtime, but it is way, way more than that.

I have trouble with Lent. I rebel against giving up anything, except colonoscopies and visiting my oncologist. I want an endless stream of goodies from Amazon.com arriving in my "Santa Box" at the foot of our drive, or, as I sometimes call it, "My Prize Box." When you have chemo Brain I suspect we travel far back to the reptilian brain, that squishy part of our head which pops out moods, feelings, and desires. I'm down with moods, feelings, and desires, as in--I want, I need, last year was the pits, I still need bandages over the cancer wound.

But I need to do more than just vibrate with wanting. How can I honor Lent in a way that is hopeful but not full of scratchy deprivation? What can I give up and what can I give out?

--Giving up fasting this year. At the age of 71 I am released from this directive from the Catholic Church. I'm not sure what it says about feasting on chocolate and wine, but I'm guessing those are good things to give up. Sigh.

--I am giving up fear. It is a thorny companion and does me no good at all. With this current administration and my own somewhat wonky health, fear has taken up far too much room in the head, heart, and body. I am going to meditate, then picture balling all of this fear in my hands and giving it over into the hands of Jesus.

--I am going to give up controlling others. How often do I do this with my fabulous husband, pointing out parking spaces, telling him to turn left NOW, and more? And for why?

But what about giving out, like that woman in the Gospels who scooped expensive unguent from a jar to anoint Jesus?

--Keep donating to the ACLU which does so much for people currently threatened by this administration. I can't attend town meetings to protest our government, but giving money helps.

--Donate monthly to the Sierra Club, because our government wants to do away with the EPA and seemingly does not believe in Climate Change. (Could it have anything to do with unregulated business and raking in the cash?)

--Keep bringing diapers and food to the Survival Center. They need it.

--At Mass, practice my "Ministry of Kindly Chat" and reach out to people I've never spoken to before. We are meant to be a community of believers!

--Persist in writing my blogs and telling the truth about our country.

--Be a Trans-ally. This is especially important now, as protections for trans folks are being stripped away, and as the parent of a trans young adult, I need to do more.

--Elect to walk as a healing companion to people who are facing cancer again--you know who you are. And walk with their loved ones who face their own demons. You know who you are.

All right. I am getting breathless and feel as if I might have to make a strong cup of cappuccino with chocolate grated on top. Then lie down and read trash, because, the good news is--IT'S NOT LENT YET!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

FINDING JOY IN TIMES OF FEAR & UNCERTAINTY

If you are at all like me, you are probably eating far too much ("I NEED 4 cookies!"), drinking too many glasses of wine, doing retail therapy, and lying on the couch watching reruns of "Scrubs" because SNL is too close to the truth to be comforting.  Also, you may be spending far too much time on social media, Facebook, Twitter, and obsessively reading breaking news from the NY Times. Then bursting into tears or hitting a pillow. When I die of stress I am going to sue the Times. Ah, maybe better to sue before I die.

This administration is downright scary. Terrifying, illegal, unconstitutional, breaking democratic institutions, and flirting with autocracy. As the daughter of Marxists, I find it hard to keep a level head these days.

So, I am thinking of ways to keep joy alive during these times. Joy is different from "happiness" which is the feeling you get when things are going well; you just dropped 4 pounds; your partner brought flowers and Chinese take-out; and your child learned to read. Joy is not so much a feeling as it is a choice.  As in--I choose to be joyful because my life is rooted in God. I choose joy because I belong to a faith community which engages, supports, and strengthens us. I choose joy when I stand on my deck as the flakes spin down, holding my tongue out and wondering which geometric shape this flake has.

And that reminds me that the entire world, heck, the universe, is held in God's hands--snowflakes, pigeons, cranky children, poor refugees, hustlers, fat cats on Wall Street, all are held.  

It's just that right now I am a little nervous about those hands and wondering did God foresee the damage that's being wrought? Was he on a bathroom break or searching for his cell phone which he--like me--is constantly misplacing?

Who knows? But back to our discussion and how to keep centered in the current maelstrom of bad news. I choose joy when:

--I watch my Jack Russell terrier sail like a bird in flight over the snow, chasing squirrels.
--I kneel in church and the communion hymn is "Here I Am Lord." Kneeling invites joy as our thoughts settle and a way opens for the spirit to speak to us.
--I see millions of women in pink hats showing up for the biggest protest march in history. We are not alone! We have power! And darn, but I love those pink hats.
--I see pictures of my cousin's new grandson, called "Mr. Cheeks," for obvious reasons. The generation continues--new lives are coming into the world.
--I listen to anything by Bach. Music thrums through my body, lifting my spirit. At times, music feels like the hand of God.

This is my list, and yours will probably be quite different. Making lists is a wonderful way to resist, sure to lift your mood and help you
see that all is not lost. Those horrors will not have the last word. We are on it!


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

OUR COUNTRY IS A DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY

I've been trying to figure out why I feel mental illness lurking on the edge of consciousness lately--a kind of foggy craziness which comes and goes, and which I have been medicating with Amazon.com expenditures and lots of white wine. Sigh.

Then I got it. My husband grew up in a seriously dysfunctional family, and spoke of the parental arguments which came and went like storms: the chair thrown at him by his mom; dragging his dad out of bars when Dad was on a seasonal bender; and the hypocrisy of maintaining the image of a ideal family to the world, when within the family was seething. So--I finally figured out that we live in a large dysfunctional family. Us. Americans. Now. Under Trump. And, oh, Bannon.

Think about it. Trump lies constantly. I am getting whip-lash going back and forth from manic pronouncement to other insane statements.  "Muslims are forbidden." "No, I didn't mean ALL Muslims, only certain ones." "It's not a Muslim ban." And certainly not from countries he does business with, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.  And, oh, in case you have forgotten: the dudes who engineered September 11th all came from the not-forbidden countries.

He's trying to create a reality show with us as actors, putting forth the message that: All is well (for some of us); you will have health care (except maybe you...); "I am an environmentalist," as he took down the Climate Change website and attacked the National Park fellows.

So, aside from lying and switching stories--not to say inventing an entire new narrative for our country--how else are we dysfunctional? I would name fear as the next crazy-making part of this administration. Their actions strike fear in the hearts of many of us: Will they press the nuclear button? Will I have health care as I age? Will their actions inflame ISIS so we have more attacks? And now they are peddling "soft-core Holocaust Denial." Scary, scary, scary.

I don't like feeling this anxious and sometimes helpless. Time to get my ass in gear, which is the only thing to do when we are trying to find our way through a fog of lies, deception, and fear. Get those diapers to the Survival Center. Donate money to CRS who help Syrian refugees. Give money to the ACLU as they defend our freedoms and work against the Muslim ban. I wish I could make shoes, the way I read about one woman doing, using recycled inner tubes for the shoes' soles, and the tops made from strong cloth. Then she sends them to Syrian refugee camps for the children.

I wish I could do more, but it's something. If you can't go to protest marches in D.C., find something near at hand to repair, make better, soothe, cheer,
or help. Create beauty. Sing on the subway. Go to church. Write a poem of protest. Drive an elderly person to Mass who couldn't get there on their own.  Write your Reps., call, or show up at a town meeting where a Rep. is present. Be mad. Wear pink hats. Celebrate. Don't let the bastards get you down.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

IS GOD ON CRACK?


What happens when you don't know how much time you have left in your life, but you are still filled with as many desires as an energetic 320 year-old? To learn a new language, climb the steps of the Parthenon again, have a third baby (impossible now!), go to Divinity School, see New Zealand, and do more and be more than you could even imagine?

We all struggle with this as we age--the BE SERIOUS NOW time when you hunker down, lean in, and figure out, "What's next?"

But the stakes are higher when you've had cancer, and though things may look good, there are no guarantees for time left. My inner compass says, "74, baby," but what does IT know?

Recently, a dear friend whom we hoped had "beaten cancer" has found there is a small shadow on the CAT scan.  What to do? What treatments are left? Can we be hopeful but not optimistic?

God only knows.  Sometimes I think God is on crack--impulsive, hard to please, and able to confound us at every turn.  We get good results, go out to Alina's to celebrate, order a new dress from Amazon, and plan on renting a villa in the Tuscan hills (surprisingly cheap!). Then a bad scan comes in, our hearts plummet, and we start thinking about buying a cemetery plot and whether we prefer cremation or a good old-fashioned Catholic burial with Holy Water and ceremony. God's whiplash.

How to keep a sense of balance and yet be realistic?

I am not really sure. I have a butch-up faith, great attitude, lots of supportive friends, two (2!) faith communities, a beautiful house and view which sustain me, an adorable bouncy dog, and a husband to die for. (Sorry, couldn't resist that.) But how can I craft a life for myself when I simply don't know how much time I have left?  Here are some of my thoughts:

--Do not go back to college.
--Forget about being a ballet dancer.
--Put aside that old Latin book. It ain't gonna happen.
--Do not plan an Alpine climbing vacation; you don't have the spoons.

Yet it isn't all sadness and regret, at least I hope it isn't. Here are some things I am putting in place for myself:

--Get wiser.
--Read the Bible more thoroughly and compare translations. (This will make me look cool when I stand up in the UCC for Sermon Response.)
--Strengthen the relationships I have, deepening the love I have for people.
--Volunteer at the Soup Kitchen and continue bringing food to the Survival Center.
--Throw away useless junk, recycle, and re-gift. (I have way too much stuff in my boat of mortality)
--Practice humility.(This happens naturally when wearing a Johnny in the hospital and portions of your fundament are seen by strangers.) I will listen first, talk second; don't assume my opinion is always right; and think less of myself and more of others.
--Get more laugh lines around my eyes and mouth. (This isn't hard when being married to a stand-up comic.)
--Continue to "mother" my adult kids IF and WHEN they need me to do so. Maybe I'll just morph into a big, sympathetic ear.

Then it won't feel as if God is on crack, because our feet will be planted on solid ground, holy ground. Because God is there--in the whiplash, in the good results and the bad, in the horrible waiting. 


Let's have good desires rule our lives and the days left to us. Let's make good choices, help the unfortunate, and call our Congress people to stop The Donald from destroying our country. 

And love. Just love, holding to Julian of Norwich's words:  All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things shall be well.
Because--no matter how long we have left, if we love widely, expansively, and without thought to the cost, all will be well.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

SURVIVORSHIP OR REMISSION?

Hi, there. This is your fellow friendly cancer survivor sitting in her chair, trying not to gain weight, planning a reheating of leftovers, and wondering when she can pour herself a crisp glass of Chardonnay.  No, wait. I am trying for one glass and not TWO today, because there seems to be some evidence (can't pin it down yet) that alcohol consumption can contribute to Secondary Cancers. REALLY? Bad enough we had 3 Primary Cancers (Uterine, Stage 1, carcinoid tumor 2.1 cm., Ovarian Stage 1), but now I have to fret myself silly about Secondary Cancers? What the hell?

I gather that could be anything from: colon, bladder, lung, etc. as well as--Becoming a Republican, Having Voted for Trump, Cheering on J. Comey, Planning on Gutting the Dept. of Energy, and, oh, yeah, Repealing the AcA, just in case I needed health care for a pre-existing condition. Like cancer. Again I cry, What the Hell?

I meant this to be a lighthearted, jokey blog about being in "Remission" or "Survivorship", as I had a funny conversation with an older friend about which term we preferred. As a long-term survivor, she likes "Remission." I stand by "Survivorship," as it sounds somehow--more manly. Tougher. As if I had just jumped 60 feet into a stormy sea and have managed to grab some floating wreckage until I am rescued. "Remission" sounds like banking, like "Receivership," i.e. health bankruptcy.  Guess we'll be seeing a hell of a lot of THAT in the coming years, if the GOP has their deadly way.

Back to the jokey part of this post on a dismal day. Just for chuckles, I did a Google Search for the Best Cancer Blogs of 2016 and found a few useful things, but nothing up my alley--which is faith and cancer. Frankly, I don't know how ANYONE gets through life with mind and heart intact without faith, but that is my prejudice. ("But I know I am right. This will be the best faith you have ever seen or heard of! It will be the biggest faith too!")

I hope none of you out there in FB land will have to confront cancer, but if you do, keep this handy-dandy tool kit by you just in case:

                                        SURVIVORSHIP TOOL KIT (free!)

--a loving spouse or partner
--fabulous, funny friends
--Blue Apron or HelloFresh which comes to your DOOR
--a lively pet with fur, not an iguana, a snake, a snail, or a cricket
--a house or apartment with big windows to let in God's light and nature
--loving brothers and sisters (thanks, Nick and Peter and dear spouses!)
--a faith community, or, if you will, a dharma community
--great adult "kids" who know just when to show up when you are having a slobbery meltdown
--the sun coming up each day
--chestnut-sided nuthatches, hummingbirds, Pileated woodpeckers, Barred Owls and more
--moonrise
--G.K. Chesterton
--Fr. Bobby Barron & his inspiring YouTube reflections
--a Writers' Group
--Amazon.com for when you don't have the spoons, which is almost always, to go shopping on your own or do errands
--the Bible
--a really good manicurist who is a liberal and likes to talk politics
--Great makeup to hide pallor (thanks Dr. Hauschka bronze tint)
--great pastors and a one-of-a-kind priest, you know who you are

Did I miss anything?  Ah, music and reruns of "Downton Abby" and "Call the Midwife." "Sherlock" is off my Christmas list as my chemo brain simply understand it.

So, yeah, I am going with Survivorship, despite the dizzy spells, wobbly legs, and ratty chemo brain. I'm holding onto the wreckage for dear life, and I know, I truly and deeply know--as much as I know that God is closer to me than my own breath and my own heartbeat--that I am going to either be rescued by some fit, tan, gorgeous guy on a cruise ship, or I shall wash ashore on a Caribbean beach with a chair, a rum drink, an umbrella, and all of my peeps around me.









Wednesday, January 4, 2017

TOO OLD FOR SHERLOCK!

It is a sad fact but true that neither my husband or I can watch the Sherlock Holmes mystery series anymore. I just can't do it, much as I love Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.  My mind no longer has the processing speed necessary to absorb scene changes, dialogue, and the texts which flash across the screen when Sherlock is fixated on his iPhone.

Sigh. Just to make sure you understand, here is a true scenario of Rick and I sitting side by side watching the new Series 4:

"Maybe we should turn on the subtitles, honey?" He peers at the screen. But despite much fiddling and swearing, no subtitles appear.

"What did he say? Whoah, what is she doing?" I say in a piercing whisper.

"Didn't catch it. That damn English accent."

"Why are there words flashing across the screen? Can you read them?"

"You know I can't multi-task--no." He sounds resigned.

After another ten minutes where I admire Sherlock's ass, his coat with the nifty high collar, and his ability to speak at warp speed, I turn to Rick;

"I think I am too old for this. I just don't understand enough to piece together a narrative."

"Yeah, I'm with you."

And off it goes, with a sigh of relief and one of regret. Five years ago I could just about "get it" or "do it." I understood most of the plot, loved the acting, thrilled to the danger, and absorbed most of the language. But five years later?

Who knows what is happening? Hearing loss? Maybe my brain is unfolding? Of course, having chemo brain doesn't help the snappy neurons any. They are mostly limp and snoozing as far as I can tell.

But here's the thing:  Maybe it's not important. Maybe this is one of those milestones of aging, like the turning points we observed in our babies growing up:

BABY MILESTONES                                                 AGING MILESTONES
--first smile                                                                  --can't eat pizza after 8:00 pm
--baby turns over on couch                                          --4 o'clock tea keeps me awake 'til 4 am
--baby pulls self up on crib                                          --my knees lock up as I go downstairs
--toddler takes first steps                                              --I abandon tennis, back is wrecked
--kid runs across room                                                 --I get stuck in hot tub, husband hauls me out

See? They're both milestones, just at different points in one's life. I have to get used to them and maybe celebrate them in some odd way. Anyone else out there who can't process Sherlock anymore? I'm with ya! Let's pour a glass of Chardonnay or Shiraz and go read Holmes on our Kindles. I can cope with that. I think.