Couture for the Cause, redux

I was trying to download some photos from the professional photographer’s website for the Couture for the Cause this past Saturday night. They have some beautiful pics of the event, and a handy “Post to WordPress” feature, but when I tried that feature, it posted the pic without allowing me to add any text.

So I will use the non-professional photos, taken by one John Burrmann, which IMHO are plenty good. See for yourself. He focused more on the people than on the venue, so I will paint a picture in your mind of the stately grounds and lovely estate that housed our fashion show and fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The house is nestled onto a huge lot that slopes gracefully to a private lake. The runway was constructed on the lawn, with chairs around the perimeter and small round tables sprinkled around to allow for casual viewing of the big show. 

The show is a big deal. Last year the event raised some $94,000 for the ACS, and I hope this year exceeds that amount. Having cancer survivors model the fashions is a brilliant idea, both because it encourages the audience to dig deep into their pockets, and because it gives us survivors a chance to celebrate life. What’s more important than that after we’ve faced a terrible disease, difficult surgeries, ongoing treatments, and uncertain futures? Nothing. Not one thing.
There were several breast cancer survivors modeling again this year, and we talked amongst ourselves about how many years out we are. There was also a 20-year-old leukemia survivor who’s been in remission for 15 years. One model had brain cancer and is facing another reconstructive surgery next week. While all of the survivors who participated have a different story, we also have a commonality, and it was nice to unite in that commonality for one night and celebrate life.

The amount of volunteer hours and professional time that go into the gig are staggering, and the result is a first-rate production. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks, and being an experienced survivor model I was ready to do my thing. I had the ultimate fun of having two of my dearest friends model with  me. Amy and Christy both rallied at my side when the Big C wrecked up my life, and it was such a fun thing to have them by my side for the big event. Unfortunately, the excitement was clouded by sadness from the unexpected death of our sweet dog Harry.  Because he died late Thursday night, I made the executive decision to not tell my kids until after school on Friday. It didn’t seem right to tell them Friday morning and send them off to school; I wanted them to have the luxury of grieving in private. I fretted all day Friday about how to tell them. I should have consulted my intrepid breast surgeon, Dr Dempsey, who has honed the skill of delivering bad news to an art form. I’m sure she would have had just the right words. As it turned out, I delivered the news then had to rush off to rehearsal for the show. My head wasn’t quite in the game for rehearsal, and I struggled with the finer points of the runway choreography. The “one and a half” and the “down and back” refer to the way we walk on the runway all decked out in our finery, and while it’s not hard, it took some brainpower to master.

Lenny and Tamra are the dynamic duo who take these fashion shows from cute clothes and accessories to a full-blown production. They pick the clothes for each of the 22 models, add accessories from jewelry to hats to feathered headpieces, design the sets and lighting and choose the music, then orchestrate all these pieces to cohere into the sum total of an amazing show.

We were instructed to show up at 6:00 sharp for our 8:45 pm showtime. Hair & makeup were time-consuming but fun. The show’s theme of the Roaring Twenties was reflected in the intricate hairstyles that featured soft waves and lots of pin curls. Makeup was subdued but included false eyelashes and red-red-red lipstick for each female model. As we went from chair to chair in the war room of hair & makeup, we felt like celebs preparing for a red carpet debut.

check out those eyelashes!

After the work was complete in the war room, we hustled to the dressing tent behind the runway. Talk about a chaotic scene. Each model is assigned an assistant called a dresser. The dresser’s job is to help us into our clothes, put on our jewelry and shoes, and make sure we are ready to leave the tent and present ourselves backstage for final inspection by Tamra. No detail escapes her sharp eye, and she is ready with a safety pin to bind a gap, a hairpin to tame an errant mane, and a keen sense of how a headpiece should lay or a scarf should be tied.

There’s not a lot of time to get dressed, and even with our dressers helping, it’s a crazy, crazy scene. In fact, as soon as we left the runway in one outfit, we were instructed to start taking off as much as we could while hustling back to the tent. Getting dressed was even crazier this year because two of my outfits were very light-colored — one white with a black skirt, one ecru with an orange ruffle — so trying to pull them on quickly while not smearing makeup on them was no small feat. My intricate flapper-style hairdo complicated the speed-dressing process, too, as there were 100 bobby pins holding my hair up that needed to be delicately avoided. There’s nothing delicate about a tent full of women and their dressers in the middle of a fashion show. The production assistants were yelling out our names to let us know we were due backstage, and a few male assistants were in the tents, too, making sure we staying on task and on time. There’s no place for modesty in the tent.

The first scene featured black & white fashions and was kicked off by the professional models. These girls know what they’re doing, and they know how to get the show started. This lucky guy got to strut his stuff with one of the pros, Mariah. She and I chatted in the war room and she’s as nice as she is beautiful.

The professional models may have had all the right moves and the picture-perfect looks, but we had the best cheering section. A sampling of our supporters:

The applause was thunderous, and there was more than one instance of hootin’ and hollerin’ when we took the stage. I only wish I’d channeled some of Mariah’s grace and stage presence when I hit the runway in my black & white outfit.

This isn’t something I ever would have picked for myself, but that’s part of the fun of the fashion show. The skirt was rather short, and the fishnet hose were a bit out there, but it was fun, fun, fun!

Christy’s black & white outfit was a romper, which Dr Dempsey referred to as a onesie. Some fishnets and a beret completed the look.

Amy’s outfit for this scene was so cute, and she rocked it.

The true-blue friend who brushed my teeth in the hospital and mediated more than one altercation with a white-coated professional was utterly transformed into a hot-hot-hot model!

Not only did I have some of my best girls modeling with me, I also had Dr Dempsey struttin her stuff. She did an outstanding job puttin’ on the ritz, and while I enjoyed every minute of modeling with her, I hope she doesn’t quit her day job! (She’s the blond, on the right.)

The blond in the beige dress is my favorite breast surgeon!

She told me she had an alter ego on the runway, and now I know that to be true. Being together for this event also gave her the chance to fuss at me for not coming to see her for my post-mastectomy follow-up. I’m a bit behind on that, but I’m happy to report that I went yesterday.

Scene 2 was tangerine-themed, and my one-shouldered dress was super fun (but a little too blousy). The ecru color with the tangerine ruffle was cute, but I’m not posting a pic because it’s not very flattering. It’s my blog, and I can withhold photos if I want to.

Instead of showing a not-so-great pic of me, I’ll show you the pros doing their thing:

The one bad thing about being involved in the fashion show is not getting to see everyone on stage. While these girls were modeling these cute dresses, I was frantically getting out of outfit #1 and into outfit #2.

I was able to watch this husband-wife combo strutting their stuff, and I would have loved to have seen more. They were having a ball and the crowd loved them. 

This lovely lady is a longtime survivor who gives newbies like me a lot of hope. She also rocked the runway in her high heels.

Our third scene was print dresses, and they were so so so cute. Amy looked like a million bucks in hers.

Christy and I got to walk together for this scene, and we both love our dresses. We had to try hard not to giggle and talk while cruising the catwalk.

The pros glammed it up in long dresses in gorgeous colors.

The show was almost over at this point, and we didn’t have to change into another outfit but just get ready for the big finale.

All the models circled the runway in a triumphant finish. Our faces hurt from smiling, our feet ached from struttin in heels, but our hearts were full of pride and happiness.


Fighting from the front lines

I’m always on the lookout for inspiring stories about cancer: patients, survivors, battles won, valiant fights fought. This story found me, via the local newspaper last week, and it’s been on my mind ever since. I am bowled away by this woman. Her attitude is nothing short of fantastic, and her drive to make a difference in the “war on cancer” is inspiring, for sure. Because I’m juggling 4th grade homework on units of measure and a 7th grade study guide on Texas history with the usual chores, animal herding, and the ever-elusive hunt for something healthy/yummy/pleasing to 4 different palates before another weeknight at the baseball fields, I’m going to just relay this story simply and without a lot of editorializing. You’re welcome.

Chisa Echendu had her eye on a doctorate in medical research from Baylor College of Medicine, right here in good ol’ Houston. The 32-year-old Nigerian native had every intention of spending her career in a lab, peering into a microscope and solving medical mysteries.

But then the doctor became the patient as she found a lump in her breast in 2006. At age 26 and halfway through her molecular virology doctorate, Chisa was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I didn’t think it was serious,” she said. “I was 26, I didn’t have a family history. I was busy in the lab, busy with publications.”

Cancer, however, has no regard for one’s schedule, plans, hopes, or dreams. Chisa learned this first-hand. After her diagnosis, Chisa’s professors suggested she put her studies on the back burner while she faced chemo, surgery, and radiation. But Chisa said no. She was determined to make sure cancer didn’t steal everything from her. She remained resolute in her goal of finishing school, and her attitude is inspiring. She said, “I didn’t want a pity party, I just wanted to be like everyone else and take care of my business. People go through more challenging things in life. I had hope to get well, good resources, good physician tools. Some people are worse — without anything — and they just keep going.”

Instead of feeling sorry for herself or asking “why me?” Chisa not only pushed through the endless parade of problems one confronts with a cancer diagnosis, she refocused her goal. After enduring endless doctor’s appointment, multiple body scans and medical tests, chemo brain, recovery from surgery, and fatigue from radiation, Chisa decided to get out of the lab and fight cancer from the front lines as a radiation oncologist. So after 4 years of med school, she will take on another 5 years of training to help others on this wretched cancer “journey.”

Being a young breast cancer survivor filled Chisa with “more of a sense of urgency” in pursuing her goals. “I feel like I’ve been given a second chance. There is no time to complain or make excuses. Like everyone who goes through difficult times, you gain more strength, a sense that you can accomplish anything you want to do.”

With 2-year-old twin daughters at home and a lot of schoolwork ahead of her, Chisa is proving that she can indeed do anything she wants to do. What an inspiration.


Komen, why’d ya have to lie to me?

thanks, Katie @ Uneasy Pink for the laugh!

Oh, Komen. Komen, Komen, Komen. Why’d you have to lie?

There might have been a chance — a teensy, weensy chance — that you could have come out of this firestorm with a speck of dignity and integrity left, but you blew it. Big time.

Sigh.

Well, the good thing about Komen’s decision to kick Planned Parenthood to the curb — and to bold-faced lie about the reasons behind that decision — is that we bloggers will have fodder for days. Thanks, Komen. Thanks for being sneaky and deceitful and for showing your true colors. If I weren’t so sad by the fracas and the potential to help so many that has been so foolishly pissed away, I might be grateful. But I’m not grateful. Even though it’s nice to have a definitive answer on this organization’s true motive, and it’s nice to know for sure that Komen is not what it claims to be, I’m not grateful. I’m mad. And anyone who knows me will tell you that once I get mad, I stay mad. For a long time.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I sure wish Komen would have just been honest about its motivations to drop PP in the grease. The fact that Komen continues to hide behind the travesty of an ongoing “investigation” instead of coming clean about its reason for breaking with PP sickens me. Komen founder and chief executive Nancy Brinker continued the lie in a news conference yesterday, saying that SGK’s decision to pull its funds from PP has nothing to do with politics or abortion.

Raise your hand if you believe one word that comes out of this woman’s mouth. 

Here’s the thing — I don’t care if Komen wants to pull its funds from PP. I disagree with the wisdom of that decision, but Komen certainly has the right to do what it wants with its money. But don’t lie to me.

For Brinker, and by extension SGK, to continue to say that the decision to pull out of PP resulted from changes to the grant-making procedure makes me sick. She said in her press conference, “We think this is the right thing to do from a stewardship standpoint.”

Maybe Brinker thinks the general public is too dumb to see right through this. Sorry, Brinker, but I’m not stalled by your rhetoric, by your multi-syllabic alliteration.

I’m also onto the fact that Brinker’s assertion directly conflicts with SGK board member John Raffaelli, who spoke about this ugly issue to The New York Times and said, and I quote, that SGK made changes to that grant-making policy specifically to end its relationship with Planned Parenthood. From The Times:

“Raffaelli said that Komen had become increasingly worried that an investigation of Planned Parenthood by Representative Cliff Stearns, Republican of Florida, would damage Komen’s credibility with donors.”

Guess what, Nancy Brinker: you didn’t need to worry one bit about Stearns’s trumped-up, bogus witch-hunt of an “investigation” damaging Komen’s credibility with donors. YOU DID THAT ALL BY YOURSELF.

Really, wouldn’t it have been easier to come clean? To be honest? To tell the truth, which is that Brinker and SGK no longer wanted a business relationship with PP because of a difference in political views? To that end, can someone please explain to me how not one word has been uttered by SGK about its 5-year, $7.5 million research grant to Penn State’s Milton S. Hershey Medical Center? Last I heard, the sexual-assault scandal at Penn State involving Scumbag of the Year Jerry Sandusky involved a federal investigation of the university. How can 40 counts of sexual abuse over a 15-year period be ok, while a mere 3 percent of PP’s services being dedicated to terminating unwanted pregnancy is worthy of an epic break-up? The hypocrisy is staggering.

Also staggering is news that local Komen affiliates were not told of the break with PP. Betsy Kamin, president of Susan G. Komen for the Cure Houston, told The Houston Chronicle “The affiliates were not made aware of it [the decision] in advance, so it was shocking to us.”

The local Planned Parenthood president and CEO Peter Durkin had something to say about the decision, too: “As a leading health care provider in our community, Planned Parenthood is trusted to help women identify breast cancer early. We are deeply alarmed that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation appears to have succumbed to political pressure from a vocal minority.” He went on to say that the Gulf Coast Planned Parenthood was “deeply disappointed” with Komen’s decision.

He’s not alone.

Mollie Williams, SGK’s top health official, resigned from SGK over this. Williams, the director of community health programs for SGK and in charge of deciding how to allocate $93 million in Komen grants to more than 2,000 community-health organizations said, “I have dedicated my career to fighting for the rights of the marginalized and underserved,” she wrote. “And I believe it would be a mistake for any organization to bow to political pressure and compromise its mission.” So the person in charge of handing out Komen’s money–who definitively knows who is worthy of receiving those funds–disagrees strongly enough with the decision to end the relationship with PP. Not just that, she disagrees strongly enough to quit her job. Wow.

According to The New York Times, Dr Kathy Plesser, a New York City radiologist and member of Komen’s scientific advisory board, said she would resign if Komen did not reverse its decision. “I strongly believe women need access to care, particularly underserved women,” Dr Plesser said. “My understanding is that by eliminating this funding, it will jeopardize the women served by Planned Parenthood in terms of breast care.” Dr Plesser went on to say, “Komen is a wonderful organization and does tremendous things for women, but this is straying from their mission, and it’s sad.”

 All 7 of California’s SGK affiliates are “strongly opposed” to the decision, and the top official for SGK California joined Williams in resigning from the organization. Those affiliates are working hard to overturn Komen’s decision. So far, 26 U.S. Senators have called on SGK to reconsider its decision, saying that “it would be tragic if any woman . . . lost access to these potentially lifesaving services because of a politically motivated attack.” I suspect this is only the beginning.

The Race for the Cure, which is SGK’s most iconic fundraiser, is on the endangered species list. The very first Race for the Cure was in 1983 in Dallas with 800 participants. Last year, there were 130 races worldwide with 1.6 million participants, according to Komen’s website.

The Philadelphia Inquirer interviewed Kivi Leroux Miller, a North Carolina-based consultant on nonprofit marketing strategies, who said Komen was “naive” to think it could distance itself from the abortion debate while doing the very thing that antiabortion Senate Republicans have been trying to do – defund Planned Parenthood. Naive and egotistical, IMHO.

“Komen has forever changed the way people will look at them,” Miller said. “Until now, they have successfully stayed out of controversial areas of women’s health care. They kept the message simple: save lives, race for the cure, pink ribbons. They’ve forever muddied that now. They’ve made it hard for women to figure out what they’re about – and that makes it harder to raise money.”

I know one Race for the Cure participant who won’t be forking out $40 to enter Houston’s 2012 race. That makes me sad, because last year’s race was a lot of fun. And if any of my crew plans to participate in an upcoming Race for the Cure (should there be any), don’t bother writing my name on the “In Celebration Of” pink sheet. Thanks but no thanks. I don’t need Komen to help me celebrate my survivorhood.

Don't bother

Komen’s decision has taken center stage — in the news, on the Web, in the blog-o-sphere, and in the twitterverse. It was front-page news in my newspaper today, and probably in those of every other major city. The Seattle Times features a great story today about a formerly dedicated Komen fundraiser, Celeste McDonell. A Seattle lawyer and breast cancer survivor, McDonell labels herself as a “longtime, passionate Komen advocate.” She’s raised serious funds for the cause, too, by spearheading a “Row for the Cure” event that in 10 years has raised more than half a million dollars for her local Komen affiliate. Last year alone she raised $84,000 in her event. McDonell’s law firm had just committed to sponsor the next “Row” fundraiser, but has put that on hold, she said. Instead, a commitment has been made to Planned Parenthood. “Our firm is a strong believer in social justice and thought this was a move that needed to be made,” McDonell said.

McDonell’s story is but one in a crowded field of former supporters who are now protesting Komen’s decision.

The American Association of University Women has cancelled plans to offer a Komen Race for the Cure as one of the activities at its upcoming National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL). Stating that the AAUW is “disappointed with the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to strip funding for cancer screenings from Planned Parenthood,” the AAUW will not offer the Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure as a community service opportunity at its NCCWSL. For 27 years, college women from across the nation have attended the NCCWSL, but this year there will be no Race for the Cure.

Oh Komen. Komen, Komen, Komen.

You sure stepped in it this time.

I can understand the pressure. I can understand being torn. I can understand the desire to do the right thing (yet missing so spectacularly). But I can’t understand the dishonesty. I can’t fathom why SGK didn’t just say that after 5 years of partnership with PP, we’ve decided to go in a different direction. I can’t wrap my head around why Komen had to lie to me.

 

 

 


I Stand with Planned Parenthood

“The nation’s leading breast-cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is halting its partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates—creating a bitter rift, linked to the abortion debate, between two iconic organizations that have assisted millions of women.”

That’s a great lead from the Associated Press.

Too bad it’s attached to such a sorry story.

When I first heard the news, I resisted the urge to blog, knowing that my anger at Komen would create a flaming piece full of emotional ranting. Today is marginally better, and while this piece is sure to be full of anger at Komen, hopefully it won’t be too flaming.

I’m certain that much was written about this topic yesterday by my fellow pink ribbon gals in the blog-o-sphere. I’m equally certain that their writings are eloquent, thoroughly researched, and well-thought-out.

Mine, not so much. I’m writing off the cuff and emotionally. I’m mad. No, wait — I’m pissed. I’m disgusted. I’m disappointed. I’m sad. I’m upset.

This story weighed on my mind all day yesterday, and I specifically resisted the urge to read every story I could find. I’m not usually good at walking away from a fight, just so you know.

That Komen would end its alliance with Planned Parenthood is bad enough. That Komen is walking away because of political BS makes me sick.

I’ll be writing a scathing letter to Rep. Cliff Stearns in Florida to tell him what a jackass idiot narrow-minded pork chop I think he is. I have no illusions that he’ll actually read it, but it will make me feel better.

Before I launch into it, let me be clear about one thing: this blog is not intended to promote either a pro-choice or an anti-abortion position. This blog is intended to highlight the atrocity of hiding behind that position and thereby compromising PP’s ability to provide breast health to the very women who need it most.

Ok, here’s the story: Stearns, aka jackass idiot narrow-minded pork chop, got his panties in a wad and launched an official inquiry into PP to see if public funds have been used to pay for abortions.

Since Stearns has neither a uterus nor a pair of ovaries, I can’t for the life of me fathom why he’d stick his nose into this issue, but people do idiotic, narrow-minded things every day.

Unfortunately, he is the chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s investigative subcommittee, and he has the power to conduct a witch-hunt under the guise of public service. Apparently this goes back to Republican lawmakers’ failure to defund PP during federal budget negotiations last year. Since they couldn’t inflict their hack job then, they want to do it now, and it seems that Komen is along for the ride.

Stearns has demanded that PP cough up “internal audits conducted from 1998 to 2010; state-level audits going back 20 years; copies of policies certifying that federal dollars are not co-mingled in programs that fund abortions; and procedures for reporting crimes such as statutory rape, sexual abuse and suspected sex trafficking.” Oh, and he wants it on his desk in two weeks.

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that PP will comply with Stearns’s request in a timely manner, “despite the clear political motivation” of the investigation. The fact is that PP is regularly audited by the Department of Health and Human Services and is found to be in compliance with federal law. Richards asserts that PP “only uses taxpayer money to help low-income patients afford preventative health care and family-planning services.”

For 95 years, PP has provided healthcare worldwide. PP bills itself as a “commonsense approach to women’s health and well-being, based on respect for each individual’s right to make informed, independent decisions about health, sex, and family planning.” Yet Stearns and Komen want to tear it down because of politics. Sick. Richards went on to say that “at a time when American people need jobs, some members of Congress are instead misusing political power to go after health care access for the most vulnerable women in this country, and that’s a shame.”
It is indeed a shame. Sounds like Stearns wants to bury PP in paperwork. And the issue isn’t women’s breast health — and the potential to save lives from the vicious beast that is breast cancer — but Stearns’s anti-abortion stance. PP receives some $360 million a year from the federal government for women’s health services, and PP maintains that none of that money is used for abortions. Abortions account for only 3 percent of PP’s services, and they are paid for out of pocket by the patients. So what about the other 97 percent of PP’s services?

Yes, PP provides abortions. And yes, abortion is a terrible thing for any woman to face. And yes, it certainly is preferable to have healthy babies born into loving families with the means to care for that child. But in the real world, it doesn’t always work that way. For Stearns and Komen to abandon PP for one politically-motivated, emotionally-volatile issue is cowardly. PP is about more than birth control. Way more. I sure wish Stearns could see that.

Komen insists that the decision to give PP the shaft was not political. Baloney. According to The New York Times, Komen called its break with Planned Parenthood “regrettable,” but added that “we must continue to evolve to best meet the needs of the women we serve and most fully advance our mission.”

AND WHAT EXACTLY IS THAT MISSION, KOMEN???

Pardon the shouting. I have very little patience for bullshit.

If Komen really wanted to meet the needs of the women it serves, it would continue funding PP and the important work done by PP affiliates all over this country. And if Komen really wanted to break from PP because of the abortion issue, just come out with it. I’d have a lot more respect for the organization if it was honest. But it’s not, and PP–along with the women under its umbrella — will suffer because of it. Women who can ill afford more suffering. To wit, if a couple, such as the one I am a part of, with 4 college degrees between them and a good-paying job with comprehensive health-care benefits struggles to meet the demands of a breast cancer diagnosis, what hope does a single woman have? Or a married woman who happens to be low-income? Or inadequately educated? That’s where PP comes in, and does a tremendous service to women facing a breast cancer diagnosis.

As stated on its website, this move means that “at immediate risk are low-income women, many located in rural and underserved communities, served by 19 Planned Parenthood programs funded by the Komen Foundation. This funding has enabled designated Planned Parenthood health centers to provide women with breast health education, screenings, and referrals for mammograms — lifesaving care for women where Planned Parenthood is their only source of health care.”

Both Stearns and Komen are being sharply criticized for this bone-headed move. Stearn’s peers are fuming, and Komen is taking a beating in the social media outlets. Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Diana DeGette of Colorado joined forces and  wrote a letter to Stearns expressing their opposition to his investigation, which they say is “unwarranted” and “designed to harass and shut down an organization simply because Republicans disagree with the work that it does.”

“We are aware of no predicate that would justify this sweeping and invasive request to Planned Parenthood,” Waxman and DeGette wrote in the letter. “It would be an abuse of the oversight process if you are now using the Committee’s investigative powers to harass Planned Parenthood again. Your fervent ideological opposition to Planned Parenthood does not justify launching this intrusive investigation.”

There is a call for Stearns to reconsider the investigation and find more productive ways to use the subcommittee’s resources, such as examining private health insurers who are under-reporting drug manufacturer rebates, or re-examining food safety.

Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Jackie Speier, both of California, criticized Stearns and revoked their support for Komen yesterday. Boxer said, “I was perplexed and troubled to see the decision by Susan G. Komen for the Cure to cut off funding for life-saving breast cancer screenings through Planned Parenthood because of a political witch hunt by House Republicans. I truly hope that they will reconsider this decision and put the needs of women first.” Speier added her opinion on the House floor, saying, “I have been a big booster of the Susan G. Komen organization, but not anymore.”  One of Komen’s own affiliates withdrew its support as well. The Connecticut affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure said in a statement on Wednesday that it “shares” people’s frustration over the decision and that it will continue funding Planned Parenthood of New England. Yeah! Rock on!

Komen and Stearns and their ilk need to hear the message loud and clear that regardless of one’s position on abortion, it is wrong to politicize women’s health. To politicize low-income and underserved women’s health is even more egregious. Check out this Polipulse poll of Komen’s decision to abandon PP.

The vast majority of people who are talking about this issue online think it’s wrong, and Stearns and Komen need to hear that. Ironically, since Komen severed ties with PP, money has been pouring in to PP.  Fellow Texans Lee & Amy Fikes donated $250,000 to PP for a “Breast Health Emergency Fund,” and the hope is that donations to PP will match or surpass the roughly $680,000 it received from Komen in 2011. Keep hope alive, because by yesterday afternoon, PP announced that it had received $400,000 from some 6,000 individual donors since Komen left. PP spokesperson Tait Sye issued this statement: “Politics should not get in the way of women’s health, and people respond powerfully when they see politics interfering with women’s health. The donations send a message to stand up to bullying and protect access to health care.”

Equally promising is that PP saw a spike in appointments for breast examinations yesterday. “The silver lining is that more people than ever are aware that Planned Parenthood provides breast exams, and we’re seeing more people calling us today to make an appointment,” Sye said.
So there, Komen. Take that, Stearns.
If you too are sickened by organizations and politicians interfering with women’s health, say so. Demand better. Click here to sign the open letter in support of PP. It costs nothing but makes a statement. Click here to take it a step further and donate to PP. Click here to tell Cliff Stearns he’s way off base with his underhanded, dishonest investigation. If that letter is worded too strongly for your taste, write your own and send it here, straight to Stearns’s homepage. Click here to send a message to Komen.

Remembering

Halfway through my second pregnancy in early September, I went for my sonogram appointment. This would be my second sonogram — the one in which the baby’s gender could be revealed. Trevor and I had opted to not find out, wanting to be surprised as we had been with Payton. There are so few genuine surprises in life, and we wanted to hear “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!” at the moment of birth.

Even though we had specified our preference to keep the baby’s gender a surprise, something went wrong at that appointment, and the doctor and sonogram technician let it slip. My surprise was ruined. I was devastated in the manner of a hormonally-charged, type-A mother who was stressed from dealing with a shockingly willful toddler at home. I thought this was the worst thing that could happen to me.

Little did I know that within 3 years, my sweet mama would be taken from the Earth by the vicious beast that is cancer, and that I myself would go toe-to-toe with said beast.

The date of the ruined sonogram was September 10th, 2001–the day before the bottom fell out of our collective world, and showed me in no uncertain terms that I had no earthly idea about the worst thing that could ever happen to me. I went to bed that night sad and frustrated and pissed off at the doctor and technician. How hard would it have been for them to pay attention, follow the rules, and NOT disclose the baby’s gender? Sheesh. I cried self-centered tears and railed against what I thought to be a great injustice.

Then I woke up on September 11th, eyes puffy from those self-centered tears, feeling exhausted from the travesty that had unfolded the previous day. I grumpily said good-bye to Trevor as he left for work, probably thrilled to bits to have someplace to go in which to escape his melodramatic, hormonal wife. Can’t blame him; in fact, I wished I had someplace to go in which I could escape myself.

Two-year-old Payton had spent the night with my parents across town while his cousins were visiting. I was getting ready to go meet them and start our busy day. A trip to the zoo with my rowdy toddler and his 2 young cousins would require me to ease out of my funk over the ruined surprise, and I was gearing up for that challenge.

I turned on the TV to catch the morning news as I dressed and ate breakfast and was confronted with the startling images from New York City. My pity party over the ruined surprise came to a screeching halt.

At first, no one was sure what had happened beyond a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. At first, no one suspected it was anything but a terrible accident. At first, no one could comprehend that someone would do this on purpose.

I called my parents, in shock and disbelieving. I needed another human to tell me they were seeing the same thing I was seeing, even thought I’d already confirmed it was on every channel. Except PBS. My parents, at home with 3 young kids, had Barney on TV instead of the news (that’s the kind of grandparents they were — and my dad still is). I had the unfortunate job of severing their domestic bliss that day. Surrounded by their 3 grandkids, with another on the way, they were no doubt in hog heaven. The bliss was short-lived.

The attacks on September 11th are my generation’s Kennedy assassination. I doubt anyone will ever forget where they were and what they were doing that morning.

I’m a milestones kind of girl. I like concrete things in my life, and I’m not talking about driveways. I like a tangible, structured world, and milestones are a big part of that. Some milestones are happy, like Payton‘s and Macy‘s birthdays; some are poignant and sad, like the anniversary of my mom’s death; some are sobering, like my first cancer-versary.

And some milestones, like today’s 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and our country in general, defy commentary. 

As Trevor and I looked at the newspaper today, he wondered why we commemorate this event–why would we want to remember and make a big fuss over our defeat?

Good question, but to me, the remembering isn’t about the defeat or even the event as much as it is the people. The innocent victims, the grieving families, the stunned citizens thousands of miles away from NYC, the public servants who rose to the occasion, putting their own lives and health at risk to serve others and do things that fall so far outside of their official job duties as to be unimaginable.

Perhaps it’s impossible to separate the people from the event. Perhaps they are so intertwined as to render a separation not feasible.

The bravery shown by the first responders that day defies commentary. Firefighter Mike Kehoe was one of many who put his own life on the line this day 10 years ago. Like a salmon swimming upstream, he was going up while hordes of desperate people fled the South Tower.

There are no words to adequately convey the selflessness, the courage, the principles. The walking wounded must have been overwhelming to these brave souls, yet they kept going.

The images are numerous, and the stories of heroism are legendary — both in size and in scope. On September 11, 2001, when American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. ET at 466 mph, between the 93rd and the 99th floors, and when United flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m. ET at 590 mph, between the 77th and 85th floors, our world changed forever. 

Meanwhile, American Airlines flight 77 took off from Dulles Airport in DC, bound for Los Angeles. With 5 hijackers on board, it crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. ET. All 59 people on board plus 125 on the ground were killed.

When United flight 93 departed Newark, that same morning at 8:42–40 minutes late–a new group of posthumous heroes was born. Todd Beamer’s command of “Let’s roll” as the passengers confronted the hijackers became a rallying cry for the entire nation. Beamer’s wife, Lisa, was pregnant with a baby girl, same as me. She delivered Morgan Kay two days before I delivered Macy. A simple twist of fate dictated that Morgan would grow up without her daddy while Macy had hers by her side. 

With a simple twist of fate, lives changed, and something so unimaginable had happened to the greatest nation on Earth. Flight 93 crashed to the ground near Shanksville, PA, 124 miles away from our nation’s capitol, at 10:03 a.m. ET. The 40 people — passengers and crew — on board that plane gave up their own lives to ensure that the hijackers’ plan to crash into the White House would not come to fruition. 

The images we watched that morning on live TV didn’t seem real, and our brains struggled to process what we were seeing but could not believe.

In ways big and small, our world changed. Forever.

Our sense of security, in general, was shattered. Things we’d taken for granted–US superiority, the safety of our skies, the normalcy of life in America–were upended.

We were about to learn that life would never be the same. Even thousands of miles from Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and the field in rural Pennsylvania, and even though we didn’t personally know anyone who died that day, our lives would never be the same.

We’ve all heard the horrifying numbers, yet 10 years later they still seem surreal. Some 3,000 people died from the attacks on this day 10 years ago. 343 New York firefighters. 23 New York cops. 37 Port Authority police officers. 658 people from one company, Cantor Fitzgerald.

More than 1,600 people lost their spouse or partner that day. And more than 3,051 kids lost a parent. This is what is worth remembering.

(all images courtesy of googleimages. com, nationalgeograhic.com, and my iPhotos)


Fiat fever!

I’m very fortunate to have a good and generous friend in the car business. Thanks to the Rajah, I have been tooling around town this week in the hottest car to hit the streets in a long time — the Fiat 500C. It’s even better than the <a title="I Fiat 500 I drove a while back.

I am in love. The industry’s talking heads have lots of good things to say about this car, namely that “the cutest car just got cuter” with the addition of the fully-automatic canvas soft top. The 500C is super cute, super fun and super chic. I love every single thing about it, which came as a bit of a surprise for this card-carrying member of the “bigger is better” SUV club. Downsizing from a Tahoe loaded with more features that I even know how to use to a Fiat that could practically fit inside the bed of a pickup truck is extreme. And fantastic. And liberating. Oh so very liberating. 

I’ve had so much fun driving this zippy car. I’ll admit, I just wanted to drive it but wasn’t even considering buying it. My Tahoe is cool and comfy and big enough for a family to live in, but after driving the Fiat I realized the Tahoe is not fun. Or zippy. Or chic. It’s nice looking, luxurious, and functional, but not fun. And don’t we all need more fun in our lives?

I’m not a die-hard convertible lover. Trevor has had several convertibles over the last 15 years, and I have to say I’ve never loved any of them. Every once in a while, on a beautiful day, it’s fun to take his car, but I never wanted a convertible.

Until now.

The Fiat’s 3-way power retractable roof changed my opinion about convertibles.

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The 2-layer canvas roof is awesome. With the push of a button, you have 3 options for topless excitement: sunroof, in which the top slides back from the windshield; panoramic, in which the top slides back further to open up the roof over the back seat; and the full monty, in which the entire roof folds itself accordian-style into a neat stack above the trunk. This effortless motion is quiet, smooth, and fast. And the best part: you can operate the roof while driving up to 50 mph. If raindrops start falling on your head, no need to pull over to put the top up, just push the button as you keep on truckin’. Multitasking at its finest. The rear window is glass, and it covertly slides out of sight when the roof opens. Another super smart feature is that when the roof is open and you need to access the trunk, the car automatically moves the neatly-folded pile up a bit and out of the way, allowing full access to the trunk. If only everything in life worked that smoothly.

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Perhaps the best part of the 500C is that when the top is open, the roof rails stay in place. It’s quiet and you’re less exposed to road noise, allowing for normal conversation and stereo volume with much less wind. It’s having your cake and eating it, too: you still get the convertible experience without the wind-blown hair. 

The divided side-view mirror on the driver’s side is nice too. The smaller pane of glass shows a more remote view of the traffic behind, so changing lanes is safer. The specs are in line with what you’d expect from a small, sporty car. The engine is a 4 cylinder, 84 cubic inches (whatever that means). The 16 valve engine has 101 hp. The 6-speed automatic that I’m driving is plenty zippy in the 40 to 50 mph range, which is the majority of my driving. On the highway, you’re not going to win a drag race with a bigger car with a more muscley engine, but you shouldn’t be drag racing on the highway anyway. The top speed is 110 mph, which is plenty fast even on Houston freeways. This little beauty weighs somewhere around 2,550 pounds and I’m no car expert but am guessing its lithe frame accounts for its zippiness. (I think I just made that word up but am granting Fiat full permission to use it in promotional materials.)

It may be small, but it’s safe. With 7 airbags, I feel very secure, and I like that the 500C earned Best in Class for rear seat leg and shoulder room, as well as Best in Class for interior sound quality. Another safety feature is the Blue&Me, Fiat’s collaboration with Microsoft that provides hands-free mobile access in the car. As long as your phone is in the car, whether on the dashboard or in your purse, you can make and receive calls using the in-vehicle, voice-activated Blue&Me system.

The gas mileage makes me want to dance, then drive around all day. It sips instead of guzzling (hear that, you greedy Tahoe?). The standard transmission gets slightly better gas mileage than the automatic, at 30 mpg city/38 highway, but the automatic is no slouch at 27 mpg city/36 highway. Even with my limited radius of driving, i.e., noncommuter driving, I was filling up my SUV to the tune of $80 to $90 every week or 10 days. The Fiat can go, go, go on its petite 10-gallon tank. I always dreaded filling up my SUV, not only because of the cost but also because it took forever to quench that beast’s thirst. The Fiat fill-ups are quick & easy, just the way I like it. 

I haven’t attempted this pose, because I don’t actually own the car yet, but this chick at the 500C launch party in England makes it look tempting.

Supermodel Elle Macpherson has the exact car I’m driving, except her steering wheel is on the other side. She’s a loyal Fiat owner who’s been quite outspoken in her love for these cars.  “I love the Fiat 500C, it has that sexy, cool, Italian thing going on!” 

With all the color combinations and the retro styling in the interior, it’s as much a fashion accessory as a car. Here’s the inside of Elle’s 500C, which looks just like mine except for the stickshift and the steering wheel on the right sideHere’s mine.The bone-colored leather steering wheel is so fine, and the shiny red accents across the dash are the most stylish thing in the car world. 

George Clooney is a Fiat fan, too. Check this out.

In one article I read about the Fiat 500C, the proclamation was made that “If you like being the center of attention, never has the price of admission been this low.” This car most definitely gets people’s attention. I’ve seen drivers craning their necks to get a better look as we drive; several times I’ve come out of the store to find someone taking a picture of the Fiat in the parking lot. I’ve answered lots of questions (how does it drive? what’s the gas mileage? how much do they cost? what colors are available?) and happily introduced the curious people in my neck of the woods to this cute little car. 

At the New York Auto Show, the 500C was called “relentlessly adorable” and it was said that its “oddball modernism still astonishes.” It’s “super-chic, super-stylish, and effectively retro.” Nice. 

I read another review that had this to say about this little Fiat: “The new 500 is remarkably similar to its predecessor with a flowing and harmonic design which softly mutters – rather than screams – retro. In flowing Italian. The end result of Fiat’s effort is a car that people smile at – on the streets, in parking lots and in traffic jams. Not many cars can be called ‘sweet’, but the Fiat 500 can definitely satisfy any automotive sweet tooth.”

If you need a sweet little Fiat, get with the good people at Fiat of Clear Lake. Tell Joey and Donald that you need a dose of Fiat fun. Ciao!

 

 

 


The new bucket list

“for whatever we lose (like a you or a me),

it’s always our self we find in the sea.” — ee cummings

I love ee cummings. While I’m usually quite the stickler for adherence to the rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, I’ve always loved that cummings eschewed the rules and let the words and his thoughts flow unbridled.

He’s quite right about finding our selves at the sea. Not finding ourselves, but our selves. See the difference? Actually, it’s quite hard to see; it’s more something you feel.

Losing your self in the morass that is a cancer battle is fraught with peril. Having a potentially fatal disease changes you. It messes with your mind, shakes your sense of security, and makes you question the future. Having a potentially fatal disease at a young-ish age with young kids to raise really changes you.

My blogfriend and fellow cancerchick Michelle writes about this change. She writes of fear, of wishing for a return to the carefree, pre-cancer life. She mentions fear. The fear of recurrence. The fear of not being here to witness the millions of little things, seemingly insignificant, yet the essence of what creates our life.

See, for a cancer patient, the fear is always there. It resides deep in the “self” that we wish to find in the sea. Despite best efforts to be brave, move forward, and face the unpleasantness that is life with cancer, the fear is there. Sometimes just below the surface, like a homemade marinara sauce bubbling fragrantly and yummy on the stove. Sometimes right on the surface, as evident and painful as a sunburn the first day on the beach. Fear becomes the new normal. Michelle writes of the “new” normal:

“My new normal, I suppose [is] living each moment with equal parts gratitude, for experiencing it and really soaking it in now, and fear, that it may be over too soon.”

Hear, hear. Well said, Michelle.

Another blogfriend, Lauren, writes similarly.  Because she is 5 years out from diagnosis while Michelle and I are more recent arrivals to cancerland, Lauren writes not of the ever-present fear but of the urgency to experience all the things we fear we might not be here to experience. The bucket list takes on a whole new priority post-cancer.

Says Lauren:

“It dawned on me that cancer survivors also have a different bucket list. One that isn’t the places we want to go, or what we want to buy or learn to do, but one comprised of the things we want to live long enough to experience and see come to pass.”

Yes, that’s true. While there are places I want to see and plenty of things I want to do, I know now, post-cancer, that there’s a difference. Everything is different post-cancer. I’m still looking for that new normal, and my bucket list changes somewhat, but one thing remains constant: while I’m still scared, there’s still plenty that I want to see come to pass.

For now, I’m enjoying the ocean breezes, the sound of the surf, and the sunset over the water, knowing that with each new day, there’s plenty to see. 


LL mom gone wild

Having just returned from the State Championship and spent the vast majority of the summer involved in Little League baseball, this story caught my eye.

Seems a Long Island, NY, Little League mom had a bone to pick with her son’s coach when her little darling wasn’t chosen to play on the All Star team. Instead of accepting the coach’s decision to leave her 11-year-old son off the roster, Janet Chiauzzi, age 44, went nuts and threatened him and his family, including his son (who I assume is her son’s peer). She also wrote to the school principal and accused the baseball coach of indecent behaviour toward the boys on the team.

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Here’s the note she sent to the coach’s son:

“Tell your stupid father to back away from the East Meadow baseball team or he will be sorry. There are other things in life than baseball and if he wants to enjoy them he will get out of East Meadow baseball for good. Accidents happen and I would hate to see something happen to your mom or dad or sister because of your dad’s stupidity… think about it, if something terrible happens to your dad or mom or sister you can blame your dad for not taking my threat seriously. He will be harmed and the outcome will not be good for you. You might never see your dad again. You all better watch your fucking backs. This is no joke. This is as real as it gets.”

Wow. That is some crazy stuff. Way to go, Mom. Outstanding job setting a good example of how to receive bad news, take the high road, and get on with life. Granted, All Stars is a big deal. As I’ve said before, we plan our entire summer around Payton making the team and the team winning district and sectionals and going to the State Championship.

All that over Little League baseball. Man, I shudder to think what might happen if Chiauzzi’s kid is turned down at a job interview. She has been charged with four counts of stalking, two counts of falsely reporting an incident, two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and four counts of aggravated harassment.

Listen, overbearing parents are nothing new in youth sports. It’s a tale as old as time. Some of the greatest athletes in the sports world had obnoxious parents. Poor Mickey Mantle, one of baseballs’ greats, reportedly wet his bed until he was 16 years old because of the emotional stress of his dad’s expectations of him. Tennis Hall of Famer Andre Agassi admitted he hated tennis because of his dad’s overzealousness. He’s the only male singles player to have won all four Grand Slams on three different court surfaces (grass, clay, and hard-courts) but hated every minute of it, because his dad was a jerk.

According to Andre’s autobiography, Open, his father Mike Agassi “banged on the fences with a hammer during Andre’s matches when his son lost a point, screamed at officials and was ejected more than once.”

In all my time logged in the bleachers, I’ve seen some bad behaviour from the players’ parents, usually the dads. Never once have I seen verbal abuse help a kid turn his game around. In fact, it usually has the exact opposite effect.

In Open, Andre tells the story of his father making him play a match for money against football legend Jim Brown in 1979, when Agassi was just 9 years old in his hometown of Las Vegas. When Brown complained about the cancellation of a match he was due to play for money, Agassi’s father suggested that Brown play Andre and put up his house for the wager. Brown countered with a $10,000 bet instead. Andre won easily, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2, and said he was relieved that his family’s life savings were no longer riding on him. He was 9 years old. 9 years old.

Crazy parents have no place in youth sports, yet there they are. Perhaps the most famous case of crazy parents in youth sports is the Texas Cheerleader Mom, Wanda Holloway. In 1991 Wanda solicited a hit man to off the mother of a rival cheerleader,  hoping the girl would be so bereaved that her own daughter would score a spot on the middle-school cheerleading squad. 

The story captivated the nation and spawned two made-for-TV movies and landed Wanda on the cover of People magazine.

Holloway was convicted of solicitation of capital murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison, but the conviction was overturned because a juror was on probation. Rather than face a second trial, Holloway pleaded no contest, was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years. She served only 6 months of the sentence and was released on March 1, 1997. I wonder if her daughter still speaks to her.

Thomas Junta, aka “the Hockey Dad” must have watched the two movies about Wanda Holloway and got some ideas of his own. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after an incident at his 10-year-old’s hockey practice in July 2000. Apparently Junta was complaining to the coach, Michael Costin, that practice was too rough. Costin replied that hockey is supposed to be rough. That must have enraged Junta, because he attacked Costin and beat him mercilessly in front of the kids. The 156-pound coach had no chance against the 275-pound Junta, and died from a ruptured artery in his neck. Junta was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

Too bad Costin’s hockey team didn’t have a Statement Concerning Spectator Behavior, aka Ground Rule #18, like we do in our Little League. This rule was read over the PA system at the games this past weekend, and the text of the rules appears in the programs sold at the games:

“Any person who publicly criticizes the umpires, tournament officials, opposing players or coaches will be asked to immediately leave the complex and will be barred from the complex for the remainder of the tournament. Tournament officials will ask that all players be placed in their respective dugout and play will be stopped until the offender leaves the complex….We will insist that the focus of the game remain on the kids. Please do not embarrass yourself, family and team by violating the Ground Rules as stated and approved by your District Administrator.”

When I heard the rule read aloud, I chuckled to myself and thought it was a bit of overkill. Reflecting upon people like the Long Island Little League mom, the Texas Cheerleader Murder mom, and the hockey dad, however, I get it, and I chuckle no more.

The stakes are high at the State Championship, and every parent there wanted their kid’s team to win. After missing the entire thing last year, I really wanted my kid’s team to win. But I’m happy to report that I did not embarrass myself, my family, or my kid’s team by violating the Ground Rules. I sure wish the Long Island Little League mom had been guided by our Ground Rules. Talk about embarrassing your kid. Sheesh.


Victory after tragedy

I wanted to post something about British Open champion Darren Clarke on Sunday, when he won the tournament, but have been consumed with tournaments and champions in a different sport, so here I am.

I’m not much for watching golf on TV. It’s slow and to me, boring. I consider it an activity, not a sport, and I say that knowing full well I’m torquing a lot of golf fans by doing so. I don’t quibble with the skill involved, but to me if you don’t get sweaty & out of breath doing it, it’s not a sport.

Anyhoo, back to Clarke.

I didn’t pay him or any of the golfers one lick of attention over the weekend. If Freddy Couples isn’t playing, I can’t be bothered. 

Then Trevor told me that Clarke’s wife, Heather, had died from breast cancer. That got my attention. Heather Clarke died in 2006 at age 39 after a recurrence. Her boys were 8 and 5 years old when she died. 

That is my biggest nightmare. And I imagine it’s the biggest nightmare of every mother of young kids who is diagnosed with this damned disease. Recurrence is enough of a nightmare, but dying from BC with young kids at home is even more terrifying. Being diagnosed with cancer at a young age, with young kids still to raise, is hard enough. Worrying about and fearing recurrence adds to the terror that comprises this disease. I don’t care that my odds of avoiding recurrence are good, or that I’m doing all the right things to ensure that this cancer does not return. I was doing all the right things before cancer became the pile of poo in my path, and it still infiltrated my life. So while the numbers and statistics are in my favor, the fear is always in my heart.

During her battles with BC, Darren said of his wife, “My wife is a battler. She fights it so hard and I have so much admiration for her.” He too is a battler, having played in the Davis Cup 6 weeks after Heather died, and winning all 3 of his matches.

At Heather’s funeral on August 17, 2006, the minister remembered Heather as “an unpretentious, lovely girl, who was full of character” and said “that day in March 1996 when you married her here in this church, Darren, you really won the greatest trophy of your life.” The reverend made everyone smile by recalling how she loved to shop while her husband played golf. My kind of girl.

After accepting the British Open trophy on Sunday, Darren Clarke said, “It’s been a long and bumpy road, I have had some good things happen to me and some bad things, but I’ve had so much support from an awful lot of people.” He credited Heather with watching him “from up above” and said, “In terms of what’s going through my heart there’s obviously somebody who is watching down from up above. I know she’d be very proud of me. She’d probably be saying ‘I told you so’. But I think she’d be more proud of my two boys. It’s been a long journey.”

He seems like a really cool guy.  He likes to lift a pint or two, and he’s been known to enjoy a cigar after a round of golf. After winning on Sunday, he partied all night, and he started that party during the post-match press conference by drinking a pint of Guinness while being interviewed. I really like this guy. Being a good father is important to him (take a lesson, Tiger). In an interview with Golf Magazine, he was asked how long it took to return to normal after Heather died. His reply is so honest. Instead of platitudes and false courage, he says:

“Well, what’s normal? It’s still not normal. It can’t be normal when you haven’t got the mother of your kids and my wife at home. I was starting to get back to an even keel probably at the start of this year [2009]. It was a long time. There were some dark moments. God knows things have been difficult for me, but it has been even harder for the boys. It has been tough having to deal with things. And tough being thrown in to being 100 percent responsible for my two kids. I had to start making the decisions for everything for the boys. Making the day-to-day decisions for the boys has been a shock to the system. You don’t realize how much wives have got to do until you’ve got to do it yourself.”

When asked in the same interview if he felt angry about her death, he again answered honestly: “Probably. I’m sure anybody would. You know, Why Heather? Why? Why? Why? There are no answers to that.”

No, there are no answers to that.


Cruel, cruel world

“Every death is a wakeup call to live more fully, more completely and more presently.” — Oprah

How ironic that I came across this quote today, the same day that I came across this on my patio (Julie A, stop reading now because here comes the icky part; Christy and all my tender-hearted animal-loving friends, I apologize in advance for the graphic nature of this post and the photos:

I consulted the Houston Audubon Society website and it appears to be American Crow. It’s smaller than a Grackle, which are very common around here, especially on the patios of Mexican restaurants where they beg for chips.

Payton and I came home from the gym but didn’t notice the crow on the ground. He went back into the garage to carry in the loot from Academy, and as he walked up to the back door I heard him say, “Ewwww, gross!” I asked what was gross and he said there’s a dead bird on the patio, and before I could get out there, Harry had the bird in his mouth (he is a retriever, after all).

I don’t think Harry killed the bird — he barks a good game, but when push came to shove, I think he’d be too squeamish. He prefers to do his hunting on the kitchen counters when he’s all alone, and no one can see him scarf down a loaf of bread. If Payton and I had happened upon a downed loaf of bread, I would convict Harry in a heartbeat. 

Is this face of a bird killer? I think not.

True, Harry has little patience for birds and barks his fool head off at them. He especially gets rattled by the ones that perch on the peak of our roof. They pause there to rest a minute or sing a little song, and he goes bonkers. If we say “bird” to Harry, he’ll start barking, lifting his two front paws off the ground for emphasis. However, I don’t think he’s a cold-blooded killer.

I think that unfortunate crow hit one of the plate-glass windows that line the family room and overlook the backyard. This has happened once before, and the bird was stunned and knocked for a loop, but eventually recovered enough to fly away and hopefully live a long, happy, song-filled life. That time, I heard the thump of bird body colliding with glass. This time, I did not.

Nevertheless, I left the crow when he was for a while, hoping the fluttering of his tail feathers meant he was coming to and rallying. Alas, it was not to be. There would be no rally for that crow.

Sad, sad, sad.

And also troubling, because with 2 dogs in residence and others who visit regularly, that dead bird could easily become a mess of feathers and innards if left too long. It might also scare the tar out of Pedey the Weasel Dog, who is regularly frightened by his own shadow. If left too long in the intense Houston heat, it would start to stink to high heaven sooner rather than later. And, last but not least, I did not want Macy to see that dead bird. My little zookeeper has a heart as big as Texas, and her love of animals is legendary. In fact, she is at this moment at the Houston Humane Society’s Companion Camp, where she is no doubt loving on every animal in the building.

So how to dispose of the dead bird on my patio? It seemed somehow wrong and not befitting to just pick it up in a plastic bag and dump it in the trash. Wrong and smelly, too, since the trashmen don’t come for another couple of days. I can imagine that a dead bird inside a black trash barrel in the 90+ degree heat would be plenty nasty come trash day. I think the trashmen would have to take the whole barrel.

Enter “The Scoop.”

Anyone who has a dog knows what “The Scoop” is for, and those of you unfortunate souls who don’t have a dog can probably figure it out quite easily. Our Scoop gets plenty of use in our yard, and I’m kinda nutsy about cleaning it real carefully after each use, so I figured this was the best option. 

Poor little crow. He fit quite nicely in “The Scoop” and as much as I tried to avoid looking right at him, I couldn’t help but notice how delicate yet sturdy his feet were. 

He looks like he’s just sleeping in “The Scoop,” right?

The Houston Audubon Society says the American Crow is “highly intelligent” and leads a “complex life.” They hang together, forming large communities, and don’t breed until they are 4 or 5 years old. They have strong family ties and tend to stay together.

Great, I can now picture a crow family worried sick about their relative who hasn’t returned to the nest. They may be doing a fly-over right now, fanning out across the neighborhood searching for their lost guy.

Now I’m really glad I didn’t just dump him in the trash barrel. I carried him, in “The Scoop,” across the street and laid him in the shady grassy area next to the lake. It’s under a big tree, so maybe the search party will spot him, and their worry can morph into sorrow.

Or maybe the vultures will get to him before then. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and vultures gotta eat. Circle of life, I suppose, but it still makes me sad. I won’t go so far as to say that this crow’s death is a wake-up call that makes me want to live more fully, more completely, and more presently, as Oprah advises. No, I have cancer to thank for that. But having been through the “cancer journey” myself and having watched my sweet mama go through it, my heart is just a little more tender. Just a teensy bit broken. While joyful about survival and proud of having triumphed, going through such an immense experience produces little fissures, tiny cracks.

Yet, as Harold Duante-Bernardt so poetically pointed out, “We are all broken and wounded in this world. Some choose to grow strong at the broken places.”

So while I keep peeking out the front windows to the shady spot across the street, under the big tree by the lake, watching for a crow family in mourning or a gaggle of hungry vultures, I will resolve to grow stronger at the broken places.