Today is my favorite day of the year. No, it’s not my birthday — it’s Global Champagne Day. Which might as well be my birthday. It’s one good thing — perhaps the only good thing — about the month of October, and I plan to celebrate.
Some people consider December 31st to be GCD; however, they are wrong. December 31st is New Year’s Eve, and while lots of champagne is consumed on that day every year, champagne does not share the limelight with the last day of the year, with the giant mirrored ball dropping, or any such nonsense. Champagne stands on its own. Sheesh, the fact that it’s Global Champagne Day proves that. It’s not even in the same league as National Shrimp Day or National Lost Sock day.
One of my friends at the gym heard me talking about GCD and asked — in all sincerity — if I made it up. As if I would fabricate a global movement just to have an excuse to drink champagne. As if I need a reason. Sheesh.
In honor of my favorite beverage on my favorite day of the year, here are some of my favorite quotes. I’d love to find bigger images of these quotes (all from googleimages.com) but am in too big of a hurry to pop a cork. Perhaps there is a way to edit the sizes right here on my computer screen, but again…time’s a wasting and I gotta get to pouring.
I like to drink water along with my champagne, so I can keep drinking the bubbles without fear of waking up with a headache. It’s called The Water Course, and anyone who has raised a glass with me knows I swear by that practice. A little tip from me to you. You’re welcome. Dance away, folks. Just don’t spill your champagne.
I have no clue who Cat Deeley is, but he or she is wise. Very wise.
Allow me to reiterate: champagne is just right for any occasion.
Preach on, Mark Twain. Preach on.
Oh, Winston Churchill! Why oh why didn’t anyone listen to you and institute a free champagne policy?
WordPress is outstanding. I give all credit to the Hubs for choosing WordPress as my blog home. Actually, he gets all the credit for this little blog’s existence. He
bullied convinced me to transition from Caring Bridge to a “real” blog. I wasn’t sure I had the chops or the audience for a “real” blog, but he was right on both counts. See, I’m neither too proud nor too Greek to admit I was wrong.
bullied convinced me to leave the safety of Caring Bridge for the wide-open world of “real” blogging, he set out to find the best blog host for me, and WordPress won that contest, hands down. Not to knock those blogs hosted by other, non-WPsites, of course, but WP never asks me to “prove I’m not a robot” by entering a string of jibberish into a little box before my comment can be published. WP never requires me to identify myself each and every time I want to post a comment on someone else’s blog. The brain that powers WP is big enough to remember who I am every time. There’ve been times when I’ve abandoned a comment I was planning to leave on another blog, after carefully composing it (or just rattling off a stream-of-consciousness thought) because the process of proving I’m not a robot and having to enter my credentials took too long or crashed my computer. Not so with WordPress.
I got a handy email from the dear folks at WP the other day saying this: “The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.”
They provided this cute graphic as well. Thanks, WP; now I don’t have to troll googleimages to find something to pretty up my post.
The good people at WP crunched a lot of numbers and came up with this analogy for my little blog:
19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 100,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Click here to see the complete report. Thank you, stat helper monkeys, for this annual report. What a cool gift. Those helpful monkeys laid out my all-time most-viewed post for me. How interesting. If someone — or some monkey — asked me to pick what I thought my most-viewed post was, I’m not sure I would have thought of this one. But I’m not a stat-crunching monkey, now, am I? I’m someone who still counts on her fingers sometimes, and who always resorts to a 20-percent tip in a restaurant because the math is just easier. What I don’t know about stats and numbers and most-viewed posts is a lot.
I’m humbled and tickled and perhaps a bit surprised to see how far-reaching this little blog has become. My heart is warmed by the blog friends I’ve made through this little blog. Women and men around the globe from all walks of life, united in one thing: the need to pour out our hearts onto the WP screen, to try to make some sense of the curveballs life has thrown us. Whether cancer or life in a foreign land or the pursuit of a goal right here at home, my blog friends write about the stuff that is foremost in their minds and filling up their hearts. Through good news (the latest scan was clear!) and bad (the dreaded mets), through everyday events and life-changing ones, we share. We comment. We connect. We come together.
And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
As we shed this year and look forward to a brand-spanking-new one, I will take some time to reflect on this little blog and all its stats and numbers. As I prepare for a year-end blow-out celebration with dear friends and lots of champagne, I will think of my blog friends around the world, and I will raise a glass to our shared experience. While I’d just as soon not have been diagnosed with breast cancer at the tender age of 40, had I not, I wouldn’t have started this little blog and “met” all of my wonderful friends in the blog-o-sphere. While I still fervently maintain that cancer is not a gift, it does happen, and we deal with it. We curse it, we cry about it, we blog about it. We come together.
Readying myself to bid adieu to 2012, I think of the year ahead and hope it’s full of good health, dear friends, yummy food, sunny days, bottomless glasses, cherished children, and beloved pets. I wouldn’t mind getting back on the tennis court after 4 long months of rehab for my newly-repaired knee, BTW. I’m thinking of things I want to do in the New Year, tasks I want to tackle, skills I want to acquire, places I want to go. In the immortal words of Mark Twain, I’m thinking of catching the wind in my sails.
I get a handy-dandy email in my inbox every day from Oprah’s magazine. I like her magazine and always find something useful, whether a book review or an article about a do-gooder in some random far-flung part of the world. Because Oprah is queen of the world and can cover whatever stories or topics she chooses, you never see ridiculous headlines or teasers on the cover of her magazine, like what we see on so many magazines. Sometimes I’m downright embarrassed by them while waiting in line at the grocery store: do we need to know that Hilary is cheating on Bill with a lesbian lover? Do you really want to guess which celeb’s backside is completely covered in cellulite but only partially covered by a yellow bikini? I’m never embarrassed by the cover of O Magazine.
So today’s email had Dr Oz’s tips on 10 things you can do to live to 100 — or beyond.
I’m all for healthy living, but I most definitely do not want to live to be 100 — or beyond. I’m exhausted just thinking about that. Perhaps living to 100 — or beyond — but never growing old, feeble, and/or dependent on others wouldn’t be too bad, but given my not one, but two bouts with cancer, coupled with my degenerating joints, I’m guessing that won’t be in the cards for me. If I live to be 100 — or beyond — but my knees won’t bend and I’m stuck in a wheelchair, or even worse in bed, relying on others to care for me, I’m going to be hopping mad. Not that I have a death wish, but I am realistic. The average age of women diagnosed with breast cancer is 61; I was 20 years ahead of the curve. While strides have been made in treatment, and while my personal recurrence rate was predicted to be low, I don’t know that I can rationally expect to live another 57 years — or beyond.
Maybe I’m taking Dr Oz too literally. Does he really think that by following his 10 tips, we can live to be 100? I dunno, but here are his suggestions.
1. Eat red foods. The examples he give are beets, which relax blood vessels, and red cabbage, which protects against cancer. I love, love, love beets, so perhaps my blood vessels are relaxed. However, I clearly did not eat enough red cabbage, as it most definitely did not protect me from cancer.
2. Drink a cup of black tea. It’s supposed to boost survival rates of those who suffer a heart attack by 28 percent. Ok, I admit that stats like these confuse me. Does this mean that black-tea drinkers who have a heart attack are 28 percent more likely to not die from the heart attack, or 28 percent les likely to have a heart attack in the first place? I’m confused, but I do drink a lot of iced tea, so hopefully I’m covered either way.
3. Dial one phone number from memory every day. Not using speed dial or your cell phone’s memory exercises the brain’s “chunking” ability. By grouping info into chunks, you can keep your brain active and alert. I think working a crossword puzzle does the same thing, but don’t quote me on that.
4. Use the first stall in a public restroom. Ok, I do this whenever I am stuck and must use a public restroom, although I avoid public restrooms at all cost. Being the good germophobe that I am, I already knew this trick. See, most people seek privacy in a public restroom, so they tend to use the farthest stalls. More use equals more bacteria, which freaks me out. Now I’m wishing I hadn’t shared this tip, though, as I predict a rush on my preferred first stall. Some days I wonder how I’m able to leave the house at all.
5. Take the stairs, two at a time. We all know that taking the stairs instead of the elevator is preferable for good health, but Dr Oz says take that a step further — literally — and take two stairs at a time. Easy for him to say, with his long legs. I’ll try it, even though my legs aren’t long, but I’ll probably have to use the handrail, which I’m pretty sure is covered in germs. Never mind.
6. Stretch after you shower. Stretching is good. Tight muscles and tendons are bad (says the girl who hates to stretch). Once your muscles are good and heated from the shower, it’s easier to stretch them, and stretching promotes good posture and helps decrease muscle soreness from taking the stairs two in one go.
7. Hold your breath. Dr Oz touts this as a mini workout for your lungs, and something that can be done anytime, anywhere. He recommends holding your breath for 10 seconds, then blowing it out through pursed lips, which activates all the little nooks & crannies in our lungs. I tend to hold my breath while using a public restroom, so as long as I blow it out through pursed lips, I guess I’m good.
8. Do the reverse warrior. Dr Oz does a lot of yoga, and if he says the reverse warrior is the most important pose, I believe him. Click here to see how to do it. This pose strengthens the legs, increases flexibility in the spine, and stretches the hips, inner thighs, and groin. Get to it, y’all.
9. Chew your food 20 times. Grandma said it first, but Dr Oz tells us why: not only does it slow us down and helps us avoid eating like a pack of wild animals, it can decrease our risk of diabetes. Horking down food too fast leads to overeating, which can lead to obesity, which can lead to diabetes. Dr Oz says if you don’t want to count out how many times you chew, get into the habit of putting your fork down in between bites.
10. Cut your cravings in half. Instead of trying to deny your cravings, Dr Oz recommends giving in to them, but only by half. So instead of gobbling down a bag of potato chips, eat half the bag. Instead of devouring the carton of ice cream, just eat half of it. Actually, the example he gave was a cookie. One cookie. Which he wants you to break in half. So I’m guessing he would counsel me to go ahead and pour myself a glass of champagne, but to only drink half of it. Yet another reason to not live to be 100 — or beyond. I want the whole glass!
It’s Thanksgiving and I would be remiss if I didn’t remark upon the things for which I am thankful. This time last year I was fresh off the post-mastectomy infection train and trying to navigate life as a survivor. This year, the infection is finally in the rear-view mirror, and 8 surgeries later I’m on the road to reclaiming my normal life.
Living in Texas, where it’s warm enough to swim on Thanksgiving. People joke about how Texas is a whole ‘nother country, and it’s true. Everything is bigger here, and better.
Tennis. I’ve learned so much from the game, most notably humility, and continue to be challenged. People laugh when I say I started playing tennis because I like the clothes and had no idea how hard a game it is, but it’s true.
Things that challenge me to get outside of my comfort zone. Like modeling in the Couture for the Cause a few weeks after my latest hospitalization last fall. Yikes. After wondering what in the sam hell made me agree to do it, I ended up having one of the single best experiences of my life. And plan to do it again in March. Get your tickets now, before it sells out!
The only thing missing from this party was my cancer.
It was a great party (especially since the cancer — and its nasty friend mycobacterium — were nowhere to be found). Last year I had one foot in the grave and had a very small party to thank my friends who’d helped me in ways large and small through the most difficult experience I’d endured. The ways in which they helped were as varied as they are: a math teacher, a PE teacher, a realtor, a crude oil buyer, a builder’s sales & marketing guru, a former hair stylist, a psychotherapist, a transplant nurse, a budding photographer, an HVAC business owner, a surgeon-wrangler, and several kick-ass SAHMs.
This year, the infection is gone, the antibiotics are history, and the party is on, baby! The rules were the same this year: wear pink, eat, and drink. And celebrate life. Really celebrate life.
Last year, I felt pretty rotten, and wasn’t much in a party mood. It had been a long, miserable summer, and the misery dragged into the fall (or what passes for fall in south Texas). Who would have thought that facing cancer and having a bilateral mastectomy would be the “easy” part compared to the post-surgery infection? Now I know that the battlefield is treacherous, and the presence and comfort of good friends go a long way.
Things were certainly much brighter this year.
I’d had a bad week, though, leading up to this year’s Pink Party. A really bad week. The last few days were emotionally charged, big time. Drama on the tennis court, histrionics from a stranger blogger, and mean girls at play in my social circle sucked up more time and energy than I realized. Factor in an early-dismissal day from school on Thursday, and this party girl was running behind schedule.
Frazzled and scrambling (and more than a little pissed off at all the drama), I got my party prep done by the skin of my teeth. A custom piece of artwork rolled out the pink carpet for my guests (thanks, David!).
Don’t forget to read the plant tag!
Having a party gave me the motivation I needed to revive my sagging, heat-stroked flowerpots, too. We need some mulch, but there was no time for that. Get the plants in the pots and move on. The ladies will be here soon! I’m oh so grateful to my superstar gardener. Thank you, Eduardo!
…and pink roses on the side table. Halloween decor mingled with all things pink is kinda weird, but the eyeball candle reminded me of the mycobacterium that disrupted my life so mightily and completely last year, and it provided a nice dose of reality to my pink plans.
Once the feather boa goes up on the chandelier, it’s time to start the party!
The menu was pretty similar this year: mostly pink foods. Salad with roasted beets, peel & eat shrimp, smoked salmon with capers, hot crab dip, strawberries & raspberries, and pink-ribbon sugar cookies with pink frosting. Oh, and the Corn Thing. Can’t have a party without the Corn Thing. It’s not pink, but it’s on the menu anyway.
The other thing I completely forgot to do this year was give a toast. I wrote a few words about each party guest and had planned to tap my glass to shush the scintillating conversations and deliver the toast. Completely forgot.
We had a most excellent bartender.
Ok, girls, here ya go:
Amy H: you have led by example and taught me how to give from the heart, and to give what people truly need. You always seem to know just the right thing to say, like the dog whisperer, only for people. No one can wrangle Dr S like you!
Amy P: the abundance of food you delivered to my doorstep sustained both my body and my soul. Knowing that a good meal was right around the corner was such a relief, and it allowed my addled brain to focus on things like wounds and puss. Your nursing expertise was a huge help as well, and I’m grateful for the late-night house calls.
Christy: you went from “my babysitter’s mom” to “my friend” in one giant leap. You walk the walk and are the epitome of “it’s just what you do” and are the one person who cusses as much as I do. I appreciate so much your unflinching honesty and your endless compassion, to people and animals. My life is so much better with you in it.
Claudine: Through your diagnosis, I have come to understand the overwhelming desire to try and ease the patient’s burden. I’m honored to be in the trenches with you.
Jenny: you’re the trail-blazer and my mentor in all things survivor. You lifted me up each time you sent me a card and each time you reminded me that “this is temporary.” You have provided a stellar example of how to live a rich and full life after cancer. Can’t wait to be celebrating my 12 years of survivorship, like you, my friend! And many more.
Jill: you have a knack for making all the right gestures and for making all the right things happen. Whether sharing a meal or raising a glass, time spent with you is always a rich reward.
Julie: my wacky friend, I love knowing that no joke is too raunchy, no comment too catty to utter in front of you. What freedom to be exactly who I am — the good, bad and the ugly — with you and know that you love me just for being Nancy K.
Laura: no one else can talk me into giving up so many hugs. Each time you took time out of your insanely busy schedule to check on me, I was reminded of what a loyal and special friend you are. And a special thanks for all the electronic medical advice you provide…whether via text or email, I know you’ll send me the right answer.
Mary: you make it seem so simple to give freely and unconditionally, and every time I’ve asked you for something, you’ve not only said yes, but you’ve agreed with a huge heart. To know that you have my back, whether for carpool or child-care, is such a comfort.
Melanie: you reached out and seized upon my hair emergency. Offering to take care of my hair at home while I was healing is something I’ll never forget. By figuring out exactly what I needed, you taught me that accepting help from others isn’t just ok, it’s pretty great and mutually beneficial.
Melissa: When we first met, when P and H were in kindergarten, I knew I wanted to be your friend. Your wit and style were (and still are) so appealing, and I enjoy every minute I spend with you. You’re a pretty kick-ass lizard-sitter, too!
Michelle: My champagne sister! What a beautiful thing to find someone who is always looking for a reason to pop that cork. Not only do I love drinking bubbly with you, I also really like to stand next to you. Dynamite truly does come in small packages, my friend.
Nicole: your carefree spirit reminds me how vital it is to enjoy life and to not sweat the small stuff. My type-A self basks in your laissez-faire attitude and I aspire to live life with gusto, just like you.
Sharon: your visits were always perfectly timed: just when I needed a pick-me-up, you would appear on my doorstep. I’ve learned a lot from you, in Chinatown and on the tennis court.
Staci: from Day 1, you kept me grounded. I knew that if I needed to go off the rails, you’d get me back on track and charm everyone we met along the way. You taught me how to grease the wheels and to take time to talk, really talk, to the people who come into our lives. And somehow, all these years later, you & I always have something to talk about.
Yvonne: as my in-house counsel, you remind me regularly that it’s ok to feel what I feel and think what I think. You bring a calming presence to my calamitous life, and your good sense and fun-loving ways always make me smile. Just when I am feeling adrift, you call saying “I miss you!” and that makes my heart happy.
I’m already looking forward to the 3rd annual Pink Party, and I’m smiling really big at the idea of us still gathering every year in October when we’re old and grey. Hopefully by then, breast cancer will be a thing of the past — but the party will go on!
As I may have mentioned once or twice in this space, I love champagne. It’s one of my all-time favorite things on Earth. Now that my kids are off to school (hallelujah!) I have plenty of time to wax poetic about my favorite drink. I could drink champagne every day; contrary to popular opinion, a special occasion is not necessary. But there’s nothing more festive and celebratory than the pop of a cork. and I don’t hesitate to find a reason to drink some bubbly.
National Pancake Day? Bring it on. Armistice Day? Don’t mind if I do. Birthdays & major holidays? Duh. International Margarita Day? I’m not afraid to mix my liquors.
Not only is La Grande Dame a superb champagne, it also has a great story behind it. Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin married Francois Clicquot and was widowed after 7 years during the late 1700s. Francois left his family’s business — champagne-making — to her. At age 27 and knowing little of the fledgling business, she took the reins of the company and never looked back. She invented champagne-making techniques that are still in use today, and those greatly reduced production time, which means less time for the bubbly to get in my glass. She became one of the shrewdest — and wealthiest — businesswomen in France, and IMHO she deserves a place in history.
There’s a book about her called The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It. I’m a sucker for girl-power stories, so I bought the book, but had trouble reading it because it made me so dadgum thirsty. There are a few things I was able to glean, though, that are worth sharing about the widow who was “a young witness to the dramatic events of the French Revolution and a new widow during the chaotic years of the Napoleonic Wars.” Sounds exciting even without the bubbly.
Barbe-Nicole rebelled against convention by taking over the Clicquot family wine business. She was brave and ballsy, and through “dizzying political and financial reversals” she became one of the world’s first great businesswomen. By her late 30s, she was one of the richest women in France. Clicquot sales are estimated to have been $30 million a year under her command. One of her lasting legacies was to portray champagne drinking as a lifestyle. She “took champagne from marginal to mainstream and made it synonymous with style,” according to the book about her.
I’m not a big French Revolution history buff, and I won’t bore anyone with the details on the first day of school (hooray!!!), but suffice to say that Barbe-Nicole was smart enough to realize that if she could get the Russians hooked on her bubbly, she’s have it made. She “arranged clandestine and perilous champagne deliveries to Russia one day and entertained Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte on another.” Toward the end of the Napoleonic Wars, she cornered the Russian market by gambling 10,000 bottles of her best vintage. The Russians took the bait, and she became the queen of the bubbly.
The occasion for my enormous treat surprisingly had nothing at all to do with cancer. It wasn’t the marking of a milestone or the celebration of a clear scan or other good news. It wasn’t a drowning of sorrows, which is a very good thing, because all the drinking that’s been required since cancer came to town would make a very deep river.
No, the occasion was a reward for a little party-planning provided for my runnin’ buddy Staci’s 40th birthday fete. I helped her hubby, my buddy The Rajah, plan her soiree and he was kind enough to show his appreciation by flashing the beloved yellow bottle. He’d been teasing me with it for weeks while I was out of town, texting to tell me he was making mimosas with it — oh the horror! The humanity! The thought of mixing such a fine wine made me nearly weep. He’s soooooo funny.
The moment just before the lovely lady was opened, at La Vista (which is such a great restaurant. If you live anywhere near Houston and haven’t eaten there — go there tonight!!). It was a beautiful moment, ripe with anticipation. The bottle glistened with condensation after being chilled in an ice bucket table-side. I kept it as close to me as possible while it chilled. I fretted over it like it was a newborn baby fussing in a Moses basket — was it cold enough? too cold? just right?
As soon as I heard the pop of the cork, I knew — it was indeed just right.
Tiny, tiny bubbles that hit the bottom of the glass and skyrocketed upward in an elegant trip to the open mouth of the glass. Beautiful amber color, like the last rays of the sunset after a most-perfect day. Teensy hint of fruit and even teensier hint of yeast. The delicate scent of bubbles and dry-but-not-bitter loveliness. From the first sip, it was apparent that this was vintage. This was the good stuff.
That’s my version. Here’s another:
“Known among connoisseurs as one of the finest champagnes in the world, it’s the pride and joy of the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin. Ethereal, free and original, the Grande Dame teases aficionados with its rarity, making an appearance only when nature offers a concordance of perfect conditions.” — eat, love, savor magazine
Well, nature certainly did offer a concordance of perfect conditions, when a group of friends gathered at the end of the summer to celebrate the passage of time, the newest member of the “over-40 club,” and the savoring of the finer things in life. Cheers to the good life! And thanks, Rajah!
So it’s 1:00 in the morning and I’m wide awake. You’d think an impromptu dinner party with the hens in which we put away 5 bottles of Piper and 2 bottles of wine would give me the impetus for a hasty nighty-night, but no, my brain is whirring & churning instead of sending vibes of lullabies.
I have no idea how all those bottles got emptied, but I do know that I will be worthless at my early-morning tennis drill. I’m not a night owl, and no matter how late I stay up, I tend to wake up with the roosters, so I’m already thinking about the piquant smell of the coffee beans being ground and am hearing the sound of the jet-engine-like grinder as it pulvarizes the coffee beans into a fine enough powder that combined with hot water elicits an energizing brew.
Girlfriends old and new gathered around my dinner table is a tonic for the soul, for sure. Grilled teriyaki tuna steaks, ginger rice pilaf with snow peas, roasted broccoli, and a most delicious salad of mixed greens, goat cheese, strawberries, blueberries and candied pecans filled my belly and my soul with happiness. Throw in a sinfully complex chocolate mousse cake and you’ve got the recipe for bliss.
I’ve promised Payton & Macy a trip to see Kung Fu Panda 2 tomorrow, followed by a belated graduation dinner for my cousin Melissa. I may be napping through the movie and longing for my bed early tomorrow, but will not begrudge the laughter and fellowship of the late-night hens’ dinner party. As Po would say, “You guys see that? It’s called being awesome.” And as we all learned from the original Kung Fu Panda, there’s no charge for the awesomeness.
The day after one’s birthday can be a let-down, but I’ve got enough festive spirit to carry me right on through. Needless to say, yesterday was one of the best days ever. Big kudos to Trevor for orchestrating a fantastic day. This one is going down in the record-books as the most festive birthday celebration ever.
I’m laughing so hard here because the first cork that popped hit the ceiling and scared the nail techs. I guess they don’t have a lot of champagne corks being popped as they prepare to buff & polish clients’ nails.
I’m sad to say that not one photo was taken at my birthday lunch, but picture this: a group of smiling, laughing ladies gathered around a festive table while pitchers (plural) of frozen margaritas are passed. Glasses clink, some with salt and some without, in a toast to great friends, good food, and enduring health.
Meanwhile, a kind senorita whips up a batch of fresh guacamole tableside, adding just the right amount of cilantro, jalapenos, lime juice and kosher salt (but no onions–don’t like em). Custom-made, tableside guac is one of the finer things in life. A big thank you to Mr Reyes, GM at Escalante’s, for the complimentary guac and queso for my party. Abundio knows how to treat the ladies!
Handmade Mexican food just kept coming as the conversation (and margaritas) flowed. Get a group of women together to eat, drink, talk & laugh and you know it’s going to get a little wild. We kept it in check but certainly had a stellar time.
Meanwhile, on the penultimate day of school, Macy received the classroom award for “Most Helpful,” which doesn’t surprise me one bit. School’s out today, which means my kids are now 4th and 7th graders. Let the summer fun begin!
“With the past I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
I live now.
I’m digging that quote. Today, as most days, I woke up and stole a few minutes before hitting the ground running. I like to check my email first thing in the morning, and see what’s what before I start my day. I have several cancerbabes in blogland whose musings I follow. I don’t know any of these women personally, but we share a commonality that is cancer, and that tends to make friends from strangers faster than anything, including hard liquor.
One of my cancerbabe friends posted some really, really good news on her blog today, and it was the first thing I read this fine morning. Long story short she’s a 28-year-old dealing with Hodgkin Lymphoma who left her home on the East Coast to spend some time in my lovely H-town at MD Anderson to endure a grueling clinical trial.
Sounds pretty awful, right? As most cancers are, whether big or small, early- or late-stage. Cancer is just plain awful. But my cancerbabe blogger friend had good news to share about her just plain awful cancer: the clinical trial worked and she’s in partial remission.
Hooray & hallelujah!
Another strike against the many-faceted and much-dreaded disease that is cancer.
I read the rest of my emails with a smile on my face, and as I hauled myself out of bed, that smile stayed with me. I believe in celebrating every little bit of good news that comes our way, especially when dealing with the dreaded C. Nope, I’m not opening champagne at this early hour, before even getting my little darlings out of bed, preparing their breakfasts, making their lunches and seeing them off to school. Thought about it, but resisted. I’ve learned the hard way that bad things happen to good people, and to counteract that hard truth by celebrating all the good things that come along. Sometimes with champagne, but sometimes not.
It’s easy to get caught up in all the bad things about cancer. And believe you me, there are many, many bad things. Watching my sweet, vivacious, and much-beloved mama be eaten alive, literally, by uterine cancer was horrific. Knowing that I would have to live the rest of my life without hearing her big belly laugh, without her all-knowing guidance in raising my own kids was b-a-d bad. Seeing her ravaged body become ever more frail day by day left me wondering how much worse could it possibly get. Because as bad as it is, there’s always more. My BFF Ed tried to tell me that. He knew, from watching his dad die of pancreatic cancer. I didn’t want to believe him, and childishly clung to the idea that it was as bad as it could possibly be. But it wasn’t, and no matter how hard one “fights,” once cancer gains a stronghold, it’s devastating. No matter how much one wants to win the “battle,” there’s no guarantee.
If anyone on this Earth deserved to win her “battle” it was my sweet mama. Her own mama died when she was 13, leaving her to raise her younger sister, who my mama had to work hard to forgive for usurping her “I’m the baby” spot in the family line-up. They lived on a farm and life was hard. She was the only one of her 4 siblings to graduate from college, and she did it in 3 years. She was president of her sorority, which is how she scored this fetching necklace, and I’m sure she bossed her sorority sisters into next week. Determined to make her mark in the world, she became a teacher, and did it well. She married into a tight-knit Greek family who didn’t necessarily welcome “foreigners,” but she won them over. Every last one of them. Even the stubborn, crotchety old ones. She raised two kids in a most-loving and uber-secure environment. Everything she did, she did it well and with such love & warmth that people were drawn to her. She made this world a better place.
Yet, after a multi-year, multi-stage “battle,” cancer claimed her as its own. Not fair. Not by a long shot. But fairness has nothing to do with winning the “battle” against cancer. So much of it is luck and circumstance. So much of it is out of our control. That’s a tough pill to swallow for a Type A bossypants like me.
And that’s exactly why I live now.
Cancer steals so much from us. Big things: health (duh), time, innocence, body parts, hair, self-esteem, a good night’s sleep, healthy body image, money, freedom, time, faith, security. Small things: major wardrobe issues, range of motion in yoga class, being able to look in a mirror without wincing, missing important events, becoming fearful instead of being carefree.
The past is gone, and no matter how hard you may try, you ain’t gettin it back. You can’t change it. The future? Good luck with that one. My theory is you gotta work hard, bear down, be the person you most want to be, and hope for the best. Hope that you’ll avoid the evil lottery that decides who will be stricken with cancer. Keep on living a good life and doing all the right things (antioxidants, splurges in moderation, wholesome foods, regular check-ups and exercise, blah blah blah) but don’t for one second expect those things to earn you a free pass. Because cancer strikes no matter what.
So I live now.
I had hoped to write about this Saturday, before it began to seem like old news, but life conspired, and then this not-yet-old story was preempted by the sad news of my aunt’s death yesterday.
We need to focus on happier times, for sure.
Like this past Friday.
We gathered to celebrate the blessed birth of The Rajah.
Some have asked me the significance of The Rajah’s nickname. He’s my fiercest opponent in Words with Friends. He’s the king of playing “qi” for a bazillion points. I fired back one time with the word rajah, which he promptly contested. The guy who rings me up by playing “qi” is balking at rajah. Priceless. Thus, my Runnin’ Buddy’s hubby will forever more be known as The Rajah. Just as his personalized golf towel says, The Rajah rules.
We commandeered the patio at El Tiempo Friday night for margaritas and fajitas and to celebrate The Rajah. A good time was had by all. The weather was beautiful and unseasonably mild, as it should be for The Rajah; the drinks were plentiful; the food delicious; and the company quite entertaining. It was a bit of a do-over for celebrating the Rajah; last year on his special day, I was a bit busy getting sliced & diced in the OR.
Pete, Amanda, and I shared more than a few laughs on the patio, and while The Rajah was holding court on the other end of the table, we made our own fun.
I was adamant that this celebration belonged to The Rajah alone, but my Runnin Buddy and Amanda conspired to carve out a bit of time to commemorate my 1-year anniversary of the mastectomy. Very thoughtful, girls. Thank you, thank you very much.
My own cupcake, complete with pink-ribbon-style frosting and a gigantic gumball on top. How much I love that is hard to express. The little umbrella was compliments of my new friend Scott, who had explored the oh-so-manly joys of drinking a pina colada after golf that afternoon. He’s secure enough in his masculinity to have consumed another one, in between the Miller Lights, at El Tiempo. The Rajah cleverly switched Scott’s ringtone to The Pina Colada song, so every time Scott calls The Rajah, that fantastic and timeless song will play; it doesn’t get much better than that. I’d forgotten about the line in the song in which Rupert says “I am into champagne” so definitively. I have a new appreciation for that little ditty.
So what about the columnist? This, my friends, is where my Runnin Buddy tried to get me trouble, yet again. Just as she did recently at the Jimmy Buffet concert when she spun a quite-believable tale to an innocent bystander in the beer line about me being an on-air personality, she spun another tale at El Tiempo to another unsuspecting bystander.
The topic of this little blog came up, and Amanda’s husband Billie was uninitiated in all things Underbelly. Somehow he interpreted this little blog to be a column (any idea how that happened, Staci??), and innocent bystander Chad got the impression that this little blogger is actually a columnist for some publication called Time Magazine. Hmmmm.
To Chad, I hope you were so knee-deep in El Tiempo’s famously potent margs that you don’t recall being duped. That really wasn’t nice. On behalf of my Runnin Buddy, I apologize.
To Billie, I offer no apology but proof that you are indeed “column-worthy” and today is your lucky day because here you are, smack dab in the middle of the Columnist’s column. Hope you’re not too disturbed by the paparazzi that is sure to follow your mention in the column.
And BTW, Billie, hope you now know not to challenge me to drink a tequila shot. ‘Cause I’m gonna do it. But only if it’s Don Julio 1942, which as you learned Friday night, ain’t cheap!
Happy Birthday, Rajah! And congrats to Billie for becoming column-worthy. Hope it’s all you expected it to be, and maybe a little more. Kinda like a shot of Don Julio.