Friday, September 12, 2014

Becoming A Parent Changed the Way I Saw My Own Parents

I wasn't the happiest of teenagers and didn't have the best of relationships with my parents.  Our combative relationship reached its peak when I was a junior in college and my very religious parents found out that I was sleeping with my college boyfriend.

Being the good and emotionally repressed Catholics (and college English majors) that they both were, they were more comfortable expressing themselves in writing about this, than talking about it, so they drove to my college dorm and handed me a letter.  In the letter they explained that they had found out about my sexual escapades (seriously - their actual words) and after a lot of discourse about how un-Catholic they felt it all was, they said that they were going to disown me if I didn't marry my boyfriend.

It felt like an out of body experience.  The letter was long and intense and it was absolutely mortifying to read it in front of them. It was just so embarrassing, we were a repressed Catholic family that didn't share things like this, openly.

© mamastock -

After I finished reading the letter, they told me that if I didn't marry my boyfriend, I would have to come home to live with them, finish college commuting from home and never see him again.   Did I mention that ours was a pretty dramatic family?

Of course, I wasn't ready to get married at the age of 19 and when I told them that, they said they couldn't condone our relationship, and that I was never to darken their door again as long as I was going to live such an amoral life.

Now, I knew I wasn't going to marry this guy, but he was my first love and I knew that what I had with him was a good thing, not something evil.  You know that first true love that takes your breath away and makes you see the world with new eyes?  That was our relationship, and I knew it was a good thing.  So I told my parents that I wasn't going to stop seeing him.

My parents refused to accept this decision.  So they said goodbye, got back in their car and drove away and I was suddenly completely on my own with no safety net at the age of 19.  It was scary but also exhilarating.  

As I look back on my life now, I see how this experience shaped me and helped create the strong, independent woman that I became.  But when it first happened, it was a very complicated time for me, intensified by the fact that I was still in college and unexpectedly had to pay for the final two years of it by myself.

Because I had no idea about how to go about getting a student loan, I figured I'd have to get one from my bank in my home town, not realizing that I could have gotten one anywhere.  And since I had no car, I took the bus from my college campus into New York City, then took a bus from NYC to my home town where I then walked about a mile to the bank and applied for the loan.  Then I reversed the entire journey as I headed from my home town to NYC and then back to my dorm.  It took me an entire day, but I got the loan and learned that anything I set my mind to could be achieved.

At the end of the school year, I had to find my own apartment since I couldn't stay on campus and of course now I couldn't go home for the summers.  I wound up living with my boyfriend since I couldn't afford an apartment on my own, the very thing my parents had wanted to avoid.

We lived in a tiny little garret apartment in the attic of a home in my college town, which was about 5 minutes away from the campus so we could walk there for our summer jobs.  I worked as a janitor for the college that summer, cleaning the dorms where I had lived all year, making $3.25 an hour.  Believe me, I had a new found respect for cleanliness and order after that summer, which has served me well in my life.

There was a span of time from the age of 20-25 where my parents and I barely spoke.  It was so bad that for quite a few years in my 20's, I never visited my parents at all, even during the holidays.

At one point, at around the age of 25 I took the EST Training.  Yeah.  I did EST.

And to all you skeptics out there, let me say that it was one of the most transformational things I've ever done in my life.  And, yes, it is also sort of a cult, but that's a whole other story for another day.

As prep for my EST training I was asked to find one specific area that I wanted to focus and work on during the session and of course mine was my unresolved relationship with my parents.  During the training, I came to the realization that if my parents and I were ever going to reconnect, it was up to me to make the first move.

I also took a hard look at myself and acknowledged that under all the bluster and anger about how I didn't need my parents, it was important to me to have a relationship with them.  Even though I was still hurt and angry about what had happened, I knew that they were an important part of my life.  And I also realized that I had to take responsibility for the actions that caused the rift in the first place.

So one day soon after, I called home and made an appointment to see them.  We met at their home (which used to be our home) and I could tell they were both very nervous.  It became clear to me that they were scared about what I was there to talk to them about; worried that taking EST had given me the courage to confront them about disowning me.

Looking at them both, scared as they appeared, I suddenly realized that they had a lot to lose, too.  I think during the years that had gone by, they realized that they missed me, and that perhaps they could have done things differently.

When I first came in things were quite strained.  But I shared with them some of the things I had learned during my EST Training and told them that I loved them and that I understood that what I had done wasn't something they were ever going to accept, but that I was okay with my choices and would like to reconnect with them, if they wanted to reconnect with me.  On my terms.

And with that simple honest discussion, the pain of those six years cracked open a little bit and we started to reconnect.  I didn't blame them for anything, I took responsibility for my part in the whole drama and opened a door to see if they wanted to create a new relationship together.

When I left, I told them awkwardly that I loved them and gave them a hug.  They both stood straight with their hands by their sides, not hugging me back.  But it was different this time, I realized that they really didn't know HOW to hug me.  They wanted to show affection but weren't able to, based on their own childhood experiences growing up in their own dour German and Irish Catholic households.

The next time I came to see them, as they opened the door, they both eagerly greeted me with a hug. It was one of the first times in my adult life that my parents had physically embraced me and it startled both of us, but it was wonderful.  Over time, I slowly learned how to create a new relationship with them, one that became satisfying for all three of us; a lesson that has served me well in other relationships in my life.  

When my daughter was born, many years later, I suddenly realized how brave my parents were to have raised four children.  One day soon after we brought her home from the hospital, I called my mother and asked, "How did you ever have the courage to do this four times?"

My mom, in her usual pragmatic way, said, "Oh, it was easier to have four of you, you all helped keep each other occupied."

That was so my mom.  "Easier" to have four kids, for a woman with Multiple Sclerosis who worked full time as an English teacher and chairman of a high school English Department while raising those 4 kids.

Now that my own kids are teenagers, and my daughter has gone off to college, I have a glimpse of the way it must have been for my parents.  It's different when your kids grow up.  You suddenly have 4 adults living in the house.  It's not you and your husband and the 2 kids; it's you and 3 other adults.

They're no longer the adoring kids who think you know everything and listen to everything you tell them.  They have their own opinions and judgments about how you're living your life and it can sometimes shake your belief in who you are.

So we all just muddle through.  My own parents did the best they could; my husband and I are doing the best we can.  In the end, it's the experiences we go through that will ultimately influence and shape the people we will become.

I wonder what my kids will remember as the defining moments of their lives when they reflect back years later.  At the ripe old age of 57, I'm still working on who I'm going to be when I grow up.  I hope I'm always still wondering.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Top 5 Ways To Prepare For Dropping Your Child Off At College

Two weekends ago I took my 18 year old daughter to college.

We flew out together to a campus on the other side of the country, where I helped her move into her dorm room, bought her a veritable sh**t load of dorm supplies at Target, helped her buy her text books (meaning I provided the credit card), attended a few orientations and met her room-mate; the one person on the entire campus that my daughter knew (and they'd really only texted and Facebooked each other a few times during the summer.)

And then I hugged her, told her I loved her, walked out of the dorm, got into my rental car and drove back to the airport to get on a plane back to the East coast.

Leaving my beloved first born child on the other side of the country all by herself.

It was, to put it mildly, one of the most terrifying and confusing weekends of my existence.  I dreamed about her at night;  blurry, surreal and confusing dreams about the beautiful campus, the dorm and my daughter.

I have so many emotions.  In some ways I feel like I've got one under my belt. The day I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my first thought was of my two kids who were 12 and 14 at the time. A primary goal I've had for my two kids since they were born has been to see them off to college and to make sure they get through their college years with as much support and love as possible so that they're set up for life on their own as adults.

As I was going through the weekend with my daughter, I kept feeling waves of gratitude that I'm alive and able to be here to see her off to college.  One down, one to go.  Looking at life in landmark moments like this makes me grateful and full, to know that I'm still here, healthy and whole and around to send my kids off to college.

And the icing on the cake?  She likes it.  She's settling into her new routine; getting up early for 8:00 a.m. classes, exploring the campus, meeting new people, loving her dorm room (she says it's Swagalicious) and taking exercise classes at the amazing campus rec center (believe me, there was nothing like this when I was going to college many years ago).  She texts me and I call her periodically which is reassuring for me, and hopefully for her as well.

I got a lot of wonderful information from many of the women bloggers I've met online through Midlife Boulevard who shared lots of great advice about how to prepare for and manage through the college process.  I'm grateful to the many women who shared their experiences, which helped me prepare both mentally and physically for the emotional roller coaster ride of sending my first child off to college.  Special thanks to Grown and Flown, who shared so many useful articles on how to prepare for this experience.

For my friends who will be going through this in the future, here are my top 5 pieces of advice.
  1.  Be flexible about rules during this last summer.  They may test your patience as they're flexing their muscles and learning to grow apart from you, so try to be flexible and don't get too crazy about rules during this last summer at home.  My daughter was out and about with friends 99% of the time this summer and we hardly ever saw her, but ultimately I trusted her to make good choices.  I wanted this last summer to be one that was full of memories and love for her, so my husband and I didn't make a lot of rules and we let her pretty much come and go as she wanted, as long as she told us where she was and answered our texts.
  2. Plan a summer vacation together as a family, if you can.  It may be the last time you'll all spend together as a family once they get into college life. Make it low key and give them lots of time to just relax and chill, so that they're ready for the whirlwind of college.
  3. Order college linens and bedding on line.  If your college is far away from home, and they offer this service I heartily suggest that you take advantage of it.  The bedding provided will fit those extra long dorm mattresses, it's very affordable, good quality and you'll be able to pick the package up on campus the day of move-in without shipping it across country which saves a lot of money and headaches.
  4. Don't let your own fears and anxiety about leaving your kid in the middle of nowhere with strangers bubble over onto them.  This process is about THEM, not about you.  Suck it up and be strong for them (this was advice I kept repeating to myself in my head during the entire weekend).  I managed to get through the entire weekend without crying in front of her.  I figured there was time to cry by myself on the long flight home, and surprisingly, I never did really lose it.  I think the fact that the campus looks like a 5-Star resort may have something to do with it.
  5. Stay in close touch for the first few weeks.  I'm not a helicopter parent, as my own parents were exceedingly hands off parents, so I've always wrestled with just how involved to be with my own kids.  For the first week after I dropped her off, I just made the decision that it was fine for me to text her and call her a couple of times every day.   Since she always responded or picked up the phone, I figured it was okay with her.

    Now that we're into the 2nd week of school, I'm scaling back a bit, but still keeping close.  It's a fine line and I'm certainly not the master but make sure you test how involved to be with your own child and make the judgement call on how much interaction they need.  When I was leaving, I made a point of telling her that she could call me any time, any day, any hour of the day or night and that I would always be there to listen, whether it's good news or bad news. I'm keeping my cell phone on and next to the bed every night, just in case she calls so that she knows that no matter how far away she is, I'm always here to listen and help if she's in any kind of trouble or just needs to talk.
Now I'm starting the process all over again for my 16 year old son who's a high school Junior.  Have I mentioned how quickly high school flies by?  Hug your kids, don't sweat the small stuff, it all goes by very quickly!

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My Visit to The Mount - Edith Wharton's Estate in Lenox, Massachusetts

I recently had the chance to visit The Mount, Edith Wharton's home in Lenox, Massachusetts.  The estate is beautiful and we happened to have some of the best weather of the entire summer for our weekend.  

Until this trip, I didn't realize how prolific Edith Wharton was; she wrote over 30 works of fiction and 85 short stories over the course of her life.  I also didn't know that she was the first woman to be honored with the Pulitzer prize for literature in 1921 for The Age of Innocence, which has always been one of my favorite novels.

She was an incredibly interesting and independent woman; way ahead of her time. Edith's mother convinced her to enter into a marriage of convenience at the age of 23, but she and her husband weren't very compatible. They divorced in 1911 and Edith lived the balance of her life alone in Paris, much like her character, Countess Olenska in The Age of Innocence.  When in Paris during the 1st World War, Edith was involved in many charitable efforts for refugees and was one of the only foreigners in France allowed to visit the front lines during the war.

Below is the side view of The Mount, my favorite view of this gorgeous estate as it showcases the beautiful gardens along the side of the home.

Behind the home is this formal garden with a fountain in the center and a variety of colorful flower beds.

These pink flowers were at their peak the day we visited.

I love how these flowers below look like they're reaching towards the sun.

Here's the front entrance to The Mount.  Apparently Edith was a bit anti-social and didn't welcome too many visitors.  You can see from the high walls surrounding the estate that she sure protected her privacy.

I always love to see what type of library writers have and this one didn't disappoint.  Look at the beautiful built-in book shelves with their gorgeous wood work and the colorful book spines.

According to our tour guide, Edith did most of her writing in bed each morning. The bed was covered with hand written pages of her actual, original writings.

If you're a fan of Wharton and get a chance to visit Lenox, Massachusetts, you have to visit The Mount - it's such a treat!

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Book to Help You Prepare for Chemotherapy: "Getting Past the Fear" by Nancy Stordahl

One of the things that scared me the most during my breast cancer process was the fact that I was going to have to go through chemotherapy.  When I first found out that I'd need chemo, I panicked and spent hours and hours on the phone with friends and family members who all generously helped calm me down by offering words of support and strength.

But I'm a big reader and researcher and I love to have as much information on hand as possible about every decision I need to make so I wish I'd had a guide book to help me through the process.

Now there is a book available for anyone who will be going through chemotherapy, which was written by a fellow breast cancer blogger, Nancy Stordahl who writes about her breast cancer experience at Nancy's Point.

Nancy recently published the book "Getting Past the Fear" which is a guide to help you mentally and emotionally prepare for the process of going through chemotherapy.  In Nancy's words:
"My hope is that all who read "Getting Past the Fear" will be able to face chemo for the first time feeling a bit more empowered and a bit less fearful."
The book offers both practical and emotional advice on how to face the process of going through chemotherapy, including these topics:

  • Questions to ask your oncologist before starting chemo
  • Processing through the news that you need chemo and acknowledging your true feelings
  • What to expect on your first chemo day (this was a big concern for me as I had no idea what would happen)
  • Tips for how to take care of yourself throughout the duration of your chemo treatments 
  • How to tend to your partners needs during the process
  • How to cope with losing your hair (not losing your hair is also addressed)
  • How to calm yourself down during this overwhelming process
  • How to find support during chemo
  • Looking forward to life after treatment

Most importantly, Nancy explains all of this in a very comforting way as if you were talking to a close friend about the whole daunting process.  

If you or anyone you know has been diagnosed with breast cancer and will be going through chemotherapy, I would recommend this book as a helpful and caring resource to help you navigate the waters.

It would also be great if you would consider buying a copy of the book and donating it to your local cancer center or hospital.  I know that my cancer center had a reading center with books and pamphlets for anyone to check out, which I took full advantage of.  "Getting Past the Fear" would be a great addition to any cancer center and would be a valuable resource for anyone going through chemotherapy treatments.

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

How To Get A Teenager To Clean Their Room (Or Not)

Ah, to be a 16 year old boy.  My son dislikes cleaning his room, and in fact seems to prefer to live amidst a state of constant chaos. can he find anything in here?
When I was young, I was really messy and my mother, who lived by the rule that "Cleanliness is next to godliness" used to do crazy, periodic room cleanings where she'd upend everything in my room and throw it all in a big pile on the floor and then leave me to restore order.  She'd literally take all my dresser drawers out and dump them in a big pile in the middle of my room (yes -- reminiscent of Joan Crawford in "Mommy Dearest").

It used to completely freak me out and was extremely overwhelming and has undoubtedly contributed in some part to the many years of therapy that I've gone through so far in my life.

When I had kids of my own I resolved not to foist such lunacy on them, and have been (I believe) extremely generous and non-judgemental about how they keep their rooms.  I've decided that I'm more interested in them getting good grades and being kind, generous and caring people than clean freaks.

But every other Monday my cleaning lady comes and so I have a firm rule that whatever is on the floor of their rooms must be removed and put in either the laundry room, the recycling bin (note the many water bottles) or in the garbage bin on every other Sunday night before Maricel comes to restore order to our home.  This way she can actually get in there to vacuum the floor.

Recently I went into my son's room and found this note taped to his book shelf.

This note is strategically taped to his book case, wonder where in the world he found this?
After I snort laughed out loud for a while, I gotta' say I was kind of impressed that he took the time and effort to find this little scientific discourse, print it out and tape it up there without telling me, assuming that the next time I went in his room to straighten it out, I'd see it (which of course is exactly what happened).

And, I was more than a little impressed by the fact that he knows what the word "entropy" means.  I mean, I was an English major and all, so the fact that he knows what entropy means makes me a lot happier than a clean room ever would.

So I guess I'll just leave his disordered room to it's entropic state.

What about you guys, are your kids as messy as my son?  Do you just give in to it, or do you have firm rules about how they keep their rooms?

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Makeup For Women 40+

For about 10 years I've been using Lauren Hutton's makeup line.  I don't know if you've ever heard of it, she doesn't do a tremendous amount of marketing, but I heard about it somewhere (maybe More magazine, I'm not sure) several years ago and decided her theory of makeup made sense so I tried it and have been hooked ever since.

Lauren Hutton is now in her early 70's and looks so natural and lovely 

Her basic story is that when she returned to modeling at the age of 46, none of the makeup she found on the market worked on a 40+ woman; there were too many heavy products with added shimmer, shine and fillers that weren't right for a 40+ year old's skin, as they got stuck in the creases and just added lines and wrinkles to an already older face.

I've found her makeup to be very light and sheer and it includes the very best concealer I've ever used.  EVER.  And I've tried a lot of concealers for under eye circles.

Here's the deal.  She has this very simple system which looks like this:

Lauren Hutton Face Disc Classic which is $60.00 and lasts me about 4-6 months
This little disc above includes the entire system.  Every one of the individual discs above are color coded to a corresponding brush so that you know exactly which brush to use with which type of makeup.  (She also sells a complete set of 6 very high quality brushes that correspond to each element for $29.00.  Mine have lasted years).  There's also a booklet that Lauren includes which gives you exact instructions on where to place each different shade or shadow and it's super easy and super effective.

I thought I would never learn how to use shading on my cheeks, but her system is so simple that I do it every day and you can't see it; it adds depth and definition to my face while I look relatively natural and makeup free.

The system is really easy and very portable, so it's wonderful for travel.  I don't wear full face makeup, as I don't like how it looks or feels on me, so this is just enough for me.  If you DO wear face makeup, she has one and you can incorporate that into the system easily.

The key is that the makeup is sheer so you use it sparingly but can layer it to create more or less depth if you want it, say when you're going from day to night.  You can't really put too much of it on your face, the color is very sheer with just the right amount of depth of color.

As I've turned 50+, I've noticed that "less is more" for me when it comes to makeup.  If I wear too much, or wear heavier makeup, I just look old and garish and so this line with its subtle color palette has been perfect for me.

I used Lauren's makeup all through my chemo and it really helped me feel like I could help myself look healthier while feeling pretty miserable.  It was important to me to present a healthy exterior as I didn't want to look sick, and wanted to look as healthy as possible, which in turn made me feel healthier throughout the whole breast cancer process.

NOTE:  This is NOT a paid sponsored post, I have no affiliation with Lauren Hutton, and don't do paid endorsements.  I just happen to love this stuff and thought I'd share with anyone else who might be struggling with the current makeup on the market.

This stuff is made specifically for women 40+ and it works!  I'd love to hear if any of you readers have ever used it, and what you thought.

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Cleaning The Pool

Tonight I back-washed and vacuumed our in-ground pool all by myself.

I know, it may not sound like that big of a deal to all of you, but let me tell you, vacuuming a pool after a bilateral mastectomy is no small feat.  To vacuum a pool you need to use your chest muscles to push the vacuum all the way down into the bottom of the pool against the pressure of the water, and it's way harder than you'd think under normal circumstances, let alone after a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction.

Let me just say: Ouch.

After all my vacuuming and back washing, the pool is pretty sparkly, don't you think?
So, I feel like I've accomplished a huge task today.  In case you haven't read my previous two posts about it, when I was going through my chemotherapy, which started in April of 2010, I just suddenly decided one day that I wanted to put in a built-in swimming pool in our backyard.

Yeah.  Weird, I'd never really wanted one before, but all of a sudden I was surer than anything I've ever been before that I wanted and needed to get a built-in pool that summer.

I had some theories about why we should do it.  I figured it would be a lot of fun for the kids and would keep them interested in hanging around at our house with their friends as they got older.  I had some theoretical ideas about having a lot of pool parties out there and inviting people over to barbecue and swim and sun by the pool.

I also attribute some of it to the chemo and what it was doing to my brain. I've never really been one to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a whim like that, but something about going through all that chemo seemed to inspire me to throw caution to the wind.

So, we spent the entire next year putting in a pool (if you read the posts you'll see why it took a whole year, it was quite a crazy saga) and finally in 2011 we had a lovely built-in pool in the backyard after many months of back and forth phone calls, letters, arguments and discussions with the pool installation company (who had forgotten to get a permit during one of the most critical stages of the installation process!).

And for the first couple of summers the kids spent a lot of time in it, and it was wonderful.  But then by the 3rd year, as they got a little older, they spent less and less time in it and for a while the pool was just sitting out there in its cool, pristine beauty with no one actually going in it.  And I felt kind of bad about it.

And then last summer I decided to start having bi-weekly "Friday is BFF's Hangin' By the Pool Days" with my girl friends and let me tell you, I have so much fun with that pool, now! I've been blocking out my Friday afternoons and refuse to book any client meetings after 12:00 noon on Friday's, for (most of) the rest of the summer.

It is so relaxing to sit by the side of a pool with your closest friends who could care less how you look these days in a bathing suit; drinking wine, eating cheese and crackers and talking trash.  Hello, Summer!

Tomorrow is my first "Friday is BFF's Hangin' By the Pool Day" of the year.  I'm all stocked up with snacks and a couple of bottles of Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio. If you're in the area, come on over!

Hope you all have something fun planned for your weekend!

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Breast Cancer Rant

Be forewarned:  This is a breast cancer rant.

I don't usually give in to the level of fear and obsession I've been feeling lately, but I want to get it out and onto paper so that I can move on.

I think about cancer every day.  I worry that I'll have a recurrence every day.

The fear sits in the back of my mind, lurking in a corner, coming out to haunt me right as I'm about to fall asleep or when I'm feeling most vulnerable when I wake up in the middle of the night.  I am so sick of thinking about cancer and the possibility of a recurrence, that I have to put it into words to get it out of my head.

Fear is a strange companion.  It's been growing in me, kind of like the cancer that started in my left breast 4 1/2 years ago, and is festering in my mind.

I can't seem to avoid thinking about cancer.  I see it around me every day, everywhere.  There are articles about cancer every day in the news, there are multiple postings about it every day on Facebook, Twitter and online.

It seems every day there's another article about how to prevent cancer, or what causes cancer, or what you should eat to prevent cancer, or what you shouldn't eat to prevent cancer, or what age you should have your kids so that you won't get cancer, or where you should live so that you won't get cancer, or where you shouldn't live so that you won't get cancer.  There's so much information overload that it's overwhelming.

Before I had breast cancer, I thought I was healthy.  I ate well, never had a weight problem, kept active, didn't drink or smoke, had tons of energy and hardly ever got sick with anything more serious than a cold or sore throat.  So I was really surprised when I found the lump that turned out to be breast cancer.

But in retrospect, I realize that when I was younger, my life wasn't as balanced. During college, I spent one entire summer stripping toxic paints (and breathing in  toxic fumes) off the walls in the dorms as a summer job.  Those same dorm rooms had asbestos (a carcinogen) ceilings which I breathed in for a full year in my junior year.

I drank alcohol about 3 nights a week in my 20's and 30's, which could have contributed to my getting breast cancer.  I smoked almost a pack of cigarettes a day for about 2 years in my mid 30's; no explanation needed.

I had my kids late in life, which has been shown to have a direct correlation to breast cancer.  I live in New Jersey, one of the most polluted states in the union, with who knows what kind of toxins floating in the air that we breathe and I currently live in an area of the state known for the high incidence of radon (another known carcinogen) naturally found in the earth.

I obviously did something, ate something, ingested something, smoked something, or imbibed something to get cancer.  It's a slippery slope trying to figure out why my body turned on itself but I can't stop my brain from trying to figure out what I did or what I didn't do, that contributed to my getting breast cancer.

I guess what I'm saying is that I somehow feel responsible and at fault for having breast cancer.  And afraid, because now, 4 1/2 years post treatment, I really don't feel like I have a clear understanding of what I should be doing to try and prevent it from ever coming back because there are so many conflicting schools of thought.

As a layman, I have no real understanding about what causes breast cancer, other than what I read. And after all the reading, what's clear to me is that no one really knows with any certainty what causes cancer or how to cure it. In a hundred years, we'll probably talk about chemotherapy, radiation and mastectomy the way people now talk about blood-letting and leeches.

So I try to do the right thing, although I'm not exactly clear on what the right thing is.  I eat pretty healthily but I never feel like I'm eating exactly the right foods, I'm always second guessing myself.  When ever I eat something "bad" for me, like ice cream which I adore, I feel guilty.  Or if I have a couple of glasses of wine with dinner, which I also love, I feel like I'm tempting fate.

Man, it's exhausting.  I've been trying to stop thinking about it, but it's been really in my face lately.

In the last week, I've finally come to a sense of calm about it.  I am who I am.  I live the way I live.  I have tried and will continue to try to live as healthily as I can, but I can't monitor every single thing I eat, or restrict myself from never having a glass of wine with dinner or completely cut all sugar, dairy, meat and wheat out of my diet.

I finally decided this week that I'm just going to cut myself a break and realize that I didn't technically bring this on myself, it's a pretty random occurrence; stuff just happens.  Life is short, I'd rather spend my time enjoying it than worrying about every single thing I do, or eat, or don't do or don't eat.

It reminds me of this song "Cancer" by Joe Jackson, with the lyrics "Everything gives you cancer."  For your viewing pleasure:

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

On Saturday we watched the 2014 Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.  It was filled with a gold mine of icons from my youth like Peter Gabriel, Linda Ronstadt, Cat Stevens, Hall & Oates, The E Street Band and Nirvana.  OK, so Kiss was also inducted, but I've never been too big on Kiss.

Man, those guys are getting old!  Peter Gabriel acknowledged all of the many other musicians he'd collaborated with over the years, saying, " Music should come with a health warning; it can be so dangerous; it can make you feel so connected, and can make you think the world could and should be a much better place.  And it can occasionally make you very, very happy."  He brought out Youssou N'Dour to perform "In Your Eyes" and they both brought a sweet, ethereal passion to the stage.

Cat Stevens seemed a bit embarrassed to be honored, but watching his performance reminded me of how much his music spoke to me when I was in my teens.  I wrote a paper on "But I Might Die Tonight" in High School and had a long discussion with my English teacher at the time about the meaning of life, which I can still remember fondly.

Linda Ronstadt is ill with Parkinson's disease which is a huge loss and she wasn't able to attend but the all star group of women performing her songs sounded awesome: Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow, Emmy Lou Harris, Bonnie Raitt and Carrie Underwood.  Carrie sang her heart out, impressive for someone so young, collaborating with such a group of heavy hitters.  It gave me a new found respect for her. These women have all weathered life as older rockers pretty well, considering the smoking, drinking and hard partying rock 'n roll lives I'm sure they've all experienced, their voices are still strong and full of emotion.

Hall & Oates were great with their Philly soul sound, as always, although I had no idea that John Oates was quite that short.  He's an eloquent and gracious speaker, more so than Daryl Hall.  The E Street Band was, of course, wonderful and stupendous.  I'm a long time fan of Bruce Springsteen, ever since my younger brother turned me on to his poetic lyrics in my 20's.  Bruce gave an honest and moving speech about the controversy behind his initial induction without the band and then they showcased each of the members of the band solo, against a backdrop of "Kitty's Back." The most intense moments in their set were when they talked about missing Clarence Clemmons, and how he would have loved being inducted into the Hall of Fame.  His widow gave a sweet little speech about how he was known for being "the Big Man" for many reasons, which brought the house down.

The Nirvana set was really fun.  I thought I'd hate it, it's sort of the antithesis of what Kurt Cobain stood for, but the young performers who joined Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic on stage were fantastic and you could tell they were all having the time of their lives.  Dave Grohl has become one of my favorite performers, his honesty and obvious passion for what he does comes through and he was a beast on those drums!  Novoselic reminded me of a big bear, playing away soulfully on the accordion, of all instruments, for "All Apologies."  Lorde sang a version of it that gave me goosebumps.  I suspect Kurt would have been happy to have her do the honors.

And of course, Courtney Love had to show up, spewing inanities into the mike and trying to get everyone on the stage to hug her.  Dave and Krist graciously, but uncomfortably, hugged her back.  Man, she's still a wreck.

I love the music of that time, it made such an impression on me growing up.  The passion and rebellion were so linked to my own life as I grew up rebelling against my parents and my Catholic upbringing.  Last night reminded me of how much music meant to me at that age, and still does. I hope you all get a chance to watch it!

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

RIP Maya Angelou

RIP, Maya Angelou.  Your words are so beautiful and raw and powerful and honest.  
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you? 
Why are you beset with gloom? 
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken? 
Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you? 
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you? 
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs? 

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
  I rise. 

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