Thursday, February 28, 2008

some parting gifts

Tiffany, otherwise recognizable on this blog as, "Hey, isn't that my fan?" wrote to me recently and said that a friend of hers asked this question:  Does anything good come from cancer?  My first thought?  No.  Nothing good actually comes from cancer.   But I do think good can come from facing it.  Blechk.  The whole what-doesn't-kill-us-thing.  I have a lot of good in my life - perspective, faith in the incomprehensible, appreciation, a greater sense of humor - and it all either came from or grew stronger after cancer.  Here are some more good things that came from [facing] cancer:
1.  This shirt.
2.  And the friends who brought it to me.

Actually, I think they would have brought me this shirt even if I didn't have cancer.  This is Danny and Sarah.  They went to New York City a couple months after I was diagnosed.  They came to my house on my birthday or shortly after, and they brought me a t-shirt from their trip to the First Response guys with the fire department.  You know what the numbers are?  Regis and Kelly, baby.  These were their seat numbers in the studio.  Like I said, I don't think this was exactly a cancer gesture so much as a "Serenity is going to freak completely out when we bring her New York stuff on her birthday!"  But it makes my point - facing cancer brought friends.   They were there before the cancer, but they were so there during it.

3.  My worst fear - one of the very top ones anyway - has been involuntarily but thoroughly faced.  "Just think," Felicity told me a few days after my diagnosis, "You have just faced your worst fear.  You actually had to hear the words, 'You have cancer."  For you, life can only get better."  That was so true.

4.  I laugh now like Rachel (on friends) learned to run.  If you haven't seen the episode, it's like this:  with abandon.

5.  I wrote a book.  I always wanted to.  Ever since I was very young, and I could hear Mom clacking away on her typewriter in the other room.  I started at least three novels as a child.  I had the houses completely mapped out and all the characters named and described and about three pages of the actually story.  But after cancer, I finally had a story, a whole story, and the motivation to finish it.  

6.  I got my first tattoo.  It's the size of a teeny tiny pin prick that I can't really even see any more.  Or to quote another friends moment, "This is a tattoo of the earth as seen from a great distance."  (really, really great)

7.  My shoulder doesn't hurt anymore.  It hurt for probably ten years, and none of us really knew why.  Dr. R., because of cancer, made all that pain go away.

8.  On that note, as Dr. R. said later when I could still move my arm, "See, you don't need a deltoid muscle."

9.  I sing more.  Not nearly as much on a stage, but way more in the car.

10.  The ability to say to millions of people who've been there, I know just how you feel.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

an official tag

Anne Dayton on the Good Girl Lit site tagged me last night with these instructions:

(1) Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages)
(2) Open the book to page 123
(3) Find the fifth sentence
(4) Post the next three sentences
(5) Tag five people

Well. I hit the book roulette jackpot. This book sits by my desk waiting to be returned to Mom after I borrowed it and devoured it not long after I gave it to her for her birthday. Anyway. Sentence 4 tells us that Madeleine L'Engle says you know you are a writer if you can't help but write, if you feel like you must. Sentence 5 reads (because I don't really get by the instructions whether or not it is to be posted, but I feel you need it for the context):

I feel like I must.

(Now the next three)

I want to obey that calling. I'm not a genius. I would be content simply to do some good work.

Isn't it lovely? And just exactly how I feel.

I tag Jenny, Matt, Tracy, Zanne, and Mom, which means that Mom will simply have to post three sentences in my comments section, if she plays at all.

Monday, February 25, 2008

i'd like to thank the academy

I would first like to thank Scott for kneeling on his sidewalk to tape down the red carpet for our arrival and then posing as the paparazzi who snapped our grand entrance.

Thank you to Michele for the decorations and gifts bags and boas and classy finger foods - chocolate-covered strawberries are good for me, right?

Thank you to Jon Stewart for letting that girl from Once finish her speech after the commercial break before which she was so rudly muted and drowned out by the orchestra.

And although the "Once" people won, thank you to Enchanted for providing almost every other song in that category as it provided for huge, delightful production numbers throughout the evening. Thank you to August Rush as well for the inspirational gospel moment. The song choices and best picture choices seem to have been chosen by different groups - one glass half full, the other really empty.

I am especially grateful to The Bourne Ultimatum as my bets regarding that movie in the sound editing categories might very well have given me the lead on my pre-printed ballot. Which reminds me to thank Michele again, because my prize rocked. And also reminds me to thank Jon Stewart again because after these categories were announced he read my mind by saying, "Someone just took the lead in their office pool based on a guess."

Finally, I would like to thank Hollywood - for the beautiful dresses, the strangely casual up-dos, the montages, montages, montages (good Lord, I love a good movie montage), for putting Jack on one end of the first row and George Clooney on the other as classic Hollywood bookends, and in all other ways with almost no complaints (despite the sad penchant for violence in the nominated films - as Jon put it, "Does this town need a hug or what?") - for in all other ways completely bringing it.

I officially forgive you for the Golden Globes.

Friday, February 22, 2008

finders keepers

A real life moment in my day.  (That's why I have on no eyeliner - I almost always put on eyeliner for you people, but I was letting my lids rest as one of them was sore - and why Jake's hair is sticking up.  It looks quite handsome when it's combed).  If you go to Felicity's site you will see the receiving end of this picture as we were video chatting with Lic and Macy at the time.  Check out the overalls on that little chica.  Adorable.   I love Mac Books.

And guess what?  I think I do have a life motto.  I remembered it as so many of you were sharing yours on my last post.  (Just keep swimming, gotta love that.  I'm such a fan of the Dory-types).  
I read mine in a book by Martha Kilpatrick called All and Only, and it struck me as special immediately.  She was talking about not knowing where life is going to take you and how you're going to accomplish what you want, and then she said.  "Do the task at hand, Live the life you find."  I love that.

I sometimes wonder if I should regret this or that decision, if I've made the right choices, how things would be different if I had made different decisions.  Her phrase settled me so much.  We do make a lot of choices in life, but sometimes life just happens.  We make some choices because they are a by-product to some other bigger choice we were making.  And eventually I just needed to realize that truth, live the life you find.  It doesn't mean I don't believe in pursuing better jobs or big dreams or warmer geographical locations (good grief, Winter, are ya done yet?  Uncle, already!)  But I live this phrase in the sense that I don't want to always be looking elsewhere for my life when whatever it is, whatever I'm supposed to do - at least right now - is right in front of me.  

Anyway, I didn't like being motto-less.  I need to be ready for Oprah when she calls.  Of course, darn, it's not like I wrote that phrase myself . . . ah well.  Recognizing greatness is a certain kind of greatness in and of itself, right?

Monday, February 18, 2008


Personal mottos.  This idea fascinates me today.  I heard it first when Oprah asked Jim Carrey what was his.  He said, "I am heaven."  At first he didn't explain it, as if the meaning of that should be obvious.  But there were just way too many directions we could have gone with that, so he finally explained.  He said too many people wait around for heaven to happen someday and be somewhere else, but he reminds himself that it's right here and now.  That's a paraphrase, and I make no comment on his actual motto but merely the awe and amazement I felt that he was able to answer the question.  He first qualified the fact that he has many creeds by which he lives, but that is the one he shared with us, the adoring public.  Can I call us that?  I mean, he's pretty cool.  Anyway . . . 

I am notorious for watching moments like that in an interview and panicking.  What happens in my inevitable someday when I'm in an interview like that and someone asks me that question?! Or more likely, what if someone asks me in the grocery store?  I have no idea what my life creed is.  As the little girl says of the cost of a plane ticket in Sleepless in Seattle, "It changes practically every day."  

Which reminds me that I may not know what my life creed is, but Nora Ephron has probably written it down somewhere.  My MySpace motto is from her as well, "I lead a small life . . . .")

When I downloaded several songs from iTunes the other day, I could have come up with a life motto.  Probably "Give Me Jesus".   There's something about that song - you can have all this world, just give me Jesus.  That one almost always feels true.  But when "Boondocks" came on, I gotta say it felt sorta like my motto too.  I like that I am finally learning to be proud of where I came from.  Another country song I downloaded was "Better Life" by Keith Urban, known in my head as Someday, Baby.  It played quite a bit the year I had cancer, and it was nice to find lighter moments in which we could hope for a future happier than the trial we were in.  I'm a big someday girl.   But I never leave it at that.  I would have to add into my creed something about Living for Today because that's another important one I gleaned from the aforementioned Year with Health Crisis.   

So you see what I mean?  Oprah asks me that question someday and she's going to be staring at the business end of a panic attack.  There's no way I'm pulling it off like Jim did.  Except of course, that I'll be thinking about it from here on out.   Any of you willing to attach yourself to a life creed of some sort?  You can't take "I am heaven".  That's Jim's.   

Friday, February 15, 2008

cancer and the meaning of life - or not

I've been wanting to plug this book for a while.  I read it when I was pretty well past the scariest days of my cancer diagnosis.  The scariest days are when you can barely breathe because you really don't know if perhaps you've been handed your death certificate only the date is all fuzzy.  I wouldn't have wanted to read this book then.  Even when I read it, I loved it, and I laughed OUT LOUD.  But I also clicked to the author's website in trepidation lest I discover that she had died.  It was funny, but not quite so much if she hadn't beat it.  

And sadly, she didn't beat it.   When you click on her website now, you will find a goodbye message, and it is heartbreaking.  

So I have hesitated recommending the book.  I just don't know at what point other cancer patients will feel that they can laugh at the disease.  But if it is at all possible for them to laugh, this book will make them do it.  I especially remember the part when she talks about the little aches and pains we get sometimes and dismiss as nothing.  But once you have cancer, you begin to think more like you're in a movie.  Because in a movie nothing means nothing.  No character in a movie points out an ache or a pain that won't eventually come back to haunt them.  Sometimes it's hard not to think that way after one of your little aches or pains has become the biggest mountain you ever had to face.

I love the premise of this book, the title cartoon.  She rolled her eyes at those who found new meaning to life because of their illness.  I know, I know.  If you've read this blog for even a millisecond you probably know that I'm one of those people, that I analyze splinters for goodness sake - there's no way I'm getting cancer without gold-mining for the answers to all of human existence.  But, going through the process of cancer, gave me another perspective as well.  The one in which I realized that I didn't receive any answers.  Not really.  Not one single one.  I had feelings and emotions, intense ones.  And I had thoughts - both deep and inspirational.  But at no point in my process could I have said, "This is exactly why I was diagnosed with cancer.  This is the reason God allowed it to happen while I was pregnant.  This is the ten-word hypothesis for what I learned in the process.  And here is exactly what I'm going to do about it."  No way.

I want to re-read my memoir in fact, with this in mind.  If it ever gets published, I want other cancer patients and their family members to be able to say that I have written how they felt.  That I have described their fear, their questions, and some of their thoughts.  But not that I have all the answers.  That's why I like her premise.  As one of her pages describes - when you're going through it, you don't always inspirationalize yourself through each and every day.  Sometimes, you just want to be be sad about it.  You want to blink your way through another day with cancer and watch Friends reruns in order to escape your reality.  It's not always a perfect process or a perfect result.  But as with this book, sometimes it really helps to realize someone else has been there.

Monday, February 11, 2008

i heart Heart day

It's that week again - the store-bought valentines with Disney characters, the pink and red M&Ms.   And fortunately for me, the hand-made construction paper cards from school with "I love Mom" on the front and "You rock" on the inside.  

I need very little on Valentine's Day to make me happy.  To me, Valentine's Day is like permission to write "I love you" on a folded napkin and still have inarguably fulfilled every obligation of the day without having spent a dime.  
In college we used to put out boxes and give each other little Valentines just like in elementary school.  My first Valentine's Day with Michael was my first date with him ever.  It was just lunch - no gifts, no cards, no candles.  But it was the best day ever.   I didn't eat much, which his dad told him later was a good sign.   

It's too bad people get stressed about this holiday, especially when they're single.   Seriously, some red construction paper, a heart cut out of white, and a few happy words.  Glue it together with Elmer's or flour-and-water, sign your name, and you're about to make someone's entire week.  It's not stressful to celebrate this one, and it doesn't require a gesture the size of a marriage proposal.  Just tell somebody - anybody - that you thought of them.  I really think this is what Post-It notes were created for.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

jake for president

I'm watching Super Tuesday results right now as if it were a sporting event.  No, wait, that's not right.  I'm watching it like a red carpet event.  If I was watching it like it were a sporting event, I'd have to say simply that it was on, and I am in the room.

It's barely more than that anyway, though, because I'm far more concerned with Jake and his toddler bed.  We moved him into it only a few nights ago, and he has seemed like a different person ever since.  It could be the sleep deprivation.  But I think it's just one of those time lapses that happen with children sometimes.  You know when you see people after a long absence and they seem shocked at how your children have changed?  To you, the change happened so gradually that you hadn't really noticed until it was pointed out.  But every now and then, even though you see them every single morning, day, and night, you look at your child and think, "You're different today."  It happened with John Michael when he was about this age, and I remember telling Mom, "He's changing so much, I feel I have to re-earn his affection.  It's like he just moved in."  With Jake it started the day I poured the last of his infancy out of the almost empty whole milk container.  A nutritionist told me once to switch them to lower-fat milk when they turned two, and I marked that last droplet of whole milk as faithfully as I marked his "first curl".  Which brings me to the next dramatic change.  We cut off his curls.  Why do I feel like an accomplice in a crime when I write that?  Anyway, the 2% milk, the dead, slightly creepy inch or so of curls in the ceramic box (hair really is kind of gross once it's removed from the head), and the toddler bed - and suddenly it's like a whole new kid moved in.  He's tucked into the bed right now.  He says good night rather tragically, so I think about him almost obsessively for the next couple of hours after tucking him in.  So proud of him for settling in even though by his drama you would think we had laid him on a bare sheet of cardboard.  So sad that he is growing up.  So exhausted from spending a day with a 2-year-old, and so anxious to see him again in the morning.  

What was I supposed to be thinking about?  Oh yea, the quite possibly historical presidency of the United States.  Whatever.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

ever after

Fact:  I think Disney World actually is the Happiest Place on Earth.  
This belief began the usual way - the fairy tales.  For me it was Sleeping Beauty.  I just loved Prince Phillip.  I can quote the entire scene when she first meets him.  And because of her (and the fact that I didn't have the whole spinning wheel concern) Sixteen was my favorite birthday ever.  

My faith in it grew a lot the year that Mom and Dad visited and told us about the construction workers working behind tarps during the day, and landscapers adding new trees and beautiful scenery - only under the veil of nighttime - all so as not to disrupt the magic.
I went there on my honeymoon.  One morning I couldn't find my spoon for the Fruit Loops in the mini bar.  I called housekeeping, and a man arrived at the door soon in a tux holding a golden spoon.  We failed to take many pictures since we were kind of busy actually experiencing the fun, and I forgot our souvenir photo (in front of the Castle) in the hotel room, so the entire week remains as a fuzzy, first week of marriage sort of memory.  Which added to the magic for me.

Then in 2005 I was diagnosed with cancer, while pregnant.  Which, as you can imagine was fear and trauma galore.   Two days after my final radiation treatment we drove to Florida with Michael's family, and we went to Disney one day.  We stayed for the fireworks show at the end of the night, and the feeling of Magic was forever sealed for me.  It's a gorgeous show, unbelievable really, with the fireworks bursting in sync to this gorgeous music about dreams coming true and wishes and love and friendship and overcoming evil.   

The thing is, the faith I believe in is sort of fairy tale-like.  First, the hero created people both to enjoy his remarkable creation and to have friendship with him.  But they kind of messed it up, by falling for the bad guy.  Since then, unfortunately, we are born without that perfect relationship with him.  He eventually sent his Son to make the way for us again.   It's our choice whether or not to believe, but if we do, then the relationship is restored.  And in the end one day, all of this trouble and chaos and fear and sadness and ups and downs and countless tears - its all going to culminate in a new heaven and a new earth,  the happiest ever after, EVER.   I just kind of shrug when people say things like, "Christianity is merely a crutch."  Because frankly, I think we need a crutch to get through this life, and that's mine.  I absolutely believe it, but it is kind of foolish-sounding when you break it down.  Kind of like fairy tales.   Walt Disney World's fireworks show felt like that.  The faith that everything will turn out alright in the end.  

My good friend Lori G. (Hi Lori - I know you're there) sent me a link to these gorgeous photos taken by Annie Leibovitz for Disney.  It's Hollywood meets Disney - two of my favorite things, as Lori put it.  And they are just beautiful.  I can't wait to see the rest of them.  But I'm only giving you the link because I don't want to break computer etiquette and use photos for which I haven't been given permission.  Instead I'll leave you with this picture.  A shot of my boys as we were leaving just after the fireworks show that night.  As you can see, adoration for the magic is completely genetic.  They can hardly contain themselves.