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MY LAST FILL

MY LAST FILL

I simply cannot believe that I had my final appointment with Dr. M. this past Monday for MY LAST FILL before my final surgery. What this means for the laypeople out there and hopefully there are many because reconstruction on mastectomied breasts is not something I would expect in anyone’s daily vocabulary, is that my boobs have been sufficiently expanded beyond the final size. If I could explain this feeling of boobs that get to be injected with saline so the tissue expands making them ready for the switchout of the permanent silicone replacements, it would be like almost too much air in balloons. No wait, even better… do you remember Super Elastic Bubble Plastic? Remember blowing into the red straw with the little puff of the God knows what chemical at the end of the straw pushing your air ever so gently to get the balloon to blow up? A perfect one was when the balloon would just get so big and you knew right when to stop, these are now my boobs.

My boyfriend asked me after I gave him the new and not sure if they are improved version view if I felt embarrassed to walk around with them. “Should I be embarrassed?” I asked seriously because the funny thing about monthly new boob size is you lose perspective of what is normal. I can’t really tell if they are over the top other than the humorous conversations I have had with my partner and my friends. I also gain perspective when he places his very large hands over them and they barely fit, this is a funny way to judge how big they really are. Go big or go home is what I have said on more than one occasion to my Fabulous Doctor M. I can kind of see how people become addicted to plastic surgery, I so easily slid into the “just a little more” category of boob filling. Thank goodness for my very reasonable doctor who kept reminding me of the first thing I said to him at our initial consult.

“The only concern I have is that I have heard one thing about you and that is that you tend to go bigger than the patient actually wanted.” I really did hear this from a couple of people and at the time it was a serious concern. How time has changed. Now it is he who is putting the kibosh on me. The irony. Back to my boyfriend’s question about embarrassment followed by,

“Are you pulling up your shirt like you are doing with me with other people?”

First, the notion of embarrassment- this is so funny, I have actually had so much fun with this major shift in my upper body. I can’t believe I am saying this aloud and I am sure I have said this in multiple writings post surgery now that I am used to this new oddity that is part of my life. I recently stopped in at LULULEMON and bought some kicking new tank tops that if I wore them alone would definitely make me look like some aging porn star, but I secretly (not so secretly anymore after this writing) love wearing them at least under a sweater. There is something about the uprightness of it all that has totally changed the way my body looks back at me in the mirror. At least I got some bonus out of this whole wacky and traumatic experience.

What are my options anyway? Wallow in self pity or enjoy the process as part of perpetual life coming at me? I choose the latter; I usually do. It takes a lot for shit to bring me down. The other question Michael asked me was about the frequency of shirt lift offs. Mmmm. Well maybe, kind of, well occasionally. I am the type of person who likes to perpetually teach and share. I just can’t help but think with the frequency of women in our lives diagnosed with breast cancer I am being helpful to women by showing them and letting them feel the crazy baseball like hardness of them. I mean my work is with mostly women and my young team is going to come across this. It is more about education so it makes it a little less scary. I am not forcing people to take a look or a feel, but once someone gives me a full on chest hug, there is a human curiosity of what the hell is going on here? I like to talk about it loud and clear; it takes away the awkwardness at least for me anyway. So no I am not embarrassed at all, I love my new temporary badass very fake breasts and yes I do lift up my shirt at the drop of a hat for people I know (so don’t get any ideas if I have no clue who you are, there will be no revealing). Part of the healing process for me in this last almost five months is the open and honest dialogue and this is all a part of the speedy recovery.

I told Dr. M. when I was in his office this past Monday that I was actually going to miss these bad boys. He assured me that I would not miss them at all. I think I will miss the forced conversations they spur. They are a unique jumping off point for honesty and truth about cancer, the strides that the medical profession has made in breast cancer and the unique one size does not fit all aspect to the experience. Every single person I have had the privilege to speak with about this wild and frightening ride has a different story, different decisions, different surgeries, post care, post recommendations, recoveries. Not one story is the same and I am no expert just because I went through this so publicly. I have done no research except as it applies to me and I cannot be a voice or an instructor other than to continue to share my own yellow brick road, (omg- I almost wrote the word journey). I am looking forward to the next surgery only because I am hoping that along with the new and hopefully final way my upper body will feel and look, it will also represent the final closing of a book I hope I don’t have to reread. This would be the best outcome indeed.




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NOTHING LIKE NATURE

NOTHING LIKE NATURE

I rode with the birds today. I saw the birdhouses at the bird sanctuary and smelled the horse manure trampled by car traffic and the cow manure freshly mixed with the soil on the local farms. I was part of a bird flying practice as the wind whipped through my ears and hair looking up trying to decipher the thousands of black specks in the blue sky on this clearest of days. I berated myself but only briefly for not immediately being able to identify the type of bird swarming from beach shore to marsh practicing for takeoff as the cool air enters our New England lives. I tried finding out what their names were when I got home, but couldn’t find the answer. Some type of sparrow, I am guessing, but the funny thing is what difference does it make, the view looking up at this marvel made me stay right there with them and their name became insignificant in this present moment. I blocked my ears from the noise of the deliberately loud truck mufflers like they were roosters getting ready for mating and I opened them to the silence of the breeze and the sounds of the ospreys so proud that I was able to differentiate their callings when they screeched.

I felt the power of my strong thighs reminding me of the beautiful Serena Williams and her power on the tennis court with her mighty rear challenging every body type we have ever seen on those all to0 often all too white shimmery courts. Pure power in these bad ass thighs on my bike ride this morning on my no speed old school Schwinn with only foot breaks never having to stand up to make it up a hill. (thank you Kathy Martin and Kyle). Gloriously immersing myself in the air of the morning simply because of my speed back down the hill. Cruising at a pace that made me feel like a child flying down the road on my yellow Schwinn banana bike way before pink became the mandatory go to color if you happened to be a girl buying your first bike. I saw the thatched roofs of some of the converted summer homes charming them into less campy style and more year round and old beauties before the megatrons took over and changed the landscapes. The white brick chimney on the right side of a front porch with a big old fashioned H on it that had an old familiar style about it reminding me of a Leave it to Beaver episode. I heard the cardinals and the waves and I smelled the beach that has a smell way better than any anti depressant could ever make a woman feel.

The glorious witnessing of active lives running and walking or flying by me on their five thousand dollar bikes in complete gear like they were on a road race in the south of France, racing past me trying to finish their workout for the beginning of their Sunday. Helmets everywhere, I am sure they were judging me with disdain for my choice in not wearing one. Each time someone rode past me and I sing songy chirped, “Good Morning!” the sound of my voice almost visual sparkles exemplifying my complete joy in this spectacular moment, most didn’t reply because they were either plugged into some music or were I am guessing here judging my lack of helmet choice. I applauded myself when two millenials one female tattooed and adorable and the other one, male and shirtless with long bleach blond hair flying in the wind rode past me helmetless, and judgment free as they too were experiencing the same glory in the freedom of a bike ride on an early Sunday morning.

Since the cold days of this past spring, every time I have driven down Third Beach Road in Middletown, RI past Norman Bird Sanctuary, past the hundreds of birdhouses in the grassy field with St. Georges steeple in the back drop to the right and the chilly Atlantic Ocean to the left, I have thought of this as a perfect bike ride. Summer comes with an inordinate amount of fantasy availability of time and hopefulness of “best -laid plans” like an open road with no traffic. Then just like a nose twitch of Samantha Stevens in Bewitched, it is the last weekend before Labor Day and just like that, the lists of kayak trips, day hikes and paddleboard excursions get added to the ‘I’ll get to it list.’ I have found as I am getting older, it seems as if there is less time in the day or in the week. It always seems like it is Monday again and I am not sure what I did that added to my need for spiritual centeredness.

So this early Sunday morning as Hurricane Harvey blasted Texas, Washington DC pardoned criminals and I am getting ready for my final fill before my last upcoming surgery, I took that bike ride alone and with no plan, no helmet, in a skirt and sandals like I was riding around Copenhagen. My dear friend, Morgan, reminded me about the no helmet choice in her nurturing commentary since she passed me on the way to a tennis match. I am sure the many riders out there sat in judgment of my decision, but it is my life. I am a very aware bikerider and I like the wind in my ears and the sounds of the world flying by me and with me. I love the feeling like I am in high school again before my world changed before I got my license to drive a car. Once this happened, the bike rides, once the only form of transportation unless you had a friend who had a car, became an unlikely choice in favor of the more convenience of the mechanical one.

As I traversed this beautiful spot I am lucky to reside in, I realized in my moment in morning nature finally doing something this summer I had on my list how simple it is to add beauty to our busy lives. We spend so much time surfing bland and uninteresting stories on social media and reading about stuff that seems like it matters at the time until all of a sudden an entire hour has flown by and so has that chance to take that bike ride. When I am out in nature moving, no spin class, no circuit training and weight pounding exercise gets me to feel like I just participated in a come to Jesus moment. Nature is God to me. When I am participating in its sanctuary, I often wonder why I ever hesitate to do it again. Today was magic and I will cherish its loveliness and my decision to get off my ass away from the TV horrors, the news, work, and the noise of my busy brain for the delicious hour I allowed my healthy body to enjoy.

This was my holy moment today. Praise the Lord indeed, whoever she is, wherever she may be, for sure Mother Nature is the divine for my personal spirit. AMEN or AWOMAN however you want to think about the word, nature is the gift that keeps on giving and I never want to take it for granted especially after this morning ride.



the birdhouses at Norman Bird Sanctuary and my old school style Schwinn I keep in Newport. #solucky
recipes

WHITE CAKE

WHITE CAKE

Dearest Michael,

Along with frozen chocolate chip cookies, your uncle Michael loved white cake with CHOCOLATE ICING. WHITE CAKE, not yellow cake, that came in a box so no recipe here because the box is pretty straight forward. The CHOCOLATE ICING, though was a family staple back when we used to make cakes as a regular occurrence. I was never much of a cake making mom. I tended to make brownies, pies and cookies more than cakes, but as I write this to you, I am reminiscing about cake. I too used to love white cake and at the last birthday celebration of Uncle Michael’s, I made him one to celebrate his final birthday, his 25th. I actually have a picture of me with a birthday hat on, and him in his hospital bed in his apartment chemo and cancer dying skinny, blowing out the candles. It is too sad to include here, but I will show it to you sometime.

The word white has been coming up a lot as of late in this wacky political climate and in writing about WHITE CAKE I wanted to share with you the odd experience I have had at my Providence location this past year. As you know my second location was opened over ten years ago on the beautiful East Side of Providence. When we first opened, the name of our business was ‘alayne white spa + body boutique.’ After a few years, the name became too cumbersome and we shortened it to ‘alayne white spa.’ As time went on, a few changes started to occur both inside and outside the walls. Inside we decided to eliminate some of our peripheral services like massage and pedicures and really focus on skin. Outside though strange events were happening that included the word “spa” and they weren’t pretty. Prostitution rings behind the word, illegal sex trafficking with minors- offering “massage” when clearly massage was a misaligned name otherwise know as child abuse.

I no longer wanted to associate my name with the word spa. So as our business model changed, I decided that the word ‘skin’ would better describe the services we were offering. My name is alayne white, we offer skin services and so I loved the idea of ‘alayne white skin.’ It looked so hip and polished on our $1500 brand new turquoise awning. This new title gave us a new outlook and we got to shake things up with a different direction. After all, why would I want to continue associating my brand with a now sordid word like spa when all of this bad illegal and abusive behavior was happening with underage girls in dark and windowless back rooms of buildings all over Rhode Island.

Within a few months of our new and beautiful awning, some local women who lived in the community walked in and used some language with my team implying that my choice of wording of ‘alayne white skin’ and the small letters I was using for my name was deliberately tongue and cheek and that it was offensive. Someone actually said that they felt like they were living back in the segregated 1950s.

Yes. Seriously.

I laughed it off. Alayne White is my name. Give me a break, I thought. My answer was to tell them to take their energy and use it in places that need that energy, like with the problems of human sex trafficking taking place in our very state on the easy and accessible 95 corridor for example. But then someone else came in. Alayne White is my name, I kept repeating to my frustrated team who had to deal with these comments. I was never there to hear the comments, I told my team to give them my number and have them call me directly. No one ever called me directly.

I donate over 10k a year to a variety of charities in both of my locations. The last intention I would ever have would be to be tongue and cheek in a way that could be misinterpreted as racist for Christ’s sake. It was seriously some of the most ridiculous commentary I had ever even considered. Talk about looking for shit to create unnecessary energy around. But then it happened again. Someone else came by, then a few students came by and took some pictures and I started considering that this could become “a thing.” I saw myself on Channel 10 being interviewed in front of the ‘illicit’ awning by Alison Bologna defending my right to use my name on my awning for my business. I saw my business as the topic of social injustice classes on local college campuses. It was starting to take up space in my brain that I wanted to allocate to other more joyful topics. I considered the possibilites if I still had my maiden name and was using this as my business name, it would be a non issue. ‘alayne horowitz skin,’ doesn’t have the same ring, does it and IT IS NOT MY NAME. Alayne White is my name. Or what if I used my mother’s maiden name, ‘alayne black skin,’ perhaps this would be more acceptable? As I write this I am thinking, is this where our world is at now? Are we looking for problems to create out of problems that don’t exist rather than problems to solve?

I don’t know, I started asking my friends and family their opinions and every single person I asked would roll their eyes in complete disbelief that this was even a topic. Then another person came in and said something else. Every single person that came in was a white person. I started to tire of having to defend my own damn name, I grew tired of my poor team having to answer for this as well. It was a quickly ripening issue I was getting sick of spending my time addressing. Michael, you know me, I am one of the biggest bleeding heart liberals you know. The thought that anyone would think that I would deliberately use my name and your name for that matter to offend anyone was appalling. I am a charitable giving business woman who has a strong reputation in our state for running a beautiful business. I like to give and as a matter of fact I give to everyone who asks. Everytime.

Today was a sad day for your mother. I made the decision to take down the awning and think about my wording so as not to offend. This was a painful decision for me and my team because we never did anything wrong or ill-intentioned and taking down the awning felt like we were admitting defeat. We weren’t. I just don’t want to make my business a political voice. I actually consciously stay out of politics in my business. Rule # 1.

My business is about peace and joy and great skin. Ask anyone who knows me and knows my heart and they will tell you this. When I put my head on my pillow every night, this is the measure of my personal truth serum. I have never questioned my integrity or my moral compass regarding this issue in particular. I want to put this topic to rest and the best way to do this is to spend the five hundred dollars it will cost to change the awning so it is more pleasing for the few people who have mistakenly found offense in something that is so non offensive. I hope the same people won’t mind me saying no when they ask for the donation they need for their local charity because the five hundred dollars I would have otherwise given is now sponsoring my less offensive awning. So now my donation to Mount Hope Farm in beautiful Bristol, RI to sponsor a goat can only afford one and not two goats. Yes for real. That sounds a little passive aggressive, doesn’t it? (Now that was deliberate.)

I am not sure what the lesson here is my son, sometimes life comes at you in ways you least expect. Me getting cancer twice and a my recent double mastectomy, you never knowing your Uncle Michael because he died so young of cancer likely because of the BRCA2 gene, you and I both waiting for the results of your own BRCA2 test. The joyful trip we are about to take to celebrate your great grandfather’s 100th birthday. There are so many bigger important life coming at us events and I guess my answer to the lesson is that sometimes the high road is the best road. Sometimes you just have to say fuck it and eat the cake with the icing and then eat some more and enjoy the little life we have as the specks on the planet we are. Sometimes if small stuff is getting to be big stuff, you just have to let E-GO and change your course.

The one thing I know for sure is that I love you and I know you know me and when I am no longer around to challenge your thinking, I hope this story is one you will look back on and smile.

Love Mom.

WHITE CAKE and CHOCOLATE ICING

Box of white cake

Follow directions.

Except for Michael’s last birthday when I made this cake round and layered, I always made this cake in a rectangular pan with the frosting on top. We would cut it in squares and usually eat it with vanilla ice cream.

CHOCOLATE ICING (AKA FROSTING)

This isn’t one of those frostings that is super creamy but more like a syrupy texture, but very easy and delicious and most importantly homemade, the only way to do frosting if you ask me.

1 square of unsweetened chocolate

1 T. butter

Melt together in a double boiler, (this is a pan within a pan of hot water, hopefully you are using the one that I had in my kitchen that I have hopefully given to you by the time you are making this) Don’t fill up the pan with too much water because it will boil over and into the chocolate mixture. You will only do this once and that will be your cooking lesson on how to not use a double boiler for the rest of time.

Once melted remove from heat and add:

1 cup of sifted confectionary sugar (don’t skip the sifting step)

and

2 T boiling water.

Beat until smooth and not stiff. (Use an electric beater for this)

Let cool slightly along with the slightly cooled cake and spread messily over the cake. Make sure it is messy because life is messy and the mess is where you find the depths, the beauty and the lessons.

I LOVE YOU.

MY STUNNING WORLD WAR 2 VETERAN GRANDFATHER, SOON TO BE 100! He taught me my moral compass.
the last day of the awning. thank you Philip Kinder for your kind words during this last few months.
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MORNINGS WITH KATH

MORNINGS WITH KATH

Kathy looks at me every time she sees me with that big bold smile of hers, eyes sparkling with those bambi lashes she wears and I am smiling. This is a big change from six years ago when I would otherwise flip her off as she shouted, “Eight minutes of burpees!” at the group when I didn’t even know what a fucking burpee was. Back then, six years ago, BC (before cancer and before about a bzillion other life events) I had the luxury of complaining about a burpee. More than complaining, actually whining about the hour workout that lay ahead, but for some reason was standing there thinking that this was a good use of my time. This was when I was working out because I was newly and happily entangled with a very fit boyfriend eighteen years my senior who was in way better shape than I was. I signed up for these classes of torture so I could actually think the eight mile walks on Cliff Walk with him on beautiful Sunday afternoons were joyful instead of walks of shame. Sweating and out of breath trying to keep up with my almost 65 year old new partner, after the first walk with him, incorrectly thinking that my walking workouts actually kept my cardio fitness worthy. They were not and I promptly needed to come up with Plan B for a better fitness routine or else there was no way we would be fitness compatible. The irony was that I met this beautiful man now in my life at the gym we all worked out at when I was only twenty three. I also met my former husband at this same gym and here I was twenty five years later. How ironic.

My attitude towards fitness all changed when I first went down to the end of the finish line to meet Michael after his run over the Newport Bridge. I couldn’t believe how much fun everyone was having and it planted a seed in me to do a 5k. Because he was my new partner and he loved fitness, he was super rocking encouraging and this was motivating. This connected me with Kath as I decided to take a beginner running class with her to see if there was any hope for me. I never liked running and the running class made me feel like there was a spec of hope for the possibility of at least kind of liking it. The running classes turned into gym classes and a bootcamp with Kath; smiling, happy and most important, kind and sincere, Kath’s morning routines began changing my mindset about fitness like I never imagined.

I wouldn’t consider myself a fitness nut, but I do love to workout now and this is one of the most bizarre sensations I have as I plow through my one hour classes. I take these classes, by the way, at a gym I drive forty minutes each way at least three times per week now. I have mentioned numerous times how fitness prepared I was (unbeknownst to me at the time) for my two “we caught it early” bouts with breast cancer. I am absolutely sure that my recovery, especially this last time, would have been much longer if my fitness was not what it was before I went in for this last surgery. There is something confidence boosting about being able to keep up with a group of mostly women who are like minded in sweating and jumping and moving in general. I have never felt as strong as when I am doing the ridiculous routines that Kath and her friend Kyle dream up for us. Routines, by the way, that have never been replicated. EVER. Every class is different every time.

This is not an easy feat, but the challenge has been life changing for me and I am eternally grateful for her optimism and kind spirit that has taken me on a road previously way less traveled. This road I am on with Kath is one of extreme admiration because I was never a work out kind of person. I mean I used to make fun of people who worked out at this level. I always thought walking fast was enough and I never enjoyed exercise the way I do now. There is something so liberating about completing the type of circuit class that Kath does, like the old days of drinking in our teens how we used to discuss our hangovers with some bravado, my friend, Morgan and I wear our workouts like badges of honor- way better than a hangover everytime.

I am not the type of person who you would ever think would be writing about my love for fitness. I didn’t grow up with fitness. Fitness was a chore, something you had to do, not something you wanted to do. My partner changed this for me by his stellar example of health. He never misses a day at the gym and what I have learned from watching him these past six years is that this as much about mental health as it is about physical fitness. For me, I can feel bat shit crazy at times and usually these times are when I am most easily drawn to brownies and chianti. The worst two things to keep my emotions steady rather than like a cyclone they can so easily become.

Exercise every single time keeps me in a calm state and grounds me like nothing else. (well almost nothing else, remember I am a proud med marijuana carrying citizen now) but from a health perspective, exercise and a fit body also mean a super fit mind and this is my preach to the female choir out there. We are being told day in and day out by every media outlet out there that we are depressed, we have anxiety, we need prescription meds to fix these problems, just a little pill. So much easier than a forty minute drive to the gym for an hour workout. Probably cheaper too since it is unlikely anytime soon that health insurance will be paying for ten packs of boutique boot camps. But what I know for sure is that there is no pill that can take the place of the euphoric feeling that happens when your body feels fit, and your mind feels clear. The feeling of your blood pumping and your heart working is something that no drug can ever do as long lasting as exercise. This is no longer about weight loss or having a tight ass. I am way past that desire. For me it is all heart and mind health, if the firm tight ass comes from this as the gravy (just as a reminder, my upper half is this now thanks to Dr. Hottie) then this is the added bonus, not the driver. When Kath looks at me and says, “Alayne, you have a big smile on your face,” almost like she is trying to figure it out, I am just thinking about how humorous it is to me that I am actually not only doing these crazy workouts, but that I love them.

I never complain about the workout because I am so grateful I can.

I have my next and hopefully final surgery coming up at the end of September, ONLY FIVE WEEKS from now, so game on to get my fighting lovely bad ass self back in the ring ready for the last round. Anyone want to join?


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FIVE MINUTES A DAY

FIVE MINUTES A DAY

It seems that every time I go to bed I have some list or plan for myself the following day. “This week I am going to run every day.” “Tomorrow I am going to get back on track and eat clean the whole week.” “I am going to stop drinking wine for the rest of the month and clean up my body.” “I am going to….”. blah fucking blah. The monkey chatter in my head revs up right before bedtime especially if I haven’t been taking care of myself the way I know makes me feel great. This is definitely my cross to bare this summer. I have had the best of intentions, but wine at five seems to call me daily and this usually sends my usual hard fast rules and regs about eliminating certain foods from my diet because they all cause cancer, right? Oh and by the way, so does wine as I heard in my regular nighttime health podcast last night.

Frankly, who knows what the hell causes cancer or BRCA 2 genes to turn on after they have been lying dormant for the last fifty years? Here’s the thing that I do know. When I found out I had breast cancer the first time, I had not been speaking to my mother because she acted so atrociously surrounding my Aunt Peggy’s death, (her sister). What annoyed the absolute fuck out of me was that she didn’t even acknowledge Peggy’s death to her own grandson, her own daughter, her own only remaining sister and so on. Her behavior as a human being, never mind my own mother appalled me and I just made the decision to take a big gigantic breath and step away from her for a little while. This is not an easy decision as a child from a parent and clearly it had major health consequences from the internal conflict and stress it likely caused. I really don’t think it was random that the BRCA2 genetic mutation I didn’t know I had got turned on and voila, breast cancer.

I called her because this is just what you do in families, you communicate things like this and hopefully shit starts to get resolved. Traumas can be an excuse for healing power between people and I am sure that the little girl eternal optimist hoped that a reunion of mother daughter would flow from the rooftops.

It really didn’t but I tried. We talked about feelings surrounding Peggy’s death and that’s all. We talked a little, but frankly our already fragile relationship was past the point of reparations. We kept up a good front trying to resume our Sunday chats about recipes and new kitchen gadgets and her new life in Alabama. They were strained but if I look at them without the rose colored glasses, they were always strained because alcohol is a mysterious vapor that takes hold of a relationship and strangles it with its invisible power.

Moving on the best we could, we tried to continue on and visited her while we were looking for colleges in the south with my son, Michael. Without repeating the saga of the “final straw” as Ann (aka my mother) would refer to the last time we spoke, she stopped speaking to me and told me to never contact her again. (LETTER TO ANN, CLARITY ON ANN and BOX OF WINE will revisit this sad story in my previous writings). Strangely the first time we stopped speaking was July 2014. I found out I had cancer March 2015. The second and last time we stopped speaking was July 2015 and I was diagnosed the second time March 2016. Is this a coincidence? I think not. I actually am not sure if food and wine have anything to do with this cancer gene turning on and off. I actually think it all has to do with this internal stress of parent child separation. It is simply not natural to disconnect from your mother. The irony of my partner’s job is that he is a family therapist and we have spoken in volumes about what family therapy has to say about this topic. I have struggled with this disconnection even though it was a toxic and very unhealthy one in my life. Having an alcoholic parent presents a round of challenges that simply do not exist in a normal relationship. The need to step away is ironically important for my health. But stepping away causes an internal stress hard to define because Ann is after all my mother and this in itself creates a conflict that is hard to reconcile.

For people who have known about my tumultuous relationship with her on the surface this choice of separation seems such an obvious need for my sanity. But the thing is that she is still my mother, we are connected celluarly and though we have been an oil and water mix since the day I was born, the disconnect is an emotional pain that is hard to move past. I really believe that this trauma is what triggered my cancer to activate twice. My off kilter plunge into sugar and dairy and wine this past summer I think is more my response to the stress of this never seeming like it can or will be resolved. As much as I know it is what is best for me and probably her as well, it is a scab that never heals. I woke up today thinking about my health and the choices I have been making this past summer deciding today would be yet another day I would attempt to get back on track and take care of my insides before I turn into BOX OF WINE myself. I know this will never happen. I am not Ann. But as I awoke today, my heart and spirit was feeling a little over charged. I made the coffee and decided again to begin my daily meditation of allowing five minutes to simply sit and breathe quietly. While the coffee was brewing, using the beep of the coffee’s completion to be my alarm, my heart pace slowed, my breathing got deeper and I opened my eyes and felt better. FIVE MINUTES A DAY to feel grateful for my life, my health, my child, my relationships, my shelter and my business. FIVE MINUTE A DAY to send Ann light and healing. I got up from my sit and wrote out my day, planning what I would accomplish assigning times to tasks knowing that this is what is best for my healing. What has not been working is the rush of my day without a plan and all of a sudden the day is night and I am settling down with a glass of Chianti and a plate of pasta. (not that there is anything wrong with this), but it is just not good for my emotional well being. Besides the puffiness and extra pounds, the emotional rollercoaster that wine and sugar cause this already revved up brain of mine is just not a good match for my life success. If stress is a major cause of cancer, then I need to figure out ways to settle my creative and very active and excited brain with healthy choices rather than the easier and immediate gratification ones. FIVE MINUTES A DAY of quiet reflection and five things to be grateful for are two definite ways that have always worked for me. As a matter of fact they have been so successful for me, I wonder why I step away.

This is life. Ups, downs, sideways, backwards. Life coming at me and what I do with it is variable. It will always be this way for my creative soul. I try to lasso it, but its potent joyful out of the box energy will not allow it. My growth comes from recognizing this and simply allowing the ebbs and flows rather than beating myself up for the times when I am ebbing rather than flowing. I just don’t want to get cancer again. Not knowing if it is the food, the stress, the wine that triggers this odd gene to turn on and sprinkle its cancer causing genetics in my body is the frustration in all of this. This is out of my control. This is the struggle. Releasing the control and the fears and worries and anxieties of the vulnerability of that is likely the cause of my flight to the easier choice of a delicious cold glass of white on a hot summer eve or a bowl of icecream after a beautiful bikeride. It is way too easy to release my stress this way. But fuck, it feels so good.

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BOOBS AT THE BEACH

BOOBS AT THE BEACH

The thing about reconstruction surgery after a double mastectomy is the lack of feeling in your upper body. What’s interesting about reflecting on this part of my daily non feeling is how worried I was about this presurgery. Now that I live with it as a part of me though, it really isn’t that bad after all.

When I was at the beach this past weekend after a few week absence from my otherwise regular beach going, the ramifications of the lack of feeling became more apparent. It was a hot perfect beach day. Barely a cloud, barely humidity, just clear delicious New England sun and air. The water matched its perfection. Crisp enough to cool you off from the heat, but not cold enough to take your breath away. I took about seven dips to cool off from the heat and it brightened my soul each and every time I plunged in. A deep dive into the Atlantic is like no other, though my Danish friend, Ken would likely disagree as the very breath taking water off the coast of Denmark makes the Atlantic seem like the Mediterranean, but I am talking USA here. I dive in for my first dip of the day and as I stood up looked down (thank God) to see that my bathing suit top had plunged south leaving most of my new breasts exposed for the people at the shore to see. There is simply no sensation that the front upper half of my body is clothed or not clothed. This definitely adds a new layer of awareness as I need to constantly check in with my top half ensuring I am not fully frontal.

I am actually not horrified by this at all. My only concern is (no pun intended) full disclosure here that these bad girls I now sport that make their way out and available for the eyes that happened to be my way were forced on me because of cancer and not chosen because of vanity. And as I write that, who gives a flying fuck if I chose them or they chose me and why do I even for a moment care what anyone else thinks about my luscious upper half? I don’t know. I guess that is the organic hippy side of me, the human chick side I’m still working on. Mostly I don’t care, but sometimes I do and there it is.

Lying on my front after four months is still not super comfortable. Not sure of ever will be again, but like all of my projections and worries, it probably will be fine. You may think that because I don’t have any feeling, it would be a breeze. The rock hard super expanded tissue expanders that still reside in place of the more flexible silicone implants soon to exchange places have no give. So it still feels like rock hard bowling balls on my front and lying on them creates an odd sense of pressure that isn’t a feeling of pain, but is more a feeling of discomfort. If I am slightly propped up on my elbows and have a blanket of some sort snugly placed underneath, I can manage to read a book for at least a half hour. This is way more than I ever imagined even last month by this time so I will take the thirty minutes because there is nothing like a great book on your front side, bright hot sun warming our backside on a beautiful beach day. The first round of “we caught it early” breast cancer two summers ago, I couldn’t sit out in the sun because I was getting radiated for most of the summer. I needed an umbrella and lots of sunscreen. This summer is total freedom, how ironic. Ahh the trials and tribulations of beach going with new hopefully cancer free forever ta-tas.

I often wonder if the radiation did more harm than good, but as my almost 100 year old grandfather would say, “Be that as it may, it is what it is.” There are no regrets of my first decision to go the route of lumpectomies and ovary and fallopian tube prophylactic (aka preventative) removal. I think that it was a great decision for me and this is the thing about decisions, they are ultimately yours. I had the luxury of making them from the “we caught it early” rooftop, some people are not that lucky. Some people are in the dire place of deciding to continue treatment or not because the cancer has spread so much. These life decisions become relative to the bigger picture of cancer and my own experience. As my last few weeks of over scheduling myself have created feelings of being overwhelmed, I am reminded of how quickly things can change in our lives. As I adjust to my new schedule of working more out front of my wonderful business of beauty, I need to remind myself of this. I need to remember how quickly life can change and attempt to surround myself with only the tasks and lists that give me pleasure. I live the life I live because of the conscious choices I have made to live it and it is easy to go astray to the bullshit that sucks energy from me. This is when I realize I need to get out in the garden, pull some weeds, call my grandfather and be thankful for this moment. This is what the beach does for me and even though I can’t be there with the fervor and frequency of my previous work schedule, when I am there, I am reminded of the deep gratitude I have for my life.

Today my mission is to stay in the present, follow my lists so I can complete the tasks that need to be done before the weekend and to try to, in each moment, feel thankful for the privilege of being alive and healthy.

This is joy.

AMEN!
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TO CHILDHOOD FRIENDS

TO CHILDHOOD FRIENDS

Standing in the line to go into the church, I came across a young woman I hadn’t seen in awhile. We affectionately recognized each other as we made our way to the guest book together talking about the sad and sudden funeral we were about to be a part of. Random conversations between the awkward silence of a funeral line have a loudness to them that is almost contradictory. Cremation versus burial was a brief topic. “How’s your son?” she asked me followed by “Where are you working these days? I asked her. Lightness to the questions trying to fill the time and space of the sadness. “How do you know the now deceased?” I asked her. She asks me the same and these become part of the typical types of conversation that happens in a funeral line easing for only a moment the time spent in it. She asks me the same and we continue until we reach the guest book where we sign our name and address that likely no one will look at again at least in the near future. The thing about guest books at a funeral is that you think you want to know and remember each and every person who attended, but in all reality your grief takes over afterwards and memories of the funeral of a forty seven year young woman overshadow. One moment she is sharing her life with everyone who knew her, sistering her sibling, daughtering her parents, mothering her children, working with her peers and being a childhood friend to her childhood friend, Jane for over forty years. One day she is here then within a few short months she is diagnosed with a rare heart condition and she is no longer.

When you have been blessed to keep a childhood friend for most of your life, the loss is almost unbearable. Even more than a sibling loss, because siblings you inherit by being born together, a childhood friend is a choice you make to keep this person in your realm. They know your depths like no other. A childhood friend is someone you can be all truth with- vulnerable, weak, honest, painfully direct at times exchanging advice whether we ask for it or not. Daily visits if you live close by or daily phone calls if you don’t. Texting “are you awake?” when you both know it is past each others bedtime but need some power and love from the other during a down turn in emotion. Sharing life’s events-jobs, moves, relationships, family bullshit, beauty advice, book discussions, movies, music, work problems and joys- this list never ends because there is never a time when you run out of things to say or feel. The love is so deep it is almost on the same level you feel for your own child or children.

I watched my dear friend, Jane have to struggle with the pain of such intense loss as she buried her best friend, Thelma at Thelma’s funeral this past weekend. I thought about my own childhood friend, Melissa who I have had the privilege of friendship since we met in sixth grade when I first moved to Jamestown, RI in 1976. I thought about the times we are so close it almost hurts thinking about our connection and I felt Jane’s pain from the luxury of my own view. Our friends are not supposed to die in our young worlds but they do. The anticipation of the emptiness I would feel in losing my friend, Melissa is an unbearable notion. Childhood friends know the insides of our homes, the traumas and the dramas, the successes and the failures. It would be like losing all of your most precious photos in a fire; you can never get that history back, it goes with the loss when they die.

Being at Thelma’s Catholic funeral this past weekend and all of the discussion of going home to Jesus didn’t seem comforting to me in any way. Perhaps it is not supposed to in this early time of grief. Perhaps it is more of a seed planting for the time in the future when you can smile again. I watched my friend Jane, through the eyes of my friendship with Melissa and her loss had depths of despair she didn’t even know yet. Priests and Rabbis can say life remembrances and back to God in all of their sermons, but the profound loss of a best friend way too young can never be comforted. There is no time limit on grief- there is also no fairness in its world. A smiley, bright, shiny personality who brightened the energy of the people she came in contact with is no longer the north star of the people she knew and loved. The only brightness is the selfish reminder to people like me who still get to share the life of their own childhood friend and to not take them for granted. This is the only light I see for a life much too young to leave us so soon.

I love my best friend Melissa more than I think I could ever love a sister I never got to have within the pockets of my clothes. Her friendship I always carry proudly and with honor. The only gift I can give to my friend Jane besides my own friendship (and flowers from my garden and the home baked brownies she loves) is to never stop the deep appreciation I have for my own dear childhood friend. If this is one speck of light because of her own loss then Thelma’s young passing had at least some random significance. I hope the specks of light turn into sparks and the sparks turn into stars in the dark sky that is everyone’s grief right now. I hope the stars in that dark sky turn into a bright sun at some point. For now though I know it is too soon to even consider the possibility.

But the darkness always turns to light and this is the anticipation of comfort I know for sure.

my dear friend Jane and her childhood friend, Thelma.

me and my childhood friend, Melissa
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I AM NOT SNOW WHITE

I AM NOT SNOW WHITE

Carpenter ants, nuclear size wasps, bats, deer, hawks, a single bunny. These are the insects and mammals that have decided to show up in my life this past week and in some cases, in my actual home. Like Snow White in the forest, these insects and mammals have decided that I am their go to gal for residence. Last week the bat appeared by deciding to fly around my son’s head while he was watching television causing the two of us to scream like little children. Thank goodness my very awesome boyfriend was over to help at least give us the illusion that he could do something about the bat. He managed to get it to fly into a room where he promptly shut the door. My son wasn’t buying that idea so off he went to Dave’s house, his dad, my former, to evade all possibilities of communing with the bat that evening. I thought we were done, that the bat had actually figured out how to get back out maybe the same way he got back in. Alfredo from Reliable Pest came blasting over first thing in the morning to let me know he couldn’t find the bat, but actually said aloud that it had probably found its way out (wink wink) until the next night when said bat started flying around the kitchen after my three superchick friends left. Thank goodness for small town business connection because I called my friend, Mike, Reliable Pest king, and within a nanosecond he came to the rescue.

Last week after my boyfriend kept reminding me to get someone (Mike again from Reliable Pest Control) to come and spray for the inordinate amount of large black ants having a regular exercise class on my back deck, black ant guy came and sprayed. “Do you have anything organic?” I asked. “Yes, of course the lovely woman on the other end of the phone said likely rolling her eyes and trying not to laugh aloud. “We have something less harmful.” “Great.” I replied. What a bunch of crap. Do I want to risk having ants take down my home or risk some horrible insecticide making its way into my BRCA2 genetically mutated body? Potentially causing another round of God knows what since it can’t show up as ovarian (no more ovaries), breast, (well we all know what happened to those). I still have my uterus and my cervix, there is something else that could be removed. OMG. Bats and ants and wasps. Last year it was bats and mice and sparrows. When I was doing my pretty little cash flow on how much money I would be saving in switching to owning versus renting, bat and black ant and wasp and mouse removal didn’t even enter the equation.

So yesterday after my neighbors Dottie and Gregg were in the front of my house pointing to the ground having a discussion about who knew what, I went outside to check in. Yesterday when I was watering, I noticed these gigantic sand hills in the front of my house. Apparently they made their way all the way down the street covering all three of our homes and it turns out they were some type of bad ass wasp. I mean these things looked almost prehistoric at first glance. I called Reliable Pest Control (I am surprised I am not on a first name basis with the woman on the other end, note to self- find out and remember her name because I am sure there will be a next time) and at the speed of the bat mobile, Alfredo took off his bat cape and put on his wasp cape. I have turned into an insect serial killer. I am sure if I took the time to research organic mixtures, some recipe for cayenne pepper and apple cider vinegar would come up that I could manually spoon down each wasp hole. Fuck that. I have a company to run, a 3900 square foot home to take care of and an excruciating wait to find out if my son is BRCA 2 positive. I don’t have the mental stamina to deal with the alternative.

On my bike ride with my dear friend, Peg the other day, a family of deer ran in front of us followed shortly afterwards by the head honcho buck himself looking right at us as he crossed to catch up to his family. Then there was the hawk I drove under while I was talking to same friend the next day. “It must be a sign,” I said so matter of factly because I seriously believe this. Signs from seeing deer and hawks seem much cooler than signs from seeing wasps, carpenter ants and bats flying around your home, agreed? You can actually look this up on google (where all information is true and well researched, right?) ‘

Symbolism of Deer- “symbolizes harmony, happiness and peace.” That is so nice. I’ll keep that one.

Symbolism of Hawk- “the hawk teaches awareness. The universe is trying to send you a message.” Another good one.

Symbolism of Carpenter Ants- “Patience Patience Patience, what you are working toward is coming.” Well as annoying as they are and as gross as the daily death clean up is, this one makes sense for sure.

Symbolism of Bats flying around your home twice in two weeks- “signifies that the transformation of the ego self is about to occur, the end of a way of life and the start of another.” Mmmm. Ok, I’ll take that.

Symbolism of wasps- “a symbol of evolution and control over our life circumstances.” Does this mean calling Reliable Pest every other day, because this is taking control over my life for sure. You must be cracking up reading this because who the hell thinks about looking up a symbolic meaning to a basic ant in their home anyway and even more amusing is that there is actually an answer when you look it up. Who knew, you are probably thinking. Yep Alayne knew.

Last night having dinner with another superchick, another bat decided to make its presence known by flying around us as we finished our delicious dessert. I had just cleaned up about fifty drugged and staggering ants on my floor, used another harmful insecticide to blast out the wasp families in the front of my business and now waited patiently for Mike again to come and rescue Bat number two from the Snow White homestead. Strangely this time around, after the initial scream and freak, my friend and I were quite calm. I had a strange sense of peace as I waited for Mike to arrive again. My friend kept her eye on the bat and I went into the kitchen and finished washing dishes. One of my favorite quotes from the one and only Wayne Dyer is, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Looking up the symbolism of all of these things no matter how silly it may seem does in fact create a shift in my otherwise annoyed feelings of overwhelmed single woman home ownership. Maybe the universe is trying to help me understand these things on a deeper level. Even if this is total bullshit, I like the way these shifts make me feel so it can’t be total bullshit if the end result is a deeper appreciation and understanding of my life. Like life, nature isn’t all about pretty zinnia and a freshly bloomed dahlia in my garden. There are hurricanes and tsunamis that literally shake things up. If insects and birds want to reside in my home and I can see a deeper meaning because if it, then the inconvenience is a mere bump in the road, just like all of the other bumps. All because of a bat. This is divine juicy living for sure.

recipes

ISABELLE’S CHICKEN

Dearest Michael,

You are so fortunate to have been born when your Great Grandparents were still alive. You got to meet Grandma Kitsie, (HOT FUDGE SAUCE) and GRANDMA JULIA (Dad’s Grandmother). You still get to see Grandpa Herbie who is still alive celebrating his 100th birthday this year and of course Grandma Belle, his wife of seventy one years who only recently died in the last four years. So blessed that we have photos of them with you and along with these memories, we also have their recipe boxes.

Grandma Belle was and still is an integral part of my daily life. I was as close to her as I was to Grandma Kitsie and I miss them with an almost vengeance as their legacy of life has been a major influence in mine. Their example in my life has shaped my world views, my ethics and moral compass and of course the way I cook and exist in my kitchen.

Grandma Belle started to wind down in her cooking as she got into her nineties, but I have memories of her Latkes (recipe to come in a later entry), her Brisket (also to follow) and many others. I was fortunate that I was born to young parents ensuring a long and healthy relationship with my grandparents who were only in their late forties when I came along. She would always hand write her index cards making sure her name would appear on the card like so many cooks of her generation would do.

Grandma lost her father to cancer only two years after her own diagnosis. She was only thirty seven when she found out she had breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy. Her father was only fifty nine. She already had three children at the time and it must have been difficult beyond measure. Women weren’t encouraged to talk about “it” back then and surely they weren’t writing blatantly about their personal experience like me. I am guessing her friends didn’t even know that she went through this; she barely discussed this with her own husband for that matter. Different times, but there are still remnants of this secrecy in many families including our own as people deal with cancer diagnosis in their own ways. Little did we know that the future would hold loss for us in the loss of her first born grandson, your Uncle Michael and her first born son, your Grandpa Dave also to cancer.

As you know I am an open book and talk about my own cancer experience loud and from the rooftops. Because I have learned so much about my own trajectory from cancer to BRCA I have made the conscious decision to not dwell, but to keep my head way above the sand too. Grandma Belle likely had BRCA 2, her father probably did too. I am guessing that Uncle Michael did and because the gene doesn’t skip generations, Grandpa Dave most definitely had this. What a family tree. I don’t mean to be a downer in this entry, but because I am writing about one of our old faithful recipes from Grandma Belle a day before you will find out your own fate of the family lineup in the world of genetic mutations, I wanted you to have some history.

This recipe like a family tree has lots of stories. I have made this as a staple like stuffing on a Thanksgiving table. Every Jewish holiday, this sweet chicken dish has been made. The recipe given out generously to anyone who asks. This recipe was was one of the first recipes I learned to cook back in my early kitchen days as it is easy and almost humorous in its ingredients. I have figured out ways to make it with less processed ingredients over the years and will write the version following this one, but seriously do this the old school way for your kitchen. It is fullproof and you will never be disappointed by its melt in your mouth sweet and tender joy it brings to your palette as you will get transported back to the many dinners of your young life.

Love Mom

ISABELLE’S CHICKEN

I can almost hear Grandma’s eye roll aloud as I go to write this next section in my commentary on the type of chicken to buy. She would be saying, “organic schmanic, it’s all a bunch of malarkey,” at the notion of specifying organic chicken in this recipe. I don’t care. Buy organic. The chemicals and God knows what other horrible things that are done to chicken in the factory world of chicken production can not be good for you. So please, for your mother, listen to what I say.

Chicken (about 6–12 pieces.) This dish freezes great so make some for the freezer for those nights you don’t feel like cooking. Try to put it in a glass storage container instead of a plastic one. Goodness knows what the hell is in the plastic these days too. What type of chicken is up to you, but Grandma and I always used Chicken Thighs. I like bone in and skin on, it adds a lot of flavor and as I write this, FAT IS IN. LOWFAT IS OUT. No one gets out alive so eat the damn fat and enjoy your life.

(If you use bone in, the time to cook it will take longer.)

1/2 8oz bottle of Catalina Salad Dressing (if you are using more than 8 pieces of chicken, you could probably use the whole bottle)

1/2 8oz jar of Peach jelly (same here, you may need the whole jar, the mixture should be pourable so get a feel for it)

¼ cup of water

1 package of Lipton Onion Soup Mix

4–6 small potatoes cut in half (if you feel like it, otherwise just put them in whole)

Lemon, salt, pepper and garlic powder

Put oven on 375

Squirt lemon and sprinkle salt, garlic and pepper over chicken pieces.

Lay out in a long baking dish (I have gotten into the habit of lining almost everything with parchment paper, saves on clean up time)

Add potatoes around outside of chicken.

In a separate bowl mix Catalina, Peach jelly and Lipton onion soup mix and ¼ cup of water. Pour over chicken and potatoes. The mixture should be pourable, if it is too thick add more Catalina.

Place in hot oven for twenty minutes.

Turn oven down to 300 (or even better, 275) and slowly bake for at least two hours.

Turn chicken over at some mid point and bake slowly until very brown and delicious looking.

Sometimes I have put the potatoes in later like in the second hour of cooking, but I don’t care if the potatoes are super soft, it adds to the flavor.

I LOVE YOU.

(a healthier version I suppose:

1/2 jar of local honey

1 can tomato paste mixed with chopped garlic, a few dates and a splash of cider vinegar in the food processor)

Chopped onions sauteed until golden

mix all together and pour over chicken proceed the same way)

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ORGANIZED CHAOS

ORGANIZED CHAOS

“I am coming tomorrow to paint,” my friend, Joe said to me when he called me last Sunday to let me know. I had called him about a month ago and told him that whenever he was available to just let me know and he could paint the living room dining room area. Frankly, I didn’t think he would be calling me until September so when I got the call, I was unprepared (meaning I didn’t even have the paint colors picked out).

For many of my female friends, this last minute call to paint an entire living space would just not do. My girlfriend, Karen (you know BROCOLLI CASSEROLE Karen) spent months thinking about paint colors really taking her time to consider all options, where things will be going, what needs to be replaced for furniture. I admire this trait in her. I am the total opposite; throw me into chaotic situations and I am at my best. I love a good shake up easily welcoming disorder so that I can rearrange, purge and rethink everything with the pressure of no time. This may explain why when I had a flood at my business five years ago that took out 50% of it, I didn’t even shed a tear. Bring it on, that’s my motto. You know that phrase, “God doesn’t give you what you can’t handle?” The only time I actually enjoy hearing that phrase is from my neighbor Dottie, because she is my calm pragmatic eighty four year young neighbor. When anyone else says this, I usually find it irritating; I mean how does anyone (besides Dottie) know this. When she says her one liners, they help me feel peaceful and safe, like a mom is supposed to make you feel during times of distress. Like my grandparents helped me feel and my aunt Kiley always makes me feel. Disorder forces order. It is like the light after the darkness and I know the end result is going to be a big satisfactory sigh. Getting there is the climb and sometimes the timing is off. If there is in fact a God, God must really have high standards when thinking about the people to pile ‘life coming at you’ on. I mean in the scope of Life coming at me, most, with the exception of cancer, is not life threatening stuff. Inconvenient, sure, but it’s not like I am having to escape pogroms like my great grandparents. This of course is part of the problem I have in minimizing my life coming at me, the comparisons to ‘shit could be worse’ problems. There is always something for sure, but for the most part, nothing I can’t handle and half the time I am creating my own chaos party.

For example, I have been changing my company’s direction this past year releasing some tired services and bringing in new ones that have required me to step back into a full time front end role. “Where do you spend most of your time?” I get asked so often. My answer in the past is that I spend most of my time working outside and on the business (oh yeah and that pesky double breast cancer three surgeries in two years that has taken me away) rather than directly in the business. I haven’t spent four straight days behind the desk, answering phones, taking care of clients one on one for many years. Today makes it the start of the third full week. This has taken me some scope readjustment especially with the organization of time so the last thing I was planning was a simultaneous home makeover. Be careful what you wish for; this all started when I decided to move forward with phase one of J’s Junk. By the way I am embarrassed to say that J’s Junk phase one didn’t even make a dent in my living space. As time has progressed since phase one, I realized that I needed to move ahead with phase two which was to continue the process and really sift through my living space. J’s junk just got rid of the junk. My living space has the things that I love and the things that I used to love and this, like making hard business decisions, is where the tough decisions come in. So when Joe called me in the midst of my new schedule, I knew it was the best timing. Bring it on is when my entire living space is forced into mayhem. Not only does the change of paint color have to be decided in a nanosecond, but every single piece of art and furniture must be moved so Joe can actually find a wall to paint.

Thank you Pinterest. Sunday night was spent combing through colors and photos that in the past would have required me to buy about fifty magazines. I narrowed it down to some key colors and woke up on Monday with a clear plan for Joe. Moved all of my pictures and my furniture on my adrenaline rush and within twenty four hours my house was turned upside down. Because I live upstairs from my business, I couldn’t really put it back together while we are open because of the noise factor so there the chaos sat until each five am wake up where I could get in a few hours of organization. This type of living arrangement makes most of my chick friends likely have heart palpitations at the notion, but I actually enjoy the freedom of just leaving crap everywhere knowing there is nothing I can do about it. Releasing control, not easy for us Superchicks. When it is forced upon us, though, this is usually when the answers come.

What to do with sentimental items I no longer desired, but didn’t want to discard or sell at a consignment store? Also how the hell do I still have so much stuff ? Why do I have shelves filled with books I already read? The Jewish Encyclopedia of Religion? Jewish Home Beautiful given to me by my Great Grandmother Mimi as a wedding gift? Considering I was marrying a chourico eating, beer drinking Portuguese Catholic it was highly doubtful I would be following the guidelines for a “young Jewish bride” as the book assumed. I have dishes from my great grandparents on all sides, furniture, art. The list goes on. If I died tomorrow, most of this stuff would likely end up in the trash as my son would have no idea what to do with it and why leave him with this absurd energy draining burden anyway. So the lightbulb moment for me came on. I would take all of my empty Rubbermaid buckets I have from the J’s Junk takedown and create a bucket for each person I want to have some of these things. I will lovingly wrap and write a story for each about their contents and secure and label the buckets to give to them when I see them. I can’t think of a better way to make sure the items I feel are important to pass down while I am alive and well get there. What am I saving these items for? I have used them for my family gatherings and have shared their energy in a continuity that my old relatives would have been proud of. When my grandmother Isabelle was alive she used to love visiting me and walking around my house noticing all of the things she passed to me. She would always comment on how happy she was that they were being used and cared for. I love that she didn’t wait until she died to do this because knowing why she was giving it to me and what the story was behind it made it so much more special. Watching her joy also added to their special place in my home.

The strange twisted blessing of cancer is the awesome sense of urgency you take from the experience of having the privilege in facing your own mortality without the actual mortality. I mean we are all going to die. No one gets out alive, sometimes we have a closer taste of what this means by these unique experiences and this is what has propelled me into this organized chaos. My body has been turned upside down, my mind and my thoughts have been too. It is no accident that all of this need to reduce and shake things up is due to this life experience I continue to go through.

I am lucky I get to have this choice because this cancer was caught so early. There is the added weight of a BRCA2 layer that rears its ugly head just when I think I can give myself permission to forget that this part of my life is on its way out now. Knowing my son is going to be tested this week adds to the urgency of reordering my stuff too. Maybe this is the distraction that painting my upstairs space provided for me this week in the anticipation of this upcoming appointment. I don’t think I give myself enough credence for the stressful situations weaving in and out of my life. Having too much on my plate is likely just what, if there is a God, God would have probably prescribed for me knowing full well that this is exactly what I could handle. Once again, Dottie is right.


a work in progress, just like life I suppose.