From 1000 Gifts

A Year of Living Sincerely

August 20, 2012
(Dave-O, Mateo, the luckiest girl in the world, Mikeyy)

Last Monday was my 4-year cancerversary—1,462 days since my doctor said that damn C-word to me. Despite the bad rap that sticks and stones usually get, we got the shit kicked out of us by a word 1,462 days ago.

I realize that might seem like an odd thing to celebrate.

1,462 days ago—sucked, not gonna tap dance around it. For one, I don’t know how to tap dance—but that’s beside the point. Cancer was a twist of my fate I had to figure out how to cope with—but lucky for me I can do the twist. Even luckier, I’ve had 1,462 days since that suckiest of days of a whole lotta twisting, a little bit of shouting, shaking it up baby, trying to work it on out and all that jazz.

Last Monday night, on the other hand, was the polar opposite of suck. The soundtrack to that crazy road-trip in between the two has definitely had Sheryl Crow’s “Every Day is a Winding Road” in the mix. Man oh man, I love that song by my fellow survivor sister. How many days did I try to walk off the chemo buzz listening to that song looped on my iPhone? Those days were literally winding roads;) That song was like a postcard from her saying “Been there, done that. Hang in there. Let’s hang out someday. Love, Sheryl.” Or something like that. But anyway, every day I did get a little bit closer to feeling fine, just like she said. And these days, those days are thankfully more and more in the rear-view mirror like faded signs.

So we celebrated. Rear-view mirrors. Faded signs. Milestones. Winding roads. An epic road trip. The scenic route. A great soundtrack. Memories. Kodak moments. The finish line. A green flag. Life. Health. 4 years. 1,462 days. The moment. Each other. So many mercies. So much to celebrate. And brother, I did. So much. (OK, maybe a little too much—but at least I didn’t try to tap dance;)

Anyway, for each of those 4 birthday candles, I thought I’d share 4 souvenirs I’ve picked up along this winding road.

  • Champagne corks. As you can tell from the previous paragraph, not to mention, if you know me at all, I’m all about celebrating the small stuff. And as often as possible. I so dig this quote by Robert Brault: “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” He also said, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” This is the kind of disposition of celebration I hope I live my life with.
  • Daisy petals. I also want a disposition of gratitude. There’s so much to celebrate because there’s so much to be thankful for. Everywhere we look. If we open our eyes and take the time to look. The Bible says God’s mercies are new every morning. Waking up to a new day is a gift. Every heartbeat. Each breath, even morning breath but especially freshly brushed teeth breath. He scatters these and other assorted mercies throughout our day, like Van Gogh’s “Sower” (at least that’s how I picture it.) He is ridiculous generous. Oh how He loves. It’s like if we picked a daisy and started plucking petals, here’s how it always goes down: He loves me, He loves me, He loves me…. I’ve been keeping such a list here, my 1000 gifts. I’ve been having fun counting and I know I could totally go over the top if I wrote down each of those 1,462 days as a gift—which they are—but in the spirit of enjoying the journey I’ll just jot down my 4-year-cancerversary for #188.
  • Fortune cookies. I really do feel like I’m the luckiest girl in the world sometimes. I try to feel like this as often as possible, because it feels good. I guess I’m whatever kind of hedonist or epicurean that makes me. Anyway, besides the grace of God, I owe a lot of this to the ridiculous good fortune of being surrounded by such damn good peeps. The Beatles, methinks, said it best, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Truly I do. And truly I mean to have a disposition of paying it forward. One small way I’m trying to do this, and there’s still a few days left this month, is that for the month of August I’m paying forward 100% of my proceeds from my book Shaken Not Stirred… a Chemo Cocktail to The Save the Ta-tas Foundation and the breast cancer researcher superheroes they fund on their mission (not)impossible to find a cure.
  • Tattoos. I have 5 tattoos. So far. Each one is like a stamp on my passport from this crazy cancer road trip. I got my first one after I finished chemo cocktails. It’s a lucky charm, and my sister Jennie, my daughter Amanda, and I all three got one together to put a stamp on that awful bar tab. I wrote about that tattoo in more detail HERE. I got my second and third tattoos on a day when I had my 3 month check-up with my oncologist and my friend Terri was meeting with hers to find out she has Lymphoma. There’s a Bible verse that says “I believe; help my unbelief.” -Mark 9:24. I live there. Those words are written on my heart and I imagine they’re also on the insides of my eyelids because whenever I close my eyes I see them. That day I had them etched on my wrists where I can see and remember. The one on my left is bold, and in black.  The one on the right is white, almost visible, but still there. The font for each of them is the same elegant script, tying them together in the most eloquent prayer I know. My forth tattoo is simply an elegant rendering of the Japanese symbol for 3. It is for my 3 Redheads, my 3 reasons, as they are all flying the nest these days. They have been the most delightful companions these past 21 years every day of their lives as I was lucky enough to be their stay-at-home then homeschool Mum. As much as I’m excited to see them chase their dreams (and chase after them chasing their dreams) I’m going to miss my sidekicks. The 3 is just a little reminder of them, and a sign for them that I’ll always be by their side. My newest tattoo is inspired by my beautiful friend Vanessa, her life, and her Live Sincerely Project and tattoo. Vanessa has stage 4 breast cancer which has gone metastatic to her brain. I hate to type these words but the piss me off reality is that she is dying. And yet, it’s not like she’s laying down waiting to die or anything. That. is NOT. Vanessa’s style. Never has been never will be. She’s dying like she’s lived these past 29 years: Sincerely. Not only that, but she’s started a project encouraging others to live sincerely (and not wait till they are dying to start living) which has started a global movement. Please check it out. I promise you’ll be inspired by Vanessa’s story and example. And I double dog dare you to take the pledge with me and live sincerely.

In honor of her, in celebration of my 4-year-cancerversary, and in anticipation of that dangling carrot of a 5-year-cancerversary, I’ve taken the pledge to live sincerely and I’m documenting it. I’ve begun a daily VLOG on YouTube called a year of living sincerely. You can find me under JoulesE, EvanshireTV, or a year of living sincerely, if you’d like to follow my Quixotic adventures. I’d love to have you along for the ride while we count down for my 5-year-cancerversary/not-a-chemo-cocktail-party BASH on August 20. 2013.

SAVE THE DATE Y’ALL!

The Rest of the Whole Enchilada aka Part II

[This post is dedicated to my friend Denise who played the part of my delightful sidekick on my recent Quixotic adventure along the Pacific Coastal Highway.  I’ve got to hand it to her for just agreeing to go with me. We’d only met Facebook to Facebook through her daughter Jolene—the youngest SCAR Project model. Jolene was diagnosed with breast cancer at only 17 freaking years old, which pisses me off every single time I think about it. This past October Jolene put down the damn pink boxing gloves to get a little rest in peace—2 weeks before she turned 26. Cancer is a such a freaking jerk like that. But in spite of it, or maybe to spite it, the community that exists and the friendships that sprout up from that big damn C… form a club that you didn’t want to join but now find yourself counting your blessings for. (#178, btw.) And that is why, when iPhoned Denise and told her I had a crazy ass idea of an adventure to run by her, she didn’t even hesitate but said, “Hell yeah!” And that is the once upon a time that began our epic road trip from San Fran to LA for The SCAR Project LA cocktail party kick-off, and then back again, with flowers in our hair, of course. Or maybe it was a pencil #179. You know me.]

With Denise #180 on our most excellent adventure!

‘Twas a little Thelma and Louise takes the Bucket List on a road-trip, minus, of course, the driving off a cliff part. But the point was, we had so much fun it’s not even really fair.

So as I was saying in Part I, I don’t really do bucket lists. (Though I did dig the movie.)

I tried. I really tried. Had the pencil drawn from behind the old ear flap, twirling in the fingers, ready to fly across the paper with reckless abandon. Then, as you know, I freaked out.

The point, methinks, my pencil was trying to make, was, why on earth would anybody want to wait until they are dying to start really living?

And because it’s a #2 pencil, it gets extra credit for bringing up this parallel point: Instead of counting down only to cross things off, why not count UP and keep counting as if there were no periods but only ellipses.

Keep counting like there’s no tomorrow. Now that’s a list I can’t scribble fast enough.

In fact, I’ve been scribbling such a list ever since I read THIS book #181 (Scroll down a little and there’s a trailer on the right. Scroll down a little bit more and there’s a link to read the first chapter.)

But besides big things like an epic road trip along California Highway 1 #182, there’s lots of small things that would never make a bucket list and to me they are just as important as the epic things. Like I always say, any reason to pop a cork on a bottle of champagne #183 is a good one, no matter how small.

And since today is the 4th of July, the more corks popping #184 the better. Sounds like fireworks #185 in broad daylight. No sense in waiting till it gets dark out to start the party. Cleanses the palette and tickles the fancy for seizing and celebrating all the special moments, big and small. Because I don’t know about you, but I’m assuming—because it doesn’t really bother me if I make an ass out of myself as long as you’re OK with the probability that if you’re anywhere near me you will also most likely be implicated—that we all want the whole enchilada out of this life. Are with me? Because I don’t mind sharing.

Found it!
Check out this cool song #186 about said whole enchilada
by my fave group Over the Rhine #187!

So to sum up… also, to pair with that enchilada, not to mention, all that champagne and slap happy bubbles, might I suggest a side of snapshots of such moments which kept taking my breath away there and back again, along California Highway 1? “Twas such a bon freaking voyage! So lights, camera, action, bon appetite, and of course cheers. By all means, cheers, and love, of course. And also happy 4th!

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Windmills, Bucket Lists, and The Whole Enchilada Along California Highway 1 – Part I

I. Love. Making lists and crossing things off. Especially, crossing things off. Then, wadding up said crossed off list and really showing it who’s boss. Slam freaking dunk.

Crossing things off lists is #174 on my list of 1000 gifts. Slam dunking a finished list is, obviously, worth 2 points: #175 AND #176.

Now, you might be thinking, “You’re pretty freaking tech-geeky-savvy, Joules… why not use your iPhone (#177)?…”

Been there, done that, bought the app for that. And, while I do admit, it is slightly satisfying watching the item *poof* disappear when you check the box, 1) I’m not really a check in the boxes kinda girl, and, 2) slam dunking an iPhone is just asking for trouble with Siri.

But really, all I was trying to do, is explain that all those post-it notes behind me in the photo are not a mess. They are my preciousssss…lists. Organized chaos, if you will.

Those particular ones were all the rabbit trails of my brain in regards to a couple weeks ago, in which my Amanda Michele Freaking Evans got MARRIED, graduated college, moved back to the Evanshire—where she and her now HUBBY will be living for the summer while they work and raise funds for a 10-month mission trip with YWAM Wales this September. (To follow their adventures there and back again, click HERE.) Also, my Mikeyy moved out of the Evanshire and in with his big brother, my Mateo, on campus at UC. Then, we moved the groom’s things into the Evanshire.

If you’ve ever done a Rubik’s cube with your feet while blindfolded you understand the logistics involved, that bigass bottomless cup of coffee, and all. those. precious. lists.

There is one list that freaks me out though. It’s the one list to rule them all: The Bucket List.

When I got cancer, of course I sat down and wrote Bucket List at the top of a page. After all, isn’t “Thou shalt make a bucket list” at the top of the What To Expect When You’re Kicking Cancer’s Ass Big Ten list? I’m pretty sure it’s either #1 or #2, but I forget which. And of course, I totally “blame the chemo” for that—which, I’m positive, is #9 or #10. But I digress, which isn’t really on the list, but sometimes I like to write things in just so I can cross them off.

That’s how much fun I think crossing things off is.

Except for, come to find out, on bucket lists.

Don’t. Want. To. Slam. Dunk. That. One. Don’tevenwanttostartthatlistthat’showmuchidon’twanttoEVERfinishit. To me it’s more like “the list that must not be named”. So yeah, I might have panicked and maybe sweat a few bullets, staring like a deer in the headlights of that freaking blinking cursor of a number 1. It went down a little something like this:

Me: (retrieving the yellow #2 pencil from behind my ear, twirling it in the right to open up the noggin to pencil channel, left elbow on the table, left hand cradling the chinny chin chin, left index finger in the shhh position so I can hear the light bulbs popping up, which I would then upcycle into thought bubbles-cuz I’m green like that-in which my version of 1001 things to do meets Arabian Nights meets Lambchop-from which I would transcribe   my list that doesn’t end…

1. (staring you down all Clint Eastwood style): “Go ahead, make my day. Fill in the blank, punk. Do ya feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

Me: Not particularly, actually. I have cancer. Duh. (Yeah, I’d say duh to Clint Eastwood if he asked me a stupid question like that at a moment like that.)

At which point, cue the melodrama and fade into the theme from Love Story… “Where do I begin?” I think you see my dilemma?

Where? To begin? At which point my pencil showed its true color shining through and experienced stage fright as if said blinking cursor was not only channeling Dirty Harry, but on Speed  : “STAY ON OR GET OFF, PUNK”

Way. Too. Much. Pressure. At which point I put the pencil back in my ear and crumple up the list which must not be named. I mean, stress causes cancer and stuff, so slam dunk that, if ya know what I mean.

Or maybe kick it instead. Yeah, kick the freaking you-know-what-list. For three points and the win!

And with that, please tune in next time when the ucket-bay list takes a ride along the Pacific Coastal Highway with Thelma and Louise.

Dear Mrs. Ladyga

Whoa… has it really been 32 years since I was sitting in your 8th grade English class and you assigned those speeches about what we wanted to be when we grew up?

What I remember most vividly about you were the braces. You walked into a classroom of insecure junior high schoolers and pulled off braces as hip. Ok, so it was the 80’s, but still, that was as bold as you were beautiful the way you smiled upon our class. You didn’t smile at us with those shiny braces. You smiled upon us, with kind eyes and a beaming smile. Especially when you would get all excited about diagramming sentences.

I will never ever forget how excited you got about diagramming sentences. I don’t think you drooled or anything, but it wouldn’t have surprised me if you did. That’s how crazy exciting diagramming sentences got to be. Oh, the races we had on the chalkboard! I’m not saying if I drooled or not, because this isn’t supposed to be about me. However, I did emerge from junior high English classes (yours, and Miss Layman’s 7th grade class) thinking diagramming sentences is cool (well, isn’t it?) and I credit the two of you for instilling this, socially acceptable or not, NEED TO PLAY WITH WORDS, that I seemed to have caught in your classes.

I was shocked to find out that diagramming sentences and Mad Libs were not competitive sports in high school though.

I especially remember the way you dialogued with my compositions, nurturing my barbaric yip into a yawp. I credit yours (and Miss Layman’s) enthusiastic encouragement to the writer soul in me, as that which egged me on to not merely fall,but dive head over heels into the art of language, and the love—almost to the point of drooling—of the crafting of my art.

So I just wanted to say thank you. You’ve had more influence on this class clown than you probably would’ve ever imagined. And I really just I wanted to let you know.

I also wanted to tell you I grew up and wrote a book, and that you and that speech you assigned to me 32 years ago is one of the first scenes in my story:

By eighth grade I was so primed for the spy life that I thought I’d better invest a little more in inventing and substantiating my backstory and parallel life. So I went on “official record” that I wanted to be a clerk for a Supreme Court justice when I grew up. My English teacher (you, dear Mrs. Ladyga) was filming our campaigns, I mean, class speeches about what we wanted to be when we grew up, so the opportunity just presented itself. I said it right to the camera. From there my course was set, and I followed through with it, almost to a tee. Practically a double major in college with my emphasis on my journalism degree and one course short of a second degree in political science. “Missed it by that much!” as Maxwell Smart would’ve said.

I wanted to turn in my paper, I mean, give you and Miss Layman each a copy of my book—because, even after all these years, I can’t help but wonder if you would draw smiley faces and hearts, and make comments throughout my book, just like the good old days. Just thinking about it, I find myself holding my breath, hoping you’d write a big fat A on it.

Also I hope you’d like the protagonist in the story, the person you invested in. And inspired. I’m sorry but yes, it’s true that I still like to begin a sentence with And now and then. Occasionally I even end a sentence with a preposition. (See that? I just did it;) Anyway, I hope this does not mean you’ll have to give me an A-. (For some reason, it’s starting to feel like it’s time for a segue…)

So guess what? I grew up and became an English teacher too! And I’m not going to lie, I did channel you and Miss Layman and I  think we made quite the literary menage a trois.

Another time I channeled you, dear Mrs. Ladyga, was kind of unexpected, but then again glancing back over my life in the writing of my book, which happens to be a memoir, I found a little foreshadowing stuck between those braces of yours. I have no idea if your braces made you nervous when you walked into our classroom on the first day of school? Maybe it was no big deal, like getting carded or something—and I’m sure you got carded all the time anyway, but especially when you had braces. And by the way, did you ever lose your retainer in the cafeteria?

Anyway, I had a slightly similar situation (I knew you’d appreciate that alliteration) when I was teaching a high school Brit Lit class. I haven’t exactly told you this part yet, but the book I wrote is a memoir about my breast cancer story. Before I go any further, I just want to let you know at this point in my story I’m in remission, or NED, or no evidence of disease.

But 3 1/2 years ago I had a particular evidence of disease to contend with: walking into my class with a bald head for the first time. I was nervous as hell. I know I clowned around in your class a lot, but I’m really quite an introvert by nature, and not really an up-front kind of person. I know they always say to picture your audience naked but thankfully I’m not a very graphic person plus that would just be wrong on so many levels it’s not even funny. Anyway, here’s what I wrote about the day I walked into my classroom feeling like my head was as shiny as your braces were that day you walked into my 8th grade English class and thankfully, my life:

You can’t imagine the pep talk I had to give myself the first time I had to teach my Brit Lit class bald. On the very first day of class I’d given my class a heads up, that a short, kind-of-cute, bald chick might be filling in for me in a couple of weeks, and that she would be as badass as she looked . . . so they’d better have kept up with their reading of Emma, when she asked them about it.

They are all pretty smart. You have to give them that. The day I walked in without any hair, they were all sitting there like angels. with bandanas on! Such. Sweet. Solidarity. I’ll never ever forget that kind gesture.

This year I’ve decided to add to the counting of my 1000 Gifts, which, inspired by this book, I began recently, by taking note of acts of kindness when they happen to me. And by taking note, I mean actually writing a note to actually thank said kind peeps. This sort of New Year’s resolution was inspired by this book, which my friend Litsa (#166) gave me, which our friend Amy (#167) gave her. Our friend Pam (#168) has it now.

All this to say, ever since I pressed send to publish my book on 11/11/11 at 11pm, I have been remembering you and wanting to send you a thank you note tucked inside my book, Dear Mrs. Ladyga (#169).

What I didn’t know is that you . . . already knew all this.

Oh how my heart just broke into a million pieces all over Thursday . . . when I finally figured out a way to track you down . . . having contacted another favorite teacher of mine, Mrs. West, my junior high volleyball coach (#170) to see if she could help me reconnect with you and Miss Layman (#171) . . . at which point she was very sad to tell me that you too had fought the bitch that is cancer, and had recently gone to your rest in September.

This is not an “Alas . . . I was too late” kind of post. (Like I said and believe, I know you already know everything I wanted to say to you, Dear Mrs. Ladyga.) Although, if anybody takes away a like-minded challenge to not leave any thank you’s unsaid, I’m good with that.

What this is, is a “Dammit  cancer! I wanted to thank her myself. I wanted to give her my book, dammit ” kind of post.

Everyday I am reminded that cancer doesn’t play fair. Thursday was no exception. Friday was no exception when my dear friend and mentor, Terri (#172), was scheduled for an upcoming biopsy, at which we hope to rule out lymphoma. Yesterday was no exception when Dave and I went to a benefit for an organization that is near and dear to my heart: The Dragonfly Foundation (#173) whose mission is to bring comfort and joy to kids with cancer. Today is no exception. Tomorrow is no exception, when I go in for my 3-month check-up with my oncologist. I could go on, but I won’t. But that, in a nutshell, is why, even though cancer is done with me, God willing, I AM NOT DONE WITH CANCER, dammit. Damn cancer.

And thank you and may you rest in peace, dear Mrs. Ladyga.

Sincerely,

Joules Bond 006.9

Skipping Stones and Surfing on the Ripples

So it’s already Day 5 into 2012 and I’m just now getting around to writing that post where I go public with my New Year’s hopes, dreams, and resolutions. For those who know me, it doesn’t surprise you that I’m just now getting around to it. I’m a freaking introvert. Not to mention, super freaking shy. Besides, 2011 was such a ridiculous amazing year for me that it’s not like I wanted that party to slow down enough for me to sit still and think about “What’s next?” Instead what really went down, was there was a bit more squeezing of life into what remained of 2011. I admit it, I’m a glutton when it comes to squeezing that last drop out. (It’s a good thing for me, that Jesus hangs out with peeps like that.)

Early on in 2011, I met a woman on a plane who told me that after meeting me, she had an image pop up in her mind that she felt like she was supposed to share with me. She said that she pictured a juicy pink grapefruit in my hand, that it was very sweet, and that I was going to squeeze every last bit out of it. She said she wanted me to know this is what God has for me. Then she gave me a $20 bill and told me she wanted the first copy of my book when I published it. Which I kept on my desk in front of me as I tried to squeeze the best out of my book in the editing process. (Yes, of course, I sent her a book!)

I. Love. Grapefruit. And I love whoever invented the grapefruit spoon. Have you ever noticed that when you scoop out grapefruit it sounds like a kiss? I think God did that on purpose to say, “Hey I love you! Now go have a good day! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.” (At least, my grapefruit had 25 kisses in it this morning. Which means, you KNOW it’s going to be a good day. And yes, I counted them. Who wouldn’t count kisses from God?)

Anyway, I appreciated that word picture she gave me. I don’t think in pictures; I think in words. Then I like to play with them. I try and make pretty word pictures since I can’t draw. But let’s not get into my flaws right now. This is supposed to be one of those uplifting, dive off into the New Year type of posts and how will we ever get there if we dwell on such things?

So one of the first things I read on Facebook when I finally dragged my lazy bum out of bed on New Year’s Day, was from one of my friend Julie Sweeney’s last posts of 2011. She suggested thinking of “a single word to represent a focus of intention for the new year (rather than a list of resolutions).”

I liked that idea a lot. I especially like it here on January 5th, where I’m 5 days behind the resolution groove.

So here’s my word:

Ripple

During The SCAR Project Exhibit which I helped bring to Cincinnati during Pinktober, a friend took me aside and advised me to make sure I didn’t just jump into the next thing without taking time to experience the beautiful ripples from the stone I’d just thrown that was skipping so happily right in front of me. The next day another friend came up to me at the exhibit and asked me if I had considered all the Ripples spiraling out from The SCAR Project and my book? Well, I don’t have to be hit on the head three times. I decided I better sit back and enjoy the ride, or else. (OK, so I have a hard time sitting still . . . so maybe if I grabbed a metaphorical surf board;)

Anyway, here are some of the ripples I’m riding into 2012:

1. My book! It’s still a bit surreal to me that I actually get to finally say MY BOOK! But it’s out there on Amazon and Kindle. I’ve wanted to write a book ever since Mrs. Daneal helped me crack the code in kindergarten and I  went home that day and read a book all by myself. It was a big orange book called “I Want To Read” which  about drove me crazy because I so identified with the little girl in the story.  My Amanda was the same when she was little and I was reading Dr. Seuss to her. One day she pointed at the words on the bottom of the page, nearly knocking the book out of my hands, and then she literally threw her hands up in the air and begged me: “MAMA I NEED TO KNOW WHAT IT SAYS DOWN THERE WHERE THE SQUIGGLES ARE!”

I had a couple ridiculous fabulous book launch parties in December. One was at Book Bums, the coffee shop where I hang out a lot, go to my writers group, and where I wrote quite a lot of my book, while sipping on their delish highlander grog. The other one was at Art Design Consultants, the “Gallery in the Sky” downtown Cincy where we held The SCAR Project exhibit.

I like that particular picture from the book release parties, because I like the way my Amanda is looking at me. Also I love my sweet little survivor sister Paige sitting there all cute and sipping on a not-a-chemo-cocktail (minus the vodka of course) while I’m saying a few thank you’s before doing a reading.

I’m still trying to take it all in. So. much. fun. I feel like such a lucky girl, and so very grateful to have so much love all around me.

I’m scheduled to do an interview for a local magazine next week, 3 book clubs this month, and to speak at Cincinnati State in March. And my Mikey is going to help produce an audio book. Also I’m happy to announce that my Redheads have officially released the “Cancer is a Bitch” song on iTunes! But there’s also…

2. The SCAR Project. Working on The SCAR Project Cincinnati Exhibit was one of the most meaningful things I have ever done. I met so many wonderful people and learned so much about myself. When my committee and I traveled to NYC to present The SCAR Project with a donation from our exhibit, I found myself asking David Jay if there was more that I could do. So now I’m lucky enough to still be working on The SCAR Project, consulting with other people who are trying to bring it to their cities. So far it looks as if there will be exhibits in DC, LA, and Toronto this year! I’m having the time of my life working with those who are trying to make it happen. Also, one of the loveliest things about working on The SCAR Project Cincy Exhibit was getting to know many of the girls who have participated in it. I had begun interviewing the girls and/or hosting their stories in their own words on our SCAR Project Cincy blog. I’m really excited that I am going to be able to continue doing this as we are going to launch a SCAR Project blog on the web site.

3. My Amanda got engaged and thus we are planning a wedding! Here is my favorite of their engagement photos:

Amanda will become Mrs. Gary Duane Freaking Benton on June 10, 2012. That is a day after they graduate from the University of Cincinnati. What a weekend, no? Their plans are to go with YWAM on a mission trip to Wales for a year. Then they intend to move to Denver, where Gary intends on going to seminary to be an Army chaplain.

4. The nest is emptying. Sad in one way. But it’s also exciting to watch the Redheads chasing after their dreams at the same time. And depending on where they land, it looks like some interesting holidays for me!

5. Meanwhile, we have a lovely window where Mikeyy is commuting from home. Kinda cool that Matt had his year of being an only child at home last year while Mikeyy was out of the country with YWAM, and now Mikeyy has his turn.

6. Ive begun practicing yoga. Lucky for me, the yoga studio near me started a book club at my coffee shop a few months ago. This was the perfect segue into going to an actual yoga class for me. And I have been having the loveliest time getting to know my new yoga friends and learning yoga.

7. It’s cold outside, so I’m not doing much running. Hopefully my new yoga practice will keep me up fitness wise. But I do look forward to picking back up my running. I miss my daily 4 mile through the neighborhood. But not necessarily in the freezing cold. Oh how I need to live in a warmer climate.

8. Besides writing a book, there are a few other crazy things I’ve done outside of my comfort zone that I’m pretty happy about: I wrote a song which the Redheads have been covering and are going to release on their full length CD. I love what they’ve done with it and can’t wait until “Wind in My Hair” is released. During The SCAR Project I had to step way out of my comfort zone and do a couple of interviews on TV and radio. Although I don’t recommend viewing them in HD (holy crap my freckles jumped off the screen!) I’m glad I didn’t chicken out because it was good for me to stand in for my friend Vanessa and to promote The SCAR Project despite my shyness. One of the craziest fun things I did this past year was to hang out on set where my Mikeyy was being a grip and production assistant, and then end up being a stand-in and then even an extra in one scene that took place, appropriately, in a coffee shop! Crazier still, and it comes out this week, but the owner of the art gallery (where we hosted The SCAR Project) and I were photographed for a magazine article about successful charity galas in Cincinnati. Who EVER would’ve thought I’d do fashion photography? HA! It was more like Litsa (the Greek goddess) and me (the cartoon character)!

9. I can’t end a post on ripples that affect me without mentioning people I miss who are resting in peace during 2011 after fighting the beast that is cancer: Mary Jo Cropper, Daria, Jolene, Kaye, Cindi. I miss you all, and even though cancer is done with me (God willing) I am not done with it. You are always in my heart.

And since I don’t really know how to surf, before I hang 10 I’ll just stop there. Besides this post was brought to you by a glass of 9 Stones Shiraz that I’ve been sipping on while I skip these stones and surf the ripples they make. So cheers to you, your health, this new year, and to skipping stones and surfing ripples in 2012.

Bling and Pop

So I didn’t exactly get to that second bottle of champagne the other day, which on one hand is obviously sad because I had really exciting stuff to say, but on the other hand was probably good because I had to drive home from Toronto later that day. Besides the obvious—slurring really good news—drinking and driving is just so freaking stupid it’s ridiculous.

Instead of being stupid I like to drink this when I drive.

But I digress…onto the bling and pop.

So here was the bling I couldn’t wait to tell you about!

That bling you see amidst the yellow flowers is a rock on my baby girl’s ring finger! The first thing I should tell you is that I received this picture via a little birdie: TWITTER. Yes, my little redbird “tweeted” her engagement. To which I “replied” PHONE HOME—just as the phone rang. At which point she told me about her new ring (pictured above, which I plucked off Twitter).

Here’s the happy couple: Amanda Michele Freaking Evans and her fiancé, Gary Dwayne Freaking Benton.

We couldn’t be happier for our baby girl and the luckiest guy on earth. And here’s the happy cork to prove it!

POP!

(In case you’re wondering, no. This is not one of those I Spy Challenges. It’s the champagne cork in the middle with the smiley face, silly;)

Anyway, so to sum up: Gary popped the question. Then he put that bling on her finger. Then she tweeted. Then she phoned home. Then that happy cork you see in the middle of that picture went pop and there was much cheer!

Which by my count, brings me up to #165 on my 1000 gifts. How happy am I to be here to have seen this day in my baby girl’s life! Who would’ve thunk it three years ago? Wow, my cup is freaking overflowing…

So if you were worried things might get a little boring around here at the Evanshire, never fear! There are wedding bells in the air, and they are set to go off June 10th. The day after Amanda and Gary graduate from UC. Yep, that was no typo. I did in fact say they are getting married the day after they graduate.

Here’s how Amanda explained it to us: “College diplomas? Check. Ok, now it’s time to get on with the rest of my life! So here comes the [Amanda Michele freaking] bride!”

That’s my baby girl:)

And this is one happy mum.

3 YEARS AGO TODAY

It’s a little surreal now, but it was 3 years ago today that I found the damn spot that turned out to be breast cancer. I know that’s a crazy anniversary to celebrate, but finding that damn spot is why I’m sitting here today, three years later, doing one of my favorite things in the world: playing with words. I’ve been playing with them a lot over this past year, writing a book. A book, if you will, to close the book on the story that damn spot once upon a time tried to rain on the parade of my happily ever after.

Here’s the way cool cover (in progress) by my even cooler cover artist, London Glover, who, with digital media guru Mikey Evans as her sidekick, has done what nobody, to my knowledge, had even thought of doing before—turned me into a cartoon. I’ve always wanted to be a cartoon.

Being a cartoon definitely ranks way up there on my list of 1000 gifts, currently at #162. And since I wouldn’t have “grown up” to become a cartoon if I hadn’t been so blessed/fortunate/lucky to find that damn spot 3 years ago today, let me not forget to record that most obvious gift I was given: the gift [#163] of finding said damn spot when I did, and consequently #164: Take 2 at life.

So because this is such a happy day for me, I feel like sharing my happiness, and just because I’m feeling extra giddy, a few words from my book about that day 3 years ago today. A teaser, if you will, from chapter 2 of my book: SHAKEN NOT STIRRED…A CHEMO COCKTAIL.

SHAKEN NOT STIRRED…A CHEMO COCKTAIL is sort of my postcard from the other side of breast cancer/chemo. It’s a comedy about my tragedy. Now, I know it’s kinda a spoiler to tell you it’s a comedy up front, but then again . . . I figure you are pretty smart anyhow, and have already figured out that if I’m sitting here writing a book that there is a happy ending to it.

I’m all about happy endings. But I’m not giving the ending away tonight—just the beginning. And by beginning, I don’t mean to imply that I began my book with chapter 2. That would be ridiculous. Although, now that I think about it, it sounds like a fun challenge. Anyway, by beginning, I just mean the night I found the damn spot.

As a special bonus feature, here’s the song I had on loop while writing Chapter 2:

Chapter 2

When the Stars Go Blue

On August 11, 2008 there were meteor showers[i]  over Cincinnati. My world was rocked that night, but it had nothing to do with the meteors that my teenage son Mikey and I watched in the wee hours of that sleepless summer night.

Previous to Perseus’s fireworks display, somewhere in between the lines of August 11th and 12th, I’d awakened, particularly parched from the end-of-season cocktail party I’d thrown that evening at The Evanshire, aka my home sweet home. Being somewhat of a newbie tennis freak, I’d played on three tennis teams that summer. My neighborhood team had just won the division championship. My USTA (United States Tennis Association) team had just played in the district championship tournament. We actually won the districts . . . but . . . the win pushed one of our player’s ratings into a higher bracket . . . and that officially disqualified all her matches . . . and our team from the victory, not to mention a road-trip to regionals. The trophy didn’t have a chance to slip through our fingers; we never even got to touch it before the ruling came raining down on our parade. For the cocktail party, I’d grabbed several bottles of a certain Grenache that had caught my eye from across the wine store where I was searching for just the right red and/or white to go with our blues. It had a hot pink label with elegant “cursive” lettering that read: Bitch. Bingo! My tennis girlfriends cracked up when I presented the wine. Then we all sighed, and said, “Yeah, it sure was.” We uncorked the wine. It was the best of times and we were making the best of the worst of times. We ate and drank and made merry[ii].  I went to bed thirsty.

I knew I would wake up in the middle of the night, dying of thirst, thirsty. What I didn’t know was that dying of thirst would end up, sort of saving my life.

It was 5 o’clock somewhere, but for me it was the middle of the night when I woke up from a dream in which I was practically dying of thirst and trying desperately, though unsuccessfully, to quench it. “Need . . . H . . . 2 . . . Ohhhh,” I sputtered out in a dry whisper like I was some kind of a tumbleweed, searching for an oasis. “So. [click] Very. [click] Thirsty.” I couldn’t even peel my tongue off the roof of my mouth. I’d dealt with similar “middle-of-the-night dehydration” before, so I had the drill down, practically in my sleep. I tumbled out of bed, crawled across the bedroom floor, slithered down the stairs more like a Slinky than a snake, and somehow found myself in front of the kitchen sink. I guzzled down a glass of water, diluting the dehydration and dousing the dream. Then I poured another, and headed to the study to sip on the second one while checking Facebook. And I played a little Scramble, to try and unscramble the fog in my brain.

That’s when I bumped up against my desk . . . Ouch . . . I felt . . . and heard . . . an unexpected thud. Something had gone bump in the night—and the bump was on me: my left breast, to be more specific. My jaw fell on the floor and my eyebrows formed a question mark as I held my breath, brought my hand to my breast, and felt the lump.

I cannot explain the shock and awe I felt. It was like a meteor to the chest, literally. I remember the lump felt like a shooter marble right beneath the “milky way.” I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there the day before. My husband, Dave, is pretty sure it wasn’t there the day before. I’m sorry if that’s TMI, but I don’t see how we could’ve missed a meteor like that.

I don’t know how long I sat there trying to imagine what in the world the marble could be. I found myself checking and rechecking to see if it was really there. Then I kept checking and rechecking to see if it was still there. Part of me thought I was imagining things. But, no, it was still there. Part of me started imagining things. I felt the meteor again, and then stared out the window for a while.

My fourteen-year-old son, Mikey, was lying out on the driveway, gazing up at the meteor showers in the sky. I let go of my own gravity and let myself get pulled into his world for a little while—snuggling up next to him and watching the sky fall, like it was a movie.

That time with Mikey is etched in my soul as a perfect snapshot of—not my life passing before my eyes in the dying sense—but more like a haiku, capturing what it was all about.

When the meteor show was over, I had a hard time keeping my thoughts from spiraling out of control. A sensible part of me, that I had to dig way down deep for, took all the other parts of me, and put them to bed.

I lay there, not wanting to wake Dave, deciding to wait out the night. Wait for him to wake. Wait to see if it would just go away. Wait. And pray.

Since my thoughts like to play connect the dots, this would be where my inner Lady Macbeth started coming out, as “Out, damn’d spot” were the words that came out as I prayed. This seemed like a reasonable prayer, so I went with it.

I also spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to say to Dave when he woke. The truth is, I generally obsess over just about anything I even think of, processing it at least twice, before it gets “on deck,” on the tip of my tongue. Just to make sure I say what I mean to say and that I say it the way I mean it. Extroverting is not my strong suit. I can do it, but I don’t think I do it very well. And it wears me out. I had nothing, by the time he woke up. I was worn out, wound up, and on top of everything, I just had to wing it.

Some words tumbled out into the air and then seemed to settle in a cloud over Dave. He groaned one of those “groanings which cannot be uttered[iii],”  (like he already knew, too) and fearfully, mechanically, reached over toward the spot.

Dave said that waking up to that morning was like waking up on the worst possible side of the bed ever: “I was still pretty groggy when Joules asked me about a lump she had found on her breast. She’s pretty random and often catches me off guard, but in 20 years of marriage, she had never asked anything quite like this. As soon as I felt the obvious lump, the fog instantly cleared and I was wide awake. My heart and mind started racing, but I tried not to let her see my fear. Outside I was saying, ‘Hmm, that’s strange,’ but inside I was frantically praying, ‘Please, God, no! Please, God, no! Please, God, no!’ Ever since we had a friend diagnosed with breast cancer, I held a secret fear that it might strike Joules one day. This fear only intensified when our friend lost her 7-year battle. Before that, cancer was something other people got. Old people. People with unhealthy lifestyles. People I didn’t know. But she was young, healthy, fit, even, a wife and mom, a good and godly woman. And she was one of Joules’s closest friends. Suddenly breast cancer was very real to me, and very scary.”

I won’t ever forget that groan. Dave’s middle name, Wayne, means wagon, and I could just feel him bearing the weight that was to come.

He felt the spot; I had not imagined it.

He got out of bed and made a pot of coffee. Dave makes coffee for me every morning and even brings a cup up to our bedroom and sets it on my nightstand to help me wake up and smell the coffee. Yes, I am spoiled. I admit it.

Then he headed to the study with his computer, and began researching what “not bad” things it could be. At first we were hoping it might be a cyst, or hormones. Or even a boil—at which point, I did channel my inner Job. Then he began adding big words that started with fibro- and pap- and ended in -oma, and my brain went all foggy again.

I poured another cup of coffee and called my sister, Jennie, who lives in Charleston, to tell her about the damn spot. She’s my baby sister, but also my best friend. She’s also a little ADHD, and I happen to love her rabbit trails, so I figured I could thumb a ride on her distraction.

Jennie later described the rabbit hole she fell in when I told her about the lump: “The day Joules called me and told me about the damn spot she found, I asked her if she thought it might just be a pimple or something weird like that. I tried to be reassuring for her and myself. The thing is, Joules has always been the strong one, and almost like a mother to me, all my life. And to me, nothing bad could or would ever happen to her. But, when we hung up the phone, the knot that seemed to have tied in my throat broke, and my tears broke free. My glass is not always as full as my sister’s, and it sort of felt like it had just tipped over.”

Dave made an appointment with my gynecologist, Dr. Allen, for 3:00 that afternoon. I had chosen her because I was not really into doctors at the time. She was a Naturopath, but also an MD. Basically, she was into alternative/non-traditional—with leanings toward Eastern—medicine. I liked that she was not a traditional medical evangelist, but had that training as well, in the palette of her doctor’s bag. I did not worry that she would jump to any radical medical conclusions, because that was not her holistic style. I felt we were sort of on the same page and that everything could be OK, because she was the most likely doctor to find alternative things the spot could be, and alternative ways of spot removal.

Meanwhile, Dave told me I should go ahead and go to a tennis clinic I’d already signed up and paid for, to try to keep my mind off that damn spot until three.

Where Are All The Tennis Balls?

I’m pretty fast when it comes to chasing tennis balls. I’ve been called “The Energizer Bunny” by some of my opponents. Others have told me I’m like a mosquito at the net—at which point I have to mentally disengage my super imagination powers so as not to see their racquets coming at me as giant fly swatters.

The point is, I’ve been conditioned since music class in elementary school to follow the bouncing ball.

Therefore I have never been a runner…until now. Well, I’m almost a runner but not quite. Close though.

My license plate says “Eat. Sleep. Tennis.” And that’s pretty much how things roll with me and my gang in the Evanshirehood. Normally. But you know me and normal. Hardly ever on the same page, let alone in the same sentence connected by a conjunction junction whose function is to hook up words and make them function and such. Anyway, it was recently brought to my attention that I have barely graced the poor tennis courts behind the Evanshire this summer. Last Thursday I hosted a girls night out and invited my long lost tennis girlfriends. When they started arriving at the door with bottles of wine they all had this similar look on their faces. It was like they were trying to place where they’d seen me before.

It’s understandable. After I finished writing my manuscript, SHAKEN NOT STIRRED…A CHEMO COCKTAIL, I decided to take off this spring and summer, from my tennis addiction, to focus on editing and publishing my book. (And promoting The SCAR Project coming to Cincinnati this fall, which has been crazy busy fun.) So that’s why my tennis girlfriends were being so ridiculous, acting like we were meeting for the first time, and as if the wine bottles were house warming gifts, instead of a case of catching up.

Good times.

While working on my book and with the SCAR Project I’ve also been doing a lot of soul searching. Trying to figure out what to do with this second chance I’ve been given. Life, take two. What. A. Gift.

I’ve been digging deep into celebrating that gift, living out loud, laughing from the belly, spending myself loving God and others, following my Redheads chasing their dreams, and having the time of my life chasing down my own by writing a book. It’s my postcard from the other side of cancer/chemo to my survivor sisters. Been there, done that, had to buy a new t-shirt, wish they were here, on this side, too.

But wishing doesn’t seem like it’s nearly enough.

I’m pretty sure the only reason I’m still here is there is still more I’m supposed to do. I have this keychain I picked up at the Race for the Cure that says, “I am the Cure.” It eggs me on to do something. Like I said, I’m trying to figure out what.

All I know is that my daughter Amanda is supposed to start having mammograms when she is 23 because of me. She turns 21 in January.

Maybe I started running because I’m in a hurry. There’s something terribly encouraging about forward motion. Even if it’s something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.

I have a 4-mile course in my neighborhood. One of these days I’m going to run the whole thing and in the process will have psyched my body into thinking a 5K is a piece of cake. This is a goal of mine. But it’s easier said than done. First I’m going to have to run up the Oregon Pass hill.

One thing I’ve learned about running, is that running downhill is way more fun that running uphill. I generally walk up the hills. But even then I have to channel my little engine when it comes to Oregon Pass.

I know I could easily flip my course, with Oregon Pass on the downhill, but we have speed limits in our neighborhood.

The hardest thing about running is breathing. Sometimes I forget to. Then when I think about it too hard I forget how. I’m working on this. Trying to pace myself, find a relaxed running form, spend time praying for my peeps which makes me happy thinking about them, and keeping my eyes wide open for beauty and breathing deeply as I take it in.

Continuing my 1000 gifts, here are some of the beautiful things on my runs:

#134 the song, “Beautiful Things” by Gungor, on my Chemo Cocktail Soundtrack that I run to

#135 iMapMyRun iPhone App

#136 Running downhills

#137 weeping willow trees

#138 morning doves

#139 sunshine

#140 wind in my hair

#141 H-2-OH

#142 the Elvis statue in some neighbor’s garden

#143 Thinking about friends as I pass their houses

#144 My “run.” necklace

#145 Sweating out chemo toxins

#146 Moving forward

#147 Shade trees

#148 best running socks ever

#149 fireflies when I run when the sun is setting

#150 sometimes closing my eyes and raising my hands in the air like I’m flying

#151 trying to find a running groove

#152 finishing a run

#153 making ice cold watermelon juice right after

#154 followed by a cold shower

#155 I thought I could and I just did it

#156 gaining confidence

#157 building fitness

#158 sipping satisfaction

#159 experiencing enjoyment

#160 Eric Liddell said when he ran he felt God’s pleasure. This is what I’m after. Not just in running but in everything I do. And I especially feel God’s pleasure when I write.

#161 that I get to have fun playing with words

1000 Days

1000 days ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. When you hear that word it kinda sorta makes you wonder if it’s time to start counting down your days. If you know me, I’m kinda sorta an out of the box kind of girl, so I didn’t really feel like counting down because that sounded anticlimactic. Anticlimaxes rain on my parade.

Somewhere in the beginning of my cancer journey I came across another blogger who was celebrating her 1000th day since being diagnosed or 1000 days of being cancer free and at first I was jealous that I didn’t think of it first. Then I just decided to be a copycat when I got there.

Now I’ve been there, done that, and I’ve got to tell you, I sure do like the view from here. 1000 days is definitely one of my favorite 1000 gifts [#112]. I’ve had the most amazing 1000 days EVER.

  • I graduated my M&M from homeschool last May [#113]
  • I retired from homeschooling [#114]
  • I wrote a book, which has been the biggest dream my whole life. It’s called SHAKEN NOT STIRRED…A CHEMO COCKTAIL. It’s a postcard of sorts from the other side of breast cancer and chemo: Been there, done that, had to buy a new t-shirt. It’s a comedy about my tragedy. [#115}
  • I baptized my sister [#116]
  • I got to go on a Roman Holiday with Dave to celebrate our 20th anniversary (a tad late) and the end of the “bad” chemo days. [#117]
  • I received The Tiffany Award, which granted me membership at Five Seasons Sports Club, to help regain my fitness and get my tennis game back after cancer and chemo. [#118]
  • My tennis team won play-offs, against crazy odds, my first season back. It even made it in The Enquirer. [#119]
  • I got an article published in the Christianity Today online magazine for breast cancer awareness month. [#120]
  • I was honored to be able to present The 2009 Tiffany Award to Mary Jo Cropper, may she rest in peace. The breast cancer center at Bethesda North Hospital, where I got my mammogram, is named after her, so it was so beautiful to me to be able to both honor her and thank her personally and publicly. [#121]
  • When I downed my last chemo cocktail in December 2009, we had the best family Christmas vacation EVER at Marco Island. [#122]
  • I traveled with my Mikey for a couple days in Paris before dropping him off in Germany, where he did a 7 month internship with YWAM. Then I made my way home slowly via taking the Eurorail through the Alps to Munich to Innsbruck to Bologna to Pisa to Cinque Terre to Florence to Venice Italy.[#123]
  • I received the generous gift of a holiday in Cancun with Dave-O from the Karen Wellington Foundation for LIVING with Breast Cancer. [#124]
  • I walked half a marathon in the Cincinnati Flying Pig this year! [#125]
  • So far I’ve done the Indiana, Atlanta, and Columbus, OH Races for the Cure this year. [#126]
  • I actually ran most of the Atlanta one, which was my first 5k to run not walk. [#127]
  • I’m currently working on helping to bring The Scar Project to Cincinnati to kick off “Pinktober.” It’s an awareness raising, beautiful, breathtaking, captivating, heartbreaking, impactful, meaningful, powerful Pulitzer nominated photographic exhibit of breast cancer subjects and their scars. [#128]
  • And while I’m on subject of my 1000 Gifts…I heart my oncologist, Dr. Lower [#129] and my breast surgeon, Dr. Stahl [#130] and my port surgeon, Dr. Runk [#131]-(Even though my port was not my favorite thing-I totally don’t hold it against her;)
  • And…I also superheart Julia Fikse [#132] and save the ta-tas [#133] for making stuff that makes me laugh and that also supports cutting edge research to end breast cancer, all in one fell swoop, not to mention a cool t-shirt.

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

A couple of weeks ago my friend Debbie and I walked (and ran a little) half of the Cincinnati Pig Marathon together.

Apparently, when pigs take off to fly, it's in the dark.

Last weekend my friend Cee and I ran (and walked a little) of the Atlanta Race for the Cure 5K together.

Don't be confused by the skyscraper, Cee and I are both really short. But I'm a tad gianter.

I realize that might not seem like a big deal, and maybe it’s not in the big scheme of things, but after the marathon they both raced for my cure when I was diagnosed with cancer and going through chemo, it seemed fitting, right, necessary, good.

Debbie (#104 on my list of 1000 gifts) and Cee (#105) were kind of the CEOs, of sorts, of chemo details in the Evanshire. They got together, and got all my friends together, to bring meals every day of every “bad” chemo week. It was. Such. a HUGE. relief. And feeding my picky family can be a lot like a marathon. [Note: I don’t think the term mess hall originated with trying to feed my picky peeps, but then again…]

So a couple of weeks ago Debbie and I did the half-Pig (#106) together. Luckily, writing my book has gotten me used to not sleeping, because I had to wake up at 3 a.m. since pigs apparently take off while it’s still dark. (I didn’t know this when I signed up.) The thing about Debbie and marathons is that she is practically the boy scout of marathoning—prepared. If you know me, you know I pretty much fly by the seat of my pants most of the time, and it probably frustrates you practically to death. Sorry.

It misted off and on but luckily Debbie had told me to pack a rain poncho, and as much as I’m on strike against wearing hats these awesome hair days I’m having, I was glad I brought a hat since my glasses don’t have windshield wipers. Thank God it was warm outside; the mist actually felt good. Except for the fact that my soggy feet (from the chemo) actually, for real, got literally soggy. I could hear my socks squishing and it was gross. (But not as gross as the port-o-potties. Apparently runners keep running when they “go” and they don’t have very good aim.)

As for the socks, no worries, because, of course, Debbie had thought ahead and told me to pack an extra pair.

We mostly walked the 13.1 miles. Of course we ran at the start, which was a lot like walking, with all those runners who can’t aim. We also ran across a bridge over the Ohio River. The cool thing about running over a bridge over the Ohio River it’s literally running from Kentucky to Ohio. Which feels really far and kinda badass. It also feels badass to run downhill, which we did. But not wee wee wee all the way home.

We did run across the finish line though. I can’t help it if all those peeps thought we actually ran the whole way and there wasn’t really time to explain. We totally got busted and shooed away when we tried to go back and take a pic by the “Finish Swine”. And I wasn’t even sure if I could finish it at all. But I so freaking did. (Seems I caught something from the Pig though, and now I simply must do a Komen 3-day, and someday run the 1/2 Pig.)

My time was 3:40:06

Last weekend Cee and I took Team Shaken Not Stirred (#107) on the road and raced for the cure (#108) in Atlanta (#109). It was the first time I ran a whole 5K. Well, mostly ran. There were a couple of uphills that I didn’t exactly channel my Little Engine on, but instead decided to pace myself and possibly finish rather than for sure roll down the hill all the way back to the start line. The thing about running 5K’s with Cee is that she really races for the cure. I thought about tying myself to her and just flying behind her like a kite but then I got caught up in the spirit of racing for the cure and found out that I can actually run a 5K. Well, almost but not quite a whole 5K, if we’re being technical, but then I don’t sound nearly as awesome. Whatever.

Anyway, I have to give props to the Atlanta Race for the Cure peeps for tricking me into running my first 5K (#110). They didn’t have mile-markers, so I never knew where I was in the course, so the finish line shocked the you-know-what outta me. And that, pretty much was my trick to the finish. I kept waiting for the one-mile marker (that never was) and inside I was thinking how very discouraging it was going to be to finally see it and know I still had so many miles to go. And then all of a sudden there was the finish line! Talk about a big “whew”.

My time was 35:02

Here’s why racing for a cure is such a big deal to me.

1) It reminds me that I get by with a little help from my friends.

2) The sea of pink is so moving to be a part of.

3) It is a metaphor to me for moving forward. Though not forgetting. And forging ahead with great purpose.

4) It might be a small thing, but like Mother Theresa said, “”Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” And like the words etched into the Vineyard  Cincinnati says, “Small things done with great love will change the world.”

5) 

6)

7)

8)

9)

10)

And in a few hours I’ll be racing for a cure in Columbus with my friend Kristi (#111) and Team Kickin’ It With Kristi. Please pray with me for Kristi. She just finished 12 brain radiation treatments today which we hope and pray  zapped all the cancer cells poof away….she’s doing the race for the cure tomorrow….then begins chemo later this month to shrink tumors in her lungs. If you’re on Facebook please join the Prayer “Chain for Kristi Frazier” group.

Well, I better get a little sleep before the race;)

Cheers and love, Joules