From Live Sincerely

Me & My Mini Me (a short history of some of the videos we made)

August 22, 2012 Before the VLOG we just texted back and forth and I superpower wish I had those old videos, but this is the first time I VLOGGED about Maya.

2 We had a thing about sock monkeys. This is a video I made for her September 14, 2012

3 Sept. 15, 2012 that time i interviewed Maya for my VLOG in which she shares her superpower: that smile. aka the day when Maya stole everybody’s hearts on my VLOG (not to mention the heart of my VLOG and the VLOG itself).

4. Mason Arts Festival Sept. 17, 2012

5. Oct 2, 2012 the first time Maya hijacked my vlog and i knew it was time to dust off the old resume and start hitting the pavement looking for a new job

6. Oct 4, 2012 that time I literally had to picket even for a cup of coffee when my sweet mini me Maya the Magnificent hijacked my VLOG for the Taking Down Cancer segment of the show, for a second time. Despite the loss of my non-existent wages for my VLOG “job” these were my most fave times in the history of my VLOG not to mention some of the most precious moments of my life.

7. Oct. 10, 2012 Just another time Maya took over my VLOG—had me dragged away even, LMFAO!

8. Nov. 30, 2012 Maya’s laugh on #helium. Best. Sound. EVER. in the history of the world.

9. Dec. 10, 2012 Maya aka the Claw Whisperer

10. feb 5, 2013 Hijacked again! Maya takes over my VLOG and takes down cancer #mayacraft style

11. feb 17, 2013 that time maya came with me to get my dragonfly tattoo and her mama brought mimosas.

12. March 7, 2013. that time i ran the jerusalem half marathon with maya in my heart and her name on my shirt.

13. march 20, 2013. That time i prayed for maya at the wailing wall.

14. April 29, 2013 Maya, her purple crayon, and my purple mane.

15. April 30, 2013 Maya’s Magnificent Idea: #RAK the best kinda antidote to random acts of violence.

16. July 12, 2013 Like Mama like Maya

17. August 10, 2013 that time Maya’s magnificent mama jumped on the bed to wake Maya and her sister Anna up for me.

18. Aug 20, 2013 Pink & Blues sisters. once upon a time when we got our hairs colored together.

19. Aug 26, 2013 my rainbow sock monkey twin my mini me gave me

20. feb 24, 2014 reality bites. my fist attempt at spoken word. i wrote this after my friend vanessa died. she is the inspiration for my vlog. that same week maya’s mama and i went to the funeral of a little girl. this kills me to watch it. missing v. but also knowing that i could say it all again with maya on my mind. i’m wearing the stupid cancer tshirt maya gave me.

21. april 14, 2014 the flight of lovely dragonflies That time Maya, our friend Suleika Jaouad, and I were conspiring to do an epic event for The Dragonfly Foundation. Cancer doesn’t exactly cooperate, and the event didn’t go down but damn we had fun dreaming. Suleika is a beautiful soul who has dealt with the same kinda #AML#fuckcancer that Maya dealt with. She chronicled her battle in her “Life Interrupted” column for the The New York Times. And won an EMMY for her NYT video series. Maya adored her. She was one of her sheroes. And is one of mine.

22.  June 1, 2014 A video I made for Maya cuz URANUS gas. In which she (and savannah) once again hijacked the taking down cancer segment of the show by kicking cancer’s uranus gas.

23. June 13, 2014 That time I caught up with Suleika and 1)score an EMMY 2) prove the detour sometimes IS the destination 3) muse upon the notion of sprinkling kindness.

24. Aug 23, 2014 That time Maya and I did the ALS #icebucketchallenge and Anna Awesome Sauce dropped almost all of the ice freaking cold water on my head!

25. Oct 14, 2014 This is one of my faves. Just a day in the life. Maya and me. Goofing off and sending videos back and forth.

26. Feb 16, 2015 At the Dragonfly gala with Maya and crew

27.  Feb 24, 2015 just a video exchange with maya once when she was bored in the waiting room at the dr’s office.

28.  Pie Day 2015 Maya’s not in this one but I did it for Dragonfly.

29. Sept 1, 2015 Dear Cancer, a spoken word retrospective on my 7 year cancerversary, in which I speak of my purpose of being a cancer activist, especially when it picks on kids.

30. July 4, 2016 A taking down cancer I made with Yoss and Freddy for Maya shortly after she went back to the hospital for her 3rd damn battle with AML.

31. July 15, 2016 Another video exchange with Maya while she was at Children’s in the thick of her third damn battle with AML, in which she gave me a tour of her room!

32. Another taking down cancer video I made for Maya, and also I gave her a reciprocal tour of my balcony.

33. July 18, 2016 A video I made to send Maya with a bunch of my friends at a local storytelling event in Cincinnati called Bespoken Live. It’s an evening of crafted storytelling riffing off a four letter word. Kinda like The Moth. The word of the evening was FREE.

34. Aug 11, 2016 A video my Redheads and I made for Maya in which we take down cancer in a pool and then Amanda sings the Cancer is a Bitch song she wrote for me.

35. August 14, 2016 Maya and I made this taking down cancer video when I visited her at Children’s Hospital, right before she went to St. Jude for the 3rd bone marrow transplant.

36.  sept 12, 2016 a play it forward challenge video I made for Maya’s magnificent mama and Maya

37.  March 16, 2017 just a video dave and i made for maya cuz we lava her

38. Oct. 8, 2017 And last but not least, the video I made for her at the queen bee 1/2 marathon this year, which i ran in memory of her.

 

Dear Universe

Last week I threw down my epic DONE list. This is most def a practice I wanna keep on keeping on at the end/beginning of a year. Not a report card from each year’s resolution throw down, but just a moment of reflection and celebration, making much ado about crossed off things. To start this tradition and the year off with a #bang #kaPOW, I threw down 51 things on my epic DONE list to reflection/celebration my 51 trips around the sun.

I wasn’t going to do 51 things on my epic TO DO list of this happy New Year’s Resolutions (or Intentions or Goals or Whatever term floats your boat and/or doesn’t get your goat). I was going to narrow it down to 17 cuz that’s what the poet inside of me wanted to do. But the #fomo-aholic in me obvi wanted to cast wider. Luckily #fomo me also waxes poetic. Instead of narrowing down my dreams, when I started throwing them down, I noticed they kinda fell into 3 categories: Places I wanna go, things I wanna do, and the person I wanna be. So I decided to do 3 lists of 17. And then I did the math and LMFAO off at the #divineirony.

So without further ado . . . my 51 things . . .

To Go

  1. Plan and save for and save the date for my Buen Camino/Don Quixote pilgrimage in Spain
  2. Albuquerque Balloon Fest
  3. This winter a winter get-away; by next winter a winter home-away-from-home
  4. Have an affair with my creativity #everydamnday but also a writer’s retreat
  5. Check out a drum circle
  6. Nowhere Else Festival
  7. Take the scenic route whenever possible
  8. The the stairs whenever possible (and especially if I ever get back to the Eiffel Tower and the stairs are open for biz)
  9. Girls Night Out
  10. Catch all the sunsets I can
  11. Say YES to adventure
  12. Talk to strangers
  13. On the Road with Grace project (Cincy, Colorado, DC…)
  14. Metavivor Die-in protest on Capitol Hill
  15. Next time I’m in DC, to run the 6-mile running tour that my friend Barbie #RIP #fuckcancer told me about that we wanted to run together #WWBD?
  16. Ride my orange is the new bike on the Loveland bike trail #crosstraining
  17. Step up to the microphone (speaking, storytelling events, open mic, poetry slams, etc)

To Do

  1. Finish #shittyfirstdraft of my Route 66 book
  2. Enter my route 66 pix in more photo contests/art shows and have another solo exhibit
  3. Take Jeremy Cowart’s photography and lightroom/photoshop courses from his See University
  4. Finish editing pix/setting up Smug Mug
  5. Record #SHAKEN so Taran can someday hear it in my own voice
  6. Alice in Wonderland writing workshop
  7. Learn to make an origami crane
  8. Learn Qi Gong and/or Tai Chi
  9. Run 500 miles
  10. Do a Tri
  11. Learn to play my uke and my red guitar
  12. Publish a book of my poetry
  13. Flesh out St. Udio’s dream
  14. Build my tribe and love them hard
  15. Make candles out of glass bottles I’ve been learning to cut #upcycle
  16. Learn to etch rocks with my dremel engraver
  17. Work on my Mail Chimp/Postables and make my own thank you/thinking of you note cards, #postcardsfromtheroad, etc send more snail mail

To Be

  1. Bringing good energy with me wherever I am #goodjoujou
  2. Fit (Hit the mat/road/gym #everydamnday) (Runkeeper app, Moonjoggers #chasethesun challenge, Yes Fit app)
  3. Heavily meditated (Insight Timer app)
  4. Eat and drink mindfully (My Fitness Pal app)
  5. Hydrated (iHydrate app and water bottle)
  6. Chill on the carbs, superchill on the glutens
  7. Fit back in my fave pair of blue jeans (My Fitness Pal app)
  8. Organized (Evernote app)
  9. Intentional (my carpe the fuck out of the diem worksheet)
  10. Lost in a good book but also writing one #everydamnday
  11. Reading poetry but also writing it #becausetheworldneedsmorepoetry
  12. Curious #followthewhiterabbit
  13. Creative #thewarofart #makeartnotwar
  14. Seeking/building community
  15. Cancer free and celebrating my 9 year cancerversary on Aug. 20
  16. Not Dizzy
  17. Leaving a beauty mark that I was here #belove #theartofkindness

What are your resolves, the intentions you’ve set, the goals you are aiming for, the dreams you are dreaming for 2017? I’d love for you to share them with me so we can cheer each other on!

Here’s mine in a picture. My 2017 vision board, that I worked on during January which I spent with my sweet Redheads and sweetest #taranthewonderbaby! in Colorado. It’s hard to tell from the picture that the base of my vision board is a clock. Which I promptly threw away the batteries and set to 6 o’clock. (Bonus points for anyone who gets that reference!) Anyway, it’s a cool retro superBIG and clunky clock I picked up at a Thrift store cuz I wanted a legit frame for my vision board and also #upcycling things is super fun. I have my vision board hanging out right in front of of my writing desk in my office aka the #rabbitroom so I can keep the intentions I have set and the dreams I’m dreaming for this year always before me. I also have it set as the wallpaper on both my phone and compy. Staying in the game is the hardest part, yeah? How do you stay in the game and manifest your intentions?

Fight the good fight. Finish the race. Keep the faith. ~ 2 Timothy 4:7

 

Check(ed) 1-2-3…

This is not a test. This is not about a cute little penguin eating an ice cream cone either. Although since his name is Frank, I’ll follow suit…cuz let’s be frank… If it were a test, I gimme an A. (I thought about giving myself an A+ but that would be boring and leave no room for improvement.) But like I said it’s not a test. This is life. My life…so far.

This is that time of year where we’ve all been throwing down our New Year’s Resolutions/Intentions/Hopes/Dreams/Goals/ToDo’s/Much Ado’s/Whatever you wanna call it, it’s chill just like that scoop of pink bubblegum ice cream Frank’s #nomnom-ing on. I took my own sweet time and worked on mine during January, via a vision board project with my daughter while I spent her birthday month with her in #taranthewonderbabyland aka Denver.

This is not that post. Stay tuned for that post.

This is the prequel to that post. If you know me at all, you know I love me a To Do list like nobody’s biz.

But one of the things I love most about To Do lists, is they help me get shit done cuz I get superkaPOWer motivated checking things off. That Been there, Done that feeling… #amiright?! It got me thinking that maybe a little pause, and dare I say a little celebration, is in order. In honor of the Done list. Which I feel is a more fitting ceremony than merely crumpling up said list and tossing it in the nearest trash can.

So here’s to the Done list that I’ve been there done that these 51 trips around the sun.

In no particular order, here’s a quarter of a century of some of my fave things (in the history of the 51 times I’ve surfed the sun) that I’ve crossed off my To Do list…

  1. Wrote a book
  2. Ran a 10-hour endurance run and netted 35 miles
  3. Ran the #Route66 marathon and world’s shortest ultra
  4. Road-tripped Route 66
  5. Road-tripped California Highway 1 in a convertible
  6. Road-tripped from Vegas to Grand Canyon in a convertible, saw the Grand Canyon, ran the Grand Canyon half marathon trail run
  7. Watched a sunset at Joshua Tree National Park while listening to U2’s Joshua Tree album. TWICE
  8. Met my creativity guru Liz Gilbert TWICE and she remembered me, also she commented that I write like a dream on my FB
  9. Met my writing gurus Anne Lamott and Jasper Fforde TWICE
  10. Met my photography guru Jeremy Cowart TWICE
  11. Did a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, ran the breathtaking Jerusalem ½ marathon, was Kosher for 3 weeks while spending time with my beloved Achoti
  12. Drove down to the Keys and had a Cuban sandwich and some Cuban coffee
  13. Stood on a corner in Winslow, Arizona
  14. Checked in to Hotel California. Heard the mission bell ring. Didn’t check out
  15. Created my #postcardsfromtheroad #Route66 photo exhibit, one of my pics made it into an #americanroadtrip art show at a gallery in NYC, won photographer of the year at ADC’s ACA academy awards for artists, had my first solo exhibit at the 86
  16. Raised my sweet Redheads, homeschooled them for 16 years #bestjobEVER
  17. I am Gigi #hearmeroar #bestjobEVER
  18. Produced SCAR Cincy exhibit, SCAR exhibition consultant, created scar blog, produced SCAR BAMA at Freedom Center
  19. Produced Angelo Merendino’s exhibit in Cincy
  20. Grace project roadtrip sidekick and assistant
  21. Dante pilgrimage and tour in Florence
  22. Saw Rafa play on clay (in Rome sweet Rome)
  23. Ran my own half marathon from Missouri through Kansas to Oklahoma on july 4, 2014 during my route 66 road trip
  24. Ran from Illinois to Missouri across the chain of rocks bridge TWICE
  25. Painted desert
  26. Took down 24 chemo cocktails and (so far so good, 8 years later #yearoftheoctupus) kicked cancer’s ass
  27. Won city districts with my tennis team with me on court 1 my first season back after cancer
  28. Got a volleyball scholarship to college
  29. Got up on stage and told a story at Bespoken Live (a moth-like storytelling event) (3 X so far)
  30. Hiked Ocho Rios in Jamaica
  31. Participated in peaceful protests on Capital Hill
  32. Got tats (12) (so far)
  33. Been COMPLETELY bald down to all but a couple eyelashes
  34. Saw Niagara Falls
  35. Drank a shot out of a test tube at Frankenstein’s Pub in Edinburgh
  36. Bought a copy of The Little Prince from a cashier who was brushing her teeth at Shakespeare’s & Co. in Paris
  37. Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam
  38. Read the Beatitudes on the Mount of Olives. Broke bread and spilled wine there with my friend and fellow pilgrim on my journey to the Holy Land and back. We walked the Via Dolorosa together.
  39. Train-tripped through the Alps from Munich to Rome
  40. Followed in Audrey Hepburn’s Roman Holiday footsteps, vespa-ing about Rome (until the “Vespa Incident” in which the brake didn’t break and I did a Wiley Coyote into a wall and broke my face)
  41. Got red clay on my tennis shoes at Roland Garros in Paris
  42. Snorkeled in Cozumel
  43. Saw Wicked on and off broadway
  44. Walked into THE Cheers Bar and everybody yelled JOULES!
  45. Did a Mayan mud hut sweat lodge ritual aka Temazcal and had the most incredible Mayan massage IN THE WORLD aka Kukulkan in Cancun
  46. Road-tripped up the coast of Scotland
  47. Hiked Hadrian’s Wall
  48. Created my own Not-a-Chemo-Cocktail (for my book release party)
  49. Drank a ½ pint in THE Rabbit Room of THE Bird & Baby aka Eagle and Child Pub, where the Inklings used to hang out
  50. Saw THE wardrobe (at Wheaton University)
  51. Liverpool. Magical Mystery Tour. Hard Day’s Night Hotel. Cavern Club. Amanda and I closed down the club, singing and dancing our hearts out with the Beatles cover band.

I know I probs missed a few epic moments but I tried not to overthink it too much and just go with the flow of my own little brainstorm. #postcardfromtheroad #memorylane #epicmoments #done

What’s on your DONE list?

MASK

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This is a #fbf to a superpower freaky Friday I had two weeks ago, in which I did a superkaPOWer scary thing and go up ON A STAGE at a storytelling event in Cincinnati. The event was produced by my friends at Rebel Storytellers. These BESPOKEN events are seriously one of the funnest night’s out in #Cincy. (Save the date: the next BESPOKEN event is January 15, 2016!) The storytellers (and the band) (also there is improv) all riff on a 4-letter word. Previous words have been: KISS last Valentines Day, HERO this past summer, and MASK was the one we just did the week before Halloween. None of the storytellers know what any of the other storytellers are riffing about. It’s pretty magical how it all fits together and unfolds.

Here’s a selfie I took from the stage to remember that time I channeled my inner #littlebravetoaster and did a superkaPOWer scary thing. (As you can see some of those scary peeps are obvi zombies getting ready to jump the stage…or break out the thriller dance;)

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Here’s a video the hubcap made of my MASK story:

Click HERE to read my MASK story. So superpower STOKED to have it up on my friend Jen Pastiloff’s most uber fab Manifest-Station!

To sum up: doing scary things ROCKS!

My next BIG scary thing is the #Route66 marathon/world’s shortest ultra in Tulsa later this month. I signed up before I got sidelined during August and September, when I had to have Operation #outdamngolfball #golfballectomy #hysterectomy #oopherectomy #wholeshebangectomy surgery. I feel like I’m back at least 75%—which is way better than when I wondered if I would ever be able to run again without my insides falling out! I ran the #cincinnati #queenbee #halfmarathon a few weeks ago to gauge where I was in the #comeback process, and whether or not I thought I could/should go for the full at Tulsa’s epic #route66marathon. My conclusion is: #ithinkican #tulsaorbust #okiedokie. It may not be the fastest or prettiest marathon in the world, but the finish line and obvi the BLING will still taste superpower yummy! I will run, walk, CRAWL to it if I have to! #turtlepower #slowandsteadyeatsthebling #cowabunga! And also obvi, I’ll be instagramming it UP! So make sure you follow me there @joulesevans if you wanna get some kicks on Route 66 by taking a virtual run on #themotherroad with me!

What’s a scary thing you’ve done recently and what’s the next scary thing on tap for you? Post below. #ithinkyoucantoo!

Dear Cancer (A Spoken Word Retrospective Upon The Occasion Of My #Lucky7-Year Cancerversary)

[An Open Vein I Mean Letter To #fuckcancer]

Dear Cancer,

I am still here.

#lucky7 years out from that day

(the mother of bad daze)

when my doctor called and said that damn c-word

(the mother of curse words)

to me

(the mother of my sweet Redheads)

My. 3. Reasons.

Who fell into 3 separate heaps on the floor

At the sound of that word.

Sticks and stones…

—My ass.

Words don’t hurt…

—Bullshit.

I call bullshit on that.

That one word hurt like hell.

It shook the ground beneath us.

I stood my ground though

A little #shakennotstirred

—but only because I am mommy hear me fucking ROAR if you hurt my kids

And that damn word

Knocked all 3 of my babies—

Amanda 17.

Matt 15.

Mikeyy 13.

—it knocked all 3 of them

Down

To the ground

In one fell swoop.

3 separate, sobbing heaps.

3 puddles.

And there I was

One very sick and mortal, broken mama

2 heaving, soon-to-be-leaving, breasts

3 broken hearts to hold

But only 2 arms

And 1 lap.

THE hardest mommy moment EVER.

But something kicked into gear for me—

Some superpower mommy gear I didn’t even know I had

Somehow I managed to gather them up

With these two hands.

We held on tight.

Literally, for dear life.

My life.

It’s been 2,565 tomorrows

That I didn’t know I would get to see

Since that damn day.

2,565 gifts

I’ve gotten to open.

2,565 days I’ve gotten to seize

Days I’ve wrung both the sunshine

And the daylight out of

—before the sun set on me.

2,565 chances to make sure my 3 reasons knew

Out loud and clear and proud

That my one thing

Was to cash in all my chips on loving them

And playing my cards in such a way

That they would miss the crap out of me—

If, by chance, the odds were not in my favor

(But, they were. Thank God. And may they ever be.)

2,565 days to spend myself making sure they remember me loving them HARD.

P.S. I think they do.

So take THAT cancer.

Or should I say, CANTcer?

Anyway, 7 years in a nutshell?

It’s been the ride of my life.

And what.

A ride.

It’s been.

Even the hard parts

Cuz even they meant I’m still here

And my hands are in the air:

Yes…and…

NOW.

Cuz it’s where I’m at.

And what a gift the present IS.

Raise your hand if you’re present…

*raises hand

HERE!

(I don’t see your hand CANTcer.)

Now, in case you’re wondering

This is NOT where I say thank you, cancer

And bust out singing how you made me into this fighter.

Hell no.

The truth is—

My 3 Reasons,

And loving THEM. (Not fighting you.)

That’s what made me stronger.

I thank THEM.

I thank my sweet Amanda.

I thank my sweet Matteo.

I thank my sweet Mikeyy.

But you?

No thank YOU. Very much.

Then why am I even bothering to tell you all this?

You’d think I’d be over you by now.

You’d think I’d have gotten everything “off my chest”

#breastcancerhumor

But I haven’t.

You may be done with me

And God-willing, this is my case

Closed.

Period.

End of THAT story.

But, it’s not your will.

It’s God’s

And I’m cool with that

Come what may.

And may his will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

And in me, too.

Amen.

But…

Regardless of all that

You oughta know [cue: Alanis Morissette]

I’m not done with you yet, damn cancer

Not as long as this ticker

—That you tried to seek and destroy

With the Red Devil

And the mustard gas

And even the good Herceptinis

Aka my chemo cocktail.

Not as long as this ticker keeps ticking.

Not as long as you keep picking on my friends

—Especially, when you go picking on kids.

That’s the lowest blow of them all, you motherfucker.

So, let me repeat…

Not as long as this ticker keeps going and going…

Like that pink bunny

—I don’t know what keeps him going.

Or my heart, for that matter

Except this is what I do know:

It beats for my friends

And especially, the kids.

And you, cancer, have ticked. ME. Off.

 

 

Birthday Presence

I have a little tradition I started when I was thirty-something that, when I can remember not to forget, I write a sonnet for my birthday. A poetry selfie, if you will. So my birthday was Saturday and I turned lucky seven to the (super)Power of Two! And here’s the sonnet. It’s called Sonnet #49 because that’s the super secret code name I came up with when I did the math.

Eat-Me-Cake

Sonnet #49

 

Yes, of course I’d like to know if you will

Still love me when I’m Sixty-four and my

Hair is blue. But. It knows that song well

Already, and you have not said goodbye—

 

#thingsthatmakemesaywhew . . . because

Who knows what color it will be next week?

It’s only hair. And ‘tis what it is, ‘twas

What it was, ‘twill be well, not mild, yet meek.

 

Not like a mouse. I mean, I like cheese, but—

Now is not the time for shrinking back. Not

At my age. Alice sure knew what was what

When she ate that cake: Took a bite and shot

 

For the moon. ‘Twas her one shot which is all

We all get. So let us eat the cake y’all!

 

Besides the birthday sonnet, I also uploaded “The Birthday VLOG” to my Year of Living Sincerely series on YouTube. Kinda a talkie selfie, if you think about it a little. Anyway, so here’s the video. And since it’s a talkie, I’ll let it introduce itselfie.

 

August Rush

#LiveEveryDamnDayLikeItsSharkWeek

It’s most likely a superpower; though, I know some might dismiss it as a mere a side-effect. Whatever. Semantics. All I know is that ever since I got cancer it’s like I have some kinda Spidey-like-sense, or something, to where I actually feel August coming. And once I stick my toe in it, things just amp up. And multiply, the further out I swim. You could call it an August rush, I suppose. The best way to describe what it feels like, is the theme song to Jaws: Na-na. Na-na. Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na. Na-na… Which, on one hand, is oh so apropos, because of ShArKwEeK; and in the other hand is my poetic license because of my own private #pinknado—aka my cancerversary.

Sunday night we celebrated both at the Evanshire. We tuned the “boob tube” to Shark Week…we ate swedish fish, goldfish crackers and other light-“bites”, drank “cancer is a Bitch wine” and “not-a-chemo-cocktails”, and were merry… we caught a sneak preview of the soon to be released “Cancer is a Bitch” music video (by my Redheads’s band, the Kicked-in Fence)… we impaled a shark piñata with a sword aka Excalibur, that my son grabbed from the umbrella stand… we read the #LiveSincerely pledge… and then we launched helium balloons with bucket list items on them into the night sky. It. Was. Magic. One of those nights to remember… to live every damn day like it’s shark week.

The very next damn day, the funniest man alive killed himself. The genie is free. But we’re all left standing on top of our desks, crying, “O captain my captain.” :( O for a na-na na-na… instead of one. final. nanu nanu. RIP, Robin. I hope you fly. And if you see a bunch of balloons up there, I hope it makes you happy to see what dreams may come, from a pretty damn good seat for the show. I was so super freaking tempted to plant myself on the couch tonight and do a Robin Williams marathon…

But six years ago tonight, in these same wee hours that I sit here plucking away at this piece, I found a damn spot in my left breast that turned out to be cancer. And yet, here am I, six years later—alive. It’s a lot to wrap the old bean around. Especially when I’ve lost so. many. too. many. people I love to this bitch of a disease. Yes, I feel like I get a little more lost, every time somebody I love finishes their battle with cancer. And yet, here. I am. Still. Alive, and kicking (cancer’s ass), healthy, fit, happy, lucky. It doesn’t seem fair, if I’m being honest. And why wouldn’t I speak that truth? #mytruth: This is something that tears me up inside every damn day that one of my friends gets diagnosed, or has a recurrence. It’s something I spend myself into the ground over, trying (as if?) I could make it worth it that I keep getting this precious gift that so many, too many of my friends, don’t. It’s something that makes me feel the way time flies uber acutely, like there’s not a second to waste if I want to leave some kind of a beauty mark that I was here. It’s something I talk to my shrink about.

So I’m a writer. This is who I am. It’s what I do. So of course I wrote a book about my cancer journey. It’s called SHAKEN NOT STIRRED…A CHEMO COCKTAIL. It’s a comedy about my tragedy. It’s not that I think cancer is funny or anything. Cancer sucks. But I believe laughter is good medicine. So did Patch Adams. If my book were a “literal” chemo cocktail, it would be one part hope, a dash of bitter, a splash of sweet, with a twist of humor, and served on the rocks. And, of course, shaken, not stirred.

To celebrate my SIX YEAR CaNcErVeRsArY, this August month, I thought I’d serve up half a dozen chapters in this space, in real time, as we keep turning pages on my #pinknado of a calendar. It seemed like the least I could do, to offer up some of the gratitude splashing out of my very full cup. I don’t want to waste a drop.

Here’s what I wrote about this night, six years ago, when I found the damn spot…

Chapter 2


When the Stars Go Blue
(Cue: Tim McGraw)

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

Previous to Perseus’ fireworks display, somewhere in between the lines of August 11 and 12, 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 United States Tennis Association (USTA) team had just played in the district championship tournament. We actually won the districts, but.

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And the big but (yeah, they say everybody’s got one) was that the win pushed one of our player’s ratings into a higher bracket, which.

And the “rhymes-with-a-witch” was that “the win?” 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.

Cancer is a bitch wine

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. 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 saving my life.

It was five o’clock somewhere—for me it was somewhere in 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 standing in front of the kitchen sink. I guzzled 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 to 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 my chest, literally. I remember the lump felt like a shooter marble right beneath the “milky way.” I was pretty sure it wasn’t there the day before. My hubby, Dave didn’t mention anything about marbles later that night. 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.

My fourteen-year-old son Mikeyy 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 Mikeyy 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.

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

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

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to say to Dave when he awoke. The truth is, I generally obsess over just about anything I even think of, processing it at from every angle 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 articulate 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 ended up just winging 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,”9 (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 twenty 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 seven-year battle. Before that, cancer was something other people got. Old people. People with unhealthy lifestyles. People I didn’t know. But our friend 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. Even brings a cup up to our bedroom and sets it on my nightstand to help me wake up, smell the coffee, rise and shine, seize the day. Yes, I am spoiled. I admit it.

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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 channeled 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. 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 came undone, 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 for three o’clock 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 explanations for the spot, 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.

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—So that’s the end of the chapter, but obvs… there’s more chapters, and way more to the story besides just me standing there waiting for the tennis ball to cross the net so I can CRUSH it! So feel free to stay tuned to see what haps next. Or if you are impatient as hell like me, SHAKEN NOT STIRRED…A CHEMO COCKTAIL is avail on Amazon and Kindle. Click HERE. The Kindle version is avail for $2.99 with the purchase of the paperback, which is $9.99. On August 20, in commemoration of the day I heard the C-word, the Kindle version will be FREE.

P.S. Here’s the iTunes Link to the “Cancer is a Bitch” Song by the Kicked-in Fence aka my Redheads<3 To download the Cancer is a Bitch song, click HERE. It’s only 99 cents, but you should see what starving artist college kids can eat for 99 cents these days!

I’ll post the music video as soon as we’ve put the final editing touches on it.

Soul Tattoo

(for Jen Pastiloff)10341949_10203009237703744_3128114967743655481_n

At the end of my days, when I lay me down—

Not to chase dreams, and no more counting sheep…

But when Savasana “gets real”: me, unwound

From this long insomnia to the Big Sleep.

 

When I close my eyes and connect the dots

Tracing the R, the I, especially the P—

In Pen—I’ll inhale like tomorrow’s not.

Holding it like a forget-me-NOT. Me.

 

Swirling that little word around my tongue—

Trying to discern the aftertaste. Mine.

Before I spit it out. Before my song’s sung.

When I ask, “What have I done?” One. Final. Time.

 

When my slobber hits the pillow—Most of

All—Let my answer be: I. Have. Done. LOVE

Buckle Up, Kids…it’s 2014! And Better Put Your Shades On. It’s Bright Out There.

[This New Year’s Day post is drawn from my writer’s group lesson that I taught for the December meeting of Word Bums, as we were all in the midst of the Advent season of looking forward to and counting down till Christmas.]

Today is the 8th day of Christmas aka New Year’s Day, which means that many of us spent last night counting down till the ball dropped on Times Square. The fam spent New Year’s Eve in Denver, as we are here on #familyvacation to move my daughter and her husband here, where he will begin seminary to become an army chaplain. We actually got to watch the ball drop twice, since the network showed it drop on Big Apple Time at 10pm here in Denver, then pressed replay when hickory dickory dock got around to striking midnight here in the mountains.

I was good with that kinda deja vu because I never mind a double dose of celebration;)

Traditionally, true loves gave each other 8 maids a-milking on this day in history. Like I’m going to give Dave a harem?! Right. Anyway, I think a fun calendar is way more apropos gift, even though there’s an app for that. IMHO. One of my other true loves, my daughter Amanda, gave me a yoga dog calendar, for instance. I love it! It makes me smile because it’s dogs doing yoga poses. Better than I can do said yoga poses, lol. (Which shouldn’t surprise me, I suppose, since one of the most basic yoga poses is called the downward facing DOG;) It also makes me smile because it will make me think of my sweet Amanda every time I look at it, since it’s a gift from her. (Also, I’ve actually kinda sorta been exploring the idea of getting a dog/sidekick to help ease me into this empty nest chapter. So I’m not just learning yoga from adorable pups, I’m window shopping and wondering how much is that doggie in the calendar.)

In the spirit of the counting down the 12 days of Christmas, the resolutions commonly associated with the 8th day, looking forward to the New Year—which is like a new slate (or calendar), and leaning into the Epiphany—which is the manifestation of that which we resolved (prepared, waited, hoped, longed for)…I thought it would be fun to write the proverbial letter to Santa or Christmas wish list. 12 gifts we will give ourselves in 2014. One gift for each month.

Making the list is like wrapping all the presents. Look over your calendar, your schedule, your to do lists, your wish lists, your hopes and unchartered dreams. Let’s charter them. Let’s make a list (a wish list, of resolutions, a bucket list—whatever you want to call it.) And not in the anticipation of dying sense, but in the getting busy about living sense.

Like my friend Vanessa, and her Live Sincerely Project. Yes, Vanessa is dying, but the point of her project, is to not wait until you find out you are dying to really start living. The 8th day of Christmas, or the beginning of new year, or really any old NOW… is a perfect time to start.

Like my little warrior sister Maya the Magnificent and the bucket list she did last summer. Maya is currently in remission, thank God, after fighting AML and MDS with chemo, 2 bone marrow transplants, and her smile. The goal of her summer project was to take back the term bucket list by embracing the simple joys of life. “One game of ‘messy Twister’ at a time”.

Here are 12 writing prompts to help things get percolating:

  1. My bucket list for 2013
  2. About bucket lists…
  3. Write about a time when you kicked off an item of your bucket list, or what you imagine it will feel like to kick off on or complete the list
  4. Remix your own 12 days of Christmas
  5. Dear Santa…
  6. Epiphany
  7. What are you waiting for?
  8. To get busy living, really living, means:
  9. Wax on about living sincerely
  10. What are some “birthday candle” type wishes for your 2014 list?
  11. What are some “pie in the sky” hopes and dreams for your 2014 list?
  12. Risky business. Take some risks with your list. Not just “go big or go home” but go big before ya go home.

Please feel free to share your list in the comments. I’d love to see! And I’ll share mine in a follow-up post.

Cheers, love, and happiest of new years!

Not-a-Chemo-Cocktail Party

no admittanceI can’t wait to TGI next Friday night because there will be a not-a-chemo-cocktail party on tap at the Evanshire, to celebrate the jaw-dropping ridiculous beautiful gift of this 5 year kilometer marker since I was diagnosed with cancer. (I’m sorry to get all political like throwing down kilometers and such, but it’s my party and I think miles are silly. The truth is, I’m just waiting for a Metric Party to form and then I will think about getting all political;)

5 years is aka 260 weeks, or strengths, depending on how you look at it. Or 1,826 daze, which is pretty much the state I run around in these days. I’d like to blame the chemo or the “vespa incident”, but it could also have something to do with getting to ride this crazy fun roller coaster called life, around the sun 5 BONUS TIMES…with my hands up.

43,824 hours with your hands in the air is kinda like the little piggy who said, “Wee, wee, WEEEEEEEE all the way home”, if you think about it real hard like I do.

And with all those twists and turns it seems a pretty momentous thing to realize I have amassed 2,629,440 minutes since hearing the C-word 5 years ago. Which pretty much makes me feel like the minute millionaire I’ve become. (Take that, stupid cancer!)

157,766,400 seconds ago the big damn C may have turned up the volume on my clock, but the thing is: 1) I don’t mind the beat. 2) All that tick-tocking does, is make me want to live louder. 3) And anyway, I hate alarms, so I just threw the clock out the window.

As the time flies…there is, quite obviously, much fun to be had…thus my 5-Year-Cancerversary/Not-a-Cheom-Cocktail Party, at which point, this lucky girl will be lifting a glass or two, clink-clinking away, and saying cheers and thanks to all my lovely peeps for being there and cheering me on! Y’all freaking ROCK! The Beatles pretty much summed up my sentiment: I get by with a little help from my friends. Amen.