Monday, April 14, 2014

The Small Things

I've been itching to write lately -- so much so that my fingers are doing that air-keyboard thing.  (Someone tell me you know what I'm talking about and I'm not the only person in the world who does this.)  But every time I think about sitting down to write, I hesitate. Because there are all of these big things I feel as though I should be writing about, when sometimes, all I really want to do is write about small things - like spring flowers 



and nail polish 



and adorable puppies...



Which is exactly what I said in response to my friend Tami when she mentioned tonight on Facebook that she felt like she'd let politics swallow her whole and pull her focus away from other things in life.  That, and I encouraged her to never stop sharing from the heart. 

Advice I realized I should probably heed, as well. There's a lot going on in the world. Serious, significant, big things. And I could try to write about them all -- or worse, let my hesitancy in tackling them stand in the way of simply sharing from my heart things both big and small.  

I think...what I'd like to try and do instead is simply write -- write what I feel like writing when the spirit moves me, and not worry so much about whether it's substantive, political fare, or fluffy bunny fare. Right now, I'm enjoying immensely the fact that there are flowers blooming and trees greening, and despite today's momentary wintry backslide, evidence everywhere of Spring and all the beauty it has to offer. I've been having fun painting my nails all sorts of pastel colors (they're the "Lily" color above now), even though I normally go polish-free.  And darn if I didn't see the cutest puppy on the face of the planet today on Twitter -- he's supposedly a retriever/husky mix, and he has Pringle's sweet face with a husky's cool markings, and even though I already have a dog and do not need another, I want nothing more than to hug him and pet him and squeeze him and call him George.  Or...maybe Beauregard.  

And so I will write -- maybe only of small things.  But I will write. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Back to "Normal"

I know the world didn't stop when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. But for a little while, it seemed as though everything slowed down drastically. And a lot of it receded into the background, leaving me with the sense that I was inside a bubble of sorts -- where colors were sharper, feelings were duller and all that really mattered was attacking each step in the process with a smile and my mental pen at the ready to check it off the list. 

It helped me quite a bit to write about it all. Recounting the detail demystified the experience, and finding humor in it when I could defanged it. I had every intention of continuing with that through my radiation, but as I entered that phase of treatment, I suddenly found myself avoiding my writing. Not because the experience was so awful -- more like...it was so mundane. Or I was.


From the week of Thanksgiving through the middle of January, every weekday morning (except the holidays), I got up early and headed over to the hospital for my 7:30 appointment. Sometimes already ready for work, more often, still in sweats and with my hair wet. I got to know the technicians there pretty well, and certainly wasn't worried about looking my best for them. 


Most days, I wore my ladybug bracelet and brought my pink unicorn "Chernobyl" -- both gifts from my friend, Ann -- with me. (Chernobyl usually sat quietly in my purse, but I appreciated his presence nonetheless.)  I'd park in one of the "Cancer Patient" spots (I quickly got over my aversion to that), hurry in past the valet (who always greeted me with a smile and a hello.)  Past the reception desk, with a quick, "I'm here!" to the receptionist, into the dressing room, where I'd select a robe and gown.  I'd change into them quickly, then stuff my top and coat into a cabinet, and wait for one of the techs to come fetch me. They had blankets in a warmer and I took them up on the offer on the coldest of days. Back to "the vault," as I came to think of it, where I'd doff the robe, lower the gown and recline on the table while they lined up my various markings with the machine to make sure I got zapped in the right places. Then the techs would leave the room, and the heavy vault door would close and seal. The machine would whir and do its zapping. And then the techs would return, help me up, help me re-robe (almost always with a static-electric shock -- it became a game for Kevin and me to see if we could avoid shocking one another), and send me on my way.  


My boob developed a noticeable tan line -- a solid dark square which framed it. Eventually, the skin on my chest became sensitive and itchy -- like a heat rash or sunburn. Lotion helped, but I was glad once I knew I was in the home-stretch.  I had tired days, though not too bad. In the evenings, I fell asleep on the couch in front of the TV frequently -- often with my head resting on David's shoulder. He didn't seem to mind, and I'm grateful he was there to hold my hand through it all. I don't think I'd have handled it nearly so calmly, or maintained a positive attitude nearly so well, had he not been there with me. 


During the first few weeks, the days ticked by slowly. From Day 1 to Day 10 seemed like a month. Day 10 to Day 20, more of the same. Then suddenly, I realized I only had ten days left. And I felt the world speed back up. The light at the end of the tunnel began rushing toward me, and I had a brief feeling of anxiety -- what would I do once the routine was gone, and "cancer patient" was no longer part of my identity? 


I'd start getting back to normal, is what. On my last day of treatment, I rang the bell at the nurses' desk. I hugged Kevin and Pam and Kara goodbye and thanked them for their good care of me. I waved goodbye to the receptionist and the valet, and walked out of my cancer cocoon into the sunshine.  


The next day, I marveled at the joy of watching my daughter board the bus -- something I hadn't done in almost two months. I didn't realize until that moment how much worry I'd carried with me each day, leaving the house before her and hoping she'd manage to get herself out the door and on the bus without my prodding. (She did!) 


I resumed getting ready just for work, and not the hospital, too. I gave Chernobyl a place of honor on my dresser and stopped carrying him around with me. I changed my Twitter bio to include "#BreastCancerSurvivor".  My tan line receded -- it's barely visible now -- and my energy picked up. I suddenly found myself tackling chores I'd been avoiding, and getting organized. 


I've now been done with treatment almost as long as it lasted. And life is pretty well back to normal,, though it's a new "normal."  I look at things differently. People, too. I feel like my experience, as relatively not-horrible as it was, afforded me a brief glimpse or two behind life's curtain, and helped me refocus on what's important. It shaped me and became an unexpected part of who I am and, as strange as it may seem, I'm grateful for it. 


Today happens to be Triple Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Day. Triple Negative is an aggressive form of breast cancer -- one which doesn't respond as readily to conventional treatments, and tends to strike younger women. I posted a link about it earlier today and a friend relayed to me an acquaintance of hers has had it spread to her brain. She's a young mother of four, and the prognosis is bleak. So, please, say a prayer for her tonight, if you would. And for all those affected by this disease. My encounter with it wasn't so bad, but I know the love and prayers sent my way did wonders.  So, thank you -- you helped me never lose sight of just how very blessed I've been. 



Saturday, March 1, 2014

In Honor of....

March 1st. For the past two years, I've found myself particularly torn on this day. For it is my Grandmother's birthday, and also the anniversary of Andrew Breitbart's death. Two people who've had a profound impact on my life, though in considerably different ways. How do I honor them both? I suppose it may be a bit awkward and unwieldy, but I feel like incorporating some things I've previously written about them both into a combined tribute of sorts.  It's lengthy. But I'm glad it gave me the this opportunity to reflect on what they have meant to me, both before and after I wrote the below. 

In the case of my Grandmother, I know she has been with me since, holding my hand when I needed it to be held and nudging me in the right direction. I think she'd be pleased to see how far she's helped me come. And I think she'd be happy for me.

In the case of Andrew, there are many times when I find myself discouraged. And then I think of him. And I try to honor him by being my own sort of happy warrior.

God bless them both:    

Tomorrow would have been my Grandmother’s 105th birthday.  I know we were so lucky to have her through her 100th – I got to grow up, go to school, get my college and law degrees, get married, have a child, all with her in my life.  Best of all, Riley got to spend time with her Great Grandma and get to know her before she left us.  And I think – no, I know – she was ready to go when she did.  So, it’s selfish of me to think like this, I suppose.  But, so often these days, I’m struck with the realization that I need her now more than ever.  


I won’t say I took my Grandmother for granted.  I can’t remember there ever being a time when I didn’t see her for the amazing, strong, beautiful spirit she was.  Grandma just had this…presence.  An almost regal bearing, though not a cold one.  But I do regret not taking the time to sit and really talk with her before she went -- not just about the little things, but the big things, too:  life, love, loss.



I didn’t realize I’d someday find myself on a path quite similar to hers.  I never really stopped and thought about how she came to travel that path herself.  What it meant to her.  What it might have cost her.  I never asked her either.  And I don’t even know if she’d have been able or willing to tell me.  But I sure do wish I would have.

It will, no doubt, seem strange to some that I’ve felt her, here with me, at times since she passed on.  Always, there is the idea of her.  But on a couple of occasions, I’ve actually felt her with me, even heard her voice and felt her hand on my shoulder.  Those weren’t scary moments, at all.  A little strange, but more comforting than anything else.  Sometimes, I wish she’d come back and sit with me for awhile.  And then, maybe, I could ask her:

Was it hard to be so strong?  Where did you look to for that strength? What sustained you?

Did you envision your life turning out the way it did?  What would you have done differently if you could?  How did you maintain your focus on what you had, instead of what you didn’t? 

When your heart was broken, what helped heal it?  When you wrote, what inspired you?  When you cried, what brought the laughter back? 

Was it scary, being a single mother?  Did you ever worry you were letting Mom down?  If you were failing her by not providing her with a traditional family?  

How did you manage to run a farm and a post office?  (I realize the town was small, and you had some help with the farm, but I can barely manage a tiny house and a decent-sized yard.)  How did you know what you needed to do?  Where did you find the time to do it all?

How did you learn to live alone without being lonely?  To be independent without becoming isolated? 

What would you tell me if you were here now?  What wisdom would you share with me to help me find my way?   

Most of all, do you have any idea how amazing you are?  What a blessing you’ve been in my life?  

I love you, Grandma.
  

From 2012 - The Magic of Grandma



I've written of my Grandmother previously.  Today, in honor of her birthday, a slight change of pace - just a mini-blog/remembrance of her that always makes me smile: 


To a four year old, there is much magic to be found in the world: A day with Grandma, a trip to the laundromat, an ice cold Dr. Pepper from the soda machine. Combine those three things together and you'll find one of my most salient and precious childhood memories. 



My Grandma would be turning 106 today if she were still with us. I was lucky --she stayed with us until she was 100. She was the most amazing lady I've ever met and she inspires me more than anyone I know.  

The other day, a friend teased me about Dr. Pepper and it inspired a mini-rant: Everyone has their beverage preferences, but one thing no one will ever take from me is my love of Dr. Pepper. Because I associate it with the magic of my Grandma. Plus...it tastes awesome!! :)



And from later that same day in 2012 - I Never Expected Andrew Breitbart to Break My Heart 

I never expected Andrew Breitbart to break my heart.  Then again, I never expected to be attempting to eulogize him at the age of 43.  It’s funny — even though he was five months my junior, I looked up to Andrew as if he were a big brother.  I suspect many of us in the conservative blogosphere did.  Whether he set out to be, he was, without question, our fearless leader.
So many words and tributes have issued forth today from those who knew him far better and have a far greater voice than I.  It almost makes me question whether/why I should bother weighing in.  Almost.  But I know the writing of this will help me heal.  It always does.  And when I read the wisdom-filled words of my friend, Jimmie Bise (@jimmiebjr): “Don’t hesitate. Go. Be where you should be, not where that bitter and wicked inner critic says you should be….It’s about what you let stop you, what you let hold you back from living the live you *want* to live.”  I know that here at the computer, setting these thoughts and words down, is where I should be.  Most of all, when I think of what Andrew stood for, I know this is what I should do.  Because I’m not just going to share this perspective with my political friends — those who share my views and my familiarity with/respect for Andrew.  I’m going to share this with all of my friends in the hopes that some who either didn’t know Andrew, or who only knew what his detractors had to say of him, will come to a fuller understanding of who he was and how deeply his life touched mine and many others.
I started the day out with thoughts of my dear Grandmother.  Today would have been her 106th birthday.  And, as I always do in celebration of the occasion, I wrote a little something about her to share with others.  I had just posted it to Facebook and then Twitter when I saw a tweet that might as well have been a gut-punch:
https://twitter.com/BrentTeichman/statuses/175219967044755456    
My immediate reaction was denial. I read the linked article/tribute from Larry Solov in utter disbelief.  In fact, the next words I uttered were “This can’t be real.”  It’s still not fully sunk in almost 16 hours later.  Sudden, unexpected death is always a shock, especially when the person is relatively young.  But when that person is someone you look up to as a leader, someone who serves as the very heart of something you believe in passionately…the loss is simply devastating.
I’d just posted my link about Grandma and changed my avatar to a pic of her with me when the news hit.  I was hesitant to change it again so quickly.  But then I thought about it and imagined what my Grandma might think of Andrew, and it occurred to me, she’d probably have liked him quite a lot.  She might have thought him rather cheeky, but I suspect she’d have found that amusing.  I also suspect that, had she known him, she’d have admonished him to take better care of himself.  And I feel fairly confident she’d understand that today seemed like a day to both mourn him and celebrate his life. Grandma understood grieving.
So I posted several links and changed my avi  - not just on Twitter, but on Facebook, as well.  And the response was immediate and overwhelming.  And not just from friends who know and like Breitbart.  I emphasize the Facebook thing because I’ve typically made it my practice to keep my politics off Facebook.  (Not always, but for the most part.)  I do this because I have many friends and family members whom I love dearly but who I know do not share my views.  And I view Facebook as my tether to all friends.  It is my goal to share bits of my life there without alienating.  And politics do sometimes (often?) alienate folks.  Of course, anyone who knows me at all knows I’m a political junkie.  This isn’t something I hide. I just figure those that who share my views or are at least interested in them know where/how to discuss them with me if they so desire.
After I finally managed to collect myself and start the drive into work, I spoke to my Mom on the phone, and told her the news.  She wasn’t particularly familiar with Andrew, either.  And I’m quite certain she probably didn’t share many of his views.  Still, she was sympathetic in the way that only Moms can be.  And I am grateful for that.  But that, combined with the response on Facebook made me want to write about this in a way that anyone who considers me friend (or family) could understand why this has hit so hard.
To start, I thought I’d share some excerpts I’ve written regarding Andrew previously:

MAIDEN VOYAGE – PART I

August 1, 2011
This weekend marked my first foray into the world of political conventioneering — at least as an adult.  As a child, I had a fair amount of exposure to political gatherings and such through my parents, albeit of the liberal/Democrat stripe.  Smart Girl Summit 2011 (#SGS11) served as my initiation into convocations of the conservative variety….
Anticipation
As the summit drew nearer, I found myself eagerly anticipating it.  The line up of speakers was impressive.  And here was a chance for me to meet and mingle with fellow conservatives — people who actually speak my language and whose eyes don’t glaze over when you start discussing primaries and debt ceilings and the Fair Tax.  Most importantly, I was really excited about meeting both Nikki and Sarah — in my few months following and interacting with them, they’ve both shown themselves to be very bright, energetic, engaging ladies, and I just new we’d have ourselves some fun!
The last minute announcement that @AndrewBreitbart would also be in attendance at the summit was the wickedly delicious icing on the cake.  I hate to so readily cop to hero worship, but…who am I kidding?  The guy’s proven himself a fearless warrior in the fight to expose leftist hypocrisy and journalistic double-standards.  Plus he’s rather endearingly irreverent….
Smart Girl Prom
After a quick change back at my office into somewhat cocktaily attire, I returned to the hotel for the Banquet and Awards….
Last, but far from least, Andrew Breitbart.  Disarmingly funny, brazenly blunt, and all fired up.  It impressed me that he’d hopped in a rented Camaro and roadtripped it down here from Michigan to attend.  His account of the hotel towel shortage had me cringing again at the decidedly unimpressive accommodations, though he was good natured about it all.  Later, he was extraordinarily patient, posing for pics with all the fangirls and fanboys, myself included.  I would think it might be weird to have that degree of hero-worship focused on you, but he seems to take it all in stride….
The remainder of the evening was split between the hotel bar and the conference room, chatting with my new friends.  Very much enjoyed getting to know them all a bit better!  Even that soul-devouring @demonsheep! The end of the evening found us all back downstairs at the bar, amid grumblings from several of my pals regarding the slooooowness of the elevators.  It probably didn’t help matters that the hotel was hosting one or two very large family reunions, and it was a Cubs-Cards weekend.
At one point, Loren and I decided to go talk to Breitbart who was seated nearby. I worked up the nerve to sit down next to him and tell him how much the first couple chapters of his book reminded me of me — not his wild-child days at Tulane so much, but just his outlook and motivators at that stage of his life.  Another friend or two came over to talk, as well, and I found myself somewhat trapped — not in a bad way at all — it’s just that there was no graceful or polite way to exit the conversation so as to avoid monopolizing it.  So, I ended up having a nice chat with him — about my work, St. Louis politics, commercial real estate, kids.  I confessed to him how pleased I was when I awoke one morning a couple months ago to find that he’d started following me on Twitter.  Only to realize moments later that my new follower was actually one Andrew Breitfart.  It did put a grin on my face yesterday morning when the real McCoy actually did start following me.  This is what Twitter geeks would generally refer to as #winning.
....

B-TEAM BLOGGING, TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES & BLOG BASH – CPAC THURSDAY

February 14, 2012

Luckily, Harry’s Pub (located just off the lobby in the Marriott) was not terribly crowded at that point, and I was able to snag a seat at the bar and wolf down a bacon cheeseburger and Dr. Pepper.  This improved my physical and mental well-being immensely!  Soon, I saw a tweet from one of my favorite Misfits and earliest true friends on Twitter, Cole Streeper (@colestreeper1), indicating he was about to watch Andrew Breitbart (@andrewbreitbart) and Brandon Darby (@brandondarby) speak — knew I definitely wanted to catch that!
I made my way to the CPAC Theater for the Citizens United presentation previewing their upcoming film exposing Occupy Wall Street.  Breitbart and Darby were part of the panel, as were Lee Stranahan (@Stranahan), Stephen Bannon (@StephenBannon) and Citizens United President David Bossie (@David_Bossie).  On my way in, I had the great good fortune of finally meeting the aforementioned Jimmie Bise.  So good to see him in person and get to chat, even if only briefly!  Before the presentation started, I also was able to make my way up to the front and find Cole to say hello and give him a long overdue hug.
Two of the panel were present, but the remaining three (including Breitbart) made a rather grand entrance complete with Guy Fawkes masks, which caused a humorous stir in the audience.  After a brief introduction, they showed the preview of the film which promises to be an unvarnished and unpleasant look at the realities of the Occupy movement.  The panel fielded a number of questions.  My favorite one came from the…skeptic…who questioned Bannon about the criticisms and “lack of success” of his prior film regarding Sarah Palin “The Undefeated.”  He was shot down pretty soundly, especially when he admitted he hadn’t actually watched the film.  This was a lively presentation, and I enjoyed it and look forward to seeing “Occupy Unmasked” when it is released.
(I didn’t include this in the blog originally, but one of the funniest moments of the presentation came when, toward the end of it, Andrew’s phone suddenly started ringing. He jumped up as he was answering it and, in typical Breitbartian fashion, announced to the room, “Oh, it’s Hannity – I’m supposed to be on Hannity!” And proceeded to bound out of the room while commencing the interview.  I’ve often categorized various folks I know as Winnie the Pooh archetypes….Andrew was pure Tigger, and that moment captured it perfectly.)

RED CARPETS, BALCONIES, OCCUPIERS, ONE PERCENTERS & EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCES – CPAC FRIDAY

February 16, 2012
Later, we returned to the Marriott and rejoined the rest of the gang.  Snapped a pic with one of my new friends, Amelia Hamilton (@AmeliaHammy), author of One Nation Under God: A Book for Little Patriots - http://www.ameliahamilton.com/ - which is a must have for all parents who want their kids to learn about history, government and our basic rights from an early age!
Also saw Andrew Breitbart (@AndrewBreitbart), and will admit I was flattered when he recalled out meeting at Smart Girl Summit and my being a runner:
********
Well, that’s not even all of what I’ve written previously — just some highlights.  But I also want to share a few things that came to mind today, or that I saw others say regarding Andrew:
  • I know Andrew would have RT’d all the hate. I’m doing my best to filter it out. I’d rather remember him with a smile right now. #Breitbart
  • jimgeraghty ‏ @jimgeraghty Today God unveiled “BigHeaven.com,” a new web site with fascinating investigative journalism, sharp commentary, & jubilant humor.
  • I never expected @AndrewBreitbart to break my heart. (The inspiration for my blog title.)
  • Utterly. RT @ORlibertygal: Can. not. function. This day is lost.
  • That one was for you, AB. Not sure why really. Let’s just say you inspired me to push myself a little harder. Especially in that last mile.
Many bloggers and pundits have shared their thoughts on Breitbart today.  Some of them have written hauntingly beautiful tributes.  I know my friend, Sarah Rumpf, has done her best to collect many of them in one place on her blog: http://www.sunshinestatesarah.com/2012/03/we-have-lost-giant-rip-andrew-breitbart.html

Over and over again, we’ve seen references to him as a warrior, a happy warrior, fearless, generous in spirit, generous with his time, likable, sweet, bursting with energy, bustling with ideas.  I know there are many out there who view him through a different lens, but this is the man that I and so many others whom I hold dear have come to know and love.  Andrew was a man who lived life large and found a way to employ his God-given talents in an amazing way.  He fought tirelessly and unapologetically for what he believed in.  I think, for me, one of the aspects of his story that resonated most was his own journey from liberalism to conservatism.  While our paths were somewhat different, here was someone whose view of the political spectrum was quite similar to mine; who, like me, could remember what it was like to hold those other views and used that to inform his championing of conservatism. 

Early on, I remarked on his affable response to the hero worship.  He was a mega star in the political/media world, but you would never know it to see him or talk to him.  You’d expect someone who’s achieved his degree of notoriety, success and power to be full of himself.  But he wasn’t.  He was full of life.  We lost a patriot, a champion and a friend today.  The conservative blogging community has been reeling from this news.  And yes, many of us truly are heartbroken.  However, Lisa Mei Norton posted this quote earlier and I thought it more than fitting:

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”
George S. Patton
I certainly am thankful.  *Cheers* Andrew.  Time for a well-deserved rest.  Don’t you worry.  We’ll keep up the good fight.

Editing to add in Rick Hornsby's hauntingly beautiful tribute: