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Transitions

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May is melting away into June quickly.  Where have the last five months gone?  I’ve spent the majority of the days being biopsied, recovering from surgery, Magic Markered and irradiated 33 times. By the time my skin looked like a blistered red potato, I’d stopped wearing anything but cotton camisoles on top.  I dragged through each day, foggy brained and fatigued, able to do one. thing. at. a. time.

Thank God I am one of the lucky ones who’ll get to pop a pill every day and (hopefully) live a fairly normal life.

My post-rads recovery has produced a pair of epiphanies:  I didn’t realize how exhausted I was until I backed into a UPS truck coming out of my own driveway.  And, after a trip to the peaceful North Carolina mountains, I finally allowed myself to grieve after a series of setbacks this year.

The decision to sell our beloved little cabin meant it was time to close a chapter in our lives.  But giving up something is infinitely easier than giving up someone.  You remember, you sigh and you move on.

Last Friday I turned 61, a day of love, tears and laughter, and our last full day in the mountains.  Now I could rejoin my life, already in progress.

Happy to be home and healing.  This sign is now in our Florida backyard.

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Joining the Pink Warriors

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Joining the Pink Warriors

Nobody enthusiastically joins this group, but now it’s my time.

My official invite came Jan. 29 when I received the lousy news that I had breast cancer. This came after 20 years of careful watching and benign biopsies. In my family, it’s not “if” but “when” one of us joins the club. The Big 6-0 seems to be the magic number for the Big C for us.  It happened to my mama and her mother exactly then.

Losing a breast didn’t slow either of them down much.  Mama’s still going strong and 88 plus; my grandmother made it to 87.  I may not have to make such a generous immediate flesh donation to join the club–a lumpectomy is planned–but I will also be catching some post-surgical rays provided by a radiation oncologist.

However, this isn’t the first time the Big C has knocked on our door.  In 2012 my husband lost some essential parts to bladder cancer. A parade of nasty infections have all but knocked out his kidneys since. He was in the hospital having emergency dialysis on the day of my fateful biopsy.

As I join the Pink Warriors, it’s time to channel my favorite feminine fictional badass, Scarlett O’Hara.  Like Scarlett, I’ll do what I have to do and “think about it tomorrow.”

Pat Conroy Appreciation Month

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beaufortDriving through South Carolina in early April, I smiled wistfully when as we passed the exit to Beaufort. The literary light of Beaufort and gifted southern writer Pat Conroy passed away March 4.  I’d seen the “Prince of Tides” ages ago, but couldn’t recall reading the book.  I shop in the non-fiction section, usually biography, anyway.

It took reading his obituaries to learn that his novels were autobiographical, powerful and beautifully written.  I became a fan girl right then, too late to meet my new personal literary hero, but smitten just the same.

I started my Conroy binge with the Santinis–“The Great Santini” and “The Death of Santini.” I followed it with “The Water is Wide.”  Next stop is the “Lords of Discipline.”

To write about real people in your life takes real courage.  I am trying to marshal a bit of that Conway courage as I write through a family saga.  In any story, sometimes the heroes are also the villains.  They are often people we love.  Pat Conroy told his stories honestly, like a neat shot of whiskey that burned first then warmed the reader.

Son of Santini, thanks for the inspiration!

 

 

 

 

 

Physical Therapy

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leavesNo, I don’t mean the medical kind.  Today I needed the sweat-producing physical therapy that only could be provided outdoors.

It is a beautiful day to be alive.  But that’s not the reason I just had to get outside and do something.  It’s because I’ve lost three friends in a matter of weeks.  My heart is heavy.

So I channeled my grief into practical action–going for a nature ride with my husband and chopping down the overgrown vines in my backyard.

From today on, this is my mantra:  I can, so therefore I will.  No excuses.

 

 

I Am Tracy Turnblad

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tracy-me

Who is Tracy Turnblad?  I am.

Tracy Turnblad is the perky, pudgy heroine of “Hairspray,” the 1988 John Waters movie and the Broadway musical.

I saw Tracy last night–played to tuneful perfection by Kate Zaloumes–at the Titusville Playhouse.

The show is set in 1962.  I was six then, not 16.  Chubby Checker was popular, but not chubby girls like Tracy.  Or like me, who wore “Pretty Plus” clothes from Sears.

Tracy loved to dance and watched the “Corny Collins” TV show to learn the latest steps. When I was young, you couldn’t drag me away from “American Bandstand” either.  I was having too much fun.

Tracy boldly auditioned to dance on the TV show.  She didn’t let being ridiculed by thin people didn’t stop her dreams.

Nor did it stop mine.  I entered myself (!) in a pageant at age 10.  Mama, although mortified that her 100-pound daughter would embarrass herself, bought me two lacy, swirly dresses worthy of a princess.  My short-and-stout status didn’t prevent me from acting in school plays and joining our high school’s first dance team.

In the show, dancing Tracy won the heart of Link Larkin (handsomely played by my amazing nephew Alex Browne).  Without skipping a beat, she banished segregation on the dance show, too.

Seeing Tracy’s triumph encourages me to get off my ample rump and take on the world.  But first, let’s turn up the music and dance.

 

 

 

 

 

Joy Journey

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Today’s note to self:  Find joy.  It’s playing hide-and-seek these days.  I know you’re out there, joy.  I will find you where you’ve been all along–in a hot cup of coffee on a cold morning, a beautiful sunrise, a smile.  Hiding in plain sight.

Welcome back, old friend.

Another “Tequila Sunrise”

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We’re still reeling from losing David Bowie last week.  I just learned that Glenn Frey from the Eagles has passed away.

The first time I heard an Eagles song, I was 17, lonely and mad at the world.  From our home on the Florida coast, my family moved to the ugliest place on earth–I truly believed–the California high desert town of Palmdale.

My life was over as far as I could tell. Being 3,000 miles away from my friends and the boy I loved was bad enough, but the local high school didn’t give a rip about my straight As. Instead of letting me start college, (and getting the hell out of there), they saddled me with PE and California history.

Except for letters and phone calls from my boyfriend, only one thing eased my teenage angst.  That was driving my ice-blue 1964 Pontiac GTO on the dusty desert roads.  I turned the radio full blast, sang along and cried.  Lots.

As I drove to school, “Tequila Sunrise” by the Eagles quickly became my favorite driving-and-crying tune, a potent musical cocktail that numbed the pain.  “It’s another tequila sunrise, starin’ slowly ‘cross the sky, said goodbye…”  The song’s sweet mournfulness and the spectacular desert sunrise in front of me permanently fused in my memory.

Because of your song, my lonely heart found peace and healing. Glenn Frey, I give you the best of my love.