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Friday, April 14, 2017

The Eggs and I

I love Easter.

It invokes wonderful memories of family gatherings. All my loved ones have passed on and the ones less loved have scattered to the winds. But, for decades before they leave, we enjoy Easter Sunday with food, lawn games, board games, flower picking, egg hunting, cooking and sleeping under the stars (weather permitting).

Until her death at age 98, my Grandmother is the glue. She bestows Easter baskets with REAL chocolate, plastic eggs and jelly beans. She prepares feasts: baked ham, fried chicken, creamed spinach, fresh corn and string beans, kidney bean salad and the Best Potato Salad in the World. 

In my childhood there are Easter egg hunts on my Grandmother's enormous flower filled yard. Sometimes the eggs contain real silver coins. Photos - me in pigtails and fancy pastel dresses, tiny lacy trimmed socks and shiny Mary Janes; my father in Cuban shirts with perfectly quaffed hair; my mother, cigarette dangling in black stiletto heels and cocktail dress; grandma always with food in her hands; a picnic table bearing the weight up the Easter Feast; ceiling scraping layer cakes. 

All those happy times and good souls deserve a lovely place on the wall, to remind me where we've been and where we still need to go. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Taking to the Woods

It's a big year - I turn 50 and our 27th wedding anniversary. 

Everything takes on new meaning nowadays. You are always worrying that all the expensive, nasty, mutilating treatment you took just slightly delayed the inevitable journey to Stage IV. We'd like to get away. 

What do we need? Something peaceful, relaxing and filled with nature, where we need no fancy clothing or large amounts of cash. 

Florida has many natural springs and forests, all very different from our local scrub pines and palmettos. Fresh waters and large, undeveloped, pristine forested areas with shady trails galore, geocaching, antique stores and miles of country roads. 

We discover an RV resort with all the amenities, right in the middle of Ocala National Forest, and directly across the street from springs. We will ride bikes, fish off the dock, swim in the springs and the pool, lounge around in the huge, luxury RV and have fires at night. All we really need to bring is food and our personal items. There's a golf cart provided too, and a Dollar General store at the entrance to our park -- what more do we need?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I hope Mandi would like this post.

Though we never met we have many things in common: RV’ng, cooking, family, animals,  work, friends, life itself. She even had her very own Mike. He’s a badass, just like mine.  

We both find our own lumps and are diagnosed with breast cancer just before our birthdays – hers at 31, mine at 46. By the time I discover her blog at Darn Good Lemonade in late 2014, I’m well into chemo and all its horrors. She is well into dealing with her metastic disease process.

It is now my year three post treatment, near where Mandi was upon learning that she was Stage IV, despite the extremely aggressive treatments she had received. Chemo, surgery, radiation. Just like me.

It’s her blog that convinces me to write. Unlike me, Mandi can tell a riveting story with nary a curse word, and make you laugh and sob and rage right along with her. I respect this quality and never could emulate it. But maybe I can tell my story in my own way -- and perhaps help someone through it along the way. It's been a liberating, empowering, incredibly healing thing that probably would never have occurred had I not discovered DGL. 

While breast cancer a terrible diagnosis for any woman, I can’t comprehend having it made at the tender age of 31. Mandi's grace and strength resonate in every post. How to feel self-pity after seeing her photos? They tell their own story, before and after BC:  Mandi in the wild, on another rv trip with Mike and the furbabies. Mandi with friends and family. Mandi cooking. Mandi in her wedding dress, and my favorite: Mandi in a hospital gown, face defiantly beaming at the camera. Fierce and determined. 

Mandi Hudson died this week. It’s hitting much harder than anticipated, though we knew it was coming. Maybe it’s because her blog inspired me so much, or all the things we had in common. Mostly, it feels like I lost a friend.