July 18, 2002

July 18, 2002|

As I now write I am home in Ohio. Quick trip to Youngstown, see the folks, the homies, the kids, then drive to Chicago for my second (of four) weddings this summer. Yep, it’s the season again, wedding season. Exciting to see friends from all walks of life come together for a weekend to celebrate and catch up.

Shock the Dawg

I arrived home to find a new collar on our dog, Cosmo. She (it’s a she, go figure. My dad asked for a male dog at the pound. For two weeks we thought it was. Then we realized the dog was missing an organ crucial to it’s being a male, if you know what I mean. How we were duped for two weeks is beyond my understanding…) is the most wild dog I have ever met. She used to jump and nuzzle next to me at night in bed. I put an end to that. She knows not to mess with me. It’s not that I don’t like animals. It’s that I don’t like OUR animals. Three dogs and four cats. They rule the house…except for when I am home.

I digress. Cosmo had this new collar. It wasn’t just any collar, but a shock collar. If at anytime she runs out of the house and we can’t catch her, we push the red button on the remote control and give her a shock. She no longer runs away, that’s for sure. Whenever I see the dog now, I just mouth a little “zap!” and she goes running. Aw, technology at it’s finest. It’s great to return home to obedient animals.

Up Close and Personal with Matt Lauer’s New Do

Last Friday, Amy Grant and Vince Gill performed live on the Today Show. Having been a huge Amy Grant fan since conception, I felt obligated to join the horde of camera-frenzied tourists and watch them perform the requisite three songs. I remember attending my first Amy Grant concert 14 years ago at the Richfield Coliseum. I even went to school the next day. Eleven years ago the whole family treked to Blossom Amphitheater in Cleveland to see the “Heart in Motion” tour. Frank and Billy sat with their fingers plastered in their ears the entire concert. “It’s so loud!” Kids these days, never appreciating finely crafted pop music.

So, my friend Anne and I must have been the only native New Yorkers in the crowd. First off, no sane New Yorker would get up that early. Secondly, no New Yorker would go see Amy Grant and Vince Gill. New York City didn’t even have a country radio station till last year! Despite the early time, we had a great time and even got on TV for two seconds. And yep, Matt Lauer’s new hairstyle is awfully short.

The Redemption of Artichoke Canning

As of Tuesday afternoon, I can actually brag that I am not a complete gardening failure. For as of Tuesday, I had a tomato plant that was growing. Sure my purple-wave petunias are out of control wild, but everything else is brown and shriveled. My first foray into the world of horticulture had been unkind, until this tomato plant sprouted in the past week.

I thought it (and all my plants) would morph overnight from this tiny stem to this gargantun monster. Boy, was I wrong. It was a really slow process that occurred over a month of heavy watering, weed-picking and pruning. And it was completely unperceptible to the naked eye.

I find it’s growth fascinating, maybe more on a personal level than anything. It’s not just the accomplishment of being able to grow something, it’s the analogy that comes with it.

The person, leader, man I wanted to be two years ago, I know I am becoming. Recently I looked in the mirror and concluded I look a lot different. It’s not external- the new long, dark, curly hair or Calvin Klein-anorexic model build- but the internal.I wanted the growth, the maturity, the wisdom, like the tomato plant, to happen over night. Instead it took small incremental growth of meditation, prayer, and self-analysis watered by pain, hardships and trials. Now is the time for the next step, to produce a hardy crop. I look forward to doing such. And I anticipate eating a big beefy tomato come August.


Artichoke Canning?

July 7, 2002|

Artichoke Canning?

Recently looking at my garden, I concluded that I am not my mother’s son. Well, most likely, I am. I just didn’t inherit her talent for gardening. I think she bleeds MiracleGro. In utter contrast, when my plants see me coming, they hide underneath the mulch.

So it comes as no surprise that I have had few success stories in my first batch as Artichoke Canning- Gardner Extraordinaire. My petunias are looking spectacular, I must admit. But you really can’t screw up petunias. Everything else, though, is looking like death. My tomato plants are one step from shrinking into oblivion. My hiccus curly is shriveled like it was in the bathtub too long. And these little red flowers, I don’t remember their name, hang low like they are in mourning. I once read that singing to plants help them grow. Hmmm…I think that may quicken their demise given my voice. Hmmm…Maybe I’ll have to have Mom come out for a garden resuscitation trip. Ah, the joys of being a home renter.

King of My Colon? Not Yet…

It’s been almost three months since I have had a normal colon. Since then, I have dropped close to twenty-five pounds. In the words of one of my friends who recently saw me for the first time in months ‘You look like Billy! You’re so skinny!’ (Me: ‘NoooooOOOOOO!!’) After much procrastination and silliness (in my estimation) by Dr. Perales, I am finally taking medication to clear up the irritations in my intestines. I won’t delve any further into details. You know what they say about dinner conversations- to be polite don’t talk about religion, politics or colon activity.

Driving Miss Crazy

My Jesus Fish fell off my bumper just the other day. It was quite appropriate timing. Driving in New York City brings out the ‘best’ in people, including myself. I think God had been observing my driving and deemed me unworthy of such an article on my car. ‘You frickin BLEEP BLEEP! Get out of my lane!!’ ‘What are you doing?!? You just BLEPITY BLEEP BLEEP cut me off! BLEEP!’ ‘PEDESTRIANS right of way!! I’ll never be able to turn! BLEEEEEEPP!!’

Getting Special Love at Special Love

Last weekend, after eight long hours of stop and go traffic on I-95, I made it to Special Love YAC Weekend, a camp for young adults age 18-35 recovering or battling cancer. (www.speciallove.org). My friend Jen had been emphatic about my attending as a counselor for the little kids camp. I didn’t think I was just yet ready to be a counselor in such an environment. I still have way too many issues to work out. But I was game for going as a participant.

There was almost a cult-like feel to the weekend. Most campers had been attending Special Love for years, first as campers then as counselors. They all had very intense and fiercely loyal feelings for each other and for the camp itself. I must admit that I felt more intrigued watching the group interact (the trained social scientist I am) than I did participating. I recalled my studies of group dynamics, noting how powerfully one single commonality can incredibly unite a group, despite regional, racial, religious and gender backgrounds. Some had cancer when they were babies. Others were still in treatment. It didn’t matter and it wasn’t really discussed. There was no ice-breaking introduction of medical history or diagnosis (that was what late night one-on-one discussions were for). The underlying premise of the camp was known and understood. A given in the whole equation, if I must continue in scientist mode.

I had a few striking conversations and observations that I am still processing.

– In this cancer business there is always a factor of uncertainty discreetly hanging over one’s head. I had a great discussion with a guy in his thirties who had a very rare case of testicular cancer ten years ago. Recently he had an occurrence of pain, which he naturally concluded was a return of the cancer. Thankfully it was just a kidney stone. (Nothing much we said, just a kidney stone. Ha!) Probably the most difficult thing to deal with cancer is not the actual disease, but the uncertainty of it. If you know what and when you are fighting, you know what weapons are required, emotionally and physically. If those two variables are unknown, what can you do? It is truly a plaguing of the mind.

– One of the most troubling sights of the weekend was seeing a few of the campers smoking, especially a camper who had a sun tattoo on his back with the names of recently deceased campers circumscribed in the middle. I wasn’t personally offended by the smoking. Everyone has a coping mechanism for dealing with such stress, which is totally understandable. Rather I felt such sadness and heartbreak for them. Why put yourself through the rigors of treatment again? Why risk your spared life? Why increase the odds of adding your name in that sun?

– Perhaps most agonizing was my learning one of the volunteers of the camp is battling stomach cancer. I didn’t find out till the drive home. I thought she was a normal healthy Gen Xer. How much different my interactions would have been had I known! Ugh! I wasn’t mean or anything, but I would have been more upfront with my hope and my driving force. I would have asked her more questions on a deeper level. I would have… You never know! You never know.

I learned many a lesson that weekend. I also had some fun to boot. I hope to someday be a counselor at the children’s camp when my colon is functioning and I am catheter-free (no swimming or soccer with a catheter! D’oh!). I have a feeling I will one day be a part of that Special Love cult, if given the opportunity. You never know. You never know.

What I have learned so far (in no particular order)…

What I have learned so far (in no particular order)…

– Never pass up a chance to tell a loved one you love them. Nothing is worse than love unknown.

– Time goes by so quickly. So use it.

– Emotions and spiritual experiences go in cycles. They key is not getting too high nor too low.

– Pray first and give firsts of everything to God, He always takes care of the rest.

– Daily reestablishing priorities is important in not getting bogged down in the routine of life.

– Relationships go much farther than work. Work is not there when you are in your hospital bed needing a comforting smile.

– Could family be any more important, yet they are the first we forget about.

– Be passionate about something.

– Be a role model, someone is always watching.

– It is easiest to fall the farthest after reaching the highest peak.

– Always be an encouragement

– Pay a compliment to someone everyday. It’s infectious. It takes a little practice, but
after awhile it catches. Watch it make someone’s day.

– Have fun and outgoing, but be humble- everything can be taken away within a flash.

– When YOU get busy, don’t forget to call and email your friends and family. Make
the time.

– LOVE no matter if and how people respond to you.

– Think about how you treat people who look different than you and remember someday
it could be you on the receiving end.

– Nothing is ever guaranteed, Don’t let your expectations get the best of you.

– Don’t take yourself or any situation too seriously.

– Smile. It works. It’s a natural pick me up.

– Don’t be afraid to pump up the music and shake your booty. It does the body good
every once in awhile. Even you those of us with white man’s disease (can’t jump, can’t dance).