I’m good, thanks.

Before I tell you a story, I’ll give away the ending. I’m fine.

I had my annual mammogram on Tuesday afternoon, late in the afternoon, after the radiology team had gone home for the day. The tech told me I’d get a call Wednesday morning if I needed to come back, otherwise I could expect a letter letting me know everything was clear.

Wednesday came and went with no word from the breast center. Dave and I swapped high-fives slaps.

At 11:06 this morning (Thursday) my phone buzzed. I stepped out of a meeting to take the call from the Winchester Hospital Breast Center.

“You need to come back,” the nice lady said. “We found something. You need more images and an ultrasound. We can see you at 2:20 or 3:00.”

2:20 it would be.

I had breast cancer in 2007. I had always been diligent about annual mammograms (every 366 days). My maternal grandmother and her daughter (my Aunt Natalie) both died of breast cancer. I knew I would develop the disease. I just knew that I would. So when I got the diagnosis I was not surprised. I wasn’t pleased, just not surprised. So I went into treatment.

Lots of tests, two surgeries, chemo, radiation. I lost my hair (and honestly, I didn’t hate my bald bad self). I learned two things… hair grows back and if I had to, I could do it again.

Over the last 12 years I’ve had a few call backs for additional images. But this time, the call felt ominous. In the five hours between the call back and the news that I’m OK, I rearranged my life.

I started a mental “to do” list.

I’d need a wig this time, so I could maintain a professional and (hopefully) acceptable image while conducting weddings.

I’d step up the push at work to cross train people to cover my job, because I was not going to put pressure on myself to manage the job while dealing with treatment.

I’d spend a few hours writing notes about the roles I play at my annual work conference (scheduled for May in Orlando), so my boss could easily find a warm body to take my place.

I’d cancel the reservation I made at a motel in Maine for a July vacation, and sit out the annual sailing regatta on my back porch.

I’d pick through the box of medical supplies left over from the visiting nurse appointments from my recent appendectomy wound-healing mishap and lay in new/additional supplies to get me through the breast surgery.

I’d hurry-up a few yet-unscheduled dates on my calendar to get my social girly time in before I went onto the D.L.

That’s about as far as I got. Another very nice lady told me it was a cyst, nothing to worry about.

I asked her if she was sure. I told her I was willing to have it surgically removed. She laughed (I didn’t mind, it rang like music) and she told me to go home and enjoy the evening.

If you’ve had a significant illness or diagnosis, or have a loved one with a health challenge, you understand how it demands you pull up on the brake. It skews your view of the real world and turns everything into unattractive shades of dark colors. You worry about your Best Guy, your Mum and how everyone you love will cope without you being the strong one.

You worry and you fret and you plan, because you know that no one else will know what to do without your planning.

And then you don’t have to worry and you don’t have to plan because it’s what you wanted all along, but it does heighten and sharpen the nausea you’ve been biting back for the last five hours.

I’m good. If you’re not, call me. I’m here and I’ll hold your hand. You can cry or we can laugh. We can play cribbage or just sit in the quiet.

I’ve been there, I know.

 

 

 

 

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184 weddings and counting

2018 was another memorable year in my Justice of the Peace career. I officiated 33 weddings—bringing the total over 7 years to 184 (plus three for couples who had earlier [and secretly] eloped. Madam never shares those details!)

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Here are some highlights:

Weddings for three couples in Mary and Jack Cronin’s family – one son and two grandsons were united with the loves of their lives.

Weddings on July 4, Halloween, and on New Year’s Eve.

Many weddings in couples’ homes, in North Reading (3), Sturbridge (2), Chelmsford (2), Lawrence (2), Peabody, North Andover, Tewksbury and Dracut.

Weddings in new venues: Crestwood Country Club in Rehoboth, Volunteer Yacht Club in Lynn, Stevens Coolidge House in North Andover, Arnold Arboritum in Boston, Lynch Park in Beverly, Acres of Wildlife Camp ground in Steep Falls, Maine, Ferncroft Country Club on Middleton, The House of Seven Gables in Salem, Carson Place in Dorchester, Knights of Columbus in Charlestown, and the Four Points Sheraton in Wakefield.

One Baby Naming Ceremony, for my beautiful and Favorite Great Niece Lily, at Three Chimneys Inn in Durham, NH.

I have been invited to become the “wedding package” Justice of the Peace for an area golf club/wedding venue, taking over from a JP colleague who will retire in 2019. I’m excited about this new opportunity. This will not be my only ceremony venue – I will continue to offer ceremonies at each couple’s desired location.

I can’t wait to see what 2019 brings!

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Merry Christmas, maybe

Merry Christmas. This should be a happy time of year but for many people, it’s a miserable and painful time.

We may be lonely, missing someone special who will never come through the door again or who is far away and can’t be with us.

We may be unable to participate in a way that is meaningful our hearts. You may say, “No, your friendship is more than enough,” but that just may crush whatever spirit we still have.

We may be down on our luck or, due to poor health or circumstance, unable to welcome you into our home or accept your kind invitation.

You just don’t know what is going on the heart and mind of the person standing next to you – and we may not have the words to tell you.

I wish you patience with those who test you. I wish you an extra few moments – to make eye contact and to smile, to let someone go head of you in line or in traffic. I wish you a mind open enough to see someone who is struggling and a heart open enough to offer a hand in that moment. I wish you the wisdom to understand that this is a hard time, and likely for many more people that you can imagine.

If you are so blessed as to have enough of everything you want and need, I wish you the strength to be aware enough to offer a little of what you have to someone to whom it would mean the world.

Your gift doesn’t have to be wrapped in tissue paper and ribbons. Your gift can be as simple as a kind word, a gentle thought, your ear to listen, your hand, your time, or your ear to listen.

May the season brings you everything your heart desires.

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Sterling

Sterling parallel parked earlier this evening, solo, at the Stop & Shop Plaza. Twice. I wept.

Parallel parking has never been one of my talents. I’m more inclined to drive around the block as many times as it takes to find an easier parking solution. And here is Sterling, doing it like he was made to do it.

Sterling is my new Ford Escape. His window sticker tells me that his color is Ingot Silver. Hence “Sterling”.

Sterling has (among other wonderful features) parking assist. All I have to do is push a button, put him in “R”, and take my hands off the wheel.

The first time he did it I was so overwhelmed that I started to cry. What a country.

There are a lot of things I don’t understand. The concept of grounding electricity (don’t try, thanks). Setting a pick in basketball. How young children learn that weigh/way and bare/bear (among many other word combinations) sound the same.

How in hell did Sterling learn to park himself? I know it probably has to do with radar. How did someone way smarter than I am figure out how to make it all happen? It doesn’t matter.

I wasn’t built with a technologyish brain. It’s OK. I respect that you get it and appreciate that you respect me even though I don’t.

(Note: Sterling replaces Abe the Lincoln, who came to live with us a month ago. As promised I took Abe for bagels but not to the gym. I took him to a wedding but not to church. I took him to Maine but not to the Cape. I hope I made him happy while we were together. It’s a sedan versus an SUV thing. I missed the headlighting and the view more than I thought I would.)

 

 

 

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The PJs and the car

It’s been quite a week. It began in a bad storm when a (really) large oak tree succumbed to the wind and fell across the front yard, taking a swipe at the edge of the roof, flattening a beloved rhododendron and totaling my car.

My car. My sweet, sweet Ford Escape, a loveliest shade of pale minty green (formally called Frosted Glass). I loved that car. I was devastated when the insurance company called to say they were totaling it.

(Note: We/I were/am lucky through that storm and the one that followed. We only lost power for 25 hours and cable/phone for five days. Many people lost so much more. I am not complaining.)

Before we knew the car would be totaled, I took it to a collision center for an estimate. Knowing it would be a lengthy repair, I jumped on social media and asked for suggestions for a rental. Our friend Paul messaged me and offered the use of a car. It belonged to his late father, Peter, and was just sitting idle in the driveway.  And he mentioned that he planned to sell the car.

He gave me the specs, a 2012 Lincoln MKZ, in pristine condition.  Seriously low mileage (Paul said his Dad drove it to the local coffee shop, church, the gym and occasionally to Cape Cod). His asking price was more than fair. I told him if the insurance company totaled my car I’d give him Dave in a trade.

A few days later we got news my Escape was toasted. We called Paul and swapped a cyber-handshake to buy his Dad’s car.

This morning I cleaned out the Escape. I left a few pennies in a few places and the Penney sticker on the back window. Dave and I joined the throngs on Route 128 south for the afternoon  rush hour run to Canton to swap a check for Paul’s Dad’s car.

It’s a sweet ride. I love my new car.

Here is where the story of the new car takes a very personal twist.

Paul has a son, Paul Junior. They call him PJ. The car was driven by PJ’s Grandpa. Now the car is owned by PJSMOM.

It’s fate, tapping me on the shoulder. The PJs. The Grandpa. (The other) PJ’s Dad giving the keys to PJ’s Mom.

Before I drove out of Paul’s driveway he made me promise I’d drive his Dad’s car to Bruegger’s Bagels, to church (Catholic), a gym, and if I could manage it, to the Cape. He said that all of that would make his Dad happy.

Peter, I will make it all happen.

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To rescucitate or not

I came across an old photo yesterday, of someone I haven’t seen in nearly two decades, holding my infant daughter.

I used to think of this woman as one of my dearest friends. We had a significant history. I encouraged her to find the nerve to take some chances and she made great-for-her life changes. We laughed and smiled often. Then one day, suddenly, she turned away and we lost touch. I never knew why.

I think of her often, particularly at this time of year. She and her dad used to kick tires during Washington’s Birthday turned President’s Day car sales pushes, and her first season without him as a hard one. I silently wish her and Prince William “Happy Birthday” each June 21.

I decided to try and find her to share the photo of her and my Pretty Girl. I found her husband on social media and sent the photo with a note that said that, since I’d been thinking of her, finding the photo seemed to be a sign I should areach out.

He wrote back today and told me that the photo touched her deeply. He suggested she call and she told him that she is afraid to do that.

Afraid. That thundered as loudly as our 17-year separation. I don’t know what happened then or what prompted her to run silent through the years. There have been countless things I’ve wanted to share and I’m sure, things she’d have shared with me. It’s in my hands to decide how to respond to his message.

We are prompted in these moments to  step back, examine our hearts and cast one of three votes: put forth every effort and fight for something that is precious; take the position that monitoring and maintenance are the better options; step aside and hold onto the memories.

It’s deciding whether to sign the Friendship DNR.

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The Chrismas List. Not.

The Hammacher Schlemmer catalog came in the mail today. If you’re like me, you  thought, “The what…?” I’d never hear of it. Dave was impressed and sat down to cruise the pages.

The kicker headline on the cover indicates it is  “America’s Longest Running Catalog” and it boasts “Offering the Best, the Only and the Unexpected for 169 Years.” I love initial caps in headlines. Actually, I don’t.

Anyway, the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog is filled with lot of bests and onlys and mosts and superiors, all things my life is lacking. I don’t have:

  • The Worlds’ Largest Pac-Man
  • The Only Automatic Cordless Tire Inflator
  • The Best Nose Hair Trimmer (or Best Cordless Hand Vacuum)
  • The World’s Best Prelit Noble Fir (Or Best Fraser Fir or Best Dual Light Concolor Fir or Best Douglas Fir)
  • The Only Heated LED Travel Pillow
  • The Best Heated Throw (or Best Bluetooth Shower Speaker)
  • The Most Efficient Fireplace Grate
  • The Best Photo Converter (or Best Digital Camera Binoculars)
  • The Superior Comfort Bed Lounger
  • The Best Tree Stand (or Best Emergency Radio or Best Gentleman’s Foil Shaver or Best Pocket Radio)
  • The Forever Sharp French Chef’s Knife
  • The Better Generic Ancestry Profile
  • The Best Projection Clock (or Best Genuine Turkish Towels)
  • The Better Outdoor Furniture Covers
  • The Best Heated Vest (or Best Digital Tire Gauge)
  • The World’s Smallest Automatic Umbrella
  • The Best Heated Blanket (Or Best Heated Car Seat)
  • The Total Body Support Pillow
  • The Superior Grout Scrubber (or Superior Beard and Mustache Trimmer)
  • The Best Bug Killer (or Best Multi Handset Cordless Telephone or Best 1,000 AMP Jump Starter)

One thing is intriguing, The Warmest Steering Wheel Cover. It’s $119.95. I’ll wear gloves.

Wait. Free shipping on orders over $99.

Lemme know if you want to borrow my copy. Or you can shop online at hammacher.com.

Hammacher Schlemmer Lifetime Guarantee. Unconditional and Unwavering.

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