Sunday, June 28, 2015

Friends #2

There are some things that I don't "do" (read: like or tolerate):
* Science fiction or fantasy books
* Science fiction or fantasy movies
* Animated movies
* Scary or violent movies.

Anyway, today I finished a book that snuck into my hands because of its title: Mr. Penumbra's Twenty-Four Hour Bookstore.  I say "snuck" because it ended up being kind of fantasy-ish, but by the time it revealed itself to me as such, I was already into the plot, characters, and writing style enough that I had to finish.

Spoiler Alert (because it is a decent read, so just in case you care about the element of surprise that comes with the ending): The message at the end of the book is that friendship is more important than anything.  So the hero of the story goes through all of these adventures, calling up old friends and collecting new ones along the way, only to discover that there was no real big finish.  His friends are the happy ending.

And this, my friends, is why I don't "do" fantasy.  You go to all that trouble, trying to understand stuff that isn't even real, only to have an old guy tear off his mask at the end - Scooby Doo style - and yell, "And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for you darn kids!"  What is lasting and true and rich is the relationship between Scooby and his friends.  So, while some of you may enjoy the adventures, I'd be perfectly happy to have Scooby and friends just stay at home and talk about their thoughts and feelings, and leave the nail biting aside.  Jane Austen really understood my needs.

On to the next title.  And don't forget to hug your friends.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

For you

A post about my best friend:

I called her to tell her that I had cancer - not only because I wanted to tell her, but also so that I could practice telling my brothers.

When I had cancer the first time, she came to visit me - and she brought me earrings.

We used to walk to Hebrew School together - three times a week.

We used to ask Mrs. Bernstein if we could practice reading Hebrew in the hall because, "it's really hard to concentrate in here."

Mrs. Bernstein either didn't speak very good English, or just wanted to get rid of us.

I took Ballroom Dancing as a mini-course, but she didn't, so I taught her how to swing dance in the hall when we were supposed to be practicing our Hebrew.

Mrs. Bernstein caught us.

We had our bat mitzvahs on the same weekend.

We played with her mom's make-up.  (My mom only used boring foundation and lipstick.  Her mom's bathroom was the cosmetics counter at Marshall Field's.)

She was the first person I called when my dad died.

Once we spent an entire day on her couch watching The Real Housewives of Washington D.C.  Her husband went to the deli to buy us provisions.

While binge watching RHOWDC we also scoured the internet until we found an article about our favorite Chicago bus driver from thirty years ago, who drove us to school every day (if we caught the right bus), and who was honored after years of service.

Our fathers both worked on LaSalle Street.

During sleepovers, my dad used to come into my room when we were gabbing late at night and ask us, "How is there so much to talk about?!"

We still talk nonstop.

She is still and always my best friend.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

More than Manet

NB: Forgive me if I'm taking this little motif too far - but this is from the heart.

Dear Three French People -

I'm picturing you inside, reading this blog - but you're in FRANCE!  Go out!  Eat some croissants! Eat cheese! Drink wine! (unless you're on antibiotics for ten days and can't drink, as I am, and it's only Day 9 but who's counting PLUS they say don't drink for three days afterwards AND on the bottle it says, "We mean it, Gina.")

Anyway, it's kind of funny what France represents to a lot of us Americans - namely, living fully and deliciously, but with portion sizes that wouldn't feed a small country; surrounded by deep history and beauty, and the ghosts of writers and painters and musicians who felt that, too.

So the fact that you're reading this blog makes me realize that you're not just a person wearing a fabulous hat (or wearing nothing at all) inside some Manet painting. You're an actual person with challenges and disappointments and frustrations. So read on, but remember to enjoy every bite of whatever delicacy is on that plate next to you.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


First day of summer vacation.  Hard to describe the pure joy of not knowing what day it is. Actually, not that hard - it's heavenly, blissful, freeing. All day yesterday I thought it was Friday. That's because now I'm in the eternal Saturday of the next two months.

Last summer at this time I was reeling from and dealing with the fact that I had cancer.  I'm sure that there will be much reeling and dealing ahead, but right now it is simply my normal.

The other day, my spouse said to me, "We're lucky!"  And I agreed, but then added, "Just a touch of cancer."  We laughed, but I regretted that I had said that. We are incredibly lucky in countless ways, and cancer does not diminish any of those gifts.

That's all I got.  Enjoy the gifts of the day.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Places I won't get to

Dear Seven Australian People who looked at my blog this week.

What can I say? I'm flattered. I mean, you're so far away - or I am - and yet that didn't deter you from checking out what I had to say.

The thing is, as much as I'd like to return the gesture by visiting your country (and, by the way, my very best friend from my college years lives there), I don't think that I ever will.  This isn't really a cancer thing - I don't think.  It's not like, (read in raspy dying voice) "I have so little time left, I can't spend 24 hours on a plane!"  Even if I knew for certain that I would live to some acceptable age of death - what is that? 85? 90? anyway - there are some places (like Australia) that I simply think I won't get to.  Others include:

Hawaii - I know that sounds outrageous.  It's supposedly gorgeous.  It's one of the fifty states. My president was born there.  My spouse wants to bowl there.  But it's fucking far!  First of all, California is far if you live in Boston, and then once you get there you basically have to do the same thing again to get to Hawaii.

India - It's far too, but I have a different reason for not visiting.  I love Indian authors.  I've read many books set in India.  The best ones (White Tiger is at the top of the list) have convinced me that I never want to visit that country.  How could I go and face all of that poverty?  And I'm afraid of trekking. And how do you find all of those cool Buddhist monasteries anyway?  I would get lost for sure.

Poland - Now, I say this with some hesitation, because I did have two readers from Poland just today, but why would I go to Poland? (And, to be fair, if you readers in Poland, feel the same way about the U.S., I totally respect that. And, if you want to comment and give me an idea of what is waiting for me in Poland, I'm open.)

Thank you!

Lately I've noticed that people are doing things for me and I'm not necessarily reciprocating.  In fact, forget the "necessarily."  I'm not reciprocating at all.

Here are some examples:

* A friend bought me a big travel cup for water WITH an infuser basket inside.
* A friend brought me breakfast at work.
* A friend brought me lunch at work.

This was all the same person, by the way.  She just happens to be that amazing.  But I do have other examples:

* A friend made me chicken soup - like an entire pot!
* A friend came over and helped me prepare my orientation sessions for the summer educators whom I'll be supervising at Brandeis.

(Both the same person here, too.  What can I say?  I have great friends.)  More:

* A friend schlepped to Waltham from Cambridge (not as easy as it sounds) on multiple Saturdays just to hang out with me.
* A friend's son (who is also my friend) says prayers for me as he does his Japanese calligraphy practice.

* A friend brought me a beautiful carnation plant.

* A friend's grandmother prays for me.  (She's Catholic, so I've got that base covered, too.)

So, as I was saying, I haven't done much of anything lately for any of these folks.  And I find myself being fine with that.  And they all seem super happy just giving.  Unless, of course, they've formed a secret society to talk about my lack of reciprocation. But I doubt it.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The dog

There's a dog that lives around the corner from us.

I hate that dog.  It yips at night when it's owner is out - which is pretty often.

Last summer I went over to the owner's house a few times.  Once was to talk to her about her yippy dog; once was to drop off a letter informing her that her yippy dog was still yipping and disturbing our (well, my - but "our" sounded stronger) sleep; and once to slightly unscrew her porch light so that it would go off.  I thought that maybe it was keeping Yippy awake.  It wasn't.

Anyway, I sort of forgot about Yippy during the winter, with windows closed and all, but then last night, there he was.

As I was feeling the return of my wrath, I remembered a moment from last summer.  My spouse and I lay in bed listening to Yippy yip, and she said, "I feel so sorry for that dog."

Mind blown.  Really?  I just hate the dog.  It never occurred to me to consider its poor little agitated soul barking out its angst for hours on end to deaf ears and darkness (after I unscrewed the porch light, that is).

Life lesson: Marry someone more compassionate than you if you possibly can.  Otherwise you might just end up a lonely and grumpy dog hater.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Dear Blog

Dear Blog,

I know what you're thinking - She hasn't called.  She hasn't written.  And that pitiful little post about someone in Ukraine...  What the hell's happened to her?!

Well, I'm writing to say that I haven't forgotten you.  The truth is that I haven't been feeling great, and I find that fact enormously unappealing - certainly not something that I want to write about.  I know you're thinking, Fuck that!  What about me?  What about my needs?  So, OK.

It's interesting walking around not feeling great because of something that is saving your life.  Should I be sad?  Poor me!  My stomach hurts!  Should I be happy?  Lucky me!  I live in a time when there are drugs that can save my life with minimal - truly minimal - side effects.  I go to work.  I look the same.  I do everything that I want to do.

But my stomach hurts!  Well, not all the time.  But sometimes.  And when it hurts it reminds me that I have fucking cancer and I have to take these fucking pills.  And what if they keep working and I live to be 100 and I'll have a stomach ache a couple of times a day for the next 48 years?!?!?

Maybe I'll cheat and stop taking them when I'm 90.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


Someone in Ukraine looked at my blog today.

That made me think about the fact that "Fuck Cancer" was such an easy choice for my blog title, because the rest of the stuff in my life is so outrageously awesome.

But what if you lived in Ukraine and you had countless choices of things to attach the word Fuck to, like:

Fuck Putin

Fuck the Economy

Fuck Violence

Fuck Corruption

Fuck the EU

and you've got cancer?  All I can say is, if you're reading this post, person in Ukraine, I'm sending you prayers for wellness and peace, and wishing that I could do a whole lot more.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Several years ago a little girl in our congregation was diagnosed with cancer.  The treatment was incredibly difficult and lasted for years.  Two years ago on our retreat she was quiet and clung to her parents.  She had cancer and I didn't - at least not that I knew of at the time.

Last week at our congregational retreat things had changed.  This time, I had cancer and she didn't. Her energy was boundless.  She ran when the rest of us walked; she jumped when we stood.  She chatted ceaselessly about everything. On the way to a campfire she listed for me all of the words that she didn't know back when she was two.

I'm not sure why she decided to be my friend, but I felt like the luckiest person on the retreat.  Nor am I sure what any of this has to do with cancer.  When I'm with her I think about cancer being a part of our lives that we share, although she's not aware of that.  And I think about the fact that only one of us has cancer, and I'm glad.

Monday, June 1, 2015


If you're Jewish, you probably know the words of the "Shma."  The central tenet of faith in Judaism says, "Hear (or Listen up!), Israel - Adonai is our God; Adonai is one."  I always understood this to be a statement of monotheism: We People of Israel have only one God, and that God - which is our God - is one God or Concept or Force or Direction, not many.

This past Shabbat I got something different: Adonai is our God.  First we commit to that; that's the easy part.  Now the harder part: Our God is One. As in, the Oneness of everything.  No exceptions. The Force, the Being, the Evolving of everything must include everything.  So the God that is Healing is also the God that is Illness. I can't say, for example, my brilliant doctors are a part of the divine Oneness of the Universe, but my cancer is a mistake that shouldn't be in this Oneness and that somehow slipped in nevertheless.

God is cells doing what we want them to do, and what we don't want them to do.