Category Archives: Just something …

… to think about.

Words I Love #8: Australia Edition


Having just watched a fortnight of Australian Grand Slam tennis, which is two weeks in case you didn’t know this odd word far more popular in England and Australia than here in the U.S., I am reminiscing about our half-year spent Down Under.   Because this was a driving trip, I sat with a map in my lap for months when I wasn’t driving myself, and the names of the towns just had such an interesting ring to them.

From my journal from August 17, 2002:

I’ll tell you straight, on top of the dreaded north/south/ east/west situation, reading a road map in Australia is linguistic aerobics.  When I attempt to announce where we are heading, it’s as if I’m five again, sounding out my letters one syllable at a time.

Oh sure, see how you’d do.

Murwillumbah is north of Mullumbimby.  Of course, you have to pass through Woolgoolga and Yuraygir National Park first.  National Parks are particularly treacherous, as you next pass Bundjalung National Park.  Because I’ve spent lots of time looking at the whole map of Australia, I know that down near Perth (ok, that’s easy) is Gnowangerup, quite near Jerramungup and Moulyinning.  While you taste wines near Margaret River (aah, the simplicity), you can attempt Cowaramup or Yallingup.  I’m pretty sure they threw in nearby Nannup to be kind to the severely inebriated.  Biddaddaba isn’t anywhere close to Nannup, but I like how that one sounds – or at least how I think it sounds.

There’s Indooroopilly, Queensland and Koombooloomba, Queensland.  Lest you think Queensland has a corner on the ridiculous name market, check out Iiykuwaratja, South Australia and Koorarawalyee, Western Australia.

If Australians like a town name well enough, they’ll use it twice for emphasis.   Wagga Wagga.  Willi Willi.  Grong Grong.  Ki Ki.  Curl Curl.  Boonoo Boonoo.  Gol Gol.  Jil Jil.  There’s the sexy sounding Milla Milla.  The tasty Kurri Kurri.  And the slightly raunchy Booti Booti National Park.

Imagine the embarrassment of trying to do serious work in Humpty Doo, Salmon Gums, Gympie or Dee Why.  Then again, other towns sound positively lovely.  To wit: Violet Town, Upper Plenty, Mount Pleasant or Daydream Island.  I’m pretty sure I’d pass on buying a home in Denial Bay or Weary Bay, and I wonder about the housing prices on Rottnest Island.  Snobs Creek must be a barrel of laughs.  There are dolphins in Monkey Mia, so I’m a little confused there.  And apparently Dead Horse Gap was particularly hard on horses.

I have a soft spot for the straightforward and highly pronounceable Big Green Island.



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I’m Coming Out

Do you know what it feels like to come out?

I certainly don’t, but I’m trying.

Now, please, my sexuality is firmly fixed in the heter-oh category, but I’m speaking more metaphorically.  I’m not sure why this is so hard for me, but I struggle with embracing the fact that the things I care about matter.  And that expressing my point of view is valid, and shouldn’t mean I need to apologize.  Or be embarrassed.  Or worry that I am coming off as pushy.

There are so many facets to every matter, and we all have the power to stand squarely on our own convictions, just as long as we do it nicely.  With grace. Dignity.   I’d like to reiterate that point to the two rather militant ladies who set up shop across from my local market with signs of President Obama donning a Hitler mustache.  I told them that I would have been interested in learning of their point of view, except that the little hair patch they superimposed upon our Commander in Chief was offensive.  She wagged her finger at me and told me something about thermonuclear war and Russia and Israel, and that “I should be ashamed of myself” for not snuggling right up next to her and denouncing Obama, as he clearly is just like Hitler.

I wonder how successful she was pulling people to her side with that tactic.

Unlike this woman, I come from a mother who never wants to be a bother.  It’s a noble trait.  And her maternal point-of-view runs deep within me.  Although I sigh when I see her don the “I don’t want to be a bother” cloak, I do it myself.  My work now as a champion of talking to kids about a parent’s cancer means, by the very nature of the conversation, that I have to embrace my point of view and repeat it to others.

By the transitive property, that means championing myself.

So many of us are trying to sell ourselves, or our wares, or our thoughts every single day.  We struggle with, as my friend Karen so aptly described it, “the little voice” inside us that doubts ourselves, when we should be thinking of “the big voice” that carries the greater, more inspiring message we embody.

So here’s to believing in oneself.  Hip hip!  To not apologizing for our delightful points of view.  Hurray!  Because, as I tell my son all the time, if we all had the same point of view, then the world would be a very boring place indeed.


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Where Oh Where

“Everything is somewhere,” says my mom.

Except when it’s not.

Imagine my delight, then, when I could not find the fancy schmantzy electronic key fob for our car.  Conveniently, the car was locked in the driveway.  Clearly I had locked the car, and somewhere between the driveway and inside my house, the key had vanished into thin air.


It was not in the obvious places, which I searched first.  Kitchen counter.  Dining room table.  Desk.  Purse.  Pockets.  Junk drawer. Under the car.  Not in the last place where a key had gone hiding; fallen behind the drawers in the kitchen.  Not in the couch cushions or under the chairs.  Not in the yard, mistakenly tossed into the compost pile, or dropped along the path.  Having exhausted all the obvious places, I turned to where it shouldn’t be.   In the refrigerator.  The silverware drawer.  The dog food bag.  I even checked in between my undies.


I sat quietly on Hans’ bed and beseeched Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost causes, to point me in the right direction.  I retraced my steps and looked in places I had already looked, for close to 2 hours, actually.  Because, for Peet’s sake, my rational mind told me it HAD to be in the house somewhere.  But yet it wasn’t, and so I called the towing company to take the locked car to the dealership, where a new electronic key would be programmed for some obscene amount of money.

Scene change.  Next day finds me packing a change of clothes for Hans for after his championship soccer game.  Into an empty (I know because I looked) white canvas bag that I pulled out of a storage basket and unfolded, I placed one pair of clean jeans I had taken from Hans’ dresser, laid a belt for said jeans on top, then a long-sleeved t-shirt from his dresser, and topped it off with a fleece that I took off a hanger in his closet.

I ended up wearing the fleece, and the rest of the clothes stayed in the bag until I unpacked them the next morning.

As I pulled out the long-sleeve t-shirt, what did I find, but the key fob lying there between the belt and the pants.  As if that was a perfect logical place for it to be.

Except that it wasn’t.

I’ll just have to live with that fact, and wonder aloud who exactly moved it there when I was busy looking.

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Squeezing Life

Liz from Mill Valley Life asked me to define what I meant by “squeeze life.”

I put it in my video, for heaven’s sake, as the essence of my life.  So I talked about saying yes to opportunities that might make your innards squirm.   To approach life with a bit of bold enthusiasm.  Add a little “yee ha” to your battle cry.

That’s all fine and good, but there are other ways to squeeze life that don’t require a gut check or loud outburst.

Take the fellow in the sedan this afternoon.  He was approaching me on a road that is not quite wide enough for two cars.  I hugged the edge and stopped my car to allow him to pass.  And when he passed, he flicked his lights, two times.

Flash.  Flash.  As if his car was acting all flirty.

This put me in a very good mood.  (Granted, it doesn’t take much.)  I mean, with those two zips of non-verbal light, he told me that he was thankful.  We connected.  And you know what, I couldn’t wait to do the same thing to someone else.  Like I was looking for a way to pass it on.

So let’s hear it for letting someone go first.  And then letting them know you appreciate it.  Let’s try out a friendly wave, a high beam shout out, or just the common ordinary big ‘ol smile.   It’s just being neighborly, really.

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The Jagged Path

                                     At 30,000 feet, coming home from St. Louis

You’ve heard the phrase:  going from Point A to Point B.   For humans, the path of choice is always a straight line.  It’s the quickest, after all.  The most efficient.  It expends the least energy, and allows you to move on to the “next thing” on your list.

Right.  The excruciating reality of life is that the straight line between Point A and Point B only happens in geometry homework and highways in Nevada and the Nullarbor Plain in Australia (one stretch of road has no curves for 87 miles).   And so the desire of doing something quickly and effectively is clobbered by the cold hard fact that life doesn’t work that way.

I mean this literally.  The act of life, whether it is manifested in a tree or a river, does not do straight lines.  Life is organic.  It meanders.

I heard a woman the other day say something that really stood out to me.  She said that we can’t force our business into a mold.  Because the marketplace will know we are trying on someone else’s clothes.  That we need to find our own voice, and make our own way in an organic fashion.   True success, she repeated, is organic.

Writing this post is another step in fully believing and processing this fact.  It comes on the heels of having a conversation with the man responsible for starting Camp Okizu, Dr. Mike Amylon.  He is a family friend, and I’ve had many conversations with him over the course of 20 years.  Mike, with the prestige of his position at Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford as a pediatric hem/onc, wanted to start a summer camp for families who were dealing with childhood cancer.  Maybe the child with cancer.  Maybe the sibling.  Maybe the whole family.

What he thought would be an easy sell to the oncology community turned out to be harder than he could ever imagine.  You see, many offices didn’t want to even have Okizu brochures in their waiting rooms, because then they would have to talk to patients about the tricky and poignant issues that arise from a cancer diagnosis in the family.   And precious few oncologists knew what to say on this topic at the time.

His idea, bubbling up organically from the work he did, was new.  He was forging his own path.  And he, like every other entrepreneur with an idea, had to hack his way through the deep brush to get there.

Today, 30 years later, Okizu stands ready to welcome yet another summer filled with humans trying to wend their way from Point A to Point B and have some fun while doing it.

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C4YW Final Thoughts

This blog appeared on the Living Beyond Breast Cancer site today.


As with most things, the anxiety around something new never quite plays out and the unexpected benefits delight.  Such was my experience at C4YW this year in Orlando.  Unequivocally, it was a great conference for me to attend.


These young women were brave.  Honest.  Open.   Grateful.  Healing.  I met women smack in the middle of treatment, who had climbed aboard a plane to come to Orlando, because this conference was that important to them.  They wanted to be surrounded by other young women who understood, and learn about issues that affect them specifically.

They let me into their lives, these women, sharing their stories, the names of their children (sometimes with halting voices and tears), and their worries.  As someone just starting out selling my book, this was as real as it gets.

I was able to press 45 books into the hands of women with children at home, nurses who treat those women, and representatives of cancer support groups and national (and international) organizations who make it their business and passion to help these women.

Being an exhibitor on your own is a vigorous experience. For a total of 19 hours over 3 days, I stood up and talked to those who came by and expressed interest in my book. Gravity takes hold, and my toes, after being embraced by stylish yet slightly unforgiving footwear, swelled like ballpark franks. The second morning, instead of manning my table at an unforgivable 7:30 am until 6 pm (that’s 4:30 am for us west coast bodies!), I opted instead to get some fresh air and a run outside and slide in at 9 am.

I had hoped to go see a few of the speakers. But I learned that an exhibitor is not necessarily a participant, unless you sign up to be a participant.  Now I know.   And second, the exhibit hall, open during almost all the hours of the conference, never really quieted down.  When most participants were in sessions, there were always a few others wandering in there, and that was also the best time to talk with other exhibitors.  As business is about making contacts, this was a priceless opportunity to either meet face-to-face some of the people I’ve been emailing or talking to on the phone, or introduce myself to new organizations.  When things got slow, I introduced myself, handed over a book, and encouraged them to read my work at their leisure.

I was struck by how many of us there on the exhibit side had a cancer diagnosis behind us.  To wit:  Josh at Lymphedivas, whose sister started the company because she couldn’t stand the ugly compression sleeves offered to her.  Danielle and Angelle started Chemo Beanies because these two sisters couldn’t find something stylish and comfortable to wear when they lost their hair. Susan from the BeauBeau started a company to offer fashionable turbans to women with medical hair loss.  Although she came from  a family of women diagnosed with breast cancer, a diagnosis of Alopecia Areata motivated her. Countless non-profit organizations have been started to offer support and advice, from KC at Families Who Support Breast Cancer Survivors to Sarah at Project3One to a metastatic disease group represented by a mom and her young daughter.  Next door to me  Susan mixed personal experience with love and tenderness as she fitted women with a very beautiful (and sexy) double-arm compression garment she found manufactured in Italy.  When I introduced myself to the three ladies at the Anita booth behind me, helping fit beautiful bras and swimsuits for women who have had a mastectomy surgery, I learned that Twila was a 19-year survivor, Merri was closing in on 10 years, and Colleen, diagnosed more recently, was 7 months out.

If any participant wanted to see “life after cancer” in full, glorious view, she had to look no further than the exhibit hall and at the other participants. It pains me that there are so many young women who need a breast cancer related conference, but  there is comfort in  knowing that by offering targeted programming in a supportive environment, people will gratefully gather to see that they are not alone.


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The Tipping Point

I am in a very interesting bitter/sweet position right now.  My work, this book that I’ve written, is, like a trickle of a river just being born, seeping away from Mill Valley.  There are some parched people out there.  People who wished they had it when.  People who know someone who needs it now.  People who are about to lose it all, and can’t imagine life on the other side.   They tell me their stories.  My very wise girlfriend tells me, “You’re allowing them to birth their grief.”

Yes.  Airing out our grief is part of what we need to do.  It’s as normal and healthy as filling our lungs with air to breathe.  But oh, why is it so hard sometimes?

I am struck by how I am at the nexus of all this emotion, and yet I am a person who doesn’t exactly emote.  And by that I don’t mean that I don’t feel, it’s just that I have a tight seal on that bubbling pot.  Before I went into therapy after I was diagnosed, the volcano would erupt every so often, and I’d be shocked at what came out.   Like who knew your throat could hurt so much with such a short yet vicious spitting of words?  Or how your whole body gets involved when anger comes out.  Sometimes, not every often at all, it was sadness and the relief from just letting it all go, and sobbing because that is exactly what every pore of your body longs to do.  To expel.  To empty.  To let it all down.

I’ve written, because I’ve been asked, of what piece of advice I’d give friends of someone who is diagnosed.  And I’ve cleverly said that even more than my book, the gift that every cancer patient (and in fact any human being in any situation good or bad) wants is for you to listen.  Just listen.

People, it is hard to listen sometimes.  It takes a certain amount of self control.  You have to not interject what you want to say, and instead just receive what that person has to give.  Sometimes it’s over in a minute.  Other times, it will take half the night.  Or 3 weeks.  Or a year.

I’ve had a number of pretty heavy conversations as of late, spanning topics and situations.  Because, that is life.  It’s sticky and messy and oh, oh, oh so confusing sometimes.  We all just want to live in peace, and that is true whether there is some foreign thing attacking us from the inside out, or a relationship that is just not firing on all cylinders like we wish it should, or a job that no matter how hard we try to make it work, it’s just not behaving.   Children.  Husbands.  Health.  Stuff.


I’d be lying if I said I am a good listener.  I am a doer.  I want to fix.  And although I just spent all those words saying that one really must just listen, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that sometimes I have this need to wade into the deep end with people.

Because if all you’re doing is being a sounding board, and you maybe have something to say that might change things (even the tinest bit), maybe that interaction or interjection could be the tipping point for change.  Because, you know, things do tip.  It may be something you read that offers a different perspective.  Or a comment from a friend that makes you ponder for a moment your position.  Or a stranger.  Maybe you’ve been teetering on a decision, and all you need is that featherlight tap to hurl you into an action that will change your life.

I just recently learned that the act of speaking raises our blood pressure from 10 to 50%.  The act of listening?  Lowers it.  So with our overall health in mind, both physical and mental, here’s to listening to each other.  What we fear.  What we hope for.  What we wish our life could be like.

Let’s listen anew.


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