Gosh, I was cute when I was young. We all were. Like goofy adorable little puppies.
Look at me in this pic. Quite the helmet head. Wow. Ha ha.
I look at this pic now, some thirty years later, and the first thing I notice is that I actually have eyebrows! And a firm jaw line with no crazy duo of jowly thingies, like I have now. And I have only one neck. Wow. I fogot that. But I do remember how self-conscious I used to be about my looks. Nothing ever seemed quite right or good enough.
It’s been the blink of an eye and here I am in my fifties. Now I’m sporting a 30-pound muffin top that I’m ready to name (Mary Francis) and start a Facebook page for, my eyebrows are merely wispy remnants, and my butt, which, back in the day, I didn’t want to be big, has now deflated like a birthday balloon two weeks after my birthday. Sheesh. It’s just cruel what time can do to an old gal’s body.
I’m working at improving myself though. On the inside, where there’s still hope. I’m trying to focus more on my inner beauty and worry less about my outer losses.
I look back . . . with some big fat regrets. Man, I wasted so much time just being all messed up. I spent a lifetime grieving for people and things that were gone. There were so many things I was going to do . . . and be.
We had it all. We were young. But time just didn’t carry the same significance as it does now.
Tic tock. Tic tock.
That sound you hear is NOT your biological clock. That is your life clock! And time’s a flying!
But you know what? It’s all relative.
You know how we look back to when we were twenty or thirty and see cute little puppies?
Well, there will come a day in the not-that-far-away future, when we’re in our seventies or eighties and we will look back on THIS time and say, “Wow. Look how gorgeous we were! We still had all our own teeth and hair! We could still dance, and walk unassisted, and drive!”
Don’t you see? Our fifties have become our new thirties!
This is it, folks. This is prime time. So let’s kick it up a notch. There is no red Easy Button and there are no do-overs. Let’s laugh as much as we can and create great memories everyday, so that when we are actually REALLY OLD, we can look back and say, “Weren’t our fifties just the best years ever?”
It’s all relative.
Tic tock. Tic tock.
I want to talk about BREAST CANCER.
I’m not going to blog a bunch of cancer statistics and information on research and treatment. Nope. You should know the important stuff and if you don’t, Google it.
What I will do is share my opinion.
And my opinion about breast cancer is this: LISTEN TO YOUR FLIGHT ATTENDANT!
Let me explain.
The key to surviving breast cancer is early detection and treatment. So we women have to do two things: Do breast self-examinations every month, and get a mammogram every year. Pretty simple, right?
Last year, I casually blew-off my mammogram; I just didn’t worry about it. I’m sure I was busy doing something important.
This year is different. I am motivated by the incredibly strong women in my life who have lost so much: her mom . . . her breasts . . . precious time.
Yesterday, I stopped being stupid and scheduled an appointment.
Today, I drive 15 minutes to the clinic and learn that I have not had a mammogram since 2006. Sheesh.
I lost two of my siblings that year, so I guess I’ve been in a time warp or something. Here I thought I missed one exam, when I have actually missed five. Things happened. I got busy. I got lost. I guess I got diverted.
My mammogram takes all of 15 minutes, involves a little discomfort, and 20 minutes later I am home again.
It is that easy.
So now, I want to know: Have you had your mammogram this year? Why not? It’s already October! What are you waiting for?
I know what you’re thinking, “I’ve been meaning to, I’m just so busy.”
And I get that. I know that you are crazy busy all the time. You have a job. You take care of the house. And the kids. And your partner. Even the dog counts on you. You take care of everything. Every single day. You think you’ll get around to taking care of you, but then . . . you don’t.
Now, think about the last time you were on an airplane. Do you remember when the flight attendant reviewed the emergency and safety procedures? What did she say about your oxygen mask?
She said, “In an emergency, you are to place your oxygen mask on yourself first, and then place one on your child.”
In short, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. It’s that simple.
So just do it. Right now. Make your appointment. Don’t let another day turn into another month. It is too important. You are too important.
This life of ours is a wonderful journey. And we love you and want you here for the entire beautiful flight. So ladies, please, stop with your excuses and put on your damn mask.
On Sunday, October 7, 2012, I attend a community walk called, “Out of the Darkness”, at Lake Erie Metro Park in Brownstown, Michigan.
“Proceeds from this event benefit the AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION (AFSP), the leading national not-for-profit organization dedicated exclusively to the understanding and prevention of suicide through research, education, and advocacy, and to reaching out to those suffering with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.”
Every 14.2 minutes, a person successfully takes their own life. And every minute of the day, a person attempts to take their own life. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. And it is the 3rd leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old.
This event is personal to me because in 1996, my sister, Chris, took her own life. She was 38 years old. I still struggle with this loss, and the grief and torment that accompany it. And due to my struggles with bipolar disorder, I have come dangerously close to losing myself (1 of every 5 people suffering with bipolar disorder takes their own life).
From left: My sister, Chris, and me, as children.
Intelligent and compassionate Gerri Asam Trager is the organizer of the “Out of the Darkness Community Walk” for the downriver area. She and her amazing band of beautiful volunteers are the primary reason for this event’s huge success.
Gerri Asam Trager, on right. (Photo taken from AFSP Downriver Out of the Darkness Walk, Facebook event page, by Bob Eccles).
It is a cloudy, chilly day, but attendance is high, as are the spirits of the organizers, volunteers, and walkers.
This beautiful woman, Jaqueline Worthey, a poetry reader, graces the stage by reading a special poem every year at this event.
We are blessed with the kind and compassionate, former Detroit Lion’s football player, Eric Hipple, who speaks to us straight from the heart.
After losing his own 15-year-old son in 2000 to suicide, Hipple now travels the country and gives speeches to High Schools, Youth Groups, the U.S. Military, and Corporations, on suicide prevention and Mental Illness. His book, “Real Men Do Cry”, published in 2009, discusses his playing career with the Lions and his experiences with depression, grief, and suicide prevention.
We are then introduced to the lovely and extremely talented, NEENUH. There are no words to describe her beautiful voice.
Connect with Neenuh on Facebook. She performs solo shows (vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica) around Downriver, MI. Search “Neenuh” on YouTube and you will find uploads of her videos.
And we are delighted by the amazing talent of Fiddler, Mick Gavin, who plays onstage AND along our walking path. Wonderful!
Gavin was born in Co. Clare, Ireland. Since the 1970’s, he has performed concerts with many traditional Irish performers in the Chicago and Detroit areas. Mick now teaches Irish fiddle throughout the Detroit metropolitan area. Three of his students took 2nd at the All-Ireland in Listowel, Co. Kerry in 2002.
The 3.5-mile walk begins on this gorgeous Autumn afternoon.
Even the canines walk the walk!
Afterwards, we are treated to hot food and refreshing beverages, and a safe place for good conversation. There is also a raffle which offers terrific prizes of food and services generously donated by some of our local restaurateurs and merchants.
We bond over our losses and experiences, but join together to celebrate life . . . and bring about change.
AND OUT OF THE DARKNESS . . .
. . . COMES HOPE.
For information or to make a donation, (donations for walks can be made thru 12/31/12 for this year), contact:
GERRI ASAM TRAGER, AFSP Board Member, AFSP Community Outreach Volunteer, Metro Detroit/Ann Arbor Chapter. Phone: 810-229-4266. The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org . Also see: www.outofthedarkness.org and survivoroutreachMI@gmail.
If you have lost someone you love to suicide: www.afsp.org/survivingsuicideloss
*IF YOU ARE IN SUICIDAL CRISIS, PLEASE CALL 800-273-TALK 8255)*
I don’t know a thing about art. All I know is how it makes me feel. But I haven’t let that stop me from exploring this aw-inspiring means of expression. No way. In the last few years I have been attending art shows and gallery receptions, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that art is always about so much more than art.
Regardless of the name of the exhibit, the theme of the show, or even the title of a painting, creative expression far exceeds any label we may attach to it.
Art is all about life.
And boy did I learn that this past week. I hardly know where to begin, so I’ll start at the start.
Meet Patricia Izzo, award-winning Fine Arts Photographer and painter.
Patricia’s a pretty heavy hitter in the art world. Her fine art photography has been featured in numerous national publications like American Photo Magazine, Home Décor, and Woman’s Day, just to name a few. And her images can be seen in the 2010 Harold and Kumar III movie. She’s had extensive exhibits throughout the Detroit Metropolitan area, the East Coast, and Traverse City Museums, and she published a fine art photography book called, “FRAGILE AWAKENINGS” in 2008. She’s a board member or is active in, just about anything that promotes the arts. She creates it, teaches it, promotes it, changes it, advances it, and shares it with children. And she is the artist-in-residence at River’s Edge Gallery, right here in Wyandotte, Michigan.
I see her as a compassionate woman, a creative genius, and a . . . well, a sort of spiritual guide.
I run into Patricia at the DOWNRIVER COUNCIL FOR THE ARTS (DCA), in Wyandotte, and she tells me about her involvement in an upcoming art show there, called, “ART HEALS”.
She mentions something about some art classes, some kids, and the Josephine Ford Cancer Center, and I eagerly agree to meet her there the following week.
I think I’m just going to watch a couple of art classes and, then at the end of the week, go to an art show. But Patricia is a little bit sneaky . . . she is going to take me on a life changing journey instead. I just don’t know it yet.
As I drive to meet her the following Tuesday, I am flooded in memories of my small encounter with cervical cancer over 20 years ago, my subsequent surgery and cure, and the fear that I still feel all these years later when going for a pap test. I think of my sister who passed away six years ago from lung cancer, of my friend who lost her breasts, and my other dear friend who lost her mom. I think of my childhood friend who is currently undergoing chemotherapy right here at this facility, and how I’ve never visited her during her treatment. Sheesh. How did I not think of all of this earlier? I blink back the tears and swallow hard to get the lump in my throat . . . down.
I arrive at my first visit to the Josephine Ford Cancer Center to observe the Children’s Support Group as they gather to make paintings for the upcoming art show.
My photographs are limited to the art and the creative process, so I hope you enjoy them! And hospital gowns are worn as smocks so the acrylic paints won’t stain clothes.
The room isn’t gloomy and dark with talk of pain or cancer. The kids lighten me and I am blown away by their incredible wisdom and insight, and their uncanny ability to remain silly and playful. I take their full impact head-on and heart-full.
Hands this small should never need to know the word cancer.
Below is a photo of each child’s artwork both in progress, and as displayed at the “ART HEALS” exhibition. I will let the art speak for itself.
Painting: “STRENGTH”, by artist Alex Rupp.
Painting: “FLOWER CHILD”, by artist Amanda Rupp.
Painting: “ME”, by artist Chad Donahue.
Painting: “PLAY”, by artist Evan McKeith.
Painting: “POSITIVE”, by artist Jadem McKeith.
Painting: “FIGHT CANCER”, by artist Jared Sturdz.
Painting: “GO TEAM CANCER”, by artist Marissa Lewandowski.
Painting: “REACH YOUR GOLE”, by artist Melissa Rupp.
Painting: “VICTORY”, by artist Rachel Sturdz.
The oldest artist in the class is 18 years old and wears this message on her t-shirt (front and back):
She also creates the “FLOWER CHILD” painting. I just adore this girl! I think we are soul sisters!
As the day draws to a close, Patricia casually invites me to a Women’s Art Therapy Class that is meeting on Thursday. Their art will also be displayed at Thursday night’s show. Of course, I am interested and once again, I agree to meet her at the Josephine Ford Cancer Center.
And once again, I am unprepared for the creativity of the artists, and the spirituality and power of very wise and humorous women. The short time I spend with them is enough to cause marvel at their uniqueness, and be affected by all .
I title this photograph, “Beautiful Warriors”. True strength does not have to be loud and hard; these women are kind, compassionate, and incredibly strong. “It is the rain that grows flowers, not the thunder.”
Artists, Left to right: Sue Spotts, Ruth Ann Brayman, Nancy Pitel (artist who subs as teacher), Patricia Izzo, Shirley McBroom, Brenda Kahn, (not pictured, Deborah Helton).
The artists and their work at the “ART HEALS” exhibition:
Painting: “PEARL EARRINGS”, by artist Sue Spotts. Sue has discovered her enormous talent only in recent years and is humble and casual about it. She says of my writing craft, “you’re just using a different brush”. I love that. A very gentle and humorous warrior.
Painting: “MEDITATION GARDEN”, by artist Ruth Ann Brayman. Ruth gives glory to God by hiding a cross in each of her beautifully detailed paintings. She has the most lovely eyes; painted like an early summer morning blue sky misted by a light fog. A sweet and loving warrior.
Painting: “CABIN IN THE MEADOW”, by artist Shirley McBroom. Shirley’s incredible artwork shows perception, depth, and a wonderful natural talent with shadows. She reluctantly agrees to this photo, although she is as lovely as her painting. A warm and gracious warrior.
Painting: “EXHALING HOPE”, by artist Brenda Kahn. Brenda hiked 8.5 miles around the mountainous trails shown in this painting. We talk briefly, but intimately, and I realize that I, too, am a cancer survivor. My eyes brim with tears. She welcomes me warmly and somehow, I feel honored to be included in such elegant company. A gentle and graceful warrior.
Painting: “KAYAK CALLING”, by artist Deborah Helton. Debbie is currently working on a painting of a cabin she has up north in the woods. We bond in agreement that it, “looks like a small piece of Heaven!” She herself is like a delicate, but strong flower that one might find growing in the shade of a beautifully wooded piece of paradise. A soft and kind warrior.
Completing the “ART HEALS” exhibition, are paintings created by the children of the SandCastles Children’s Grief Support Group.
And from the mouths of babes . . .
After visiting with the artists and with other admirers such as myself, I go home with my creative hungers satisfied and my heart full. I feel blessed and grateful.
On Friday morning I rise, tired, but still basking in the afterglow and glory of an incredible week and amazing people.
But my day begins early today.
Once again I walk into the Josephine Ford Cancer Center. My friend smiles and says, “Oh, Julia, you made it! It’s so good to see you!”
I swear she’s got the elegance of Grace Kelly.
Soon, we celebrate that her lab numbers are up and while she is getting her chemo, we spend the time in intimate chat and laughter. I treasure the moment and mark it as forever precious.
I look over at her and smile.
I have come full circle. What a journey.
A special thank you to Patricia Izzo, all the artists, the Downriver Council for the Arts, and the wonderful staff at the Josephine Ford Cancer Center, for welcoming me and graciously allowing me to share in your magic. You are all a treasured surprise and have deeply touched me. I hope that I have done you justice; I fear that I have not.
The words have yet to be created for those as wonderful as you.
As a youngster, I enjoyed the winter, but looked forward to the summer. Now that I’m older, summer is too hot and winter is too cold. Sheesh. Seems like an old gal just can’t catch a break.
This past week, Michigan’s heat wave has been one for the books. Ugh . . .
Towards the end of our first record-breaking day, with temps of 102 degrees, my electricity went out. Just like that. Done. Over. Nadda. Adios TV, adios lights, adios air conditioning.
Hello humidity . . . humility . . . heartache. Okay, maybe not heartache, but a lot of whining, for sure. Why does this always happen to me?
“Lord, you’ve mistaken me for Job! I’m Julia!”
After groping in the grey for a power bill with a phone number, talking to a computerized automated system for several minutes, and waiting through an unimaginable hold time, I was told that a power restoration time could not be estimated and that I was free to call back for an update. I was left pitifully powerless.
The heat had its affect on all of us.
Allie did this:
Baxter did this:
And I did this:
(I would’ve done THIS anyway!)
I tried reading by candlelight but the air got thicker and I started to panic, so I settled for a restless sleep.
During the night the power came on; the television blared, the floor fan whirred, and the air conditioner purred like a beautiful baby kitten.
I thanked God, (and DTE Energy), smiled, and went back to sleep.
In the morning, I awoke and realized something disturbing; I can’t survive without air conditioning! I’m a modern girl, a whimp, a lightweight! I admit it! I don’t have a tough bone in this calcium deficient, decrepit, old bod.
It got me to thinking: Who invented air conditioning?
So I Googled it and this is what I learned.
In 1902, only one year after graduating from Cornell University with an Engineering degree, a young Willis Haviland Carrier was challenged by a Brooklyn printing company to solve their temperature and humidity problems. Carrier carried us into a new era with the invention of the first reliable and stable air conditioning unit that addressed humidity control.
Other temperature-sensitive industries, like tobacco, breweries, bakeries, and food processing plants, were quick to prosper from the new invention.
In 1924, the first “human cooling”, (rather than industrial cooling), units were installed in the J.L. Hudson Store in Detroit, Michigan.
And in 1928, Carrier developed the “Weathermaker”; the first residential air conditioner. Yay!
So today, it is with enormous gratitude that I dedicate this week’s blog to my new hero, Willis Haviland Carrier, who is soley responsible for my spoiled and luxurious 21st century survival.
I raise a glass to you, Willis; your insight and ingenuity have allowed me to live healthy, happy, comfortably, and . . .
I hate shopping. It requires two things guaranteed to make me crabby: trying on clothes and looking in a full-length mirror. Both are pure torture. Ugh!
No longer able to deny the addition of my 25 lb muffin top or my upcoming 35th high school class reunion, I walk into the fashion outlet feeling fat and disproportionate, and packing, amongst other things, a very large attitude.
I seek camouflage in the form of a light, casual summer dress, and bring an armful of options into the ridiculously small, stuffy fitting room.
I disrobe and look in the mirror. And . . . gasp.
“Just breathe.” I whimper to the skinny girl within, as I stick my tongue out at the sweating, menopausal woman reflecting back at me.
“I swear something’s wrong with this mirror” I groan and hear a snicker from somewhere off in the distance.
I put the first dress on backwards. I struggle to pull it off my clammy self and in the midst of the struggle I get a muscle cramp . . . in – my – RIBCAGE! I have to bend over and just stand that way for a minute until it passes. Really? Are you kidding me?
The piped-in music starts playing some loud and unkind blend of rock and rap and it feels like someone’s poking me in the eardrums with a stick. Good grief, I’m getting old.
I try on several more dresses to no avail and the incredibly small airless room begins to close in.
“Just breathe.” I chant.
I put on one dress that is so ill-fitting that it gets stuck somewhere between mid-muffin top and my monstrous mug and requires a concentrated effort to get off without damaging the dress or dislocating an arm.
An hour later, I emerge from the fitting room wringing wet and exhausted.
I nod at the attendant who looks at me questionably as she counts my damp, wrinkled rejected dresses and takes the plastic, blue, number-of-items ticket from my sweaty hand.
Although I am emotionally, physically, and financially spent, I leave the store triumphant, because I have somehow discovered the proverbial needle in a haystack; a cute new dress that will serve my needs well. It’s colorful and casual camouflage!
Shoes and accessories?
That’s for another day! It should be shopping that’s easier on my ego though. I don’t know . . . do feet gain weight?
Sheesh, do I need bigger shoes?!
Today I have a bit of a ‘tude
I have a chip on my shoulder
okay, it’s more like a boulder
I’m in a menopausal state of mood.
I think my mirror is playing a hoax
I’m seeing nods from some of you folks
gravity has come
and stolen my bum
sadly my treadmill was in on the joke.
You must be thinking I’m some kind of clown
see my sweat as it pools on the ground?
I’m all dressed for summer
need snow…..what a bummer
I really need powering down!
There’s a new battle commencing in bed
the front lines between hormones and head
I toss and I turn
I freeze and I burn
my mattress a warzone instead.
it’s been my comfort, my lover, my friend
but until that day comes
I’ll work on my bum
and pray chubby becomes the new trend!
You men don’t understand weight
we ladies have saved you that fate
when hair falls from your head
and grows from your nostrils instead
we shrug and we tell you you’re great.
We all know you are visual boys
but this I find quick to annoy
your weighty comments bring tears
please pluck the hair from your ears
chug a Bud and go play with your toys.
So excuse me if I have a ’tude
but the temperature’s now ninety-two
just show that you care
and don’t mess with my air
I’m in a menopausal state of mood!