How many calories does hating spin class burn?

How many calories does hating spin class burn?

These are thoughts I have while pedaling pedaling pedaling nowhere. When I’m not at the gym, I am unfailingly nice. I’m a benefit-of-the-doubt, go-ahead-of-me-in-line, let-me-hold-that-for-you kind of gal. But at the gym, my interior dialogue spews from a judge-y, pack-a-day smoker.

“WE COULD ALL JUST STOP AND GO HOME!” I scream/think at all of the already skinny people.

But recently, after sprinting upstairs to fetch a forgotten phone, I clutched my chest in gasping exhaustion and thought maybe I need more than the occasional cardio of reacting to spiders in the car. So I went back to the gym for a barre class.

I used to love the barre class with its slow movements and focus on stretchy leg stuff and balancing. I had forgotten that it’s essentially an hour-long squat, and I spent most of the time tamping down the bile that threatened to hurl out of my shaky legged body.

“AM I THE ONLY ONE ABOUT TO THROW UP?” I scream/think at all of the already toned women.

The next morning, I headed back to the gym for more torture disguised as healthy activity and signed up for cycling to music. Since I could control the resistance on the bike, I could control how terrible it would be, right? I entered the room, adjusted all of the settings, and started pedaling. Slowly. The fit little instructor suggested we “set an intention” for class which, for me, is always the same:

“…don’t throw up, don’t throw up, don’t throw up…”

The tempo of the music got faster. Apparently, one is supposed to keep up with it. I’m sure the songs varied over the 45 minutes of dyspnea, but all of it felt like pedaling breathlessly and pointlessly to Cotton Eyed Joe. At minute 32, The Who entered the playlist and the effect of nervous, might-puke adrenaline coupled to a classic rock soundtrack gave it the panicky date-rapey vibe of a kegger. Somehow, my cycle-mates were still “getting out of the saddle” and pretending to pedal up invisible hills fueled by their great attitudes and second winds and other whoo-hoo-ness I’ll never, ever know.

The biggest insult of the gym is tackling the giant staircase that descends to the nirvana of the exit door. Clutching the railing with two hands as my unsure, wobbly legs navigate 37 steps to freedom, I remember that I’m paying oodles of dollars for the humiliation of it all. So tomorrow, I’ll swim laps.

See you at the gym, friends. I’m the one scream/thinking the hardest.

The only turns on my resistance knob are fake ones...

How many calories does fake-turning the resistance knob burn?

Superheroes

Anyone rather personally touched by Cancer is forever changed. It’s left me scarred, occasionally scared, frequently sanctimonious, and quite blabby. Everyone approaches it differently. More elegant victims suffer it without blogs or incessant status updating. Me, I’m share-y. But every cancered parent I have met has at some moment uttered this mantra (prayer?) of thanksgiving: if Cancer must happen, then let it be me. No matter how terrifying those early moments during diagnosis, at least this was mine to bear. The children were safe.

But for thousands of parents each year, cancer isn’t theirs to endure, but instead—impossibly– to witness in the suffering of their children. Christopher’s Haven exists for them.

You might have followed a famous sports bet between adorable celebrities who promised to dress up as their superhero alter egos to benefit sick kids in the losing team’s town. But when the Patriots won, so did everyone; and Star-Lord and Captain America made appearances that did quite a bit more than lift the spirits of children with cancer. They brought attention to organizations like the Christopher’s Haven, blowing up their website in mere minutes with donations. These are things superheroes do.

Yesterday, a lovely lunch was held rather quietly in the lower level of the Loews Hotel. Co-hosted by elegant Sue Farrell and eloquent Diana Knightly, and emceed by the charming and even-prettier-up-close Shonda Shilling, this gathering honored Chris Pratt for his social media endorsement and real life contribution to Christopher’s Haven. There was an enchanting pediatric fashion show featuring current residents and alums of the Haven alongside local kids and a handful of adorable toddlers with famous last names from Fenway. And then… and then… a parent.

I’m not sure how you can speak to strangers about your little boy and his devastating brain tumor without sobbing or reverting to stock cancer tropes or feigned optimism. But this is exactly what one mom did: she stood in front of a room full of well dressed ladies and famous ball players and do-gooding Bostonians and told the truth. Daily life seemed impossible in the face of cancer treatment for their son. How would they commute two hours to the only hospital offering the only hope? Would it be possible to afford two homes or maintain some sort of family routine for the care of their other children? Adrift, terrified, and googling, this mom found Christopher’s Haven.

Within minutes this family had options. Even more, they felt immediately like they had a support network of other parents and children who could minister to their fears and hopes, share their tears and prayers, engage in actual fun, and create those forever kind of friendships. For only $30 a day, Christopher’s Haven provided them a home away from home and an opportunity for their son to have the kind of treatment that offers cautious optimism, but aims for a cure.

Cancer is around every corner for me lately. Two close friends with new diagnoses of invasive cancer and another who learned hers is metastatic disease followed the still very fresh loss of Lisa Bonchek Adams. The quiet in the wake of Lisa’s death is a daily reminder to many of us that it’s never really over. I cry whenever I learn someone must endure the drastic-surgery-and-go-bald kind of treatment. The scientist in me knows this is an impersonal effect of cells gone rogue, but the Churchy Jesus Girl falls to her knees to pray for miracles. Yesterday, the angry skeptic appeared and wanted someone to make sense of a world where children die because we cannot reliably control tumor growth.

The ultimate salve for these emotions is love. There was great love in that room of lunching benefactors yesterday. With a bit of time and money, places like Christopher’s Haven combat sadness with comfort, replace loneliness with friendship, and attack fear with community.

There is also great love surrounding my friends who in upcoming weeks will face a blur of appointments, mutilating surgeries, and terrifying, 3am googling of side effects and survival rates. For them, there may that tiny bit of relief that this is theirs to bear. But while they endure the Let It Be Me, the rest of us will rally to be their superheroes.

In the meantime, everyone in the Cancer world will appreciate these. If you don’t know what to say to your newly diagnosed friend, well, this gal will say it for you. And if you wanted to join in and help families who are enduring the worst cancers—those affecting their children—then please click on over here and be Captain America fabulous.

Love and prayers, friends.

LEMONS

Flying

Some version of this happens whenever we travel…

She hurled her carry-on into the overhead, plopped down in the aisle seat, and made an announcement:

“I should warn you. I smell like vodka.” Leaning even closer, “I had two martinis. I’m scared of flying.”

Turning her boozy breath from my face, she waved across the aisle at her similarly schnockered sister sitting in the opposing window seat.

“That’s my sister. Hey, hey… hey,” she poked her aisle-mate, “That’s my sister. Could we trade seats?”

The aisle-mate, who was not a poke-able sort of fellow, insisted everyone keep her assigned seats until take off. The flight attendant agreed. Boozy Lady did not.

“They’re all so mean,” she stage-whispered. “SO MEAN. Oh my God, I’m bleeding. Why am I bleeding?”

Boozy Lady’s inexpert bag stowing had taken a small chunk out of her pinkie finger. The anticoagulant effect of cocktail hour plus her inability to locate the source of her wound was a messy combination. I pulled out my purse, located a Band-Aid and offered to wrap up the offending digit.

“You must be a mom. Who has Band-Aids? You’re a mom!”

“Yup.”

Bernie slid the window shade down and feigned sleep a little harder. But flight-averse Boozy Lady wanted it open.

“Hey,” she poked her aisle mate again, “Can I move over next to my sister so I can see out her window?”

“Ma’am, we’re pushing back. No one is moving right now.”

Boozy Lady elbowed me conspiratorially and lamented loudly that she couldn’t see out of the window. With one eye open, Bernie slid the panel up again.

“He hates me now, right?” her vodka-infused whispers continued.

“No, it’s fine,” I answered with rather dramatic not-looking-up-from-my-book body language.

“Hey. Um… do you know him?” she nudged. “Because he’s eating your pretzels.”

MARTINI

Three things…

Ethan advanced the idea that there are three things you don’t like that everyone else adores. I love this topic. I also love the willy-nillyness of social media that can lead me to a boy like Ethan– and in particular, Ethan’s dog, on whom I’ve developed a sincere, passionate crush.

DOG1

I don’t even like animals (there’s my first of three). But who’s a good boy? Who? Who? Yes, yes he is.

Well, not that I don’t like animals. It’s just that cats make me sneezy and I’ll never be a poopbag-carrying sort of girl. The Lee Family pet history is limited to two horrible mini frogs. One tormented and starved the other, and after his acrylic cube companion died, the murderous amphibian was released into the pond. We assured the kids that an unheated backyard water feature was an ideal new home for our lonely African jumper, and that the fish probably didn’t eat him, you know, right away. Though Brodie fantasizes adorably about Dog ownership, I already have two smallish boys with poor aim. I’m immune to all pleas. But not your adorable dog snaps. I mean, seriously. THIS DOG.

Try not to love Charlie.

Try not to love Charlie. Go ahead. Try.

Just this week, Lisa asked me to suggest some fluffy-robe resort destination for her and her lucky husband. This reminded me of my second I-hate, you-love topic: massage. I was flattered that Lisa thinks I’d enjoy a spa day. Maybe my frequent lauding of expensive shoes and brazen champagne addiction does paint the picture of a gal who knows a bit about hot stones and sea salty wraps. But I don’t.

During Zealot Sister’s Wedding Week, my mother gifted me with an hour of massage at the super fancy Victorian Ladies Day Spa. At the time, I was a young, broke graduate student, living in a rodent-frequenting apartment with my excessive revolving credit. A massage? Awesome.

But it wasn’t. No one asked me if I was a massage virgin, and so I faked massage bravado, and climbed naked under sheets nervously awaiting what others had only described with excited, moaning pleasure. But is it supposed to be, like, this chilly? I wondered and waited. Naked. At the Victorian Ladies Day Spa. Finally, my therapist arrived: harried, apologetic, and about 42 weeks pregnant. “Oh my God, it’s so HOT in here!” she gasped along with lots of information about the shenanigans of her furnace fetus. Unwilling to contribute to her preeclampsia, I didn’t mention that I was freezing. She apologized when her hot hands practically sizzled on my frozen feet, but we didn’t call it quits until I started actually shivering.

“I think I’ll just get dressed.”

More apologies and blah blah blah, but no mention of how to remedy my hypothermic, oiled state. So, I pulled clothes over my sticky body and went to find mom, who was perplexed that I hadn’t showered. But NO ONE TOLD ME WHAT TO DO, and so I happily avoided this expensive luxury for the next decade because I hate hate hate being cold and feeling stupidly sticky.

Though Bernie and I often forget our own anniversary, we still totally dig each other and at Year Five escaped small children for a weekend B&B getaway in one of those cute New England towns boasting presidential compounds and spas with couples massages in sweltering conditions. Five years of marriage and hundreds of hours of neck-straining microsurgery were certainly deserving of a dueling oohs and ahhs under boiling wraps in a steamy room! I buried all memories of my polar rubdown and booked a hot room for two. Sadly, a rare plastic surgery emergency called Bernie back to town for most of our weekend getaway. I swapped the couples massage for a single, borrowed an old-timey bike from our adorable B&B, and pedaled over to the spa for my second shot at solo shiatsu.

Again, I approached this with confidence because you maniacs keep extolling its pleasures, only to find myself alone and naked in Maine with NO IDEA who is about to enter the room. Quick prayers for divine intercession that my masseuse wasn’t a dude were issued. Quick retrieval of undergarments just in case. Florid relief when a miniature blonde in yoga pants appears, assuring me I will be warm and comfy. I relax. And for three whole minutes I can stand to be under the freak pressure of her tiny fingers. A massage rube, I’m still quite certain it’s not supposed to, ouch, hurt. But it does. And like the middle-child people pleaser I am, I didn’t say a word… enduring a slow assault that left REAL BRUISES all over my thighs. My quaint ride-a-bike-to-a-massage plan was less charming on the way back to the B&B during which I winced with each incline.

I haven’t paid to be slathered with scented oils by a stranger since. I not so secretly think all of you are nuts at best, adulterous at least to enjoy this nonsense. But, that’s me.

Three is skiing. Yikes and brrr sums it up squarely. Though thousands of tweets and updates attest to a fanatic obsession with all sorts of things assumed to be loved by all, I’m sure all of us are baffled by a few. And maybe we’re sort of quiet about it. How ostracized the furtive few who have only lukewarm feelings about bacon or the Beatles?

Ethan’s confession was Boyhood, tagging it a “three hour menagerie of evolving facial hair.” I could fill a binder with complaints about beer, snorkeling, traveling, and Lena Dunham.

What are the popular obsessions you cannot abide? Before Ethan acquired his dog, I might have complained about over-Instagramming a pet. But I think we’ll all agree that there cannot be too many pictures of Charlie.

For Lisa…

Do you know? Do you feel this swell of hope, love, and sorrow? Is there time to tell you, again—so you hear us, this is so important—that you are our champion? None of us is a stranger because we know you. We Love You, Lisa. You remind us, every Monday, to be more responsible, less scared… smarter. You encourage us, every day, to find beauty, share it… persevere. You showed us the Stage IV monster under the bed and how to live with it. Never shying away, never tying it up with a pink ribbon, never excusing the ravaging rogue cells who take away too much, too soon, unfairly and cruelly. This is no gift. This is no blessing.

Does it help? Can knowing you have the awesome, angry, prayerful, solemn, witty, fierce, and unrelenting support of thousands be of service? Here’s what we can do. This is what we will do. In lieu of a thousand casseroles and get-well-soons, we will plant thousands of flowers. We will donate thousands of dollars to Sloan Kettering. We will make doctor appointments on Mondays and take our Christmas lights down promptly. We will make you proud.

Lisa Bonchek Adams, you educated a nation about metastatic breast cancer while simultaneously creating a supportive community that shares information and love, blooms and corgis. Your name is an emblem of fearless writing, intelligent advice, compassionate nagging, and Beauty. We are grateful, angry, sad, beholden, and helpless. If we can have no miracles, then we wish you peace and comfort.

We Love You, Lisa.

 

Talking about the weather…

Like thousands of other New England homeowners, I spent the day waiting for the roofers. I’m no genius, but this might be a problem.

ICE DAM

Or… this.

ICICLES

As soon as the mercury rises a scoach, we’ll need umbrellas to pass through the front door. And we’ll have to pass through the front door, because we’re snow prisoners at every other portal to the house. Instagram cannot really do justice to the historic enormity of it all because everything is just so very… white. Snow this deep has nothing peeking out for perspective. So, we use props—like our kids or the basketball hoop— to collect Kodak proof that it is really up to there.

BRODIE SNOWHOOP

The children are becoming stupider, public transportation is crippled, roofs are caving, decks are sagging, and forced family togetherness and nothing but white white white is making us a bit loony. It was snowing again this morning. We oscillate between fist shaking disbelief, muttered expletives, and giggles. Because, really? REALLY? We tentatively joke that the unrelenting snow has a bit of a Biblical feel to it… if the Bible stories took place, you know, in colder climes. But we’re shy to make these jokes, because maybe a little part of us thinks this might be supernatural karmic payback for all of that Super Bowl gloating.

Whatever this is, it’s beginning to feel like punishment.

Those of us who haven’t budgeted thousands of dollars for shoveling, roofing, and re-painting (not to mention ice melt and fender benders and snacks and wine) are wondering if our homeowner’s insurance will pony up or if our plans will deem The Winter of 2015 an Act of God. Another 4 to one hundred inches of snow is expected again between tomorrow and this weekend and our collective learned helplessness and StormWatch fatigue leave us nonplussed.

However, New England law dictates that I must don a sleeping bag-cum-jacket, race to the grocery for more crock pot necessities, and check the vents and alarms and drains before this new snow. And then once more for the next scheduled wintry mix promised for Valentine’s Day. If carbon monoxide and icicle daggers don’t get us, boredom might. We are absolutely desperate to talk about anything but the weather, but there is nothing to talk about except the weather, and if you’re not currently suffering through this weather, forgive us our snarky comments on your ice-dam-free posts. It’s raining INSIDE over here.

The only distraction is today’s insanely large Power Ball draw. Reporters could interview any number of locals about dream plans for impossible winnings, and I’d wager nearly all of them would include moving closer to the equator. After 72 inches of snow, even this Atlantis-escaping advocate of happy homebody-ness is willing to give the islands another go. Stir-craziness will cause most of us to stand in line at the convenience store to buy tickets for a 1:170 million opportunity of a warmer life. And while we’re in line, you’ll find us talking about… the weather.

This is the State of the Commonwealth, darling reader from afar. We’re dodging ice daggers, pairing all outfits with unflattering, puffy clothes, packing on the pounds, and using our best Emily Blunt voice to repeat, “I love my kids. I love my kids. I love my kids.” And really, we do. But after the 158th “… ugh, but there’s nothing to do” and neverending requests during a neverending day, cocktail hour now applies to school nights. Luckily, I’ve got my tickets to paradise right here.

POWERBALL

Here’s my 1:170 million chance to write future posts from St. Barths. Sadly, winning a half billion dollars is far more likely than the slimmest chance than we won’t need to shovel again, or need Marcello because it’s raining in the foyer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Mixtape for You, by Steve Safran

An early Valentine, and possibly my favorite bit of writing from Steve Safran… read, listen, rewind, repeat.

 

We’ve known each other a while now, dear readers, and I think the best way I can express my affection is through that most ancient of all rites: a mixtape. Cassette tapes are hard to find and somewhat impractical to distribute via the internet. Instead, I’ll link to 10 songs. However, you really should hear these over good speakers– in your car, house or through headphones. If you have Spotify, most are there. Otherwise, pony up and get them from iTunes. NOTE: I realize there are few things more boring than what someone else considers a “good” song. So I appreciate your sticking in here.

 

SIDE ONE

  1. “Knock on Wood” http://youtu.be/CVt3GWuGM9s (Otis Redding & Carla Thomas) While there won’t be thumpy dance floor music here, I dare you to hear this at a reception of some sort and not “Knock-knock-knock-knock-knock… on WOOD!” If nothing else, it will embarrass the kids.
  1. “The Lord Bless You And Keep You” http://youtu.be/NN7b-DZgGjs (Composed by John Rutter): TOTALLY caught you off guard there, didn’t I? You were expecting something else from the Atheist Jew, right? On the second song? The power of a good melody is transcendent. I sang this in high school choir. I was never again in a choir that sang anything nearly as good again. And we were going through puberty.
  1. “Landed” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vPygzPSg8M (Ben Folds): This is for everyone who has gone though a change in their lives. Nominally, it’s about a guy who needs to be picked up at an airport. Bigger picture: He made a big change, flew back across the country and is reaching out for help. You’ve been there.
  1. “One Day Like This” http://youtu.be/OUUASDWrBdc (Elbow): Magnificent and devoted ode to the power of a single morning– a moment really, where a man celebrates “the now.” “Throw those curtains wide/One day like this a year will see me right.” It was recorded with the BBC orchestra and chorus.  And oh, those lyrics. “Kiss me like a final meal.” “When my face is chamois-creased.” If I made you a one-song mixtape, “One Day Like This” would be it.
  1. “Big Sky” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaDUFC8nigM (Kate Bush) The only ‘80s track on this side. And we’re going out huge here. This is an album that contains the directions “PLAY LOUD” and if this song isn’t on your exercise tape, you’re missing valuable heart rate potential.

 

SIDE TWO

  1. “Nowhere to Run” http://youtu.be/ABbc-O_3_Ac (Martha and the Vandellas) We ended side two uptempo and loud, so there’s no need to adjust the volume just yet. Note: The “Vandellas” are named in honor of Della Reese. So, something for you “Touched by an Angel” fans.
  1. “My Ride’s Here”  http://youtu.be/NRkcBcyB7v4 (Warren Zevon): “I was staying in the Marriott/ With Jesus and John Wayne.” You can find better Zevon songs, but I love this one. Zevon, dying of cancer at this point, puts out a peppy song about those he might meet soon. When asked in an interview if he had any advice for the young people, Zevon answered “Enjoy every sandwich.”
  1. “Tempted” http://youtu.be/7PmtS_qMdXg(Squeeze): This is the perfect pop song. This is the A+ of pop. It’s High Honors. It’s the essay your friend wrote, and pisses you off a little because you didn’t think to write it first. It tells a story, has a great hook and my gosh, that Hammond organ at the top. I’m biased because I’ve seen Squeeze more often than any other band. However this is not my favorite track of theirs. It just belongs here, in this context.
  1. “Little Bit O’ Soul”  http://youtu.be/bMIydy3Tyuw (Music Explosion): Should I ever take over this or any other country, “Little Bit O’ Soul” will be our national anthem. Listen to it and picture a stadium groovin’ to it.
  1. “Moonlight Serenade” http://youtu.be/VHBX0813MXc (Glenn Miller Orchestra): Nothing comes after “Moonlight Serenade.” It’s the end of the evening in a smoky room as the janitor sweeps the floor through the haze. One last couple slow dances while a few drunks are passed out at the bar. The room lights have come back on. The bartender drags a dirty rag across the tables. It’s the last song you hear before heading home. I’ll say it again: Nothing comes after “Moonlight Serende.”

That’s the mixtape I made for you. Wear it out.

For those of us who used to own shoe boxes full of these... this remains a symbol of starry-eyed love.

For those of us who used to own shoe boxes full of these… this remains a symbol of starry-eyed love.

Escaping Atlantis…

When you say you don’t prefer the Bahamas to Boston, you’re the asshole. Especially in January. But Bernie and I recently returned early from the Caribbean—choosing to weather Historic Juno (and now Laudable Linus) from the coziness of home rather than getting stuck in “paradise” for a few extra days. We never take proper vacations, my happily housebound husband and me. Rather, we go to Conferences where he attends Lectures and Meetings while I sleep late, order lots of room service, nap poolside, drink too much, and repeat. Grandma travels to Boston to watch the boys, and we’re deliciously childless for three to seven days at least four times a year.

Of all of them, this January conference is my favorite get-away. Though most people think plastic surgeons are obsessed with enhanced cleavage and perfect noses and a Magically Erased visage, that stuff is just meh for the ones I know. Bernie and his colleagues are reconstructive plastic surgeons who can re-attach severed parts, transplant new faces, re-create breasts from jiggly bits, fashion fully functional phalluses, and perform other feats of microsurgical wonderment because they are able to sew teeny tiny vessels together using only their steady hands and a microscope. The January conference coaxes all of these superstars to one warm locale where I entertain myself picking their brains… and pickling mine with supersize mojitos.

Skating around the outskirts of the plastic surgery world as The Wife, and then–quite drastically—plunging cancer first into the deep end as The Patient, I have a deep appreciation for these gifted surgeons. And usually, I am thrilled to reconnect with them at finer resorts everywhere. But this year, some waterslide-loving planner decided this meeting needed a family-friendly venue, so all of us headed for the Vegas-of-the-Caribbean, Atlantis. And Bernie and I just couldn’t stop… giggling.

There was loud, piped-in music everywhere. Insidious jingles invaded every public space and at any moment we’re belting out “I Swear” (All-4-One!) or “I’m Not a Girl” (Britney!) because it’s impossible to ever forget lyrics to these ridiculous, top 40 gems from yesteryear, and enthusiastic sing-alongs to terrible music, well, them’s the rules.

There were goofy photo opportunities around every bend. And there were many bends: we logged thousands of steps between our room and the actual conference, passing through a shopping mall and entire casino to get there. Those better parents who used the conference as an opportunity for family togetherness found that the lazy river had a mean streak, that children could actually get stuck inside the waterslide, that all kid activities shut down at cocktail hour, and that incessantly piped music will drive three-and-unders into a glassy eyed coma or Benadryl-resistant fury, depending on your luck.

There was a rather impressive aquarium lolling beneath the noise. And any weather that doesn’t include a “feels like” caveat is a bit nice this time of year. But my dear friend April, my beacon of preparedness, my travel-tip guru, my have-flight-tracker-phone-app gal texted early in our trip that if we didn’t get back ahead of Juno, we would get stuck listening to “I Swear” until Groundhog Day. So, we packed up our gauzy clothes, spent umpteen WiFi hours acquiring seats on the last plane to Boston, and pulled into our driveway during the first blush of the blizzard, happily housebound again with our boys, Grandma, drinks without novelty containers, and… silence.

We’re enjoying a third snow day this morning. Linus has turned the backyard into a violently shaken snow globe. Nearing noon, we’re still in jammies. The house is warm and safe and incredibly quiet. Plans for the day include baking, movies, and couch snuggling, or maybe nothing at all. Preferring a snowstorm to paradise probably makes me a jerk, might even be unbelievable… but I do. I Swear.

There are too many things I love about this photo.

There are too many things I love about this photo.

 

Fresh Air and Mirth

Some people are so generous, so wonderfully share-y, so thrilled for you to join in on their fun, they hardly appreciate the magnitude of their gifts. I hope we all know one or two of these fabulous souls. Or maybe you’re one of them… and wondering what’s this all about? I mean, who wouldn’t be wonderfully share-y given the means and opportunity? That’s their mindset, these happy givers. Do you know them? When you thank them, hug them, attempt to return the favor, or even raise a glass in their honor, you’ll get an aw shucks shoulder shrug. And they mean it. This is a genuine aw shucks shoulder shrug. And then they totally want to return to the fun awesomeness you were having because your heartfelt thank yous are probably just delaying more fun awesomeness.

I spent the past two days in a picturesque mountain town with my happy giver friends who invited us to join them. My kids had never been on skis, and when you live up here, apparently your kid becomes some weirdo outcast if he’s never been on skis. For me, the idea of adhering thick knives to bent boots in order to plummet more gracefully down a cold mountain sounds like a ridiculous way to get injured or (gasp) delay cocktail hour… but my boys were up for the scary challenge. So we stuffed duffles with puffy clothes and joined our outdoorsy friends for a mini-break, pre-Christmas get-away.

The house belonged to their friends, also of the happy giver ilk. I mean, who does this? Sure, use our house while we aren’t there, bring friends, make sure to test the hot tub, light the fireplace, sample the wine cellar, enjoy enjoy enjoy? Who doesn’t worry that the house will be a messy wreck for Christmas or that kids that aren’t yours will lose the board game pieces? The happy givers don’t. My mother would rope off the living room and restrict certain bathroom usage for days prior to the arrival of guests: vacuum lines in the carpet and triangulated toilet paper arrangements were necessary indictors that our house was ready for an audience. The notion of permitting others free range enjoyment of your home mere moments before a major holiday is beyond the pale. It also betrays a belief that a house and its contents are just stuff, and people and fun and fellowship always trump stuff. And can’t we all, especially at this time of year, use this reminder?

Oh, did you want to read all about the skiing? Skiing types always do. The conditions, quality, weather, memorable “runs” and tricks, and oh-we-ran-into-the so-and-sos… there is nothing a skier enjoys more than to share his zeal for skiing. The wide-eyed euphoria that accompanies people who happily hurl themselves down mountains is quite similar to my exhaustive enjoyment of peonies and caladiums and dahlias. I’m equally passionate about pursuits on flatter, warmer grounds. But nearly everyone strapped to go-fasters (save a few over-bundled, overtired toddlers) was full of fresh air and mirth. Because teenagers exist, it’s possible that so does the occasional, grumpy skier. But it’s impossible to be anything but delighted around skiing types who are skiing. Fresh air and mirth. It’s contagious.

I still didn’t tell you about, you know, the skiing. Well, that’s because I don’t. In case this wasn’t made plain: I don’t ski. I was content to wander the lodge, mix hot chocolate into my coffee, and have an appropriate venue for the debut of my mohair legwarmers. But my boys? Champs. Two lessons and they were switch backing down the mountain with a cool ease that made my heart soar. Even though controlled mountain plummeting scares me all bejeezously, I do want my kids to try new things. Better still when they love the new thing and don’t suck at it. But the biggest gift of this mini-break get-away was the memories made in an idyllic setting surrounded by people we love, and hosted from afar by generous people who care more about celebrations than stuff.

And now the usually slothful Lees will greet this Christmas with grateful hearts, full of fresh air and mirth, inspired to be happy givers this season, too. Maybe we’ll even plan our own trip for controlled mountain plummeting… or something equally outdoorsy that allows for legwarmer accessories during and Proseccos afterwards.

Merry Christmas, friends!

Happy little skiers...

Happy little skiers…

Quinoa Shampoo

My shampoo lists quinoa as a vital ingredient. Quinoa. In the shampoo. Seriously. Add kale and goji berries to my daily lather and these curls would probably auto-twist into a protected enclave for honeybees. But my hair is awesome– all thick and that good sort of wavy and blonde (with assistance). I won’t demur with false modesty if you have the thoughtful notion to compliment me on my swingy locks. Ancient whole grains are not responsible for its fabulousness: this hair is still new(ish). Most of you have children and iPhones older than my ponytail. And because this mane is my badge of verve, spunk, and survival, I’m going to be as smugly proud of it as a Prius-driving, composting, “I Voted,” recycler.

A hair post on The Cancerversary is predictable for this gabby gal. Three years ago today, in April’s living room, I learned that my hair would be included, but would be the least of my losses. Breast cancer does not tolerate a reasonable, disease-free interval after which a celebratory remission is announced. And so the previously bald and anatomically reorganized veterans are left waiting, waiting, waiting. After the first year, I was just so happy and relieved to be finished with treatment. Year two found me grateful for everyone and everything and especially the ability to hold aloft a barrette. But year three? Hope feels jinxy, but the alternative is that every ache and pain is cause for worry and restless nights… or worse, biopsies and scans. So girls like me choose prayer and yield to the que sera sera quality of life colored by cancer.

Anniversaries are too powerful to be ignored. Unfortunately, this holiday season will always recall a scary time for me. Naturally, I approach this with the brand of humor only the cancered would find funny in a holiday enclosure:

“Another year… totally not dead! Merry Christmas from the Lees!”

Cancerversaries also make a sleepless night or two sort of inevitable and a drink or two sort of necessary. So I stumbled into a late night bloggy Internet discussion that I assumed was about kindness, but that was actually about race, and I was accused of microaggression (yikes) and white privilege (admittedly). As a white girl who shampoos with quinoa, I cannot imagine what I thought I could add to the discussion. And although distracting, this wasn’t the best antidote for my annual freak out. But I’m as tired of anger as I am of looming cancer. I want feel-good, Christmassy stories, people! Distract me with mirth!

It is an unfair luxury to be exasperated by angry people. No one is trying to kill my kids or treating them like criminals. I cannot know that anger. I believe we can all just assume the best of each other because no one has ever, ever assumed anything else of me. I won’t apologize for my bubble, but it is ridiculous and unkind to rest inside of it and demand that justified fury should be kept at a lower simmer using prettier words.

For someone who enjoys baser language, I am a sucker for the pretty words. I want everything tied up with a bow; I want examples in the universe where we act like One People, and proof that the world isn’t a shitstorm of racism, fear, and cancer. Even if it is. It’s Christmas, friends. Let’s share the good stories. Here’s mine. It’s short:

Year three. You were there in ways big and small, loud and quiet, prayerful and even angry. And it helped. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

My hair isn't just awesome, it's gluten free.

My hair isn’t just awesome, it’s gluten free.