http://www.breastcancersisterhood.com/_blog/Brenda's_Blog - 02/28/15 07:46:25 - 11/16/10 11:03:13
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
One of my favorite words is "beginning." For me, no words are more powerful than “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Perhaps that’s why the word “beginning” conveys such hope and strength. It’s been a year and a half since I wrote my last blog post, “Goodbye for Now,” so I’m excited to tell you about my new beginning. In my last post, I said that while I can’t write, exclusively, about cancer anymore, I’m interested in all aspects of women and their lives. More than anything, breast cancer has made me more of a women’s advocate; not just women with breast cancer, but all women, everywhere. I’ve spoken with thousands of women online, and in-person, and I realize there’s a giant disconnect between women over 40 and the way brands and advertisers address our needs and wants. Women over 40 are the best educated, most powerful demographic in history, and yet, in this youth-obsessed culture, we are the forgotten majority. Retailers and online shopping sites are geared toward 20 to 30 somethings, and brands we thought cared about us, have lowered their demographic to women in their 30s. Women over 40 haven’t left fashion. Fashion’s left us… Until now! I’m excited to announce1010ParkPlace, my new online shopping site for women looking for clothes and shopping inspiration. Regardless of whether you’re a size two, or a size 22, or you like Keds or Oscar de la Renta, everything is chosen with you in mind. There’s also straight-talk about everything from how our wardrobe and our lives continue to evolve, to interviews with fascinating women who share their guiltiest pleasures and most daring acts. In preparation for this post, I’ve reread some of my previous blogs, along with hundreds of your comments. The one thing that jumps out at me is the power of connection; the power of real conversation; the power of being heard and above all, the power of love. I haven’t been here in a while to tell you this, but thank you for giving me all of these precious things. I value and appreciate and love you in return. After breast cancer, and James’s death, 1010ParkPlace is a huge step in the evolution of my new beginning. So I can share it and reconnect with you, I’m moving BRENDA’S BLOG to my new site. This week, you’ll receive an email newsletter from 1010ParkPlace. You’re already subscribed, so just click on the newsletter and it will take you to my new world. Please follow me at 1010ParkPlace on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Can’t wait to see you there and to hear from you! What new beginnings do you have in your life?
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There are days when it feels as though maybe he’s clearing brush in the canyon, buying food for the deer, or he's just left a board meeting and will be home in a little while. I still think about the day he died, and what it must have been like for him. I wonder if he knew what was happening; if the dizziness he’d been experiencing gently transitioned him to the other side?
There are days when it feels as though maybe he’s clearing brush in the canyon, buying food for the deer, or he's just left a board meeting and will be home soon. I still think about the day he died, and what it must have been like for him. I wonder if he knew what was happening; if the dizziness he’d been experiencing gently transitioned him to the other side? While I will still be a breast cancer and womens’ health advocate, and keep up with each of you who’ve touched my heart, I’m now interested in all aspects of women and their lives. the difference between our needs and wants and how we see ourselves in the context of not just our towns and cities, but the world as a whole. I didn’t just lose James that day. I lost my entire family and everything I held dear. I lost my way of life. What I have in mind, I couldn’t do if James were here, but his love for me will go where ever I go. I dearly hope to hear from you as well. You can always reach me at email@example.com. Above all, please know how much you’ve brought into my life. Words cannot express my gratitude for all the things I've learned from you and the love and support you've given me. I love you dearly. Stay strong; believe in God; lift one another up; be open to miracles and possibilities and
Sunday, December 16, 2012The day after Christmas it will be two years since James died, and I’m still surprised he’s gone.There are days when it feels as though he’s clearing brush in the canyon, picking up food for the deer, or maybe he’s left a board meeting and will be home soon. I still think about the day he died, and what it must have been like for him. I wonder if he knew what was happening; if the dizziness he’d been experiencing gently transitioned him to the other side? I wonder if he hears me when I talk to him; when I tell him how much I love him and how blessed I was to have him in my life?I miss everything about James: the way he was quick to laugh; how he could read the clouds and forecast the weather and his passion for the land. Not just the land where we lived, but the curve of a neighbor’s tree and how it would be healthier and look better if it were trimmed, and how he’d love to be the one to trim it. I remember every detail of the first drive we took; how he pointed out plants like flaming sumac and doveweed; how perfectly and effortlessly he skipped flat stones across a river and how he pulled me toward him, but stopped just shy of kissing me, and oh, how I wanted him to kiss me. I miss the countless times he stood behind me under the night sky, his left arm wrapped around me, his right hand free to point out the North Star and the constellations. I miss how every day, without fail, he would tell me how much he loved me; how much he valued and appreciated me. God has put me in another state of grace, if you will, so that I’m not in as much pain as I was, but my heart will always ache for James. He’s my compass, my true north. I’m aware on many levels that he’s still with me, and I know I will see him, again. Since that first date, James has held the key to my heart, and he’s taken it with him. I still feel married and can’t imagine that will ever change, but I’m not ruling out the possibility there’s someone else out there... I can’t even finish that sentence, because I don’t know the words. What’s more, I may never be able to finish that sentence, and that’s ok. I do, however, have a yearning to try something new. The old Ramborella in me is alive and well, and she’s seeking something challenging. Remember the talk show I told you about? Well, it’s morphed into something far bigger; something that will use everything I’ve learned from all of my experiences and all of my teachers, which includes each one of you, dear friends. And if I’m to be honest, which you know I’m painfully transparent, I can’t write about cancer anymore. While I will still be a breast cancer and womens’ health advocate, and keep up with each of you who’ve touched my heart, I’m now interested in every aspect of women and their lives. I want to know what defines us and makes us grow; the difference in our needs and wants and how we see ourselves in the context of not just our towns and cities, but the world as a whole. I’m interested in women as role models, and how we’ve survived what life has put in our paths. I’m interested in whether we feel pressured to stay young, and if so, do we simply buy something trendy, or is our little voice whispering words like “facelift” and "laser peels?" At this stage of my life, I know what to expect if I keep on working at what I’ve been doing, and while I could be content with living in the middle of nowhere with my dogs, I must admit, what I have in mind is tantalizing. I didn’t just lose James that day. I lost my entire family and everything I held dear. I lost my way of life. What I have in mind I couldn’t do if James were here, but his love for me will go where ever I go. So for now, dear friends, I say goodbye, but you’ll be hearing from me, again. I dearly hope to hear from you as well. You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Above all, please know how much you’ve brought into my life. Words cannot express my gratitude for all the things I've learned from you and the love and support you've given me. I love you dearly. Stay strong, believe in God, lift one another up, be open to miracles and possibilities and know in your heart that you can do anything!
Sunday, November 25, 2012 We've all heard that laughter is the best medicine, so for those of you who are struggling with cancer or are simply in need of a smile, I hope you enjoy Booker and Verlene. :) Booker’s toupee was an exaggerated version of the pompadour Frankie Avalon wore in the 60’s film, Beach Blanket BingoSeveral sizes too small, Booker’s odd-looking hairpiece sat perched on his head like a renegade dust bunny curled-up for an afternoon nap. Booker’s idea of a good time was to rattle-off names of Texas Hill Country vegetation: “Bluestem, switchgrass, sideoatgrama, purpletop and drop seed.” Just when you thought he was finished, he’d let out a long sigh and continue with “scurf peas, lespedeza, prairie clover and Englemann daisies.” In his younger years, Booker had wanted to be a barber, but the only job he could get was barbering in a nearby asylum where manic depressives, old folks with broken hips and autistic children were warehoused in dormitories like rolls of cheap carpet.
When I first met Booker, he and his wife, Verlene, had just been appointed by the State of Texas as trustees for Golden’s Nursing Home. Booker and Verlene bought run-down nursing homes and brought them up to compliance after they’d been shut down for failure to conform with state laws. At first glance, there was nothing out of the ordinary about either of them; just two country folks dressed for their day in court. Verlene wore her distinctive water buffalo hair-do, parted down the middle and flipped up at the ends, and a pair of purple sequined earrings that shimmied back and forth like flashy Cocker Spaniel ears.<PREVIEWEND>“When we first met, his eyes were so blue, it almost made your teeth hurt,” Verlene told me. She smiled and folded her hands on top of the straw handbag in her lap and nodded toward Booker as his right hand quivered in the air, swearing to tell the truth, “So help me, God.” “He’s seen so much of the world,” she whispered in my ear. Her tiny body seemed to vibrate under her dress. “I sometimes wonder when the new wears off, what we’ll have to talk about.” “How long have you been married?” I asked. “Fifty years come July,” Verlene said.Like Booker, Verlene had an appreciation for all living things: for the way an old weathered stump curled around itself, as if it were holding onto all the character it had acquired over time; the way old women can hold their head just so until they can see in their reflection, the woman of long ago. I imagined Verlene saw that woman every day. Booker had taken his seat on the witness stand and had begun testifying about the poor conditions at Golden’s Nursing Home. I tried to focus on his words, but like Verlene, his body looked like it was pulsating under his clothes. His left shoulder jumped and twitched, then abruptly stopped as the buttons down the front of his shirt rippled one after the other. I glanced at Verlene in time to see her right breast dance and spring outward like a Jiffy Pop container on a hot burner, while long strands of hair magically emerged over the top of her pearl necklace. At the same time, a small brown foot had dropped out of the armhole of Booker’s shirt and was pedaling frantically in midair. “Your Honor!” The prosecuting attorney shot out of his seat. “Once again, Mr. Booker has disregarded my instructions!“As the prosecutor spoke, a tiny head peered over the zipper on the back of Verlene’s dress. I screamed, and the head disappeared. The judge glared at me and asked if everything was all right, but the prosecuting attorney ignored us both. “Your Honor, I called their lawyer and told him they couldn’t wear these things to court.”“Wear what things?” the judge asked. “Will somebody tell me what’s going on?”“Sugar gliders,” the prosecutor said. “The witness and his wife wear sugar gliders under their clothes.”By now I had seen several heads, tails and clawed feet poking out from Booker and Verlene’s clothing. The animals scurried back and forth beneath their garments like little boys fighting under a blanket. Booker stroked one of the lumps under his shirt. “Your Honor, the last time we testified in one of these nursing home cases, my wife left her sugar glider at home, and the cat ate it.” Still not grasping what was happening in his courtroom, the judge arched one eyebrow and bent forward to scrutinize Booker. “What, pray tell, is a sugar glider?” Booker reached in his shirt and pulled out a small brown creature, then handed it up for the judge to see. “Flying possums, your Honor. They live in Tasmania.” “That may be, Mr. Booker, but they do not live inmycourtroom!” Court was recessed while Booker and Verlene worked at stuffing the sugar gliders into Verlene’s straw bag. “Good thing I didn’t bring my python to court,” Booker said. “He has an eating disorder.”I hesitated to ask: “How do you know?” “Well, he only eats one mouse a month, so I tie the front feet of one mouse to the back feet of the one in front of it until I get about four or five mice on the string. Pythons can’t chew, so it has to keep swallowing until they’re all gone.” Booker nodded and grinned. “That way, I know he’s gotten enough to eat.” Heaven forbid we should have an anorexic snake. I watched as Booker and Verlene wrangled the last sugar glider into the bag. On second thought, maybe it wasn't the last one... Perhaps I should take a closer look at Booker’s toupee.Monday, November 19, 2012Yesterday I attended a memorial service for a friend who died; a loving, well-respected man who gave of himself to everyone he met. Everyday since his illness began, I’ve prayed for him and his family, and everyday, I’ve imagined what they were going through, knowing their time together was limited. On my way to his service, I imagined what his wife and his family were thinking and feeling because I was remembering how I felt the morning of James’s memorial service. It had been four days since James’s death, since I’d last seen him, and I pictured where he was, both his physical body, as well as his soul.I knew the essence and soul of my precious James was in the presence of God, and I prayed that all was well with his soul.These last few days I’ve said the same prayer for my friend who died, but like James, he, too, was a good and faithful servant, so I give thanks that he’s in the presence of God.The day of James’s memorial service, my emotions were eerily under control. Perhaps it was because I was numb, still in shock. As I stood in the receiving line, I felt like I was comforting those who waited patiently to pay their respects instead of the other way around. I was trying to make them feel better and tell them how much James loved and appreciated themBut yesterday, at my friend’s memorial service, I came undone. As I sat in the pew, I cried and sobbed and struggled to catch my breath and not draw attention to myself. I cried like I thought I would have at James’ memorial service, and a couple of times I felt light-headed and faint. It was sheer willpower, God’s power, that kept me upright. Today I’m so very sad for my girlfriend who lost her husband. I’m sorry for everything I know she still has to face. Her husband had a long illness, but then I know what that’s like as well. While James died unexpectedly, my first husband died after a long illness. I sometimes think long goodbyes give us time to realize that living with a debilitating illness is not a life we want for our loved one, or ourselves as their caregivers. As difficult and unimaginable as it may be, most of us eventually arrive at a place where we’re ready to let them go. Whether our loved one verbalizes it or not, I think many of them come to the same conclusion. This realization doesn’t make it any easier when their final day comes; when we watch them take their last breath. It doesn’t make the heartbreak and the finality of never seeing them, in this life, any easier. I’m grateful my friend has real family who cares about and loves her, and unlike James’s family, I’m certain hers will not break apart in the days to come. Then again, we never know how people will react after a loved one dies; what things they will tell themselves that allow them to redirect their heartbreak and anger. Perhaps, instead, we should consider the day when it's our turn to find ourselves in the presence of God. Like James and our friend who died, will you be able to look at Him and say, "It is well with my soul?"Sunday, October 28, 2012 ©Brenda Coffee. All rights reserved. (I originally posted this in March, 2010, but I feel the need for a little humor, so I'm running it again.) I sometimes wonder if I’m plagued with one of those trendy alphabet disorders like “OCD” or “ADD” that are favorite topics of morning talk shows. Or maybe the wiring in my brain temporarily short-circuits, causing the bimbo wires to mingle and override the common sense wires. Personally, I think it’s chemo brain, a result of my eight rounds of chemotherapy for breast cancer. Regardless of the underlying cause, foods packaged in neat cardboard boxes, like Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, seem to trigger a response that makes me assign them human characteristics.<PREVIEWEND>Most of us have personified an inanimate object by pointing out the “shapely legs” of a chair, or by calling an old pickup truck “a good old girl” or “a beauty,” but I have expanded the bounds of anthropomorphism one step further: I behave as though dried pasta has feelings. This typically happens when I open a box of macaroni and pour the contents into the pot. I imagine the stranded pieces of pasta glued to the bottom of the box are devastated at being left behind while their box mates go on to seek their destinies, tumbling and boiling together, soon to be a satisfying meal for hungry diners. I feel sorry for the macaroni left behind and find myself ripping open the box to free them, scraping away the remnants of glue and cardboard, then pushing them onto their boiling center stage. When this happens, I know my husband wonders if I have lost my mind, but I prefer to believe my reasoning abilities are creatively expanding their horizons: The macaroni have been together since they were first extruded from Kraft’s giant pasta machines, then spread onto conveyor belts to dry. I see the blue and yellow Kraft boxes, newly crimped and formed, jockeying for position, one after the other, their labels facing the same direction, ready to be filled with newly made macaroni. One by one, cheese packets are added, boxes are sealed, then packed into larger boxes for shipping. By the time the macaroni reach my stove, I imagine how disappointed these pasta orphans must be, stuck to the bottom and denied their birthright of being “the cheesiest.” Maybe I’ve watched too many dancing boxes of popcorn and singing colas while waiting for a movie to start, but I take comfort from the great architect, Louis Kahn, who said “a brick wants to be something more than a brick. It wants to be a great building.” Macaroni wants to be more than a dried glutinous mass. It wants to be a meal, amazing and creamy until the last bite. My husband says bimbos and macaroni have a lot in common. He smiles knowingly as he pats the top of my head. “They both want to be more than they are, but their brains are stuck to the bottom of the box.”| (Disabled) Previous commentsSunday, October 21, 2012 ©2012 L'Oreal USA, Inc.I’ve never considered myself a feminist, but the older I get, the more outspoken and interested I become in women and their well-being, especially the demographic that includes me: Women over 45. I’ve spoken with thousands of women, and I know this age group is far from grieving for our youth, empty nests or stiffening joints. Women want honest and frank discussions, not with Botoxed celebrities, but with authentic women who’ve walked in their shoes. Real women like themselves. As someone who’s considered, but never had an injection of Botox or plastic surgery, other than breast reconstruction because of two mastectomies, I want to address the cosmetic companies that want our business.<PREVIEWEND> Last month's MORE magazine had a misleading beauty cream ad, featuring actress, Diane Keaton. In the ad, Ms. Keaton appears to be the very best version of herself that we, or she, have ever seen. Not only does Ms. Keaton appear "ageless," no lines, sags or bags of any kind on her face, neck or hands, someone has removed the very things girlfriends of a certain age find appealing about her. At every stage of our lives, we've seen ourselves, and the women we know, reflected in the characters Ms. Keaton portrays. During the sexual revolution of the 70’s, she was the single woman who, unfortunately, went too far when Looking for Mr. Goodbar, and she was a neurotic twenty something in Annie Hall. We cheered when her character in The First Wives Club went from an insecure divorcee to an empowered woman, and more recently, she was the professionally successful but personally unfulfilled playwright in Something’s Gotta GiveWe love Diane Keaton because she’s always seemed like the "real deal." Like most of us, she needs glasses, has wrinkles and has kept the vast majority of the face she's earned, so why did the cosmetic company feel the need to turn her into an idealized version of herself? If a cosmetic company’s products, in fact, can make us a “Keatonized” version of ourselves, then by all means; back your trucks up to my door and keep those creams and serums coming. If, however, you're attempting to con women via Photoshop, then I’m not interested in doing business with a company that thinks so little of me. By the way, in case companies don’t know this, Diane Keaton is beautiful the way she is. The beauty and fashion industry has long undermined the self-esteem of women. Just as they've sent the message to young girls that they need to be thin to be beautiful, by digitally morphing 66-year-old Keaton into someone she’s not, the cosmetic company is sending the message that this is how women her age should look. Women over 45 are the best educated, most powerful generation in the history of the world, and it’s time companies respect that we want role models, magazines, skin care creams and clothing that are age-appropriate. We are loyal, valued customers who've survived sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll; the glass ceiling; in vitro fertilization; divorce, death, cheating husbands and breast cancer. Like Chico's retail clothing brand and MORE magazine, cosmetic companies that have turned the clocks back on girlfriends of a certain age, no longer make us feel we are valued. By using ageism and false advertising to appeal to our vanity, companies are betting we’ll trust them with our skin care dollars. “Celebrating 40 Years... Because ‘you're worth it.’" Really? I think you have us confused with our wallets.Sunday, October 14, 2012 © Brenda Coffee. All rights reserved. I don't think there's anyone who doesn't know this is breast cancer awareness month. In many ways, I've tried to run from October’s pink madness. I've put off writing a blog because once again, I didn’t want to address the controversy and the cloud that hangs over our community. All of us who are breast health advocates and bloggers have written and spoken out about the lack of moral compass when it comes to "raising awareness.” For those of you who don’t know, awareness usually translates into raising money for the cure, and too many of us know too much about where pink money does and does not go. For that reason, I’ve ignored dozens of requests from people who want me to promote their pink widgets.<PREVIEWEND>However, the one thing I can't ignore is the devastating toll breast cancer--all cancers--inflicts on those who are inexorably ensnared by rogue cells that cause destruction and sometimes death. Long after I lay down to go to sleep, I hear the words of my unprepared friend, Donna, who's new doctor, the first time she ever saw him, had the "end of life" conversation with her, or Lisa, a fellow breast cancer blogger who just learned her breast cancer has metastasized, and she wonders how to tell her children.
It's getting harder for me to write about cancer. Too many of my friends, many of whom I've met here on my website, are battling Stage IV cancer, fighting with everything they have to stay alive. I care deeply for all of them and in many cases, I love them. They are men and women I've come to know on so many levels; people I admire for their spirit and in some cases, for their sheer determination and will that keeps them alive. Others are not so lucky, but not because of their lack of will and determination.
Sometimes I think I know too much about cancer and the course it can take. I often wonder why oncologists don’t burn out more frequently than I hear about? I'd like to think diet and exercise, positive attitude and meditation will trump killer cells gone awry, but that's not always the case. Then there are others, like my friend Susan Pollack, who lived for 14 years with metastatic breast cancer. She ate red meat, never exercised and drank alcohol. Go figure!
Sometimes it's really difficult to stay positive about the future of "the cure" when everyday, people I know, love and admire are hanging on to positive thinking and determination. So, if from time to time, I write about something else, like the power of friendships on the healing process, or who knows... why the sky is blue, that's why. I know too much about this wicked, evil thing called cancer, and forgive me, but sometimes it's just too difficult to slap on a happy face and say, "we can beat this thing." But if those of you who are in the trenches can do it, I will continue to be here to honor your valiant fight. Daily, I ask God to bless each of you and your families.