adversity · friends · friendship · growth · laughter · love · opening

Open Sesame!




I’m still a little giddy from last night’s show with my
band. Our debut and farewell show! (Though, there are rumors we may have a
“reunion show” on Halloween.)
But a friend said something to me after the show that’s been
sticking with me. She said that I am so much more open and confident now, that
I’ve changed so much in the last year.
This same friend sat with me in ERs, cared for my cat while
I was in chemo, and allowed me to bawl on her couch when things seemed so hard.
We’ve known each other only for maybe 4 years, but a lot has
certainly happened since then, and she said she feels like she’s seen me
blossom. And that, especially with everything that I’ve been through, how
heartening it is to see that I’ve become and am becoming more open, and more
She referenced a quote she’d read in a book about women’s
aging, that women come to a crossroads in their lives where they choose: become
more open, or become more rigid, and therefore bitter. I told her, I don’t
think that’s just women!!
But, what struck me about her initial comment was that it
echoed something I’d thought to myself only a few days earlier.
I was in my car, and made some kind of comment aloud to
myself, and laughed about it. And I had a flashback to when I was in junior or
senior year of high school, and this one frenemy commented that I’d become much
more relaxed and funny in the last little while.
Which may have had something to do with the fact that I started
drinking and smoking pot… but… She was right. I wasn’t as exacting or
perfectionist as I had been.
I sort of took that “easy-going” train off the rails a
few years later… But I remember feeling then that she was right, that I felt less … not “square,” but serious, I suppose. (I was
a very serious teen!, like most emo children.)
And as I sat in my car laughing to and at myself the other day, I
had a similar self-awareness: I’ve become and am becoming more easy-going. (In
some ways! In others, you have to untangle my brain with a tweezer and a
magnifying glass!)
To have that same sentiment reflected back to me only days
later by my friend was heartening, affirming, and… sentimental.
She said that as she watched me play, she found herself
getting teary, thinking about everything I’ve gone through, and what I’ve made of
it. And then she had to check herself, because you don’t cry at a rock show! 
The same understanding about rigidity or openness I heard on
an audio CD about “Exceptional Patients” from Dr. Bernie Siegel. He said that
after cancer, people tend to go one of two ways: become scared of everything,
because death is just around the corner, or (finally) throw caution to the
wind, because you’ve literally faced one of the worst things that can ever
happen to you. You’ve stared death in the face: Will you now shrink at all risks,
or will you say, Tah, this is cake?
Well, we all know, I don’t think it’s “cake” to say “Tah” to
fear, but we all know that I’ve been doing it anyway. Because, really, there
isn’t anything greater to lose. There isn’t any harder challenge. (Now, yes, there are other challenges that people face that I
cannot imagine, child loss being one that’s top of mind lately.)
I find no glory in shutting down. I’ve lived most of my life
in a state of “flight” and paralysis. I will never call it a gift, but I do
recognize with appreciation and awe that, following visceral horror, I have
become a woman more willing to be open, free, funny, and present than I’ve ever

acting · clarity · community · dreams · friends · joy · life · theater · truth · trying

My Brain Reads Like a Cafe Gratitude Menu…




I am pure, undiluted joy.
Honestly, you could culture my blood for Potions class.
There was an impromptu dance party.
I left an incoherent bubbling message on my mom’s voicemail,
and called my brother, too. Who told me I’m awesome. And who I told back that
he is, too.
For those who don’t follow my Facebook feed, I found out this morning that I got the
of Morticia in “Addams Family: The
The one I don’t even know how I found the audition call for.
The one I auditioned for this weekend to my own mediocre reviews. The one I was
called back for, to my own mediocre reviews.
I’m sensing a trend here: What I think, and what reality
tells me, may be two very different things.
And, here, for the better.
The astounding thing to me is this is the second lead role
I’ve been offered in as many months. From, “you know your height gets in your
way” to “please join us” … Wow.
There’s a quote that called me to sit for a moment in
silence on my bed, breathing heavy from the fist pumping, Elaine-thumbs-out
dance party:
Don’t forget to pause a minute and thank G-d for
Thank you. Thank you, Universe, for conspiring for me. Thank
you, Molly, for showing up even though you’re scared and doubtful. Thank you,
FRIENDS, for receiving those phone calls and texts that ask you to send me love
and support. Thank you, friends, for sending love and “likes” and hope.
I need you way more than you know.
And you always show up, which is marvelous – like, something
to marvel at. Really.
The play will run mid-September to mid-October. This means
that I will spend my October 7th birthday in performance.
I spent my 30th birthday with fondue and friends. I spent my
31st in a hospital bed, saying, “Next year: Brunch, huh?”
I celebrated 32, indeed, at brunch with a dear friend and her two
kids whose laughter is part of my salvation.
And, god willing, I will spend 33 in pursuit of a dream I
have let languish in a faded costume closet. The clothing of another woman in
another life.
Life moves and shakes, it do.
And part of my work is to accept that these costumes, these roles, these friends, this love, this life … are for me, too.
Let’s throw open the doors, pull out these moth-eaten
dreams, and hold them up to reality. They may be more solid than I’ve wanted to
Thank. You. 

abundance · community · faith · friends · friendship · gratitude · healing · joy · life · love · support

Card Reading




I had very specific plans for when I came home last night:
watch Apollo 13, “take care” of myself,
and go to bed by 10.
Only one of these happened.
For most of the day, I was out & about in lots of conversation with
lots of people, expending lots of up, outgoing energy, and I wanted to counter it with
some quietude. Before coming home for the evening, I was in a coffee shop,
finishing up some extra work, and addressing cards for some friends.
I didn’t have the address for one, so I texted her for it,
and told her that I must have 10 of her envelopes at home with her address on
it; in fact, I had one of hers on my mantle.
She asked me which one, but I couldn’t recall exactly, and
told her I’d send her a photo of it when I got home.
This, was the first domino toward the hijacking of my
I did come home, take a photo and send it to her, a lovely
decorated envelope with stickers and curly-cues and kind words, like all of
hers. Next to it on my mantle (well, the top of a bookshelf, really) were a
card from the director and one from the assistant director of the play I was in
in April, with deliciously glowing, appreciative, complimentary, and supportive
words. Such kindness and such a reflection of my being “seen” by them, in one
of my aspiring avocations. The last one up there was a thank you card from my
best friend on Long Island’s wedding, thanking me for being there and what a
treat it was to have me there, literally in her bed, the night before the
wedding, and helping/watching her get ready the next day; that it wouldn’t have
been the same without me.
You can see why I keep these things.
But, it was also time to probably pack them away, do some
cleaning. And I wanted to send more photos of my friend’s envelopes to
her, since I knew she was in a space to need her own (literal) sparkle reflected back to her. 
And, down the rabbit hole we go, into the desk drawer where I keep
cards, envelopes so I can remember return addresses (yes, I know there’s a
better way), and art inspiration bits, like postcards from galleries or pages
torn from magazines.
I’ve known this drawer needs attending to. If, god forbid, I
were to croak, it would be hell for the person cleaning it out, and I know
they’d just trash the lot, since, who keeps someone else’s old greeting cards.
But, also, it’s unusably full at the moment. Because in it,
too, are all the cards I received when I was initially diagnosed with Leukemia
in late September 2012, and also a host of them came in around the
Hanukkah/Christmas season that year.
I’ve been avoiding having to carve through them. Because how
can you discard those messages?
When I was sick, I lined all the cards up on the walls of my
hospital room. I taped every single one up around me, to remind me of the
network of support and love that I had. Each card, a message of love, faith,
healing, fortitude, just for me. You couldn’t come into my hospital room
without immediately knowing that I was loved. And how f’ing important was that.
This was not the room of a dying woman. This was not the
room of a woman told she had a 40% chance of living through the next 5 years, even with treatment.
This was not the room, either, of a woman who looked like a patient, despite
the baldness, weightloss, and IV stuck into my arm and chest. I wore jeans and a
sweater, like everyone else. I was a human, not a patient. I was a woman loved,
not a pity case.
How rallyingly important was that to know, feel, and
remember every single day.
But, when the trips to the hospital were finally over, and
it was time to reacclimate to living in my apartment full-time, what to do with
those cards?
I’m a keeper of things. Sentiments, magazine pages,
interesting rocks I find on a mountain or beach. I wouldn’t say I’m a hoarder,
but I do have a bag of gently used tissue paper in my closet … but it’s folded
neatly and in color blocks, so it’s okay, right?!
I also have a bag in my closet of the covers to theater
booklets of plays I’ve been to; movie stubs; plane tickets; the brochure for a
place I went camping or an attraction I toured.
The trouble is, I’m not a scrap-booker, so I just kinda
carry this bag of non-chronologically ordered “crap” with me from home to home.
But, that’s okay. One day, like the cards, I’ll go through them.
But, last night was for the card drawer.
It was slow-going. I had to take a deep breath before taking
the rubber band from around the batch of 2012 holiday cards. I knew this was
going to take a while and probably bring things up.
But I began. And with each card, I was reminded of why I’d
kept them until now.
Here’s the one from my college classmate, now in LA, saying she’d
enclosed a gift card to Trader Joes.
Here’s one from a former colleague saying she loves getting
the bloggish updates I was posting then to my lotsahelpinghands website.
Here’s one handwritten from an Etsy company saying “a friend”
was thinking of me and wanted me to stay warm. This, I remember, accompanied a
package of 6 “chemo caps” ranging from thin to thick, the one I wore most, a
fuzzy leopard print that kept me feeling fun and warm. I still don’t know who
sent those, as there was no name. Thank you, whoever you are.
Last night, with each, if I knew the sender and their cell number, I
took a photo of the card, and sent it as a text with a note of thanks to them.
Each text, a reminder to us both of what friendship means, even for people who
aren’t close.
It was nearly 11 when I finally decided to stop. I’ve
barely made a dent into the drawer. But was able to cull a few things out,
deciding that with some, having a photo of them now is enough.
At the closing of this activity, I found myself in soft tears of
gratitude. So many people surrounded me
with love. With funny cards and sentiments, with crazy wacked-out envelopes, with heartfelt messages of hope and healing. And only a handful of these folks
were people I keep in regular touch with. So many people came out of the
woodwork to support me.
I was told once during the time I was sick, that I had no
idea how many people were rooting for me. I agreed. I knew I had no idea, and I
knew that was astounding and one of the greatest showings of human generosity
that I’ve witnessed.
I had priests, rabbis, Muslims, and Buddhists praying for
me. My mom’s hairdresser and my Aunt’s student. I had a class of
kindergarteners praying for me.
I remember, too, when I was sick, trying to figure out how I
could send thank you cards to everyone who’d contacted me, but I could only
handle a few.
In this retread through the cards, in sending them back out
to their sender with my note of thanks, I hope I am closing that loop of love,
and letting you all know:

Your prayers worked, and I love you back.  

change · connection · disconnection · envy · friends · friendship · health · relationships · scarcity · self-care

The Facebooks.




Yesterday, I saw another of those articles posted by a
friend on Facebook about the rose-colored facade that Facebook allows us to put out to the
world. About how we only see photos of grand trips and lattes with foam hearts drawn in
them and that uber cute one of you and your partner looking so darn happy.
This article and those I’ve seen like it tell one side of
the truth, but not all of it.
I didn’t comment on my friend’s article, as his friends were aggro-commenting about Falsebook and how pissed it makes them that we don’t see the “whole” picture of others’ lives. I didn’t want the agida
of the notifications if I put my thoughts there, so, I’ll “post” my comment here:
Facebook saves my life.
When I was first diagnosed with cancer in an ER and led
right upstairs to start intensive chemo treatment, there was no packing of
stuff, no notifying loved ones or having some hippie prayer circle. I called my
mom, and then I called one of my best friends and asked her to do the major
task of letting Facebook know, because that is – whatever feelings we all may
have about modernity, technology, and disconnection – where my friends “are.”
Because she did that for me, my friends knew where to find
me, and what to bring me, and how to get in touch with me.
A few weekends ago, an acquaintance – someone I’ve met only a
few times, someone I could say “hi” to “in real life” but
wouldn’t call “in real life,” aka a Facebook friend – put up a call to go to a local lake for a
lazy Sunday afternoon. I had no plans that day, I’d never been to that lake,
and I took a chance at spending time with someone I barely knew by letting her
know, via the Facebooks, that I would love to go with her.
We did, and I made other new (Facebook) friends. I had a
wonderful and, for me, an adventurous afternoon.
When I got frustrated with my job search recently, I threw my resume
up on my “wall,” and two people have given me actual live leads for work, and
two have contacted me to offer me help on my resume. I’ve looked at this thing
so many times, I see only dot matrix anymore.
When I couldn’t stand that I don’t know if I’ll get to go
camping this summer once rehearsals start, I let the Facebooks know I wanted to
go, and now will be going into the wilderness with “real” friends, having a respite from this
social network thing that brought this trip to fruition in the first place.
I get to see that my college roommates aren’t dead, what
state they live in, how many kids they have. I get to see friends from my high
school musical days launching and thriving in their artistic careers. I get to
read the witticisms, intrigues, and slush that my friends post, and I get to
feel that I know they’re safe.
I have learned about friends’ weddings, deaths, job changes,
moves, births, divorces, successes, struggles, and banalities. And they get to
learn about mine.
I won’t say Facebook is a benevolent entity, wanting us to
all feel connected in a disconnect era. I won’t say that this is the “best” way
of keeping in touch with people you’ve lost contact with, or moved a few zip
codes from. But it does work.
I can also see it from the side of the aggro-commenters, lambasting the system for creating a culture of constant “less than.”
I can admit that just the other day, I Facestalked a
crush’s ex, and felt the creeping compare/despair that I see so many of those
Facebook “expose” articles lament. But, what I did as I felt that gnaw of “not
as pretty, funky, cool, yoga-y, artistic, traveled, fun, witty” creep
up was not to skewer Facebook for allowing her to present an awesome and curated
face to the world. What I did was LEAVE HER PAGE.
For the love, peoples. It’s certainly not that I don’t also fall prey
to that depraved inclination and curiosity. I’ve Facestalked ex’s new
girlfriends (or wives), and I’ve Facestalked crushes exes. I’ve kept tabs on who’s “talking” to who and leaving little digital roses on one another’s doorstep. But, what I’ve
learned to do by now is to remember that a Facebook wall is NOT the whole story, but EVEN IF IT IS, it’s NOMB (none of my business).
Other people are allowed to have happy lives, curated,
sappy, enviable. And the choice I get to make is whether I want to engage with
envy, not with Facebook. 

authenticity · children · deprivation · friends · fun · laughter · self-love

Dive In




I never actually go in
the pool. For years, 6 of them, my friend and her family and our friends’
families go out to the east East Bay for Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day

There is a pool there. I attend by the side. Perhaps I’ve gone in the
hottub, but I can’t even remember doing that. I lay on my towel or a pool
chair, slathering in sunblock, catching up, chatting, sharing with these women
I see only occasionally, and it’s
wonderful, this catching up chatting and sharing, but I never go in the
On Saturday, before I left for the weekend, I made a
commitment to a friend that I would actually go in the pool. I made a
commitment to let myself have fun. To enjoy what was being presented to me, to
not literally be on the sidelines of my own life.
It’s hard – or it has
been – to let myself take part. I’ve been so reserved, analytical, watching,
the consummate wall-flower, when in fact I
feel anything but.
And so, at some point soon after the sun had soaked far
enough into my skin to want relief, I walked into the water.
I’m a slow pool-acclimator, as I am a slow band-aid puller.
Later that night, the women-folk stayed up to play a board game, and my
strategy was to move slowly but eventually around the board. I admitted, laughingly,
that it’s the same way I play chess with my brother: I move pawn after pawn.
One little square at a time.
After my first timid entrance into the water, and a few laps
across the pool, my heart rate up, the water refreshing, my second entré was
different. I was inspired by my friend’s daughter, who lay over an inner
tube, head back, dousing her hair in the water. Only nine, I watched her
luxuriate in the tactile and sensory pleasure, the instinctual joy of just
letting the water carry her hair out into the water. Of soaking the top of her
head, running her fingers into her scalp to get each follicle up and satisfied,
eyes closed, in the moment, in the sensation, in the freedom of doing what felt
wonderful just for its own sake.
My second time in, all the others were under the shade by
the house, and I waded in. About half-way wet, I just dove in. I let my body be
strong and carry me to the bottom. I borrowed some goggles, and played the same
game of fetch I’d watched the kids play, throwing plastic sharks to the bottom,
and diving down to retrieve them. Seeing under water, holding my breath in that
suspended moment, moving quickly and gauging the time I had left before I had
to surface. Running my hands along the bottom, and pushing against it with my feet to
shoot up through the clear water. I laughed.
It was invigorating. It was fun. It was entertaining and
special and out of my ordinary. And on my way out of the water, I lay back into
it, soaked the top of my head, however briefly, and luxuriated too. 

change · community · friends · gratitude · health · perseverance

Time: in fair and foul




Oops, I did it again — I changed my clocks on the wrong day! (Last time, I changed them in the wrong direction!) I don’t think I’m cut out for this. 
In speaking of time, tomorrow will mark one year from my
final day of chemo. Last year, today, March 8, I was in Kaiser hospital, 6th
floor, on the “off day.” Since I had Leukemia, the
treatment is different than you hear for outpatient breast cancer treatment or
even lung cancer (not that they don’t go through hell, too). How the treatment
went is that each month I spent a week in the hospital (after the initial first month in),
and would get chemo on days 1, 3, 5, and then on day 6, if I looked healthy
enough, I could go home. 
“Healthy enough.” Sheesh. What a thing.
A year before that, I was probably working on and
procrastinating on my MFA Poetry thesis at Mills College.
There was a moment after my diagnosis during which I was
sitting at this same kitchen table, likely in these same pajamas, when I looked
out this same window at the cypress trees that grow over the roof of the
building next door. I’ve always watched them, since I’ve lived here. They’re
one of the few trees in my area that loses leaves, and then regrows them in
full regalia in the spring and summer.
I sat at this table, and as it was October/November, I
watched it shedding the last of its leaves for the year. And I wondered if I
would see its leaves return. If I would be alive to witness it.
And I was. And I will be when, once again, the brown tree suddenly sports those green buds that never cease to surprise me, like an overnight graffiti
Perhaps some people think my marking of this time is morbid.
And maybe it is. But, it’s impossible for me to turn away from. I don’t always
think about it; in fact, over the course of these few months, the “this time
last year” thought has become pretty scarce. But sometimes, there are moments to remember, to recall, measure against, and
praise to high bloody heaven and hell and all the imps in between that *I made it,* through all of it — the terror, the loneliness, the unknowing, the isolation of it. I made it through alive, and healthy, my eggs still ticking in my ovaries, my blood producing what it ought to. I made it through the arguments with doctors, through giving myself injections, through Christmas in an inpatient bed. 

I made it through with your soup waiting for me in the hospital fridge, with the cup of coffee you went out of your way to Peet’s to buy, with the fuzzy blanket and the neon socks you brought to keep me warm. 

I made it through with the green shakes you made for me, and the protein drinks you sought out at Whole Foods. With the burritos you bought and the chicken you made. I made it through with our conversations about leaving your store, leaving your soon-to-be ex-wife; about polyamory and the ’89 fire. I made it through when you held my hand as I bawled into your chest, heaving the Ugly Cries because I knew you could take it. 

I made it through when you brought a big book and a 12 and 12, and we sat and talked about other things anyway. But the praying helped. 
A year ago tomorrow, I will have been awoken at 6 in the
morning. I will have had my pee measured, my temperature and blood pressure
taken, and swallowed the pre-medication meant to stave off nausea. I
will then have gotten dressed, eaten whatever plastic-wrapped breakfast they’d
provided, done my morning pages, meditated, and perhaps written my blog if I
could get it in before I got hooked up to the IV pole.
The nurses will have come in in yellow apron suits over their
scrubs, and thick blue gloves and goggles. The two, always two, would call
the numbers of my ID back to each other, the volume of the chemo, confirming
the three hours it was to drip into the port line that entered my chest and
pumped into my heart.
A year ago tomorrow, in the evening, they would do the same
12 hours from the first one. And by the time the bag of clear but ominous
liquid was empty and the machine was beeping loudly for the nurse, I will have tucked into the stiff hospital bed with that fuzzy blanket, curled up maybe with a book, maybe too tired to
read, and they would come back in their yellow suits and thick gloves, and
unhook the tube from my chest. 
And I will have had my last round of chemo. (Ever.)

adventure · fear · friends · laughter · sobriety


Tonight I go back into Kaiser hospital for my second round
of chemo. According to my current understanding, this is round 2 of 5.
However, I don’t really know. I went to Stanford on Friday
for what the Kaiser folks had told me (I have it in writing!) was a
“consultation” about bone marrow transplant (Can we all pass a moment of
silence for my even having to use the phrase “bone marrow transplant?). But,
when I arrived at Stanford, they seemed raring to go – ready, set, destroy your
immune system & hope the new one takes!
I was not so prepared for that. The doctor spoke for about
an hour and a half about what’s involved, and used the term “mortality rate”
much too often for me to feel at all like this was something I want to do. Then, they want you to talk to a social worker about
relocating down into the Stanford area for anywhere from 3-6 months. That
conversation, they said, would take another hour and a half.
At that point, I was too emotional – I mean, come on, doctors, this isn’t a theory – This is MY
, and I told them that I wasn’t able to
speak to the social worker then. They seemed all shocked and surprised that
someone couldn’t sit through 3 hours of people telling them how they may die,
and even if they don’t here are all these lovely
other side effects, then also sit through someone
telling them how they need to up-end their entire lives to live somewhere alone
and foreign and away from all the trappings of normalcy they’re trying so
desperately to hold on to.
Really? You don’t get
that I need to leave now?
But, leave I did. And have had a few days of overwhelming,
What the Fuck – Now What?
I spoke with my friend who’s an oncology nurse at Kaiser –
actually we met when she started taking care of me last round, and is coming
this afternoon to pick up and foster my cat while I’m inpatient – so, we’re, like, friends
now. 🙂 But, she also knows about all this stuff.
Not all the facts are in, and I emailed my doctor last night
to say, Um, so, Stanford seems to think I need a transplant NOW, and you have
told me that we can wait to see if I have a recurrence of the cancer, and then
do a transplant THEN – so, Uh, what’s the story here? However, my nurse friend
said that with Leukemia, it can simply be a waiting game if you don’t go the
transplant route.
As I was talking to her yesterday, I was waiting for my
friend to come pick me up so we could go to Ocean Beach in SF. I said to her, yes, I have a good chance IF I make it through. She said, Well,
have a good time at Ocean Beach, IF you make it through. …
I got some info in the mail from a cancer society, and they
have a pamphlet about coping. In the back, they have a sort of daily inventory
– how did you feel today, did you laugh today.
With all of this hyper serious stuff happening, it’s hard to
find balance. I hadn’t laughed in days – certainly not after the Stanford
“You’re gonna live if you don’t die” visit.
But, yesterday, I did laugh. My nurse friend ended up coming
with us too. And off we were to Ocean Beach, laughing, silly, poking fun at
ourselves and each other.
And, oh, the beach. I’ve been wanting to go to the beach
since I got out of the hospital. Something about that massive body of water,
this uncontained thing, this thing that is totally out of my control, but is
working anyway – I wanted to witness it. I wanted to splash in it and squish my
toes in the sand of it. To breathe in it. And I did. We did.
We were there for a few hours, walking, sitting on a
towel, poking at things with our toes, crumbling sand in our fists. Laughing at children and dogs; admiring some very Ryan Gosling-esque abs on the surfers. It was a gorgeous day.
There was some cancer talk, but not too much. We went to
Java Beach for coffee re-ups, and I ran into a friend there. I remembered how I
used to spend my Saturday midnights there with a group of people who came to be friends –
What else do you do on a Saturday night at midnight when you’re young and not
at the bar? You drink coffee and eat left-over pastries by candelight and talk
about how awesome it is we’re alive and getting better. And sometimes how hard it is to be alive and getting better.
We went down to the Bayview where a friend of mine was
having an open studios art show. The whole warehouse was sculpture. Each artist
a sculptor. It’s rare that I see so much sculpture – usually the museums I’m at
are paintings or photographs. To see all this metalwork. It was amazing. So creative, and alive. And my
friend’s marble sculptures, as if melted out of the unhewn block.
We walked around out back and took in the Bay from that
angle. We saw the city from West to East, and we came home tiredly satisfied.
I sat for a few minutes, emboldened from my day of levity,
sunshine, the taste of salt on my teeth, and read some of the binder Stanford
gave me the day before. But I didn’t sit long with it.
I went to go meet up with some fellows for an hour, spoke a
little of what’s going on with me, and then had burgers and a movie with a
friend from SF. We saw that Seven Psychopaths movie, and it was really great – startling, gruesome in the
over-the-top meant-to-be-funny way, and just creative tongue-in-cheek
storytelling. For those hours, I didn’t think about myself or my cancer at all.
I laughed, gasped, sat in the dark with strangers doing the
same normal thing on a Saturday night.
I guess it’s going to be like this for now. The pendulum
from normal to not taking some very quick strokes. But last night, I got to note
that I did laugh that day. The reality of my situation was just the same
as the day before, but yesterday, I got to laugh, and reality became just an iota different. 

community · faith · friends · generosity · gratitude · help · Jewish · love · service

That 20/20 Thing.

I guess I should tell you about the miracle-y things that have been happening during this time. There are two major
ones, and here they are:
One: My Job
(It’s funny, when I was home sick with strep prior to going
to the hospital, I emailed my boss about my home-sick-from-work status with the
title of the email “I thought Job was a later chapter” – little did I know!) ;P
So, as some of you have been reading, I’d been unemployed
since graduating with my Master’s in May. I’d been actively looking, thinking
about moving back home, applying to anything and everything, with no luck for months. Then, I got the job I now have at the synagogue in
When I got this job, I was resentful. I was thrilled to
increase my bank balance from $3.98, but I felt ashamed that I had worked so
hard and arrived at what I considered to be an entry level position in the
front office – somewhere I’d been many times before. You heard me gripe about
it, be the opposite of humble about it, and generally kinda be a dick about
having finally gotten a job when I so desperately needed one.
So, here’s the “oo ee oo” part. I got sick. I got really
sick. I will be in and out of the hospital for the next 5 months or so, mostly
in. So, I can’t work, obviously.
My boss’s son had cancer when he was a child, and his son is
alive well, and just had a kid of his own. My boss has had empathy for my
situation from the beginning, and as this started to go down, he said to me
that they would have a temp in until I came back – that they would hold my job
for me. …
At the time this was said, I still didn’t really know what
all this cancer treatment would look like – how long it would be. So a few
weeks later, when I now knew it was going to be 5 months, not one, and my boss
came to visit me in the hospital, I hemmed and hawed – would they still keep my
job for me, knowing how long it would be ‘til I came back? Should I tell him?
Should I not and just hope for the best?
Well, I ended up telling him. And you know what he said? “I
know how important job security is at a time like this, and your job will be
here for you when you’re ready.” WHAT THE HELL? How are people so nice?
And here’s the miracle part – IF I had gotten a job with any
other company, I can’t imagine that they would be a tenth the amount of
understanding. I mean, a bottom line, deadlines, emails, someone needs to be ON
IT. If I had gotten any other job, I
can’t imagine that they’d hold my job for me ‘til I was healthy, let alone come
visit me in the hospital as several of my BRAND NEW coworkers have, and the
others who are planning to.
I couldn’t have planned this at all – and I was so pissed! So, hindsight is 20/20 and all that, right?
Although, there’s the part of me that’s like, um, hey G-d,
you OBVIOUSLY saw this cancer thing coming, having set me up like a champ here,
couldn’t we have gone a different route … but, it is what it is.
Two: My Apartment
I used to work for the property management company that
manages my apartment building here in Oakland. When I worked for them in SF,
they helped me get my apartment in SF, and when I moved to Oakland, they were
equally as generous in helping me with my apartment here (which, by the way, is
a 5 minute walk from the hospital at which I’m being treated…).
I left that job under not the most admirable circumstances,
and earlier this year, I emailed my former boss to say as much and to apologize
for not having been the worker I could have been. He emailed me back to say, yes actually, I could have handled that better, but that
he “had my back” if I needed a reference or anything.
Later this summer, however, I emailed him when I was in my mania of “do
i move back to New Jersey right now??” and I asked if I could give two-weeks’ notice on the
apartment if needed, instead of a month. He emailed one word. “No.” And his
assistant emailed me a form for the 30-day notice format 😉
So, I had no idea where I stood in his shit books or not
when my mom called him early in October and said, basically, my daughter has
leukemia and isn’t working, what can we do here?
Cue the “oo ee oo” once more. My former boss said … he
himself had leukemia two years before. He asked if I’d applied for disability
(if I’d have any income at all), my mom said yes. And he said, Don’t worry
about it. Just keep me informed, and we’ll work it out.
What? In SF Bay Area? Rent is a “we’ll work it out”??
Miracle. He told my mom that I’d helped him out when he’d needed it, and true,
I drove his dad to dialysis three days a week for a period while I worked there
(although, I think I got more out of that one – I learned a lot in those
conversations with that man).
My friend said recently to me that we get what we put into
the world, and all the goodness that’s coming back to me is simply that. I’m
just getting back what I’ve put into it.
It’s a little weird to think like that though, because my
immediate thoughts are, it’s not like I am nice on purpose, it’s not like I’m keeping score of how great a
person I am as I go out into the world. I just am how I am. So it feels weird
to feel like, in a way, I’m being
rewarded for that “just the way I am”ness.
However, I was contemplating that ridiculousness the other day, and I
thought to myself, Molly, I don’t think cancer is a reward. 😛
The bottom line of the above two amazing stories is the
generosity of the human soul. It doesn’t really have anything to do with me.
I was talking with my current boss the other day about how
many people are wanting to help and do things for me, but there’s often not
much to do. I mean, I don’t really need much, except for some cards, and
visits, and on occasion a ride to the doctor or a grocery run. But only one
person at a time needs to do that. So there’s not a lot for people to do, and I
feel that desire they have – to want to do something. To want to take some aspect of my own burdens away
from me, because there are going to be many things that only I can and will go
through by myself in this process.
So, I’m going to try to think on what people can do that’s
concrete, that gives an opportunity to help and feel useful. Because this is what I
said to my boss – these days, we rarely get the chance to help each other
anymore. We’re all so independent, and I can do it on my own, that as a society and a people, that no one seems
to need help anymore.
In a way, my being sick gives others the opportunity to help
– to allow them to feel that good nachas
(Yiddish) from doing something for someone else,
just out of the
kindness of their heart
. Not for gain, or
to check that score card I talked about. But just to help, because you can, and
because you want to.
The capacity for human kindness shines very much in this
portion of my story. Which, really, isn’t Job, because I’ve got a lot more
support than he ever did. And I never owned any goats. 

art · community · fortitude · friends · fun · say yes · vulnerability

Ain’t Dead Yet

Last night, I went to a Halloween party. Like a normal
I did fancy glitter make-up on my face, pretended my
dress could pass as a 60s throw-back, donned my friend’s blue wig, and called
myself a psychedelic stewardess (as they were called in the 60s, pre-politically corrected “flight
It was amazing. It felt like normal. Like something a normal
person would do the weekend of Halloween – get dressed up, go to a party. It’s
something that has felt nearly unattainable for me after the whole cancer
thing – normal. I danced. I danced a
lot. I laughed, talked with friends, and it
wasn’t about my cancer. Sure, a few people asked me how I was feeling, and
if there was anything they could do, but for the most part, the people there had no
idea the blue wig covered a shaved head. They just saw a girl at a party – and
I am grateful for it.
Part of the anomaly of being so sick is that sometimes my health is what’s top of my mind, and it’s immediately what I talk about when people call or visit.
Sometimes it’s top of their minds, and they want to know about it. But … sometimes, I just want to know what the heck else is going on in the world. I mean, I didn’t even
know the Giants were in the World Series. (Though, I remain partial to the NY
teams, ahem.)
I want to know how your new job is, or your relationship, or
what happened with that thing. I want to talk about something other than
CANCER. It’s so overarching and undergirding that it feels hard to get away
from, and just talk normally. That’s part of the “watching Ben Stiller movies”
thing I was questioning yesterday – am I allowed to still have normal
conversations, activities?
Thank G-d, as shown yesterday, YES. As I painted a star over
my eye yesterday and asteroids on my cheek (despite a weird double-vision thing I have that the
doctor tells me “will resolve itself”…) — I felt
like my old self. Engaged in an activity I love.
I do feel the guillotine though. I go back into the hospital a
week from tomorrow, and it’s hard to not feel like my days are numbered. It’s
hard to not get defensive in advance. I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to
do this 4 more times. And yet, this is what they know to do to cure cancer, or
at least send it packing for what they hope is years, if not forever.
So, I try and remain present, if possible, but I know it’s
looming. I have scheduled a bunch of self-care things this week, chiropractor
tomorrow to realign all the sitting in a bed for three weeks issues; a masseuse
that a generous friend gifted me on Tuesday to work out the rest of the kinks;
Thursday, I’ll do work with a friend who’s a professional at inner/spiritual healing to help work out the kinks from the inside as well.
It’s seems hard to try to live normally, and yet, as I saw
yesterday, it wasn’t hard at all — All I had to do was show up. – Plus, I kept the wig. 😉

change · fear · friends · fun · money · work

Oh, My Beautiful Wickedness!

This is one of the last lines delivered by the Wicked Witch
of the West in Wizard of Oz as she’s
melting from the bucket of water that Dorothy just doused her with.
It occurs to me this morning. The dying gasps. Really, I’m not
sure what more I have to say on that.
Last night, I got to babysit for the one family I work with,
up in the hills of Montclair – a quite posh neighborhood of Oakland, if you can
still call it Oakland. I was picked up from work by the mom in downtown SF, and
delivered straight to the ease and comfort of children.
There are two girls, one 7, one almost 3. The older one is mildly manipulative, so I like the little “teaching moments” I get to instill in
her – like, it’s okay to be disappointed (when you land on a chute instead of a
ladder, and are sent backward through the board); like, you can be honest with
me (are you really hungry, or are you trying to stay up later). Some of these,
I recognize are “corrective experiences,” as I once heard it put – places where
we get to “go back” and make minor adjustments to experiences we might have had
in the past, and put some new memories, positive memories there.
I heard this about places, mostly, – i.e. this awful thing
happened at that park one time, now I can go to that park in the light of day
with new eyes and a picnic, or something.
The woman I babysit for said yesterday that the French don’t picnic.
She’d lived there and visited several times, and whenever they went to a lake
or something, completely un-American-like, they didn’t pack a thing to eat or
drink, whereas with us, it’s the first thing that we do.
I recognize this blog is a little discombobulated, but I’m
feeling somewhat worn out from the week of highs and lows, and sleep deprivation. I was on the phone with a friend yesterday, and she said that if I
wanted to get together to do something fun, she was available for that. I said,
in essence, I’m not really available for fun right now.
What kind of a thing is that to say?! Or believe? With the money/job stuff, I am feeling depleted,
but that’s almost
more of a
reason to refill the well. I’m reading this book on money stuff, and one of the
signposts toward “not so hot” questions the guy asks is if we feel relief when the calendar switches
to a new month, when the money quotient refills.
Absolutely. And yet, with the calendar switch, for me now, also comes fear –
okay, June is covered, What about July. I feel like I’m ticking the days off to
refilling the pot, but also just crossing off the days through the year when there
so much more joy to be had.
I’m debating whether canceling camping was the “right” thing
to do – but really, I think it is. A friend of mine is an expert at free and low-cost fun. It’s like her sixth sense
– like her super power is finding a way to get to do the things she loves to do
without paying – not like a handout, but like trade, volunteer, etc. For
example, if there’s a musician she likes that’s coming into town, she’ll email
them and ask if she can sell merch for them at the show. This is how I
discovered Ari Hest when he came through San Francisco a few years ago – my
friend was going to sell merch for him, and asked if I could assist. And so, we
got into the show for free, and I fell in love with some new music.
P.s., speaking of, I realized that the title of yesterday’s
blog should have been “Love, and Other Drugs,” while I was on my way walking to
work. D’ah well.
The fun thing is another way of saying I can’t have where
I’m at or not good enough where I’m at – when you’re financially secure, you
can have fun. When you know what you’re doing in your life, you can laugh. Til
then, head down, grindstone needs nosing.
Meh – that’s faulty logic and backwards thinking, and just
plain sucky. There’s too much fun to be had. It’s back to my “quitting hiding”
thing that I’m trying to do. The isolating doesn’t feed me. There’s plenty to
do if I ask for help. Sure, my friend has a sixth sense, but talent for that
can develop. I’d like to learn.
I’d also like to sleep. 😉 So, this weekend, with my
non-camping self, in and amongst my job applicationing (there’s one job I’m
actually really hoping for – cross your fingers), I can get out, and be fun, have fun. Do something
Fun is not for people who want it, it’s for people who do