Holiday Reflections and the year in review....
You may be thinking, “WHAT NOW? What trouble did she possibly get into this year?” I’m sorry to report there is nothing as spectacularly dramatic as a cancer diagnosis in this year’s letter, nor are there terrorist attacks or murder trials or another failed marriage. There was not even a feline fatality. I still have a cat, I still have a boyfriend called Kevin, I still have a house in Florida, and I still have ten fingers and ten toes. Well, I almost escape unscathed. In the end of September I tripped, hit a concrete wall and split the middle bone of my right pinky down to the joint. After a heavy dose of denial in a half cast for two weeks, I had to bite the bullet, with Novocain, and have some pretty medieval-looking hardware installed so I could retain the use of my finger joint. I still have it but who knows if it will get back to being fully functional. Opening a jar makes me feel completely incompetent. I cannot indulge my OCD by wiping down the countertops as my finger will not lay flat. It’s curved like a cooked shrimp. So, if you think your pinky is useless and you could happily live without it, I’d say you should still put the finger guard down on your band saw. Your garden variety Trash Panda would have a better time opening the spaghetti sauce.
Aside from the poor little pinky suffering the agony of defeat, I have to take my victory lap for completing cancer treatment and having clear blood tests and screenings for the rest of 2019. I also started 2019 with a BANG and had a whirlwind trip to Budapest, Hungary for an incubator called Fintechlab by MKB Bank. As part of a cryptocurrency start-up called PeaCounts, I joined the CEO Crystal in a competition to get into the final accelerator program. I took a flight from Orlando to Pittsburgh to Reykjavík to Berlin to Budapest. On the last leg of the journey, after landing they announce, “Welcome to BRATISLAVA!”. They shut the Budapest airport due to a snowstorm, so I had to take a BUS in a blinding blizzard from Slovakia to Hungary. We had an intense three days from introduction to consultation to final presentation. We had great feedback and other teams liked our pitch, but we were just too early in the development stage to be accepted into the program. We mused about $175,000 Euros as we soaked in the famous hot baths after three 18-hour days!
Not getting enough of the snowstorms in Hungary, we headed to Colorado for Kevin’s 40th Birthday with his twin brother. We had a big gathering of family and friends with a tour and tasting at a local Fort Collins brewery. Kevin makes epic sandcastles that take all day in Florida, so I was determined to make a sandcastle cake that took me all day and lots of help. It required 6 different forms baked in two rounds, glued together with cream cheese frosting and dusted with pulverized graham crackers, sugar and toasted coconut as the “sand”. Sugar cones made towers on top, and before I put the sand on it, the white covered cones looked like a miniature Klan rally. Quick, get some color on the KKKake! The precarious confection was 18 inches across and 18 inches high. I was sure I would slip on the ice and launch my wobbly labor of love into a snow drift. Though it was not the feat of engineering that Kevin’s sandcastles are, it was a feat to arrive with cake intact. The reaction to this monstrosity was shock and awe. Kevin even ate a piece, and he hates cake.
Everyone knows I love a party, and now I really had something to celebrate. I had an End of Chemo Party in February after a full year of Herceptin IV every 3 weeks. I was like I was let out of prison. I booked a private room in a friend’s bar in Manhattan and brought my computer to play whatever I wanted. I was glad to see old friends, new friends, my college roommate and many faces I had not seen in a while. And they all bought me a drink. My tolerance was shot so I didn’t last very long. I was up at 8 am the next morning with a raging headache for a 10-hour drive to Toronto to visit my friend Emma. There was nothing that chicken-fried steak from Cracker Barrel and a giant coffee couldn’t fix. We had tickets to see our new favorite band The Beths from New Zealand, and my former NYC roommate Doreen joined us. The big question again is WHAT NOW? The crazy thing about over a year of cancer treatment is it provides laser focus and purpose because you are trying to LIVE, and live like you might die. NOW I have to go back to worrying about normal stuff like getting a job and paying the bills. Now it’s clear I’ll be fine, what do I want to be when I grow up?
I want to finally begin my new life with Kevin in Florida. I had seen Kevin six weeks out of six months as I was in treatment in CT. We can finally shack up. We had my mother visit and had a Mardi Gras party. I put my OCD to work as a personal organizer. We worked hard on the house and had beach days. I made my own schedule. I saw Avengers Endgame during the day. I went back to New York with Kevin, met Emma, and Easter with the family. I got my port taken out and felt finally free. I started part-time on a project for a non-profit, easing back into employment. I met my good friend Martin in Vegas for Punk Rock Bowling, which I had to skip last year. Emma joined and we saw LOTS of great shows. We saw the Neon Museum, Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and everything someone from the UK would want to do – or America, for that matter.
I immersed myself in the non-profit work and was offered a full-time job with the Florida Keys Community Land Trust. I had not been to the Florida Keys since the 90s and was now knee-deep in rebuilding from Hurricane Irma. They build workforce housing, replacing housing that were destroyed with hurricane-resilient homes. It’s a good cause and I like the work and the team. The founder Maggie Whitcomb is passionate about her mission and is very hands-on. Just as soon as I’ve signed on full time, there is a category 5 Hurricane headed STRAIGHT for Vero Beach. I am looking at the radar daily and it seems to be getting worse. I’m not going to stick around and wait to see what happens – I’ve got a PARTY to go to!
Emily, with whom I’ve been through many travels, is having her birthday near Nashville, so we evacuate to Music City. We put the cat in the car and head northwest. Emma is coming to town, too! Emily, Emma, Kevin and I spent last Christmas together and we’re reunited again in the little town of Ashland City. Emily has a band and we play music all night long. We lost WATER at the house and headed to The Dive Motel in Nashville, so it’s right up our alley. I reunite with my former band leader Bebe Buell and her husband Jim, who is a friend of mine from college. The storm hung offshore of Vero Beach for 36 hours, then moved up the coast. It washed away the beach but never hit town. When the party and storm were over, we drove with trepidation back to our boarded-up house. We hear reports about The Bahamas, which got it the worst.
The founder of the Land Trust, Maggie, rushed into action after Irma, so she knew what to do after Dorian. I met her in a hotel room in Palm Beach, where she set up a command post - making phone calls, sending texts and emails, coordinating logistics to get supplies via plane to the hardest-hit of the islands, Abaco. A space in a nearby hangar was set up, people mobilized, and pilots volunteered to fly supplies to the island. Donors were bringing supplies by the
truckload to the hangar that needed to get to the island. Pilots would come with lists and the planes would get loaded up again. There’s all kinds of rumors and misinformation, reminding me of the hours and days after 9/11. Maggie went to the island and saw the devastation first-hand, and brought two families back on a small plane. How do you do that for a weekend and go back to your life? I was going to the hangar for WEEKS. Operations were winding down when I “reengineered” my finger, ending my box-lifting career. Back to my computer, which was also a challenge with Frankenfinger. The disaster relief was unique experience. My work gives me a purpose other than saving my own life. I’m sick of focusing on me. With my job, I’m improving a community. Helping people makes me happy.
Music also makes me happy. In a trip up North for my quarterly tests, I performed selections from the musical I’m helping produce, Rise and Shine, at Howl Happening Space in NYC. Though I can’t PLAY, I can sing, and tour manage. Both The Dickies and Emma come for Halloween. I scrap exploiting Frankenfinger for a Bionic Woman costume, and Emma and I go full Gallagher Brothers (Oasis, not watermelons).
I’ve seen more action in my little pinky this year than a few people see in a decade. Moving into 2020, which sounds terrifying, it’s not, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”, but who do I want to grow into being?