Monday, January 30, 2012

To: Enquiring Minds Who Want to Know . . . From: Me xxoo

(This post is cross posted at, which is the hobbit hole in cyber space where this blog will be moving. It's an adventure, and you know how hobbits and blogs are about adventure. These things take time. And a little help from a wizard wouldn't hurt;)
. . . So . . . how’s the book doing?
I get this question a lot these days. It always catches me off guard and I never know what to say. I mean, my book couldn’t be happier to be a real live book and really, what more could a book want than to be in black and white and read all over? (Although, I saw my book on somebody’s Kindle Fire the other day and holy crap the pics are in color! In which case, that previous previous sentence would read: “in black and white and red all over”…at least, the picture of the “Vespa Incident” is. Gross. But cool at the same time, because well, somehow my face survived and in a not-quite-Picasso state.)
But I digress, because it feels weird talking about that side of writing a ”funny book about cancer” (Namaste Anne Lamott) when I have too many people I love battling the bitch that is cancer or who have put down their pink or whatever colored boxing gloves to find their rest and a little freaking peace.
Humbling. To say the least.
For instance, my friend R (who just downed her last chemo cocktail on Friday-woot freaking woot!) told me that, after her first chemo cocktail, she had a Thanksgiving like the one I had (and wrote about) in my book, and that while she was struggling to cope, she asked her husband to bring her my book, so she could re-read that particular chapter, Round 5: “Beauty From Pain” and catch a view from the other side of the chemo cocktail hangover.
Last week I went to my friend T’s book club who happened to be doing my book. This amazing group of women have done book club together since 1999. They’ve read 10 books a year, together, every year, ever since. 140 books. They have been through a lot, and not just books. Three years ago they went through T’s breast cancer together. Eight months ago they began a journey together through M’s breast cancer. Currently they are going through K’s husband’s recent diagnosis with “Steve Job’s kind of cancer”. The book club was her first girls’ night out since he was diagnosed.
A couple weeks ago my friend J texted me from her chemo cocktail lounge to tell me that she met my friend M because she noticed her laughing while reading my book.
Wow. Wow. Wow. How humbling is that?
That’s why I wrote it.
Besides, I don’t own a business suit. How freaking confusing would it be to tell Ellen and me apart if I did?
The fact that I just realized that I recently had an Amazon check direct deposited to my “business” bank account making it the first paycheck I’ve earned since 1989 is beside the point. Other than that I keep it pretty chill. Except when I happen to be getting my du done by my friend K at one salon, when our mutual friend K, who cures my manis at another salon, walks in to get her hair done after mine READING MY BOOK… at which point we all screamed then busted up laughing, which made quite a scene.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Skipping Stones and Surfing on the Ripples

So it's already Day 5 into 2012 and I'm just now getting around to writing that post where I go public with my New Year's hopes, dreams, and resolutions. For those who know me, it doesn't surprise you that I'm just now getting around to it. I'm a freaking introvert. Not to mention, super freaking shy. Besides, 2011 was such a ridiculous amazing year for me that it's not like I wanted that party to slow down enough for me to sit still and think about "What's next?" Instead what really went down, was there was a bit more squeezing of life into what remained of 2011. I admit it, I'm a glutton when it comes to squeezing that last drop out. (It's a good thing for me, that Jesus hangs out with peeps like that.)

Early on in 2011, I met a woman on a plane who told me that after meeting me, she had an image pop up in her mind that she felt like she was supposed to share with me. She said that she pictured a juicy pink grapefruit in my hand, that it was very sweet, and that I was going to squeeze every last bit out of it. She said she wanted me to know this is what God has for me. Then she gave me a $20 bill and told me she wanted the first copy of my book when I published it. Which I kept on my desk in front of me as I tried to squeeze the best out of my book in the editing process. (Yes, of course, I sent her a book!)

I. Love. Grapefruit. And I love whoever invented the grapefruit spoon. Have you ever noticed that when you scoop out grapefruit it sounds like a kiss? I think God did that on purpose to say, "Hey I love you! Now go have a good day! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx." (At least, my grapefruit had 25 kisses in it this morning. Which means, you KNOW it's going to be a good day. And yes, I counted them. Who wouldn't count kisses from God?)
Anyway, I appreciated that word picture she gave me. I don't think in pictures; I think in words. Then I like to play with them. I try and make pretty word pictures since I can't draw. But let's not get into my flaws right now. This is supposed to be one of those uplifting, dive off into the New Year type of posts and how will we ever get there if we dwell on such things?

So one of the first things I read on Facebook when I finally dragged my lazy bum out of bed on New Year's Day, was from one of my friend Julie Sweeney's last posts of 2011. She suggested thinking of "a single word to represent a focus of intention for the new year (rather than a list of resolutions)."

I liked that idea a lot. I especially like it here on January 5th, where I'm 5 days behind the resolution groove.
So here's my word:
During The SCAR Project Exhibit which I helped bring to Cincinnati during Pinktober, a friend took me aside and advised me to make sure I didn't just jump into the next thing without taking time to experience the beautiful ripples from the stone I'd just thrown that was skipping so happily right in front of me. The next day another friend came up to me at the exhibit and asked me if I had considered all the Ripples spiraling out from The SCAR Project and my book? Well, I don't have to be hit on the head three times. I decided I better sit back and enjoy the ride, or else. (OK, so I have a hard time sitting still . . . so maybe if I grabbed a metaphorical surf board;)
Anyway, here are some of the ripples I'm riding into 2012:

1. My book! It's still a bit surreal to me that I actually get to finally say MY BOOK! But it's out there on Amazon and Kindle. I've wanted to write a book ever since Mrs. Daneal helped me crack the code in kindergarten and I  went home that day and read a book all by myself. It was a big orange book called "I Want To Read" which  about drove me crazy because I so identified with the little girl in the story.  My Amanda was the same when she was little and I was reading Dr. Seuss to her. One day she pointed at the words on the bottom of the page, nearly knocking the book out of my hands, and then she literally threw her hands up in the air and begged me: "MAMA I NEED TO KNOW WHAT IT SAYS DOWN THERE WHERE THE SQUIGGLES ARE!"

I had a couple ridiculous fabulous book launch parties in December. One was at Book Bums, the coffee shop where I hang out a lot, go to my writers group, and where I wrote quite a lot of my book, while sipping on their delish highlander grog. The other one was at Art Design Consultants, the "Gallery in the Sky" downtown Cincy where we held The SCAR Project exhibit.

I like that particular picture from the book release parties, because I like the way my Amanda is looking at me. Also I love my sweet little survivor sister Paige sitting there all cute and sipping on a not-a-chemo-cocktail (minus the vodka of course) while I'm saying a few thank you's before doing a reading.

I'm still trying to take it all in. So. much. fun. I feel like such a lucky girl, and so very grateful to have so much love all around me.

I'm scheduled to do an interview for a local magazine next week, a book club later this month, and to speak at Cincinnati State in March. And my Mikey is going to help produce an audio book. Also I'm happy to announce that my Redheads have officially released the "Cancer is a Bitch" song on iTunes! But there's also...

2. The SCAR Project. Working on The SCAR Project Cincinnati Exhibit was one of the most meaningful things I have ever done. I met so many wonderful people and learned so much about myself. When my committee and I traveled to NYC to present The SCAR Project with a donation from our exhibit, I found myself asking David Jay if there was more that I could do. So now I'm lucky enough to still be working on The SCAR Project, consulting with other people who are trying to bring it to their cities. So far it looks as if there will be exhibits in DC, LA, and Toronto this year! I'm having the time of my life working with those who are trying to make it happen. Also, one of the loveliest things about working on The SCAR Project Cincy Exhibit was getting to know many of the girls who have participated in it. I had begun interviewing the girls and/or hosting their stories in their own words on our SCAR Project Cincy blog. I'm really excited that I am going to be able to continue doing this as we are going to launch a SCAR Project blog on the web site.

3. My Amanda got engaged and thus we are planning a wedding! Here is my favorite of their engagement photos:
Amanda will become Mrs. Gary Duane Freaking Benton on June 10, 2012. That is a day after they graduate from the University of Cincinnati. What a weekend, no? Their plans are to go with YWAM on a mission trip to Wales for a year. Then they intend to move to Denver, where Gary intends on going to seminary to be an Army chaplain.

4. The nest is emptying. Sad in one way. But it's also exciting to watch the Redheads chasing after their dreams at the same time. And depending on where they land, it looks like some interesting holidays for me!

5. Meanwhile, we have a lovely window where Mikeyy is commuting from home. Kinda cool that Matt had his year of being an only child at home last year while Mikeyy was out of the country with YWAM, and now Mikeyy has his turn.

6. Ive begun practicing yoga. Lucky for me, the yoga studio near me started a book club at my coffee shop a few months ago. This was the perfect segue into going to an actual yoga class for me. And I have been having the loveliest time getting to know my new yoga friends and learning yoga.

7. It's cold outside, so I'm not doing much running. Hopefully my new yoga practice will keep me up fitness wise. But I do look forward to picking back up my running. I miss my daily 4 mile through the neighborhood. But not necessarily in the freezing cold. Oh how I need to live in a warmer climate.

8. Besides writing a book, there are a few other crazy things I've done outside of my comfort zone that I'm pretty happy about: I wrote a song which the Redheads have been covering and are going to release on their full length CD. I love what they've done with it and can't wait until "Wind in My Hair" is released. During The SCAR Project I had to step way out of my comfort zone and do a couple of interviews on TV and radio. Although I don't recommend viewing them in HD (holy crap my freckles jumped off the screen!) I'm glad I didn't chicken out because it was good for me to stand in for my friend Vanessa and to promote The SCAR Project despite my shyness. One of the craziest fun things I did this past year was to hang out on set where my Mikeyy was being a grip and production assistant, and then end up being a stand-in and then even an extra in one scene that took place, appropriately, in a coffee shop! Crazier still, and it comes out this week, but the owner of the art gallery (where we hosted The SCAR Project) and I were photographed for a magazine article about successful charity galas in Cincinnati. Who EVER would've thought I'd do fashion photography? HA! It was more like Litsa (the Greek goddess) and me (the cartoon character)!

9. I can't end a post on ripples that affect me without mentioning people I miss who are resting in peace during 2011 after fighting the beast that is cancer: Mary Jo Cropper, Daria, Jolene, Kaye, Cindi. I miss you all, and even though cancer is done with me (God willing) I am not done with it. You are always in my heart.

And since I don't really know how to surf, before I hang 10 I'll just stop there. Besides this post was brought to you by a glass of 9 Stones Shiraz that I've been sipping on while I skip these stones and surf the ripples they make. So cheers to you, your health, this new year, and to skipping stones and surfing ripples in 2012.