Quinoa Shampoo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Today is my Cancer-versary. All day I’ve been morbidly imagining a Jacquie Lawson whimsical, animated e-card for this, though I doubt there’s some cutesy montage of a woodland animal getting scared fur-less then starting a blog. Last year, this day was a tough one. This year I’m inventing really inappropriate Christmas greetings in my head as Tinyprints offers no canned holiday slogans for the cancered. I should probably exorcize them prior to sitting down to the actual task.

Merry Christmas from ALL FOUR Lees! Not dead! Yay!!

Still here—Hair-allulia!

Wishing you a wonderful New Year (knock on wood)!

April came over today to exchange gifts, check in, and make sure I hadn’t started drinking, or possibly join me if I had (…these are the things friends do). Two years ago today, I took the life-changing call in her living room. One year ago, to mark a shitty year completed, April organized a trip to Turks & Caicos for our families (…these are the things April does). Her gift to me this year was a bound photo album of that vacation: 38 pages of gorgeous, warm, sun-kissed memories. If today was always going to be about looking backwards with fear and sadness, this lovely book of pictures flipped the switch on that.

Brodie just padded down the stairs with are-you-mad-I’m-still-awake reluctance. He’s deep into the fourth Percy Jackson, and it had gotten a little creepy. It had also gotten quite late past the allotted reading time, but I can never muster any real parental sternness for this transgression. I think many of us remember unsanctioned school night flashlight reading for just one… more… chapter. Usually mommy hugs and expert bed-tucking are the cure for the Can’t Sleeps, but tonight Brodie requested something else:

I need something good to replace the scary things in my head.

Indeed. Though I was going to save it for Christmas, Brodie needed it now. I pulled out the Anderson and Lee Family Adventure book and we reminisced over the images, erasing chapters of spooky monsters, and months of cold terror with the turn of each page. Brodie returned to his cozy bed dreaming of conch shell diving and night swimming and paddle boarding and sea turtles. I returned to my keyboard to write April (this) little thank you for a more-than-she-could-ever-know magical gift of pictures.

Anniversaries are powerful. The sights and smells of Christmastime may always harbor a twinge of fear, hesitation, superstition, and gloom for me. I still haven’t set foot in April’s living room, and I’m growing my hair like I’m trying to prove something. Certainly the cure for scary memories is to outnumber them with fabulous ones. And to do that, all I need is to surround myself with these wonderful people I call family and friends… and to stick around for many more photos.

Two years. Hair. Here. Happy. Hallelujah.

From April's book... me and the boys and a mop of hair and smiles all around

From April’s book… me and the boys and a mop of hair and smiles all around

Christmas Cards

The Lee Family Christmas cards are in a pile waiting for addresses and Santa stamps and happy little words to sum up an entire year. I relish this task because I never do Christmas cards without a festive musical and champagne bubbly accompaniment. Also, I sort of delight in those moments when I think about the people on my list, the ones in my heart, (and the ones who sent me a card last year). I love holiday cards more than Christmas itself. Birth announcements, children getting cute, then all gawky, then cute again, long-winded essays about medical ailments and grandchild accomplishments, hey-we’re-on-a-boat!/ski-lift!/gondola!, card stock, theme stamps… the whole shebang.

To illustrate how freakishly fond I am of the ritual, I’ll share the fact that I send out 250 of them. I realize that because I am neither popular nor employed nor a Kennedy, this makes me ridiculous. But if I have your address, you’re getting the 2012 version of Brodie Hugs Teddy. And after the year I’ve had, and all of the resulting new friends in the worlds of Medicine, and Cancer, and Church, I’ll be spending more on stamps than Nerf Darts this month. These cards are another opportunity to pen a little thank you to anyone I might have forgotten. But as I look at the gigantic stack of Brodie Hugs Teddy, I’m wondering about the cards that go out to my thesis advisor, or great Aunt Pat, or my lab partner—the people who don’t… KNOW.

Although I love love love love long, single-spaced, tell-all, bragging, and even boring holiday card letter inserts, I am personally opposed to writing one. This is because I feel quite obligated to mock any holly-sprig-bordered form letter that flutters out of a lined envelope. It’s possibly the least Christian thing I do (another lie, I’m perfectly dreadful about plenty of other things), but I am unable to refrain from poking fun at a perfectly pleasant summation of a year. I find it great fun to read what someone deemed holiday-card worthy to share. Last year, great Aunt Pat’s was a dry memo about the inevitability of assisted living; a more distant-than-close acquaintance sent everyone on his list comprehensive beach house renovation details; one year my sister-in-law’s letter had a picture of her pool house, my children, and her uterus; and everyone gets at least one note with lots!! of !!! exclamation!!!! points!!!!! bordered with thirty-eight thumbnail pics of kids-on-holiday in addition to the twenty scanned onto the card, itself. (You know I adore it, Kir.)

But after a lifetime of gleeful giggling over Christmas letters, I’m wondering if Happy Holidays from the Lees! requires my own embarrassing missive on theme paper. It’s quite possible that my old boss (and everyone else who isn’t on Facebook) will just assume that I grew tired of long, awesome hair and chose to embrace a practical mom style. But in the spirit of (over) sharing, maybe these old friends would want to know what happened to us this year? In the end, I’ll err on the side of a simple signature, as every attempt to write one of these things is dreadful. I should really subcontract this out to Steve Safran, because this is what I’ve got:

Merry Christmas! We’re happy to see 2012 pass. Britt was diagnosed with breast cancer and slogged through the usual drill of surgery and poisons, wigs and hats, Holy Spirit shout-outs and blogging. Sending happy, haired messages of thankfulness and love from our home to yours.

Nearly Happy Holidays from the Lees. 2012 was a terrifying year for us. Frankly, we’re a little mystified why so many of you shun social networking, thus necessitating a holiday insert about Cancer. You can read all about it at http://www.eastmeetsbreast.com, but realize some of you are too busy/important/cool/retro to read about Britt’s Tragedy online. We hope you enjoy a Cancer Free Christmas.

Happy Holidays from the Lees! Britt had breast cancer! But now she’s fine!! Everything is great!!! Yay!!!!!

So I think I’ll keep Cancer out of the Christmas card.

Today at Bible study (yes, BIBLE STUDY), one lovely lady shared that she prays for each person on her list as she addresses her Christmas card envelopes. I love that image, and hope it’s one that rings with you, too… in whatever form prayer takes as you shovel stacks of letter-pressed and offspring-adorned cards into the post. I’ll be sending out 250 cosmic messages of love along with my Brodie Hugs Teddy. And all I want in return is some truly tell-all, boastful, misspelled missives peppered with alots. As crap 2012 comes to a close, I deserve a good giggle.

One of many Brodie Hugs Teddy captured by www.drewwiedemann.com/family

One of many Brodie Hugs Teddy captured by http://www.drewwiedemann.com/family