Dear Cancer, You Suck.

Last night I spent some time with an old friend. I haven’t spent any real one-on-one time with him in nearly 10 years. When I moved back to the area five years ago, I saw him in passing a couple of times. When I moved to his city two years ago, I put off calling him. I was busy. I had settling in to do, a long commute, and a long list of chores. I was newly married and wanted to focus on becoming the best Mrs. I could be.

Finally, last October, I got around to sending him a little note. I miss you, let’s get together, sorry that it took me so long to get in touch. His reply came back, and it stunned me: I am fighting cancer. I should have been dead months ago. Do me a favor: Enjoy every day.

I sent back a heartfelt message and I couldn’t get a good read on where he was emotionally. Did he want to spend time with me? I wondered if it was worth it to him to reconnect if he was, as he put it, “done working.” I really wanted to connect, but I left it at a few messages and we never made plans.

I saw him on the street last month, and he seemed very happy to see me. We had a quick chat and continued on our separate ways. After that, it dawned on me that I missed talking to him more than I had realized – missed his smile and his laugh, his sweet spirit,  and his sense of humor. Missed how easy it was to talk to him, about everything. This was a friend who, years ago,  had let me hang out with him for what seemed like no good reason, who took walks and drives with me, cooked me dinner and just was there when I didn’t really have many real friends. This was a friend who had long instant message chats with me when I went away to school. The friend who invited me to his wedding and practically commanded me not to bring a gift – just the fact that I was driving 32 hours in one weekend to be there meant a lot to him.

Still, I put off getting in touch with him. Weeks passed. And then, I got the news that my friend’s brother died from gastric cancer. June 18 and 19, I went to Bob Dedrick’s calling hours and memorial service. And hearing about Bob’s life from his friends and colleagues put everything in perspective – what it means to be a friend, what it means to live life and make the most of what you have.

June 20, I texted my old friend. Last night, June 26, we took a walk. We brought each other up to speed on what was new and a little bit of what was not so new. He told me his cancer story. How awful his pain was, how sick the treatments made him, how difficult the physical therapy was. I felt guilty for not connecting with him sooner – I could have been there for him when he was going through his treatment, I could have done more. But those kinds of thoughts aren’t productive.

The past is the past for a reason. What matters is that we are connected again, now. What matters is that I still have some time with my sweet friend, and that we can take walks and talk about life the way we did all those years ago. The past is past, and the future is still waiting to be made. Life goes on, we are both living today, and my hope is that I can enjoy each walk we get to take, knowing that it’s a blessing to have my friend walking next to me.


Good Deeds – The Luckiest

I just got out of one of the only memorial services that I can truly say this about:  I hope I remember it for a lifetime.

Friends, neighbors, colleagues, former students, family members, friends who have known him for so long that they now qualify as family members, even his family physician. They came up to speak to the beyond-packed sanctuary and share their remembrances of Bob, and the service lasted for two hours solid.

I heard about a man who gave whatever he had on hand to give…to everyone. His family, his friends, his community… basically, he lived a life that so few of us have the courage to live.

Toward the end of the service, Bob’s old friend Mike got up to sing “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds. That song is powerful enough without the context. Mike had previously broken down while trying to speak and was unable to finish. When he stood up to sing, I thought, “Wow. You can do this, Mike.” Shortly after the first chorus he had trouble continuing, and that’s when it happened. First, I heard one lone woman’s voice. Then, like we were all singing a hymn, everyone started singing with Mike. Not all of us knew the words or the tune, but we didn’t leave him all alone up there. He kept singing, all the way to the end of the song, even when it had seemed like he wouldn’t make it through the second verse.

I think that’s the takeaway, from a man who wasn’t even there – but was unmistakably represented in that action:

Keep going, as long as you can. And then start again. Give what you can, even if you don’t know what you’re doing. Give what you can, only if it seems like your soft humming will barely make a difference.



Good Deeds

I am wearing a green bracelet right now, one of those rubber ones that they make in every color for every cause. The one I am wearing says “GOOD “DEEDS”” on it. I got it today, at a place I wish I didn’t have to go…the calling hours for Bob Dedrick, the brother of an old and very dear friend of mine.


Bob died June 13 after battling with stomach cancer since last fall. I hate to even type the word cancer. I have known so many people with cancer, seen so many people who should still be here taken away by cancer, and even some who have “beat” cancer but are still keeping a wary eye out for its return.

I hate cancer. I hate cancer so much that if it were a person, I think I could kill it with my bare hands. I am furious that there is no cure. I have read heart-wrenching stories on the internet, and now I know a real life one.  Bob has a wife. He has two tiny kids who will probably not really remember much of what he was like with them.

I went to the calling hours thinking that I could just breeze through and give some hugs to my friend and her family. I didn’t know Bob very well. I probably haven’t spoken to him since the early 2000s. I remember him as annoyed, mostly. When I would go over to his house to hang out with his sister in high school, we got loud. Loud and loud, and then a little louder. And we laughed… a LOT. And I kind of remember Bob as rolling his eyes at me, mostly. Thinking I was kind of a dork. In my head, he has always been “Bobby Deed.” I don’t know if I ever had the guts to call him that to his face.

But there is one memory that I have of Bob that has stayed sharp in my memory…for what I think is 17 years. It is of him, at the front of the old Methodist church that we all attended, trying to give a speech at his own mother’s funeral after her own battle with cancer. The words came out, sort of. They were mostly just strangled off noises and gulps and sobs. And I remember thinking, my gosh, poor Bob, why is he up there?

At the calling hours today, there was a wait to get inside. Not a short wait, either. I think I stood in line for 45 minutes to give a handful of hugs.  I stayed for a few hours, occasionally seeing old friends from high school or parents of old friends from high school. And that line never abated. It was still there when I left, half an hour before calling hours were supposed to end.

“Deeds” was a force in his city and he was admired in his community. Yes, he was a husband, brother, son… but he was also a teacher, coach, mentor, and friend. The few hours I spent in Canandaigua today were enough to shake me awake, to question my career, my ambitions, the kind of friend I am, the kind of citizen I am, the kind of wife I am, basically everything that I have been doing for the past several years.

It’s hard to imagine my own death, my own calling hours, my own remembrances. I am sure there would be some good ones. But I want a line out to the street. I want to live my life like that. I want to give like that.

Good “Deeds” indeed.

Dieting success.

“I think life moves in cycles — earth rotating around the sun, breathing in & out, heartbeats, tides, and times when I am successfully dieting vs. not.”

My awesome friend K said this recently. Last October, I jumped into a new health regimen with the intensity of the burning sun. I was working out 5 times per week, increasing the intensity and length with each passing week. I was chopping vegetables and washing fruit and cooking myself omelets for breakfast. I was dropping weight like gangbusters.

But then something funny happened.

There was a woman who started Weight Watchers the same week that I did. She was celebrating weight loss milestones like crazy. She would lose 3 pounds on a week when I lost .6. I started to get extremely discouraged and resentful. Not of this woman and her success, but of my clear failure.

I started to lose the race.

As of right now, this woman has lost 20 more pounds than me – in the same time frame.


Great job, lady who is kicking my ass at weight loss. I am really happy for you!


So, what did I do wrong? How could I have followed plan better and matched or beat this woman’s weight loss?

Wrong question.

The question is, why did I lose sight of my own journey and get caught up in another person’s journey? Why did I compare myself?

When I started this journey in July 2010, I knew it was not going to be easy. I knew that I would not lose 80 pounds in 5 months, like I did ten years ago. I knew that, considering the sheer amount of pounds I wanted to lose, I should probably take about three to five years to do it safely and keep it off. I wanted to make lifestyle changes that would stick. I wanted to keep eating pizza and cake.

But it’s not enough, is it? If I live according to the messages “out there” then I should be able to whip myself right into shape. Drop this weight in a year by eating chicken breasts and salads for dinner…and oatmeal with a banana for dessert.

I can't eat like this. It's just not sustainable. Also I don't like eating food off the ground. And I'm pretty sure I can't sit like that.

Been there, done that. And when I got sick of eating like someone on a diet, I gained back the pounds I had lost. And they brought some friends along.

I want to learn what it means to really enjoy life. I don’t want to live my life punishing myself. I want to enjoy treats in moderation. I want to make healthy choices because they are healthy, not because they will reward me when I step on the scale and see a lower number.

Lately, maybe for 6 weeks or so, I have not been successfully dieting, according to my definition. I have been eating chips and cookies out of frustration. Yes, overeating the wrong foods – out of frustration…with the pace of my weight loss journey. If you can untangle that logic then you can quite possibly solve the obesity epidemic.

But I’m back. I decided that I owed it to myself to keep my eyes front. Stay on my side of the road. Make a focused effort on my health.

I am successfully “dieting.” I call it that, because it’s a common term that we all understand that lets you know that the next time you see me, I will probably be at least a little bit smaller. In reality, I am making small, sustainable, lasting changes that will make me smaller over a long period of time – maybe five or more years. And I am OK with that.



The tables have turned.

I have spent the past couple of weeks researching two of my newer favorite bands – Railroad Earth and The Infamous Stringdusters. This morning, I am holed up in my office looking for new live shows online (listening to this one as I type this.). I have been scouring the internet for relevant articles. Looking up School of Dobro with Andy Hall and watching sample videos. Reading Chris Pandolfi’s website. E-mailing the guys from Railroad Earth just to tell them how rad their show was. Googling “railroad earth blog” in hopes that any of those guys keeps a blog I can read.

It’s funny, because I didn’t think I had this obsessive thing. Mr. Thor is a maniac when he gets interested in something. He will spend weeks telling me the minutiae of the lives and careers of the musicians in his favorite bands. Last night he didn’t believe that I had been researching so he gave me a band member quiz. Please! Amateur. Has he been on facebook looking through Andy Falco’s pictures yet? I didn’t think so.

I say the tables have turned because now it’s Mr. Thor coming into my office to invite me downstairs to have coffee with him this morning. Mr. Thor who is thinking, “my god, can you pull yourself away from your imaginary musical friends for two seconds to talk to me?” OK, maybe he’s not thinking anything that dramatic, because that’s my job. But I think it’s funny, now, to see myself absorbed in something that would normally be “his.”


So, what is it? What is it that makes the music not quite enough? Why do I need to read articles and look up live shows and photos and read blogs?Am I some kind of creepy stalker?


(that’s where we all laugh.)

I think, honestly, it’s a search for context. This stuff is so different for me. I am new, as of last September, to anything even related to or served with bluegrass. And I am amazed. And, suddenly, I find out that there are people who have already been here for YEARS. and it’s their passion. for some of them, it’s their livelihood. And how did they get there? Why don’t more people understand this music? There is an entire universe that I had never even brushed up against, and now I find that I want to live there.

So, maybe, I am looking for my bridge over. My doorway, the connection that tells me I am not so different from these people living in this other world, that I am welcome there as much as anywhere. Anything. Words on a screen that tell me how those guys got there, what moved them, what continues to move them.

Last night and this morning I got some words in an e-mail from a couple of guys in Railroad Earth, saying welcome aboard, hope to play for you again soon.

The door creaks open. 🙂



DelFest 2012 Recap – Day 3

I think I have been dragging my feet in getting this post up because well – finishing the recap means that it’s really over. I found my pocket pal in my backpack yesterday as we unpacked and put some camp stuff away. I have been washing our camp bedding. We stowed the air mattress under the bed. The lantern is sitting out for me to return to Jax.

One week ago today, as I am sitting here writing this, I was sitting in the rain and watching Sam Bush do his sound check.

I don’t think I need to recap Day Three. We watched amazing music. It rained. We had to take cover in a giant grandstand. We came out and saw Steve Martin. We had to take cover again. I fell asleep before the last music of the night.

We got up Monday morning and hauled everything to the car and drove home. I am still exhausted, to tell you the truth.

Last night I looked up the Railroad Earth concert from the first night of the festival and listened to the song “Railroad Earth” and I smiled and cried a little. It was really a magical experience, and I am someone who barely has a toe in the bluegrass/newgrass/jamgrass genre. I knew approximately two songs going in to the weekend, and I came out the other side obsessed.

I was blown away by the skill level, the dedication, the humility, the good-naturedness of so many performers. The gratitude that they profess for being able to do what they love. The appreciation that they express for the father of the festival, Del McCoury.

It was a wake-up call for me. A reminder that hard work goes a long way toward “living the dream.” A reminder that I have unfinished business in here – I have stuff to write. I have stuff to make. And maybe, somewhere in here, I even have a song to sing or play.

I cleaned out my purse on Friday, and as I shook it out, a piece of the mini-gravel that was on the music meadow at the festival fell out. I picked it up and put it back in, just for a reminder. Just for a few more days.