Happy Anniversary, HOPEspot!

Hopespotters! HOPEspot was born three years ago today. Three years ago, friends and family came to my home to launch this venture.  I was blessed with love and support that night. Those in attendance knew that I needed an outlet, a place to share my thoughts on life (mothering it and hospice-ing it). My husband, months before recognizing my discontent, connected me with a wonderfully creative web designer and HOPEspot was put in motion.

My husband’s initial diagnosis with my discontent was correct. My personal and professional experience was bubbling up in my throat and I needed to vent. I wanted to write but felt insecure with my talent. Three years into my blog, I still feel insecure about my talent. The majority of my followers are people that know me. Sometimes I worry their praise is equal to that of one might receive for looming a potholder because it was a useful application of time with a reasonably satisfactory product.

I started the blog with some shy, short outputs, but that time was marked by my niece’s heart surgery and there were tremendous feelings associated with that season.

Since then, we’ve explored Acts of God, Holy Saturday, 8th grade field trips and This is Us episodes that were life lessons. I’ve collaborated with very special people and felt good about this message.

I tried funny, observant, spiritual and informative. I tried to cover personal and professional and I wanted to make a name for myself as a writer. I still want that.

It is hard to try to be something bigger than I feel. I want to write about things that trouble me and yet I feel incomplete when I can’t make sense of the issues. I want to write from a place of total ego integrity, but I am too honest.

Three years ago, my husband wanted to help me start a blog so I could vent and grow professionally. Three years ago, Obama was still president. Three years ago, #metoo was unheard of. Three years ago, the shootings at the Orlando night club or Mandalay Bay had not happened.

Three years ago I felt younger- and more optimistic.

But this blog, this HOPEspot, has felt like a baby I’ve needed to nurture and help mature. As has been the case with my sons, I’ve made some errors.

I named HOPEspot for a reason. Personally and professionally, I’ve experienced times where answers and resources seemed absent. I know those moments where families look at each other with a love and a frightening void all at the same time.

Those moments SUCK.

My hope for HOPEspot was it would be a resource for those moments that could offer help and humor. If there was anything I could ever offer to families in those moments, I want to do it.

Three years in, I’m not as ebullient. Realities of disease, family, and circumstance constantly smack me in the face.

Three years in, I look back to why I started this and I come upon this:


Pandora was given a box she was forbidden to open. She is all of us. In predictable instant gratification, our girl opened the box and let out a host of evils she didn’t intend to release. In a panic, she closed the box, regretting the fact she didn’t follow her father’s instructions in keeping the box closed.

Thank you, Pandora for closing the box at just the right time. HOPE remained in the box. For all the hard things, I still think HOPE is the infinite remedy.

Thanks HOPEspotters followers. More. To. Come.

Seventeenth Anniversary

Saturday is my 17th wedding anniversary. It is predicted to be a beautiful day, just like it was on the day we were married. I actually drove by the church in which we married today, upon leaving a patient’s home, and it made me a touch nostalgic.

Seventeen years is a long time. Our marriage could drive in New Jersey. I looked up the traditional gift for the seventeenth wedding anniversary and it is furniture.

Furniture. That’s perfect.

I think when “they” chose the traditional gifts, even “they” knew that marriage year 17 was so lackluster that a new kitchen table, or La-Z-boy, was the only thing that could make anyone give a crap at all.  And that is best case scenario.

Gentle reader, I am not going to lie to you. No one is going to make an animated fairy tale movie about our marriage from this past year. Without getting too personal or uncomfortable, dull intermixed with crap is probably the best description of this most recent rotation around the sun.

To be clear, the love isn’t gone. Not at all. In fact, if it were, the story might take new twists and turns for greater reader interest. But. To be clear, the love isn’t gone.

Seventeen years of battling the underside of vows can take a toll. The sickness. The poorer. The worse. For all the days of our life. We’ve had multiple blessings, to be sure. Ryan and Sean being the brightest among them and it would be inaccurate to deny our gratitude.

However, with the imminent arrival of our wedding anniversary on the calendar, one can’t help but to take an inventory. And if one is honest, one isn’t always wholly satisfied with the picture, as unrealistic as it might have been.

With recognition that no piece of furniture is going to be part of our anniversary celebration, Kevin and I have talked extensively about our plans for September 30. Atlanta is a hot town with a super cool night life that we were ready to take on.

Except, I’m trying to lose weight. And one glass of wine will make me want to go to bed and not in the good way. Aoli oil, infused in the sexiest of dishes, upsets my stomach quickly and Ryan and Sean have sunday school early the next morning.

Year 17 does deserve furniture. A bed or an elevated toilet seat.

Tonight, Kevin and I came home from work - exhausted- to the boys - exhausted- and no dinner was to be found or made from what existed in the fridge. We needed to go out or order in. Ryan, feebly, suggested Tokyo Boat and we all agreed.

Tokyo Boat, for my non local friends, is a hibachi, Benihana, kind of restaurant. Yes it is a little expensive and yes my clothes smell like the food when we leave, but I can count on Tokyo Boat for filling my sons with a good week’s worth of calories, as they love the food so much.

So tonight, my tired, uninspired, screen fixated family headed out to the the Tokyo Boat for an impromptu mid week dinner out..

And I got something so much better than furniture.

After a few (ok, a lot) of “put your phone down”s, our hibachi chef arrived to prepare our fried rice feast. The typical antics of fire, utensil juggling, and food tossing ensued… and my family engaged. We were the only four in the restaurant and the hibachi chef didn’t hold back from the full routine.

The combination of meal preparation fun and good stick to the ribs food changed the family mood entirely. We were talking, and laughing, and planning, and more talking.

It isn’t that we NEVER talk and laugh at dinner, but it isn’t always easy to come by. The transformation beside this hibachi grill on this night was so great it did make me smile.

It made me smile for this reason: Kevin and I had been trying to plan a special anniversary celebration to affirm for each other that we’ve “endured” a worthy 17 years and produced a beautiful product. I, at least, wanted to think that dressing up on Saturday night would bring back those "I absolutely have no doubt about these vows" feelings and that I wouldn’t be sad to find an ottoman with a bow on it when we got home.

The 17 year you should get furniture people have it all wrong. The longer I stay married the less I think I know, but tonight I am sure I know this: for friends and family celebrating an anniversary in the mid late teens, I suggest you wish them a "Tokyo Boat, catch food in your mouth, fill your belly with rice, remember why you love your family" impromptu mid week outing. It may be small but I promise you it is mighty.

It is the best thing you could wish for them, because I am here to tell you that it is a wish/ gift that keeps the light on. Watching your kid catch a shrimp in his mouth at Tokyo Boat and forgetting about the school standardized testing is the better to the worse, the richer to the poorer and the health to the sickness.

No, it isn’t sexy. It isn’t even furniture. But enough Tokyo Boats packed together may absolutely be the string from 17 to 18, and that is the biggest gift of all.

On the Occasion of my Parents' Fiftieth Anniversary

Hello, HOPESpotters! It has been awhile. I know I’ve been busy, just as you are, I am sure. There have been many blogs I’ve started and many things I have wanted to say, but I haven’t had the time to give adequate thought to the words I’d like to publish. And boy oh boy, there’s a lot to talk about these days and I can’t think of a time when there has been a greater need for HOPE.

Today I write solely in honor of my Mom and Dad because today is their fiftieth wedding anniversary.  Per my parents’ wishes, there is no formal celebration. They are humble people. My family and my sister’s family will be honoring my parents when we go on our annual beach vacation to Hilton Head with some things I cannot mention yet.

My Mom and Dad were married July 9, 1966. Friends in high school that became a couple in college, the bride and groom were 23 and 22, respectively, when they tied the knot. As my sister said today on Facebook, “what they didn’t know that day could fill oceans, but thankfully, they were quick studies.” And for that Katie, her children, my children, and I are grateful.

Let me be clear: if I wrote a whole blog to published for the Internet at large about the ins and outs of my parents 50+ year relationship, I wouldn’t likely find a seat at Thanksgiving dinner. We are private in that way. There are things, however, that this milestone inspires me to share.

I have said in the past, “..I said, I do. Priest didn’t let me finish. I should’ve said ‘ I do not have a clue what I’m in for. Marriage is highs and lows, imperfections and tolerance, glee and grit. Starting a family is a miracle like inventing fire: one part “wow” one part “what did we just do?”

The vows are the thing that fascinate me about weddings and marriage. Weddings are such beautiful, happy events and the vows are, most often, seemingly taken for granted.  Knowing what I know now, and I can only imagine what my parents know now, I have somewhat a different vision for weddings: bride in mouth guard, groom in cup, priest in referee gear… “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to see if these two have any clue what they are getting into and are subsequently up for it.”

I am so blessed to have parents, and grandparents, that have gone the distance. I am painfully aware it isn’t easy and to those reading who are divorced, you also have my admiration. Sometimes I just muse, what if weddings vows were more specific:

    For better or worse.. Kids, you’re gonna disagree- on houses, discipline, friends, vacation destinations. Your dog will die. Your toilet will overflow before your son’s First Communion party. There might be more worse than better. Endure.

    For richer or for poorer… Guess what? The economy, the stock market, luck -all might work against you. Every bride in America takes this vow with beautiful tear filled doe eyes thinking there is no level of poorer that would change her love for her groom. Unfortunately, poor hurts. And hungry sucks.

    In sickness and in health… This one.  Perhaps brides and grooms should be hooked to polygraphs when they make this vow.  When you're young and beautiful, this one seems irrelevant. Until it becomes painfully relevant.  Imagine the priest or rabbi or whatever officiant sitting the beautiful youngsters down and saying, “Best case scenario you two will grow old together and one will die before the other and it will be devastating. OR one of you could get sick, maybe each of you and it is up to the other to take care. Real care. Walking to bathroom. Picking up from falls. Smelling poop. Assessing memory. ALL. OF. IT.” And not all sickness is terminal - sometimes this vow is just a gut check for a couple asking if they can tolerate the sound of each others vomit or the moans of each other's pain. Sickness and health, to me, probably because of my profession and life experience is the biggity biggest vow.

    To love and to cherish… Yup. You forgot this one, too, right? This one gets to the crux of longevity, in my opinion.  Love and cherish is flowery. Close your eyes and think about three couples right now. Do they love and CHERISH? Is laundry on the floor an abandonment of cherishing? Harsh words? Staying married is hard - maintaining cherishing is…. Is… Is… Unusual.  For me, maintaining cherish in the life of 2016 is rare and difficult. Perhaps,  many of us need the reminder that this virtue was part of the vows.

    Finally, and essentially, the “from this day forward until death do us part”. How? HOW? Do twenty early year olds make this vow? In fact, how does anyone until you’ve seen that death part? Imagine again the wedding officiant looking into the eyes of the beautiful young bride and groom and getting them to honestly buy into nursing the other to death??? As this blog is in honor of my healthy and younger than biological age Mom and Dad, I am not going to dwell on this vow. It speaks for itself. I will only say I recently had the privilege of caring for a 68 year old man and his wife, to whom I’d become very fond. I was with them as he was moved into the hospital bed that he would inevitably die in within days. I won’t forget them clinging to each other, saddened by their defeat by cancer, and saying, “I’ll find you again. We found each other here. I’ll find you again.” So, death do us part? For how long, I say..

I hate that it is so easy for me to point out the ‘bad vows’ because, in fairness, that hasn’t been my life experience.  Marriage can also be better, richer, healthier.  Couples that work hard can enjoy together first steps, milestones, stolen time away, and comfort in each other's embrace. I have been truly blessed to see parents and grandparents who endured trouble, cancer, disappointment, changes and come out with love. This perserverance is what I hope for my sons because I am certain that there isn't anything I can say same to them in the presence of hot romantic love that will resonate with any form of relevance.

The purpose of my dissection of the marriage vows in light of my parents’ 50th is this: life and work have underscored for me how hard marriage can really be. I am really grateful to have been raised by two people who made the rounds on the up and downsides of each vow and found a way to stay together.  The Bible says, “Love is patient, love is kind…” And who am I to question the Bible? For me, growing up with my Mom and Dad, I learned that love IS, in fact, patient; love is tolerant; love is enduring and not always pretty, BUT love ultimately is coming together to celebrate the family you created and forgiving the imperfections of fate that you had to endure.

Mom and Dad, I don’t want to make you uncomfortable in a public celebration of your anniversary. I just think, along with Katie, that it needs to be said: it wasn’t easy or pretty, but we remember it as also happy and fun and safe. There has been constant and unconditional support. Thank you. We love you. Congratulations for honoring the hardest of vows for 50 years.
Here’s to marriage and all that comes with it. Here’s to love. And here’s to longevity and its example.


Today is Easter Sunday, a blessed day with very special meaning to many of us. It is the holiday of HOPE and the day we are reminded that nothing is ever so dead that it cannot be resurrected. This truth carries me through many days of sadness, worry and fear.

This year, 2016, Easter Sunday falls on March 27th. March 27th is the day I have celebrated for THIRTY ONE YEARS as my “Cancerversary”.  In 1985, at 13 years old, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Just the “C” word, at that time, instilled fear,and my particular case, was unusual for my age.  There is plenty I can say about my memories of the time surrounding my diagnosis; my fears and my profound sadness for my parents. I could write volumes about what I learned about nursing, empathy, and survivorship, and I intend to, over time. Every one that knows me well understands the profound footprint cancer has left on my soul- as survivor, the daughter and sister of survivors and the honored observer of surviving patients every day.

Today, however, I want to focus on the “Cancerversary”.  For me, I mark my “Cancerversary” as the day I had the seven hour surgery to remove all the cancer that was surgically removable. At age 13, going to New York City for what seemed, at the time, to be major surgery, was a major deal. I was scared. My Mom, sleeping on the floor at my side, was scared and people in my community, including my eighth grade classmates, were praying. “Normal” had quickly and dramatically changed.

To be clear, I don’t live in the past. My point in celebrating my “Cancerversary” is not to continue to draw attention to a thirty one year old memory. In my opinion, a Cancerversary is worthy of celebrating for the same reasons athletes reminisce about a championship or historians mark a battle victory. For anyone who has been touched by cancer, I believe there is value in marking the day where you took the battle to the mat (operating room, chemo chair) and said, “It’s on, Cancer. The line is drawn here.”

When in a fight that one must win, dates and victories are imperative to chronicle.

I remember, vaguely, being wheeled away from my Mom into the elevator going to surgery. My stoic, already battle weary Mom gave me a thumbs up and said, “get rid of this, OK?” More recently, my sister (Cancerversary 9/12/2013) came out of her double mastectomy drowsily demanding, “is it gone?”

Cancer draws a dark and hard line in anyone’s life story, essentially regardless of the statistical prognosis. I would be willing to bet that anyone who has sat across from a doctor and heard the word cancer, for themselves or a loved one, doesn’t see that day as the line between before and after.

As proof, I recently communicated with a college friend whose dear husband, also a college friend, was killed by cancer. I don't want to say lost his battle because he wasn’t a loser and cancer is a murderer. She messaged me saying, “ The 10th marked the 7 year anniversary since CAM’s diagnosis and the day that life changed forever….it’s like the line in the sand and you are forever “before cancer” and “after cancer”. Hard earned wisdom from a beautiful young widow.

Tonight we toasted my “Cancerversary”.  At dinner with my family who was there 31 years ago, it was right to celebrate the distance we traveled since this day and the life I have been blessed to live. Always on this day, I say a silent prayer for the doctors and nurses who have long since forgotten my name, but for whose impact I will always remember.

Hallmark acknowledges a lot of holidays and many different relationships. Maybe it’s just me, but I think “cancerversaries” are a thing. If you know someone, love someone, or ARE someone, who has waged war against the cancer beast, and there is a day when cancer got punched back into its nose like the bully it is, celebrate that day. I dream of a day when Al Roker will sit at the Today show desk and wish people twenty, thirty, forty year Cancerversary wishes.

And if anyone reading has a milestone coming up… A heartfelt happy Cancerversary!