Well, the robins are back. That’s a sure sign of Spring.

I’m experiencing my first Spring in Western New York.

Some of the first blooms to show up around our new house.

Some of the first blooms to show up around our new house.

More than being a lovely season, it’s been an honest time of “firsts” for me.  One such realization came not too long ago… Continue reading

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Ready To Pull The Trigger

So. I know I’ve been silent for a while.  A long while.

I drafted a post months ago… in early December, actually.  It’s well-written, it contains a message, and it’s very very me.  But I have not pressed publish.  Why?  Well, lots of reasons.  I was sick for a while in December, porphyria attack.  And then again in January with the flu… the remnants of which seem to not want to truly leave me be.

Work.  The Holidays.  We’re buying a house.

Reasons… kinda, but really they’ve become my excuses.  These are excuses.

You see, this post I wanted to share was about hunting season.  It’s drafted title is, in fact, I killed a Deer and I liked It.  (get it?)

You’d have to be living under a rock to not be in the midst of the gun-control melodrama that’s taken over our collective conscience lately.  The issues, outcries, politicizing, rallying, fear-mongering, paranoia, anger, and all the rest of it have just been a lot to deal with.  As a responsible gun owner, a legally licensed hunter and skilled shooting enthusiast – am I ready for what could happen if I publicly declare that I am okay with guns?  I wasn’t sure.

I’m still not totally sure about how to deal with any potential fallout that could occur.  And I know that’s likely.  I have friends and loved ones deeply entrenched on both sides of every proverbial line in the sand.  And while I’m pretty durn open and honest about who I am, and what I believe. (I mean, my Fb has plenty of pics of me holding and shooting guns… and not just hunting guns, but handguns, and yes – even an AR-15).

In the online blogging silence that ensued, my own internal voice grew stronger.  I do know who I am, and I love who I am.

And I, take it or leave it, am a gal with a gun.  I killed a deer, and I liked it.  I am not irreverent, malicious, cruel or casual in my approach to hunting, killing an animal, taking the meat from his body, and preparing it to be my own food.  In fact, I’m in awe of such power; I’m full of respect and admiration for the processes of life and the insight unto them that I have gained when looking down the barrel of a gun and feeling my finger on the trigger.

This is NOT a battlecry for gun rights.  This is NOT about Newtown or the CIA or our gun laws.

This is just a blog about me.  And at times, I am a hunter.  A happy hippie hunter.  Don’t think it’s possible?  Give my post a read and hear me out.

I’m pushing publish on it now.  I’m ready to be okay being me.

2,922 Bonus Days: That’s EIGHT Extra Years of life!

It’s that time of year again, ALREADY.  Thanksgiving has somehow come and gone, and Christmas is right around the corner.  My childhood BFF Mary just celebrated her birthday on December 1st (a chronological landmark I remember every year) and now the third is here…

It’s my EIGHT YEAR CANCER-VERSARY! 

Can you believe it?  It’s been eight happy, wonderful, blessed bonus years that I’ve been gifted since beating Stage III Hodgkin’s Lymphoma back in college.

The funny part about this commemorative occasion is that for the last several years, we’ve been celebrating it on December 5th.  In writing a post for this very blog, I uncovered some old photos, and actually found my radiation completion certificate – and lo and behold, it was dated the 3rd.  So the third of December it is.

The certificate of radiation completion!

The certificate of radiation completion!

This morning when I woke up to some texts and emails from family, I kinda found myself reflecting for a bit.  My moods ranged from full of awe and reverence to downright giddy. On Facebook, I posted an image of my cancer-beating certificate, and I’ve gotten an obscene amount of likes on it, like in the 160s and climbing.  And my dear pal and former-roomie and current co-worker Sasha “Salsa” Freeman Gray has been quite lovely in uploading some of the sillier pics from those crazy cancer days.

I was in college, had already gone through some really crazy health issues (a mis-diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease led me down the garden path of insane meds and eventually a full bowel obstruction which required a surgical resection), when my neck started to look like a sock full of golf balls – at least that’s the easiest way I’ve come to describe it.   I was tired, running slower than usual (literally, I ran a 5k and noted that my time was really slow, even for me), and I was having terrible night sweats.  Eventually I developed a non-producing cough, and around the holidays I just assumed I had some kind of supercold that my immuno-suppressed body couldn’t really fight so well.  It wouldn’t be until February of 2004 that I’d begin the process of diagnostic testing, and actually April when we found out for sure that it was Stage III-BS Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that had taken my collegiate body hostage.

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With Sasha, while getting my head shaved. I didn’t want to wait for it to fall out, so I took the matter into my own hands and got my pretty round head buzzed after my first chemo round.

In the process of shaving my head, I of course, had to take pause when I reached the excellent stage of MULLET.

In the process of shaving my head, I of course, had to take pause when I reached the excellent stage of MULLET.

I’ve gotten some interesting questions today – people wanting to know what it was like, how I’ve made the most of my time since, how I’m doing now… so without boring you all to death, I’ll try and give some tidbits:

What is it like to know you have cancer? 

Cancer was wacky crazy and very surreal for most of the experience, with one grindingly serious memory that jumps forward in which I finally absorbed the fact that I indeed had fecking CANCER and that it was hardcore.  Most of the time though, when you have cancer and you’re all chemo-bald, people know what your deal is and they’re very nice to you.  In my ongoing health issues with “Crohn’s Disease” and what we now know to be Acute Porphyria – it’s different. 

The serious realization came about very randomly.  I was driving home, and I was getting on Hodges from JTB (Jax ppl know what I mean), and it just hit me: I HAVE CANCER.  THIS IS SERIOUS.  And it kind of quietly overwhelmed me for a few moments, but by the time I got home I felt “normal” again.

How old were you? 

I was 20 when I was diagnosed, and celebrated my 21st birthday between chemo sessions.  I remember going to the Pepsi 400  (because that’s what it was called back then) on my actual birthday (July 3rd) and when a freak rainstorm came through I was freezing.  My then-boyfriend, Rick Neidringhaus, went and bought me some sweats and a windbreaker for my two favorite drivers: Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr, respectively.  I still have the pants and actually wear them often!

Sasha and bald-me, circa Fall 2004.

Sasha and bald-me, circa Fall 2004.

What got you through?

This one is easy: God, faith, family, friends, the entire UNF family, the Greek system, and my incredible team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and techs – all the good people of Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville who efficiently and effectively saved my life.  I had top notch doctors – I was already a patient at Mayo because of my aggressive “Crohn’s Disease” (since I really didn’t have Crohn’s, my body would never respond to the treatment – rendering me a medical outlier with an extreme case and therefore in need of the best doctors in the land.  Luckily for me, I lived in Jax, FL at the time and had Mayo access just a few miles from home).

I kept a really awesome attitude the entire time.  I bore everyone to death with the stories I tell again and again – but the one that I must tell when I saw a mother and her wheelchair-bound small child park next to me at Publix the day I was officially diagnosed.  Seeing that kid who has likely never walked and likely never will, I refused to feel sorry for myself.  It changed my entire perspective on the situation.  The first 19 years of my life were spent in excellent health, as I lead a life of privilege, freedom and one full of lovely memories and special experiences.  Had I died the day I was diagnosed, I wouldn’t have had a regret or a single sad feeling for myself.  Having cancer is what it is – once that tough lump is swallowed, all that’s left is making the best of it.  So I fought hard, kept my chin up, and did what I always do: plow my way through with some jokes and a lot of laughs, and a firm anchor to God and faith in the ultimate plan He has for my life.

Have these eight years been well-lived?

I mean, according to me – YES.  Heck, yes!  I’ve done some pretty amazing things and I believe I’ve chocked eight years full of an awful lot of life.  I’ve traveled, I’ve helped others, I’ve tried new things, I’ve experienced love, loss, happiness, and pain, full spectrum human experience.  I’ve created art, made others smile, formed friendships in the strangest and most normal of places – and every now and then I hear the “I word,” that I’ve inspired someone else into doing something good or at least having a good attitude about whatever it is he or she has going on.

Knowing that I can actually inspire others is very humbling.

Knowing that I’ve literally been granted 2,992 extra days of this life (heck yes I counted Leap Years) is humbling.

Snorkeling in Hawaii.  I've had a very happy life, yes!

Snorkeling in Hawaii. I’ve had a very happy life, yes!

I ran my first marathon this year, 26.2 miles!

I ran my first marathon this year, 26.2 miles!

Helping Sandy Relief in NYC last month.

Helping Sandy Relief in NYC last month.

My husband + me, smooching from a deer stand.

My husband + me, smooching from a deer stand.

Me - hunting just this past week or so!

Me – hunting just this past week or so!

So what’s it like now?

It’s both far-removed and ever-present.  The scars have faded, but they’re still there; and I still have my very first tattoos – the radiation dots that they marked me with to make sure they hit the same spot every day.  (As far as scars go, I had a couple stitches in my neck from a biopsy, another incision on the left side of my neck from having a lymph node removed, and I have a scar on my chest when I had my port-a-cath taken in and out).  I don’t obsess or worry about relapsing like I once did, and I don’t have to do the often check-ups and scans as I did in those first crucial years of remission.  I passed the five-year milestone three years ago, and that was a BIG ONE.  That’s the “you’re cured” milestone.

I don’t ever want to lose touch with that experience though.  After all, having been through cancer is a huge definer of who I am as a person.  It shaped me into a MUCH nicer person in general, and a tougher person in many ways.  It gave me a glimpse of my own frailty and left me with a profound appreciation for life and every breath I take.  And with that comes a responsibility to carry out a life well-lived and to do good in this world – and I find myself still trying to grasp at the best ways to keep that promise.

From this experience, what still impacts you today? 

I forever live with inexplicable gratitude in my heart.  For every nurse who held my hand, every doctor who took the time to make sure I received exemplary care… to my loved ones who came with me to chemo, prayed for me around the clock, and supported me in so many ways that words can never express… to the friends, classmates, and total strangers who came together to raise funds to help cover the costs of my treatment, to my Dad for working hard and having a good job that provided excellent insurance for me and money still to cover the costs that even excellent insurance didn’t take care of.

I carry with me a legacy of the hopes, dreams, and the honor of so many people who aren’t as lucky, of those who came before me and the technology that saved my life, of those in circumstances that don’t allow for early detection or top-notch medical care, of those who just don’t win the fight.  And that’s something that’s very real with me, a part of who I am.  We stand on the shoulders of so many giants, and I can’t ever forget that.

Mostly though, I just feel like me: Rose.  A happy wacky tie-dye loving slightly-redneck weirdo who often smiles and laughs everyday, and who is truly loved.  And I’m happy to be me, and I feel blessed to be me – each and every day.

I suppose if there was ever a profound take-away from an experience like mine – it is knowing in every ounce of my being that I am loved.  By my God, my family, those around me then and now, my husband, my friends, my sister, and even strangers – yes.  I am loved.  And being able to come face to face with such colossal concepts as life, death, and love is an honor that I am humbled to have experienced and lived through to write about now.

This post is dedicated to all of the many, many people who saved my life.  And to the many more lives that are forever changed by cancer, in all manner of ways – both happy and sad. 

Thank you for reading and for your support.

XOXO, 

HHR

Throwback Thursday: Halloween Weather Woes

Well pals, good news:  I’m acclimating to Western New York.  At least so far, I think I’m adapting to my new clime like a charm.

It’s been crisp lately, lovely, cool, and sometimes a crispy that borders almost on chilly – and I’ve been LOVING it.  I’m super in love with fall and all that it entails (more on that later, though).  Yesterday I had a doctor’s appointment.  I noticed it was gray and rainy, so I threw on jeans and a thin long sleeve tee.  I ran to the car, and assumed the warmth I was feeling was running + rain.  As I started driving and realized the thermostat declared the outdoor air to be a balmy 67, I started laughing.  Legit LOLing, because to me – 67 degrees sounded warm.  I also sweat right through that long sleeve shirt and felt like a clammy whore in church.

Today, it’s downright hot.  Like, mid-80s, I-feel-like-I’m-melting-and-want-to-die kind of hot.  And because of this unseasonal burst of sunshine and sweat, I have a funny Fb status right now.  It reads:

“it’s in the 80s today… THE EIGHTIES!

the only thing this heat is doing is bringing false hope to all the Halloween sluts.”

First of all, admit it: that’s funny.

this morning’s sunrise was pretty glorious, right? amazeballs.

Secondly, I’m really not hating on Halloween sluts.  If I’m being honest (and what’s the point of a blog if you’re lying?), I probably toe the line of slutty way more often than not.  I love a nice short short, low cut tops are my friend.  I’m 29 now, so I gotta make the most out of getting away with it while I can, right?  And as far as slutty-Halloween costumes go – I went to college in the South.  So you tell me how you think that went.  Which brings us to today’s “throwback” story.

The Halloween of 2008 will forever and ever (AND EVER) go down as an infamous Halloween.  I was living in Neptune Beach with Sasha and Mike, and well… we were all clinically insane.   That year for Halloween I had arranged and planned on a super awesome (and dubiously slutty) “Malibu Barbie” costume.  Long blond wig, hot pink bikini (calm down Mattel enthusiasts, I know that original MB wore baby blue), and super high heels.  It was gonna be awesome.  I was all sexy and tanned and excited.

the bikini that was purchased solely for the malibu barbie costume

Then, can you guess what happened?

If you guessed “obscene freak cold front,” you’d win.  In Jacksonville, FL the high for Halloween was in the 30s.  That’s just basically unheard of.  But that is indeed what happened, and it was miserable.  (Now, I’m referring to the weather on the party night, so it may not have been the 31st, but it was the Friday or Saturday that was being used as the party night).   My plans had been to attend a few specific parties, including one hosted by my pal DeDe that was an indoor/outdoor soiree.  So at the last minute I had to adjust my plans and go as something that offered more coverage than a bikini.  I know the hardcore amongst you are balking now, but it was blustery, possibly going to rain, and I was a thin-blooded full-time Floridian at that point.  And in order to have the gall to wear a bikini as a costume, I wasn’t carrying much meat on my bones at that time.

Whatever did you do, Rose?

I went to Target and bought some winter-y crap from the kids section and went as the weirdest, lamest, and still somehow sluttiest “Alpine Barbie” I could pull off.  Behold:

 

me on the left as “alpine barbie” and dede on the right as a red crayon. and no, i have no idea how she wasn’t freezing in that!

I’m pretty sure it’s one of my least favorite costumes of all time, because it was lame and terrible and poorly executed.  But for all those reasons, it also tickles my funny bone immensely.  And well, it was a Halloween I won’t forget, right?

Moral of the story: Never ever trust the weather report, and when going super slutty on Halloween, keep in mind a good back up plan.  Especially considering a hurricane is barreling its way to the east coast, this is a more important year than ever to make sure to have some kind of inclement weather plan B.

 

Thanks for reading – XOXO, 

HHR

Sprechen Sie Awesome?

My lovely friend Rell and I have recently reconnected (what’s better than reconnecting with a dear friend? Seriously, nothing!) and out of the goodness of her amazing heart, she decided to send me an awesome German care pack!

Yes, Germany.  One of the fun and wacky aspects of good ole military life is living abroad, and right now Rell and her family live on an Army base in Germany.   Her kids are having an amazing time learning the language and traveling so much, she and her husband have also really liked the experience.  Hearing about the plans for jaunts they have in store, and seeing the pics of how they’ve spent their time there so far: I’m uber jealous.  She’s having the real fun, but there’s still some rollover awesome that affects those she knows.  Having a friend who is stationed abroad comes with fringe benefits – this care pack being a major one.

my friend rell. this pretty lady sent ME a care pack!

when i saw this had arrived, i was downright giddy

You see, I got new doctors here in Western New York.  And the process of doing so was a DOOZY.  It was pretty rough, actually.  All the red tape and paperwork, all the hassle, it was a logistical nightmare.  Then, once I finally got on board with a new doc to manage my porphyria – he did what all new docs on a case loooooove to do: change up all my meds and make my body freak out.  So yeah, there was a period of time that was pretty craptastic.  It was right around this time that my pal Rell and I reconnected, and knowing that I was feeling the stress and dealing with some stuff – she decided to send me a sweet box of pick-me-ups.

When a box from Europe comes for you, and you know there are treats inside: it’s a super exciting time!

And this box of treats did NOT disappoint, neither now.

all mah goodies

Why is it that the German flavor of gummy bears taste so amazing?  They’re ridiculous.  My actual theory is because of the food coloring.  In Europe they’re way more progressive and awesome, and actually aware that food dyes are basically poison – and thus, the foods and candies of European countries usually do not include Red40 or Blue Lake Whatever… they include this crazy stuff, natural flavoring and coloring.  (So weird!).  But seriously, I think it’s the lack of dyes and the clever use of real flavors that enhances the quality.

She also packed in this tea that I certainly can’t get enough of.  I’m actually drinking a nice warm mug right now, but after a looooong day of work I look haggard and am not using a snapshot from this minute.  (Instead I’m using one from yesterday in which I also look really weird and not so cute, but it’s sadly better than now).

the worst ever pic of me, drinking the best ever tea

this tea is to die for

Rell also has beautiful penmanship and the handwritten note she included is so lovely!  I wish I could do cursive that well.  She packed in all kind of thoughtful lovely items, even a blankie for JJ – just… what a SWEET friend she is!  Thank you so much Sherrill, you’re the best.   Here are some more bragging pics of my sweet care pack:

she even included a blanket for jj!

jayjers all snuggled in his soft lil doggie blankie

side one

the b-side

Have you ever gotten an awesome box of goodies?

If you were to get a care pack from Germany, what would you want in it?

And now… what American goodies should I make durn sure to include in a care pack I send over to her?

As always: thanks for reading!!  

XOXO, HHR

Fun Times With Family and Friends

In the month or so that I took a blogging break, things were downright nutty around here.  I mentioned that we had some family come in town, and now I’ll elaborate.  In yesterday’s post I talked about my weekend trip to Jax for a surprise party – so I figured with all the family and friend fun times, I could just mash up the visits together and make one big photo dump post to catch everyone up on what’s been going on.

One on hand, I totally realize this is kinda cheap and corny (to throw it all into one post).  But on the other, I’m trying my best to achieve a balance that’s tough to strike, between wanting to cover events that are fun and important to me, without boring the pants off everyone reading.  I know that the minutia of my personal life isn’t nearly as fascinating to y’all as I find it – and with respect to that, I’m trying to not drown you in lame-o posts about very ordinary things.  I do realize, however, that for people who know me in person and hang out with me, there’s a certain expectation of making it into the blog when we hang out.  Or least a nervous reluctance that you probably will end up on here at some point.

So.  With all that meta debate established, I’m cool with going ahead and mentioning a little bit about several different events and then slamming y’all with a photo dump.  Cool? Good.

First up, my cousins Justin and Nicole came up here from Florida.  I hadn’t seen them in over a year, and having them come up to New York (and Canada) for a while was awesome.  They’ve grown up so very much, and realizing just how different they’ve become in 15 months makes me sad to be as far away from them as I am.  I knew both of them in vitro, and have seen their growing up firsthand, until I moved to Hawaii.  We had a great time and made sure to squeeze in as much as we could – like going boating on the lake, doing arts and crafts, cooking out, etc. etc.  In addition to having them up here, my sister Anna and her boyfriend Jared drove over to come visit with them as well.  They live north of Albany, so it’s not too much of a hike.  Having everyone all in Fredonia was both awesome and crazy.  It was a lot of moving parts to keep track of, that’s for sure!

All in all, we had a great time – and I was super sad to see everyone go.

Like less than a week later, my Dad and Step-Mom (Anna) came up here to see us!  They took a big trip up from Florida and we were their first stop.  Neither Duggs or I had seen them since they came out to visit us in Hawaii (remember that post?), so hanging out with Viper and Anna was long, long overdue.  We had an awesome time.  Lots of hanging out, some rambling, we went shooting, hung out with other family members that live in the area, went out to eat, and who knows what else.  Oh yeah, Dad took me to a doctor’s appointment and got to meet one of my new docs up here.  We dedicated a lot of their trip to just spending quality time together, not necessarily focused on an event or an activity.  And that was good, it was just great to hang out all together.

So that covers the two big events of us hosting folks up here.

As y’all already know, last weekend I flew down to Florida to go hang out and get crazy with my old college pals.  I went to UNF in Jacksonville, FL from 2001-2005.  After graduating, I stayed in town for several years (like four?) where I worked and lived and kept partying with my college friends in some weird pattern of extended adolescence.  It was very rad, and I loved the years I spent in Jax.  The beaches are great, the community is great, I loved riding my beach cruiser everywhere and getting to surf after work.  It was just an awesome place to live, and I miss it often.  Well, I miss the friends most of all – but Jax too.  It’s a very rad town!   I didn’t get a ton of pics (partying + mob mentality + not having a flash = lame, blurry, too dark photos), but a couple of the ones that are okay I threw into the photo dump here.

As much fun as I had reuniting with my pals, and wishing one of my dearest dudes, Cory Lee, a happy birthday – man, there is NO place like home.  And at this point in time, I’m confident to say that Western New York sure does feel like home.  I’m glad to be back and I’m happy to be here.  I was just going through some pics from this summer- snap shots from runs I’ve been on, photos of the dogs being silly, and I can easily say that I love my now-life.

Thanks to everyone who hung out this summer and contributed to some super fun times!  Hawaii was amazing, but it was lonely – so seeing loved ones again is a very very nice thing.  It’s wonderful and fills my cold little heart with a whole mess of happiness.

As always, thanks for reading my blog!!  XOXO, HHR

Without further ado… THE PICS:

The Circle Of Life Rings Around Pain and Loss, Too.

I know.  I know what you’re thinking, and yes – I readily admit it.  I’ve been super absentee lately.  What started as a small break because family was coming to visit and I had too much to do, turned into a little blogging break and then snowballed into just well, blog neglect?  For my loyal readers and supporters, I do apologize.  The break has been nice though, and times have been busy as of late.  Work is going full swing, so has home life.  But before I can delve into stories of runs I’ve been on and adventures in which I’ve partaken, I must take today to post about something serious, something sad, something hard.

My Grandmother died last week.  

A week ago today, actually.

a recent pic of me and my gma

Sally Ann Jacobs Eckerle is no longer with us.  And seen it coming as I may have, it still stings and hurts – the circumstances surrounding her last earthly day took us all by surprise and have left a bigger hollow than I could have anticipated.  But isn’t death always like that?  You always prepare and stonewall yourself, you brace and prepare… and yet, your efforts be damned, it still sucks the wind out of your sails with it’s urgent appearance, pulls at your heart and spirit to leave you bereft with sadness.  And disbelief and questions, longing, missing, emptiness.

My Grandma had been sick for a while, she wasn’t a spring chicken.  Not as spry and energetic in recent years the way I had always known her to be.  We knew time wasn’t on her side, of course.  Rational, smart people can always perform simple math.  But even with that knowledge in the back of our minds, I was caught off guard.  She had a tragic accident last week, and now… she’s gone.

I have to stop the sad talk and darkness here though.  Not for myself, because I assure I could go on… but for her.  This is NOT what she wanted.  She didn’t want tears, not ever and especially not now.  She didn’t want a process surrounding her death, she didn’t want us to fuss, she didn’t want to upend everyone around her.   She just wanted to go and to be at peace, and asked that we trust in what is to be and find our own peace too.  Not exactly religious, but more than spiritual, she did acknowledge the full-circle nature of nature – she knew that death was part of living.  As a woman who really lived – boldly coursing through life with chutzpah – she didn’t fear death or despise it.  She was ready, I think.

And in my own beliefs, and the strength I find in God – I have to trust, and be willing to trust, in His timing and in His ways.  I know she’s better now, I know she is in happiness now.  And I thank God for giving me the peace and serenity I so need now.

My Grandma was amazing.  

this is several years old, i do believe

Where to start?

She was strong, smart, outspoken, kind, passionate.  She’d always tell you what she thought, you always knew where you stood with her.  She was blunt, she was honest.  Her heart bled for so many – she felt compassion for causes the world over, and always took the time to understand how a person could feel.  She taught me a great deal about empathy, about being a humanist.  Back before the Internet, she’d educate me about women’s rights issues in remote places, about sex trafficking and slavery.  If she could have fixed it all, she would have.

She had long, strong legs… and I just have this image of her in my mind as both standing firm and tall (she was 5’10 after all) and also of her striding through life, strutting really, with her long legs stepping over obstacles and challenges and never breaking her pace.  She didn’t really let others get in the way of her determination, you know.

When I was little I was somewhat resentful of who she was.  I wanted a tiny old Grandma, a cuddly woman with soft white hair.  I wanted a Grandma who rocked in a chair, knitting, and telling stories.

My Grandma was big and booming, brassy and brazen.  

As I grew up and grew into my own strengths and glaring personality, I understood her better.  Through my own challenges and experiences, I became the “me” I know myself to be today – both resolute and kind, strong yet sweet.  In recent years, my Grandma used to compliment me on the woman I’d become.  “You’re really a nice person, Rose.”  She’d tell me.  And I know she meant it as a compliment – sometimes being nice is difficult.  And I knew that (I haven’t always been so nice, you see).  She saw the changes in me, from bratty teen to confident adult, and she approved.  Really approved.

She loved me.

I admired her.  More than she knew, I suppose.  I tried to make sure she got the idea – it’s hard to say how successful I was at that.

she was a model, it’s easy to see why. what a knock out!

She didn’t have it easy.  Her first husband died when my Dad was only five.  She raised my pops as a single Jewish woman in NYC, post WWII.  The world was harder back then, people more unforgiving.  Feminism wasn’t yet to have burst forth.  She worked jobs taking lower wages than the men around her.  She felt the heat and pain of antisemitism all the time.  She knew the heartache and loneliness of being a young widow.  And yet she held her head high – always.

When her husband died, she found out she was pregnant.  Securing her role as a harbinger for women’s rights, she sought an abortion.  Yes, in the 1950’s, she went to Cuba to get one.  The shame she was forced to crawl through to take care of her own body left her with a hunger to assure that others didn’t have to do the same.  She always fought tooth and nail for women’s sexual and reproductive rights, and I’ve always admired her for that.  A true feminist, I hope I do her proud as I keep that torch going.

if you’ve ever wondered where on earth my hippie tendencies come from… hahaha… viper (my dad) and gma, old school!

Well read, well traveled, sophisticated in many ways and yet rough around the edges when she wanted to be.  She lived through a lot.  She knew a lot.  I just can’t express  well enough how she was just so able to get from life so very much.   She could really grab life by the balls and make it hers.  She was funny,  she was charming.  Witty and crass too.

Seeing her get ill in the past several years has been hard for all who know her.  She hasn’t been herself at 100% for a while.  And that was tough.  For someone who’s been able to shine so brightly, it’s hard to see her personality dampened and darkened by the clutches of Alzheimer’s, and the slowing of her body thanks to COPD.   I resent the sickness that detracted from the fullness of her character.  She did too.

a recent one of gma and my dad, at his house in leesburg

So now that it’s all said and done, I can at least step back and say: she lived a full, rich life.  Her memory will carry on for a long time to come, and she will be both loved and missed forever.   And when I take my own selfishness out of the equation, I recognize she’s at peace now, reunited with loved ones she’s been too far removed from.  I’m happy when I think that she’s with Stanley again.  Her father.  Her brother.  She’s missed them all, and so many more.  That’s the terribleness of out-living everyone you know.  We may be lonely for her voice down here, but she’s without want now – and that fills my heart.

Thanks for reading this.  It means a lot.  I love any chance to spread her legacy just a little bit further, to have one person aware of who she was.   I wrote this all as a stream of consciousness more or less, and I’m worried that if I go back and edit it, I’ll end up just hacking it to pieces and taking things out.  So I’m going to let it ride… probably full of typos, and blistering with raw feelings, but it’ll be real.  And honest.

Oh, and the title: SHE LOVED THE LION KING.  She really did.  She loved animals so much, Spirited Away was her favorite movie – how rad is that?!?!  She was so rad.  Really really truly rad, without trying at all.   There’s just so much I could say about her, she was so dynamic, she did and saw so much, she held so many ideas… it’s really hard to sum her up, and I hate even trying to.  But I don’t want to keep this post going forever, so I’ll wrap it up.  I loved her, I always will.

she was a hipster, from brooklyn and all

Here’s her obit, as written by my Dad and Stepmom and put in their local paper:

Sally Shapiro Eckerle, age 85, widow of the late Richard Eckerle, passed away at home in Leesburg on August 23, 2012. Born in New York City, May 5, 1927, she moved to Miami, Florida in 1974, later resided in Delray Beach, Florida for 28 years until she moved to Leesburg in 2008 to be with her son and daughter-in-law Scott and Anna Shapiro. She is also survived by her grand-daughters Rose Duggan (NY) and Anna Shapiro (NY), by her step-daughter Edith Eckerle (VA), step-son Kenneth Eckerle (GA) and sister-in-law Ellie Jacobs (CT). Sally graduated for NYU with a bachelor of arts degree, worked as the executive secretary for the P.A.L. in NYC, office manager for the Miami Home Builders Association until retiring in 1978. Her interests included mah jong, bowling, card games, word puzzles of all types and socializing with friends and family. She was an avid reader and was always in the middle of a good book. In honor of Sally?s wishes, there will be no service and her body will be cremated. In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to the Humane Society, one of her favorite organizations.

Thanks for reading.  You can count on me to be “back” now – my blogging break is over, and I’m excited to catch everyone up with all kinds of hippie missives.  Love to you all – tell the ones you love how you feel, because life is so precious.

XOXO,

HHR

 

Accountability, Speed: Glad I Joined Now!

This past weekend was my second ever experience with the new running group I’m in.  And let me just be very clear: Week two was markedly, crazily, way better than week 1!

I still got lost, but at least this time I wasn’t lost alone, haha.  I actually made the acquaintance of some really nice ladies and jogged near and at times, with, them!  The added advantages are not only social and navigational.  Turns out that when running with people, my pace time improves like woah.  Yeah, I may have shed about 20 minutes off my 8 mile time.  Ha!  How’s that for crazy?  Turns out when left to my own devices I dawdle, who’d have thought!

Anyways, aside from running faster, I also felt much stronger.  I completed the run feeling strong and the soreness has been minimal now in my post-run days.  So, all in all, really nice and I’m just so pleased with my current progress and commitment.  It feels good to be sticking with it.

In other news, we stumbled across this INCREDIBLE hippie neigborhood.  I met my peoples!  I was just running along, and I noticed the signs started to feature buzzwords that caught my eye:

“co-op”

run… run… run… 

“local produce”

running still… 

“yoga”

“organic”

“music shop”

“handmade”

“repurposed”

FREAK OUT!!! 

It was just so much, I could have exploded.  MY PEOPLE!  So after the run, Duggs and I headed over there for brunch and to scope out the area.  After a tasty meal and some nice conversation, we made our way over to the Farmer’s Market.  It was AWESOME.  They take EBT/Food Stamps at the Farmer’s Market!  It was all too rad, I cannot wait till next Saturday now.

I did have my phone with me, but I was in a very in-the-moment kinda mood and I just hardly so much as snapped a pic.  I do promise that next weekend we’ll bring the good camera and actually take some nice photos of the area.  Man oh man, downtown Buffalo totally stole my heart this weekend!

The rest of our time was spent with relaxing, stretching, some cleaning and organizing, light chores – nothing major really, but the lazy down time was much needed.  It rained a lot of Sunday morning – but by mid-afternoon it was blazing hot and sunny again.  I even got a couple hours on the lounge chair out back with a good book.  I’m telling you, yesterday was luxuriously lazy!   I was hoping for more rain though, our garden ain’t looking so good these days… Ugh.  Oh well, time will tell what’s to be!

I hope y’all had a great weekend too.

As always, thanks for reading!! xoxo, hhr

Western New York: I Feel Home.

Western New York is a beautiful place to live; constantly I’m awed and surprised by the bounty of this land.   After being here for about three months, I’m beginning to feel settled.

I’ve been incredibly blessed to live in versatile and dynamic places – I mean, Florida and Hawaii – does it wackier than either of these tropical touristy havens?  A Floridian childhood is special in its own ways, yes.  But there was always the part of me that would jealously eye the neighborhoods in John Hugh’s movies, wishing I lived in a northern suburb somewhere – dreaming of White Christmases and houses without stucco.

Western New York is a rich, amazing place.  In the outdoor activity department, WNY’s cup runneth over for sure.  Season to season there is so much to enjoy outside.

Summertime brings swimming, boating and all kinds of water sports on the ample lakes and waterways – specifically Lake Erie – there’s fruit to pick, festivals to go to every weekend, cook outs, camping, hiking, horseback riding, and on and on.  The weather is sunny and warm most days, varying between balmy and mild, the latter giving way to gloriously cool evenings.  This far north the days are long, with dusk’s light fading out at almost 10:00pm sometimes.

As Indian summer fades into Fall, we’ll head into different picking seasons… the grapes first, then apples, pumpkins.  The length of daylight and the level of mercury will both sink.  Hunting season will open up, hiking and camping become more enjoyable with fewer bugs and the festive beauty of the autumnal color show.  Winter snow and the iced over lake will bring even more to do: snow mobiles, skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, sledding, skating – all things winter.  Thanks to the lake effect snow this region is known for, winter sports and activities are almost always a go ahead (last year was a particularly weak winter, so I’ve been told).  And then as the spring thaw happens, the whole cycle kicks over again, baby animals and wildflowers bloom as warmer days grace this land.  Gardens are planted, the trees extend soft green leaves out of their barren branches, and the desire to run outside and play is felt by all.

More than just a pretty face who’s good for a fun time, Western New York is deep – her rich and dynamic history, specific to my family, has me enthralled.

You see: I’ve always been a transplant.

Growing up in Florida was awesome, don’t get me wrong.  I could swim before I could walk, I’ve seen my fair share of crazy critters, gorgeous sandy sunrises, Mickey Mouse ears, shuttle launches, big cities and sleepy country towns.    Nice, but in ways I’ve never identified before – often hollow.   I’ve never felt like I “fit in.”  Rest assured, I know this is a broad and baseless complaint experienced far more often than people convinced that they’re popular.   But it’s true nonetheless.

Now being here, in the land of my family, where our roots go so very deep (well, American deep, haha) – it’s a very different experience.  An intangible comfort is omnipresent here; I have the confidence of my ancestors encouraging me every day, something in my DNA guides me and tells me, “YOU ARE HOME NOW.”

Being related to so many people in a proximal area is really rad.  Both immediate and extended family are here – and I can hardly go anywhere in town without there being a long-established family connection in place.  And not in a grease-the-palms kinda way, just in a friendly, “Oh! You’re Kathy’s daughter!” kinda way.  My Great Uncle is something of a living legend here too, so that always makes me proud to be known as a Gioia ’round here too.

In Florida, my last name never held currency.  No one cared, no one knew who we were (save for the small immediate circle of my Dad’s co-workers and perhaps the people who did community service with my Mom).  But familial love and long standing relationships bred into generations of families in a small town is something indescribably nice: there’s nothing like the easy acceptance and welcome I feel here.  (Okay, anonymity is nice in its own ways too – especially if you have some wild oats to sow and would like to be able to do just that without seven hundred years of shame brought on your house; my hat tips to Florida for that!).

We’ll go out to eat and there’s a story, many stories, of how one such family member was close with the original owner, and on and on.  I love that the history of this area relates to ME.   My Aunt Patty is always telling me these connections, the old stories, and I’m 100% fascinated.

More than ministrations and tales, it goes deeper, down to something instinctual and primal – something that eludes a direct understanding – that pulls me to this land.  I just can say I “feel” it.   My sense of direction here is flawless –  I grew up in a sleepy beach town with a grid system for roads and huge bodies of water to serve as glaring directionals – Yet, on twisty country roads that weave through hills, I feel like I know my way around.   Sometimes I have this (morbid and) strange vision of late relatives guiding me, walking alongside me, smiling with familiarity as I travel paths they’ve undoubtedly walked along countless times before me.

Weird?

Yeah, I know.

I’m being super weird.

I’ve been mulling over this feeling for weeks now and this is merely my feeble attempt to put the idea into something digestible.  There’s just this massive looming of emotional connection to the actual dirt and trees, the wind and weather here, that I cannot put into words (although I’m trying damn hard as I reach nearly 900 of them in an attempt to suss out an understanding of the feelings this place evokes).

Sigh.

It’s just lovely is all.  I’m happy to be here.  I feel safe, welcomed, wanted, and normal.

Oh!  I can elaborate on the feeling of normalcy, actually.  Growing up in Florida you’re living with a mixed bag of snowbird transplant families.  When I was in college there was legit stat that 30% of Floridians were born in Ohio!  It feels like everyone merely lives there but actually considers New York or Boston or stinky Ohio (sorries! my Dad went to UM, so I gotta hate a little) to be “home.”   Of course I know that there are long-standing Florida families, and that the expansion of the mid-1900s is now making way to third and fourth generations who’ve called the Gunshine State their own.   The vast majority are though, relocated folks from the great white north.

For me, I always knew we were not of that land; I felt like a visitor.   And now – only after living here – do I understand some of the quirks I was raised with that always felt so odd to me.  They’re cultural norms up here!  Little things, like ordering a strawberry shortcake and having it served on a heavy drop biscuit, the exact way my mother always made it.  I’d never in my life had a strawberry shortcake made that way by anyone other than my Mom.  In FL the norm would be angel food cake, pound cake maybe.  Taking a bite of the slightly salty and dense biscuit covered in local strawberries and whipped heavy cream – it was like childhood relived.  “Oh!” I literally exclaimed at seeing the biscuits next to the strawberries last night at Tops (supermarket) – “this is why my Mom does it this way,”  realization of this region’s influence dawning.

The list of little silly habits goes on.

And while I know it seems minute and weird, after nearly three decades of assuming I was just a sore thumb raised by a pair of quirky, wacky (albeit very loving), nut jobs – there’s something so reassuring about being normal.     Yeah, I do think I almost fit in here.  Now… If only I could rid myself of the gentle lilt that betrays me every time I open my mouth.  That and ditch the tie dye, fanny packs, legwarmers, bandannas and other fashion statements akin to wearing a neon “I’m not really from here” tee shirt….

Hahaha.  I kid, I kid.

Yeah, I know I’ll never be run of the mill – a happy realization and one that I’m proud to own.   Don’t worry, I’m not seeking cultural assimilation by any means.

It’s just a nice realization to be able to piece things all together, is all.  And of course, it should go without saying, Florida will always be “home” in so many, many ways.  (I’m actually terribly Florida-sick lately, missing the sand and saltwater more than ever before.  Oh yeah, and all you people who live there too – I miss y’all as well.     But that’s another post for another day.)

For now, wrapping myself in the dichotomous distant familiarity of a land long inhabited by my own blood is just new, fascinating, calming, and … nice.   My induction to Western New York has been altogether charming.

Okay, that’s enough waxing poetic for now!  You get the point, yeah?  (haha, Hawaiian joke.  See, I’m still a regional grab bag).

HAPPY FRIDAY and HAPPY WEEKEND EVERYONE!

xoxo, hhr 

Happy Birthday to Me and to The USA!

What a busy week it’s been!  My birthday is July 3rd, America’s is the 4th, I had a whole mess of family in town for the festivities and it’s just been a lot of good times and fun.  Oh, and food!

So my mother (Krazy Kathy) came into town on the 2nd.  I hadn’t seen her since she visited Hawaii almost a year ago! Yowzers, that’s probably the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing her.  So it was a much overdue visit and it was so nice to have her up here!  We ran some errands together (go figure), hung out, discovered an awesome sandwich place a stone’s throw from my cousin’s house, visited the family cemetery, went out to eat, caught up, so on.

my mom, at my great uncle’s house

dinner pics from our evening at the brick room in downtown fredonia – awesomely great food!

The night before my birthday Kath took us out to eat at this great little Italian place in downtown Fredonia: The Brick Room.  Our food was incredible and it was the perfect ambiance for our very inappropriate and bawdy dinner table talk.

I think it’s easily safe to say that a good time was had by all.

going out to dinner on the 2nd with my mother, husband, and great uncle

love this billabong maxi dress!

Then on the third of July, my actual birthday, I spent the day with my Mom.  Well, I worked a bit in the morning – Duggs worked all day (stupid weird mid-week holiday is such a bummer!).  Then I hung out with Mom.  Once it was dark out we headed over to Uncle Bobby’s – my cousin, his wife, and their kids are up here visiting too, so we got to go see them and hang out.  Sadly the fire works for the third were cancelled because of crappy weather!

mom

and me

this is very funny to me for some reason!

 

 

Alright, so my Mom and I had a nice time on my birthday.  We ran into my Uncle Chris and Aunt Betty who were also in town for the 4th, at the cemetery, how wacky is that!

Oh, the sunset over Lake Erie on my birthday was awesome:

light em up !

pretty paper lanterns

Fourth of July Fun!

The fourth was a busy holiday.  We started the day hanging out at home and getting food and treats ready.  I baked a boatload of festive red, white, and blue cupcakes.  You can flog me now for my flagrant use of food dye, I know I’m terrible!  This is the summer of hypocrisy or something, lol.  Anyways, at least I did bake some without dye (and in the stash I kept home for us I included plenty on un-dyed options).  After getting everything ready, we went over to Uncle Bobby’s for a big ole picnic and cookout.  We played some ladder ball, laid out on the beach, had some delicious steamed clams, hung out with everyone there, I ate some of the best potato salad I’ve ever had… and then we wrapped it up and headed over to my Aunt Patty’s house for a nice cookout!  Al cooked up some awesome steaks, Aunt Patty made ribs and mac’n’cheese, and we all hung out and had some cocktails and cold beers.

Busy, but an awesome holiday for sure!

sweet treats from the 4th

4th of july at uncle bobby and miss peggy’s house

the good stuff!

collage from the cookout at my aunt patty and al’s house

And in case you were wondering, I wore red, white, and blue ALL week.  Haha, just to clarify in case there was any doubt.

It’s been an awesome week, that’s for sure!  And we still have a weekend to go now (okay, maybe I take back what I said about mid-week holidays being stupid).  I hope to get back into a more normal routine come next week, that’s for sure!

As always, thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr