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.

61418_10100321625971022_1936053665_n

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

Advertisements

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

 

Straight Christian Ally: Talking Points and Such

I just published a pretty intense post about the current gay rights debate going on right now – in the USA, amongst Christians, in the media – it’s everywhere right now.
Lately I’ve found myself tugged into countless online and verbal debates on the topic.  In case you missed my previous post, or don’t know me all that well, I’m a Straight Christian Ally.  Meaning, I love Jesus and try my best to follow His teachings, the Bible, etc., and I also support gay rights, including marriage equality.

thanks to tectonic movement for all of the images in this post!

I’m not alone in this either!
There’s a huge movement out there.  Sometimes known as “allies”  or “I’m sorry” – we’re growing every single day.  One of the bloggers I most respect, Tamara Out Loud, is an awesome mouthpiece for such shared ideals.  She recently attended a Pride Parade, and wrote about her experiences here.
LesBeHonest‘s Staight Ally Page: a variety of videos and quotes, great resource for allies here!
A random blog I found, that’s just one of thousands, that eloquently expresses the “I’m Sorry” aspect to this movement – this is Jeff Jackson’s Tumblr.
Towelroad, a blog with “gay tendancies,” posts some powerful images of apologizing Christians at a Pride parade!
The Atlantic on Gay Marriage and State’s Rights, it’s a bit of an arduous read, fyi.
The link party could go on and on – I just wanted to give y’all some starting points and spring boards.
In the post earlier, I quoted my Fb status from yesterday.  Well – here are some other gems that I’ve spewed onto the Book of Face in the past 24 hours about the issues at hand – quote me, copy me, emulate me, do what you want – I trust my words and intentions will be used in good faith, and if you have any doubts about it, just ask me.  I’m nice like that!

An  AWESOME and OPEN MINDED Fb exchange with a valued pal:
Leigh Palmer: No i know, but it’s not like there is a Chick-fil-A in Chelsea, they are mostly in suburban areas with lots of families, in the south. I could be wrong. ( I have no real research backing this statement up). Any thoughts Rose? I just mean, it seems to be that their customer base is more likely a young “Christian” family rather than someone who a more open mind.
Rose: You’d be surprised. For a few reasons:

Today, with the Internet as powerful as it is, geography isn’t a definer for political thought. The most rural SAHM can be on the up and up of social movements as fast as they’re happening.

Gay Rights and other progressive causes have infiltrated the suburbs. Claire Williams lives in one of the “gayest” zip codes in the country.

CFA is in urban and northern areas; The NYU campus being a major point of contention. Students at NYU voted to keep CFA on campus and it’s caused a huge stir given the locale and progressive tendency of college students.

The chasm of gay rights is causing huge division in the church. Everyday the “I’m Sorry” movement gains followers. More and more “conservative Christians” are waking up to the idea that hate is not a family value, and as such, change is happening. Hence why stalwarts are digging in their heels. They’re terrified.

Just look at Target. They were ousted for their support of homophobic politicians… and they’ve since recanted, donated money to progressive causes and issued apologies. The gay-supporting ban of Target wasn’t well-known or huge, but it was enough, because it evoked real change.

Rose (again): Don’t ever doubt your ability to be one voice that does matter – because to a big company like CFA – they’ve made their empire one sandwich at a time, and we can dissemble it the same way.
Leigh:  ♥ you Rose Duggan — thanks for reminding me of all of those things. 🙂
Rose: you got it girl!! love you too leigh, your honesty is awesome! i love that you aren’t afraid to ask questions!!
More random Fb gems from various threads: 
I love Jesus, and I’m not eating at Chic-fil-A. If you claim to love Jesus, get the hate out your mouth.

I’m just tired of “Christians” using a soap box to speak out from a place of bigotry.

Not all Christians hate. Some of us try to love everyone, just like Jesus asked us to. And I do NOT mean anyone personally in this thread – I mean the Pres and C-Suite of CFA. They’re comfortable projecting further the image that Christians judge and condone one another.

Love they neighbor. Judge not lest ye be judged.

I think the community works of CFA are amazing, really, I know so many people who’ve benefitted from fundraisers and money in their local communities. I also respect that they encourage family dynamics by being closed on Sundays – I truly love that about the company.

And I think their food is SO GOOD. I grew up on CFA. I crave that lemonade and those breakfast biscuits.

But.

At the end of the day this is 2012 and I am not okay with a corporation levying its public influence with such hatred.

 On the issue of boycotts being hateful and judgmental:
A boycott is a peaceful, legal, and proper way to engage in social criticism by voting with your consumer power. A boycott is NOT an act of violence or hatred.

This country is founded on a plethora of rights, including that of being able to express your ideals, freely, in a variety of ways. Being a capitalist society – the almighty dollar tends to be the vehicle that carries a belief the fastest.

I firmly respect anyone’s right to believe whatever they like – be that homophobic hatred or true Christianity. Or anything. That’s America, baby.

I just don’t have to use my money to fuel a machine that churns out vile, evil, hatred. A machine that donated millions of dollars to homophobic groups even in 2009. CFA is a massive consumer power – it’s ability to fundraise, lobby, and support the entities of its choice cannot be overlooked.

If you – this is the general “you,” meaning anyone – feels firmly that gay rights should not exist in this country and that homosexuality is evil, grab your picket sign and go to work. No one is stopping you from expressing an ideal or opinion. In fact, much like the SCOTUS upheld WBC’s right to hate away – I do the same for anyone. Just know that there are plenty of people, myself included, who don’t believe that same sex relationships are displeasing to God. And in fact – we go so far as to encourage them out of love, support, and kindness for our fellow man. Ya know… kinda like how Jesus asked to do so.

I truly understand and appreciate the local impact of CFA. I have so many friend who’ve personally testified to the greatness this one company can do for the location in which the restaurant is established.

But there’s something bigger at play here.

The President of a major company being so openly hateful – it’s just not okay. As good as their food is, as hard as the employees work, as much as they nurture and support the local communities they’re in – the damage of the power-wielding C-Suite is just too much.

If a boycott could effectively slice to their bottom line, I guarantee they’ll come back around hat in hand, singing a different tune.

Just look at Target. Same thing and they’ve come around, and now they’re trying to make up for their ways.

Andres posted a link to the NY Daily News along with this text:
“Over $2 million dollars donated to anti-gay organizations! They claim not to be a christian organization, and very supportive of the family, but only their definition of family. Well I can promise you that me and my non-biblically defined family will never be eating here again. Hate is not a family value.”
My reply:
THANK YOU! I’m up to my elbows in online debate right now… I’m SO FIRED UP.

This is NOTHING NEW. I’ve boycotted CFA since ’09 when I discovered that my money spent of delicious sandwiches was fueling the fire of hatred.

If you love Jesus, you have no business HATING others. That ain’t Christian at all.

….
On the issue of the south, particularly my home town, being tough to change:
I’m from Ormond Beach. And while I understand the stigma of the South being “set in its ways” – change can and does happen.

Florida was still a blue state in the ’08 election cycle.

With the Internet as it is today, physical geography is becoming less and less of a barrier to political thought and social movements.

Some of the “gayest” zipcodes in America are in southern states – like the northside of Jacksonville, Fl or Asheville, NC. Every single day the “I’m Sorry” movement gains followers.

And finally… it’s been done before. I know that Target is a farther-reaching company. But the boycott of Target did not get the viral attention this issue is getting, and yet that pressure was enough to elicit change. Target was caught supporting anti-gay political candidates in MN (the state of its corporate offices) and after public backlash the megastore issued apologies, pulled funding to such entities, and instead gave money to progressive causes.

More Resources?  You got it!
Chic-fil-A protest link party, here you can jump off to lots of info.
A crazy brightly colored page chock full of awesome talking points for the support of Gay Marriage.
Nation For Change – all you need to know about Marriage Equality!  (awesome awesome resource right here).
CanyonWalkerConnections – a ton of info and links for Straight Allies.
I could keep going, but really – I think this is tons and tons to get you started, right?
AS ALWAYS – Thanks for reading!  If at any time you have questions, concerns, issues, or more – reach on out and contact me.  This is a dialogue, a discussion, and it goes two ways! 
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 

I Love The Crazy 80s! (Octogenarian 80s)

A weekend ago, we celebrated my Great Uncle John, Zio Giovanni’s, 81st birthday.  Can you believe it? 81!  And this past Saturday, we had the pleasure of celebrating Nick’s Grandma, EZ Lyman’s, 85th Birthday!

Both are incredibly talented, wonderful, kind people – who’ve both been these crazy family legends that I’ve heard tales of my entire life.  These octogenarians know how to get down, that’s for sure.

So yes… around recently, we’ve been kickin’ it crazy 80s style.  Let me re-cap the two most recent birthday parties I’ve attended:

EZ Lyman, Happy 85th Birthday!

EZ has always been a tomboy-with-class idol of mine.

happy birthday to ethelyn

She’s Uncle Bobby’s Mom and you can so tell: Ethelyn is long-known for going hunting and fishing with the boys, keeping up with their outdoor antics and being able to hold her own.  The flip side is that she’s a wonderfully warm and sweet woman, known all over the region (and probably farther than that) for her incredible landscape and nature paintings.  She’s won awards and prizes for her ability to capture the charm of Western New York scenery – whitetail deer, sugar houses, snow covered trees, glens and dales and that sort of thing.  Everyone I know in my family (except for myself *pouts*) has some of EZ’s paintings displayed in their homes.

I’ll have to do a whole post about EZ’s artwork, it’s just wonderful.  Even as I was Google-ing her the other day, I found some awesome old newspapers with photos of her artwork, or articles listing the prizes she’s won.  Maybe I can even sneak over to her “studio” and get some action shots of her painting.

So Happy 85th Birthday, EZ!  It’s so nice to be up here and able to get to know you better.

EZ’s spice cake with fishy candles

fish candles

spice cake with birthday cake ice cream, delicious

I was a derelict on Saturday, and spent far more time eating pasta (along with Uncle Bobby’s incredible venison meatballs- perfectly seasoned, they tasted just like Italian sausage, and not gamey at all), and laughing as we were shooting the breeze and telling crazy stories, than taking photos.  So I don’t have too many from this past Saturday’s birthday afternoon.

yeah, we were hittin’ the hard stuff

duggs, all full after a big ole pasta dinner

some old photos were busted out, including this gem: uncle bobby, holding chad and nick, his sons and my cousins – and then me, in the pink. oh precious!

Uncle John, Happy 81st Birthday!!

My Great Uncle John celebrated his 81st Birthday at his home, a rustic log cabin (his dream cabin) out in the country… kinda near Cherry Creek, but mostly near some dairy farms and Amish folk.  He requested a birthday bonfire, so that is exactly how we celebrated. (Hence why I’ve been eating microwave s’mores lately, we brought home the leftovers).

you gotta love this man, jean overalls and everything!

happy eighty-one to you

Now, my Uncle John is a very special man.  He’s our family patriarch, and really has been my entire life.  Dynamic, witty, sassy, outstanding and incredible – there is no one on this earth like my Uncle John.  A former Marine who fought in Korea, the first ever Brut model, a Broadway star, a television actor, world-traveler, biker leather daddy, Italian-speaking, chef extraordinaire – he’s amazing.

Really amazing – and just always himself, be that cheesy, or silly, or a little bit country.

my great uncle john, blowing out his 81st birthday cake

He used to teach drama for years and years, and although recently retired from that – he’s still acting.  In fact, he has a play coming up this fall that we’re excited to see.  He’s brilliant on stage, always stealing the show.

Ahh my Uncle John.  I just smile when I type his name.  I’ve always held such a special place in my heart for him.  He’s the brother of my late Grandma Rose, whom I was named for – and who I’ve never actually met (she passed away before I was born).  I’d have to dedicate an entire blog (not just a post, an entire blog itself) into chronically properly the life and times of the one and only UJ.

So for now, I’ll just post a ton of photos I took at his 81st birthday bonfire:

gathering the fire wood

making the fire

UJ’s property, out in the quiet near cherry creek. Austin, Aunt Patty, Matthew (Duggs) + Nick

now that’s a fire

After building the fire, making s’mores, and hanging out in the cool air by the warm burning wood for hours… we decided to let it die down so we could head inside for cake and birthday gifts + cards.

side view of UJ’s cabin, his “hideaway”

uncle john’s sweet pooch

oh sweet girl – UJ was dog sitting this sweet one

oh jeez we’re silly

take two? austin, great uncle john, me and nicky

nice family pic (third time’s a charm)

austin, doing his best UJ impression

austin and UJ

playing with the doggies, go figure

It was getting late, and we were all getting loopy… so we decided to call it a night and let UJ enjoy some birthday peace.  All in all, it was a fun evening and I’m glad I could actually be up here to celebrate one of my Great Uncle’s birthdays with him (I don’t think I’ve celebrated an actual birthday with him since his 75th?).

Happy Birthday to both EZ and UJ, it’s been a blast celebrating with you Crazy 80s – but more so, it’s been a pleasure knowing you and spending time with you, always.

As always – thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr

Life in Fredonia, all the Fancy Photos!

Whew… it’s been a busy time here at HHR, with all my photo posts from our trip, updates, catch ups, and everything.  Hope you can stomach one more photo binge.  Can you?

Here are all the rest of our initial Fredonia pics, from our first few days and weekend here!  Just like the other posts of the fancy pics (all the photos from Long Island and then all the photos from Pottersville), I’m just going to throw all the photos in here as a blob, and anyone who wants to can go through them.

As for getting settled in and how we’re doing, I touched on all that earlier this week in our post about finally being here in Fredonia.

So things should be getting back to “normal” around here … if my blog even has a normal! It’s been fun including everyone on the trip, and I know that people have been so curious to see what our surroundings are like, to see the big difference it is to go from Hawaii to Western New York.  So it’s been fun.

But hopefully life will take on a more routine feeling and I’ll get back in the swing of things, around the house, with work, and here too!  I’m hoping that my energy levels keep soaring and before you know it I’ll be posting about running again, and who knows what!

I’m just so very glad to be where I am.  I’m feeling better in so many ways, and just being on the first page of a fresh chapter is so nice.  I’m so blessed to be with my Duggs, surrounded and supported my some amazing family and friends, and to have a whole new section of our story to set out on.  No matter how routinized daily life becomes, that aspect of where we’re at – that newness and that exciting looking-over-the-edge feeling won’t wear off for a while I don’t think, at least I hope it won’t!

Anyways.  For now, I’m quite happy to be posting from Fredonia.  And I hope you’ve enjoyed coming along with us on the trip!

As always, thanks for reading!! xoxo, hhr

Fancy Photos From the Road – Long Island, NY

As promised, here are some of the “good” photos I took while we were on Long Island last week visting Duggs’ side of the family and a lot of our friends there.  In my earlier post, I used the snap shots from my iPhone (which aren’t so shabby), but now here are some better pics that we took with our real camera.

And even though we have a fair amount of pics, I wish I had taken more!  I always do.  It seems so annoying at the time to have out the camera and to nag everyone to pose and take pics.  But then after the fact, when you have nice photos, you’re always so glad you did it.  So my new thing is not being afraid to be the annoying one – because the benefit in the end is so worth it.

Okay.  Enough rambling, here’s from the wonderful time we had on Long Island with family, friends, loved ones near and dear:

Like I said, I wish I’d taken more photos.  These hardly paint the picture of the time we had there – no image can really encapsulate how nice it is to see family when it’s been so long since you were all last together.  But some are better than none, so I appreciate y’all checkin’ out the ones we did manage to take.

And next time someone’s pestering you to smile, think of the big picture – maybe the person with the camera writes a blog and they’re trying to fully illustrate a week-long road trip with oodles of pics.  Maybe!

As always, thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr

Happy Mom’s Day, Catching Up, and Other Bloggy Stuffs

I know most of my posts have been about our big move.  It’s been pretty consuming.  Don’t think the ole wheels upstairs aren’t turning though!

After staying in so many different households over the past couple weeks, I’m excited to work on some posts about my happy hippie ways that have saved us money and helped to run our home in an eco-friendly way.  I’ve been passing on my tips to our gracious hosts along the way, and it made me think that I should do a post with a bunch of my household tips and tricks!  So that’s on my mind.   Of course I want to show off all the photos from the trip (from the nice camera, I haven’t posted any of those yet) and I want to show off Fredonia and what we’ve been up to here.

Oh, and the climate change has inspired me to keep track of my outfits.  Hehe… it’s not the same style that I could get away with in Hawaii.  So it’s been fun dressing in layers and changing my daily garb.  So there’s that too!

in pottersville on a dreary day- i’m wearing jeans, boots, and long sleeves. i can’t remember the last time i had all this on at the same time. it’s fun!

In good time, once I have more magical interwebs power I will post lots of fun and exciting happy hippie idears and posts (I know I always say that, but really I’ve been on the ball the past several days – Idk if it’s getting away from the moldy house or just moving in general, but man has my energy and motivation been coming back to me.  I’ve been incredible industrious since we’ve arrived in Fredonia – it’s outstanding!).

For now though, it’s great just to say hi!  I hope everyone is doing well.

To all the mothers out there, I hope y’all had a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend!! We spent the afternoon at my Aunt Patty’s house and had a lovely family dinner.  It was great.  I hope all the mommies out there spent time with your loved ones and were able to feel the love and appreciation that so many have for you!

aunt patty and nick, yesterday at dinner celebrating mother’s day and us being up here finally!

…I have to admit, it’s a holiday that’s a bit bittersweet for me… I can’t wait to be a mom someday and get to enjoy the celebration in a different way.  It’s certainly a day that made me wistful.

But I know things all happen for a reason, and that God’s got us covered.  So when the time is right, I know our family will grow.  And until then, I’m all about make the best of the millions of blessings we sure do have!  There’s a lot of exploring to do in our new home, so much to see and do, so many new places to check out.

Even though Mother’s Day made me a teensy bit sad, it’s a very exciting and happy time for us.  And sharing in that positive energy is so fun for me.  So keep your fingers crossed that we’re able to get some decent high speed and then I’ll be back up and running in full effect!

As always, thanks for reading!! xoxo, hhr