Birthday wishes

My sister hit a milestone birthday last week, and though I don’t want to spread her age all over the internet (I did that already, heh), I thought instead I’d share the 40 Things I Love About My Sister:

1. She likes me enough to take me on her fancy trip to Topnotch Spa in Vermont, where I ate my weight in sushi and had a foot massage that can only be described in vowels: aaaaauuueeoooooooo.

2. She has always loved my children like her own. And they know Auntie K has their back.

3. She listens politely when I try to give her “helpful advice”, otherwise known as “meddling”.

4. She not only doesn’t make fun of my more questionable attire, she often bought it for me:


5. She has the most kick-ass birth story ever. Seriously.

6. She is an amazing entertainer, throwing birthday parties that make mere mortals weep.

7. She is even louder than I. I think. Or maybe we are equal. I can’t tell anymore. My ears are shot.

8. She remembers things about my dad I have long forgotten.

9. She moved within a half-mile of my mother, thus insuring that I am NOT the geographically closest child.

10. She hosts Thanksgiving, saving me the anguish of having to cook a turkey.

11. We babysat the same kids, so though we are three years apart, we have many shared memories, some we both wish we could forget.

12. We also worked in the same laundromat,

13. cashiered at the same neighborhood market,

14. and worked at the same amusement park (before it got all cool and called itself Six Flags).

15. She endured being “Christina’s little sister” as a child without growing up to hate my guts.

16. I can call her and complain about my mother without her contradicting me or telling me to “grow up”.

17. We share similar tastes in music, meaning she was with me at many, many of these shows, and I don’t cringe when she turns on the car stereo. In fact, I’m pretty certain she has no idea who Michael-fucking-Buble is.

18. She changes her hair style almost as much as I do, making me feel less schizophrenic about my hair.

19. She always has great liquor, including my absolute favorite: Three Olives Grape Vodka (seriously: put it in lemonade right now).

20. She gets excited to come see my girls twirl on a stage every spring at their dance recital.

21. She answers my phone calls, even with caller ID.

22. She always has good snacks.

23. and good magazines to borrow,

24. and good DVD’s to borrow

25. and books,

26. and jewelry. . .(geez, maybe I should go shopping. . . )

27. I love her friends. And they totally tolerate me.

28. She still tries to beat me into the pond every year (well played this year, m’dear).

29. Without even trying, she can make me laugh. Mainly thinking about her 80’s hair.

30. Or maybe I’m thinking of one of her funny stories,

31. Oh, no, I’m remembering this photo (thanks, Mom! always wanted matching nylon running suits!):


32. Or this one: (do we even look like sisters?)


33. Homemade marshmallows. ‘Nuff said.

34. She made my niece and nephew who I love to pieces. Could they please hurry up and grow up a wee bit more? Auntie wants to do a big pig-pile sleepover.

35. She always invites us to visit on their annual pilgrimage to the Cape.

36. It won’t bother her one bit that I’m a week late getting this post finished.

37. She isn’t a conservative,

38. but she isn’t too politically correct either.

39. She is living proof that my mother’s constant assertion that friends come and go, but a sister is forever is definitely true.

40. She finally has a blog! And, if you’ve made it this far, please stop by to wish her a Happy Birthday.


Pregnant with Cancer? You aren’t alone. . .

Two years ago, I wrote that my sister-in-law was going in for a double mastectomy for breast cancer.

Later that year, I showed you the beautiful photo of her baby girl.

But, that wasn’t the whole story. There was a big story in between “mastectomy” and “baby”.

After her mastectomy,

after she canceled her June wedding,

after she canceled her Italian honeymoon,

after she realized that she’d probably never birth a child once chemo had finished ravaging her body and, probably, her supply of eggs,

and right before she went in for a second surgery to remove lymph nodes to check them for cancer,

the doctor shut the door to the exam room and told my sister-in-law that she was pregnant.

Newly pregnant, but needing chemotherapy which could not be done in the first trimester.

Her choice in those early days was a) delay chemo to protect the baby, but likely give own body over to cancer; b) abort and start chemo right away, as her first oncologist recommended, but most likely never get another chance to have a child.

Her dream of having a child of her own collided head-on with the nightmare of having cancer.

She is now telling her story so others who have to walk the same scary path won’t have to do it completely alone. Please stop by and say hello to my brave sister-in-law, and friend, at her blog, ChemoMama.

Memorial Day: December 22

PhotobucketFive years ago, I lost my dad to colorectal cancer. I’ve remembered his passing each year, with a story about how caroling at the nursing home reminded me of his last days, how I missed the moment of his death, and by talking about how his dying so close to Christmas affected me.

This year, I’ve decided to pull out the eulogy I read at his memorial service that occurred a few days after Christmas 2004. When I wrote it, I had three additional houseguests, was still cleaning up wrapping paper, and had a three-month-old newborn along with a 1 and 3 year old. It isn’t the most eloquent thing I’ve ever written, but I think he would’ve approved.

If someone didn’t know our dad and just dropped in to look at his belongings and observe his life, they’d see they’d found a man with a strong inclination for neatness, detail and order.

From his incredibly detailed filing system, to the blueprints he created for his annual garden, to his workbench with a spot for every tool, pencil and rope, to his lawn—a perfect green patch of loveliness. When I was younger, I’d mow his lawn in crazy corkscrew and checkerboard patterns just to drive him crazy.

As my brother-in-law once said with great fondness, “people think your sister gets her extreme neatness from your mom; but while your mom is neat, your dad is nuts.”

Our dad was also very intelligent. . .he could play a mean game of Trivial Pursuit. . .but I believe he used his intelligence not as a way to set him apart from other people, but as a way to connect to others. He loved to talk to people–all kinds of people–and he knew something about so many topics, he could almost always find a subject in common with the person to whom he was speaking. If you’ve ever had a long conversation with him and then wondered, “I didn’t know Ed knew anything about XYZ”, you know what I mean.

He was also a man of simple pleasures: a nice canoe paddle around the pond, a good piece of meat off the grill, an evening watching TV with his Fluffy cat on his lap, spending time with his grandchildren, tending to his garden, patiently teaching his sons-in-law how to do a home project. But again, he liked nothing more than sitting down with you and talking about whatever topic came to mind.

But, this is just part of the picture of my dad. He was also a guy with a great sense of humor who loved jokes and goofiness. His favorite movies were Airplane, Young Frankenstein and This Is Spinal Tap. When I lived at home, I could hear his laughter carrying down the hallway as he watched Saturday Night Live or some other late night show.

When the Connecticut River flooded our neighborhood and he was stuck behind to keep the pump going in the basement, he took my sister’s Barbie sailboat and used it to hold his beer. We had a “Don’t Tell Mom” agreement between us which was invoked when he purchased a large piece of electronics or when I had another alcohol-infused mishap. Every summer, he’d blow up giant dragon floats for the pond and affectionately named them Cecil and Puff, supposedly to amuse the kids, but we knew better.

And, he’s the only dad I ever knew who’d hear his girls scream “TURN DOWN THAT STEREO!” when we walked into the house. He liked his music LOUD!

It is in this spirit that I’d like to read a short passage from a song that I think he’d appreciate. There were many times, even in his final weeks, that we saw his sense of humor, his strength of character, his optimism and love of life shining through:

Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad

Other things just make you swear and curse
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle

Don’t grumble, give a whistle
And this’ll help things turn out for the best

And. . .always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the light side of life

(from Monty Python’s Life of Brian)

Still missing you like crazy Daddy.