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I’m pretty much for engaging in instant gratification. Never liked waiting for Santa and birthdays – couldn’t exist without knowing what those nicely wrapped packages held. Best Christmas ever – my grandparents rolled in a brand new, black & white TV just for me – with a bow on top. No muss, no fuss, no wrapping paper to pull off. Just 2 very jealous siblings and a stern caution from my parents that I would be sharing the TV with them – even if it went into my room.

But this year was different…there was Hamilton. Not only the story of historic America, portrayed by current Americans, but the story of my Virginia family. My distant relatives who were there alongside Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. These were the tales told, the hand-scripted genealogical charts, and the visits to historic battle sites of my childhood. I was a child of the American Revolution, my grandmothers were daughters of the Confederacy, my grandfather was a Son of Cincinnati, descended from Revolutionary War officers. So Hamilton went onto my bucket list.

I entered Hamilton lotteries – many times with no success. However, two days after my cancer diagnosis, I won the Hamilton lottery and purchased four New York City theatre tickets for $199 each. Which in Hamiltonian and Broadway terms is a real deal! I decided to make this a family event, not knowing if I’d be alive or dead by March 29, 2019. After all, it was still only June 2018 and I had many health challenges. Just like Hamilton, I rose to the occasion. Appreciating how lucky we are to be alive right now!

I booked my flight, my NYC kids made plans. My Portland daughter started looking for cheap airfare. Something was missing – right, what would be do for the 3 other days of this long weekend? I quickly grabbed seats for To Kill a Mockingbird starring Jeff Daniels. And then an interesting show at the Public Theatre Ain’t No More. My son added another show at the Public Theatre Sea Wall/A Life. He planned a carefully choreographed itinerary, which I quickly blew up as I had no interest in typically tourist sightseeing. We met in the middle and he included some outstanding restaurants…more in a sec about one of those. And I added a visit to the “hive” in Hudson Yards which is like wandering through a mirrored copper, 13-story, M.C Escher sculpture – outstanding – even if I only wandered through in a wheelchair on the vertically scaled elevator. Both frightening (my fear of heights) and fascinating.

Right off the bat, I got a notice of the cast for another show at the Public Theatre – the option I hadn’t chosen. Only this show, White Noise, was cast with Daveed Diggs, an unexpected one of my bucket list items. He played both Lafayette and Jefferson in the original Hamilton Broadway cast. He was simply amaaazing, at least in the YouTube videos I had watched of his performance. He also plays Rainbow Johnson’s brother on Black-ish, a favorite show. If the Public Theatre could only exchange my tickets – fingers crossed and daimoku down, I went for it. And with a great deal of kindness, they exchanged the tickets for this lovely grandmother who was flying in from Orlando just to see the show. Oh thank you, theatre gods! Hang on…..there’s more about Daveed and our incredible and entertaining conversation to come.

Jaime was the impresario for our restaurants and he made some incredibly delicious choices. Absolutely top of the list – a lovely (Michelin 5 star rated) Korean restaurant – quaint decor using rows of wooden spoons for a room dividers, impeccable customer service, and out of this world food. Jaime chose delicious vegetable dumplings with a kimchi dipping sauce (omg! yummy good), along with wild black edamame  coated in korean spices, and then tofu with ginger scallion dressing that looked like dessert and sent him straight to an orgiastic heaven place. He had no words…my son, the veritable walking lexicon, could only raise his hand and say “Give me a minute, give me a minute” in some true to life When Harry Met Sally moment. Courteney and I shared some of his tasty treats and indulged ourselves with the best bulgogi beef sliders with spicy pickled cucumbers and scallion salsa. If you’re in NYC, check out Danji (danjinyc.com). It’s relatively affordable too.

After many miles of bumpity-bumping through New York city streets, pushed and toted by my heroic daughter, Courteney, I am finally home. Exhausted, well-worn, and thoroughly satisfied…you can never be satisfied, according to A.Ham…but I am so very glad to be back home, in my very comfy bed with a wonderland of pillows.

Still wishing to see Hamilton, over and over again…the music shall suffice.

 

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With Deepest Gratitude…Life is Good

To all my good friends who worried about my “magic pill” last month and put so many positive prayers in to the universe on my behalf, my apologies for not providing a more timely update. After a long weekend, or so it seemed, of chanting to get the pill, with no further problems, and affordably, I discovered that CVS Caremark had neglected to inform me, as their left-hand was denying me the pill, their right hand was shipping the pill, at a very reasonable $60 for a $15,500 30-pill bottle. As we say, huge benefit….didn’t miss a beat.

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My most recent scans show cancer-free lungs and cancer receding from all other spots were it tried to lurk. My blood work looks good, showing all signs of the remission that I have “officially” declared. It’s my body after all and my prayer is to be cancer-free. I’m totally feeling it!

Did I mention that there’s a “magic pill/Tagrisso” Facebook group? Which I find quite reassuring – I’m not the only one with certain side effects – we all share them…good to know, I guess. Anyhow, one side effect is some vision challenges, mostly blurring, foggy, filmy…as in “heavens no, do not drive at night” vision. After pondering this rather challenging state of affairs and realizing from my FB friends that it’s something we share, I decided that, if I could chant to be cancer-free, I could chant to see clearly. Two days later, the majority of blurring and fogging has relented and I could see ever so much better. And so I’m still chanting to see clearly.

Courage, strength and wisdom well up in those who consciously take on everything as the protagonist and person responsible for achieving their goals. Unlimited wisdom and ardent resolve arise from a sense of responsibility. (Daisaku Ikeda)

So, it is now early March and I am busily fulfilling some bucket list goals. As in, seeing Hamilton in Orlando and treating myself to a third-row seat. What an experience!! I have not forgotten that I will see Hamilton with my wonderful children at the end of March in New York City. We have an entire weekend of theatre planned – Hamilton, To Kill a Mockingbird, White Noise with Daveed Diggs (love him!!), and Sea Wall, A Life with Jake Gyllenhall and Tom Sturridge. Unfortunately, not enough time to see My Fair Lady’s decidedly feminist spin – next theatre weekend. Hoping to have that Caribbean beach week off my bucket list week too!! Attachment-1 (1)

And with that, we’ll take a little segue into the world of appreciation and gratitude….just as I was getting plenty of exercise yesterday doing the laundry, changing sheets, and making the bed, I suddenly realized that I wanted very much to express my appreciation and deepest gratitude to all my friends and family, whose names ramble through every letter in the alphabet except Q and X…so you know who you are!

  • To my children – who have called me almost every day, who have come to visit, and who have planned our NYC theatre excursion so that we can all be together which hasn’t happened in quite a few years – who are the greatest joy of my life. I shed tears of joy and feel deepest gratitude for you choosing me as your mom in this lifetime and hoping that we’ll be together in many lifetimes to come.
  • To the friend who meets me at the oncologist’s office every time and has been my touch base countless times….to you, I send all my love and gratitude for so very many ways in which you have supported me for what seems like fifty years – and you know who you are (thanks for all our theatre dates too!)
  • To all my Soka Gakkai chanting buddies, who are always supportive and encouraging and know just the right guidance from Daisaku Ikeda to share, who show every day what hope, courage, and confidence look like in action, and who’ve stood besides this joyful Bodhisattva for many, many years – my wish is that we will be reborn together, chanting with deepest gratitude and joy, in lifetime after lifetime, dancing and arising joyfully from the earth.
  • To the friend who drove across town, made sure I didn’t pass out in the shower, and then changed my sheets for me…..a world of thanks for your love and caring more than thirty years.
  • To the best family-friend who sent her daughter to help me when things were not going so well last summer, words can barely express my gratitude for your love and friendship since my childhood in Baltimore. And to this wonderful young woman who I watched grow up, thanks for being here when I needed you most – you and your guinea pigs stories!!
  • To my friends in the world of ed tech and online learning…..what can I say? I’m sending you the great heaps of gratitude for letting me be part of the coolest gang of folks I’ve ever known…it’s been a pleasure to serve the world of education with you and beside you.
  • To my very best “forever friend” who I can reconnect with anytime and it feels as if no time has passed. You saved my spirit so many times through high school and beyond. You still really listen to me and understand my challenges, and your kind, compassionate, and loving reassurance is just what I need….I share so much more than thanks – if there is such a thing – for just being there for me and surrounding me with your love.
  • To all my girls’ school cronies….thanks for your encouragement, your positive prayers, and just the fact that you really, really want to see me at our 50th class reunion in May (hope to see you, too!). I’m one lucky woman to be surrounded by such an incredible group of amazing women.
  • And to everyone else, thanks for your support, prayers, and best wishes for a lasting recovery. This is quite the journey and I am so grateful for everything you bring to the table – whether it’s supporting me or giving me something to chant about.

And just so you know, I’m not planning on going anywhere….definitely hoping to be around for quite some time. But I needed to let everyone know how much I appreciate you. I have the deepest gratitude for the opportunities I’ve been given to chant about everything in my life – to fearlessly overcome every challenge, to smile more from deep within, and to be the encouragement for many other people. Heaven only knows, I never imagined my life would be so happy, with the “never give up” spirit, and with such encouragement as to how to manifest this wonderful life from my mentor, Daisaku Ikeda.

So, like the T-shirt says, Life is good.life is good 2

 

Burning Rubber

I was eight years old when my grandmother introduced me to Robin. She was my age and from then on we were best friends, thick as thieves, as they say. Our grandmothers were in the same ladies book club. They got together once a month to discuss the monthly fiction they might have read, while the maid served iced tea and dainty finger sandwiches. I remember my grandmother rushing to finish a book, all the while understanding that the woman obliged to give the official book presentation should have actually read more than the book jacket. After agreeing that this book did or did not present the topic in a way which was interesting, they moved on to the fiction of local news – who has recently been seen with whom, doing what, and when.

Since I was a bit of a thorn (also a bit of an understatement) in my mother’s side, what better excuse than school vacations to ship me off, via that big bird in the skies – thank you ,Eastern Airlines – from Baltimore to Orlando. One of the perks of attending a private school was extra-long vacations. Summer vacation went from end of May to almost end of September; Thanksgiving was a full week; Christmas was three weeks; and Spring Break was another two weeks. I had plenty of time to unwind from the stress of ducking and dodging at home, and my grandmother Beese now how plenty of time to fill my social calendar with “things to do.”

And that meant being introduced to and playing with all the nice children in town, from Beese’s book club and country club. Fortunately, Beese and Pappy had a swimming pool and a beach house, back when this was a luxury not available to most middle-class families. Thus, most of the parents were only too glad to bring the children over for a swim while they had cocktails with the Carrigans at their Winter Park mansion.

It was quite an impressive home. The front driveway led past acres of orange groves, past the swimming pool, then swung around in a circle with a lovely magnolia tree in the center. You could see Lake Maitland as you pulled around past the small garage and charming guest house. The columned, brick porch, with wrought iron loveseats that were painted white, was gave the impression of a fine Colonial home. Generally, the screen door was unlatched and those in the know could walk right in. If you rang the bell, you’d be invited in by Mable, after she made the long walk from the back of the house where she was probably cooking up something delicious in the kitchen.

The house’s front hall foyer was quite large, big enough for ten or twenty guests arriving or departing at once, and sufficient to accommodate ladies in their lovely ball gowns. Oriental rugs covered the oak floors. There was a dressing room, generous enough for five or six women adjusting their dresses and slips, with its own closet, vanity table, sofa, and chaise lounge. Off the left side of the foyer was a large guest bedroom, dressing room, and full bath. It opened onto a covered breezeway and led to the pool. Just this section of the house along was large enough for a family and generally elicited oohs and aahs.

A few steps up from the foyer led to either the grand staircase to two master suites, or into the living room. The living room itself was almost forty feet in length, with an oversized fireplace, built in bookshelves displaying Beese’s collection of antique teacups, an ebony finished Steinway grand piano, and a seven French windows from floor to ceiling affording a fine view of the lake and orange groves. An open brick terrace only added to the charm of the room.  

Once you made the stroll through the living room, marveling at its many Oriental rugs, you’d find my grandparents sitting in the breezeway. This room was open, light, and airy. It had been built to catch the breezes, with a full two walls of jalousie windows, large doors opening onto another charming porch with steps leading down to the lake. The opposite door led onto the same garden outlook as the guest suite, and out to the recently added pool, which had a springy diving pool – the scene of much excitement. This “breezeway” room gave the grownups a chance to converse, while providing oversight for the horseplay in the pool. It was ideal.

From the day Beese’s dear friend, Baba, brought Robin over to swim with me, we were friends. We’d swim at Beese’s, we’d lunch and swim at the Robin’s country club, and then, finally, Robin’s parents allowed her to stay for the  weekend at the beach with us, so long as another respectable couple was also these for the weekend. My grandfather’s rather questionable reputation followed him wherever we went, and my grandmother had a great deal of difficulty getting around. It would be easier if Robin’s grandparents or aunties brought her over to the beach and visited for the weekend.

And this worked well. Robin and I were nice little girls. We swam in the ocean, until Pappy built a swimming pool there too. And then we swam in the pool. We were allowed to walk the half mile either way from the house. We checked in at lunch time, rested and giggled during nap time, then played cards or board games until dinner. We were trusted. After a while, Robin was allowed to stay with me at the beach by herself. She had five siblings and her parents wanted to ensure fairness to all. Still we got more than enough time together.

By the time we were thirteen years old, our friendship was well cemented. When I returned to Baltimore for school, we wrote letters, sent each other packages of mementoes; mailing the package usually cost more than the junk inside, but we didn’t care. First of all, our parents were paying the postage but, most importantly, it was our way of meaningfully staying in touch. We couldn’t wait to get together for another summer of fun.

Once we were reunited for the summer, we’d slip into a routine. I’d invite Robin to the beach. This would take the pressure off my grandmother to entertain me. At thirteen, I was getting to be too much to handle. With Robin around, we’d pretend to be good little girls, and then we’d run upstairs to our room and plot. I was the dreamer, Robin was the impulsive doer. She was willing to take any risk that I could think up. Imagine something wild, she was game. Climb out on the second story roof to watch fireworks, let’s go. Talk to a radio DJ all night and meet him at dawn on the beach, yea baby!

As thirteen turned into fourteen, we were allowed that quintessential sign of near-adulthood. Yes, we got our Florida Learner’s permits. With a grandparent in the car, we could legally drive.  And with the car keys on the front hall table, we could wait until my grandparents’ had gone to bed and “steal” the car. A great idea, in theory, but this wasn’t quite as easy as it might sound.

Our house on Atlantic Avenue was built high up on a dune, overlooking the beach. Unlike our neighbor’s house which had a street level driveway with forty steep steps leading up to the house, ours had a steep driveway with a garage at the end leading directly into the house’s back hallway. The back hall connected to the kitchen via the laundry room or to the front hall. Either choice had a few more stairs up. If you chose the front hallway, you could go right into the butler’s pantry and then the kitchen, or into the front hall and then the dining room, or you could make a quick turn directly up the circular brick staircase to our second floor wing, with three guestrooms, a sleeping porch, and three private baths. There were many doorways and so many places to lurk and eavesdrop on adult conversations – generally more gossip about who was seen at the club with someone not their spouse.

My grandma Beese usually sat in the dining room most days. Once she arose, she needed help to dress. Rhoda, although she was the cook and the maid, also managed the property when my grandmother wasn’t in town. When Beese needed her in the mornings, Rhoda would turn off the stove and walk down a few steps, through the living room, and into the master suite that Pappy had built. My grandmother would sit on the edge of the bed while Rhoda helped her put on her stockings and jewelry and zip her dress.

After that, Rhoda would stay by her side as Beese slowly made her way through the living room and to the stairs. At the stairs, Beese needed a strong arm to lean on upon, along with a wrought iron railing, to leverage herself up those four brick steps. Once up, it was only twenty more steps to her chair at the end of the table nearest the door leading to the pool and balcony. From this place, she could see the cars and people on the beach and catch the breezes.

In the afternoon, she’d return to her room for a nap until time to dress for dinner. Rhoda or Robin and I would help her down to the bedroom and back to the dining room. By the end of the day, my grandfather would be pleasantly plastered from his afternoon around the card table, drinking Scotch and playing Gin, and Beese would be exhausted from sitting all day. When my grandparents went to bed, they were in for the night. Pappy had even installed a sink and refrigerator in their suite so they had no reason to leave the room. Quite convenient for all of us.

With those car keys on the table, and gas in the car, it was all too tempting. Robin and I discovered that we could sneak out of the house at night, drift the car down the driveway, and take off in search of boys. They were a few clubs which catered to the “under 18” set and we danced the night away.  At first, there was only one fly in the ointment. Did I mention the driveway?

Even when you were legitimately driving the car with an accompanying adult, pulling into the driveway, giving it just enough gas to get it up the hill, and then coasting into the garage was not easy. It was a two car garage, designed for two medium sized cars. It wasn’t built for large Cadillacs and yesteryear’s Oldsmobile station wagons. You had to be careful not scrape the sides by getting too close to the garage door’s rusted hinges.

But the real piece de resistance was the extra refrigerator and upright freezer at the end of the garage. When you parked, you needed to leave just enough room to walk around the car, while pulling far enough in so that guests could turn around in the enclosed courtyard off the driveway. This left only 18 inches to spare at the front of the garage. And you couldn’t really coast in because my grandmother had to get out of the car and be helped in the back door first. Then, you could try to park. I think I only dented the freezer door one time, but it was tricky. Because Beese could no longer drive, I got plenty of practice. When she got tired of sitting at the table, we’d take an afternoon cruise up the beach highway and see the sights.

Usually, we’d back out of the garage and turn the car around in the courtyard so we could head out facing traffic. Backing into the stream of cars on the highway was really a challenge. Sneaking out was even trickier, coasting down the hill so we could start the engine far away from the house. Then we’d pull quickly away from the driveway. If we weren’t spinning sand under the tires at our getaway, we were frequently burning rubber with a hasty escape.

Now, try this pulling up the driveway and parking in the garage when you’ve stolen the car and you’re trying to sneak back into the house, holding your breath and hoping that you haven’t been caught or that someone hasn’t locked the door behind you. We had to leave the house unlocked during these escapades, because while we might have left car keys on the table, only my grandfather, grandmother, and Rhoda had house keys and these were safely stowed away in pocketbooks and dresser drawers.

We might have burned rubber when we left, but coming home we had to cut the engine just when we crested the hill and then drift the car into the garage. Time it wrong and you wouldn’t have enough momentum to make it in. Then you’d have to arise earlier than my grandfather, who got up at dawn, and pretend that you wanted to pull the car out to wash it. This excuse was shaky the first time we used it, so I was reluctant to give it again. We simply had to park it properly if we were going to go undetected. You certainly couldn’t risk having anyone hearing the engine’s noise rattling through the garage when you came home. And why would that be, with my grandparents safely asleep? Did I mention a second fly?

By the time Robin and I were fifteen, and quite experienced with both cars and boys, my grandmother’s condition had worsened sufficiently that she had engaged the services of a live-in nurse.  While Beese and Pappy might have drifted off in their downstairs lair, the nurse bunked on the second floor with us. Now, we had to listen for her snores before we could launch our escapades. Which was fine; things in the clubs really didn’t start until 11PM anyhow. But, now the nurse might lock us out or hear us come in. And the sound of the car’s engine echoed through the second floor. So we had to be really careful.

And we generally were. We had met some hot guys at a club and gone over to their room at the Sans Souci Motel, way over on US 1, way off the beach. Now, I have my suspicions about how good a girl Robin was, but I was still a virgin, was going to stay a virgin, and in no way was going to let my mother “see” that I wasn’t a virgin. So I was making out, humping, and saying a lot of “No.”

Robin and her latest love interest, Dean, were in the adjoining bedroom; I heard a lot of moving, thrashing around, and satisfied sighing. There weren’t any sounds of “No” coming from her side of the wall. Something must have appealed to the boys enough that they wanted to see us again. And they wanted to meet us on the beach. So we decided to drive them, from their hotel over past our house on the beach. That way, they’d be able to find us on the beach. I still can’t explain why we didn’t just give the address, but teenagers, in their mischief-making, often make things more difficult than they need to be. My guy and I were in the front seat, while Robin and Dean continued to make out in the back seat.

Just as Robin popped her head up, we noticed that the lights on the first floor of the house were on. Obviously, we were caught!  This was not good. Robin’s natural inclination has always been to run when caught. When she got caught by the local gendarmes at a college beer bash with a bunch of guys in a field, what did she do? Run, and drunkenly run faster – did she think that sober cop with the flashlight wouldn’t be able to catch her? My response is more logical. As Robin planned our escape to Mexico, I crafted our lie. Robin had needed some cigarettes, “Yes, I know she’s too young to smoke, but she does, and we had run up to the gas station to get a pack.” We figured cigarettes were better than boys.

We quickly ran the boys back to the club where we had found them. They could get another ride home. We needed to get back quickly since our alibi was only a few minutes away and we weren’t sure for how long we’d been caught. We were terrified. We’d never get to come to the beach together again. And Robin’s father was a monster man; huge, heavy handed, and he’d beat his kids soundly for the least infraction. After all, with six kids you needed some serious discipline.

We took one more swing past the house on the beach and the lights were still on. Pappy might be half blind, wearing those thick, gold rimmed coke bottle glasses, but he had ears like a hawk. No way would we be able to get past him. He was waiting up. We just knew it. We had some serious “splaining” to do. We followed the usual drill, gas the car up the driveway, then cut the engine and coast in. We tiptoed to the back door. The screen door creaked when we opened it. We held our breath. Was the back door locked? I gently twisted the handle and it stopped. I froze. Now we were dead.

After one last suggestion that we hightail it to Mexico, Robin said, “Let me try.” She took the handle and twisted the other way. It opened. We inched the door open and stepped into the house, expecting at any moment to see my big, balding grandfather in his night clothes, an undershirt tucked into pajama pants with his belly lapping over them.

A few tiptoes and we reached the first set of steps. For some reason, thinking maybe if we were down low we wouldn’t be noticed, we got on our hands and knees and crawled the rest of the way into the front hall and started up the steps, just past the kitchen. The lights were still on, but so was the radio. Pappy didn’t play the radio. I looked up into the kitchen and noticed the nurse’s reflection in the kitchen window and then I peeked around the corner. She had her back to us, still in her white nurse’s uniform, and was swaying to the music. There she was, clearly not waiting for us. She was polishing the silver at 2AM.

Robin and I could barely contain our laughter as we stumbled up the stairs. We tiptoed into our bedroom, threw ourselves on the beds, and covered our mouths with pillows. Robin was laughing so hard she had to get up and pee so she didn’t wet the bed. We were saved – by the silver. And we saved the cigarette excuse, for when we really needed it later.

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Once again, my head was buried in a good book. I had discovered a quiet spot in the second floor dressing room of my grandmother’s home. Actually, there were many quiet places in this mansion. But I wanted one where I could read undisturbed by the comings and goings of various maids, cooks, gardeners, and assorted family members. Depending upon the time of the season, there might be parents, siblings, and many little cousins descending upon Beese’s house. I was the eldest. My territorial rights were well established. I had my own bed in this little dressing room, off my parent’s room, not just a cot or a sheet thrown over a chaise lounge.

And except for the night I had accidentally, and literally, shocked myself trying to plug in a frayed lamp cord, this was a pretty safe place. I couldn’t hear the chatter of my parents or the squeals of my siblings and cousins as they explored the house and grounds. I had no idea that the little kids, as I called them, had commandeered my grandmother’s golf cart and were having a wild ride through the orange groves. The house was situated on eleven acres of sloping grounds and orange groves with extensive lake frontage. Besides the main house, there was a two bedroom guest house, a lovely screened tea house, a boathouse and dock, a small garage, and a large garage for three cars with an attached house and additional attic storage.

Since my grandmother was crippled with rheumatoid arthritis, she needed a way to get around the grounds. She’d planted many flower beds and boxwood hedges, as well as banana and orange groves that needed her keen eye and management oversight to ensure that the gardeners were taking care of business. Over the years, she had grown wary of the men she hired to tend the grounds. Mr. Fisher turned out to be an ex-con on the run. Mr. Fields had a drinking problem. Mr. Van took great care of the property until he had a heart attack. After that, there was a succession of men moving in and out of the garage house. Thus, the golf cart – so Beese could tour the property and give notes to the gardener on what she wanted done.

And no one would deny my brother his birthright to drive the golf cart with cousins clinging dangerously to its back seat and roof. If he took a corner too quickly, the golf cart would fall into the sandy groves. Everyone would hop off and push it back upright. And this, it seems, is how he learned to drive – besides those times he sat upon Pappy’s lap and steered the car down Daytona Beach’s sandy shores. By the time he was ten years old, he had mastered both golf carts and cars and didn’t hesitate to take his turn behind the wheel. All he needed was keys hanging nearby and he was off.

Now, I had similar driving skills. Since I was too big to sit on Pappy’s lap, I was allowed to steer the car and drive down the beach as my grandfather sat by my side ready to hit the brake. Going no more than ten miles an hour, it was a pretty exciting crawl down the beach. At low tide, the driving lanes were miles wide. All I had to do was steer straight, stop, and park. My grandfather would take over before we went back up the beach ramp and onto Atlantic Avenue. My brother and I did have different styles. I took the car out furtively, in the dark of the night, only on the beach. Rarely did I grab it during the day. Bo took anything that had a motor – anything with a set of keys, anytime, anywhere. And thus the automotive games were on.

Once summer was over, with our newly established driving expertise, we returned home to Baltimore. Our biggest party was Daddy’s birthday just before Christmas. Mother invited hundreds of guests who arrived in mink coats and rustling satin and velvet gowns. It was the children’s job to greet them politely at the door and take their coats. We had waiters circulating to take drink orders and plenty of men and women staff from the country club passing trays of hors d’oeuvres. A jazz combo played in the den where another bar was set up.

Since this was an evening event, there wasn’t much excitement for the children. After the guests arrived, we were pretty much on our own. I stationed myself in the kitchen, close to the cooks and waitresses who knew me well and kept me under their watchful eye. Every time a new tray passed out of the kitchen, I was allowed to sample “just one” of the small delicacies. My brother did his best to stay close to the bar, stealing small samples of drinks as near empty glasses were returned. My sister disappeared into her room, to play with her dolls and watch over the piles of minks and lovely ladies coats.

Life was fairly mundane until the evening our great uncle Jim Bill brought his latest flame upstairs for a quickie. My sister had already been put to bed in my room, leaving the coats unattended. Jim and CariLee were thoroughly enjoying each other, after an evening of drinks and scintillating conversation, and were now nestled deeply inside each other and beneath layers of coats. Dear Mrs. Hilgarten, one of my grandmother’s ever so proper lady friends, had decided that she would retrieve her own mink as she was ready to leave.

As she entered the room, and reached to find her coat, she gasped and moved quickly away from the bed. It was moving. There was clearly some animal on the bed, and from the looks of it, it was a furry bear. With much excitement and concern, she went to get my father. Thinking that she had probably had too much to drink, he assured her it was nothing and proceeded into the room to fetch her coat. He has quickly confronted by the same noisy, moving animal. With disgust, he realized exactly who and what it was, grabbed Mrs. H’s coat and bid her good night. Justifiably enraged, he then returned to the room and dragged Uncle Jim Bill from beneath the remaining coats and suggested that he zip up, sober up, and leave. Now – this was a typical winter party at our house.

After this holiday event, Preakness was our next big party. Pappy and Beese always arrived in time for my grandfather to play the ponies for a few weeks before the main event. The actual party started mid-afternoon. Mint juleps were at the ready. The bar was open in the den and waiters passed the canapé trays and took drink orders. It was all quite civilized.

So many guests were expected that my father asked Bucy’s husband, Clarence, and Burton’s chauffeur, Willy Parker, to help park the cars. As the guests pulled into the circle of our front drive, a gaggle of children greeted them at the steps and ran into the front hall to announce them to my parents. By the time they came in the door, their car had been parked down the street. As their cars were parked, Clarence and Willy carefully arranged the car keys outside on the stone steps. By the time the party was in full swing, there were hundreds of car keys. It was a classic 1960’s valet service and it worked pretty well. Clarence and Willy got a nice hourly rate and the occasional tip.

After the Preakness, if you weren’t planning to stay for more drinks and a buffet supper, you grabbed your keys and wandered along the road until you found your car. No one cared whether you were sober enough to drive. And if you seemed to stumble out of the house, Willy Parker was there to fetch your car and bring it right to you. Just tell him the make and color and you were home free. As the numbers of key holders dwindled, Willy was paid and released from his duties and the rest of the keys were deposited into Mother’s lovely Ming bowl in the front hall. Clarence went back into the kitchen to help the ladies clean up.

All was well until old Papa George Mitchell, already fairly tipsy, stumbled back into the house and insisted that his car was not outside. He had walked the length of the road and it was not to be found. Naturally, my father understood that this was more a problem of too much alcohol than a missing car. He called Clarence out of the kitchen and questioned him about the cars.

“Were they all parked on the road?”

“Yes sir.”

“Did he remember where Mr. Mitchell’s gold Cadillac was parked?”

“Yes sir, it was just over the hill, back towards Bellemore.”

“Well, Mr. Mitchell says he can’t find it. Can you go look for it, please?”

“Yes sir.”

Clarence went off to find the car, speculating that the keys might be under the floor mat and Daddy offered Mr. Mitchell another drink while he waited for his car to swing into the driveway. And he waited, and waited. Clarence walked the entire length of the road, about half a mile, scratching his head and trying to solve the mystery.

Meanwhile, I thought I knew the answer. I had seen Bo rifling through the bowl of car keys in the front hall. Knowing his proclivity for joyriding, I suspected that he was somehow involved. I tugged on Daddy’s madras jacket, and said only one word, “Bo.” His immediate response was “How do you know?”  

Around our house, if something was missing, or something suspicious had happened, the safest place to start was “Bo.” After years of hot water heater mischief, he had graduated to more satisfying opportunities – cars, credit cards, booze – and joyriding was a great way to influence his little friends. He didn’t have to go far. Just cruise up to Roland Avenue and his gang was excited beyond belief. Bo was a wild child and they loved the thrill of it.

Daddy handed Clarence the keys to his own Cadillac.

”Clarence, go find him.”  

With a shake of head, wondering how this one child could get into so much mischief, Clarence took off.  It was only moments later, or so it seemed, that the mystery was solved and Bo pulled into the driveway in Mr. Mitchell’s car, followed by Clarence in Daddy’s car. Bo jumped out, ever the willing servant, tugged his imaginary chauffeur’s cap, bowed, and held the car door open for Mr. Mitchell.

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There is always more than one way to skin a cat, a really terrible sounding turn of words. However, in Buddhism, there is always a better way to let one’s fur fly. I’d like to say that it’s just human nature when my emotions take right over. But maybe I’m just hot tempered and express myself emotionally with great passion and more than a few choice words. Or maybe it’s just negativity and doubt creeping in on fuzzy cat paws.

As you may already know, I’ve been chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and actively practicing Buddhism for more than 40 years now. It has given me the courage and determination to challenge and confront every obstacle along my life journey and demonstrate the unlimited potential inherent within each of our lives, to transform every situation, including lung cancer, into benefit.

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Whatever comes my way, I can approach it in a couple of ways. I can employ the spiritually deficient strategy of doubting, yet passionate and quite salty language – looking through my own pre-chanting, experiential rear-view window. Another option is to frame it as my transformative opportunity and uncover its most deliciously, life-affirming benefit. This week, I’ve had the chance to look at the concept and reality of being in remission, conquering lung cancer, and returning to wellness from both perspectives.

My journey is not without its own challenges. This week’s was my insurance company, which I’m sure in the interest of making more money for its stockholders or paying its executives ever greater lucre, changed its drug benefits. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care as I’d assume that the benefits remained the same – at least they did on all the paperwork I received. However, this new and improved CVS Caremark plan dropped my cancer treatment team off the grid. No longer would my targeted biologic drug (my “magic pill,” called Tagrisso) be routinely shipped to me each month.

Now, with only seven magic pills left in my bottle, insurance analysts would be making some decisions not as quickly or judiciously as I might hope. Turning quickly around, at least figuratively, then elaborately and profanely cursing the situation, and viewing this problem through a dark and clouded rear-window, I felt a huge rush of defeat. How dare they do this to me? WTFH? I’m in remission and now they’ll take away my magic pill? Wrong way, rabbit.

The New Human Revolution (penned by Daisaku Ikeda) is filled with stories of people achieving their human revolution through changing their karma. At the heart of these transformations are the act of making a vow and the Buddhist principle of “voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma.”

Mr. Ikeda once said: The principle of “voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma” is the logical conclusion of the Buddhist concept of transforming one’s karma. Simply put, it represents a way of life in which we change our karma into mission. Everything that happens in our lives has meaning. Moreover, the Buddhist way of life is to find and discover meaning in all things. (https://www.daisakuikeda.org/)

The New Human Revolution depicts the resilient attitude toward the lives of Soka Gakkai members, who view the personal struggles and hardships they experience as part of fulfilling their vow as Bodhisattvas of the Earth to enable all people to become happy.

So how does this “transforming one’s karma” really work? As I said earlier, I can understand it as my transformative opportunity and uncover its most deliciously, life-affirming benefit. Even being told that my magic pill is being re-evaluated and could be somewhat delayed – while Nero fiddles away and Rome burns at CVS Caremark. Still my benefit, my chance to challenge this and remain positive and optimistic.

So, how to challenge this. First of all, I need not worry – after all, I can chant about this situation. I am in remission. Over the past six months, the magic pill has vacuumed up all the cancer from my lungs and brain. The cancer in my bloodstream has practically evaporated.  The pill – what a benefit!

But more than that, the benefit of chanting to experience excellent, cancer-free health persists. It the pill gets delayed, I will continue on my healing journey. If my “cancer in blood” numbers increase, then it’s actual proof that continuing to take the pill is going to be my best practice. If my numbers remain steady with a few days or weeks off the pill, that gives more valuable medical information for my healing, support team.

Either way, I win. I can face each challenge looking through the front window, having no fear, and being the warrior woman I have already proven myself to be. I will get my pills back – there is no doubt.

How to describe “voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma?” What does this really mean? Although I have no conscious recollection of raising my hand to take on a cancer diagnosis during my moment in an alternate universe before my re-birth in this world, it surely happened in exactly that way.

I understand that, through my practice of Buddhism which is based on faith (that each of our lives is constructed of (Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo vibrational energy), practice (for the happiness and dream fulfillment of ourselves and other people), and study (to truly understand at an intellectual and energetic level that we all possess the enlightened Buddha nature and can transform any situation into benefit). The fact that, only months later, I am experiencing a great victory over cancer confirms that I chose this challenge, as my personal mission. Nothing can stop this warrior woman now. 

Next up – I chose, before all conscious memory, to be born into a rich family that lost, through a series of unfortunate events, the majority of its wealth and fortune. Because I practice Buddhism, not only to overcome health challenges, but to vanquish anything that appears to be a “pile of poo” on my personal runway  – employing the always successfully tactic of sweeping away the poo with an immense daimoku (Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo) broom – I now take on the challenge of restoring my family fortune.

I will demonstrate abundant actual proof, provide encouragement that motivates people to chant fiercely and never give up their dreams – whatever they may be. After all, Buddhism is the vehicle, the opportunity, to enrich our lives in whatever way we choose. It’s not just for health challenges – I will be healthy, wealthy, and wise.helthy wealthy wise(For more information on transforming your own life through chanting, see http://www.sgi-usa.org and https://www.worldtribune.org/2018/03/lessons-power-nam-myoho-renge-kyo/?fbclid=IwAR3yqoMtcBje8zYTq9MXOyMvGA_QhRxkFj6FEa1gTA8y4qjHa75fbSxqS6k)

Plenty of chanting = loads of CVS Caremark support and timely delivery of the “magic pill.” Protection and victory!!

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Blood Sisters

Lucy’d been living with us for quite a while, or so it seemed. As she nestled Ally between her massive breasts and large belly, the creak of the rocker lulled us to safely ask questions which no child would ever ask of a stranger. Bo and I would sit at her feet, mesmerized. “Do you have a husband?” “Do you have children?” ”Where did you come from?” “How come your skin is that color?” “Tell us about your children” was the favorite.

Lucy had left her mean husband somewhere in Virginia. I guess he had a drinking problem. Back then, he had a beating up people problem. Lucy left her children with their uncle Richard and his family and she answered the Lord’s call to find my family in Baltimore. Even more fascinating than a drunken lout of a husband, was its companion thought. Perhaps my father could leave my mother – after all, she was clearly a nasty, mean drunk and she did beat up on us. But we really wanted to know about her children, especially Trudy who was my exact age.

What did she look like? Did she go to school? Would she come up here to live? When? Why wasn’t she here now? We had no way of understanding that the maid didn’t just make a call and bring her two children to live with us. Forget that we might not have the room or the inclination. If Trudy was my age, her brother David was a few year older. Lucy knew there was no way my father could allow a pubescent and dark David to inhabit our house.

Lucy handed me Trudy’s picture. It was crackled with age. My eyes could not understand what they were seeing. Trudy had skin like me. Under that church hat, her skin was white, her hair was blond. The hands that clutched a pocketbook past a well-worn winter coat were white. How was this possible? Our black maid had a white daughter, safely stored in Virginia. No wonder Lucy hadn’t wanted to answer our questions. Her answers had opened a Pandora’s box.

Lucy maintained that her daughter was black. Her skin was light because she was an albino negro. I had never heard of such a thing. In my limited experience, if you looked white, you were white. And that’s all they wrote. In my world, just as Ally had a black maid for a mommy, I now had a new white sister. Just my age. All that remained was to persuade Lucy to bring Trudy to live with us. Life went on as my prayers went unanswered and I quickly forgot about this mysterious sister.

I would imagine that there were negotiations going on behind the scenes though. Once Lucy had solidified her position as Ally’s nursemaid and the mainstay of our terribly dysfunctional family, she knew that she couldn’t leave her children in Virginia forever. Lucy had some distant relations in Baltimore. David could live with them until Lucy could get her own place – which might be never because she was living in with us. And she apparently now had enough leverage to bring Trudy to live with us. Because, one day, when I got home from school, Lucy surprised me with this new sister. And there I was face to face, like a frightened squirrel, with my sister and competition.

I think Trudy was more frightened than I. Her personality had been shaped by years of humiliation and abuse. Yes, her skin was white and her hair was blond. But her eyes chattered around in their orbs, never resting on any objects, behind thick glasses. And her hair might be blond but it was well oiled and crinkly. This was a real mystery. Trudy was a strange apparition. She peaked up from her perch on the basement stairs and we exchanged a quick Hi. We were strangers, not sisters, after all.

As time went by, spending days after school together, sharing toys on the weekend, we grew close. Trudy was another person to entertain me when other friends drifted off. She was better than a book. We laced up our roller skates and took a few laps around the basement. Clinging to the support beam near the furnace, we’d wait for each other to skate by and join hands to venture out together. I can’t remember who was the best skater, but I can feel her embrace as she held me off the cold, cement floor. Our laughter still rings in my heart.

Once we had mastered the delicate art of friendship and skating, it was time to venture outdoors. This had some additional risks. Other than Minnie’s children, who had remained on the premises, Winding Way hadn’t much experience with black children. It helped that Trudy’s skin was white, but it didn’t put us beyond risk. We started sharing bikes in the driveway. Around the small circle we went, as I taught her how to ride. It was a bit tedious. She’d get tired or trying not to fall off and I’d get tired of coaching. Unless we could take a long ride, she was never going to learn. Permission was given to take out bikes across the street as long as we stayed on Waycrest Lane. She struggled to learn and we gave up. I returned to riding the long streets and hills with my friends. Trudy and I played girlish games in the house.

As we grew older, our arena expanded. No longer limited to one street, we could walk together as far as we wanted. Times were changing. Martin Luther King was speaking for all of us, letting us know that we were brothers and sisters under the skin. Trudy and I felt emboldened. Equality was right around the corner. And I wanted a vanilla Coke from the local hangout. They were the best. Ice that just crunched between your teeth, a thick layer of vanilla syrup, and the crisp, cold flavor of Coke. Clutching quarters in our pockets, we got permission to ride our bikes the two miles to the store.

Two miles is a long ride. By the time we arrived at “The Morgue,” we were exhausted and thirsty. Trudy and I headed to the take-out counter and ordered our drinks. The waitress had just served us when she stopped dead in her tracks. “I can’t serve her” she exclaimed. “Who?” I asked. “Her, that girl with you, I can’t serve her.” Trudy intuitively understood that this was a racial issue and timidly moved away from the counter. Before I could answer, she had gone outside. She had been put in her place, or so it seemed.

I was confused, and I was angry. How dare they do this to me? Forget about Trudy, I was not used to being denied – anything. I was the spoiled, little rich girl. I was also enraged. Accustomed to telling lies to save myself, I took a deep breath, put on my imaginary winter pants, launched myself down a very steep, slippery slope and told the biggest lie of my young life. “Why can’t you? She’s my sister.”  

The waitress now had a real dilemma. This privileged young customer was claiming that this was her sister. And if so, she needed to serve her or surely someone would raise hell. But she didn’t look white and the bandanna tied over her head certainly hadn’t helped. Martin Luther King be damned. This race trouble was just what the store manager had warned her about. Quickly, she made an impulsive decision, seeing as the drinks were already poured. “OK, well take them outside and don’t let her drink it in front of the door.”

Trudy and I moved our bikes around to the side. The cokes didn’t taste quite so good. She was ashamed – period. I was adamant. I personally was going to fix this. By the time we had biked home, the die was cast. Since the lie was already in place, I just needed to make it a truth. This truth would leave us inseparable. We would be sisters. With a quick stab from the point of scissors, we pressed our bloody fingers together and swore that we would be sisters forever.

Two seconds later, the basement door opened. Lucy was bringing the laundry downstairs. As she asked us to “move out the way,” she stopped dead in her tracks. She knew something was up. She grabbed Trudy and demanded to know what we had done. “Momma, it’s nothing.” Now, I was ashamed. My new sister was in a heap of trouble that I could only just begin to understand as Lucy dragged Trudy down the stairs.

Hours later, Trudy and I swore another pact along with her mother. No one would ever mention this. We would never tell. It was clear that I needed to understand that, should anyone ever hear of this, Lucy would lose her job and maybe more. I would never see Trudy again. Life, as we knew it, would be over. We agreed, huddled together in the injustice of a dark basement in 1960’s Baltimore. Remember, “mum’s the word.” No one knows.

Beynac - Kecia, Courtie, Gertrude, Raven (2)

 

wellnessIt was a dark and stormy night…..not really. It was a bright, sunshine-y Florida day. Just another day, but I was thrown completely off balance just hearing the words, “You have lung cancer, stage 4, which has already spread throughout your body.” Not what anyone wants to hear, but somehow it felt just right. Obviously, in some earlier corporeal iteration, I had stepped up and vowed to take on this challenge. After all, wasn’t I determined to support the SGI absolutely as we encouraged all our youth to participate in #50K events? What better way to show actual proof than stepping forward with “incurable” lung cancer and making a determination that I would be undeterred by this diagnosis, positively winning every day, encouraging everyone who took a moment to acknowledge my challenge, and with a victorious outcome assured?

That was May 2018. After tests, a bit of genetic analysis, and some of the best fortune anyone could want, I found out a few important things – no more than a month previously, some phenomenal Japanese scientists (SGI medical division anyone? Thank you, Sensei for encouraging them to be the very best medical personnel possible) had tweaked a “miracle” pill that was already getting pretty good results and enhanced its targeted biologic properties to support American women with an improved cure rate. The pill was now getting such outstanding results that the FDA took it off trial status and moved it to general distribution.

MiracleThat was great benefit #1 – a magic pill exactly when I needed it. Benefit #2 was that my lung biopsy had to show a very precise genetic cellular mutation if this magic pill were going to work. Well, anyone who knows me well understands that I am nothing if not a mutant. Score one for having the perfect genetic mutation too! And the pill only works for non-smoking women and apparently smoking in your younger years doesn’t count – we were off to the races.

And with this “miracle” drug, I got an additional benefit – my insurance paid 100% of its $12,000 monthly cost!! So, I was, and still am, extremely fortunate and protected by the universe. The “magic pill” had shown great success in vacuuming up all the metastases for other women. And that was a good thing as this lung cancer had already spread into lots of nooks and crannies throughout my body. Magic pill plus mystical daimoku equals great victory. After all, the effect is manifest at the moment we make the cause. I was living in my own creative realty.

By June 2018, I was taking the magic pill every day, with no chemotherapy or radiation required, and presto chango – no notable side effects. I doubled down on my determination, boldly shared my vow to support the SGI youth division towards #50K by showing absolute actual proof through being healthy and cancer free. And, believe me, the youth were watching me every step of the way – encouraging and supporting me, chanting with me, giving me hugs, and affirming my determination. They had “no doubt” that I was going to win. There were, of course, moments when I wasn’t so sure. After all, this was some scary stuff – suppose it didn’t work? Solution – more daimoku to be cancer free.

Meanwhile, I got my dusty Wonder Women garb out of the closet, shook it off, and fastened it up – even if it had gotten a little bit tight over the years. I visualized myself as a Warrior Woman, undefeated, strong, determined, and full of daimoku. My friends started calling to report that they were seeing visions of me as a warrior woman, overcoming this health challenge, and being victorious.

I broadened my circle of positive, prayerful people – sharing my Buddhist practice and my own determination with old friends, good friends, new friends, and strangers alike in my blog. I updated my Facebook page – Simply Raven – with cancer-free updates and short life stories. After all, how am I a writer if I don’t write? People began to engage positively, to support me with their prayers, to contribute to my positive, healing intention. Wonderful friends, both old and new, started to understand more about my practice of Buddhism and acknowledged the great victory I have experienced as a result of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo for most of my life. Nothing beats absolute actual proof and my positive attitude was showing proof of my victory.

When my doctor wanted to order more tests, unsure that I would survive, I negotiated, explaining that I had challenged every obstacle, over the past forty-plus years, by chanting.  I put off tests and went deep spiritually. I chanted even more daimoku, and shared more actual proof with our fantastic youth. By September, my bloodwork showed that the cancer present in my system had dropped from a high of 11,000 – which is only good if you’re winning money in the lottery – to 12, with normal being 0–6. I was victorious, practically home free.

And then came October – and the horrors of Halloween. The SGI had won – a great #50K victory – my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson attended in San Jose and came away with huge wins. But now, the cancer treatment was finally kicking my ass. Every possible side effect from the magic pill decided to show up – taking the pill might not have required radiation and chemotherapy, but the effects were just the same – nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, blood clots, swollen legs, arms covered in bruises. A veritable freak show of side effects and the devil king himself making me miserable, making me doubt that I’d ever win.

LoserAfter a week or two of self-pity and pathetic daimoku, I took control of my life back again. More attempts at stronger daimoku and a good friend called out of the blue with some great encouragement from Sensei – as always, the universe responds to our sincere prayer – even when we feel pretty much at a loss.

“Life can unfold unlimitedly as long as we have a heart of appreciation and an undefeated mind. Based on the Buddhist perspective of the eternity of life, we volunteered to be born in our current life-condition and chose to encounter the problems we have. If you can take this perspective, you should be able to overcome any difficulty with joy.”  (Daisaku Ikeda, Buddhism Day by Day, September 17).

After all, I really did choose this life. I own it and, because it’s all mine, I can change anything – again, many thanks to Mr. Ikeda,

“One thing is certain. That is that the power of belief, the power of thought, will move reality in the direction of what we believe and conceive of it. If you really believe you can do something, you can. That is a fact.” (Ibid, September 16)

But still, I was freaking out – how could I encourage anyone with such a pathetic October lack of victory? I mulled over how to make the consideration of side effects encouraging and joyous things…..and then I realized that other friends were struggling with side effects from their own health challenges as well. On a long call, a close friend and I compared notes. Which would you rather choose – leaky booby breast milk from her diabetes treatment or wearing adult diapers for “you know what?” And how about, “Will my hair ever stop falling out?” (which is not “supposed” to be a side effect) wondered this somewhat vain writer who always valued her thick and lovely long hair?

Finally, a solution arrived with the advent of Florida’s annual three days of cooler weather. I got some cute hats and created a new style. I started wearing hats, berets, cute earrings, and acted as if I was still quite still stylish. I started a trend – do whatever you want, but stop feeling sorry for yourself. I have now fully invested is adorable cute hats – thank you, Etsy. And just to stay safe from all the miserable bugs circulating in the universe, I wear adorably cute face masks outside my house – thank you, Amazon. There is a big smile behind the mask as I hop onto my electric scooter at the grocery store. People can be so nice. October is all gone; November was an emotional win and restoration of my faith-based determination.

I promised my doctor that I would have the remaining, quite expensive, scans in December. Fortunately, insurance also paid 100% for all my tests and appointments through the remainder of 2018. Unfortunately, I scheduled my tests so that I probably would not have time to update this report before year-end. And, in Buddhism, the determination we make in the final waning moments of the year, is so very important as it sets the tone for our victory in the new year. I had out-foxed myself, or so I thought.

I got my updated CT scan of my lungs and another MRI brain scan last week. I had an appointment with my lung doctor, who has become a great friend in Buddhism and nurturing participant in my healing process, two days ago. This kind and compassionate doctor, who shed tears of sadness as he presented my original diagnosis – which we refer to as the “starry, starry night” lung scan – was now excitedly shedding tears of great joy. My lung scan, which only six months ago was filled with millions of little cancer “stars,” was clear. No sign of cancer, no more stars present. My MRI had cleared up too – brain swelling gone and metastases were decreasing nicely. The magic pill was indeed a great, big vacuum cleaner, sucking up all the cancer, doing exactly what those incredible Japanese scientists had intended. It was working.

wonder womanMy unstated determination had been…before the end of the year…..unvoiced because it seemed impossible. Sometimes, I feel as if it might be best to keep the most important creative reality quiet. To chant with the determination to be “cancer-free, by year end, showing undeniable, tremendous actual proof” to myself – just in case. Nevermore, quoth the raven. I have undeniable actual proof over more than forty years of practice with the SGI. From now on, this pioneering warrior woman will not hesitate to proudly proclaim every determination. After all, being bold, living in life’s joy, and winning are why we chant.

“With fresh determination, let us embark anew towards achieving worldwide kosen-rufu, the goal of world peace that humankind so earnestly longs for. I will advance. Please advance too.

I will fight. Please fight too.

I will win, Please win too.

Let us join together to spread the great light of human revolution and compose a new and magnificent epic of Soka mentor and disciples! Our journey to fulfill our vow will go on forever!” (Soka Gakkai President Harada, World Tribune, November 18, 2018)