Craigslist, Cancer, and The Miracle of Flight.


I  missed the memo about Craigslist, Cancer, and the Miracle of Flight

I first discovered Craigslist when my husband and I cluelessly moved from Virginia to Los Angeles back in 2001.  Through the magic of Craigslist, we’ve acquired jobs, cars, furniture, free haircuts, and lots of other weird and wonderful stuff.  So in 2007 when I was cluelessly pregnant with my first child, I ventured into the Craigslist Pregnancy Forum in the hopes of finding less clueless kindred spirits.

I’ll admit it…at first it was overwhelming.  There were hundreds of people posting messages and it was hard to keep up.  But gradually, folks within the greater forum found their tribes, and I found mine.  All these many years later, there’s a group of us that have stayed close and grown closer as our kids have grown up.  More kids have come and we’ve shared all the challenges that have come with growing families.   We live all over the country, but through the magic of social media, we stay connected just about every day.   I love these women, and count them among my most treasured friends.

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And some folks might make the distinction between “internet friends” and “real friends”,  but we’ve transcended that, I think.  And these people do exist.   I even have proof!  It’s to the point that we plan vacations together, which we all look forward to more than Christmas.

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One of these treasured friends, Dianne Burrell, has Stage IV cancer.  Her first diagnosis came soon after the birth of her second child.  Dianne is a nurse and became a great advocate for her own care.  She underwent extensive surgeries and chemotherapy, and there seemed to be hope for a good long-term outcome.  But last year, a recurrence of her cancer was diagnosed.  Despite a fairly grim prognosis, Dianne has battled ferociously through the horrendous side-effects of every treatment protocol that might buy her some time.  Because that’s all she wants…more time.

Before I had kids, I was pretty cavalier about my mortality.  But having kids is a game changer.  This shift was described so well by story teller Bobby Stoddard on this recent episode of The Moth.  If you have a minute, go listen to his story, Flight.  You will laugh and cry.  And when you cry, please think of Dianne.  Because for Dianne, the prospect of leaving her kids is no longer just a heart-stopping nightmare, it’s her heartbreaking reality.

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Dianne and Family, Fall 2014.  Gorgeous photo by Laura Morita Photography

When we hear stories like stories like Dianne’s I think there are two typical reactions…the first is, “Thank God that’s not me.” And the second, is, “This makes me feel helpless…what can I do?”  Friends and readers, there is something you can do and I am begging you to do it.  There’s a GoFundMe page set up to help Dianne and her family with some of the crushing expenses that have come with her illness.  Sadly, there’s not much that money can do at this point to help Dianne medically, but it will alleviate some of her worries.  Whatever you are moved to contribute, please give.  And please share Dianne’s story far and wide.  Here’s the link again:  gofundme.com/oc3reg.  Thank you and memo received.

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The Bird, The Water, and The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned on the Internet


I missed the memo about The Bird, The Water, and The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned on the Internet.

I have a confession…I have a bit of a road rage problem.  I don’t follow other motorists menacingly or brandish weapons at them for their driving infractions, but I do something that’s a bit more self-destructive and cowardly…I flip them The Bird, usually super quickly, and under my steering wheel, so really the only person who knows I’ve done it is me.  I’m not saying this makes any sense, I’m just saying that this is what I do.

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No. 1 Son at about 3 months old. The apple fell perilously close to the tree.

I’ve recently taken stock of this ridiculous behavior and decided I need to stop it.  And in my efforts to get a grip, I’m meditating a bit on the message from the simultaneously heartbreaking and inspiring words of David Foster Wallace.  You guys may recall when this video made the rounds a year or two ago…it’s an abbreviated version of the commencement address that David Foster Wallace gave at Kenyon College in 2005.  The title of the address “This Is Water” comes from the little joke used as the opener:

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?'”

Foster Wallace used the fish joke to illustrate the point “that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.”  Foster Wallace goes on to explain that one of these realities is how we are all usually making ourselves the center of what we experience, and in so doing, run the risk of making ourselves miserable and crazy. If I’m the center of the universe, then every bad thing that happens, even the petty inconsequential stuff, is a personal affront. That’s the heartbreaking part.  The inspiring part, especially for a newly minted college graduate, I suppose, is that education can empower us to conceive of other possibilities beyond a self-centric universe.  And once we’re able to conceive of a universe in which we are not the center, we’re free to let go of all the anger and frustration that comes from thinking the world is out to get us.  It’s liberating as hell, but really hard, to keep this in perspective in rush hour traffic.

A more lighthearted variation on this theme came from the incomparable Glennon Doyle Melton over at her blog, Momastery. In describing her experience of feeling angry and out-of-sorts when she observed a seemingly perfect mother at the mall, she described her growing fury as the perfect mom fed her child an avocado.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when Glennon described how she felt that this other mom was doing all of her perfect parenting at her.  After mulling over how this kind of thinking has gotten her into hard places of anger, envy, and resentment, Glennon concedes:

“I mean, after five years – I’m ready to consider the possibility that avocado lady might not have even known I was going to be in the food court that day. It’s not likely – but it’s a possibility.”

This did me in…just the folly, the absolute silliness, of going around all day thinking that other people are orchestrating their whole lives around the goal of pissing me off.  Glennon blew that up…with an avocado, and to this day, I count it as the most important thing I’ve learned on the internet.

So even as I cope with the endurance trial which is a commute to and from Downtown Los Angeles, I’m trying to be aware of The Water, and recognize that people are not failing to use their turn signals at me.  Middle fingers down and memo received.