Beth’s Classic Film Club: Roman Holiday

Get out your popcorn and box wine, it’s time for Beth’s Classic Film Club! Today I bring you one of my favorite actresses, because she’s so vulnerable and yet strong: Audrey Hepburn. It’s crazy looking at this film to realize it was her first big break. I mean, she NAILS this performance. It’s like the invented the phrase “like a boss” to describe how well she plays this role. Which explains why she won an Oscar.

OK, basic plot: Audrey is a princess on the edge of a nervous breakdown in the middle of some kind of a goodwill tour through Europe, so she sneaks out of her villa in Rome to have an adventure. She winds up with the handsome Gregory Peck, a newspaperman who figures out that she’s a princess. He recruits his photographer friend to take pictures of them all over town, so he can write an expose on the princess. Hilarity and romance ensue and the movie has a wonderful bittersweet ending that takes this film from “yeah, that was charming” to “I wish I knew what happened next after the picture ends!” Which explains why this film also won an Oscar for writing. And, which I think makes this a perfect film to watch with your girlfriends because you all may have different reactions to how things played out and what the future holds for the characters.

Not only is the acting outstanding, but the cinematography is great too, and so are the costumes. In fact, this picture won a costume design Oscar too.

I know when people think Audrey Hepburn, they think Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which is Fine if you can get past the horrifically racist yellow-face of Mickey Rooney as the landlord (sweet baby Jesus, is THAT awful). But Roman Holiday is just…just so much more. Just, give it a watch, you’ll be glad you did!

On Aging

You want to know what’s most ironic about me having Stage IV cancer? For years, I have been dreaming about how awesome it’d be to be an old lady. No, seriously, old age kicks ass. Let me explain why.

The Hubs and I have been on a lot of cruises, and one of the things I like best about a cruise is that the age of passengers tends to skew pretty old. Old people have the BEST stories, so they make the most interesting dinner companions. One cruise, The Hubs and I sat with a couple of old ladies from England, and man were they a trip. It was so interesting to listen to them talk about their lives, but my favorite thing about them was that one of them would always order an extra side of ice cream with her dessert. Because she’s already lived this long, what’s it gonna do, kill her? Make her fat? Who gives a shit, she’s old.

Old is being a badass. Old is not having to care what anyone thinks of how you look or what you wear. Old is being able to tell it like it is. Old is freedom.

I went to Vegas last December with some girlfriends and we sat for a while in a bar at the Paris casino, and listened to one of the most awesomely bad lounge singers I have ever heard. Guy had a guitar and a karaoke machine and you just KNEW it was gonna be good when he started playing Margaritaville. And I turned to my girlfriends and I said, “When I retire, I am totally gonna be a lounge singer in Vegas. If this guy can get a gig, I sure as hell can.”

You know what else I want to do when I retire? Live in a senior community. It’s just like a college dorm except with Hoverounds. All your friends are in one place, and there’s a cafeteria so you don’t even have to cook, and you can hang out all day in your PJ’s, and when you feel like it, there are enrichment classes to go to and movie nights and shit. See? Just like college, plus HOVEROUNDS.

Now that I have The Cancer, I don’t get to dream about my old age so happily. I can’t just think about the future in a breezy way anymore like I used to. Old age has become my deepest desire, one I am almost afraid to hope for, because there is a good chance it won’t happen for me.

Actually, I already have the shitty parts of old age. I’m tired a lot, my hair fell out, and I spend all my free time at doctor appointments. It would be really nice to get some of the perks too. Like a Hoveround. And getting to be a lounge singer in Vegas.

So, now when I hear people complain about aging, about their wrinkles and the hair growing from their ears and whatever, I dunno. I try to keep in mind that my perspective now is all fucked up, and most people can’t see their wrinkles and their aches and pains the way I do. But mostly I just want to tell people to shut. the. fuck. up. Because there is a lot of awesomeness that happens when you’re old. Old is fucking beautiful.

Children’s Television Survival Guide: Zerby Derby

You guys! I finally found another children’s television show that I don’t hate! And it happens to be The Boy’s new favorite show too. Zerby Derby, I heart you so much.

So, here’s the set up: some dudes bought some RC vehicles and put wiggly eyes on them, in an homage to the original Thomas before it was all CGI and Thomas turned into a whiny jerk. Then they gave the cars dorky voices and drove them around a forest and a sand pit and whatever. And they filmed it, and somehow they got the Sprout Channel to buy it. And that’s it, that’s Zerby Derby.

The Boy loves this show because it involves things that go. The Boy LOVES things that go. People told me he would outgrow it and like dinosaurs instead, but nope. Things that go, for almost 7 years now.

I love the show because of the outtakes at the end of each (mercifully short) episode. Like, you guys probably know by now that I like when a show is a little self-aware, like when Nina from The Goodnight Show looks at us like “I know this is dorky, I’m in on the joke.” Well, Zerby Derby totally does that with the outtakes, which are shots of the RC vehicles crashing into each other or falling off things or whatever. The Boy likes that part too, actually.

In summary: try Zerby Derby. It’s 8 minutes of dorkyness, and if you’re a dork like me, you’ll love it.

I have always relied on the kindness of friends

I always knew that my friends and family were awesome people, but I had no idea just how awesome until The Cancer. Here is a list of just SOME of the awesome things that people have done to support my family lately:

1. My east coast friends and some of The Hubs’ former coworkers collected money to pay for a housekeeping service to come and clean our house every few weeks. They raised enough to pay for the service through the end of the year.

2. Some mom friends I met online, most of whom I have never met in person, made me a quilt. They each picked a different fabric (including one that’s got strips of bacon, and another with martini glasses) and then one of them sewed it together. It’s gorgeous.

3. A couple of my friends set up a website where people can sign up to bring us dinner or pick up the kids from school if we have doctor appointments. We haven’t had to cook a weeknight dinner in weeks because we’ve had people bringing us food every night.

4. Several of the parents of The Boy’s friends have offered to take him for play dates, which makes him feel loved and special.

5. My college BFF flew out to visit and spent the entire time she was here cleaning our house and reorganizing the disaster area that is my desk in our home office.

6. My work colleagues donated hundreds of hours of leave for me, so I don’t have to take unpaid leave when I’m getting chemo and going to doctor appointments and just feeling too tired to come to work.

7. Our awesome daycare provider said “I’ll keep The Girl late anytime you need me to, for no charge.” This after she’d given us a bunch of prepared meals so we had food for lunches.

8. My big sister came up to stay with us a couple of weekends and spent the whole time doing our dishes and folding our laundry and taking care of our kids when I was a chemo zombie.

9. People who follow this blog have been sending me messages of support and offering to send meals and CDs and anything I need. One of them who I have become friends with sent me a really awesome pillow thingy that smells like Christmas and you can warm it in the microwave.

10. I’ve gotten SO MANY beautiful scarves and hats, some of them hand knit, from friends all over the country, and even a couple that came from Turkey that I can’t figure out who sent them to me. (I don’t know anyone in Turkey…but perhaps someone I know knows someone in Turkey?)

11. A bunch of people who don’t live close have sent gift cards to help us pay for groceries or take-out.

12. One of my coworkers gave me a bottle of organic locally made vodka. I can’t wait to be feeling well enough to drink it.

13. I can’t tell you how many people have baked us cookies.

14. A blogger friend found a pair of pink high-heeled shoes at her local thrift/vintage store and wrote “FUCK CANCER” across the front of them and mailed them to me.

15. SO MANY KIND WORDS. Just, so much support and love coming my way, in emails and Facebook messages and cards, and so many hugs. Even people at work, where we don’t hug that much, are hugging me these days. (But not in a creepy way.)

There’s more, but I’m getting all verklempt thinking about it. A few people have said that it’s a testament to what a great person I am that so many people love me and want to support me. And, I am pretty awesome…but I also think it’s that I’ve surrounded myself with awesome people. And that seems to be the key to getting through a bad time–to have awesome people around you. If you don’t have awesome people around you, dude, now’s the time to find some, because you never know when you’re going to have a crisis and need a pair of pink high heeled shoes and a quilt and some dinner and a housekeeping service and OMG are people really doing all this for us? And I’m in shock for a minute, until I remember how awesome the people are that I’ve got in my life.

Grown Up Movies for Kids: Singing in the Rain

I suppose this could also be a Beth’s Classic Film Club selection, but since we’ve already had a Gene Kelly movie, and since The Boy freaking LOVED it, I’m adding Singing in the Rain to my selection of Grown Up Movies for Kids. What’s that? You’ve never seen it? Do you live under a rock? Are you named Jennifer and do you write Real Life Parenting? Please just go find yourself a copy, you’ll be glad you did.

First, let’s talk about swearing, nudity and violence. None, none, and hardly any. This was the 50’s, they didn’t do nudity or swearing, and violence wasn’t in as many movies, and when it’s there, it wasn’t gory. The violence in Singing in the Rain consists of Gene Kelly’s character being a stunt man for a while, so he gets punched and crashes a plane. Oh, and at one point, a character gets hit in the face by a pie. Is that level of violence a problem for you? Then you’re probably not reading my blog anyway.

Singing in the Rain has inspired The Boy to pursue a career as a stunt man. And not just because Gene Kelly’s character is a stunt man, but because of the iconic dance number by Donald O’Connor, Make ‘Em Laugh. After watching this movie, The Boy spent the rest of the evening doing that spin-around-run-on-the-floor thing that Donald O’Connor does during that song, and also falling backwards onto the sofa. It was all I could do to convince him not to try more of the movies from that number because we were going to need some mats to keep him from injuring himself. We had to have a talk about Donald O’Conner being an expert and that his moves were something The Boy shouldn’t try at home. (Thank you, Mythbusters, for making this a phrase that The Boy is familiar with.)

Both kids liked the singing and dancing in this one, and there is plenty of it. It feels like you can’t go more than a couple of minutes through most of the movie without there being a song. And the technicolor is particularly eye-catching for kids and helps keep their attention, kind of like a cartoon does. I will say, though, that the “her voice sounds awful, she can’t be in a talking picture” plot didn’t make a ton of sense to them. Like, I think they didn’t understand about what a silent film was like. I think we need to expose them to some silent films for them to fully understand. Maybe The Golden Eaglet.

Singing in the Rain is part of the cannon of American cinema–it’s a film that everyone should see, and luckily, it’s one that kids can love as much as adults. So, if you haven’t watched it, or if you haven’t watched it with your kids, I hope you will–and post what they think of the film in the comments!

How are the kids?

I have no idea what is the “right” way to talk to your kids about cancer. I’m sure there are a lot of people who think I’m doing it wrong. I really don’t give a shit, though. One thing about The Cancer is I really can’t bother giving a shit what anyone thinks about the way I’m parenting. I mean, I didn’t care much before, but now? I really don’t have the energy to spend on that crap anymore.

So, the kids. Lots of folks have asked me how they’re doing with this whole cancer thing, and how we talk to them about it. And what I say is that we’re oversharers, so we just talk about it. That’s how our family rolls with everything, so it would be weird NOT to talk about The Cancer. And that’s why we told The Boy the day I got the first biopsy results. We picked him up from school, and as we drove home, I said, “I have something important to talk to you about. Have you heard of cancer? Do you know what it is?” He had heard of it but didn’t really understand what it is, so I explained to him that it’s a sickness, that it’s not catching but that it’s kind of a big-deal sickness, and that I just found out I have it, and that it’s in my breast. He asked if I was going to die, and I told him no, that I’m going to beat up that cancer, and he said, “I’m going to punch it in its private parts. Does it have private parts?” And then he said, “I’m hungry, can we get something to eat?”

The next morning before school started, we had our evaluation meeting (he qualified for special ed for his ADHD–they’re doing all his services in the regular classroom and he’s making AMAZING progress already) so we told his teacher and the school psych about The Cancer. So, when he went to class that morning, he told his teacher about The Cancer, and she asked if he wanted to tell the class about it. And we’re oversharers, so of course he did. The Boy got up in front of the class and said “My mom has cancer” and his teacher explained to them what cancer is, and then he took questions. When he came home, he told us about it and said “I wish they had asked more questions.” And now everywhere he goes, The Boy introduces me by saying “That’s my mom, she has cancer.”

What I’m saying is, The Boy is not bottling anything. He talks about The Cancer whenever he feels like. In fact, we’ve had to explain that other people might feel uncomfortable talking about The Cancer, even though we talk about everything in our family. He’s confused by that, like, he just doesn’t understand why people wouldn’t want to talk about whatever is on their mind, even if it’s scary or whatever.

As for The Girl, she’s small enough still to not really understand what cancer is. We’ve explained that I’ve got a sickness and that the medicine makes me tired and makes my hair fall out, which is why Daddy shaved my head. (We made sure both the kids were there for the shaving, because I knew they’d be less weirded out than if I just came home one day without hair.) But, she doesn’t seem upset by any of this. Both The Girl and The Boy seem to give more hugs lately, and enjoy a cuddle more, but otherwise? They seem about the same as they always are.

I guess what I’m saying is, kids bounce. It’s not easy for them anymore than it’s easy for me, but they’re tougher than we think they are.

Cocktails with the Cult: Easy Mojito

I have a couple of girlfriends who semi-regularly come over to our house to hang out and eat Chinese food and drink mojitos. I know, those two things have nothing to do with each other, but who cares? Mojitos are awesome and the Chinese place makes really good honey walnut prawns. (And now I’m hungry for honey walnut prawns.) Mojitos are also awesome for spring, amiright?

Now, I’ve shared some hard-to-make cocktails from time to time, but it should also be clear by now that I’m completely lazy and I’m going to take shortcuts if they don’t ruin a drink. And muddling mint and lime is tiring. So, I’m giving a shout out to Stirrings, a company that makes some really fantastic mixers, including a mojito mixer that’s incredible. It’s also not made with a zillion unpronounceable ingredients. (No, they aren’t paying me to write this–nobody pays me to write anything. I just like their product.)

So, here’s the recipe for a mojito:

3 oz. Stirrings Simple Mojito Cocktail Mixer
1.5 oz. rum
3 oz. club soda

To mix, shake the mixer and the rum together with ice in a shaker, add the club soda, and pour the whole thing into a glass. YUM. Also, you can make a virgin mojito with one part mixer and one part club soda, and serve it over ice. Cheers!


Since The Cancer, a lot of friends have said things to me like “This seems so unfair. You’ve been through so much trauma already, and now this? Why does this have to happen to you?” But strangely, I haven’t asked that question myself. I haven’t wondered why I had to be the one who got cancer. Which made me wonder, why haven’t I wondered why?

At first, I thought it might be because I am not religious. I don’t believe in a divine plan, and even if there WAS one, I don’t think God would be such a dick that he would give someone cancer.As I’ve said before, if it brings you comfort to think that God did this and it’s for some important reason, well, OK, but that doesn’t bring me any comfort, and if you say it to me, I will probably tell you that I think your god is an asshole. (Freedom of religion: it cuts both ways, doesn’t it?) Because, I think illnesses happen because they just happen, and it’s not fair or unfair, it just is. This is also why I think health care should be a right and not a commodity, but we’ll save that for another post.

So, yeah, I thought, maybe it’s just my world view that makes me not ask why. But, then I thought back to how I reacted to The Boy’s early birth, and remembered: I did a LOT of asking why, but from a medical perspective. Not at first, but as time went on, I desperately needed a reason for why my water broke, how this all got started, what went wrong. And none of the doctors could tell me. They had hypotheses, sure, but no way to prove them.

For a while, I blamed myself. I must be the reason, if only I had done something differently, if only I had been more in tune with my body. Looking for a reason for the shitty things that happen can be a dangerous thing. It can lead you to blame people who aren’t really at fault. Including yourself.

It took a long time and plenty of therapy to come to accept that I would never know for sure why The Boy came early, but eventually I did. Doctors just don’t know all there is to know about the human body yet. They are researching as fast as they can, and they know a hell of a lot more now than they did even 10 years ago, let alone 100 or 1000 years ago. But they don’t know everything. And sometimes, they just don’t have the answers. Doctors know a lot more about cancer now than they used to–they know enough to tell people not to smoke, and to wear sunscreen–but they don’t have all the answers about why cancer happens. Especially when it’s a rare form, like mine.

We did ask my oncologist, who is extremely kind as well as extremely smart, how this could be stage IV already, when I just found the lump, and I do self exams regularly. (My paternal grandmother had breast cancer in her 70’s, lived 10 more years and died of non-cancer old people diseases, but her cancer was enough to get me doing regular exams.) He said that my type of cancer is really aggressive, and that there was nothing I could have done differently to prevent this from becoming stage IV.

See? Shit just happens. That was a totally adequate answer for me.

Beth’s Classic Film Club: Postcards from the Edge

OK, so this one isn’t strictly a classic–I mean, it’s not from the golden age of cinema, it’s from 1990. But it references the golden age of cinema, and also it’s an awesome movie, and one that’s been speaking to me a lot lately. I think it’s because Shirley Maclaine wears a head scarf in a scene at the end and has to paint her eyebrows back on. (In her case, it’s because of a car accident, not cancer.) But also, it’s about getting through a rough time and coming out on the other side of it, which also speaks to me.

Speaking of Shirley Maclaine, I love her. I don’t care if she thinks aliens are real or whatever, that woman can act. And nobody plays the overbearing mother like her. Her character is SO AWFUL and yet so lovable, it’s amazing. And she’s so awful for the reason that all of us moms are so awful–because it’s really really really hard for us to make the transition from parenting a helpless infant, to parenting an adult. Even though we have years and years to get used to the idea, we all have trouble taking a step back and watching our baby birds take flight. She also completely fucked up as a parent, and although she blew it bigger than I hope most of us ever will, she tried her best and she wanted the best for her daughter. We all try our best, and sometimes it isn’t good enough. How do we make it right when, not if, we make a mistake? Also, I love every time Shirley Maclaine talks about Mr. Mayer and the studio system, and when she performs “I’m Still Here.” It makes me want to stand up and cheer.

One of the things that makes this movie so relatable for me these days is how everyone tiptoes around Meryl Streep’s character after she comes out of rehab. I feel like that a lot since The Cancer. When you’re sick, or you’ve been sick, it makes people uncomfortable and it’s hard to talk about the sickness. I mean, everyone wants you to be well, wants to help you, but they don’t know how. And there’s a lot of talking about you to each other, that once in a while you get to overhear, but otherwise everyone is putting on a brave face about the illness, even  you. I love how this movie captures that so perfectly, and how good it makes Meryl Streep’s character feel when someone talks to her straight, like Gene Hackman’s character at the end.

I’ve talked about this movie so seriously, but man is it funny too. Annette Bening’s character is hilarious, and the grandparents are fantastic. And who knew Meryl Streep could be so funny?

Given the themes, maybe this one isn’t so much about box winebut definitely grab some popcorn and check out this film, and let me know what you think in the comments!