Of Cancer and Gift Baskets (Or Smiles and Tears)

Friday my monster had surgery.

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His post-op lampshade situation was short-lived, however.

He figured out how to remove it because he is a canine criminal mastermind — even when he’s high on morphine.

I am supposed to find out this week if his cancer spread and if we’re facing the beginning of a battle — or the end. I try to put it out of my head as much as I can because I don’t want to waste time worrying until I know it’s necessary, but prognosis aside, his three big incisions break my heart. I almost cried when I saw them.

Full confession: I love my dog more than I love most people, so this isn’t easy. Maybe that makes me a misanthrope, or maybe he’s just a very special beast. Either way, I have been loathe to leave my house since bringing him home from the vet. I’ve turned down dinner invitations, hiking offers, and I bailed on book club. I just want to be home so I can watch him sleep.

Here he is crushing Cee Cee the Cancer Lion during a recent nap.

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Die Cancer Lion! Die!

I bought Cee Cee for him the day his initial needle biopsies came back positive for cancer. I cried so much that night that I woke up the next morning with my right eye nearly swollen shut. I had to ice my eyelids before I went to work. (It wasn’t awesome.)

I did manage to drag myself away from my patient this weekend to make an appearance at a baby shower, albeit, a brief appearance.

I probably spent more time putting together the gift basket than I spent at the shower, but I did what I could.

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I like presents.

That’s why I get carried away making them look pretty for people.

Like this one.

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It was a pre-cancer project.

Presents help me deal — and they help me express things I sometimes fail to communicate properly.

That’s also why I cook for people. It’s my way of saying I care about them even if I’m lousy at saying it sometimes.

Now I’m off to blast some Matoma remixes and make myself a quiche because I need to show myself a little love.

 

 

Tire Chains and Gift Wrap (Or GJelina for ME

Back in December I was supposed to attend my friend Nicole’s annual Vision Board Party.

Every year we cut pictures from magazines and create collages to inspire ourselves for the upcoming year.

See?

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I’m not saying this is mine from 2016, but… maybe I am. 

In addition to making colorful collages, we drink wine, eat snacks, and do a gift exchange. I had my gift wrapped and ready for the party, but I didn’t make it back from the slopes in time to attend the soiree.

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Some nonsense about tire chains delayed our trip up the mountain. 

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Even when you bring an engineer with you, chains slow your roll. 

So, I ended up with this smartly wrapped gift.

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And it didn’t have a home.

So I did what any sensible adult would do…

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I unwrapped it.

And I gave it to myself. I mean, I adore GJelina, so why not?

Now I’m browsing the pages for inspiration. I may make meatballs in pomodoro sauce soon.

More on that later.

Gift Basket Situation (Or Unexpected Gifts)

A friend of mine is going through a tough time. I’ll spare you the details — mostly because his story is not my story to tell — and partly because the point of this story is the Get Better Gift Basket I made him today.

We’ve had countless conversations about soup since we met, so I wanted to start there. (We’re weird. Don’t ask.)

Because this was kind of a last-minute emergency gift basket situation, I couldn’t make a soup that needed a long time to simmer. I decided to make clam chowder because: a) it doesn’t require a complicated broth, b) it’s awesome, and c) because we agree that our favorite bar needs it on the menu. (I used this recipe for New England Clam Chowder.)

And because no mood-lifting gift basket is complete without homemade cookies, I baked some of those too. We both love oatmeal cookies, but we disagree on the nuts and raisins of it all. (I’m pro. He’s anti.) I found a recipe on Epicurious that fit the anti bill. You can find it here.

We also have an ongoing debate about the superiority of peanut versus peanut butter M&M’s, so I threw in a bag of his favorite. (I’m team peanut butter. He’s team peanut. In case you were dying to know or whatever.)

We do agree on Modelo, however, and luckily I had a few bottles in the house, so I added a few of those as well.

He’s a contractor, so I arranged everything in an aluminum bucket I picked up at Home Depot, and I added a funny card because he has one of the best laughs I’ve ever heard.

It’s infectious.

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I have a messed up sense of humor. Don’t hold it against me.

I set out to cheer him up today, and in the process a curious thing happened.

As I was putting the oatmeal cookie dough balls onto the baking sheet, a wave of emotion hit me almost out of nowhere… and I realized today was January 10….

January 10, 2017.

It would have been my cousin Justin’s 30th birthday today.

Justin committed suicide when he was 25 years old.

I think somewhere in my unconscious I knew what today was before I set out on my mission to cheer up another man in a dark season. I cried while the first batch of cookies baked, and well into the second batch.

When my tears stopped flowing, I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to use the pain of my cousin’s unrealized dreams to assuage the pain of someone else’s unrealized dreams.

I called Justin’s mother while I was en route to deliver the gift, and we had a nice conversation. Her strength, grace, and faith astound me in the face of all she has endured. Superheroes should take a lesson from her.

True story.

But before I get too maudlin, I’ll just show you the pics from the Get Better Gift Basket.

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The blue ribbons don’t match.

I’m trying not to freak out about that.

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I told you it was a last-minute emergency.

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But it still came together pretty well — all things considered.

So, anyway, life is beautiful, messy, and unexpected, and sometimes when you’re trying to give someone else a gift, God gives you a gift of your own.

Today that gift was an unexpected opportunity to honor my cousin, and to show someone else that there is hope — even in the face of a hopeless situation.

Hark A Shark and Noah’s Ark (Or I Attend Another Baby Shower)

If someone asks me what I’m doing this weekend there’s a good chance the answer will be,
“Rewriting my script,” “Folding fitted sheets,” or “Attending another baby shower.”

Now, before you get offended, I’m not saying these things are the same. Though they’re all improved by a mimosa bar, the truth is they don’t have much else in common.

I actually love baby showers, and I’ve been to so many in the last three years it’s rare I don’t win the trivia challenges about human gestation, breast feeding, and dilation — or the guess-the-size-of-the-belly-with-string game because REALLY I’ve been to THAT many.

I love my friends.

They’re gorgeous… and prolific… and honestly?

Who doesn’t love creating a good gift basket filled with books and onesies? I know I do.

So here’s my latest.

It’s a shark/pirate combo involving Peter Spier’s Noah’s Ark, The Cat in the Hat’s Hark a Shark, and a mostly gender neutral onesie for the surprise baby arriving August 21.

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Books, bows, and jammies for pirate babies.

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The headless shark onesie was not supposed to be creepy, but it might be. #oops

Oh, and  in case you’re wondering… that is my new table. It’s mahogany — and looking at it almost makes me feel like an adult. Or something…

Aye, Aye, mates!

 

 

Nostalgic About Nicole and Paint Fumes (Or A Gift Wrap Round Up)

I had this funny moment while I was wrapping my friend Nicole’s birthday present today: I realized when I started this blog three years ago, I was high on paint fumes from a bathroom remodel gone wrong, and I was WRAPPING NICOLE’S BIRTHDAY PRESENT. (My first post ever is HERE.)

Crazy, right?

And now that I’m feeling all nostalgic (and a little let down because I’ve run out of things to remodel around here), I thought I’d do a little Nicole-inspired gift wrap round up post.

This was a fabulous Frank Lloyd Wright book I bought her at a vintage book store… and yes, I wrapped it in pages from the Penny Saver and decorated it with a sharpie and painter’s tape.

I told you I was high on paint fumes then.

I told you I was high on paint fumes back then.

I felt like it all tied together in an architecture/design/home-improvment kind of way. (Nicole is an uber talented interior designer, and one of her favorite books of all time is Loving Frank. Her website is HERE, btw.)

And here’s last year’s gift: a copy of All There Is, a collection of short stories about love from the producers of NPR’s StoryCorps. (We were both very into love stories last spring. Who isn’t?!? ❤ )

Danny the Dino totally wanted the book.

Eugene the Euoplocephalus totally wanted it.

I deliberately used blue and orange so the gift would match her outfit for our San Diego birthday weekend to a Tigers/Padres game because I’m broken for color-coordination.

See?

Rawr, Tiger!

Rawr, Tiger, you totally match!

I’m not the only one who gets into details like that. This was her birthday gift to me last year.

And this is her gift to me!

Don’t you love how the colors work perfectly together with the lotto ticket and the bag?

I do!!! (This is why Nicole and I get each other.) The bag was also filled with goodies that were color-coordinated with my birthday invite. (True story.)

And now I will leave you with a little sneak peek at this year’s gift wrap for her Mexican-themed birthday party.

No hablo English.

No hablo Ingles, Perras!

On that note, I’m off to work on my rewrite for a few hours before making Nicole’s tres leches birthday cake.

If the cake doesn’t suck, I’ll hook you up with the recipe next week. (And don’t worry: I haven’t forgotten I still owe you the recipe for her sister Elle’s peanut butter Peter Rabbit cupcakes. You can now find that HERE.)

XOXO

Double Baby Crack (Or Books for Beau and Bay!)

If you read my post about my westside weekend, you probably remember that I promised you pics of Tony’s scrumptious twins, Beau and Bay.

They got baptized at All Saints Episcopal in Beverly Hills last weekend, so I finally have pics galore.

This one might be my favorite.

I probably don’t have to tell you why…

This might be my favorite.

It’s two hot guys holding babies.

Duh.

Absolutely everyone had to get in on the baby action because… BABIES ARE CRACK.

Here’s Nicole freebasing on Bay.

Nicole's a natural.

Who could blame her? Bay is amazing.

Do you know what else is amazing?

Nicole and I accidentally almost matched.

See?

Here we are getting photo bombed by the babies' godparents.

Here we are getting photo bombed by the babies’ godparents.

Humor is a prerequisite for shepherding someone’s soul in my book, which is why my friends are fun.

I mean, they are responsible for the kids' souls and stuff.

Here are the godparents looking more serious about their duties for a minute.

After the ceremony, we all went back to Tony’s beach house for fried chicken and red velvet cake because Tony’s from Tennessee, and you can always count on the south to rise again at his place. (I would have taken a photo of my chicken, but I ate it too fast.)

After cleaning Tony out of deep fried food, I stole his baby.

But I wasn't the worst.

I may have mainlined.

But because my mom taught me to share, I let my cousin Maddie get her baby fix too.

Maddie gets babies.

I hope I didn’t get her hooked.

I didn’t think it would be right to eat all of Tony’s fried food AND takes his kids without leaving something behind, so I bought books for the babies that had special meaning for me and my family.

(You can find the posts about the books on my other blog here.)

BookS!

Peter Rabbit + Peter Spier = ❤

And because I LOVE making gifts look fancy-ish, I wrapped them in brown paper, tied them with brightly colored ribbons, and made my own gift tag.

See?

I love brown paper.

I don’t care what anyone says. Appearances matter. That’s why I get so excited about gift wrap.

OK, I’m off to check on my Spicy Calabrian Pork Ribs now.

I’m STARVING!!!