July 2007

How I love you, let me count the ways…

Ever have one of those weeks where everything that comes out of your mouth to your partner is ill-timed, ill-advised, or just plain icky?

You ask him to make some financial arrangements, and when he does, you jump on him about other money matters.

He manages to get half the dishes in the dishwasher before he heads to work in the morning. Not a peep of thanks from you.

He bathes, diapers, and dresses the Bungle of Joy, and all you can say is: that shirt doesn’t go with those pants—those socks aren’t a matched set—and doesn’t she need a sweater?!

Dag! The poor guy just can’t win.

Of course, later, when you’re reflecting on all this, you realize what a pill you’ve been. And you’re amazed he didn’t give you a dose of your own medicine.

I recall an episode of Sex & the City that said something about how orangutans (or some primate…or maybe all primates…) show their affection by picking nits off their mate. Lovely image, eh? So, if the dreadfully charming Mr. Right is reading this one—sorry, thanks, and everything in between. Can we just chock this up to an unusual way to say I love you?

(Oh, and while googling the keywords “orangutans pick nits love,” I came across this article. My Husband, the Orangutan. Hi-larious.)

(And, FYI, that google search doesn’t actually get you any hard scientific facts about nit-picking in primates, but it does pull up some other oddities like Orangutan-Love Movies, Group Therapy: Anal Sex, and an article about nit-picking called “Help! I’m turning into my Mother!” Just think, when our kids are in school, they won’t be playing MadLibs or sending hand-written chain letters. They’ll be playing Google This!)

Janna, aka Happily Even After, 35, Seattle


i’m starting to think that my grandma is right and i’m changed, not the same as i used to be. not in a good way. a pansy now. perhaps when death has brushed your cheek with its cold hand, you do change. perhaps only some people do – the weak among us. perhaps the strong move on embracing everything and living more ferociously. that was my plan. but, not quite five months beyond my surgery, i seem to be faltering. i seem to still be sick all of the time, having hot flashes all of the time, not adjusting to my HRT well, still having lots of hormonal migraines and actually getting more symptoms and more pain instead of doing better.

a couple of weekends ago, after spending a few days in total pain, i went to bed on Friday evening (without taking any medicine) and woke up on Sunday afternoon. my roommate was freaking out and had tried to wake me and my phone had been ringing by my head and i hadn’t moved. i thought that he was messing with me. but, it was Sunday. and so, i started to be gripped by the epic fear again. is Cancer stalking me? what else? what could have happened to me as a result of the experimental treatments? the chemicals put into my body with the hormone suppression to stop the disease from ravaging any further my reproductive organs and my abdomen? the non-FDA approved treatments and meds that were pumped into me time and again to further research for diseases that no one understands yet. at the time, i didn’t think about this part – the part after the disease…when the possible side-effects from being saved would come into play. and although we spoke very briefly of the immune system problems that would result from both the treatments and the disease, especially back-to-back the way i experienced it, i didn’t expect this.

i expected my surgery to be the gateway to a better life. i was so excited to have all of those diseased organs out of me and i thought that that would be my bridge to being ‘me’ again. now, i am seeing that it was a tool to finding wellness, but that there is still a lot of path to travel as my body has been badly damaged from the war that was fought. this week, i had 16 doctor’s appointments, 2 procedures, received 11 new prescriptions and 4 new diagnoses. and, i spent $1,000 in copays that honestly, i don’t have right now. i think the hardest thing for people who have diseases like cancer in the aftermath is that people think they have it, they have the treatments and the surgeries, and then they’re fine…but we have this ongoing health issue, and cost, and fear. and it takes a long time for us to get back to anything even resembling a ‘normal’ for us. but we probably always live with something resembling ‘epic fear’. it’s as if the Cancer™ is stalking me. and until those results are back, i’m keeping my fingers crossed and sleeping with one eye open.

i am Angie, i am 30, and with the will and strength of the gods, i am struggling through my 30th year in Los{t} Angeles

At Phil Anschutz’s ranch in Colorado

This past weekend, I spent three whole days away from my son for the first time in his life. I was totally verklempt some of the time–especially after I called the sitter and talked to him, and he wouldn’t let go of the phone. He just kept wanting to talk and to hear my voice, and then he would cry when I started to say goodbye. But my husband says I was less stressed than he expected, and cell phone coverage is a little spotty up in The Middle Of Nowhere, Colorado, so I was forced to either worry all the time or stop worrying about stuff I can’t do anything about. I’ve always chosen the latter option as a personal philosophy, so I think I did okay. (more…)

Pak Kok, Lamma IslandThere has been a death in my village.

It is a strange thing, a man, a neighbor, a familiar face… who I saw every morning of nearly every day is gone. We were not especially close, though we always exchanged pleasantries and smiles, and now he is gone. I found out a couple of days after it had happened and had an unfamiliar feeling of disbelief (that it had happened) and discomfort (at my natural inclination to keep saying over and over in head that he had died… really died.) He died in his sleep in his flat above his son’s family flat. I keep hearing there are worse ways to go, if you have to go. Of course, there were the cliched and strained recollections… “When did I see him last?” “Did we speak, or only say hello?” “How did he look?” Were there any signs?” Pointless in fact, but I suppose necessary in process.

I live in village of less than 100 people, and this total is halved again by the designation of Pak Kok Old Village (Pak Kok Kau Tsuen) and Pak Kok New Village (Pak Kok San Tsuen). It is so small that the absence of one seems so large. As I sat with a small group of friends and contemplated the life of another, it all seemed trite and sort of hapless.

“You know,” suggested Caroline, “having four people sitting around and thinking about you after you’re gone is really not that bad.” We looked up and she continued, “I mean, I’d be happy to know that there were four people sitting around and thinking pleasantly of me after I’m gone. I mean, you know, four. That’s pretty good, right?” We thought on this for a moment.

She was right.


As a child, I read voraciously, taking to the English alphabet like a duck to water. Once, when I was bored in third grade, I graphed the number of books I read (y coordinate) over the days per month it took for me to finish (x coordinate), and came out with an average of completing one novel per two days. Not bad for a girl who grew up speaking nothing but Cantonese.

My mother, a stranger in the strange land of 1970s Sydney, Australia, decided that, prior to giving me up to public schooling, she’d instill as much Chinese in me as was humanly possible. She got lucky too, and had one extra year to indoctrinate me because as soon as I entered pre-school, I got the measles, followed by the mumps. By the time I recovered, I’d missed so much school, that according to her, there was no point in sending me back. This suited me just fine, because even at that early age, I found pre-school curriculum boring, remembering only the pink cotton wide pinstriped bedding I had to bring to school for naptime. We each were assigned to a cot, and told to make the bed every time, but naptime always occurred whenever I wasn’t tired, so I spent my pre-school hours feigning unconsciousness, breathing in the scent of a freshly laundered pillowcase that smelled of afternoon sun, listening to other children’s sniffles, and wondering what my parents were doing.


OK, I know what people say about him. And I have to admit I’ve cracked a few jokes myself. But tonight, David Beckham you made Marissa Danielle Charles proud.
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been sucked into the madness. I, like many of you I’m sure, am fed up of hearing about ‘the Beckhams’. It’s ‘David and Victoria this’ and ‘Posh Spice that’. You can’t get away from them!
If it’s bad for you, trust me, it’s ten times worse for me. You see, I’m a journalist. To most people I’m the worst kind of journalist. Yes, I’m a member of the gutter press, aka known as the ‘tabloid news’.

So I walk into my folks’ kitchen the other day. It’s a high-ceilinged chef’s kitchen with homemade olive oils and fruit bowls and cutting boards of every shape and size lining the counters. Displayed behind glass cabinets are Asian teapots and cut crystal, ceramic serving dishes and artsy coffee mugs. An “If in doubt, add more wine” sign hangs on the wall. It’s an eclectic, joyful, purposeful space.

Near the refrigerator, hanging on a rustic wrought iron hook is a Key. A big old brass skeleton key. And hanging there on that heart-shaped hook, this antique key seems a bit country-cottage, like your grandmother’s crocheted oven mitt might hang there as well. But this little objet d’art is a bit more racey than that. It has a punched metal tag that specifies its use, which reads:


Screw room? Yup, it’s the key to the screw room. Right on, Mom and Pop.

Some people say the key to a long, happy marriage is communication. Some say it’s being each other’s best friend. And some say it’s sharing common interests.

I recall long ago my brother theorized that the true key to a long marriage was a good sex life. (This was when he was a senior in high school—a clue as to why he might come up with such a theory.)

My folks have been married for over forty years. And, if asked what the key to a successful marriage is, they’d probably answer E.) All of the above. Plus, I’m certain they’d add one more item to the list: A good sense of humor.

And then of course there’s this:
If in doubt, add more love.

Janna, aka Happily Even After, 35, Seattle

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