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Think Pink – in honor of Jual and the other women fighting Breast Cancer

October is breast cancer awareness month.  You’ll see commercials, billboards, newspaper ads, and t-shirts encouraging you to feel your boobs; get your mammies slammied; and other clever slogans designed to remind women to get their yearly mammograms, do their breast self exams, and keep themselves cancer free.


About 20 years ago, I worked in an office, and one of my co-workers had a very good friend named Kathy.  Kathy was young – 30ish – with 3 children.  She had battled breast cancer, and I think that was the first time I had ever thought it was possible for someone who wasn’t a grandmom to have breast cancer.  I don’t know why, but I had always just thought it was one of those things only older people got.  Shortly after I left that job, they found out that Kathy’s cancer had returned, and she eventually lost her battle, and again, I was left completely dumbfounded by the fact that breast cancer could kill someone so young.

My sister Megan has a good friend named Jual.  Jual was 29, and had just begun her pregnancy with her third child when she found a lump in her breast.  At a time when God was surely blessing this wonderful family with a new little baby, and all focus should have been on the joy and wonder that a newborn brings, Jual and Alex were thrown into chaos.  Treatment that was safe for the baby had to be found, which meant taking a less aggressive approach to the cancer.  And when baby Ryder finally made his appearance in August of last year, Jual only got to enjoy a short couple of days with him before she was undergoing a mastectomy.  So much for a young woman to go through!

Just weeks ago, Jual celebrated one year cancer free, and then the walls of euphoric bliss came crumbling down.  A spot, which looked initially like an old, healed wound that had maybe gotten arthritic, was now labeled suspicious.  Tests were scheduled.  The news isn’t good.  Jual has Stage IV breast cancer.  The terms used to describe Stage IV breast cancer are “terminal” and “incurable”.

Jual is in excellent hands in terms of medical treatment, and with a caring, concerned medical staff on her side and a host of family and friends surrounding her and the whole Harman family, we hope and pray that Jual gets a miracle.  We pray for her to find the strength to battle tooth and nail against this disease, damning the cancer that threatens her life.  We hope she knows that prayers for her are being said far and wide – the Sisters of the Good Shepherd pray for her and her family in Clarks Summit, PA.  Her name was around the neck of someone she has never met as they walked 5 kilometers in the Susan G. Komen breast cancer walk this weekend.  She has been added to prayers lists at Churches in Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.

There is nothing so sad as thinking of someone so young, with so much potential and so much to live for, having to fight a battle so difficult.  But I know that she will face this head on, do her best to kick ass and take names, and use every ounce of strength to continue to mother her three babies and love her husband.  That’s what superheroes do.

So in honor of Jual, and all the other women, young or old, who are fighting breast cancer, think pink.  Wear your ribbons, show your support, and get your mammogram.

August 24th – Happy Birthday, Brighid! We’re In Belfast :-)

My little girl is 17 years old today!  I can’t believe it’s here so quickly, and at the same time, I cannot wait for her to no longer be a teenager!  I keep hearing it gets better.  Now’s good for me.

We arrived early this morning in Belfast, and we have a great trip planned.  We are going to be boarding a bus for a tour of the Antrim coast, then we stop at the Glenariff tea and gift shop for tea and scones.  This will be our first real Irish scone treat!

The coast of Northern Ireland is so beautiful!  I don’t think any of the scenery we’ve seen so far has been so gorgeous.  We ride along the coast, and while we are gazing out the right side of the bus at the cool, clear water, we are passing these adorable little homes and villages on the left side. The only thing better than the actual trip to Glenariff tea shop is the shop itself.  Beautiful, lush, green rolling hills surround the shop, and a small museum sits on the property as well.  We head in and find tables, and we get in line for our tea and scones.  Piping hot tea, with all the cream and sugar you could want, is served – although you could choose a different beverage for the children.  And accompanying the delicious tea are warm from the oven scones in  your choice of raisin or cherry.  We took two of each, and an extra cherry, and they were light, mildly sweet, delicious.  Well worth the trip up here.

We arrive back at the ship not too long after, and Jim offers to take Granuaile back to the cabin for a nap if I want to go into Belfast.  Eilis and Brighid decide to come with me, and we hop on the complimentary shuttle that goes from the port to the city.  Once off the bus, we are told that this is not the normal pick-up/drop-off location, and we’ll have to go over a few blocks to find the actual location.  As someone who needs a road map to get from the shower to the bedroom, this worries me.  We decide anyway to head back a few blocks to a shop we saw selling Belfast linens and other Irish gifts.  On the way, however, we find out why we could not be dropped off in the typical location.  It’s marching season in Belfast!!

If my father were not cremated and in the tiny little mailbox he now permanently calls home, he would have been rolling over in his grave to see me whip out my camera as throngs of Orangemen came marching down the main street in the city of Belfast.  Dressed mostly in suits with bowler hats, waving flags and wearing medals and ribbons, I couldn’t help but enjoy the parade.  Forgive me, my Irish Catholic brothers and sisters, but this was a sight to behold!  And the little boys – nothing more darling!  Yeah, I know, they probably had dreams of growing up and blowing up Catholic families with pipe bombs and molotov cocktails, but we’re striving for peace, even in Belfast, and maybe this really is just a historical commemoration.  We’re all entitled to celebrate our history.

After taking our time to select a few souvenirs from the shop, we decide, since it’s raining, to head back to the bus.  Just outside the bus stop, though, is the mall, and we figure we’ll just take a peek inside.  Guess what the Belfast mall has?  What every good mall should have – a Starbucks!  We go get in line, and we meet the most adorable kid.  He applauds my drink order, because he likes a challenge, and then we talk about my camera.  He is heading to America and has recently bought himself a camera just like mine.  I want to take him home.  He is Irish, gay, adorable, and definitely small enough to sneak into my suitcase. 

We get our drinks, and head out to the bus.  We are back on the ship in no time, and Eilis goes to the kids’ club for a short while before we have to get ready for dinner.  It’s Smart Casual again tonight, so no one has to really get “dressed”, but we do all shower and clean up before we go and eat.

Mom and Russ have ordered a special birthday dessert for Brighid, and our waiter has a set of pipes!  He belts out Happy Birthday, and the people around all clap for her.  I still can’t believe she’s 17.  And we’re in Belfast.  How cool is that?

Jay Oh Bee – Super Suppers

I have been looking around for a part time job.  With things the way they are in the world, and not knowing for sure what could happen to you today, tomorrow, or a year from now, I thought it might be a good idea to bring in a little spare cash and hopefully, never need it for a rainy day. 

Because Jim works out of town, I have only myself to rely on to pick the girls up from school each day.  That meant that I could not start work before 4 PM any evening, and I was really not available any days at all.

I was offered a job I thought I’d be perfect for – working for a local catering company, assisting with wedding planning, scheduling, things like that.  But the hours they needed me for were from 11 until 8 PM.  Even with a very generous lunch hour, there was no way I could get the kids home.  But when one door closes…

After a fairly exhaustive look, I was interviewed for a position with Super Suppers.  I love this concept.  For working moms, there is nothing better; and for those of us who are fortunate enough to be home with our families, having a place like this to help give us a leg up on soccer nights or library meeting nights is phenomenal.  The premise of the place is you come in, and all the prep work is done for you.  The vegetables are chopped, the spices are all laid out, the proteins are portioned out.  You just assemble your meal, wrap it in our containers, and take them home to your freezer until you need them.  And if you are too busy to do even that, you can call ahead and we assemble the meals for you.  Forget to call in?  We have a grab and go freezer that you can come in and choose items from!

I have only worked one shift so far, but it’s really like getting ready for a party the whole day long.  I prepped meals, wiped counters, interacted with a few customers – it was great fun.  It’s a long day on your feet, but really, with a good pair of shoes, this is going to be an ideal position.  Best of all, I start at either 4 or 5 in the evening, I’m home by 9, so I have no trouble getting up with the kids in the morning, and even the weekend evenings are free!

I hope they love me as much as I think I’m going to love them!