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I love you too coffee! Missing you...

Recently I was waiting for my usual 16 oz Tazo Refresh tea at the Nike coffee bar. I say “usual” but am really referring to the last few months. On the advice of the experts, I had willingly but very sadly given up my lattes and americanos as soon as I was diagnosed. Fortunately, I had somehow lost my intense need for the caffeine. And with compromised taste buds and stomach, the thought of a cup of joe didn’t even remotely appeal on many days.  But, it was still difficult. It was the ritual that I missed.  The rich smell, the hot cup in my hand, the walk to the coffee bar in the morning to start my day…

But, here I was a few months later, eagerly anticipating my tall-boy sized mint tea. I was unexpectedly awakened from my morning stupor by a surprising event. Maria, the morning barista from behind the counter was suddenly in front of me and stared at me intently.  She gently latched onto my wrist, peered into my eyes, and said, “I have been watching you.  I think I know why you are wearing that scarf.  I want you to know that I know you will be okay and I am thinking about you.”  Then she enveloped me in a soft hug, squeezed me tight and returned to making non-fat double cappuccinos for the hordes of Nike employees desperate for their daily fix.  All this occurred while the crowd waiting for their orders stood and watched. Read More »

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Swimming to Shore

[Guest post by Dan, my husband]

When Kerri told me she was calling her blog “Amongst the Waves,” it immediately brought back memories of my youth in Laguna Beach, California. As a kid, I was a daily fixture at the beach all summer long, but never became as comfortable in the surf as many of my companions. I moved to Laguna from Kansas City as a five year old, and was just learning to swim while my buddies were already body surfing.

Emerald Bay... the beach where Dan grew up and where his folks still live... so beautiful.

Big waves were rare at Emerald Bay, our local beach, and when they hit the news quickly spread. Everyone grabbed their boogie boards and fins and hit the water. I usually stayed on the beach and admired my buddies’ bravado.

Occasionally, I summoned the courage to follow along and more than once regretted it. The only options with big waves are to either “take off” and ride the wave, or dive under.  Being too frightened to take off, I usually dove under the waves, hoping to encounter a smaller one on the other side. The problem is that big waves come in sets. So after diving under one, I was forced to furiously swim to reach the next wave before it broke.

If I didn’t get there in time, the wave basically broke on top of me. I remember once being forced by a breaking wave down into the sand on my knees. I was sure there was no way I could make it back up and out of the water. I thought about that feeling sometimes while watching Kerri go through her chemotherapy treatments. Every three weeks she was also brought to her knees by the toxic chemicals rushing through her body. It was amazing to watch her bounce back again and again with a positive outlook and an unrelenting attitude. Read More »

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Letting Go

Tonight was a big night. It started out pretty routine. After coming out of my last round of treatment pretty wiped out and wimpy, I have been happy to see myself rebound with unexpected strength and energy. Maybe it’s the sun that has finally blessed our dear Portland town with it’s beautiful and spirit lifting rays.

Meet Bill...

In any case, tonight I rallied enough to get myself to a class taught by beloved instructor Bill at Sellwood Yoga, just a few short blocks from my house. This is a flow class that I’ve privately called “Big Girl Yoga” since downshifting. In my past life it would have been challenging but in my current state is a pretty major push. But I did it and not only that, MY FEET WERE FLAT during downward dog. Might seem small but this is something I’ve been trying to accomplish for years. And ironically, what got me here is the need to offset treatment with a more dedicated yoga practice.

Read More »

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Returning West to Find East

When our family moved to China, I thought that “expatriation” would surely be the most challenging part of our family’s two-year round trip adventure.  Shanghai was a world away from P-town, and another planet entirely compared to Southeast Alaska, where the girls were born.

Fondly called "Kendudgy" in China, KFC is everywhere!

An insane skyline, incredibly frenetic but dynamic energy, more people than you can possibly imagine and an explosion of new sites, smells, sounds and feelings … these all combined for a very big jolt to our systems. I’ll never forget the first night when we landed, jet-lagged but blearily anticipatory from our flight. Deposited at our newly leased high-rise loft apartment, I wanly endeavored to make beds up while I sent Dan out to find some food for the famished kids. He bravely left the apartment only to find himself in the maze of an old Shanghai neighborhood (took a right when he should have gone left!). With a crazy look on his face, he returned to my surprise with only a tiny Kentucky Fried Chicken bag that held three mini wings at the most, and some strange thick orange beverage. Apparently the throngs and the language barrier had gotten the better of him. We made due with the wings, added leftover crackers from the plane, and called it a night.

Rockstar Team. Miss them!

We found our way forward, of course, and encountered epic personal and professional experiences that changed us profoundly. So much of what I learned in China went much deeper then just a little career jaunt or cultural exchange. I easily took in more from the people and teammates in Shanghai than they did from me. Things like Loyalty. Commitment. Determination. And Camaraderie.

Wagas delivery to my rescue!

And the learning continued when we returned. Read More »

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Love Soup

I’ve been wishing lately that I could cook dinner for everyone that has been so kind to me. It would be quite a party. We’d all squeeze around my imaginary 100 foot long table.  Candles would be lit, we’d be outside under our clematis-covered portico on a rare warm Portland night and the blend of all of your voices would be the soundtrack to the evening.

These old game piece letters adorn my bedroom door. A daily reminder!

The conversation would be rich, with languages and accents from as far away as Iceland and Shanghai. Amazing stories would be told. And we would laugh. A lot. My crazy, wonderful, extended family would be right in the middle of it all. And, strangely, I think you’d all pretty much get along.

Aside from the Jasmine that’s in bloom, you’d be greeted by the aroma of home made bread…I would talk my close friend Heather into making an extra big batch of her famous Challah, which often finds it’s way to our family’s bellies on Friday nights. I’d prepare as much Sockeye salmon as I could, somehow air dropped fresh from my fishing pals in SE Alaska and cooked just till done on the grill with lots of lemon and some great sea salt from The Meadow. Then I’d serve an enormous salad filled with lovely produce from the farmer’s market and some really good stinky cheese.

My girl Heather of Challah fame. Holla!

And for dessert? Pie. I’d make at least 25 marionberry pies and serve them with vanilla ice cream (a marionberry is known as the “Cabernet of  blackberries” if you didn’t know and was cultivated in Oregon.) A constant flow of great beer and wine would also bless the table. Read More »

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Letting the Days Go By. (Once in a Lifetime.)

I keep telling everyone I’m living in the “slow lane” right now. This is an easy, short hand way of assuring my family that I’m not pushing too hard and confirming for myself that this is only a temporary, altered state.

It’s been an incredible gift to be able to direct most of my energy into getting well and I am lucky to have very talented, generous people step in and take the wheel. Although I’m working through most of my treatment days, I have downshifted dramatically to steer only a few choice projects. It is beyond refreshing to put single-minded focus on my work . . . something I have not experienced in the past 20 years of my career.

My Buddy Jason.

Considering my job usually entails working with big numbers and budgets with lots of zeros in them, I think it’s pretty wise that I’m riding shotgun. The other day I was having a working breakfast with my partners at Wieden + Kennedy. Being the gracious, lovely client I am, I picked up the tab. But, alas… my good buddy Jason  kindly pointed out that $50.50 plus $8.00 tip did not add up to sixty-four bucks.  When Account Guy corrects Media Maven on the numbers you know you are in trouble.

The fog of “chemo brain” is real my friends.

Pal Ricky greets a windy day (this is how he goes through life.)

[On a side note, another close pal, Ricky, thinks that phrase sounds like the meanest thing you could call someone on a playground. I concur!]

My email has slowed to a daily crawl and I’m even taking the time to clean out my ever-terrorizing in-box. I recently set a new PB by culling to less than 5,000 emails. This is a jarring phenomenon when you are used to coming back to your desk from an hour long meeting to find at least 25 “new” problems that are calling directly for attention or through the even more insidious “cc.”

And, need I mention the daily morning iPhone stretch? Read More »

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Talking to the Sun and the Moon.

“So… how are the kids”?

Hadley takes charge of her fuzzy mom.

I hear this question a lot these days and I’m happy to report that they are both managing quite well. It’s been a bumpy trip so far, not without drama and with more motherly/daughterly angst than usual, but all told we are holding strong.

When we first got the diagnosis, Dan and I decided to call a family meeting. I was all wrapped up in fear of the unknown myself, but somehow managed to compress those squishy feelings into a taut little package to be dealt with later, thank you very much.

We convened in the front room and Dan and I stared each other down to see which of us would start. In turn, the girls eyeballed us warily. You see, the first ever Pack Family Meeting was when we told them we were moving to China about 3 years ago. They knew something was up. And it was big.

Finally we just jointly stumbled out with the news.

Predictably they both behaved very differently. One thing you realize when you have more than one child is that, nurture be damned, these beings have distinct personalities wired into them. Despite my best efforts not to “label,” my two girls are as different as the sun and the moon. They both shine brightly, but have had an entirely different orbit in life from Day One. Read More »

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George Clooney, Where Were You?

I might be living in the slow lane these days, but I’m also learning a hell of a lot…, foggy chemo brain and all.  And one of the keenest realizations is that there is nothing sexy about the emergency room.

I know.  Shocker.

Nurse Hathaway and Dr. Ross looking pensive.

Sexy, dreamy, steamy hospital romance.

But for those of us who spent the mid 90’s following Nurse Carol Hathaway as she followed Dr. Doug Ross,
or the more recent medical addiction of Meredith and McDreamy, there is a mystique about the place.  Big city hospital action.  Lots of sex in closet utility rooms.  And very good looking doctors. Read More »

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Triple Threat Optimist Playlist

Dan getting after it.

Have you heard the old adage about firewood? It warms you three times. Once when you haul it, second when you split/stack it and third when you burn it.

I never really understood this until we moved to a small village in Southeast Alaska and spent the next seven years heating our home with whatever wood we could gather.

Our beloved cabin in Alaska.

Total babes in the woods.

We were very green behind the ears when we naively moved there in the cold winter of ‘96 and faced a very empty woodshed.  Meyers Chuck was our new home and this little village of less than 20 people had no roads or stores.  We were enthusiastic about our downshift into a new kind of remote living but very much in over our 20-something heads.

Read More »

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Sweet Liberty (And the One That Got Away)

Welcome to episode 2 of my hair journey (for those that read my last “Hair to Eternity” post.)  In the first week after my breast cancer diagnosis, I’ll admit I went into a bit of a frantic panic.  I immediately made a list of everything I’d need to obtain to prepare for my chemo travels.

Walgreens Drugstore. Check.

Brenda Kay’s Wig Shop. Check.

Powell’s Books. Check.

Whole Foods.  Check.

I also decided I’d need some quality headgear.  My mother-in-law Linda was on the case right away and sent me some fab cotton hats that are a perfect fit and stylish too.

But I’ve always been a bit of an accessory fiend, and scarves were something I coveted from an early age.  Especially when they were worn in that retro Audrey Hepburn/Jackie Kennedy style (along with the oversize shades of course). If there was one time in my life that I should be able to rock a sweet scarf it was now.

So the quest began.

New eBay and PayPal Accounts?  Check.

The challenge was that I’d never quite cracked the eBay thing before.  I’d attempt to bid on some funky chandeliers or rusty soda fountain stools and invariably lose out in the last five minutes.  But now eBay was my hunting ground and I was on a mission.

Read More »

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