Hometown Fever

[As originally featured on Huffington Post]

I’m back from my visit to my hometown, Buffalo, NY, and I had the best time! It started with a book talk in Batavia at the Richmond Memorial Library with Ann and Chee. We had a wonderful time together and it’s actually fun telling our story and answering questions. Of course, it’s so much better because Ann is continuing to improve and she’s a survivor in the best way possible. She is kicking the begeebees out of leukemia and I’m so proud of her. Chee scheduled an interview for us at WBTA radio station — Batavia After Breakfast with Hiram Kasten, and he was kind enough to promote us. Next stop was hanging out with Liz and Marc at the Ride for Roswell where $4.5 million was raised to fight cancer. Chee and I went to the kickoff and they were preparing for the trek up to Canada, down to Niagara Falls, and back to Buffalo. It’s an amazing fundraiser, and all for an excellent cause.

The next event was our book talk at Beauty View Farm. Paul joined us and it was even more fun. Yes, it sounds crazy that talking about leukemia and our story was fun, but our family bonded over this ordeal and we found the humor. Paul and I got to reminisce about our time in Los Angeles during our rock-band phase. Growing up, Paul used to have bands rehearse in the basement, and then he opened a shop near Lake Erie. Of course, I was the annoying little sister who would bug him and his friends. I sang, played guitar and wrote songs so naturally - I would open for the bands when there were concerts in the area. Some of the guys came to Los Angeles and we formed the band Che Blammo, and KROQ and KLOS played our songs- not bad. Our local friends from Cattaraugus were so supportive.

On Sunday, we relaxed and celebrated Joseph’s graduation from the University of Buffalo (Chee’s son) and his acceptance into Grad School! Celebrations are key to our family’s survival. We swam in the beautiful spring-fed pond and Mikey and Joseph had a blast on the paddleboard. Liz and Marc loved the paddle boat.

We also made bluebird houses to post on the trail at Beauty View Farm. Ann is writing a musical about the bluebirds because they are the NY state bird and they are an endangered species. We’re encouraging her to finish it. It’s in her head but the organizational skills needed to complete it are not kicking in yet. I would say it’s about three quarters done. Come on Ann, you can do it!

On my very last day there, AM Buffalo booked me on their morning show with Linda Pellegrino. She’s a cancer survivor, too, and also wrote a book, which will be out in August. Our plan is to do a book talk together and share our stories. We also shared the fact that their sisters helped Ann and Linda through the roughest time in their lives. Yes, sisters are amazing, and if you don’t have any, find some! Great girlfriends can be sisters, too. We jump in with both feet and don’t let you go through anything alone, even if you want to. Sisters are great for brothers, too, don’t forget. We whip them into shape and make them behave — yes? Do I hear a huge, resounding YES? We all have our strengths and that’s how you get through it, supporting each other’s strengths and trying to improve the weaknesses.

I miss my home town already. I’m looking forward to the next trip. I loved the fireworks at the Batavia Muck Dogs baseball game and at John Harvard’s in Ellicottville. I miss our yearly attendance of Shakespeare-In-The-Park. I miss the sound of the leaves in the trees as the summer breezes brush over us. I miss the cool pond that cleanses the soul. I developed my values and my strong sense of family there and no one can take that away from me, ever.

The following prayer touched my heart and helped me keep my feet on the ground when everything around me felt like it was crumbling. The prayer helped me stay strong for my sister, Ann, and for my sister Chee, who was there for Ann from the very beginning. Chee was the heart and soul of Ann’s recovery. As Ann says, Chee is her hero. This prayer has also helped me find my center, my focus, and my reason for being here. It may help you.

May I be at peace,
May my heart remain open,
May I know the beauty of my own true nature,
May I be healed,
May I be a source of healing in the world.

— Buddhist Prayer