Thursday, September 5, 2013

Vegetables, Baked Goods, and Dancing

What a day.

What a week.

Nothing bad. Nothing cancer-related. Just life.

The kids' first week back to school. Things getting crazy at work. And to top it all off, this weekend is The Fair. Every year, a neighboring town holds a fall agricultural fair, with prizes for best home-grown veggies, baked goods, crafts, etc.  Last year, I won a blue ribbon for my plum tomatoes (my kids are trained to refer to me as "an award-winning gardener"). This year, despite a horrible growing season, I entered some more tomatoes, some cucumbers, an eggplant, and my bread-and-butter pickles. And since I didn't get home from work until after 8 last night, I was too tired to bake, so I was up at 4:30 this morning to make mocha cupcakes with chocolate ganache frosting so I could turn them in before judging this morning.

More importantly, my kids have entered several contests themselves. I don't much care if I win anything, but I really, really want them to do well.

Is there some connection between all of this and cancer? I always have some kind of connection, after all.

Well, one connection is the one I say a lot -- As crazy and hectic and exhausting as life can be, I'm happy to be busy. I'm healthy, I have a good job that I like, and I'm able to do things for my kids.

But, as I discussed last year when I wrote about this fair, the experience makes me focus on my kids. There's something about entering a cupcake decorating contest, or a photography contest, or something else that forces you to put yourself out there, to be judged and compared. It's not always pleasant. It's great when you get a ribbon, certainly, but not so great when you don't. Or when you don't get the one you expected. Or when your dad gets a first place for his tomatoes, and your sculpture gets a third.

What I hope that experience teaches my kids is that you can't say "Forget it!" and not bother anymore. What I hope is that my kids will -- as my daughter did -- vow to make it better next year. $200 or so worth of Sculpey clay, and hours of sculpting, and she's back in it this year. That's exactly what I wanted to happen.

This morning, I read a story about this year's Dancing with the Stars. Valerie Harper, TV's Rhoda, is a contestant this season. Just weeks ago, there were stories in the news about her having terminal brain cancer. She's doing much better, and she decided to take a chance, at 74 years old, on dancing on TV. She credits the song "I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack for giving her the courage to go for it.

Whenever I hear that song on the radio, and I'm in the car with my daughter, I turn it up and I tell her to listen carefully. When she has the choice to sit it out or dance, I want her to dance.

Or to make and decorate a cake that looks just like a giant Hershey bar, and let it (and herself) be judged.

And to smile, whatever happens.

(And not just because, when it's over, she gets to eat that cake.....)

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