There’s a beautiful thing that happens after major surgery. You don’t remember very much. That’s why it’s good to have someone to take notes to repeat back to you, so you know what happened. Remind them to repeat it several times over the span of, let’s say maybe a year at the very least. Because you, as the patient, aren’t meant to recall.

Keeping that fact in mind, I didn’t remember that when I originally had cancer in 2017, that a piece of my rib was removed to gain access to the tumor. I was also recently reminded, that I was in a very weird position on the operating table. Also to be able to gain access.

In my mind, I feel like I was Dolly Parton having a rib removed while doing a ballet move under anesthesia. Too much to fathom for this uncoordinated advertising producer. I can be creative in my mind. But on the operating table while asleep? Not so much. I should’ve been awarded a gold medal for table gymnastics.

But I digress. So, back to the rib removal. It is the possible cause of a hernia to develop a few months after surgery. It didn’t bother me too much. But I kept having constant pain especially after this Summer’s car accident. I wonder if that indeed had any affect on my insides as I was tossed around. Even though I was belted in, it’s still a crash and you’re tossed around.

For the next six months, the pain has grown to the point of being uncontrollable. Add in a knee replacement surgery, which was definitely caused by the car accident, and you have quite a pain party. What number is it? Well, let’s say it’s an eleven.

After meeting with my surgeon, and awaiting during his thirty minute radiology consult, he walked back in the exam room to explain how surgery would be my only chance at pain relief for the hernia. Seems counterintuitive to cut someone open to get pain relief, but since I know way too much about medicine, I had to agree.

I’m not saying I didn’t immediately start crying at the thought of being at risk once again, because I definitely cried. But I knew I had no choice. I have to try and come back to life. A full life. A quality life. I may not be able to work a desk job for quite some time, if ever. But I have to try to regain some of the quality I’ve lost. There’s no life in watching daytime television everyday.

So, it’s one more time on the table for me. Check, please!

Until last week, I was a member of Girlsday and all of the affiliate groups that spring from the original group. I believed and still do in what they’re doing. Providing a safe space for woman to express themselves.

Unfortunately, the leader of the group does not allow room for other opinions. Whether in a post, an email or any other form of communication. She has a tendency to have knee jerk reactions if she disagrees with you. This has also been confirmed by others who work along side her and others who know her. We disagreed. Her knee jerk reaction? She kicked me out of all of her groups and blocked me on Twitter, FB and probably instagram too. The dreaded social media rejection. My response in my head is, who cares? The arrogance of someone like that is laughable. I never followed her on Twitter or Instagram. She’s important enough to my life to follow her every waking moment.

This is a creative who never once worked at with my company and many times asked for favors for which I had to say no. Because there was never any sign of reciprocity on the horizon. When I pointed that out in a private message, she got seriously angry. Too close to the truth I guess.

Funny thing is, I was warned about her behavior before I joined. Personally, I believe the growth of this much needed group has gone to her head. She’s a bad moderator at best. Only posting what she agrees with. Confirmed by other members as well. Rejecting posts with no explanation until you ask why.

I’ve tried to reach out as I believe this is an infantile display of the behavior. But she didn’t read my email for six days! Six days! And then blames me for wondering about whether my posts would be used against me.

It’s a private group, where I’ve posted private things. She had already violated that trust by sending my posts to a different social media platform. To get those posts down, I had to send that platform an email with my lawyer cc’d to get them to delete it as there was never permission granted to share from a private group. There is a reasonable expectation of protection when you post in a private group.

I find her actions to be vindictive and without thought. But I do understand why she doesn’t work much, as she’s told me before.

If this is how you treat your colleagues, you must piss off a lot of people.

Now, because she kicked me out of the private group, I can’t see if she’s taken down my posts in the group. It’s petty. Someone else in the group remarked, when I asked for advice about what to do. I apologized for my part in the misunderstanding. No answer. It’s pretty much her way or the highway.

Add her to my list of toxic people who are gone from my life. If someone asks about her, I’ll tell them the truth privately. Which is more than I can say for her disrespect of her own private group.

Hey all you women executives, she’s coming for you too. You’ve done her wrong. She wrote in private messages about the ‘berating’ she took. I wrote my feelings in response. Tried to be supportive. None of that mattered. She resorted to speaking about looks and how this person got to where they were because they were pretty. I was shocked. But because I feared her repeating my private remarks, I played along.

She represents the worst of who we want to be. She’s heading up a group fighting the exact behavior she’s displayed. There’s no internet HR person. So I have to speak here.

She’s a women on the attack with a vengeful, shallow heart. Don’t ever cross her. You’ll be blocked on FB. Which we all know is worse punishment than Guantanimo Bay. Lighten up lady. You ain’t all that.

You’re as big a bully as the ones you’re trying to expose. You called me names when I copied my lawyer on an email. Did that scare you? It should have. You were completely in the wrong.

Remember, it was your actions that made me need to have protection.

I hope you’ve learned a damn good lesson here. You’re not anonymous behind your computer. And I will protect my rights harder than you’ll ever protect yours.

The shame of all this is I support what the core beliefs of the group were and I hope still are. The leadership needs to change. Before a good thing goes bad.

5/21/18 Update:

I received a scathing email today six weeks after my last communication from her! Six weeks from the subject of this piece. I repeat, if this is how quickly she returns an email, it’s no wonder she doesn’t work much.

Everything I believed to be true was doubled down in her email today. It’s all about her and her previous ego.

I forgave her. Because people like that need to be let go of with forgiveness. One day they’ll come across someone they’ve wronged and that forgiveness won’t be there.

Accused of liable with my blog post, I’m waiting for the lawsuit. Honey, if I published your psychotically written email, you’d be laughed out of any court and the ad business.

This is who the movement chooses to help lead them. May I suggest a new leader without the baggage attached to this woman’s behavior? The accusations she threw at me were all things she did to me. It’s utterly laughable. It makes me so happy I’ll never have to cross paths with her.

I’d never work with her for any amount of money. This person is ill on so many levels. The worst kind of creative person in the community. Someone who believes they’re entitled to gifts, to break their own rules, and more importantly, treating a person with complete and utter disrespect and lies.

Oh, you are quite stoppable my dear. Your own words and actions will stop you. FYI- you do not own people in this town. And quite frankly your work sucks. I’d put my cabinet of awards against your crap any day. Damn, you give me the creeps. I won’t repeat your name to anyone. But you should hope to god no one asks me how I feel about you. And no I won’t take my blog down. Good to know you read it though. Stalker.

5/22/18 Update:

I received information today that I’m not the only one this person has done this too. How many more will I hear about? I don’t know. But I posted these thoughts on Instagram:

Not everyone involved in this group has the group’s best interests at heart. I beg the true leadership to make the hard choice and get rid of the rogue voice leading you astray. Most of you are great people. One voice can ruin and disrupt a movement. Want to be taken seriously? Remove the unstable people who are not in control of their words. It’s only artwork. It’s not the essence of what the group is about. Maybe the leadership doesn’t care. If not, I assure you, all will be exposed in time and your group will be dishonored by who you choose to associate with. What happened to me is not exclusive. You have an unstable person in your midst. Sometimes the solution seems difficult and like limb amputation. I guarantee you it won’t be as painful to sever it now, as it may be down the road. Threats to me of libel have to be proven as untruths. Show me the untruths and I’ll show you the facts.

Final thought:

An entire movement shouldn’t suffer because of one person’s actions. But this woman truly needs to go for the sake of the group. Men are not the only ones who bully people and misuse their power. Time to sit back and watch this fire burn.

When I had cancer surgery thirteen months ago, no one told me what to anticipate afterwards. I was scared beyond belief. It’s been quite a fight to keep that feeling at bay.

So when I found out I didn’t need chemotherapy, I felt ecstatic. It meant everything you’d think that means. I’d get to keep my hair, not barf my guts up, and I’d not have to be strapped to an IV poll for treatments.

I wake up every morning with this pain filled body, with a dark, little creature filled with fear sitting on my shoulder everyday. It’s there until I proverbially knock it off, and wonder what I’ll do with my day.

Who could known that this past year would also include; operations, endless scans, blood tests, a car accident, a knee replacement, doctor visits, and lots of family drama with my siblings.

So on this day, who’ll call? Probably no one. Who’ll visit? For sure, no one. I feel so alone sometimes in this journey, that there’s not enough light in this world to bring me back from the dark. Then I remember I’m alive. It’s a pretty profound reason to get pulled into the light.

I’m not really working at all now. I’ve taken a couple of gigs, just to help out here and there. Work I can do from home. I’m pretty much free all day. Free. Now there’s a word. Free from fear? No. Free from worry? No. Free from heartbreak? No. I’ve lost a lot of my family due to starting this blog. And writing my truth. But my truth it is. Maybe if they’d have kept in contact, they’d know.

The one thing I’ve learned from being sick, is who is left around to be in the picture of the remnants of who I am, is who will be there no matter what.

The things is, I’m who I always was. I’m just that person who’s free of toxic people and relationships now. I’m finally free to be that, I give zero f***ks kind of person I’ve always been, but had to hold at bay. Because I’m a people pleaser to add to the stupidity of it all. I no longer have time for that kind of BS.

I’ve beaten the grim reaper enough times, to understand that you best get to the business of living in the now. That’s all we’ve got and all we’ve ever have. So I flick that dark motherfucker off my shoulder and get back to being free.

I have a war to win against cancer. I want to see a cure in my lifetime. I raise money for treatments and wellness programs. I want my life to mean something. I want YOUR life to mean something.

Do you understand it yet? Now. It’s all you’ve got. We’re not promised tomorrow or the next hour or the next minute. We’ve got now. Let me ask you, are you free?

It’s Sunday night and I’m listening to Sara Bareilles sing the part of Mary Magdalene with sweet perfection.

We come to the song we’ve all waited for. Wait for it. Wait for it. No wait. That’s another musical. Oh honey, she starts singing and all I can hear is, (“I never thought it’d come to this. What’s it all about?”), the beautiful voice of my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Neal, singing every word as she did so often in our class.

Mrs. Neal had an incredible voice and a love of the play’s soundtrack. She taught this Jewish girl to learn to love a song about Jesus.

Sara Bareilles Singing “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” live

You see, it didn’t matter that she was the first black teacher at our school, and it didn’t matter that she was amazingly young. It just mattered that she was putting music in my soul. Feeding it, like my Mama did at home. I thrived in her classroom and I thrived at home.

Two women, who maybe met once or twice would have an incredible influence on the structure of my love of music.

I’ve thought so often of Mrs. Neal throughout the last forty six years. What and where was she? Before the days of computers and social media there wasn’t a way to look. When social media became available, I didn’t think of her as often and maybe tried once in a while to no avail. I never knew her first name.

I knew her husband’s name. Oh man, did she talk about him in class. We knew she loved him a lot.

So, back to tonight. Easter Sunday, watching, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, and hearing that song. Feeling the way I felt in fifth grade. Free and uninhibited. Free to sing, and sing loudly. That’s how Mrs. Neal taught us to be. How my Mother taught me to be.

So, after Sara was done singing, there was an overwhelming ovation. As well as a filling up of my heart. I had to look for Mrs. Neal again.

This time I saw Carey Neal’s name on FB. Aha! I knew it! I’d found the beloved husband! Let me look though his friends to see if I could find her name. I couldn’t. I did find a younger Mr. Neal. Maybe it was his Mom. I wrote him this message:

Hi I’m trying to find an old teacher of mine, who I think may have been your Mom. Did she teach at Green school in the 70’s? What’s her first name? I know it sounds crazy but I’m watching Jesus Christ Superstar live and she used to play us that soundtrack and sing with it constantly.

OMG, he wrote me back almost as fast as I’d written. Some small talk went on back and forth. In it, he’d used the words: She was. I asked, not breathing, yet knowing the answer, ‘You said was. Is she not alive?’ ‘No’, he answered. ‘She died too young. About twenty five years ago from breast cancer.’

I went on to tell him what she meant to me, and that I could hear her in my head when the song was being sung tonight. He said they were watching too.

I wondered to myself, jealously, how many times had she sung that to him?

It hurt to hear of her fate, and that the gift of a long life was not to be for Mrs. Neal. But she passed on her love of music, and on this night, her Son knows someone out there heard his Mom’s voice clearly in her head, and she was alive once again for a few minutes.

On this night Jesus Christ rose in the ears of a Jewish woman during Passover, and in the hearts of two strangers, to remember a woman who gave us both the gift of song.

Bless you Mrs. Neal RIP

Tomorrow will mark eight long years since my Mother left this plane of living and moved to a higher level of being. Some would call it heaven. I like to call it a far away vacation.

This incredible woman named Francine Lee Falkow, was born April 16, 1938 on the island known as Bronx, NYC, to a Russian immigrant Father and a second generation, American born Mother.

An only child, due to the problems with Rh negative blood factor pregnancies, (there was a lost child before and after her birth), Francine grew up in a household that was idyllic. Two parents who adored each other and her. It made for a trio of perfection.

Treated like the true princess she was, my Mother never missed a beat to bat her gorgeous green eyes at the boys, until the day she died. This was a woman who enjoyed being a girl. Doing girl things. In the days when she grew up, it was quite ok to be as frilly and girly as you wanted to be. After all, you had to catch a good husband.

She was smart in addition to her looks though, and just collecting a husband wouldn’t do. She studied at Drake University, rooming with a friend who apparently wasn’t that nice. Good wing woman material to find a husband. 😂

The phone rang on the 11th of May in 1956, with the news of her Father’s passing. And after that, she came home to continue her education and to keep her lonely and broken hearted, forty six year old Mother company.

She met my Father not long after that. Funny, I never asked her or him where they met. How do you never ask your parents that question? But I digress. They met somewhere obviously, and married in August of 1957.

She was a beautiful bride.

Eight years later they divorced.

I used to spend mornings watching her out on her makeup. Everything so expertly applies. This was a real woman. In the Elizabeth Taylor sense of the word. Baudy, strong, independent, and everything you’d expect of a woman with brains and beauty.

I was so jealous of her gorgeous green eyes. They were like two shimmering emeralds staring at you. I can only imagine the men those eyes won over.

All I really know is she loved me and was proud of me. She called me every morning at 9:30am to make sure I made it to work ok. Those calls occasionally annoyed me at their regularity. We spoke 5-10 times a day, depending on the day. Sometimes it was just to tell a joke or call to hang up on each other. We were two comedians in a pod.

8 years. 8 seconds. It doesn’t matter. Missing you cannot be measured by time. It is infinite and always will be.

What I wouldn’t give for one more, slightly annoying 9:30am call.

Francine Lee Falkow

April 16, 1938 to March 31, 2010

Cathy Richardson Band: A Benefit for the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre

I’ve been raising funds for the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre since 2003. Before any Earth was moved to build a building, let alone any of the amazing life saving things they’re accomplishing there.

When you’ve been influenced as I have by Olivia’s music and life throughout my own, the way to say thank you is to pay back the positivity with philanthropy.

I’m not a wealthy person by any standard. I gave what I could every month just to contribute to brick and mortar. I didn’t know it would take the next decade for the building to be finished, but that didn’t really matter to me. The money wasn’t going to make them rich, and it wasn’t going to make me poor. My life’s mantra has been: I have two hands. One to help me, and one to help others.

I felt incredibly proud when the Centre was finished. I was a tiny part of a place that would heal people suffering from cancer, mind, body, and soul. It would bring them some comfort in their journeys. Whether it be long or short. The programs were meant to help. And that’s all I cared about.

Then I found out my name would be on the wall. I didn’t know how to feel knowing that. I don’t have children, and so my life’s legacy would be the people who’d see my name on the wall of the Centre. A place where researchers are working on treatments and the cures to many forms of cancer. It blew me away.

In a previous blog, I wrote about being diagnosed with cancer. But the first time I visited the Centre in 2016, I didn’t know I was already ill. As I walked the halls, I felt the energy of a healing, beautiful facility, where people were receiving the help they needed to stay alive and win over cancer. I even saw the eighth floor where patients making the life transition, were made comfortable for the time they had left. It was a quiet and serene place, where I felt the souls of those who’d gone before.

When I saw my name on the third floor donor’s wall, I cried. It was real. It was the most humbling moment of my life. Something that I knew would be remembered long after I was gone.

Then we walked outside in the beautiful garden and noticed another donor wall outside. Lo and behold, my name was pointed out to me on that wall as well. I was gobsmacked. I truly was overwhelmed to the point of almost being frozen in my step. Had I really given enough to have two plaques? I asked as if it wasn’t in front of my eyes.

Humility can knock you over in a moment like that. I wasn’t expecting it. But truly, for the first time in my life, I felt proud of myself.

That year, our walk team, The Sol Seven, raised over $44,000 for the Centre at the annual walk. The next year, we nearly equaled that amount. And in between I’ve raised thousands by auctioning and selling items graciously autographed by Olivia for the purpose of raising funds for the Centre.

2016 Team

2017 Team

This year, a year when I’ve had my own issues with cancer and a knee replacement, I decided I had to do bigger things to raise money. This concert is one of those things.

Please join me in thanking Cathy Richardson, The City Winery Chicago, Libby Brickson and her entire staff, for their generosity and support for what we’re trying to accomplish.

Cancer is a rough go no matter what kind it is, or how tough you think you are. Those of us who’ve experienced it, need the support of others. Let’s band together to celebrate Olivia’s accomplishments and keep the programs going by buying a ticket and checking out the autographed items we’ll have for sale the night of the show.

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. The Sol Seven Fundraising Team thanks you as well.

If you been following the journey, you’ll know that a couple of days ago I posted about my siblings and my family relationships.

It seems that some can’t handle the truth or even come close to admitting their part in an issue. I admit, I was angry. I was unheard and there’s really nothing worse than being made to feel like your life doesn’t matter to some of the people closest to you. And they’re not even listening.

So what happens? You trade ugly emails and texts. And ironically, after never hearing from my Sister-In-Law in any form whatsoever throughout her thirty year marriage to my Brother, she seized the opportunity to show me exactly who she is. A jealous woman. Bringing up everything that they’ve actually been for the last decade. People, know this about me. I don’t carry debt. I pay my bills and have never run from a bill since I was twenty. I learned my lesson. My Brother? He walked away from a house and declared bankruptcy.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. If that’s what you have to do, then do it. But never turn around and then say to someone with no debt whatsoever beside real estate, that they’re all about money. She slammed me with a two by four of insults, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I told her to F off in capital letters. Yes, the dreaded capital letters. Mind you, this was her only communication with me in any form in over a year. I forgot. How old are you? Nearly sixty. Right. I forgot for a minute and thought we were back in third grade.

There was a lot of threats of lawyers on both sides. Total ridiculousness. He couldn’t see my point at all about being at his beckon call until July to see if our relationship would work out. He couldn’t understand how he triggered the six year old in me. Truth is, he didn’t listen and didn’t care. His only worry was how fast could he block me on FB, on email, and threaten me with lawyers.

To drive him slightly nuts, I told him to please bring in lawyers. That I welcomed his litigation. For what, I’m not sure. But it made me laugh.

As I lay here thinking about it, it’s truly a ridiculous situation. When you only email or text, there’s always going to be communication issues. A metaphor for our relationship.

(see video below in link)

Kangaroo Fight

I haven’t seen him or his family in over a year. So what am I really missing? I’m missing the toxicity of chaos. Today was the first day I smiled about my life in a long time. I owned what I said. Because I knew what my truth was. He said I’d live my life absent of his family and he threw in God, and all the stuff that goes with that. Karma, you know burning fires, etc. I felt like Moses was about to come and beat the shit out of me. Truth is, emotionally, they been beating the shit out of me for years.

Now that we’ve drawn the line, it actually feels like a release. Who knew? No more pretending that I like him or his snarky Wife. A woman who was foaming at the mouth to get my dead Mother’s jewelry. She ended up with more of it than me. Funny.

I’m not saying I didn’t participate in the back and forth of the battle. But when you’ve been beaten in so many ways since you’ve been a child, I couldn’t take it one more minute. Emotionally, I was drained.

So that blog post I wrote the other day didn’t go down well. But it freed me from a life of toxic, hurtful moments.

I was reminded by many friends that families can be chosen ones as well as blood ones. That I could leave behind the pain and embrace the love my friends had for me. I received more beautiful notes than I had in a really long time. Lots of people have family issues. And lots of people just want to be loved. Sometimes that love comes from your support system of people you’ve had who know the real you. I know that going to concerts is joyful. It’s not a bad thing to be thrown in someone’s face. That loving a sport like hockey isn’t a bad thing. Not if it brings you happiness. Even when your team is sucking. Or that having the car of your dreams isn’t a bad thing. It’s an accomplishment. One that when I got sick, I gave up to save money. Just in case we had another bad rainy day. By the way, all these things were paid off with no debt.

Which brings me back to the back and forth that got so ugly. You don’t yell in writing like that unless there’s a bottom line underneath of love just because we’re siblings. A shared experience that only siblings go through. There’s an obvious amount of jealousy. That I can’t help them with. I never begrudged my Brother his cars or guitar collection. I never threw anything I had or didn’t have in anyone’s face. Funny thing, when I went to hockey games, I usually went by myself that last year. There was the one time I took my Brother to a game, and of course, it was on my dime. My Nephew will never talk about when I took him to a football game for six hundred dollars per ticket.

You see, the “things” I had, I always shared with others. Because what I value in life is experiences. And sharing them with others.

Now, I’ll never be able to share with his family again. But I ask, they’ve been absent, as he said, for over a year, so what am I missing?

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Update: two out of three blood Brothers are talking to me. The oldest one? Probably never.