08 April 2005

It's About The Blessings - And Pink Wish Bracelets

"Love is like infinity: You can't have more or less infinity, and you can't compare two things to see if they're "equally infinite." Infinity just is, and that's the way I think love is, too." ~ Fred Rogers, taken from "The World According To Mister Rogers - Important Things To Remember".

I've been following the progress of a very special young lady who hails from "The Great Far North". I had been perusing some websites, trying to find some inspiration for a newspaper column that, almost five years later, still refuses to write itself. Sometimes, that is a wonderful license to catch a wave and surf the Internet, all under the guise of "research", in the most loose definition of the word.

One day while I was doing some "research", I happened upon the website of someone named "Julianna Banana". The name instantly drew me in, but it's the content, the style in which it is written - from Julianna's perspective even though the hands on the keyboard belong to her father Terry, is what keeps me coming back. Since the day I stumbled upon Miss Julianna, I have been a faithful follower and her little spot on the web instantly became one of my most favorite places.

Julianna has "sick blood" or, as those folks in white coats tend to refer to it, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, standard risk, pre-B. It's just easier to say "sick blood" but that doesn't make the treatment any easier to handle. It's tough stuff, this sick blood, but Julianna is a ray of sunshine that cancer is incapable of casting a shadow upon and it's the inimitable spirit of her family, the determination, attitude and oh yes, the irreverent sense of humor that makes this these folks the kind of people that you would want to know.

I've never failed to leave Julianna's website without reading something that inspired a smile, respect and most of the time an audible giggle. I've also dropped a few tears, because for all of the humor and spirit, there is a poignancy that reminds all of us who follow her life, of just how fragile each of us truly are.

In her book, "It's Always Something", Gilda Radner wrote that "cancer is just about the most unfunny thing in the world", and Gilda felt that it needed someone to come in and lighten things up. Julianna and her family must have heard that. This family doesn't simply "endure" life, they do exactly what we're all supposed to do - they LIVE it. With GUSTO! Even when those curve balls come at us from so many unexpected and, at times, unwelcome directions, it's still worth the price of a ticket. Although life can be messy, there's still a lot of fun to be had, chores to do, birthdays, Thanksgiving (Canada Style!), Halloween!, Christmas, Valentine's Day and of course, the Josephson Family Favorite - April Fools Day!

As I have written about previously, I recently received an aviary and it is now home to four zebra finches (2 couples - married with children), a pair of Owl Finches (married and trying to have children) and this weekend, we will be adding a pair of rowdy, rambunctious orange-cheeked wax bills. We've named the first members of our avian family after close friends and people we admire, so when it came time to think of names for our newest acquisitions, there were only two clear choices: Julianna Banana and Nicholas Picklus!

Yesterday, I wrote Terry (Julianna's personal assistant/typist/legal advisor/public relations contact/father) seeking permission to name my common birds after his celebrity kids. After a long, protracted conference with his dazzling daughter and savvy son, they kindly granted permission for us to use their names, with the stipulation that they would in no way be obligated to care for, clean, feed or even look at bird droppings and that any untoward behavior our new birds might exhibit could not be traced back to who we were naming them after.

The list went on and on, but after reading 30 minutes of the contract their people sent my people, well, I kind of fell asleep. I think there was something in there about royalties, Oprah guest shots, scheduling guest appearances for the kids...I mean birds, on David Letterman's "Stupid Pet Tricks" segment...It was kind of complicated and I am, lest we forget, a blond of very little brain. To be honest, the contract began looking very much like a proposed script for "Legally Blond 3 - More Pranks - More Peroxide!". I kind of got a little suspicious when the E-mail arrived in Pink. It could be a coincidence, but I'm thinking not.

Last night, before turning in, I checked Julianna's website, as I usually do to collect my smile for the day, and Julianna's rep (her father Terry), granted me permission to reprint his post in it's entirety: It's best viewed in Pink-vision.

Reprinted With Permission From Julianna's Website: Thursday, 7 April, 2005

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - Fruit, Finches & Texas

When you have cancer, there are so, so many things that just seem wrong and unfair about life. I didn’t need to actually get cancer to figure that one out. But in some ways, I think that I DID need to get cancer to realize that there are so, so many other things that are just plain wonderful about life! So, so many things I have come to appreciate thanks to my trials and tribulations over the last year and a half. It’s pretty ironic how you have to fall so low in order to see to high. Today is just one of those days that I can’t keep all these things that I have become grateful for all to myself, and for fear of bursting, I’m just going to have to share some of them with you.

Today, I am grateful for the Great State of Texas!
I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but I’m going there one day. I’m actually grateful for a whole bunch of different places around the world that are just full of compassionate people. But today, I tip my Disney princesses hat to the kind-hearted folks of the lone star state. I got a pleasant surprise in the mail from there the other day. It was the audio version ‘Too Pooped To Pop,” the awesome children’s book written by The Drama Queen herelf, Samantha Pinder and her talented dad (Hint: if you follow Samantha’s link, you can get the book for yourself!). William Dufris and Red Sox great Johnny Damon’s future girlfriend Emily gave their time and expertise to take that fantastic book and bring it to audio life. And man oh man oh MAN, did William and Emily ever do a wonderful job!!! Seriously, I've heard more than my fair share of books on tape, and the job they did was absolutely top notch.

On the weekend, when things were surprisingly quiet on the banana front, dad put the audio book on for me and my stinky brother. While we were listening, dad was puttering around in the kitchen doing the dishes. He was concentrating in on the CD, so he didn't notice me sneak up on him. I pulled on his leg, looked up at him with my too-cute little brown eyes and said "Daaaad...I have cancer too." That was the very first time that I actually connected me being sick with the ‘c’ word to him before…and he did all he could not to cry. That understanding, that moment, that father-daughter connection never would have happened if not for a father-daughter writing team in Texas, a father-daughter audio production team in Maine, and the caring human spirit.

Today, I am grateful for kick-tushie counts!
Yup, I had clinic on Tuesday, and my counts keep rocking on (everybody, please look around you, find some wood and touch it for me, ok?).

Today, I am grateful for baby zebra finches!
Susie from the must-read ‘Susie Writes’ blog writes…Since he installed this aviary (my Christmas present last year), we have now had two generations of new baby zebra finches. I am pleased and proud to announce that, after waiting the appropriate amount of time to see if they were male or female and, fortunately for us, we have one of each, we have decided to name our new wax bill acquisitions - Julianna Banana and Nicholas Picklus! We decided to name the waxbills after your celebrity daughter and son because these waxbills are easily the most colorful of our new birds to date. Plus, the pet store manager told us they
were rambunctious, rowdy, had tons of personality and didn't take static from the other birds.

Did you hear that, Cathie? BIRDS!! Toooo cooool, baby! I hope you’re all bird lovers, because those birds are going to grow up on this website. Susie, make sure you name the stinkier bird after Nicholas.

Oh, did I mention that Suzie writes a newspaper column called “Single…With Children” for (among other) a newspaper in Amarillo, TEXAS?

Today, I am grateful for fruit, vegetables and Nonna’s home made soup!
Man, was my tummy ever sore this morning. It was bad enough that I had “The Bucket” by my little nappy spot. I thought that I was sick, but my ever-instinctive Nonna knew better. With a little TLC, the right foods, and a trip to the potty later, and I was feeling much, much better! Thank you Nonna, you always know just what to do.

Today, I am grateful for my Auntie Tammy’s aching hands!
As you probably already know, April is cancer Awareness Month (oooh man, I came this close to capitalizing the ‘c’ word…shame on me!). A reporter from my home-away-from-home, Brandon, Manitoba, chose to do a story for cancer Awareness Month on my Auntie Tammy and all those calluses and blisters that she gets from making and mailing out my Pink Wish Bracelets for me. I can’t think of a more deserving person to interview! Manitobans, you can hear it on the CBC radio news this Sunday, AM and FM (at least I THINK it’s just here in Manitoba).

Today, I am grateful for you!
My family is truly blessed to have wonderful support as we try to be ordinary through my extraordinary circumstances. I regret that I do not take the time to properly acknowledge everyone who DOES take the time to sign my guestbook, drop me an email, wear a bracelet of support for me, or even send me something in the mail. You carry me, people, and I wish I had my act together enough to return that favour to the extent that I should. You’re the ones walking the walk that I aspire too, and I’m the one sitting here soaking up the benefits from it…and there’s something quite fair about that to me. Am I any more or any less deserving of all this love than any other child fighting for a future? Not really. I’m just Julianna Banana, 4 years old from Winnipeg, Canada. And I have one rich karma account, and that is thanks to you. I’m not sure how or when I am going to be able to unleash some of that good karma back to you, but we’re a pretty schemey crew, we WILL find a way when my life isn’t so crazy. Until then, I just want you all to know how much I appreciate you all being there for me, my stinky brother and my parents! When I say “luv”, I really mean “love”.

Julianna Banana

P.S. – Thanks for the beautiful song, Andrea! In case you are interested, the song is called “Your Little Girl” by Courtney C. Patty. And you guessed it, Andrea is from the Pflugerville suburb of Austin, TEXAS.

This might be a great time for you to see if you are "Pink Wish Bracelet" material and if you qualify for membership in the S.S.P.W.B.S or "Spwubba-wubba", as we members in good standing refer to it. Should you find yourself accepted, you could find yourself posted on the super cool "PINK WALL OF FAME!" Just imagine adding that to your resume and tell me you won't find yourself on the fast track! To be honest, many people ask about my Pink Wish Bracelet and I'm pretty darn proud to say I haven't taken it off since my own Wall of Fame Induction last July. Each bracelet is a little different and mine has the word "Love" on the beads. Fortunately, I've found that anything bearing the word "love", seems to enhance and make better just about anything I wear. :-)

Check back tomorrow for the first photos of our newest aviary add-ons - who will be known as Julianna Banana and Nicholas Picklus! Proceeds from any offspring produced will be donated to the "Friends of Julianna Banana". Let us hope my new birds go forth and multiply!