100 at 65

Vicki Anne Bozzola with her mother, Jane; February 1953

Arbitrarily, we deem specific anniversaries more significant than others. The numbers that would seem the most noteworthy are the primes, but we have opted to recognize the boring and uncreative numbers instead. We celebrate multiples of 5 and 10 for birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and other milestones. And of course, we offer special recognition to milestones that confer new privileges–16 for driving, 18 for voting, and 21 for buying alcohol and handguns.

Today, I observe two of these arbitrary anniversaries. Most significantly, I turn 65–a multiple of 5 that previously also conferred eligibility for Social Security retirement benefits; I’m a little too young for that entitlement, but a shiny new Medicare care is already in my wallet (actually, it’s paper and not shiny at all). Coincidentally (well, with a bit of foresight), this post also represents my 100th since Just(e) Words made its debut in May 2016.  Continue reading

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Pas Moi

In a little over four months, the United States has turned into a Kafka novel. Amazingly, it was only on October 5 of last year that The New York Times broke its story of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and October 14 when I wrote about my own horrified reactions. I could never have predicted what a circus would ensue–laughable in its details until one considers the lives forever upended by the accusations of a growing mob of women clamoring for their 15 minutes in the spotlight. Continue reading

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Days +1 to +1,097–and Counting

(continued from yesterday’s “Happy (Third) Birthday, Pavel”)

Although the months and years of uncertainty regarding insurance coverage and treatment and prognosis took a big toll on our lives, the days and weeks immediately post-transplant were some of the most difficult of the entire seven years since Pavel was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.  He had to remain in the transplant unit for about two weeks as his blood counts slowly recovered and another two weeks in Chapel Hill for frequent monitoring at the clinic. He was weak and fatigued, and he had lost his senses of smell and taste. He had severe restrictions of activity and diet for at least entire six months.  He could not work in the yard, clean the litter boxes, or be around crowds. He had to wear a mask when he left the house and could not eat raw fruits and vegetables–or sushi! And of course there was the endless waiting for the next CT scan, the next blood test, the next visit to the oncologist. Continue reading

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Happy (Third) Birthday, Pavel!

Today, we celebrate the third anniversary of my husband’s stem-cell transplant–also known as his new birthday, January 20, 2015. Clearly, this day was a significant milestone in Pavel’s life and in our relationship. I believe, however, that telling the story might also be of benefit to others. Some might find the procedure itself as fascinating as I do–the details of a medical miracle unfolding day by day. Others–those diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and the ones who care for them–might gain strength or hope from learning of one man’s multi-decade battle with cancer. Mostly, though, I would like to share with everyone the dailyness of the experience. A diagnosis of cancer need not shape one’s life. Rather, it can be just another of the many challenges one must meet with grace, face with dignity, and learn from with humility. It can even be a source of inspiration and gratitude. These are the lessons I have learned from two husbands with cancer and from all the courageous men and women who shared the same experience and often turned it into a blessing in the lives of others. Continue reading

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St. Roch: A Lesson in Faith

According to the Golden Legend (translated into English by William Caxton in 1483 as The Lives of the Saints), St. Roch/Rocke was born in the 14th century into a noble family in the city of Montpelier. His parents had prayed for an heir, and when their son was born, he had a small cross on his left shoulder, “a token that he should be acceptable and beloved of God”; the cross grew as he grew. Continue reading

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Celebrate: Advent Word 23 (but it’s Christmas!)

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Believe: Advent Word 22

December 24, 2017
This morning, we awoke on the last Sunday of Advent. We opened the final window of the Advent calendar, lighted the fourth candle of the Advent wreath, and sang for the last time during this liturgical cycle, “Come, thou long-expected Jesus.” In place of a Psalm, we read Canticle 15, The Magnificat. The Gospel reading, Luke 1:26-38, told of the Annunciation–Gabriel’s visit to Mary to tell her that she would give birth to the Son of God. And the powerful sermon by the Rev. Jim Melnyk began with a meditation on that miraculous encounter, when like Mary, the angel Gabriel trembled as he awaited the “thoughtful yes of a young girl.” The priest invited us to be similarly open to the coming of the Lord into our own lives and encouraged us to breathe our own thoughtful and longing yes on this last day of Advent anticipation. And then we sang, “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” that haunting Advent hymn that ends with the glorious promise, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” Continue reading

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Child: Advent Word 21

For me, today’s word–child–symbolizes in ways poignant or tragic, depending on my mood, all the things I don’t have. Turning 28 was more traumatic to me than 50 or even 60 because at that time, 28 was the upper age limit for acceptance into medical school, and I was working at Kmart with no hopes of achieving my lifelong dream; 28 was also the age at which my mother gave birth to me, her first child, and I had married a man with a vasectomy, relinquishing all hope of achieving the more precious goal of motherhood. Continue reading

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Greeting: Advent Word 20

Four times in his letters, Paul counsels the early Christians to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, and 1 Thessalonians 5:26). Likewise, Peter urges, “Greet one another with a kiss of love” (1 Peter 5:14). This ancient form of Christian greeting has been formalized as part of the eucharistic liturgy since at least the 2nd century, and in our current practice, it occurs at the end of the liturgy of the word as a gesture of reconciliation when the celebrant intones, “May the peace of the Lord be always with you,” and we respond, “And also with you.” Continue reading

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Renew: Advent Word 19

The new moon, as its name suggests, renews itself; how marvelous it is in this change, a beacon to the hosts on high, shining in the vault of the heavens! (Sirach 43:8)

From the Apocrypha comes this apt metaphor to represent the renewal we seek during this Advent season of contemplation and preparation. To astronomers, the new moon by definition cannot be seen from Earth; the moon is in conjunction with the sun, its dark side facing the earth. Thus, the photograph I attached does not, in fact, depict the new moon, but only the barest sliver of light as the moon’s face emerges from the darkness of the new moon and begins its monthly journey around the Earth. Continue reading

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