If you read this blog regularly. . . you know that I have a . . . thing. . . about September. So I'm quietly celebrating the end of the month today.
Especially because I just returned home from my check-up appointment with my oncologist. Everything is looking a-okay. And I'm "graduating" -- from check-ups every three months . . . to check-ups every six months! Although that's a little scary . . . it also feels great.
Definitely a soundtrack day. . . (And, yeah. I know it's only a cover. But it's a Metallica cover. And Ozzy, himself, is in the crowd. Looking pleased with it all.)
At Hope College, every fall (since 1898), the freshmen and sophomore classes compete in a tug-of-war across the Black River in Holland. I used to hear about this and think . . . how charming! What a nice way to build team spirit and class camaraderie. Oh. My naivete!
The Pull, as it is called, is no charming event! It is a grueling challenge - physical and mental - that is steeped in tradition. Over the 113 years of The Pull (it is the longest-running collegiate event in the country), the art and science of "pulling" have been refined . . . to create quite a spectacle!
Here is this year's freshman team ("Even Years" -- based on the year of their graduation - 2014) in action last Saturday! And my son? Well, he's the first head of dark hair you can see up from the bottom!
Each Pull Team is made up of 18 "pullers" and 18 "moralers." The pullers . . . pull. . . down in the pits . . . in a highly choreographed effort. Their coach is up front (the guy standing in my photo), making strategy decisions and calling the moves. The moralers . . . act as the "eyes" for the pullers -- because they can't see the coach or any of their fellow pullers . . . and basically, keep the pullers going.
Here's Brian, looking for direction from his moraler, Christy.
And how long does this go on? Well. . . until one team takes the rope of the other team . . . or three hours. Whichever comes first!
What's going on on this side of the river. . . is also going on on the other side of the river.
The event is steeped in tradition. The "even years" wear red shirts and painted blue jeans and bandanas. The girls braid their hair. They have black paint under their eyes. (The "odd years" wear maroon shirts and white pants! They shave their heads and paint their faces; some have severe mohawks. I didn't see them. . . because I was on the "even year" side of the river. . . but I have seen photos.) Neither side wears gloves!
Fan support is strong! ("Even years" vs. "odd years" ---- going back for classes upon classes upon classes!)
The Pull Teams practice for three weeks before the event. Intense, grueling training for an intense grueling event! The bond they form as a team, though, is even more intense. Brian says he's never experienced anything like this bond before!
And the moralers? Brian says they couldn't begin to do it without them! The moralers do much more than "cheer" the pullers on (which was my original notion). They are the connection between each of the pullers; they keep spirits up in the darkest moments; they encourage; they tend; they watch. It's also incredibly intense -- and they train alongside the pullers for the event.
I am iron man. . .
Has he lost his mind . . . can he see or is he blind?
Can he walk at all. . . or if he moves will he fall?
In the end. . .
this year's Pull went the full three hours (which means there was no obvious winner -- neither side got the rope of the other team) and had to go to the judge's measurements. The Odd Years won. . . by just a matter of feet. (The sophomore class has a huge experience advantage and typically wins in less than three hours.)
Brian survived. In fact, I would say he thrived. He learned a lot about himself through The Pull -- like how to dig deep within himself; how to REALLY work as a team; how to find stores of energy and mental willpower that he never dreamed he even had!
And as for a Mom's view? Well. I'm really happy he did it. I am SO proud of him. I was a wreck, though. It's hard to watch your child go through something like this! Here's a photo of me that my dad took during the event. . .
keeping my eye on my kid! Especially because. . . the Pull is dangerous! Broken ribs are common; pullers pass out on the ropes; it is not for the weak-at-heart! I appreciated the presence of this guy . . .
who monitored the participants throughout the event. (There have been Pulls in the past that have been "called" because of the health of the participants.)
Anyway, this Mom also got a little teary-eyed from time to time during the event. Like when I saw how Brian had decorated himself with "super Vs" --- a mom/son tradition since his kindergarten soccer days!
(And a chemical structure . . . because he is, after all, a chemist!)
(That's another Super-V there, too!)
And I teared up when I watched Christy, his moraler, so focused and committed to my kid. She was AWESOME!
Wow! What a day! Bud, you ARE an Iron Man! And I couldn't be prouder! No Limits!
Today is the fall equinox. (Of course, in an ironic twist, it is also going to be one of the hottest, muggiest days of the month.) As a knitter, I celebrate fall by bringing out the wool and the alpaca and dreaming about new sweaters. As a gardener, I celebrate fall by planting bulbs and dividing perennials and doing some garden clean-up. And as a cook, I celebrate the fall with the bounty of the season.
I've been a pesto factory! I grow a lot of basil in my garden, and try to keep up with the massive production of basil leaves in the late summer by churning out the pesto.
Although there are a million pesto recipes out there, I stick with a basic, well-tested, classic Italian recipe from America's Test Kitchen.
Just a few, simple ingredients -- basil, parsley, pine nuts, garlic, and good olive oil -- and some flavor-blasting techniques. . . like bruising the leaves of the basil and parsley. . .
and roasting the pine nuts. . .
make a huge difference in the ultimate flavor of the pesto.
Before I go any further with this post, I must share something. This . . .
is the warning on my food processor. It makes me laugh every time I use it. The graphic of the cut-off fingers is just hilarious to me! Anyway. . .
Lovely ingredients. . . make lovely pesto. . .
Some to freeze for later use. . .
and some to eat for dinner!
I also made my first batch of Vicki's Roasted Tomato Sauce. I've been wanting to try it -- and was hoping to be able to use my own tomatoes this year. But, alas. My harvest of tomatoes (other than the cherry tomatoes) was actually quite meager (we will not speak of this). A quick trip to the farmer's market solved my problem. The roasted sauce went from this. . .
to this. . .
to this (after going at it with my immersion blender). . .
So tasty! (Thanks, Vicki.) Now, it's in my freezer - with the pesto. And I'll be able to enjoy the tasty treats of the fall harvest when it's cold and snowing and the ground is frozen (we will not speak of this either).
I talk about this all the time. The Edge. But I don't think I've ever mentioned The Trap Door.
Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I did a wonderful job insulating myself from the fact that . . . someday I would die. Total denial. Like most of us, I think. I just kept planning for the future; thinking about "someday;" developing that long-term plan for my life. Then. BAM! Reality bit. The Curtain of Illusion came down. I could . . . no longer remain in denial.
I went out to The Edge.
After chemo was over and I started (what I hope is) a long, slow dance with NED (No Evidence of Disease), I started stepping away from The Edge. Noticing more of the colors and textures of life; appreciating birthdays and calendars like never before; just . . . going for it. . . more often. That's the "good" part of survivorship -- the appreciation for each day. The "bad" part of survivorship, though, is living with the knowledge that life is limited; that cancer can come back; that there are no illusions.
That's what I call The Trap Door. I usually avoid it, but every once in a while, I fall right through it. I can't usually see it coming, because it's hidden pretty well along that path from The Edge, and I'm walking away at a pretty determined pace. But it's there. Sometimes it opens up and swallows me whole -- in one big WHOOOOOSH.
The Trap Door tends to open up . . .
Whenever a check-up appointment with my oncologist looms. (Check. Later this month.)
Whenever a major cancer-related anniversary appears on the horizon. (Check. Got several of those over the next few weeks.)
Whenever someone I know (even remotely) has a relapse - or dies. From cancer. Especially someone that was diagnosed around the same time that I was. (Check. Three times this month. Unfortunately.)
So. . . I'm down here in the dark place right now. Through The Trap Door. Not to worry, though. The Trap Door opens less and less often all the time. And it's hard to stay in the dark when there are pansies to plant.
Sorry, folks. . . but this week's Ten on Tuesday topic - Ten Reasons to Watch Football - just doesn't work for me. Because. . . I don't watch football. At all. I can't even find ONE reason to watch football.
I've had my iPod Classic for a long, long time. It works great (although the screen is getting wonky and the battery won't hold a charge) . . . but . . . it's a brick! Not very easy to take along on long walks or for workouts. So I decided to get a Nano -- just in time for the release of the "6th generation."
Wow. It's small. I hope I don't lose it.
Enjoy your football. I'll just listen to my music. Or an audiobook. Or a podcast. Thank you very much!