Bake It Happen: Pink Pumpkins, Sweet Treats and Raising Money for Breast Cancer Awareness

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It’s October – there’s a chill in the air, the leaves are starting to change, pumpkin flavored everything has invaded every food establishment and grocery aisle – and it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Last year, my friend Shari Brooks and her sister, launched a brand new campaign that took a very different approach to raising money for Breast Cancer research  – Bake it Happen.  Due to the tremendous success of that first year, Bake it Happen is happening once again – with the same premise, only bigger, better, and sweeter.

The idea is the same – bake it, share it, win it (and trigger donations and awareness at the same time.)  This year you can choose from 3 of the recipes from bakeithappen.net:

Simply bake the MyJudytheFoodie treat of your choice, and share it with the people in your life – and on social media with the hashtag #BakeitHappen.  Every time you share a pic of your Bake it Happen moment a $2 donation will be made to the Pink Pumpkin Patch Foundation for Breast Cancer Research.  (yes, pink pumpkins really exist – naturally!)

pink pumpkin

And, you will be entered to win an iPad Mini and 3 months of Baked by Melissa Mini of the Month Club.  

We baked up pumpkin brownies, with a slight variation – making them more like pumpkin blondies with chocolate chips – but super delicious just the same!

Check out the campaign at bakeithappen.net and start sharing and raising money now!  (and isn’t it so much better than dumping a bucket of ice on your head?)

Bake it Happen for Breast Cancer Research

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I recently had a discussion with my daughters about friendship.  It’s hard to explain to an 11 year-old that friendships ebb and flow, and more importantly, that if you keep your heart open you will continue to make new friends throughout your life.

Some of your friends will stick.  Some won’t.  And that’s okay.  It doesn’t diminish the power of the friendship you had in that time of your life.

If you’re lucky you will have one or two great friends.  If you’re really lucky you will continue to stumble upon those rare people with whom you immediately click – the ones that maybe make you believe in past lives – in all phases of your life.  The ones that feel like family.

I have been that lucky, and I know how special and rare it is.

When my daughters were born I was the only one of my friends to have a baby (babies!).  My cousin, with whom I am extremely close, also had a baby, just a few week before me, but she lived in Michigan.  So aside from talking on the phone all the time, I didn’t have “mom” friends.  And, because I had twins, the thought of schlepping to baby groups between pumping, and feeding, and changing, and wrapping them up to take naps – while also being social in some carpeted basement of the Y, was really more than I could bear.

So, I was nervous when my girls finally started preschool and there were all of these other MOMs.  And, most of the time, it was just me and the nannies.  I seemed to be the only stay at home mom on the Upper West Side – but really it was just the blur of drop off and separation that made it seem so.  Eventually, I met the other moms – at the school auction, at the endless school parties, at playdates.  And I don’t know how it happened, but I met some of the best women I will ever know.  I am still amazed that we were all randomly put into this 2 morning a week class together.

One of these women was Shari Brooks.  And while there are a lot of things I could list about Shari that make her, well, her – there is one that tops the list – Shari is a Do-er, not because she wants recognition, and not because she’s keeping a mental tab in her mind of what someone now owes her, but because she really, really has a heart and mind that just go there.  She is continually thinking about what is the right thing to do, the best way to do it, and then just doing it.  It’s not Type A, it’s Type A to Z.  She’s got it covered.

Knowing Shari like I do, it was not surprising to me that she turned her energy towards creating something positive out of the loss of her mom Judy from metastatic breast cancer five years ago.  I feel incredibly lucky that Shari entered my life at a time when I could get to know her mom, even though her mom was sick from almost the moment I met her.  I have never wondered where Shari gets her energy and love of life from because I saw it firsthand in her mom.  Even at her frailest, after years of ongoing chemo and radiation, Judy would come up on the train from Baltimore – by herself! – to spend time with her grandkids, just be with her family and share more experiences.

A while after Judy passed, Shari started an amazing blog called My Judy the Foodie, where she has kept her mom’s memory alive through her mom’s recipes and special meals.  When I met Shari she literally couldn’t boil water.  I once watched her throw pasta into a pot of cold water and then turn it on.  No joke.  So to watch Shari teach herself to cook through doing, and then through sharing, all the while keeping her mom’s memory alive for her kids, and really everyone, has been a real revelation.

Now Shari has teamed up with her equally awesome sister to create another endeavor that will honor Judy and advance the cause of breast cancer research, Bake it Happen (aka Bananas for Boobies, which if you know Shari makes perfect sense, but Facebook doesn’t know Shari that well so they didn’t like it).

This is no 26 mile marathon where you must exhaust yourself to prove you care.  This is not pinkwashing to make companies look like they care.  This is a very basic way to share purpose and care.

  1. Bake a loaf, or two or three, of Judy’s amazing banana chocolate chip loaf.
  2. Take a pic of your fabulous creation.
  3. Then share it on Facebook or email it to bananasforboobies@gmail.com
  4. Then share a loaf in real life.   Take a pic of that too!
  5. You could win an iPad!

Every time a photo is shared a dollar is donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Here’s how we baked it happen last weekend:

See?  Simple, delicious, and meaningful.   Just like good friends.

Head on over now to Bananas For Boobies and Bake it Happen!!!

It’s Not Just Another Walk – A Very Personal Perspective on Why Breast Cancer Walks Matter

Today I’m doing something I’ve never done before – I’m posting a guest post.  As part of the Yahoo! Motherboard‘s recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month I wanted to write something that would resonate, be authentic and affect people.  The only way I could even fathom doing this was to have my friend Shari write about her incredibly strong, dynamic and loving mom.  I met Shari 6 years ago when our daughters started preschool and I don’t think I ever knew her mom as a non-breast cancer patient.  I am one of those people who believes that good people – truly honest, sincere, rock solid people don’t just happen – they are formed in the best way by their parents.  Shari is one of those people and there is no doubt that her mom helped make her so.  (Her dad’s pretty great too but that’s a whole other side of Shari I won’t get into here…)  I hope you will read Shari’s guest post and be moved in some way to donate or participate in the fight to find a cure.   At the very least, take 5 minutes to reflect on the women in your life and the way they’ve influenced the person you’ve become.

Throughout the years, my mom was always within arms reach. Whether it was setting up my new dorm room, fielding a helpless phone call after a lackluster term paper, or providing that last supportive hug as I whisked off for my honeymoon, no matter what was happening in her own personal life, she never once dodged any of the emotions, needs or complaints I so often (selfishly) hurled in her direction – even while she was battling terminal metastatic breast cancer.

Five years is a very long time to live with metastatic breast cancer.  There are only so many brain radiation and chemo treatments one can handle before they start taking their toll.  Unfortunately, I remember Mom’s very last hospital stay as if it were yesterday.  Outside, the day was crystal clear.   We were all in her hospital room  (the 3rd one in two weeks) and the grandchildren were on the floor obliviously making “Get Well” pictures to hang on her wall.   Mom asked me to comb her hair and to gently apply lipstick and blush so that the kids “Wouldn’t be able to tell” that she was sick.   After I finished, she let out a sigh and stared out longingly at her grandchildren and watched them play.  It would be the last time she would ever see them play.

Mom was my beacon:  a role model for me throughout grade school, college, marriage and motherhood, a friend with whom to share triumphs and fears, a confidante to my innermost feelings.  Home-cooked meals graced the dinner table every single school night.  Her sideline cheers and support buoyed me through every field hockey game and tennis match.   When I swallowed a bottle of pills at age four and was hospitalized for a week, I’m told mom kept vigil by the bedside.   When I transferred schools in sixth grade and feigned illness for a trip to the nurse’s office (and potentially a ticket home) Mom drove in every time and convinced me to stay.

It’s amazing how much about my mom’s life I learned through her death. I always knew Mom was a very private person.  Yet, her funeral boasted myriad outsiders who were somehow touched by Mom; it was my window into her true depth of compassion for others, even during her personal cancer struggle.  The receiving line represented grieving people from all walks of her life:  the Russian manicurist who looked forward to seeing my mom every week for the last eight years (even during her marathon chemo infusion days), the dry cleaning lady who loved receiving my mom’s crafty hand-written recipes each week, teachers from my grade school (over 35 years ago) who worked with her as class mom and were still kept up to date on my milestones, my high school friends from near and far–one of whom finally told me at the funeral that my mom had taken her to get an abortion her senior year in high school – mom never told me she did any of this.

Mom’s quiet strength prevented most people from even knowing she was deeply suffering from a terminal illness.  She always drove herself alone to her multi-hour chemo treatments at the hospital.  Devoid of emotion, she’d “Plug into” her chest port and start reading her favorite book or finish a crossword puzzle. When her hair fell out, she always had new wigs lined up ready to be styled.  When her eyebrows fell out, without hesitation new ones were tattooed on.  With the fifty -pound weight loss came new, vibrant zany outfits.  She didn’t outwardly pity herself.  She wasn’t willing to allow herself to give in.  She was always a pillar of strength to her friends, to her family and to cancer.  After her funeral, I vowed that I would do anything I could to not only preserve her memory but, to also raise money to help fund breast cancer research, awareness and screenings.  So, for the past two years, I’ve amassed a team of courageous women to walk beside me and a thousand other strangers in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day 60-mile walk.

Participating in the 3-day walk is a vicious physical challenge. The medic tents at every stop are always overflowing with people suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, severe “road rash” and blisters—yet, the physical challenge pales in comparison to a cancer patients’ struggles.  The inspirational journey that takes place is beyond overwhelming.   I meet the most interesting people, from motherless children to 3-time survivors.  I hear their intimate struggles with the disease and how it has affected them or someone close.  Complete strangers become instant friends; we bond through something we despise – cancer.  Along the road I laugh with them, cry with them.  We support each other.  We never forget each other and the constant pain this disease has caused.

I walk the grueling 60-miles with Mom by my side, in my head, and in my heart.  I walk attempting to feel just a small part of her pain and her struggle.  I feel her life force as the wind carries me along the winding route. I walk because I am so angry that Mom is missing years of my life and my children’s life.  There will be no more handwritten notes, no more phone calls on my birthdays, no more fresh banana chocolate chip cake awaiting my Thanksgiving arrival.  Her comforting smell is now only preserved in a sterile perfume bottle I took when cleaning out her medicine cabinet.  I walk with a searing pain through my heart remembering my 5-year old son declare he “couldn’t really remember my mom, “Meema. “

I believe that Mom truly benefited from the anonymous effort of strangers who participate in these fundraising events.  Thanks to advancements in drug research (due in part to funding), Mom definitely lived longer than anyone had anticipated -with a decent quality of life.  How can I not be a part of something that can possibly, even remotely, help others live long, fulfilling lives?

The way I try to live my life is the greatest testament to Mom.  She will be an inspiration to me always – in life and in death.

I walk because everyone deserves a lifetime.

I walk because I can.