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It's Carnival Time!

It is Mardi Gras time in Louisiana, and even though I have lived in Georgia for more than three decades, I always miss the mid-winter hoopla, a time to just party and play with wild abandon before lent, the forty days of serious penance and sobriety in preparation for the Easter season. Somehow, I have never adapted to the fact that here in the Peach State, it is just another Tuesday, marked with no fanfare, much less a parade.

I often tried to make it an occasion when I taught high school. I may have brought a king cake to share with my colleagues or played jazz music as my students entered the classroom. Once, I handed out beads and trinkets, and I got a stern reprimand from administration when a few kids caused a bit of a ruckus, tossing them around the cafeteria. How was I to anticipate that?

Two years ago, I was in the chemo chair on Mardi Gras Day, and I brought beads into the infusion room, hoping to make the gloomy atmosphere a little more festive. Most of the patients and staff didn’t get it, unfortunately, and except for the nurse who hung the strands on her supply cart, the whole thing fell flat.

Last year, I learned that the cancer had returned just two days before Fat Tuesday, so the day was spent in worried anticipation of what was next, the merry mood replaced with uncertainty and fear. But as I have come to understand, time manages to change a person’s outlook on just about anything. Like the waves of the ocean, life ebbs and flows. We have good times; we have bad times. That much i know for sure. And yes, what a difference a year makes.

So this Carnival season, I am making up my own rules for celebrating. I am planning a little party for my girlfriends, an evening of fun and foolishness and food (and wine, of course), because every once in a while, you have to stop acting like a responsible adult person and get a little crazy. Besides, one should never postpone having a good time, right? And if you can share the frivolity with people who truly care about you, that’s an added bonus.

I bought fresh flowers and decorated the house in purple, green, and gold. There are clean sheets on the guest room beds, "just in case." I expect that the laughter will last well into the wee hours of the morning, and I am looking forward to it.

I am making gumbo for the occasion. As I make my list of ingredients to buy, I am reminded of the richness of my heritage. The idea behind Cajun cooking is to take something commonplace and turn it into something extraordinary.

I figure that is a pretty good motto for living well, too. Let’s face it: most of our days are filled with simple moments, the mundane and the routine. It is up to us to see the special among them, to celebrate each day. It is one of the many lessons that having cancer has taught me. I try to remember it. We all should.

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