Here I am, on a Saturday afternoon, doing what I love best. Hanging out, chomping on a cigar, and writing on my laptop. What a life. I'm pretty lucky, my dialysis treatments are going pretty well, and my sessions have been reduced down to 2 hours 45 minutes. I know that sounds like a long time for people who are healthy, but that's really good for a dialysis patient. It's a little bit harder on my body since they still have to remove 10 lbs of fluid during each treatment, but now they have to do it even less time. So the sessions are a bit more intensive, and I can feel the strain it's putting on my heart. So far I've been able to tolerate it with minimal discomfort, which is a good sign. During the session, I usually read, or watch t.v., or sleep. Sometimes I just kick back and pull out a cigar, and chomp on my favorite stogie while the dialysis machine does its job. My cousin recently asked me how I got started in cigars. I guess by looking at it from the outside, it does seem like a rather "odd" hobby. (gee, couldn't I have picked something more ordinary like stamp collecting….) I know that there aren't a lot of women who are into cigars, but I couldn't help follow my passion and create my own little cigar world. The first time I got turned onto cigars was when I was down in the bay area visiting my cousin Jo-Jo. Her boyfriend, Jim, had some funky old Backwood cigars in his refrigerator. They looked like something the backwood hicks in the movie "Deliverance" would smoke. He gave me one, and I really enjoyed the flavor of the tobacco. Of course, the next logical move was to light it and smoke it. Boy, was I surprised when I hacked up a lung. I learned pretty quickly that smoking a cigar and just chewing on it, were two-way different experiences. But, he let me take one home, and all the way home I chewed on it, unlit. Yummmy!! From then on, I ventured out to the cigar shops near my home. There was this cool cigar shop around the corner from my house, so I stopped by there a couple times and got some inexpensive, freshly hand-rolled stogies. They roll them right in the shop, so I would hang out there and watch them assemble their cigars. They had this HUGE walk-in humidor with thousands of cigars. I'd buy a couple and try smoking them at home. But just about threw up my entire dinner. So, obviously, that didn't work. BUT, what I did notice was that they were wonderful to chew on before lighting them. My interest in cigars evolved from there. I bought a well-constructed humidor for about $40 and started stocking up on different kinds of cigars from all over the world. I bought another humidor and found an online cigar auction. Oh man, now I was in trouble. I probably spent about $1,000 the first year I found the auction site. I spent countless hours surfing the internet, reading up on all things cigars. It was so much fun, and it kept my mind off my illnesses. Pretty soon I realized I had amassed a large amount of information about cigars. One thing that I appreciate about cigars is the craftsmanship involved in creating the perfect cigar. They have master blenders with decades of experience, picking through the tobacco leaves, looking for the most premium leaves. Then they are rolled into identically uniform sizes. One absolutely identical to the next in size, shape, and consistency. By the time they are finished, in my eyes, it's a work of art. I used to take some of my cigars, even the expensive ones, and unroll them and cut them open and see what was inside to study the craftsmanship. I'd have all these cigars, unrolled and opened in piles of tobacco in my bedroom. My mother thought I was crazy, which I don't deny. But, it was so much fun. You could really tell the difference between an expensive or rare cigar versus a cheap machine-made one. I'd also take some of the reasonably priced cigars and infuse them with flavors and aromas to make them into "flavored cigars". I'd infuse them with cinnamon, almond extract, vanilla, and plum wine. They turned out beautifully. (Except when my mom discovered I was using her antique dishes from the Ming Dynasty……the s*it hit the fan.) Sometimes, in the middle of the night (ok, this is where I start getting kinda weird….) when I'm in pain and I can't sleep after a difficult dialysis treatment, I get up out of bed and open up my humidor and rearrange my cigars, and kinda just dust them off, and look at them, and I feel a lot better, and then I can go back to bed. Heh, heh…….I know that sounds kinda whacked, but some days are harder than others, and for some reason, when I hang out with my cigars, it mellows me out. LOL. The best thing about cigars is sharing it with other people. I love visiting my friends and relatives and handing out cigars. My Uncles are really good sports, and they always accept my cigar gifts. Sometimes I give someone a cigar and they have that look on their face of, "What am I suppose to do with this, stick this in my ear?" But most of the time, they just smile and laugh. I also like sending a box full of cigars to the troops in Iraq. Every couple of months I purchase a large handfull of cigars, and pick out some of my favorites from my own humidor, and ship them off to the soldiers in Iraq. It's a great morale booster, and they love getting stuff from home. They usually pass out the cigars to one another, and then kick back together when the evening comes, and smoke away the stress of the day. I've made some nice email buddies that way, and heck, if it makes them feel like home, even just for a few minutes, it's certainly worth it. You would be surprised how a cigar can break the ice, and shows the intent of friendship and camaraderie. One day I was at my dialysis clinic, and I handed a cigar to this gentleman whose wife was on dialysis and dialyzed the same time I did. He didn't speak any English, but it was the oddest thing, when I gave him a cigar, from that day on, he would always wave "Hello" to me. Sometimes, he'd even come up to me and shake my hand and smile at me. We never spoke to each other because of the language barrier, but he always found a way to acknowledge me. His wife died last year, and that was really sad. I miss seeing him, and his wife at the clinic. There's always a small shockwave that ripples through the clinic when someone dies. Apart of me feels happy that they are finally free, and yet, I'm sad because I know that I'll miss them. The other day my friend, "Ken", who does dialysis at the same time I do, heard that I wasn't feeling well, and so he turned to me while we were dialyzing and said, "We'll get through this together." "Ken" is a diabetic who lost his sight and all of his kidney function to his diabetes. Imagine what that takes….to be blind and not have any kidney function…and yet he took it upon himself to help me feel better. That was immensely humbling. So, what I'm learning is that if you are willing to go the distance, all things are possible. Whatever you have to do in this life, do it with friends and people you care about. Have some passion always burning, whether it be cigars, or writing, or drawing, or painting, or dancing or shopping…….and always be grateful for the kindness of others.