Monday, September 7, 2009

Banishment Works

We call this the Mormon Pantry. A lot of houses in Utah have a set-aside space for big-time food storage, in keeping with LDS doctrine. Ours is a luxurious concrete room all its own in the basement, complete with customized shelving. The previous owners (who were Mormon) had this crammed to the gills with canned goods sufficient to survive the second coming. You can see that we just have some paper towels in there. Actually, this is also where we keep the beer. You just can't see it - it's around the corner. Sometimes when there's surplus ketchup, that'll go there, too.

I'm bringing this up because my kids have been skating on thin ice with me lately. Particularly with the squabbling. And the way Nathan whacks Sara. And the way she provokes him to hit her. And the mouthy stuff. And they were such cute babies...

I know a lot of this is normal sibling stuff. They are actually not as bad as my younger brother and I were. No one has suffered any blood loss, after all. Simon and his brother were also at each other's throats. But now, I'm the parent.

Other signs that my kids are on the slippery slope to Hell:
  1. Nathan was playing with Sara and one of his little friends in the back yard, and Sara would not help him climb into a tree. He screamed, "YOU BITCH!!" at her. Hooo, boy. I had to send him into the house. I let his friend stay and continue playing with Sara, though, hoping that it would rankle. Then Sara went and stood under his bedroom window and threw paper airplane at it, to taunt him.
  2. I had a house full of guests and did something clumsy - spilt something or dropped something. Nate said, "Can't you do anything right?!?" As Si said later, "Great. Now everyone will think that I talk to you that way!"
  3. The final straw was "A Prairie Home Companion", when Garrison Keillor was describing "Why Every Parent Should Buy the Children a Kitty Cat". This is what you will get from a child who is not given the opportunity to cuddle a sweet little kitty cat. The there was a voice-over of this obnoxious, rude, foul-mouthed teenager.

Oh. My. God. And Simon is allergic to cats. So there is nothing to be done except to bring the thunder.

So, the next day when they were fighting on the way to Target, I pulled the car over (remember the crunch of gravel that meant your mom had really pulled over and you were going to GET IT?) and gave them what for. I scalded them with my searing tongue (Actually, to a grown up, that might sound kind of fun...No! Minds out of the gutter and on the task at hand.) I was mean. And I told them that there was to be no time-out in their rooms. Rooms are too fun. The next time one of them needed to be isolated from the light of humanity, exile was to be in the Mormon Pantry.

A-hah! That did it! I could see the fear in their eyes. So I added that I would not be sweeping the spiders out beforehand.

Nate whispered hoarsely, "Of all the rooms in our house, Mom, the Mormon Pantry is my least favorite."

And you know what? It worked! I am reminded of my friend Mary who told her kids all the years they were growing up that she had a wooden spoon in her purse that she would use to beat them. She managed to keep that going for about a decade.

They have been little darlings. Of course, I was waiting to prove that I was serious. Finally, Nate got carried away and smacked Sara's bum. I marched him to the Mormon Pantry and made him sit in there for 7 minutes. He sat quietly (I was a little bummed that he didn't whimper), while I waited out in the rec room.

Afterward, he declared it, "not so bad." He told Sara that it was nice to sit there and look at the soda cans. Maybe I should turn off the lights next time.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Chocolate Requires Instructions?

We were sharing a chocolate bar in the office today. Chocolate so fancy it comes with rules of engagement. We followed them to the letter. We did not want to miss out on any subtleties due to crassness or insensitivity. Here are the instructions.

Breathe...Engage your senses. Take three deep breaths, quiet the chattering mind, (Chattering mind? What chattering mind? Who has a chattering mind? Why do they want to quiet my chattering mind? Is this a death panel?) and be in the present moment. (Huh? Oh. Right.)

See... Don't be deceived by the looks of this bar - it's a milk chocolate of a new variety, blended with a bit of dark chocolate and forest green matcha to deepen the flavor and color.

Smell...Take three deep breaths. (Someone asks if two breaths would be OK. She is shouted down.) Rub your thumb on the chocolate to help release the aromas. (This also helps to melt the chocolate, and no permission to lick fingers is granted.) Inhale deeply. (This is the third time we've been admonished about our breathing. Geeze.)

Snap...Break the bar in two places. Hear a crisp, ringing pop, which indicates a well-tempered bar of chocolate. (We leaned in to hear it. It sounded like any other chocolate bar when you break it. Pretty much inaudible.)

Taste...Place a small piece (or a large one) of chocolate on your tongue and press it to the roof of your mouth. Within thirty secondss, the chocolate square will begin to melt around your tongue.(Realize that this chocolate tastes bad, and no amount of ritualizing of the experience is going to change that. Rinse it down with coffee.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Excuses, Excuses

I thought I had heard them all. Last night, one of my students called in to say that he would be absent that evening because he was fixing his accordion. That's new.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

When Crickets Talk

Is it a sign of madness? That the crickets are talking to me? Maybe as long as I don't answeer back, I'm still OK.

Lately, they have been saying, "Do you want some Gatorade? Gatorade? Some Gatorade?"

No, not really. Could we talk about something else?

Last night, I couldn't sleep, and they would not stop gloating: "Kate's awake. Kate's awake. Keeping Kate awake. Awake. Kate's awake."

Do you hear things when you listen to crickets, or is it just me? I suspect it might be.

What do they say to you (you f***ing nut-case)?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Straitjacket



I am in the midst of a power-struggle with my new running bra.

I don't like it much. I have been wearing one of those "smash-'em-flat" running bras for 20 years, so maybe I am just being inflexible; but Dr. Perfect was very specific about the sort of bra I have to have if I want to start running again. No smashing the art installation he has created on my chest, please.
I went to Gart's, found this Valkyrie-style thing he wants me to wear, and took it into the changing room. My range of motion is still not quite recovered, and the bra has a bizarre design. Anyway, I ended up trapped in it, writhing like a fish on a hook with my arms pinned straight up in the air . Where the hell was Simon?! I whisper-yelled for him, but he was out of earshot. I was in a lather and about to cry with frustration when a woman whipped open the changing-room door, causing me to shriek like a...girl. "OH, MY GOD, I AM SO SORRY!" she gasped, goggling at my compromised position and Frankenstein torso. Damn! She was gone again before I could ask her to GET ME OUT OF THIS THING.
It really wasn't fair to be mad at Si. He was innocently wandering in the camping section and was confused when I emerged, pink and sweating, with Medusa-like hair and a homicidal expression. Poor guy. How could he know that I had not only exhausted myself getting the bra off, but the added exertion of whapping the bra-from-hell on the floor of the changing room about 15 times, in a rage.
I've moved on from this experience, which is why it really seemed unfair to be similarly stuck this afternoon. I am getting a little better at disentangling myself, but not much. I was just home from a workout, writhing and sweating my way out of the straitjacket when Sara came barging into my room without knocking to complain about something Nathan had done. Right behind her was her little friend, J., who froze in horror at my bare, scar-covered boobs. "Can't you see I'm busy fighting with my bra? Get out!"

Saturday, August 22, 2009

No Clue


There. Mystery solved! It was Mrs. Peacock in the Ballroom with a knife. Can we just stop playing this endless, boring game? Nate had no daycare yesterday, so I stayed home with him. He loves this game. I would rather break rocks than play Clue. I would rather wake up with a pounding hangover. I would rather spend two hours looking for a minute error in a vast spreadsheet. I would rather sit in an ER waiting room, all day, with nothing to read. I would rather wear sand-filled tennies.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

He Needs Dreadlocks

Simon bought seven-year-old Nathan a Real Salt Lake team jersey yesterday. I came home from evening class to find Nate asleep with it clutched in his little fist. As soon as he woke up this morning, he looked at me conspiratorially and said, "I got something really special yesterday." "Oh, yeah? What?" "I'm not going to show you, yet. Go wait for me in the kitchen." He came out wearing the jersey, so I called him Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake's team captain). His ears turned pink.
Here's the real Kyle Beckerman.

As you can see, Nathan has a way to go. But he now has the shirt. That's a start. He is thinking that the hair would be the sensible next step. He is a bit shaggy at the moment; and he likes to mess it up in the privacy of his room, hoping it will form dreadlocks, a la Beckerman. If only we weren't going to Wisconsin to visit Grandma and Grandpa in a couple of days. Grandma isn't a big fan of dreads.

Sara just had to burst his bubble tonight. "You better start brushing your hair again, you know." "What for?" "If your hair looks like that when we get to Wisconsin, Grandma is going to...DEAL with it." "Deal with it?" "She's gonna take you to the Style-Mar. You'll get a lady hair-cut and she'll make you sit in one of those chairs that puts the plastic container over your head."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mommy Dearest, Episode XXII

OK, blog buddies with kids, let's take a poll.

I make a luscious pitcher of iced tea. I brew it, using a blend of chai and regular tea; then leave it out to cool overnight; then put it in the fridge so it is waiting for me after a long day at work.

Do my 10- and 7 -year-old children get to drink it? I tried to tell them that this was MOM's SPECIAL TREAT. "Don't worry, Mommy. We'll make more!" Uh-huh.

They drink it all and when I get there, the pitcher is empty.

Am I obligated to share my iced tea with my offspring?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Put a File In a Cake...

Dear Utah State Office of Education,

I just want you to know that I'm going to die soon. I'll die of bureaucracy overload while you rend your clothes and wail. You'll feel bad after I'm gone.

You'll stand at my grave and cry to the wind, "Kate! I know now why Raquel Hornedo came mysteriously un-scheduled from your evening class. I can't believe I didn't listen when you came to me for help. I will make it my life-long mission to discover why you get an "ERROR" message every time you try to enter Pilar's long term goal on the goals page." But you'll get no answer. I hope that torments you.

This is why I can't blog! I can't read my friends' blogs. I'm being oppressed. This is a cry for help! Come and free me. I'll give up adult education and become a pet psychic instead.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Missing Edie

Well, this was not how we planned it, huh, Edie?

Your breast cancer diagnosis came only a few days after mine, and we sat on the sofa at your place laughing because we were cradling our left arms in identical discomfort. You ran out of Lortab - I had some to spare. The deal was that we would pester each other along until we were both well. I'm almost there; you still had a long way to go.

I wasn't totally delusional. I knew your condition was life-threatening. Of course, I knew. But I had dumb ideas about cancer, I guess. My misperception was that you would finish all of the treatments, and then we would see. Maybe you would be cured (the magic word that doctors never really say to cancer patients); and if the cancer recurred, there would be plenty of time to try again. Or plenty of time to say good-bye.

It didn't really occur to me that anything could happen so quickly. How could you be feeling so great last weekend? (I mean, we were CAMPING, for Pete's sake. Drinking gin and tonics, goofing around with your wig collection.) How can it be that you could wake up in the wee hours of Wednesday with an infection and be dead by Friday morning? It's like Patty said: "I still owe her $6 for the lunch she picked up on Tuesday."

I simply can't hold on to the idea that you're gone. I tell myself over and over. Edie's dead. No more Edie. Get it? No more Edie. I try it on with all different wordings and tones of voice. It skids right off my brain. I don't even cry much. I spent Friday lying on my bed, staring at the wall; the weekend staring straight ahead, waiting to understand. I'm sure it will start to sink in soon. I talked to Mark tonight. He says he's in shock. Maybe that is what I'm feeling - shock?


It isn't fair that I got off so easy and you didn't. I get no enjoyment just now from knowing that I'm getting better, 'cause you're not. And I know what you would say if you were here. "Here she goes again! You're doing it, you know. God, you are SO BAD this way! You over-think everything. You just mind-fuck yourself." One of the things I liked best about you was that you were free of that self consciousness that is such a problem for me. What do they think of me? Will I be judged? Will every one approve? You expected acceptance for who you were, with no varnish and no pretence. You spoke your mind without second thoughts. I never had to wonder what was on YOUR mind, that's for sure!

I'm an atheist, you know. It's very sad to be an atheist when someone dies. There is none of the comfort of believing in an afterlife, or a better place, or reincarnation. There is just a...lack. Deals made and dissolved; and big, ugly holes where you are supposed to be.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Who Chooses These Books, Anyway?

OK. This has been making the rounds on Facebook, but I thought I'd rather put it on my blog.

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

50 for me. I have to say, though, that the person who compiled this list must have been doing it between tequila shooters. Oh, never mind. The British don't do tequila.

Wanna play? Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read.

1 Pride and Prejudice -X (A bunch of times. Love it! And you know the movie version with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy? Pant! Pant!)
2 The Lord of the Rings - x
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte - x (This is another one I never get tired of.)
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (The whole enchilada, twice!)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee - X
6 The Bible -(Wha-? The whole thing?)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte - x
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell - X
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (I skimmed it to prepare for an exam. I don't think that counts.)
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott - x (With my friend Lisa Waltenberry in 7th Grade. We were very sad when Beth died. Do you remember, Lisa?)
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy -X
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller -X
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare - (Oh, c'mon...All of it?)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier -x (Loved it!)
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien - X (Over and over...I have read it aloud to the kids a couple of times, too. I do a great Gollum voice, My Precious.)
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk -
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger -
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger - x
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot -
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell -
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - X
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens -
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy -
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams -
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky -
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck -X (one of the best books ever)
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll -X
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame -X
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy -X
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens -
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis -X
34 Emma - Jane Austen -
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen -
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis - (Not to split hairs, but isn't this one of the Chronicles of Narnia?)
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini - x (I cried all over it.)
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres -
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden - X
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne -X (I love the poetry best)
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell - X
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown - X
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez - x (But I didn't like it. Sorry.)
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving - X (And don't be put off by the STUPID film version that came out a few years ago. The boook is fantastic.)
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins -
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery -X (I was a big fan. So is Sara.)
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy -
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood -
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding - X
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan -
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel -
52 Dune - Frank Herbert -
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons -
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen -X
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth -
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon -X
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens - X
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley -
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon -
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez -X
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck - X (So short. So beautiful.)
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov -
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt -
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold - X (Is this meant to be a classic??)
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas-(No. But I would like to...)
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac - (Tried. Hated it.)
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy -X
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding -x (Another classic. One for the ages. Ahem.)
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie -
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville - (Forget it. Life's too short..)
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens - X
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker -(Not yet, but I plan to this year.)
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett -X (But "A Little Princess" is better.)
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson -
75 Ulysses - James Joyce -(Literature shouldn't hurt)
76 The Inferno – Dante -X (I love all those levels of Hell.)
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome -(My MIL loves it. I couldn't get into it.)
78 Germinal - Emile Zola -
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray -
80 Possession - AS Byatt –X (Incredible! Challenging. Byatt is a genius.)
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens - X (God bless us! Ev'ry one!)
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell -
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker - x
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro -
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert -
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry -
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White - x (Don't even ask how many times. Still makes me cry.)
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom - X (But, oh barf! What a complete load of tripe.)
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton -
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad -
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery - x (Well, I didn't like it, though.)
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks -
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams - x (A bunch of times, and I'm reading it to the kids right now.)
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole -
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute -
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas -
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare - X
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - x
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo -X (A project, for sure.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Five Good Things Today

1. Pasta salad for supper with cherry tomatoes, green grapes, basil, feta, balsamic vinaigrette.
2. Searching for late peas on my pea vines.
3. Getting the last of my stitches out and being told that I can take Ibuprofen instead of Lortab.
4. Watching Si iron, shirtless. I'll bet most guys don't know it, but that's sexy.
5. Kissing my favorite spot on Sara's damp, salty forehead.

What were five little things that made you happy today? Contribute your list.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Grapefruit

Well, small-ish grapefruit. Or large oranges?

Not like Maxi Mounds, here. But this is precisely how I feel. Except I can't raise my arm, yet.

The pain from my surgery is diminishing. I'm a little tired and a little sore, is all. I can't wait to feel well enough to get back to the gym. Maybe next week?

Ever since the mastectomy, I have been checking out everyone else's boobs. The track on which I run at the rec center is elevated, circling the gym and providing a view onto the floor below. For the last several months, they have been holding a Zoomba class down there, so I run laps while the ladies (and an occasional guy) shake their jiggly bits to Latin fusion. From above, I get a view right down the shirt of every woman there, so it's been a smorgasbord of boobs right there under my nose. Literally.

I think to myself, "Honey, you have a great set! I wonder if I'm going to end up with cleavage like that? Actually ANY kind of cleavage would be awesome."

"Those ones are too big.......a little too big.......too small.......Ah-hah! There! There's a set I'd like!"

So, OK. I have my new boobs now, and they are freaking me out. I sort of thought that this would be a fun stage. Mostly, it's just weird. It's a little bit like someone stapled a couple of mangoes to my chest. I can't feel them. When I walk past a mirror, I do a double-take. What the hell!?!? I usually stop and peer at them. You know when you hold a mirror up in front of a cat? Like that. A couple of times, I have tried to open a closet or cupboard, and been puzzled as to why it is stuck. My boobs are in the way, and I can't tell. I back up an inch and open the cupboard.

I am a little bit afraid of them. Dr. Perfect told me that every time I go to the bathroom, I should reach my arms across my chest, grab the outside of each breast and push upward and in a few times. This is to prevent scar tissue. I dread these exercises, because I can feel the new twins with my hands, but they register nothing. I will admit, though, that they are sort of soft and nice. They are warm like the rest of my skin. I will get used to them. Maybe when the feeling comes back to the right side (formerly known as Tater-Tot, but in need of another moniker, now) in a couple more weeks, they will seem less bizarre. Leftie won't have any feeling for a year or two, but I can deal with that if I can feel the other side.

Now, [vigorous rubbing together of hands] this is the part where I emerge from the turmoil of the last several months and get my life back. Before The Knee and The Cancer, I used to have interests, a sense of humor, a social life, a marriage. I have come somewhat unmoored from all these little anchors. For now, I can stop thinking of myself as a cancer patient. I can go back to being who I was. Or I could change some things. I have a new torso, for heaven's sake! Doesn't that mean all things are possible? I guess I'll at least have to get a new running bra. Maybe we'll start there.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cookie Counterindications

I'm actually blogging from my cool, breezy back patio, watching the sunset light up the mountains. The joys of wireless.

I tried to blog a couple of hours ago, but the Lortab felled me. I toppled over like a puppet whose strings had been cut, and hallucinated that mushrooms were growing out of my thighs. Nice.

Lortab is my best friend just now. Overall, I'm recovering incredibly well: the only thing that hurts at all, really, is my left armpit (I know, go figure...), but it's a screamer. Makes me cry real tears. I ended up in the ER yesterday, being checked for a blood clot in my arm. Nope. No clot. The armpit is doing its own special post-surgical thing, and until it decides to stop, I'm hanging out with the Lortab.

What I can't figure out is why sometimes, I can take a tablet-and-a-half and not even get drowsy; but other times, I practically pass out. My theory centers around the kind of cookie I eat with the pill. Lortab should be taken with food, said Dr. Perfect, and it always seems to not be a mealtime when it's time for a dose. Since I have to take it with SOMETHING, cookies are my drug transportation device of choice. After some empirical research, my findings are: with a morsel of Harmon's soft gingersnap, no problem. McVities Digestive Biscuit? Total limpness. Thin Mint? Hallucinations. Please, don't be ridiculous and suggest a healthy alternative. I figure I can indulge in a few cookies. Hey, I'm infirm!

They ARE a little difficult to eat on my back, though, which almost caused me some embarrassment yesterday. I was in Dr. Perfect's office, waiting for his opinion about the screaming armpit and fretting a little, as I always do when I have to be examined a few days after surgery. Not being allowed to bathe or mess with his handiwork, I'm rank, sweaty, covered in black adhesive gunk and smears of Vaseline, sporting cryptic magic marker messages across my torso, etc. Strangely itchy, too from...from the...uh-oh. Seconds before the doctor walked in, I realized the source of the itching, pulled out the elastic of the surgical bra and watched a little avalanche of cookie crumbs cascade into my lap. Sooo glad I found that before he did.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

They Call It "Exchange Day"

Sorry, Sara. I'm going to have to cut these off in a minute. Sara tied these little string bracelets on my wrist when I was still too weak from my mastectomy to even sit up. We're surprised they have lasted this long. I told her, "By the time they drop off, I'll be better!" I'd love to leave them on, but my reconstructive surgery is tomorrow. They are going to take out the horrible tissue expander and put a nice soft silicone thingy in there; then they'll do a couple of things to my other side to even things up.

Of course, this is a good thing... I have become used to the tissue expander, but it is a little alarming to look at. It's this big, perfectly hemispherical thing with a huge honkin' horizontal scar right across it. When we were riding through London, Sara looked up at the soaring dome of St. Paul's Cathedral and said, "This looks familiar. Oh, yeah, Mom - I've seen it on your chest."

Okay, okay. I accept that it has to be done. But geeze. I feel so good just now. This evening after work, I tried to squeeze in as much activity as I could. I made a gorgeous salad with roasted beets, blue cheese and toasted walnuts. I worked out in the garden: picked peas and lettuce (please come over and take some lettuce); put in some cages for my beans to climb. I made a homemade salt scrub (OMG, it was easy! I can't believe I was dishing out money for it before.); painted my toenails purple with sparkles so I have something cheerful to look at in the hospital; called Mom and told her that we'll be visiting Wisconsin in August (yay!); went to the gym and ran four or five miles. I know now that I won't be able to do any of these things again for a while.

That is the advantage of surgery #2. I get it now. This is going to hurt a lot, and it's going to hurt for a long time. I'm determined not to get depressed again.

But likewise, the disadvantage of surgery #2 is that...well...I get it now. I'm reluctant to give up all the things I like to do, even for a few weeks. I don't want to spend more time lying on the hateful sofa. Drains. Lortab. Prune juice. Bandages in the heat of summer. And even worse, the horror of taking the bandages off and looking at my messed up boobs. Being numb, not just on one side, but on both. It sucks! And most people don't understand. They think reconstructive surgery is HAPPY surgery, somehow. [buzzer sound] Not. But I will get well and look back on the whole thing and think, "Well, I don't have St. Paul's Cathedral on my chest anymore."

Simon is also checking and double checking to make sure that my wedding ring stays at home this time. Wish me luck! I'll be back as soon as I am able. Now I'm off to try out my salt scrub in a long shower and sleep in my bed once more before I'm sleeping propped up on the couch again.

*****
PS. To my local friends who know and are concerned about A.: I haven't heard anything since Friday. No calls, no e-mails. His wife was going to try to get me into the unit to see him, but I guess it couldn't happen. But I'm thinking that no news is good news.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Rest of the Story

I have been a baaaad blogger, and it sucks, because I really do have a lot to tell. I just don't have time to sit down and tell it. I need to get back into this.

First, a little history lesson. When we were visiting the Tower of London, we heard the story of the only time the Tower has ever been invaded. This was by an angry mob in 1381. They were cheesed off about a tax hike and were intent on finding someone who represented the privileged classes to pick on. They encountered poor old Simon of Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was hiding in there, dragged him out and murdered him in a not-very-nice way. They have some cute little shoebox dioramas in the Tower that depict it: dusty-looking fake grass; little dolls all chopping and hacking at a tiny, prone figure; smears of fake blood. It looked like a really stellar elementary school social studies project.

So we're standing there looking at the diorama, and Simon says that he knows what happened to Simon Sudbury's head. I guess that, after his murder, it was taken back to his hometown church. He became a saint and the head was revered as a relic. Simon's dad grew up in Sudbury, and his grandfather was the rector of the church there. He used to entertain Simon and his little brother by unlocking and opening the box containing Simon Sudbury's 14th century skull. I could tell by the look on Nate's face that he was wishing that his great-grandpa were alive today.

Now, I'll tell another story, this one about our good friend, A. We have been friends with A. since we moved to Salt Lake many years ago. This is a relationship so well-worn that he and I often just sit reading the paper and drinking coffee without talking at all. He only lives a couple of blocks away, so he is always coming over to hang out, making me roll my eyes with his awful puns. You know, the utterly taken-for-granted type of friend who picks things out of the pan while you are cooking.

He was over here a couple days before we left on vacation, but the day we flew out, he...got burned somehow. As soon as we got back, his wife called to tell us that he had been in a medically induced coma at the University Hospital Burn ICU for the past couple of weeks. Third degree burns on 63% of his body. I went straight over to their house and his wife and I sat at the kitchen table with a box of Kleenex between us. I asked her what happened, and she said she didn't know. He was outside and must have caught fire somehow. She told me that he ran inside and upstairs, and climbed into the shower. That's where she found him, with his skin falling off. What was he doing, I asked? She says she doesn't know. She said that, after she found him, she called a friend, and the friend drove A. to the hospital.

I wish I could just accept this at face value. But there are some things that are not hanging together for me. Why did she call the friend and not 911? Why can't she figure out what happened to him? You would think there would be a smoking gun of some sort. The lawnmower out on the drive. The grill with its propane unhooked. A can of paint-thinner spilled on the garage floor. A matchstick! A lighter! A live wire? I guess it's beside the point. Right? After all, the only thing that matters is whether he is going to live or not. So why do I feel like I need the rest of the story?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside...

Today, we took the kids over to Brighton to see the sights and to practice battling the crowds for a place on the sidewalk in preparation for tomorrow's journey to London.

FIL dropped us off at Angmering station this morning, and we took the train, in order to avoid parking in Brighton. I guess that, if you get stuck in the pricier parking lots, you aren't allowed to leave until you spin straw into gold. The trains are all so...shiny...compared to how they were when I lived here in the '80s. And automated. The doors slide shut without benefit of a guard to walk down the platform and slam each one like they used to. Of course, the old fashioned approach does prevent the mishap we witnessed today, when two mothers boarded with toddlers and strollers. Well, not the toddlers, actually. Somehow, the mothers boarded with their strollers and left the toddlers on the platform just long enough for the doors to slide shut and the train to glide away from the station. The next several minutes were memorable for all of us in the car, especially the guard, whose only comment was, "Strooth, strooth, strooth..."

Here we are at Brighton station. Quite a bit bigger than Angmering. The kids were impressed. They haven't seen London Victoria yet.


We visited the Brighton Pavilion. So, as I understand it, George IV (so we're talking beginning of the 19th century) was a bit of a party animal. He liked the scene at Brighton and bought a little house down there, so he could carouse out of sight of George III. One thing led to another, and he had an addition built onto the house, and then another, and then a couple more. The result was this.

His tastes ran to the exotic. I guess you could say this is the Taj Mahal of Sussex. The interior in incredible. I couldn't take my own pictures, of course, but I found some images.It actually is restored to its former glory, and the rooms really look like this. Here is a photo of the kitchen as it looks today. Even the kitchen got palm tree pillars. Loads of copperware in there. I was dazzled by the many pudding molds available to his majesty. The kids were even more impressed, though, as Simon told them that those were the king's sand toys.
His niece, Victoria, was not so stuck on Brighton. Whereas George IV liked to be out among the townspeople, Victoria thought that Brighton was somewhat trashy for a royal vacation spot. This is the only property of the crown ever to have been put on the real estate market. Can you imagine trying to sell the thing? Well, nowdays the Sultan of Dubai would buy it, but back then the only taker was the city of Brighton. So it was a hospital, a civic center, a tea house, etc... until it was a huge restoration challenge. Now a triumph, although there is always scaffolding to be found on some part of the building.
OK, down to the pier we go.

First, a moment of sympathy for the old west pier. I have been watching it slowly return to nature for years now. Soon, it will just topple into the sea.

The kids loved these dumb coin-push games. I don't know how to describe them, except to say that they are designed to give you just enough of a return on your coin input to keep you additively playing. I admit that I became caught up in the thrill myself.

But my big moment was playing the Diving Dolphin game. Years ago, when I worked at the carnival in Littlehampton, I ran a game almost totally identical to this, called the Kentucky Derby. You know the game where you roll balls up the ramp, they fall through holes and make your horse gallop across the booth? That was my summer job. Same thing here, only with dolphins. Well, and at five times the price it was in 1987. Sara and I payed two games. She kicked my ass both times.
I'd better not ramble on any more. Si was lurking for awhile, wanting the computer. Now he has turned out the light and gone to bed.We are off to London first thing in the morning. More photos when I get back. By the way, am I the only person who gets really frustrated when putting photos on my blog? Each one loads at the very top of the entry and has to be dragged into place. They should fix that. Humph.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Best Of Britain

Whew! It has not been that easy to find time to post, and I have loads of pictures and adventures to relay. We have visited castles and ruins, the Downs and the shore. Lots of bicycling and exploring. Now that I am getting my jet-lag under control and can stay up past 8:00 PM, I will try to post most days. Tonight, I do want to dedicate some time to things I like and don't like about England. Or maybe these things are unique to MIL and FIL. I need to hang out with Brits that are not psycho, so I will know.

Shall we start with my in-laws? NOT my favorite part of England. Nate gets up off the sofa, and MIL has to go over there and straighten the cushions. I come in for a minute and lay my purse and jacket across the chair, and I will return five minutes later to find the purse stuck in a cupboard ("where it's safe") (from whom?) and my jacket hung in my bedroom closet upstairs.

She has finally agreed to allow me to prepare a meal. I asked her about what she and FIL might like to eat and told her I would go to the farmer's market in the morning. She told me that she had already bought all the ingredients needed for me to make spaghetti.

There is a fearful symmetry in this house. Observe.


The whole house is like that. While we were out today, she had a little tidy-up and arranged all of our stuff to make it symmetrical. This includes tidying the bathroom windowsill so that Simon and I each have a nicely delineated area. See how she's lined up everything on a little tray? Of course, this afforded her the opportunity to go through all my toiletries. I notice that my pills have been moved to the forefront. I'll bet she wants me to know that she knows all my dirty little drug secrets. How boring if she were to discover that she's looking at vitamins and Ibuprofen.


Other random observances of life in England.... I like the electric kettle. It heats as well as the one I have at home, and it has this blue light.


I like bread bags. The British are good at maximizing space. Of course, this works better when the shelves are set back a little from the cupboard door.

I don't like all the ridiculous security measures. This is an interior door. Every night, we have to exit this room, so MIL can close the door, latch the door, lock the door with a key and pull a drape across it.


I am not able to photograph water pressure, but if I could... It generally takes three tries to flush the toilet. If I am showering and Si turns on the bathroom tap, the shower stops entirely. While we are talking about plumbing, let's discuss the taps.



Now, 20 years ago, when I lived in England, "mixing taps" were almost unheard of. You had two taps, hot and cold; and to wash your face, you filled a basin. And that was fine. Now you can see that we have hot and cold water coming out of one tap - sort of. This is the cold water coming out. See how it comes out of the right side of the tap? If I were to show you the hot water, it would be coming out of the left side of the tap. This means that, if you turn on a little of each and put your hands under the tap your hands will scaldfreezescaldfreeze. So, you fill a basin.

I do not like window treatment overkill. Is this England, or is this my MIL? Of course, England wouldn't be England without the ubiquitous lace curtains. But lace curtains plus blinds plus drapes? Every window in the house is the same. MIL goes all around the house at exactly 8:00 PM (or whenever sunset occurs) and closes every blind and every drape.

I like airing cupboards. I think the real reason for these is that many Brits dry their laundry on the line, and there isn't enough time between rain showers to get he wash actually dry. [BTW, I like the clotheslines, too. MIL has one of the umbrella variety that folds up for storage in the garage. ] So the half-dried wash retreats to the airing cupboard to finish drying. That unit in there makes the whole cupboard very warm. Also a great place to hang damp towels. Except, I invariably finish my shower, look for my towel, am unable to find it on the rail and remember that damn, it's in the fucking airing cupboard.


I like BBC Question Time! This comes on after the evening news. Tonight, the show was aired in Birmingham. The local leaders, party representatives and the Member of Parliament take questions and address the issues of their constituents on national TV. Won't find THAT in the States!
Si is downstairs right now, watching the end of it. The kids are fast asleep, and I am dying to get to bed myself. More to come. It's a cliffhanger here in Rustington, West Sussex. WILL I be able to make spaghetti, using the sauce from a jar that my MIL has supplied for me? WILL the entire Diggins family manage not to bring up the whole breast cancer thing for our entire visit? So far, they have not mentioned it or even hinted at it. Lovely! Maybe it never happened. I imagined the whole thing. Will we be able to stand the suspense as the hours pass tomorrow, awaiting the blessed arrival of their other set of grandchildren? ("Are you excited to see your cousins? Are you excited to see your cousins? See that street corner right there? Do you know that your cousin Holly once stood on that corner and waved to us? Do you think you'll enjoy seeing your cousin? I'm sure she'll tell you all about the time she touched that exact same crayon you are touching right now!")
All this and more in the next installment!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thanksgiving This Year

Five years ago, Simon appeared in an indie movie written and directed by a friend of ours, Topher Horman. Finally, we got to see it at a one-time-only screening at the Tower Theater tonight, so all the glitterati were there.




Corinne and Moira. Corinne plays the barista who says, "It's Mochaccino man!"



Moira and Robert. Robert designed and made cool, authentic-looking labels and graphics.


Here's Simon, his arm candy and his entourage. Si plays "The Heart Attack", manifestation of purest evil. A mere touch from his finger means certain death. In the film, he kills our friend Dolores. Pretty fun to watch Dolores die on screen, finally, watching her rehearse it at dinner parties.

Here's the trailer. Love the fedora! He was pretty effective as the essence of evil; he even creeped some of his fellow actors out. One time, I was at a shoot where they needed extras (And I appear, for a nanosecond! I'm famous now.) and the kids were getting tired, so I waved to Si, got his attention, and called out to him that I was taking the kids home. That I'd see him later. I overheard one actor say to another, "He's married? Holy shit! Isn't she scared to turn her back on him?"

Off to England first thing in the morning, so I had better get to bed. I'll try to post every couple of days while we're staying with MIL and FIL. They always make for good blog-fodder. Pip pip! Cheerio!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Allergies and Irritants

I don't suffer from allergies, but Si sure does. Tonight's thunderstorm is blowing a lot of pollen around, I guess. Sniiiiff...sniiiiiff...sniiiiiiff. It is soft but almost rhythmic. I feel a plaintive wail building. I'm stifling the urge to scream, "Blow your g****mn nose!" Annoying creature.

It has been a day filled with minor irritants, magnified by a dose of PMS and the addition of an excruciating 60 ccs to my tissue expander. It was the last "fill", thank God. Dr. Perfect is delighted. "OK! That gets you to 390 ccs!" I know, I know. I can feel every last one of them.

It hasn't been a really horrible day, but I'll be glad to draw a line under it.
  1. I'm tired. I was up until 3 AM last night/this morning, doing work stuff that needs to be squared away so I can go on vacation at the end of the week. The alarm clock was merciless this morning.
  2. The car spent the weekend at the garage because the "Check Engine" light was on. It is still on.
  3. I have called the newspaper three times in the last couple of days, trying to place a vacation hold. The Salt Lake Tribune has one of those sickly sweet cyber-receptionists to answer the phone and invite you to say simple phrases like "vacation hold", "Diggins", "June 4". Now, I enunciate for a living. I'm an ESL teacher, for Pete's sake! So why is it that I get the "clackity-clack" of the pretend person doing pretend data entry on a pretend keyboard, followed by, "I'm sorry. We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please call again later." She does sound truly regretful.
  4. Of the six students with whom I need to speak, only two of them still have the phone number they had at the beginning of term.
  5. The numbering and outlining functionality on my computer at work is being totally disobedient.
  6. My lunch leaked into my tote bag, which now smells powerfully of chili sauce.
  7. Why is it that, every day, when I say, "Time to pick up your toys and get ready for bed." I have to listen to the same old s***? "Nathan, I am not picking up those Lincoln Logs. YOU got those out." "I did not, you giant fart-face." "MOM! Nate called me a giant fart-face..."
  8. Why is it that Nate waits to go poop until the last...possible...second, resulting in a sprint to the bathroom (squeezing his butt-cheeks together with his hands), skid mark in his undies, skid mark on the toilet seat, annoyed parent?
  9. I drove all the way out to Draper and waited 20 minutes to see Dr. Leather-Loafer, to be told that he was at the hospital and wouldn't be back for half-an-hour. Just as I finish scheduling a new appointment and am heading out the door, he comes dashing in as if pursued by the hounds of hell. "Sorry! I'm here! I'm here!" Geeze, he acts as though I was about to take a knife to the receptionist.
  10. I have realized that our peas will be perfect for picking and eating at the exact time we leave for England.
  11. The nurse was telling me about my second surgery, which is scheduled for July 2. It will be in-patient when I had envisioned a minor, out-patient thing. Of course both sides, instead of the one side. Drains again. And she warned me about the pain. "Remember, we've been stretching the tissue on your left side to accommodate the reconstruction, so it's your right side that is really going to be killing you." Neato. I AM excited to get this surgery over. I can't wait to get The Turtle out of there. But I'm nervous, dreading the return to pain and inactivity, etc...
  12. I didn't think to take any Ibuprofen with me to my appointment, so by the time I got home this afternoon, I headed straight to the Hateful Sofa to mean and groan.
  13. And finally, I tried a new quick bread recipe tonight (Maple Walnut! Sounds good, huh? It sank a bit in the middle. Kind if a maple walnut dugout canoe . OK, I am really overreacting this time. It is kind of a trough, but just a little. And it is yummy.

How about you out in the Blogospere? Feel like grousing about your day?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Just Happy Again

I haven't posted in a while, but not because nothing has been happening. On the contrary, I have been going places, doing things, drinking beer, messing around in the garden, getting ready to go on vacation. [sung in a high falsetto] It's all too beautiful! This kind of high-on-life stuff is great, but kind of gaggy, too. Moderation must intercede before my life becomes all rainbows and butterflies and unicorns.

While I was lying on the hateful sofa, waiting to feel better, I told myself that I would be grateful when I could move again. In fact, I think I committed myself to that gratitude, in writing, right here on this blog. I remember reading a posting on http://www.breastcancer.org/ by a woman who had a mastectomy a few weeks before I did. She wrote, "I go for hours without even thinking about the tissue expander, now." At the time, I thought, "No way! I will never be where she is!" (with accompanying tears and tiresome snuffling). Now, I go for hours without even thinking about it, either.

Sometimes it aches. Sometimes it prickles. Sometimes it stabs me so hard I see spots before my eyes and have to stop in my tracks until it stops. However, I haven't needed even an Ibuprofen in weeks. It is numb. It is ugly as hell. In the mornings when I dress, the kids watch with horrified fascination. "Sorry, Mom," Sara giggles, "but it just SO FREAKY!" "And good morning to you too, my little darlings." I still don't have full range of motion. If I lie flat on my back, I can't spread-eagle my arms for some reason. There are still a few surprising little things I can't do. You know that movement you make when you open a child-proof cap, ream a lemon, uncap a beer? BUT I CAN... weed my garden, make a bed, fasten my seat belt (which took a while), lift weights (with some kind of bizarre modifications), run 3.5 miles, take a short hike.


I went on a first little hike with the kids and my friend Robert the other day. I didn't even think about what I was doing until Sara asked me if I was feeling all right. I was. And today was kind of a big deal, because Simon and the kids and I went for a hike together for the first time since Si blew his knee last year. Just a short hike on the super-easy Pipeline Trail, but enough for Si to see that his quad could generally handle uphill and downhill. A good day, considering I thought for a while in January that they were going to amputate his foot. Rejoicing in the house of Diggins.

It is so easy when you are flat on your back to say, "When I am better, I will be grateful for simple things, like health, activity, whatever." The trick is to stay grateful. Right now, it's still pretty easy. I run along thinking, "I'm tired! Whew, am I tired! Oh, but grateful! I LOVE being out of breath! I LOVE sweat!" This will not last. Two of my better traits, adaptability and resilience, will work against me. With these qualities, I take things in, assimilate them and move on. So I'll be whining at suburban minutiae again shortly.

I still have some things to figure out. When will I have my next surgery and what will it be like? Will it depress me to be sent back to the sofa? Or will I handle it better now that I have seen that there really is a recovery out there somewhere? What do I think of the word "cured"? What about "survivor"? Both of those words make me pause these days. If I'm so resilient, where do I put this whole experience? Do I click on "close", so to speak? Or on "minimize?" What do I do about my occasional bouts of self pity and absorption, given the fact that my good friend E. is dealing with a far more difficult breast cancer diagnosis and treatment regimen?

Ooooh. Sounds boring. That kind of navel-gazing had better be interspersed with plenty of social gaffes, rants, kitchen failures and dicey parenting, yes? No unicorns, I swear.

Friday, May 15, 2009

With This Ring I Get Thee Off My Back


Yeah, Si replaced my wedding ring, which he lost the day I had surgery in March. In all honesty, I did not nag him for a new one. But since I was suggesting that he hand over one of his nipples in exchange, I think getting a new ring makes him feel safer.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Klutz's Kitchen

I haven't done a cooking post for awhile - I haven't been doing much culinary stuff lately. But the new issue of my cooking magazine featured yummy things to do with strawberries, including this lovely-looking cake. All right!


I am going to forgive this cake for being girlie-girl pink. Strawberries will do that. And the color of the cake has nothing to do with breast cancer. You get breast cancer, next thing you find yourself surrounded by pink stuff. I don't think the cake is sending me a subliminal message or anything (Bake for the Cure)... Whatever. A thing of beauty is a joy until it's all eaten up, so here we go.
Cake:
1 1/4 C sliced strawberries
2 1/4 C flour
2 1/4 t baking powder
1/8 t salt
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C butter, softened
2 lg. eggs
2 lg. egg whites
1 C low-fat buttermilk
1/4 t red food coloring
Frosting:
3 oz low-fat cream cheese
1/3 C butter, softened
2 T Grand Marnier (or cheap knock0off)
3 C powdered sugar
[A little inspiration before starting]
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. To prepare cake, place sliced strawberries in food processor; process until smooth.

3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder and salt, stirring with a whisk.
Place granulated sugar and 1/2 C butter in a lg. bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well-blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in egg whites. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Add pureed strawberries and food coloring; beat until just blended.
Ooooh. Gratifyingly pink. Geeze, do we even need the food coloring? Well, I will obey the instructions.
4. Divide batter between 2 (8-inch) round cake pans coated with cooking spray. Well, I don't have 8-inch rounds. I have 9-inch rounds. No biggie - I just won't bake it as long.
Damn, that's pretty!
Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Um... first sign of trouble. They are looking a little flat. I don't think this is just about the 9-inch pans. I wish I could ignore the fact that Salt Lake City is at something like 5,000 feet above sea level but...I think that reality is about to hit home.
Remove from pans. Cool completely on wire racks. (Sigh!) Yep. Should've modified the recipe... Still, it looks golden and lovely. Well, this one does. The other one had a crumbly time coming out of the pan.


5. To prepare frosting, place cream cheese, 1/3 C butter, and liqueur in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until just blended. Gradually add powdered sugar, and beat until just blended.
6. Frost cake and garnish with strawberries. Oh dear. It's looking irrevocable.
Then comes the phenomenon in which the cake crumbles under the pressure of being frosted, and you realize that you have created a shitty mess. Shall we scroll back up to the top of the page to look at the magazine photo? Oh, let's not.
Then you remember that you are NOT planning on entering this cake in the county fair, and that strawberries cover a multitude of sins. Notice Nathan's thieving mitts right there. He is undaunted by the cake's ugliness. Or its mass. Si ate it with relish, raving, "Wow, this almost competes with your biscuits for the title of Densest Matter in the Universe!'
They all loved it, which proves one of my pet theories: kids LOVE, LOVE, LOVE dessert, no matter the quality. I told them, "I could mix up some butter and sugar for you guys, and you'd love it." Nate said, "A perfect dessert just needs butter, sugar and wine." I think he meant the Grand Marnier?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Even Darth Vader Needs Some DownTime

I found all this going on in the bathroom sink this afternoon.
Caught by a paparazzo boating with R2D2. Darth Vader doesn't do his bad-guy image a lot of good. All they need is a picnic basket.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Yet Another Lost Item

I was getting up from the supper table last night, when I heard something tiny but kind of heavy fall to the floor, ping a couple of times, bump against my foot and go shooting away to who-knows-where. You know when it hits your foot a certain way, it could have flown 30 feet.

I figured it was one of the usual bits of kid-jetsam: a bead, a Lego, a ball bearing, a Runt. Whatever. I let it go and figured I'd find it later when I was sweeping. Or it's under the bookcase, which means it's just gone forever.

It did not occur to me that it could be something VALUABLE until I looked down at myself while changing and noticed that the twist-top had come off my piercing.

I was getting tired of the little barbell I wear in my navel. It has been the same one since I got the piercing back in the mid-life crisis of '03. I was thinking that I would buy something new...blue maybe. Or green. It has held on tight all these years, but I had to take it out multiple times in the last few weeks: MRI, both surgeries... Si has to put it back in for me, and maybe he didn't tighten it quite enough. I am bummed because:
  • I'm a cheapskate. It was just a fake sparkly stone in it, but the barbell cost me about $40.
  • Koi, the piercing place, doesn't open until 10:00 and it isn't near work. Waiting around for it to open tomorrow will suck - I have a lot of work waiting for me.
  • Yeah, I wanted a new one; but it would have been nice to have two, you know...to have a choice...

I hunted for the little thingy, without luck. I offered $5 to the child who could find it. Nope. I don't really have time to go to Koi tomorrow, but if the barbell drops out entirely, I will have to be quick before the hole closes. I spent the day trying to keep the barbell in. Maybe my waistband would be enough... No, it started hurting and when I checked on the piercing, it had almost fallen out. You know when you lose an earring-back and you put a little piece of eraser back there? That doesn't work on your navel. Neither does tape. Then I tried chewing a little gum and sticking some gum on the end. In order to deal with the stickiness of that, I put a Band-aid over the whole thing. It dropped out while I was washing dishes tonight. Booger. Now I will have to go to Koi tomorrow. I suppose, too, that I have a gum-filled and Band-Aid-covered navel to deal with.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Lone Ranger


This single red tulip makes its appearance every year. I laugh at its persistence. Once, a couple of years ago, I decided to get it out of there, and started digging. I dug down to the fossilized bottom of ancient Lake Bonneville and still had not reached the bulb. I kid you not: that tulip sends up a two-mile-long shoot every year. There it stays.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

37,000

That is the number of Americans who died last year of the plain-old, seasonal flu. If another person tells me that I should beware an ugly death because I regularly share germs with Mexicans, I am going to get annoyed.

Monday, April 27, 2009

R.I.P.

A Eulogy for My Nipple
Please, a moment of silent contemplation for my left nipple, which has finally gone to a better place. If I had known that our time together would be cut short so soon, I would have gone ahead with that piercing I always talked about. Thanks for being so good about helping with the kids; and I forgive you for all those cold winter mornings in the school cafeteria when you elicited crude comments from teenage boys. We all know that you were never one of the big, flashy body parts like the finger or the ear; yet, your absence will leave a void. I hope you will go to the special paradise I have in mind, devoted to all of the things I have lost over the years: there I will someday be reunited with you, as well as lots of earrings, money, sunglasses, scarves and that really good rope that dropped out of my backpack in Alaska and washed away in the Resurrection River. [Gasp!] How appropriate!

So, yeah, I was good and put medicated gel on it and covered it carefully in gauze, but certain parts of it just never got viable. When I went to see Doctor Perfect the other day, he said he'd debride it and explain a new bandaging method he wanted me to use. He wielded his scissors while I looked away, as always. After he was done with everything and had hooked up my boob-armor, he warned me that I would "lose a little prominence". I braced myself when I took off the bandage. My head began to swim when I saw it. Loss of prominence?!? Is that a nice way of saying"hole"? Ack!

I tell you, I can't believe I went to so much trouble to save a body part that not only left me, but left such an obvious vacancy. It's like a lover who leaves and takes the dishwasher.

And how come I didn't feel a thing while he was cutting, but the thing hurts like a b***ch while it's healing up? Good news is that it's healing shut. I...think. I don't look too carefully.

Would a jewel fit in there?

My friends have been very kind, offering up all sorts of excess tissue. Skin tags, moles, etc... "Hey Kate! I almost forgot about this wart! Want it?" My buddy R. has a very annoying, perfectly round scar that stands up from her skin in a way she finds unsightly. Hmm... Now that could work...

I know what I want, though. It's the perfect solution. Simon has been blessed with a third, tiny, vestigial nipple, hanging around uselessly on his ribs. Perhaps if I could lure him in to the plastic surgeon's office under false pretenses...

No, I should just demand that he hand it over. I deserve his nipple - he lost my wedding ring.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Living Up To The Stereotypes

[Look out. I am starting to feel better, which is restoring some aspects of my personality that are not very refined. Here, I reveal my bigotry toward charming, rich, attractive doctors. To my warped and whithered mind, this makes perfect sense.]

So, I heard something nice about my plastic surgeon the other day. I was in a mastectomy boutique (which deserves its own blog entry...) yesterday, buying a camisole to wear when I want to launder my hospital-issued corset thing. Did you know that foundation garments for the newly boobless are covered by insurance? No kidding. So, the owner was taking down my insurance info and asked who my doctor was. I told her and she looked up sharply. "Dr. S.? Well, you ARE one of the lucky ones! I have to tell you that I have seen a lot of reconstructions come through here. Some are horrible, some are OK, some are really good. But Dr. S. does incredible work. His reconstructions are nothing short of miraculous." I thought, "Alright, alright. No need to have an orgasm. Geeze!" But it did put a little spring in my step, for sure. Reassuring too, to think about it today when I was in his treatment room (again) (I'm starting to feel like a fixture)looking carefully in the other direction while he debrided the NOLS (Nipple On Life Support) ("Great! That is bleeding a lot! Blood supply is a good thing!"), picked out sutures and shot more stuff into the tissue expander (AKA Boob-Stretcher/The Anvil /The Turtle). I thought, "You should tell him. What a nice compliment!" Then I thought, "I wonder of fawning women tell him how marvelous he is all day long."

I wish I would find out something about Dr. S. that would overturn my prejudices about the poor man. But all the evidence points in one direction: he's a smug frat-boy:
  1. He's REALLY good-looking. Fit, tan, blue-eyed, about 55 years old. Southern accent. (The angel of my better nature wants to know how I can hate a person for being beautiful. It's not his fault.)

  2. His practice is in Draper. People from Utah will understand that a well-known plastic surgeon WOULD have his practice in Draper. More boob-jobs per capita than any other community in the Intermountain West. (Well that just makes him practical...)

  3. His offices are pretentious as hell. I mean, when Mom was here and took me to an appointment, we walked into the waiting room and she said, "Oh, my." Flagstone floors, 8-foot doors, fireplace, throne-like chairs in distressed leather, lots of wrought iron. It just needs some big, drippy candles and a jacuzzi, and he could rent it out for porn shoots. Mom didn't even see the second reception area. It has a fountain, objects d'art and a bronze of a perfectly proportioned woman dipping her toe into some non-existent pond. "Please. Doctor Frat-Boy, make me look like the woman in the statue! I don't care how much it costs!" He didn't get this office by reconstructing mastectomies. He must do a booming business in cutie-pies. (HAH! The angel has no rejoinder?)

  4. Although my "medical name" is Katherine and I have asked him to call me Kate, he persists in calling me Kathleen. I don't really care. I don't bother correcting him. (So, why berate him for it now?) Yes, I know. The sainthood train has left the station. I missed it.

The thing is, we have to spend rather a lot of time together, so I'd like to like him. I try to perceive some sort of appealing dorkiness, but it's hard work. This is the best I can come up with:

  1. He wears shoes with tassels. With his scrubs.
  2. He perches his readers on his forehead, and they fall down on to his nose whenever he raises his eyebrows.

I just sat here for about 5 minutes trying to think of other humanizing factors, but have come up dry. He is fairly god-like. This is a good thing in a health-care provider, but it makes me want to find fault in order to equalize the relationship a little. After all, this Adonis is picking my scabs off.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Sure Sign

I must be recovering. The nails of my unused left hand, grown luxuriously long this past month, are all starting to break off.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Reclaiming the Ordinary

In an attempt to get my head back to normal, I will play my old game, 'High Point, Low Point". It's been awhile, so I'll review the rules. I have to think of the best single moment of my day and the single worst moment, no matter how mundane. If you want to play along, please comment on the high point and the low point in your day.

High Point

I was able to take the kids to see Monsters vs. Aliens today and survived sitting up that long. Since specificity is important in this game, I most enjoyed rating the previews with my kids. We watch each preview and than vote on how much we want to see the movie, using special hand-signals.

On a snarkier note, I was also awe-struck by the kind of gawky young man in the row in front of us who, in returning to his seat with a flimsy cardboard drink tray, managed to dump an entire Sprite on the head of the kid in front of him. You don't see that every day.

Low Point

After the movie, I had to stagger, moaning, back to my sofa and take a nap. When I am well, I am never going to lounge on this sofa ever again. Any place but here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sliding

I have never been really depressed. The worst I can say for myself is that I have had a couple of gloomy days now and then. But this is it- I've arrived. I cry at the drop of a hat. I can't stand to get up in the mornings. I lie on this god-awful sofa by the hour, trying to think healing thoughts. For impatient me, this is kind of like, "Heeeeaaaaallllllll......heeeeeaaaaallllll. Oh, for God's sake, just heal up NOW, would ya'?"

I know what would cheer me up. I would feel better if:
  1. The pain would end. Sometimes, if I lie perfectly still, I can pretend I'm OK. Then I move. For a person who was like a perpetual motion machine before, this is torture. It's always something: the armpit pain from the lymph nodes that came out; the tissue expander under my chest muscle; the horrible nipple and its attempt to stay with me; the nerve-damaged skin.
  2. The progress were faster. Sometimes, I feel a little better. Maybe I stagger out to inspect the (increasingly weedy) gardens and peer muzzily up at the sun. Maybe I sort of prepare a meal. Then I collapse on the sofa to hang out with my pain for a while. If I'm lucky, I find the oblivion of sleep there, which then makes me feel guilty for wasting the day away. Soon, it will be 3 weeks. How much longer does this go on?
  3. I could be at work. At work, I can at least do paperwork, handle phone calls, solve problems, speak Spanish. I feel competent and it's a distraction. My boss, not understanding, keeps telling me that I should go home. At home, everything I look at is a reproach: the yard, the house, the kids. Especially the kids. Everything here requires movement. And I am particularly low because it's Spring break, and I've been stuck at home since Thursday with my poor kids. I still have to make it through tomorrow before I can go back to work.
I am also glum because my very good friend E. has just been diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. She's having a lumpectomy on Wednesday, to be followed by radiation. If she's lucky, that will be the end of it... I hope that luck will be hers. I am still such a mess from my own surgery that I will be about as helpful to her as a screwdriver and a handful of nails.

AND I'm glum because I met with the radiation oncologist a few days ago. In order to be absolutely sure that the cancer will not be back (some of it was rather close to my skin), they would like to treat me. The surgeon had warned me that, in order to keep the reluctant nipple, I might have to have "a couple" rads. There is no partial treatment, according to the oncologist. This would be something like 35 (?) sessions. Radiation reduces the chances of a successful reconstruction to just 50/50. I am going through agony to be reconstructed, and I don't like 50/50. The chances of a recurrence are only about 5%. Yeah, I'd like to be 100% sure we are finished with cancer, but that 5% is a pretty expensive margin of security. The oncologist was careful not to try to push me one way or the other. I will need to decide. I started crying in her office when she told me that I would have to undergo a full series of treatments. I told her that I couldn't make this decision right now. I need to heal up a little more. The pain makes me all weepy and stubborn and irrational. Maybe the pain will be less soon and I can be clear-headed about the choice.

THEN there's the medical oncologist next week. They want me to go on tamoxifen, which should prevent the cancer from showing up in the right breast. It's an estrogen inhibitor. Will it send me into some sort of early menopause? I guess I'll learn more when I go in next week.

Summer is coming. I can see that hiking, camping, backpacking, all the things I love to do, may be out of the question this year. I can't even pull a f***ing weed at the moment. I can't even sleep in my own bed (I have to sleep propped up on the sofa). Run? I can barely walk. I can barely drive. The thought of going to the supermarket is daunting.

I don't want to have a cancer blog. I try to find other things to write about, but cancer is the 900 pound gorilla in my living room at the moment, and I think about little else. To the detriment of all the things I used to take an interest in. Surely this will come to an end? Will I eventually have other things that catch my eye? This should be a lesson to me. The boredom of the suburbs was a blessing, and I will be grateful to plod along through it, if I get that chance again.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Granuloma

Or as Nate calls it, "Grammy-oma". Well, one of my blog buddies was reading my previous post and wanted to know what I was referring to when I mentioned the "Bitten-Off Granuloma". My friends in the real world have all heard the story too many times (sorry, real-world friends) but I'll record it here for posterity.

So, when Nate was 3, he got this thing on his arm that looked like a blood blister. I paid no attention to it for a few days, thinking he had pinched his arm somehow. But when I finally got a good look at it, it looked kind of lumpy and not very blister-like. Hmmm... I waited a few days, but it remained on his arm, pinkie-nail sized. Finally I called my physician father and described it over the phone. He told me it was a granuloma: a spot on the skin where a little cluster of capillaries rises up to the surface. His pronouncement was basically, "Get thou to the dermatologist." I offered to lance it. "NO!" he said. "It'll bleed like a stuck pig."



OK, OK. I called the dermatologist and got an appointment for something like two months from then. Groovy, except Nate got tired of waiting. One morning, I was in the kitchen listening to him prattling to himself in the other room. Suddenly, he made a startled little noise and came to find me with blood dripping off his chin and gushing from his arm. When Dad said "stuck pig", he meant it. I applied pressure and asked Nathan what the HELL? I don't like it, so I bit it off, was the explanation. Yes, of course! That's what we do with things we don't like. OY. I put a Band-Aid on it. Well and good, but for five days, every time I took the Band Aid off to change it, it would gush forth afresh. As soon as the pressure was off it, glub, glub, glub.

We went to the pediatrician. She lifted the Band-Aid and said, "Well, this is a mess." "Can you cauterize it?" "No, I don't have the tools for the job. Go up to the Emergency Room and they'll get someone to take care if it. They'll prioritize you because of the bleeding."

Great. We went to the ER. When the triage nurse lifted the Band-Aid, which had been keeping him from bleeding to death for the last 6 days, I said, "See, it just keeps gushi-" It had stopped. So we waited. And waited. Six hours, with nothing to eat or drink for Nathan. Six hours alone in a thick-walled examining room, during which time, I saw a nurse maybe twice. I have never been so stir-crazy in my life. I would lift the Band-Aid and plead with the slow ooze, "C'mon. Gush!" Finally, we were sent up to dermatology, where, in five minutes, they had it cauterized and we were on our way. The staff there were very sweet to Nathan. They used a cute little puppet to help explain the (20 second) procedure. Wouldn't want the little guy to be traumatized. HIM? What about ME? I was freshly sprung from the ER. I felt like I had just been released from a Turkish prison.

At any rate, this went into the annals of family history as "The Most Blood I Have Seen as a Mother" for several years, only recently to be replaced by the cut head. Now, any little sore or blemish that shows up on Nathan brings a chorus of, "Don't bite it!"

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Most Blood I've Seen as a Mother

Poor old Nate whacked his head against his bed-head, resulting in a gusher. I would have liked to get a picture when we were "in the moment", but I think he would have resented that. He probably would have had stitches if my mother hadn't been here. The old nurse poo-pooed them in favor of butterfly closures, gave Nate a Creamie and said he looked like a Jedi warrior. She went home yesterday - I think Nate is going to miss her.

We have an on-going pursuit: the most blood Mom has seen. Nate has broken his own record twice, now, pretty much leaving Sara in the dust: His claims to family fame now are the Tuna Can Episode, the Bitten-Off Granuloma and the Bed Head....Head.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Good, The Bad and the Dusky

Well, it's been a few days. They have been filled with:
  1. Lortab;
  2. Lying flat on my back;
  3. In a bizarre parody of lingerie, thigh-high pressure stockings and a corset-type thing that I would call a bustier if I still had a bust;
  4. Shuffling, shuffling, like I'm 100 years old, from the bed to the sofa to the table and back to the sofa;
  5. Prune juice, which I chug as fast as I can while holding my nose.

I have good days. On good days I focus on the positive.

It looks like they got all the cancer. Every day, I am able to stay awake a little longer. I am off Lortab and managing with Ibuprofen (which means I can drink, and I sure do). The pressure stockings are off and the drainage tubes have been pulled out. I have watched a lot of movies. I can pretty much dress myself. I am enjoying my mom's company. My friends have been incredible. Amazing! Meals and flowers and a huge basket of funny gifts and loads of visitors who laugh and drink and talk about other things most of the time, so I can forget about it for awhile. I drove the car yesterday (although it was hard) (and wearing a seat belt SUCKS!). I can't make a bed or fold laundry, yet; but I can pick up stuff and put it away. I can brush my hair.

I have bad days, too. I can't work out, which is driving me out of my mind. I feel restless and blob-like. By the time this is over, I will have only one boob, but an a** like a blimp. I handed my wedding ring to Si as they were wheeling me into surgery, and he lost it. I am sick to death of pain. It is unrelenting. Every breath I take hurts, all day long. Pain gets old really fast (believe it or not), and I'm not a patient person. It seems like it is going to hurt forever. I am touch-starved, because it hurts to hug or hold anyone. Even if the kids just sit next to me and they are wriggly, the movement of the sofa hurts. Right after surgery, Si would hold my foot. Now we lie in bed with our fingers touching. This is totally unsatisfactory, but the idea that I could wrap my arms around anyone is as remote as the moon. I'm pissed off at two-breasted women, which pretty much means that I'm pissed off all day. I open my underwear drawer and see a pile of old familiar bras in there; I think, will I ever wear any of these again? What will I wear?

I have only really had one full-fledged pity-party, though: on Thursday night, one week after surgery. The surgeons told me I could take off the corset-thing, shower and change my dressings. I procrastinated for a long time, laying out my pajamas, flossing; but what could I do? My hair was dirty and my pits were smelly. Eventually, naked has to happen. It was indeed a horrifying sight, which I chose not to commemorate in a photo. You are grateful, believe me. Basically, there is an enormous piece of surgical "duct tape" that goes from my scapula over my shoulder and down over my breast, holding it up in a "perky" position. Or it would be perky, if it were still really...there. It is still my same old skin and they did save the nipple, but I'm as flat as an 11-year-old. The expander under my pectoral muscle has just 50 ccs of fluid in it, which is fine, 'cause my pec feels as tight as a drum and twitches painfully and constantly. The tape has been cut into a sort of a "Y" shape at the bottom, splitting to go on either side of the nipple and thus cover almost all of my stitches. The nipple, which I was so keen to save looks..frankly...ungrateful. Shrivelled and angry, it is almost black. The surgeons say, "Well it's a little dusky. You'll probably lose some skin off there." Dusky. DUSKY!? I look at it and think, "It looks like it might decide the trip wasn't worth it and just drop off."

Boy, did I cry, once I was in the shower. After one appalled look at myself, I averted my eyes; I looked up and to the right, and didn't lower my eyes even once. I sobbed and moaned like the spoiled brat that I am. I balled in the shower, sniveled while I was drying off. I really balled when I had to put antiseptic cream on Mr. Dusky. I used a cotton ball. I can't bear to touch myself because the whole surface of my ex-breast is numb and this numbness scares me. Then I went to bed and cried some more, but it's really hard to sleep with a stuffed-up nose. I already have a hard time sleeping 'cause I can't curl up on my favorite side; so I decided to adjourn the pity party, blew my nose and pulled myself together. Today I took a shower again and didn't avert my eyes. I need to be an adult, and it makes leg-shaving easier.