drugs, drugs, and more drugs

So my doc asked me the other day if I’m still taking my antibiotics.

Really?

Did those words really come out of his mouth? Why, I oughtta…

Yes, I’m overly sensitive about this issue, because I hate the antibiotics so much. Love that they’re killing the infection, but hate them nonetheless.

Yes, I am still taking my antibiotics. Twice a day, every day. With no end in sight. I haven’t missed a dose, I say proudly, although no one seems to think this is a worthy feat. Sometimes people need a quick left jab, right to the kisser.

Not that I’m complaining. Really, I’m not. I’m glad that I have these drugs in my life. Who knows where I’d be (or whether I’d be here at all) without them. I’ve been on some form of antibiotics since May 13, with just one week off.

There was the precautionary IV dose during and after the mastectomy. Then an oral course at home for the first 10 days out of the hospital. Once I started feeling better, an additional course seemed superfluous. Wasn’t I healing like a rock star, even ahead of schedule in my typical impatient, over-achieving way?

Uh, yeah. So much for that.

Infection: enter stage right and become the star of the show.

Damned mycobaterium has become the bane of my existence. I hate it like I hate Sarah Palin. I wish she would have gotten the myco instead of me. Surely she could have picked it up in one of those mountain streams she claims to ford as she’s impaling innocent salmon. I’d like to see her be all cocky and try to “reload” in the midst of the myco.

But again, I digress.

That happens a lot.

I can’t blame it on “chemo brain,” but I’m going to blame it on “abx brain.” Surely the continual supply of Bactrim and Minocycline in my body all day every day for the last 169 days qualifies me for that small disability.

Yes, that’s right, I counted the days. I like to know just exactly how long I’ve been taking these two drugs, twice a day every day. I also take a dose of Florastor probiotic twice a day every day. The few times I’ve been lazy or resistant to shoving yet another pill down my throat and skipped it, I’ve been sorry. I owe a big debt of gratitude to Susan C. for recommending the Florastor, and if you’re they type who gets an upset tummy while on your week’s worth of Amoxicillin, you should take it too. I typically have a cast-iron stomach, but the 169 days of oral drugs combined with the myriad variations in the hospital, then shaken not stirred with the little bits of good drugs (e.g., Vicodin) thrown in for grins has given rise to a need for Florastor. 

Here’s the cast of characters now: the blushing beauty in the bi-colored pink is Minocycline. It’s a member of the tetracycline family, which a lot of people–mostly teens, I guess–take for acne. In fact, one of the many Walgreens pharmacists I’ve gotten to know asked me if I take it for acne. I chuckled and said no, why? And she said, “because your skin is really clear, so I thought it must be working.”  I may suffer from hot flashes, mood swings and brittle hair but by golly my skin is clear. I like that pharmacist a lot.

I’ve been trying to be very vigilant about taking my meds properly, rather than tossing them back and washing them down with a flute of champagne. Or two. Or three. Hypothetically speaking, that is. I’d never do that for real.

I’ve even read the literature that comes with the drugs from the pharmacy. Talk about a giant mess of C.Y.A. Take this little gem for the Minocycline: “Take this medicine with a full glass (8 oz/240 ml) of water” (not champagne?). I like the idea of 240 ml of bubbly. “DO NOT LIE DOWN for 30 minutes after taking this medicine.”

Well, I admit it’s been a while since I’ve read this info. Like 169 days, probably. And in my “abx brain” haze, I didn’t remember the DO NOT LIE DOWN part. Every night, I mean every single night, I gulp down the drugs with a sip or two of water, which is by my bedside, then I promptly LIE DOWN AND GO TO SLEEP. Oops. If my failure to NOT LIE DOWN means the Minocycline isn’t working, I’m going to be really mad.

This part of the Minocycline’s instructions is particularly vexing: “DO NOT TAKE THIS MEDICINE with food or milk unless otherwise directed. This medicine is sometimes taken with food or milk, however, certain medicines, food and milk may bind with Minocycline, preventing its full absorption.”

What’s a girl to do — take it with food or milk, or not? I don’t like instructions that include “sometimes.” I prefer black & white directions.

Here’s one part of the Minocycline instructions I can willfully and completely ignore, though: “THIS MEDICINE IS EXCRETED IN BREAST MILK. DO NOT BREAST-FEED while taking this medicine.” Ok, I won’t. I promise.

After you’ve finished laughing uproariously, as I did when I read this, let’s move on to the second antibiotic, Bactrim. This big guy is a member of the sulfameth family. Sadly it has none of the desirable characteristics of meth-derived drugs like increased energy, decreased appetite, effortless weight loss and eternal youth. 

It’s just a big, nasty, chalky pill.

Here’s a handy little graphic to show you just how big and just how nasty it is.

Twice a day, every day. For 169 days and counting.

It’s not without its humor, though. An excerpt from Bactrim’s monograph made me laugh again: “DO NOT STOP OR START any medicine without doctor or pharmacist approval. Inform your doctor of any other medical conditions including liver or kidney problems, blood problems, asthma, HIV, allergies, pregnancy or breast-feeding.”

Those last two made me chuckle, and I felt safe in crossing those off my list of things to worry about. Onward.

Bactrim, too, is picky about how you take it, and the monograph advises taking it not only with a full glass (8 oz) of water, but to also drink several additional glasses of water daily. No indication of how many ounces those glasses should be, though, and not a mention of milliliters to be found. Curious. I’m just glad it doesn’t yell at me to AVOID TAKING THIS MEDICINE WITH A FLUTE OF CHAMPAGNE. That would be depressing.

Here’s the best part of the nitty-gritty details of Bactrim, and I quote, “LONG-TERM OR REPEATED USE of this medicine may cause a second infection.”

Pardon me?

Did that really mention a second infection?

Excuse me while I go get some champagne.


Move over, cupcake

So the latest food trend is (drumroll please). . . pie.

There’s a lady in Houston named Bella-Katherine Curtis who believes that nothing says love quite like a pie. The smell of a peach pie hot from the oven, made by mom’s or grandma’s hands, is a little slice of heaven, she said.

“There’s a joy knowing that someone made it just for you; someone loved you enough to make it,” said Curtis, owner of My Dee Dee’s Pie Shoppe. “It’s special. That’s what pies do. Cake is good but there’s something very special about pies.”

She’s right. And it’s about time pies got their day in the spotlight. Any monkey can make a cake from a mix and slap some canned frosting on it, but a homemade pie is special. Yes, you certainly can buy a crust and dump a can of gelatinous filling in it and call it done, but that’s not a real pie.

I grew up on homemade pie, and anyone who’s read this blog has heard me wax poetic about how great my mom’s pies were. Her coconut cream pie is the ultimate comfort food for me. Good day? Have some CC pie. Bad day? A piece of CC pie will make it better. Promotion? You earned a piece of CC pie. Car wreck? CC pie will help. 

Barb’s coconut cream pie was the real deal. Homemade crust (duh), made with flour, crisco, salt, and ice water. That woman could whip up and roll out a delicious pie crust faster than I could find the recipe in my cookbook.

The edges were always perfectly fluted, too. She said it was simple: just pinch the edge of the crust between your forefinger and thumb and presto! perfectly fluted.

I have perfectly good thumbs & forefingers, and I can certainly pinch crust between them, but mine never, ever looked like hers.

She made a lot of pies. Anytime she hosted a dinner party (which was often), the dessert would be pie. Anytime she went to a potluck, she’d bring a pie. Usually two. Any family gathering featured, you guessed it, Barb’s pie.

She gave me several pie-making lessons, and I did not excel. She would tell me to handle the dough lightly; too much or too firm and the crust wouldn’t be light & flaky. Frankly, I’d settle for light or flaky, without aspiring to both.

In her absence, I have tried to take over the pie-making. While I wouldn’t say it’s been an epic fail, it’s not been overwhelmingly successful, either. One Christmas Eve I attempted the old standard cherry pie. The crust was fussy that day, and the filling overflowed in the oven, so the finished product looked as if I’d dropped it from a tall building. If I hadn’t been so busy crying and cussing, I would have taken a picture, which I could then post here so everyone could laugh at me and that pitiful pie.

Curtis opened her pie shop in October 1992, rolling out 29 pies on her first day in business. Guess what? she sold them all. Today she’s known as “The Pie Lady.” My mom is smiling about that right now.

Anyone who knows anything about pie knows it’s all about the crust. Curtis says that crust is literally the pie’s foundation. Good pie bakers know that without a good crust, pie is a waste of calories.

“When you bake a pie you have to make a crust and take care of it,” said Curtis whose crust is her mother’s recipe. “Then, of course, you have a filling. There are many steps to pie, and it can make a big mess in the kitchen. It’s a lot more challenging than making a cake. It takes more work. But it’s worth it. A pie says more.”

She’s right. A pie does say more. It says, eat me now!!

But Curtis worries that old-fashioned pie baking might become a lost art. “In another generation it might be totally lost,” she said. “There are so few people out there who make scratch pies.”

I’m trying, Ms. Curtis, I’m trying.

Read about how much better she is than I at making pies here: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/food/7386674.html


Office supplies

I’ve been trying to figure out how to print out all my old Caring Bridge journal entries without actually having to use my own ink cartridge. The one thing I really miss about having an office job is the access to free supplies. I’m no cheapskate (just ask poor Trevor how good I am at spending money), but there are certain things on which I just don’t like to spend money. Ink cartridges for sure. It used to be pajamas, too. Hated to spend money on those, but since I had to spend so much time in them in the recent past, I’m over it.

When I worked for a living, as opposed to working for my family and for society in general (via raising two upstanding citizens who will hopefully become productive members of said society), there were some perks. The bi-monthly paycheck was one. Since I was in the publishing industry, every time we came out with a new book that I had worked on, my name was listed in the “credits.” Not as exciting as seeing one’s name on the silver screen, but worth something nonetheless.

I also liked the wide variety of ink pens.

I’m a bit of a stationery connoisseur, and love the feel of good heavy cardstock, the look of watermarked paper, and the ease of a good ink pen. When I was editing by hand (I’m assuming it’s all done on computer these days, and boy howdy are my tired old eyes and I glad I’m not staring at a screen all day trying to fix somebody’s dangling participle), I used a red ink pen made by Flair. Haven’t seen one like it in a lot of years, not even at Office Max. Maybe they determined the red dye in the ink was a carcinogen. Maybe I have a lawsuit in the works.

More likely, the Flair pen went out of fashion, replaced by some fancy-pants quick-clicking pen filled with recycled organic range-free food dye. I still miss it. And like my favorite lip balm (Blistex Herbal Answer in the light green, .15 oz tube, comes in the yellow box with daisies on the front and contains aloe, avocado, chamomile, shea butter & jojoba, SPF 15), if I ever see it, I buy in bulk. All those people who go on Survivor and get to take one personal item (or at least they used to: I haven’t seen the show in years) may take a family photo or their Bible. I would take my Blistex.

But back to the lack of free office supplies. I’m too cheap to spend my husband’s hard-earned money on ink cartridges, so I’m not going to print my Caring Bridge journal for posterity. Maybe this blog will go viral one day and I’ll be sponsored by HP and get free ink for life. Or maybe I’ll just keep blabbing away into the ether, regardless of who’s reading.


This caught my eye

I was flipping through a magazine at my Aunt Sophia’s house last night and an ad for Crystal Light caught my eye. I like Crystal Light, especially the orange and the pink lemonade. I don’t drink a lot of it, though, because I’ve always assumed that it’s full of chemicals, and someone in my shoes needs to avoid all those multi-syllabic chemical compounds found on ingredients lists.

But if I am going to splurge on something chemical-y, Crystal Light is top of my list. Even more so now that I saw this ad. 

What first caught my eye was the communicated bliss of the woman drinking from the lemonade fountain, and my first thought was how much I’d love to have a champagne fountain like that. Mmmmm.

My bliss would be endless. Limitless. Bottomless, as all good champagne fountains should be.

I also noticed the woman’s dress. I never really liked yellow, but it was my mom’s favorite color, and now that she’s gone, yellow reminds me of her. Very fitting, as she was a sunny, warm kind of person.

So this ad is pleasing to me for several reasons, but the most important one is something you may not have even noticed. Or maybe you did. It took me a sec, but once I noticed it I had to look closer to see if what I thought I was seeing was really there.

Or not there, as the case may be.   Look closer: 

Notice anything about her chest? Like the fact that it’s flat? Really flat.

I like this gal, a lot.

And I really like a company that is bold enough to feature an ad showing a woman with a flat chest. A really flat chest. Like mine.

I’m guessing the woman in the ad didn’t come by her flat chest in the same manner I did, i.e., I bet she didn’t have a double mastectomy. Mainly because mastectomied women aren’t in real high demand for ad campaigns. But maybe Crystal Light is changing that. Slowly but surely chipping away at societal ideals of what a model looks like.

Real-life women come in all shapes & sizes. It sure was nice to see a woman in an ad who does, too. I think I’ll go whip up a big pitcher of Crystal Light.


Need more Mix-a-Lot

Did you see the headline? “Study: When it comes to pay, size matters.”

Get your mind out of the gutter, it’s not talking about what you think it is. Pervert.

Thin women and muscular males make more money. Experts say it, so it must be true.

Here’s the lead (as a former journalist, I love a good lead, so indulge me here):
“It’s an endless cultural lesson that’s been drilled into our heads since we were tots, watching cartoons such as The Flintstones and playing with Ken & Barbie dolls: If you’re a woman, you should be extremely thin; if you’re a man, you should grow up big and strong.”

My only beef with the lead is that last sentence: if you’re a man, you should grow up.  Technically, if you’re a man you are already grown up, but that’s nitpicky. ‘Course, I used to be a copy editor, so nitpicking was my job. And I was pretty good at it. Eleven years later and a million figurative miles from the job, I still can’t read something without noticing errors in grammar, syntax, style or connotation. Don’t be paranoid; I don’t hold it against ya if you slip up now and then.

But I digress.

The study, “When It Comes to Pay, Do the Thin Win? The Effect of Weight on Pay for Men and Women” was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology last year. Catchy title.

The study found that workers’ girth directly affected their paychecks. Thin women are paid more than their average-size peers, while heavier women make less. Skinny men (not a good thing, like it is for women), on the other hand, make less than men of average weight.

So not only is the body image thing whacked in general, it’s a completely unfair double standard: what works for a female works against a male. Regardless of your actual capabilities or who you are as a person–or any of the things that might matter on the job–you’re judged, and compensated, according to your size.

And people think we’re the most civilized country in the world?

I’ve been thinking about the weight issue a lot since I was given doctor’s orders to gain it. And when I say thinking about it a lot, I mean at least 100 times a day. I am, after all, an American woman who’s been bombarded with mainstream media and fashion industry ideals.

I don’t watch a lot of TV, read many fashion mags, or formulate my self-worth on an equation put forth by total strangers who have a vested interest in my insecurity. I was blessed with a lot of things, and inherent self-worth is top of the list, for sure. After reading about this study, that trait is all the more valuable.

So you would think that gaining some weight for a good reason (“I need more building material, lady” is what I keep hearing from Dr S every time we talk about reconstruction), would sit well with me. After all, I’m pretty secure with myself and don’t really care what other people think. I’m also smart enough to realize that Vera Wang and Zac Posen want women to be rail-thin because it makes their jobs easier. Hanging a frock on a beanpole is similar to hanging it on a hanger, without those nasty curves and cursed soft angles to get in the way of how the frock lays on the body.

And reading the study with the catchy title shouldn’t bug me, either, because I’m not in the workforce and don’t have a paycheck, so me and my bulges are not under the microscope. (Yes, technically that should read “my bulges and I” but it didn’t sound quite as catchy, and I am a self-assured copy editor who can bend the rules when necessary to turn a more liltingly lyrical phrase.)

But the weight gain and the study do bug me. For different reasons, but bug nonetheless. The weight gain bugs me because I don’t like the way it feels. It slows me down and gets in my way, two things for which I have zero patience. (Notice my intentional effort to avoid ending that sentence with a preposition, people. Old copy editors never die, they just keep nitpicking.) The results found by the study bug me because, #1 it’s stupid, #2 it’s shallow and #3 it’s meaningless to judge someone’s worth by their waist size. Or their muscle mass. Or whether their abs are categorized by a six-pack or a pony keg.

And yet it does matter. People have distinct subconscious reactions to body types, according to the study. Get this: “For a man, skinny says less-than-manly and gay, two qualities that clash with our Americanized version of a leader: tall, strong and emotionally unmoved. For women, an ultra-thin figure simply says success and makes for an attractive corporate image.”

So if you’re a guy and you’re skinny, people assume you’re wimpy and gay. And if you’re an emaciated gal, you’re a corporate tool. These female tools earn an average of $16,000 more a year than their plumper peers. But the wage disparity again works in men’s favor, as thin men make just $8,000 less than their ripped co-workers.

I’m still stuck on the subconscious opinion of guys: skinny means wimpy and gay. That’s harsh. And the Americanized vision of a leader being emotionally unmoved scares me. Does that mean unmoved in the face of communism or Hallmark commercials? Is a little emotion really such a bad thing?

This is why we need more Sir Mix-a-Lot. He likes big butts and he cannot lie.

I heard his song on the radio yesterday and found myself laughing out loud. Especially at the part that rags on Cosmopolitan magazine:

“So Cosmo says you’re fat, well I ain’t down with that. To the beanpole dames in the            magazines, you ain’t it, Miss Thing!”

He goes on to say, “Give me a sister, I can’t resist her. Red beans & rice didn’t miss her.”

Now there’s a lyric that paints a picture. Love it.

Mix-a-Lot for President!


A tale of 2 notes

As I was going through photos yesterday to make the Macy retrospective, I found 2 notes that she has written me. One from several years ago, the other from last night or this morning, sneakily taped to my computer where she knew I would find it.

But before I get to that, I must share this:

At our house, we have always made a big deal out of birthdays, and after coming head-to-head with the cancer beast, they’re even more of a big deal.

It starts with frantic prep on my part, and while I’m not a procrastinator, I seem to be leaving more and more to the latter minutes these days. I’ve never been a “seat of my pants” kind of girl, and this existence troubles me. But time marches on, birthdays don’t wait, and expectations are high.

The kids get a special breakfast on their special day, eaten on their special plates. As the Church Lady from vintage Saturday Night Live would say, “Isn’t that special?”

Don’t barf yet, it’s not all Martha Stewart here. The muffins were from a mix (although I did add fresh blueberries and a dusting of cinnamon sugar on top. Take that, Martha!)

Along with the special breakfast, the birthday boy/girl gets to choose dinner. As much as I complain about my kids not eating my home cooking (what in tarnation is wrong with them??? There’s never been a plate of liver & onions in front of them, so I don’t know why they balk), I  must be doing something right because Macy wanted dinner at home.

I was really hoping for Benihana.

But no, she wanted a home-cooked meal of…potatoes. All potatoes, all the time.

We had mashed (yukon golds), twice baked (russets with sour cream, cheddar & chives), and potato salad (more yukon golds). And roasted broccoli. 

Yes, she loves potatoes. And yes, she would be perfect for the potato commissioner job they’re trying to fill in Idaho. But for now, she’s at my kitchen table, eating her fill in potatoes. Bless her carby little heart.

(And yes, that is her gum on the plate. Gross, but so Macy.)

Here’s the reigning potato queen, and yes that’s a can of Coke at her side. My mother is spitting nails right now, if they have nails and one can still spit in Heaven. That was never allowed at her table, but times have changed, and we weren’t having birthday cake, by order of the birthday girl. I guess no one has figured out how to bake a cake from potatoes yet, or else we would have had that. Maybe two. With potato frosting.

So this brings us to the notes. I found this one when I was looking at all the vintage Macy stuff and am kicking myself for not recording the date and her age. Based on the writing and spelling, I suspect preschool (I need to learn how the archaeologists figure out hieroglyphics; that would help).  

Allow me to translate: Dear Mom, I hope your life is good. Love, Macy

If that doesn’t warm your heart, there’s no hope for you and you’re completely on your own here.

For the second note, I don’t think I need to translate. Her handwriting is marginally better, and Dan Quayle would approve her spelling.


Macy! A retrospective

Nine years ago today, Macy Carlisle Hicks exploded into this world.

Big brother Payton had no idea how much his world would change. Not just having to share his parents & toys, but being bowled over by this little force of nature. Nine years later, he’s still trying to figure her out.

From the very beginning, this little girl was going places. And she would get there with accessories — she always had a purse on her arm, and in general liked shoes more than clothes. I won’t embarrass her by publishing, but we have lots of photos of her in a diaper & shoes — nothing else!

Don’t let that sweet face fool you — there’s a holy terror inside that teeny little body.

She’s a master of disguises. One minute she looks like a sweet, innocent, quiet and tidy little girl.

The next minute, she’s doing this…

From a very early age, Macy was wild & crazy and very, very adept at expressing herself. (Notice the look on my face here: exhaustion mixed with helpless with a little bit of terror thrown in for fun.) She was not even two years old and had mastered the art of the crazy face.

By age 3, Macy had enlisted accomplices and trained them well in her arts. She will likely shoot me in the head for publishing a photo of her in a Dora nightgown; despite her young age there she currently has her fashionista rep to uphold.

This was a common sight at our house in her early years. In this particular instance, she decorated herself while I was talking to a workman in our new house about some warranty repair issues. The guy was in his 20s, unmarried without kids, and he about had a heart attack when she appeared on the scene like this. I asked him to wait a sec while I got my camera. After I took the photo he said, I can’t believe you stopped to photograph her; I thought you would spank her or something. I shook my head and said, spanking a true artist is futile and only makes your hands hurt.

There seemed to be no end to her uses for markers. Thank heavens they’re washable. The blue beard is one of my favorites. I especially like how it complements the blue writing on her Red Sox shirt (and yes, we brainwashed her, too, but it didn’t take, and she can be spotted in Yankee apparel. YUCK.)

She’s not looking too happy in this photo; maybe I caught her and subjected her to a picture before she was done creating her look.

Eventually, she moved on from markers and discovered make-up.

In case you are wondering, it was not Halloween. Just an ordinary day in Macy’s life.

You know how those creative geniuses can be.

At least she looks happy in this photo. I’m just glad she wasn’t blinded by all the sparkly gunk in and around her eyes.

At some point, she roped Payton into the madness.

She wasn’t any  neater when it came to meals, either.

We used to joke (and still do, actually) that Payton rarely had a crumb or speck of food on his face or clothes, but Macy wore more than she ate.

I’m pretty sure she needed to be hosed down after this meal. Spaghetti in our kitchen in Durham. Good times.

She liked to drink with gusto, too.

I love how she has her sippy cup in one hand, and a water jug in the other. If she’s a double-fisted drinker in college, we’ll say, remember when… This too was in the kitchen in Durham; I will never forget that laminate floor. 

This is one of my all-time favorite shots of Miss M.

She had just turned 3 and we were visiting my parents’ friends, Keith & Nancy Davis, at their beach house in Galveston. It was February, so cold and windy but we still got out on the beach. Macy found this shell and was convinced she could hear the ocean.

A beach baby was born. This girl loves the beach: the sand, the surf, the seagulls…all of it.

In the picture below, she’s 2 and at Salisbury Beach in Massachusetts with her buddy Amanee.

Look how tiny she was. But never without her shades, even at age 2. That seems like 100 years ago.

She looks way too comfortable in that beach chair, enjoying the good life.

When she wasn’t at the beach, she was in the pool. Swimming has always been basic to Macy’s existence. Even as a tiny baby, she loved to be in the bath, whether in the sink, the portable baby tub, or eventually in the real bathtub. To this day, she can stay in forever.

Swim team was fun. She especially liked winning a blue ribbon.

And if winning one blue ribbon was fun and made her proud, look what happened when she won two blue ribbons: 

When Macy was still in preschool, we decided to build a pool. Well, we decided to hire a pool-building company to build a pool. Macy was ecstatic, and couldn’t wait for that pool to be finished. 

She has always been a hard worker, and even at this young age she worked hard at hosing down the gunite stage of the pool.

It had to be done twice a day, and she took that job very seriously. In fact, she seemed offended if anyone else tried to do it.

I don’t recall for sure, but I’m guessing that the gunite wasn’t the only thing she squirted with the hose.

Come on, fill the pool already, people! Let’s go swimming.

And swim she does, year-round. Yes, it’s usually warm in Houston, but there are some days in the January-February range that are chilly. Those days do not stop Miss M from swimming. Once when she was 3 or 4 and insisted on swimming on a chilly day, Aunt Sophia asked her if it was “nice and cold” and Macy said, “no, it’s nice cold.”

Not long after the pool was finally finished, Macy found a little frog swimming in, but trying to get out of, the pool.

Her animal loving instincts kicked in and she raced to get the net and rescue that frog. This was just one example of her unconditional love of all critters.

Before our beloved dog Maddy died, Macy asked if our next dog could be named Harry. She had been reading the fabulous children’s book series Harry the Dirty Dog and got an idea.

Lo and behold, when we went to Houston Humane Society we found Harry, a not-so-dirty dog. He promptly became Macy’s dog.

She’s an equal-opportunity dog lover, though, which is a good thing for Ed’s dog Sugar, who is wicked and wily and full of energy. Sort of like Macy.

Then there’s Snoopy, and who wouldn’t love that sweet little face. Macy certainly does.

I thought we’d found the cutest dog ever when we adopted Pedey on Payton’s 8th birthday. He was tiny and soft and cuddly and seemed sane compared to the other dogs in our life.

He is indeed all of those things, although not so tiny anymore. But for some reason, Macy doesn’t like him. She says, I don’t know why everyone’s so crazy about Pedey; he’s ugly.  Ok, Macy, whatever.

The birds get in on the Macy love, too, not just frogs and dogs.

She loves to make bird treats for our fine feathered friends.

Take a pinecone, coat it in peanut butter (the messier the better, according to Macy), then roll it in birdseed. Tie a string in the middle of the pinecone.

Voila — tasty treats for all the birds in your life.

After the hurricane, our friend Amanda found a baby squirrel, appropriately named Ike.

Macy thought this was the best thing ever, and couldn’t wait to get her hands on that little guy.

I hope that the grown-up Ike is happy and healthy with fond memories of the sweet little girl who helped care for him when he lost his home in a tall tree in Spring, Texas.

And don’t forget about Jeffrey, the orphaned mockingbird rescued by the Hoover family.

The smile on Macy’s face says it all.

A bird on your shoulder and the sun on your face: does life get any better?

This was a big thrill: meeting Mo Willems, author of some of Macy’s favorite books.

If you’ve never read “The Pigeon Wants a Puppy” then I urge you to get to the bookstore today. You’ll thank me later.

We met Mo at Blue Willow Bookshop one Saturday and when it was Macy’s turn to go through the line and have him sign her books, she wanted to ask him a question. I figured it would be something about the characters or the creative process, or maybe the illustrations. Nope, she asked Mo, “What’s your phone number?”

Starting school was pretty cool. Macy especially liked her beautiful backpack. So much so that not long after school started, she wrote her name all over it, in messy kindergarten scrawl, with a giant black sharpie.

Kinda reminded me of the time she wrote all over our brand-new furniture, and herself, with a giant black sharpie.

I can’t find those photos. Probably burned them because of the painful memories they invoke. But she looked pretty proud of herself, wearing rainboots & a diaper, covered in black sharpie.

The 50th day of kindergarten was lots of fun, and Macy convinced me to get matching poodle skirts. She’s very persuasive.

We also enjoyed the kindergarten Thanksgiving celebration.

With Macy in our lives, we have a lot to be thankful for. And not just around the holidays.

The Dad’s Day Picnic with Papou was pretty cool, too. Especially because Macy got to have a picnic with one of her favorite guys.

She likes anyone who does her bidding, but she & Papou  have a special bond.

Birthdays are pretty special, and Macy loves every bit of the celebration — the gift cards from Gramma & Grampa are one of her favorites. Birthday dinners at Benihana are pretty great, too.

The chef’s hat stays at the restaurant, though, Macy. Sorry.

Make a wish!

Everyone loves the birthday hat, and Macy insists that each person in our family wears it on their birthday.

Whether they want to or not.

Just wear it — it’s easier than arguing with her!

You never know what will be on her birthday wish list. Some years it’s power tools.  At least she knows how to use them.

Safety first!

No matter what’s on the wish list, though, this birthday girl is always ready to party.

Costumes are not required, but Macy would highly recommend them.

Oh, if only every day were Crazy Hair Day!

May you always have crazy hair and lots of treats on your most special day, sweet girl.

Remember the pig pinata?

Could it have been any bigger?

I had to go back to the store — twice — to buy more candy to fill it.

Then we worried that none of the kids would be able to break it.

Never fear, your baseball-loving brother supplied his metal bat. Plastic bats are for sissies.

Flags of celebration always fly for Macy’s birthday!

This party girl knows how do a birthday up right.

And yes, she still loves pigs.

Has from day one and I suspect she always will.

I’m just waiting for her to discover that some people keep pigs as pets. Thanks a lot, George Clooney!

Macy went through a stage in which she loved to send mail.

She “wrote” or more likely scribbled letter and wanted to mail them to friends and relatives near and far.

One year for her birthday, she got a lot of stationery and stamps.

Maybe she’ll be a foreign correspondent someday.

Or maybe just keep in touch with the people she loves.

Wherever you go and whatever you become, it’ll be great. This I know for sure. Because our Macy girl is wild, silly, caring, imaginative, wacky, creative, sweet, inventive, thoughtful, resourceful, funny, engaging, sensitive, loving, and all-around amazing.

Cheers to Macy!


My guardian angels

One of the things I inherited from my mom was several Willow Tree angels. She wasn’t much of a collector, but friends had given these little angels to her over the course of her cancer battle.

You’re probably familiar with these little creatures. They look like they’re made of wood, but it’s probably some synthetic material instead (they are made in China, after all). They’re simple and heartfelt, and each one has a theme. Apparently you can get a Willow Tree angel for all manner of life events, from birthdays to anniversaries to new babies.

There are also symbolic Willow Tree angels, and people tend to give them based on this. For example, the ones my mom had received were Angel of the Heart, Angel of Hope, and Guardian Angel.

I’ve had them on one of the shelves in my kitchen over the desk, next to a stack of cookbooks. Several times I’ve almost knocked them over while reaching for a cookbook, and every time I remind myself to be careful and not go crashing around like a bull in a china shop, or like an overworked housewife around a bunch of fragile angel figurines. At least one of these angels has taken a tumble over the years and needed to go to Ed’s repair shop, where he has a vast assortment of glue and both the time and the patience to fix a broken wing.

Imagine my horror when I once again reached for a cookbook in a big hurry and knocked 3 of the 4 angels clean off the shelf. Before I could even react, there was a tumble of bodies and a heads, literally, were rolling across my kitchen desk. 

It looked like an angel crime scene.

I’m rather superstitious, although I don’t like to admit it but now it’s out there. There’s a black cat that I see in the parking lot of the club a lot, and twice I’ve reversed my route to avoid driving by it. The other day I spilled some salt while refilling the shaker and threw it over my left shoulder, instead of scooping it off the counter and throwing it in the sink. You will never, ever, ever catch me walking under a ladder. No way. Not even on a dare. A few weeks ago while driving down Austin Parkway, I saw about 10 vultures stretched across the street, feasting on something. The sight of all those ghastly birds freaked me out and made me wonder, if crossing a black cat is bad luck, what in the world would happen to the poor soul who crossed all those vultures? You’d have thought the Grim Reaper was sitting on my doorstep, awaiting my arrival. Thankfully those birds were on the other side of the divided road, so I didn’t have to turn around and find another route home.

So when the angles came tumbling off the shelf, I panicked. It took me a few minutes to find all the pieces, and sadly I still can’t find one head. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of my dogs found it and thought it was a tasty treat. Hope the paint is lead-free.

I can almost hear my mom tsk-tsking me from the Great Beyond, shaking her head and wondering why her wild-child daughter is always in such a hurry, or why that girl never learned to take better care of her things, or why she insisted on hopping on top of the desk to reach the cookbooks, instead of going to get the step-stool.

If I had used slowed down, been more careful and used the step-stool, I likely would have been able to avoid the gruesome angel carnage. But I probably wouldn’t have even taken notice of the little angels. I certainly wouldn’t have noticed that the one remaining angel, pictured at the top of this post, is named the Angel of Healing. But I will stop and savor the fact that out of my mom’s angels, that’s the one I need the most.


A weighty issue

I received a serious assignment from my doc. Now don’t laugh when I tell you this, because it’s not funny, and don’t say “lucky you” because I’m not so lucky. It’s serious.

He wants me to gain weight. A lot of it. So he can build my new boobs. 

We’ve had this conversation a couple of times and I’ve stuck my fingers in my ears and said “la la la, I can’t hear you” because I didn’t want to do this. I’ve spent most of my life beyond the age of about 15 trying not to gain weight. When you’re five-foot-nothing, there aren’t a lot of places to hide the extra pounds, and I personally don’t like the way my body feels with a lot of extra weight on my frame. I’ve never been a skinny chick and don’t aspire to be, but don’t want to be mistaken for a contestant on The Biggest Loser, either.

I worked hard to prep my body before and after my mastectomy, to gain as much muscle strength and cardio conditioning while fueling myself with a good diet. I also played as much tennis as humanly possible in the weeks leading up to surgery. It all paid off, too, with a shorter surgery, no need for Alloderm (cadaver tissue used to connect and close mastectomied chests), and a pretty easy recovery. Because I was in good shape, I was up and out of the hospital bed the day after surgery, trolling the halls. When I got home, I had a decent amount of independence because I didn’t need much physical assistance. That was, and is, important to me. So the idea of turning into a big blobby girl, even temporarily, scares me.

The first few times Dr S brought it up, he warned me that I didn’t have enough belly fat to build the new girls. At that point, reconstruction seemed so far away that I didn’t pay much attention. But the last 2 times I’ve seen him, he’s been more stern about it. I hate it when he gets stern with me.

When I saw him a couple of weeks before Christmas, I told him I’d been drinking a few beers for the first time in 15 years, and I wasn’t playing much tennis because of a recurring foot injury. That was about as much as I was willing to commit to his “living large” plan. I did the usual indulging over the holidays, but I also went to the gym.

So when I saw him the other day, instead of shrinking from his “examine the fat” game as I have in the past, I told him I’d been working on a big project — a BIG project — and showed him my newly rounded belly. I was sitting on the exam table so my belly even hung over a little bit. I thought it was quite impressive, as it’s the biggest it’s ever been without a fetus inside of it.

He was not impressed. Not even a little bit.

He told me to pull my jeans down a little and gave me the pinch test, then had me bend over to see how far it hangs. So much fun. I live for that game.

Then he made a very stern face and said it’s not enough. It’s still not enough. It’s enough for one side, but not both. And maybe not even enough for one. Since I have impossibly high standards and insist on a matched set, that’s a problem.

Dr Sternface says I’m not really even a candidate for the DIEP flap procedure, but since I have no other options, we have to try and make it work. I was thinking about this later and wondered, if I’m not a candidate but don’t have any other choices (i.e., tissue expanders to implants), what’s a girl to do?

Eat, girl, eat. And then eat some more. Then have a beer. Followed by a milkshake.

People make fun of me for being a healthy eater. I genuinely like oatmeal with blueberries. I love salad. Not being a carnivore eliminates a lot of the unhealthier options for me, and I like it that way. I’m not super picky but I don’t like drive-through food in general, and I don’t get the “all you can eat” places at all. I’m not a big junk-food junkie, and usually whatever I cook is way better than that stuff anyway. Not being conceited, just stating a fact.

I’m not doing a very good job with my assignment. Yesterday I had half a bagel with a piece of melted provolone and a handful of blueberries. It felt pretty indulgent to me. Lunch was two pieces of leftover pizza, with an orange. Cheese & crackers for a snack before we played tennis, then dinner after with the tennis gang at a BBQ place. I had pinto beans with pickles, coleslaw, green beans, some mac & cheese and a few fries. Oh, and a roll. Wish I’d thought to put butter on it. Melanie told me that I wasn’t going to get the job done eating all those vegetables and suggested I get a milkshake. Every day.

Today we played 3 sets of tennis and I was hungry. We splurged on brunch at the club, which for me meant mixed fruit, cheese & crackers, salad with lots of blue cheese dressing, and some tuna. Mimosas, of course. Then some pasta with artichoke hearts, mushrooms & sundried tomatoes. Then a few bites of seafood ettouffee. And a sliver of key lime pie and a chocolate-dipped strawberry.

I feel kinda sick.

My doc keeps saying he just hates the idea of me going through this giant surgery and hard recovery and not being satisfied with the results. I keep telling him that any change over the status quo will be an improvement, and I’m ok being average. At least in this one category. He doesn’t seem to believe me, even though we’ve had the same conversation repeatedly.

He wants me to go see the other surgeon who will help him with my case. I’ll have to see what she thinks about the bulk-up plan. Meanwhile, I need to think of a new t-shirt slogan. Something like the “baby” with an arrow pointing at the pregnant belly t-shirt, only a different kind of “under construction.” Any ideas?


Healer

The body is a miracle, the way it heals. A factory of survival and self-repair.  As soon as flesh is cut, cells spontaneously begin to divide and knit themselves into a protective scar. A million new organic bonds bridge the broken space, with no judgment passed on the method of injury.

Wow. That’s pretty prose.  I wish I had written it.

I’d love to claim it as my own, but that would be wrong, and Lord knows I need the great karma wheel to turn my way. I can’t afford to tempt the gods of fate, as they seem to like toying with me.

Carol Cassella wrote that prose. If you’re a fiction fan and don’t know her work, I encourage you to get her books sooner rather than later. Whether you run to the bookstore or download onto your e-reader, get on it. You won’t be sorry. She’s an anesthesiologist-turned-author whose first book, Oxygen, is one of my all-time favorites. Her second book, Healer, wasn’t quite as good but I gobbled it up in hopes that it would be.  I liked her right off the bat, because she’s a Texas native and a Duke graduate. A girl after my own heart. She’s also the mother of two sets of twins (!) and how she got anything done, much less wrote 2 bestsellers, is a mystery to me.

I read Healer this summer, while I was trying to heal. I was struck by the passage above, and loved how dramatically it introduces the book. From the very first sentence, I was hooked. While I certainly didn’t set out to turn this blog into a space for book reviews, sometimes things happen that way, and I’m an equal-opportunity blogger, so there we are.

As a physician, Cassella understands the intricacies and magic of the human body. As an author, she’s able to capture that and express it so that someone like me, an impatient patient, can read it and say, yeah, that’s right–the body is a miracle!

I needed that reminder. I was so focused on wanting my healing to occur faster, I didn’t realize that the fact that it was happening at all was amazing.

Equally amazing is the education this experience (e.g., the “cancer journey”) has provided. I’ve learned a bunch of lessons I never wanted to learn, such as how utterly unfair life can be. I’ve acquired skills I never thought I could and hope to never have to use again. Anything involving packing a wound or administering IV drugs at home falls into that category.

I’ve certainly learned a new vocabulary. Not just the new definition of “normal,” either. Things like nosocomial (originating in a hospital, as in a nosocomial infection). Like debridement (removal of foreign material or dead tissue from a wound in order to promote healing). Like aromatase inhibitors (drugs like Tamoxifen that lower estrogen levels in the body by blocking aromatase, an enzyme that converts other hormones into estrogen). Like oophorectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries).

I’ve learned how to get a good night’s sleep in a noisy hospital. I’ve learned the difference between DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) and invasive breast cancer, and that they’re both plenty scary.  I’ve learned that an injection can leave a bruise for close to 3 months. I’ve learned that the practice of medicine is both a science and an art. And I’ve completely forgotten what it feels like to wear a bra.