Preach it, GB Shaw

Editor’s Note: There’s a glitch on WordPress that is hiding my hard returns, so this is one long post without the usual breaks in text to give the eye a rest. Apologies.

“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”—  George Bernard Shaw

Love this quote. Love GB Shaw, too. Apparently he didn’t like the “George” and refused to use it, personally or professionally. That’s why I call him GB Shaw.

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He’d be a dapper looking fellow if he’d have done something about that mess of facial hair. I’ve never been a fan of the facial hair, on men or women. Just not my thing.
He certainly was accomplished, though. Born into a lower-middle-class family in Dublin in 1856, he certainly could have fallen by the wayside or become a failed corn merchant but successful drunk, like his daddy. It’s said that his daddy had a raging drinking problem and a serious squint (although not related, perhaps). Here’s a useless but interesting bit of trivia: Oscar Wilde’s father, a famous surgeon, tried to fix Mr Shaw’s squint, but failed. Either he wasn’t that great of a surgeon, or it was a truly serious squint. If only my Drs S could have gotten their hands on him. No telling how fine-looking he would have become after they worked their magic.
GB Shaw is noted as a playwright, and an accomplished one at that. He also dabbled in politics and reform for the masses. His Fabian Society tried to bring socialism to Great Britain but failed. The Society did eventually become the famed London School of Economics and led to the birth of the Labour Party. Neat, huh?
More importantly, he’s also a font of inspirational quotes, like the one above. After having several comments on my recent post about how ya just gotta “keep on keeping on” when going about this “cancer journey,” it got me thinking about how easy it would be to lie in a heap and say poor me. And I guess a lot of people do that. GB Shaw would be very disappointed.
Look, nobody wants a cancer diagnosis, whether it’s in the breast or the lung, the colon or the skin. I could write for days on the myriad ways having cancer wrecks your life, whether physically, emotionally, financially, or more likely all of the above. But once that pathologist confirms the malignancy and the doctor delivers the diagnosis, rolling over isn’t an option. Giving up and giving in doesn’t get the job done.
I haven’t been tempted to give up this week, but the thought did cross my mind as I found myself mired in nausea all week long. Sometimes this happens — I’m going along just fine, taking my antibiotics twice a day every day (for 254 days, but who’s counting) like a good girl, and wham! out of nowhere is the all-day morning sickness. I’m not doing anything differently, haven’t added any weird vegetables or roots to my meat-avoiding diet. Don’t lecture me about the beets; those are a mainstay and I like it that way. Don’t care if it grosses you out to see them on my plate–look away (Macy).
By no fault of my own, I’m suddenly hit with the kind of stomach upset that makes me think long and hard about the wisdom of carrying a barf bag in my purse. My sweet infectious disease doc is immune to my perennial question of how long will this drug therapy go on, and I don’t even ask him any more. Love ya, Dr Grimes. His nurse, Rhonda, gave me a glimmer of hope on the phone when she said he might knock the abx down to once a day, but alas no deal. Instead, he gave me a prescription for Zofran and said take that and eat some crackers.
So what’s a traveler on the “cancer journey” to do? Slog away, day after day. Put one foot in front of the other. Just keep swimming (Dory). Keep on keepin’ on. Just Do It. And any other clichéd truism you can think of. You do what you gotta do to get through the day, then get up and do it again. Some people also meditate. Some people pray. Some people fret. Some probably do a combination of the three. But you gotta do something. Inertia has no place along the “cancer journey.”

Journey

If you’re like me, once you read the title of this post, you’d end up with “Don’t Stop Believing” running through your head.

“Hold on to that feeeeeeeeling….”

Yes, we are simple creatures at times, and prone to even simpler suggestion.

As I wrap up the Napa series of blog posts, I reflect back on a fantastic trip, an outstanding weekend, and the kind of memories that would keep me warm on a cold winter’s night if I didn’t live along the Gulf Coast of the great state of Texas. Not that the memories aren’t that good, but that there’s little need for warming around here. Especially with my hot flashes. Thanks, early-induced menopause, because pre-summer in Houston isn’t steamy enough.

Thinking about the trip and preparing to say good-bye to our visitors from Boston today makes me a teensy bit sad. I don’t like transitions. I’m in for the long haul and can work long and hard at a steady pace, but I don’t care for the ups & downs, the twists & turns, the stops & starts. This sentiment applies, for me, whether we’re talking about vacation or illness. Going from my “normal” life to vacation mode takes me a little bit of time. Getting into the vacation frame of mind is a conscious shift for me, even when it’s a vacation I’m looking forward to. Having our friends from Boston here is most definitely something I look forward to, but it still requires me to make that shift in my head.

Now that our vacation with them is ending, I find myself again shifting, from the luxuryof sleeping in on a school day and spending the day by the pool, drinking early and often and into the evening; to hauling my carcass out of bed to pack the kids’ lunches, sign their folders, forge notes about their absences, and getting back to my normal life. I like my normal life, so this isn’t inherently a bad thing; it just required me to shift gears and change my  mind frame.

I’ve never been good at handling change, and that may be why I’m not a great traveler. I don’t like the idea of having to decide in advance what I’ll be wearing, and then pack it, taking care to not forget anything. It seems that once I get used to the new location, it’s about time to go home, and then there’s another adjustment to handle. I do it, and without the need for intervention, but it’s an effort.

That’s why this phrase spoke to me:

It was on the wall of the Cost Plus World Market in San Francisco near our hotel, where we popped into for supplies (and by supplies, yes, I do indeed mean champagne) our first night in California. We were at the checkout, clanking bottles and deciding whether to add chocolates to the purchase, when I saw this saying on the store wall. The other shoppers might have thought me a bit mad to be snapping a photo in the middle of a store, but I stopped caring about things like that a long time ago.

The saying spoke to me because I know that Lao Tzu is right.  He was a mythical figure in ancient China and is said to be the father of Taoism, so you know he’s smart. His ancient quote about the good traveler retains relevance today because people like me continue to buck the journey in favor of the destination. I know that it’s not about the destination, yet I can’t wait to get there. I will jump through all the requisite hoops along the journey in order to get to the destination, but for me, the destination is the goal. Wrong, I know, but still I persist.

Some say that dealing with cancer gives you greater clarity on “the things that really matter.” Or that having survived cancer, you become more aware of and grateful for the things around you. Then there are the idiot-balls who say that cancer is a gift. To them, I say choke off. This is no gift. Yes, it does afford the opportunity to re-evaluate priorities and habits, but it’s no gift.

I spend a lot of time in my personal “cancer journey” marking off time and accumulating milestones. Maybe that’s a coping mechanism, I don’t know. I do know that I can tell you to the day how long I’ve been on oral antibiotics (251 days), and how long it’s been since The Big Dig (49 days). More likely, it’s because I’m focused on the destination and not the journey. I can’t wait to “be done” with this cancer business: the disease itself, the surgeries, the recoveries, the uncertainty, and the drug therapies. I don’t aspire to ever be free of the worry that the cancer business drops on my doorstep like an unexpected and oversized parcel. It will always be there, in the back of my mind. I liken it to the childhood sensation of rolling your tongue through the newly-created hole of a lost tooth. Your brain knows the tooth is gone, but your tongue can’t resist checking for sure, by sliding through that narrow, slippery, and slightly nauseating space. My brain knows my cancer is gone, yet it can’t resist double-checking.

I refuse to live in fear, however. I don’t want to have any regrets: about life in general, and certainly not in this “cancer journey.” Each decision I’ve made along this “journey” has been nitpicked and examined half to death, with risk and reward calculated to within an inch of their lives. Some decisions have been difficult, and some have been easy, but none have come without a lot of thought.

I heard from a fellow breast cancer blogger who is dealing with an infection, possibly of her tissue expander, just as I did. She’s on IV Vancomycin, like I have been many times. I commented on her blog to tell her that the Vanc works and it will cure her, hoping to offer some support. She replied that she can’t imagine how I endured that process multiple times because it’s so stressful. Yes, it is. No doubt there. And if someone were to ask me how I endured it, I don’t know that I would have an answer. I don’t know how I got through it, other than I just did it. Just gritted my teeth, tucked my head and did it. Because I didn’t see any other choice. Saying “I can’t” wasn’t going to make it go away.

I do like to make myself focus on good things, or to “walk on the sunny side of the street” (thanks, Mom!). Yesterday I wasn’t feeling well, for the 3rd day in a row, and was a little put-out that my “cancer journey” was once again interfering in my fun. I wanted to visit and eat & drink with my friends who were in town, but instead I had to lay down and take a nap. Take a nap. In the middle of the day, and in the middle of my friends’ visit. That made me grumpy, and I was just starting to think about getting out the pity-party supplies.

Then I told myself to shut the hell up, get in the shower and get on with the day. There was dinner to prepare for our last night together and 3 bottles of bubbly in the fridge, so there was no time for a pity party.

While in the shower, I was wondering why the hell my belly incision is still so tight and sore after 48 days, and when in the sam hell it’s ever going to heal all the way so I can take a shower like a normal person, without wincing as I lather, rinse & repeat, and just be done with it.

Then I realized: I AM taking a shower like a normal person. There were no JP drains to deal with. There were no holes in the side of my body to keep dry. There was no dressing over the accessed port-a-cath that had to be kept dry. 

When my port is accessed, i.e., has a butterfly needle piercing my skin and the port to deliver medicine, it has to be covered to keep it sterile. The port itself is smaller than a quarter, and the butterfly needle (while really thick) doesn’t extend the area. Yet the whole thing has to be covered with this giant dressing. That’s it above, stuck to my clavicle, shoulder, and neck area. My skin hates these dressing with a passion. The sticky tape irritates my skin as much as Sarah Palin irritates me. After I peel the dressing off, there remains a red, raised outline in the exact size & shape of the dressing.

And yet, I’m sans dressing. That’s a bright side, a good thing to be tallied and counted. I’m also sans sling bag. Not having the JP drains means I don’t have to wear the sling bag, cute as it may be, 24/7. That’s another bright side, and a very good thing.

Yep, it’s cute, and it served a wonderful purpose, and I love my runnin’ buddy for getting it for me. Being able to camouflage the drains by stuffing them in the sling bag, then hide the protruding rubber tubing by the cross-body bag, gave me freedom and kept me from being house-bound.

There’s nothing in there — look, Ma, no drains!! — and that is a reason to celebrate. I’m no longer tethered to plastic bomb-shaped udders collecting all manner of gross stuff, fluid and solid, that my battered body is shedding after yet another major trauma. I don’t have to plan my very limited wardrobe around the bright orange pattern anymore, but now I can do that just because I want to.

I will always be grateful to the sling bag for carrying my drains, and my drugs, in such style. The clear plastic compartment in the inside front is not likely designed for slipping in the essential few pills, but it sure worked well for me. I’ve heard that some people keep their driver’s license there instead. How weird is that?! Instead of my TX ID, featured here are my constant companions Bactrim & Minocycline, the antibiotics for the post-mastectomy infection; a muscle relaxer for the super-tight 17-inch belly incision; and a Xanax for any and all calamities, just in case.

So while this “cancer journey” is far from a gift and certainly does suck, I can still “walk on the sunny side of the street,” look on the bright side, and find moments of goodness contained within as I move forward, always searching for the finish line.

This signpost, sent to me by Jill in the Oakland airport en route from Napa back home, is a good mile marker in my journey. I love that my friends see bubbly-related things and think of me, and I love that no matter where this journey takes me, I’ll have great friends, a sassy sling bag, and plenty of bubbly for the ride.


Quixote deserves a post of its own

Most are familiar with Picasso’s 1955 sketch based on Cervantes’s Don Quixote. Done during his Blue, Rose, and Cubist periods, the “insightful, sassy, and ubiquitous” sketch has been described as “catchy and full of bright humor” by people who know a lot more about art than I do, but I do know that I’d be quite pleased to have those same attributes ascribed to this little blog.

The fact that Picasso’s sketch went on to become a minor masterpiece is funny in and of itself, but the idea that his inspiration for the masterpiece was a 5×9-inch nut-and-bolt sculpture of our literary hero and his trusty sidekick really makes me laugh. The little sculptures are themselves ubiquitous in Spain, and Picasso, who is said to have had a “sharp, roving eye” and to have been “constantly searching for likely subjects and was not hesitant to borrow from others” parlayed a simple souvenir into a bit hit. My eye isn’t as sharp, but it is roving and always on the look-out for inspiration for this little blog, so I like to think I have something in common with Senor Picasso.

Our recent and glorious trip to Napa provides me with a whole slew of inspiration. Today’s post is dedicated to Quixote winery. What an incredible place. They make great wine, too, BTW.

The winery was designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, an artist, architect, philosopher, and environmentalist from Vienna. “We’re here to give pleasure. With Cervantes’ Don Quixote as our muse, let us all explore the difference between appearances and reality and engage in the noble pursuits of a knight errant.” In designing and creating Quixote winery, he endeavored to “show how basically simple it is to have paradise on earth.” Well done, Herr Hundertwasser, well done.

Hundertwasser with René Brô in the Castiglione pavillon at Saint-Mandé near Paris in front of the mural they painted together, 1950 Photo: Hundertwasser Archive

Before I get into what makes this winery so darn special I must give a teensy bit of insight into Herr Hundertwasser. This guy was nuts, but in a good way. Not sure I’d want to be within spitting distance of him at a dinner party, but I sure do love his work. He’s a true artist, one who says wacky things like “Progression is retrogression and retrogression becomes progression,” and describes his paintings as “vegetative.” I believe him, too, because our tour guide at the winery told us that during the 10 years that Hundertwasser designed Quixote winery, he ran the California hills buck naked. He felt the need to become one with nature in order to impose this physical structure upon Her innate beauty. Hope he used a lot of sunblock. He believed in the power of nature, saying “You are a guest of nature. Behave.” This real-life Austin Powers was buried sans clothes and coffin, on his land in New Zealand in 2000 and a majestic tulip tree towers over his gravesite. Let’s all observe a moment of silence in honor of this nut-job artist.

Everything about this winery has character. Every single thing. Even the signpost, pointing the unsuspecting visitor toward an experience that will make ya go hmmmmm. Kudos to Doug & Amy Ashmore for suggesting this winery. In the multitude of wineries in Napa, it can be tricky to decide which ones to visit. The simple demands of time and liver space dictate that one cannot visit them all, so one must make choices. Listen, people: if you go to Napa at any point in your lifetime and fail to choose Quixote winery, I will never speak to you again.

And you’ll be missing out on an experience that defies words adequate to describe it.

This photo is tiny, and in all my Internet searching I couldn’t find one bigger, but look closely and you’ll see the man himself with a ruler. Only the ruler is bent. Because the man was too. He didn’t like straight lines, and the roof and floors of the winery are angled and slanted.

The winery itself is full of art. Cool stuff abounds, in the offices, even the restroom. This sculpture spoke to me. I love the lines, the exaggerated effects that all come together to tell a story. Then I read the story, on the front, and loved it even more: “Start a saloon in your own home. Go to your wife and give her a hundred dollars to buy a gallon of whiskey.” Now that’s a philosophy.

This creation was simply amazing. I don’t even know how to describe it, so here’s the rudimentary breakdown: cogs and wheels on the bottom powering thin metal spears upon which paper birds perch, and once the mechanism is engaged, flutter and fly at different heights and varying speeds. Wow. Just wow.

The column above and to the left, with the white body featuring a long crack, is emblematic of Hunterwasser’s genius. And his insanity. The story is that someone remarked within earshot of the artist that the building was ‘perfect.’ So he picked up a sledgehammer and smashed the column twice on purpose because nothing made by man is ever perfect. Though flawed, it can still be beautiful and even the imperfections can be delightful in their own right. Some said the crack should be “fixed” or covered up, but Mr H said no way, the crack is part of the beauty and tells an important story. What that story is may vary from person to person, but for me the story is that we are all flawed, yet remain upright. The Birthday Girl was also struck by this story, and immediately thought of my “cancer journey.” She made me pose for a picture in front of the cracked column, but I liked the artwork next to it more, so that’s the pic you’re getting.

The photo below is a photo of a photo in the tasting room at Quixote. I’d love to know the backstory, but suffice to say that I took this photo with Macy in mind, and fastforwarded many years to when she is a grown woman, and hopefully has a giraffe leaning in her window for a kiss. No idea who the woman is or what kind of relationship she has with that giraffe, and I don’t care. It’s a delightful portait of love plain & simple, and it made me think of my sweet little girl and her all-encompassing love for animals. 

Hunterwasser’s goal in creating Quixote winery was to incorporate it into the existing terrain, and from the road, all you see is the golden turret on the far right. Mr H believed that a golden turret elevated man’s sense of self.

The path from the road up into the hills leads you to the white “tiled” entrance. Notice the curved line of the roof. No straight lines for Mr H. 

Mr H believed that “color is king” and there is a feast of color for the eyes everywhere you look at Quixote, but sprinkled subtly and judiciously, so as to not overwhelm.

This photo is pitiful but is meant to convey the deep aquamarine of one section of a column. A small burst of color that expresses a whole lot.

More curved walls. I bet the contractor was ready to murder Mr H many times during construction.

The barrels are integral to every winery. Quixote’s barrels are colorful and expressive, natch. In the bottom photo, you can really see the slanted roof.

Even the windows, doors, and bookcases have character. The open doorway on the right leads into the tasting room.

The tasting room. The photo of the woman & her giraffe is on the ledge, just under the orange column. The light fixture was an explosion of white ribbon that looked more wedding bouquet than light. Beautiful. 

And of course, the star of the show. 

The tasting was sublime. Delicious wine with cheese & crackers peppered with charming asides about the artist and the process that resulted in Quixote winery.

Trevor and Keith soaking up the patio after the yummy tasting. Keith is utilizing one of the built-in stools that are conveniently placed there for the spent wine-taster.

How clever.

There exists a group photo of us on this patio, but I can’t find it and am frustrated by looking. Lisa? Thad? Diana? Whoever has it, send it to me, por favor.

The road to Quixote winery leads to an experience I’ll never forget. The art fed my soul. The design amazed my senses. The man who is Hunterwasser wowed me. The wine made there satisfied me and made me smile. And the time spent in that spectacular place with forever friends sustains me.


Happy Patriots’ Day!

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Patriots’ Day isn’t a holiday we celebrate in Texas, but in honor of our friends from Boston who are visiting, we will now. I’m always looking for a reason to celebrate something, and Patriots’ Day works for me.

For my fellow Texans who may not be familiar with this holiday, it commemorates the first battle of the Revolutionary War. This day is celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine every third Monday in April, and curiously enough, it’s observed in Wisconsin as well. If anyone knows why, let me know.

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The celebration gets going bright & early in Boston with a re-enactment of the Redcoats’ arrival at dawn at Lexington Green. Present-day revelers can stake out a spot early (some people even spend the night) to hear the steps of the Redcoats marching in formation along Battle Road to surprise the enemy. After that, there are parades with fife-and-drum bands and ceremonies to mark this important event in American history.

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More importantly, though, Patriots’ Day also brings a day game for our beloved Red Sox. Historically the game has been played early so that its ending coincides with the Boston Marathon runners racing through Kenmore Square, but the timing is hard to synchronize, and I guess the commercials that pay the bills for NESN don’t cotton to anyone else’s schedule. It’s the 115th year for the Boston Marathon, and the Sox have been playing a day game on Patriots’ Day every year since 1959, with the exception of some weather delays and the 1995 players’ strike. Like most things relating to the Sox, this game is steeped in tradition and fans await it with that baseball-heavy mixture of excitement and dread.

The Sox got off to a slow start with the worst record the American League. However, thanks to Jacoby Ellsbury’s 3-run ding-dong against the Blue Jays, we’re officially on a winning streak. And, that give me another reason to post a pic of Ells. bosox.com

And another.

And another.

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And another. He doesn’t bunt very often, preferring to swing away, but when he does bunt, this is what it looks like:

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One more won’t hurt.

You’re welcome.

Ells and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia blew the game wide-open yesterday, allowing the Sox to triumph 8-1 over the Blue Jays, and starting the rally for which Sox fans have been desperate already, in this fledgling season. The dynamic duo of Ells and Salty have given Red Sox Nation reason to believe again, and now Salty can be known for something other than having the longest name in MLB history.

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Ells had this to say about his big hit: “I was sitting on a pitch I could drive and got something I could do something with.” When asked if that was as hard as he could hit the ball, the ever-confident Ells said, “I still got a little bit in me.” Bring it, Ells!

Today’s game against Toronto starts at 10 a.m. Texas time, and I’ll be tuned in. In fact, I need to wrap this up and get ready. Dice K is pitching, and he hasn’t had a win at home since August. That’s about the time things started looking up for me in my “cancer journey,” but like in baseball, anything can happen, and in my “cancer journey” it did. But I overcame it, and so will Dice K. He’s 6-1 against the Blue Jays, and I’ve got a good feeling that things are looking up, for both of us.


Saturday in Napa

Yes, I know we’ve been home a week already, but I needed to think about how to best convey the utter perfection of our second day in Napa, and these things take time to percolate. Plus, the hustle & bustle of real life intervened, so there’s been a mountain of laundry, baseball games, homework, and errands aplenty since our return from the Golden State. Then there were some humorous interruptions, like Payton’s poker face (or utter lack thereof) and a couple of doctor appointments forcing themselves to the head of the blogging queue. Couple all of that with the arrival of our dear friends from Boston for their semi-annual visit, and you get a better idea of why this little blog has been neglected. Never fear, it is back to business now.

I’m not quite ready to let go of the Napa trip. So much of what I blog about is yucky stuff–cancer, infection, surgeries, drug therapy, and assorted pain & suffering–so when I have a lovely topic, like a trip to Napa, I’m gonna milk it for all its worth. Then maybe milk it some more.

If I still write about the trip and continue to post pictures, it lives on in the forefront of my memory and isn’t yet consigned to the dusty, slideshow status of trips gone by, and it doesn’t quite get crowded out by the workaday stuff that has to get done around here to keep this household running. Our long weekend in Napa to celebrate one of my BFF’s entries into the “Over 40 Club” was the stuff that legends are made of (at least in my mind). It was a celebration of Yvonne’s 40 years on this Earth, and for me, a smaller celebration of life finally, at long last, returning to some semblance of normal after a long, unpleasant, bumpy ride.

Which brings us to Saturday, Day Two in Napa. Friday, Day One in Napa, had been what I thought was the perfect day in Wine Country, but Saturday was even better.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty details, let me share two of my favorite photos from the preceding days. This one  is from Thursday afternoon at the Franciscan in San Francisco, before we left the Bay City for Wine Country. It’s a fave because The Birthday Girl had arrived to start the party-filled weekend, because we’re surrounded by great wine & yummy food, and because it was a harbinger of all the fun times to come. We were still waiting on the rest of our crew to arrive, but we went ahead and got the party started.

This was at Silver Oak on Friday, where we met the infamous Walter, who will live forever in our memories of Napa. In fact, if I recall correctly, the infamous Walter took this very photo. Just after this photo, we moved on from Silver Oak to Quintessa, and the day just kept getting better and better.

But back to Saturday. The day began with mimosas and a bloody mary to toast The Birthday Girl at breakfast. I mentioned before that this was the best-ever bloody mary, and I stand by that claim. Wish I had one right now. But I’m drying out, so that would be inappropriate.

After breakfast Saturday morning, we grabbed to-go cups and hustled outside to meet our ride and the rest of our merry party. While these aren’t exactly Texas-sized to-go cups (or “roaders” as we like to call a drink on the go), they certainly were tasty and really, who needs a Big Gulp when you’re off to taste a hundred wines in one of the best places on Earth? As delicious and festive as those bloody marys were, I’m glad I wasn’t confronted with the dilemma of having a refill to say no to; that would have been tricky.

We were off to Quixote, my favorite of all the wineries we visited. Suffice to say that if our trip had ended after the visit to Quixote, I would have been satisfied. The fact that it didn’t was icing on the cake. Or an extra olive in the bloody mary. I will write about Quixote soon; need to sort through the photos and do it justice. For now, know that it was phenomenal in every way.

None of us really wanted to leave Quixote, and once we were ready to shove off, we were delayed a bit while our driver borrowed a toolbox from Quixote to remove the limo seats to retrieve a fallen iPad. Once that was done and we packed into the car, we headed to Mumm, on the suggestion of Robert, our tour guide at Quixote. He did not lead us astray. Like all of the wineries we visited, Mumm is gorgeous. Stunning views and beautiful flowers everywhere. And the champagne–did I mention that? My favorite drink, being produced in plentitude. Ahhhh. Happy girl.

We hadn’t scheduled an appointment, and Mumm was bustling and busy on that beautiful Saturday, so we each ordered a glass off the tasting menu and strolled the grounds.I’m not sure where I was in this shot, but hopefully I had a glass in my  hand. I might have been in the restroom, checking out the great quotes on the walls, like this one from Bette Davis:

And this one from economist John Maynard Keynes:

Or I might have been mesmerized by this display in the gift shop:

Also in the gift shop was a small shrine to Carlos Santana, who we had seen the previous day at Silver Oak. He’s a regular around there, and Mumm had a signed guitar, a couple pieces of Santana-inspired artwork, and his own vintage of bubbly.

The patio at Mumm was beautiful, overlooking the vista of the vineyard. The weather was perfect, with blue skies, abundant sunshine, and cool breezes. 

There’s also a small art gallery at Mumm, with rotating exhibits. The day we were there it featured black & white photos of “then & now” shots of all sorts of people. Siblings as kids then as grown-ups. Mamas holding babies, then grandmas holding their generation’s next generation. Cool.

After Mumm, we headed back to V Sattui for picnic provisions and ate a quick lunch before our appointment at Stag’s Leap.

The wines at Stag’s Leap were not my favorite. In fact, of the 7 tastings they poured, I didn’t finish any of them. It was still a lot of fun, and being in the tasting room while the rest of the visitors milled around the common area was nice. We had a place to sit while we dissected the wine, and a chance to catch our breath before moving on. 

With our visits to Quixote, Mumm, and Stag’s Leap, we were done with tastings for the day and headed back to our hotels to get ready for dinner at Bottega. Just in case the day hadn’t been perfect enough, we still had a fantastic dinner to look forward to. Rest assured that dinner lived up to its expectations. Being at the chef’s table toasting The Birthday Girl with wines chosen from our tour will forever be one of my all-time favorite things.

The day was indeed perfect. Every bit of it was just plain perfect. Each winery we visited offered something different, and while Quixote was my favorite, by a lot, I enjoyed the others, too. And as if the wine wasn’t good enough, there was the uninterrupted time with great friends, gorgeous scenery and beautiful weather, and for me, freedom from cancer and its messy aftermath. Now that’s a great day.


Oh how my doc amuses me

Yes, I know the continuation of the Napa series is overdue, and I’m going to get to it today, I promise. I used to live & breathe by deadlines, but now that I’m “retired” from the publishing business and don’t really give a hoot about anything else except what’s in the forefront of my brain at this very moment, I can casually toss aside a deadline, even a self-imposed one. I do need to work on crafting shorter sentences, though. Mercy. You’d think I was getting paid by the word for that one.

‘Tis true I needed to think about how to best convey the utter perfection of our second day in Napa, and these things cannot be rushed, not even by me; these things take time. In this case, almost a week. This time last week, we were sleeping peacefully in San Francisco, with the entire Napa weekend spread out before us like the best buffet ever. I need to do that scene justice, and doing justice takes time.  Maybe you’ll get lucky and I’ll post twice today.

I had every intention of writing that update last night, but I must admit I didn’t feel all that great. Again, me & my stupid assumptions. Because it has been 6 weeks since The Big Dig, I stupidly assumed that on day 42 post-op I would magically be back to normal. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. No, I’m not playing tennis, and I’ve been instructed by both doctors and my trainer to avoid any exercise that utilitzes my core for another 6 weeks. So my atrophying muscles and I will dejectedly comply (at least for now). In case you’re wondering, like I was, why the kibosh on using my core, it has to do with the risk of opening up that 17-inch-long abdominal incision (low); the skin becoming hyphertrophic (medium), and widening that 17-inch-long incision (high). I’d say that damn incision is quite big enough, and the last thing I need is to be widening it, no matter how much I hate being on the DL.

So, I’m back to reality after a most wonderful trip, I can’t exercise, I’m still struggling with post-op fatigue, and the operated-upon areas still bark at me more than I’d like. But alas, I have my doc to brighten my days and lift my spirits. I’m luckier than a dog with 2 tails because I got to see him not once but twice this week. One for an official check-up and again by chance.

My check-up was Wednesday. It’s always an adventure going to see him. He wanted to see for his own eyes that I survived the trip to Napa, and his first question was, “Did you get drunk?” Yes, all day every day. I told him that if  I can’t start exercising yet, then we need to speed up the timeframe for fixing the “dog ears.”

These lovely little things are the globs of fat sitting on my hips that he said we need to “suck right out.” I agree. Dog ears are folds or the bunching-up of the tissues at the border at which the “corrected” tissue meets the “uncorrected” tissue post-surgically. So in my case, on either end of the 17-inch-long abdominal incision, or right on my hips. The main way to minimize dog ears is by making an incision longer, but in my case, my docs were dedicated to keeping the scar as small as possible, and making it longer would have entailed wrapping it around my hips onto my back, which aesthetically isn’t a good option. In a traditional tummy tuck, there’s more wiggle room for scar length, but in my case they were harvesting skin & fat from which to build my new boobs. So, I have dog ears on my hips. Not a real big deal, other than the superficial issue.

I would like to get it corrected sooner rather than later, so my doc and I are negotiating. He wants to wait 6 months from the date of reconstruction, but I think 3 months is ample time for healing. He is not swayed by my complaint that I have to go all summer long with extra fat on my hips. After some back-and-forth, we finally agreed on 5 months, but I’ll keep pushing.

The most entertaining thing about Wednesday’s visit came when I asked my doc if he knew another plastic surgeon, let’s call her Dr X. One of my friends is considering a “mommy make-over” with Dr X, and I wanted to see if me mentioning another surgeon caused him to get his hackles up. Ding! ding! ding! He wanted to know why I would possibly be asking about another doctor, as we all know he is The Best Surgeon In The World. For real. When I told him the real reason I was inquiring about Dr X, he got all googly-eyed at the idea of doing a “fun” procedure, as he described the “mommy make-over” and said that sure would be nice, and he asked me (tongue in cheek) to please try to “bring more fun” next time I come see him. After several deeps breaths to settle myself, I offered to bring a pinata to my next appointment. With a very big stick. We all got a big hee-ha out of that. I’m going to have to make a quick trip to the border, to get a real Mexican pinata, like the one we got for Macy’s 4th birthday. Look at the size of that thing! Now I just need to find a really big stick….

Before I start ranting again about how not fun all this has been F O R  H I M!!, let’s move on. The other interesting thing that occurred in our tete-a-tete was him telling me about the tummy tuck he did that morning that looked fantastic. Better than mine?I asked? Oh, yes–much better, he said. No dog ears, I asked? Oh, no, he replied, certainly not. Big sigh. Well, at least he’s off to a conference in New Orleans about fat transfer, so he can have the latest & greatest technique when it comes to sucking the giant dog ears off my hips and giving me a fighting chance of fitting into my clothes again sometime in the near future. Meanwhile, I’m thinking of officially changing my ethnicity to Basset Hound.

photo: googleimages.com

Dr S’s sweet nurse Brenda was sick, sick, sick with a sinus infection and looked like she felt beyond miserable. I told her she needed some homemade soup, and if that didn’t cure her, forget about it. So yesterday I took her some soup. Lo and behold, there’s Dr S. I told him I thought he was going out of town. He told me he is indeed but he has to see patients first, he has to work, he can’t just fly off to Napa like me, and oh how he wished he had my life. Hahahahahahahahahahaha. So funny. He looked quite stylish in his jeans and lime green shirt under his white coat, tanned and ready to take on the world, one fat glob at a time.

I mentioned that I happened to exchange some emails with Jenn, Dr Spiegel’s PA, and she happened to mention that they typically do revision surgeries 4 months after reconstruction. Just coincidence, that conversation, seriously. Yeah.

He told me no, absolutely not, he was putting his foot down in the sand. I asked if he was also drawing a line in the sand, and he said if I want my revision in 4 months, I can go to Dr Spiegel.

As if.

We also re-hashed a couple of long-dead conversations about subjects on which he was right and I was wrong, and we were done with the latest round of verbal sparring. He was going to check on a patient in the hospital adjacent to his office, and I was going to visit with Brenda and Marcie a bit. Next thing I know, he’s telling me to come on, and he’s waiting by the elevator for me. Now that’s some good service. Him waiting for me to finish my chat with his ladies, so that we could ride down in the elevator together–nice. And, as I recall, last time he asked me to pull down my pants so he could take a gander at my dog ears, he did say please. Quietly and under his breath, but still. We’re making progress. What a great day.

In the elevator, I took the opportunity to tell him ever so sweetly that I think it’s not so nice for him to tell me about surgeries performed on other patients who end up with a better result than me. I can’t remember if he laughed at me or promised to do better in the future, but I’m think it was the latter.

Oh, I love that man. He gives me blog fodder for days.


2 small heart attacks

The viewer mail is pouring in about this post and this one, in which I inadvertently gave y’all some reason to think you might be suffering a small heart attack. Many apologies. I didn’t mean to scare anyone or cause anyone to stroke out. I promise to be much more boring and much less dramatic in future.

Yeah, right.

I will get to coverage of Day 2 in Napa, really I will. It’s in the works. The trip was so fantastic, I want to do it justice, and sometimes that means ruminating, and you know I have very little patience.

thank you, AA Milne

As Winnie the Pooh referred to himself as “a bear of very little brain,” I am the blogger of very little patience. Working on it, people, working on it.

Thinking about Winnie the Pooh reminded me of how much I loved that bear as a little girl, and I’m sure somewhere in the deep recesses of my parents’ attic, there are photos of me surrounded by Winnie; my sweet mama never threw anything away. I had the Pooh treehouse with all the little figures: Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit, Christopher Robin, Kanga, and Roo. Oh, and Tigger. Don’t forget him. He’s c-razy! I had some Pooh pajamas that I wore nonstop, although not out in public like my little girl does in her jammies. I had a stuffed pooh, the original AA Milne version before Disney got its hands on him, and that bear went everywhere with me. I loved him so much I even gave him open heart surgery with my mom’s seam ripper from her sewing kit. I must have left the closing to my surgical assistant, because Pooh had a hole in his chest for the rest of time.

google images

Now that I’m all grown up, I appreciate Winnie the Pooh on a whole ‘nother level, and find the depth and meaning contained in his quotes so moving.

We’ve all seen this one, on a greeting card perhaps or a t-shirt: ““If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.” So endearing when said by a cartoon bear, but if a human said that I’d want to barf. Those of you who know what a non-romantic I am will be shaking your heads right now. Go ahead, it’s all right.

This quote from Pooh’s endless wisdom does not make me want to barf, however:

AA Milne

This one is all right with me. Don’t know why, but I suspect it’s because it reminds me of my sweet mama, and how very much I miss her. It also reminds me of my favorite ee cummings poem “i carry your heart with me,” which I had planned to read at my mom’s funeral but I just couldn’t get the words out. The words are always in my head, though, and I especially like this part:

“i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart) i am never without it… you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)”

I’ve always loved ee cummings’s disregard for capitalization and punctuation. To me it means the words themselves and the ideas they express are way more important than conventions. It’s as if he was in such a hurry to get these thoughts out of his head and his heart and onto the page that he couldn’t be bothered stopping for things that typically  make it easier for the reader to understand what’s been written. None of that mattered. He liked to present new ways to look at reality.

His romantic transcendentalism was not popular, however, and although he was the son of a well-known Cambridge family (his dad taught at Harvard and later was minister of Boston’s Old South Church), he struggled to get his poems published. His mom, Rebecca, had encouraged his love of writing, and lucky for the rest of the world, he persevered. It’s shocking to think that for some 20 years, he had to pay someone to publish his poems.

His poem reminds me to carry my sweet mama in my heart, just like Pooh suggests. But the root of the root and the bud of the bud is that it’s not the same as having her here. And as sweet as the words of cummings and Pooh are, they also lead me to the uncomfortable thought process through which every young cancer patient goes, whether we want to or not. The one in which we wonder about our mortality, as rates of recurrence, treatment pros & cons, and survival statistics tumble through our heads. For every success story we hear, we know there is someone who lost their battle, and we’re acutely aware of the new diagnoses that crash into ordinary people’s well-ordered lives every single day.

Having cancer sucks, but having cancer while you still have young kids at home really sucks. There’s the day-to-day junk that still needs to be dealt with, despite the gravity of disease, treatment, hospital stays, and ongoing drug therapy. I guess it’s not surprising that I find myself not really caring about whether I sign Macy’s daily folder, or wanting to punch the teachers who think another parent-driven school project is in order. Simmer down, teachers; I won’t really punch you but when you assign projects that my child cannot reasonably complete on her own, I do think about it, briefly, because it’s hard to muster the emotional energy needed to guide my child in her education, and I sure don’t want to have to make a trip to Hobby Lobby for supplies.

There’s a never-ending juggling act that comes with the cancer territory when young kids are involved. Like the fact that most of my doctor’s appointments are with surgeons, who tend to do surgery in the mornings and see patients in the afternoon. Sometimes that means I’m cutting it close when seeing the doctor and taking care of business while still making it in time to pick up the kids from school.

Like the fact that I never know when this beast will rear its ugly head again and interfere with our daily life, plans, and schedules. Payton’s Little League season is halfway over, maybe more, and I’ve yet to make it to a single game. For the first time in his Little League “career,” he’s played games for which neither of his parents was in the stands. Not the end of the world, by any stretch, and he’s a pretty resilient kid, but it still bugs me.

Like the fact that sometimes when my kids are venting to me about whatever problem is foremost in their minds, and all I can think is, “It’s not so bad…at least you aren’t dealing with the aftermath of cancer.”

But then I smarten up and realize that yes, they are dealing with the aftermath of cancer. It’s there for them, too, even though they don’t talk about it much or worry about it like I do. It comes out sideways, sometimes, like in Macy’s “getting to know you” questionnaire from the first day of school this year, and her answer to the question “What scares you the most?” Her answer: That my mom will get another infection. Geez, what happened to monsters under the bed? We’ve eclipsed that childhood fear and have sped headlong into unchartered territory here. Like Payton asking us about the annual summer trip to Boston and Salisbury Beach, and wondering if all of us will be going this year. Since I missed it last year, I want to be there even more this year, but part of me hesitates in promising him that, because with this damn disease and this damn infection, I just don’t know. I’m operating under the assumption that the answer is yes, we’re all going this year. But I shy away from promising it.