Home again, home againI

Our glorious vacation is over. Sigh. Many thanks to our wonderful hosts for such a wonderful time. It was a fabulous 17 days. Best weather ever, which meant tons of good times on the beach, laughing, reading, sunning, and sipping–the things from which memories are made. This year’s trip was made even more memorable by the addition of one important item from home: my dear friend and medical sherpa Amy! She and her boys spent some time with us on our beloved Salisbury Beach and she now knows exactly why we love it so much.

3 of my most-favorite things: Amy, lobsters, and champagne. Perfection!

A quick blast of photos as I tackle my gigantic to-do list, with promises to come back with a real photoglut soon. The clock is ticking and my list is long–gotta get ‘er done before my knee surgery on Wednesday. Among the gigantic pile of mail awaiting my return was the letter from my health insurance describing the procedure as “Lateral retinacular release open and arthroscopy, knee surgical, with meniscectomy (medial and lateral, including meniscal shaving) including debridement/shaving of articular cartilage (chondroplasty), same or separate compartment.” Blech. Ouch. Yuk. What part of that sounds fun? None of it. But alas, I will get through the lateral release, scoping, shaving, and debriding in hopes of rocking that bionic knee for years to come.

Meanwhile, I’ll think about this:

my favorite beach

I never get tired of this view!

early morning on a day that holds much promise

beach essentials

as much lobster as I can hold!

lobster & eggs

lobster roll!

lobster! lobster! lobster!

In between all the lobster, we ate cheese & crackers with fruit on the beach. Sublime!

A few beverages to wash down all that yummy lobster.

My favorite orange margarita from Agave in Newburyport

Big-bucket margs on the beach

homemade michelada

My daily Bloody Mary

Until next year, Salisbury!


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.


Happy Patriots’ Day!

googleimages.com

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.

googleimages.com

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.

bosox.com

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.

bosox.com

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

bosox.com

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.

yawkeywaystore.com

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.


Happy Presidents’ Day

The kids were scheduled to be out of school today to celebrate Presidents’ Day. Not sure how exactly to celebrate this day, because it seems an obscure holiday marked mainly by furniture sales. But it is a day for celebration, if not for the presidents than for the fact that school is indeed in session (sorry, teachers). Because of our recent snow day on a day during which there was no actual snow, we have to make up the holiday. My kids were royally bummed about this. Macy circumvented it all by waking up yesterday with a sore throat and a nasty cough; remnants of last week’s strep throat, I suppose. So she’s home after all, and Payton is ticked but working hard to be a good sport.

I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know much about our presidents. I’m particularly ill-educated about the early guys. My kids make up for it, though, and can help get me out of a jam if I need info on the founding fathers.

Payton & Macy are particularly well-versed on the leaders of the free world, past and present-day. Why? Because they’re above-average in every way, like all the kids who live in our suburban bubble, of course. No, really, because of this:

The presidential placemat.

We have one for the flags of the world, too. It’s not quite as valuable as the presidential one, but does come in handy during the Olympics when an athlete is identified by a tiny icon showing his/her country’s flag. Payton gets them every time. 

It hasn’t been used in a while because the kids have progressed, slightly, in their table manners and no longer need plastic sheeting and a power washer after every meal. But it looks like the flags placemat got put away before being sufficiently scrubbed and sanitized. Gross.

To distract my germophobe self from all the petrified crud living on that plastic, let’s get back to the presidents.

For my edification and your entertainment, I’ve listed a fact or two about our presidents. Some you may know, probably from watching “Cash Cab” which is where I find the most useful information these days.

George Washington: was the only prez to be unanimously elected. Upon his election, he only had one tooth. For real. His many dentures were made from human teeth, animal teeth, ivory and even lead, but not wood.

John Adams: our longest-living president. He died at age 90, damn near 91. He missed it by 118 days.

Thomas Jefferson: TJ gets a lot of press, but I wonder how many people know this: he wrote his own epitath and designed his own tombstone, but neither contained a reference to him having been a president.

James Madison: shortest president, at 5 foot 4. Also the lightest, at just 100 pounds. Teeny little thing. Tallest president? See Abe Lincoln. Heaviest: William Taft.

James Monroe: his daughter was the first White House bride, and he was the first US Senator to be elected president.

John Quincy Adams: swam nude every day in the Potomac River. Can you imagine present-day presidents doing that?? Where was the National Enquirer when we needed it? And aren’t you right now picturing this guy in the buff? Thought so. Of course he accomplished a lot of great things, and perhaps is our most pedigreed president, but now every time I hear his name, I’m going to think about him jumping in the Potomac in all his glory.

Andrew Jackson: had a great head of hair. Suffered a bullet wound near his heart in a duel at age 39 and carried that bullet until his death. Upon election, he granted government jobs to some 2,000 of his supporters and established the so-called “kitchen cabinet” of advisors. He was the first, and probably last, president to run a debt-free administration.

Martin Van Buren: first president to be born in the United States. He and his wife still spoke Dutch at home. Tried unsuccessfully to gain re-election 3 times, then gave up. Probably for the best.

William Henry Harrison: catchy name, and perhaps the only president for whom all 3 names are popular modern-day baby names. Sadly, was the first president to die while in office. He served just 30 days because of a nasty pneumonia. Glad there’s now a vaccine for that.

John Tyler: Harry S Truman’s great-uncle. He was disowned by his own party (the Whigs) because they didn’t like his financial policies.

James K. Polk: graduate of UNC. Survived a gallstone operation at age 17 with no anesthesia. Ugh.

Zachary Taylor: served in the army for 40 years and never voted before becoming president at age 62. Kept his army horse, Whitey, on the White House lawn, and tourists would pluck a hair from Whitey’s tail as a souvenir. Ouch!

Millard Fillmore: installed the first library, kitchen stove and bathtub in the White House. Refused an honorary degree from Oxford University because he was unable to read Latin and felt like a sham accepting a degree he couldn’t read.

Franklin Pierce: Installed central heating in the White House. Well, probably didn’t do it himself but had it done. He affirmed rather than swore his oath of office, for religious reasons. Gave his inaugural address from memory, without the aid of even one note card. Impressive.

James Buchanan: the only bachelor to ever occupy the White House. His niece, Harriet, took responsibility for the White House hostessing duties.

Abe Licoln: considered by historians to be our greatest prez, followed by G. Washington. Was not just the greatest, but also the first to wear a beard and the only president to hold a patent (for a boat-lifting device).

Andrew Johnson: was the youngest prez to be married, at age 18 to Eliza, aged 16. Was buried beneath a willow tree he planted himself that came from a shoot of a tree at Napoleon’s tomb. Try getting that through customs these days. He was also wasted at his inauguration as Lincoln’s VP, but had a good reason: he was sick with typhoid and self-medicating with booze.

Ulysses Grant: smoked 20 cigars a day (and died of throat cancer. Hmmmm.). Although he witnessed some of the bloodiest battles in history, he was grossed out by the sight of animal blood and couldn’t eat a rare steak. My kind of guy.

Rutherford Hayes: his wife was known as “Lemonade Lucy” because she refused to serve alcohol in the White House. He kept his campaign promise to only run for one term, and I’m sure the subsequent visitors to the White House weren’t nearly as thirsty as those who came during his term.

James Garfield: our first left-handed president who died from a blood infection caused by repeated probing for an assassin’s bullet. Oh, I how I hate infections.

Chester Arthur: His wife Ellen died before he took office so his sister Mary assumed hostessing duties. He was a night owl, enjoyed night clubs and entertained like a rock star. My favorite quote of his: “I am a president of the United States states but what I do in my private life is  my own damn business.” Amen, brother.

Grover Cleveland: only prez elected to two non-consecutive terms. He served as the 22nd and the 24th president.

Benjamin Harrison: quite the windbag. He made 140 different speeches in 30 days, and I don’t think he had a staff of speechwriters. He was also the second prez to become widowed.

William McKinley: was in terrible physical shape. So bad that his doctors believe that if he’d been fitter, he would have survived the assassination. Let that be a lesson to you, people.

Teddy Roosevelt: a great man, but an attention whore. He was known to want to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral. Strange.

William Taft: lots to say about this guy. He was the only one (so far) to serve as both president and Chief Justice. He created the tradition of the prez throwing out the first pitch of the baseball season (and some of his followers needed to work on their windups to avoid looking like pansies). His wife planted the first cherry trees that now adorn the Washington, D.C. landscape and look so gorgeous in the spring. He was by far our fattest president, weighing well over 300 pounds. He got stuck in the White House bathtub the first time he used it and had to order a new one, after a crew of embarrassed staffers wrestled him out of the too-small one.

Woodrow Wilson: an avid golfer, he refused to let the D.C. winters stop him from playing his sport and used black golf balls in the snow. Clever. His second wife, Edith, was distantly related to Pochahontas.

Warren Harding: one of the meanest looking presidents, IMHO. Both of his parents were doctors yet still gave him the middle name “Gamaliel.” Odd. He was the first newspaper publisher to be elected president and was known to be patient with the press, offering lengthy press conferences. Liked burlesque shows and snuck off to them as prez. His great-grandmother was black. He was pretty stern looking, but I like this photo of him and his dog. In fact, I may have to also do a post on presidential pets.

Calvin Coolidge: punched the Boston mayor in the eye while he himself was governor. Nice. Required 9 hours of sleep and a 2- to 4-hour nap every day. How the hell did he get anything done?

Herbert Hoover: was the youngest member of Standford’s graduating class. He and Thomas Edison were named the two greatest engineers by Columbia University. A social butterfly, for the first three years of his tenure in the White House he dined alone just three times. He was the first prez to donate his salary to charity. He was also one of the most honored presidents, with 84 honorary degrees, 78 medals and keys to numerous cities.

Franklin Roosevelt: elected an unprecedented 4 times. Was the first prez to be shown on TV. Claims to have been related by blood or marriage to 11 former presidents.

Harry Truman: Lots of good stuff about him professionally, but here’s something you may not know: his mom was a Confederate sympathizer and refused to sleep in Lincoln’s bed during a White House visit. He was the first prez to use air travel across the country. To recognize his contribution to the health care system, President Johnson presented Mr. and Mrs. Truman with the very first Medicare cards. The “S” that serves as his middle initial isn’t short for anything, so if you see Harry S. Truman, with a period after the “S” you know it’s wrong. An old copyediting pet peeve of mine.

Dwight Eishenhower: Payton’s favorite president. In fact, when P was chosen to portray President George Bush in his first grade program, he was ticked that he couldn’t be Ike. I guess Ike wasn’t current enough to make the program. He is known for ordering the integration of Central High School in Little Rock in 1957. Good man. He was the last prez born in the 19th century and the first prez to be a licensed pilot. He served in both World Wars and was an excellent cook. This photo, by the way, is one of the few in existence that show Payton wearing long pants. Take a good look, people, because it is a rare sighting.

John Kennedy: youngest prez elected (43) and youngest prez to die (46). Was the only prez to serve in the Navy and to appoint a sibling to a cabinet position. Had he not been so young and handsome, his wife may well have eclipsed him in notoriety and popularity, not unlike Charles and Diana. Jackie O was the first lady most outspoken about disliking the term “first lady.”

Lyndon Johnson: I gotta like him because he’s a Texan, but he seemed like a jerk. I do like his War on Poverty (at least in theory), and his civil rights reforms. He was the first prez to reject his official portrait, saying it was the ugliest thing he ever saw. His wife wins the prize for first lady with the best name. Although Lady Bird wasn’t her real name (it was Claudia), a wet nurse or nanny or someone proclaimed she was pretty as a lady bird, and the name stuck. Charming.

Richard Nixon: graduated from Duke, so he can’t be all bad.

Gerald Ford: he was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr, but I’m not sure how he came to be known as Gerald Ford. Need to check up on that, but this post is already stretching on and on. Plus, I need to save room for this: he and Betty were both models before they were married, and he campaigned for Congress on their wedding day. She was a patient woman. Or maybe that’s why she needed to drink. Both of the assassination attempts against him were committed by women. Women today owe Betty a big debt of gratitude as she was a big player in removing the stigma from a breast cancer diagnosis. Here she is with her hubby after her mastectomy, reading a card signed by 100 members of Congress. She was diagnosed in 1978 (when I was 9 years old, same age as my daughter now), at age 56 and was very publicly and bravely faced a mastectomy. She became a beacon of hope to lots of women, including Susan Komen, who died from the disease in 1980 at age 36. Komen did say “If Mrs. Ford can admit she has breast cancer and tell the world she intends to fight it, then so can I.”

Jimmy Carter: first prez born in a hospital (as opposed to at home, I presume), and the first to be sworn in using his nickname, “Jimmy” instead of his given name, James.

Ronald Reagan: was our oldest president, leaving office at age 77. He was also the first prez to have been divorced. During his tenure, our first female justice of the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, was appointed by a landslide 91-8 vote.

George Bush: Bush is reportedly related to Benedict Arnold, Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill, and Presidents Franklin Pierce, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Gerald Ford. Weird. Bush became the first vice president ever to serve as acting president when Reagan underwent surgery for three hours in 1985.  Good thing he’s the only VP to serve as acting pres, since it was such a short time frame, he might easily have become the second person to hold that honor. He’s also the second man in US Presidential history whose son became President.  In 1992, while at a formal dinner in Japan, Bush became ill and vomited on the prime minister of Japan, then fainted. Oh the horror.

Bill Clinton: childhood nickname was “Bubba.” Nuff said.

George W. Bush: press nickname was “Shrub.” Nuff said.

Barack Obama: first president to openly claim he doesn’t like ice cream as a result of working at an ice cream shop as a teen. Then how do you explain this: 

Or this: I could continue, but I think it’s impolite to embarrass the president. Most of them do that just fine without any help, actually.
Happy Presidents’ Day, everyone!


The Big Dig

Yesterday was yet another trip to the medical center, for one last pre-op visit to Dr Spiegel before reconstruction. I really need to think of a catchy title for the surgery, something like Boston’s big construction project, the Big Dig. Come to think of it, there are some similarities between the Big Dig and my surgery: both relate to the Central Artery and Tunneling (in fact, the official name of the Big Dig is the CA/T Project). Both are complicated, involve lots of people, and take a mighty long time to complete. But unlike the Big Dig, which replaced the 6-lane elevated Central Artery (I-93) with  a 3.5-mile long underground tunnel, my surgery won’t cost $22 billion. Hopefully. My insurance company, which has been mighty nice so far, might just stroke out about that figure. 

The Big Dig sounded like a great idea and was intended to be a tremendous boon to an already kick-ass city. But mismanagement, scandal, and skyrocketing costs quickly dominated headlines, and my second-favorite city had a big mess on its hands. Congressman Barney Frank quipped, “Wouldn’t it be cheaper to raise the city than depress the artery?”

Say what you will about Barney, but that’s a good line.

But back to the update on the doctor visit. This was Trevor’s day to meet the lovely Dr Spiegel, her ultra-energetic PA, Jen, and her trusty nurse Sonia. My friend Laura, who is a nurse practitioner in the liver transplant unit at Methodist, met us there, too. Dr Spiegel wanted to brief my caregivers on what to expect post-surgery, and Laura kindly offered to help out. In her white coat and super-stylish glasses, she brought a nice element of professional gravitas to the occasion. She told Dr Spiegel that she’s done some match-making for me and picked out an anesthesiologist she likes and trusts, and Dr Spiegel agrees that Dr Ashmore is the guy for me. Laura and Sonia recognized each other right away, then she and Jen hugged and high-fived, happy to be collaborating on my case. It’s good to have connections.

The visit itself was pretty uneventful. I like uneventful at the doctor’s office. Dr Spiegel  went over a few basics with us but since we were pretty much up to speed on everything, there weren’t any new developments. I’m finished with all the pre-op testing (bloodwork, blood donation, x-rays, EKG, CT-scan), and just need to watch the video consultation on Dr Spiegel’s website to get a more detailed overview of the procedure. I’m not saying I’m scared to do that, but after watching a video on youtube of an actual surgery, on an actual person, I’m not in a big hurry. Ick.

The one topic we did need to cover, though, was the infection. I wanted to bring it up in a way that seemed breezy and conversational, as opposed to, “How the sam hell are you going to keep this bloody nightmare from recurring, lady?” I was pretty sure that wouldn’t go over too well.

I’m not the most diplomatic person, and I tend to say what I really think, even if it’s not pretty or may be hard to hear. It’s a blessing and a curse. Believe it or not, I actually do put a lot of thought into what I say and how I say things, but because I’m pretty direct, sometimes things come out a bit, um, harsher than I intend.

Sorta like, “Are you outta your mind??? You’re not really going to wear that are you?” or “Clearly that person has neither friends nor a mirror; why else would one go out in public looking like that???” as opposed to “Have you thought about what to wear?” Those kinds of niceties take a bit of work on my part. My instinct is to just blurt out whatever needs to be said, and let the chips fall where they may. We’re all grown-ups, right?

Right. Except I really don’t want to tick off the nice lady with the very sharp scalpels. That would be bad. So I fumbled around and probably sounded idiotic by saying, Um, so, uh, like, how worried do we need to be about the um, you know, infection? You know, like, um, during the uh, reconstruction?

She smiled knowingly, and if she’d been sitting closer might have patted my hand and said, there there.  She reminded me that my case isn’t exactly normal, and I tried not to tell her that “normal” is pejorative and listened to what she had to say.

She has a plan, of course, and it sounds like a good one. Usually, in cases of infection, she would wait to do reconstruction, to be sure the infection is truly gone. But in my case, which again is not normal, we need to get in there sooner rather than later and clean up the mess,  i.e., excise the damaged tissue and replace it with some new, fresh meat. And by meat I mean my own flesh. Fresh flesh. Yum.

The plan is to work on the infected side last, and she promised to take her time and wash it all out thoroughly with 6 liters of antibacterial solution. That’s way more than usual. She’ll have separate fields of instruments, and once the instruments touch the infected area, they’ll be classified as contaminated. Remember the scene in the movie ET at the end, when the little guy was dying, and the family home was a warren of plastic sheeting populated by feds in Haz-mat gear? I’m having visions of the Haz-mat suits. But hopefully no aliens. Although I do kinda like the polka-dotted kiddie pools in this scene.

So we’re on track, on schedule, and presumably ready to go. She estimates the surgery will last 8 hours, not 12-15 like I’d originally heard. Of course, we won’t know what we’re dealing with until she actually gets in there and starts cutting and scraping away, but I’m going to be optimistic.

Meanwhile, I’ll be thinking of a name for my own personal Big Dig (if you have ideas, send them em!), and can’t wait to post before and after pictures like this:

Except, I won’t make you look at the before pics, because they’re pretty gross, and that would just be mean.


I heard the news today, oh boy

It started around age 2, I guess. The baseball obsession. From his earliest days, Payton was a baseball fanatic.

He’s probably not even 2 years old here, but he’s already at the plate, ready to swing for the fences. 

That original swing morphed into this —

and even in 2nd grade, it was game on.

The Red Sox obsession started when he was around 4 years old, maybe even earlier. He has a lot of Sox jerseys and t-shirts. He even had a shirt way back then that says “Yankees Stink” and when he wore it to Fenway Park one year, he was a rock star among Sox fans. He wore it to an Astros game and was featured on the Jumbo-Tron screens. Sweet.

He wears Sox shirts for all occasions, both important and everyday. And not just at the ballpark, either. He wears them pretty much every day, no matter where he’s going.

From playing in the driveway in our Durham house, where we lived for two years, to the first day of kindergarten, Payton wore Sox apparel. Always a Sox shirt, and usually a cap, too.

If they allowed ballcaps at school, he’d wear a Sox cap every day. At one point, we had to clean out the closet because there were so many Sox caps. Every color combination of red, white & blue, and a green one, too. Eventually he got a red one with black flames. There was a green camo one, too, but it disappeared before we had any photos of it. 

Here he is in a Sox cap at his Little League team party in 1st grade, I think. All the other boys on the team wore the team cap, but this die-hard Sox fan had other plans.

He’s wearing a Sox shirt and cap in this photo, taken in his room six months after we moved back to Houston from North Carolina. This kid is (and no doubt will be) a Sox fan no matter where he lives.

His blue Sox cap was with him at the rodeo. He’s not wearing a Sox shirt, though.

I probably made him wear a Longhorns shirt, since it was the most Western-y thing he had to wear to the rodeo. (And yes, I see the expression on Macy’s face. Classic.)

He’s probably still mad about it, too.

For a while, Macy was in on it, too. This is one of my all-time favorite pics of my kids. In New Orleans, on the way home from Fort Meyers, FL, at spring break for, what else? Red Sox spring training.

Of course he wore a Sox jersey for the first day of school in 1st grade, just like he had done on the first day of school in kindergarten. He’s got a Sox backpack, too.

We got a lot of wear from the original jersey, a Nomar Garciaparra #5 authentic MLB version. He wore that one for a couple of years, and I still have it. I keep thinking I’ll do something special with it, like put it in a shadowbox with other memorabilia to preserve the Sox legacy. For now, it’s hanging in the laundry room, and every time I see it, I smile at how tiny it is, and how the tiniest jersey was worn by the biggest fan.

Here he is at Fenway Park in jersey and rally cap, showing off his newly-toothless grin. He had just turned 6, and was already a veteran traveler to Boston and Fenway Park.

Guess what he wore to his 6th birthday party? Yep, a Sox shirt. He loved the shirt, but wasn’t too happy about having to pose for a photo.

He looks a little happier here, celebrating Ed’s birthday in, what else? a Sox jersey. 

Here he is before the birthday bash, in yet another Sox shirt. He and Ed are smiling so big because they love the Red Sox! In fact, it was Ed who first brainwashed Payton into becoming part of Red Sox Nation. Thanks, Ed! I’ve never been more proud than I was during a game at Fenway when Pay was little (4 or 5 years old at most) and quickly established himself among our seasoned seat-mates as a real fan. He knew who was next in the batting order, and who made the last out. It wasn’t long before the men around us were asking Pay questions about the roster, and he knew the answer every time.

Riding the T after a game at Fenway, happy with a Fenway Frank or two in his tummy and a pennant in his hand. This boy loves baseball, and to him, baseball means the Red Sox.

This was his face when he came home from school one day in the 1st grade to find his room contained new bunk beds. I love the look on his face almost as much as the fact that he’s wearing yet another Sox shirt.

He’s all dressed up here for Mother’s Day.

And for YaYa’s birthday. Well, as dressed up as Pay gets. Which is fine with me. If he’s not wearing a Sox shirt, something seems just the slightest bit off.

In 3rd grade, he wore Sox shirts on the first day of school: and the last day of school. He got an award at the end of the year from Mrs. Spearman, probably for being the biggest Sox fan.

It was more of the same for the first day of 4th grade.

Hanging out with Snoopy, in a jersey of course.

She’s a Sox fan, too.

After the Nomar jersey came the Veritek version. Then Youklis. Then Beckett. 

I’m sure there were more, but they all sorta run together after all these years.

We’re really lucky to be able to go to Boston every summer and stay with our dear friends-who-are-now-family. The trip is the highlight of the year for all of us, and getting to go to Fenway as well as hang out for a couple of weeks on the shore, is the best.

At the airport on one of those trips when the kids were really little, Pay was decked out in Sox championship apparel. People traveling from Houston to Boston on that flight with us knew where that kid was headed. First stop, Yawkey Way. 

Catching some z’s on the beach in Salisbury, north of Boston. Notice the cap?

Wearing one of my favorite Sox shirts at Markey’s Lobster Pound, one of the best places on Earth. This shirt says, “It’s obvious you wish you were part of Red Sox Nation.”

Indeed.

Another Sox ensemble while enjoying another delicacy at the shore: Blink’s Fried Doe. Payton prefers chocolate frosting and chocolate sprinkles. Only they call them jimmies at the shore.

One year we went back to the shore for Thanksgiving. It was cold on the beach, but we took a walk. Pay wore a Sox shirt, and no coat.

Back at home, we buy the MLB extended cable package so we can watch every Sox game. 

Payton always gets new Sox shirts for Christmas, which makes him smile. Santa knows what that kid wants most. 

Fuzzy dice to go with the new shirts. Good stuff.

I don’t remember what we were celebrating here, but I’m sure it was fun. And the Pedroia shirt means it was a special occasion. Or a Tuesday. Either one.

When Pay broke his wrist in the 5th grade and had to get a cast, he got a red one. While wearing a Sox shirt, natch. Then he tried to scratch inside the cast with a mechanical pencil, and the eraser got stuck and he had to get another red cast. Three days after the first one. I told him that if he did it again, the third cast would be pink.

There was no third cast.

This past summer, Pay had to go to Fenway without me. I was home recovering from the latest bout with the post-mastectomy infection and wasn’t fit to travel.

He brought me a get-well gift. Guess what it was: a new Sox shirt of my very own. My favorite player had changed his number, so I needed an updated shirt. Sweet boy.

Red Sox apparel is such a big part of Payton’s life, and his wardrobe. Our family has logged lots of hours at Fenway and spent even more time camped out in front of the TV watching games from home. We check the box scores in the morning paper, and on any given day during the MLB season Pay can tell you exactly how many games ahead or back the Sox are in the playoff pursuit. We’ve had fun seeing the Sox at our home ballpark, Minute Maid Park, during interleague play, and at Camden Yards while visiting friends in D.C. When the Sox were playing the Rockies in Colorado en route to the World Series, we were ready to pack up and drive there, but the quick sweep made it a moot point.

My baseball-loving son doesn’t have a lot to say; he’s a pretty quiet kid. But get him talking about the Sox, and you’d better settle in because it may take awhile. We’ve bonded over good games and bad, big hits and strike-outs, bad calls and triumphant victories, opportunities lost and capitalized upon. We are a Red Sox family.

And as another Little Season is upon us, Payton, the biggest Sox fan of all, just got drafted by the Yankees. Worst. Thing. Ever. (in his mind, anyway.) This happened once before, a few seasons back, and he was pretty upset. He handled it like a pro, though, saying he would wear the dreaded navy blue jersey, but with a Sox shirt underneath, close to his heart. And when he “lost” his Yankees hat a few days into the season and needed to wear a navy blue Sox hat, I didn’t question him. He decided he would play hard while on the field, because that’s part of being on a team, but would take off the Yankees jersey as soon as the games ended. I admit, it was pretty weird to see him in Yankees gear. Wonder if he can still fit into his shirt that says “Yankees Stink?”