It’s nice to be important

Yes, I’m still celebrating my birthday. When I showed up for my scar-tissue-management appointment to see Tammy, my favorite lymphedema specialist, she and Janice had decorated the office for me! I saw the Happy Birthday banner on the front door and wondered if my timing  was out of whack, because Janice had her birthday in February and Tammy’s is at the end of the summer. Imagine my surprise when the decorations were for me!

Confetti on the massage bed! Balloons and streamers! Even some strategically-placed decorations on the shelf above the bed, so that as I’m lying down for treatment, I see festiveness. 

Tammy insisted she get a picture of me lying on the confetti. I love that you can see her, in her white top, in the mirror behind me. She’s something else.

Tammy, me, Janice

One of the pleasant things to come from this “cancer journey” is the relationships formed with health-care providers. Tammy & Janice fall into the category. Hell, they define this category. When I first met them post-mastectomy, minus some lymph nodes and worried about how their absence would affect my tennis game, these two ladies took me under their wing and provided the balm to my battered soul that comes from pure human kindness. We’ve gotten to know each other very well over the last year, and they’ve become not only providers but also friends. So yes, the birthday celebration continues, and I will continue to ride the b-day train as long as humanly possible. Once my liver says “uncle,” I’m out. But until then, rock on.

Even with all the birthday revelry, I didn’t want to get too far away from my latest visit to Dr S. I’ve been so busy celebrating my birthday that I almost forgot to report on my visit to my all-time favorite surgeon in the Entire World. I saw him the day before the celebrating began, so I’d better tell ya about it now before the details become entirely too fuzzy to relate.

Well, the details of the visit aren’t as important as the fact that he and I have made some major, major break-through progress. As you loyal readers know, Dr S & I have gone round & round on a few things in the past, and we’ve had some pretty good arguments. The Turf Wars continue to amuse me.  But at the end of the appointment, with the exception of one hellacious visit last summer involving Sucky during which he almost saw me cry, we part on friendly terms and hold a lot of fondness for each other in our hearts.

So what was the progress, you may ask? When he told me to pull my pants down, so he could look at my belly scar, he said please.

Yes, you read that right:  he said please. All of his own volition. Without being prompted. Without the Mexican stand-off that usually occurs when he wants me to comply but I refuse until he shows me some manners. A little wining & dining before we get down to it, if you will.

That is some major progress. You may remember the time in which I asked him to say please and he replied that he doesn’t have to say please because he is the doctor (cue the fanfare music here). I pretty much laughed in his face and said he may be the doctor, but I am the patient (cue the even louder fanfare music here) and I will not do what he’s asked until he asks nicely.

I reminded him of one of the tenets of my growing-up years: It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice. 

I’m pretty sure he really liked that one, a lot.

Next stop for the birthday train: happy hour — my favorite time of day.

cheers!

A gathering of dear friends, some yummy food, and a well-stocked ice bucket makes for one happy birthday girl. Thad & Yvonne always throw a great party, and last night was no exception. We toasted with a Mumm rose, and broke out the beautiful orange box so the Widow could join the party. She’s always the star of the show.

Luckily, she plays well with others, and it’s not a one-woman show. There’s the Mumm and the ubiquitous Piper, along with the Prisoner. 

Quite a nice grouping for the birthday happy hour. The food was delish, as it always is at Chez McLemore. Yvonne’s tableside guacamole would be at home at any of the finer Mexican restaurants in our neck of the woods. Keith & Jill’s deconstructed Greek salad crostini made my heart happy and made my tummy say “thank you!” The hand-made tortillas and grilled shrimp added the last dash of supreme bliss that enveloped our patio happy hour. The fruit crostada was bursting with blueberries and anchored with peaches, all the while surrounded by a buttery, flakey, turbinado-sugared crust. 

But the very best part of an overall-exceptional evening was this: being surrounded by friends who make every meal a feast.


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.