WordPress is outstanding. I give all credit to the Hubs for choosing WordPress as my blog home. Actually, he gets all the credit for this little blog’s existence. He
bullied convinced me to transition from Caring Bridge to a “real” blog. I wasn’t sure I had the chops or the audience for a “real” blog, but he was right on both counts. See, I’m neither too proud nor too Greek to admit I was wrong.
bullied convinced me to leave the safety of Caring Bridge for the wide-open world of “real” blogging, he set out to find the best blog host for me, and WordPress won that contest, hands down. Not to knock those blogs hosted by other, non-WPsites, of course, but WP never asks me to “prove I’m not a robot” by entering a string of jibberish into a little box before my comment can be published. WP never requires me to identify myself each and every time I want to post a comment on someone else’s blog. The brain that powers WP is big enough to remember who I am every time. There’ve been times when I’ve abandoned a comment I was planning to leave on another blog, after carefully composing it (or just rattling off a stream-of-consciousness thought) because the process of proving I’m not a robot and having to enter my credentials took too long or crashed my computer. Not so with WordPress.
I got a handy email from the dear folks at WP the other day saying this: “The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.”
They provided this cute graphic as well. Thanks, WP; now I don’t have to troll googleimages to find something to pretty up my post.
The good people at WP crunched a lot of numbers and came up with this analogy for my little blog:
19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 100,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Click here to see the complete report. Thank you, stat helper monkeys, for this annual report. What a cool gift. Those helpful monkeys laid out my all-time most-viewed post for me. How interesting. If someone — or some monkey — asked me to pick what I thought my most-viewed post was, I’m not sure I would have thought of this one. But I’m not a stat-crunching monkey, now, am I? I’m someone who still counts on her fingers sometimes, and who always resorts to a 20-percent tip in a restaurant because the math is just easier. What I don’t know about stats and numbers and most-viewed posts is a lot.
I’m humbled and tickled and perhaps a bit surprised to see how far-reaching this little blog has become. My heart is warmed by the blog friends I’ve made through this little blog. Women and men around the globe from all walks of life, united in one thing: the need to pour out our hearts onto the WP screen, to try to make some sense of the curveballs life has thrown us. Whether cancer or life in a foreign land or the pursuit of a goal right here at home, my blog friends write about the stuff that is foremost in their minds and filling up their hearts. Through good news (the latest scan was clear!) and bad (the dreaded mets), through everyday events and life-changing ones, we share. We comment. We connect. We come together.
And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
As we shed this year and look forward to a brand-spanking-new one, I will take some time to reflect on this little blog and all its stats and numbers. As I prepare for a year-end blow-out celebration with dear friends and lots of champagne, I will think of my blog friends around the world, and I will raise a glass to our shared experience. While I’d just as soon not have been diagnosed with breast cancer at the tender age of 40, had I not, I wouldn’t have started this little blog and “met” all of my wonderful friends in the blog-o-sphere. While I still fervently maintain that cancer is not a gift, it does happen, and we deal with it. We curse it, we cry about it, we blog about it. We come together.
Readying myself to bid adieu to 2012, I think of the year ahead and hope it’s full of good health, dear friends, yummy food, sunny days, bottomless glasses, cherished children, and beloved pets. I wouldn’t mind getting back on the tennis court after 4 long months of rehab for my newly-repaired knee, BTW. I’m thinking of things I want to do in the New Year, tasks I want to tackle, skills I want to acquire, places I want to go. In the immortal words of Mark Twain, I’m thinking of catching the wind in my sails.
Listen up, people: this is really important.
If you’re not familiar with The SCAR Project, I am happy to introduce you. I’ll be honest: there are some photos that may disturb you, because the photos show “large-scale portraits of young breast cancer survivors,” and present a “raw, unflinching face of early onset breast cancer while paying tribute to the courage and spirit of so many brave young women,” according to the project’s website. While the photos are indeed raw and unflinching themselves, I challenge you to man up and look at them anyway. They’re very tastefully done, no train-wreck gore or gratuitously scary stuff. Get past the cover model who is visibly pregnant and sporting a single-mastectomy scar on her chest. Her belly is beautiful, as it contains a newly forming life, and her scar is a badge of honor.
The project’s acronym stands for “Surviving Cancer. Absolute Reality.”
I like that little double entendre. Well, let’s be honest: I like most double entendres, but this one in particular speaks to me. As does the project’s media slogan: “Breast Cancer Is Not a Pink Ribbon.”
I’m all for the pink-it-up attitude that the Susan G Komen for the Cure and other organizations espouse. While I think it’s a little weird to see the pink ribbon and “awareness campaign” on products ranging from golf balls to toilet paper and all parts in between, and while I question how much all this awareness really does to actually fight the dreaded disease, I am grateful that Suzy Goodman Komen was the kind of woman who wanted to make a difference, even though she would not be a survivor. Because of her and her family, most notably her sister Nancy G. Brinker, breast cancer went from a shameful secret shrouded in secrecy to the glamour disease du jour.
I’m not interested in getting into the debate in the BC community over how much good the Komen organization has actually done. I completely understand the frustration felt by women with Stage IV BC over the lack of research done on their end of this vicious disease. According to Brinker’s book, Promise Me, the Komen organization has contributed some $1.5 billion to research and community programs, but it seems that precious little reaches the metastatic BC demographic. I understand, and I struggle to see the connection between awareness and finding a cure. Regardless of funds and allocation, however, I’m grateful that in the 25+ years that Komen has been around, the global breast cancer movement has worked to eradicate the shame that used to accompany a BC diagnosis. The SCAR Project is following suit.
As I’ve mentioned before, Bestselling author Barbara Delinsky also lost a loved one to BC. Delinsky was 8 years old when her mom died from BC, yet according to her book Uplift, she was in her teens before she learned that her mom had breast cancer, and it was years before her dad could say cancer, and even longer before he could say breast.
One of the women featured in Uplift, Elinor Farber, lost her mom to BC, too, and said when her mom was diagnosed 45 years ago, there were no mammograms, and mastectomies were just short of a butchering. Farber reports that her mom lived more than 30 years after her surgery, but never once spoke of her condition. “Mom endured everything without the support of friends and neighbors, who were not told. My sister and I were both told of my mom’s condition in hushed tones, and we were sworn to secrecy.”
We’ve come a long way.
But not until The SCAR Project have people been forced to see–I mean really see–the impact of breast cancer.
The project focuses on women aged 18 to 35, a demographic in the breast cancer community that is not well represented. Although it’s estimated that more than 100,00 women younger than 40 will be diagnosed with BC this year, and although BC is the #1 cause of death of women aged 18 to 40, the younger members of the pink ribbon club don’t get a lot of press.
When I was diagnosed last April at the tender young age of 40, I quickly learned just how little press we young-uns get. All of the literature I received from my darling breast surgeon featured grey-haired grannies. Not a single image in any literature showed anyone within 20 years of my age. My darling breast surgeon, who is younger than me, agreed that the lit needs a major overhaul, and she teased me about being the one to get the ball rolling. Sure thing. Now that I’m finally off the antibiotics and over the post-mastectomy infection, I’m on it.
Sadly, I’m too old for The SCAR Project; otherwise, I would sign up right this second to be a SCAR model. Well, not right this second but after living in the gym for several months and eating nothing but salad. No dressing. Kidding. After countless doctor visits and multiple hospital stays, I’ve long shed any modesty about disrobing, and I’ve been known to show my scars in all their glory to anyone who asks. The nurses in my various doctors’ offices don’t even offer me the paper gown anymore, because they know I won’t use it. Save a tree, people; I’m over it. In fact, I may contact photographer David Jay and tell him I’m overage but have an abundance of scars. Way more than the women on the SCAR website. No that it’s a contest or anything.
Like Komen, the initial goal of The SCAR Project was to raise awareness and money. But it became so much more. Jay explains that he was not prepared for something so beautiful:
“For these young women, having their portrait taken seems to represent their personal victory over this terrifying disease. It helps them reclaim their sexuality, identity, and power after having been robbed of such an important part of it. Through these simple pictures, they seem to gain some acceptance of what has happened to them, and the strength to move forward with pride.”
Yeah! Go girls! This model from The SCAR Project looks like the epitome of a fierce survivor. While no doubt she’s battle-weary and has seen things and faced trials she never thought possible, the mere fact that she participated in The SCAR Project tells me that she is indeed moving forward with pride.
I’m not quite there yet, personally, with reclaiming all that has been lost to my cancer, but after seeing the women in The SCAR Project, I’m a whole lot closer.
WordPress hosts my little blog site, and while I don’t understand all the ins & outs of what WP does, I do know that they do it well. Visiting other blogs on other hosts proves it: WP kicks ass.
I often read the updates that come to me from WP, whether it’s to showcase a new theme (the physical look of a blog), or to update users on a new feature, like the new iPad feature that provides those who read blogs via iPad a cool experience. From the gurus at WP: “Our iPad-optimized view is app-like in its functionality, but pure HTML5 goodness on the backend: it supports touch interactions, swiping, rotation, and many other features of the iPad.”
I don’t know exactly what HTML5 is but like the way they refer to its pure goodness.
The Automattic side of WP recently announced a cool idea: let’s have a virtual 5K. This group of 80 hipsters with job titles like “code ninja,” “systems wrangler” and “happiness engineer” are scattered in 62 cities around the globe, but they share a love of fitness, so they knew that getting all the co-workers together on the same day in the same city was crazy talk. Instead, they settled on the idea of having everyone do their own 5K in their own way but on the same day. And then, because they are totally kick-ass, they opened this idea up to WP bloggers, and gave us a week in which to complete this mission.
I’m well-versed in 5Ks from my running days, but with breast cancer and post-mastectomy infection as my sidekicks, my racing days are over. I may be down but not out, and I am definitely on the mend after a long, complicated and downright icky span of nearly a year. I’m officially deeming myself over that mess, however, and ready to tackle the Automattic 5K. Lucky for me, there’s an loophole in this 5K that says it can be “in your own way,” meaning it doesn’t have to be an organized point-to-point or up-and-back race. In fact, the invitation went out to “walk, run, or skip” just do 3.1 miles worth, and it counts. Those Automatticians are so nice.
Walking through the lush and beautiful Wine Country in Napa Valley counts, right? I didn’t use a pedometer, but I’m pretty sure we walked at least 3 miles over 2 days of wine touring. We walked through lots of wineries, traversing the valley from its southern end, near Downtown Napa, to Yountsville in the middle, and northward into Rutherford.
No matter where we were, the scenery was spectacular. I never got tired of looking out over the rows of tidy grapevines and seeing the rolling green hills and the majestic mountains rising up toward the azure of the sky.
Our first stop on my 5K was Chandon in Yountville, where they’ve been making sparkling wines long enough to be household name. Chandon’s wine makers have experimented a lot but settled on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier grapes in the tradition of French champagne. Works for me.
After an hour-long limo ride from San Francisco to Napa, our group of 10 was ready to stretch our collective legs and get our drink on. Chandon was a great place to start.
As we disembarked at the threshold of all things Chandon, the first thing I noticed was this sweet little tableau, at the base of the winery’s entrance. The fountain was bubbling and the calla lilies were blooming. The only way the setting could have been more perfect would be if I had a glass of bubbly in hand. While we were in a rush to get inside and get that bubbly, we did pause at the entrance
to get a group shot of the ladies before we hit the ground running (or strolling, because this is a have-it-your-way 5K). Chandon was the first of at least 4 wineries we were planning to hit that day, so we had our work cut out for us. We needed to get busy.
The magnum was sublime. Our group of 10 found a table on the patio and and settled in for our first official taste of Napa. No one had any complaints.
Next stop was V Sattui in St Helena, north of Chandon, for picnic supplies. It was so perfect, we went back the next day, too. Grabbing a variety of picnic items from edamame salad to fancy-pants potato chips suited everyone in our group of hungry travelers. We served up our picnic family-style, passing and sampling our bounty of yummy morsels.
Doesn’t the sign alone make you want to spend a lazy afternoon there, eating delicious foods and drinking wine in the sunshine?
Yeah, we did too, but we had miles to go before we slept, to quote Robert Frost.
Luckily we weren’t stopping by woods on a snowy evening, but instead zipping along southward to Silver Oak in Oakville. Yet another breathtaking view out the vineyard’s doorway made us stop and take it all in. Then we hurried inside in pursuit of some of Silver Oak’s finest.
We found it. We had a lovely chat with Walter, our tastings meister, who got a nice, big dose of our personal brand of Texas revelry. He was great sport, and we enjoyed him and the Silver Oak atmosphere as much as their wines. We could have stayed all day, but alas, we had an appointment with Quintessa, so we moved onward.
Quintessa, in Rutherford, was amazing. It’s a short distance from Oakville to Rutherford, and coming from the wide open spaces of Texas, it struck me how all these little towns seem practically on top of each other, and they certainly blend into each other. You can’t really tell where one ends and the next begins. Rutherford, in fact, is only 6 square miles — for the whole town. Between Oakville and St Helena, this tiny little area bangs out some killer Cabernets. It’s said that in order to make a great Cab, you “must have Rutherford dust.” They are most definitely doing it right at Quintessa
Our first cave tour did not disappoint.
After a tour of the machinery and vats, our delightful guide Lori led us into the cave. The mood in the cave was serene and somber, not in a sad way but more contemplative. Very zen. Until we figured out the cave had terrific echoing acoustics and all started cawing out various animal sounds. Classy.
This fountain stands in the middle of the cave, bubbling away as its water tumbles over jet-black river rocks that appear smooth as glass. It’s a beautiful and peaceful structure in and of itself, but it’s also functional, as it provides humidity in the cave, which is integral in crafting wine. The rooms flanking the fountain are full of barrels of aging wine, which put off a distinctive aroma that I can’t quite capture. I can still smell it in my olfactory memory, but can’t describe it. You’ll just have to go there.
We were intrigued by the reddish stain around the middle of each barrel. We wondered if the wine had leaked and stained the barrels, but then noticed that the stain was contained to just the middle. Lori cleared up the mystery by telling us that Quintessa colors them on purpose, to enhance the aesthetic beauty of their barrels. I had to strike a pose next to these beauties.
No, I wasn’t too drunk to take a decent photo, but the candlelight and the iPhone camera didn’t think too much of each other, so yes, it’s quite blurry. Next trip to Napa, I will take better photos, I promise.
But I won’t share my Quintessa artisanal cheese plate. Yum. Three cheeses from the region married with the wines so well we thought we’d died and gone to heaven. I’m a fan of cheese, especially with my wine, and these three were outstanding. We could have stayed in that peaceful tasting room for the rest of the day, but we only had it reserved until 5 pm, so we regretfully shuffled out of there, basking in the deliciousness of all things Quintessa.
Our first afternoon of tasting the bounty of Napa Valley’s wines drew to a close, and we headed from Rutherford south to Yountsville, to our hotel, immensely satisfied with the splendor of our first day. I was so happy I didn’t even realize until later that my feet kinda hurt, from my 5K, my way.