Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Missing In Action

Ever since I returned from San Diego I have been running non-stop. And by running I wish I meant going for a nice long run. Which actually I hate. But at least that has an ending. Which for me is when my knees hurt and I am winded. About one block. As much as I hate that I would like that compared to the kind of running I've been doing. Running from one thing to another like a chicken with its head cut off. Getting the house ready to lease has been a huge undertaking. I have had the help of really wonderful friends. I don't need to use those descriptors. You all know that a friend that not only offers, but actually shows up to help you move is something incredible. Even with that wonderful help it has been a huge undertaking. I am out of the house now but my things are not. I will go there every evening after work until I am done. Down to going through bathroom doors and dealing with all the odds and ends that couldn't be boxed up or given away. Mostly cleaning stuff and lotions, shampoos, all that kind of stuff. I will probably end up tossing a lot. That's hard to do.

At work I have so much in front of me to get organized and handed off. But instead of being able to focus on that unexpected things come up. Like projects that were finished and buttoned up. Jobs where work was done three years ago. Very frustrating. I have told several clients of my plans. That was hard. Most were not happy. Well, happy for me, but worried about their projects. I have good folks to leave them with but they aren't sure. And frankly, I'm not real organized so leaving things to my co-workers is hard since the files are not organized and a lot of the history is in this head of mine. Not good.

In the midst of these things I have had some really wonderful experiences. I was treated to an incredibly delicious belated birthday dinner at La Medusa, our favorite Sicilian Restaurant in Columbia City. The neighborhood is delightful and the food out of this world. We went on Wednesday which is local market day and the menu is inspired by what is available. We were treated to a zucchini grill dish, handmade pasta with fresh peas and handmade cheese, and a chocolate cherry bread pudding. mmmmmmmmmm We were seated at a window table and got to watch the comings and goings outside. Special entertainment was a tailless raccoon in the tree outside the window. He was just above the folks walking by and was trying to get down and move to the adjacent tree. But there was too much activity so he had to keep retreating. He especially focused in on the passing dogs. Finally, towards the end of dinner he made it down and dashed to the next tree. The whole restaurant clapped!

The other great event was the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk. I was part of Team Deb. The event raised over $400,000 for brain cancer research. There were I think about 2,500 participants. It was a very moving event and I was honored to be a participant. Plus I got to partake in a delicious picnic at Deb's house after the walk. Good food, great people, tasty wine. It was really hard to leave and get back to the house for packing. But I had two willing helpers waiting to assist and that is even harder to pass up.

My break is over. I must get back to wrapping up work and then back to the house. I'll catch up again when I can.



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Therapeutic Essence of a Break

When I found out I was going to be leaving the area for a very long time there was something I insisted on doing first.

It involved making sure that a very good friend get a badly needed and well deserved vacation. And the only way I figured I could make sure this would happen was if I joined her.

(Truth be told...I needed a mental break as well. Anticipating this big change coming up and doing all that needs to be done to get there has taken its toll. So I needed a break too. Not as badly as she did...but still...it was a dirty job and someone had to do it. I nominated myself.)

So we went to San Diego for a long weekend. We did not stay at the Hotel del Coronado. But we enjoyed hanging out there.

The grounds were amazing. As was the lobby. The people watching. And the mojitos. Oh those mojitos. I will dream of those mojitos when I am in the dry dessert.

This gal remembered how to relax and enjoy herself.

We also enjoyed the grounds of Balboa Park.

The plants in the Botanical Museum posed for us.

The pitcher plant didn't look as deadly as it is.

The buildings were stunning. We went to the zoo at the park as well. I didn't take any pictures at the zoo. Maybe the zoo was a little much after all the other wonderful sights. Honestly, watching the people at the zoo was as interesting as the animals. Except the pandas, which were cool though we only peeked at them because we didn't want to stand in line so we sort of cheated and looked in the exit.

The free views in Balboa park were just as incredible as the zoo. What a lovely public facility. While at the park we saw tons of wedding parties. The coolest was the gangster wedding with grooms in zoot suits and hot cruising cars. And they were serious...not theme dressing.

We went to Hotel Del Coronado two evenings actually. For the mojitos. And the people watching. We also went to Little Italy one evening for a delicious dinner and then some live music. I don't have pictures. Trust me. It was a happening place.

I got warm sand between my toes. Felt like vacation.

We wandered into a cool courtyard on the Island.

We took a road trip to a military cemetary.

Jill found her great grandfather's headstone.

I was rendered speachless by the number of headstones. I touched each one I walked by sending a silent "thank you" into the ground.

No other words were needed. At least these (mostly) men have a beautiful place to rest.

We continued our road trip to Mission San Luis Rei.

I did not get pictures of the beautiful grounds, the very old church where inside I sat quietly and considered the stations of the cross, the art, the relics. Thank you Jesus. And Mary while I'm at it. There was a beautiful cemetary on the grounds as well. Again, I sent silent messages into the ground. I read many of the headstones and considered so many lives. The babies were difficult. Their special section was dedicated to the "Holy Inoocents."

So many things to think about.
We also squeezed in some time at little shops along the waterfront (we did really good on not actually buying much. For once that was easy for me since I am getting rid of my home (for a while) and so many things I have collected...the last thing I wanted to do was get anything more to deal with.
Then there were the hours just laying out by the pool. There was the brave moment (for me) when we accepted the invitation from some men staying at the hotel long term to join them by the pool for drinks and conversation before we headed out for the evening. I think I was propositioned ("are you and your friend sharing the same room tonight?") and I was also insulted. Something about thinking I would appreciate the Cougar winery, and he wasn't referring to WSU. Anyway, I survived this encounter with men, which for me is alien territory. Helped to have confident and charming Jill at the table.
So many memories to remember.
Mostly now I'm thinking how much I wish I were still on vacation. And even more, how fortunate I am to have had this time.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Adventures in Abu Dhabi

I've added a new link in my favorite blogs section for Aba Dhabi Doo, which is being put together by my coworker, Melissa, from our Boise office. She arrived in AD about a week ago and has started a blog. This helps me picture what life will be like there. In an earlier email she sent to me about her first impressions she enthusiastically stated "You will love it here!"

She also mused about the three blonds she saw on the plane from Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi. Said she hadn't seen them since the plane ride and wondered where they had dissappeared to since she hadn't seen them (or any other blonds) since she arrived. Looks like we'll be in the minority. What an interesting slice of life I'll be experiencing.

Anyway, check out Melissa's blog. I too will have another blog focues on Abu Dhabi. I plan to keep this blog going but will not announce its existance to certain relatives and co-workers as this one sometimes gets a little deeper into my psyche than I care to have mutual aquaintances wander.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Body Comfortable

Here is what I couldn't have imagined. Being comfortable stark naked in front of strangers. Not being embarrassed or humiliated with my sagging ample flesh out there for all to see.

Here is what somebody else imagined: create a space where women of all ages, with lives of trials and losses, some fit and hardy, others who have not taken the time to take care of themselves coming together in a clean, stress freee environment. Soaking in tubs of various temperatures, with jacuzzis, or sitting in dry or steam saunas just being. A variety of rooms: a salt room, a sand room, a charcoal room, a reading room, a meditation room, a log cabin room, a chilling room, a mud and rock room: all these rooms with mats and pillows, warm rocks to hold or place on your body if you want, and no talking. Some quiet, some with nature sounds, others with soft instrumental music. No time limits. A place to relax, to rejuvenate, to self pamper. That was the Olympus Spa in Lynwood, where Julie and I spent over six hours today. Relaxing. We got body scrubs...oh my. That was an experience to be repeated. We had body wraps: detoxifying and probably something I wouldn't repeat (I got a little claustrophobic and slightly panicked). We ate a delicious Korean meal. In our robes.

When Andy was little and I was totally stressed out I would occasionally make a point of getting away with my girlfriends. We often would do a craft project or cook together. I thought it would be great to have a business that catered to mom's: a place for them to get away. I imagined a craft room. And a big kitchen with really yummy fresh foods (chicken nuggets and pizza would not be allowed). I'd provide a smoking patio outside. A bar with a bartender of course. A massage area. Phones would be taken at the door and all clocks would be removed. A masseuse and some really good therapists for drop ins. Pedicures. All the things that mothers fantasize about. Of course I never found that kind of place. But the Olympus provided the kind of escape experience I imagined at one time.

When my friends had described the Olympus experience to me I got hung up on the naked part. Could not imagine feeling comfortable naked in front of strangers. Even when told that it is not a big deal. That it would be good for anyone (like me) with body issues (as in is appalled by what my body has become). Sis and I arrived at about 9:30, got checked in and a short tour and then were handed our robes, towels and head coverings. The rules were simple: keep your head coverings on, shower before going in the pools, converse quietly, hydrate. Shoes were left at the front. Clothes went in our assigned lockers. In the pool area robes go into cubbies. And suddenly you don't notice you are naked. There are bodies of all sizes. There were missing breasts (mastectomies), wide bodies, thin bodies, old bodies, young bodies. As Julie pointed out, the good thing is you can't see your own body. I think the fact that women with scarred or really large bodies aren't self conscious takes away your own self consciousness. It's hard to describe. Because everyone was naked pretty soon you don't see naked. You see the women as beautiful souls: ones who have been through a lot and survived and love themselves enough to give themselves some good pampering. Outside of the pool area everyone has the same robes on as you move from room to room wherever your whim takes you. I think I dozed off a bit in the salt and sand rooms.

I would write more about the experience but I am just too damned relaxed to say anything more. It's been a lovely day with my sister. I can't think of a better way to have spent today. My skin is soft as is my brain. Goodnight!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Another One

Today I turn 51. Not as big a deal as last year, though my 51st year may prove to be more epic than my 50th. Preparing to leave the country for an extended period of time. Realizing I am stepping from the comfortably known to the potentially wonderful or potentially disturbing unknown. It's a strange spot to be in. In the meantime, spread thin with trying to get everything done that needs to get done to get the house ready to rent, get work wrapped up, take care of notifying accounts and making sure bills are covered. I guess it's good to be so busy with business that I don't have time for the mind much to wander into all the unknowns. That seems to be the more dangerous territory.

However, on the occasion of my birthday I am reminded of the fantastically wonderful way we celebrated the hallmark five-oh! in Italy, surrounded by very special friends, consuming impressive amounts of good red wine and soaking up the Tuscan countryside. Have to pinch myself just to think about it. Was it real? Better than anything I could make up or imagine.

Looking forward to dinner and theater tonight (Menopause: The Musical) with another friend who also celebrates her birthday on this day. For now, I need to just massively focus on work...focus...focus...focus...so I can get out on time to start the fun evening.

Also looking forward to a visit from my favorite Sister this weekend. Have great pampering plans in store.
Still recovering from celbratory weekend in Pullman where my niece Sj graduated from PHS. Ah, the memories. Fun to be with my siblings and Pops as well.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

New Kid on the Block

My FAVORITE (and only) niece is going on a great adventure this fall. I got to help her set up her blog. You can check it out here to follow her adventures.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I sit in the waiting room. Three of the six chairs are filled. We are all in matching shirts. Naked underneath. Thumbing through magazines but I am sure none of us is aware of what is on the page in front of us. Our minds have fast forwarded to sharing the news with our family. Thinking about arranging for time off work though this would be no vacation. We are all here because we did not pass the first screening at our annual mammogram. We get to go to the "Breast Center" for further manipulations, possibly an ultrasound, and if really bad, talking with a doctor about the next steps.

This is the third time I have had to take that extra step after the routine mammogram. One time resulted ultimately in a needle biopsy, and after a very long weekend of wild imaginings, a report that all is well. For now. I have a permanent marker in my breast from that one. Something we watch with each following mammogram. It hasn't changed. It's just "breast jewelry" as the technicians call it.

I am the second one called in. The first is still behind another door. Certainly being squished and prodded and manipulated beyond reason. I am called in by a humorless Asian woman with sharp bangs and thick glasses who is about a half-foot shorter than I. We are focusing on my right breast. I ask why. She says I need to speak to the radiologist. Something looked suspicious in the screening mammogram and they will take more pictures and if nothing I will be dismissed. If something I will get an ultrasound.

The first shot we have to do four times to get right. My other breast wants to get in the way. The area they are looking at is very deep and near my chest wall. Things try to get in the way. Each time she is ready to take a picture she runs away saying "don't breath. DON'T BREATH" in a mean tone. As if I could. I want to run away with her and leave my breast behind. The machine is pushing into my armpit. It seems angry to me. The technician is mad at me for the things that are getting in the way. I want to shove her. I would if I weren't pinned between flat plates. We get a few more angles and I am told to wait in the waiting area to find out if the radiologist who will look at the pictures decides if I need to get an ultrasound. I return to the waiting room. There are now four other women there. All different ones from the first time. As I am sitting there, mindlessly wandering through the Internet on my iPhone, a different technician comes out and tells the woman sitting next to me that she will be needing an ultrasound and someone will be coming to get her soon. With open eyes I send a prayer up for her. I tell myself that that will not be me: I will get excused and not have to have an ultrasound. I feel guilty in my false sense of security: this other woman has to have one so odds are I won't. I am glad I am not her. Just after she is called into another room a different staff person comes out and tells me that I am going to need an ultrasound so "hang tight." Balls. I start running through all the scenarios again. I knew it was just a matter of time. When your mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age, and when you have inherited her lovely but densely composed breasts you know that your number will eventually be up. You live your life around mammograms waiting for that shoe to drop. I pick up a magazine and don't make eye contact with the other women who are now probably sending prayers up for me and feeling like they may be off the hook since the odds went against me, putting them in better chance for not needing one. It does feel like a numbers game sometimes.

I am called into an ultrasound room by a pretty, young lady in a white coat. I lay down on the bed and open up that lovely gown. I nervously tell her that I would much rather have her looking at my tummy for a baby than what she is going to do. She acknowledges the gravity of this kind of ultrasound and tells me, like the others have, that hopefully this will just rule things out. I crank my head so I can see the screen as she runs the "mouse" through the gel on my breast. I see fields of white on black. Every time she slows down over one area I see blobs that look like cancer to me. I picture every splotch as a cancer. I am also watching her face to see if she is giving anything away. She is not. She is good at this. She does tell me then that she isn't seeing much but will let the radiologist see and will be right back. I lay there trying to put all my faith in her statement that she "didn't see much." I wonder if the other women are getting good messages or bad ones. I send prayers up for them as well as myself. The technician comes back in and says the radiologist said the ultrasound didn't show anything of concern but they are still worried about the mammogram pictures so they want me to take a few more and hopefully "it" will go away. Great. I go back and sit in the waiting room. This time just one other woman waiting, a new one yet again, flipping through a magazine. I get to thinking about how many women I have seen this morning at the Breast Center. We are all here because we need follow up. Some of us will have good news. Some will not. There were a lot of different women here today. That must mean there are a heck of a lot of women out there on the street wandering around with potential time bombs in their breasts. It seems impossible to me that with all these numbers nobody has come up with a cure or a vaccine. There is something very wrong with not finding the answer yet.

Now I don't know what to think. Part of me just wishes they'd find it and make a plan to stop it because now I don't trust if they don't find anything. A different mammogram technician comes and calls my name. I follow her into the same room as before. She is gentler and kinder than the first one. She tells me that they are going to be focusing in on a particular area and that I am not going to like the shot they have to take. Not at all. As if I liked the earlier shots they had to take? She shows me on the screen the area they are concerned with. She is right. This focused shot is even more uncomfortable. Painful to take. She is kind when she delivers the "don't breath" command. Much better than the first tech. When the shot is done, we wait for it to come up on the screen. She shows me the area she thinks he is looking at. I see a white blob. I see cancer. This high intensity shot is followed by two "rolling" shots. This means that after I lay my breast on the plate the technician puts her palm on it and rolls it forward to flatten out the back. I nearly tip over with the forward one. The backward one she says requires me to do a virtual back bend. She laughs. I don't. I am then escorted back to the waiting room to see if they are still concerned. Again I wait and play mind games. My breast is hot and throbbing from so much manipulation. I can feel the cancer in it. Somebody comes out and tells me "it's gone. See you in a year." That's it. I am relieved. I want to drop on my knees and cry. But there are other women in the room who have not yet gotten that message. I also don't trust the answer. Things like cancer don't just disappear. Are they really sure there's nothing there to worry about. I saw things there to worry about. But I will take that prognosis for now and find other things to worry about. Like the other women who I shared the waiting room with today. How many got bad news? How many are now having to live those conversations they just imagined. For how many did their other shoe drop? And when will mine? Then I exhale and autopilot back to work. This is what living with a time bomb in you feels like. Relieved to hear the news that there is nothing to worry about. Not trusting that news when you get it. But eventually you go on and you forget about it until the next time. Or until you hear of another woman, maybe a friend, who gets their own bad news. For now I will take this good news and share it with you and exhale. And keep sending up prayers for all the other women whose paths I crossed this morning.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Letting Go...With Regrets

As my home gets closer to being ready to put on the rental market something is happening deep inside of me. I didn't realize (though I think I had a sense) how much my identity is housed within my walls. My home has been a very, very special healing place. As I slowly made it mine by adding the colors and the gardens and the pieces that called out to me, I became one with it. I realize that I will have it to return to some day. But for now it feels like cutting the cord is just around the corner and I am not sure I'm too happy about that. I feel like I am untying my ship from the dock and, until I am safely in port at the next stop, I will be drifting quite a bit.

In addition, there have been many pockets of memories I come across as I box up or toss and some of those have been heart wrenching. Yesterday it was the manila envelope with all the words of condolences from when Mom died. That was December 1992. Has it really been 18 years? I had to sit down and read and sob. Sobbing in a room where all the pictures have come down and all extraneous things cleared out echoes a lot. It sounded like I had a whole gaggle of sobbers in there with me. Satchmo looked at me and rolled his eyes, I swear. That made me laugh a little between sobs.

The day before it was the divorce papers and settlement. Has it really been five years? I tried not to look too closely at those papers. They gave me a stomach ache. And I found a stack of printed out poems that I had written from the dark time. I read through some of those. Then sent them to the shredder pile. They might be a little too good. I don't want people to worry.

As I pack up the things that I have accumulated that helped make my place more mine it feels like I am boxing up parts of me. I didn't realize how much my material possessions mean to me. I think I am supposed to feel bad about that. That I should stand firmly on something like "as long as I have my health and my family and friends and the love of God I don't need anything else." And I guess when it comes right down to it I don't NEED my things. But I like my things. And I will miss them. And if that makes me shallow and worldly then that's what I guess I am.