Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jane's Breasts

Last week, Jane ("Reconnected", August 6, 2009) had these beautiful photographs of her gorgeous 52-year-old-but-who'd-ever-believe-it body taken.  They were taken as her "before" photos.  This week she will have a mastectomy.  Lurking behind those beautiful breasts are unwanted collections of rogue cells.  She has cancer.

Can't you tell?

Jane wanted pictures taken of her body before her surgery.  When I first saw these photos, the sight of her loveliness so distracted me from the subject at hand that the only thing that crossed my mind was "did mine ever look that good?"

I haven't really spoken with Jane in a while so this news was very jarring.  As I have been reading her inspiring Facebook page (My Journey With Breast Cancer), I have given a lot of thought to Jane and me.  And our breasts.

I have spent a great deal of my adult life being frightened of facing what Jane is facing now.  And one day it could be me as easily as it could be any other woman, so I really tried to put myself in Jane's shoes.  It led me to focus on the importance of a woman's breasts during her life.

We see our breasts every single day of our lives.  I developed modesty about my nipples when I was about 5.  So just think - we had awareness of them even then.  At 11, I realized how much toilet paper it took to fill the space between my flat chest and my mother's bra.  At 12, I prayed that they would start to grow.  Already.  PLEASE!  At 13, when my breast buds started to develop, they hurt and I wondered if I would ever sleep on my stomach again.  At 14, I experienced the power they gave me.  Boys noticed me.  Later in my life, they were an important part of my sexuality.  As a mother, they represented life.  As a woman, they are part of me.  I have dressed to cover them properly while at the same time trying to accentuate them. There is intrigue and mystery and beauty in women's breasts.  It seems to me that if I were to lose them, I would experience true grief.  All women would.

Jane is surely feeling that too.  And I'm sure she is scared and that tears come easily.

It would be easy to be terrified and anxious and angry and paralyzed by news of cancer.  I would struggle with those emotions.  But what Jane seems to have come to terms with is that breast cancer - cells turning against her body - can be treated and overcome.  Ultimately it is temporary. Even for those who die.   What she knows is that the true terror, the real danger is cancer of the spirit.  It is eternal.  From that, Jane is safe.  For Jane, there is no other way: she chooses life.  Big life.  She has embraced this darkness and shed her own, enormous light upon it.  Nothing to fear.  There it is.  And soon it will be gone.  Without her breast, she is undiminished.

It occurs to me that Jane has been going through a season of big purse dumping.  And this week, when her surgery is over, it will be empty.  And pristine.  And she will begin to fill it again.  But with the wisdom of a life she has always to live with joy and courage, she will be selective and purposeful about what goes back in.  Because she knows she is defined not so much by what she carries in her purse, but what she doesn't.  And defeat and sorrow and self pity will not find its way in there.

And that's Jane.

So my prayer for her is that she feels herself comfortably nestled in the palm of God's merciful and loving hand, that His healing breath envelop her, that His spirit fill her and draw her nearer to Him over these next several months, and that she has written on her heart: "For I know the plans I have for you, sayeth the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

I'm betting the "after" pictures will be equally stunning.

Jane is going to need a little financial help though - if you feel so inclined, you can give a little at this website:

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Battle Weary but Back

In the beginning.  No job worries.
I took some time off.   It was a tough year.

Not that everything was bad - it wasn't.  There was a lot of fun stuff too.  But I was on the wrong end of the age and weight spectrum at my job.  And it never occurred to me that that I would ever have to face something like that.

I won't pretend to know what real, lifelong discrimination is about.  I just know what my little year-long struggle was like.  I can't imagine how people survive serious lifelong discrimination without hurting someone.  I guess they have many dreams of retribution.  I did.

We got new management.  I can say without too much hyperbole that the new top dog was as dumb as hair.  Came in and fired just about everyone - but me.  But then came a year of transparent and ridiculous obstacles and attempts to cause me to fail or quit.  I know how corporate structures operate so I knew HR would not be of significant help.  And of course, I was right.   It had nothing to do with performance.  I fought back for nearly a year until they found a way to make sure I would leave.  They changed the requirements of my job.  Suddenly I was required to have more years of experience in the industry than I had.  Nothing I can do about that.  So without notice I was replaced and they moved me over to a position I was not suited for.  In spite of the fact that I was their top producer.

And all the while, they smiled warmly.  Hmmmm.

And that's all there is to say about that.

In walks God, though.  Within three weeks of deciding to surrender, I found myself at a wonderful company that I love.  Management that I love.  Product that I love.  And the package wasn't bad either. I'm into my 4th month there and still feel happy.  Happy about my job.  I had forgotten what that was like.

But for those who never get to the other side of their battle - I don't know what to say.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

I ALMOST Saw "World War Z"

It's very hot and as I said in an earlier post, while the tenants of our rental property are enjoying the benefits of a brand new air conditioning unit, we are not.  I have a fan.  So to beat the heat, in spite of fatigue from a stressful week and a very full weekend, I went to the movies with Bob to sit in a cool building with comfortable seats.

I had wanted to see "World World Z" because it looked like a fun alien film, ala "Independence Day" from years ago - with action, humor, a slew of heroes, and an appropriate amount of suspense.  Naturally, Brad Pitt was a draw as well.

This was not that movie.

You should know that I have some sort of issue with the muscle under my left shoulder blade.  This is turn is causing tension and achiness in my left bicep and ultimately, my fingers.  Its sort of a "knee-bone's-connected-to-the-leg-bone" kind of phenomenon.  And really is starts with my neck and I am working like mad to remember to relax my shoulders and willfully release my muscles from a general flexed state.

This movie was counter-productive to that goal.

I cannot tell you much about this film.  Apart from a scene where Brad Pitt is making pancakes for his kids, there is little about this film that gives you a break.  And because that scene comes in the very beginning of the movie, I didn't really need a break yet.

This movie was like "Jurassic Park" meets Michael Jackson's "Thriller" (without the cool choreography).  

Mostly, my eyes were closed but I peeked often enough to see that the CGI was pretty good.  Too good.  One scene made me fairly nauseous.  Early on, I leaned in to Bob and said "I may not make it through this movie.  If not I'll just go sit outside".   But in thinking it though, the record heat today made this option nearly as terrifying.

I used be able to sit through a suspenseful movie or TV show with the best of them but I have noticed a gradual inability to cope.  My  internal "Anxi-o-Meter" starts going ding-ding-ding-ding-ding at the first hint that a restful, peaceful scene is about to be corrupted by an unexpected, sudden entrance of evil.  It doesn't matter that I know it is coming - when it does I nearly pee my pants.

So I just counted my Raisinets, looked at my fingernails, the seat in front of me, Bob, the ceiling, and in all that free time, I realized that the reason we could endure the suspenseful and frightening in films at a younger age was that we didn't have the filter that now keeps us from ruining the experience for those around us.  We were free to scream back at the screen, warn the hero, carry on, and not give a whit about the old guy sitting in front of us.  And I think if I had been able to scream at the Israeli people safe behind the walls (for those of you who have seen it, you know) to stop their singing and shut the hell up, I might have been able to watch the scene unfold.  I understand it was pretty spectacular - as zombie acts go.  I did get a glimpse of a female zombie in a shredded pink dress gyrate and take off toward the action to get her share of human flesh.  I will say too that there was one line in the movie I loved: "Mother Nature is a serial killer".  Great line.  But as a hypochondriac, I will no doubt play it over and over again in my head - everytime I feel the need to see a doctor.

So at the end of the film, I walked away with muscle spasms in my arms and neck and it hurts to type this.  But I am safe now, at home.  And Bob is on the roof with the hose.

And maybe that's what we should have done in the first place.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Post Birthday Reflection

Celebrating my many years...
I worked yesterday, on my birthday.  I was taken to lunch and given gifts.  I was given a lovely red velvet cake and I was pleased.

When I got home - there was a card and a balloon and a cake in the refrigerator.  Bob immediately told me he had been all over all day looking for something to get me but gave up.


In fairness, I don't even know what I want for my birthday that doesn't cost several thousand dollars.  And it is also true that I will return something I don't want - which I have been known to do.  But after nearly 21 years of marriage, I thought it was fairly unimaginative of him.

What he did bring though was a chocolate cake that he crammed 72 candles on (nearly 20 too many) and lit them all for a "make-a-wish-and-blow-out-the-candle-inferno" photo opportunity.  In spite of it being a horrifying reminder of how flammable my cumulative years have become, I thought it was kind of funny.  I was well lit, anyway.

But there would be a penalty for having brought no gift.  So when we chose a movie to watch and got comfortable and ready to be entertained, I handed Bob my brush and he and Grace took turns brushing my hair.  For the duration of the movie.

Happy Birthday to me.  Best damned present I can think of.

But I'm still going to buy myself something.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I Am NOT 56. I Am NOT 56. I Am NOT 56.

Ready for my closeup...
Yes I am.

Actually I am 55 years, 51 weeks, and 6 days old.

But who's counting?

All I can say is that if 50 is the new 30, 56 is...

... the new 56.

It isn't that I feel 56 (whatever that means).  It certainly doesn't  feel like I thought it would feel when I was 25.  It was inconceivable.  I thought it would feel old.  And I don't feel old.

It isn't that I don't feel "cool"  anymore - although my soon-to-be 14 year old can't resist an opportunity to tell me that I'm not. (But what the hell does she know?)

It isn't that I don't feel relevant.  Who cares that I don't know the names of 20-year-old movie stars who make careers of playing vampires with issues.  Or that I don't know what "My Chemical Romance" is or how a chemical could be romantic - or owned - let alone sing.  (Though I understand that the romance that was chemical belongs to no one any longer.)

It isn't that I'm spending time figuring how many years fewer I have to live than I have lived already.  (Although I am.)

It isn't about maybe becoming a mother-in-law.  (Although that is pretty weird.)

I'll tell you what it is.  It's gravity.

Its about actually knowing just how high and at what angle to hold my head in order to hide the three (yes, count 'em - three) chins that clearly are going to require surgical intervention.  

It's about eyelids that have drooped so low that they now resemble foreskin.

Its about just-above-the-knee skirts that aren't long enough and not being able to wear sleeveless.  Its about fat around your knees, and not being able to walk in heels anymore.  It's buying hair color in bulk when its on sale.  It's about the line of your mouth dropping from neutral to frown.

Its about finally seeing what my parents saw when they told me I looked like my grandmother.

But you know what?  Its also about having a story.  And I've had a pretty good one.  And as they say, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings".

And I'm only humming.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lost Dogs

Toby and Bob
I am very used to the dogs not getting excited when I get home.  They know better.  I do not respond in kind.  So when I came home today and saw that Bob's car was gone, I expected that they would be in the backyard and that I could walk through the door with relative peace.  And that is just how it went.

Bob returned home half an hour later and a half hour after that we realized that the dogs had not reacted when he got home.  Usually, they go running through the house, barking like maniacs, jumping at the door and then all over him when he walks through it - as though they'd been worried sick that they would never see him again and then, had just been returned safely by the police.

Something was wrong.  We knew they were gone when we realized that they hadn't reacted to Bob's arrival but we went through the motions of looking through the house and yard.  They were not there.

Bob got in the car and and started to search.  Grace went with him.

I stayed home and pondered life without Toby and Jack.  My feelings were very mixed.  The thought that "nature" in the form of coyote, rattle snake or other predator taking them was really unbearable.  I could see their doggy eyes in my head and picture how they loved me even if their love was unrequited.  If I ever cried, they'd come to me as if to ask "what can we do?"  If I ever did reach down to pet them, they were always grateful.  Toby learned that I would laugh when he would smile (baring his teeth), so he would often come up to me and do his trick.   Just for me.   Without being asked.  Jack caught on that I don't like to be licked.  So he doesn't do it.  He will just sit at my feet and resist the urge to do what dogs do to show affection.  Gross as it is.

On the other hand, it would be the end to pee stains, and furniture with holes chewed in it, incessant barking when they want in or out - a million times a day - muddy paws, bad breath, humping the legs of visitors, dragging their butts across the carpet to deal with an itch (aaaarrrrgggghhhhh!), and general disobedience.

Bob and Grace returned from their search without the dogs.

The full impact of loss felt followed them into the house.  Especially Bob because while he sucked it up, Bob was devastated.  He had resigned to them being gone and while he sucked it up, shrugged his shoulders and said "well, whaddaya gonna do?", he paced the floor and wouldn't look at me.  I knew he was beside himself with grief and he was mad at me.  Mad because he had to be mad at someone.  Mad at me because I didn't love them.

I asked him if he wanted me to make a poster.  He said "I guess".  But in his heart he knew they were gone.  For good.  And my heart broke for him.  I knew the girls would cry and be upset, but I actually worried about how Bob would get over it.  He loves those dogs nearly as much as his kids.  And they give him the constant affection he craves.  There have been many times I have awakened to find him sleeping on the couch with the dogs all over him.  He always makes an excuse ("I couldn't fall asleep", "you were snoring")but I know it is because he loves the cuddling.  When I sleep, I need my space.  I like to cuddle too but when its time to sleep, you go your way and I'll go mine.  They are never angry with him.  They adore him.  And so, he loves them.  Completely.

I always talk about how Bob is a boy.  And it is really true that there is a lot of "boy" in him.  But I was witnessing a man.  My man experiencing sadness I hadn't seen in a long time.    And I knew I couldn't comfort him and I also knew that while he knew it wasn't my fault, he didn't like me very much.  Because he knew I didn't feel what he felt.

Bob and Grace decided to take a walk and look for them one last time.  Then Grace saw a sign on a lamp post.  It said "Two white dogs found.  No tags".  So convinced were they that our dogs were gone forever, Grace's first thought was "How weird that someone else lost two white dogs too!"  And of course, the reality washed over them and I wasn't there but I can only imagine the relief.

It turns out they had been found hours ago.  Somehow their absence had escaped everyone.  Hard to believe.

But I am much relived as well.  Because while it is true - I have no deep affection for them, my husband does.  So I will be happy to put up with all I can't stand about them, and hold them dear besides.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Clean, neat, and no longer embarrassing
We bought this rental property with my 401K a couple of years ago and it has proven to be a good investment.  After having spent a lot of money for upgrades initially, we now find we have to replace the air-conditioning unit.  It's okay though because as with any investment, money needs to be spent for upkeep.  Unless, it appears, it happens to be the investment I live in.  The house can be falling down all around us and Bob will say "it's  fine."  So I am extremely jealous of my tenants because they have new carpets, new granite counter tops, new window coverings, new lighting fixtures, and now - new air-conditioning.

Bob hates spending money.  Hates. It.  We need a new couch.  Really.  The leather couch, after 13 years, has a hole in the cushion (thanks to my horrible dogs).  It needs to be replaced.  Ain't gonna happen.   When our dishwasher broke down he did dishes by hand rather than spend $700.00 on a replacement.  We finally got a new one when a friend updated her kitchen and gave us her old one.

On the other hand,  I do spend.  Within reason, I have never had a problem spending money on vacations or things that I want for the house.  But these days I am inclined to try to get by without if I can.  Still, with the air-conditioning going into the rental, I wanted a present too.

So yesterday, I got a call from the young man who is coming to stay with us for the summer while he completes an internship here in Southern California.  (We had a really good experience with our intern from France last year so we thought we'd do it again.)  But he called yesterday and said his mother was coming out with him for the first three days and would that be okay.  Weeeeeelllllll... suuuuure.  We do have another spare room.  But that room is a complete disaster having housed a messy daughter for many years.  It is the one room who's door is always shut.  So when I told Bob that our intern's mom was going to stay for three days, even he jumped into action.

Within ten minutes of the call we were in the car headed for Home Depot to buy carpet and paint.  And I have ordered bedding.  And new lamps.

He is painting as we speak.  And I am so happy I could cry.  We have a reasonable guest room.  One room in the house down, eleven to go.