Friday, September 30, 2011

He could collect stamps ... or press autumn leaves into a book ...

Walt is my neighbor at the end of the hall. He's retired, and he pays waaaaaaay too much attention to me. When I come in, where he sees me around the neighborhood, how much mail I get, who uses my parking space, and -- most annoying of all! -- whether I have ever given my key to any of my friends. This is a condo building, which means I own my unit, and if I want to give each of the Dallas Mavericks his own individual key, I CAN AND WILL!

Anyway, since I got home from hospital two weeks ago, I have become even more fascinating to Walt. I don't have to tell him why I'm home. I don't feel like discussing my surgery with him. It's been my experience that once you get older folks talking about doctors, you're stuck for hours. Besides, I deserve my privacy.

That's why I wish Walt would find an independent hobby to occupy that curious and clearly under-engaged mind of his.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I loves ya, Cigna!

$892.58. That's what I owe for my hysterectomy after insurance. I had estimated that I'd owe $2,000 or so. I'm not surprised that my estimate was so far off -- I've never been good with math -- but I am delighted. What I hadn't counted on was that my insurance company would pay 100% of certain charges because the hospital was "in network."

What a relief! My doctors' bill will come separately, I know. But I still have $1,100 that I'd earmarked for surgery that I can now use for that.

And I'm so happy and grateful I have good benefits!

The more things change, the more things stay the same

I am paraphrasing a story from Historic Conversations on Life with John Fitzgerald Kennedy by Jacqueline Kennedy and Michael Beschloss. I love it because it's so relevant and timeless in its themes -- there's no percentage in alienating people you might need later, the rich remain insensitive to the poor, and no one is every completely comfortable with their significant other's family.

In 1960, while he was preparing for the Presidential debates with Richard Nixon, the Kennedys had dinner with her mother, Janet, and stepfather, Hugh Auchincloss. Hugh was a millionaire stockbroker who maintained several residences. Between his Wall Street firm and his households, Auchincloss employed quite a few people.

Over dinner, Hugh tried to persuade his son-in-law to back away from his support for a $1.25/hour minimum wage because it would be such a drain on the wealthy. Jackie didn't think her stepfather's comments made any impact on her husband at all, that it was just one topic in a meal filled with conversation.

She was wrong. Her husband was disgusted. He just put a placid face on it. Later that night Jackie recalled him saying, "Did you see your stepfather was putting a great slab of pate de foie gras on his toast while he called a $1.25 minimum wage 'appalling?' He was really shocked."

But even if you don't always get along, even if you are the most powerful man in the free world, your in-laws are still family. Here the Kennedys are, vacationing with the Auchinclosses, in September 1962.

For what it's worth, Hugh, I find your silly brown hat with its fishing lures "appalling."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011



Here are thirteen charities I give to regularly. Each of them meets the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability established by the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance. If you are looking for a way to help make the world a better place, contributing to any of these organizations is a good start.

1) Goodwill helps "people in need reach their fullest potential through the power of work." The national office supports 165 neighborhood locations and in 2010 alone "helped more than 2.4 million people train for careers in industries such as banking, IT and health care." I am forever impressed by their emphasis on strengthening communities, both through employment and giving new life to affordable, reusable clothes and household items.

2) Feeding America
provides "low-income individuals and families with the fuel to survive and even thrive." They run a nationwide network of food banks and support local communities in a quest to end hunger. With the economy as it is, and so many of our neighbors struggling, their work is more important than ever!

3) Save the Children "is the leading independent organization creating lasting change in the lives of children in need in the United States and around the world." They work in the areas health, nutrition, education, emergency response, protection and livelihoods.

addresses "the needs of children in developing countries." They do important work in the area of preventing HIV/AIDS among children and immunizations against measles, polio, tetanus and TB.

5) Girls, Inc. used to be known as The Girls Club of America. They inspire "all girls to be strong, smart, and bold" through economic literacy, the ability to deflect peer/media pressure regarding drugs and alcohol, celebrating educational achievement, and preventing teen pregnancy.

6) Marine Toys for Tots "assists the U.S. Marine Corps in providing a tangible sign of hope to economically disadvantaged children at Christmas." What more do you need to know?

7) Stand Up to Cancer
accelerates "groundbreaking cancer research that will get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives." They also do a lot of work in raising awareness about early detection and prevention.

8) American Diabetes Association strives "to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes." They are do important work on behalf of the 25 million Americans living with diabetes, especially in the areas of education and health insurance.

9) St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital
. "By supporting St. Jude, you are helping continue our lifesaving mission of finding cures and saving children." They concentrate on pediatric catastrophic diseases and (this is very important to me) "no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family's ability to pay."

10) ARF, or the Animal Rescue Foundation, was founded by Tony LaRussa when he was managing the Oakland A's in 1990. A stray cat wandered onto the field and was terrified by the roar of the crowd. LaRussa rescued her and tried to find a shelter to take her to, but back in the day, there wasn't a "no-kill" option in the area. After finding a home for the cat themselves, Tony and his wife began working to support dogs and cats by visiting "public shelters weekly where dogs and cats are scheduled to be killed and brings them to its facility. At ARF, these animals are given medical care, spay/neuter surgeries, and then ARF finds them homes."

11) Humane Society of the US works "to reduce suffering and improve the lives of all animals by advocating for better laws, investigated animal cruelty, conducting campaigns to reform industries and (this is very important to me) performing animal rescue and emergency response."

12) American Humane Association works to "create a more humane and compassionate world by ending abuse and neglect of children and animals." In addition to providing emergency relief and adoption services for pets, the AHA are the ones who issue that "no animals were harmed" proclamation at the end of movies and TV shows, ensuring that animals are treated humanely when used for our entertainment. They also run The Front Porch project, which is devoted to family education and welfare to address child abuse before it happens.

13) World Wildlife Fund seeks to reconcile "the needs of human beings and the needs of others that share the Earth." They protect natural areas, plants and animals, including (very important to me) endangered species.

I realize that how you share your resources is a very personal choice. (I was royally pissed off recently when someone very condescendingly responded to a post I wrote about MDA.) I know this list is by no means exhaustive and that there are many, many, MANY other causes that deserve your support. I just wanted to offer up some organizations that use their funds responsibly.

For more information on TT, or to play along yourself, click here.


I have become obsessed with Miche Bags. They give me a new way to indulge my irrational love of purses and present me with the opportunity to save some space around here. All four of these different shells fit in one drawer!

I got them on ebay. With shipping, they cost me between $29.00 and $41.00 each. This makes me happy.

Of course, they won't continue to save me money and space if I don't stop buying them. Like now. So I am now done adding to my Miche collection.

A wonderful idea

My best friend just reported in on his younger daughter's birthday party. She's in 6th grade now. She invited 7 of her friends over for a painting party. A student from the local art college came over with easels and palettes and gave the girls a quick primer on painting with acrylics. Then they got their assignment -- paint The Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz, a scene everyone could recall from memory. They didn't get to see one another's work until they were nearly done and were very excited by how individual each of their paintings was. Then, of course, they had a sleepover.

And, instead of a gift, each of the girls brought a donation to the charity of The Birthday Girl's choice. This year she raised funds for her ballet school.

As always, I am impressed by what a good dad he is.

I Want Wednesday

I want my attention span back. I had so many books I planned to read! So many projects I meant to complete! I return to work in 2 1/2 weeks I don't think I'll get much accomplished.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Today's mail delivery was, literally, a very cool event. For my friend Barb sent me an Omaha Steaks care package -- a styrofoam cooler filled with steaks and burgers and brats, stuffed baked potatoes, and a chocolate molten lava cake.

She's been so supportive through this medical ordeal, but this is just sooooo generous! And I am so happy. Especially since the doctor warned me to dial up the protein and dial down the carbs as I heal.

This is so cool!

Marlo Thomas is playing a former judge on the 2004 episode of Law & Order: SVU now showing on USA Network. I grew up on her. Hell, I spent a portion of my girlhood wanting to be her! I'm happy to see my old friend and again, and may celebrate by digging out my That Girl DVDs this afternoon.

The Queen's Meme

We shall talk cats this week. Puuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr....

1. Do you have a cat? No. But I currently share my life with three.

2. What is your cat's name? Joey, a big gray and white tom with an enormous heart. Charlotte Ann, my major domo, a petite tri-colored female with a mysterious air, but no tail. Reynaldo, a small beige demon.

3. What makes you love cats? Each one has such an original personality, so much style, such indomitable spirit. And, like dogs, they work so much harder to understand us than we do them. And they add to my mystique. I mean, how can I be a barren spinster without multiple cats?

4. If you are not a cat person, why not? We pity those who are not cat people.

5. What is the funniest thing your cat has ever done? Oh, Reynaldo and I have long been engaged in an epic Battle of Wills. You know that old saying about cats having short attention spans? It's not true. For when he wants to torment me, Reynaldo has the tenacity and grim persistence of a foot soldier slogging relentlessly up the hill to victory. And he does always win. It must be said that Reynaldo's infinite attention span has a most definite upside. He is endlessly gentle and patient with the autistic little girl who lives across the hall. It's as though he can see into her heart so he forgives her any unintended roughness. It's this feline wisdom that makes me forgive him ... everything.

6. Do you think cats have feelings and can talk to their owners? Oh, I KNOW they do. Charlotte is especially vocal and highly communicative.

7. The Rainbow Bridge is the place where cats go when they pass away. I think it's a lovely idea. If humans could have a bridge of their own in the afterlife, what would you name it? I have to go to the Rainbow Bridge because, as the legend goes, that's where we meet the companion animals who loved us in life and are waiting for us to enter into Heaven. And I know I have Big Tommy, Little Tommy, Annie, Arthur, Wilma, Tara, Alison and Billy, all waiting for me. (As you can see, I don't go in for names like Fluffy for my feline friends.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

So, Hello, Gorgeous!

I took the bus to the mall today. The same mall I have been going to since I saw Al Pacino in Serpico. I went to Carson's for the Goodwill Sale. I stopped at Petco to replenish the larder.

Best of all, I picked up a Big Mac. My first one in ages. It was goooood.

My incision is still giving me a lot of grief. That soreness and those painful twinges are just part of the healing process. I don't like it, but I accept it. I just wish the pain wasn't so draining. I came home and took a three hour nap!

Where he belongs!

This is Leonidas, the Spartan who won't back down. He was featured in a Chicago Tribune story last month along with his best friend, Sgt. Tim Johannsen, who is stationed in Afghanistan. Leo became the Sgt.'s diversion, companion and "touch of normalcy" in an "otherwise straining environment." Which is polite speak for, "Leo kept him sane while Tim puts his life on the line for us."

Today, Leonidas is safe in his new home in Downers Grove, IL. His journey took several weeks, beginning with a drive via local courier across Afghanistan to an unnamed city with an airport, vaccination and quarantine, a flight to New York, then another flight to Chicagoland. But he's now safe in the burbs!

How cool that when the Sgt. leaves Afghanistan for good in 2012, he won't have to worry about leaving his companion behind to die! Leonidas is now here with Tim's wife, waiting to welcome him home and helping to ease that transition from soldier to veteran.

I love the deep well of humanity that local dogs and cats are able to reach in our soldiers.

I'm proud that our troops are loving and decent and reluctant to leave their feline/canine companions behind. (I've included a photo of one of the Felines in Fatigues that the PRM rescued, and am thrilled that she's a Cub fan!) As the Sgt told the paper: it’s all about an old battlefield truism: “Leave no man behind.”

I'm thrilled that we support our troops around here. That Tribune article raised more than $8000 to help Leonidas and other critters like him accompany their war buddies home.

I've just been grinning about this for days.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Good, the bad, and the sad

The Good. My friend, Kathy, took me out for breakfast. We had a nice time. I was nervous about it, because our decades-long relationship can be difficult. But she's mellowed and was nothing but supportive. And I, in turn, accepted her attention, affection and generosity with a thankful heart.

Also, scrubbed the tub, sink, toilet and bathroom floor. I have the world's smallest bathroom, so it wasn't that big a deal. But I'm trying to maintain my new neat/clean surroundings as best I can, and it makes me happy when I accomplish my day's goal.

The Bad. I hurt. My incision is really giving me grief today. I'm two weeks post-op, so I know I can expect this periodically for another week or two. Knowing it's normal is comforting, but not comfortable. I miss my pain meds! But I'll have to get by with plain old OTC aspirin/acetaminophen from here on out.

The Sad. Today would have been my uncle's 70th birthday. It's sad that he's gone, but I'm comforted in knowing his cat Bennie is in Heaven with him. How he loved that old girl!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing: That Meme That's Going Around

Cheers to all of us thieves!

A. Age:

B. Bed size:

C. Chore that you hate:
Almost all of them, but especially dusting

D. Dogs:
If I had one, it would be a "Heinz 57" shelter rescue

E. Essential start to your day:

F. Favorite color:

G. Gold or Silver: Silver

H. Height:

I. Instruments you play:
None. I'm frighteningly tone deaf.

J. Job title:
Associate Creative Director

K. Kids:

L. Live:

M. Mother's name:

N. Nicknames:
My favorite grandpa called me "Ishkibbleboo." My dad called me "Andy Panda."

O. Overnight hospital stays:
Twice. One in 2003 and one just two weeks ago.

P. Pet peeve: Space hogs. You don't need a separate seat on the train for your backpack or briefcase. Your water bottle doesn't deserve a spot on the locker room bench. My ass does.

Q. Quote from a movie:
"Your girl is lovely, Hubbell." The Way We Were

R. Right or left handed:
Right handed

S. Siblings:
Two sisters

T. Time you wake up:
Off and on throughout the night. I'm not on any schedule anymore as I'm on medical leave from work until 10/16.

U. Underwear:
Post-op, I have to wear oversized granny pants.

V. Vegetable you hate: Tomatoes

W. What makes you run late:
Anything. I can be very undisciplined.

X. X-Rays you've had:
In late August I had a chest x-ray. I still need to get my 2011 mammogram.

Y. Yummy food that you make:
Apple banana cake. It's moist, tasty and takes less than two hours to whip up, start to finish

Z. Zoo animal:

Ah! This is nice!

I'm two weeks post-op and I'm starting to feel better. A quick walk to make a donation to the food pantry and then cab rides to and from the salon for a haircut really wore me out. So tonight is Cantonese carry-out (egg foo young and barbecue pork), a bottle of Dr. Pepper, a phone call to my mom and the new PEOPLE magazine.

There were many things I wanted to do this evening -- scrubbing the tub, sink and toilet, washing the floor … but that's just not gonna happen. I'm too tired.

So while I'm disappointed that I'm not stronger yet, I'm also pretty pleased with a Saturday night I can really enjoy.


Every time I see a story about Michael Jackson these days, it includes him rehearsing "They Don't Care about Us" for his This Is It stage show. That's how he spent his last professional hours, marching about in military precision with his band of dancers. It leaves me skeeved out. Have you ever listened to the words to this opus?

Jew me, sue me
Everybody do me
Kick me, kike me
Don't you black or white me

It makes it hard for me to listen him to praised for his love of his fellow man and his sensitivity and compassion.

"They Don't Care about Us" was not a massive hit. He could have done those This Is It shows without including it. He wanted to do it. And he could have performed this song without the offensive quasi-military choreography. He chose to do it.

I grew up on Michael Jackson. The way his life ended makes me sad. And so does his affection for a song with anti-Semitic lyrics.

A more famous lyric goes, "Be careful who you love." I'd like to amend that to, "Be careful who you idolize."


Today I dropped off a bag of canned soups and beans and fruits at the food pantry. It was worth about $15 and was as heavy as I'm comfortable carrying, post-op. After I turned the corner, I was approached by a very aggressive man who kept walking backwards in front of me, pointing at my headphones to get me to remove them. He asked me if I knew about the church that housed the food pantry.

"Yes," said I, trying to keep walking. "They are right there, around the corner, and they are still open if you are in need of assistance."

He explained that they "only" give out canned goods and he needed a sandwich. And bus fare.

I did something I never do -- I stopped on the street and opened my purse. I don't think it's a safe practice, but what the hell. I am trying to approach the world with a more thankful heart, to be sincere and joyous as I give back, showing my gratitude to God that my organs were clean and cancer free. And wasn't the point of today's jaunt to help those who are hungry?

As I was pulling a single out of my wallet, he told me he needed, "$7 or $8."

I admit it -- my first impulse was to respond that he was a greedy SOB. I swallowed my anger and I gave him the dollar and said, "good luck."

But I am still annoyed. He WAS greedy and he DID aggressively invade my personal space.

I gave to him today. But, unlike the groceries handed off at the food pantry, it was not done with a thankful heart.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: I Put a Spell On You

1. If you could put a spell on someone, who would it be and why? Sometimes my best friend has a hard time articulating, so I'd like to cast a spell that allows me to read his mind.

2. If you could go back in time and relive one moment, what would it be? One morning, a man I loved awakened me pre-dawn because he was holding me so tight in his sleep. It's a very dear memory.

3.If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be? I would not have gone to San Jose with a (very) different man. That trip had tragic, long-reaching consequences for the rest of my life.

4. What movie/TV character do you most resemble in personality? K-K-K-Katie Morosky from The Way We Were.

5. If you could push one person off a cliff and get away with it, who would it be? There is a celebrity who continues to annoy me, but he's already dead, which leads me to believe karma ultimately takes care of these things.

6. Name one habit you want to change in yourself. I can be petty

7. Describe yourself in one word. Loyal

8. List your top three memes that you like to respond to. Thursday Thirteen, Sunday Stealing and this one, of course!

9. Why do you blog? Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, I gotta write.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Knee deep in Jackie

I pre-ordered Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy from Amazon as soon as the project was announced. And I was sad that the package had been delivered to my office now that I'm stuck here at home. As I bitched and moaned, my best friend asked, "Why don't you ask someone to go into your office and send it to you at home?"

Uh ... cuz I'm an idiot.

So today the postman delivered two packages -- one was my copy of the book & CDs, the other was an identical set, a get well gift from my friend Mindy. I spent decades wondering what Jackie had included in her oral history for the Kennedy Library, and now I have it squared.

As I walked to the UPS store to return my original, still-sealed set to Amazon, I had Jackie in my headphones. It was so charming to hear her tell stories about her introduction to political life through old Boston pols with names like Onions Burke and Juicy Gremara.

Then there's the book I just began reading: Reading Jackie. It's a history of her career as editor, with an emphasis on how her life experience informed her literary projects. I got it on sale as Borders gasped its last, so I'd have a little Jackie to keep my company during my convalescence. So, in essence, I have the story of the decade that ensured her place in history and the last decade of her life, when she lived her life on her own terms and not through the reflected glory of a powerful man.

Walking through the park

I walked about a half mile today, which included a stroll through the park nearest my home. I haven't been there in months! I'm glad it's still all green and that the trees are still leafy. But now, I need a nap.

Drum roll, please!

I have lost 9 lbs.!

This morning I screwed up the nerve to step on my bathroom scale for the first time since mid-August, and was delighted to find that I'm back to where I was in Summer 2010, when I decided I was merely fat (as opposed to obese). The little black Sharpie mark I made on the display remains, though it's faded over the last 14 months.

I have not been moving very much at all. I mean, my leisurely little daily jaunts around town could hardly be considered cardio. And for the past week I have eaten everything/anything I please. (As evidenced by my daily English muffin w/strawberry jam carb fest.) And yet I lost 9 lbs.

So I guess my GP was right back in July when she suspected a lot of this new weight was bloat, caused by pressure on my organs from my audaciously large cyst.

But now that I know I don't have cancer, now that I know much of the relentless weight gain that left me feeling helpless was indeed beyond my control, I am determined to get healthier and feel better.

I know I can't resume exercising again yet, at least not in any strenuous way. But I have resistance cords and I'm going to use them every day. After all, this strength training includes no bending, no pressure on my abs. And I'm going to resume tracking my calories at The Daily Plate. I'm not going to deprive myself anything I crave because I know I'm still healing, but it may encourage me to make smarter choices.

Hopefully, by the time next month, I'll be on an exercise bike or maybe in the pool again!

Oh, my!

Lately I have been having many fascinatingly unusual bad dreams while on pain killers, but last night I had a fascinatingly unusual good one. Very good. That's emphasis on the VERY and added emphasis on the GOOD.

What made it unusual was the complete lack of romance. I can't tell you who I was dreaming about -- not because I'm repressing his identity, but because it simply didn't matter.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


This week, for the first time in ages, I am doing my TT completely from home. I usually use this weekly post as my mental sorbet -- allowing it to cleanse my mind when I'm stuck on a project. I either get the initial idea or put the finishes touches on it from my desk.

But not #140. I am, for the most part, all-at-home/all-the-time. And one area that's staying rooted at home where it stands is my refrigerator. So ...


1) A quart of 2% milk

2) Ten cans of Coke

3) Four Ultra Slim Fast Milk Chocolate Shakes

4) Six yogurts (2 Key Lime, 4 Strawberry)

5) I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray

6) American Cheese Slices

7) Turkey bacon

8) Oscar Mayer "lite" hot dogs

9) Ketchup

10) Sweet relish

11) Miracle Whip

12) Thin sliced ham

13) A quart of orange juice

For more information, or to play along yourself, click here.

Not sorry to see it go

Forget Labor Day. Today marks the end of This Gal's Summer: the last home game at The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field. Between that momentous event and hearing this Sly and the Family Stone song in the shower this morning, I have been reflecting on Summer 2011.

It wasn't so hot.

My Borders store closed. It was too hot. My best friend's recession-weary company STILL refused to pay for him to come see me ... I mean, attend meetings in Chicago. I didn't get the raise I was hoping for. My kid sister is STILL a bitch. And I felt fatigued and fat/fatter/fattest. And there was the stressful run up to my September surgery.

Oh, there was one mega-fantastic thing: My nights with my Knight at Wrigley Field. How lovely of Sir Paul to be there for me to redeem the summer!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Want Wednesday

I want Jackie. I pre-ordered Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy from Amazon as soon as the project was announced. Long before I knew I was going to have surgery. So now the book and 8 CDs are sitting on my desk at the office! How I would love hearing her voice here at home during my convalescence, when I could really concentrate. Oh well, it is what it is. I've waited decades to hear these tapes. I can wait a few more weeks.

Sleepy time!

I was feeling so good, so strong on this warm, sunny Tuesday. I left at 2:15 for my 4:00 dr. appointment -- stopping at Trader Joe's for English muffins, the eye doctor's for new contact lenses, and my favorite coffee shop for lox benedict. It was wonderful to feel as though I was back in my own life again!

Then my doctor checked out my troublesome incision and deemed it just fine, but expressed concern about the tenacious rash surrounding it and phoned in a prescription for me. That's gonna have to wait until tomorrow. For right now, all I see in my future is a nightshirt and a nap before the season premiere of NCIS. (Sigh. I could really use me some Gibbs right now!


My pain pill only covers me for six hours, so no matter how I time it, every night there comes a time when it wears off when I'm asleep and I wake up in discomfort.

And every night I recall the gruesome nightmare I was having right before my eyes open.

They all have to do with my helplessness in a rescue situation, and I conclude that in dream symbolism the one I'm trying unsuccessfully to save from harm is ME. My subconscious is saying, "Wake up and take the damn pain pill."

The worst dream had me saving a tortoise shell cat and a black and white dog from the Chicago River, only to have them race into Wells Street traffic and get squished.

Another had me searching for my mother, who had slipped away from me in a crowd, and I knew she'd never be able to figure out how to get home on public transit without me.

And tonight, the one that awakened with a start in time for this latest dose, had me all miserable and panicked because I was in love with Charlie Sheen. I am not kidding! The codependent's Mission: Impossible. Even when I'm asleep, I crack me up.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Why cats should be welcome in hospitals

I still have a cough. It's vastly improved since its August heyday, but it's still there. At the hospital they warned me that, while it's not much more than an annoyance now, it could turn into pneumonia in my surgery-weakened system. And so it's in my best interest that I do breathing exercises with this plastic contraption.

It's boring and it makes me cough.

It's far more amusing here at home than it was in the hospital, though, because my cat Joey really enjoys watching the little yellow plunger on the far left moves from good to better to best. It's as though I have a cheering section!

I'll give it a try ...

My incision is still bleeding at the base! The hole looks too big and round to heal on its own. At least that's how it looks to me. I think I need another stitch down there.

I promised myself that if it was still bleeding, I'd call the doctor. And so this morning I did. After asking me a few questions to determine that it's not infected (and I'm confident it's not), the nurse -- ever the gatekeeper -- told me she believes it's because the gauze tears at it and advises me to keep it uncovered and exposed all day. Oh ... kay ...

Since I'm not really sure that's the problem at all, I told her I'd still like to see the doctor. So we're on for tomorrow at 4:00. "If it's necessary," she said. Oh, I think it is. I didn't go through all that surgery to be sidelined by an avoidable infection. Besides, I have some paperwork regarding my short-term disability coverage that he needs to complete. (I wish the insurance company didn't use the initials STD all the time!)

The less I see you, the more I want you

I just watched The Big Dog, President Bill Clinton, on Meet the Press. As he effortlessly answered questions about his work with the Clinton Global Initiative … Israeli-Palestinian relations … his wife's performance as Secretary of State … the economy … Barack Obama's re-election strategy … the GOP field … I was struck again by his intellect, charm, and overwhelming joie de vivre.

I adore him.

Of course, I can afford to adore him because we see him only occasionally. When he was at the center of our political life, the constant exposure remorselessly revealed his weaknesses as well as his strengths.

But now, when he just turns up every now and again to dazzle me, well, I simply adore him.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing: The Lower 40 Meme, Part Two

Cheers to all of us thieves!

21) Have you ever flown a kite? Nope. Though every time I see Mary Poppins, I promise myself anew to try it some day.

22) Do you wish on your fallen lashes? Nope.

23) Do you consider yourself successful? Yes. I measure myself against Wilbur the Pig's eulogy of Charlotte: "It is not often that someone comes along who is both a good writer and a true friend." That is my aim and yes, at times I'm proud to say I reach it.

24) When was the last time that you made an obscene phone call? That would be never.

25) Have you ever asked for a pony? Technically speaking, no. Santa will confirm that I requested a horse for three consecutive Christmases.

26) Plans for tomorrow? I hope to finish the Cat Who ... mystery I've been working on for a while.

27) Can you juggle? Only metaphorically.

28) Missing someone now? Yes.

29) When was the last time you told someone "I love you"? I think I most recently said it to my Cousin Rosemary on Friday. I have been saying it very often lately!

30) And truly meant it? And yes, I have really meant it each time. Since my test results came back benign last Saturday, I have a new appreciation for all the important people in my life.

31) How often do you drink alcohol? Under normal circumstances, a couple times a week.

32) How are you feeling today? OUCH! My incision area is alternately sore or itchy. (I'm sorry, that was TMI, huh?)

33) Have you every tried to write a meme? No. I bow to Bud.

34) Have you ever been fired from a job? Nope.

35) What are you looking forward to? Flying a kite someday. (See Question 1)

36) Have you ever crawled through a window? Nope

37) What's the most recent bad meal that you had to endure? Nothing springs to mind. Sorry.

38) Can you handle the truth? "I think I'm entitled to it." That's Tom Cruise's line leading into Nicholson's more famous, "You can't handle the truth." Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share that trivia.

39) Whose to blame for what's going on? Tea baggers. I mean,The Tea Party.

40) What will it take to fix it all up? This is said with all due respect -- the POTUS needs to grow a pair

Alert JAMA

I'm happy to report that there's no connection between my Cub fandom and my uterus.

I had been a wee bit concerned about this. For ever since Labor Day weekend, as my surgery date approached, my passion for my Boys in Blue has waned. The last moment of a game I recall watching was on Sept. 7 against the Reds. I hadn't even missed them!

Until today. Watched the Cubs squeak by the Astros. I even ate a hot dog! You'll have to excuse me if I pass on the Old Style, as I have been advised that it doesn't mix well with prescription painkillers.

I love these guys. Yeah, the season has sucked. What of it? This team has shown a great deal of heart post-Zambrano, putting together impressive winning streaks in August and September. I post this in tribute:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Tuesday Afternoon

1. Where will you be and doing this Tuesday afternoon? Hopefully I'll be walking a little faster as I go from bedroom to sofa and back again. I'm recovering from surgery on Sept. 9. I want each day to be a little better than the day before.

2. Do you belong to any group(s)? I'm a registered Democrat and a member of my church congregation.

3. Do you feel energized or drained by being in a group situation? (If the answer is "it depends," on what does it depend?) If it's a professional situation, I'm energized because I'm most confident there. Socially, group situations can really tire me out because I'm not as sure of myself.

4. Is there a role you naturally put yourself while adapting when in group situations? Interviewer. I try to draw people out and get them talking about themselves.

5. In business or formal situations, do you mind hugs or are you offended if it goes past a handshake? I think business hugs are weird, yes.

6. Do you find what we'd call “ice breakers” a playful way to build community in a lighthearted manner, or a complete and utter hell of forced fun and awkwardness? Oh, the latter!

7. What word do you use far too frequently? "Fuck." Shame on me.

8. What word do you use not frequently enough? "Gubernatorial." It's great fun to say. "Penal" is good, too. Fortunately, being from the Land of Lincoln, I do get to use both words in the same sentence.

9. What word do you use when swearing is not appropriate? "Golly." It's a weak and unsatisfying substitute.

To reach out, or not to reach out?

My best friend and I are very different. I'm smarter and quicker, he's wiser and more deliberative. I'm stronger, he's more sensitive. He's more active in his spare time, I'm more introspective.

The fundamental differences between us are reflected in how we're handling sensitive family matters, too.

His sister Sherry has a drinking problem. When she drinks she feels defensive and persecuted, and lashes out at relatives. She took off after their mother after the funeral of a family friend … verbally attacked their younger sister for choosing to leave her kids to my best friend and not Sherry in her will (it was just a precaution, the younger sister is healthy and happy and has no intention of leaving us for decades). She invited my best friend and his family over to spend the day with her and her kids. They were all enjoying the visit until a neighbor called and invited Sherry to go on a boat ride. And she went -- leaving her kids alone at home with my best friend and his family. These are just the stories that are top of mind. There are probably a half dozen more that I can't think of right now.

The siblings and Mom got together and confronted Sherry about her drinking and she told them all to get lost. This was over a year ago. No one in the family has heard from her since, even though they all live within 25 miles of one another.

My best friend has never stopped worrying about Sherry and especially her children. Over the summer he sent her a text message, asking her to lunch. Just to re-establish contact. When he got no response whatsoever, he thought perhaps she wasn't ready to talk yet, or maybe she didn't have that cellphone anymore. Thursday, out of the blue, she texted him back, inviting him to lunch today. He was nervous about it, but happy, too. I'm waiting to hear how it went.

Even if their lunch isn't a success, I applaud his courage in opening his heart and trying to reconnect.

And then there's me. Our family patriarch molested me when I was in high school. For years afterward, every time we got together as a family, he tormented me ... whispering questions about if I like the feel of a tongue in my ear, whether I masturbate, how often I have intercourse, etc. He seemed to get off on the power he had, knowing that I wouldn't make a scene and expose him for the pig he is, or maybe trying to emphasize that I wouldn't be believed even if I did. Finally, about 15 years ago, I decided not to cover for him anymore and have simply refused to be in any room he is in. Even when it was the funeral service for my beloved uncle. Sometimes it has hurt to absent myself from our "big, happy family" gatherings, but it's more than worth it for the feeling of power it has restored to me. Power over my own body. Power to acknowledge the truth.

In yesterday's mail I received a get well card from him. It's still unopened in my kitchen, nestled among the newspapers in my recycling bag. And there it will stay until I feel ready to take it down to the bin behind the building.

I am trying to maintain my thankful heart, to celebrate how fabulous it is that my ovary and endometrial lining were both benign, to fully feel and appreciate the love and support of my friends. But opening my heart to him would cost me too much. I cannot accept the olive branch he extended. I don't believe he is sincere, I can't trust that he doesn't still want to damage me.

Too much!

Naughty Gal! I know I'm supposed to walk every day ... I was feeling pretty good, so I got dressed, put on makeup for the first time in a week, and did a little walk around a 5 square block area of my neighborhood. It didn't seem like a big deal when I embarked on it. I checked the bakery and convenience store in an unsuccessful attempt to find English muffins, stopped by the pet boutique for cat treats and dropped in at Five Guys for a little cheeseburger to go. The whole trip took less than an hour. But right now I'm soooo beat!

Doesn't everyone?

As I monitored the brouhaha caused by Texas Gov. Rick Perry's cozy relationship with the drug manufacturer, Merck, I had a moment of self-revelation. For as a lifelong Illinoisan, my first response was a yawn. I mean, don't all governors introduce legislation that benefits their campaign contributors?

This Texas-sized fuss tells me once again that they don't. And shouldn't. And I should be far more outraged by this behavior than I am. There's an excuse for my cynicism, though. Check out the fates of 5 of the 8 Illinois governors of my lifetime:

• Rod Blagojevich (D) was found guilty of 17 federal offenses.

• George Ryan (R) is currently serving a 6 1/2-year sentence in federal prison.

• Dan Walker (D) plead guilty to bank fraud.

• Otto Kerner (D) was convicted of bribery charges.

• William Stratton (R) was charged with tax evasion, but was acquitted.

I have a tendency to laugh at their behavior and I shouldn't. It's appalling. It doesn't have to be this way, and we Illinois voters should demand that the corruption finally end.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Time with the family

One of the good things to come from this medical adventure is feeling reconnected with the important people in my life. First and foremost, my mom.

She sat with me in the waiting area before surgery and stayed, along with my oldest niece (in from California) until my doctor came out with the "benign" pronouncement. Then she visited me in the hospital on Sunday and came along with my friend Kathleen to pick me up on Monday. She brought orange juice and chocolate pudding.

She stayed here with me until Wednesday night -- taking my temperature, monitoring my meds, listening at the door when I took my showers, setting up my humidifier, doing a load of wash and ensuring that I could make the walk around the block to the doctor's office. Last night, when she was satisfied that I was doing as well as a person can less than a week after major surgery, she packed up and went home.

The best thing about having her here was not being babied -- though I do like knowing I have chocolate pudding cups in the kitchen. It was spending time with her. Together we watched the ABC special about the Jacqueline Kennedy tapes and Dr. Phil's interviews with Casey Anthony's parents. I enjoyed watching her dote on my cats. As she kept an eagle eye on my health, I tweaked her about hers. We hugged a lot. It was lovely.

Then there was my favorite niece. She's only in town for a week before leaving for college in Michigan. Weeks ago, before I went into the hospital, she promised me she would see me before she went away to school. I knew she would. She came by last night to bring me a get well present and to take my mom home. But it took her an hour to arrive, and when she did, her face was swollen and red with tears of humiliation and frustration.

Her parents got a new car, a van, and she just began driving it. She unwisely tried to squeeze it into one of the small spaces in my building garage and found herself stuck. After trying over and over to maneuver it out of the garage without hitting a pole or another car, she gave in and called her dad. He came out in his truck, parked it on the street, went in and navigated the van to safety.

We all praised her for being smart enough to ask for help, for not proudly and immaturely risking damage to herself or the new van. Still, she was drenched in embarrassment. She is so excited about her status as a burgeoning independent woman and she had to call her daddy for help! I'm reminded anew of how young she still is, and how lucky we are that my brother-in-law is such a wise and loving dad.

And my oldest friend. She's been checking on me regularly, calling often, even persuading them to give me the phone while I was still in the recovery room after surgery. I have no recollection of this, of course, but she reports to me that I complained of being thirsty and told her she was really my sister. It was she who first told me my cyst and endometrial lining were benign. And I suspect she was the one really behind the basket of autumn flowers sent to my hospital room by "Sir Paul."

Is it any wonder that I am heartened by all the good that has come from this rather awful experience? I must remember to celebrate with the "thankful heart" the hospital chaplain and I discussed.


Yesterday, a few hours after leaving the doctor, I discovered a few drops of blood on my panties and my nightshirt. This morning when I changed the bandage, I found them again. It's at the very top and the very bottom of the incision. I'm going to continue keeping it clean and covered and, if it continues through the weekend, I'll call the doctor.

Oh yeah! The rash on my tummy my doctor knows about is still there, too. Yes, if Monday isn't a clearer day in The Land of the Incision, I'm definitely calling the doctor.

Busy Day!

This was an important day post-op.

• Mailed letters. It was raining and in the 50's. Monday, the last time I was outside, was sunny and 80ยบ.

• Visited with my doctor and had a belly-full of staples removed. There was very little blood and no pain at all while he was doing it, and he pronounced my incision area as looking very good. (I pronounce it as looking a little yellowy-green and angry, but then, I'm no MD.) My cyst weighed just under 5 lbs. FIVE POUNDS! No wonder I always felt so bloated and fat!

• Bought a lottery ticket and a bottle of milk.

• Stopped at Subway and had my first potato chips in a week. It felt good to crunch again.

It all took about an hour. It was both exhilarating and tiring. My best friend is right -- I have to think of this recovery thing as a process, not an event.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Quick overview of the last four days

Thursday I dosed myself with Gavilyte, which left me clean as a whistle. It's an unpleasant but necessary experience.

Friday I got to the hospital, along with my oldest niece and my mom, at about 10:30. This was me being careful, as I wasn't scheduled to be admitted until 11:00 for a 1:00 surgery time. My cough was still very evident, so I had to wear a mask.

At about 1:00 (!) we were finally hustled back to another waiting area. The nurse, a very nice woman -- everyone was very nice, made it clear that if it was up to her my surgery would be rescheduled because that cough was just too much. I began to freak out because I don't think I could stand having the surgery rescheduled. An anesthesiologist came by and pronounced me good to go. Meanwhile, we just sat around and waited and waited. My mom and oldest niece drank coffee.

Finally, at 3:30, we got definitive word: my surgery wouldn't be until 5:00. The patient my doctors were currently working on ran very long, and then they needed a while to relax and refresh and make sure the room was ready for me.

I was in surgery until about 8:00. That's when my doctor told my mom that everything is benign and shared a photo of my cyst. I now have the lovely image. Forget a stapler -- it was about 11"x8"x5". It was shaped like a FOOTBALL! No wonder I have been suffering from bloat and fatigue, etc. I had a football filled (mostly) with fluid inside of me!

Saturday I woke up in my hospital room with a bitching case of dry mouth, feeling very, very sore. But when my oldest friend called to check on me, and to tell me that I am cancer free, my spirits soared! I am so grateful not only for the test results but for all the prayers and concentrated good thoughts that came my way.

Friends and family called and texted all afternoon. It was such a balm for my spirit! And it's very humbling to know what esteem I am held in. I hope this experience leaves me a better person than the one I was when I came in.

Just getting out of bed and moving to the sofa was an event. I was so weak, and every time I coughed -- which was often -- it hurt a lot.

Sunday I lost my catheter and my pain pump but kept the oxygen. I also saw the incision for the first time. OUCH! My navel is still bruised and filled with crusted blood. Bright, shiny staples hold my wound together, ranging from my belly button all the way down to my pubic bone. The nurses and residents doing rounds have all deemed it "very good." You'll have to pardon me if my own assessment isn't quite as enthusiastic.

I walked a few laps around the surgical floor, ate broth and rice krispies and 2% milk, drank LOTS of water and the occasional Coke to ward off a caffeine headache, and watched a Friends marathon on Nick @ Nite. (I have been so supportive of Jennifer Aniston's often lackluster movie career that it was only fitting she come through for me.) It made me just happy enough to get my mind off my own trouble.

Monday there was much joy in Hospital Land because I farted. No, really. That painful little toot empowered the nurses to order a real breakfast for me. After I proved I could keep my sausages down, I was cleared to come home.

And here I am, blogging in the living room as my mom slumbers in the den. I prefer to keep my real and cyber lives separate, so I may not update this again for a few days.

But that doesn't take away from my "thankful heart." The hospital chaplain and I prayed together last Saturday and felt very good and very right to celebrate my gifts in a more formal way.

Again, thank you each very much!