Tuesday, July 31, 2007

But Most of All…

…Wear Sunscreen.

Baz Luhrman was right. Even back in the late ‘90’s during that dreadful spoken-word graduation address song of his that kept getting played on the radio. Most of all, wear sunscreen.

I went to the dermatologist last Friday, mostly to get a post-transplant baseline checkup since the biggest risk of getting a transplant (besides dying, of course) is developing skin cancer. I also had a red spot on my forehead that mimicked dry skin that would heal and become shiny only to become dry again. Since January. So it was time to get the look-see.

Luckily the spots on my leg, chest and hairline were, in the really sweet dermo’s words, signs that I am getting old and that I got too much sun when I was young; ie, nothing to worry about. The thing on my forehead, however, was indeed precancerous and needed to be removed and biopsied. He assured me that it wasn’t melanoma or the other invasive types of skin cancer, but an early cancer nonetheless.

So some lidocaine, a hole punch, a skin shaving and a couple of stitches later, I was on my way home, determined that someday soon I would no longer have to look down the long, dark depths into puncture wounds on my body. From bone marrow biopsies to the hickman hole (which still is under appropriate dressing) to the new little hole in my forehead, I just decided that I was so over the very disquieting sensation of seeing open holes when I look in the mirror.

Yeah yeah. Poor me. I’ll take your sympathy on the hip bone holes and the chest hole. But this forehead hole? I’ve had this one coming for a long, long time.

Consider that, in the mid-1980’s, I would lay out in the sun with my sister and her friend Christine wearing not sunscreen but baby oil. Those were the days, weren’t they? Before baby oil and sun exposure were listed in the same risk matrix as unprotected sex and junkie hookers? Good times, good times.

Then in high school I fell in love with and set about wooing and dating Christopher Mancini (not his real name), a sweet hunka hunka beautiful Italian high school amore. Oh my lord, I loved Christopher Mancini. I loved his parents, his dog, his Nonni and Nanno. He was the man I was going to marry. Just as soon as I got myself tan enough to not glow in the prom photo next to him. I hied myself to Tropic Tan where I baked and sizzled myself to a miraculous-for-me shade of vanilla latte. And oh how cute those photos were. And how I dreamed of tanning all the time so I could try to pass for a Catholic paisan when all his family arrived for the wedding and oohed and aahed over me during the dollar dances. Yeah. It was indeed amore. Little did I know it was also moltissimo stupido.

Then fast forward to college when I'd go out in the sun, maybe not to specifically get a tan, but certainly without any sense that sunscreen might be appropriate or necessary. Then cue also a bikini shopping trip for a trip to the Cape with my boyfriend (that era's future Mr. Haggis that wasn't) during which I looked at myself in the unforgiving mirror and said, "F*@# it. I'm sorry, but brown fat just simply looks better than white fat," and started tanning again for my trip.

Never mind that back in 2001 I decided I was going to Mystic Tan myself into oblivion in the summer and then attempt to channel Uma, Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett during the winter. You know; "winter white." By that time I had come to the tearful conclusion that skin starts to look old long before you feel old and that maybe it was time to stop kicking the sh*t out of my poor epidermis. Unfortunately, the damage (thank you, 1986) was already done.

So although I wear sunscreen (Mustela zinc oxide-based for babies, actually) and advocate the use of sunscreens as if they are condoms, I had long-since earned that forehead lesion before last week. Now I'm on the every-6 month check up schedule, and all I can do is tell you kids to stay in school, eat your greens---and most of all, wear sunscreen. :)

ps...Did I mention that some of my eyebrows and eyelashes are growing back in WHITE? Not gray, not blond. White. So now with my new skin care regimen, I seek your prayers that it all turns out looking very "Swedish Snowboard Champion" rather than "Weird Albino Girl." Let's hear it for the (Very) White Girl look that will be on all the runways this winter season.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Tell Me Why

...I DO like Mondays!

From The Hill
FBI raids Sen. Stevens's Alaska home
By Elana Schor
July 31, 2007
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) raided the home of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) on Monday, advancing the corruption probe that has ensnared the once-untouchable GOP dean.

The Anchorage Daily News first reported the search of Stevens’s Girdwood, Alaska, residence on Monday afternoon, citing the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s local office. That home has fueled the investigation into Stevens’ ties to oil-field services company Veco, whose two top executives recently resigned after pleading guilty to bribery and fraud.

Bill Allen, Veco’s former CEO, is a longtime friend and business partner of Stevens, and investigators are examining Allen’s involvement in a 2000 renovation of the senior Republican appropriator’s house. The construction project added a story to the building, and contractors have reportedly testified before a grand jury that Allen and Veco received the bills for their work.

Stevens has denied any appearance of impropriety in the home renovation, stating specifically earlier this month that every bill he and his wife received was paid with their personal money, “and that’s all there is to it.” The famously combative senator has acknowledged that the federal probe may complicate his reelection effort next year — a concept still almost unthinkable to many in Alaska, where Stevens’ talent for securing federal dollars has made him a legend.

In a statement released by his office Monday, Stevens said his attorneys were notified of the search Monday morning. He vowed to continue providing for his state as normal while the investigation proceeds. “I continue to believe this investigation should proceed to its conclusion without any appearance that I have attempted to influence its outcome. I will continue my policy of not commenting on this investigation until it has concluded,” Stevens said.

He added, “I urge Alaskans not to form conclusions based upon incomplete and sometimes incorrect reports in the media. The legal process should be allowed to proceed so that all the facts can be established and the truth determined.”

The Anchorage FBI office did not return a request for comment late yesterday. Two House Republicans, Rick Renzi (Ariz.) and John Doolittle (Calif.), have experienced home raids by federal authorities this year, but a raid on Stevens’ residence marks a significant intrusion of congressional corruption scandals into the more clubby Senate. Stevens’ financial disclosure form for last year, which he requested that the ethics committee review before submission, is still under wraps after the senator requested a second deadline extension, as The Hill reported earlier this month.

The Iran Hostage Non-Crisis

I know I've been a bit out of the geopolitical loop these days, but how is it that no one is reporting on the American citizens currently being held hostage in Iran? What, has everyone been having transplants recently? Or are we all too busy with Lindsay Blohan to notice an international outrage in progress?

Why would the fact that three American citizens are being held by Iran as Zionist spies not be newsworthy? What kind of national press ignores such a deplorable and diplomatically unacceptable situation? Can you imagine being held in an Iranian prison as a spy--and having 99.8% of your country have no idea you are even there? It simply boggles the mind.

Here are some more details from Mark Steyn:

We should all ask our senators--and this White House--what they are doing to have these Americans released.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

It's All Because

This made me laugh till I cried. It's a song called It's All Because (The Gays Are Getting Married). Depending on where you work, Reverend, it's pretty safe for work.

Enjoy for your Monday morning.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Yes, We Have No Bananas

I got nuthin for ya.

Obviously, since it's now Thursday and the last post was Sunday. Couple of reasons. First, Bambina's summer camp let out last week. The end date kind of sneaked up on us. We were sitting at the table and suddenly realized, "oh my lord, Friday is her last day!" Having no suitable activity lined up for the remaining SEVEN WEEKS till she goes to preschool, we were dashing furiously around trying to find something that was either a) still available, or b) not three thousand dollars for 4 weeks of half days. In addition, Bambina has been present most of every day, so precious little writing was going to occur regardless.

Second, I've been reading. Yeah. Can you believe it? I'm actually reading books. By actual authors and not the "US Weekly" staff. At the outset of this whole stem cell situation I was certain I was going to write a book with all of my "down time." Hellooooo?! Total nonsense. The entire time I was in the hospital I could not even consider reading something longer than three column inches on Ian Ziering's success on Dancing With the Stars, such was the mental concentration fallout from the chemo. Then I assumed I'd do it when I got home. Sadly, still no ability to do more than flip through a magazine. I almost couldn't even focus on the newspaper; all that print! And so small! And about non-celebrities! No thank you. So this past week has been great because I've not only been able to read books but can actually retain a petite soupcon of their information. So far I've read:

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (on writing in general with family stories thrown in)
Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah (about and by a young man who was a child soldier in Sierra Leone; now living in NYC)
Half way through God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens. (An entertaining, thought-provoking and exceedingly well-written book about why religion is a Bad Thing)

Recommended, all.

In between calling toddler camps and YMCAs, I went to the clinic a couple of times. The wound from the Hickman line removal was green and yellow, so I figured I would call and check that out. It's still funky-looking and I am dubious in the extreme that it is healing, regardless of doctor assurances that it will get better. Note that they are not saying, "That looks perfectly fine." They are saying, "Well, shower with the bandaid off, dry it thoroughly...neosporin...dry dressing..blah blah." You know they are thinking, "Oh dear god, that sh*t is green!!" So I got antibiotics too, which always make a girl feel her shiny, happy best, don't they? And the notion of showering with the bandaid off is akin to asking me to chew tin foil with my metal fillings. You want me to leave it undressed? And let water in? And then have to look at it?! Oooooooh, I just can't wait. Which, honestly, is what led to this post: I'm avoiding going to the shower. Cue the Psycho music.

Also keeping me busy has been further necessary management of Bambina's ongoing, profound interest in all things scatological. Now it's about dogs. Somehow she learned that dogs sniff other dogs butts when they meet. Fair enough. But Bambina's favorite thing to pretend to be (besides Me Mama You Bambina, wherein she orders me around, reads to me, and tells me it's okay if I wet myself sometimes) is a dog. She loves to run around on all fours barking saying, "I'm the Mama Dog and you the baby puppy!" So this morning she started sniffing my arm, as she does, and then said, "I sniff your bum now" as she headed toward my back porch. Whaaaaat!?? I jumped up, like, "WHAT are you doing?! Mama does NOT like people sniffing her bum, thank you." She finally relented when I advised her that pretend doggies do not sniff real bums.

This is my day, folks. Dodging bum sniffing children, peering into supurating wounds, and telling myself I really should post something as soon as I finish this chapter...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bambina Epoopanies

FYI. Be mindful of the stories you tell your toddler. You think it’s just a throwaway anecdote. You never imagine as you are telling it that it will be the only thing you discuss for the next three days. You never imagine being mortified at the possibility of your child repeating or acting out your anecdote in front of others.

Anyway, did I ever tell you about the time a bird pooped on my head and shoulder as I was walking to school in Scotland in 1979? I probably didn’t. But I made the mistake of telling Bambina. It all came about as a result of birds viewing our car as their personal commode. She wanted to know why there was so much bird poop on our car, most of it white, some of it the must-have-eaten-berries red, and some of it that must-have-had-dysyntery green. I thought I was being all “Bill Nye Science Guy” as I explained that birds, unlike people, do not care where they poop. This she knew already as a result of that Taro Gomi classic, “Everyone Poops” that we love to read in tandem with its sister publication “The Gas We Pass.”

So for no reason at all, I allowed that I had once been the unwitting outhouse for a large Scottish bird of unknown pedigree. I told her that I was on my way to school when all of a sudden I felt a small thud on my head, followed by a sinking dripping feeling. When I felt with my hand it became clear that I had been the victim of a flyby pooping. So I ran home where my mom cleaned my hair, changed my shirt, and sent me back to school just in time.

No big deal, just a quickie story to give a little local color to the science of bird feces. Or, alternatively, carte blanche for a small child to run around sticking her butt in people’s faces and yelling, “Pthpbbbbtttttt (the fart noise): Splat!” Then following up with, “Now you have to look and see what’s on you!” Cue the unfortunate pooper-onner to have to say, “Eeeww! A bird pooped on me!” For four hours straight.

Perhaps I’ll learn not to share poop stories with a 3 year-old. More than likely, perhaps not.

Bambina has had a lot of poopy epiphanies lately. She’s been potty trained for a year, through almost no effort of mine. We just bought a little potty for her, put it in the bathroom, told her that was where little girls peed and pooped, rather than babies in their diapers, and in perhaps days she was peeing exclusively in the potty. Within a couple of months and well before the age of two she had ceased pooping in her diaper even though she couldn’t obviously poop without assistance on her potty. Then a few months after that, she refused to use the potty anymore in favor of using “The Mommy Potty.” I get asked a lot how I did it, and the answer is always, “I didn’t do it; she did.” I often wonder if her early poop awareness has enhanced her interest in all things scatological. Or maybe having me for a mama explains more. I leave it to greater minds than mine to determine.

Anyway, her previous (pre-bird) scatological enjoyment came from learning that “Mama! When you fart in the bath, bubbles come out your bum!” This, she found to be humor manna from heaven. You could see the wonder in her face, like, “How amazing is this big world that you get to make bubbles out of your butt?!!!” This was preceded by her new (and hilarious) understanding that sometimes you fart really stinkily when you have to poop, so if you wake up and say, “Mama, my nose hurts when I fart,” you might need to get yourself to the loo ASAP. So now when she beefs like a trucker I look at her with my “let’s get upstairs to the water closet” look and she’ll say, “I NOT need to poop. I just farting, okay?”

Yes, she’ll be mortified when she gets older and reads this. But no more mortified than I’ll be the next time she sees the Rabbi and "bird poops" on him…


Via The Moderate Voice, I happened upon this fantastically funny news satire site. Start here and just keep on clicking.


The "licence fee."

What is it?

It is the legally-mandated payment every British home with a television must pay to support the BBC. It is the fee that has spawned decades of low- and high-tech means of detecting license evaders. It is the fee that results in imprisonment for those who dodge it. Yeah. Imprisonment. For not paying for the privilege of having the BBC beamed into your home.

That's akin to the Bush Administration and Congress enacting a law that all US citizens with TVs must pay $50 a year to support The FOX News Channel. Or to make support of PBS legally required. To American sensibilities, it's almost unfathomable. Sure, we pay for cable or satellite, but we choose our own channels and I'm not certain anyone has served time for stealing cable.

I remember well the license fee as a kid in Scotland. I also remember when the BBC was one of the most respected news organizations in the world. No longer. The following links detail only a few of the shady and ethically-questionable actions going on at the BBC. The first discusses a BBC online thread that allowed a proven lie about Jews to remain while removing every single rebuttal to it, on the basis of determining whether the rebuttal had violated site policies. The libel is still on the site, the rebuttals are still removed. Truth and decency apparently are not priorities of the BBC online news organization.

The second link details a host of scams and irregularities over the past two years that demonstrate to even the biggest doubters that something is very wrong with "Auntie Beeb."

Small wonder that a growing segment of the British population is now openly questioning the necessity--and morality--of compulsory BBC financial support. Small wonder that the BBC lacks all journalistic credibility, especially where it concerns international affairs.



Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Thank You For Your Support

I have a very important milestone to share with you today. It is perhaps one of the most significant days in a woman's progress through a stem cell transplant.

I speak, of course, of finally getting to wear a bra again.

Once I had the Hickman put in, my whole upper chest area hurt, almost to my shoulders. One reason was the two inch insertion scar, another was the general subcutaneous pain from having some tubes in there. I gave bra-wearing a couple of feeble attempts so I'd at least have somewhere to stick the protruding tubes, but it just hurt too d*mn much to have the straps right over the scar area. Never mind that the tubes ended up itching my boobeles while stuffed in said bra. Fuggedaboudit.

Once the scar healed a bit I tried again. But by that point my skin was flaking off from chemo aftereffects, so I was itching like crazy and not enjoying the added irritation of the supporting undergarment. Fuggedaboudit again.

So for the intervening 4 weeks I have been revisiting 6th grade (okay, 7th grade), (okay, kill me now, 8th grade too) and wearing a tanktop (= undershirt) under my shirt. It's worked pretty well, except for the fact that I only wore clothing that could accommodate a tanktop underneath, and I'm certain people were starting to wonder if I'd lost the plot from a fashion perspective (assuming they haven't wondered that for two decades...).

But today, my friends, the bra is back. Reunited and it feels so good, baby! No more fears of inappropriate nippleitis when in the very cold Dana Farber clinic. No more avoidance of white t-shirts. No more feeling like a 6th grader.

Check me out:

Danke Schoen

...to the Sydney Morning Herald for this absolutely first-rate dissertation on Ferris Bueller's Day Off, perhaps one of the best movies of all time. It's along the lines of "Everything I Ever Needed To Know, I Learned From Ferris." Awesome.

For those unfamiliar with FBDO, just know that every girl wanted to be Sloane, every guy wanted to be Ferris, but most of us were some version of Cameron or Ferris' sister, Jeanie.

Sydney Morning Herald

Monday, July 16, 2007

Halloween Three

As you know, we are presently in the month of July. Bambina and I, therefore, had a very timely conversation yesterday about Halloween costumes for October '07. We have narrowed it down to: a) a dalmatian, b) Scooby Doo, c) a greyhound, or d)a bear. The only contract rider being that the costume must be "A Mommy Dog" or "A Mommy Bear." Last year, you may recall, Bambina was a puppy. I certainly recall it, for the simple reason that she wore the puppy costume for a month before Halloween and a good 6 months after. The only reason she can't wear it now is because the puppy legs are now capri pant-length and because we can no longer button it in the back. This, of course, was the case for several months until the discomfort of the Puppy Costume Perma-Wedgie finally got to her and we managed to retire it with honors. Now that she is A Big Girl, she no longer feels a puppy costume is appropriate to a person of her stature. She must now be The Mommy Dog.

Now, you may wonder whether Bambina herself independently and of her own volition raised the topic of Halloween costumes. Your superior intellect no doubt tells you that she didn't. I did. In one of those perfect examples of how one generation's issues are passed on to the next, and inexorably to the next and the next, I have made it a point to ensure that Bambina will never be searching around on October 29th for costume ideas...Until she reminds me she's in college and it's kind of embarrassing to have your mom drive up in her Oldsmobile to drop off a Red M&M costume at your dorm.

Our costumes when we were kids were all homemade. I can't recall Scotland at the time having store shelves full of those plastic/vinyl ones that Americans had in the late 70's/early 80's, so it wasn't a case of my parents just not buying us any. It was more the sense that Halloween was fun, but not entirely a huge priority financially. So my parents would help us come up with ideas and we'd make the costumes (one year my sister was an issue of The Hamilton Advertiser, a local newspaper), so she essentially walked around with an entire newspaper taped around her body--with a kicky newspaper napoleon hat to boot. I was a rabbit one year, utilizing those footie pajamas and a carrot. My brother was a thief one year, with a striped shirt and a bag of loot ("swag" as it was called). All cute ideas, all put together at home, but never having the polish and attention to detail of the other kids with money. For instance, I was devastated to learn that, despite my pride in my rabbit costume, most people thought I was a clown carrying a carrot. Absolutely devastating. Especially because I couldn't understand why they wouldn't make the logical leap of carrot = rabbit. Like, am I lame--and are they stupid? I began to dread the question, even after we moved to the States, on someone's doorstep: "And what are you this year?" Hello?!!! I'm CLEARLY Lucy Van Pelt from Peanuts! Yeah, I know I'm blond, but my parents wouldn't buy me a wig! Come on, people! I'm holding a football! I'm wearing a dress with little socks and mary janes! But of course Melissa PrettyGirl over there has an absolutely picture perfect Punky Brewster costume on; everyone oohs and aahs over her. Grrr! Deeply distressing from all angles...

Well, apparently all of this Halloween horror in my young life has scarred me, because I am now the Costumer in Chief for my kid, from concept to creation (okay, well, purchase. Okay, well, asking my mom to purchase the next time she's out...). But you get my point. Getting Bambina the costume she loves is a priority in my life. Which, even with all the time I currently have on my hands, is pretty pathetic. She's three. I could put her in a blue shirt, blue pants and put blue socks on her ears, trot her out and tell her she's Blue from Blue's Clues, and she'd be none the wiser. But instead, I'm researching--researching!--dalmation costumes online, both pre-made and available for sewing. What in god's green earth is wrong with me? Or maybe, what is wrong with me that some more love and hugs on October 31st, 1979 couldn't have helped, right?

In any case, she's dressing up as a Mama Dog or Bear this year. And you'll immediately recognize my costume (finally! at long last!). I'll be the dead ringer for Dina Lohan.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Buddhism or Bust

That's the title of a book I just read. It's the story of a middle-aged journalist whose life is a bit of a mess taking an assignment to trace the origins and history of Buddhism across Europe, Asia and the Americas. The hook is that in finding the story of the Buddha, the journalist (Perry Garfinkel) finds himself.

I'm trying to learn more about Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism so that I can have some minor clue when Bambina asks me if she was born Jewish. Maybe she won't ask in quite those words, but I imagine that as she gets older she'll want to know more about the potential faith traditions in her history, and I don't want to it to seem like I didn't care enough about it to find out.

But shouldn’t I be more concerned with enhancing her Jewish identity? Honestly, no. She was a person with a history (albeit mostly unknown) before I came along, and she has a right to that history no matter what I hope her religious identity and beliefs will be. After all, when I tell Bambina that our becoming a family meant that our ancestors became hers, and hers became ours, I’d be a complete liar if I didn’t actually make an effort to know something about those ancestors, wouldn’t I?

Besides, I'm a firm believer that exposing your kids to other religions does not necessarily make them forsake the one in which they were raised. I tend to think that, if anything, it gives them a stronger grasp on WHY they believe what they do, as well as a stronger commitment to that belief on an intellectual as well as spiritual level. That's why I'm always stunned at fundamentalists (of any religion) who don't want their kids mixing with "nonbelievers." If your religion is the right one, and you "walk by faith not by sight," then why the lack of faith that your belief system will trump all other influences? However, the honest truth from my gut is that if Bambina chose to follow Buddhism rather than Judaism, I’d support her 100%. You can’t—and never should—mandate religious belief to others, even your kids. Because any religious belief that has to be compelled instantaneously loses its meaning—and what kind of parent would that make me?

Anyhoo, it has been really interesting learning more about Buddhism, in its multiple iterations, specifically Engaged Buddhism. What appeals to me most (maybe because I'm where I am in my life cycle these days) is the belief that things are what they are and that you need to let go of the disappointment, the hurt, the fear, the expectations in order to be truly enlightened (a state I'd label as "content") and in order to do the most good for others. It says that simply having beliefs is not sufficient; that one’s beliefs should be put into action to help others. I obviously am doing Buddhism no justice in my amateur explanation, but suffice to say that there is an element of it that appeals to me and that I’m so glad I’m learning more about.

Read the book if you get the chance. And in the meantime, since my explanation is so amateur, consider the following quote that, to me, best summarizes Buddhism for the layperson. It is, ironically, not from a Buddhist:

Life is full of misery, loneliness, suffering--and it's all over much too soon.
Woody Allen

Friday, July 13, 2007

I Link It Like That

For your Friday afternoon procrastination, here is a link to an enjoyable post over at Baseball Crank, which is his take on baseball's most impressive records. Some interesting ones in there beyond the Hank Aarons and the Cy Youngs.
Baseball Crank

Here's one detailing Britain's new secondary education curriculum. It recommends minimal references to "traditional" historical issues and figures, such as Hitler and Churchill, in favor of more "life skills" teaching. I'm intrigued to know how a country develops *civic* life skills when its students don't even know the names and significance of the most influential people in their history.

This is London

And here, a neat story about Samoan butterflies evolving quickly to prevent extinction.
Yahoo News

More later.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The HIckman Review: Thumbs Down on Getting it Out

So. I got the Hickman out today. I do NOT recommend the procedure to anyone.

Notwithstanding my ill-advised foray into the previously-discussed google territory, this was still an unpleasant experience, to say the least. I knew I was in trouble when the PA (who was really great, regardless of said misery) said, "Well, the good news is that your body heals really well. The bad news is that you've really healed right around this, so I'm going to have to cut a little bit to loosen it up and dislodge it."


It turns out that all my fears of pulling the line out accidentally were unfounded in the extreme. I knew I was in further trouble when she said, "Yup. This line wasn't going anywhere. You could have pulled all day. It's good and attached."

This is probably a good time to remind you that the only substance I was on at the time was local lidocaine. I do blame the BBDD for his offhand remark, "It sounds pretty simple, so you'll probably be out in like 20 minutes, huh?" I jokingly yelled, "Don't jinx me, dude!" When it was all over he said, "See? It was only twenty minutes." I replied, "Yeah, but 17 of those, she was cutting me open and scraping out my vein! I blame YOU!" Apparently I had been doing a good job of not telegraphing my physical and mental situation throughout the procedure because he had no idea I was in hell for the entire time.

After the first 5 minutes made it clear that there was going to be some cutting and scraping, which hurt no matter how much lido she was injecting, I started feeling like I was going to barf or pass out. So I just started talking to myself and staring at the ceiling: "OK sister, you better shut this sh*t down right now. No barfing. No passing out. It'll be over soon. Suck it up. @#$%%^&*^^%$$!!!! No wimping out! You are not a weenie. Do not be a weenie. You gotta shut this drama down now." And so I went to my special place in my head where I am me, yelling at me in a somewhat Mr. T kind of voice, expressing disdain for anyone who needs to barf or pass out from pain. Pretty sad that Mr. T is in my Special Place yelling "Eat your greens! Stay in school!, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, the A-Team be damned.

So the good news is that Mr. Hickman is gone. Although, remember all my excitement about showering without him? The bad news is that the only caveat for my Hickman wound is the following:

"Do not bathe for two days." Aaah, Hickman: Gone but not forgotten.

"...Now and at the hour of our death."

Seen on my way to the hospital today:

A car driving recklessly, going up a one-way street, stopped at a red light on the wrong side of the "Keep Right" sign, swerving somewhat and generally being dangerous to human life.

As we drove past the car (because you always want to get way in front of a car that doesn't know what side of the road to be on), we looked in and saw a woman praying the rosary while driving.

With two other rosaries hanging from her rear view mirror.

Something tells me that it's a "hail mary" experience every time she turns that key...

Farewell, Mr. Hickman

Darlings, tomorrow we can all say goodbye to the faithful yet annoying Mr. Hickman, of Hickman catheter/central line fame.

Yes indeedy. He's been around for almost 50 days and, having done his job, it's time for him to go. Especially since my counts are now at a point where I may need only a few more transfusions to get over the hump. I wish I could say that Mr. Hickman and I have been having lots of naughty fun recently, but sadly, the only thing I'm doing in bed is drugged-out sleeping. I've been feeling like warmed-over sh*t for the past several days with low-grade fevers and random malaise, more than likely due (says Dr) to infections of the line, which are a common occurrence. So it's time for him to go. I'm happy that I'll finally be able to take a shower without wrapping half my torso in Glad Press-N-Seal and Industrial Medical Tape to keep the line dry. I'm happy I won't have to keep telling Bambina to "be gentle with Mama" so we don't accidentally pull the line out. (Believe me, no one wants to see that). I'm happy I won't have to look at a plastic tube coming out of a hole in my chest every day. At the same time, a part of me will miss him, kind of like that cheating ex-boyfriend we've all had, where you're simultaneously thrilled to be rid of his issues and yet unable to fathom your life in the near term without him. He was a son of a b*tch, but he was MY son of a b*tch.

Now, should you find yourself in the unlucky position to need any kind of contraption that is half in/half out of your body, for god's sake kids, do NOT google anything about it. Seriously. I breezed through the insertion in the OR because I specifically avoided any and all documents describing the process by which the doctors insert it. I knew in general, but I didn't see diagrams or read about calamitous results of medical errors. I just showed up and said, "Do your thing." Well, actually, I said, "I'm going to be drugged up, right?" But you get my drift: NO GOOGLING medical procedures. If you are not a doctor, don't read anything meant for doctors. As if competing to win Medical Scrabble, they notoriously tart up their documents with words like "erythema" which just means "redness." (I know this because I saw my file on day 6 or so and was alarmed to see that I had erythema of the line exit site. Luckily my nurse filled me in before I started writing my own eulogy). Anyway, back to the google docs: they will only scare you, especially when you see that your doctor is your own age or younger. You think, okay, I could have been drinking Milwaukee's Best with that kid only ten years ago before he got hammered and peed in a closet instead of a bathroom--and now he's going to insert a tube into my superior vena cava?!! Not bloody likely!

Having said that, I was fighting insomnia one night and just (as my bro would say) "for sh*ts and giggles" looked up "hickman catheter removal." What can I say? Stupid is as stupid does. I am beside myself with thoughts of this procedure which, in layman's terms involves nothing more than some lidocaine injections, a snipping of the stitches, and a gentle tugging on the line to pull both parts out of the veins, then pressure to stop air getting in and blood getting out. Go home soon thereafter. But what did I do? Yup, I read a medical document. Wherein I learned that a catheter incorrectly pulled can cause an embolism and death. Thank you, UCSF you b*stards!

So the good news is that Mr. Hickman is going to be history tomorrow. The bad news is that I'm going to spend the entire time hoping that Doctor Youngblood doesn't pop me an embolism in his rush to get home and watch a High School Musical/Aquamarine double feature with his friends Avril, Britanee, Josh and Devin.

If you hear from me by Friday night, then you'll know it all turned out okay. Or you could always google news for "hickman embolism" and see what comes up. Kind of like what our dear departed Southern relative (let's call her Aunt Oma) used to say when we were getting on an airplane: "Have a safe trip, bay-buh. I'll watch the news to make sure you git there okay."

Monday, July 09, 2007

Americans Are Dirty Minded: True or Phallus?

I swear I'm not even searching for this stuff. Everything is coming up penis these days. The larger story? Too many people have dirty minds...and too much time to put pen to paper to complain about perceived phalluses.

Or do I just have too much time on my hands that I'm blogging about them?

DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO – They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and two beholders – one of them a government agency's architect – have very different views of a 40-story residential tower proposed at a gateway to downtown San Diego. Sandor Shapery says his design is like a flower. A consultant to the Centre City Development Corp. says it looks like a giant phallus.

The Shapery proposal, a 160-unit hotel and condominium tower, was supposed to go before the downtown redevelopment agency for initial feedback this month. But the developer asked for a postponement, saying he will “revisit” and perhaps “tone down” the design because he doesn't want to offend anyone. Shapery, however, said he disagrees with the criticism. He said he wanted to create an “organic form,” which is how flower petals came to mind. “If it looks like a phallic symbol, someone has a strange perception,” said Shapery, a San Diego-based developer. “You can find sex anywhere if you want to. . . . There's just some sick people out there.”

Gwynne Pugh, a Santa Monica architect hired by the downtown redevelopment agency to review building designs, has questioned whether the design is right for the city...
“With its rounded forms and swelling of the uppermost floors . . . this building structure is very phallic,” Pugh wrote in his critique of the project...Some downtown residents seem to agree with Pugh. At one public meeting on the design, comments from the audience included “appalled” and “too iconic.”

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Trouble, You Got Trouble

"Oh there's trouble! Right here in Keizer City! That's Trouble with a Capital T, which rhymes with P, which stands for Penis!"

Residents of Oregon town say shape of traffic posts is offensive
By Melica Johnson and KATU Web Staff

KEIZER, Ore. - The City of Keizer is taking heat for installing a group of cement posts designed to protect pedestrians from cars, but which some say is a phallic symbol. A total of 52 of the posts were installed at a busy intersection in Keizer and they are getting a lot of second glances. A number of residents have complained to the city that the posts resemble male genitalia. "I can't disagree with that," said City Manager Chris Eppley. "They certainly did not turn out the way we anticipated." According to Eppley, the posts were ordered from a catalog and looked much different on paper. "They're a standard style," Eppley said. "I think in the right context they look fine. They just happened not to (look fine) here."

The city is looking into retrofitting the posts with metal collars and chains that run between them, which they hope will change the look. If not, they said the posts will have to go. "If that fix doesn't work and I still think they look inappropriate, we'll have wasted $20,000 and we'll have to do something different," Eppley said. Of course, the city could always keep them up and use them for sex education, at least according to one woman we spoke to. "My son said he wanted to hang a sign on it that says 'always use protection,'" she said.

Y'all. The posts look like this:

I don't know about you, but the day a guy drops his pants and I see that, is the day I lose hope for penises everywhere. That traffic post looks as much like a penis as a chapstick or a Nestle's double fudge push up popsicle. So why only outrage at the ever-maligned phallus? What? No outrage at the promotion of ice cream novelty junk food items?

And may I just say that the idea to retrofit the penises, er, traffic posts, with metal collars and chains is absolutely the PERFECT way to make them less offensive.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Alberto Tres: Bato Loco

By now you've heard that Al Gore's son, Albert III, was caught doing 100 mph while under the influence with a stash of prescription meds in the car to boot.

But not to worry. He was driving a Prius.

On a serious note, however, how icky is it that a kid who was damn near killed by a speeding car at the age of six is now himself doing a buck/buck ten in a car that reeks of pot?

Forget carbon offset credits. This punk needs some serious karma offset credits.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Another Faux News F-Up

From the Boston Globe, another instance of Fox News shirking its "journalistic" responsibilities. My favorite line is in bold. And how convenient for them that they can't issue a better retraction and apology now that it's a "pending lawsuit."

LEWISTON, Maine --A school administrator who says he was ridiculed and harassed based on a bogus news story is suing. Lewiston School Superintendent Leon Levesque is seeking $75,000 in federal court in Portland to deter what his attorney Bernard J. Kubetz characterized as irresponsible reporting by Fox News Channel.

The parody, on a Web site called Associated Content.com, was of the school district's response to a prank in April at Lewiston Middle School. Levesque suspended a pupil for tossing a ham bone on a table occupied by Somali students, knowing the Muslims would be offended. Muslims consider pork unclean. The lawsuit contends that Fox reported the parody as fact on its "Fox and Friends" show on April 23. The show's anchors repeated a comment attributed to Levesque, that "These children have got to learn that ham is not a toy," and that there was an effort afoot to create an "anti-ham response plan." A Fox and Friends anchor even assured viewers they were "not making this up," according to the lawsuit.

"It appears to me that Fox News acted in a grossly irresponsible way and took some information that was really not very plausible, did not do any substantial fact-checking, and put it out as hard news," Kubetz said. Levesque said he was overwhelmed for days with phone calls and hate mail, including threatening calls to his home. Fox did a brief on-air retraction, but Levesque called it unsatisfactory. A Fox News spokesman in New York said the company does not comment on pending lawsuits.

America's Game

Here's a sweet story about a man singlehandedly trying to bring baseball to China by bringing it to the schools. He idolizes the sport and its American-ness. I almost want to send him a note that things have changed. Does anyone else miss when baseball players and teams cared this much about the game and less about the money?
MSNBC Worldblog

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Well, Shut My Mouth

It's update time.

My appointment went well today. The big scary test results I was anticipating are not back yet, but my blood counts are up enough that they are not too worried that the donor cells might not be winning the battle with my old, busted ones (whatever ones were left post-chemo that is). So it was a good day.

On the flip side, however, I've decided to limit the number of posts I do on this whole process, both in number and content. At first I found it to be a fun way to share all the weird, interesting and kooky things that go along with stem cell transplants. Certainly, there was a definite element of tracking my progress, but my intention was less to have a weekly health journal and more to attempt to find the humor, oddity, ridiculousness and inspiration in such a situation. But now I feel like I've crossed the line into "Dear Health Diary" territory and it's not where my best work lies. It's also not where my sanity lies.

A stem cell transplant is very much a marathon rather than a sprint, so while weekly blood counts and general health improvements are important milestones, they really aren't the core "stuff" of getting through it all. And focusing on them just serves to make me superstitious, anxious and obsessed with too much granular detail. My counts are up. Yay! But there are still about nine very real ways I could die unexpectedly by October. So it's less helpful for me to focus on weekly counts than it is to focus on more interval-type milestones. The chimerism test was indeed one of those big milestones. If that comes back too much less than 100% I've got a lot of 'splainin to do; so it made sense to write about it. But reporting in weekly is having a negative effect on me for a couple of reasons:

First, if I rejoice over every 10K jump in a blood count and think life is peachy, then I also have to get emotionally involved in whatever feelings a 10K decline would engender. And I'm seriously not interested in doing that. Like they say in Hollywood, "Don't believe your own press." If I get all giddy about the weekly good news, then I have to get upset if I get a week of bad news. I rode that rollercoaster for several months last year, and it's a ride I never want to go on again. I'd rather just accept every result for what it is: a result. Not a great one, not a bad one, just a result that will, cumulatively, point the way to next steps.

Second, some days I just get tired of being a disease. As ridiculous as it sounds from someone who just spent months blogging about it, I don't always want to talk about it. In fact, most days, I pretty much don't want to talk about it. I just want to be me, albeit with my current limitations, rather than the person you feel you have to talk hematology with. And, in all fairness, in putting it out here, I've invited people to talk about it with me with no real ability to say, "Not today, thanks." Or in the case of the person who said, "I'm sure everything will go well; but what if it doesn't?" there really was no response to be given. How do you say, "Wow. That is a line of thought we just don't engage in, thank you." or "None of your business" when I've been shilling my story for months now online for the world to read? (well, at least for the ten of you!) I might think that's an invasive question, but I'm thinking that me posting all this stuff on here gives the impression that it's not, that I'm really cool with being public about everything. The truth is that I'm not. There is a whole slice of my mental and emotional world that I don't blog about (duh) because the journey through a transplant (or any major disease or procedure for that matter) is a very personal thing. You can be surrounded by people who love you and help you, but there is a very real element of the process that no one can help you with. You can talk with your loved ones about what to do should things not go well, but to mentally prepare yourself for that possibility without allowing it to feel like a probability is a very solitary journey. Kind of like my response to people who asked if I'd "really thought this through" before the transplant: "Um, hi. If it fails, I'll be the one dead. I'll be the one leaving my kid without a mother. You can cross any worries about me not having given this the appropriate attention right off your list." Believe me, you don't sign up for chemo and stem cells without having gone to all the dark places you have to go beforehand, especially if you have kids. But, even having written that, I'm not particularly interested to have that detailed discussion with anyone, online or off.

So I'm going to stick to politics and smut for the foreseeable future, with periodic, relevant updates thrown in, but only if they include something funny or stupid to make them relevant to the blog. And in the meantime, tell me all about you, what's up with you, how life is with you. And I swear you don't have to ask me even once how I'm doing. Seriously. If there's anything to tell, I swear I'll share. Besides, as the Baby Daddy pointed out, "who's gonna buy your book if you've already written it all online?"

Good point.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A Color-Blind Constitution

So saith the 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court in the recent school integration case focusing on Seattle and Louisville, wherein those districts' efforts to integrate schools based on race was condemned.

My response? Ha! It's a nice thought that this little nation of ours will run on a color-blind paradigm, but let's get real. When has it ever, and when will it ever? I never pegged conservatives for being utopian, but this decision seems to swing the evidence that way. The notion that somehow race will not and does not play any role in American society is absolute nonsense; that somehow race should not be used AT ALL in making societal decisions is both moronic and misguided. Race is a factor in American life. Always has been, always will be. It's the hallmark of an out-of-touch Court that they would offer an opinion with that as a key determinant. Only Kennedy got it nearly right, when he said that diversity encompassed a variety of factors, qualities and experiences, some of which were specific to race and others that were not.

So I think their contention that race is not and should not be a factor in school demographics is pure fantasy. However, I also think the contention by the opposition that somehow this has diluted Brown v. Board of Education is a bit overstated. Those who disagree with the court's opinion have made much of its seeming overturn of Brown v. Board, but let's ratchet down the drama here. Unlike the districts covered by Brown, the school district in Seattle was never legally segregated and was not the subject of court ordered desegregation as a means of remedying past inequalities (to be completely accurate, the desegregation decree in Louisville was dissolved in 2000).

Therefore, IMHO, the Court absolutely upheld the letter of Brown v. Board (“to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis.” Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U. S. 294, 300–301), even if it ignored its spirit, which was to offer equal educational opportunities to all children regardless of race and without the yoke of state-endorsed declarations of racial inferiority. As the syllabus to the decision outlined:
Quoting Justice Powell’s articulation of diversity in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U. S. 265, 314–315, the Grutter Court noted that “'it is not an interest in simple ethnic diversity, in which a specified percentage of the student body is in effect guaranteed to be members of selected ethnic groups,’ that can justify the use of race,” 539 U. S.,at 324–325, but “ ‘a far broader array of qualifications and characteristics of which racial or ethnic origin is but a single though important element, ’ ” id., at 325. In the present cases, by contrast, race is not considered as part of a broader effort to achieve “exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints,” id., at 330; race, for some students, is determinative standing alone. The districts argue that other factors, such as student preferences, affect assignment decisions under their plans, but under each plan when race comes into play, it is decisive by itself. It is not simply one factor weighed with others in reaching a decision, as in Grutter; it is the factor.

And therein lies the problem. The Louisville district, in its attempt to invoke the spirit of Brown v. Board, inexplicably separated students into "black" and "other," perhaps the most reductive and binary way to classify children...and decidedly NOT in the spirit of Brown. What? No Asian-Americans in Kentucky? No Latinos? Anyone else who might want to go to a nice integrated school? Neither district attempted any other means by which to balance the school's populations. From the Decision: "Under the Seattle plan, a school with 50 percent Asian-American students and 50 percent white students but no African-American, Native-American, or Latino students would qualify as balanced, while a school with 30 percent Asian-American, 25 percent African-American, 25 percent Latino, and 20 percent white students would not. It is hard to understand how a plan that could allow these results can be viewed as being concerned with achieving enrollment that is “‘broadly diverse,’” Grutter, supra, at 329."

Obviously, the solution to the dilemma of poor, crumbling, underperforming public schools vs. fantastic, world-class public schools supported by high property taxes in wealthier towns is not an easy one. If I had the answer I wouldn't be sitting here bellyaching about it on a blog. But there has to be one. And more importantly, there has to be honesty on both sides about what such an answer will take to find, and what it will mean to implement.