Tag Archives: Forty-something

Overcoming My Fear of Flying

12 Jun

I have a fear of flying.

“What?” you say. “Aren’t you the one who travels the world finding adventures? Surely you cannot be afraid of flying!”

With that you would be right, and wrong. I have no issues with airplanes unless I’m assigned a middle seat as I am deathly afraid of that. The fear of flying I’m speaking of is the Flying Trapeze. So, in honor of my birthday (Monday, and yes, I’m still waiting for your present) I took a trapeze lesson.

First, let me explain why birthday adventures are so important to me. I love birthdays. It’s the one holiday that’s all my own. I don’t have to share it with anybody (it must be lousy to be a twin but I guess you’ve learned to share in the womb)! And while I may not be able to remember what I did last Thursday, I remember where I was and what I did on most of my birthdays. I spent two birthdays in Alaska with the sun setting at about 2:30am and rising at about 4:00am. I spent one in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was working but ducked into a pub for a little birthday drink. One was celebrated on a Tall Ship from the 1930’s in the middle of the Caribbean while looking at the wash of the Milky Way Galaxy and wishing on five shooting stars. I rode a bike around Berlin (with clients) on a birthday a few years ago. And last year I did my birthday trip to England (read On A Wing and a Prayer) and then flew to New York to celebrate the day with my oldest friend.

After much consideration (okay, after a fleeting thought) I had a brilliant idea. Trapeze! I did a Google search and, lo and behold, while I was out of town these last two years, Trapeze U opened up in four miles from my house. My only concern was an issue with my back as of late. Oh, and the fear. Yes, there was that. I waited until the day of my birthday (again, June 10, still waiting for your presents) to see how my back would feel that day.

I woke up with my usual run to the medicine cabinet and picked up an ice pack from the freezer. After a while, my back was feeling better and I decided to commit. I pulled up the website and booked my ticket for a “Monday Night Special.” Yikes!

I spent the day getting free food (love the local restaurants that understand the importance of your own personal holiday) and running errands. I went to the gym as I though it important to be warmed up, stretched out and as light as possible.

The lesson was scheduled for 7:30pm as, at 113 degrees, the temperature is too hot to touch your steering wheel let alone swing on a trapeze. I arrived at about 7:00pm and sat in my car staring at the empty swing while trying to imagine myself up there. It didn’t look very high. ‘Yeh, I can do this,’ I convinced myself. I entered the office and was greeted with a friendly, “Hello.” I energetically responded and made some amusing quip (it’s important that these people like you as they’re responsible for whether you live or die). They handed me an info. sheet and release to sign. All was fine until I got to the line about “Your Emergency Contact.” Crap. I wrote down my sister’s name and immediately texted her to stand by her phone “just in case.”

After various others filed in and completed their paperwork, we headed outside. They hooked us all up in safety harnesses. These were tightened so that my waist was about the size of my thigh, although with my larger thighs, this is not saying much (thanks mom!). All I can think is, “Does this safety harness make my butt look big?”). They then separated us into two groups – first timers and previous flyers. There were 6 of us first timers and 5 experienced. Of the first timers, I was the oldest. The others were teenagers. Fabulous! The experienced ones consisted of teenagers, an eight year old (Azalea, known as Z), Z’s mother, Seven (yes, that’s her name) and a 51-year-old (Linda).

They asked us first timers to line up while they instructed us on positions and listening. We then practiced how to grasp the trapeze, jump and let go of the support pole (very important it’s done in this order). The instructor told us that immediately after we started our swing they would tell us to kick up and hook our knees around the bar and let go. Uh, what? Don’t I first get a chance to just swing? You want me to immediately go upside down? You’ve got to be kidding.

The experienced people went first followed by the first timers. I’m third in line. While Katie, the 13 year-old in front of me swung, I was called to climb the ladder. It’s a very narrow, metal ladder wrapped in rope. I began climbing on the outside and when I reach the first rung painted red (where the net was at, I was told to step on the inside and climb the rest of the way. This was one of the toughest parts as the ladder not only hurts your hands and feet, but we seem to have a battle over which one of us was shaking more. The

Trapeze Ladder Climb

The Dreaded Ladder

higher I climbed, the more terrified I became. ’Why can’t I be a normal person who celebrates their birthday with cake and perhaps a cocktail?’ I thought. Finally I heard a voice behind me saying, “Two more steps.” I got to the second red ladder rung and was told to hold on with both hands and step back onto the platform. This part was less scary than I thought it would be, but that’s most likely because I just wanted to get off the ladder. I stepped onto the platform and grabbed the cable thinking good thoughts and doing some yoga breathing. I asked the guy his name and immediately forgot it (really, my mind was elsewhere). I listened closer than I have ever listened in my life. Oh, and I DID NOT LOOK DOWN!

The man whose name I cannot remember (let’s call him Voldemort) hooked my safety

Ladder to Platform

Get me off this ladder!

harness to cables and told me to spread my legs (uh, I’ll just leave this one alone) and hold onto the cable with my left hand. He held onto my safety harness while using a pole to bring the trapeze bar closer to us (breathe). He then told me to grab the bar with my right hand and push my hips forward. Done. When he said, “Hep” (circus term for go) I let go with my left hand and go. This was completely wrong order and I also didn’t jump as was supposed to. Basically, I just held on and fell. Immediately I heard, “Kick your legs up.” I kicked, but my legs didn’t quite make it under the bar to hook onto it. My hands hurt. I heard the guy on the ground tell me to kick my legs forward like I’m sitting and let go. As always, I’m good at falling. I landed in the net grateful that it didn’t hurt my back. I stood up and did the crazy chicken net walk over to the edge, grabbed onto the marked spots, laid down and flipped off the net. I stood there and yelling, “I flew!” Perhaps I didn’t accomplish the whole upside down thing, but I got off that platform without delay and I swung.

We got a couple of more turns in our rotation during which I still could not quite get my legs up there. “Damn, you’re strong girl,” was the comment from Voldemort. Apparently that was my problem. I kept bending my arms and basically doing pull-ups. Ha! I can’t do one in the gym but I did about 40 on this night.

They then lined us up again to instruct us on how to hang upside down and pass to a catcher. Yes, let go of the trapeze with our legs and be held by a guy on another trapeze. There’s just one problem here – I still hadn’t hung upside down (okay, there’s probably more than one problem but that’s the first one).

I climbed up and told Voldemort that I would not be doing the catch. He seemed disappointed. Sorry, not happening. I gave the upside down thing one more try. They showed me a different way and I gave it my best shot. The only thing I accomplished was hooking my leg around my safety harness and screaming. Aah, comedy relief. Through a variety of twisting moves I unhooked my leg and hung by my hands anxiously waiting to be told to let go. Again, I’ve got the falling thing down.

One great part of the experience was bonding with the others in my group. We traded E-mails to send photos. I headed home for a dip in the pool and in the scotch.  I have not been able to raise my arms above my head for two days now. A birthday to remember.

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Welcome to My Mid-Life Crisis

2 Jun

Mid-Life Crisis

I’ve decided to paint my bedroom pink.

“I’m sorry, are you a seven year-old, wanna be princess?” you ask.

Point taken. But let me give you some background. In the last three months I have lost a friend to cancer (Goodbye, Farewell and Amen), had a cancer scare of my own and quit my job after two doctors told me the 80-hour weeks and stress was doing my health no good. I think this might be part of a mid-life crisis. And what’s more, I’m kind of enjoying it.

As I said, I’ve spent the last two years working 80 hours a week while managing 23 year-olds. I worked in a very competitive atmosphere (it could be considered cut-throat as there were times I wanted to cut mine) while trying to please Guests (never called a passenger and always with a capital ‘G’), onboard bosses and shore-side bosses. Before that, I spent a couple of years attempting a delicate balance of struggling to keep my house and my sanity while working 5 jobs (relive the fun at My Schizophrenic Life).

Then there was the whole experience of many people massaging by breast, and not in a good way as they stuck needles, titanium and a scalpel in it. That, combined with my friend’s battle with, and ultimate death from cancer has apparently made me re-examine the balance in my life.

So now I’m on the job hunt. Not the desperate job hunts of my past, but a job hunt that fulfills me both financially and personally. It’s a time/money balance, a life-purpose/money balance and a where the hell do I want to live/money balance. While I search for a future that means something to both me and the world at large, I might as well be at peace with my surroundings.

Life BalanceI bought my house nearly eleven years ago. I painted the living room and master bedroom soon after. I’m a do-it-yourselfer. A week after I moved in my garbage disposal broke. Twenty years ago my mom installed a garbage disposal in our kitchen (yeh, mom was impressive). I figured it has to be much easier these days so I decided that, instead of calling a plumber, I would install my own. It cost me $60 to buy an Insinkerator (it made me feel like I had a boy-band in my kitchen). While it was more difficult than I thought it would be and involved a few yoga positions while attempting to lift the thing above my head while lying under the sink, with one hand twisting the appliance into the exact right position to avoid leaks, and with the other hand clutching my pipe-wrench to screw in nuts, bolts and other bits of metal and rubber. Upon finishing I declared myself, ‘Queen of Garbage Disposals.’ When I proudly told my realtor of my accomplishment his response was, “You know your home warranty would most likely cover that?” Talk about bursting my bubble.

I moved on to painting. I first tackled the living room. After multiple, daily trips to my friends at Home Depot, attending their, ‘How to paint your house class’ (I was the only student) and browsing home decorating books I was ready to begin. I began taping and caulking. “Caulking, you ask?” Is there a leak? Aah, this is why you should go to the house painting class. I now have perfectly straight lines. A little how to for all of you do-it-yourselfers out there – take a dab of paintable, clear caulk and spread it lightly across the edge of the tape. When you pull the tape your lines will be as straight as Tom Cruise pretends to be. Bathed in maroon and gold, my living room now has the comfortable feel of a Moroccan hookah lounge.

Painting

On to the bedroom. I found some beautiful satiny-brown curtains and decide my bedroom should feel a bit spa-like. At the time, browns and light greens implying a bamboo forest were very in. I went to Home Depot and told the designer (they used to offer this free service) that I was looking for a ‘happy olive.’ The best thing about this designer was that she not only didn’t burst out with laughter and get on the public address system announcing to all, “Hey, has anybody seen a happy olive? How about a sad one?” but she actually pretended to know what I was talking about. Fairway Mist purchased and I moved on to painting.

As the master bedroom also has an en suite bath (I’ve been watching House Hunters) I painted this too. During the taping process I began wondering how I ever thought eleven foot cathedral ceilings were a good thing. Even with my 10 foot ladder I had to lean it against the wall over the counter-top, stand at the top and do yoga moves in order to reach the top of the wall. After many days, my mission was accomplished. My room was ‘Happy Olive.’ I hated it.

I’ve thought about changing the color many times over the years but the memory of the first painting experience had yet to fade (similar to why it takes you a decade to be able to smell tequila following ‘that night’ that so many of us have had in our younger years). Now that I’m enjoying my mid-life crisis I’ve decided it’s now or never. What’s more, I’ve always wanted a pink bedroom. Not princess pink. No frilly, white curtains. No lacy lampshades. Just a nice feminine pink offset by my still lovely chocolate-brown curtains.

Not my bedroom

Not my bedroom

So, if I’ve always wanted a pink bedroom why didn’t I paint it pink in the first place? Well, I thought about the possibility of a man in my life. Nobody specific. I just wondered if it might be a turn-off for a man as he might not feel comfortable in a pink bedroom. Perhaps a little part of me also felt that I was a grown woman and pink was not a grown-up color. It turns out it’s like craving a pizza or Chinese food. You can eat every hamburger in sight but the craving won’t go away until you get an egg roll and some orange chicken in you. And as for any man well, I have waited long enough for him to come and tell me pink makes him uncomfortable. And, from my experience with men, I’ve learned that they couldn’t care less if the walls are pink. They wouldn’t notice if there were a pink alligator in the room.

With a mid-life crisis in the works to help fade the bad memory of the previous bedroom painting experience, I buy a couple of gallons of Romantic Morn. I’ve spent the last week taping, caulking (don’t forget the caulk) and painting. I listen to music to pass the time. Besides giving in to my inner-princess, I also spend one painting day embracing my inner-nerd. Instead of music, I listen to podcasts of NPR’s ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me’ and ‘Stuff You Missed in History Class.’ Geek, party of one.

I finish the first and (I think) only coat as I have bought the Behr paint with paint and primer in one. It turns out that this stuff works as well as shampoo and conditioner in one. Your hair feels not quite clean and definitely not quite soft and untangled. I head back to Home Depot with a bit of an attitude yet with the understanding that it’s not the fault of the lady in the paint department (although she irritates me when she acts surprised that I would think I would only need one coat).

Second coat applied and . . . I love it. I feel ‘in the pink!’ I am a princess!

This next week will be committed to taping and painting the frighteningly, high-ceilinged bathroom, and maybe a little more NPR geekdom. Oh, and a job interview via Skype with England. Yes, this princess still needs a job.

Does She or Doesn’t She?

10 Apr

I’ve never been one for fake. No fake plants, no fake Christmas trees ( yeh, I know, I’m Jewish, but I love Christmas!), no fake breasts (uh, have we not already discussed the lack of need?). People who are fake? I get a bit snarky with them. I don’t even dress up for Halloween because it feels strange pretending to be someone (or something) I’m not when everyone knows it’s fake. And faking an . . . uh, well there’s none of that either. So I find it strange that, all of the sudden, I’ve noticed I’ve begun to make some attempts at trickery in my appearance.Spanx

First, I must explain that I’ve been invited to attend a big event next week. This is one of those events for which most women would break out their best pair of Spanx. So there, the first part of my trickery is out. That would be a, “she does.” Breathing is a luxury I can forego for one night. But my list of other, shall we say, appearance modifications is growing.

First, I have discovered Jorgen’s Natural Glow Body Lotion. You see, I don’t plan to wear pantyhose (stockings, tights, nylons, whatever you want to call them) to this event because my completely uncomfortable shoes have an open toe and I believe that wearing pantyhose with an open-toe shoe is illegal. The problem, I am a redhead therefore, I’ve never been a huge tanner. Now a burner? Yup, when I was little, you could light your cigarette off my skin if I had been in the sun for more than an hour. In my mid-twenties, my skin changed and allowed my burn to magically become a tan after a day or two. As I was working on a ship in the Caribbean, I took full advantage of it. Something new – tan lines! Just after I turned forty I began to notice the damage those years of sun had done to my skin. So, now my legs can also be used as emergency lighting should we have a power outage, and feel free to follow this emergency lighting to the nearest exit should the plane go down. This body lotion really works and I am now on my second tube.

Now that my body is looking darker, I could use for my teeth to look whiter. White Teeth2Although I regularly use whitening toothpaste, I also regularly use coffee and red-wine. What a great discovery I made at the store. Not only did I buy whitening dental floss, but also whitening mouthwash. While I may lose the glow-sticks I call my legs, I will more than make up for the lost wattage with my blinding smile (just be sure to poke a pin through a piece of cardboard to look at me so you don’t burn your corneas).

Next, my eyes. “Your eyes?” you say. Yes. It seems to me that green eyes look best on a redhead. The problem is that mine are hazel. A little brownish, a little lighter greenish, like me, a bit non-committal. So I wear green contacts. Please understand that I’ve thought it ridiculous when people wear contacts simply to change their eye-color when they have no issues with their sight whatsoever. Luckily, I was blessed with pretty crappy eyesight. I’ve needed vision correction to see far since I was sixteen (aah, one of the benefits of driving). The day I turned forty, I suddenly also required vision correction to see close. Doesn’t seem quite fair really. Apparently I’m not alone in this. It’s God’s cruel joke – the day you need glasses to read is the day God starts messing with your head and makes you forget where you put them (laugh it up, Big Guy).

When I put in my green contacts (my right eye sees far and my left eye sees near so if you think I’m winking at you at a restaurant, I could just be attempting to locate the restroom ), I can actually see (kind of)! This leads me to the horrifying discovery of . . . gray roots (ssshhh, don’t tell anybody). Yes, I am a natural redhead but, since the natural red seems to be losing a fight with the natural gray, I’ve got a weapon. Her name is Britton and she my hair-stylist who has joined me in my war against gray hair. Later this week Britton will use her weapons of mass destruction to color my hair back to its youthful red appearance.

And, as my hair will be back to its natural auburn state, do I just wear it in my regular everyday hairstyle? You may have noticed in my photo that, not only am I a redhead, but I’m a curly redhead. It’s strange but I’m told my hair matches my personality (or maybe my personality matches my hair). While I will keep my natural perky personality on this special night, my hair will be enhanced. I decided to test hairstyles the other day (oh so girly). I pulled out the hair-straightener and got busy. Yes, due to new products and appliances I can now have Marcia Brady hair. And, since I live in the desert, it will actually stay that way. But, Marcia Brady is not what I have in mind for this night. Therefore I have purchased hot-rollers to use in combination with straightening. “Wait, straightening your hair just to curl it?” you say. “Uh, perhaps you are a bit indecisive, no?” I prefer to think of it as exercising all of my options. I gave the rollers a try. . .twice. Perhaps it was operator error (the most likely problem) but the roaring twenties flapper girl was not the sophisticated do I was looking for.

I headed back to the store and exchanged the rollers for a curling iron. After browsing an entire aisle dedicated to curling irons I couldn’t decide which size barrel to buy. Do I want big curls or small curls? Loose curls or tight curls? Before my head explodes and I no longer require hair-care products, I choose one with a tapered barrel which has options of ½ inch to an inch. No need to decide (again, just exercising all options). I re-straighten my hair and begin to play around with the curling iron. It comes with a glove in order for me not to burn my hand. How considerate (also a bit odd as I can also use it to remove a hot pan from the oven). I experiment. Hhmmm, do I roll from the thin end to the thick end or vice-versa? OWWW! Crap! What the. . . ?!! That strange smell is the scent of my skin burning. They gave me a glove but they should have provided asbestos shoulder pads. Seared shoulder! I hear God laughing, “This is the reason I gave you curly hair!” I’d put some ice on it but, oh yeh, my freezer door is stuck shut and the repairman can’t come for three days. I unplug the torture device and throw my hair in a ponytail.

Once again, I drive to the store in search of a different torture device. I pick up a regular curling iron with no fancy barrel options. I, once again, straighten my hair and pull out, duh, duh, duhhhhh, the new curling iron. After a few tries at various curling techniques (who am I kidding? I just start wrapping hair around the thing), success! I’ve come up with a hair style for the big night. Time will tell if I can actually create the same hairstyle twice.

So now I have tan skin, white teeth, green eyes, I’ve washed that gray right outta my hair and styled it too! What’s next? Botox! Yup, my dirty little secret. I first got Botox a couple of years ago when I found a Groupon (yes, I’m Jewish so I had a coupon). I had developed a vertical line directly between my eyebrows. It’s the line that a friend of mine calls, ‘the line that makes you look permanently annoyed.’ So the other day, I took advantage of the April special for a good deal on Botox (never pay retail for Botox). I few needles in my face later, I can still move my eyebrows, but there is no look of annoyance on this face (even when I’m annoyed).

Before Botox

Before Botox

And now, from the top to the bottom. You see, I already have the perfect dress and shoes. Well, the shoes would be perfect if didn’t want to run through a lawnmower blade when I wear them simply to cut my feet off as it would be less painful. I have only warn these shoes (and the dress) once. It was on the ship and, at the end of the night I had to walk from the aft of the ship all the way forward (back to front). I considered sleeping with someone simply because their cabin was close than mine.

The shoes are (completely coincidentally) from the Disney Glass Slipper Shoescollection (see previous posts on my most recent employer). Well, now I know why Cinderella left her shoe at the ball. It hurt too damn much! She should have sent Prince Charming back to pick up a pair of Sketchers.

I decide I must make an attempt to break them in. So now I’m wearing them around my house while cleaning. Yes, shorts, T-shirt squirt bottle of cleaning solution, cleaning rag and a lovely (if incredibly painful) pair of sparkly, black heels. All I can say is, Ow!

All that’s left is the bit of baggage under my eyes. While I’ve bought eye cream, I’m not ruling out Preparation H. And, as for my boobs, as Teri Hatcher said, “They’re real and they’re spectacular.”

Sabbatical

23 Mar

Sabbatical

Sabbatical –

  •  Webster’s Dictionary: any extended period of leave from one’s customary work, especially for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc.
  •  Urban Dictionary: The time a businessman spends passed out on the hotel lobby floor after consuming too much alcohol at a business event.

Whatever your definition, that’s where I am. I quit. Resigned. Retired. Left the Company. Removed myself from the situation. I’m on sabbatical!

Wait, you left your job without having another? Uh oh, did you feel that? That shaking of the earth was my father rolling over in his grave. Okay, let me explain.

For the past two years I’ve worked between 75 and 82 hours per week. No days (or nights) off for 3-4 months at a time.  Still, I believed I could make a difference. Make magic. So why leave, you say? Well, even codeine has an expiration date. After a while, its magic gets to be more like a parlor trick and it gives you less of a high.

I’ve become very good at compartmentalizing my life. I’ve never really explained here what it was I’ve been doing for the past two years. Yes, I believe I quite generally stated that I worked on a cruise ship. But I never specifically said which one or what I did. So here goes – my name is Carole and I worked for Disney Cruise Line. I was Manager of Youth Activities. Yes folks, I was in charge of the children. That statement will either make you very scared or it will make you laugh uncontrollably while saying, “yup, that makes sense.”

Disney

Me and some Friends

What did I love about my job? Oh lots. I loved seeing new places (well, as much as I could see in the 2-3 hours off I had. And new places? Not so many new ones unless you consider that sparkly slot machine at Atlantis a new place), meeting new people, learning more about leadership, dreaming with Imagineers (I used to have Imaginary friends, now I have Imagineer friends), having Captain Hook wave to me as he walked past my office, knowing princesses (Cinderella’s my favorite and I always wanted to go shoe shopping with her) and generally, making magic for children. Oh, and sparkles! I loved taking a break from reports and E-mails to do arts and crafts where I would invariably end up covered in sparkles.

Why did I leave, you ask? Oh, those reasons are more complicated. You see, this was never meant to be long term. If you recall, in the year preceding these last two, things were, shall we say, a bit tough financially. Oh, who am I kidding, I was so broke I couldn’t even pay attention (any further questions on this please refer to, ‘I’m From the Government and I’m Here to Help’ or, ‘Yes Virginia, There is a Mortgage Modification.’).

This wasn’t just about the money (okay, at the time it was mostly about the money). I never had any intention of going back to my previous life working on board cruise ships (add over five years to these past two). I was truly ready to leave the past in the past. It’s a bit like going to live in the college dorm, only I was in my 40’s. But the job presented itself and, as my house was due to go on the auction block in a month, I wouldn’t have anywhere to live anyway.

So now, here I am. The situation is much different now. I was able to pay off some bills, save some money and even have a lovely vacation in England (yes, you can read about the unplanned adventures beginning with “On a Wing and a Prayer”). And another benefit, I have The Walt Disney Company on my resume (or my c/v if you’re from Europe).

The decision to leave certainly wasn’t like buying that Snickers bar at the grocery checkout. It was definitely not an impulse buy. Last year I spoke with my manager about transitioning off ships and into a land based position with the company. One big challenge, I won’t live in Florida. Nothing against Florida       but. . . okay, sorry but I do have something against Florida. Tried it, hated it. In order not to outrage any of my Florida followers I will leave it at that (so unlike me).

So, you want to work for Disney and not live in Florida? Believe it or not, it can be done. California, England, Tokyo, Paris, Shanghai, the list goes on. Still, I was told that it may need to be a lateral move (fine by me) or even a downgrade (not so fine). I’m not twenty-two years old anymore (I know from my photo you find that hard to believe). I have made certain advances in my career by gaining knowledge and working really hard. Going backwards is not in the plan. I did a lot of networking (much with the PR and Marketing departments) but I was also open to outside opportunities. After all, I keep getting told how great it is to have Disney on a resume. Well, let’s just see if Uncle Walt has some influence outside his own company.

Sure enough, this summer I was approached by a company who found me on LinkedIn (yes, it is a valuable tool if used correctly). You can read about the exploits of my interview process at, “Kuwait Just a Minute.” And while I was hoping they had continued interest in me for their Russia location, Kuwait seems to be far behind schedule so Russia? As they say in Russian, “Не звоните нам, мы тебе позвоню.” Still, I continue to stalk this company as they have franchises worldwide and I believe they cannot live without me (confident, aren’t I?)

Bre and me in Alaska

Bre and me in Alaska

I should also mention something else that happened this past summer. My friend BreAnn took a break in her chemo. and cruised with me in Alaska. At the end of the trip she commented, “They don’t pay you enough. I don’t know what they pay you but it’s not  enough.” When I arrived home after this latest contract and received the call that Bre wasn’t doing well, I went over to her house. I climbed into bed with her, held her hand and told her I was quitting. At this point she wasn’t responding to much. She opened her eyes and looked at me and said, “Good, you need to.” Well, there you go. Promise your dying friend something and changing your mind is not an option.

In the meantime, I’m on sabbatical. Surgery and other issues done,

Weeds

My Weed Garden

it’s time to enjoy it for a bit. Okay, still setting up my life again. Getting my taxes done, securing health insurance, getting internet for my house and attempting to kill my newly acquired weed garden (it turns out that, as much as they may look like herbs, you cannot cook any sort of edible chicken with them). Also, a little time to enjoy riding my new bike, doing yoga, reestablishing friendships that I have (unwillingly) had to ignore for the past two years, a bit of traveling (beautiful, exotic Chicago) and hot bubble baths with scotch and candles (wait, not bathing in scotch – water in the tub, scotch in a glass).

Windows-WineOh, and another thing I get to do on a regular basis now – write. And while I enjoy being a bit cliché and sitting at the coffee bar drinking a latte or espresso while writing, it turns out I am just as inspired sitting in the park drinking a bottle of wine.

Stand by while I find some new adventures or perhaps, just make fun of the world in general. And, if you’re looking to hire me, well, I’m not cheap but I can be had.

Aaahhhh. . . Sabbatical

Goodbye, Farewell and Amen

15 Mar

An hour or two after being knocked out, I wake up with an oxygen mask on my face irritated that people just won’t let me sleep. Really, they should just bring me a latte if this is their expectation. It turns out that oxygen is nearly as good as a latte (oh, Starbucks, you could make a fortune selling Skinny, Grande O2). After a little update from the doctor – “I removed it, I sent it to the lab, results should be in early next week” – I’m handed my clothes. I get dressed while they call Karen in (I can’t remember getting dressed but, as I left fully clothed, I can only assume). The hospital insists the nurse push me out in a wheelchair (apparently my breasts assist in my balance).

Once out in the fresh air my head begins to clear. I’m grateful that I feel well and am not incredibly sick from anesthesia. We drive over to Walgreen’s to get the Percocet prescription filled (aah yes, the good stuff). The pharmacist at the drive-thru informs us it will take 30 minutes to fill. He also asks if we would like fries with that. . . uh wait, perhaps the anesthesia is still hanging around a bit.

While waiting, we run over to Liberty Market, my favorite coffee spot. Liberty Market As I’m not feeling the least bit sick, I order a latte (finally) and a scone. Being Mormon, Karen does not drink coffee. That right there is the reason I could not be Mormon. Oh yeh, and the wine thing. We drive back over to pick up the drugs (wow, that sounds shady) and head home. Karen makes sure I’m comfortable and leaves, saying she’ll be calling and texting to check on me. Hhmmm, a little more about this.

The original plan was that Karen would pick me up at the hospital and take me to BreAnn’s house. We would spend the night having a little sleepover. Well, as my Dad always said, “People plan and God laughs.” Bre was in no shape for me to stay there recovering from surgery. And I decided that, after three months away, I just wanted to sleep in my own bed. While Karen offered to stay at my house, she has a husband and three kids and, well, she is already winning the ‘Friend of the Year Award.’ I told her I would be lying to the nurse when she asked if I was staying with someone that night. Karen said she totally understood and would back me up (again, friend of the year).

So now I was home. Awake from latte and belly full from my scone. I removed the big bandage wrapped around my chest and got my first look at my breast. Not bad. As requested, she cut in a spot that would not show in my cleavage. And, although she removed the titanium chip (will my boob lose its super-powers?), she closed the wound, not with stitches, or staples, or even regular glue. She used Super Glue. And, due to this, my boob will continue to look spectacular and will therefore retain its super-powers (I did, however, wonder if she has ever super glued her finger to a breast as I always seem to glue my finger to whatever I’m fixing with Super Glue). I spent the next two days recovering, first feeling nauseous (okay, so maybe I shouldn’t have had the latte as, apparently I was a little cocky about the anesthesia) and then in just a bit of pain. On Sunday I was able to drive. I planned to go see BreAnn.

I received a call Sunday morning from a friend of BreAnn. After a truly awesome fight against a relentless enemy, Bre lost her fight with colon cancer at 9:55am on March 3, 2013.

It’s a strange thing, waiting to find out if you have cancer while your friend dies of it.

Monday came and went with no results. Up until this day I had been very calm as I knew that the chances were good that the biopsy would be negative. But the doctor had told me that she might have the results on Monday so, in my mind that was now going a bit wild, I began to think. – perhaps the results came in and she felt that bad news could wait. Wishing I was able to do some yoga to calm my much-too-busy mind, I turned to Facebook instead. I challenged friends to distract me and, as is usually the case with my wonderful friends, they came through.

Tuesday, as I was pulling into a parking space at the grocery store, my phone rang. Looking at the number I knew it was my doctor. I took a deep breath and answered as calmly as possible. Good news! The biopsy was benign! I complimented the doctor on her surgical skills and set up my follow-up appointment.

So here I am. I still need to have a mammogram in October as everybody seems afraid to say, “It’s not cancer,” with complete confidence. The lab report actually used the term, “Probably Benign.” Yes, it was in bold. Is that a medical term?

One more adventure done. Many more to come.

***Note – Hospice of the Valley really helped with BreAnn’s end of life care. Thanks to hospice, she was not in pain and she passed away at her home surrounded by the love of friends and family. If you have an extra $5.00 (or a grand) think about them. Give in the name of someone you loved or, just tell them it’s in memory of a really cool chick named BreAnn Moddes. You can check them out at Hospice of the Valley.

BreAnn

Dr. BreAnn Moddes
November 21, 1974 – March 3, 2013

Decisions – Life, Death and Shoes

10 Mar

Bear with me as we’re almost ready to get back into our time machine to just last week. But first, my visit to the breast surgeon. When my doctor told me my test results, she also gave me the names of three breast surgeons. Once I returned home from my Thanksgiving trip to Boston I started researching. Two of the three were on my insurance plan. I did a little online research, both of the condition and the doctors. I was careful not to look up anything online until I had a diagnosis. That’s one definite way of ensuring you will not only need a breast surgeon but a psychiatrist as well. What I found were a couple of different opinions on treatment. Surgery or no surgery? Perhaps the breast surgeon could tell me.

I researched the two best options of doctors and after reading some write-ups online, I chose Dr. Hebert. I phoned her office to try to get an appointment. I spoke with her receptionist and explained my time constraint (I was leaving town in 6 days). She could get me in the next day – score! I told her that I chose Dr. Hebert due to the positive things I had read online. Her receptionist commented, “That’s because she’s an awesome doctor.” My response, “Good, because I have awesome boobs.” (Seriously, put down the drink!). Appointment made, return date to work still up in the air.

Shoes

Not the shoes I got, but someday, when I can afford Louboutoin

Tuesday came and I arrived at the breast surgeon’s office. She went over the results with me and commented on how bruised the biopsy had left me. She mentioned that perhaps two hours of yoga the day after the biopsy was not a great idea. Point taken. She explained that treatment is not black and white (or in my case, black and blue). She could schedule surgery for the next day, I could wait until I returned, or I could get another mammogram in six months and see if it changes. Even better, it was 5:00pm and I had 10 minutes to decide. You should know that I spent much of this vacation deciding which pair of black shoes I should buy to go with my pretty new dress (both pairs were gorgeous) and which shade of pink to paint my bedroom (not little girl powder pink but one that, combined with my brown curtains will, hopefully, create a spa-like atmosphere).  Both of these decisions were finally made for me by my friend Karen. And now I had to make what could end up being a life or death decision in the time it takes to order a coffee at Starbucks. After 10 minutes of yoga breathing in the waiting room (see, yoga was beneficial) I chose to wait to have surgery until I returned in March. In need of a bit of reassurance I asked the surgeon if my breasts would look as good once the surgery was done. She replied, “They’ll look better.” My response, “Impossible.”

So, decision made, I called into work and told them I would be returning the following Saturday.

Now, let’s rev up the Flux Capacitor and go back to the future to last week. It’s a bit of a whirlwind so try to keep up. After a very stressful final few weeks onboard (heck, the whole contract was stressful, but those last ones really stand out) I returned home on Monday night. A lot happened in this first week home.

Tuesday – Although I had no plan to talk to anybody (actually, my plan was not to talk to anybody), I did an interview with the Associated Press (it’s just something crazy that happens in my adventurous life). Basic gist of the article, travel can be dangerous. . . so can a car ride. Get over it.

Wednesday – To the hospital for blood tests, grocery shopping to get food in the house and a massage. While at the grocery store the hospital called to tell me what to expect. They confirmed that the doctor would be removing an intraductal papilloma from my left breast. “Yes,” I responded. “Oh no, wait! Not my left breast! My right breast, my right breast!” Confidence shaken, I headed home while considering buying a Sharpie in order to draw a stop sign around my left nipple.

I had no plans to go out and face the world after my massage (again, my plan was not to go out) until I received a call from Tandy telling me that BreAnn had taken a turn for the worse and friends were gathering at her house. I also got a call from BreAnn’s ex-boyfriend Jessie. He was on the way over to Bre’s house when his car broke down. I got dressed, hopped in my car, picked up Jessie on the side of the road and headed to BreAnn’s house.

When I arrived, Bre was lying in bed with her eyes closed and surrounded by a bunch of girlfriends. I climbed into bed with her where she could see me. She opened her eyes and I told her some personal things and made some promises.

Thursday – More time in BreAnn’s bedroom with a group of women, some of whom had never met before. We laid with her and told raunchy jokes. It was peaceful and full of love and felt like ‘Sex in the City – The End.’ I ended the day with a yoga class.

Friday – Surgery. My friend Karen picked me up to take me to the imaging center. Here they would do another mammogram (really, at this point my right breast must glow in the dark). While being squeezed they inserted a needle (again, not that painful as they numbed it first) and then threaded a wire through that. They also injected some blue dye. They said that different doctors prefer different colors. I asked for green as I am a redhead and I look good in green. Apparently that wasn’t an option.

They left the needle and wire in my breast and I was instructed to go over to the hospital. In order to protect my breast (as there was this needle sticking out of it) the tech took her high-tech Dixie bathroom cup, cut the side of it and stuck it over the needle and taped it to my breast. I can’t wait to see how much they charge my insurance company for this.  I got in Karen’s car and simply said, “Don’t laugh.” I lifted my shirt to show her my Dixie cup to which she responded, as any good friend would, with a cackle of laughter.

I arrived at the hospital and sat in the waiting area with my Dixie cup taped to my boob while looking longingly at the coffee maker (seriously, the longest I’ve gone without my morning coffee since the original biopsy). I was called into the pre-op area, given a fancy hospital gown (wouldn’t it be great if some hospital had Vera Wang design their gowns?) and little slippers complete with treads similar to my Goodyear Radials).

The Anesthesiologist came to visit and asked me questions.

“Has anesthesia ever made you sick?”

“Yes, the one time I had (back) surgery (limbo contest in Trinidad. I won! And lost).”

“Tell me about your TIA.”

“Uh, what?” I’m a traveler. The only TIA I know is the airport in Tampa, FL.

“No, tell me about your stroke.”

“Seriously, what???”

“Oh, the information I have says you had a stroke in the past.”

“Um, noooo.”

That being cleared up, IV in my arm, we’re almost set. Dr. Hebert soon arrived to check in and sign my breast. Yes, she had brought her Sharpie and initialed my breast (I thought only stoned rock stars did this with groupies). This is apparently done so she does, in fact, operate on the correct breast. Another obvious sign would be the needle, wire and Dixie cup attached to the breast.

That’s the last thing I remember before waking up in recovery.

Continued in Goodbye, Farewell and Amen

Surgery

Coming next – happy and not so happy endings.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

7 Mar

So here we are. Me, back to telling the story and you, all sobered up (with possibly a slight hangover).

When we last left my boobs (put that drink down, the game is over) they were waiting over the weekend to get poked so a biopsy could be done. It was a stressful weekend in which I spoke with my oldest friend (ok, he’s not my oldest friend as he’s just 6 months older than me), uh longest friend (well, he’s not exceptionally tall or long), whatever. His name is Andrew and I told him what was happening and cried (hate admitting that as it makes me feel weak). It’s just waiting to have a biopsy over the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, when you have no family around and you’re leaving town for 4 months in less than a week well, it can be a bit stressful. Andrew was planning to spend Thanksgiving with his husband’s family in Boston. He immediately wanted to fly me out to be with them. While I would have loved nothing better, I was due to fly out to work 2 days after that and had to get myself and my house ready. What to do?

I called my boss, explained the situation and was told I could return to work a week late. Andrew booked me a ticket to Boston and before you can say Colonel Sanders, Thanksgiving plans were made. Now, I just had to find out if I had cancer.

Monday morning came and I drove myself to the imaging center. After taking off my shirt and being led out of the waiting area I was asked to lie down on a table that sort of looked like a massage table. The only difference was that the hole was not where my face was, but where my breast was. Oh, and there was no scent of lavender and no new age music playing. And her technique left much to be desired.

After a needle or two in my breast to numb it (sounds worse than it was), the tech did another mammogram squeeze (she really needs to start buying me a drink first) and the doctor did her stuff. I can’t really say what that was as my boob was numb and the table blocked my view. Some pressure and every once in a while a sound resembling well, a vibrator (from what I’m told, anyway). They’ve told me that they will be inserting a tiny piece of titanium to mark the location. Wow, I’ll have a bionic boob. I wonder what special powers it will have (as most women know, nearly every woman’s breasts have the special power of making men stupid). I am assured that I won’t set off airport metal detectors (darn, I could have had some fun with that). Within an hour or so I’m up with a little piece of gauze and a band-aid covering the spot on the bottom of my right breast. Now, as Tom Petty said, ‘The Waiting is the Hardest Part.’

I leave and head straight over to my friend Tandy’s to pick her up. We’re going to the hospital to visit our friend BreAnn who had successful surgery to remove her brain tumor. I pull up at Tandy’s place and she explains that her dog, who is up in age, has had a seizure this morning and, when her boyfriend  called the vet, he was asked if he wanted to bring the dog in to have him euthanized. So, let me sum this up: I just had a biopsy to see if I have breast cancer, Tandy’s dog may be dying (he did later that week) and we’re going to the hospital to visit our friend who just had a brain tumor removed. From the sublime to the ridiculous as they say. Not surprisingly, Tandy and I drove to the hospital, both hidden behind sunglasses to hide our red eyes. So pitiful, I found it funny.

Our visit with Bre was probably the lightest part of the day as she was just excited that she was able to put on underwear that day. We gave her our get well card, written on some Mickey Mouse ears, a few comfort items and had a little party in ICU.

Two days later I left for Boston. This was the day we hoped the biopsy results would be back. You’d think it would be the longest plane ride of my life but I was truly hoping for the plane not to land as I was sure there would be a message from the doctor. When I finally landed there was only a message from Andrew saying that they were caught on traffic and would be late. Not great news as we had hoped to be together when I got the results.

Soon after checking in to the hotel, my phone rang. From the caller ID I knew it was the doctor. I took a seat, and a breath, and calmly answered. The doctor said that the first thing she wanted to tell me was that it was not cancer. I exhaled for what seemed like the first time in five days. She went on to tell me it was called an Intraductal Papilloma (I don’t mean to get technical here, but I’m hoping my experience can help others who may have questions). It’s basically a wart-like growth (very glamorous) in the milk duct. I was told that surgery was recommended. What? I mean, I didn’t even know it was there until it showed up in a mammogram. Two doctors had felt me up and noticed nothing. I was told that even though the biopsy came back benign, there was a very small chance that this thing was hiding a cancer. Are you kidding me??? I decided to be thankful for current negative results and enjoy the holiday.

After an amazing holiday I returned home on the day I was supposed to head back to work. As I didn’t plan to be home to see Christmas lights, this time was a gift. You see, while I am officially a Jewish girl, my favorite holiday is Christmas. I love the music, I love the lights, I love the feeling of peace on earth and goodwill towards men. I spent the week watching traditional holiday specials and going out with BreAnn to see Christmas lights. In that week she and I had some wonderful meals during which we discussed life and death, cancer treatments and wishes for when we died. It turns out, we both want to be cremated. I will donate my organs and then have my ashes spread over the Angel’s Landing hiking trail in Zion National Park. Come visit me. Bre, well, she wasn’t sure where she wanted her ashes scattered. “C’mon Bre,” I said. “You don’t want to end up sitting on someone’s mantel.” I know, it sounds really depressing but it wasn’t. It was a very special time. We also talked about fear. BreAnn had chosen to stop treatments and try to get her body stronger after the chemo had taken so much out of her. I asked if she was afraid. She said that she had a moment each day in which she panicked. So, perhaps the waiting isn’t always the hardest part. Sometimes the hardest part is after the results come in.

Still to come – we fast forward the time machine to last weekend. Read it in, “Decisions – Life, Death and Shoes”

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