Friday, December 25, 2009

Dancing is the thread

I've always been a dancer of some sort or another. I was enamored with "Tina the Ballerina" and "The Nutcracker" as a little girl, and spent quite a bit of time doing pirouettes around the house. As I grew older, I became interested in Israeli folk dancing. I was a member of our Temple's youth Israeli folk dance group for several years during high school, which meant multiple rehearsals per week, practicing in bare feet on egg salad and tuna fish (left over from Saturday morning kiddush) and taking part in a dance competition and also a regional performance.

Twelve years later, I was back in Boston, and I found Israeli folk dancing again (or it found me). This time, I started dating a man, was introduced to a whole new group of people who became good friends, and spent several years dancing two or three times a week. I was even part of a performing group for several years.

Fast forward a few years, I was still dancing, and I met my husband, A. He wasn't an Israeli dancer, although he enjoying coming to dancing with me and socializing. Ultimately, we did an Israeli dance as the first dance at our wedding.

So... last night, at the annual (Christmas Eve) Israeli Dance Marathon (6 pm - 4 am, and no I didn't stay there the whole time), I saw my life pass before my eyes. There was the man I dated when I did Israeli dancing in high school; there was the man I dated when I did Israeli dancing in my late 20s; there was the man (well, my husband) who I married. It was kind of surreal.

And dancing is the thread that holds it all together...

Thursday, December 24, 2009


J and I were standing at the JCC today, watching some older teens and men play a pick-up game of basketball. They were playing "shirts vs. skins," so half the men had removed their shirts. Most of them had pretty typical male chest hair, although of course some of them were hairier than others.

Jordan was commenting about their body hair. He really didn't like it.

I pondered this for a while, and realized that his obsession with professional wrestling has given him the false impression that adult men have little or no body hair. I'm pretty sure that the wrestlers shave their entire bodies, and oil them, too. Here's an example of what they look like: John Cena, who is J's favorite and a "good guy," and Randy Orton, who is a "bad guy." The point is: J is getting a really distorted view of what adult men look like. Hairless, very muscular. Tend to jump on each other, and hit each other with tables.

I've been patiently waiting for J's obsession to wear off, and I think it is, somewhat. But this aspect of it is somewhat surprising. I've heard of girls getting the wrong idea from airbrushed images from magazines, but I never expected to have this sort of issue with a son. Silly me.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A year ago

It all started exactly a year ago, December 19, 2008. I went to my doctor for my bi-annual breast check. We were laughing and chatting. Then she felt the lump.

I didn't believe it at first. It just felt, well, lumpy, and not unlike other things I'd felt before. I even went back to have her check a few days later. No, it was really there. She wanted me to have it checked out.

I tried very hard not to be concerned about it for several weeks, until my imaging appointment. Then on January 2, I had a mammogram and an ultrasound at the BIDMC downtown. They were definitely concerned. Funny, the doctor wouldn't say it, but the ultrasound tech did: it looked like cancer. But they wouldn't say for sure until the biopsy. That was the day I really knew.

That was a Friday, and I had the biopsy on the following Tuesday. The results weren't ready until noon the following Friday. Friday January 9, 2009.

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.

And the rest, as they say, is history. I had 2 surgeries in February to completely remove the lump; I spent part of March dealing with an abscess (unrelated to the cancer) and with oncology decisions; I had radiation treatment in May and June; I started hormonal treatment and a research study after that; I have monthly shots as part of the study, and I've been dealing with side effects of medications ever since. I feel like I've aged 10 years. I'm in menopause. I don't have my stamina back yet. I'm very emotional. My family feels the stress, too.

It hasn't been a great year.

I'm really hoping that 2010 is better.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Falling through the cracks

Been having some uncomfortable side effects lately from one or more of the medications I'm taking. Anyway, I did what you are supposed to do, which is to call your doctor. Well, my doctor is on maternity leave. So I called her replacement. She seemed very nice, and told me to call the appointment desk. They made an appointment for the following week. Then the nice doctor had a family emergency, and had to cancel the appointment. So I made another appointment for the following week. Then the nice doctor got the flu (today). So I made another appointment for the following week.

It has now been over 2 weeks, and I still haven't seen this doctor. My new appointment is for a week from now. I'm not feeling great, but imagine if I was really in trouble. Would a person with serious issues be able to communicate to these people that they really need to see someone NOW? I'm starting to understand how people fall through the cracks. You can do everything you are supposed to be doing, and still not get the help you need.

Okay, I'm going to try to call them again...

An idiot

Interesting discussion on the ride to school this morning. J's class is learning about the Sumerians and the Mayans. Apparently the Mayans sacrificed human beings. This led to a discussion about Abraham and the almost-sacrifice of Isaac. J pointed out that this was only a test, and that G-d wasn't really going to let Abraham sacrifice Isaac.

J: "If G-d let Abraham do that, everyone would have thought that G-d was an idiot."


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chanukah 2009

Not feeling very ready for Chanukah this year...but here are a few links that make me smile:

The candles sing Mi Y'Malel

Orrin Hatch (?!) wrote a song about Chanukah

Hanukkah Hey Ya!

my favorite this year: Hanukkah Hey Ya! Flash Mob

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Sacred work

I read this post, The Audacity of Goodness, on several websites yesterday, and I found the video that it refers to -- Every day, good women choose abortion -- to be very moving. Take a look.

I'm afraid that my fertile years are now past, but if I needed to have an abortion in my lifetime, I only hope that I would be privileged to have had a provider as kind and considerate as this one.

Also, I love this quote that is mentioned at the end of the article:
“If one woman told the truth about her life, the world would split open.”
--Muriel Rukeyser
Very, very true.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Thinking about Chanukah

and smiling....(lyrics are below the video)

Hanukkah Hey Ya!
By Eric Schwartz (smooth-e)
© 2003

My dreidel just spins around
and then falls to the ground
as we light the candles (oy!)

I love to light menorahs
and the matzah balls are cooking on the stove (mmm!)

Flames high to light the ceiling
but the candle dripping's burning me right now (ow!)

Thank god for mom and dad
for teaching jewish culture
'cause we are so proud (l'chaim)


Those fluffy latkes,
oh those fluffy latkes
they're hot i want to eat 'em 'till there's nothing at all

We get the presents, oh we get the presents
and eight is always better than three from santa claus

And what they say is "we're the chosen people"
then what makes, what makes, what makes, what makes
us the exception?

Don't know why, know why
o-y, o-y, o-y (oy!)
Run and call your rabbi so that you can celebrate this year
oy is just yo backwards

Hanukkah (why don't you meet my rabbi)
Hanukkah (he isn't such a bad guy)
Hanukkah (it wouldn't be a bummer)
Hanukkah (if you want to wear yarmulke)

Manischewitz, schewitz, schewitz, schewitz, schewitz, schewitz, schewitz and a kosherized pickle
Maniscewitz, schewitz, schewitz, schewitz, schewitz, schewitz, shevitz and potato knishes
Maniscewitz, schewitz, schewitz, schewitz, schewitz, schewitz, schewitz and the kasha varnishkas
Maniscewitz, schewitz, schewitz, schewitz, schewitz, schewitz,

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The trial of G-d

I was waiting in a doctor's office this week (so what else is new?) and I came upon this story in a yoga magazine. It fascinated me. I found a version of the story online, and I copied excerpts of it here. Turns out the original story is actually a play by Elie Wiesel. The article that I read was very close to the version I've copied here.
Three rabbis, all prisoners in Auschwitz and witnesses to the daily death machine of the Nazis, decided that it was time to place G-d on trial.

They formed a rabbinic court (Bet Din), and conducted the trial completely in accordance with Halakha (Jewish Law). They gathered evidence against G-d, building a strong case against the “Holy One Blessed Be He.” The trial lasted several days, with the judges giving all those who wished a chance to speak their minds. Witnesses were heard, painful personal testimonies were given, and in the end, none of the witnesses even remotely defended God.

It was time to issue a ruling, and the rabbinic court pronounced a unanimous verdict: “The Lord God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth – guilty of crimes against creation, against humanity and against His own Chosen People of Israel.”

Soon after this painful judgment was pronounced, the rabbi presiding over the rabbinic court looked up to the sky, saw that the sun had set, and that the darkness of night was upon the world. This rabbi, who had just indicted G-d and pronounced Him guilty of crimes, looked towards the silenced crowd and said “Come, my friends, we have a minyan – it is time to pray Maariv (the evening prayer service).” The other members of the rabbinic court, together with the witnesses and the onlookers, all gathered around the rabbi to join in their evening prayers to G-d.
This story appeals to me, in all my not-knowingness and all my frustration. The idea of a group of people realizing that G-d has really not done a very good job in the situation of the Holocaust, yet praying to G-d anyway; it's just fascinating, and well, just so Jewish.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Memories and divorces

I've been humming a song sung by Achinoam Nini, better know as the Israeli singer Noa, for the past few days. What's strange is, humming Noa's songs reminds me of going to a few of her concerts in years past with my friend and her husband. What's even stranger, is that my friend and her husband recently announced that they are getting a divorce. I'm not going to get into the divorce here, but rather on how it affects people on the outside.

So I have this memory of going to this concert with A and this friend and her husband, and loving, loving the music, and now this memory is kind of...well...ruined because I was with my friend and her husband and now I'm kind of pissed off at her soon-to-be-ex-husband and he's in my damn memory! How do I get him out?

The same thing happened a few years ago when another friend had to divorce her husband because of a whole bunch of issues. A and I had socialized with this friend and her husband in better times, and I have a memory of an amazing dinner that we had prepared in A's old condo by a real chef. We had invited this friend and her husband (I don't think they were married at the time) and the chef brought all the ingredients and prepared an amazing dinner for us (I think we'd won it in an auction). I remember enjoying it so much. And again, this memory is sullied by the ex-husband who turned out to be a jerk, but there he is, in my old memory of that day.


I guess it goes to show you that relationships really do have far reaching effects, and the formation and maintenance and dissolution of relationships affect many people: even ones you don't expect.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New mammography guidelines

This is the best analysis I've seen on the new mammography guidelines and what went wrong:
A tone-deaf message on mammograms by Ellen Goodman

and you've just got to love Barbara Ehrenreich's view:
Not So Pretty in Pink: The Uproar Over New Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

Here are some other excellent articles on the topic:

Does Mammography Screening Save Lives? Let's Talk About It by Barbara Brenner of Breast Cancer Action

The New Guidelines for Mammography by Susan Love, MD, of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation

Making Sense of the New Mammography Recommendations, Breast Cancer News, Susan G. Komen for the Cure

New Mammogram Guidelines Are Causing Confusion, But Here’s Why They Make Sense by Our Bodies, Ourselves

I keep adding articles as I see them.

Monday, November 16, 2009

More on Stupack

As I'd anticipated, health care reform is really in turmoil now. Either you side for health care, or you side for women's reproductive rights. The Stupack amendment is even worse than I feared. It makes it illegal to pay for abortion from any money that the government touches, which of course, includes a lot of the new health care programs (the public option and the health care exchange). This, of course, will affect primarily poor women. Sound familiar?

I did a little research on my own last night about abortion. Turns out that a first trimester abortion costs about $350-900, depending on where you live. For some of us, that amount of money seems trivial. To others, it's rent or food money, and it's absolutely out of the question. I found many websites that help women pay for abortions. So clearly, there is a need out there.

The other thing that I discovered is that when you put the words "abortion" and a place name into a search engine, a lot of anti-abortion sites come up immediately. Which says something else about the times that we live in.

Take a look at what Dr. Nancy Snyderman has to say about this: awesome!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

It's beginning to look at lot like....NOT

Went to a local mall yesterday, and I was horrified to discover that it was completely decked out in Christmas, including Christmas carols over the loud-speakers. Only problem: it doesn't feel at all like Christmas yet. We are having unusually warm weather, which is not entirely unwelcome, but it makes it difficult to get into the Christmas/Chanukah/winter holiday, or even the Thanksgiving, mood.

Most of the leaves have fallen, but there is still some beautiful fall color in the yard. Here's a sample:

Friday, November 13, 2009

My online life

It's occurred to me recently, as my time has been literally sucked up by the computer and the Internet, that sometimes my online life is out of control. It is very easy to spend one's whole day on the internet: checking Facebook to see if anyone posted anything interesting, checking the blogs I follow to see if anyone wrote any interesting articles, checking the news, checking my email, checking, checking, checking...And before I realize it, hours have passed, the laundry isn't done, the carpets haven't been vacuumed, the groceries haven't been bought...

It's so easy to become consumed by the Internet. You never know what you are going to find, but you always find something. Thinking back to my intro psych course, this is called a variable schedule of reinforcement (scroll down a bit for the definition). And it maintains a behavior beautifully...

Now I must get off the computer.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Health care or abortion?

So now it seems that health care reform is going to hang on the issue of abortion. The bill, which just passed the House, now has an amendment (aptly named the Stupak amendment) which excludes the use of any federal monies for abortion.

Now this situation puts people in the difficult position of supporting the bill as a whole (which is a good thing) or not supporting the bill (and remaining pro-choice). It is a tough, tough decision.

You really can't single out one legal medical procedure and say that federal money won't pay for it. In my opinion. We'll see what happens...

Friday, November 06, 2009


Life has been so busy lately that I just haven't had the time or focus to post anything here. I miss writing, and I miss having time to reflect. Things are a bit too hectic for my taste.

Here's a sample:
  • Work has been insane. There are ongoing issues that I don't feel comfortable getting into here, as well as planning for and executing an important training earlier this week. I am very relieved that the training is over, and after all my angst, it went well.
  • Thanksgiving is in 3 weeks (!) and it looks like we are hosting this year. I'm trying to clean up our messy house, and I'm finding it very depressing. No matter how much I clean or remove things, it just seems like there is an endless amount of dust and clutter.
  • Fourth grade means much more homework for J, in addition to soccer (which is ending) and basketball (which is just beginning). And keeping him fed is a full time job. He eats a lot!
  • Temple commitments: for some reason I joined the Ritual Committee this year, which I don't really have time for, in addition to my regular Sisterhood commitment, and Sisterhood Shabbat needs to be planned.
  • Everyone else I know is equally crazed. No one has had time to get together. I managed to get together with my friend B for about 1/2 an hour last week for coffee and a bagel. Is that crazy, or what?
  • We are having a joint 10th birthday party for J three months late with another friend. Since he and his friend basically have the same friends, it kind of works out well. But still need to finalize a few plans for the party.
  • We don't have plans for winter vacation. Yet.
  • They are already showing Christmas and Chanukah candy, etc. in the stores. I am not ready to even think about the holidays!
I guess I'll stop there. This will give you a sense of what's been going on. I will try to post more regularly. It is NaBloPoMo after all!

Friday, October 30, 2009

This joke isn't funny

G-d is currently playing some kind of cosmic joke on me. And I don't think it's very funny.

It all started last week. I've been planning a big training for work, and I've been trying to stay focused on it. Then, things started happening that kept keeping me from my training preparations. Suddenly there was a large report due (that hadn't been there before) and I had to spend 2 days working on details for that. Then, just as suddenly, the report was not needed. So I got back to my training.

Then, my boss got sick. Like: flu sick. I kept on planning and prepping for the training, and my boss got sicker. Mind you, I'm supposed to be doing this training WITH my boss. You know where this is going, right?

Now my boss is too sick to come to the training (it's on Monday). Five people are FLYING here from all across the country for the training, and my boss is too sick to attend. So I have to do it. I was supposed to be second string, and now: I'm the string.

Come on. Where's the joke?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Life and death

Since the health care reform debate began (and its accompanying myths and untruths), I've come across many articles lately in the blogosphere about medicine and its relationship to "the big questions": questions of life and death.

Some of these include questions from the beginning of life: when does life really begin? when is it okay to have an abortion, and when isn't it? and who gets to decide? why is a fetus of a certain age viable and worthy of medical treatment when others aren't? what of informing parents that their baby has Down Syndrome? should they be counseled to continue the pregnancy or to end it? or should they be counseled at all?

And the converse, questions from the end of life: when is it time to die? should we do everything we can to save someone who is clearly dying? when have we tried enough, and we need to say "let nature take its course"? How do we best spend the end of our lives? in a hospital bed? at home? in hospice? and who gets to decide?

My own recent medical experiences have made me realize that while doctors know a lot, they don't know everything. Medicine is still often more of an art than a science. Many decisions rely on the experience of the doctor, and even on their gut feelings about a case. Given that, do we want doctors making these sorts of life and death decisions for us? Or worse, do we want legislators making these decisions?

The reality is that these sorts of life and death decisions are often made without clear guidelines. If we are lucky, we have doctors, nurses, counselors, or others to help us through these difficult decisions. But often we are left alone. Or we are left with the legal system, which isn't always a very empathic friend.

It's ironic that two of the major sticking points of the health care reform debate -- the so-called "death panels" and public funding of abortion -- have to do with these very issues. I guess everyone feels some discomfort when confronted with these gray areas.

Wendy, a fellow Oberlin alum, wrote a very poignant piece about this issue in Newsweek last year. She says:
As I reflect on this experience (the death of her father), I keep thinking that with some small changes in how we as a society approach death and dying, we could make this a better experience for everyone. In school, we should teach not just about health but about the changes to the body that accompany death and dying. Give students words of comfort and acknowledgment. They will surely have opportunities to use these words with friends and family members, even in childhood.
We are a death-denying culture and by not being open about death and dying, we leave ourselves unprepared to face other deaths and, ultimately, our own.

P.S. I wrote this about a month ago, and since I seem to have no time to post these days, I'm finally posting this one. More soon, hopefully.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Crisis of faith

The High Holidays tend to throw me for a loop, faith-wise, as I've mentioned before. I end up feeling so disconnected and uninspired that I need to go to a bunch of regular services for a while, just to get back in the swing of things.

This year, however, I'm having some trouble getting back in the swing of things.

I've been thinking about Judaism, and how (at least in Conservative Judaism) the emphasis seems to be on "doing what you are supposed to do according to Jewish law" as opposed to feeling connected or inspired or uplifted. It's about doing, not feeling. Or as the saying goes, do first, and the feelings will follow. But right now: it's not working for me.

Right now, for whatever reason, I'm not satisfied with my religious experience. I don't want to just go through the motions. I want to feel something. Maybe this is part of my recovery from cancer. Or maybe it's something else.

I'm tired of the old, boring translations in the siddur. I'm tired of the fast, rote repetitions of prayers in minyan. I'm tired of being told what I should do, what I should feel, what I should believe.

Not sure what it's going to take to get me out of this religious funk. But I hope something gets me out of it soon.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Get your paws off my son

I knew this day would arrive, but I really didn't expect it to arrive so soon. My son is being pursued by someone of the female persuasion. And she's using all her feminine wiles, all of her cunning, to capture his attention. She has promised him video games, movies, food, and basketball.

They have a play-date scheduled for next week at her house.

Part of me is proud. My son is very handsome (well, I think so...) and he's quite a nice kid. Intelligent, friendly. I don't blame her for being interested in him.

On the other hand...he is only ten. It's a bit early for this kind of thing, isn't it?

So now J is intrigued by this upcoming "play-date" but also terribly embarrassed by the prospect of anyone finding out about it. He isn't really interested in this girl, at least not in the way she appears to be interested in him. I don't think he's really interested in girls at all yet.

Not sure exactly how this will all play out. Time will tell.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Lately I've been feeling very dissatisfied with my little house. A and J and I live in a small, unrenovated, unenhanced 3 bed 1-1/2 bath colonial. We have lived in this house for 11 years, and we haven't replaced the carpeting, haven't repainted the walls, haven't redone the kitchen or bathrooms, haven't built an addition. Let's just say we aren't keeping up with the neighbors.

Now granted, when we moved in, we were increasing our space by 100 percent. But now, 11 years later, that much larger space feels kind of small.

So I've been feeling dissatisfied.

Last night, I attended a dinner, and the speaker was from a local agency that provides clothing, household goods, and the like to homeless families around Boston. They are a very grass-roots operation that literally takes the donations, sorts them by size, receives a call from a shelter, pulls the items that the family needs and takes them to the shelter. Right then and there.

Listening to the speakers talk about homeless families, and how all they want is a place of their own -- a bed, a stove, some dishes, some clothing -- and to be together, I felt very humbled. Yes, I may want more, but there are many who have nothing. It was a good reminder.

Friday, October 09, 2009

What if women didn't have breasts anymore?

While A Mother In Israel objected to this film and wrote a sharp critique about it, I actually found it amusing and pretty tongue-in-cheek overall, and much less offensive than this one. Both films take the approach of using men's desire of breasts in order to promote breast cancer awareness, which certainly is an odd strategy. More than anything, I found the final conversation between the father and son in this video (below) to be quite powerful. Take a look.

I kissed a girl - part 3

Perhaps you aren't familiar with the Katy Perry song "I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It"? My son was obsessed with it for a while last year. I wrote about it here and here.

I kissed a girl and I liked it
The taste of her cherry Chapstick
I kissed a girl just to try it
I hope my boyfriend don't mind it
It felt so wrong
It felt so right
Don't mean I'm in love tonight...

Why am I bringing this up again, you ask? Well... I'll tell you.

I was home last week with a "sick" child (long story...) and I flipped on some afternoon TV. (Note to self: don't watch any more afternoon TV. It's terrible.) I happened across the Tyra Banks Show, which is generally amusing, but she was featuring two young women who decided that it was fun to a) go to bars and drink b) offer to kiss each other in exchange for more drinks. They call themselves "bar-sexuals". They claim that they are definitely not gay, or bi-sexual, and they just do it for fun and attention.

This is possibly one of the strangest things I've ever seen on TV.

It's hard to know where to begin. I think what's so weird about this is that they are "enjoying," if you will, the perks of being gay and straight at the same time. They claim to be straight, but they are engaging in "gay" behavior. Furthermore, they are doing it for the pleasure of straight men, who get off on women kissing. And they are doing it when they are drunk. So it's insulting to gay people; it's insulting to straight people; it's insulting to women; it's just pretty much insulting to everyone.

Where do they come up with these things?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Time Share

J and I were running a little late this morning. As we rushed to pack his backpack and my bags into the front seat of my car, he said: "I guess only G-d knows if we'll get there on time."

I walked around the car to the driver's side, slid into my seat, and turned the key.

"Do you really think that G-d is involved with tiny details of everyone's lives? I mean, there are billions on people on Earth. How would G-d do that?" I asked.

J thought for a few seconds.

"I think He pays attention to a few states at a time. So us and other states near us in September, October, and November, and then He pays attention to some other states in December, January, and February. And maybe to another country in March, April and May."

What can you say to logic like that?

P.S. responding to the issue of G-d as "He" is an issue for another post...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Yom Kippur rant

..on Rosh Hashanah, it will be written
and on Yom Kippur, it will be sealed..

I hate Yom Kippur.

There...I said it.

Sitting far, far, far back in the synagogue yesterday (actually I was technically sitting in the social hall that is attached to the synagogue), barely able to see what was going on on the bimah, feeling hot and confined and uninspired, I realized once again: Yom Kippur just doesn't do it for me.

As I listened to the long list of communal sins, and to the rabbi speak about how we have all sinned this year, and how we need to think about the year that passed, and pledge to do better in the next year, all I could think about is that this year has been one of the most difficult of my life, and that while I was in no way perfect, the main thing that happened to me was entirely out of my control. And I highly doubt that G-d pointed His/Her finger at me and said: "thou shalt have breast cancer." I just don't believe that it works that way.

The themes and images of Yom Kippur don't work for me. First of all, I can't fast. I have tried for many years, but it makes me physically sick. I simply can't do it. So one of the main things that you are supposed to do on YK is out of my reach. Secondly, the thought of G-d sitting somewhere writing in a book that says what will happen this coming year, and the thought that praying on Yom Kippur can somehow change what it says...that idea doesn't work for me. I simply don't believe it.

Usually, I am able to gloss over my disbelief, and just go along with the program. But this year, I wasn't able to.

Add an energetic and "bored" 10-year-old boy to the mix, and you have a perfect storm for a pretty awful day.

P.S. I took a quick look out there on the internets, and apparently I'm not the only one who feels this way. Although there are others who had a good Yom Kippur experience this year. So it just goes to show you...there is always next year.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Save the boobs

You must read this article from Broadsheet. Amazing...
You've seen this ad a million times before: There's a massive pool party going on, but one poor, timid dude is floating, alone and forlorn, on an inflatable raft. Suddenly, a bikini-clad hot chick makes a grand entrance, her ample breasts jiggling with every step she takes. Everyone -- men, women, a perplexing group of guys in sailor costumes who seem to fit a particularly offensive gay stereotype -- pause, mid-conversation, to gawk as she passes. The words "You know you like them" flash across the screen. Finally, the girl stops in front of the lonely guy, leans over, and shakes her boobs in his general direction. "Now," we learn, "it's time to save them."
I'm sure this agency thought it was very clever creating this ad, but it's just wrong on so many levels...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

You're only as old as you feel

As I walked into J's school last week to pick him up, I was followed by another mom who'd arrived at school at the same time. A third mother, who I know only vaguely, approached both of us, and complained: "Today I turned 45, and I'm not feeling very good about it!"

The other mom and I shrugged.

"No sympathy here. I'm 48," I replied.

"Sorry, I'm almost 60," said the other mom.

The 45-year-old mom looked stunned. She did not know what to say. I was feeling a little stunned myself.

I always thought I was one of the oldest fourth grade parents. Imagine having to parent J at 10 as a 60-year-old? Can't even imagine....

Monday, September 21, 2009


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and already things are starting to turn pink. And not in a good way.

I just walked into the communal kitchen at work, and was shocked to see that the caps of all the large bottles of water (the kind for the water cooler) are PINK. Turns out there is some kind of promotion between Belmont Springs water and Komen. If you start a new bottled water account, Belmont Springs will given Komen some money.

Sigh. Just what I wanted to think about about at work. Breast Cancer.

It's time to Think Before You Pink once again...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Scenes from Rosh Hashanah

As we were about to begin the Malchuyot section of the Musaf today, the Rabbi wisely (I thought) decided to stop the service for a few moments and discuss how difficult it is for us 21st century folks to understand all these references to G-d as King. We don't have a sense of appreciation for the role of king as someone several thousand years ago might have had, or even several hundred years ago. He encouraged us to try to find something we could connect with in the idea of G-d as King. Why I'm not really able to connect with this concept, I was pleasantly surprised that he even brought it up at all. He's a good guy.

* * * *

The cantor does a great job of making the melodies go along with and/or contrast with the meaning of the prayers. When he sings of the shofar, you can hear the shofar in his voice. When he sings of a small voice, his voice get small. When he speaks of the majesty of G-d (back to that king thing again...) his voice is majestic. He is also a good guy.

* * * *

Yesterday, the Rabbi began his serman with a very potent image: an anima-troic fish. We happen to have this very fish (I was just reminded that it's actually called Big Mouth Billy Bass), and J played with it quite a bit for many years when he was younger. This is the fish -- if you've never seen one -- that looks like a fish mounted on the wall, but if you move near it, it plays either "take me to the river, drop me in the water" or "don't worry, be happy."

In any event, the Rabbi actually invited the Cantor to join him on the bimah, and the two of them sang a few choruses of Don't Worry, Be Happy. It's an image I won't soon forget!

The content of his sermon was also good: it was how you can't expect to be happy every moment, but you can expect to be happy. I thought this was a good message.

* * * *

It didn't seem quite as crowded this year as some years, but it still felt like a lot of people. And then there were the characters. There was the man that shushes everyone out in the foyer each year. The head usher who explains in explicit detail how to do an ark opening. The Hebrew school principal chastising the kids in services. There were adults talking, little kids running around and crying, teen girls in very short skirts... It was another Rosh Hashanah.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Happy RH

Been trying to find a good Rosh Hashanah video for this year... this one is very cute...I think it's the same woman from the Passover video!

And this one is so cute I had to include it as well! Woo hoo Katy Perry!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Keep Change In Your Pockets

Last Saturday evening, my temple had a creative Selichot service. In addition to beautiful instrumentals and more traditional prayers, there were some amazing poems. Here is one of them:

Keep Change In Your Pockets
Danny Maseng (c) 2000

So listen, so listen - keep change in your pockets at all times!
Keep change for the beggar, the bus, for the train
Keep a spot, keep a room, keep a window wide open
Keep a cool change of clothes for the moment of moments!
Keep the fire in your soul
Keep remembering
Keep reminding yourself - Keep a stone for the journey
Keep the face you've been longing for etched in your heart
Keep the gleam in your eyes
Keep the pillar of fire to guide you by night
Keep the pillar of vapor to cool you by day
Keep on looking for signs, for a path, for an opening
Keep your hopes, keep collecting your dreams
Keep the palms of your hands outstretched like a beggar
Keep the sound of the whispered small daughter of voice
Keep the glow of her face
Keep on following towards
Keep the passion unbroken
Keep the yearning unending
Keep it deep in your bones
Bear the pain, be a fool
Keep believing
Keep on marching ahead to that place where you learn what simplicity
What commitment is for
Why the eyes were created
Why the soul is transparent
Why there's no greater gift
In this wondrous world
Than to suffer a heart filled with love for no reason

Why there's nothing as lonely
Why there's no greater journey
There is no greater joy
Keep some change in your pocket
Some change for that moment
Just enough for that moment of moments
When we're all in the moment
When we're finally all in the place at the time in the grace
Face to face with the one
And you wouldn't be wanting to find yourself
Stuck, by the side of the road with no change
With your pockets embarrassed and empty
And your heart so hollow so close to the end
Having traveled so far
So listen -
Keep change in your pockets at all times!

Dirty Dancing

I will always love this scene from the film Dirty Dancing. Rest in peace, Patrick Swayze. Yet another person taken from us too soon, from cancer.

Monday, September 14, 2009

No buffer

Normally, I feel pretty good. People describe me as "calm" and "even-tempered." I can handle things.

Right now, about 50 percent of the time (60? 75 percent?) I feel like I'm going to scream, cry, or punch a wall. This is not good.

The way I've been describing it to people is that when the meds are working well, I feel like there is a layer between me and the world. A buffer. A membrane. It keeps me from reacting harshly to every little thing. But right now: there is no buffer. And it's not pretty.

What's somewhat comforting (although somewhat not) is that women on the breast cancer discussion boards describe feeling this way just from the Tamoxifen. And I also have the triptorelin and the Celexa to contend with. Jeez....


I was speaking to one of my loyal readers this weekend, and I wanted to explain to everyone how to post comments on the blog. Comments are really the only way I know what you are thinking out there in cyberspace!

What you do is, at the end of each post, there is a place that says "0 Comments" or "1 Comments" or "2 Comments". If you click on that link, it will bring up a little box that allows you to comment! You can just do it anonymously, or you can put in a pseudonym. Or even your real name. It's up to you.

Also, the other bit of news is that I registered my domain (or rather, rented it for a year) so now you can easily get to my blog at instead of The old way will still get you there, but the new way is easier to remember.

That's it for housekeeping details. Back to work!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I can't do it all

Sometimes, I just need to give myself a break. I forget that I am still a cancer patient. I forget that this has been a stressful year, and I'm not 100 percent. I keep trying to act like everything is normal.

But it isn't.

Today, I went to my monthly appointment at BIDMC Oncology for my study shot. This is the shot that suppresses my ovaries, and is supposed to help prevent recurrence of my breast cancer. The people who work there are uncommonly nice. In spite of the fact that everyone there is dealing with or treating someone with cancer, everyone is quite cheerful. It's kind of amazing.

My study nurse, Ann, who gives me my monthly shot, is as sweet as can be. She always seems happy to see me, gives me her full attention, and is just lovely. This time, she asked me how I was, and I started to cry. It's the first time that I've seen her that I really haven't felt good.

So the consensus of Ann and the research coordinator and the oncologist is that it's pretty normal to be feeling lousy (hot flashes, trouble sleeping, etc.) due to both the Tamoxifen and the triptorelin, and with the new anti-depressant in the mix, it's very likely. Somehow that helps, to know I'm not the first to be feeling lousy with all this. Also, they have some suggestions for medication tweaking. And they suggested some psychological support as well. Which is probably a good idea.

So I'm not going into work today. I just can't do it all. I need a break. I will try again tomorrow. But today, I'm taking a few hours for me.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Frustration with the IRB

The next phase of the study I’m working on involves six hospital’s pediatric ICUs. Two of the hospitals are located on the West Coast; three are in the Midwest, and one is on the East Coast. I’ve been wrangling with these sites, and trying to get the local staff to submit the IRB (human subjects protections) applications, for literally nine months or more.

Each site received the same IRB application. We have received six different responses from the various IRBs and/or administrators. There has got to be a better way.

What’s amazing to me is that when this grant was written, about five years ago, all these hospitals agreed to participate. Now that it’s time to actually do something, they are very slow to get started; slow to hire someone in the position of local research coordinator; slow to get their contracts going; they are even slow to bill so they can receive money that they are owed!

Two of the sites have actually questioned the protocol altogether. They are worried that the surveys we have developed will “incite” parents to sue the hospitals. They are afraid that thinking about the care that was given to children who died is “too risky” for their clinicians. This is a very, very sad state of affairs.

Two of the sites approved the application with minimal fuss. And currently, two of the sites are working through the IRB comments and changes. So nine months worth of work, and all I have to show for it is possibly four sites that will move ahead with this part of the study. If all goes well. It’s very discouraging.

The procedure we are asking the sites to undertake is the following: each time there is a death on the pediatric ICU (which typically takes place about once a week in an average sized PICU), surveys about the care given to the child and family are handed out to the most-involved clinicians in the case, and some information is taken from the child’s medical record about the care the child was given. Then, three months later, the parents are contacted to fill out a similar survey. That’s it. That’s the study. We aren’t giving anyone a drug. We aren’t doing anything physical to anyone. We are handing out surveys and collecting some medical record data. Period.

You would not believe the hoops we need to jump through to get this procedure approved. We need a waiver for this and a waiver for that. A waiver to look at the medical record to get the parent’s contact info. A waiver to collect data from the deceased child’s record. We want to avoid bothering the parents about the medical record, and we need a waiver for that.

A lot of the trouble has to do with HIPAA, which really shouldn’t have to do with research, anyway. The human subjects in this study, pardon my French, are dead. They don’t have rights; they don’t need rights. We are trying to improve end-of-life care. For children. And you’d think we were trying to do something bad, the way these sites are responding.

The IRBs have really over-stepped their bounds. They are supposed to protect human subjects. In this study, the actual human subjects, as I mentioned, are already dead. We are asking people who helped care for the human subjects for their opinions about the care, and also the parents of the human subjects. We are trying to document and improve care. What we are doing is a good thing.

But there is such a fear of death – especially children’s deaths – that the IRBs seem paralyzed by our requests. They are afraid that parents will sue. They can’t see that parents really want to improve the care. Parent want to remember their child in a positive way: they don’t want to sue. They want to help.

And I’m left here, frustrated and angry. Angry at the IRBs who respond in such a disrespectful and belittling manner. Angry at the IRBs, each of which interpret the federal regulations differently, making each application an exercise in futility. Angry at the lawyers who don’t trust parents to complete a survey without suing the hospital.

Angry. And sad.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Green Tomato Soup

We were at the very cool farmer's market in Charlottesville on our family vacation, and a local restaurant was handing out samples and cards of this recipe. I tried it last night at home. Yummy.

1 T olive oil
1 T sweet butter
1 cup onion peeled and chopped
½ cup carrots diced
½ cup celery chopped

2 cloves garlic chopped
1 granny smith apple chopped
3 cups green tomatoes, chopped
1 cup white wine
½ t nutmeg
½ t cinnamon
½ t white pepper

6 C vegetable stock

2 C heavy cream (I used some milk and some half-and-half)

1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil and butter. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and sauté 5 minutes over medium low heat.
2. Add garlic, apple, green tomato. Then add wine and spices. Sauté for 3 minutes.
3. Add stock. Stir well and bring to low simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Turn heat down and let sit for 20 minutes to cool, then puree using a hand blender.
5. Add the cream. Reheat but do not boil the soup before serving.

Serves 6 (I cut everything down by about half. Served 2.)

P.S. The NYTimes is thinking about green tomatoes as well!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Vacation: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Just got back from family vacation in Virginia this Sunday. So glad to be home. We were there for 7 days, and I swear it felt like a month.

The good: Williamsburg is really amazing. It is actually a town that is very much as it would have been in 1776. We all loved how the people (dressed in full colonial garb) stayed in character, and you could interact with them, ask them questions about Colonial life, etc. There were skits going on throughout the day that told pieces of different stories about the Revolution, and about Colonial life.

We also loved Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. It was beautiful, and fascinating. Jefferson was such an interesting person, inventing all kinds of things (and not just the Declaration of Independence!).

The bad: It was HOT in Virginia. REALLY, REALLY hot. The kind of hot that I cannot stand. Each day in Williamsburg, we would merrily set out from the hotel, and head to the town. After a few hours, we literally could not stand the heat anymore, and had to retreat to a restaurant (thank G-d for Aromas), or back to the hotel. We spent a LOT of time in the hotel pool. Then we would venture out again.

The ugly: J developed new and annoying habits this past week. He constantly sang a very annoying song (from WWE), pulled on my arm, disagreed, jumped, cajoled, refused, yelled, screamed... it was amazing. It was quite miserable being with him. I don't really understand it. I know that we were out of our routine. I know that we probably spent far too much time in the hotel room. I know he was bored part of the time. I know he didn't have any friends around. But...his behavior was really terrible.

In spite of is a great photo of the three of us.

And thus ends another vacation....

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ten years old!

J and me, 1999

J and me, 2009


I haven't embraced the pink. In reality, I loathe the pink ribbon, pink t-shirt, pink everything that is somehow supposed to help "cure" breast cancer. It just makes me sad.

So I was in the parking lot of McDonald's today, and this is what I saw:

It's an oil truck. A PINK oil truck. With the words "promoting breast cancer awareness" on the side.

I guess they are trying to do a good thing. But it just makes me sad.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

(mis)Understanding health care reform

As much as I love President Obama, I don't think health care reform is going to happen this summer. It's just too complicated. I consider myself an intelligent person, and I really don't understand it. So I imagine that most other intelligent people (and maybe some less intelligent people) don't understand it either.

To make it even worse, the right wingers have used some pretty annoying tactics to try to derail Obama. Focusing on several issues that are hot-button issues to many, such as abortion (i.e. saying that abortion "on demand" will be paid for by the new health care plans) and "death panels" (i.e. saying that elders will be unable to receive life supporting care at the end of life). And finally, sending disruptive people to town hall meetings all over the country. Here is an example of one, and Barney Frank's amazing response.

This is what I do understand.

Under the new plan, you will probably still get health insurance through your work, if you do so now. But if you don't get health insurance through your work, there will be a different way to get it: through the government plan. That plan will guarantee everyone basic health insurance. This sounds good to me. But I don't understand exactly how it will work.

I've tried to understand, I really have. I've even looked up information on other country's health care systems, like France and Israel. It's been interesting, but I'm still confused.

Speaking from my experience of this past year, while I'm grateful for my health insurance and health care, I'm pretty confused by it. Every time a procedure was submitted to the insurance company, the hospital or physician received approximately half of what they asked for (or sometimes less). Does this mean that the price they asked was inflated intentionally? Or has my health insurer negotiated a lower rate with them? And either way, what is the ACTUAL WORTH of the procedure? Or is there no such thing?

Here's an example: for my lumpectomy this winter, the surgeon charged $3056. She received in payment $1038.52. This is about a third of what she charged. What does this mean? The hospital fees for the surgery were $9519. They were paid $4890. So that was about 50% of what they charged. Again, what was the actual worth of the services? $9500? $4800? Or something in between?

Apparently I'm not the only one who is confused, as there isn article about this very topic in the NYTimes today.

If any of my readers can shed light on health care reform for me, please do so in the comments. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Some random thoughts upon returning home from the American Idol Live! concert:

1. I'm really too old for this.

2. People were there to see Adam Lambert. Period. Whenever a photo of Adam popped up on the big screen, everyone screamed. When the real Adam arrived, everyone roared. My ears are still vibrating from the noise.

3. Danny Gokey seemed the most comfortable in his own body of all the idols. He finally learned how to dance.

4. Matt Giraud was in very good voice, and was very entertaining.

5. Adam Lambert was tall, lanky, and seemed a bit awkward to me. Also, he did all of this hip shaking stuff, which seemed somewhat inappropriate, as the average age of the attendees was about 10. There were lots of parents with kids in tow.

6. Taking public transportation always seems like a good idea, and works out fine for the first part of the trip. Getting home is another story.

7. Did I mention I'm really too old for this?

Monday, August 17, 2009

At the spa

I've visited a number of spas over the years, including Kripalu, in Lenox, MA, and the Norwich Spa, in Norwich, CT. Someday I aspire to spend some time at the famous (and costly) Canyon Ranch which is also in Lenox, MA. However, since I'm not quite yet flush enough with cash for that, this time I decided to try something different, and made my reservation at The Spa at Grand Lake in Lebanon, CT. The reviews on the internet led me to believe that I would have a similar experience to Kripalu in terms of modest housing and 3 included meals a day, with the advantage of a larger schedule of exercise classes (not just yoga) and an included massage! And I was right!

I actually wrote a review online, but I wanted to give some more detail here.

Once I registered, I went into the main dining room. It is a large, modern, bright room, with a variety of round tables seating 6 and small tables seating 2. I was invited immediately to sit down for a late lunch with some other late-arrivals, and we enjoyed a nice chicken salad plate while getting to know one another.

This table turned out to be my "permanent" table, and I got to know these women quite well as the weekend progressed. My table-mates included a mom and her 30-something daughter on their annual mother-daughter get-away; two retired African-American women from the New York area on a little get-away; a teacher from Manhattan; and myself. Turns out that six women tend to have a lot in common, and we discussed breast cancer and other health problems; children; marriage; work; movies; you name it.

Women definitely out-numbered the men, but I was surprised to see a number of husbands in tow: it would never occur to me to drag A along to a place like this. But I saw at least 5 husbands there. Not that they were doing anything but eating, gabbing, and sitting around. No men graced the exercise room floor. Not a one.

During my 2 days, I bumbled and sweated my way through Yoga, NIA, Zumba, a Gentle Stretching class, a water exercise class, and tried my hand (feet, really) at Latin dance one evening. I was so sore after the first day I had to take a hot bath before bed! My hips were aching!

In addition to the exercise classes and spa treatments, there were 2 pools (indoor and outdoor) and a jacuzzi. The grounds were green, lush, and beautiful. The weather was warm and sunny, so sitting outside or swimming and then sitting out by the pool were great options.

This was not a place of toned bodies and fancy workout wear. There were lots of bulges and bumps to be seen: these were real women. And they were working as hard as they could to become healthier.

I enjoyed my time there a lot, and really felt like I'd been away for more than 2 days. Next time: 3 days, and I'm going to try one of the lower calorie diets!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer doldrums

This is a strange time of year, the "Ides of August," so to speak. I've been feeling...well, strange. I chalked it up to being tired, but maybe there is something else going on?

There is so much anticipation to the summer: wanting to enjoy "sun and fun," the excitement of school being out and schedules being less, well, scheduled, trying new activities, etc. But then again, there is the lack of scheduling that causes other problems (like too-late bedtimes), and the lack of our regular routines that give us our day-to-day connections with friends.

For example, our shul doesn't have kids services in the summer, and there is no way I'm going to bring J to temple for a 2 hour bore-fest (from his perspective). So we (and many others) tend not to go in the summer, which is a shame, because during the year, attending Shabbat services is a mainstay in our weekend plans. It kind of gives us an anchor. And we know that we will all see friends there.

I thought I was the only one who felt this way (of course), but then a friend mentioned that she was feeling disconnected from her usual activities and friends, and another friend mentioned that she was feeling kind of down, and then I's not just me!

So I guess as much as I'm sad about summer ending, I'm looking forward to getting back to some of our routines, and seeing some of our friends again.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What people do all day

This is a really awesome graphic from the NY Times. It's kind of weird looking, but if you spend some time playing with it, if you can learn some interesting things about how different groups of people spend their time.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Little yellow signs

Taking a walk around my neighborhood the other day, my nose was assaulted by the sharp scent of lawn chemicals. It seemed that almost every other house had one of those tiny yellow signs sticking out of the grass -- pesticide application, keep off! -- and the smell to prove it. I've always wondering about those signs. If what you are putting on the lawn is poisonous, how will placing a tiny yellow sign on the lawn for a day or two prevent any harm at all? I truly do not understand the logic.

This is not an idle thought for me; rather, something I've been pondering for years. It's become even more salient as I've dealt with my own breast cancer, something I'm certain resulted, in part, from estrogenic compounds in the environment such as pesticides.

Consider this from the Breast Cancer Fund:
A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that exposures to toxic chemicals, including pesticides, in the environment are contributing to high breast cancer rates. Pesticides used in and around the home and in agriculture are used to control pests like weeds (herbicides), fungus (fungicides), insects including fleas and ticks on pets (insecticides) and rodents (rodenticides).

Pesticides are just one of many daily toxic exposures. We can be exposed to unsafe chemicals through the use of pesticides in our yards, on our pets, in public parks or on the food we eat as well as from certain plastics, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Even though some pesticides have been banned, they remain in the body and the environment for decades. DDT, perhaps the most studied pesticide, was banned in the U.S. in 1973 but can still be found in household dust samples and in the body fat of humans and animals and in human breast milk and placenta.
Let's just say that I'm not counting on those little yellow signs to protect me from anything anytime soon, okay?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Work-family 'balance' goes mainstream

It seems that work-family balance (or lack thereof ) is coming into the mainstream -- kind of.

I've noticed two articles in the Boston Globe in the past two days that seem, well, different.

Yesterday, in the G section, I was amazed to read an article You've come a long way, baby sitting issues. It opens like this:

Given the gravity of the situation, the comment went mostly unnoticed. Except by working parents and work-life balance advocates, that is. To them, it called out loud and clear.

Attorney Alan McDonald was introducing the cops who’d assembled to show support for the officer who’d arrested Henry Louis Gates Jr. when McDonald dropped this surprise: The president of the Cambridge Multicultural Police Association couldn’t attend the press conference, the lawyer explained, because he had “baby-sitting issues.’’

The statement - delivered casually and causing no stir onstage - shows the degree to which the workplace has changed to recognize the needs of working parents, according to human resources professionals. And although they’re quick to add that difficulties persist for working parents, that moment at the podium would seem to mark a notable if slight shift.

“It moves [child-care issues] from an excuse and a failing to a statement of fact that we all deal with,’’ said Cali Yost, author of “Work + Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You.’’

“I think it’s very powerful,’’ she said, particularly since the “baby-sitting issues’’ claim was not only made in regard to a man, but one working in a traditionally male-dominated field “where life and work never used to intersect at all publicly.’’

Well! Even powerful men can have "baby sitting issues" these days, it seems. Hmm....

And this morning, in Schools asked not to close if flu hits, this quote really stood out for me:
“The focus is going to be on avoiding closing schools if at all possible,’’ said Dr. Lauren Smith, medical director of the state Department of Public Health. “And that’s not only because of the educational disruption, but also because of the disruption that happens in a community when 300 or 400 or 500 kids aren’t in a school and all those families have to scramble to make plans to take care of them.’’
What's interesting here is what the state medical director DIDN'T say. She didn't say: well, it's not such a big deal, because the moms will just take care of the kids. She gets it.

The article continues:

In recent weeks, Boston health authorities have met with business representatives to encourage them to allow parents to take paid sick days when their children fall ill. The message to businesses has been this, said Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission: “It’s much better for a handful of parents to be able to stay home with sick kids than to have me close a building with 1,200 kids and to now require all of those kids to stay at home.’’

And, so far, that message appears to be resonating with employers, Ferrer said. One business pledged to her that it would double employee sick days if a flu epidemic sweeps across the region.

Not sure if it's time yet for a big "Woo hoo!", but overall, it's great to see recognition in the mainstream media of parents -- both moms AND dads -- having to juggle work, family, and life. Manic Mommies, this one's for you!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

More from the garden

ivy and fence
ivy and fence

coneflowers (and a bee)
coneflowers and a bee

lots of coneflowers!

bean flowers
delicate bean flowers

Dinner, anyone?

Just saw this ad in this morning's Globe.

And we wonder why there is an obesity epidemic?

FYI Walgreens: pizza, Coke, and ice cream do not fulfill the requirements of the Healthy Food Pyramid. As a matter of fact, I don't think they fulfill ANY healthy requirements.

Just thinking about this "meal" makes me feel nauseous...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

One pill makes you smaller

I have to admit I stole that post title from a Breast Cancer Action post. I hope they don't mind.

So here's a review. I'm taking the Tamoxifen to prevent recurrence of breast cancer. But my anti-depressant might interfere with the Tamox and make it less effective in preventing recurrence. So I switched from the old anti-depressant to a new anti-depressant, one that won't interfere with the Tamox .

The transition from the old anti-depressant to the new one seems to be going complaints, am feeling fine emotionally so far...EXCEPT I am waking up every night around 1 or 2 or 3 am and can't really fall back asleep. So I'm TIRED.

Talked to the psychiatrist today, and guess what? She's recommending a sleeping pill. Sleeping has NEVER been a problem for me before, so this is kind of weird. But hopefully only temporary.

So while my body gets used to the Tamoxifen and the new anti-depressant (and the medication that stops my periods), I'm going to take yet ANOTHER pill so I can sleep. I come...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Non-information information

I heard this PSA on the radio yesterday afternoon on my regular "oldies" channel, as I was driving to pick up J from the camp bus stop.

ADULT: It’s hard to talk to your kids about the s-word. Cause they’re too young to think about... bedroom activities. So, you try to limit their exposure to adult behavior. But let’s be honest. There’s birds and bees stuff all over the place.

On TV, 64% of programs know.

The Internet’s even worse. 42% of kids between 10 and 17 have inadvertently seen, well, funny business, online.

It’s everywhere.

KID: We know the s-word makes you uncomfortable. It’s embarrassing. But you’ve gotta be the parent. You’ve gotta talk to us about sex. Because everyone else is. And they’re not talking about waiting. That part’s up to you. You don’t have to be explicit about it. You don’t have to talk about the parts. Just tell us how you feel. Tell us what to do. Tell us you want us to wait to… do that stuff. For help starting the conversation, visit

KID: Brought to you by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and this station.

So I thought, okay, cool, a radio commercial about sex ed! True, they used six euphemisms for sex, but it IS hard to talk about sex with your kids, and you really DO have to do it. So I went home and checked out And then...

I was really disturbed.

Turns out that must be a left-over from the Bush Administration, because it's basically non-information information about sex. It is a TERRIBLE web site and I can't believe it's still up there on the internet! And that it's funded by HHS!

Turns out that it's been up on the internet since 2005 and 145 agencies have called for its removal, and they haven't taken it down yet!

There are so many wonderful, informative websites out there, and this is what our government is promoting? Oy!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Cooking with Julia

I just came upon this photo in the NYTimes from 1963. Isn't it a scream? I wonder what it was like, being one of four or five people, crouched on the floor, waiting to pass Julia an ingredient at the proper time...Kind of blows your mind, doesn't it? TV has come a long way since then, I guess...You can read the whole article, by Michael Pollen, here. It's about a lot more than Julia Child, and definitely worth reading.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Estrogen reduction accomplished

I don't want to announce this prematurely, but I think...I really think... that my stubborn ovaries have finally been vanquished. The triptorelin has kicked in, and I haven't had a period in 5 weeks. Woo hoo! Sorry, Tambrands and Always, I won't be needing you any longer.

In other news, I'm off my old anti-depressant, and just started the new one. Literally started it this morning. It may take a few weeks to kick in, so don't know yet if it will work, how it will work, how I will feel, etc. Hopefully, I won't go crazy in the meantime.

And in still other news, I'm starting to feel some heat. Not hot flashes exactly, but definitely some heat in my body. Mostly in the evening, and definitely when I'm trying to sleep.

So the good news is that with the triptorelin kicking in and the Tamoxifen, and the anti-depressant that doesn't block the Tamoxifen, my estrogen should be getting lower and lower now. And that is GOOD for preventing recurrences. Woo hoo!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Every now and then -- maybe once a year? -- I become obsessed with a song. Don't know why. It just happens.

This year -- this week -- I became obsessed with Chris Brown's song "Forever." The reason? Jill and Kevin's wedding entrance dance, the newest YouTube video to go "viral," currently at 6.5 million views.

And I'll admit: I'm hooked. The song is stuck in my head big-time. And I can't stop watching the video.

I'm trying to figure out why I'm so stuck on this song, and this video. It's like this: these people decided: we're not going to just walk down the aisle like everyone else. We're going to dance down the aisle. Not only that, we're going to have all our friends join in the dance. This dance is going to be an expression of who we are, and how we feel about ourselves and each other. Our wedding is starting with a dance.

I love how their friends dance down the aisle -- some better than others -- some with hardly any rhythm (this video could well be subtitled: most white people really can't dance). And they know that they aren't great dancers, they are just doing it because their friends wanted them to, and they are doing the best they can. Eventually, they form a group and start down the aisle again, and the groom somersaults down the aisle out of the group. Then, as they make their way toward the alter, during a slower part of the song, they start moving in slow motion... it's hard to describe, but it's just too funny! Finally, the bride makes her entrance, dancing down the aisle herself...

If you haven't had a chance to see it yet, take a look:

Admit it, it brought a smile to your face and tears to your eyes, didn't it?

Thought so.

P.S. Here's more from the Today show. Apparently I'm not alone in my obsession....

P.P.S. And one more link.

P.P.P.S. Just one more!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Feeling grumpy.

Met with new doc yesterday, psychiatrist. Young, pregnant. Nice enough, maybe a bit stand-off-ish. Took psychiatric history and ruled out manic-depression, OCD, psychosis, and a number of other possible conditions, bottom line: need to switch anti-depressant that has worked since 1993 since it may reduce effectiveness of Tamoxifen. New anti-depressant is called Celexa. Am currently ramping down old anti-depressant and ramping up new one. Finding it all a bit depressing.

Still waiting to see if period will not come this month. Feel like period is coming. Face is broken out. Feel PMS-y. Not sure what is going to happen.

Today is A's birthday. He is 55. Wow. When we met, I was 30, he was 37. How did this happen?

J was sick yesterday, and I had to miss work, so I'm at work today. Don't want to be here.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Harvest, again

Today: some green beans are ready to pick! Also, an interestingly-shaped zucchini!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Man on the moon

It's hard for me to believe it was 40 years ago that my family gathered around our black-and- white TV set at Nantasket Beach (where we spent the summers) and watched real footage of astronauts walking on the moon. I remember it very clearly. I was 8 years old.

I remember poring over maps of the moon's surface, knowing what a LEM was, thinking that astronauts were heroes. And they were.

The space program, frankly, hasn't been as exciting since then. There have been other lunar missions, the development of the Space Shuttle, and several famous and tragic crashes, but nothing as exciting as watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon.

P.S. Here are some great photos courtesy of the Boston Globe.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Three berry pie

So I saw a recipe for vegetable-oil based pie crust that sounded interesting and easy in Thursday's Globe, and blueberries have been on sale at the market, and my raspberries are FINALLY ripening, and strawberries were on sale yesterday, and the moon was in the Seventh House, and the stars aligned, and I decided to make a three berry pie!

Here is the recipe for the pie and here is the recipe for the pie crust. I used the times for the crust (for baking). It came out great! I was quite impressed with myself.

The pie crust, while beautiful, is a little bland for my taste, but VERY easy, and I assume, healthier than a butter crust. If anyone has any ideas of ways to spice it up a bit, let me know.

P.S. I was reminded today that this is officially called Bumbleberry Pie. So cool!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


I made the mistake of reading some research articles about Tamoxifen last night before I went to bed, and I think I was dreaming about them all night. This is the thing: turns out that while Tamoxifen is pretty good at preventing recurrence (cuts your chances of recurrence in half), there are a few things that cause it NOT to work: 1) taking a medication that inhibits it (as I mentioned yesterday - some anti-depressants and some other medications as well) and 2) about 10% of women just naturally have an enzyme that prevents good metabolization of Tamoxifen. You can read more about it here.

So basically, you are taking your Tamox, you think everything is fine, and it's not working. This is not good.

So Dr. Susan Love says that one way to know if it's working is that you have side effects. Hot flashes, night sweats, and all that fun stuff. I'm not having any of that. Yet. So is it because of the medication I'm taking that's interfering with the Tamoxifen, or am I one of the10% with whom Tamox is essentially worthless?

I think that's what was keeping me up last night.

It's funny, because my docs keep saying: well, maybe you're just one of those women who don't get side effects. But now I'm starting to worry. If I don't get side effects, how will I know that it's working?

So I think, in the end, I need to switch my medication AND get the test to see if I metabolize Tamox. Sigh.

I almost forgot: I also read a study last night in which they were trying to reduce the side effects of Tamoxifen in women, and they gave them the very anti-depressant that we now know reduces the effectiveness of Tamox! And indeed, the side effects lessened, but I'll bet that these women were more likely to get a recurrence. It's really a horror-show, isn't it? Fix one thing, break another. I think that was keeping me up as well.