Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day 180: Huh.

Let me start with the headline: I don't have breast cancer.

(Well, as far as anyone knows.)

Nonetheless, I'm also not as squeaky-clean low-low-risk as I thought I was.

Many a time Mrs. Cynicletary and I have laughed off the idea of breast cancer. Not us! we cried, so joyfully. No family history, we breast-fed all our babies and get regular mammos, we are happy healthy girls with happy healthy hooters!

Turns out, positive thinking may not be enough. Or it may be. I'm in something of a wait-and-see place.

I saw Dr. Dixie yesterday for my post-surgery all clear and the results of my pathology report. She removed both nodules, and the tiny one is not worrisome at all. But the bigger one, the marble-sized one, the one that caused all this ruckus in the first place, came back with a diagnosis of lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), "an uncommon condition in which abnormal cells form in the lobules or milk glands in the breast." According to my good friends at the Mayo Clinic:
LCIS isn't cancer. But being diagnosed with LCIS indicates that you have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. 
Since I took grad school statistics, I have a healthy skepticism about such phrases as "increased risk" — give me hard numbers, people!

But in this case, the increase is somewhat significant. A healthy woman with no other risk factors has a 12 percent chance of getting breast cancer. Add LCIS to the picture, and the number increases to 20 percent.

It's still lowish . . . but I don't like it.

(Though as my awesome hairdresser said yesterday, "Frankly I don't like the 12 percent either!")

Yesterday, after getting this news, I felt a little anxious and off all day. I also had a big editing job that I had to focus on, the kids needed chauffeuring hither and yon, and Husband was stuck in holiday traffic and unavailable. A busy day, in other words, offering little time for contemplating my mortality. So when I finally finished my editing job at 7 p.m., rather than sneak in late to zumba (which I know I should have done and which would've helped my mental state on so many levels), I poured a glass of wine and took a hot bath.

And today I'm more chill. People with zero risk factors can still get cancer. People with every risk factor can live to be 100. So much of it is a crapshoot.

I'm meeting with a "risk specialist" after the holidays to discuss my options (one of which is to go on Tamoxifen now. That's freaky, right? But I won't worry about that today), so I am going to put it out of my mind until I meet with him.
He's also the one who did my pathology report and, according to Dr. Dixie, he always finds something.

(Which reminds me of one of my favorite lines written by my friend Perri Klass: "You go to Midas, you get a muffler.")

So there we are. It's all a little unsettling, I'll admit, but for the most part my outlook is positive and upbeat.

As for those other risk factors: OK, I'll step up my efforts to reach a healthy weight, I'll down kale like it's the new Godiva, and I'll make peace with my treadmill now that the frosty air keeps me off the Bike Path . . .

. . . but I will not give up my Chardonnay!!!!

Tamoxifen with a Chardonnay chaser. Awesome.

Off to start concocting Thanksgiving appetizers — I think I'll make the Chicken Enchilada Dip first, yum. And probably by 11, I'll be ready to sample my chosen cocktails. Food report to come!

Happy Thanksgiving, my darling friends. I am so thankful for YOU.

love and kisses,
Lady C

Friday, November 22, 2013

Day 175: My Wicked-Glammy Movie Star Weekend

Lady C as Holly G
Holly G as herself
Zan as Holly G

In a word: Awesome.

Ages ago, my darling Zanzibar — beloved college friend of many decades and one of my bridesmaids — told me that her sister The Movie Star was trying to get funding for a play, and if the stars aligned would I come see it and spend some time with her in N.Y.? And I mustered my inner wits and said yes, I would do this, despite my ridiculous phobia.

Zan wrote just a few weeks ago and said, These are the dates. And then, knowing that I am always broke, she added, And it's on me. No argument.

Well, how could I possibly say no to that?!

And it was so so SO much fun!!!!!

AwesomeSauce #1: We stayed with The Movie Star !!!

Her apartment is totally cute; she has a long plushy silver sofa, and a fancy shower with, like, thirteen different nozzles, and big giant windows (see our Holly Golightly poses above — that's the guest room window), and stacks of movie magazines on the coffee table, and three-foot-tall lilies in a tall vase . . . it was all Old Hollywood glamour, and I nearly died of happy-happy joy-joy.

Look at her insanely cute corkscrew (bottom right):

This is my new most-coveted objet, the Anna G Alessi corkscrew, and given its price I'll be coveting it for a while. But a girl can dream . . .

We walked around the city for a while (Chelsea Market! so cool!), then came back to the apartment and opened the treat I'd brought for us to share: my birthday bottle of Dom Perignon!
So delicious!! Zan also concocted a lovely snack for us, a Caprese Salad plus avocado: 

We talked, we laughed, we drank every drop of that blessed champagne . . .

. . . and then opened another bottle. And drank it as well.

Hey, I'm in New York! 

Between champagnes and dinner we met The Movie Star and her adorable boyfriend Poker-Mellow Phil (they were asleep when we arrived), but I'm blanking on the details of our first conversation because I was totally starstruck. Z was too, because she is obsessed with excellent poker playing, and P-M Phil is a very big deal in the poker world. So there we were, two usually ballsy mouthy chicks, tongue tied and shy and monosyllabic. But The Movie Star could not have been more glammy or gracious, and I was so excited to meet her.

(Poker-Mellow Phil reminded me of my cool jock brothers, and I felt comfortable with him right away — it helps that I know literally nothing about celebrity big-stakes poker.)

Zan had made reservations for 7 p.m. at Barbuto, a fancy restaurant in the meat-packing district. She was kinda sorta not-fully-but-almost sure where it was, so we left shortly after six just in case — and there we were, striding briskly through the streets of Chelsea like real New Yorkians.

(This is Z's phrase and I totally fell in love with it; all weekend I cried, "Zan! Take a picture of me! I'm being New Yorkian!" It was never not funny.)

(She maintains that there is a distinct difference between "New Yorkian" and "New Yorker," but I will let her explain that, if she chooses.)

We had definite moments of not being sure where we were or where the restaurant was (I told Zan that I don't mind walking a longish distance but I don't want to just wander, and she was very kind and willing to ask strangers directions), but we found it (exactly more or less where Z thought it would be) and our meal was magnificent.

AwesomeSauce #2:  I'm kinda vague on who this guy is or how Zanzibar knows him, but she knew the exact name to drop, and drop it she did — and we were treated like the Princesses Grimaldi from that moment forward. Charcuterie for the princesses, on the house! Garlicky twice-baked potatoes, on the house! May I refill your wine, Princess? Oh yes you may!

It was divine.

Free charcuterie!!
And Zan is such an agreeable dinner companion! She had me order for both of us, then politely declined half her paté so I could eat most of it.

We had charcuterie fit for a princess, duck liver bruschetta, kale salad with anchovy dressing, roasted chicken with salsa verde and the aforementioned potatoes, and for dessert I chose a scoop of vanilla gelato with a shot of espresso poured over it. And wine, so very much wine.


The next day was our matinee. The Movie Star had warned us that the play was a little weird, but we assured her that we are freaky girls and could roll with it. And yeah, it definitely wasn't The Sound of Music, but it's very well written and the performances are fantastic; we were completely riveted.

AwesomeSauce #3:  The Movie Star says that she never really "sees" people in the audience but she caught sight of me several times. For some reason, this thrilled me! Epecially because I know I would've been smiling. I really, really enjoyed the play, and her performance was captivating.

After the matinee, Z and I and The Movie Star, plus Z's cousin and husband, went to dinner at Il Buco, the cutest little Italian place just a few blocks away. Here I learned that [a] it's truffle season (I said that I couldn't wait to work that into a conversation! – "Well, it's truffle season, don'tcha know") and [b] kale salad with anchovy dressing is apparently the hot new thing, because it was on this menu as well. However, I chose a shaved kohlrabi and ambrosia apple salad for Z and a burrata one for myself (burrata, fuyu persimmon, heirloom radicchio, and pistachios — doesn't that sound interesting? It was crazy good), and we shared tiny croquettas and a scallop-risotto dish, and everything tasted lovely. And The Movie Star asked if she could order a half portion of pasta as an appetizer, and when the server said yes she clapped her hands in the most adorable way — just like I would. She is so cute and sparkly, and the cousins were warm and friendly, and it was so much fun to meet more of Zan's family.

But I felt bad for a couple of reasons:
  • It was my womanly time and I'd had a migraine all day — I literally felt bad.
  • I hadn't packed enough tampons, so needed to make an emergency Walgreens run. (Fortunately, there was one right across the street from the theater.)
  • Because I was doing the tampon run, I missed my chance to meet Wallace Shawn and Julie Hagerty, which would've impressed my kids (who love the Princess Bride and Airplane!). Oh, well.
  • Because of said migraine, I was dull and quiet at dinner — not my usual bubbly witty self.
But maybe that's okay. This was a family meal, after all, and not all about me.

We'd walked to the theater (45 minutes! I definitely got some exercise this weekend — and I was not wearing sneakers or a sports bra) but took a taxi home, which was a huge relief. My poor head, I just wanted to take some meds and go to sleep.

But . . .

AwesomeSauce #4: The Movie Star got out her poker chips, and Zanzibar began to salivate. Hmm, I should probably mention that besides being a huge fan of the game, Z is a poker champion herself, having won a huge tournament in Atlantic City! I am so proud of my smarty friend. Anyway, when Celebrity Poker Champion J. Tilly and Atlantic City Tournament Winner Z invite you to play poker with them, you do not repair to your fainting couch, princess. No, no — I cowboyed up and got in the game . . .

. . . the rules of which they had to keep explaining to me. Continually. ("It's double blind, so that's four to you, Lady C." "Uh, okay?" "And you've got the button, Lady C." "Uh, okay?")

I'm more of a . . . charades girl.

And given the august company with which I was surrounded, I guess you can probably predict who won our cut-throat poker game:

Oh, yeah. Me.

This is my winning hand: 
It was hysterical.

Poker-Mellow Phil came in while we were playing and cheered my big win. I noted that I was glad he was there to observe me, as he's scehduled to play in some huge upcoming tournament; If you need any tips, I said, just ask me, and he laughed and laughed. Such a sweetie!

On our last day in the big scary city, I got up before Zan did and went to the corner bakery to get us coffee. I felt like such a New Yorkian, on the streets by myself! And I'm not scared any more. I told Zan she cured me.

She suggested that we walk to the river, where we could see the Statue of Liberty. Believe it or not, it's behind me in this picture:

We still had a couple of hours before "our" driver was picking us up (the Movie Star kindly loaned us her driver to take us to and from the airport), and Zan had brought her own bottle of fancy champagne, so I proposed that we conclude the weekend by downing another bottle of bubbly and playing cards. We drank Veuve Cliquot at 12:30, and Z re-taught me how to play Screw Your Neighbor — she says it's a very simple game, but maybe it's easier to understand and strategize if you're not drinking at least half a bottle of Veuve Cliquot, I dunno.

The Movie Star emerged from slumber just as we were finishing, and she laughed at our champagne glasses. (We eschewed her dainty flutes and went straight for tumblers; we may be lushes, but we are rich in self-knowledge.) We shared the last few sips with her, and she hunkered right down with us and started talking . . . and this may have been the highlight of the weekend for me, hearing about Hollywood life from an insider. Zan has always said that one of her actress sisters is more crunchy-granola and one is all Old Hollywood glamour, so this is the sister I would especially enjoy, and it was so totally fun to hear about The Movie Star's experience playing Elizabeth Taylor in the Celebrity Autobiography show.

AwesomeSauce #5: She grabbed some coffee table books about movie star jewelry and showed us Joan Crawford's charm bracelet and Elizabeth Taylor's brooch . . . which she now owns.

We heard the whole inside story of E. Taylor's jewelry auction — thrilling! I asked The Movie Star if she actually wears the brooch, and she said, "OMG, I wear it all the time!!" It's in an exhibition right now, so we couldn't see it. But isn't it beautiful?

And . . . the clock ticked 2:30. Our driver was here, it was time to go. But wait! There was time for one last highlight.

AwesomeSauce #6:  Zan had asked if there were any particular thing I wanted to do in New York, and I said that if it was convenient, I would love to have a hot dog at Gray's Papaya. I adore hot dogs, I'm always hearing how fabulous the G.P. dog is, and isn't that a weird name for a hot dog place? I've always been so curious. We'd seen one on our way to the theater, so we asked our sweety driver if we could stop for takeout on the way to the airport, and he so kindly obliged. And it was indeed a delicious dog.

At the airport, I hugged and kissed my friend for a year. What a perfect weekend she gave me! There are no words to express the depth and breadth of my gratitude.

So I will simply say: Thank you, my darling Zanzibar. Everything we did was so wonderful, and the highight was that I got to do it all with you.

AwesomeSauce #7: A cherished friendship has endured for more than three decades and continues to flourish.

— Lady C, amateur New Yorkian

Friday, November 15, 2013

Day 168: I LAUGH at My Fears! Ha Ha!

Many many blog posts ago I made a list of things I'm afraid of, headed by, I'm pretty sure, "praying mantises." (Because praying mantises are terrifying.) I can't remember if "New York" was on that list, but it should have been; I've been afraid of New York since I can remember knowing what New York was.

And by New York I mean, of course, the big scary city. Listen, I enjoy watching Gene Kelly cavort in a sailor suit as much as the next red-blooded girl ("But we've hair on our chests / So what we like the best are the nights"), but I am haunted by the memory of the sweet Mormon boy murdered in the NYC subway when he tried to protect his family. Yeah, I know that was 1990, and our good friend Rudy has cleaned it all up, but still. I'm scared, it's a phobia, ain't no rational response to it.

However. Despite my phobia, I have managed to brave the big scary city at least twice, for the sake of my first-born angel and her own first truelove:
Yes, I have been to the American Girl Doll flagship store. In fact, I've been there twice. In fact, I went on a bus tour from Boston to travel to this fine destination, me and a dozen other mother-daughter pairs. And it was a blast!

(Though it all feels slightly ridiculous now, given that we have our own store just a few towns away.)

But I did not venture out into the big scary city more than a few blocks.

So . . . flash forward to, well, today! My darling pal Zanzibar, beloved college friend and one of my bridesmaids, has invited me to attend a performance of a play starring one of her actress sisters, Ms. J. Tilly! The work itself sounds 90 kinds of kooky ("Wallace Shawn plays cat and mouse with bestiality and gender in this wildly subversive new play") but also extremely interesting and cool, and I love watching Jennifer Tilly act, and also — I love love love live theater!!!

Which reminds me:

(That is the closest I came to making out with Mr. Cranston. Alas.)

Anyway, I leave tomorrow, hang out with my besty in NYC all day, we see Jen's show on Sunday, and I come home on Monday. So so so fun!!!!

Hey, speaking of live theater, Husband notes that I didn't mention our hot date on Saturday to see a simulcast performance of Tosca at the Met, which was (1) practically like attending live theater and (2) almost like being in NYC, right?

(It was also extremely wonderful and fun. These shows draw such an erudite and cultured crowd! Husband totally bonded with the dear little lady next to him; he told her he would likely weep during his favorite aria and didn't want to alarm her, and she patted his arm and said, "In my next life, I want to marry someone who weeps over Recondita Armonia," and I thought, Be careful what you wish for, dear lady, ha ha, and it was all very sweet. Tweedy Elbow Patches on the other side of me was less chatty, but he did inform me that La Boheme is sold out everywhere. Husband is now on a mission! Opera simulcast ticket scalpers, stand ready!)

In other words: Lots of excitement and culture 'round these parts!!

Oh, and I came through my surgery beautifully; breast is healing, and I'm already off pain meds. It was actually a very funny experience, but that is a story for another day.

Though I've made my peace with NaNoWriMo, which is no longer the boss of me, I will simply note this: Did not write 1,667 words today. Nor will I tomorrow, nor Sunday, nor Monday. I'm living my full, exciting life and having a very lovely time. No regrets.

Off to pack, the part of the trip I loathe. I am easing my pain with my good friend Mr. Kendall Jackson, and yes, he is helping.


—Lady C, cosmopolitan girl

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day 165: Bye-Bye, Boob that I Know

Tomorrow, Left Boob gets sliced open and then one, maybe two, benign nodules will be removed. Dr. Dixie says she'll decide once she gets in there. She is bewitching in her unpredictability! Local anesthetic only, I expect to be home around noon.

The part I worry most about, of course, is not being able to have coffee after midnight tonight. (You had better believe I'm drinking a HUGE cup now.) I remember going straight to a Starbucks after my colonoscopy . . . and then barfing in the Starbucks' restroom, realizing that maybe I needed to sleep for a while first.

Anyway, I'm not particularly worried, but I am a little . . . unsettled. It will be good to have this over with and focus on fun things, like my upcoming visit with Zanzibar!! (More on this to come.)

And my plan for the rest of tomorrow involves watching lots of TV, reading a stack of Brunie's favorite childhood books (on loan), and eating pudding. A great muchness of pudding, as a matter of fact.

Tonight I'm sending lots of love and strength to my beloved bosom friends Mrs. Cynicletary and Good Neighbor Anne, who both lost a parent this week, a mom and a dad, respectively. I am so sad for both of them and trying to hold them in my heart as best I can. I'm especially sorry that neither friend gets to hear, one more time, what a wonderful and excellent and truly loved daughter she is, from that parent's lips. As Mrs. Cynicletary says, "People die and there's nothing you can do about it."

Off to take a Silkwood shower, my first of two. They gave me this crazy-scary liquid soap, complete with hysterical warnings about not getting it in my eyes or my vagina. It makes me very curious about how other people take showers.

Good night! Wish me luck.

—Lady C, who will soon be one, maybe two, nodules lighter!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Day 163 No No NaNoWriMo!!

Ugh ugh UGH!!!

(That is my opening line. Are you intrigued? Read on!)

I love to write, and I'm good at it. I wrote one novel that I'm very fond of, and I started a second one several months ago — but I'm also crazybusy, and I felt stressed and guilty when I kept "putting off" writing (or marketing Novel 1), so I took an official Leave of Absence from Writing, temporarily withdrew from my writers group, and focused on getting my life into an orderly and organized place again.

And while I worked on that, NaNoWriMo came up, and I thought — hmm, perhaps this is a great opportunity to jump-start my stalled writing! But I conveniently ignored several things:
  • Every single year, I've said, "Why on earth do they hold NaNoWriMo in November, which is always a ridiculously busy month for me? I can't imagine trying to write a novel this month."
  • My work life continues to be crazily unpredictable, though going for an interview to be a substitute teacher did seem to give my editing karma a good goose, as now I have several nice fat editing jobs scheduled for November.
  • I HATE having to write. When Dave Barry retired from his daily humor column, the Boston Globe encouraged any aspiring humor writers to apply for his job, and my boss at the time nagged and nagged me to do it. I thought it over, I truly did, but I knew that I would hate it. Writing is my hobby; I do it for fun, and it brings me joy. If I had to do it, if it was my job and my livelihood, I would grow to loathe it. (Yet another reason that I no longer blog daily. I do it as the spirit moves me, and that's it. Having to write blows.)
  • I am a Type A striver who cannot stand getting a grade lower than an A. Cannot. Stand. It. My grad school transcript is all A's except for one B+, and that B+ makes me insane. (Especially given the context! But that is an exciting and suspenseful story for another day.)
  • I am having surgery. I am going to New York for three days with my darling pal Zanzibar. I am cooking for and enjoying Thanksgiving with my family. I will not be writing 1,667 words on any of these days — all of which happen in November, i.e., the month in which I'm supposed to write 1,667 words every damned day.
It's Day 10, and I should have 16,670 words by now.

I have 8,145.

I feel like I start every day with the word "FAILURE" stamped on my forehead. It is awful, it is no fun, and I am miserable!!!

But! I had a wonderful conversation the other night with my great friend JoJo, Angel of Light, who overheard me mention NaNoWriMo. She sidled over and said, "I'm doing it too."

We met each other's eyes and then looked away quickly. I muttered, "Do you like it?"

She said, "Um. Er. Well . . ."

I took a deep breath and said, "I hate it."

"Oh!" she cried, "me too!" And then we talked fast and furious for 10 straight minutes about how pressured we feel and what great big losers we are. Then we gave each other supportive pep talks and agreed to cheer each other on for simply doing our best, even if we don't hit the 50K winning word mark.

I felt so much better after talking to her!!

And no, it did not matter to me one iota that JoJo, Angel of Light, is only 11. She is wise beyond her years, and I consider her my mentor.

Anyway. Yes, I could be working on my novel right now. I could also be mending the enormous pile of clothes at the foot of my bed, watching a movie with my daughter, putting the wet laundry in the dryer, vacuuming my bedroom, reading one of the three library books that are due this week, painting my nails, walking on my treadmill, playing cards with my son, writing a sympathy note to my besty Mrs. Cynicletary who just lost her mom, writing up the humorous synopsis of last Thursday's dinner party for the Betsy-Tacy e-list, or answering any of the 97 e-mails in my Inbox. There are so many demands on my time at any given moment . . . and I really don't want my inner voice yelling FAILURE! when I choose other human needs or my own mental-emotional health over 1,667 words!!

So I won't. I've put my inner voice on mute. I can only do what I can do.

But I will go switch the laundry now and vacuum my room. Waking up to a clean rug and clean clothes will be a nice way to start tomorrow (Brunie's birthday!). And who knows? Maybe I'll write a little in the afternoon.

And maybe I won't.

Either way, it will be fine. And I won't be miserable!

— Lady C, cutting herself some slack

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Day 155: Write On!

Apparently I can only maintain one focus at a time — if I'm writing, I'm going to be gluttonous and slothful; if I'm exercising and eschewing the naughty foodstuffs, my pen will lie silent and still.

In other words: I'm diligently meeting my daily NaNoWriMo word count, but I'm eating cookies and doughnuts, I said no to a Habitat walk with Good Neighbor Anne, and I'm about to dine on Le Big Mac.


But there is so much going on at our house, and I've had a headache every morning. I feel like I'm just barely holding things together. Every day I bravely list What I Plan to Get Done; every day, I transfer two or three items to the next day's already-lengthy list.

Tomorrow I'm hosting a lunch meeting at our church for all the standing committee chairs — some heavy heavy hitters, in other words, and I feel quite nervous about leading it. But today I made homemade cookies, Mocha Truffle Cookies and Oatmeal Scotchies, to ply my audience with, and that should soothe the savage breast or whatever.

I'm sure it will go well, I'll just be happy when it's over.

Ooh — maybe I'll use the extra hour to take a long walk before church tomorrow. That would help both my daily headache and my oppressive sense of failure. And depending on how early I start, I might even have time to get my NaNoWriMo writing done before church at 10.

The writing is actually going pretty well. Yesterday I liked what I wrote; today, as I told my friend KT, most of my words were shite, but I nonetheless had a breakthrough regarding a difficult character, which is always exciting. But the words are flowing fast and freely, and the time flies merrily by. I'm having fun, in other words.

(Well of course I am, I'm stuffing my face with buttery brown-sugary Oatmeal Scotchies. Totes fun!)  


—Lady C