Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Another Photo Submission

A while back a photo newsletter I subscribe to sent out a list of photo contests to enter. One caught my eye right away because of its theme. Started in 1999, M.I.L.K. stands for Moments of Intimacy, Laughter, and Kinship. My favorite moments, really. I didn't think I had anything to contribute, and am genetically predisposed to Not throw my hat in, in general (the downside of humility). But after such a great family-oriented trip up north, and after MUCH incredibly kind encouragement from my dad, I went for it. The judging won't be announced until March of next year, but in the meantime, this little guy is hoping someone really really likes him:

At any rate, I do. Big thanks to Dave, Simone, and Mark for spilling over with kinship and laughter.

Also, head over to the M.I.L.K. website to view some past winners. I think they're full of especially beautiful messages to consider this time of year. Click here, then go to M.I.L.K Images under About M.I.L.K.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I Guess This Is My Holiday Letter

Or really, it's far more informative than any holiday letter I'd send. And I never sent any holiday letters anyway. Interesting. So while this has been a pretty crap year for me, it's been a year of unprecedented Jess access for you! Is that a good thing? Well. As much as I'm pining for '09 I've got a little more to fill you in on before it's over. And one more apology for not posting in so long. Oops.

Two weeks ago I had a set of very opposite doctors' appointments. The first was my dermy, Dr. Ld. That awesome acne that I've had since May or June is still hanging around despite one antibiotic and a slew of topicals. Lucky for me it's winter now and I don't have to debate too long before dressing. Anyway I thought I'd give dermy another shot at making me less uncomfortable. Not so much luck. I encountered that oh so familiar frustration with dermatology. Lots of shrugging by Dr. Ld. Sympathetic shrugging, and the suggestion that things would probably settle down in time. I did get a jar of goo that's so strong my face was peeling 5 days after I stopped using it. Yow. And he did offer to do some hormone testing, blood tests, that would basically just confirm that I'm out of whack right now without offering much treatment suggestion. So after I said no, thank you, we shook hands and agreed to meet again in February. He left, and I burst into tears. Ridculous. I am scared of poking around too much, terrified of more abnormal test results, even if it's just wacky hormones that I already knew about.

That said, I will do the test in February if I'm still looking like a teenager in the worst way.

My second appointment was with my radiation Oncologyst, Dr. W. He's in the same place I had my radiation treatments. As I was waiting for him, I got to see some of my favorite of his staff. And then a woman came out from the treatment area and said to the front office girls, "I don't know what I ever did with myself without you guys!" I think she was only about 10% kiding. Dr. W was lovely as usual. He did a full exam and then told me to call if anything came up, that he'd always be available, but that he didn't expect to see me in his office again. "WHAT?" I said. "This is my last appointment?!" And he said, "Yep. Happy Hanukkah!"

After he left the office I did a Snoopy dance.

Remember that new baby in the family? Last week we went up to see her and her new biggest fans, Mom, Dad, Big Sister, & Grandparents. Think she was very cute?

Oh, just a little bit. Everyone else looked marvelous as well. Except Zara is 3, so she moves a little fast for me to prove it with my camera.

A rare non-blurry snap. We did have a great early Hanukkah, thanks to our crack latke team.

We took several beautiful jaunts to Sonoma, Occidental, and Freestone.

Holiday plans for us are: Hanukkah every night at home, Christmas Eve with my parents and Christmas Day there for me while Mark tends the people at work. We have small plans for New Years Eve, and I'll try to grab a few photos of it all. If I'm not in touch as much as I'd like, I wish you the happiest holidays and a wonderful, healthy New Year.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Took A Decent Photograph

I got a fabulous email the other day out of the blue, asking me if I'd mind having a photo I took in Portland considered for the newest Schmap. I said sure and forgot about it. Then I got another great email (see below).

You can check it all out by scrolling down and clicking on the orange Schmap badge on the right. This is almost as flattering as having my dad set a slide show of my photos as a screen-saver. Yay!

clipped from www.flickr.com

I am delighted to let you know that your submitted photo has been selected for inclusion in the newly released sixth edition of our Schmap Portland Guide:
blog it

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

That Would Be A NO

Last time I visited Dr. Ls (looks good and I can run) I met his new receptionist. Nice, young man very eager to fetch me water. Frankly, though his last receptionist was very sweet, I wasn't very surprised that she was gone. Mainly because she took 6 weeks to deliver a message of mine to him, which prompted the whole last minute before surgery skin freak-out, medication change, and hive episode. Fun stuff.

I don't know why sweet, gorgeous ex-receptionist was let go. Now that I'm not freaking out or hivey, I'm sure there was more to it, and I hope she's happier somewhere else. But I did hear something today about some staffing replacements. Seems that the Oxygen reality show participants have made some choices that, while probably being good for the offices, will be GREAT for entertainment. Two newbies who's extra-curricular activities could also be Halloween costumes.

So have you guessed yet whether or not I'm doing it? Really I have two reasons for issuing the Negatory.
1) Point by Sharp Social Worker - This isn't my only opportunity to tell my story.
2) Point by Mark - I would react badly if misrepresented. Or more bluntly put by Thea: "This would bring out your worst personality traits." How these two know my itchy righteous-indignation trigger. Handy when someone up and tries to take advantage of you, but not something to invite into an otherwise peaceful life.

Rest easy, America. You'll get no Real Housewife-ing out of me!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Four Updates


My plan was to write several posts each about different happenings of this past week. Now even more is happening, and if I don't get something out, it will all go the way of the mythical "Anniversary Post" and the even greater mystery, the "October Post." At least I'm recognizing these terrible habits and making some sort of a change.

Physical Therapy
I was scared to go to my first PT appointment on Friday. I thought I might be told I was totally out of whack, in terrible shape. I thought it would possibly be a scary environment, full of frustrated people trying to walk again, fighting back tears. None of these things occurred. My therapist, Dustin, put me at ease with some initial gentle heckling. I think it's the little sister in me that makes that work pretty much every time. During his evaluation, it was clear that he had a very good understanding of both my old injury (dislocated shoulder) and my new ones (mastectomy & reconstruction surgeries). He was encouraging and thorough, and pointed out a few silver linings.
1) I'm young. This was one of the main reasons I decided to have both breasts removed now. I didn't want to recover from this surgery again later in life.
2) My shoulder is actually in better shape now because of the mastectomy & radiation. The pain I have there is all due to a really loose joint. Both surgery and radiation gave it a little boost of tightening. Because of this, when I've rehabbed it this time, it will be better than ever.
3) All of the stretches he gave me to do at home are what I naturally do already when I have pain. I'll need to do them more regularly, but I shouldn't forget them.
4) My personality is helping me heal. He pointed out that because of the trauma of breast cancer, a lot of women, those that even come in for pt, will not want to be touched and will have a lot of fear related to working with that part of their bodies. Me, I'll take all the attention I can get in order to feel better.

So I'll see him a couple of times a week, stretch & exercise at home, and be good as new sooner than Dustin even thinks. I rehabbed my shoulder in 3 months last time. He's going to be impressed in the near future.

A Very Random Heads-Up
When I met my massage therapist later that afternoon, she gave me an interesting warning. It seems Dr. Ls is going to be doing a reality show with the Oxygen Network. And he wants me to take part. Now I've never seen an Oxygen show, so I have very little to infer from the information I have, other than the term "Docu-Drama" that they're using. Which produces in me a huge YIKES. Most of the decisions I make are careful though, so I'm going to do some research & take my time. I have two competing thoughts right now.
1) Being my own advocate saved my life from something a lot of young people don't think they have to worry about. Having the chance to inspire other women to stay ahead of breast cancer would be a great, great, good.
2) Ah, reality television. Wherein evil puppeteers gain bizarrely intimate levels of access to humans and then edit their every utterance to turn them into whichever character they feel makes for the best entertainment. I think. But really, I don't want to be on any kind of television.

So what do you think? Really, I want comments on this.

The Three Day
First let me share that I learned from Kelley that the Three Day walkers' fundraising pages can be donated through several weeks after the event. So if you forgot or you found $20 in your pocket, you can still help.
Saturday I had planned to meet with my Mom and go see Kelley and Jenny as they walked the Three Day. We got a late start, but that made it possible for Mark to join us and the three of us headed to the South Mission Jetty. I found out Kelley was tearing up the course, making great time after squeezing in a bloody mary with her husband that morning. That put her ahead of us by just a bit. Then we heard Jenny's team was not faring as well. Jenny had a blister under a callus, Erica had SIX blisters, and Claudia was doing the best with bad knees. We decided to wait for Jenny's group. I'd never seen the Three Day in action and it was a good thing we had a bit of a wait before the girls got to us, because there was a lot of emotion to control. We turned into the parking lot among a throng walkers and supporters, lump steadfastly in throat. Music was blaring from two touring motorcycles at the entrance that had been appropriately pinked-up. A couple of tents had been set up with refreshments, crazily themed groups of supporters, and more music. We parked and made our way over to the love-gauntlet that lined the path, and I just hung on to Mark for a bit while we took it all in. I was about gathered when Jenny and her team rounded the bend.

Jenny, Claudia, and Erica, looking fantastic with just a few miles to go on day 2.

Mom, Me, and Jenny's fiancee Shane stopped the girls for hugs, moleskin handoff, and pictures by Mark.

The girls where just a little over a mile from the next pit-stop, and they needed to keep moving, so we decided to tag along. Mark said about 12 times, "We have to do this next year." And we will. I only got a taste of the amazing support crew my ladies had helping them along the way. Even past the designated cheering zone, folks were lined up all along the boardwalk passing out candy and cheering. We even saw a well-placed keg party happening at one of the vacation rentals where the revelers had signs and pink shirts all around. From my tiny little nugget of the three day, the thing I was most touched by (aside of course from the amazing comittment & sacrifice of the walkers themselves) were the many ladies waiting along the route to say simply, "Thank You." Ugh, it gets me now. So much pain, hope, loss, and grattitude, so many stories that we'll never know behind those two words we hear most every day. I can't say it enough, so again, Thank You.

Niece #2
Last but absolutely not least we're celebrating the arrival of a new family member. I have very few deails, except that reddish-headed, blue eyed Danielle was delivered just an hour and a half after her parents got to the hospital this evening. She weighed 7 lbs, 4 oz, but might be heavier already as I ear she's nursing up a storm. Her mama is tired but well, and we're all very blessed.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pardon My Sneezes

I have been down with a flu for a bit, so it's been very quiet, sleepy, and sneezy around here. Mark was home to tend to me a bit, but it was a sad use of his week off. We did enjoy several good films and a record amount of beautiful sunsets.

Later in the week we made it out to Quail Botanical Gardens and had such a treat in the bursting citrus garden. I took lots of notes and am looking forward to Pink Lemonade lemons and Algerian Mandarins in my future.

Later this week I'll be starting physical therapy. I'm really looking forward to getting back to something like my usual strength after 9 months of pain and inactivity. At the same time, I'm a little nervous about confronting the exact size of the hill I have to climb. At any rate, it should be an interesting week.

Oh, it's also the last week to donate to the girls walking the Three Day in my name. They start their long long walk on Friday. Jenny and Erica are doing great, but Kelley still has a ways to go. If you've come across any lose change, please help her reach her goal, HERE. As a little bonus, Kelley's got possibly the silliest picture of me on her fund-raising page.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Well, that was fast!

Congratulations to Brain-Prism for being the first to donate $500 and winning a flight in a 1943 Stinson. I'm wishing this generous guy a perfect day on which to enjoy his prize, and an unforgettable zip over Temecula.

Maybe if we're lucky, he'll let us know how it went.

There's still time to donate to the 3-Day, and several more dollars needed to reach the girls' goals. I hope you can take a moment to help them out.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Did you?

Or We Could Just End This Crap Once and for All

A little while back I wrote about how important it is to be aware, of our bodies, our options, and breast cancer as a whole. But wouldn't you rather not? Don't you wish breast cancer was a little more like, say, polio? A disease with which our kids are going to have absolutely no association, no mental image, save maybe a vague impression that it's probably not good?

Every year we learn more and more about breast cancer, but it's not happening fast enough, and we can change that.

This year I have been blessed by many great friends who helped me get through this. With meals, movies, open ears and lots of laughs, you guys have saved me in many ways. My doctors, my husband, family, and myself, we're the reason I'm alive. But you guys, my friends, are the reason I'm still me. And you're not done helping! Two of my girlfriends are participating in their first Breast Cancer 3 Day, a challenging trek to fund a cure for breast cancer, on November 21-23. I hope to be able to join them with even more friends next year. But in the mean time, please check out their pages and consider donating. No amount is too small, and if you were considering any kind of holiday gift to me this year, a donation will absolutely suffice.

Here's Jenny's page, and here's Kelley's.
***Update: Since Jenny's pretty much at her goal, she'd like to ask that you donate through her team-mate, Erica, any funds that you'd normally donate through her.

And, since my dad is AWESOME, he has rustled up an incredible prize to the first to donate $500 or more.

A ride in a completely restored 1943 Stinson Bi-plane over the Temecula wine country. An amazing airplane flown out of Fallbrook, CA, by an amazing pilot, and just in time to prove to your friends on the East Coast that we do get fall color. If you want to win this, donate, then leave me a comment letting me know you have and giving me the name under which you donated and to whom. I'll verify your donation with the appropriate walker and if you're first, get you your prize. Good luck!

For those of you who just cant spare the coin, don't worry. In the future I'll be posting ways you can help without spending a penny, as well as a totally free giveaway.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Where Am I?

Hi kids. I'm here. I'm fine. I've been just a bit busy and Mark is off this week, which I'm just realizing usually translates to much less computer time for me. I'm actually okay with that overall, as it also means I'm having more fun than usual. But I do have lots to catch you all up on. Lots of pictures to share. But not today. Mark's parents are here and I just have a sec before I join up with them for a lovely day on the coast. If you're curious about how my little body is doing, here's the latest:
* I scaled a cliff last week, with the help of stairs, but it was the most work I'd done since the last surgery and was actually slightly easier that I'd expected.
* I saw Dr. Ls on Thursday and that went well. He's happy with how mobile everything is staying. If you have questions about why this is a good thing, fire away. I've been downgraded from crazy amounts of gauze and scissor work every morning and can just wear a bra now. Huge step forward for productivity. The only thing I'm keeping an eye on is a big fat suture that's trying to come out and visit (it's supposed to be an innie). That's nothing to worry about and pretty common. I just have to keep it clean and such.

Okay, as I say, pictures soon. Be well everyone, and VOTE ON TUESDAY!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Early Holiday Shopping

I plan on doing pretty much all of my holiday shopping at locally owned shops. I'm storing up my energy for a big Che Bella run (not that you need extra energy for this. A visit to Che Bella will most likely leave you feeling restored. I'm just particularly wiped these days). There are a few other spots around town that sell fantastic gifts and really make San Diego special, and they just will not survive if we don't shop there. In the next week or so I'll post a list of the best places I'll be grabbing gifts. But today I saw a very interesting internet shopping opportunity.

ideeli calls itself a "members-only shopping community for trend-setting women." So why am I a member? The signup is completely painless and they also have really frequent, equally painless to try for giveaways. Also, today they're offering something that caught my eye:
And I think they describe it best, so I quote:

"Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference; and a little hope, combined with action, can go a long way. This is the concept driving Cancer Schmancer, an organization spearheaded by Fran Drescher, which is fighting to improve women's healthcare in America. Specifically, Cancer Schmancer creates breast cancer awareness and strives towards the day when no women die from cancer as a result of late-stage diagnosis. "The Fran Plan" emphasizes diagnosing all female cancer victims during stage 1, when the disease is most treatable.

The impact of attitude is also the basis for Mary Margrill's jewelry collection, M2 (pronounced "em squared"). Fueled by the belief that positive energy can generate inner strength, Margrill creates pieces that combine symbolism with style. While each design is unique, all share a common goal: to bring beauty and a sense of peace to the women who wear them.

Now, Cancer Schmancer's message of hope reaches even farther. Thanks to a partnership with M2, 30% of the proceeds from this event, featuring the "I am healed" collection, will go directly to Cancer Schmancer. Therefore, your purchase of these uplifting, elegant necklaces helps to uplift others. And there's nothing more charming than that."

I can also say that there can be a huge gap in getting to a place where you are healed and actually believing it. I think this necklace is a beautiful reminder.

So if you're interested, click here to join, and go to the M2 sale to shop. The sale will only last last almost 6 more hours or until it's all sold out.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Home Alone

Last night Mark had to work a night shift, and I managed to have a pretty peaceful evening. After driving him in (my first time back behind the wheel) I settled in at home with the latest from This American Life. Then I got out the bag of craft goodies that Mark got me to recuperate with and whipped up something from Folding Trees, where you can find the tutorial for this and lots of other projects.

It's not much, considering all I'm wanting to do lately, but it made for a really nice evening with nary a tv or computer to rile me up. Now if only I hadn't heard that mysterious scratching sound just as I turned out the light.

Also, I had some photo fun just before surgery that Photojojo is talking about today. When I first started taking photography in high school, I borrowed my dad's Nikon, which he'd outfitted with several cool lenses, filters, and flash filters. Unlike the photojojo folks, I was lucky enough to be given the whole camera bag of goodies a few years later for Christmas. So knowing about all those yummy toys was a big part of my choosing the Nikon DSLR Mark bought me for my last birthday. I've talked about the advatages of brand loyalty before. I've now got 5 lenses for my DSLR, and I just got to playing with the vintage ones. The Macro made it out first.

If you've got vintage lenses that you want to hook up to your digital SLR, even if they're not the same brand, go over to Photojojo and find out how.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


So I finally got around to watching the Christina Applegate episode of Oprah which aired right before my surgery. I feel really good about what she's doing to increase awareness of breast cancer, even when you can see it's still really scary and painful for her. It also made me feel really good about how open I've tried to be here. I know an amazing woman who fought her own battle against breast cancer years ago, but I only found out about it by telling her about my diagnosis. She never told anyone, and I respect her choice. Maybe it would be exactly the same if she had to make it today. But I hope that my peers and future generations will know that they can choose to be as open as they like about breast cancer. That there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, no matter what happens to their boobies. I know for me it's been essential to talk about what's happening to me, and I know I'd not be as healthy as I am today if I'd had to keep quieter.

So in that spirit, I'd like to share a little more. One of Ms. Applegate's comments that struck me the most was that she didn't really know at the beginning what a reconstructed breast looked like. I was exactly as ignorant when I started thinking about my choices and it really helped me to know what to expect. I'm most likely not going to be showing you my boobs, but take a look at some of my surgeon's beautiful work here. Gathering information can be so empowering, and I think a lot of women are afraid of breast cancer without really knowing what it could mean for them. I'm not saying breast cancer isn't scary. It is so important to do self-examinations at the same time each month, talk to your doctor and get the screening you feel you need, even if that means going around your doctor like I had to. Survive, first and foremost, but don't let fear of unknowns tax whatever health you have.

Also, please feel free to share my blog to your heart's content. The more women are aware of their bodies and thinking proactively about their health, the more will survive. I don't aspire to write a compendium of the newest in cancer care and prevention; it's still just going to be me here. But I survived because I was aware of the dangers I faced and how to catch them. Let's help spread that awareness so that more women can say the same.

The Healing

Well it's been a very busy week here at our slow little home, though you wouldn't always know it. Mark's been back at work since Monday and that's been mostly okay. All of my busy-ness is going on internally, and I have to remind myself of what my body is doing for me right now to explain the sleepyness. Tuesday we went in to Dr. L's office to have him look at everything and remove all my dressings & staples. The visit went great with mostly everyone really happy. I say mostly because it's hard for me to get excited about something that's still evolving. Like I said before, I'm thrilled with the roundness going on, particularly in my upper chest where things have been so holllow since February. As for the details of the breasts (areolae & nipples), they're still healing, so they're not so pretty right now. And since things will get smaller as time passes, the nipples have to start out 50% bigger than we'd like them. It's . . . interesting right now. I think I'm taking smaller than usual steps due to the groin tightness that's still better every day. And I'm not driving yet. But I'm closer than ever to feeling pretty average and thinking a lot about the celebrating that's coming.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Still Groggy

Hi my friends. I can't say I'm the sharpest of tacks right now but I wanted to say hello. It was so wonderful getting home to so many nice messages from all of you. Since then there's been a lot of sleeping and most everything has continued to improve. Last night was not the best, but when I woke up at 10 realizing that I hadn't had pain medicine in 6 hours and was feeling okay, I was so happy. This afternoon I went in to have my big dressing removed and that went quite well. I saw my favorite nurse, Katie, and honestly didn't check myself out too much. I'm not in love with the staples/skin combination, but the general area looks great, with lots of roundness & no bruising that I could see. The roundness and a little movement are things that I'm really happy with already in contrast to the tissue expander body I had. My groin has really been the most painful thing but I'm getting more comfortable there and moving around much better.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Just got home from the hospital and Jess is resting comfortably in bed! She'll probably be the next one to post here, but let me just say THANK YOU! to all of you for your good wishes, positive energy, and thoughts (not to mention more than one parcel). The friends of The Jess are the best anyone could ever hope for!
Tons of love and thanks to all!
The Husband

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Post-Op Update

Hello friends,

The Husband here. Just a quick update to let you know this morning's case went very well and Jess is resting in the post-op recovery area. We're planning to come home later tonight, will post more updates then. Thank you all so much for your good wishes and positive thoughts!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Yesterday we met with Dr. Ld to make sure my skin was heading in the right direction. While we were waiting for him, I noticed a few red patches on the inside of my elbows and wrists. He came in and agreed that my body breakouts looked much better. Then I showed him the new spots and there was some brow furrowing. Hard to say exactly what it was, but it looked like I may be having a reaction to the Septra I was taking for the original skin problem. We were instructed to keep an eye on it, not continue the Septra if it worsened, and keep planning on surgery.
As the day went on the red spots faded almost all the way away and I didn't think much of it. We had a lot of chores to take care of and Mark was hitting the wall after working two overnights. I took my p.m. Septra and got busy again. Maybe an hour later I was heading into the shower and that's when I saw them. Many more bumps. On my neck, under my arm. Then big welts along my waistband, on my hips and legs. Itchyness ensued.
I spent a really restless night and things had changed very little in the morning. Less puffiness overall, but certainly not normal skin with new bumps on my forehead. Time for the Benadryl and phone calls. I took the Benadryl and tried to sleep a little while wonderful Mark handled getting ahold of the docs. Surprisingly (to me) both my surgeon and dermatologist feel that it's ok to proceed with surgery as planned. We'll be keeping a close eye on everything, of course. But as drug reactions go, this is not actually so bad. The real kicker is that instead of going to Rosh Hashanah services and lunch with our good friends Sydney and Cynthia, Mark is sleeping off a stressful night and morning and I'm chained to a tube of $40 ointment. Still itchy.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

3, 2, 1

The countdown to surgery is well under way, so I thought I'd post an update. I've found it a little harder to get happy about this surgery, mainly because it's not saving my life this time. But last week I turned a corner and I'm ready to go.

Mark has been increasingly sweet in talking about how he'll take care of me. He's even managed to stay away from the tapioca pudding I socked away for myself last week. I realize tapioca is a divisive issue, but trust that it's been a challenge for him. We're also hooked up with a few more gadgets than last time. Mainly this bad boy:

and a lovely LED reading light. Yes, there is also a little stack of books waiting for me. Good ones, I'm assured. But I'm a little sad because I've already started the best book I've read in ages. Out Stealing Horses by Per Pettersen is simply amazing. What he does with language is so fresh it feels like reading Hemingway for the first time. Familiar and completely unique. Luckily, I know I'll be able to read it over and over again.

Also on the readiness checklist we have a lot of homemade vegetarian chili in the freezer for me, arroz con pollo and turkey noodle soup for Mark, a happy ok from my surgeon, stretchy pants, a lot of medication, and a crazy shower routine. A while ago I started having some fun high school flashbacks - body acne. So to keep this stuff in check on the off chance that it could cause a real infection from spreading through surgery (cultures are normal) I'm taking an oral antibiotic, washing with a prescription strength benzol peroxide wash AND a sterile surgical prep wash, and smearing antibiotic ointment inside my nose. It's crazy, but I'm good at spending time in the shower. Just ask my dad, who probably spent years of his life waiting for me to finish my turn. Oh, that's also the reason for my new doctor on the list, the lovely Dermy. I'll see him just once more before surgery, on Monday, to make sure he still thinks I don't have anything that would cause a complication.

A huge part of my being ready now is the massage therapist I met last week. She had me so relaxed and energized after 50 minutes and really helped me to think positively about my body again. Somehow I'd lost that lately. Watching the Beijing Olympics this year I'd think, "The human body is freaking amazing. Not mine, but THE human body." This week I realized how much my body has been through; how much pain it can take and get rid of, how it can get knocked down to weakness and built up strength again. I realized my body is freaking amazing.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Here's One Thing That Happened In Monterey

I learned how to use the timer on my camera in about 4 seconds. An odd benefit of brand loyalty. This also involved running, jumping [and tripping] over rocks, and scattering a lot of sand. A very good day in all.

Friday, September 19, 2008

September Plant Friends

One curse of digital photography: I took 200 photos on our trip to Monterey. 200 photos take a while for me to sort through, improve if possible or necessary, and generally decide what to do with. So long that I'm just not posting about the trip itself. I just don't like posting without the evidence. Soon.

But now lets get to the plants. Before we left I had a lot of time to get our place settled and think about the garden. My last Plant Friend Update mentioned some spider mite incursions, which didn't really fall back after the second neem treatment. I also started to have problems keeping the basil bug-free. So I pulled out the big guns, the carnivores.

These little beauties were just $6.99 for over 1,000 at Walter Andersen's. They have a variety of carnivores to chose from, and their staff will help you choose. I went with the Ladies because they love spider mites, but also eat a variety of other pests. Mark helped me release them on well-misted foliage at dusk, and they just went to town. Plant happiness ensued.

So with such healthy little guys I felt okay leaving them on their own for four days, and it was a perfect opportunity to try something I'd read about a while ago on thekitchn. All I needed was some jute twine (and if you know me well you know I've got twine), a big tub, and gravity. Cut a bunch of twine and soaked it in a large (preferably orange) tub of water, placed higher up than the plants you intend to keep moist. Soak them until they sink.

Then cut off lengths of twine long enough to string them from the bottom of the tub to each plant, plus a few inches. I used a little ramekin to keep the twine in place at the bottom of the tub, but I'm not sure that's necessary. Sting the twine from the tub, burying the other end a few inches in the soil near the base of each plant.

Chopsticks helped me get the twine down without disturbing the soil much. There are a few variations. You can double-up for plants that want more water and push the string down deeper for plants that have deeper root systems. I hooked this up for each strawberry, basil, the thyme, brussels sprout, and the tomato. And it worked great! When we got home the plants were happy and the twine was still wet.

I gave everyone a good watering when I left but the cilantro seemed to be officially done. Since I was going to harvest the seeds for spice, I let it stay in the ground 'till it was a little crispy. I didn't want it to start seeding itself while we were gone, though, so I cut the whole thing down. Now, I had to find someplace to dry it AND collect the seeds in our overstuffed apartment. Enter more twine.

Mark had this great box from his last trip to the alcohol emporium, across which I stretched one of our few remaining plastic bags (oh! sometimes they're useful), which I taped in place. A few pieces of bamboo provided a frame from which to hang the cilantro. It's not gorgeous, but it's kept everything neat and fit right on the very unused fireplace hearth. Yesterday I went through and squeezed off all the remaining seeds. Delicious.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Us, Then

It's a god day for a little looking back. And ahead. I find myself, amazingly, more hopeful than I was on our wedding day. For quite a while this year, I felt that our shiny newlywed promise had been ripped out of our hands. Now I'm okay with the promise we have instead. That we absolutely can get through the icky stuff, that our love will sustain us and grow in - not be diminished by - hard times. And with all of this under our belts, I am positive that there is so much good ahead of us.

Mark's working late tonight. So we'll just be taking a few moments together, reading some words that we tucked away over a year ago, and, oh yes, getting the candy bars out of quarantine.

I'm also more grateful today for what a wonderful wedding day we have to look back on. We would not have that without so many people. Our families, our wedding party, the friends who got on airplanes, the friends who stayed late, the friends who showed up smiling, the friends who showed up with video equipment - you are all a part of our story forever. We love you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

One Year

We're heading out of town this week to celebrate our first anniversary. I think first wedding anniversaries are always big, but it's hard to think that any future anniversary of ours will top this one. The year we've had, and the amazing place our relationship is both in spite of and because of the adversity we've faced . . . I really can't be thankful enough. That we're both still here is a blessing.

The first photo taken of Mark & Jess, April of '04:

Day 1 of Marriage, September of '08:

Our plans aren't too grand, however. We'll be in Monterrey and we'll be relaxing. Since we've been there before, maybe the things we're Not doing this time are more relevant:

1. Getting sneezed on by sea lions with upper respiratory infections. Copious boogers on a wild marine mammal is a warning worth heeding.

2. Wasting time and money eating anywhere other than Tillie Gort's.

3. Driving home along the coast, failing to enjoy the view due to severe car-sickness, pulling over for relief only to be met with a deer carcass just beyond the car door.

4. Going anywhere near the migrating geese.

We learn our lessons the hilarious way.
See you soon!

Friday, August 29, 2008

National Truck Driver Appreciation Week

Am I kidding? Turns out I'm not, but I am a little late. Truck Driver Appreciation Week started on Monday, but you can bet those guys are working all weekend long, so there's still time to say thanks.

Okay, I know. Why does someone like me who cares about local food and clean air want to talk about truckers? A few reasons.

* You think you're depressed when you have to stop by the gas station?

* Tell me this isn't pretty cool:

* Apart from milk and tv's and dirt, which are hard to get excited about but necessary, a lot of these truckers move the military. Like my brother who's spending a lot of time away from his family, one day out from a really nasty oral surgery, making sure the armed forces have what they need when they need it. So yeah I like shopping at farmers markets and I spend a fair amount of time worrying if my dollars are better spent there or at one CSA farm, but there's no better way to do a lot of the stuff they do. There's not one single person I know who's life hasn't been made better by a truck driver or two. Did you buy a completely green pre-fab home? Done, truckers are how it got to your lot. Do you shop at Target? Done.

* Because truckers only make the news when they burn down giant overpasses. A lot of these guys are amazing drivers, with skills you've never heard of, who have an amazing work ethic. Let's take my brother, again, for an example. Apart from his sad mouth, he's been living with a bad back injury. Give me half of that pain and I'd be taking my prescribed pain medication, but he won't because he could be tested at any time - even if he doesn't intend to work for days.

* You know you love it.

So how do you show your appreciation? I'm guessing not a lot of you spend time at truck stops or have cb radios in your cars (although you'd love to say, "Breaker One Niner"). So here's my number one tip: Let them merge.

Ten Four.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I Scare Short People

What do I get up to when my husband's working late? Mani-pedi? Another viewing of "Persuasion"? Cookies n' Cream ice cream and a silly magazine?

Well, not tonight. Tonight I'm dorking out, learning about Firefox Extensions and listening to the DNC on KPBS. Oh Yes. I hear Hillary Clinton just walked out in an orange pants-suit. Faboo, Hill. And what's that? My google analytics want checking? Well, sure. It's dork night, after all.

Hmm. I wonder what those five people who used search engines to find my blog typed in as keywords. Oh no! Nooooo! I'm so sorry, little middle-schooler! Braces are so cool and sexy and nothing bad like this will ever happen to you!!

Dork night's over. Where is the ice cream?
blog it

Plant Friend Update

It's definitely August, right? The weather feels like September and my late start in the garden has it looking like July. Split the difference.
Here's what's up on the patio.
Finally! Some Oregano. I planted, oh, 80 or so seeds this year and last. Here's what finally happened:

Of course now the bugs have found it. But I'm very stubborn, so it's an organic smackdown. I've been using Neem oil on these and the spider mites that are going after one of my rows of strawberries, with decent success. If I start to lose ground, though, I've got a dried jalepeno in the wings for some chili tea, veg oil, and safe soap spray. Hai-ya!

The tomaters are in! So far I've only got three in various stages of readiness. I don't think I have enough full sun for more. The red fellow in the photo there got me a little too excited and I picked it before it was ripe. Yeah, not so tasty. I'm resolved to be much more patient.

The strawberries, despite their intermittent infestations, are still producing sporadically. That's partly the mites but mostly this is their first year, so they're still learning. I think it makes the fruit more fun, though. Every few days we get just one surprise berry that forces us to savor it more while we're sharing our tiny bites.

The heirloom sprout is up! And ready to be transplanted. This guy popped up in less than a week, even after I dropped the seed packet over the balcony and then behind a pot and into a puddle. Great way to treat heirlooms, no? Well I climbed over some shrubbery and employed my husbands long arms and everybody's fine. Next time, no planting in high wind!

And the flowers. I've got more than ever now. Mixed wildflowers, poppies. The zebra aloe sent out three spikes this year as opposed to the usual one. My cilantro has also flowered and is beautiful and bee-happy. I like the flavor of the little whispy leaves, too. So it's still in the guacamole while it gets ready to give me it's coriander seeds.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

On Health

It's a wacky, mixed-up life when the part of your body that's been "impaired" for over 14 years suddenly becomes a source of delight and pride.

Yesterday I went to get the eye exam that I'd been putting off since January because of more, ahem, pressing matters. I wasn't dreading it, but it did give me that odd (new to me) Dr's office palm sweats. I felt compelled to mention my cancer on my little info sheet. It does fall under the "any other medical issues" heading, I think.

I sat for the preliminary tests (will someone please invent a new way to test for glaucoma? One that doesn't involve shooting air at eyeballs? Thanks). Then I got comfortable in the dimmed exam room. A flew minutes of "better or worse," a few very bright lights, and I was hearing some interesting murmurings. Words like "healthy," "strong," and "very little change."

You can't imagine how excited I as. I felt ten feet tall. I clapped my hands like a pony just showed up at my 6th birthday party. Wait, I already had a pony then (don't hate me). Like Seamore the Sea Lion showed up! So I'm thinking. If I go for an eye exam, say, every 6 months, will that positive medical reinforcement help me believe I'm healthy or automatically put me in a new crazy category?

Okay, I'll just keep it in the positive memory bank. Which will be easy once I download and print this free poster from Poppytalk.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


This year I've seen a lot of beautiful people suffer & struggle. A lot of people struggling while their support systems also carry heavy burdens makes life very hard. Somehow I tend to be optimistic about the big things, but I've had bad days where I felt like all the good people are doomed to get chewed up while the bad folks party.

Today I saw something I hope I'll remember for a long time.

We weren't huge fans of our last downstairs neighbors. Starting a massive re-model without a single word to the neighbors who's walls you share is rude. Plus, one of them parked like they couldn't wait for us to sever a limb getting out of our cars. On the way home from errands today, I saw Mr. neighbor, who's all done with the hammering & moved away, getting a ticket.

Thank you, universe, for just enough balance to keep me smiling.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fun With Recylables

I have three packages to get in the mail today, but I wanted to quickly post about one before it's shipped out and forgotten. The giant stack of "pretty" magazines that I keep not for recipes or really any other purpose for which they were produced got pulled out last weekend and stripped of their nicest photos. Hopefully, we will soon be getting a lot less junkmail, since I siged us up at 41pounds.org. I learned about this service at the Chula Vista Nature Center (still awesome) and liked what I read. I haven't received their package yet, so I can't really review them. But the main reason I haven't really launched a junkmail war before is that I couldn't imagine getting organized enough to send letters to all of the companies that send me crap. 41pounds does this for you, and then sends you the letters to just sign & post.

I used to get in a little bit of trouble with the post office for making my own envelopes in my teens. I still do it, but I respect my postal workers' need to read what I send, so I just embellish now. I didn't know everyone well enough to tart up all of the packages I'm sending today. But this one is my favorite.

Are you guys in Mexico yet? Happy Honeymoon, Rob & Tina!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Guy Walks Into a Flower Shop

This may seem like it should be posted on another blog (funtimers!) but it's not, so here's the story.

A guy walks into a flower shop.
He buys a ton of flowers.
Next week, the same thing.
And then again, he shows up.

So what's his deal? Does he have a mad passion for flowers himself? Personal assistant to San Diego's leading Don Juan? Trying to woo his own lady, Cliff-style?

He's a set designer, and his new pilot, about a San Diego flower shop owner, has just been picked up. And, professional that he is, he's hired the very best, Che Bella, to act as technical advisers. Check out a clip of the new show, The Ex List, here (sorry, there's a commercial first).

If you haven't been down to Che Bella yourself in a while, check out their redesigned space, and see if you can snag one of their white branch vases before I buy them all. I dare you.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Mailbox

Hi. I procrastinate.

Anyway, I've gotten some interesting mail in the last few days that I thought was worth sharing. The first, on Friday, was my packet of pre-op stuff from Dr. L and approvals from my insurance. I haven't opened the pre-op stuff because I learned last time that Dr. L's office lists pretty much every horrifying possible outcome on most every page, and they never forget to include death. So while I know my operation will be fairly routine, and now I know me and anesthesia get along just fine, I'm saving that for a day when Mark is not working nights in case I get the freak-outs. Boy won't he be happy. Actually, he will, but it will be more 'glad.' The authorization though, I opened, because oddly enough, those ones tend to make me laugh. I find their specificity entertaining. I get two for every test or procedure so I've seen a lot, but this one was the best. So, on October 1st, 2008, I am having "Bilateral Breast Reconstruction With Silicone* Implants, Bilateral Nipple Reconstruction." If they wanted to be supremely specific they would have written: fabrication out of thin air. Or, I guess, random skin.

I'm not too nervous about this and I'll be happy to have completed this stage. Two things concern me though. The fact that I'll be going home the same day this time, managing pain and post-op maintenance without beautiful angelic nurses, and somehow getting over nasty speed-bumps to get into my house. Also the fact that things will be stapled to me for a while. That will be new. I guess these things should better be filed under Things to Get Over. I will.

Last night's mail was more fun. I'm about finished with "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. I'm liking it. She's not preachy, she's funny and sympathetic while passionate. Anyway, the thing I learned that really irritated me was about seeds and seed companies. Mainly, that when you buy seeds from most co.s and plant them, it is then illegal to harvest the seeds from that plant and use them. The book explains this well. So this week I joined Seed Savers Exchange and bought my first seeds from them. I'm hoping to take advantage of the long California growing season and enjoy my Long Island Improved Brussels Sprouts in the fall. Props to my mom who made me think of sprouts which (aha!) grow vertically, allowing me to hopefully harvest 50-100 sprouts from a pot on the balcony.

*Silicone. I've read about it and it's my choice, people. You don't need to comment.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Last Week's Highlights

Modus - Tuesday we decided to spiff up slightly for a random dinner out and settled on Modus. We hadn't been back since Mark's birthday mixology party and we were happy to catch some of the new menu items. They've got a grilled caprese dish that was pretty much like summer in my mouth. It's a good thing I got distracted when they came to clear the plate; it was about to be licked. It was also good to see the genius Ariana and her new bar creations. 'The Latina' is my new favorite and I don't think I'll be tiring of it any time soon because it's inspired by one of my great obsessions: Mexican candy. Mark had the 'Italian Stallion,' which is lush with orange bell peppers, and the 'Mango Djarum,' spiced fruity perfection.

Umi Sushi - Wednesday, after a slightly stressful Crate & Barrel trip, we decided to get some fresh air in Point Loma and took a lovely evening walk along the bay. We worked up an appetite and a hilarious round of decisions guided us towards Umi Sushi. Thank goodness. It's spendier than the sushi we're used to in PB, but also far more innovative. I had a tempura vegetable roll that was amazing and Mark was equally thrilled with his opener, a calamari roll. Our sushi chef was also very generous, gifting us with a lightly battered and flash-fried salmon with hot sauce and about half a pound of salmon sashimi. In the end, I think we got our money's worth.

The Chula Vista Nature Center - This is the home of our little seahorse friend and many other local creatures. We visited on Thursday and had such a good time. I love centers like this that focus on native regional habitats. I can't really express what a gem this place is. Just the fact that the site of a former gunpowder factory is now helping to protect sea turtles, hundreds of native birds, and so much more. And, you can play with bat rays, guitar fish and their friends without battling the crowds at Sea World. The admission is so reasonable, it's a no-brainer of a good family trip. They even have tours and educational seminars, and a regular installation on all different ways to compost. We plan on going back soon & exploring the walk to the bay.

Don Pedro's Taco Shop - We re-fueled here after the nature center and it was heaven. Heaven! I can't remember better Mexican food. If you're anywhere near 247 3rd Ave. in Chula Vista (3rd and Davidson), I highly recommend.

The Galaxy - A mid-week road trip to see David Beckham? Fantastic. I'll leave the storytelling to Mark, though. One small tip: If you're waiting for traffic to dissipate after a soccer game and you just need to kick something, a bundled up bag of Shakey's leftovers works. But take out the chicken bones first.

Romantic Beach Ice Cream - Mark and I had a lovely visit with my parents on Friday and found ourselves chasing the sunset on our way home. So we seized the moment, grabbed two cones, and found a bench on the coast. I wish I'd had my camera. It was amazing endless horizon. The only downside? Baskin Robbins has completely changed their formula, whipping it up with air to save a buck, it seems. Mark's sad, but I'm happy to stick to my old favorite, Haagen-Dazs.

Mike - Saturday had us up early and spending good time with our friends Sydney and Cynthia at CBI. After a little nap, we headed back to Chula Vista to catch my nephew Mike's baseball game. He's ten and he's fantastic.

The New Linkery
- Family Sports Time had Mark and I down at the tennis court trying to work off a little of that eating out. The Wii at Scott & Justin's must have done enough because we finished the week at one of our favorite restaurants, and even had more ice cream. Hopefully we'll be eating at home a little more this week. Otherwise, we'll need new pants.