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!