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Monday
May172010

Gray anatomy: the PET scan results are in

It's been two weeks since Joe's PET scan, the post-chemo PET scan to check on the suspicious right tonsil.  We would really, really like to be done with cancer.

In response to an email to his doctor, Joe heard this today:

The result came back and showed that there is even less activity in the right tonsil area which is great news. I am waiting for a call back from the radiologist to confirm that we don't have to worry about it anymore. I will let you know once I hear back from him. Thank you.
For whatever reason, we were expecting to hear one of two things: #1) it's clear, you're done; OR #2) it's not clear, let's get those tonsils out and see what the hell we're dealing with. We weren't really prepared for "even less activity," this familiar yet never comfortable GRAY AREA again. It just doesn't get easier to inhabit this land of uncertainty.
The YogiTea bag I just brewed myself yields the following well-timed message: "Bliss is a constant state of mind, undisturbed by gain or loss." Word, YogiTea. I'm working on it.

Monday
May172010

Serious Sugar Hang-over

A few weeks ago I read an interesting article posted by my friend and neighbor Linda, an interview with Dr. Christiane Northrup on how bad sugar is for women in their 40s.  I am surrounded by people who don't eat sugar, so I've been hearing about this for ages.  Even I think years ago I read a book (Sugar Blues?) about how bad sugar is for you, but I LOVE sugar, so I've held onto it.  Even when we were vegan, I was still a total sugar-head.  Still, I gave the interview a read, then another read, and then decided to stop eating sugar.  If Dr. Northrup is right -- that eating a lot of sugar causes hormone havoc in women in their 40s, who are experiencing perimenopause; that it's connected to migraines and insomnia, not to mention heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer, and other unpleasant things like hair loss where you want hair, hair growth where you don't -- surely that's worth a try, right?  I also liked something I read in the interview, that fat doesn't make you fat: sugar makes you fat.  Permission to eat butter?  Hmmm.

Keep in mind that ours is a house that generally *always* has cookies in the pantry, if not an open bag of dark chocolate chips.  That I do remember one evening finding Joe up on the stepladder, rifling through one of the top kitchen cabinets looking for chocolate (there was none below in the usual places), finally settling on the most unsatisfactory Baker's bittersweet (which nothing can make palatable, believe me).  That the other night I got a one-word text from the kid while I was in yoga: "Cookies?"  And being the person I am, of course I stopped at the market on my way home and picked some up.

I gave up eating sugar about two weeks ago.  It was easy.  It was actually not a problem.  I do remember feeling clearer in the mornings, and definitely felt steadier throughout the day -- no highs and lows.  No problem not participating in the afternoon sugar-fest at the office.  As luck would have it, we had a potluck lunch at work and I drew dessert.  I brought strawberries.  Really.  Next I'll be handing out raisins on Halloween, right?  But those strawberries were delicious.  I had no interest whatsoever in the lemon tart, the brownies, the other sugary delights loaded on the conference room table.

That's so weird for me.  It usually doesn't feel like a party for me unless there's chocolate, but here I was eating strawberries and feeling fine, not missing out, feeling good in fact.

Until this morning.  Yes, this weekend was the big graduation of the boy.  I had a small piece of cake at the post-graduation reception, and a bigger piece of chocolate cake last night after dinner at home.  And this morning I feel like utter shit.  I'm not kidding: I feel completely hung-over, super-fuzzy, tired, listless.  I got plenty of sleep and there is no other reason I can think of for this feeling.  The only difference between yesterday and the 13 days before, is the sugar intake.

So I'm climbing back on the wagon, to see what happens next.  I could have another piece of cake, see if the sugar picks me up, but honestly I have no interest.  I'd rather crawl into bed and sleep this off, give in to how fuzzy I feel. I miss my old friend Sugar, kind of rue losing that life-long relationship, but not enough to go through this again any time soon.

Sunday
May162010

Graduation in May

BFA.  NO BIGGS.  IT'S CASUAL.

So reads the graduate's Status since sometime last night, post graduation parties.

The ceremony itself was too long, far from casual in the first dry hour of speechifying and institution-building, but then delightful when, essentially, the students took it over.  Then the real feel of the school came through and it seemed clear why it was such an appropriate home for all these weirdos and crackpots and geniuses, each developing in their time at the school whatever singular talent, peculiar vision, they possess.  Delightful.

In the long two hours of the ceremony, finally the sun came out, though the wind was still utterly polar.  It took me hours to get warm.  The courtyard was packed with people and delicious eats, and it was so great to wander around the various galleries and rooms, checking out the kid's work on the walls, that of his classmates and peers.  They do put on a great party at the Art Institute, but how not to: the building just seems made for it, ideal for walking around, mimosa in hand, looking at whatever's hanging in the courtyard, whoever's hanging in the courtyard, all the smokers out front, relieving the pressures of the morning.

And in the crowd, to catch glimpses of the kid so exhilarated, running around, being hugged and congratulated by tons of people we don't know, other students at the school, friends who came to see him graduate.

More than his walk across the stage at the sound of his name to receive his diploma, that part -- the glimpsing him in the deep embrace of his people -- was the real graduation for me, the happy knowing that he made it through, he persevered, he made his place.

And that's what it's all about.

Friday
May142010

Full, proud Mother's heart

Tomorrow our son graduates from college. Our kid, now a grown-up, will be receiving his Bachelor's of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute.  It's a little hard to believe, and I'm trying to get all of my goofy Mom emotion out ahead of time so I don't make a mess of the mascara tomorrow at the ceremony.  But I know I will anyway.

At left is the artist as a very young man, in the phase during which he toted his coloring book and crayon briefcase with him everywhere.  You realize, I hope, that I am taking a tremendous risk in posting this photo; the repercussions could be jagged, but like I said, this is me getting my goofy Mom out as a precautionary measure so I don't make an utter spectacle tomorrow in front of strangers.  We are so proud that he finished college in four years, that he was a disciplined student (or so we're told), that he learned a lot from this experience.  How can it already be over?

And now he will move on, move out, move up, into whatever it is that he chooses.  It's such an exciting time for him and for us who are observing him as he heads off into whatever comes next.


I've felt so lucky to have him close by throughout college, and now really close, back living with us since October.  It's such a special experience to watch someone you love, someone you grew, come into the fullness of who they are.  And now really truly to stand on the threshold of adulthood.  So, so exciting.

Congratulations, Laurent!  You make us so proud and happy and delighted.

Friday
May142010

Drive To Work day

Driving to work on Bike To Work Day pretty much sucks.  I cheered everybody on their two wheels yesterday while wondering at my own self.  Yes, it's a hybrid, but still it's a car. Yes, it gets 45 miles to the gallon, but still it's 10 gallons every week or so, so I'm still part of the oil problem.  And to think that 15 years ago, I used to bike everywhere, we rode Critical Mass every month. I used to take our son to school and daycare in a bike trailer.  Now I commute 44 miles total a day, in my car.  What the hell?

Two big events in the past month have made me think about this more than ever.

First, the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull, the volcano in Iceland.  I admit to a fondness for natural disasters of this kind, so many warm memories of the post-terror clarity of earthquakes experienced in my home town of San Francisco.  Everything you think of as normal stops, you re-focus, you learn to live without telephones or gas, you break out the camping stove and eat in the street with your neighbors like we did on Liberty Street in 1989. You walk down Castro the next morning, in the quiet of after, and stand in the crowd assembled outside the plant-store and read along with everybody else the limited edition newspaper that's taped up in the front window.  You talk to strangers.  You make do.  

With the volcano, a whole lot of people had to make to do without flying.  I am not in any way minimizing the disruption and havoc this created in a lot of individual and corporate lives, but people had to stay put.  And without the vapor from so many aircraft engines, these same people got to see a bluer sky than they had in years, as one writer put it, "as if somebody suddenly ripped a veil away, exposing the true colors of the heavens."  It's almost absurd how silver lining that is!  Not a bad thing to have to make do with.  And it's our habits, the ease of flying here and there, that creates that veil between us and the true nature of the sky.  How lovely to be able to stay home, not fly away, and look up and take in a deeper-blue, quiet, empty sky.

Second, of course, is the criminal  and tragic man-made disaster, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, especially with today's news, as reported in the New York Times that BP was allowed to drill in the Gulf without permits from the agency that assesses threats to endangered species and over that same agency's strenuous objections!  And that the 5,000 barrels a day that we keep hearing about is an understatement. This oil spill makes me so sick at heart.  I can't imagine the thought-process behind the whole operation, it just seems so utterly insane. 

So, lately as I emerge from the Waldo Tunnel 5 mornings a week to the stunning view of the Golden Gate and San Francisco glittering beyond, I am really thinking about my part in this insanity and about how, if I didn't have a car (and paid parking), I would never even have considered taking the job I currently have.  The car is what makes the job possible, and the job pays for the car, along with everything else I have. But if I didn't have the car, ergo didn't have this job, along with an extra 1 1/2 or so a day not spent behind the wheel, what would I have instead?  How would I make do?

This is the year I get to find that out, since really, it's time.  By next year, May 2011, I will have shifted the circumstances that keep me in the car.  Next Bike to Work Day, I'll be on two wheels too, no matter what.