Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Happy Holidays from the Little Elf

Happy Holidays from the Little Elf

Sofie's Basketball Debut

Proud mom that I am, I had to share these photos. Last week was Morehead School Spirit Week, with a grand finale on Friday - a basketball game between the teachers and the kids. Sofie got picked from her class. Not based on any basketball phenom stuff, she just got picked. But it was a big deal for the kids. First, you have to put in all in context, so here is the line up for School Spirit Week:

Monday, red/white and blue day
Tuesday, mismatched shoe day (she wore two different rainboots)
Wednesday, Wacky Wear Day (she wore shorts on top of her pants and shirts layered)
Thursday, Team Jersey Day (wearing the orange shirt of the Dutch Futbol Team from the World Cup, betcha that was classy for a first grader!)
Friday, School T-shirt day concluded with the students vs. the teachers basketball game.

She had practiced all week. Never mind that she is wearing the wrong shoes, she has all the right moves and got a sports injury (her first) to boot! Recored in the photos.

Jamie was able to actually go and watch, I was doing my last day at work before having the gallbladder surgery yesterday, so these are Jamie’s photos. Sometimes I really miss these once in a lifetime mother moments.

Enjoy. She is not that good at making shots yet, but she is very enthusiastic. The kids won, by the way. Yeah, right. And the elves brought some of her gifts to Durham early since Santa knew she was traveling. It is lovely to believe in all that.


For more on her Santa experience, read Jamie's blog entry:


Nip and Tuck

If I were talking plastics, you would probably think “enough already” with the surgery. But alas, it was much more mundane. Yesterday, knowing full well that I had to get on a plane on Thursday (essentially three days later), I had my gall bladder out.

I never had a gallbladder “issue” until after the chemo, when I experienced a big flare up in early October. Wanting nothing to do with doctors of any sort, I tried to will it away. No luck. I was sent for the requisite ultrasound and told that although it was not “acute” I had best see a surgeon. Still in fierce denial, I saw two, hoping that one might say that if I changed my diet a bit, it would go away. No such luck. Both advised surgery sooner rather than later. After a post Thanksgiving flare up, I relented.

My surgeon is a busy guy so it was a scheduling thing for him. The best I could get was yesterday. So my dear and faithful friend Betty picked me up at 5:15 and we were there well ahead of my 6 am call.

After cancer surgery and the neck thing a bunch of years ago, the gallbladder surgery seemed like a big whoop. Except the anesthesiologist had to go over all the risks of surgery and anesthesia, including “stroke, heart failure and death”. I know it is his job, but until then, I was hardly even anxious. Mostly I was concerned that I be able to get on the damn plane on Thursday. I had made my reservations (with miles!) eight months ago, and nothing was keeping me from this trip.

Long story short, I was home by 1 pm, it truly is amazing how the human body, not to mention the medical system, works. With some vicodin to offset the soreness, I took a looong nap. Then was awake for a short visit from Sofie at the end of her day, so Jamie could get my prescription to fill it. The pharmacists must think we are some kind of weird family, between us both needing chemo related drugs and vast quantities of pain killers in a short amount of time.

I had rented a movie I had already seen so that I would not have to work too hard to enjoy it…I popped in The Devil Wears Prada at about 7:30 so I could stay awake long enough that I would not wake up at 3 am wide awake from sleeping too early in the night.

It worked, I fell asleep about 9:45 and slept nearly 11 hours. Kind of like two or three nights in my sordid sleepless past!

Today, I am sore but walking, talking and emailing. I have to go back to packing shortly as that was the goal for the day.

I am not usually one for New Year’s resolutions, but I think this time I will resolve *not* to have any surgeries of any sort in 2007. That seems reasonable!

Happy holidays to all. I tried to get out a bunch of cards, but if I missed you this year, please know it was likely due to the craziness of being interrupted by the surgery and the getting ready for the surgery. And consider yourself greeted!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Let There Be Light(s)

Hanukkah begins at the end of this week. And as you might imagine, with Christmas only a ten more days after the start of Hanukkah, the community is already ablaze with lights of all sorts, including our neighbor's home next door.

The week they put up their lights on the trees outside, the interogation began: "mom, why don't we have lights? Why only candles on Hanukkah? Grandma in California has a tree, why don't we have a tree? ". That sort of thing.

I grew up with Christmas trees inside, but never had the outside light experience. Maybe that was even too much for my mom (culturally Jewish, if not participating). It was always strange to know I was Jewish, but we had a tree and "celebrated" Chistmas. Here we have been attending the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (ERUUF for short), and mostly I feel very positive about it. Both the "old minister" (Mary, the assistant minister) and the newly installed minister are terrific and I feel a sense of peace whenever I enter the sanctuary. But I always feel a bit like a fish out of water, too. Because as generalist as they try to be, and as accepting of all people and all faiths as I know they are, it is still referred to as a "church" by many and feels, well, not Jewish. That is not a criticism, it is just a statement of fact.

So when the holidays roll around (the serious fall ones or this time of year, for Hanukkah), I try to immerse Sofie in all things Jewish. We have a stack of books about Hanukkah and lighting candles and we have played several rounds of driedel, but this year, she started asking me "why couldn't we have lights outside, since although she was Jewish, she was also Unitarian". I finally decided that lights, if they were that important to her, we not gong to destroy her or my sense of identity, not really. Then the tasteful side of me wanted to encourage her to do all white lights ("boring") or white and blue (a gesture, however lame, to Hanukkah). Also rejected, she wanted colors.

So we went off to Target, my source for all things, and I was befuddled at the choices! Strands ranging from a few feet to many yards, twinkle type or not, indoor for sure or indoor/outdoor. And how exactly was I to find the extension cord that would run all the way to the side of the house where the only (known) outlet was?

After many questions posed and answered by the distracted and overwhelmed looking sales associate at Target, I made my choices and we left. And went home to attempt to decorate the house (still striving for tasteful). We have two little evergreen type trees that our friend Beth used to stage her house a few months ago, then gave to us. Perfect for my first foray into holiday lighting!

A bit later, as she plugged in the lights, she just glowed. These are her contribution to our house, her responsibility to turn on and off in the morning. And she can look out from her bedroom window at nightime and see them. All in all, the light in her eyes was more significant to me, but I got it.

The lights are part of her experience. And now they are part of mine. On Friday, I am taking our Menorrah to her classroom with another mom and explaining Hanukkah to the first through third graders, complete with some jelly donuts and driedels to play (and gelt, of course). Me, the girl from Queens who did not light a menorrah until I was in my forties. And Sofie and I are practising, so she can say the prayer with me.

We are kind of making it up as we go along. Some nights we join hands and say a little blessing before we eat. This is something our friend Paul did when he was with us in the bay area, and I like to do with her sometimes. Tonight, visiting new friends (from ERUUF) and having a spontaneous supper with them, Sofie suggested we say a blessing. And she did! I was totally charmed and also aware that she is beginning to develop her own sense of the sacred. And she is only six.

The spirit of the holidays, all of them, is everywhere. You just have to look.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Day in the Park

Had to try to share these cuties of Sofie, taken by Jamie today. I was home, loving the alone adult time, spending time with my friend Betty, with whom I enjoy just hanging out, running errands. Finally got the Hanukkah gifts wrapped, and started the holiday cards...but I am only up to the E's. I should start these in October.

Speaking of starting early! I got her camp applications for summer 2007 in the mail and another via email today. Hard to plan for June, July and August on the 2nd of December, but if you snooze, you lose. And she for certain wants to go to Camp Riverlea again, she loved that the most last year.

Sofie's pigtail hair is a great way to avoid the hairbrushing it takes to untangle the knots. The surface hair is smooth but underneath, it could be a total bird's nest. Poor baby, it does seem to hurt to brush it all out, but we routinely go through this torture on an every other day basis at least. I told her it happened to me when I was a little girl. That seems in hindsight to be one of those cruel mom things, as if doing it is justified by having had it done to me. The things that escape my mouth sometimes!

The Question About the Hair

So to all of you who have asked about "the hair", here is an old shot, when it got buzzed! It is quite similar in length to this today. Maybe a tad longer, but not much. Maybe a tad more silver! (I am six months older than in this shot). Remains to be seen if it will get curly as everyone told me it might.

This was taken when I was at the hair buzzing/wig place, it is Sofie's official babushka'ed shot!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Remembering the Lights

Today is World AIDS Day and I did not have a place to be. All day, I had the strange vague feeling that I was supposed to be somewhere. Unsettling, until late this evening, when I finally left my office and the relentless onslaught of e-mail I battled all day, and then, while I was walking to the parking deck, I got it. The lights of the cars under the bridge to the deck suddenly reminded me of the flickering candles of so many AIDS vigils and marches. And then I remembered that I was supposed to be somewhere like the National AIDS Memorial Grove, surrounded by others, to remember.

But the Grove is thousands of miles away, and so I let the car headlights be my candles tonight. The memories came flooding back, sweet, painful, sad. Powerful. My life these days has very little connection to the life I had in the HIV community for over twenty years. But today, something much bigger than the day to day schedule took over, and I was able to stop, to meditate on the lessons learned, the friends lost and those still living with HIV.

My life has changed so much because of HIV. I know without any doubt, that I was better able to deal with my own cancer because of so many of the people I met along the way, doing battle with an illness for which cure was not an option.

Today, I had to schedule gallbladder surgery for a few weeks from today. I did it with all the fanfare of making an appointment to get my teeth cleaned. Life has certainly shown me some perspective. And it started a long time ago, in the beginning of the epidemic, in my thirties, when I was not supposed to be losing my friends. I grew up with HIV in some ways, and I know I live my life differently because of it.Tofeel like I am supposed to be somewhere. This feeling was with me, vaguely, from the time I woke up, all day, and continued as I left my office late this evening (well, later than usual) and walked to my parking deck. The lights from the cars under the bridge to the deck reminded me, suddenly, of candles. And I started to remember so many of the bright lights in my life, now gone.

Candles have lots of associations, from birthdays to Hanukkah, but on this day, the thing I remembered the most was the marches. The AIDS vigils, those candles flickering, struggling against the fog and wind of chilly San Francicsco nights. And the sense of solidarity standing among strangers and friends, silently, remembering, praying, crying, wanting.

I know there were World AIDS Day things happening on campus at UNC today, but I had things to do and well, that is just not a part of my day to day life anymore. It was for over two decades, so the lack or loss of it still feels odd. Like I have a dual sense of being here and being at the National AIDS Memorial Grove or somewhere else, producing an event or doing something in memory of all the friends who died. And in celebration of those still living.

So tonight, instead of the flickering candles, the lights around me had to do. I meditated on those I love, still living with HIV. And those I don't even know, around the world, dying from a disease that should have been fixed by now. I listened to W today at the White House "commemoration" of World AIDS Day, and once again, he just sounded like an idiot. He should not be allowed to speak on occassions like this, his lack of any grasp of the real issues, the scope of the world pandemic make anything he attempts to utter sound trivial and stupid. And it is anything but.