Monday, December 31, 2007

Year in Review...Part Thee and a third

The Year 2007.
Year in review...another installment.
Well, let's see we've covered up to June.
In July there was some major celebrite (notice: blogger doesn't do accente gue) in the Rochester area. On July 4th acclaimed race horse Funny Cide took Finger Lakes Race Track by storm.

And yes, you guessed it...the horse lover in me just could not resist. Actually, I've always wanted to see a triple crown race...and seeing a triple crown contender run against horses here in my hometown is as close as I've come so far. Seriously, do you know how much tickets to the Derby cost? This baby. Anyway, at seven years of age this guy with the comical name was considered a senior citizen. The picture to the right is not great...but was taken literally balancing on tippy toe over the crowds around the paddock area. I swear he winked at me. I'm kidding folks...I'm kidding.
Anyway.... Before they called 'riders up' I went to a tent where the owners of Funny Cide were signing autographs for the public. Funny was quite busy and stamping hoofprints would have spoiled his pre-race concentration of course. These gentlemen were some of the most charming and gracious people I've ever had the pleasure to stand in line to meet. Spending most of my summers in Henderson Harbor, it was a delight to meet the hometown heroes; the pride of nearby Sackets Harbor. Yes, these blue collar boys took on the blue bloods and won. A bargain colt became the sensation to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in 2002...just missing the Triple Crown ringer at Belmont. While in line I ran into a former student of mine. With camera in hand my mother snapped a photo for the two of us. Oh, yeah and the race? Funny won. Yep. The old timer proved he had one more win left in him. I will not include any video since I don't have any and basically I was screaming so loud I nearly blew my Mom's eardrums out. What a good sport she was. Shortly after his win at the Wadsworth Memorial...Funny Cide was retired. We saw his last career win...and it happened here.

Later on in July...I left the country...yeah...yeah...I got the heck out of Dodge. Just kidding it was just a three week green card. Here's how that all went down.

When I made it through cancer the second time around I knew I would have to make some big leaps to get me revved up to truly live again. It's hard to feel like you're living when you're trying to just live period.

I guess I could have done something less cliche (no accente gue again) but I believe in know...fate, the universe speaking to you. Does the universe speak to you...if you believe in it, yes it speaks.
After the New Year I got a letter in the mail inviting me to a reunion of the study abroad program I participated in back in college. Hello...Universe calling...At the time I opened the letter I was still a zombie and not capable of even thinking about travels or see ahead to the healthy future. I was in remission but far from recovered from what it took to put me there. Quietly I folded the letter, tucked it away and sighed. ...Leah..come you read? Yet things got better and several weeks later, feeling a little more like myself I wondered...what if? It didn't take much to realize this was something I needed to do.
Beat cancer. Will travel. Problem Numero Solution: use my savings...worry about rainy days later. Something was calling me back to Oxford and to see all the places I've always dreamt about beyond England. Europe.. this had not even been in the travel plan. With a mission I visited the travel agent, had a plan and hurriedly scrawled a letter to my cousins in Yorkshire. I'm coming to see you, I wrote.

Though I really envisioned this trip as a solo venture part of the way through my planning my friend Megan asked if she could go along. Thinking about it a little more, I realized it might be fun to have her along for part of it. Yet the rest of the trip I needed to do on my own. She joined me for 2 weeks while we toured European cities on a whirlwind bus tour with Contiki. I highly recommend this company if you want to travel abroad with people in the 20-30s demographic. The best part besides seeing all these places was truly in the people we shared it with on our bus. I met some of the coolest people from Australia, South Africa, Brazil, New Zealand and Canada...oh and America represented too.

Together we saw Paris, London, Amsterdam, the Rhine Valley and Munich, Innsbruck Austria, Venice and Lucerne Switzerland. In addition Megan and I also saw Brussels ourselves where we met up with a friend of my friend's friend named Julie. She showed us Brussels in a way we might never have seen it if going it as just your ordinary map toting tourists. Thank you Julie for your kindness to a friend of a friend of a friend. By the way, the book she is holding is a thick Bible style menu of the 2,000 available beer offerings at a hole-in-the wall pub in Bruxelles (let's be authentic here). I am one quarter Flemish afterall.
The remaining week I stayed...and just as I had orginally planned I hoofed it by myself in London and in the rest of England. I joined the Bonaventure crew at Oxford. The reunion wasn't as well attended as I had anticipated, but it was so good to be back at Somerville and see all the wonderful old haunts of my time in Oxford. Minus the maximum study power hours and pub crawls it was just like old times. After it was was time to head North for my cousins'. It was a good break from touristy fare. In Yorkshire, I had a chance to rest and I focused on catching up with them. Please see the video to really experience a spot of tea with this charming couple.

As you can see...Jack and Audrey are the two sweetest cousins, not to mention excellent hosts. I ate like a queen after many forrays on food and scarfed up take away on buses and trains. She even made lemon curd, muffins, cookies or biscuits. One night they treated me to Fish N' Chips in town. Though they are both in their 80s now, in their younger days they travelled to countries and places all over the world, including many visits to the U.S., which is how I became acquainted with them as a child. I used to hear about their adventures to far off places. I likened it then to the way Gobo from Fraggle Rock would get postcards from his Uncle, Travelling Matt. They call their desire to travel "itchy feet" and so too have I inherited this trait...perhaps not by nature...but more recently by nurture.

This adventure made me excited about life again...because life in and out of sterile hospital floors and infusion units had really thrown me into a funk. Travel seemed to be metaphorically related to the whole idea of overcoming cancer. Without really knowing if things would work out I felt I could roll with whatever came my way. Yet travel was a good escape from the practical and mundane bits of life. After years of hospitals and holding back on dreams this was my Everest, if you will. It was something that seemed impossible in the throws of all that life had thrown my way. I saw many things I had always dreamed about but just as important I revisited the place where I was happiest in a time when I was most at peace.When I was a junior in college...that summer in England was magical. Bryan Adams sang about the iconic summer of '69...mine was thirty years after that one. I wanted to believe that that summer of '99 could be back in my heart again. It was a dream I sometimes wondered if I would ever live to see. I even hope the chance to go back will come again... but if it doesn't I will always be grateful that I took it while it was here. You see, when you live knowing unequivocally that tomorrow is not assured... you have to pretend that today is all you have. I just hope there are many more tomorrows... And lots more adventure in the future.
I may or may not have a final end of the year post but in any case I want to wish you all a very happy New Year. May 2008 bring all of you the best that is in store!
Cue the hopeful Auld Lang Syne soundmix.

Love Always, Leah

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wow...ten years

Blast from the Past... Circa 1997.
I just got a new all in one printer with scanner. So I thought I would share a picture from ten years ago. Me, on the left. Mar Mar on the right. Time flies. :) Ten years

Leah's Year in Review Part Deux I promised to finish my year '07 recap. I hope this will suffice seeing as how I didn't send out the obligatory Christmas cards this year or the slightly cheesy "newsletter"...
Have you ever read one of those? I mean they are usually the braggy type that say 'Johnny is receiving all A's in school and Martha just got the Statford account so we decided to buy a Hummer.'
So to spare you all I'll just include the more neurotic features of my slightly offbeat life in 07.

Yes, in '07 it was cool to take snappys in Circuit City parking lots

Last time we left off our hero was telling tales of the sublime, the riduculous and the mildly amusing adventures of whimsy. Some redneck novelty shopping, canine birthdays and a cautionary tale of the modeling world...Little did she know more hilarity lay in store.

In early May my travelling was ruled by hunger. This time I am not kidding.
Okay, so with my last post the Kentucky Fried Chicken thing was a stretch, but I really planned this trip around food. Luckily I have cool friends that accept my rather impulsive travel suggestions.

The conversation went something like this.

Leah: Let's go somewhere...

Carol: Okay where?

Leah: I don't know...somewhere in tolerable driving distance

Carol: Okay where?

Leah: How about a state I haven't been to...
Carol: Hmmm...

Leah: What about Vermont? I haven't been there.

Carol: Vermont has Ben and Jerrys.

Leah: Okay...sold...I'm calling triple A. Woohoo!!!

Carol and I had ourselves quite a time on our road trip. I resisted the urge to make her do Chinese fire drills. I tried not to count pi-diddles or pidaddles. However when I tried to engage her in the fifth round of "One hundred bottles of beer on the wall" (the song, not the practice) I was quite unexpectedly pushed out of the vehicle. Don't get me wrong she couldn't have picked a more beautiful piece of scenery in the Northeastern United States to dump the chump in.The picture shown above depicts me trying to wave down a passing motorist. Okay, I'm just kiddiing around. This did not happen. But I had you going there. Seriously, did any of you know that there is a ferry across from that takes you from New York across Lake Champlain to Vermont! Who knew! This was exciting. A ferry. You know how people from Rochester love their ferrys. Ha ha!

Those of you who don't get this joke...well you're not from Rochester so you just better skip ahead. Anyway in the accompanying picture the finger to your left is pointing at New York, the other to Vermont. I figured this would be a helpful visual since you might have never been on a ferry. And again I like my ferrys and I like them fast and furious. I guess I have visions of grandeur when it comes to ferrys. I kept asking where the casino and the wet bar was but the guy in the yellow Gordons fisherman get-up kept looking at me like I had saurkraut growing out of my ears. If Carol really was the type of friend to kick me out of said mode of transport this would have been a very tricky pickle...I didn't bring my life vest. Thankfully all kidding aside, we had a good ol' time on the ferry....and soon enough we were in Vermont!
Let's just put this Vermont...we ate a lot. Yummy! Vermont is a good state for eating. Cheese, ice cream and maple syrup in 20 different varieties. Oh my! The Ben and Jerry's factory tour is a must! By the way they aren't stingy with the sample at the end either.

In June I was a bridesmaid. Alright, alright. I know the old addage. Always a bridesmaid... well.. Shut your yap! Anyway I was a bridesmaid in my friends wedding. A good time was had by all. Well, except for one thing. It was the tradition that every single lady out there dreads. Ladies you know...even if your've been there. "ALL THE SINGLE LADIES OUT ON THE FLOOR." Okay,this is a tradition steeped in good intentions. Some DJs have good natured fun with this. If done tactfully and with good taste it can be a relatively painless experience. However, I think this DJ had been setting sail with Captain Morgan in a broom closet on his breaks. I mean he seemed to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder. These are the times that try womens souls... when single ladies are like deers in the headlights. It went something like this. Hey girls? Hey...hey...what no dates? How old are you? This is where I should have whipped out some kind of tazer or grabbed the air horn I just happen to tote around and scream..."Alright Marlboro man step off before I do my violent version of the electric slide right into your table of expensive equiptment!" Not wanting to make a scene...I relented and joined my friends in accepting the abuse.

Paging Carrie Bradshaw. Your help is needed in the single lady department. Eh...what Carrie's not real? Shoot. I guess we're on our own ladies. Hang tight. Rock on.
So there you have it Part Deux...Wait is there more? You betcha...we've still got one more installment of 2007 the graphic blog-el. If your not too busy polishing the champagne glasses, testing out the nosiemakers or doing whatever it is that gets you through the New Years build-up stop in and read...
...Or I'll just see ya next year.

Friday, December 28, 2007

2007 a review PART ONE

Around this time of year every media outlet seems to crank out a "year in review" show or publication. It's the thing to do, don't ya know.

In 2007 many events were going on in the world; everybody attempts to do them justice.
Of course there was the usual global political unrest, economic disarray and well things were generally unpleasant...if you were tuned into the evening news. However, I am not here to give you all that. So, it is with little fanfare and much latent ambition that I bring you ....
Leah's Year in Review...This is 2007 from my vantage point.
In January I ventured to Baltimore Maryland. Here in one blindingly colorful image is proof that I was kidnapped by two secret agents disguised as children. I later found out that they were covert operatives for the Ray Ban company-

apparently the shade manufacturer now conducts its advertising campaigns with guerilla tactics. The photo op below was achieved by filling me with about 38 ounces of gummy bears, rapping me like a mummy and tickling me within inches of my life.
Because of my saccharine induced state I signed the contract releasing the image and smiled deliriously for the photo. Soon after the RayBan company scrapped this original slightly off-kilter campaign idea. As I understand it, the public didn't connect with the "I wear my shades indoors for nap time" gimmick. Obscure stardom safely avoided. Alas, although my aspirations of ambush celebrity were abandoned I learned from this experience. I will now be wary of kids bearing sugary treats and a promise of a game of Chutes and Ladders.

Okay, the truth. These are my two little cousins. They were just being silly and entertaining their recovering buddy. I finished treatment the month before. The visit was my first outing out of state visit since chemo. I cherish nap time far more then they do. Thanks to AirTran for transportation, making this trip the way...why no more honey roasteds. Is everyone allergic to peanuts these days?

In 2oo7 there were two monumental birthdays of a chocolate variety.
The Hershey company celebrated 100 magical years of delighting chocoholics like myself. But the chocolatey birthday that drew my true attention was that of a four-footed sock eating, underwear shredding, butter licking, couch stealing, counter mounting whirlwind of best dog friend, Lucy.

In February Miss Lucy turned one year old.
The occasion was celebrated by a slice of birthday cake lightly garnished with crumbled milkbone. To be truthful the photograph below was the quieter second celebration which Lucy found quite a disappointment after her blow out party at obedience class. I am not kidding this dawg knows how to party. Things managed to stay under control despite some momentary growling, yipping and whining as Happy Birthday was sung by all in attendance. This was followed by lapping and frantic licking of the Frosty Paws that were passed out.

Heh...heh...Although I was turned down from modeling for fashion magazines at every turn in 2006... Hmmm...something about having no hair, being scarred and having the bloated chemo moon face...2007 proved to be my year. Gilda's Surviving In Style Fashion Show.
In March I strutted my stuff on the catwalk... Yeah, on the catwalk...the catwalk yeah!
It's hard to feel pretty when you've just gone through the ringer but somehow the team of make-up artists, stylists and volunteers managed to boost my confidence. And some friends and family joined the audience and managed to hoot, holler and cheer me on.
Oops,I forgot to do my hip pop thing Lisa.Oh well, there's always next year. My only complaint...the model's food was by far lighter than the banquet I hear the guests dined on.
Come on people, I'm no model. I like to eat!

Speaking of hunger... In April, I was hungry for a little KFC... so I drove out to Kentucky. Well that's only partially correct. My dad and I took our long delayed Bluegrass road trip. Highlights included a tour of Churchill Downs, a campus tour of Union College (which my dad had not set foot on since graduating 38 years prior). We did lots of sightseeing along the way and took in many roadside attractions. We also made stops in Tennesse and West Virginia. The BlueRidge Mountains and the Great Smokies are beautiful in spring time. The picture to the right is my Dad fossil hunting in one of the many beautiful rushing streams in Smoky Mountain National Park. I highly recommend a visit. However, while visiting Bean Station Tennessee I would recommend caution. Stopping for souvenirs is not always encouraged. If you are lucky enough to find a place along the way it might be a study in backcountry oddity rather than a chance to pick up a cherished gift. Just outside Bean Station was a cozy little local place that seemed inviting enough with its rather dilapidated parking lot. Above the store was a sign touting its glorious offerings which read "FIREWORKS, BAIT AND GIFTS". Now I don't know about you but anytime I have the opportunity to buy my decorative explosives, worms and treasured momentos and postcards all in one convenient place...I just can't resist. Despite my Dad's momentary misgivings we pulled in.

We were "sort of" greeted, well barely acknowledged is more accurate, by the four men sitting in fold out lawn chairs near the cash register. As I trolled through the displays I found many things that sparked my interest including a reindeer toilet caddy, a beer cozy with interesting explatives and some rather obscene license plate and mud flap accessories. Although their best seller in the store did catch my eye ...a brightly colored and boldy lettered shirt that said Hi Y'all on the front and Bye Y'all on the back. One size fits all. It was mighty enticing..but I I opted to buy a postcard instead, just to be 'friendly like'. The man who leisurely approached the counter to cash me out was wearing a breathe right nose strip. Mind you this was 2 o'clock in the afternoon...I must have roused him from his afternoon snooze. Roadside kitsch aside I think I learned a lesson from this...never look for quality momentos in any store that combines fishing and Fourth of July must-haves. Oh well.

Tune in for the next installment of 2007 Year in find out what happened in May, June and July and maybe event August of '07...hey, it's winter I don't ski, therefore I write.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The sum of all parts- new fun for scans

Can you believe it? It's been 3 months and I hardly even knew it...CT scan time is here again.
Christmas only comes but once a year but CT scans... they are four times the fun.
I have recently become tuned in to some changes afoot related to scans and how health insurance industry providers handle them.
Basically insurers are now requiring prior approval before scheduling necessary CT scans or MRIs.
Being the novice that I am in all these quite complicated logistics, I found myself remiss in taking note. Truthfully, I didn't exaclty know how these changes would play out. I didn't think about it until Tuesday evening.

Tuesday 5:05 PM

Hello...Leah Shearer?
Yes. That's me.
I am calling to inform you that the scan of your neck has been approved.
Assured and content I hung up.
Wait...oh crap she said neck! Just my neck? I am supposed to get a full body scan!!!!

Ten minutes later...

Hello Miss Shearer?
I'm calling on behalf of &*&% health to notify you of approval for the scan of your thorax.
Wait...someone just called me ten minutes ago.
Oh. yes. this is how we do it now.
Okay, but someone already called me.
Well, what did that someone say what she was approving?
My neck.
Yes...this is how we do it now.

Seven or eight minutes later...

hello Leah?
umm yes (snickering)
Oh...I just called you didn't I?
Yes... (now laughing audibly)
Your pelvis has been approved...(brief pause) I know... this is strange.
So are you going to call me body part by body part?
Pretty much... (now laughing herself)

And so it went... for another 2 calls...just like that. Although my chest came out of order...I think after pelvis...I got the idea. I stopped singing "the thigh bone connected to the hip bone" long enough to let out another hearty chuckle. I began to feel like Napoleon Dynamite. Remember that scene where he's testing the milk for defects?

Neck approved...Yesss! Abdomen....Yesssss! Thorax.....Yessssssssss!

This just really makes me think about how truly inefficient our health care industry is. The time they spent calling me body part by body part could have been put to use some other way, right? Does it seem a little kooky. Even the three separate women that I talked to in 5 string phone blitz agreed with me. Hey, they are just doing their job, taking orders from the Grand Pubbah. Just taking orders from a conglomerate and a larger cog in the wheel of a very messy and complicated system that you and I... and other Americans find ourselves sometimes entangled in. What the hell...what if they miss a body part? Seriously. Paging Michael Moore!!!

I don't pretend to be an expert on these issues in fact I am just your average patient. The only thing I have to look at this issue through is a little bit of common sense.

What is up with my HMO? Gosh...Iditots.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Fabulous and freezing their Jimmy Choos off

Last night at around midnight...or 1 am... under the dim light of a street lamp I contemplated.
I watched gads of young women in their early 20s run around with no coats and skimpy outfits better suited for summer and running across a slippery icy street with 3 inch heels. Mind was 15 degrees Farenheit last night. If you think I say this with a touch of condescension you would be right. I felt like screaming at the top of my lungs
"What are you thinking??"
No coats, no traction and no sense.

I'm beginning to feel sensible and practical in an impractical world. I wore a warm sweater underneath my wool coat, scrarf and mittens. Afterall I am suddenly older and wiser, right? I realize that I can go out and a bout and still have the sense that the big guy gave me to stay warm. Was I ever that callous and unconcerned with regard to my own health and comfort?...No probably not. But the mothering instinct in me is working overtime. I can hear it now, rising up out of my throat as if under the mind control of thousands of matronly shadowy fugures...
Put a coat on, put a hat on...are you wearing that...Do you want to catch your death?

Granted I take most of my fashion lessons from Mr. Rogers. I mean come on, the guy was
working the cardigan before layering was all the rage. And a more appropriate model for sensible shoes could not be found. In fact, sometimes I think Mr. Rogers would be a good model for some of these misguided ladies.
He would probably use a soft and gentle approach:
"Young are special...there is no one else in the world like you.."
"You don't have to be anyone but yourself..."
"When it is cold should always bundle up...protect yourself because you are special."

Yet, I wonder if any of these ladies were watching Mr. Rogers as a kid.
And then I'd have to realize that who I'd really want to finish off this lesson is Captain Kangaroo. He'd know just who to call...Mr. Green Jeans would do his little spin on the catwalk. He'd model his warm, comfy overalls with the stride of a GQ coverboy.
How debonair, how practical, how sensible.

And then Mr. Moose would pelt the ladies with an all out barrage of ping pong balls.