Sunday, February 24, 2008

My stomach is not in Kansas anymore

This is my fridge. If the picture appears bleak and stark it's because the emotions simmering beaneath the growling stomach of its photographer have somehow seeped into the pixels.
Have you ever eaten so well on vacation that coming home is a reality check?
My cousin Colleen is one of those cooks who can make something traditional taste new and exciting and every bite is like a celebration. Somehow she can whip up everything with seemingly effortless flair. Rachel Ray has nothing on my cuz.

Anyway, I have to say I've been eating like a queen this past week.
Now, the hardest part of adjusting back to my usual life is getting my stomach to agree to its old routine. Back to Healthy choice meals, take-out, yogurt and bowls of bran cereal. My digestive system and my tastebuds are rebelling .Ahhhhh!
  • Must dig up my cookbook.
  • Must delete Chester Cab Pizza from cell phone.
  • Must start cooking again.
  • Resistance is futile.
  • Good food is soul enhancing.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Leah Rides Again

Thanks to my cousins I had a little bit of a chance to go relive my youth.
While they are stationed in Kansas my cousin, her husband and the girls take horseback riding lessons together as a family. When I was making my travel arrangements she mentioned that Friday was their day to ride. My heart started thumping like a little kid. The chance to ride again?

I watched the girls riding and it just brought back so many happy memories of my own childhood and my own horse, Bear. It was hard to hold back my enthusiasm as I readied to get back in the saddle, literally. It had been eight years since I last rode. The last time was on a guided tour through the Lake District in England and I was with a tour where only walking was permitted.
Auggie was the horse the girls had selected especially for me. As it would happen, it was a very good choice. He was a soft, gentle horse with a sweet way about him. Not too spirited so I was confident enough that my rustiness wouldn't be too much of an obstacle. Don't be deceived by the picture, it doesn't quite do him justice. I just couldn't believe it. I was going to ride again!

Riding a bicycle comes back to you like second nature, or so they say. Somehow the learning, the ingrained kinesthetic patterns write their way into your brain. So too, I found, is riding a horse. All of it came back and woke up that part of me that had been so long absent--that girlish giddiness that just clicks right through my heels into the stirrups. I trotted circles in the indoor ring with Colleen and Tim all the while thinking "this is so cool." How can you have been away from something for so long that gives so much happiness? The answer is time, change and circumstance. A generic and shallow excuse perhaps, but I find it amazing how one special reminder can jolt like electricity through you. And as I walked bowlegged through the airport like a regular cowpoke, I smiled and thought how even the most unfamiliar journeys can bring you back to yourself. A very special trip indeed.
Thanks again Colleen, Tim, Julia, Emily and Shelby. Miss you already.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

No twistas...just ice and snow

Here I am in Leavenworth Kansas, which to my surprise is a February break spent just the same as in dear old Rochester. Cold, snowy, icy and thoroughly winter. The only thing missing is lake effect. Driving back to my cousin's house from the airport-- Julia, 8 years old and too cute for words said "Leah, unfortunately there's not much to see out here in Kansas except for prisons." She suggested taking my picture outside the federal of four in Leavenworth alone. But really I could have my pick, according to this world wise third grader. "It's a landmark, you know, Leah...just like the Eiffel Tower."

So here you have it folks... Kansas' newest resident may or may not have been arraigned here--at this courthouse...none other than Michael Vick. Apparently he is at one of the prisons here.'s not the mean ol' witch you should fear any more.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Follow the yellow brick road...

I've been feeling better thankfully. Right now I am packing my suitcase and getting ready for my trip. I'm going to a land of flat and cold, but that matters not when people you love are there. So any of you spending your February break in a warm sunny place I guess I'll just say bring the sunscreen.I can not wait to see my cousins!

I don't have much time to share anything really mind blowing. So you'll have to just settle for this quote.

"A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles." – Tim Cahill

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I've launched the all out zinc zap

Here I am again, lying in bed. This time it appears to be the normal variety of sickness...a really bad bug that I've been fighting for a week. Everyone at work seems to have had it. Staff members and students alike have been dropping like flies, taking sick days and excused absences. Now it's tag and I am it.

I just happened to catch what I'd been trying to run from. Like some heroine in a really bad horror film running in a chiffon dress from some hideous beast from the deep...I was cornered. This nasty cold is definitely a horror. But I am no Fay Wray.
I ditch chiffon in favor of some rather mundane work clothes. And the running...that was more like weeks of obsessive compulsive Purell squirting and the occasional ducking into the staff restroom for surgeon worthy handwashing (fingertip to elbow). However in the most crucial times, the last two weeks I've gotten so busy and consequently, forgetful. I kept delaying the purchase of that tube of Airborne at the drug store. I'd been meaning to do that. I forgot to take those extra vitamins. And my biggest slip--I should have thrown the slipcovers of our couch in the wash. The same slipcovers that my roommate's friend spent most of the weekend on--coughing. The signs, the warning flags were all up, but I was just so busy I forgot to be compulsive this time. This is the best proof that I can present that I am not OCD. Seriously folks, who has ever heard of a forgetful obssessive compulsive person?

I guess I just have to live with the fact that sometimes people get sick; everyone gets sick. With the exception of some people I know who literally never get sick, but I digress. I thought I'd share with you some interesting musings on this subject, you know... while I kill time being fitted for my plastic bubble.
I am big on looking to the positive. So let's think about some things on the plus side.
If the origin of one's illness is the throat, a raspy voice often results. Women especially, do not despair. Have you always harbored a secret wish to be a phone sex operator? Okay, maybe not...but I'm just saying. Although, truly I am kicking myself for not summoning up my inner Eartha Kitt and heading to some karaoke night to sing My Funny Valentine. I mean really, sick on Valentine's Day. Sometimes we don't answer opportunity when it knocks.

Also, yes, the cosmetic aspects of bugs or colds are rather frustrating. Red swollen nose, the chapped muzzle from constant nose blowing and gasping for air...they can be unsexy. However again, I embrace this. Why not be the trend-setter in this case? . I found this contraption, available on the internet (of course) to be not quite haute couture but definitely statement making. It's the perfect blend of fashion forward and function. Get a load of this headgear...enough to make Joan Cusak's character in Sixteen Candles jealous.

Last but not least: how many times do we say to ourselves...I just don't have enough time to spend sitting in front of this glorious television. Please read sarcasm here in case you missed it. Nevertheless, I have wondered what all the folks of Salem have been up to on Days of Our Lives. Such a shame to be left out of that loop while busy living my own life, right? Well, in all seriousness, if you've had to be sick for as long as I have been, you start to feel like these characters are old friends. I mean maybe it was about time to reconnect...after all, that sand has been slipping through that hourglass without me paying any attention for a good year. So in between sneezes I flipped on the t.v. To my horror just about every major character of Salem was aboard a plane that was about to crash. Great, now I tune this the end for our heroes? A whole town wiped out in one episode? Well, frankly as they freeze framed the horror and angst laden faces I realized that it's the same ol' Friday cliffhanger. Whoa, I have deja vu (or deja view). You have to remember that with the writer's strike, some long standing lack of creativity and the popularity of ABC's Lost I know the ending...

Monday their plane will land violently and dramatically but insidiously slowly (it will take two commercial breaks just to get to the impact) on some desert island. They'll all survive the crash except for the one actor or actress whose contract has expired...he or she will be killed off. After all, with HDTV they can't be showing wrinkles that close up. The characters will do their choreographed mourning, shed some pretty tears and slow-mo embracing, cue the Celene Dion song- this all provides filler for the Soap Opera Digest award montage. This will be played out for about two months or so. They'll struggle for their lives, craft some sarong like clothing and contemplate their options for survival. Somehow despite their apparent peril, every actress will have perfectly coifed hair and perfectly applied makeup. My guess is that they dig harder in the planes rubble for the Elizabeth Arden beauty bags then the radio or cell phone to get them out of there. All survival concerns aside: the couple du jour will find some conveniently comfortable cave, grab the candles that they happened to pocket before the 10,000 foot nose dive and in their emotionally overwrought states get really romantic.

Ending on that note what more can I say but assnuuufff, hack, acchhhhuuuu! These are the Days of my life.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Google puts the sin in cynical

In the past I'll admit that Valentines Days in singledom have been a bit of a thorn in my side. However with that kind of attitude, looking around just gets you in trouble on February 14th. You can not escape the big celebration each year, unless you nap through it. Every corner is swathed in pinks, reds, flowers and hearts. So rather than escape this day...I embrace it. I can feel good about this holiday even if I don't have Rico Suave at my door with a dozen long stemmeds.

I started this Valentines Day off on the absolute right foot. I even smiled and nodded at the garbage man while he blocked my exit out of the driveway this morning. I waited patiently and as he pulled away he gave me a nod and a wink. Folks, that's what I call passin' on the love.
I'm just trying to enjoy a non-cynical Valentines Day. But this time it was Google who got little edgy. Just so you understand, I usually check the Google main page every morning. Personally, the HOW TO of the day is usually a favorite tid-bit to check. Well if the How To of the Day were to set the tone, it shouldn't be today's How To. Today's HOW TO of the day was...check for yourself if you read this today,
How To Make a Voodoo Doll.
You could argue that this is just coincidental, but my bets are that some lonely google programmer was feeling particularly cynical today. I would like to free all of us to feel however we want about today--- the day that Hallmark CEOs watch the dough roll in. Whether you're feeling happiness, jubuliance, excitement, sarcasm, ambivalance or otherwise about Valentines Day...I just hope it doesn't inspire you to suddenly take up needlecrafting of the black magic sort. Yikes!
Happy Valentines Day friends!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

it all began with my Fisher price radio

I didn't 'come of age' in the 80s, I was just a kid. This didn't change my fascination with its music. When I was about six or seven years old I got the coolest gift ever. It was a Fisher Price radio, lightweight and portable with a little suitcase handle and most importantly a microphone attached the side. I repeat: COOLEST GIFT EVER.

This gift did not produce a future American Idol but it would fuel a life-long obsession with singing along to the music. Karaoke would seem somehow a natural progression in my 20s; the bi-product of a childhood carrying this thing every where I went and whipping out the microphone to stamp my own elementary school stylings on the song. I wasn't picky--I dueted with both Billy Idol and Billly Ocean. Get Out of My Dreams (and into my Car) was a personal fav...I said hey, hey--you you.... get into my car. Being a card carrying member of the Whitney Houston fan club with my own 8x10 glossy I gave a stirring rendition of Savin' All My Love For You as a fourth grade dynamo. I could have been a schoolyard DJ if someone had given me the training and turntables. I had my own party goin' on...a little Banarama, Bangles, Madonna, Katrina and the Waves and for good measure, I believe Steve Winwood and Bruce Hornsby were in there too. So you ask me why I can't resist singing in my car. And you ask why I can't help but feel that little stirring when I walk by a bar that says Karaoke Tonight. While the rest of the world was caught in the whirlpool of this decade of decadence...happiness for this little girl was her Fisher Price carry along.

Monday, February 4, 2008

gots to get my vote on yo!

I'm not going to get political or even tell you who I am voting for because that is far from the point. Just thought a reminder would be in order...
Super Tuesday is tomorrow... Stand in line, cast your's your right.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Didn't he bring down the Berlin Wall?

Okay, after that last post..and the news that Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter (that's twelve more weeks for us Western NYers) ... I realized you blog readers might need some cheering up.
Nothing says cheery like David Hasselhoff on a tire swing.

Paging Michael Moore

I was facebookin' it this morning and an ad for John Grisham's new thriller popped onto my field of view. I couldn't escape it. The title. The Appeal.

The title stopped me dead in my clicks. The Appeal. Now this timing could not be more on target. I am in the midst of one of these with my HMO.
I grappled long and hard (well all of five minutes of key stroke,delete, keystroke delete) with the decision to actually write this down on a blog. I guess when you wear your heart on your blog for some things it's hard to not to do the same for others. Especially, something that I feel so strongly about.

After my radical neck dissection, my neck and face were changed, well radically. After they slice you like a tuna can from ear to ear and remove muscle and tissue, and a hockey team's worth of lymphnodes things do change. The natural outcome, aside from obliterating the mutant invasion of cancer is not so pretty, even three years later. Now that I am in the clear with cancer numero uno and numero dos I decided to do something about it. My doc and prospective plastic surgeon warned me that I would be denied even with his letter and explanation. He was right. Denied. I appealed. They denied. Even with a letter from a state senator, picture documentation and persuasive letters from others on my health dream team. Of course they did. I was prepared for this, but not so soon. Just four days prior to getting my appeal decision I had gotten a HIPPA form to sign. You guys all know that. HIPPA, hippo. WTF. I was getting ready to put this in the outgoing mail when that day's incoming mail brought me my lovely little letter with attached thick packet to take it to the state level if I so choose.

Somewhere in some dusty HMO basement is a big rubber stamp.
Before things had to be all "P.C." they'd spare themselves the trouble of crafting these touchy feely letters to Jane or John Doe and just stamp it on the top of a big blank page.
It might as well have said "sucks to be you", "tough luck chump", "invest in a good psychiatrist...but we won't pay for it."

So with that said, you might even be siding with my HMO if you are looking at it from the "business" of things. Yet, let me ask you if you have ever heard of the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998. It allows women to receive breast reconstruction if they so choose after a mastectomy and their HMO must pay. Good move. As a friend of several breast cancer survivors there's no doubt in my mind that this should have been passed long ago.
We are approaching the 10th anniversary of this landmark decision. Yet my question remains- is a reconstructive or corrective procedure only limited to one kind of cancer? Do the psychological affects of a radical operation somehow lessen because it wasn't my breast?

As I spoke to my patient advocate on the phone I realized I was not preaching to the choir.
Naturally, I'm not feeling the advocating vibe from a woman whose salary and benefits are paid for by the folks that are denying me. Over the phone the aforementioned HMO "advocate" misidentified several key pieces of information in my appeal. She even incorrectly identified my before picture taken prior to my neck dissection as the after. She had the nerve to say "I fought for you." Sure. I'm not an authorative person...I tend to be tenderhearted, but lately I've felt the lion coming out when I stand up to these HMO paper pushers.

For the Blue Book suggested retail value of a 1988 Yugo I have the chance to have something corrected that was a undeniable result of cancer extraction. DENIED. Go figure. Now I am thinking they may not have heard the last of me.