Sunday, October 30, 2011

Being Italian

When I sit in the quiet early morning and reflect on my life or my day or my feelings, I can sometimes feel melancholy wash over me. When this happens I turn my thoughts to all that I have in my life, who I am, who I've become over these past 57 years.

I am grateful for so many things in my life, very simple things, the smile and laughter of my grandchildren, a really good meal prepared simply in my kitchen with love and purpose, the people in my life, the ebb and flow of kindness and goodness that has come my way.

I am especially grateful for my heritage. I love being Italian, I love the fact that my Dad was born in the mountains of Abruzzi, Italy, he grew up poor but happy and optimistic, he didn't even own a bicycle, he had to borrow one if he went to the nearby towns. But he was happy, he tells me often that he spent his youth by his grandfather's side. There he leaned to treat people with respect, he learned to help out with the harvesting of grapes for wine of olives for oil. He took baskets of eggs on that borrowed bike into the village to sell. Once when he was biking down that hill, a little too fast to be carrying eggs, he felt himself falling, he told me he was smart enough to land on his back with the basket raised up towards the heavens so the eggs wouldn't break! He still remembers that story vividly and I think he was 9 years old.

I feel such a connection to Italy. When Clint and I travel there, no matter where we go I feel a familiarity to everything. I am home, I am among the people and culture I know in my heart. In the years of my childhood I heard that musical language everyday and saw the way that my family acted together at meals, at prayer, at leisure. We did everything together, everything. I spent my youth with my parents, near them, around them learning from them and enjoying life with them.

Our neighborhood was all Italian, therefore I thought everyone was Italian, and how lucky they all were.
I treasure my family history, my family abroad, each and every one of them. When I meet with my family in Italy they open their arms and hearts to me as if I didn't live 3000 miles away. They feed me and embrace me and love me and remember all the good times they experienced with my father.

I want to share my Italy with everyone and I do when I take people on my trips, when I teach an Italian cooking class, when I speak and tell stories of my parents arranged marriage and how my dad came here on a boat with nothing but his lunch, as my mother likes to say. My parents married only knowing each other for mere months, but they are good people and they did it and I had the most wonderful magical childhood growing Italian.

And for that I am grateful... every single day.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What I miss

This morning as I am sitting here with the wind and rain and snow blowing outside my window, I am thinking of how things are so different now.

We have very little connection with people. We connect with automation. If there is a problem we call and do we get to speak to a person? no ~we have a voice, a disembodied voice giving us instruction, repeating words that have no meaning, press one for this, press two for that, to get connected to a real person I have to break out in a sweat!

This past weekend I had an experience to drive me to drink.

A few weeks ago I went to the ATM at my bank to withdrawal money, it was early in the morning before bank hours, I withdrew $400 and low and behold $287 came out. In between the 20's were fives and ones. I was shorted $113 dollars.

I came home and immediately called the bank, after jumping through a series of hoops, I was told it was not the banks' problem, call the debit card company, I called them and fumbled through more recordings, until they finally put in a claim. Yesterday I received notification the claim was denied, they said the correct amount came out of the ATM,~no it didn't. I called back again and was shuffled like a deck of cards on poker night around and around, when I finally got to talk to a person, after a long time of me saying "person please" into the phone to an automated voice, being transferred god knows where, trying, hoping just to get to speak to a person instead of a recoding.

I spent most of the afternoon going between bank and debt card company, nobody was taking responsibility for this mistake, each transferring me or sending me to yet another automated voice.
I realized this is just one incident, just one time, but we no longer have communication with a human being. I am all for modern technology but sometimes it goes too far.

Our life is full of automation, automatic bill pay, automatic help centers, automated direction, cell phones IPADS, people walking around and yes, God forbid driving ~looking down! on the cell phone and texting.
On another note, but really the same thing, we now have super stores~ supermarket and stores that carry everything from diapers to lamp shades to ground meat.
What happened to the family run businesses, the people we can interact with daily, where did they all go?
Life is full of press one press two.

That is one of the reasons I shop only at family businesses, I want to talk to the person cutting my meat, making my pasta, selling my vegetables. I want to have a conversation about the weather, about how to cook something, about how they are doing. I want human contact. I want to resolve my issues with someone who cares, not a robot voice that just transfers you to another robot voice.

Seek out the family run businesses, seek out people you can talk to, commiserated with, share a laugh, a story, a problem, people are all around us and everyone is on the phone paying attention to something other than what they are doing.

It is time to stop, stop and smell the roses, be in the present, be aware of who is around you. Know that we are all in this together, that we can help one another and that we need one another.

Growing up in a very Italian small neighborhood, I had the pleasure of shopping with my mother. Our stores were on the corner, around the block, up the hill. We had a few butchers, with meat hanging on hooks, pens outside with lambs at Easter time, turkeys at Thanksgiving, butchers who carved your meat, made your sausage, talked to you about preparation and care. We had corner grocery stores with fruits and vegetables so beautifully displayed they looked polished.We had the bread man, scents of freshly baked bread and pizza on a Friday night filling the neighborhoods. We had the chicken man, in a little row home filled with cages of live fowl chosen by you to be freshly butchered and ready for a Sunday roast. The women stopped and talked to each person, exchanging recipes, gossip, smiles, concern.
I miss the neighborhood stores. I miss the interaction with real live people. I miss making a phone call to resolve an issue and hearing a "Hello" at the other end.
Slow down, take your life a moment at a time, talk to people, ask questions, make eye contact, laugh with someone, share a story, an idea, a recipe, a smile.

We go around much too fast and life as we know it is passing us by.

Take some time to interact with people, your life will be richer for just that!

Friday, October 28, 2011


Can't help but have this emotional roller coaster wave of feelings washing through me.
Anxiety, fear, frustration, sadness, fear, did I mention fear? uncertainty, frazzled nerves, and yes fear.

It has been too long, too long to reflect, to think, to anticipate, to wonder and be afraid.

I am human after all, and even though I think I am strong, I may be strong, I still have these emotions~ that do not serve me, that do no good, I know all of that but they are still here, leaking out into my day, into my thoughts, my conscious and unconscious thoughts.

You would think that after all I have been through these past months I would be able to handle this with boxing gloves on. Getting into the ring with confidence. Facing this liver operation head on.
With bravado,with swagger, with confidence.

Maybe I will, once I get there but these days before are offering up a smorgasbord of feelings.

I went down to Jeff yesterday for my pre-op testing. Left the house around 11AM home by 6 PM. I was put in a room and signed in by a clerk, visited by a Physicians assistant who went through my whole medical history.
Next came the EKG lady, followed by a women pushing a cart with tubes for blood, it reminded me of the Dim Sum restaurant I go to with my mom, only she had tubes for blood not sticky rice and pork dumplings!
I also had a consultation with the Anesthesia doctor, followed by a chest X RAY. Everyone was thorough and efficient. Making this all real. I am on clear liquids the day before the operation and I will be doing a cleansing. I will be notified about the time and location the night before the operation. Not sure yet if he will scoop, burn or zap the tumors, he will know more once he opens me up, I am told. Not sure of the length of stay either. So there is still some uncertainty but I have heard from more than one person that my doctor is the "ONE"~ the best there is, someone even went so far to say that they would not have anyone else operate on them, that makes me happy. I have a more than good surgeon.

I am an optimistic person so I am expecting the best, the best recovery, the best outcome, the best results, the best looking scar!

I am healthy, I am energetic, I am lucky to be in such good hands and have so many people praying for me and thinking about me and sending me love~Thank you everyone!

This has been a roller coaster ride and I am now going up that big hill, click click click, ready for the big drop. Am I ready? ready as I ever will be!

Think of me and my liver on November 3rd!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Simple Things in Life

I find lately that I am enjoying the simpler things in life, the small things that make me feel good each and every day.

The situations or happenings that I really didn't pay too much attention to before now give me a satisfying pleasure and best of all they are free and happen to just about everyone:

~Doing a load of wash and finding money in the dryer or in a pair of pants or the bottom of your handbag, such a great surprise, even a few dollars makes me happy!

~Making the yellow light, now I don't mean racing to catch the light but driving along and getting through when you thought you wouldn't

~Fresh clean sheets, the absolute best feeling~ crisp and clean and cozy

~Sleeping in on a rainy day, I have a tendency to jump out of bed even when I don't have to get up but on a rainy day there is nothing better than pulling those covers up and just listening to the rain outside (on those clean sheets too!)

~Receiving a hand written letter or card in the mail, with email and text no one takes the time to write a note anymore, I love to get mail and it always makes me feel special

~Finding a parking spot, ever go into a crowded lot and think you will never find a spot~ well you are right, think the opposite, plan on finding a spot close by and it will magically appear!

~Laughing out loud, it just releases everything, all that pent up stress we carry around without even being aware of it, laugh freely and loudly, each and every day, it lifts your mood immensely!

~Pure silence, I get my dose in the early morning, quiet, dark and a promise of a new day.

~Sitting in the sun, find a spot where you can feel the sun on your skin, even in cold temperatures this feels heavenly, ever watch a cat, they find the tiniest sunny spot and camp out!

~Really good simple food~ there's nothing like it!

~Hearing a favorite song, music can change your mood, it lifts us up, brings us to a long forgotten memory, it can change your mood in a musical beat.

~Receiving a compliment, we often are embarrassed when someone pays us a compliment but just say thank you and enjoy it, it feels much better then poo pooing it away

These are just a few of the simple things in life that can change our mood, make our day and allow us to be in the moment. Take advantage of what is at your doorstep!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Celebration and Thank you

I know the year ended too quickly, in a way we didn't want, disappointment is hard to wish away. We are Philadelphia fans and we want to win, but I think it is important to go back and see just how much fun we had watching this baseball team. Cheering for Hunter Pence, watching Halladay, Cliff Lee, the hours of excitement, the fans, the cheers, the hot dogs.

This season was fun, even for me, who really is not a devoted sports fan. I know about the Phillies from my grandsons. I get an update daily, who pitched, how the runs were scored, what the standing were. I heard a blow by blow description of each and every game. I got into it, I started watching the games on TV, cheering for Chooch, yelling for the Flying Hawaiian, it was fun, it was exciting right down to the end.

To watch a game on TV and see a sea of red cheering fans, to feel the excitement, to hoot and holler along with everyone else was a real treat. These guys are good, they are fun to watch and it is a real experience to go to that beautiful stadium and watch a game. I have Phillies fever, and I still do despite the loss. I want to focus on the big picture instead, the games played week in and week out, the excitement and the competition was awesome.
So I am sharing pictures of a birthday party planned around the Phillies back in May. Christopher's 7th birthday~ his request~ a Phillies party, with Tina's creativity at work.
It was all things Phillies and I send out a big thank you to them for a great season, no matter what!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Great Expectations

It has been more than a month since I went to see my liver surgeon and he recommended surgery.

I followed his protocol, making an appointment for an ultrasound, which took two weeks to procure, followed by 5 days before he called with the results, followed by 5 days before I could get in touch with the one scheduler who schedules his surgeries. She was out of the office for 5 days (he had to know that when he told me to contact her) It was almost a week's time and still counting I may add that I am now waiting for the date for surgery. I left numerous messages, to the scheduler, to the office, to the surgeon, none of which was returned until today almost one month later. I did get one return call telling me it was a holiday and another saying the doctor has yet to return her phone calls. I felt like a crazed women and they must surely think I am.

If Cancer feeds on stress, there is plenty of it here in my body.

Today finally, after I placed two emotional phone calls last night and two this morning I heard back from the doctors' assistant. When I explained my situation she told me she would be upset too. Small consolation for this situation I am going through.

I am always very nice on the phone, no screaming, although God knows I want to, almost no crying hysterically, I have to breath before I call. I NEVER ever get a live person, just a recording promising a call back, which never happen.
I am talking about a big hospital here, it is JEFFERSON, supposedly one of the best this area has to offer. My doctors are the tops in their field. Being on top doesn't necessarily give you the right tools. I am learning that.
There is a major disconnect between the actual practice of medicine and the humanness of the patients.

My idea of health care is just that, the Doctor would help me and care about me and be there for me in some small way. He doesn't have to hold my hand, although that would be nice and show me he is human. He took me on as a patient, but I am finding I am just a number, another set of paperwork, another procedure. What happened to the kindness, the caring, the healing, the understanding?

He deals with this all the time and I would think that he would know a patient is anxious after getting testing, any kind of testing not just for Cancer. Five days or more is too many minutes, hours, days to wait to see if the Cancer spread. I would think he would realize that my days are anxious, stressful, that I want to get this out of my body, that I am relying on him for my life. I am not just another number, another file, another liver. I am a person with feelings and hopes and family, I have a job, I have a life I want to continue living.

Are my expectations too great? am I unrealistic? foolish?

I really don't think so.

This blog has been about keeping in touch with my friends, my clients, my support system, but it also is a way for me to get out of my head what is going round and round. I don't sugar coat anything in this blog, it is what is happening and how I see it and how I feel. Those of you who have followed from the beginning know that.

I needed to sit and write today. I needed to put to paper what is dancing around in my head. To lighten my load, to get it off my chest, to have your love and support because believe me, I get more from the ones who read my blog than I do from my doctors.
And that's a damn shame.

By the way, the scheduler just called, my operation is scheduled for November 3rd, 2012
(just kidding about the 2012 part)

Sunday, October 2, 2011


I just read somewhere that when you are in a state of "on hold" it can make you feel edgy and in turmoil.

So that's what is wrong with me!

I have been in that state for a few weeks now.

On hold waiting for the liver surgeon to get back to me with results.
On hold as I waited for the scheduler to get back from vacation.
On hold now as I wait to schedule surgery, last week was Rosh Hashnnah, the doctors were unavailable.

I am in some sort of "learning mode" the universe is trying to teach me patience.
It is making me more impatient!

Trying to stay busy, I am leaving no room in my mind to "not think", no room for clarity, no room to listen for the answers to the questions of my soul. I realize now I am narrowly focused, making my life harder, my choices difficult, I need to step back, get a wider perspective on what is going on.

My decisions have changed daily, with me see-sawing back and forth, surgery? no surgery? Although the thought of surgery is frightening, the very thought of NOT having the surgery, letting that spot grow inside me, is even more frightening.

So I called to schedule, but once again I was on hold, it was a Jewish holiday last week and the doctors were not to be found, more waiting but hey I am getting good at this!
Hopefully someone will get back to me tomorrow as promised with some answers.

Dealing with Cancer doesn't come with an instruction video, although I think that might be a good idea. I realize that every person is different, each decisions is personal.
I need to stop, breath, clear my mind and have peace in my life.
That peace of mind will come once this spot is "OUTTA HERE" as Harry Kalas used to say!

I will continue on my healthy path, doing what is good for my body and I will have the spot removed from my liver, just as soon as I can. When I spoke to the scheduler she told me the doctors do this type of surgery only twice a month, every other Thursday and October is booked so this may not come as soon as I thought but at least I will be on the schedule and my mind will have a break from the "business" of thinking and trying to figure everything out!