Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bye Bye Boobies

Today is a big day in my life.  I mean REALLY big.  Today, I am fulfilling a promise that long ago, I made to myself.  Today, I'm having breast reduction surgery.  Plain and simple.  A mammoplasty of major proportions.
A year ago I started to do battle with my insurance company. The same one that turned me down for a varicose vein repair. The same one that I know to have approved more "not medically necessary" procedures for clients I have dealt with, than I could possibly count.  When it came my turn, I got refused because I did not have sufficient evidence of it's necessity.  So, I spent the entire year breezing through my insurer's money.  I visited doctors of all specialties.  I began treatments with a chiropractor.  I itched, ached, tingled and numbed, all of course due to my breasts.  I made very sure this time that I had documentation and topped it all off with an Xray of my upper back which proved, beyond doubt, that there was no "pathology" and that my complaints were all due to the fact that I own heavy breasts.  There, it's out.  In case you never noticed, mine are large breasts.  I cannot say that they are out of proportion with the rest of my body.  It's not exactly a small body. But, I will say that their presence has prevented me from exercising and from doing what it needed to be done to make the rest of this body smaller.  Did you ever try yoga when you have large breasts?  They get in the way.  Tap dancing.  Wow!  It's painful.

There are so many problems associated with large breasts and I've lived with them for 64 years.  I never, ever had small perky breasts.  This, I blame totally on genes.  My mother, her mother and her sister all shared my problem.  Her sister died from breast cancer.  My mother had breast cancer.  I've already had a lumpectomy for what could have been a malignancy but God spared me.  Thus far.  Most women do not enjoy having mammograms because they find it painful to have their breast squeezed for the one second that it has to be.  I have lived with so many unpleasantries associated with my breasts, that I don't mind this at all.  What I do always dread is the time sitting in the hospital johnny gown, bra-less, waiting for my turn.  Okay if I'm the only patient.  Not okay with a room filled with normal sized breasted patients who don't look like mother cows without their bras!  Can't wait for my next mammo.  I'll sit there topless if I want to this time.

I have made my decision after a lot of thought.  Not all of my thinking has been based on vanity or even comfort.  I am on a personal campaign to attenuate some of the cancer risk factors that I have inherited.
My mother has had colon, breast and most recently, uterine cancer.  She's in Hospice care at the moment.
I'm diligent about my colonoscopies, mammograms, GYN visits and do all I can to try to beat the odds.
I can't go back and relive my life, I can't change my genes or heredity, but I can change my future or at least I can try.  Very simply, having less breast tissue might mean having less cancer growing space or at the very least, having more accuracy in early detection.  I'm already scheduled for a preventive total hysterectomy in the fall.  I'm truly a work in progress.  I owe this to myself, my mother, my children and grandchildren.

But then there IS the vanity part of this story.  I'm having my breasts made smaller so that I can wear pretty bras and can find them on the upper part of the bra rack in the stores.  In case you haven't noticed, the large sizes are always on the low racks so a big woman has to practically lie on the floor to find her size...if it even exists.  Short of that,one had to shop in a specialty store, where a clerk does the finding-of-the-size and the prices are top shelf.  Oh, just when you get a bra that feels good, fits well, and has all the right features, the manufacturer decides to make a few changes and your's discontinued.  Why? Why????
Bathing suit shopping is another nightmare.  If I find one that allows my anatomy to stay put, I hold on to it for years and years until the straps start to lose their tone and I show up at the beach looking like a saggy baggy camel.  Not a pretty sight. But this summer, it will be different.  This summer, I will have my choice of swimwear, not from the bottom rack.

Oh, and one more thing.....sorry guys but the show is over.  I'm done with being the object of your cheap thrill. You'll have to start looking at my eyes.  Of all the good reasons for my choice, your gross and obvious stares will end.  I'm not wearing any more of those "hide" the breast shirts.  I'm wearing what I damned well please and you will not make me feel uncomfortable ever again.  Find someone else.  Especially YOU, you know who you are the "gentleman" who everyone thinks of as "gentlemanly" just because you are Italian. I can hardly wait to see your eyes when we meet again.  I should have spoken up sooner but instead, I outfoxed you, you old fox.  Now you can focus on your wife's "rack".  I'm just a little old pancake and I'm loving it.  Had my surgery on Thursday and I already feel like a brand new woman.  I'm lovin' it and I'm thanking God every minute.  A good husband, a good surgeon, wonderful nurses and a healthy body that's healing well at the moment.  Bye bye boobies.  Amen.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

I don't know, maybe it's just me or maybe it is "me".  But when I was a little girl, Mother's Day was a big day. On the second Sunday in the sunny month of May, the rest of the world stopped and Mom's world restarted with a bang.  No, it wasn't a major holiday, but it was an important one, especially in our family.  We never accepted invitations to events such as weddings or dance recitals.  We made plans, bought new outfits, sent cards, purchased plants and lovely gifts for Mom and Grandmother.  Dinner was special with cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, gathered for the big meal.  Moms were celebrated, emulated and likened to the female saints who we came to know from their statues in our churches.  On this day in May, Moms everywhere were treated to breakfast in bed, first thing in the morning, and wearing their corsages, saluted in their churches as parish priests asked them to stand and be counted.
My father was a different man in those days.  He was a family man who held my own mother in a special place. His eyes were not yet dimmed by the fear that now makes him difficult to converse with.
He respected and loved Mother and was never shy about making that known.  He lost his own mother as a teenager and it was in my mother's home that he found the mother who would sustain his need for many, many years.  My grandmother was his new mother.  So, Mother's Day was extra special.  He taught my brother and I well.  We knew from our earliest days that there was one day out of all the rest that would be the day during which we showed the most love, the most respect for our Mom.
When I was growing up, all I ever wanted was to be a mother.  I loved the whole notion of having children of my own.  So, it was fitting that the days calculated in determining my first baby's due date started on May 8th, a Mother's Day.  Back three months, ahead seven, a due date of February 16th was to be the date.  Three whole weeks later, my very mature first born baby arrived.  His pediatrician diagnosed him as a real,true, living and breathing example of a post-mature infant.  Wow, already my baby was special!
As the years progressed, another baby, our daughter arrived and now my dream was totally fulfilled.  A boy and a girl, a husband, house and a fireplace.
I have so many photographs of the early years of our little family.  So many of myself and my husband looking happy but tired.  We worked hard.  We had extra smart, active children and we did not want to deny them anything.  Dark circles, hairstyles that always looked like a trim was in order.  No fancy hairstylists or expensive wardrobes for us in those days.  Just lots of love and resolve to do our very best at all times.
Now it was my turn to be the mother of honor on the second Sunday in May.  There were handmade cards, breakfasts in bed, sweetest of gifts, some handmade, some purchased on clandestine shopping trips with Daddy.  My own special day, surrounded by little loved ones.  A big day to be sure.
But what has happened?  When were my children given permission to change this?  Who told them it was okay to grow up, to have lives of their own, to live where they want to live and do what they want to do?
I think it started in the college years.  Kids away at school didn't come home for one non-major holiday, or so I professed.  Stay there!  I know you love me!  Don't spend your money!!  I started to send the message that it was all okay with me.  Now that I think back, it really wasn't.
Miles now separate us.  My daughter is a mother and it is her turn to be the special mommy for the day.  I am delighted that her husband and her little girls recognize that.  I would be bereft if I found out that they did not embrace the opportunity to show her just how much they love and respect her.  My son does not have children. Nor does he have a wife who takes on his responsibilities.  She "does" her parents, he "does" or "does not" his.  The day comes, the day goes.  No card or phone call.  Sad, but true.
My own mother is very ill now.  It will be a true miracle if she sees another Mother's Day.  She didn't even realize that today was Mother's Day until I arrived bearing card and gift.  She's medicated so that she does not have pain.  She didn't wish me a happy Mother's Day.  I'm hoping that her day today includes some prayers to our Mother in Heaven and some thoughts of her own long-deceased mother, thoughts that I hope will bring her some comfort.
My husband made sure that I had a very nice day.  Card, flowers and a beautiful lunch out.  Just like he did in the "old" days.  He knows I still have the need to feel special one day a year, this one especially since I took on the new role of caregiver to my mother.  He did a darned good job covering the bases and I am so grateful to him.
When my mother finally departs, I will give up my Mother's Day expectations and do what a lot of other moms of my generation do, treat it as any other day.  Times have changed.  My life has changed.  Now it's my granddaughter's turn and I just hope they do a darned good job of it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I should have known when I met my future in-laws, forty five years ago, that coffee would be the "other woman" in the life I was soon about to share with my husband.  When I visited their home for the first time, I was astounded at the array of coffee makers that they owned.  Some were in present use, some just sitting in the kitchen, having been tested, discussed and put aside for their failure to produce the perfect brew.

In my own home, the simple percolator had simply been replaced by the newly introduced electric Farberware pot.  The Farberware was streamlined for its day, easy to use and reliable, at least by my parent's standards. Now, don't get me wrong, coffee was an important part of the daily life of my family.  We never started a day without some version but we were unfussy and easily satisfied, going through jars of instant coffee every month.
My father needed a cup of coffee to accompany his chocolate doughnuts.  My mother needed hers to get me to sit down with her at the table where we held our "breaks" from our ritual Saturday morning cleaning sessions.

I have so many memories of the life that Joe and I have spent together thus far and as I open the file in my brain, thumbing through those, I find that I stop at the letter "C" a lot.  You see, he inherited his parent's obsession and we, also, have been through many versions of brewing implements as we marched forth in our quest to find the perfect one for our needs.

Our married life started out with a little percolator pot that sat perfectly on top of a burner on the little gas stove of our first apartment.  Brought to the boil and then turned down to simmer for exactly seven minutes, the little pot yielded nice little cups of coffee.  Cups that got us through many a sleepy morning or late afternoon drowse, courtesy of our sleepless wonder baby.  Of course, we did own both a four and an eight cup Farberware model.  What bridal shower would be complete without those gifts?  These, however, we  reserved for company.  I knew that I had a place in the family on the day that my mother in law oohed and aaaahed over what she considered to be then, and still now at her tender age of 97, the best cup of coffee she's ever had.  Yes, it was I who held the honor of delivering this to Senora el Exigente herself.  A perfectly aromatic, full-bodied cup of coffee that I made, plastic lid from coffee can, right there in the brewing basket during the entire ten minutes that it took to produce.  She still talks about it.

We've had the good fortune of having traveled both in this country and abroad as have our relatives.  In the family archives, are many a postcard on which the word "coffee" makes an appearance.  "Great hotel, nice view, lousy coffee"....."Beautiful area, great weather, mediocre hotel, great coffee"......"Good coffee here but no half and half!!!"......"Miss you, wish you were here, bringing back a bag of the local blend for you".
No matter where we find ourselves, we always find ourselves seeking coffee.  My husband can not go very far without it.  I've even known him to take the train into Manhattan, en route to meet me for dinner, first stopping for a cup of java at Grand Central Station. Weddings, lavish parties, school plays and parent's nights, I always knew the words were coming.  "Where's the coffee?"

Now you would think that Starbucks would have a special place in our hearts.  Surprise!  We are not fans.
Perhaps it is the type of bean, the price of a cup or maybe it's the ambiance that we don't like.  Instead, Duncan Doughnuts and MacDonald coffees are much more satisfying.  Could it be that we are too old for Starbucks?  We would never admit that but we do meet a lot of "our kind" of coffee lover on lines at the less elite places.

At the moment, I am thinking of the very best of the very best and of course, Italy is on my mind.  There isn't a postcard in the world capable of describing the role that coffee plays in the experience of visiting this, the coffee capital of our world.  I can smell the cappuccino and the espresso.  I have visions of that first cup that we enjoy soon after our arrivals in the Rome airport.  No matter where we are headed next, we take the time to sit and savor.  Absolutely perfect, every single cup.  Beautiful in every way.  A sea of white foam, a random pattern of cinnamon sprinkled atop, an aroma drifting upward, taste buds meeting in the middle.  I hesitate before the first sip for I do not want to disrupt the beauty in the cup.  That first lovely cappuci brings the promise of so many more as we set off on our journey.  Delightful elixirs to be enjoyed only in the mornings.  Afternoons will bring us to tiny cafes or bars for quicker pick-me-ups of espresso. I can see and smell those places and long to be there. With my own stove top espresso pots, the little lavender one a gift from our friends in Umbria, Giselle and Mark, and cans of imported espresso coffee, I simply cannot reproduce what we take so for granted in Italy.  One has to be there, not just dream of being there.

As I look up at the clock, I am reminded that it is time for "Elevens", time to go load up the basket of our beloved Capresso coffee maker, time to get ready for Joe's return from his morning work.  I just know that on this rainy morning, there will be nothing that he will want more than a fresh cup.  We need it.  It is, after all an important part of our lives.  We'll talk about our plans for our next trip to Italy.  We can't do that empty-handed!