Saturday, October 27, 2007

Riding Thorugh the Would


- Remy Charlip, from "Arm in Arm" 1969

posted by amp - am riding the would as fast as I could

sorry - we'll get back to business soon - think we're getting a little punchy from the wait

Friday, October 26, 2007

For those who question the value of waiting

I choose not to wait
Having learned its downside
Through years of waiting for godot
While gnawing on Ferlinghetti’s bones
And fondling Hamlet’s indecisiveness.
I choose to do
Clean and simple
I prefer stepping into the abyss
Its silver lining hid by despair and self-deception
But present in a moments daring action
Which clears the cluttered fear-filled soul
Draws strength from the stealth of darkness
Reads the message at the end of the rainbow
Its’ how you play your hand, man!


ps. we have our ducktors lined up, both surgeons next monday, oncologist on thursday and a chemotherapy class following the meeting with the oncologist.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

no news is

. . . well, no news.
Apparently, the pathology report will not be done until next week. So, I am bummed esp. that Larry rearranged his sched for nought. Next Monday is the target now, adn I will check with them Friday to see if it is imminent. - amp

fires and Nina - last post, promise

just wanted to note how stunning it is to be home recovering while Malibu (and San Diego and San Bernadino) is burning - it is frightening and only adds to my sense of appreciation for how much I have - and my desperation to cling to it.

No talisman, no amount of flowers, cookies, chicken soup can possibly touch the wealth I feel from all the care of friends and family. I am blessed so many times over, I've lost count.

Last week, my daughter Nina interrupted her studies to fly down and be with me through the weekend - Nothing has meant more and somehow with all the stories and thank you's posted here, I never got that across -

Just having a momentary cuddle with her, watching "The Lady From Shanghai" - was spectacularly healing. Should make us all realize that we shouldn't wait for sickness or crisis to take those moments in our lives. (ok - delivery crew from Hallmark is removing my soapbox now)


Let the Dogs Go Loose - Last post for a while

This poem was sent to my husband by a friend and colleague, Nazare, with the accompanying note: Poetry for light strokes when heavy is like led. Thinking of you, wishing you well.

It is astounding and I have really been touched by it. It represents my own conflictual relationship with the acts of "creating" and "being."

All of us dogs need to be let loose - to be present, enjoy and engage in what exists, look up from our "piecework" and let creativity spring from that.

Hope I'm reading that right - but it works for me - thanks Nazare:

Letting the dogs go loose

Let the dogs go running

They’ve been down too long

Let the dogs go find herbs

Let them make new scents

Let them run the park

To Hide or to bark

Let them, El Retiro

Let them, Central Park

Go by the museum

Find their own Picasso

Let them mix with Gray

Juan would be so happy

If they were what may

May, so full of flowers

Let them now break loose

Mess up Bugambilias

Let the dogs run freedom

Let the dogs now roam

Make some great Kandinsky

Run amuck in Rome


October 20th 2007

The Potato Rock

Story as told and written by Gretta Keene Sabinson (Grett- Larry said it'd be ok to post this here)

(Note: for those of you following from the previous blog - you can keep the David Allen Coe cue'd or switch to Yoko Ono's "Kiss Kiss Kiss." That's what I'm doing.

The Potato Rock

My mother had a relationship with potatoes. Not surprising since she had bright red hair and was covered in freckles so large they looked like droplets of butterscotch. Young children, who didn't know yet what not to say, would ask to touch her skin. She was Irish and her people had died for that tuber. She loved potatoes and believed in their power. There was no problem that a big helping of potatoes couldn't at least temporarily cure.

We ate a lot of potatoes.

For spitting anger, only mashed would do. She sat at the kitchen table, newspapers laid out over plastic cloth, her trusty rusty potato peeler in hand. Fast and furious she would flick those peels until sometimes, without thinking, she rendered an entire sack of potatoes white and newly nude. She mashed those potatoes with a vengeance; creating a mound so large it rose up twice as high as the pale green bowl. There were always leftovers. Some she mixed with egg and served as breakfast fritters. The next night she might smear the rest into a thick layer of crust for her tuna casserole or shepherd's pie. My younger brothers and I would cry -- “No more mashed potatoes!” So a few times, to make them “fun,” she dyed them bright colors - turquoise, orange and pink.

It didn't really matter to my Mom, as long as when the sadness got too big, she had her potatoes. She made tiny new red potatoes boiled until the skins popped open, slathered in buttered and rolled in minced parsley. Those helped soothe the days when there was no money. She made scalloped potatoes with cheese melted to a golden crust and the milk cooked to a creamy clabber. Those eased the days of endless tutoring a son with “difficulties” so severe no amount of learning would ever cure.

On a hot day each summer, she would make her vichyssoise, using leeks, homemade chicken stock and the stretch-the-budget expense - a pint of real fresh cream. She would ladle out the cool smooth soup and grind a smattering of nutmeg in each bowl. “You always pronounce the 's',” she would instruct, in case we had forgotten. And maybe that rich potato soup numbed the pain of a husband who did not love her.

My mother's life always seemed a story out of some dark fairy tale or Dickens. Felled by infantile arthritis when she was 6, she spent her childhood in and out of hospitals, wheelchairs and crutches. On Christmas Eve, when she was 13, her parents were killed in a car she was supposed to be in. The Catholic side of the family didn't want her because she wasn't Catholic and couldn't kneel. The Protestant Pilgrim side didn't want her because her red hair and freckles revealed a son who had married low. So my mother was sent to the care of her older brother, in the Army, stationed in Arizona.

Heat and sun and wide open skies were healing and fifteen years later, when my father, the hoped-for Prince arrived, my mother had long been standing on her own two feet. They met, married and not quite 9 months later, I was born. She loved being a mother, a role she had been repeatedly told she could never, should never, attempt to play. There were three of us children, plus one who died. My father, the college professor, always had a student he was romancing. The year I left for college, my father was the one who abandoned home and went to live with a student not quite my age.

My mother's despair filled the house like the smell of scorched potatoes. We had stumbled through Christmas. It was New Years Eve. My brothers and two neighbor guys decided on an evening of pool, poker and knock-hockey. I made popcorn and my mother made clam dip. Midnight loomed, marking an end of the year that held the last few tattered remnants of our lives “before.” Dazed, my mother walked as if towards gallows. I felt hopeless, did not know how we'd get through.

My mother mentioned she had never seen the sun rise over the ocean. And that became the plan. We would stay up all night, then head out before dawn to our New York coast. Mom joined in our homemade Olympiad. We laughed and kidded, prodding ourselves to stave off sleep. By 4 AM we were gathering scarves and gloves and filling a thermos with hot coffee. Crammed into the car, we headed out through darkened Long Island suburbs on our pilgrimage to sunrise on Jones Beach.

Now, those of you familiar with Jones Beach have already envisioned the problem. There are parking lots and then a seemingly endless expanse of beach before you reach the water. My mother's crippled walk was unsteady, painful and slow. Not only that, but a dense fog had descended as we approached the shore. “You go on,” my mother said. “I'll be fine in the car. It's too dark, too far.” We would not have her refusal. With two strong guys on either side, we led her on, through dark, fog and eternity of sand. Propelled by feeble promise, each step questioned our desperate, now foolish-seeming plan. Slowly, slowly we approached, as the crash of waves grew steadily louder.

In the still cottoned landscape, colors of our clothing began seeping back. The water arrived at our feet almost before we could see it. We had achieved our destination. And then it happened. I'm not making this up. The fog disappeared as if blown away by some celestial breath. Over the distant edge of ocean, the sun peeked up, shooting rays right out of some children's book depicting Heaven. We stood at the meeting of vast sand -- and vast sea -- and vast sky and took in the gifted moment. The surf was the only sound.

And then, my mother cried out - “Look! A potato!” She hobbled over and picked it up. We all turned and stared - at my mother, standing there, on the beach - holding a potato. I went to her, reached out to touch, and she handed me the potato. I agreed. “Sure looks like a potato,” I said, holding the potato-shaped and potato-colored rock. I smiled and handed it back to my mother. She held it with both hands, holding it close to her face to better see. She began to cry. “I know what this means!” she said. “It's a sign for me.”

“The Potato Rock is telling me - my life may not be fancy -- like cheese fondue - or strawberry parfait - but it will be good enough - just like a potato!” And it was.

A girl just can't have too many talismans

Ok - today is the day I get my final pathology report. I probably could've bugged the doctors to give me some hint of it yesterday or even Monday, but I was too busy bugging them for meds and holding court with lovely and generous visitors.

Plus, I didn't want to know yet. Why find out over the phone after multiple times on hold w/o the actual paperwork in hand? If it was the good news we are expecting - then hurrah! - it's confirmed, need to discuss next steps in person anyway. If it was bad news that we are aware is still possible - then there wasn't anything else we could do about it between Monday and Wednesday except feel anxious and miserable. So, decision was made to take things in their own good time. With that in mind, I want to put some things out there while I'm still riding this crest of optimism.

Note: This is a bit long-ish, so save it for later, or if you don't have the bandwidth, don't be shy about skipping it.

(cue "Would You Lay With Me in a Field of Stone" perferably by David Allen Coe, but Willie Nelson'll do in a pinch)

I just received a Chinese Stone from my cousin, Connie, in New Jersey. It is smooth and grey with a pictogram of a person standing with arms outstretched in a field of tall grass (a place of wilderness and wild animals according to the attached note), representing courage, strength and confidence. Although Connie is of the Italian-raised-Roman-Catholic persuasion, this stone proves that the eventual take-over of the United States by China will begin in Jersey, quite possibly Tom's River (as opposed to the Russian take-over who we all know almost took place on Cape Cod).

When it arrived, I placed it carefully near two other rocks that I carried with me to the hospital:

A small, shiny Tibetan Healing Crystal sent from my friend Ophelia (not Italian - at least not openly, but now suggesting a Chinese take-over on left coast s well). Anyway, this is a Polished Smokey Quartz Egg.: Tibetan Quartz Crystals gather, hold and release a very high energy and tend to contain a very powerful "OM" vibration. According to O, these are excellent crystals for intense work on mental, personal, emotional, and spiritual levels.

The other rock looks like a potato - pretty much a plain ol' Idaho russet-type, none of those red, blue and black-skinned new-age farmers market varieties. This "good luck" rock belonged to my friend Gretta's mother, which she loaned to me when I gave birth to Marc 14 years ago. Sally has since passed away, but the Potato Rock lives on and is shared by close family and friends in crisis. It arrived, shipped by Gretta in New York, the day before my surgery.

Needless to say, the good doctors and nurses at St. Joseph's were a bit perplexed as they wheeled me on my gurney past crucifixed-afixed hallways, one hand gripping a little crysta, the other - a potato, with my obvious-to-anyone-Jewish-non-believer husband, tears streaming down his cheeks, breathlessly trying to keep up with them as they sped to the OR (which was curious in itself as this was not emergency surgery).

Needless to say - everything seems to have worked - the crystal, the potato rock, the crucifixes, my husband's tears (prayers), the doctors and nurses (thank god!) and when I got home a healthy helping of Mother Gazzale's chicken soup sent all the way from Zabars in New Yawk. Well worth skipping out of St. Joes and missing their Santa Maria Tri-Tip!

The Potato Rock has its own story and deserves its own post which will be next. But here is a footnote to illustrate it's remarkable healing power.

The first few days home from hospital, I experienced remarkable nausea in the morning caused by multiple meds (swear I'm not pregnant). On one of these ocassions, my concerned son, Marc noticed the Potaoto Rock on a nearby nightstand, made a dive for it, shoved it gingerly into my palm and closed my fingers over it- this, after 14 years . . . of course, all bad symptoms of anything disappeared.

A girl just can't have too many talismans

So - after no posts (I've had a LOT of visitors), there is now a backlog (backwash?) and I need to occupy myself while waiting for the good word.

Love and thanks to all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


The blog has been quiet, not to worry - only the quiet before the onslaught, at least that is what I suspect. For you easterners who might be worried about the fires that seem to be burning most of southern california, we are distant from the fires and comparatively safe. AMP is recovering which means dealing with the pain which continues to be poorly understood by the medical community, I think every doctor should have a mastectomy or open heart surgery before getting their license to practice, since many of them lack empathy in the more sophisticated sense of being able to feel something for another than they haven't experienced themselves. While AMP continues to cope amidst a sea of support, I have returned to work and feel a little distant, the slight pain of removal from AMP's moment to moment experience.

Wednesday is a big day. We will be meeting with surgeon and oncologist, get the final pathology report as well as develop the treatment plan;

Sunday, October 21, 2007


We are settling in to post surgical life. The weekend for the most part has been positive. There have been a few bumps along the this road of recovery. Nausea comes and goes. Pain is getting less, requiring less meds. The flowers, the food, the visits and the bountiful support has been wonderful.