July 30, 2013

all aboard the birthday boat!

Sunday evening we surprised my dad-in-law for his birthday by getting everyone together and renting a little boat to cruise around in Newport Harbor. It was the perfect, laid back celebration- heavy on the cheese, heavier on the wine, and easy on the company with some of the best folks around. I said it once and I'll say it again, I am just so darn grateful to be able to spend time, quality time, like let's-all- pile-into-a-tiny-boat-and-picnic-til-we-could-pop- time, with our families. Happy Birthday, dad! 
...and many more!

I had eeeeverything under control!

Don't let my awkward paw-hand fool you.

Good times & boat shoes.

July 26, 2013

Reading List Recap: it's a man, man, man's world

I mentioned before that I have a hard time finding male authors I love. Ironically, most of the books I was assigned in school or for summer reading were by male authors and yet none of them (I've yet to re-read Catcher in the Rye, which libraries obviously don't carry enough copies of) had a lasting impression on me. Stubbornly, I made it my goal over the past few weeks to commit to a few classics or contemporary hits to see if I could finally find one I love. Here's what I picked...

Overall: ***

Summary: Nick Carraway, a recent Ivy League graduate and vet of World War I, moves to the effervescent town of West Egg, Long Island and unknowingly takes up residence in a tiny rental home next to illusive millionaire, Jay Gatsby. After receiving a personal invitation to one of Gatby's famous soirĂ©es, Carraway finds himself mingling with stars, athletes, and the secret love interest of Gatsby himself- the very married Daisy Buchanan. Carraway eventually becomes less a bystander and more of an accomplice as Gatsby tries to win Daisy and cover his tracks in a suspicious crime. 

What I Loved: The essence of the roaring 20's- from prohibition to style trends, the characters, and the language. It's a short and fairly shallow read, easy to pick up where you left off or finish in an afternoon.

Not So Much: Aside from the social context in which the book was written (a scandalous book about the 20's written in the 20's!) the story itself isn't anything spectacular. It's somewhat predictable, somewhat patchy at times, and Fitzgerald's style makes it feel like you're reading one long metaphor. 

Overall: **

Summary: Told from the perspective of a family's Golden Retriever, Enzo, who shares his owner's love of car racing and his observations of his family's experience with death and loss. 

What I loved: Enzo was painfully loyal, as all dogs are, to his owner and his insight on human interaction and experience is direct and poignant- he sees it as it is and doesn't try to sugarcoat things with reasoning and validation as we tend to. 

Not So Much: Overall, the book was depressing. I had a hard time wanting to finish it and there wasn't anything deeply satisfying about the story. Nothing about the characters, language, or plot evoked any powerful emotion in me. I wouldn't read it again. 

Overall: **

Summary: During World War I, an American soldier, Frederic Henry, fighting for the Italian army falls in love with an English nurse, Catherine Barkley, who cares for him in hospitals throughout the region. Narrated by Henry, a blunt, no-frills "man's-man" ("Am I shot? Give me whiskey!"), the story spans the length of the war and promises the hope and happiness of freedom lying beyond the border. 

What I Loved: The language was true to Hemingway's style- direct and brash, not the flowery, overly romanticized poetry of other authors at the time. At times it felt like reading a script for a play instead of a novel, so thinking of the text as one long conversation or letter made it a bit easier to follow. 

Not So Much: I hated knowing beforehand that he wrote this story during or as the result of the affair he had on his first wife with the woman who he eventually married next (See The Paris Wife). Perhaps because of this, all of the characters, for lack of a better word, seemed dumb and selfish- no single person stood out as the hero or heroine or protagonist. Frederic is as non-committal as Hemingway was, Catherine is manipulative and naiive, and the other host of secondary characters seemed like filler with no major plot turns or twists. 


July 25, 2013

cystematic, super fantastic

{ In case you got donuts instead of going to Biology as much as I did in high school }

I went to the doctor on Monday to meet my new primary care team and to follow up on the follow-up to my surgery I had in February, when I found out that my cysts are back. Not only had they come back, but at the time, they were already 3/4 of the size they were when I had them removed. Without doing another biopsy/surgery, there isn't really a way to tell what they could be made of (filled with) but from the ultrasound, they appeared slightly more "simple" or clear fluid instead of blood... 
(...are you still there?)
The doctor decided the easiest solution could be putting me on a low dose birth control pill that could potentially shrink their size and prevent cyst formation. At that point I had avoided the pill for over two years, after being on Yaz (the one that's constantly being sued on TV) and developing a heart arrhythmia and blacking out in public, twice. I have also been weary of any hormone manipulating drugs because of the history of cancer in my immediate and extended family and for me, anything that makes your body think it's doing something it isn't, spells t-r-o-u-b-l-e. With that said, I decided to give the pills a try for a few months to see if there were any noticeable changes in how I felt day-to-day and to the cysts, since the alternative was another surgery. Percocet, enemas, diapers- oh my!!
 Tempting, but for my ovaries' and my husband's sake, I'll say no thank you.
It has been three months since I started taking the pill again and overall I haven't noticed any remarkable changes but instead I am more aware of how confused my body is because of changes in my cycle and digestive health. It seems like you can never treat one thing without opening up a can of worms of other ailments. My new doctor and I decided on Monday that before I continue with any sort of pill, I will have another ultrasound and series of blood tests done to see if they can determine what the cysts could be and how they are forming.
If the cysts are more complex, like the ones I had removed, it would likely mean another surgery as they will not go away on their own (like simple cysts typically do). The risk of letting them get too large is that the cysts will stretch the walls of the ovaries to the point that the tissue could tear or be completely consumed and the only way to remove them would be to remove the ovary entirely. If only one of mine had this issue I would consider removing it early on, but since both do, the doctors want to do everything possible to make sure they do not get permanently damaged. The thing that baffles me is that some women will live with cysts 2 or 3 times the size mine were and never notice anything until they attempt to get pregnant or go through menopause, and yet I can physically feel the strain they are putting on my lower body on a daily basis.  
So the next step is some blood work (they're also doing dietary testing and mentioned celiac disease- a severe gluten intolerance, boo.) to rule out any external causes and an ultrasound (not the jelly-on-the-belly kind, neither) to see if the cysts have shrunk (shrank? shrinked? ah, shrit.) at all. 
I'll keep you posted. Kiss your ovaries for me. 

July 09, 2013

on heart work

{the shop}

Yesterday marked my three-month mark at the art supply. In some ways it feels like I just started and in others like I have been there for years. My transition was smoother than I imagined and I feel completely in my element for the first time in... well, a very long time.

If I were to choose a word to summarize the past three months- our move from Colorado to California, our jobs, our house, our community, our routines... it would be: refreshing
 Like a dive into the ocean, like the view from the top of a mountain, like sticking your feet in a stream after a long hike; every bit as satisfying, sensory-overloading, and humbling.  

Yes, our house is still a work in progress and we haven't made a single nail-hole yet in the walls, and yes, we are both working more (mentally, emotionally, and physically) than we ever have, and yes, we are anxious for more chances to make new friends and settle into stable routines... but deep down in my soul, I am truly refreshed. 

There is hard-work, and there is heart-work. Oh boy, is there ever a difference.