My friend just had her hip replaced. My sister had hers done a few months ago. My husband had two done in his late forties. Only 50 years ago, this was a big deal operation, and now it’s like going through the Dunkin’ Donuts drive through (not really, at all, but sort of). My point is these people would be wheelchair bound, if not for this perfected bit of surgical magic.
The truth is that while healthcare is all sorts of crazy right now, from doctor’s being able to spend less time with patients to Obamacare vs. Trumpdoesn’tcare, and the fact that Grey’s Anatomy has completely jumped shark, there are still some things that are totally miraculous.
I used to take short story classes all the time. Mostly before I had kids, but a few afterward, too. But I haven’t taken a class in a long time. Until this week. I began an online writing class with Martha Beck, of Expecting Adam and Oprah fame. It’s about getting to your truth. And while I think I’m always down there in the trenches of the real shit, you can probably mine for the gold down in that area of the world forever. So I am.
What’s interesting is that this blog has mostly been about the truth, until last year. Last year, my daughter had a difficult time after her knee surgery, which unexpectedly ripped her from soccer, which she’d played since she was five. It was a very emotional period for us all and although I was experiencing her deep pain and suffering with her, I was also having my own reaction, my own experience of the situation. Normally, I can write that, share that, and it frees me. But since this wasn’t mine to talk about, I didn’t. And I have realized it made me stop writing so much because I couldn’t be truthful. I don’t like painting pretty pictures with words if they’re fake. I can smell fake and so can you.
So, I am hoping that this class, called Be the Truth will help me get back to, well, the truth. Oh, and I’m cooking up a new blog I think could be really interesting and cool, so I hope it will help me in developing that, too. Stay tuned. Here’s to the real, real.
Over the weekend, during a hot bath, I found a lump in my breast. I wasn’t even giving myself a breast exam, I just was soaping up my body and there it was–the classic “pea-sized” hard little ball that I’ve been hearing about for my whole life. I felt it three times, before calling my husband up and calmly saying, “I think I found something.” I made him feel it. I could see his face change.
This wasn’t my first breast lump rodeo. I’ve had fibrocystic breasts my whole life, but this little lump felt different and I thought I was finally the “one” in the “one in eight” statistic.
It was my daughter’s last night of spring break and we were going out to dinner, so I had to pull it together. But my mind was reeling, thinking about what the future would look like if the pea wasn’t benign. I emailed my doctor to asked for an immediate appointment and mammogram on Monday.
Usually this scenario does me in. I can’t eat, I have difficulty sleeping, and fall into a full-on attack of panic, but this time, I just thought, “I will do what I have to do.”Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up some, or maybe it’s because I’m older now, or because I no longer have little kids, but my acceptance of this possibility was new for me.
My husband, clearly shaken up, looked me in the eye on Sunday and said, “I love you, Toni, I will be right here for you. We can get through anything.” This was like a gift from Cartier fell out of the sky onto my lap. It was soothing and reassuring and I’m not sure I will ever forget the deeply sincere tenor of his voice.
I saw the doctor, who knows my breasts as well as I do, and she could feel the lump, but was fairly sure it wasn’t anything, although she sent me for a mammogram and ultra sound to be sure. I had that yesterday and it was indeed just a tiny cyst. My husband and I went out to dinner and CELEBRATED last night.
This is what women go through all the time. We walk around with little time bombs on our chests, hoping that they don’t blow up before we get old and die.
MAJOR GRATITUDE to the Boston Breast Diagnostic Center. This staff makes you as comfortable as if you were in a hotel with room service. They totally get the enormity and intensity of anxiety women feel when having to get a mammogram. The technician was warm and chatty and made me feel instantly better. The doctor who read my mammogram and gave me my ultra sound was reassuring and kind. I said to her before I left, “You guys are amazingly nice. I so appreciate that.” She said back, “That’s how it’s supposed to be.”
Get your mammograms, girls. And if you need a responsive and nurturing environment in which to do so, BBDC is your hotel, I mean office.
I have been trying to keep my mind off of politics.
But it’s so hard when there is slashing and burning of things that matter.
Is it possible that Trump is not an actual human being?
Anywho, last night’s political distraction was the movie Get Out. And seriously, you should get out and see it. Talk about a political statement. I’m not going to give away any of the plot points, because 1) I always give away too much. 2) I always give away too much, but this is a movie that will create discussion at the dinner table. Like even if you’re eating alone–that’s how provocative it is.
It’s Jordan Peele, of Key and Peele’s directorial debut. Dude wrote it, too. In case you just thought he was a sidekick, or riding on Keegan Michael Key’s coattails, you will change your mind mighty quick once you see this movie and really ponder it’s depth.
Also, as if I didn’t think the big cushy barca-lounger chairs at the Super Lux and the full menu of food and drink brought to your seat weren’t decadent enough, BREAKING NEWS: they’re now offering free blankets. FREE. COZY. BLANKETS. If the economy goes to shit, I’m selling the house and living at the Super Lux (I actually think this is a viable plan).
Gratitude for distractions. Movies. Blankets. Anything not to have to watch our country disintegrate.
It has come to my attention that maybe not planning a trip can make the trip better.
Buh bye Fodors.
This little trip we just took, had several twists that we’d not anticipated and they were like finding out pancakes have no calories (with syrup, of course).
Our diverted-due-to-weather plane to Florence, where we were to rent a car and drive 90 minutes to the resort the meeting my husband was attending, brought us instead to Bologna, where we had to wait for our luggage and a bus that would bring us the hour back to Florence. By that time, we’d traveled 16 hours straight and were like, “fuck it,” and decided to stay in Florence for a night. My brother-in-law’s sister who happens to live there gave us the name of a hotel, where we were able to get a room. FIRST UNEXPECTED AWESOMENESS: the hotel was amazing, smack in the middle of EVERYTHING, steps from the Ponte Vecchio and Arno, blocks from Il Domo and the Ufizzi and shopping H-E-A-V-E-N.
Of course, it was not easy for us to get there. Peter and I had never driven in Italy before, always taking trains and cabs, so that was a frat party all by itself. All was going rather splendidly, in fact I thought Peter was actually driving better than he usually drives, when we got into Florence proper and we not only lost the battery power of both of our phones, which we were using as our GPS, we couldn’t find the car-hook up. Panic at the disco.
You never want to see your phone wearing this, but especially when you are ridiculously lost in a car in a foreign city.
It was raining and sunny, and getting dark and the light was a photographer’s wet dream when I realized I had not only forgotten my camera, but had no phone with which to record the religious lighting. We were totally mystified, because our phones not only contained our trusty GPS, but also the name of the hotel. NO, WE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW THE NAME OF THE HOTEL We were stopped in front of a convent, and I half thought we might have to begin the discernment process, become nuns, and live in Florence for the rest of our lives, when I, thrashing through the car, found the battery hook up was, usually in plain view, hidden in the middle console thingy between the seats. Numerous victorious Hallelujahs ensued, and I kissed goodbye the idea of looking like Sister Bertrille for the rest of my life (and thank God for that, I look dreadful in a hat, I can only imagine how I’d look in a Habit).
On account of my large Italian and Jewish nose, I cannot rock a hat so good we found the car battery charger, or who knows.
Anyway, we drove through downtown Florence, down one way streets, with angry Italians yelling at us, arms flailing, “crazy Americans” in thought bubbles above their heads, talking to the hotel on the phone, practically driving through the Domo for an HOUR. It was like Matt Damon in one of the Bourne movies, if he drove slowly and was old and exhausted with a wife beside him who was swearing about leaving her camera at home.
We finally arrived and crashed into the most comfortable bed in a gorgeous room. Lights out until 9, when we woke up still exhausted, but hungry and forced ourselves to go out to dinner–how could we waste a night in Firenze? The hotel hooked us up with a small intimate restaurant, where we indulged in pasta and fish and plenty of wine. It was UNEXPECTED AWESOMENESS all due to a diverted flight.
The next day we tripped around a sunny Florence, and left for the conference in the afternoon, which was way up on a mountain, and where several other unplanned moments of fun occurred, including actually getting lost in the hotel, which was the size of a small Italian village (this is an example I am known to use frequently as a joke, only in this case, it was true), an obstacle course hike to a small scenic town with one of Peter’s colleagues that was magical, and writing outside with the snow peaked Dolomites in view.
We’d purposely, or maybe just lazily left our last few days open and were trying to decide where we would explore, having never been in the Tuscany region before, but our time in Florence convinced us to go back. On the way there, we stopped in Pisa, again, somewhat of a whim, and were shocked to find that the leaning tower’s most amazing characteristic isn’t that it’s leaning. This structure is absolutely exquisite. And the surrounding area of churches, which is quite large and elaborate, is equally gorgeous. All around, people are posing in an effort to look like they’re either pushing over, or holding up the tower. It’s very, very funny, so funny, in fact, we began taking pictures of it. We ate a perfect lunch of ham and cheese and olives and tomato salad with the tower staring us in the face. We walked through the University area and realized that Pisa had so much more to offer than just a structure that was tilted. ANOTHER UNEXPECTED MOMENT OF UNPLANNED FABULOSITY.
There she is. This tower would be beautiful, even if it weren’t an architectural wonder.
The area around the Tower is amazing all by itself.
The only thing better than the Tower is seeing people pose with it. It’s an attraction all by itself.
Back to Florence (where we once again got lost going to the hotel, but this time we had phones and it only took us 15 minutes of breaking the driving rules to find our way). We were set up for success in so many ways. The weather was perfect, as in sunny and in the mid-60’s, which s a piece of UNEXPECTEDNESS that you simply can’t plan (especially because the forecast I’d been following for weeks, called for three days of rain, which never occurred). Next, the location of the hotel allowed us to easily hit all the hot spots, of art, fashion, and stuffing our American pie holes. Still plagued by the fact that I did not bring my camera, I still managed some wonderful pictures (including, I should mention, capturing some of that mystical, magical rain/sun light during our own version of”Bourne” when I grabbed Peter’s phone, on it’s last legs of battery–4% left, and took pictures of the Domo, while he was screaming for me to read the GPS. But nobody normal could resist that light, even if we were spectacularly and hopelessly lost and about to lose our map–this is how I am).
Taken from the car, in a panic not to capture light I would never see again, I took these with the 4% battery we were relying on to find our hotel. But seriously, Could YOU resist?
I will not drone on about our every move, but I just have to detail our visit with my brother-in-law’s sister, Ande, because it was so unusual, and a night I will not ever forget. We wanted to take her to dinner, but she’d just come from the States, was jet-lagged and had a new puppy, so instead, she invited us over for drinks and appetizers. Only a few blocks from our hotel, we entered a large and spectacular building, which was outside, in the middle of a bustling area, but on the inside was quiet as a library (well, a library without ME in it). Hugs ensued, new yellow Lab Hugo introduced himself, wine was poured (and poured) olives he size of my head, and salami and truffle butter, and crusty bread were spread before us. She gave us a tour of her magnificent abode. It was cavernous, and beautiful and at the end of the tour, she said, “Now this is why we took the place.” She lead us downstairs, and showed us the laundry room, which she was quite happy about because most Italians don’t have laundry. This is why I thought she was enamored of her space, which I could be convinced of because –EVER HAVE TO GO TO A LAUNDROMAT. But it turns out, nice as that laundry room was, that was not the clincher, as I soon saw her leading us to a small office. “This is why we moved here,” she began, as she opened a door, which unveiled a private balcony that overlooked the most beautiful church. Created for some earlier aristocrats to attend services privately, this balcony allowed Ande and her husband (and friends, and three grown kids when they were in town) to watch weekly concerts, as well as the current multi media exhibit the church (the Church of Santo Stefano al Ponte), was having of the artist Klimt. MINDS OFFICIALLY BLOWN, we headed back in for more wine, and Italian delicacies, then she told us that in an hour there would be a concert we could watch. We talked about family and kids and dogs, and the inevitable political nightmare the States were living through, and then we took all our glasses of vino, plates of food, and the puppy up to the balcony to watch opera! Through a door in her office. INTO THE CHURCH. It was totally surreal. Who’s fabulous apartment comes with Jesus Christ, himself? ONE MORE UNEXPECTED AND OUTRAGEOUS MOMENT (I should say here that Ande travels a fair bit and might not have been home when we were there, and in fact, had arrived home, just as we arrived, so this was another bit of unplanned luck we encountered by not planning).
I did drop my iPhone into the toilet, which sucked, but a 12 hour rice bath, and I was back in business. That was pretty much the only bad thing that happened on this trip. My husband and I agreed that it was one of the best trips we’d ever taken and discussed why it might have been. We both decided it was because we didn’t plan it, as we usually do, setting up expectations and often not being able to meet them. This trip’s expectations were definitely at a minimum. Or were we just happy to get out of a Boston winter? I’m still not exactly sure why those eight days were so perfect, but I’m pretty sure it something to do with BLISSFUL UNEXPECTEDNESS. Whatever it was, I wish it was tangible and I could use it on every trip I ever go on. Gratitude to the unplanned, and of course, magical Italia.
Italy has more beauty than seems fair. This country arguably has the best food AND looks like it would win the Miss Universe Contest.
Not only is its physical landscape stunning, with hills, mountains and picturesque villages, but every historically faded color, perfectly plotted piece of architecture, door and sidewalk are ravishing. Every building has its own charm, every square, it’s own allure, every detail has a detail. Ah, Italia.
I am childish when it comes to traveling. Which is to say, I am gleeful, delighted and utterly beside myself with the novelty of the foreign. Give me new sights to see, a different language to decode and the flavors and coffee that accompany them and I am as happy as Trump on Twitter.
I think I had this same dumb smile on my face the first time I was in Florence, too.
I didn’t set foot in Europe until I was 30.
But I would never have appreciated it in the same way if I had gone when I was younger. My kids have been many times already, and will never know the crazy smile I had pasted on my face for the three weeks I spent in Zurich, the Alps, Basil, Copenhagen, Gotland, Rome, Venice and Florence, that first time.
No filters on either of these pictures.
The weather was rainy and sunny and the light was INSANE, and i didn’t have my camera! I had only 10% battery on my phone!
Along for the ride, I’m with my husband, at a scientific conference in Tuscany. A diverted flight due to weather allowed us a surprise night in Florence, where we’d not been since my virgin visit. We fell in love with it, and are headed back for the last few days of our stay.
Our hotel. Yeah, it’s up there.
The hotel we’re in is the size of a small town, poised on a hilltop overlooking small villages and mountains–some that are even snow capped. When we arrived it was rainy and foggy. At one point, you couldn’t even see anything out of our window, but like magic, in the morning, there was a storybook view, a movie poster perfect scene.
On day two, we visited Lucca, a small walled village with many beautiful churches, in fact, one I might have to give my “Most Beautiful Church Award” to, and the second pace I’ve been to with a wall–the first is in Gotland, Sweden, in a town called Visby. I hope never to have to visit any walls in the States, if you know what I mean.
This church in Lucca knocked me out. It looked like it was carved lace in marble.
The olive oil of Lucca! I love that label.
The food is wonderful. I mean, fresh pasta, cheese, wine. BUT, there is instant coffee in my room, and the dining room, which is buffet style, but quite good, HAS COFFEE MACHINES. Thank GOD we were in Florence, where they still served you a nice POT of coffee, or I would be very disillusioned. Italy, coffee machines–does not compute.
Barga is beautiful from the distance, as well as up close.
Barga wasn’t supposed to be special, but it was!
Yesterday, one of Peter’s colleagues and I headed to a small town called Barga, which I was told, was unremarkable. The hotel gives a funny little flyer on how to walk there. Well, let me tell you, I was thinking of my grandmother Constantina, who it is said walked on the steep hilly terrain and winding mountains of Calabria for food and water because on this walk, we were on vertical hills, gravelly, broken pavement, uneven rocks, all along a deep embankment, through deep woods. It was not a clear path and certainly not one a major hotel would ever give you in the States. After an hour of climbing hill after hill, on this major obstacle course, we arrived at the sweetest town, with yet more hills! But we didn’t mind, because the colors and buildings were so breathtaking, we just kept walking, in total awe. We ended our visit with a glass of wine and two decadent desserts, in the friendliest patisserie. This stop also included a hot chocolate that turned out to be chocolate moose heated up!
Gratitude for the fully immersive experience of travel. It’s a mind, body and soul cleanser.