Monthly Archives: June 2012

“Are you healthy?”

I haven’t seen Ben in years, possibly as many as 10 or 12. As best as I can recall, the last time I saw him was near my home in Massachusetts…one of your typical Cape Cod beach scenes, with two friends lying in the sun and chatting. At the time, he was engaged, and I was already living with my Stefano, who wasn’t with me on that particular trip, though.

Even though we live in different countries, we’ve kept in touch over the years. First, with handwritten letters (hey, remember those? 😉 ), now with email. 

Well, Ben is now in Italy with his family–his wife and two young sons. They’re not staying with us in Florence because they are going to one of those humongous family reunions, with relatives flying here from different parts of the U.S. to spend a few days all together in a rented villa in the Tuscan countryside…with a swimming pool. :) Tomorrow we’ve tentatively planned a get-together…of the “bring your own bathing suit” type.

Ben and I go a long way back. We have been friends (ONLY friends, and yes that is possible!, in spite of what Billy Crystal aka “Harry Burns” declares in “When Harry met Sally,” that is, that men and women cannot be friends…bah, hogwash!) ever since we both went on a solidarity trip to Nicaragua not long after the Sandinistas took power. We were part of a group of U.S. citizens staying in the city of Estelì, in the northern part of the country. Estelì and its surrounding countryside were frequent targets of the U.S.-sponsored “contras,” who were mostly former members of the cruel, corrupt and brutal National Guard (under the former dictator Somoza). At any rate, to cut a long story short, we hoped that the presence of a bunch of U.S. citizens inside the city would in some way protect the inhabitants of Estelì from the vicious (and illegal) “contra” terrorist attacks. I think it did.

At any rate, that’s how Ben and I first met. In Nicaragua. In a war zone. 25 years ago…or thereabouts.

Since then we’ve seen each other a handful of times in the States and here in Italy. But it’s been quite a while now, as I mentioned, so I’m really looking forward to seeing him again and meeting his wife and kids (Ben’s never met Stefano, either).

Yesterday he called me from Rome, where they began their summer 2012 Italian holiday. After trying to figure out when and how we could hook up this weekend without melting in the horrendous heat wave, he asked me pointblank:

“So, are you healthy?”

I’ve been asked this question before, but it always manages to send a slight shiver through my spine.

Am I healthy? I mean, really healthy? What should I answer? I mean, I FEEL healthy. I LOOK healthy. And, in spite of my itsy bitsy immune system, I haven’t been sick in ages…no flus, no fevers, no coughs, nada. Most importantly, all my counts are stable…and I have no CRAB symptoms. Does all that signify that I’m healthy? Or healthy enough?

After a slight pause, I decided to let my infallible gut reply:

“Yes, I am.” 

When Harry met Sally…

I read the sad news about Nora Ephron’s death this morning…and a friend posted the link to her obituary in the “Washington Post”: http://goo.gl/rYZbY She had acute myeloid leukemia. 

Oh how much I enjoyed her movies, from When Harry met Sally to You’ve Got Mail…The former is my favorite movie ever…

Here’s an excerpt from When Harry met Sally…and no, it’s not what you are probably expecting, that is, the famous org…m scene. 😉 Nope, these are the cut-aways, which were brilliant, I thought: http://goo.gl/gBSNs “I knew the way you know about a good melon…”  Hehe. 

“Whaaat?” http://goo.gl/XcEAm

And then there’s the movie trailer, which has some of the best quotes (of which there are sooo many!): http://goo.gl/a4Yxm 

Great quotes from the movie: http://goo.gl/c18am Pick your favorite…Mine could be the two kinds of women quote, the high maintenance versus low maintenance. Hehe. 

Ah yes, fun memories…great movies. Nora, you were the best! 

A NON post…

My eldest cat, Puzzola, inside a box…

I haven’t felt like writing a post lately.

I begin writing, then I stop.

I begin again. And again, I stop…

No good.

Delete.

And so today I decided to write a NON post, in an attempt to “unblock” what I guess is a bit of writer’s block. I hope it works.

Part of my problem is the heat. I don’t do well in heat—that’s no secret. I really shouldn’t complain, since we are lucky enough to live in a lovely neighborhood of Florence, surrounded by the fields and rolling hills of Fiesole…So at night we sometimes get a breeze, while the rest of Florence swelters in the heat…

Plus, I have a lot of work to do on my blog, such as: update my Pages section (!), send TAB’s report off to all those who have requested it and other stuff. But I’ve been procrastinating…on that, too. Sorry!

Today is Paula’s funeral. In fact, by the time I publish this post, I imagine it will be underway…or almost…(yes, definitely underway now…)…

Well, let’s move on. Since this is NOT going to be a proper post, here’s a list of some of the things I’ve read/watched in the past several days…

Here goes:

SERIOUS STUFF:

A different take on stress and the immune system: http://goo.gl/LhsH2 Keep in mind that this study is talking about short-term stress, not chronic stress. Important to make that distinction. Still, interesting…I mean the idea that a wee bit of stress could be good for us…hmmm…

A blog reader sent me the link to a “Daily Mail” article on a woman who, following surgery, chose to change her lifestyle and diet rather than take Tamoxifen for her breast cancer. She has been in remission now for four years: http://goo.gl/NUFGs

Quercetin and doxorubicin: http://goo.gl/fQJPl The evidence in favor of integrative oncology is piling up left and right…ABOUT TIME TO TAKE NOTICE, DON’T YOU THINK? Oh oops…sorry, didn’t mean to shout… 😉

AMUSING STUFF:

Henri the cat, chapter 3, “Le Vet” (for me, the best is still number 2, though: http://goo.gl/1ooxq): http://goo.gl/y0XPk “They mock my French, but why?” Hehe.

How to walk a human, in case you’ve ever wondered: http://goo.gl/R4jYQ

“Shelf life,” another Simon’s Cat video: http://goo.gl/dFrfk

And now I’d like to send a big hug of encouragement to my friend Paul…Italy, you see, deservedly beat England in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals last night (too bad it had to end with penalty kicks, though!)…

And another hug to my blog reader Clare B., whom I met in London a few weeks ago. That was sooooo lovely! Many thanks to Paul for making the arrangements, by the way…

And that is precisely how I’d like to end my NON post of the day:

with hugs…

and with the photo of an amazingly talented songbird–a great reed warbler (taken by yours truly on Saturday at the Parco della Piana…).

Growing babies and…an unusual alarm clock…

Heat wave in Florence and most of Italy. Nothing to do but hide. And wait. Till it ends. Pant pant sweat sweat. Life goes on. 

On Saturday, before it got too hot!, Stefano and I went to the Parco della Piana to check on the chicks. But there wasn’t much to see…Most of them have clearly flown off with their families…

Luckily for us, though, there was one black-winged stilt family left: two parents and three chicks. Here is a photo I took of one of the growing babies (compare this photo to my previous one, see my June 5th post).

An exciting moment: at one point an egret landed quite near the chicks, and the stilt mommy went ballistic. Screeching like a banshee, she took off like a missile, landing with a loud thump on the egret’s head and doing her best to shove the poor bird under water. Over and over. Screech, scold, whackthump!, push&shove. Unbelievable. Stefano got some great shots of this fierce, one-sided battle (the egret quickly and wisely retreated to the opposite side of the lake…), whereas I got…well, none. Not one photo. Oh well. You’ll just have to take my word for it… :)

I’m trying to cool off now by watching a few silly videos…like this one: http://goo.gl/AXvmw Boy, I’d like to tell this guy to give up and let his cat sleep with him…That’s what we do…much less hassle! 😉

London stories…

This morning, after reading Lori’s lovely tribute to Paula (see http://goo.gl/dD6B4), I decided to go ahead and write about the recent long weekend Stefano and I spent in London…mainly, about the fun bits, of which there were many…

As I wrote in my June 7th post, Stefano and I were invited to London by a British blog reader, now a close friend of ours (Paul), who’d bought tickets to “Trooping the Colour.” We (= four of us, including one of Paul’s friends) left early, but when we arrived there was already a long queue of people waiting to get inside the Horse Guard Parade…

As we headed for the queue, one of the guards stopped us, looked us over and declared, “Sorry, but you can’t go inside.” “Why not?,” we asked, completely taken aback. “There’s a dress code: no denim…I’m very sorry about that,” he answered. “But we came all the way from Italy just for this ceremony!,” we whined. “I’m really sorry to hear that, but I still can’t let you in. We’ve turned others away for the same reason, too. The dress code is written on your tickets.”

We checked our tickets. The guard was right. The dress code was spelled out in tiny print on the ticket: no denim. Paul was distraught…I mean, of the three of us, he was the only one who wasn’t wearing jeans, so he could have gotten in. And in fact Stefano, Paul’s friend and I tried to persuade him to go inside and take enough photos for the rest of us. But he wouldn’t hear of it.

As we were discussing alternative plans, a guard helpfully suggested that we try going to a nearby store and buying some acceptable clothes. Brilliant! So off we galloped.

As soon as we got inside the store (and I’d like to note that we were soon joined by a bunch of other folks who had also been turned away at the Horse Guard Parade), we were in such a hurry that we grabbed the first things we found on the racks. But as soon as I began trying on my pants, I realized that they were either way too short (and let me tell ya, my bright pink and purple trekking socks PLUS my gore tex trekking shoes sticking out were too much even for me to bear) or too garish. In the end, I chose a pair of incredibly flappy “elephant” pants that were three, I mean THREE!, sizes too big for me. In my hurry to get to the fitting rooms I hadn’t noticed the size. Oh well. I had no time to waste.

I bought the elephant pants and tucked my polartec sweater into them to help hold them up. But…holy cats, I looked really silly. :) And in fact, when Stefano and the others saw me, they burst into peals of laughter. Stefano joked that they’d all have to hold on to me or I’d fly off like Mary Poppins, with all that flapping (the flapping joke lasted all day, sigh, even after I’d exchanged the pants…). But there was no time for laughter. The parade had already begun. So we raced back down the street (I suppose I might have flown a bit, too, hehe)…and this time, in spite of my really ridiculous flapping pants, we were let inside. Phew!

Trooping the Colour was very impressive…And, as luck would have it, I sat next to a guy who’d been there several times and who entertained me with all sorts of interesting historical and gossipy tidbits. He told me where the Queen will be next Saturday (her birthday), for example, and also that about half of the soldiers there had not participated in a previous “Trooping.” This was their first time. Amazing. The rehearsal looked so purrrrrfect to me…But Stefano reported that he witnessed a few mistakes. Still…an incredible show…

After trooping, flapping about and having a bite to eat, Paul and his friend headed home, but Stefano and I stayed in London for a few more hours. We walked everywhere, from Westminster down to the London Eye and then took the underground to Piccadilly Circus, where we had some tea before heading back to Paul’s home.

It was on the Westminster bridge that we witnessed a most unexpected procession. A much MUCH different procession from the one we’d seen earlier that day in the Horse Guards Parade, that’s for sure. :)

Hundreds of naked or semi-naked cyclists, both men and women, came cycling off the bridge. What a sight! Of all the photos I took, this is my favorite (of course, I did a bit of careful, I hope!, cropping here…!!!). Check out the sign on the London bus: “Get your socks off!” This morning, when I first read the sign, I just had to laugh…too funny…

We later learned that this is an annual event. Part of the “World Naked Bike Ride”: http://goo.gl/EUv3Z Every June, not just in London but in cities around the world, naked people hop on their bikes to celebrate cycling and the human body. This is also in part a protest procession–against the vulnerability of cyclists on the road and oil dependency. In fact, one of the cyclists had painted “Burn fat, not oil” on his back…

Well, I know that Paula would have enjoyed these photos and the flapping Margaret story, and that’s why I chose to post about it today…But it’s going to take me a while to used to the fact that she won’t be writing to me anymore…She’s left such a void in my heart and in the myeloma community…

Following Lori’s example, I’m going to try to focus on how much Paula enriched my life, on the positive stuff I mean, but it’s bloody hard right at the moment…I’m just too sad…and I’m still breaking down…However, writing this post and thinking of the hilarious comment she would most certainly have written did help a bit…

Ciao, Paula, mi mancherai tanto

Paula…

Bloody hell. I’ve been off the Internet for several days…since Thursday evening, in fact. So I didn’t know until just a short while ago about what happened…the awful awful awful news…

Ever since Paula stopped blogging and answering her e-mails, I felt that something was wrong. Terribly wrong. I hoped and hoped and hoped that it was just a problem with her computer connection at the hospital. Sadly, however, it wasn’t. My gut instinct was right…And for once, I wished it had been wrong…

Stefano and I got back after midnight last night from a fantastic four-day holiday in London. But this post isn’t going to be about our trip, except to mention that, as always, I took Honey, my Myeloma buddy, with me and planned to post some photos of Honey on the London Eye, Honey at Trafalgar Square, Honey at Westminster Abbey, Honey near the Tate Modern…I also planned to send Paula a whole bunch of other cute “Honey in London” photos…

As I mentioned, I was hoping…And somehow…and this will sound quite nutty, I suppose…and somehow I hoped these photos might help Paula in some small way…if only to make her smile. In fact, that is why I posted the recent “Honey in Harvard Yard” photo…Paula was already in the hospital then, fighting a bug she’d picked up (at the hospital…)…

But Paula died on Sunday. I just found out that she had a terrible reaction to her last chemo treatment, which was injected directly into her spinal fluid…where myeloma cells had been found. Her sister-in-law reported that at a certain point the decision was made to stop all treatment and just make Paula as comfortable as possible. 

I never met Paula in the flesh. But the three of us (she, Beth and I) corresponded quite frequently…we sent each other silly funny quirky things, e.g. But we also discussed treatments and whatnot…Last year, I sent her some curcumin…

I have several of her Myeloma buddies (not just Honey, i.e.), including the very first bunny she’d made…such an honor for me. And a few months ago she sent me a beautiful blanket she’d made just for me. I shall treasure that blanket forever…

Paula…dear sweet generous funny Paula, I’m going to miss you. Terribly. And I feel so incredibly sad and distressed for Bernard, Paula’s husband, and their dog, Buddy. I can’t even imagine what they must be going through…(Speaking of pets, my youngest kitty, Pinga, doesn’t know WHY I’m weeping, but she senses something is terribly wrong, so she’s cuddling against me, licking my arm, looking up at me and cooing reassuringly. Aren’t our furry ones wonderful?)

Paula’s blog URL: http://goo.gl/5cRcu 

Goodbye, my dear friend. These photos are for you:

Honey in London, June 2012

Brain cell poop…

Well, I’ve been busy with different things, including piles of laundry, since I got back from the States, and just haven’t had time to read a study that I’ve been dying to read…oh well. Next week! (Although I begin working again next week…hmmm…well, we’ll see…)

Another silly sign that I liked (2012 trip to the U.S.)

And then there’s this. A month or so ago we were invited by a British blog reader (=now close friend) to go see one of the Trooping the Colour parades. He bought tickets to the Colonel’s Review of Trooping the Colour on Horse Guards Parade, which is the second rehearsal of the parade that is going to take place on the Queen’s birthday (June 16). At first, Stefano and I weren’t sure we could go, but, after all, 1. we didn’t celebrate our recent wedding anniversary, 2. today is Stefano’s birthday (auguriiiiii, bacibaci :) ), 3. we may not be going on holiday this summer, and 4. our fabulous cat and house sitter is practically kicking us out of the house…so in the end we said, “oh heck, let’s just go.” We’re leaving tomorrow and will be back in Florence on Monday.

London, one of my favorite cities in the world! Yaaaay! 

But what does any of this have to do with, er, brain cell poop? 😉 Well, absolutely nothing…but this morning I received a Google Alert that led me to a Dr. Oz article…(by the way, have you ever watched the Dr. Oz show? I watched it whenever I could while I was visiting my parents. I could easily get hooked on the show, though I could do without the seemingly fake enthusiasm shown by the audience here and there…Still, Dr. Oz is very personable, and the information he provided, at least in the few shows I watched, seemed to stem from common sense backed by a bit of science…)

Anyway, I just loved the Oz article’s reference to coffee, curcumin and, yes, brain cell poop: http://goo.gl/Nm1Vv. Check it out!

Okay, I have to go pack (now why did I bother unpacking in the first place…)…Have a grrrrrreat weekend, everyone, and take care. And don’t forget that belly laugh! :)

Babies…

This morning I picked up a friend with whom I went to the Parco della Piana (= a bird reserve that I’ve written about before) to check out all the baby birds. It’s a weekday, of course, so we were alone…just the two of us and the birds. A magical experience…

As soon as we arrived, two pairs of black-winged stilts began circling above our heads, screaming and yelling and scolding us. At times they’d swoop down a bit as if to attack us. Quite amazing. They were, of course, defending their chicks. But right then we weren’t even close to the chicks. I mean, all the swooping and yelling began in the parking lot… 

Well, we did our best to avoid stressing out the devoted parents. We hid inside the various huts around the lake. Each time we exited a hut to go to another one, though, the adult stilts would zoom up into the air and try to shoo us away…  

By the way, my friend said she now understood why Stefano and I have such a passion for bird watching. She was absolutely mesmerized and kept pointing to different birds around the lake, asking me to identify them. She was particularly struck by the baby coots with their red heads…and the baby and adult stilts, of course…and by a great weed warbler (cannareccione, in Italian) that sang its little head off in our honor (well…)…Anyway, lots of fun. 

I have to go to bed now (still some jet lagzzzz), but here is one of the photos I took of a baby stilt (the little creature came quite close to our hut) this morning.

Is it cute or WHAT? :) 

Home.

My Myeloma buddy, Honey, in front of Widener Library, Harvard Yard (May 2012)

Last night, when I asked Stefano how glad he was, on a scale from 1 to 10, to have me home, he gave me a much higher number than 10. :)

And the kitties? Stefano had warned me that they’d probably ignore me for the first few days. He told me not to be too upset about that, though, since they’d been behaving strangely in my absence.

Well, so much for IGNORING. Hah! They were all over me, the instant I set foot in the house.

My Piccolo immediately began rubbing against my legs, meowing to me about everything that had happened since I’d left. He had plenty to say, let me tell ya, including a few complaints (you can tell by the tone of the meow…). The five kitties then put on a chase-one-another-all-over-the-house show in my honor. So cute. Oh, and Piccolo brought me two of his balls during the night; the balls were on our bed this morning. Yes. It’s good to be home. And it’s good NOT to be ignored. :) 

The downside: I have about a million e-mails to read. Well, okay, perhaps not a million (!), but I still have about 1500 unread messages, even after I deleted a bunch of unread newsletters last night. No kidding. While visiting my parents in the States, I accessed only my work e-mail address (I have different addresses for the blog, family and friends, newsletters and so on…This system makes my life easier…except when I go away, of course!). Point is, if you don’t hear from me soon (or perhaps at all!), please don’t take it personally! Mamma mia. When will I ever find the time to open and read all these messages?

That’s about it for now. I need a few days to get over jet lag. My mind is a bit blurry at the moment (see photo no. 2 = a Cape Cod shop sign…hehe, loved it!)…I’m going to try to read and report on a new study tomorrow, though…

But for now…zzzzzz! 😉

Bear-y exciting Cape Cod!!!

Well, just a quick note to let you all know that I’m leaving for Italy tonight and will be back in Florence tomorrow evening (due to a longish layover before boarding my connecting flight to Florence…bummer, that…luckily for me, I don’t mind waiting in airportszzzzzzzzz). 😉

Not much to report, actually, except that Cape Cod is all abuzz over the sighting of a young black bear. No bears have been spotted in southeastern Massachusetts in half a century, you see. So this is BIG news…BIG, in every sense! The bear in question is a 200-pound, 2.5-year-old male who almost certainly swam across the Cape Cod Canal last week (wow) and has been heading east ever since. Here are a few articles, for those interested: http://goo.gl/ogQKR. This one is a local article: http://goo.gl/TuJiz

I really REALLY hope the bear comes to no harm. I wish I could warn him: “Hey Yogi, crossing Cape Cod’s busy highway, Route 6, is not a good idea!!!”

Of course, everyone here is very excited about the bear. And his appearance has been good for local business, too. Bear-motif T-shirts are being printed as I write this post. One of them is titled “Cape Clawed! 2012.” :) See: http://goo.gl/0AFuj

Well, all bear talk aside, I’m really sad at the prospect of leaving my parents, but I’m also happy to be going back to Stefano and the kitties. A mix of conflicting emotions…but that’s how it goes, when you live far away from some of your loved ones. I didn’t have enough time (etc.) to visit my sister and niece in Arizona, e.g. Oh well, perhaps next time!

That’s about it for now. Have a great weekend and take care, everyone, especially my dear beloved Paula…

I hope to be posting something brief on Monday, jet lag permittingzzzzzzz! Ciaooooo!!! :)