Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Dangers of Social Media

Like millions--no let's make that trillions--of people around the world I have come to think of facebook as my very own open-book diary.  There is something so heady about sharing an event or special moment instaneously with your entire network of family and friends.

And I believe I speak for many people that this false sense of intimacy can become addicting. The danger is that by sharing too much information, you open yourself up to scammers and you run the risk of hurting other people with your comments.

Both of those experiences happened to me over the past month. When I shared my post: My Shopping Adventures at Walmart, I was sent a proposition by a phony mystery shopping company to do an assignment. The company sent me counterfeit checks to deposit into my banking account and then send the money via Western Union to some residence in Arizona. I researched the company and reported them to the FBI.

Last night I made a flippant comment on facebook about how a couple of ex-boyfriends notified me yesterday.  Of course all my girlfriends on facebook had to put their two cents in. What felt like a girls night at happy hour over cosmos was actually a public conversation for all the world to see. Silly me.

Long story short, I unentionally offended some people. I deleted the entire post and string of comments. But of course the damage was done. Now I know why Alec Baldwin shut down his Twitter account after his Words With Friends game incident on an airport runway.

Because of these incidents, I've decided to deactivate my facebook account. I realize posting is no substitute for actual human socializing. Perhaps I will go back on, but for right now I think it's time to get  a life.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Welcome Spring!

Finally! My favorite time of year has arrived.  The spring of 2008 was not much fun, since that was when I got diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember getting a second opinion from another breast surgeon and as a I left, she commented: "This is not going to be a good year for you. But after that, you'll be back to normal."

It was true. I was so mad that spring was marred with dozens of tests. I sat in a chemo chair for the first time on April 23. As I leaned back in the Lazy Boy, Joe noted that I was clutching the arm rests and staring at the ceiling like I was about to launch into outer space. That's certainly what it felt like. On May 5th my friend Dawn shaved the last clumps of hair off my head, and I spent the rest of spring and summer with a paisley cotton handkerchief tied on my head. The surgeons even let me keep it on when I had my first mastectomy.

I remember trying again and again to wear the expensive wig that I bought, but sweat would always drip down my face so came up with my Alicia Keyes get-up: A cotton handkerchief wrapped backwards on my head topped with a straw fedora hat and big earrings. That was my signature look into September.

The entire fall was filled with daily radiation sessions, and by November I felt worn down and depressed so the doctors put me on the antidepressant effexor. The good news is discarded all the head coverings and braved my brown pixie hair style.

On the first day of spring in 2009 I had my first reconstruction surgery, which unfortunately went terribly wrong. I was in surgery for almost 24 hours. The doctor was unsuccessful with the tram flap on my left breast because all the radiation tissue rejected the tummy fat graft. I lost so much blood that I had to go in intensive care for three days. I was in the hospital for a week and I vowed to never let myself get that ill again.

So here I am three years later in good health. I have to stay thankful for that. When I forget, all I have to remember those days of being nauseous with no hair, and stuck in intensive care. Thank God for the advent of spring--and my health.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Remembering My Dad

It was two years ago today that my dad passed away. The fact that it was sudden was a good thing. His health had deteoriated immensely within three years and his dementia was clearly wearing my mom down. We all agreed that when he went out at 7:30pm on St. Patrick's day to take the garbage out and my mom found him in the garage dead 30 minutes later,  that such a swift exit from this earth was a blessing.

But of course it was also a shock. A year before dad died, I had reconstruction surgery on March 21. My mom and dad drove up from Florida to take care of me. It was a good thing they did, because the surgery took a bad turn and I ended up in intensive care for three days and stayed in the hospital for a week. Because of all the damage on my left side due to radiation, the tram flap surgery was unsuccessful. They had to redo the surgery the next July.

I will never forget that horrible time and I don't know how I would have managed if my parents weren't there. When my brother had knee replacement nine months later and also had complications, mom and dad raced up from Florida, only to have their car break down in New Jersey. Triple A had to tow their car over 100 miles to Connecticut and they didn't arrive until 3am in the morning. My poor parents were shaken and exhausted.

Once again, they came to take care of their kids--at whatever cost. My dad could drive us nuts with his stubborness and quirks, but he did the best he could.  So here's to you dad! Happy St. Patrick's day in heaven.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Celebrating Four Years As A Survivor

It was March 12, 2008 when I got some very bad news. I had breast cancer.  My first thought was: That's it. I'm going to die.  But I didn't. It just took a long, three-year journey to get back to normal.

I believe I'm still around--four years later--because I had an outstanding team of doctors. I was told to take the most radical treatment possible, chemotherapy, double mastectomy, radiation, breast reconstruction. After getting a second opinion that confirmed I was taking the right path. I followed my doctors' orders without question.

Today I have scars, breast implants and minor neuropathy that reminds me of what I went through everyday. My post-cancer battle has presented me with new challenges, but I guess it could be worse.

I must keep reminding myself: I have a second chance. Work it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

In Search of a Prince

I decided to give Match.com another go after my friend Allison told me her tales of working the matchmaking site back in 2007, which ultimately lead to her to meeting her second husband. I was truly inspired.  She admitted that she had to kiss a lot of frogs but the process worked. She found the man of her dreams.

It's kind of like shopping for a house. There can be months of Saturdays driving with a realtor and checking out one place after another. The journey is arduous because you don't need a dozen houses, you only need one. So when you finally find THE ONE it's a moment to savor.

This is not my first foray into the land of Match.com. I joined for about nine months back in 2001. Let's say doing the internet dating thing in my '40s was a lot more fast paced then it is in my '50s. There were weeks when I was chatting with two Jeffs or two Johns, and when I said it was alright for them to call me, I got  the two mixed up.

Sometimes I went on two to three dates a week that felt more like interviews. It was exhausting.  I did meet some interesting men, but out of all of them, there was only one I really liked. Unfortunately, he was going through a nasty divorce and had no interest in a relationship. He was more interested in the way Match gave him the ability to take playing the field to the next level.

The week before 9/11, I had two first dates with two men. One worked in World Trade Center One, the other worked in World Trade Center Two. I happened to have both their cellphone numbers. On that horrible day I called each one of them for days, certain at least one of them had died. After the dust literally settled, I found out they both had lived. One of them had left the building at 7:30am to take The Path train to New Jersey for a meeting. He was stuck in New Jersey for four days and his cellphone battery had died but he was alive. When he told me about the experience, I could hear in his voice that the experience had changed him forever.

There was one date that pushed me over the edge and right after that I took down my profile on Match.com for 11 years. I will never forget that date on a Saturday morning at Starbucks in Greenwich. I knew it wouldn't be good when the guy didn't even offer to buy me coffee. For three hours, this man grilled me about why I was on Match, why I got a divorce and how much money I made.
I could feel my temper start to rise with each invasive question. The last straw came when he asked me if I had a fuck-you fund. "Excuse me, what's that," I replied.

He answered: "It means that if you decided to tell your boss fuck-you and quit, you would have enough money in the bank to live without a job for two years."  I told him I must have failed the interview, because no, I did not have such a fund. Then I kindly pointed out that it would be easier for him to have such a fund since he was 45 years old, he had never been married and still lived with his parents.

As far as I was concerned, those stats did not make him a highly-desirable match--even if he had one of those funds. With that, I saw a friend walk by through the window. I knocked on the pane, waved at her and raced out the door. When I got out on the street, I told my friend: that's it, I'm finished with this Match business. A guy that is clueless about relationships wasted my Saturday morning and he didn't even buy me coffee!

Fast forward 11 years. I had my first date through Match.com last night. He took me out to eat pizza and bought me a glass of wine. He is a former ship captain--never married. There was absolutely no chemistry there, perhaps because I thought he was so old--64. Funny thing is that's how old my ex-husband is. He didn't even know what arugula was (I asked for it on my pizza.) Like that last date I had on Match, he grilled me a lot. I won't be seeing him again. But at least it's a start. I'm going to be optimistic and say--like Allison--I just kissed my first frog and I'm one step closer to meeting my prince.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Soul Sunday

This afternoon I took a walk along the beach of the Long Island sound.  Maybe it's because I grew up on a lake in Minnesota, but I find it very soothing to just stare at the lapping waves of water. When the sun broke through the gray sky, it ignited a train of sparkle along the beach because the rocks washed up from the tide all had a glittery finish.  I started picking up the brightest ones and dumped them into my pockets. When there was no room left, I loaded them into my purse.

As I kept picking these "gems" off the beach, I started thinking about how they would look with candles nestled amidst these rocks with the fire bouncing of the silver glint. When I got home, I dug through some closets and found a silver platter I had retired.  Behold, here is my new coffee table centerpiece! I like it because it's not pre-fabricated. It is my creative effort and whenever I look at it, I will remember my soul-soothing walk today along the beach.

To all of you currently battling breast cancer, take a walk, preferably overlooking water. Commune with nature. It will clear out the anxiety about what the future holds. Focus on the trees, the wind, the sun, the waves. It will clear your head and help whisk away your worries. That's what the walk on the beach did for me.

Battling breast cancer is hard. And I forgot that life in general can sometimes be hard. Live in the moment. The rest will fall into place.