Saturday, February 27, 2010

Passing Time in Paso

Even though 2010 is still the worst most horrible terrible no-good year (if this confuses you, click here for a reminder: "terrible no good year"), we've already had what would be called "an amazing journey" if we were a reality TV show.

Last weekend Chris took me away from it all to Paso Robles in Central California to celebrate my birthday and, well, do a little business. But when your business is wine, that's not a bad thing. A little background for those of you who don't know Chris (and okay, if you're really new to the blog: Chris is my "significant other" of nearly 6 years). He writes a wine column for Area 9 magazine and he also runs a website called (yep, that's a link to it--check it out!). Lately he's expanded his wine repertoire  to include wine tasting events at restaurants and wine bars. He puts on a great "show" that's entertaining and pop-culture referenced filled and at the same time educates the audiences on some of the lesser known wines (so Mourvedre, Viognier, Roussane, Carmenere....not Chardonnay, Cabernet or Pinot Noir; you got that right? No? Okay...time for you to check out the website). His next big adventure and expansion into eventual world dominance of Forgotten Grapes everywhere is leading a wine tour through Paso Robles for a long weekend  April 8th to the 11th, 2010. 10 or 12 of us will get to tour the wineries of the Central Coast, but not just hopping out of the van and running into the tasting bars with the masses of humanity. No, we'll be meeting with the winemakers, getting private tours, doing barrel tastings, and in a few cases, dining with the winemakers in their private tasting rooms.  (If you're interested in joining us....and why wouldn't you be??...there's room for a few more. Check it all out at

So this past weekend, Chris and I had the very, very difficult job of scouting out the trip. We went to most of the wineries on the trip, met with the winemakers, ate at the restaurant and checked out the house (well, it's really two houses) that will be the accommodation for our group. Awesomeness everywhere. So many good wines, but the people we met were even more impressive. So kind, friendly and genuinely interested and passionate about their wines. Maybe because Chris is so knowledgeable in an area that most know little or nothing about (another word for "Forgotten" grapes might be "obscure"), the conversations were endlessly interesting. (Another thing to know about Chris is he has an encyclopedic knowledge of just about everything and particularly wine; I'm old so I say "encyclopedic"; our younger friends call him "Chrisipedia.")

I wasn't in charge; I had no duties or obligations; I was chauffeured about, wined, dined, wined, pampered, wined, and generally spoiled and relaxed all weekend long. Sheer bliss. And I fell in love with Paso Robles. Very few places make me want to pack up and move. Paso Robles had me not wanting to even bother coming home to pack up anything (except Seamus; we need Seamus with us). Here's some photos from our trip:
This is Chris (right) with Claiborne Thompson of Claiborne & Churchill winery (they're both Princeton grads so they had that in common too)

The house our group will be staying in come April. It sits high on a hill overlooking the wine valley.

The Pinot Noir flight tasting at Wild Horse.

Dinner at the home of Lisa & Ted Plemons, with Alice and Steve Cass. The four of them own Cass Vineyards & Winery. I can't believe I didn't get a picture of Ted...but trust me, he looks just like Richard Branson!

Here's Lisa with their dog Fig. Fig was very Seamus-esque (note his presence at the table and the defiant stare; yep, that's Seamus!)
These were a select few photos from Saturday and Sunday. Still to come, the Monday photos (hint: Monday had gorgeous weather--that's when the photo that is now the blog header photo was taken).

To think, this time last year I had just started my very first chemo treatment. A trip like this makes that all a very distant memory.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Whole New Life

Chris whisked me away to Paso Robles for three glorious days of wine tasting to celebrate my birthday (birthdays get bigger celebrations these days!). I'd like to pack up my life and start a new one in Paso Robles, with Chris and Seamus of course. Here's a few reasons why:


More on the trip later. For now, I just look at these photos and sigh. And then I remember I need to get my butt into work!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I finally got around to changing up the blog a bit. But, um, this yellow bowl of sunshine-y confection is not going to stay. I was playing, and then I ran out of energy. So Big Miss Sunshine it is right now. (That photo was taken on the day I started chemo. Oddly, it's one of the few I have of Seamus and I together during the cancer-go-round. Note to self: get new picture with Seamus. Not surprisingly, I have 5,672 photos of Chris and Seamus.)

But it's sort of appropriate that the blog looks like a giant birthday cake. Because tomorrow (the 17th) is my birthday and today is a blog-aversary of sorts. I actually started the blog on January 12, 2009. So technically, it was a year old back then. But that was also the anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis so the blog anniversary gets lost in that shuffle. Besides, I didn't have Google Analytics on January 12th. Nope, I didn't start obsessing over blog stats through Google Analytics until February 16th, 2009. So here's what Google tells me about my year in blog-land:

There have been 16,192 visits (these are different than "hits"; I don't know how except that one is less violent)

There were 6,874 "unique visitors" (I don't know what that says about the rest of you)

Page views totaled 24,305

And the average time spent on the blog was 2 minutes and 23 seconds (which means you are really fast readers!)

Visitors came from 118 countries

All 50 US states plus the District of Columbia eventually checked in for a visit.

The top 5 search words or phrases used to find the blog included some variation of "the dog lived," but number 6 was "Dr Karam UCLA." Number 7 was "butterflies" (mentioned a grand total of 1 time on my blog), and my own name was a distant number 10.

The blog that sent the most traffic over to my blog was  

Not coincidentally, the highest number of visitors to the blog in one day (at least that Google recorded) was 107...and that was the day (July 20, 2009) I posted the interview with Quinn Cummings of about her book, Notes from the Underwire (which is very good and very funny). The next highest was 88 on Friday, March 20th which was the day after my second chemo treatment when presumably you were all checking in to see if we'd have a repeat of the horrific white blood cell crash that followed the first chemo.(I disappointed you. Unless of course, you were actually hoping that I was okay post-chemo)

What Google calls the "top landing page" was the Butterflies and Blogs post. This makes me think a lot of 9 year old girls spend time doing google searches. With this knowledge you can fully expect a blog post called "Unicorns and Rainbows" very, very soon. No, wait. This blog is not appropriate for 9 year old girls. Never mind.

Google Analytics gives me a whole lot of other information, but frankly, I have no idea what it means. Oh, and I have google ads on the site and that has earned me $24.05. Well, it will once Google mails me a check (and I think I have to earn $100 before that happens. I'm going to keep my day job.).

I'm pretty sure none of those stats matter (but aren't you glad I bored you with them?). The blog was an important part of my process in dealing with the whole breast cancer odyssey. And I'm kind of attached to it, even if we are having issues right now.

Happy Blog-aversary to all of you who've been reading along with me. Thanks!

(P.S. Apparently there's been some confusion once again about leaving comments. I believe if you click on the word "comments" below this post--it may or may not have a number in front of it, such as "2 comments"--you will get a pop-up window which will show you the comments made and there will be a box where you can type in your comments. And there's a test to make sure you aren't sending spam. Because I want all discussion of prescription drugs and singles websites to come from me and me only).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dating and Cancer

In my return to normal life, following the program interruption that was cancer, I find myself following blogs that aren’t just about cancer. I know. Imagine. And I find myself laughing at these blogs (no, it’s okay, they’re meant to be funny) as well as at stories I’ve been hearing from some friends lately. For a brief moment, I was even jealous. Wow, they have all this interesting stuff to blog about. Great, great material these ladies have. Then I realized the common denominator…these are all women over the age of, um, let’s go with 30, getting out into the dating world. Rich, rich material for humor if only one didn’t have to live through the stories before they could tell them. That’s when I realized a very profound thing, which of course I will share with you (and then all of you single women can collectively scream “DUH!!!” at me).
Dating is a lot like cancer.
Well, it’s like cancer treatment.
1) No matter how hard you try, you’re not quite yourself at the beginning.
2) You have to give yourself lots of pep talks.
3) The whole process can make you feel really unattractive.
4) It sometimes seems it’s all anybody talks to you about.
5) Other people usually pick up the tab for dinner.
6) Drinks can have bad side effects.
7) You become hyper-aware of your weight.
8) Everybody seems to be doing it better.
9) Everybody has advice (and only some of it is any good).
10) You make yourself go through it (the dating ritual/ chemo) because it’s supposed to be better in the end. The end is truly supposed to justify the means.
11) And, bonus, you get some really wild stories that entertain your friends.

I remember when I was in the doctor’s exam room waiting for chemo. There was a flyer on the billboard for a support group for young breast cancer patients and it included topics like “dating and cancer.” And I thought…really? Who would worry about dating during chemo? That would seem to be the last thing on one’s mind. But I suppose if you are out there dating when you get diagnosed, well, that’s one more thing to deal with. That’s one side effect I definitely avoided.

So ladies of a certain age out there dating, I guess here’s the support I can offer… at least it’s not cancer. Right?

PS. Some blogs to check out if you are a) out their dating and need to laugh and b) are not easily offended. No, seriously, do not click if you are easily offended.

47 and Starting Over
I Shoulda Been a Stripper
Me Jane

My dating "real" friends haven't started blogs yet. Despite all of my encouragement. Maybe they don't see the humor yet. Hmmmmm

Monday, February 8, 2010

Change is Hard

I really was going to change the blog to make it less "breast-cancery." I was. Plus, have I mentioned I'm not really a pink person? But I've been busy. This past 72 hours I didn't leave the house (unless you count the back patio for a soak in the jacuzzi with Chris). I've been working. Real work (as in "for a living") and house projects. And a lot of that was on the computer, so I didn't really feel like adding "work on blog change" to that list. I'm still pink. Or, er, the blog is.  For now.

Since we're all still about pink, I think it's worth mentioning again that I will be the honorary chair of the Inland Agency's Shop to Stop Breast Cancer. (Here's where I mention that other far more impressive women walk for days or run for the I shop.) The event is March 15th at the Marriott in Riverside. At this point we're looking for sponsors and for "stuff." By stuff we mean new donated items--this is a great time to "re-gift." Got a gorgeous sweater for Christmas and it's 2 sizes too small? Not for Shop to Stop it isn't! Did you get a gift card to Claim Jumper and your diet doesn't allow for piles of food bigger than your head? Give it to us! (Um, the gift card, not your head. English sentence structure can be so difficult in the morning). And of course, we welcome shoppers. All the info you need is in the below "press release."

Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

January 29, 2010
Inland Agency
1737 Atlanta Ave.
Suite H-5
Riverside, CA  92507
(951) 241-8723

"Golden" Opportunity
Now you can donate unusable gold and silver jewelry (single earrings, broken bracelets, etc.) to Shop to Stop Breast Cancer and get the full value of the metal as a tax deduction. To make it simple, we have scheduled two collections:

Tuesday, February 23 Wednesday, March 3
5 pm until 7:30 p.m.
Inland Agency
Conference Room

The items will be weighed and a letter with the value of the metal will be instantly entered into a tax donation letter from Inland Agency. For more information call Jodee Palmer at (951) 241-8723 X224.

Event Sponsors

A to Z Printing
Altura Credit Union
American Diversity
Sara Aschmann &
Peter Bliss
Judith Auth
Alex Benn
Hattie Byland
Jennifer Camara
Crown Printing
Elizabeth Daschner
Rina Gonzales
Kappa Kappa Gamma
Ann Kasper
Sue Mitchell
Rosa Olaiz
Riverside Plaza
Kirsten & Matt Shea
Teresa Rhyne
Tesoro Media
The Zucker Law Firm

Quick Links
Teresa Rhyne to Chair
"Shop to Stop Breast Cancer"
March 15, 2010

Teresa RhyneWe are thrilled to welcome Teresa Rhyne, principal of The Teresa Rhyne Law Group, as this year's Honorary Chair of Shop to Stop Breast Cancer.
Teresa was instrumental in establishing the Breast Resource Advocates (BRA) Committee, an "A-List" group who work tirelessly to develop resources and ideas to support The Pink Ribbon Place, Riverside's first--and only--breast cancer resource center.
Teresa has been deeply involved with community organizations for years, serving as a Board or Executive Committee member for The Raincross Club, Alternatives to Domestic Violence, Riverside Public Library Foundation, Riverside Humane Society Pet Adoption Center, United Way of the Inland Valleys, YWCA's Professional Women's Council, the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce, and many others.

Teresa says of Shop to Stop Breast Cancer: "It's better than a sale; it's a sale with a heart!  All proceeds benefit the Inland Agency. The Inland Agency makes a difference and saves lives through its breast health programs. As a one-year breast cancer survivor myself, I can't over-emphasize how important the work they do really is."

Riverside Marriott Presents
Inland Agency's
Shop to Stop Breast Cancer
March 15, 2010

Shop to Stop Breast Cancer is Inland Agency's signature fundraising event to support The Pink Ribbon Place, Every dollar raised over the cost of the event goes directly to pay for mammograms for uninsured and underinsured women, saving lives through early detection. Click here for more information on this year's Shop to Stop Breast Cancer event, click here to send us an email, or call Jodee Palmer at (951) 241-8723 X224.

This Week's Featured Items

pianoRocking horse (Shop to Stop 2010)
Donations of wonderful items for Shop to Stop Breast Cancer have been coming in every week. We have far too much inventory to show it all, so we have decided to shine a spotlight on a few of the most exciting items each week. Shown above are a full-sized electric organ/piano, donated by Sara Aschmann and Peter Bliss, and a 100-year-old rocking horse on a wrought-iron frame. The tail is made of real horse hair and the saddle is genuine leather. This beautiful antique was donated by Ann Foster. To donate your own items and help us reach our goal of raising $100,000, contact Jodee Palmer at or call her at
(951) 241-8723 X224.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Dinner was Ruined

I'm home early so I have some time to blog. I'm home early because I walked out of a dinner meeting that was supposed to be a congenial gathering of estate planning professionals (you may not realize this...but that's what I do for a living! Entirely different website and eventually a blog for the other life of mine). Instead, after a very pleasant dinner I was subjected to some bloated, pompous, braggart of a CPA (hint: if someone starts a presentation with  "I represent only extremely wealthy clients with net worths in the hundreds of millions of dollars, probably even a billion" and he's standing in a small country club talking to maybe 40 people in my part of southern California....he's making s*^% up and really, truly, madly needs to get over himself). He then launched into a diatribe expounding his personal views on the Health Care bills. You know, the ones that didn't pass? The ones that have nothing to do with estate planning? The ones that are still the topic of extensive debate because, and here's a shocker, there is more than one point of view? Yes, those bills (House and Senate). Apparently he felt we would all be so thrilled to hear his extremely one-sided, shallow, uninformed and completely irrelevant opinion on what he called (because he's oh-so-hip-if-only-it-were-still 1992) "The Health Care Bill from Hell."

Perhaps I'm a bit sensitive, as a single, self-employed woman who now has a "pre-existing condition" which can be used to exclude me from health care coverage for, oh, ever if this guy has his way. Why would someone walk into a room and assume his views were so perfect that of course everyone in the room was going to not only agree with him but acknowledge him for the genius he so clearly feels he is? I never understand that sort of behavior. Maybe because I live in a town where my politics are clearly in the minority, I tend to not assume folks will feel the same way I do. Isn't that sort of common sense and, um, decency anyway when addressing a room full of folks?

So you might guess, I didn't exactly agree with Mr. Bloat. It seems highly likely to me that I will one day need some form of national health care option. I'm not likely to be able to maintain a lifetime of private insurance without some drastic change in our system. (Currently, my insurance costs me about $850 a month...but you watch how fast they increase that! And I still have co-pays up to $4,000 and a deductible of $500. Do the math.). And while the bills pending before Congress may not be perfect--and I ask you, in our current system, could there ever be a perfect bill--they should at least be considered without all the ridiculous rhetoric of "expensive" and "taxes" and how much it will hurt small business (right, like the current insurance scam going isn't hard on small businesses! And who exactly thinks our current system is reasonably priced?? And what, the war has been cheap??). Can't we talk about the benefits? About actual health care? Even about healthy competition? The  CPA quoted an insurance company discussing how expensive coverage under the new plan (ahem, the one that hasn't been finalized, let alone passed into law) would be for a healthy 25 year old male, or some such example. No cite to where this made up statistic is coming from, but hey, if an insurance company said it, well it must be true! Why would the existing insurance company have an ax to grind with the health care legislation being proposed? They wouldn't be trying to eliminate any competition would they? Gosh, no. They don't have a pretty good cash cow going now that they'd maybe like to protect? Nah. Never! They're just looking out for our best interests! Sort of like they do when they deny coverage.

I don't know how I feel, really, about the current legislation. I just know I'd like a rational discussion about options and changes and some form of national health care without everybody retreating to their respective usual corners and throwing out shallow rhetoric. I'd like to hear people discuss health care. I'd like to not see all the wealthy and healthy folks lined up on one side yelling about taxes and costs when the discussion should be on health care first.

Remember how your mother taught you not to discuss politics and religion in polite company? Somebody forgot that tonight.