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Big Evil Halloween Bunny and Gorilla Monsters

So there I was lying in bed "gorked" out on Vicodin, still recovering from surgery, and there came a knock, followed by a sweet teenagery, "May we come in?" And this is what came in. The cats couldn't scramble out of the way fast enough.

Beau and Steven Halloween Costumes

Now, remember I'm flying high on pain medication, while at the same time knowing that no one does Halloween quite like we do, and tick tock here comes October. So my first reaction was, "What the hell?", and then after I was able to catch my breath from laughing, I settled down and realized that this was just my beloved son and his friend Steven trying on their costumes, and not some tweaked out animal monsters from planet Sharp and Toothy.

The cats weren't too happy about it though.

Beau and Steven Halloween Costume Portrait

That's Beau in his favourite bunny costume, with a new and improved mask, on the left, and his friend Steven borrowing our big faced Gorilla costume on the right.

Ahhh Halloween, here we come.

I spoke with my fabulous surgeon yesterday. I had my feelings hurt because I wasn't able to see him either before or after my surgery and we had been so friendly before. I was thinking, "What's the deal? Has he become so famous and important that he can't even talk to me any more?" Turns out that he'd spent a full twenty minutes chatting with me in recovery after the surgery, laughing and joking with me about the notes I'd written in Sharpie on my belly. He was surprised that I'd forgotten. I swear I have zero memory of this, ZERO.

He also told me that my surgery had been the hardest one he'd done all week. He said that my liver looked okay, (That was a concern of mine,) but that he'd had to do a lot of cutting and working around scar tissue because there were so many adhesions. Ya think that explains why I'm in so much pain?

I'm laughing at all the people who said, "Oh, lap band surgery? You'll be up and ready to work the next day. Hell, I was bouncing up and down on a trampoline and making love from a swing by day three" Har dee har har, yup that's me laughing. Man, I was barely able to do the marketing and go to the bank with Scott yesterday.

I've been forcing myself to walk, but thank God for the Super Glue they used to put all of these many incisions back together; Super Glue, Valium for the pinched nerve and back pain, and Vicodin for the feeling that someone on massive doses of steroids threw a medicine ball at my abdomen.

BTW, just in case anyone thinks I'm whining here, far from it. I know how lucky I was to be able to afford this surgery, and to have survived with my health intact. Hey, as long as I have the full use of all of my senses I'm happy and grateful. I just wouldn't mind chewing something, but liquids are working for me for now. Maybe I can blend up some Captain Crunch and Nestle's chocolate chips? Just kidding. Seriously, I'm drinking water, soy protein drinks, vegetable soup, pinching my nose and tossing back the foulest tasting vitamin supplements in the world.

My Mom, Scott, and Beau have been wonderful. It's going to be a race to get well in time to clean this place up and get it decorated in time for Halloween.

Okay, I think I'll collapse in a heap now.

Big Hugs,
Jacqui
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My Lap Band Surgery

Hey Gang, I'm back and banded. Thank you as always for all of your love and support. It means so much to me. I'm feeling pretty good considering I just had surgery yesterday. I was pretty uncomfortable yesterday but I've been taking plenty of pain meds, and forcing myself to get up and walk at least a hundred steps every hour.

I have several new incisions on my belly that I hope will fade away like the ones I had before. Because I am allergic to latex they used special sutures and then super glued the incisions closed, which is a very weird thing; to see these wounds on my belly without any Band aids or dressing of any kind covering them like the last time I did this.

Here is what I wrote about this on my Flickr photo site;

I had weight loss surgery, (Laparascopic R&Y gastric bypass), four years ago with Dr. Carson Liu who was with Century City Hospital at the time. At first I was depressed, because I couldn't eat and food is my favorite coping mechanism, but as the weight melted off at such a fast pace, and the compliments and support poured in, I was so happy that I remember telling friends I would go through this same surgery every year for the rest of my life if that is what it would take to keep the weight off.

I lost a total of one-hundred-and-sixty pounds and was thrilled except for the sagging skin and the fact that even though I felt healthier and could do more, I thought that I looked closer to my real age and this plus all of the attention I was suddenly getting from men was disconcerting.

Before I got to my goal weight, in order to have the tummy tuck, thigh lift and breast surgery I needed, I had a few health setbacks that had me bedridden several times for weeks at a time and after two years of keeping the weight off I began to gain some of the weight I had lost back.

I finally went to see my original surgeon who has seen a lot of his bypass patients returning with weight gain, and because of this he is mostly performing lap band surgery because it is adjustable using a saline solution that can be injected through a port just beneath the skin that will then tighten the band that has been placed around the stomach thus causing a greater sensation of fullness.

I had my latest surgery on Monday, 9/17/07. My insurance wouldn't pay for it and I had to pay for it myself. It was very expensive.

I have all kinds of feelings about all of this. I wish I could have done this on my own without surgical intervention but after having tried almost every diet known to wo/man I decided to put my life and future back in the hands of this amazing surgeon.

Right now I'm super sore from the several small incisions in my abdomen, the pinched nerve in my neck, a herniated disc that I have, and the gas that gets trapped in different places in your body when they blow your abdomen up in order to be able to work inside of you with cameras, but I was able to walk to the car immediately after surgery and now one day later I am doing pretty well. I'll be on a liquid diet for two weeks followed by two weeks of soft foods and then I'll have a better understanding of how this new tool works.

Wish me luck? I'm so sick of this lifetime of struggling with my weight.

Weight Loss Surgery

Scott took this shot of me waiting somewhat nervously in the waiting room. There was some confusion about the wording of the cashier's cheque that set us back by about a half of an hour. Apparently Westside Multispecialty Surgery Center is exactly what their accountant wanted written on the cheque and not Multispecialty Surgery Center which is what my sweet Mother had put on the check instead. A lot of trouble over one missing word. In the end they finally agreed to try to deposit it as is so we could go ahead with the surgery, phew.

Weight Loss Surgery

This is the before picture that my boyfriend Scott took of me. I was tired, a little nervous, and definitely hungry because I had to do a bowel prep, yuck, and not eat anything for two days prior to the surgery.

Weight Loss Surgery

This is me trying to keep my nerves under control by being my usual cheerful jokey self, but there was no breaking these very serious and super professional nurses. They were really kind and compassionate though. Scott took this last shot of me immediately before I was taken into the operating room. I'm shy about letting everyone see how much weight I've gained but hopefully these will be the shocking before shots that I will one day soon be able to compare with the newer thinner shots of myself. You know, the ones where you go, "Oooh wow, look at that, you look like a completely different person." Just makeup and hair alone will make a big difference, and they gave me this enormous gown to wear, which ordinarily would have made me happy, considering all of the many years I have been forced to wear tiny little gowns that barely wrapped around my body and never covered my ass. Not these gowns, I was swimming in this.

Weight Loss Surgery

Here is my surgical team minus Doctor Liu who was so slammed that he only came in to see me after I was already unconscious. The two women were my nurses and the man on the right was my very kind and friendly anesthesiologist. All of these people were lovely, compassionate, and super professional.

Weight Loss Surgery

This is what I saw as I walked in to the operating room. I guess they don't get a lot of photo-taking bloggers because everyone seemed amused by my wanting to take these pictures. How cute is my doctor posing for me like that?

Weight Loss Surgery

I did this the last time I had surgery, held off on having any mellow meds added to my IV to take the edge off my pre surgery nerves; I needed to remain sober in order to be able to snap this photo from this perspective. I was disappointed that Dr. Liu wasn't there yet for this shot but you can see my nurses and my anesthesiologist. This was seconds before they knocked me out. As I snapped this picture I could already feel something making me mellow and that's the last thing I remember until I woke up in recovery.

Weight Loss Surgery

Here finally is the super famous and successful Doctor Carson Liu performing my surgery. I love to try to mess with him by making him laugh. I wrote, "Hiya Carson," and "Two Times the Charm?" on my belly just beneath my breasts in purple Sharpie so he'd see it when he took the draping off. When I woke up it was gone but it would have been funnier if he'd written something back.

You can see a tiny bit of my freaky looking blown up belly. I'm wondering why my skin looks like that, all wrinkled and strange. You can just make out what I look like on the inside on the monitor in the upper right of the picture. I asked my anesthesiologist to take this picture for me and he kindly obliged.

And that's about it for now. I'm drinking lots of water and protein drinks, strained soup, and I had a little bit of plain Pink Berry, woo hoo. I can't wait to be able to eat any kind of food that involves chewing. It's been five days since I had anything solid and I'm really not that hungry, physically, but mentally, I want to suck back some Starburst berry flavored fruit chews and chocolate. Oh well, that part of my life is behind me again because I am really determined this time to make the most of the gift of this surgery.

Big Hugs,
Your Pal -- Jacqui
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Gastric Band Surgery Tomorrow

Hey Everybody,

Well, if I didn't know how much I depend on food as a coping mechanism before, I sure do now. The whole "bowel prep" and clear liquid diet pre surgery thing is just so awful and I am finding myself wanting to reach for a handful of peanuts or granola just reflexively, without even thinking about it. I had to make sure I didn't have any food near me for fear I might accidentally eat something, seriously.

So tomorrow at eight AM I'm going in for my second weight loss surgery with Dr. Liu. He's amazing. His staff is amazing. I feel that he is the right doctor at the right time for me. Just to clear up any confusion for some of my friends here who asked, yes, I did have weight loss surgery a few years ago. I once weighed three-hundred-and-thirty-five pounds. I lost close to one-hundred-and-fifty pounds and have gained back about half of it or more.

I have a lot of shame about this and I have a lot to say about all of this but not now because I just took an Ambien and these little puppies are dangerous, they kick in quick and before you know it you're sleep-writing or walking or making phone calls. I swear to you I can easily slip into a kind of in-between-world twilight sleep state, keep writing, not being consciously aware of what I am writing, post this, go to bed, and then wake up wondering what the hell I did, with no memory of having done this. I can already feel it kicking in and am wondering if I've got everything sorted out for tomorrow, the whopping cashier's cheque for the surgery, my camera, etc. It's like having a black out if you take one of these and do too much other than go straight to bed, and it's scary. I should have waited to take it but I need to get exactly eight hours sleep and the clock is ticking. If I waited any longer to take it, I'd be late for my surgery.

Today was hard, hard, hard. I had to help a friend and do some challenging financial things. But at least it kept my mind off of how hungry I was, kept my brain from feeling sorry for me and wondering where my main drug of choice was, kept my mind off of the fact that I am purposely choosing to have a weird plastic or silicone ring inserted into my abdomen through several small incisions that will squeeze what's left of my stomach so tight that nothing bigger than a dime will be able to fit inside there. That and the thought that there will be a port, a tube that will connect to this ring and run up close to being just underneath my skin, close enough for me to feel, and when I don't lose weight, the surgeons will stick a long needle into it, fill it with saline solution that will then tighten the band, and make it impossible for me to binge. I don't dig the idea of having anything artificial in my body, but I might as well get used to it; I've already got an IUD, fillings in my teeth, am going to get dental implants, will end up having to have a breast lift with implants as well, and a tummy tuck, and God knows what all else. I want it all, Botox, restylane, the whole thing. I want to do it all but stop just short of looking like a certain very bizarre, only in LA, pink corvette driving celebrity who was sitting in the chiropractor's office when I came out on Friday. This whole frozen face, puffed up lips, pulled back eyebrows thing can get pretty weird looking if it isn't done super subtly. See, I'm rambling, I'd better stop.

The highlight of my day was being able to hold hands and play with a kangaroo named Boomer at a petting zoo near my house. I also got to cuddle a little baby goat. I rocked her and kissed her and she was so warm and wonderful. They also had an alpaca, a lama, and a cow creature with a hump that Scott said he thought was a bison or an ox? You don't learn these things when you spend your entire life living in a concrete city.

Well, there it went, my last sip of water before midnight. I don't know if I get to take my pills again in the morning, I have to take them with something or I'll barf. I guess I'll just take them to the surgery center and ask him what to do. BTW if you're ever getting the run around from a doctor, and getting a surgery you've been wanting to have for months scheduled just isn't happening, it would seem that doing what I did by threatening to stand in their waiting room and recite Shakespeare until they either help me out or call the cops is the way to go.

I'll see you back on the other side of anesthesia and my new life. Wish me luck?

Love You,
Jac

PS: Atra finally called me back after about a dozen phone calls but she sounded forced and strange. She sounded like she hates me or has turned into a completely different person. As soon as I get better I'm going to go over there whether she wants me to or not and find out what's going on. I just couldn't be there for both of us in the way that I used to be able to at the same time. I did the best I could and I guess that wasn't enough and it hurt her feelings and she couldn't express this to me directly. I think she just wants me to go away and disappear but since we are neighbors she is just being polite. I don't know, it's breaking my heart.

PPS: Pinkberry. I finally tried it. I am going to be living on this stuff it's so good.
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Pussy Slips

I have to get some sleep because I have to see four of the doctors who are the gatekeepers to my having lap band surgery on Monday. As long as I don't jump up on the psychiatrist's desk and start gobbling up her pens and pencils while shouting, "Yum! Yum!" or tell the nutritionist that I plan on hunting down the tiniest deserts I can find with the highest caloric density in order to keep my fat from burning off, I should be okay.

I haven't been able to write back to all of my wonderful friends here who responded to my last super long entry. Thank you! You gals/guys are the best, honestly, I love you all so much and am so grateful for your continued support and friendship. I feel so lucky and blessed that you hang in here with me through all of the ups and downs, the times when I can't write back and forget to wish you Happy Birthdays, and the times when I can.

That's what this surgery is all about, trying to turn the energy tide back in the other direction, taking my focus off of hiding out from pain and eating over it to push the feelings down, and rejoining the world. Losing just enough weight to be able to get out there and start exercising again and then get the knee surgery and the dental implants, and the boob lift and the tummy tuck, bwa ha ha, fun, fun, and more fun.

Ummm, not to jump on the judgment bandwagon and pick on poor Britney Spears because Lord knows she looks great for a Mother of two, and I can't do what she does, and I hate people who pick on other people for being anything less than physically perfect, but does anyone have any idea why she flashed her kitty again, (This makes four times for anyone who's keeping count,) just one day after the whole VMA debacle?

I feel bad for her, for how cruel Sara Silverman was, and the constant criticism and hounding she gets from the press, but at some point doesn't she have to take some responsibility for her behavior? Forget the VMAs, forget the hair shaving -- I actually thought she looked pretty cool with the shaved head and should have owned it and rocked the pixie look instead of hiding it under hats and wigs -- and even though I am a HUGE fan of nudity and think there is nothing wrong with seeing naked bodies at any place at any time, the world isn't like this, and if you're famous and you're going to flash, you know you're going to get harangued for it. So what is the deal? Does anyone have a take on this, or am I just stirring a super unimportant pot of soup here by even bringing this up?

BTW Scott looked really beautiful in the hot tub at his house tonight, but maybe that was my one little wine cooler talking ; ) Naaah, you really have to see those beautiful blue eyes in person to understand what I mean, plus I'm in love with him, but it's true that I've never seen a photo that does him justice, he is much more beautiful in person.

BTW I rarely drink. I just can't handle it, a few sips and I'm all over the man. I am such a cheap date.

Living Room Coffee Table

OH and hey, a photo I took of my living room was featured in a little article about coffee tables on the HGTV web site. It's actually a pretty crappy photo that I snapped off in the middle of a magazine photo shoot. You can see the photographer's beer bottle on the table and the newspaper that his assistant had been reading beside it. Kind of fun to have anyone interested in this though. Although, unfortunately, my living room looks nothing like this now due to much feline involvement in the rearrangement of our decor.

Speaking of cats, one of my little brown babies, who is available for adoption, snuck up on me tonight and bit down on my right nipple really hard with his tiny but super sharp little teeth, twice, and then turned around and bit my thigh. Man, that was painful.

I don't get it. I had taken my clothes off because it was hot and I couldn't find a clean sleeveless nightie. I've had cats do this to me before but only once and then they'd run off and hide under the bed after I yelped. Not this tiny little guy, he just stood his ground looking at me with a cocked head and then bit into me again, and then again. It's the Bengal in them.

Sorry, but Bengals are just too wild for me, they're beautiful, and I love the way they chatter away in this guttural wildcat sort of way and they have such spunk, but with the teeth marks I have on my nipple tonight I think I'll take a super domesticated alley cat over a wild cat any day. I'm so much more into the kind of cat who just wants to flop over and have his or her belly scratched, the kind of cat who wants to sleep on your pillow beside you at night, than the wild cat who runs up walls and does back flips in between attacking your feet and hands for making barely perceptible movements under the covers.

Wouldn't it be fun if you could prank your doctors, just say whatever insane thing comes to mind to freak them out? You should see some of the stupid questions on this long psychological evaluation form I had to fill out, things like, "Do you trust doctors? Do you dislike overweight people? Do you hate your body? Do you have an inordinate fear of needles? How do you feel about chocolate?"

Okay, off to bed, gotta get up early if I'm going to do any dirty dancing on anyone's desk tomorrow.

Love you,
Jac
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Mom's Cancer, My Weight Loss Surgery, Mary's Movie and More

It's been harder and harder to write as time goes on and the challenges pile up one after the other. I have loved this journal, loved writing to all of you, sharing my life with you and peeking in on yours. I miss this. I miss you.

I keep waiting for the smooth even times to share funny anecdotes -- small uneventful stories that will make you laugh -- a time when I can get back to being more of a regular chatty entertaining blogger-gal for you. But that hasn't been my path, and as I get older I am learning more and more that I am less in control of this journey than I want to think I am, my agenda is not The Creator's agenda and I keep having to be reminded of this.

As if on cue, and serving nicely as a visceral reminder of how true this is, Ziggy just sauntered up to me and sprayed my leg with whatever it is that cats use to mark their territories, some mix of urine and pheromones. He also mumbled something in that adorable Siamese way of his, but I'll be damned if I have a clue as to what he was saying.

I pulled a young woman out of a bad car wreck the other day. I was on my way to Mom's house, talking to her on the cell phone when I saw this accident that had just occurred in a busy intersection ahead of me. I pulled over and ran into the middle of things to see what I could do to help.

There was a pretty twenty-two year old woman with dark hair and big beautiful eyes slumped over her steering wheel crying and shaking. The front end of her brand new white Mercedes was crushed and her car had pushed another car up into the front yard of an apartment building near UCLA. All I could think of was calling 911 and getting her out of that broken steaming car.

There were lots of people around, everyone forgetting that 911 doesn't work any more when you dial it from a cell phone. All you get is a busy signal. How stupidly irresponsible and greedy is that? What the hell is the difference between being able to dial 911 from a regular phone and a cell, and why differentiate when people's lives may be at stake? Someone explain this to me please, and while you're at it can you produce and direct a PSA so everyone else will learn this, and then we can all stop wasting precious time and remember to get someone to run for a land line to dial for help?

Along with another woman who appeared and disappeared I pulled Nicole, her name was Nicole, out of her car, and helped her limp over to the grass, then realizing that we were sitting too close to the smoking grill of the other wrecked car I helped her to her feet and walked her far enough away from that car, sat down on the grass again, and then held her, stroking and comforting her like a child, for about an hour, while all of the usual post car accident drama unfolded, and until her parents, who I had called to come for her, arrived and were able to take over. I also found her wallet and called the auto club to come and tow her car and answered lots of questions for her because she was in so much shock. She wouldn't stop shaking, crying, and saying, "Why? Why? Why?" over and over again. Poor little thing.

As luck would have it, she was Iranian so I was able to use the very few soothing words I've learned in Farsi to help calm her down. I don't know how to spell these words but Joona and Hoshkele will pretty much do the trick in any situation. As anyone who has any friends who are Iranian might guess, or really anyone who has children and live in fear of getting a phone call like this, when I called her Mother she started screaming and wailing, hitting herself and pulling her hair. She said, "What are you saying? Nicole in an accident? No, no, NOOOOO!!!!!" Then her husband took the phone out of her hands and I could hear her screaming in the background. I did everything I could to assure then that their daughter was really going to be okay, just some burns and bruises, nothing serious and that it was all going to be just fine. By then the paramedics had arrived and I continued to hold and comfort her while they checked her vitals and asked questions to assess her condition. It's funny how much you can love and care for someone you've never met, how close you can feel to a stranger in such a short time, and then let go. It's a beautiful thing, moving really.

Anyone who remembers my massive freeway collision of a little over a year ago, and the two or three angels who came out of nowhere to offer love and assistance to me, will understand why I feel so grateful for the opportunity to return the favor. Distressing though it was, it was the highlight of my week. A moment of something completely outside of the messy painful upset that has become my life lately. A chance to do something that made me feel good about myself, something without reward other than the way it made me feel.

My friend Atra isn't speaking to me. She won't answer the phone when I call whereas ordinarily she will always pick it up saying merrily into the phone, "Jacqui Joona!" Now she ignores my calls and she won't return any of the messages I leave on her machine. She won't respond to my e-mails. I'm afraid to go over there because I think she is done with me and I just don't want to be rejected. I've seen her do this to people before, she gets angry, and then she cuts them off completely. I just never thought it would happen to me without warning.

Her Mother has been very sick and she is angry with me for not being more helpful, for not visiting more than I have. I feel terrible and guilty because I love her and her Mother very much. I love her whole family but for once I really couldn't be there for her and she doesn't understand this and is hurt. I've apologized and tried to explain. I've done everything but walk over there and confront her but I don't think I can handle being rejected to my face.

She doesn't understand what I've been going through over here on my side of the fence, or if she does she still believes that I am made of the same fire and strength of will that she is, instead of being the very real and flawed human being that I am. Atra can do anything, no matter how sick she is, no matter what she is going through, she can summon the will to go on in any situation. I think I can, but my body is telling me something else entirely.

My Mother's cancer has spread throughout her body. According to all of the oncologists and doctors we have seen at UCLA, Cedars and St. John's there is nothing to do but go home and wait. She may have six months or longer. Eventually the tumor in her lower bowel will grow and spread until it twists everything up inside her and she will not be able to go to the bathroom. She will not want to eat. She will waste away. Hospice workers will come and give her morphine and she will die. I am distraught but I am all she's got and I have to be strong for her. I cannot fall apart. I have to do everything she asks.

She is asking me to make her funeral arrangements while she is still very much alive and has no symptoms other than the fact that she feels weak and doesn't have much of an appetite. She is still her same old difficult but funny, wonderful, and super-wise self. She is still my best friend. Just writing this is making me cry. How will I live without being able to pick up the phone whenever I want to and find my Mom on the other end of the line? Who will I be buying these dresses for? Where will my beautiful blonde blue eyed princess of a Mother be and how will I live without her. She is my touch stone, my link to the past, the only person who remembers my life who hasn't left me and who loves me as unconditionally as anyone ever has.

My Mom wants to be cremated. She came to this decision suddenly. She asked me to call the mortuary and the cemetery and find out all of the options and costs and arrange her funeral and the party afterwards.

Speaking with the man at the mortuary over the phone I listened in dumb shock as he said things like, "You have a wide selection of urns to choose from. You can choose to have your cremains returned to you in what we call 'The Pieta' which is our finest bronze urn with a carved image of Jesus being taken down from the cross and there are several wooden and plastic cubes with room to insert photographs of your loved one. Or you can choose to take your cremains home with you in a plastic bag and store them in a vessel of your own choosing" and "Of course you will need to choose a wooden casket for the viewing. We use wood in this case as it will be burned with the body."

I had to give my Mom a breakdown of all of these choices and prices, the price of her own cremation and funeral while she is still very much alive, and of course she is making choices based on wanting to save money. She said, "Why can't you just borrow a box from them and then take me out and burn me afterwards?" I said, "Do you really want your friends to see you in a cheap pine box at the church?" She asked me where I was going to store her ashes and asked me to make certain the cats wouldn't knock her down and spill her. She said I should get some earthquake putty to ensure she wouldn't get knocked over in case of an earthquake. Can you imagine?

I feel pretty certain you can understand how painful this is to do. Additionally there is the fact that one of my Father's deepest wishes was that we return him to his family crypt in Hamilton Ohio when he died. He so wanted to be buried beside his parents, his dearly loved uncle, his Grandparents and Great Grandparents, and the baby brother he had who only lived a few months. I wanted to honor this request. I even wanted to travel back with him to visit this town that meant so much to him while he was still alive but my Mother wouldn't allow us. Then when he died she insisted on burying him here because she wanted to be buried beside him here in California, in the same cemetery where her parents are buried, and over my protestations, that is where he was interred.

Now, because she is going to spend the rest of eternity in an urn with me, this would leave my Father all alone in a cemetery where he did not want to be, so I am having to make the complicated arrangements to disinter his body and fly back with him to Ohio to ensure that he is buried where he wanted to be all along in his family crypt. But there are a few snags to this plan. I don't remember the name of the cemetery. I don't know where the paperwork is. And since this crypt was built in the mid 1800's my Mother reminded me that he had once said that the space that is reserved for him might be shorter than his coffin is long. Are you following me in terms of how challenging all of this is for one overly-emotional and clinically depressed little being to cope with?

That's not all. Obviously Mom is feeling helpless and out of control, and because she ran a successful business and was in charge of a large factory full of people for many years, she is someone who has always been very much in control of everything in her life and mine. Because she is feeling so frightened, (As anyone in her situation could be,) she is trying to manage her feelings by keeping herself busy preparing for her death.

She is doing things saying that this will supposedly make everything easier for me when she is gone, but the choices she is making are making life much harder for me now. Knowing that I am sentimental and will want to hang on to rather than sell her jewelry she is making plans to sell all of her diamond, pearl, and other fine jewelry so that we can put this money towards estate taxes. It doesn't matter to her that I want to keep these things as mementos, that I treasure them because they are hers. That I have spent my entire life from watching her wear them and admiring them. Her wedding ring is worth so much more to me than the money we will get for it.

She also wants to sell all of her beautiful and fine silver and china because she doesn't want to leave this in her home that she wants me to rent rather than sell. "Darling you don't entertain. When would you ever need things like these? You need the money more. It's already been decided." Oh God this is hard. She was about to sell our vacation house in the desert before she realized that the capital gains would make this a bad move. She made a unilateral decision that she was going to sell it furnished, no matter that our house is filled with some of my own furniture, as well as some pieces I would like to keep, "But Mom that's my coffee table, I had it in my home for years and love it. I only gave it to you to use in the desert, because I was storing it until I moved into a house where the cats won't be able to damage it. I can find another one in one of the thrift stores out there to put in it's place. I don't want to just give it to whoever buys our house. It's an antique. It came from Mrs. Belzer." "Well, that's just too bad Jacqui because I'm selling it!" That kind of thing.

Same goes for everything I have stored in her basement. She wants it cleared out before she calls The Salvation Army. She wants her house ready to rent the moment she crosses over so that I can have the income immediately but she doesn't understand how much work we will have to do on her very dated Bel Air home before we can even consider renting it. It doesn't even have air conditioning. Anyone who is going to pay ten thousand dollars or more a month in rent for a house in Bel Air is going to expect certain basic things that these houses have. People are pretty spoiled these days, they want luxury, they want granite counter tops and spa tubs, not cracked linoleum, and worn yellow wall to wall carpet. But even thinking about this now is repulsive to me. She is still here!

Nevertheless everything that won't be rented with the house has to go. She was going to wrap and pack all of the dozens of Limoges, crystal-covered Judith Lieber, and antique minaudiere boxes I've been giving her for every holiday for the last three decades that cover her dresser on Monday. Tuesday she was going to wrap up every framed family photograph that she keeps on her mantel piece and dressing table until I stopped her. I want her to have the pretty and sentimental things that bring her comfort and happiness around her. But she is in such a rush to settle everything, to wrap it all up, to keep herself busy so that she won't have to feel the fear and sadness that anyone in her position would feel. She doesn't understand that this pretense of helping me is actually making everything much, much harder.

She might live another year or two but she wants to strip her home of all of her mementos and possessions, sell everything off, get it all packed away and organized so she can wait for death to come like some helpless child waiting at a bus terminal with a ticket in her hand and a note pinned to her coat.

I want to help support her in any way that I can. I want to do whatever it is that she needs or wants me to do. But this rushing towards death is so sad and it's breaking my heart. I wish more than anything that she could really see how capable I am of taking care of everything for her after she is gone and just focus on letting me make her happy and comfortable. I wish that we could spend time with each other and enjoy the time we have left. I wish that she wouldn't sell off all of our family heirlooms and the treasured mementos that I want to keep for myself and Beau. Just writing this is making my heart beat so fast that I feel a wave of panic coming over me and I need to lie down. I'll be back to write more later, right now I feel too upset to go on.

I'm back. I don't know if that was a panic attack or a blood sugar crisis of some kind. Wow. I felt my heart beating so fast and then this wave of weirdness kind of washed over me and I thought I was going to faint. Scott came over tonight and we had Thai food that was pretty sweet and starchy. I want to think it was a crash from the food but I'm guessing it has more to do with the material I am forcing myself to face by writing about it. Whatever it was a little time away from the computer, some sugar, a call to my shrink, and half of a Valium seem to have done the trick.

But wait, that's not all. I could write another four or five paragraphs about my relationship with Scott and everything he has been going through, but I think I should put this aside, because considering the state I'm in I don't even want to try to get into this, other than to say that I am so grateful we are still together and working things out. He is a wreck right now, emotionally, and having to just walk through his troubles one day at a time, which is of course killing me because I love him so much and wish I could somehow wave a wand and fix all of it for him. He is in serious financial crisis mode as is Esther and her family which makes for some pretty unstable company right now. But like I said, I just can't even go into this or I'll be taking the other half of that Valium and downing tequila shots thinking I can do a big opening song and dance number for the VMAs or something ; )

I don't know if you remember the additional weight loss surgery that I mentioned I was planning on having a few months back. Well, after a long wait of three months, with lots of snags and hang ups, I just learned yesterday that, "Surprise, we can fit you in Monday." Weeeeee. So this means that this Friday will be my pre-op visit with four of the various weight loss surgery doctors -- hopefully I'll get to see my beloved Dr. Liu -- and starting Saturday I'll be doing the lovely Phospho bowel prep and pretty much fasting until Monday at which time I will be lying on my back with a cashiers cheque in my hand waiting to have my surgeons open me up again and slip a band around my already stapled stomach.

I once said that I was so happy with my weight loss surgery that I would do it again every single year if that's what it took to keep this weight off. Well, here I am again. Believe me my friends if it were a matter of a will that I had power over I wouldn't be planning on having my body cut apart again in order to reverse the weight gain that I can't allow to continue. It may mean that I won't be able to eat anything larger than the size of a well chewed pea but if I can get back to losing this weight, then I can get back to being healthier and hopefully I will regain the stamina I am going to need to be here to support the people I love through everything that we are obviously going to be going through in the upcoming months.

I'm also planning on taking a Sharpie and drawing something funny on my abdomen as a surprise for Doctor Liu during the surgery. I thought I might also tell him, just before they put me under, that now he will have been inside me more than some lovers I have had. Anything for a laugh.

Another big thing that has been keeping me super overwhelmed and busy is this intestinal infection that most of our cats caught that had them spewing diarrhea like sick parrots all over my bed, all over the walls, and all over everything for weeks. Every morning I would awake to new and wonderful surprises. It's been a stressful, expensive, and exhausting disaster, but it looks like we may be turning the tide. We finally tracked down the parasites that are causing all of this and several vet visits with dozens of cats in carriers and several hundreds of dollars later and we seem to be on the mend. Of course we still have another week of having to force one pill and two medications down every single one of our cats throats, which means my hands are being bit and torn by some very frustrated cat people, but it looks like it'll be better soon. I'm so praying for this.

Wow, I got most of it out, and now that we're all caught up, I can check in and write about sillier things and gossip with you about my latest favorite television shows, or tell you how excited I am about attending Artfest in the Spring, and other less important but happier things.

Oh, and my friend Mary's book, Figures of Echo, was made into a Lifetime movie called Custody that is airing this week. You might still be able to catch it. It's sweet and stars Rob Morrow. I'm so happy for her.

Phew, I think that's enough for one entry, don't you?

Love you,
Jac
Phil's Fave Jacqui Playa Pic

Burning Man 2007 Comes and Goes Without Us

Burning Man 2007 by Focal Intent

I didn't take this photograph. It was taken by Focalintent here on Flickr but I want to include it hoping he won't mind so I can show my friends what happened this year when some F*@&wad climbed up the man and torched it three days early. People are split into two camps about this; There are those who think it is in perfect keeping with the wild anarchist spirit of the event, and others who are deeply hurt and think this guy is a serious attention whore. I'm leaning towards the latter with the belief that everything unfolds as it is meant to. I just know we would have been so sad if we'd been there and lost our beacon for the length of time it took to rebuild him.

Burning Man 2005

This is what I think of when I think of Burning Man burning. They pack it with so much dynamite and fireworks that at some point it just explodes.

Burning Man 2003

Beau In the RV Playing With His Computer Games. The first year we went to Burning Man was 1998 or 1999, I think, that year Beau dyed his hair green. The next year it was blue. We missed a year in there somewhere but this was the year he wanted to bleach it white and then paint it fiery, "Like The Man," but the bleaching process hurt so much he couldn't stand it and had them wash out the beach before it could get to that white shade he wanted so he wasn't too happy with his hair this year. He was also feeling really insecure about his weight. I don't care how he looks he's always beautiful to me.

Burning Man 2003

In Kidsville we all help each other and Beau is so wonderful, kind and generous. Even though this was years ago you can see how sweet he is. He was helping this little guy get on his bike.

Burning Man 2005

Here is Beau and one of his friends. Look how much he's changed from the first pictures. And to think, this is two entire years ago, so imagine how much different he looks from this now. I want to gather up and make a time line of his photos from every year he attended so people can see how much he has changed through the years. Going to Burning Man has been such a healthy life affirming experience in community, creativity, bravery and love for us. I am proud of being a parent who has taken her child there for so many years.

Burning Man 2004

Here I am with my friend's baby. Isn't he the cutest little angel? We've had kids in Kidsville as young as three weeks old on up to eighteen and beyond. Our kids are growing older and want their own space now. Actually people have met out there, gotten married, made love, conceived, delivered and come back, so we've really experienced the whole circle of life. Scott, Beau, and I all got ordained as Reverends and Ministers with The Universal Life Church so we can marry people. Everyone gets married out there. I marry myself to babies, people, passing art cars, The Man, whatever catches my fancy.

Burning Man 2004

This is our group in 2004. And of course this is just the few people we were able to round up for the photo. People are mostly on Playa time out there so it's really hard to organize anything, especially a group photo shoot. Hard to believe it was just a few short years ago that there were just a dozen or less of us in a circle of wagons around a fire. We were KidsCamp then.

Burning Man 2005

Here I am in 2005, the last year we were able to make it home. It was a pretty special year though because I got to meet someone I've been wanting to meet for most of my life, I'm adopted so I can't write about this. Last Summer I was in a serious car wreck on the 405 freeway and could barely get out of bed for a month or more so there was no way I was going to be able to do all of the preparatory work involved in getting ready for Burning Man, let alone drive a huge RV from Los Angeles through Reno to Gerlach and beyond. I miss it so much. I'm praying we'll come back strong in 2008.
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Burning Man 2007 Live Webcast

Here's a live webcast from Burning Man pointed towards the center of the playa and The Man with Burning Man radio (BMIR, I think) and some radio communication interruptions. It's a little primitive still but considering that it's in the middle of practically nowhere, and we're not there with our friends, it's a nice way to be able to watch the burn and still feel connected. Here's another link if the first one isn't working, but I prefer the first, it's bigger, clearer and has less traffic.

Here's a link to TV Free Burning Man, check out the most current podcasts in the right hand 2007 column, you'll be able to see shots of The Man burning early on the night of the solar eclipse and the efforts to rebuild him. Right now he's standing and all but one of his green neon legs seems to be working. It's amazing considering how little time there was that they were able to mobilize and get him back up again.

It's a little hard to get that all of our friends are finishing up dinner, adjusting their lighting and costumes, and getting ready to head out to The Man to watch him burn. How did it all come and go by so quickly?

Beau is so upset that we aren't there but Mom needs us here and the money was so tight, to say nothing of my health. Although I really thought I would have had a surgery date by now. Today my hands were/are numb and tingly which is exactly what happened right before my big bad intestinal bleed. Kind of scary. I just upped my water intake, took some more prescription iron, and have been taking it very easy, which is not what I would be doing if I were out there.

If you've never been, please forget all of your preconceptions, and give it a chance. It just isn't like anything else and can't really be described, not even with words, video, photographs, or web cams. You really have to be there to feel what it's all about.

Hello to all of our beloved friends back home in the middle of the desert. Hello to the Favres, Hello Phil and Mara, Hello Kidsville! Hello Supersnail! We love and miss all of you!!!!
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Underwater kids Дети-амфибии

I looove this picture by antonina999 so much; I was looking for pictures on Flickr of children with Downs and somehow I ended up here. It reminds me of that Nirvana cover with the underwater baby, was it Nevermind? Fear needs to be taught, before this I think water is simply joy to us.

I am so very much in love with water and the ocean and babies, so I just had to share this with you.

I also love erotic underwater photography. (Hope it doesn't seem too weird to write about sex and babies in the same post, oh hell, babies wouldn't exist without sex so...there you go.) Pretty much anything underwater seems beautiful to me, but naked people underwater, wooh wooh!

Anyone remember Bruce Willis' two second willie shot in that movie he did about the psychiatrist whose patient jumped out of the window? I was sooo excited about that. I totally believe in equal time for male nudity in film. But naked mermaidy women with flowing red hair, oh, heavenly. And then there is the whole magical underwater realm of coral heads filled with life, ahhhh water, ahhhh the sea.

Oh, hang on, one of my cats just brought me a wee crocheted mouse toy to throw for him, be right back.

"All that we do is touched with ocean, yet we remain on the shore of what we know." -- Richard Wilbur
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My Scotty


My Scotty
Originally uploaded by jacquiscloset.
Here's a picture I took the other night at Scott's house when we had recently made love and had a terrific tender night together. I was feeling so in love with him and he looked so pretty to me leaning into the car to kiss me goodnight that I had to grab my camera and take a shot.
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Brave Weeds
I want to be like this beautiful weed.

Hi Everyone,

It's the beginning of Burning Man, and sadly, for the second year in a row, we're not there. I've already been to Google Earth to try and gaze down and feel connected to our friends in Kidsville.

Burning Man is like manna for me. It is a spiritual center that fills both of us for months afterwards with love and creative energy, and it certainly helps gets me through the year. My calendar begins and ends with August because of Burning Man. There really isn't anything like it that I have ever come across in this world, other than maybe making love or scuba diving, but you try doing either of these for seven days straight without stopping, it can't be done.

I'll post photos and links as soon as friends send them to me. Since Internet service is pretty tricky out in the middle of nowhere I can't know when this will be but I would like to show you some of the imagery that barely approximates the feel of what it is like to be there surrounded by so many like minded beings, surrounded be this powerfully vital creative energy.

I'm still waiting for a surgery date for the lap band, or O-Band as they're now calling it, that I'm going to have added to my gastric bypass to put an end to and reverse this weight gain. I've been on hold for this surgery date all summer but hopefully this should happen in the next week or so. More importantly I need to be here for my Mother whose cancer has spread throughout her body. It's showing up almost everywhere except for her brain. Next week we're going to get third and fourth opinions from oncologists at the Norris Cancer Center.

Mom's lung cancer surgery was exactly five years ago, which is one of those dates that every cancer patient waits to mark off on their calendars to count themselves fully cancer free and in the clear. Then roughly two years ago a tumor turned up on her ovary that her oncologist at Cedar's thought we should keep obviously keep an eye on. A little over a month ago we learned that it had gone through a little growth spurt, growing in size from something that was about the size of a golf ball to something the size of an orange. My Mom's oncologist wanted to remove it after he gets back from his summer holiday, around the first week of September, but my cancer warrior friend Mary was against it and called on all of her bright resources to get the information we needed to make the informed decision to hold off. She was right, of course. She always is.

Shortly after the OBGYN oncologist delivered the news about the ovarian tumor's sudden growth spurt, another oncologist told us that something was growing in a flap outside my Mother's lower bowel. After a blood test to confirm what everyone was already thinking, all of her doctors wanted her to have a nuclear scan. This particular scan "lights up" areas of cancer in the body. Mom's body lit up all over the place. I am in serious denial. So is Mom.

This type of cancer does not respond well to chemo and Mom, at ninety-one, is too old to withstand it. There is little point in doing surgery for about a dozen good reasons. There is a medication that can suppress the symptoms but it often causes the very same symptoms it is meant to suppress. The last oncologist that I spoke with said that this cancer grows slowly and that she could live another five to ten years before having any symptoms. When I asked him what the symptoms would include he said, "Flushing, diarrhea, stomach complaints, weakness." She has been having all of these symptoms for years, and is becoming more tired and forgetful by the day but again, she is in denial and so am I.

I have a new therapist. This is a good thing since my last one, who while I still love her very much and wish her all the happiness in the world, freaked out and disappeared for a while before returning and making even more of a mess of things between Scott and me.

I had a kind of panic attack today and my new therapist helped me realize that aside from the three or four dozen seriously stressful things I am juggling right now, I was really upset because I've been pushing down my feelings about my Mother; the panic I feel about the idea of losing her, not knowing what is going to happen next, how best to support and help her, what she is going to go through, will she be in pain, and what will my life be like without her? Never mind that she's doing strange things with her will.

This kind of stuff has always been too delicate and difficult to write about here, some people don't understand or react well to the complicated issue of money between my family and myself, so I'll just state as strongly as I can that I would rather have my Grandparents and my Father back than a dime of their money, and I would certainly rather have my Mom remain with us for the rest of our lives so that we can all be together forever.

I would rather have my Mom than her money, period. She knows this. I love her intensely despite everything that we have put each other through and I will be desperately lonely without her. We are intimately connected, and in many ways she is my closest friend. So when I mention the issue of wills and inheritance it is because she is the one who has and is always talking about money, she is the one who has spent my entire life telling me how "wealthy" I will be one day, and for better or worse I am financially dependant on her. Frankly it's scary when you are counting on your own Mother to make the right decisions for your future but she is putting them in the hands of someone who doesn't really know you and whose limited knowledge about you is based mostly on the negative things he has been told about you when she is upset.

I just can't risk saying any more about this now because I am so stressed that I honestly don't want anyone to come along and attack me here for writing about two very different issues in one entry; the terrible fear of the loss of my only remaining family member, (Other than Beau), and the other being that when she does leave us we may be in a difficult position because the government will need us to come up with 1.5 million dollars just to pay the estate taxes and we don't have it. We'll have to sell something or put a loan on something, which means less income, less income than the income that isn't keeping us all going now.

Have you ever heard the term cash poor? Well, that's us right now, and Mom, who has always been a kind of lazy money manager, certainly an overly conservative one, is tying up the trusts so tightly that not only will we never touch the principal, but she's tying up the interest as well, and putting Beau and me in the position of possibly being at odds with one another.

While it seems distasteful and cold to write about something like this, I just want you to know clearly that my own Mother talks about this more than anyone, I'm the one who always tries to put off these discussions, but her age alone is reason enough to consider that she will be leaving us soon. This means that our lives are going to change drastically one way or another at some point in the not too distant future and I have to talk to her and our attorney ASAP about some very uncomfortable things. I don't know if they will hear me or respect my wishes at all, but I have to try, and it is scaring me crazy.

There are a lot of people and animals who depend on me for their survival and my Mom, her attorney, and her secretary don't really get or care too much about this. Employees are second class citizens to my Mother, not the very real family they are to me, and animals, well, animals are disposable. My generous nature and my intense need to rescue, adopt, and nurture so many animals is the very reason they distrust me so much, which is so incredibly unfair given the many wise financial suggestions I have made over the years that would have more than quadrupled our net worth by now, but let's change this terrible subject, shall we?

I need a job, but what kind of job is going to pay me as much or more than I pay my own housekeeper, and how am I going to be able to work and be available for my Mother who is going to be completely dependent on me for her comfort and care? I am her only relative or friend under the age of seventy-something. I would have said ninety-something but she does have one friend in her late eighties and another in her seventies, but she hardly sees them.

In other news my friend Betsy is back with us and I am overjoyed about this. I love Betsy very much. She is one of the funniest and smartest people I know. I think I may have mentioned that she had breast cancer surgery and then opted to have an elective double mastectomy where she traded out all of her healthy breast tissue and nipples for the peace of mind that will come from knowing she won't have to worry about breast cancer reappearing in her breasts. The surgery lasted six long hours and afterwards she was so unstable for so long that she ended up in the cardiac ICU.

She flashed her lovely nipple-less breasts at me yesterday so I returned the favor and we all had a good laugh at our Fuct up boobs. Betsy's look great, except for the wide scars that run right across the center of each perfectly formed breast, but they're still beautiful, and these scars will soon be turned into nipples through some magic of reconstructive surgery that I don't understand.

Ana and Matt's Darling Baby Lili
Beautiful Baby Lili Who Makes My Heart Beat With Love For Her : )

My friend Ana's newborn baby Lili has Down's syndrome and both she and her fiance M. are amazing model parents who are inspiring us all in such a way that it seems as if this was meant to be. I wonder how many people, how many families, how many children's lives will be helped by Ana's choice to live her life so openly on cam, especially now that we will be watching the development of this sweet little baby who we are already in love with. Even now I have so much more of an understanding of Downs, so much more compassion for people who were born with it, as well as for their families and friends. Even Beau has been talking with me and learning more about it because of Lili.

Laurie Duncan's Lili Cupcake Faeries

I asked my friend Laurie to make these beautiful little cupcake faeries for Lili. Ana loves keys which is why the second L faerie is holding one. Laurie is an amazingly talented artist who brightens up my world. You can find her work on ebay under the name happy_as_a_lark, and her pictures on Flickr under bewitchedmagic. She also made these adorable cupcake faeries for another friend of mine.

Baby August's Present by Laurie Duncan

My friend Atra's Mother, who is also my dear friend, went in for a knee surgery and had a stroke. She is bedridden and barely makes sense. She thought her nurse was me and kept calling him by my name. This is the second knee surgery she has had in less than a year and because of the stroke she has been unable to comply with the doctors' orders to walk and move her knee, so the outcome of the surgery is so poor that she is going to have to risk another surgery to correct this last one.

I am trying to think of some positive things to say. Positive ways to spin things but I wonder if this isn't more for myself than for you. I DO believe that everything happens for a reason and that this is the school planet; Planet Reality where we all signed up for as much as we could handle -- no more, no less -- before we ever took form. I have to believe this, no matter how random and cruel things may seem.

I choose to see meaning and beauty in everything, even the saddest, most cruel things, like dog fighting. How do we know that the souls of those dogs didn't choose to come here to experience that suffering so that attention would be brought to this evil that cannot be called a sport any more than hunting an innocent deer or a rabbit can? Who is to say that there weren't moments in their short lives that were important to them and that furthered their souls' growth?

And if all else fails, as long as the electrcitiy and the cable bills are paid, there's always television.

I guess if someone asked me to write one or two sentences about what I did for my Summer vacation I would focus less on the part where I was spewing blood hospitalized in Mexico, almost getting dumped by my beloved, finding out Mom's cancer has come back strong, and sitting in rooms surrounded by bald people who look like they could use a good laugh, and who I long to reach out to and cheer up somehow, and say that I have been enjoying taking photographs, playing around on Flickr, building back my relationship with Scott, spending time with my son, loving and being good to everyone I meet, and worshipping at the altars of art, sexuality, motherhood, and nature.

I love you gals/guys. I miss you. I pray that you're all happy and well. I am always hoping to be able to check in more and reconnect.

Your Friend -- Jacqui

Little Odile