Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jumpin' Back In

It had to happen...I had to go back to work.

After almost 3 weeks of sick leave due to my beloved blood clot (almost 4 weeks if you consider I was on vacation the week before it happened), my first day was what has become the toughest day of every week -- clinic. I was a bit worried about how rusty I'd gotten after such a short time on the job, & that didn't help.

The day sucked. The boss was in a horrible mood & was very hard on me & the other 2 women working with him. Well, mostly me. I really wanted to tell him that I wasn't hired to excel in clinic, I was hired to excel in what I already excel in, but that wouldn't have been appropriate. Instead, I very nicely told him that, if I'd been able, I would've gladly rescheduled my near fatal medical emergency to a time after I'd gotten much better at my new job. Now, I didn't use those exact words, & I really was very polite, but it doesn't matter. He didn't hear me because he wasn't listening to anyone. Even though I knew he was acting out-of-character & irrational, & that my work that day really wasn't that bad, I couldn't help but feel like crap & like a failure at the end of the day.

Life went on. I went at the enormous stacks of work that had been accumulating since I left for vacation (& I'm still not done). We met with some people for our side business, had drinks with friends on St. Pat's, & I had my blood drawn. You know, because I haven't been poked with needles enough over the last few weeks. My blood ended up being too thin - I could've told you that when I bled like crazy after the needle was removed - so my medicine was adjusted once again. My right arm is beginning to make me look a junkie. Then there's been a bit of drama with my parents, but that might be another post for another time. Regardless of that, things were getting better, even though I was still stinging a little bit from Monday.

Fast forward to this evening. We get home & I grabbed the mail. I was so surprised to see that there was already a birthday card (my birthday isn't until the end of the month). I was even more surprised to see the name on the return address label: my boss. I ripped open the card on my way up the driveway, & couldn't suppress a "Holy shit!".

There was a check for $100 inside the birthday card, sent on Tuesday.

Now, let's get something straight. I don't know this guy that well, but I do know that he very likely didn't realize that he was too hard on me this past Monday. He was NOT kissing my ass. Apparently, this is just what he does...he buys me lunch every Monday, sent me flowers on Valentine's & while I was in the hospital, & now a birthday bonus with a note that said "Thanks for all of your hard work, Claire"...spelled correctly & everything. And hey, maybe he doesn't think I'm so bad after all.

To celebrate this gift - & the fact that it's Thursday - we decided wine was in order. Shocking, I know. The first wine we reached for is a favorite of ours...& it was corked. Crap. That's such a bummer, but never fear, we had more wine. We grabbed the Four Vines 2006 Biker Zinfandel , another favorite, & we were not disappointed. Nope, not one bit.

Mmmmm, mmmm, good. Talk about a ballsy Zin!

But you know what? There was more to this big-ass Paso Robles wine than that. Big berry, with wonderful pepper & spice that's not just in-your-face, it's very well done, & very deserving of your purchase. Actually, all of the Four Vines wines are - we've loved every single one that we've tried, which is almost all of them.

Go to your nearest wine store & treat yourself!

Monday, March 9, 2009

At Last...

...I can move! I'm off work all this week, but I'm no longer confined to my recliner prison! No running, rock or tree climbing, cliff diving, riding bikes, motorcycles, bulls, or, that pretty much leaves me incapacitated.


Seriously, other than those things, I can do almost anything I want. I'll be on medication for a while, but the doctor gave me great news.

I can drink wine. And yes, those are angels singing.

To celebrate this occasion, we decided to open up a special bottle. Not one that made the last post, but special just the same.

About a year ago, maybe 2, Doug & I went to a tasting at The Wine Barrel of Buena Vista Carneros wines. We had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Stewart, the winemaker, but most importantly, we loved his wine! Jeff wasn't the first winemaker we'd ever met, but he was cool & he signed both bottles that we bought. (I think I've said it before, but a lot of winemakers can be really boring, so it was refreshing to meet one that's not!) While Buena Vista prides itself on its Pinot Noir, we couldn't help ourselves when we tried the Merlot & the Syrah. It also helped that we were quite Pinot-heavy at the time of the tasting...& we have no regrets other than we should've bought more. (No, I don't know what I'll do with the empty signed bottles. I suppose if we keep it that it'll be something else to dust.)

We opened one of those bottles tonight, the 2003 Buena Vista Merlot.

I reached for this bottle tonight because of fear. We've held onto bottles that we thought would be ok, but fell apart as soon as we pulled the cork...& my friends, that qualifies as a tragedy in my book.

My, mymymymy-myyyyy.... what a lovely experience this was! Rich fruit, perhaps crushed berries, with some leather on the nose, & full-bodied, luscious, well balanced, & divine in the mouth. Blackberries, mocha, & some kind of spice - maybe clove - on the palate. An amazing cool climate Merlot. Fantastic.

Maybe we should've let this wine sit a while longer...I think it could've handled it. It's a tricky call. I mean, 95% of wine made today is made to drink NOW. As much as I'd love to open no wine before its time, who in the hell am I to know when that time is? Aaaauuurrgghhhh!!!

Ah, no regrets.

(Except that we should've bought more! Damn it, we should've bought more!)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

2009 Open That Bottle Night

Every year, on the last Saturday night in February, wine drinkers around the world open up those special bottles that they've been holding on to for whatever reason. Sounds grand, doesn't it?

Oh, it could've really could've been. We've never taken part in this, so we wanted to do it up. We were going to have a few people over, perhaps grill up some steak or whatever, hang out & enjoy the food, company, & of course, the vino. Due to my recent malady (read below for those of you that don't know what I'm talking about), I suppose it wasn't meant to be. Boo hoo. I'll live.

Doug & I have quite a bit of wine. We go to tastings around town regularly, & we always buy at least 1 bottle. Don't get me wrong - we only have about 75-80 bottles at this time, so our collection is not that impressive, & we don't have a cellar. Yet. We have room in the basement for one, so maybe someday. Anyway, we've got a few bottles that we've been hanging on to, although we don't really have a plan for any of them.

2004 Ca'Marcanda Promis: A Super Tuscan out of Bolgheri, one of Italy's youngest DOC's, & one of the many fine wines from Angelo Gaja. We were really excited about this wine when we bought it: 55% Merlot, 35% Shiraz - both from the Bolgheri estate - and 10% Sangiovese from Montalcino. We picked this up during a class at Lukas Liquor, where we met our friends Shan & Sean. We'll probably drink this one very soon....

2003 Chateau de Sales, Heritiers de Lambert: This wine is from Pomerol, a tiny region in Bordeaux. I'm not going to pretend to know a ton about Bordeaux because there's just way too much information & it can be very know, because it's all French. What I can tell you about Pomerol is that it's on the Right Bank of Bordeaux, which means that about 2/3 of the vines are Merlot. Most of the remainder is Cab Franc, with some Cabernet Sauvignon, & a spot or 2 of Malbec thrown in for good measure. Pomerol is also home to Chateau Pétrus, one of the most expensive and sought-after wines of the world. It's been said that wines from the region can be "sensuous & life-changing". Hmmm...our wine cost enough for about half of a drop of Chateau Pétrus, & we doubt that it'll be life-changing, but we do have hope that it will be wonderful. We had a taste of it when we bought it at Lukas Liquor, & it was!

2003 Chateau Beau-Site Cru Bourgeois Superieur: We bought this from The Wine Barrel. Another Bordeaux, only this time from Ste. Estephe on the Left Bank. Again, I don't know much, but generally speaking, wines from the Left Bank are mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with some Merlot. I wouldn't doubt if there's a little Petit Verdot, Cab Franc, &/or Malbec in the mix, but it's practically impossible to know for sure...again, it's French. I'm not saying that to diss on the French as a people, but their wine politics are very, very odd. Every time I think of studying to be a sommelier (for no other reason than my own amusement), I think of France & think otherwise. Back to the can probably be aged for a long time, but seriously...why???

2004 Ferrari Carano Tresor: In a word? Yum. We absolutely adore this wine (& most wines from Ferrari Carano), & we were thrilled when it was featured at a tasting at The Wine Barrel. It's a Bordeaux blend that contains all 5 Bordeaux varietals - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, & Cabernet Franc. We really need to pick up the 2005 as well because it's that good.

2004 Ojai Stolpman Vineyard Syrah: I remember this wine well from a tasting at Lukas Liquor a while back, & I was immediately infatuated. The Pinnacle Import reps, Bill & our pal Amy, served an astounding beef brisket with a lineup of 6 different Syrahs, maybe 7. This was a rare thing at Lukas, & it made a big impact on me. Syrah can be a tough varietal to "get", & as with most grapes, there are many, many winemaking styles. I recall that this wine was very dark, almost a blue-black, & was smoky with blueberry & blackberry. Delish.

2004 Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon: We picked this up from yet another tasting at Lukas, their special "Big Red" tasting that will probably be on hold indefinitely because of - you guessed it - the economy. That's so sad. Anyway, this wine is 100% Cab, estate grown, & a blend from different vineyards. I remember smoooooth... & very well balanced. We've had several wines from Anderson's Conn Valley & really enjoyed them. Maybe we'll get to try some of their whites someday, but they really are known for their reds.

2005 Long Shadows Pedestal: Lucy & I attended a tasting at Veritas last year, & we were both very impressed with the Long Shadows wines. The 2005 Pedestal is 80% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Cabernet Franc, & absolutely incredible. Wines from Long Shadows are really cool for many reasons, & their story is one of them. The grapes are grown in Washington, & the wines are a collaboration between Allen Shoup, the winemaker in Washington, & renowned winemakers from around the world. The Pedestal is a joint venture with Michael Rolland of Pomerol (& now we know a little about that place), & it's delightful. It was quite a hard choice to make - most of the wines were about $60 a pop, except for the Riesling...but Veritas sold out of that fast. For good reason, the Poet's Leap is stellar, & my favorite Riesling ever. The fact that I have a favorite Riesling is promising...I'm coming along in my appreciation for Riesling. Ah, but I digress...the Pedestal. So very, very good!

2002 Elderton Command: Another purchase from the Big Red tasting at Lukas, & perhaps aside from the Ornellaia, this Barossa Valley Shiraz was the star of the show. To those of you that are impressed by such things, Parker gave this baby a 95 & that's freakin' high. I remember this was huge, larger than life...stunning, actually. No, wait - what was stunning was that Doug grabbed a bottle of this with no discussion - it was $75, more than we've ever paid for wine. What made this even crazier is that before tasting this wine, Doug didn't even like Shiraz! For that matter, Australian wines rarely top my list of favorite wines, either, but hey - I'm really excited about this wine. In fact, I'm thinking about drinking this for my upcoming 40th birthday, but we'll see. Doctor's orders, you know.

So, there you have it, the pride of our "cellar", although there are several more that I could add. Maybe we'll have a belated Open That Bottle Night sometime, or maybe we'll crack a couple bottles open with just a few friends. Who knows what we'll do, but I can tell you this much -- any day that these wines are opened will be an occasion in itself.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Needle & The Damage Done

I figured that since I'm laid up at home, sharing my recent health scare with you, that I should at least show you what this awful shot looks like:


There it is. Not so bad, really. Really. It could be so much longer, like a flu shot or something. Now those are big! Oh, who am I kidding...they might not be as big, but I still hate them. For the first & probably only time ever, I'm actually grateful to be fat! I shudder to think about giving myself these shots if I had a flat belly. At any rate, I hope to be finished with these things for good tomorrow.

The damage done? No, no, you won't be seeing that.... I do have some pride, you know.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

By Popular Demand

In my last post (for those of you that haven't read it, you might want to so you can catch up), I mentioned my hospital roommate, & I've gotten quite a few requests for stories about her. I'll give it my best shot, but since my brain is turning to mush, I make no guarantees on the entertainment value.

Before I get into this, let me be clear about something. I don't know much about sickle cell disease, but I understand that it is serious, like all of the illnesses that were being treated on my floor. Oh, & you might want to get comfortable...this is going to be a long one!

It was quite clear that my new roommate - let's just call her "She" - was less than thrilled about sharing her room. She was on the phone when I came in, & she said "Oh, now I have a white girl for a roommate...", which was my big clue. Whatever, I had more important things to worry about than making pals. The nurse drew the curtain around my side of the room & left me sitting quietly on my bed, waiting for someone to tell me what was happening next. As I said before, nothing happens quickly in a hospital. My roommate was on her cellphone the whole time, & the phone in the room rang for her several times as well.

I suspected - but didn't fully realize - that it was a small sign of things to come.

Doug arrived, & since all that had happened was that I was given a very stylish gown & I had a needle in my arm. Nothing hooked up to the needle, no medicine given, no food, no monitors, no direction... just a little frustrating! During this time, my roommate had a visitor & left the room with her. I didn't know it then, but that was my one & only respite for the next 24 hours or so.

My roommate returned sans visitor, & Doug left to go home. The phones - hers, not mine - started going immediately. Yeah, She was talking on both phones at the same time. Apparently, one of her sisters had hidden her pregnancy from her & She only found out after the baby was born. She was extremely upset & was railing at anyone that would listen. Meanwhile, my nurse came in to teach me how to give myself my shots. Yikes.

It was then that the 1-sided attention games began. She, who had been speaking normally until this point, all of a sudden adapted a weak, helpless voice & tried to call my nurse away from me (while on the phone, of course). The nurse told her that she would be there in a moment (& she was), & was then blasted for giving She an attitude just then. Huh?

After the nurse left, the phone calls continued on & off. (Let me clarify - her phone calls, not mine.) She covered a few subjects, but mostly her sister, & how badly she was being treated by the hospital staff. After a while, the phone attention must not have been enough - she started hitting the Call button for the nurses' station (switching voices when appropriate). She needed more pain medicine, water, whatever, & if they didn't come running within 2 minutes, she'd hit that button again. All night long.

"All night long" seemed to last forever. Every time I started to fall asleep, either the phone would ring, She'd yell into the Call button, or she'd moan & cry. Any time that the nurse or tech came by for me, she always needed something first. I was exhausted & my patience was wearing thin, but this woman was the very definition of "ghetto", & she could move a lot faster than I could, so I just kept my mouth shut.

I finally got a little sleep, but soon woke up to the same circus. I got up to use the bathroom & on the way back, I noticed that all of the chairs were on her side of the room. In the few minutes I was gone, she had also moved her portable toilet halfway into my area (she had that in case of "emergency", & she had used it the night before even though she could walk). I tried to move it, since it was on the only side that I could safely get out of bed with my leg, & she quickly told me that she needed it there. Whatever. I just left it alone & dealt with it. My patience was definitely getting a workout!

Doug came to visit just before lunch, & he'd missed some of the fun. Yeah, more bitching about her sister, more ranting at & about the staff (which I had no problem with). No worries, she seemed to crank it up once Doug showed. She decided to give her sister a call & jumped into a huge lecture on how there shouldn't be secrets, how they WILL be spending more time together, & that she WILL be spending time with her baby. After that, she gave herself a bath & decided that it was the perfect time for a loud & lively conversation with her mother - on speaker. This went on for a good 45 minutes at least (& yes, the room phone was ringing for her as well). It was so loud that all Doug & I could do was sit & try to watch tv...there was no point in trying to talk to each other. A few people called my cell, & we couldn't hear each other well enough to talk civilly, but they did ask what in the hell was going on in my room. Oy, if they only knew...

Keep in mind that the Call button was still one of her favorite toys, & the rules still applied. If you didn't respond to her mostly ridiculous requests within 2 minutes, there was Hell to pay. The day nurse, who was very sweet, responded to a call while Doug was getting us some lunch, was told that She didn't appreciate her tone & that she should drop the nasty attitude. Now, there was neither tone nor 'tude coming from that nurse, but nonetheless, She got on the Call button & demanded to see the charge nurse. Doug walked in to hear She blasting the nurse (alternating between her normal voice & her pathetic one, & even introducing a new authoritative one for contrast, I guess). Having witnessed every incident since my arrival, hearing this upset me. Since I didn't want to cause unrest by speaking to the nurse in the room (& I couldn't leave the room), Doug spoke to her about it once she left to make sure that the charge nurse understood the situation. This is when we discovered that She was very well-known, & a quite dreaded "frequent flier" at the hospital. Greeeaaaat....

She had a visitor at one point, & yes, you guessed it - more bitching about her sister! She was upset because her sister had somehow robbed her of the opportunity for her to experience having a child again. Yeah, I don't get it either, & I have to admit that if I had her as my sister, I'd hide everything I could from her.

More of the same, all day - more calls, more demands for drugs (oh, lots & lots of those), etc. At this point, I was begging for an IV of Zinfandel, Merlot, or something, damn it! Doug left before rush hour & he was less than happy to leave me in that situation. Luckily for me, I had 2 sets of visitors to distract me that evening, & they got to share in some of the experience. Yup, more phone conversations on speaker.

After my friends left, I had the pleasure of hearing She tell her nephew that he needed to improve his grades. They went through his entire report card & she told him no less than 10 times that they were going to draw up a contract. Now, why this was her business, I don't know - she had been speaking to the child's mother a few moments before. Regardless, she had this child & her own child on the (speaker) phone until 10:45 on a school night. After that, she had another call that she stayed on for at least another hour. While she was in a hospital, with a roommate. I was so exhausted & frustrated that I was about to cry, & I was about ready to end my silence & let her have it, come what may.

At about 11:20, the nurse came in & asked me very quietly if I wanted to move. As it turns out, my wonderful husband had requested on his way out of the hospital that I be moved. Doug to the rescue! Since I was on a floor with very, very sick people, I was concerned that someone in worse shape than me would be moved in & have to deal with her...seriously. After I was assured that they would do their best to avoid that, I said yes, get me the hell out of here! Being moved was as much fun as I'd had since I'd gotten there, it was like a secret rescue mission or something. I was very quietly moved (while She was still on speakerphone) at about 11:45 into a room with a very old, almost deaf woman.

Unfortunately, my move was not without drama. Silly me for thinking that it would be! The nurse was gone for a while & when she came back with more of my stuff, she told me that She was very upset that I'd been moved. She didn't think that she'd done anything wrong & she wanted me to call her to "make things right" between us. CALL HER???!!!! No way. I'd spoken no more than 5 very polite words to She, we were not friends. I told the nurse that I wasn't going to call her, that I just wanted to sleep, & that She should just let it go & enjoy having the room to herself. Judging from her behavior, that's what she seemed to want the whole time anyway. That wasn't good enough, apparently - the nurse came back to tell me that She was now irate & had made the whole thing a racial thing. What-the-fuck-ever.

I slept like a baby.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Close Call

About 3 weeks ago, I sustained an injury to my foot, a mid-foot sprain. I didn't really know it at the time because neither incident I can think of was particularly painful when it happened. I do, however, suspect that the self-absorbed woman that mowed over my foot with her big ass stroller was the culprit. (Yes, I'm aware that the irony is quite lovely, thank you.) My foot was only a little tender the next day. It was only after standing on it for 5 hours while observing a surgery that Friday that I noticed it had started to swell a little. Eh, it was a sprain, I knew what to do.

However, the next day, Doug & I left for New Orleans to join the Luces on vacation, which meant 10 hours on the road. After walking all over the French Quarter, my foot was in pretty bad shape by the time we got on the cruise ship that Monday. After a couple of days of ice, elevation, & very little walking, my foot got a bit better, but the pain had started to crawl up the inside of my calf. Again, no big deal, that happens sometimes. Overall, things were looking up.

Fast forward to Sunday, the day after we got home. My inner thigh was starting to hurt quite a bit, & that made very little sense to me. By the time Wednesday morning came around, the pain was quite awful, & my inner thigh was red, swollen, & a bit warm. I told Doug that I was going to try to get into see someone about my leg that day, but if not, we were going to either an urgent care facility or an ER that evening. Luckily, I was able to see a doctor that morning.

It turns out that I had a very large blood clot from just above my ankle all the way to my groin. Yeah....that's enormous. Since deep vein thrombosis is a very serious thing, I was direct-admitted to Barnes Hospital. They put me on 2 blood thinners & ordered me to stay in bed (with the exception of going to the bathroom).

I was fortunate enough to be put in a room with a drug-seeking sickle cell patient that was one of the acute care ward's least favorite people of all time. Yay. (If the hospital had WiFi, I could've written some very entertaining blogs, all borne out of my frustration & decreasing patience. Too bad, I'm sure you would've enjoyed them immensely.) I did keep my cool, however...but after the first night of almost no sleep & constant drama from her side of the room, Doug had had enough. On his way out, he told the nurses that he wanted me moved. As you may or may not know, nothing happens quickly in hospitals, so I was finally moved at about 11:45 that night. (Apparently, the staff had a pool going on how long I'd make it with her.) I slept like a baby, except for the tech waking me up a couple of times for vitals & taking blood. Honestly, I don't know how anyone can be expected to get rest in a hospital!

After what seemed like an eternity, I was finally released on Friday afternoon. I don't think I've ever been so happy to be home. Obviously, I'd been away from home with Doug, & I'd been at home without Doug, but I found it very distressing to be away from both home & Doug, & against my choice. (Ok, so I didn't have to go to the hospital, but since I like living, I really did.)

Anyway, I'm home until at least next Tuesday. I have to stay off my feet, for the most part, & I have to be very, very careful. No bumps to my leg, no stairs, no driving, no shaving my legs, no stress, & no alcohol. (Silly readers, it sucks, but it's no big deal yet. I have DVT, not DT's!) Doug's doing all of the housework & taking care of everything. I have to give myself a shot in the abdomen twice a day (it's only for about a week, & it's one of the blood thinners). I'm so hardcore! My stomach is starting to feel like a pincushion, but it's a necessary evil, & it's turning into a rainbow of color. The home health nurse came by & said that I'm doing well. She was very excited that I'm not old, but I don't share her excitement - I'm not old, but I have a home health nurse....

So, things are going well, & I'm feeling better. I still can't wear regular shoes, but my killer moccasins have earned their purchase price & then some. Thanks to my friends, I'm armed with a bunch of books & movies in addition to a bunch of emails, calls, & visits, & our DVR has plenty of things to watch as well. I'm a lucky girl to have caught this thing before it was too late, to have such an incredible husband, & to have truly outstanding friends.

However, I'm here to tell you that Shark Week, which isn't a picnic to begin with, is a fucking barrel of monkeys when you're taking blood thinners.