Category Archives: life

Married!

We’ve done it. After 18 months of engagement and planning, the wedding has finally come and gone and oh my goodness what fun it was. Let me just say this – we are so, unbelievably spoiled. In family, in friends, in generosity, in affection. At times, it kinda felt like I was in Disneyland, and there was some elaborate parade put on for us.

I so hate for it to be over but at the same time we’ve partied for five days now and I can’t wait for a full night’s sleep (hence, a super short post with little details as of yet). That’s right, it’s ended up being five days of festivities – you’d think we were Indian, doing it up for so long!

I just wanted to pop in and say “Yeay!” and to share what an unbelievably wonderful weekend we had, full of (most of) the people we most love, all together in the same place. If the attendees are to be believed, it was one of the most cryin-est weddings ever. But also one of the most fun (well, I’m judging that by the photos of certain friends streaking around the gardens at 5am!). I promise to be back soon with some photos and more details. Meanwhile, I hope this weekend, you all felt as lucky and loved as we did.

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Filed under life, this time THIS year, wedding stuff

And here I thought I was keeping my head above water

About a year ago I got mail from the IRS. I wasn’t worried. What could they want from little old me?

I was being audited for my 2005 taxes. That’s what. In 2005 I was still in grad school, living in Belgium and commuting to NYC for work. So my accountant and I claimed an exclusion because I lived abroad. Apparently, they didn’t like that.

But I wasn’t too worried. I sent them all the info they asked for: a copy of my apartment lease and proof that I paid rent in the foreign country, work schedules, a copy of my residence permit, etc etc.

To get to my point, I thought that, Ok, maybe they were going to decide I owed them some money for whatever reason. It wouldn’t be worth fighting; I’d just pay it and be done. It couldn’t be that bad – I mean, after all, I don’t make very much!

So imagine my cranky surprise when my father came to visit this weekend, toting a big fat envelope from the IRS. We were joking, I gave a drum roll to see how much they’d decided I owe (hoping it was $0, of course, assuming at worst it was a number with only two 0’s in it)…and just about choked. Somehow the IRS thinks I owe them over $4000! The most insulting part is, a big chunk of that is a “penalty”. How can they charge you a penalty for not having paid money they never told you you owed?!

I’m not a Conservative. I don’t have a problem with taxes. But, please, just not all at once. This is one of those crappy times when I feel like I just learned what it’s really like to be a grown-up. And I don’t like it. Sigh.

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Filed under if I'd known than what I know now, life, work

When it’s bad it’s bad. And when it’s good…it’s really, really good

So I left you practically in mid-sentence. I’d been sitting on my butt for 2 days waiting for work to call. I had volunteered to be “short-called” – which means called with less than 2 hours until departure – and wow did it work out.

I never, ever see the Rome trip. It’s held by F/A’s 20 years and up. One of them was apparently there and ready to go, when she had to pull out. So, with 1hr 45 minutes until take-off, I hustled myself to the airport! And even more serendipitously, it was a 48 hour layover (another rarity)!It was a struggle but I made it in time and was even lucky enough to have a colleague on board equally interested in archeology. It couldn’t have all been more perfect.

I hadn’t been to Rome 13 years. (Wow that hurts to say!) I remember that it was fantastic, but I had forgotten the details of how much so. Sortof like you remember that something hurt but not the actual pain. I go could go to Rome every week and never run out of things to see.

What’s more – I have always wanted to go to Pompeii. So I got on board determined  to do so even though I thought it would be at least 3 hours there. But I was wrong – it is under 2 hours using the fast trains. And my colleague was happy to go with me again since we both have such interest. We were also joined by one of the pilots – a guy who is not so interested in that stuff but is a great sport and good company. We all went to the Naples Archeology Museum, then to Pompeii where my colleague escorted us around to hit the highlights in the time left, since 4 hours is nowhere near enough time in Pompeii for the likes of me.

Hanging out with my two companions was like a time warp – I can’t remember a more satisfying 15 hours day! My legs still hurt terribly but I’m not complaining. And if I ever see the Rome trip again, I’ll go right back.

For the moment I’ll post a few Milan photos that I was going to put up last week, then put a few Rome/Pompeii photos up shortly…

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The pretty village of Torno, on Lake Como.

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The flight attendants couldn’t stop taking photos out the window. And you’d think the passengers were the ones who should be impressed.

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Filed under life, this time THIS year, work

Payback

Early December on reserve (where I have to “wait by the phone” to be cover a trip that someone else calls in sick/misses departure for) was quite easy. Work was so slow that they actually released me from duty for 5 days in a row! I think I’ve been released two times in my entire career previous to this! Then I was out sick for a few days. And when I returned, ohhhh. They got me good.

I got what is, I believe, the worst trip possible. A four day. Out of NEWARK. In and out of Miami several times. Any of these characteristics = [audible groan] from me. Put them all together and you have a suicidal flight attendant.

It took me almost 3 hours and $30 to take public transport from my NY apartment to Newark airport. Fun start. We flew to Miami and then to Caracas, Venezuela – where we landed at 1am and had an 11 hour layover. Mind you, unloading the passengers, clearing customs, transport to and from the hotel, check-in, and a 1-hour prior to departure report to the airplane…all squeeze into that time slot, along with as much sleep as one can grab.

I have been to Caracas about 5 times before. We used to have very long layovers there downtown. At night the city always looks beautiful, its mountainous terrain blanketed by scattered lamps, like fairy lights. In the morning, you are stunned to see that all of those dwellings were scattered shanty houses, the electricity “stolen” by means I am privileged enough to find exotic. I remember that everything was shockingly expensive, even if one pretended that most of its population didn’t live in such poverty. (A SUBWAY sandwich might cost $12 or so, if I remember correctly.) It was not shocking, however, to hear gunshots on occasion, from somewhere in the distance. Now we stay by the airport and most of the long layovers are gone. Our hotel is nice, with a gorgeous pool at the foot of a hill crowned by 2 pink cinder block “shanty” homes, decorated with lines of perpetually drying laundry.

The next morning we flew from Caracas back to Miami, then to Maracaibo (also Venezuela). Our layover was again 10 or 11 hours. The 3rd day we went back to Miami and on – finally – to a decent 15 hours layover on the island of St. Thomas. Boy, had we earned it!

Most of the islands are all the same to me: three pink or blue hotels, a golf course and some duty free shops. But here, our hotel is a 25 minute can ride through narrow, winding roads over a mountain. I loved getting to see more of the “local” side of the island, even if only in passing. Our rooms all faced the water and I had bought a heavenly sandwich, which I ate on my balcony overlooking the sea, St. Johns and other neighboring islands. Ahh…it felt worth it just then, even if too short. I walked down to the beach and climbed on the rocks in the break, where I stepped on my first sea urchin, due to the tide which was rolling in as a stood there, obstructing the view of my path with swirling, foamy water. All of this made me oddly cheerful.

After that, my 6am morning pickup didn’t seem to bad (though I HAD had enough of my miserable, constant crankpot of a colleague!). We made our way through Miami one last time, then home.

Tomorrow is New Year’s, and I have to sit by the phone again to see if I’m called. I’m not complaining though. The good thing about this trip is that it does make me feel happy and grateful though –  just to be sitting here…doing nothing.

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Filed under life, work

Encounters

A few days ago I was working a flight from Paris back to the US. I was in coach, and we were packed to the gills. We had already completed the first drink service for the entire cabin, as well as the 2nd round with lunch. Now I was pulling the 300 pound cart to the front of the cabin for the 3rd and final round of drinks and tray pick-up. As I put on the break, a man in the third row waved lightly to get my attention and pointed the the tray of the girl next to him. I thought he said (something to the effect of) “take her tray”.

I did that thing where I reply with perfect politeness on the surface, but you can read between the lines to see that I think you’re being annoying; perhaps I am even scolding you. I said something like, “Of course, Sir. But I haven’t done so because we’ve been busy feeding everyone else in the cabin as well. Now that we’re done with that, that’s what we’re back for – to take your trays. So just hang on one minute and I’ll get to you.” He said “Ok” very politely. So I clear the trays and serve drinks to the first two rows, then get to him and I say, now with a fresh smile, “Now, what may I get for you sir?” And he points again to the girl’s tray and says, “May I please have a dinner?”

Somehow we had missed him, and he had been sitting there very patiently, and I had completely misunderstood him. I felt terrible! And he had been so gracious about it. It was clear that he was a veeeery nice man. I apologized sincerely and gave him a few glasses of wine to make up for it. He seemed happy with this, but I felt like I couldn’t do enough. (It also happens that my colleague said “Oh good, I already meant to tell you we should give him drinks because [he had some drama] at the beginning of the flight too.” Apparently, he was having a rough travel day all around.)

I tried to give him a little extra attention (without fussing) and as he walked off the plane at the end, we spoke a little. Turns out we were both catching the last flight to DC (I didn’t get on and spent the night in NYC, by the way…so goes the life of a commuter.) and he said “I’m giving a speech in DC tomorrow, at the National Geographic Society. I’m a photographer,” to which he invited me. First off, I love National Geographic! I also love photography, and any person associated with the two has to be someone fascinating.
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Photos by Reza

Turns out the man was a quite big-time photographer (and humanitarian) named Reza. He was introduced by his friend Sebastian Junger (best known as author if The Perfect Storm, though he’s done much notable journalism work), and as soon as Reza began a slide show of some of his images, my friend and I were stunned – as we had certainly seen his work before. For 90 minutes he told the stories behind individual photos, and they were all more interesting than any I could have made up.

Here’s a man who spends most of his year in the mountains of Afganistan or with famine-sufferers in Somalia. No wonder he isn’t too bothered by getting his dinner late, or us having run out of choice, nor initially being so-wrongly scolded. This is a man who surely has a fierce grasp on the important things in life. Somehow, that makes me feel all the more guilty.

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Filed under life, this time THIS year, work

Finishing Touches

I’ve been moving nonstop for weeks it seems. Del and I were in England for a week or so doing wedding stuff, then I had to go to Belgium to get some finishing touches done with my plastic surgeon. I’m not going to go into great detail as, at this point, my natural instinct is to treat my revamped body parts with the same modesty as I did my old ones. If you know me well, you might be laughing now. But, yes, I do have some modesty. But yes, the thresh hold always was pretty low.

But this got me thinking…A close friend once asked me what it felt like to be reconstructed. “Would you be embarrassed to take your shirt off in public, or no? Is that instinct different now?” It is a brave question, but one that I might have secretly wondered myself, were our positions reversed. Well, having said that I never quite understood the idea of embarrassment over ones body (OK, at least not since I was indoctrinated to the topless beach scene in Europe back in college. After that, I was never able to think anything more than, “We all have the same parts, what’s the big secret?”), it’s still an interesting question. Is it different? Well yes and no.

It is different for a couple of reasons:
1) By the time you’ve finished breast cancer treatment, you’ve undressed in front of an army of people. Simply, you get used to it. Especially in Europe where doctors don’t do the “modesty gown” thing. I’m so accustomed to just stripping down with the doctor sitting there at his/her desk that in my recent American medical visits, I find it more awkward to use the gown while they step politely out. Now I just sit there in my skivvies, the gown left sitting there folded and sterile on the bench instead of pretending like they’re not going to just come back and move it aside. I mean, what’s the point? Doctors find that pretty funny.

2) It’s true – at least initially – that I didn’t feel the reflex to “hide” my top after surgery in the same way you do your “original” parts. Like the rest of my treatment, I considered my new body from a sort of scientific perspective. It was something I observed more than felt. We are taught to cover certain parts, and then those parts are gone…and replaced. Then of course you’re so amazed at the results that you do get that urge to become one of those BC survivors who’s notorious for flashing everyone she knows. (You know her.)

However, it is the same too in that:
1) For a long time, I felt modesty with my changed body more akin to what I would assume is normal (American) modesty. You might remember that the first time I went to Turkey, I was extremely reluctant to go to the hammam because one is usually naked. I was suddenly, extremely uncomfortable with that idea, and when a friend pressed me on this I once even teared up. This modesty, however, was a about the fact that suddenly we didn’t “all have the same parts”. And that’s not embarrassing in itself, but one look at me and people – perfect strangers – would be privy to information about a huge part of my life. They would suddenly know one of the most traumatic things that ever happened to me. They could see my emotional scars. Most people at least have to buy me dinner first. But suddenly being topless meant having no control over strangers’ access to my most private struggles. That just didn’t feel right. Talk about feeling naked. (Eventually that feeling faded, however, and my 2nd time to the hammam I went au natural and it felt awesome to not give a damn.)

1) As I have sat with my body changes, they come to feel more and more natural. So whereas I might have once felt like I had new parts built to resemble natural ones, I no longer feel that way. They are mine now, they are more and more “natural” to me. And my instinct to treat them equally to my original ones has grown with time.

Actually, I have this crazy fantasy where I leave my mark on the world by producing the first BC-survivor pin-up calendar. One the one hand it perhaps sounds terribly inappropriate. But to me, the thought of introducing to the world “sexy cancer survivors” is awesome. The idea isn’t to be an exhibitionist nor promote objectification. It’s to put it out there that cancer is not the end. That your life can come full circle. To break the remaining attitudes and taboos. To show that cancer doesn’t define you forever. To show the world that breast cancer doesn’t make you any less of a woman. It sure tries. But these days? It fails with a capitol F. I’d just love to pin that on the wall in all its glory!

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Filed under breast cancer, humor, life, reconstruction ("upgrade"!), surgery, this time THIS year

Same As It Ever Was

[This post is the exclusive copyright of KillerBoob.]

So here I return to you, now having officially returned to work! It’s a somewhat surreal thing after 2 years out (in a completely different lifestyle) and I think I’m going to talk quite a bit about airline stuff in the near future and I hope you don’t mind. If it gets a little much/boring, please let me know. In particular, I’m probably going to bitch a lot for the next 2 months and I hope you’ll also let me know if I’m turning into a sourpuss, but you’ll understand below…

First off, I am happy to be back. That’s important for me to establish sincerely. It’s a great milestone, especially considering the physical demands of my job. While I’m a little tentative about feeling I can do certain things, I then do them successfully and am happy for the flash of my old self (well, the parts of my old self that took a hit, mainly my physical one). Work is the thing making this possible since I often have no choice but to attempt the thing in question. (i.e. Remember the bag-lifting issue? It’s tentative, requires caution, and I have to pack as lightly as possible since I have no choice but to hoist my bag on the plane,  but so far so good…)  And I do generally really like my job. That’s why I remain in it, even though I have other, more traditional options, professionally speaking.

Anyhow, the reason I’ll be bitching a lot for a while is because – firstly – you all know how much I went through to get back to work, and to do so at a favorable time to me in terms of initial scheduling I could handle. I packed up most of my entire life in Brussels on about 3 days notice, even leaving the apartment unfinished (with my dear helpful-as-always friends to help finish up in my absence! Thanks in particular this time to Sarah B., Flor and Andrea) so that I could squeeze into training in June – even though it was a little early for my return after surgery. All so my schedule would work out in a certain way according to the rules.  (It also turns out that I had been misinformed; I could have comeback in July with the same outcome.) I squeaked through training…only NOW to get completely screwed by some esoteric scheduling technicality (one so random that it took the union 2 days to figure out what happened) that dumps me on the worst possible scenario through August. So why did I work so hard to come back quickly? I could be in Brussels now moving the remains of my furniture. Already I’m shaking my fists at scheduling…in this way it’s just like I never left. (Ahhh, the “good old days”.)

As of now I am looking at having to wake up almost every day between 3-5am through August and possibly into September, even on my days off. It’s just not sustainable. At some point, that will have to be worked out by some calling in sick (legitimately, for fatigue). There’s just no way around it as I am already exhaused only 3 days into it! But for now I have no choice but to soldier on and make it the best I can. Come September or October I can get back to a normal, more humane schedule. I will focus on the light at the end of that tunnel!

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Filed under life, this time THIS year, work