Red Apple Day Gifts


Blogger hard at work.

What a day.

It began at 6:30 AM with an early Christmas gift from my charming spouse, James. The eggs were almost in the pan. He held out two boxes and asked me to pick one. I chose the smaller of the two. He opened his first. It held a shiny red apple.

Him: “Do you know what day this is?”

Me: “Uhhh, Friday? November 30th?”

Turns out the correct answer is that today is Red Apple Day and in celebration he bought me a shiny, new white iPad. And a red apple. What a fabulous way to start this tumultuous day.

About eighteen months ago Jim’s employer did a major re-org and he was one of only a handful of people who survived the carnage. We called that day Black Friday. Colleagues who he’d worked with, some for as long as thirty years, were tossed on the scrap heap. For those who left and for those who were left behind, it has been very difficult.

Today, Jim went through another Black Friday re-org. From a sales staff of seventy-five people less than two years ago, only two remain. Jim is one of them.

In the whirlwind that has been the last eighteen months, today has been yet another bittersweet, brain on overload, don’t know whether to laugh or cry, batshit crazy kind of day. What I do know is that Jim Asbell is without any doubt, the best thing that has ever or will ever happen to me. And the iPad is pretty slick too!

OK, so this has nothing to do with my usual topics. The author Harry Harrison passed away a few days ago. Here’s a great blog post about a story he wrote with my Dad, Hubert Pritchard, in the late 50’s.

Harry Harrison News Blog

Here’s a tasteful little story, which Harry Harrison has occasionally referred to in interviews, using the title ‘I Ate a Pygmy.’ This ‘true’ adventure was made up by HH and collaborator Hubert Pritchard, and the accompanying photograph – not for the squeamish! – was also faked by the two of them. The human arm was modelled in clay by Pritchard, I think, and the photograph was taken by HH, who carefully adjusted the focus so that the image was slightly blurred. The arm was then covered with a ten cent can of stew, which Harrison and Pritchard were intending to eat once the photoshoot was completed – but the image they created was so revolting that they lost their appetites for stew!

The Unholiest Banquet
by ‘Hugh Fitzpatrick’ [Harry Harrison & Hubert Pritchard] (1958)


My heart hammered a loud echo in my ears as George knocked on the front door. We were…

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BRCA Surgeries: Stage II Post Op at 4 Weeks

Miles and Jack in Sideways.

Good Stuff:

Bruises nearly gone everywhere. Pain level merely an occasional annoyance. Routine activities like wrangling cats for claw clipping almost normal. More energy. Able to slither into favorite pair of skinny jeans this morning although swelling is still there throughout the midsection.


Spitting a stitch is the expression for those naughty sutures that poke through the skin instead of dissolving inside like they are supposed to do. This was highly irritating (literally and figuratively) with my last surgery. Now I’m a freaking expert at rooting these out and snipping the little buggers. Scars are a mixed bag with improvements in some areas and one section that only Dr. Frankenstein could love. Left boob appears to be settling back into the armpit area. Boo hiss. Both breasts definitely smaller, which is okay with me, but I had hoped they’d be perkier. I keep in mind that that the left boob will always play the radiation wild card and will do whatever it wants no matter what the surgeon does.

Other Stuff:

In one of my favorite wine movies, Sideways, Jack squawks at his depressed friend Miles that he does not want to hear anymore of his “naghead downer bullshit.” Now that the worst of this is over I tell myself to quit feeling sorry for myself and to cease procrastinating. I have not written anything other than this blog for many months. I trotted out my new novel, another murder mystery, and read through all of it this morning. Instead of the tattered mess I believed was there, parts of it were really quite good. I am my own worst critic and need to quell that naghead downer bullshit refrain that often runs through my head. Time for me to get back to work.

BRCA Surgery Decisions: A Devilish Dilemma

Miss Bubble, enjoying the "healing quilt" in between my surgeries


Statistics on cancer risks for those with defective BRCA genes are readily available, but teasing out numbers that assess any single individual’s risk is all but impossible. Science can provide a ballpark range, but there are many mitigating factors that can place one at the low end of the scale or all but guarantee that cancer will be headed your way.

The choice to select surgery as a means to manage cancer risk is insanely difficult for many people. Not for me. In some respects though, I do feel as if I’ve made a lousy bargain with the devil. I’m trading precious body parts for the hope of a normal lifespan. There are no guarantees, only a reduction in risk. I can still get breast or ovarian cancer even once all my girl parts are history. Other problems such as heart disease, osteoporosis and additional forms of cancer are very real possibilities when this “Year of Living Surgeries” is over. Apologies to that fabulous movie “The Year of Living Dangerously,” when Mel Gibson was just sexy, not crazy.

Are the BRCA surgeries worth it?

In my head is the idea for a novel based on this question. I hope it has a happy ending but I’m not going to wait around to see the results in my own life. In the short term I’ll write something else. Being worried about the future is not how I want to spend whatever time is left on my personal meter. Nor do I want to create a bucket list. Unless of course, it is what we call the “drink now bucket” around here. These are wines that have been aging in our cellar that need to be consumed before they pass prime drinking enjoyment.

In 1998 when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer and terrified that every tiny hiccup was a recurrence, my surgeon gave me a good piece of advice. “Go out and live your life” he said. That is what I’ve been doing for the past fourteen years.

Harvest in Mendoza

As anyone who has set foot in Argentina’s wine capital knows, Mendocinos know how to throw a party. They also know how to throw watermelons and other locally grown agricultural products. These foodstuffs are tossed from floats during parades, usually by pretty girls who are vying for the Harvest Queen title.

It is also the season for unwitting wine tourists to fall in love with Mendoza and decide they want to take a closer look at buying a little slice of vino paradise.

It’s probably why my book “The Malbec Diaries” sells so well this time of year.

Cheers to all you dreamers.

The Queen's Carousel - Mendoza 2006


In the blur of the holidays, the inspiration for my “Retired to Death” character, Billy, passed away at age 89. He was more than ready to move on and I am pleased he’s been relieved of the burdens of a failing body. And I miss him. Crabby old knucklehead.

Sublime Food and Wine

Every now and again a gift drops out of the blue and should be accepted. Like an invitation dine at Chef Thomas Keller’s Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry. I’m still pinching myself. Surely this will turn up in my writing work, once I find the words to describe this stellar evening.