Frank rules Amsterdam

Today was Queen's Day, the one day a year where people are allowed to sell whatever they want on the street. It is the biggest garage sale in the world, with everything imaginable on display and throngs (throngs!) of people wandering around the streets. There are bands playing in every neighborhood and a veritable sea of orange clothing on men, women, children and the occasional dog. I wandered around from 7:30 this morning (after two hours of sleep) until 6 at night and brought home some real treasures, including a beautiful sterling bracelet, set of knives with Bakelite handles and stand, an English pitcher with a squirrel on it, a brand new pair of Nike sneakers and a doll I have named Frank.

Frank came along with me all day and was the subject of quite the photo essay. Since I wanted to caption the photos, I saved them in Flickr. There are some other photo sets in there as well, if you care to take a look. Enjoy!


Sister update

For those of you who have been checking in for a update about LeeAnne, apologies for the delay. To be honest, I don't understand enough of what is happening to be able to write about it with any semblance of authority. Perhaps the best place to get information is at her blog: http://theroadbump.blogspot.com/. She is funny and positive and a very good writer. I am amazingly proud of her.

I am not going to go back to Portland until the end of June because she doesn't want me there in the early stages of chemo. I had a few weeks of picturing myself as Clara Barton -- the great nurse/mother figure from American Red Cross fame -- I'd get to swoop in and offer the best care ever and we'd have poignant moments and cry a lot but it would be good. Alas, life is not a movie of the week. Even though I'm not a mother, I know I can be a good caregiver. I know I can. But you don't necessarily get to choose when other people want you around or need you. June will be good and I will still be able to help and I will also get to spend some time with my gloriously fabulous friends. Can't wait.


Happy birthday Taurus!

It just keeps getting better and better.


Those French have a different word for EVERYTHING!

Just returned from a weekend in Paris with my friend Jonna. It was everything I had hoped, remembered and wished for it to be. The shopping was excellent and some glamour made its way back with me in the form of many parcels.
- An older woman approached us as we were looking at our map, trying to find Saint-Germain-des-Pres (wait, I thought we were ON Saint-Germain-des-Pres ...how did we end up here?) and first corrected my pronunciation of the street name, then corrected my use of just part of the street name, and then gave us directions completely in French. Because I could speak it so well? The funny part was that I actually understood parts of what she was saying, as did Jonna, who was the one who finally got us there. One of my favorite things was the instances of people speaking many many words to you in French even though they know you probably don't understand. Perhaps they mean it to be difficult or snotty, but it made me feel like I was in a special club of some sort. Like my general demeanor admitted me into Frenchy land.

- Having a sort of emotional catharsis in the Chanel store.

- Muscat after a lovely meal.

- After a 17 year absence, the sight of the Eiffel Tower made my heart skip again.

- Walking up and down Rue Vieille du Temple (not Rue du Temple - doh!) looking for the restaurant we were planning on eating at on Saturday night. It wasn't there and the man at the tabac told me the restaurant shut and the owner went to the beach (or that is what I think he said -- it was in French) a few months ago, which is strange because we made reservations on Thursday. For what, we aren't certain. So we made the best of it and had tapas at a restaurant down the road that had seating. Not great but not terrible either and the waitress set the menu across from our table against a car, which was funny.

- The beautiful Art Nouveau glass dome with Phillip Stark designed furnishings in the Le Printemps restaurant where we had a very ladylike lunch.

- Coming up the escalator on floor five of Le Printemps and realizing that the entire floor sells only shoes. And fabulous French shoes. Zout alors!

- Spending precious time with my dear friend Jonna. It was a treasure. She is a treasure.

and yes, I got my hair cut.


Night out photos

Taken on Monday night over mellow glasses of wine, Bitterballen and some great stories with Amy and Karen.

Virginia Tech

What a terrible reminder that, while I fret and fear about bad things that may happen, some maniac with a gun is, in the very real present, capable of instantaneous horror. Oh, how my heart hurts for those families and those kids.


Claiming the Medusa within

In my life, I have only had one majorly derisive nickname: Medusa. I am unsure why the kids in fourth grade thought this was a good name for me (this was prior to the release of "Clash of the Titans," so I can't blame the odd Saturday matinee), but it had the desired affect. I would cry at recess and then the next day put on a brave face (after a stiff upper lip talk from my mother or father) and act like it didn't bother me, which it did. A LOT. My sister, in an act of pure teenage cluelessness, gave me a card on my 10th birthday that said, "Happy Birthday, Medusa!" which was amazingly mean. It was one thing if kids tease you on the playground, but it's another when it's your family mimicing them.

The entire Medusa period probably didn't last long, and certainly didn't cause any After School Special-type drama, but it has stuck with me as the first time other people made me feel bad about who I was just because I was being who I was. As a nickname though, it was quite impressive for Salem, a town known for its cops and criminals, not its intellectual prowess.

So. Cut to many, many years and some art history classes later when we meet our heroine walking with furrowed brow through the last hallways of the Ufitzi Gallery in Florence. I was quite sick that day and couldn't handle the crowds, so I left my mother to wander and quickly made my way outside. The Caravaggio room in the gallery is toward the exit and impossible to miss. I walked inside, saw "Bacchus" went, "Cool!", and then turned around and came face to severed head with my namesake. "Medusa" is fabulous and horrible and really, really (I'll say it again) cool. I sort of giggled and did an invisible salute because I realized I had a special connection with that painting. I know it sounds cheesy, but it is true.

The next day, when mom and I were in the gift shop at the Academia, I found a Swatch-type watch with the Medusa painting printed on the face and nifty snake patterns on the band. Without a second thought, I bought it and have been looking at it with glee ever since.

How did I miss the good side of being called Medusa? I thought it was all about having stringy, snake-like hair, but actually it is about having power and the will to use it. OK, so it isn't a sexy, Siren-type power, but it is power none the less. Instead of being called "stinky" or "big nose," I was compared to one of the classic villains of Greek mythology. How freaking cool is that? I mean, come on, if you are going to be insulted by children, wouldn't you prefer a literary reference over a comment on your physical attributes or being teased because your name rhymes with a bodily function?

So bring it on. Medusa is in the haaaaaa-oooooo-wwwwww-ssssss.
I am so white.


Cheese may save your life

In typical Katie behaviour, I have channeled my fear into action and read up on cancer-fighting diets. I am a big fan of using food to treat illness and had some good results when I increased the amount of sweet potatoes and other orange vegetables when I had sciatica seven years ago.

So, imagine my delight when I read about new studies that link cancer prevention with vitamin D because vitamin D is in cheese (as well as other foods, but I don't care so much about them). Cheese! Cheese! Cheese! Love! Love! Love!

If I was in Portland and had free reign over my sister's kitchen I would be pushing the:
Dark Chocolate
Sweet Potatoes
And of course the cheese.

Not bad, huh?
This information comes from here: http://www.wholehealthmd.com/ME2/Default.asp


Happy Easter

Baa haa haa.
This blog was in desperate need of some levity and chocolate bunnies were just the way to do it.



My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer on Tuesday.
Period. Insert stoic, blank face, vacant eye stare here.

She met with a surgeon yesterday and will, apparently, get a lumpectomy as soon as possible. Once that happens, she will know what she is dealing with. At this point there are a million questions and no answers, but that will change soon enough. Patience and optimism are the magic words right now, and I am trying to stay open to both.

Tom arrived Wednesday morning. I left mom being mellow on the fold-out bed in my apartment and rode to Central Station to take an early train to Schiphol so I could meet him at the gate. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we rode back to Amsterdam being all goofy and in love. I walked him to the #16 tram, got on my bike and rode to work to start the day. And when I opened my email and saw the subject line, "Bad news" from my sister, my feet turned cold.

How lucky was I to have my mom here! Being able to process the initial shock and emotions while having her next to me was a gift. She went back home yesterday morning, but Tom is here for another week, so, again, I am amazingly lucky.

I am trying not to be scared. I am trying to think about all the women who are breast cancer survivors -- the vast majority!!! I am trying not to curl into a ball and go to the dark place. I am trying to hold on tight to hope. I am trying not to be a drama queen. I am trying to stop crying.

The irony is that all I want to do is smoke cigarettes and drink myself into a coma, when what I know I should be doing is going for purifying runs and eating raw vegetables. At this point I am doing neither. Yea emotional paralysis!

Last night Tom and I went to see The Shins at Paradiso. I wavered whether or not to go, but was really happy that we went because they are amazing. Just amazing. They, like Bob Mould, are a good soundtrack to hope to. Because hope isn't blindly optimistic -- it isn't Pollyanna, but more like an army on the Risk board -- it fights against the bad forces of life. And it is life. Bad things happen without an apparent reason to people who you love and need. That bad force army can never be conquered (sort of like mold spores), but it can be battled. That's why I plan on listening to lots and lots of the aforementioned artists. Their lyrics acknowledge the bad, but their melodies fight for the good. And that is what I have to do too.



There was a time when, if a woman was said to have fortitude, it would be taken as a complement: a strong-willed dame who could look gorgeous in an evening gown and talk smack with the boys while always staying true to herself. Now it means Barbara Woodhouse in support hose.

But it shouldn't. Allow me to quote the great Homer Simpson when he was talking to John (Waters) in episode #168 "Homers Phobia": "I resent you people using that word. That’s our word for making fun of you! We need it!" And with that I take back fortitude from substantial women and I give it back to women of substance. Because we need it.

Women who tough it out while doing great work. Women who can't help but be funny and smart in spite of (or because of?) spending the previous three hours laying prone on the couch crying and eating cheese. Women who know what works for them and what is best left alone. Women who simultaneously endure hardship and cultivate joy. These are women with fortitude.

Meet Xander Bolt Helfrey. Xander's mom is Stacy -- fortitude in great shoes personified. She and Dave have been waiting for Xander for a very long time and now they have him. Through a long journey of excruciating ups and downs, Stacy has remained strong, funny, smart and kind. She is a credit to dames everywhere and will be a fantastic mother. This is a hard fought and well deserved happy ending that sort of renews my faith that good things do happen to good people, despite the occasional season seven.


Room with a view

I got quite sick and my mom arrived in the middle of it all. Like crazy, consumptive characters in novels of yore, I was taken to the sunny climate of Italy to dry my lungs out and recover. No matter how high my fever is, I will always remember to pack the turban.

The tone for the trip was set when we got to our hotel room and I opened the drapes and squeaked, "We have a view! We have a view! A room with a view!!!" And we did. A view of the Duomo, which took my breath away each time I saw it.

Mom and I had a wonderful time. We drank some lovely wine, ate some lovely food, saw an abundance of art (it would be a mistake to miss seeing the "David" in person. It gave me goosebumps and a new appreciation for sculpture.), walked and walked, talked and talked, never got too lost, never spent too much, and soaked in as much of Florence as we could in three days. It is a beautiful place and was a treat to share it with such a beautiful lady.