Sunday, December 28, 2014


Redemption is the brand name of the rye I've been drinking for a while.

No running today, just walking. I will run tomorrow.

I have found a camp I really want to go to, but it requires a recording. Not an audition recording, but a "placement" recording. Groan. Still, this place sounds like heaven on earth: 10 days of chamber music, which is assigned in advance so you can learn it before you arrive, and spend the time at camp trying to make music out of it. All levels are accepted, from beginner to conservatory-level. All ages are accepted, from 12 to 90. People are grouped according to ability, not age. According to someone who attended and wrote about it on, you are put into two groups: one a bit above your ability, to pull you along, and one a bit below, so you can help pull others along. Oh, how I want to go there. But the recording...I don't have anything ready that's any good, and I don't know what I could dust off/shine up in a hurry. I should ask my teacher when he gets back, I guess. I'm afraid he'll laugh or say something discouraging, but I really want to go, so it's worth the risk.

Late lunch with in-laws not so bad. It's not that I don't like them, but I don't know them well and I worry we'll run out of things to talk about. We didn't.

Talking with a friend today, worrying aloud about not having anything ready to put on a placement recording because I've been rolling this Hummel up a hill, and it's sooo haaaaaaaaard because of all the fucking turns and ornaments. And she said "Ornaments are icing on the cake, but you need the cake first. Did your teacher ever tell you to leave the ornaments out? " Actually, he did, once, very early on, but then I started putting them back in and he never said anything more about it (not even "wtf are you doing? I told you to leave the ornaments out until you learn the piece, stubborn adult beginner"), even when the ornaments started tripping me up. So anyway, on the first try without ornaments I was able to whip through the entire first page at close to never-event tempo. I told my friend she is a genius.

Once I broke free of the ornaments, a lot of the 16th-note passages started shaping up too. I've been doing the Rhythm Method (playing the passages in as many different rhythms as possible); it's tedious as hell, especially at 50% of 66% of tempo, but it works, eventually. And after about an hour of that, I played through the one turn that's been giving me the most fits all these months - played it 10 times, and nailed it every single time. Yay me, I am having a small glass of rye.

Friday, December 26, 2014

and yet

We celebrated xmas eve by spending the evening with great friends, then going out to a bar to see some people we hadn't seen in ages. I had way too much to drink, and paid the price (hangover) the next day. And for some reason I felt very sore at the surgery incision site, more so than any time since the actual surgery itself nearly 3 weeks ago. Ibuprofen didn't touch it, so I took one of the pain pills the doctor had prescribed. Wrong move - I spent nearly the whole of xmas night flat on my back for fear of puking, dizzy, hot/cold/hot/cold, dreaming complex unpleasant dreams, streaming like video.

I don't understand how people can get addicted to vicodin, ugh. That stuff is awful.

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Something interesting I don't want to forget: playing through something fairly slowly, thinking just far enough ahead that you know what the next note is and exactly where it is relative to where you are right now. Only then do you put your finger down.

The immediate result: you play all the right notes in the right sequence.

The hoped-for, long-term result: having played the passage perfectly, your body remembers it, or remembers that you have done this, so you are more likely to be able do it again.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

sometimes it is ok to get your hopes up.

I do not need to have radiation at this time, yay.

The longer story: radiation doc explained that radiation decreases probability of recurrence by 50%. So, also, does tamoxifen. He guestimates I have 6% or less chance of recurrence right this minute, with surgery only. Radiation would knock it to 3%, and tamoxifen would make it 1.5%. Hell, I could have been comfortable with the 6%. So I decided to forego radiation. I have to have mammograms fairly regularly now anyway. If there is a recurrence, they will find it sooner than later.


Monday, December 22, 2014

missing the boat

This is not me:

I have been chipping away at the first movement of Hummel Op 5 No 3 for the past couple of months. It seems like years. I have mentioned before that it's one of those unfortunate pieces that don't sound musical when played way under tempo, and I am not blessed with the ability to navigate turns and 16th-note runs at anything faster than about 70bpm. I also practice and perform it at lessons unaccompanied, and I am cursed with an ability to hear a melody and then "hear" (imagine) chord progressions and moods that the composer never intended. So imagine my surprise today when I listened to the piece and realized I've had the wrong idea all along. Very wrong. Not even close. Ugh. How could my teacher let me just keep going in that direction? Then again, it's really my fault for not having listened to it enough. Ugh. I am going to listen a bunch to get the feel in my head, so I can make it sound as musical as possible when it's this slow. I'll run it through Speedshifter at around 60-70 and force myself to keep up, and eventually I'll have it well enough I can try to make it feel right. I want to take it into the next lesson (Jan 3) and play it all the way through, with the right feel, and hopefully then my teacher will be satisfied and I'll be done with it.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


3 weeks on the same etude. 2 months on the same piece, which I will never really get to play because 1) I can't play it fast enough for it to sound like music and 2) my teacher will not learn the piano part (it's a sonata for viola and piano, so it's not just all me me me). Since lessons don't resume until January 3 I am stuck with these things for another 2 weeks. I am so fucking sick of these. I can't see any point, except maybe it saves him from having to come up with something else for me to do.

I have worked on these so much that I've come out the other side. Anything I have learned from them has been lost.

dry river bed

Slept the sleep of the just, woke up thinking it was Friday and thinking I had a viola lesson yet to go to. Happily, I realized that was all yesterday, not today. Did my little 3.25 walk-run thing and we'll see if it's ok later. 

I have resolved to make some changes regarding music education. There's a community orchestra I played in once and then dropped after a season; their new season is about to start and I emailed the director about joining again. I have also made the first pre-inquiries into finding another teacher. Not because of the aforementioned party non-invitation, but because of this: more and more often I hear my adult friends talk about their music teachers as these strange and alien creatures who really seem to appreciate their students' desire to learn, and care about their students' accomplishments. My teacher is not at all like that. I get the feeling he thinks he's doing me a favor by letting me take lessons from him. I hate to put words in peoples' mouths or ideas into their heads, but that's the way it seems, and I want the kind of teacher my friends talk about, assuming they really exist. I really wish it had worked out better studying with my current teacher, but it hasn't, and sometimes it makes me miserable. I hate feeling this way, and it's so unnecessary. Life is too short. I just want to learn to play viola, that's all.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

well, bleh

Today was actually pretty good, up until an hour ago. When I changed into casual clothes I noticed that the breast felt heavy and sore, and I thought the incision looked a little redder. I decided that maybe I should not run tomorrow ("run" is not really the best way to describe what I was doing, anyway) and this made me a little sad because things had been going so well. Then my viola teacher called, wanting to borrow some quartet music because he's having a get-together with some post-highschool students and thought the piece I have (York Bowen viola quartet I learned this summer for camp) would be fun to play (it is). This made me sad because it's exactly the kind of thing I would love to do, and I'm sure he knows I would love to do it, but he didn't invite me, just asked to borrow some music. Every xmastime he also has a reading party for his highschool students that I hear is a lot of fun, but it's just for highschool students so I don't get invited to that either. Well, bleh, this is silly, getting bent out of shape over not getting an invitation to the ball. Time to call it a day. 

wouldn't it be nice

I started back running today - rather, I covered about three and a quarter miles, walking some/running a little, walking a little less/running a little, etc. The running - all 20s at a time of it - felt fine. It was chilly out. I did not break a sweat. The surgeried breast stings a little now, but no more than it has any other day since surgery. Tomorrow I will do a little less walking and a little more running.

I have become very enamored of the idea of not doing radiation. When there is something I want or something I hope will happen, I usually don't let myself get too anticipatorily happy, but in this case I can't help myself. I don't, I won't help myself. I keep thinking "wouldn't it be just so great if I didn't have to do radiation?" No big time commitment. No worrying about which side effects might hit me, and how hard. No managing anyone's expectations of what I can and can't do. No expense. No paperwork. No doctor's notes, no FMLA forms, no uncomfortable meetings with HR, no worrying about losing my job because of in spite of being ill with an expensive disease. In fact, nothing would tie me to that job any longer at all. I would be free.

in lieu of rolling my eyes

At work, the week drags on. I am still working on the same thing I've been working on for months. Things are in flux. We are Agile and we are not. We are to make our own decisions and not bother our nontechnical PM with technical details, yet we must also ask permission for every thought, lest we break some policy we were not aware of. Things are important, now they aren't. For some reason the network admin locked down internet access again, and for some reason this hindered the app developers' ability to work. While this is being sorted out, the developers are holding daylong cocktail parties, 10 feet from my desk. They are using this downtime to continue to get to know each other, loudly. I know so much about them: what they like to eat, what movies they watch, what tv shows they watch, how they were raised by their families, how they are raising their families. They spent a lot of time yesterday googling "largest bird ever" and discussing the results. I was discovered pushing a large file (1.2G) to google drive and questioned about it; the cost of bandwidth is a matter of concern to the company. Because as a company we do not trust automation, we run SSIS packages from our desktop machines that pull wads of data from a server in the midwest to do lookups against (and ultimately push wads of data to) a machine in the southeast. I would think that this constant flow of data would be the major source of bandwidth consumption, but I am not a network person, and maybe internet bandwidth is a different animal than WAN bandwidth.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

first, the good news

I went to the hospital today for the post-surgery visit. The appointment was in the early afternoon and the waiting room was mobbed, and from overheard conversations I gathered that things were at least an hour behind. As I reached the check-in desk, my phone rang (which it rarely does) and it was my neighbor (who would only call if something really bad was happening). My dog was howling (which she never does), she said, and she (the neighbor) wondered if I had left a spare key anywhere so she could check on the dog.

I hadn't, and I couldn't leave the hospital, and my husband was at work, and now my dog might be dying alone and unaided, what do I do? I told her to feel free to have someone break into the house. We both got hold of my husband and he agreed to come home. While I waited and waited and waited for the doc to see me and for my neighbor to break into the house and for my husband to get home, I chewed my nails and texted my neighbor, badgering her for updates. Eventually they got a door open, and found my dog unable to get up (her new normal, about 50% of the time). After being propped on her feet, she calmed right down and appeared glad to see my neighbor (texted my neighbor). My husband arrived home shortly afterward and reported that the dog was "a little clingy" but basically ok. So the fuss was because she was lonesome. Lonesome. God. We can't make it so that one of us is always home, so I don't know how we're going to fix this problem. But a part of me is happy that this almost-17-yo dog cares enough about anyone or anything to feel lonesome. She is not going down without a fight.

So I waited a little more until I was called to see the doctor. She was happy. She said the pathologist's report was great; apparently the cancer was so tiny (like 2 or 3 mm, imagine!) that they'd inadvertently got it all in the biopsy, and the lumpectomy contained none. She even said that she's thinking I won't need radiation, though she does recommend tamoxifen. Won't need radiation! This is huge. Wow - the best thing I've heard since the day I met her and she said mastectomy was not strictly necessary. Of course, the decision about radiation ultimately lies with the radiation oncologist, with whom I have an appointment next week. But when I think of what might have happened had I stayed with Surgeon No 1 and her Creepy Plastic Surgeon husband...Christ. I dodged a bullet.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


It has occurred to me that I might have been too quick to damn the HR people at my company. I posted a question about it in a forum where people talk about employment stuff during treatment. Two people have answered - one works in HR, even - and both have said, essentially, "chill, this is what companies do, they don't want to get caught having forced a truly sick person to work so they treat any type of cancer diagnosis like this. It's not you." The person who works in HR also mentioned that my medical expenses probably did not cause the increase in insurance premiums for the whole company.

Sure, the HR woman lacks a lot of communication skills, and seems unable to retrieve a sheet of paper from a fax machine, and seemed to pull that "you can't work until we get that note" rule out of her ass, but those are just unfortunate things. Maybe they are not indications of a plan to fire me or get me to quit. Maybe I've been wrong about this, and maybe I seem like a lunatic. I hope my hysterics can be forgiven, or at least overlooked.

Friday, December 12, 2014

human resources

My dislike of our HR department has become intense, and is now bordering on the irrational.

My post-op doctor appointment is next Wednesday. This morning, I received a summons to a "follow-up meeting" with HR (and my boss) next Tuesday. When I asked my boss what it was for, he said that HR had a few questions about the wording of the doctor's note (which I have not seen) that they want me to follow up on. 

Should this bother me? It did. I saw it as yet another hoop I was going to have to jump through in order to keep my job. I objected, and my boss considered my response "hostile to HR"  and wants me to start being more cooperative. He's right - I am hostile to  HR - but the fact that he's siding with HR is not very comforting.

What I need to do is to chill, at all costs - let them fire me if they're going to. It won't be the worst thing in the world. It might be humiliating, it might sting some, but life will go on. Getting my back up anytime HR talks to me is not going to help me; in fact, it may even become the grounds for my dismissal. So I need to chill.

But I hate them!

Please, world, encourage me to chill. Let me think about:

  • the weekend coming up
  • the Bake-Off Sunday evening, and seeing good friends
  • the two cool things I learned about playing viola yesterday, and how I will get to put them to use later today when I get home
  • the lesson yesterday, and how uncomplicatedly fun it was

Thursday, December 11, 2014

piece of work

One last thing about the HR/doctor's note debacle: my doctor's nurse called me today; she'd been out of the office all week and was just then returning messages. It turns out she faxed the return-to-work note my company 3 (3!) times, the first being just after surgery. So the HR woman is either a liar or stupid. I don't hate anyone besides Dick Cheney, but with her it's a close call.


I had a viola lesson today, first in about 10 days so I should have been able to learn everything in that time, yes? No. I dreaded that viola lesson right up until the moment I got out of the car and saw the sweet little neighbor dog who rarely hangs out in the yard anymore. We chatted for a few minutes and then I rang the bell, expecting miserable playing and lots of criticism. But I didn't play 100% poorly, and my teacher worked with what I had, and things got to sounding better, and I learned some stuff. Today was one of those days I really enjoyed hanging out with him. I don't understand how sometimes he can be so nice to be around, and other times he can seem like a jerk. I guess I'll never know.

And some of the things I learned today include:

  • a key to a good hand frame is to keep fingers down. I think I lost that habit trying to play fast and especially trying to play all those little frilly turns in the Hummel. But I never did learn to play them well, and I lost the frame I was so happy to discover a few months ago. So: frame frame frame, and keep those fingers down. If I ever find myself tending to play out of tune, I need to remember this.
  • there is a pattern to a 3-octave scale. If you know one, you know all of them. Wow. It's only taken me 2 years of playing scales every single day to realize that. I mean, I knew there was a pattern, but Flesch seems kind of arbitrary with fingerings on the descent. But it's really not arbitrary. Wow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Just as the workday was beginning to hum, and people started emailing me questions I was not allowed to answer because, well, I wasn't allowed, my boss let me know that the doc's return-to-work note had arrived earlier, and I could start working anytime.

One more crisis has been averted.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I blew it

I am so steamin' mad I don't want to go into much detail now, but suffice it to say that I lost my temper at work, in front of my boss, at the local head of HR. She insisted I supply a doctor's "ok to return to work" note before setting foot in the building. This rule is not documented anywhere. Actually it is, but only for people who request a federally-sanctioned kind of leave of absence (FMLA), which I had not; I simply used 2 of my own vacation days to have surgery, and recover from it.

Anyway, I had asked my doc to fax the note on the day of surgery, and I emailed and left voicemail again today, but by afternoon the note had not arrived, and HR was not going to cut me any slack.

The day ended with a meeting of me, the HR woman, and my boss. The HR woman kept saying "we just want to make the best decisions for you" and I kept saying "I'm not asking you to do that". The HR woman kept saying "we need to know what you can and cannot do" and I kept saying "I cannot swim in a lake; that's all". I pointed out that this medical-clearance requirement was not documented anywhere. I pointed out that the form HR wanted the doctor to complete clearly said "FMLA" on it, which did not apply to me. I said that I had done everything reasonably possible to get my doctor to fulfill this stupid requirement, so why can't HR bear with me and let me work while we wait?

Nope. I have been forbidden to return to work until this matter has been sorted out.

I was so mad. I told the woman that she seemed to be making this whole thing up as she went along. My voice shook. I shook. And all in front of my boss, who must think I'm a lunatic.

Monday, December 8, 2014

miscellany from the first weekend in december 2014

Woke up yesterday with a rash that seemed to follow the "footprint" of betadine or whatever they used to wash me before surgery. The itchiness and stuff made me cranky. Benadryl helped. Today I still have the rash, but it's manageable. I am hardly sore or stiff from the surgery; in fact, I woke up this morning with my right arm over my head.


Viola practice has been atrocious, and the problem is mental, not physical. My mind is absolutely elsewhere. I can hardly focus on a single line, sometimes even a single bar. It's not like I'm thinking of anything in particular, more like I'm incapable of thinking at all. It's very frustrating.


I saw this on facebook: what if you're not good at what you love?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

night and day

I can't believe how much better I feel today. Hardly any pain, and even then nothing that ibuprofen couldn't handle. No vicodin = no nausea, and I've been making up for not having eaten yesterday. I took a walk this morning and a nap this afternoon, two things I almost never do. I can play the viola just as well as ever, which is to say Not Well, but my bow arm is unaffected. And there are still 2 days of recovery in front of me.

Friday, December 5, 2014

no drama

Surgery was today, and after all I'd read on the forums I was prepared for any amount of drama from zero to a hundred. It was very much the former. The wire placement went smoothly and really didn't hurt much. As for the surgery, I stared at the OR ceiling for a minute or two and then woke up in recovery, pain-free and non-nauseated; after a bit I was allowed to go home. Unfortunately, I assumed that since I was awake, the anesthesia had worn off. Wrong! Once it did actually wear off, hours later, I had already allowed myself to get dehydrated, and since I'd spent about 40 minutes practicing viola I'd also aggravated my right side. The rest of the day has not been fun. It's sore. I can't eat (I am staring at a plate of food as I type this). My throat is sore. I feel like I'm going to vomit but my stomach is empty. I hate vicodin. Bleh. I'm just bitching, I know. It could have been so much worse, and I will feel better tomorrow.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

today's mission

Today's mission was not to freak out.

I am worried about the surgery tomorrow, about what else they might find, about recovery time, about radiation. I am worried that the HR department at my work seems to be really squirrely about this whole thing, throwing obstacles into my path, bitching publicly that insurance premiums will go way up next year due to "high usage". I am not so worried about losing my job, only about losing it at the worst possible moment. I am worried that my husband will find me repulsive. I am worried that I may not be able to do things that make me happy. I worry that I can't control any of this.

There was no work to do today, so I did laundry like a maniac. Tonight I have to wash with special antiseptic soap, and dry off with a clean towel,  get into clean clothes and sleep on freshly washed bedding. Tomorrow I have to wash again with the soap and wear freshly washed clothes. So every stitch in the house is clean. No email from work or otherwise, no one to talk to, no distractions. My husband's parents sent a get-well card, which arrived today. Otherwise I feel like I'm on Mars. I wish I were on Mars.

I did end up with a little work to do, and later a friend called, so I don't feel so disconnected from the world. I have been taking xanax since early afternoon (god forgive me) and drinking since 5pm (again, forgive me) and I don't feel a thing, just very, very alert and slightly unreal, or rather that all this from tomorrow onward is unreal.

But I did not freak out.