Been There, Done That

commentary on many different thoughts

Month: February, 2013

Breast Cancer Awareness

Consider this repeat post a public service message for anyone with breasts:

If you haven’t developed a self-examination routine already, do so NOW. Once a month, every month. If you don’t know how, ask a nurse or a doctor. But do so NOW!!!! And mammograms every year for those of us of a certain age.

This is a cake I made for a breast-cancer awareness fund-raiser!

breast cancer awareness cake

I have lost friends to breast cancer. I have several friends who have blessedly survived breast cancer. It’s not fun, and the treatment is long, painful and expensive. Self-examination and regular mammography can catch this killer before it takes hold. Mammograms are not fun either (feels a little like lying in the driveway and letting someone run over my boobs with a pick-up truck) but early detection can save your life.

I got lucky. About 15 years ago, I woke up one morning with a golf-ball sized lump on my breast. It was painful to the point that a tee-shirt was almost too much. So I trotted off to the doctor, who promptly sent me to the Indiana University Medical School. (It wasn’t one of those “you ought to get that looked at sooner or later” – it was “just a second, I’ll make the appointment and I’ll have someone drive you there NOW”) So there I am, lying on the gurney and the doctor comes to take a look. He says, “Hmmmmmm. Let’s do a mammogram”. At this point, I’m in enough pain to tell him that if he so much as touches me with the mammogram tools, I’ll put his nuts in a garlic press. He backs off (thank you Goucher for teaching me to stand up for my rights!)

So he switches to an ultrasound, which still hurts like all get-out. They decide to do a biopsy. So far so good. In trots the doctor with a collection of 3 med students. He asks if I mind if they watch. I agree to watch, yes; touch, forget it. The doctor shoots me up with lots of painkillers (yeah baby!) and uses a needle a veterinarian would recognize. They drain what seemed like quarts of really nasty-looking gunk, the cyst collapses and there is no more pain. Just a bandaid.

As I said, I got lucky. It was just a cyst, a collection of disgusting fluid. I have friends who were not so lucky. Don’t join that number. Self-examination and regular check-ups can and do save lives.


Had the most wonderful weekend. Annapolis 1975 was the wedding. This time Annapolis was the vow renewal of two incredible friends, Bill and Tracey Emslie.


I’ve had the honor to be present when they met and when they married. They have been there for me through thick and thin and some hair-raising adventures. They have four of the nicest offspring ever, and are universally admired and respected. Here’s wishing them many, many more happy years.

Do You Remember?

A trip down Memory Lane started in the shower this morning. Why, I don’t know. But here goes:

I remember when:
– I could fill up my Fiat 850 Spyder with premium for $2.50. Premium was $.32 a gallon – and that was expensive. Granted the Fiat ran on 4 hamsters and a rubber band, and could do 55 mph only downhill and with a tailwind, but still …
– I remember the problems I used to have getting that Fiat fixed. No mechanic in the area had metric tools (this was before the Japanese invasion), so eventually we had a set sent over from Fiat in Italy.
– I remember being able to take the Fiat’s engine apart (all four moving parts) and put it together again. No computers, no funky gadgets.
– I remember my Father teaching me how to roll-start the Fiat when it wouldn’t start in the cold.
– We used to get dressed up to fly. I remember gloves and hats on stewardesses (not flight attendants).
– I remember when there were height and weight requirements (stringent ones) for stewardesses, and once past the “bloom of youth”, you were politely informed that your services were no longer required.
– My first year in college they still expected us to dress for Sunday dinner.
– When I went to college, you weren’t allowed to have guys in your dorm rooms. They had “dating parlors”.
– Granted, that was also the college where I sat on the floor of one of the “dating parlors” and listened to Jim Croce testing a new song with a friend of mine.

What are your Memory Lane ventures?

Wish I’d Had Video

My Father was a brilliant horseman. He jumped fences I’ve only jumped in my dreams, and did it with style and grace.

Daddy Czendor

Tory was a brilliant cross-country machine and open jumper. She jumped fences that I’ve jumped again in nightmares.  (That’s Carin Reynolds on Tory below)

Tory Caryn

Tory also didn’t believe in dressage. Dressage requires obedience and submission, and Tory thought that the obedience and submission was for the rider’s part; that all she needed was directions to the next jump. This made dressage interesting.



One day, my Father came out to the barn for a trail ride. He got up on Tory and took her into the arena for a get-acquainted couple of minutes before we went out. It was like he was on a totally different horse. Tory collected herself, stood still in a perfectly square halt (never happened!), then marched forward in a flat-footed, swinging walk (which she never, ever did), and proceeded to offer a lovely smooth collected trot (hah!) and canter. I was stunned. Who was this mare and what have they done with Tory?

After watching them for a few minutes, I asked my Father what on earth he was doing and could he show me how to do it. He couldn’t put it into words. It was all feel. It was extremely frustrating.

It was also very amusing. One of the higher-level riders at the barn happened to be watching and was all excited. She wanted to know where I’d found the fancy European (my Father was Viennese) trainer!

How I wish I’d had a video of the whole episode!


Different Strokes

Twas many and many a year ago in a kingdom by the sea (prize to the first person who correctly identifies context and author) ….

Translation: back when I was living in Los Angeles, I worked in the very posh, tony part of West LA. One of our administrative assistants was Suzette (not her real name). Suzette was older (over 60 when I met her), and prided herself on her L.A. chic. To get into some sort of shape, she started taking ballet lessons. No argument there – anything that will get anyone up and active is fine by me. I was only a little concerned because she’d obviously never done much of anything physical in her life, and, on inquiry, I learned that they didn’t teach any pre-workout stretch/warm-up routine.

The inevitable happened. Suzette came in to work one morning with a swollen ankle. Wasn’t broken – she could hobble on it – but definitely needed some attention. At that point, I was Pony-Club trained, held a BHSI, and took fairly decent care of a good many horses. I blurted out that if she were a horse, I would apply some heating lotion and sweat-wrap the ankle to bring the swelling down and elevate it. (It was too late to ice.) She sneered at me and in arctic tones snorted “I am not a horse”, and limped off.

So I shrugged and went about my business. Suzette trotted off (or rather limped off) to a very expensive Beverly Hills clinic. She was, after all, chic. Came back several hours later with a vetrap bandage on her ankle. One of the other secretaries asked her what the clinic had done. Apparently, the clinic had covered the affected area with a heating lotion (expensive), put some high-tech transparent wrappings over the lotion (!) and bandaged the whole with instructions to elevate. She ended up paying a significant amount out of pocket for something I could have done with materials on hand. Ah life.

TV Ad Hot Buttons!

I don’t watch a lot of television – Monday nights’ Castle of course, and Food Network while I’m working out at the gym – but there are a couple of trends that I’m seeing that really get me hot. To wit:

1. The V8 commercial where the kid or baby “bops” the parent. Any ad that encourages anyone to “bop” anyone (except perhaps an ad for a martial-arts studio) has lost my patronage permanently. There is too much gratuitous “bopping” going on in the world to permit this as a product pitch.

2. The “SC Johnson, a family company” ads for cleaning products. Please note that EVERY SINGLE ONE of the individuals doing the cleaning is a woman. Kids track in mud and vanish without a scolding, husband helpfully absent or gazing admiringly at woman doing the cleaning. The one that really got me was the beaming mother when the child scribbled on the wall with magic marker. Whether or not their products are as environmentally friendly as they claim, they’ve lost my business.

3. Any ad for any product which features a smart-mouthing kid. Any kid sassing or educating an adult is an automatic turn-off for me. I’ve run into too many kids just starting out in the workplace who think that smart-mouthing their seniors is cute, and who are unpleasantly surprised when “cute” doesn’t cut it with their superiors.

Granted, these are all my own personal “hates”. What turns you off?

More Mind-Boggling Roaming

Certain parts of Barcelona, Spain, blew my mind. Specifically, architecture. Specifically, Gaudi. Put this on your bucket list. The buildings are Must-Sees, with the capital letters intended.

The buildings are Different. Difficult. Diverse. The St. George’s house is a 3-story building for which the facade is a dragon and a George. Right on the street. You sit there and gawk and wonder how anyone could bear to call this home, but after a while, it gets to you. In fact, it’s FUN!!

There is an office building Gaudi designed which looks like a hobbit-hole on mescaline. Again, once you spend some time looking at it, you realize that it does make sense in a weird sort of way. Look these two up on-line and you’ll see what I mean.

On the other hand, there is no escaping La Sagrada Familia. You come out of the Underground at the conveniently marked stop “La Sagrada Familia” (!) (this is good because Catalan is unlike any Spanish I know), and it hits you right in the face. Barcelona 2012 001

Started in the late 1800s and not yet complete, the basilica is a study in contrasts. It’s starkly modern and rococo and baroque and just plain bizarre, yet, if you spend enough time looking and actually seeing, it starts to make sense.

The play of light and dark, the play of light on stone, the use of nature in stone, and the contrasts between the stark sharp lines of the Crucifixion facade as compared to the frivolous and joyous curves of the Nativity facade (the Gloria wall is still under construction) start to weave themselves into a whole when you take the time to really look and absorb it all. I spent two hours gawking and then sat in the main aisle for another hour to soak in the incredible play of light in the stained glass.

Barcelona 2012 009

Every single leaf, every gash by chisel or knife, every pane of glass, was put there for a reason and meshes with the rest of the work. I’m not sure I actually “liked” the building – it was way too far outside my comfort zone for “like” – but it was most certainly a “WOW”!

ceiling Sagrada Familia

More Hot Buttons

Opinions vary. There are those who believe that you shouldn’t try a new level unless you are training two levels above your competition level. There are those of us who prefer a challenge.

When Moses and I were going strong, we used to regularly come up against a top local professional who rode a top local horse in our First Level division. Yes it was open, but hey …. this horse was horse of the year at First, Second and Third levels that year. The pro was in it for the money, but it sure didn’t make those of us who got beaten feel better.

On the other hand, Moses and I did quite respectably at First Level (we won our own set of year-end awards). So I thought I’d give Second a try. I thought to myself “hey, if I said that I was going to run Moses at the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event, not only would everyone, including Moses, know I was insane, but he’d dump me at the first fence. On the other hand, at Second level dressage, the only thing that’s reasonably likely to get hurt is my pride, so why not!”

My teacher, a Prussian martinet, didn’t feel the same way. She told me that Moses was not properly collected, that he hadn’t schooled Third level movements, couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do flying changes, and would be an insult to the judges. I argued that flying changes weren’t even required until Second Test Four, that he could more-or-less do all the movements, that nobody was going to get hurt trying this, and entered him at the local show.


The upshot was that Moses pulled a score over 67% (where he found that, I don’t know), gave me the ride of my life and – best of all – we beat my trainer on her very expensive young German import. She never spoke to me again.

My point? How can you get better if you don’t try something new? Something challenging? Something difficult?

Hot Buttons!!

All ye horse folk out there, may I refer you to a comment on FaceBook that punched every single one of my hot buttons! See: href=”” title=”Nice Braids”>

The article itself is great. It’s about horses who do not appreciate the refinements and disciplines of dressage, and judges who appreciate the tact and effort it takes to keep a racing-fit thoroughbred from erupting out of the 20x60m space. What set me off was one particular comment by a reader (check out the FB comments section) who said that “a horse which cannot do a simple dressage test should not be permitted on cross-country where the fences are solid.”

This woman never met Tory. Tory thought that dressage was a tool of the devil used to torture event horses. The one really decent dressage test I ever got from her was Tory making a studied effort to behave herself – and I could feel every breath she took and every time she told herself that she could hold on just a little longer. The worst test she produced was when she did one-tempi changes all the way down a 60m wall because I wouldn’t let her gallop – and cross country started directly opposite the gate.scan0002

On the other hand, Tory was the safest (if fastest) cross-country ride I’ve ever had. She knew exactly where her feet were at any given time, she never stopped, stumbled, stuttered or even considered running out, and she was handy as a cat on her feet. I’d trade that for a “pleasant” (boring) dressage test any day of the week.

Tory Seneca

Clicker Training

For the last decade or better, I’ve been reading about the “new” training method for horses and dogs (and the occasional cat) called “clicker training”. It has been praised as the newest training tool, the greatest thing since sliced bread, and the fashionable gurus made millions off the new technique. This new gimmick is a little aluminum gadget that makes a cricket-like sound (they used them in WWII with moderate success). The horse (or dog) learns that if it does the required task at the sound of the clicker, it gets a reward. Simple. Painless. (There is, of course, a lot more involved than just this.)

New, my foot. The nuns had all of them beat by about 50 years. A walk down Memory Lane with a friend who’d also suffered through Catholic schools in the 60s brought us both to the startling realization that the nuns had clicker-trained whole generations of students. When we were coached for our First Communions, the nuns taught us to rise and kneel with – you guessed it – clickers! A separate series of clicks taught us when to get up to go to the altar, when and what to do there, and then when to stand up for the grand procession of the recessional.

Granted, we lived in terror of the nuns anyway, so teaching us much of anything wasn’t that hard, but what a practical way to control 30 or more 8 year olds!

More on individual nuns another time. Anyone got good nun stories to share?