Monday, September 15, 2008

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

It is approaching the midnight hour, but once again, I am awake. Thought this would be a good time for a blog update!
In my last entry two weeks ago I was preparing for my abdominal CT scan. The test went smoothly and Dr. K's office called about a week later to say that it didn't show anything.
So the next step in this "elimination" process is to have an endoscopy. I scheduled it for October month...on purpose. The last time I had that test it affected my vocal cords. With two huge gigs coming up, I couldn't risk anything changing my singing voice.
In the meantime, I went to my ENT that same day (yes, I am a gluten for punishment) since I was having serious issues with my throat. I totally lost my voice at my last gig and it was not coming back. Dr. London used the endoscope through my nose and looked down my throat. Thank goodness all is fine. No polyps, inflammation...NOTHING.
He said that singing for an extended period of the heat, and then going into air conditioning put a serious strain on my vocal cords. The best thing is to take Mucinex daily and rest the voice for a few more days. I was lucky this time!
I started my 'Yoga Mornings' class at the West Babylon Public Library, with my friend Liv. It is a four-week course that is supposed to help increase strength, flexibility and balance...while creating a sense of calm and focus.
Needless to say, I AM NOT FLEXIBLE! I think my excuse is a good one: I have a muscle disease! After our teacher Cathy almost ripped my hip joint out of its socket to put me in the correct alignment for a specific pose, I informed her of my plight and she promised to be kinder to me in the future.
The biggest and best surprise came on Saturday, September 6th...around 4:30. My friend Julie called me on the phone and asked us what we were doing. Since we had spent a few hours earlier in the day walking around the Argyle Fair with our friends Ceil and Liv, I was resting. But not for long!
Jules(I love you, girlfriend!) informed me that she got her hands on two extra tickets to the US Open Women's Tennis Finals for that evening! OMG!!! I could NOT believe it! We were actually going to watch Serena Williams, in person, at the FINALS!
We took the train from Manhasset around 6 pm to the Shea Stadium stop in Flushing Meadow, Queens. When we got off the LIRR, I took a deep breath and gazed at the US Tennis Center in awe. It has been more than a decade since I had been at this glorious tennis icon...and it was the first time I would witness the women's final!
The center is much more commercialized since the last time I was there, but it still was overwhelmingly magnificent. Jules, Sally and I wandered around, taking in the sights and sounds around us.

Entering Arthur Ashe Stadium was extremely emotional. And to top off the best evening of the summer, one of my all time favorite R & B singers, Anita Baker, gave a concert prior to the match! Can you believe it?
My longtime hero/tennis legend, Billie Jean King, strolled onto center court and tossed the coin to decide who was going to receive serve. Tennis great Martina Navratilova was in the audience and waved to the crowd. Many celebrities were acknowledged throughout the match...which made the evening much more special!

My heart was full...I was so blissfully happy all evening. Especially after Serena defeated number 2 seed Jelena Jankovic in a thrilling 6-4, 7-5 final in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Not only was it Serena's third US Open title, but this win earned her the number 1 ranking in the world!

Unfortunately, my happiness was extinguished the next evening at dinner. I was cleaning up around the kitchen and took a spill on the floor...injuring my right wrist.

Of course, I was thankful I didn't break anything. Especially since I was supposed to do a solo performance at a benefit concert that Saturday! Can't play the keyboard with a sore wrist now, can I? Yikes!

Hurricane Ike was slowly inching its way towards the Gulf Coast, causing dangerous rip currents and gigantic waves here on Long Island. I drove myself down to the beach, camera in hand, and took some amazing photos.
The ocean has always been a safe haven for me. A peaceful place to meditate, work out my problems or just to spend some alone time. Despite the larger than normal waves on the Atlantic, the beach was as beautiful as ever. And I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen that evening. God is truly amazing.

This past Friday, Sally and I were interviewed by a Newsday reporter for a story on American families and the US Census. She is sending out a photographer to take a family portrait to go along with the article. It is interesting to be on the receiving end of a reporter's questions, rather than acting as the middle man/PR pro. For almost 25 years I played that part...probably the reason I am so comfortable being questioned now!

Then on Saturday, I had the pleasure of performing at "Coffee, Cake & Comedy IV," a charity event to raise money for the Gay and Lesbian Democrats of Suffolk County. It was the second time I participated in this worthwhile cause, and it truly was an unforgettable evening.
A few months ago I wrote a jazz instrumental piece that I was planning on performing just for that evening. But what no one knew...specifically Sally...was that I wrote the piece for HER! In fact, the piece is entitled "A Song For Sally!"

Despite my obvious nervousness, I took to the stage like a fish takes to water. Once I began to play my keyboard, I felt right at home. The audience's loud applause and yells as I finished my number proved that I still can perform alone.

I must remember that I CAN DO ANYTHING I PUT MY MIND TO! There were actually a number of people who asked if they could buy my CD! Guess that is a huge reason I should get my butt into the studio soon, right?!

On another note, Hurricane Ike did hit Texas over the weekend, and will be entered into the record books for the severe damage it inflicted in and around Galveston. The storm's enormous size, nearly as large as the entire state of Texas, spread its destruction from eastern Louisiana to Texas! Many people lost their lives, while thousands lost their homes.

I want to send a special message of love to Mom Suzanne and her husband Lou who were caught in the middle of the storm. Thanks be to God that you made it through with only minor damage. We love you, and pray that your friends and neighbors in Texas get all the assistance they so desperately need.
Another special message goes out to Aunt Patricia who is resting comfortably and recovering from knee replacement surgery. We love you...and I can't wait to give you a huge hug one day very soon!

This upcoming weekend is my band's gig in New Jersey. I cannot believe I am crossing the GW Bridge and going back to my alma mater, Montclair State... 28 years later, to perform at their Centennial Celebration! I hope to have the time of my life!

I will keep you posted!

Until next time...God bless! And keep smiling!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

First Day of School

Today is the first day of school for the kids on Long Island. I can hear the sound of the yellow school buses driving past the house. It brings back mixed emotions for me, both happy and sad. Our son Jarrett did get up and out on time...and headed out to the high school to begin his sophomore year! WOW!

Summer is "un"officially over! But we had another great one! Jarrett spent eight weeks, on and off, at three different camp sessions. But it is nice to have him back home with us!
Sally, Jarrett & I enjoying the last days of August!

Right now I am sitting here "drinking" my Readi-Cat, preparing for today's abdominal CT scan. I am forcing myself to finish the 450 ml container of barium sulfate suspension, knowing that in two minutes I have to drink another one. Ugh.

My gastro, Dr. Kongara, is not sure why I am having so much discomfort in my upper abdomen. But she did say that many women who have been on large doses of prednisone sometimes never lose the fat pads in that area. Figures, right?

I have lost inches over much of my body, but the stomach just won't change. However, if that is the only area that was affected by the prednisone, I can deal. She has scheduled me for an upper endoscopy towards the end of October. The reason being is that the scope usually affects my voice, and with all of my upcoming gigs, I can't take that chance.

I also ventured into NYC to see Dr. Spiera for my quarterly visit. He is concerned with the amount of pain I am experiencing in both hips, so an x-ray of my hips is being ordered. He felt it could be bursitis , which is the inflammation of bursae sacs of synovial fluid. These sacs rest at the points where muscles and tendons slide across the bone.

However, he felt strongly that we need to rule out Avascular Necrosis. AVN is a bone and vascular disease, referred to as 'bone cell death.' It is caused by a diminished blood flow to the bone. Prolonged use of steroids is often the culprit, and it can only be detected on an MRI. BUT, I cannot get an MRI until I have an x-ray. (Ya know those freakin' insurance companies!!!)

Dr. Spiera also thought it is time for a new chest x-ray to rule out any underlying issues, including...believe it or not...TB. Now...that blew me away, but I guess since I am immunosuppressed, we have to cover all bases. I have been experiencing increased night sweats and no sleep.

Other than that...I am fine!!! LOL (I've got to have a sense of humor about all this, right?)

Emotionally, I am getting myself in check...and am optimistic that things will be okay. I guess it is normal for the mind to play tricks at times, especially when life is so uncertain at times. Despite the constant pain I am in, I know that the docs are trying their best to help me...and I must continue to help myself.

I have signed up for a Friday morning yoga class, which begins this week, and I am continuing to swim and walk on a regular long as the weather permits here on the east coast!!!

Sally took a few days off here and there so that we could spend a little time together before the crazy days of September begin. One day we drove out east, on the north fork, to Greenport.

We passed at least a dozen local wineries along the route, and I could not believe the size of the grapes! Sally and I promised each other that we would make another trip out east, specifically to one or two of the wineries, when they are making ice wine. Ice wine is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The bottles are small and rather costly, but well worth it! Yummmm!

As we approached the outskirts of town, I saw a sign for the Horton Point Lighthouse. Of course I had to see it, as I am trying to see ALL the lighthouses I can! The view from the Point was absolutely gorgeous! I am so glad we detoured a bit!

We walked around the town and saw the old carousel, as well as a brand new sculpture on the pier. It is entitled "Morning Call" -- a bronze sculpture of an ospry alighting upon a perch fashioned from beams of The World Trade Center disaster on 9/11/01.
"Morning Call"
Created by Roberto Julio Bessin

We ended our day with a lobster lunch at Claudio's! A little piece of heaven!!! Ahhhh! Sal and I outside of Claudio's, on the Greenport dock
My longtime college buddy, Sharon, drove down from NJ with her hubby Frank to spend a few days with us right before Labor Day. I still cannot believe we have been friends for 32 years!

We had a wonderful few days together...catching up on old stories from our Montclair State days!

Being former physical ed majors, we were always extremely athletic and competitive. We both realized, rather quickly, how competitive we still are...even at the ripe age of fifty! You should have seen us playing table tennis! You would have thought that a million dollars was at stake!!!

Now...believe it or not, Sharon and Frank showed up with a trophy, already inscribed with "The Boyarsky-Fincken Mini Golf Tournament." They challenged us to a game, loser buys ice cream. Needless to say, we lost...but not by much. I painstakingly gave over the trophy...but we vowed to win it back soon!

I really enjoyed playing catch up with my dear friend, and it was wonderful hearing all of the old Panzer stories. For those of you who don't know what Panzer is...Panzer Gymnasium was dedicated to a Swiss-born gymnast, Henry Panzer, in 1958. It was at this time that the Panzer College of Physical Education and Hygiene of East Orange merged with Montclair State College.

Panzer College was the last of the private, single-purpose schools and colleges preparing teachers of physical education and health in the United States. Because Montclair State College was then considering the development of a physical education major, the timing for a merger was perfect.

This historic event was engineered by Dr. E. DeAlton Partridge, president of Montclair State College, Dr. Margaret C. Brown, president of Panzer College, and the Panzer College of Trustees, with the approval of the State Board of Education.

Brown Lounge, named of course after Dr. Brown, was where we spent our free time in between classes. In fact, I received a leadership award my senior year and the plaque was placed on the wall of the lounge back in 1980!

I have forgotton almost all of my college years...due to my disease process. Little by little, as Sharon told us the stories, I got a few flashbacks. I was quite the character back then!!! (I guess I still am!!!)

I can't wait for our September 20th gig at Montclair State's Centennial Celebration. It is going to be AMAZING!

Labor Day Weekend was nice and quiet for us this year. My band had a private gig in Queens on Sunday, and it was wonderful. My Mom drove out here for a few days, and I was so glad she could be there to hear me sing. And my cousin Carol came out from NYC on Monday to hang out at the pool.

I actually have had no voice since my gig, so this afternoon I am seeing my ENT. I think it was a combination of things...allergies, vocal strain, etc. We'll see what he thinks!

Gotta go for my CT scan now! Until next time!
God bless!