Thursday, February 25, 2021

I Had Surgery During the Plague

In November of 2017, I had a really horrible time. My period came and it decided it didn’t want to leave. After about 10 days of it, and by “it” I mean horrible bleeding and clotting to the point where I couldn’t go anywhere without bathroom access for more than 1 hour. After that 1 hour, I would have bled through both a tampon and a pad and needed to change them both, asap. I finally broke down and called a teledoc, because my period had always lasted about 7 days, with only 2 really horrible days in there. 

 This time, it was like a crime scene every time I moved. And there was no end in sight. The teledoc thought this sounded much more serious than I did, and told me I needed to go to the emergency room. It was Sunday night. I went to the emergency room. 

  For whatever reason, I didn’t go to my normal hospital and instead went to the closest one. I didn’t spend too long in the waiting room before they found me a room to wait in, where I was to get undressed and put on a hospital gown. My 1-hour time limit was nearly up, so I had to venture to the ER bathroom, which was disgusting with mystery fluids on the floor and poor lighting. Finally, I was seen by a person (I don’t know if it was a doctor or not) and got to have a vaginal ultrasound, wherein a wand is stuck up the vagina, rather than a normal ultrasound where a wand is rolled around on the stomach. 

  A very frustrating part of having medical tests done is having technicians who are restricted from saying anything as they perform the test. I’ve had dozens of mammograms and breast ultrasounds, and I wish the technician could at least say they see something abnormal. I understand that they can’t diagnose the problem, but at least let me know they see something. Don’t just pretend everything is routine. So my vaginal ultrasound technician couldn’t say anything was weird, but from all of my breast ultrasounds, I know what it looks like when the ultrasound technician takes pictures of a problem and measures it. I knew there was something wrong, even though the technician wasn’t allowed to confirm this. 

  What was wrong turned out to be a uterine fibroid. In other words, a benign tumor, although the benign part still had to be confirmed by a biopsy. I didn’t have a regular gynecologist, but I needed one. The ER visit did nothing to stop the bleeding, just to get some tests done so I was armed for a visit with a gynecologist. The next morning, I went through my health insurance website and found the list of available gynecologists. I started calling them, looking for one thing specifically: who could see me that day.  

  The doctor who was available that day happened to work for that hospital and was in the same building as my GP. She looked at the test results from the night before and prescribed the birth control pill as my first option to get the bleeding under control. My other options for controlling the problem were a uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) or hysterectomy. I was a little overwhelmed with the sudden onset of this, so left with my prescription and options.  

  After I took the first birth control pill, the bleeding nearly stopped. But not quite. I ended up having to take two birth control pills a day for a while to get the bleeding to stop. Eventually I was able to drop it down to one pill a day. I did a lot of research on the two surgical options and decided to try the minimally invasive UFE. The gynecologist didn’t do that herself, and didn’t know who did. I was on my own to find a doctor to perform the operation. 

  Somewhere along the line, I also had my first MRI of the fibroid.  

  When you research the UFE surgery, you will no doubt find the website It belongs to a doctor named Bruce McLucas, and that’s who I went to. This was almost a year later, but since I was told this wasn’t urgent, I didn’t treat it as urgent. The pill had stopped the bleeding, so my immediate troubles were controlled. Dr. McLucas read one of my MRIs and described the fibroid as the size of hands holding a baseball. It was big, over 7 centimeters. He though I was a good candidate for the UFE, so we scheduled it and in November of 2018, I had the procedure.  

  That year was crazy. My mom was really sick and I spent several weeks in Texas helping her. She wanted me to stay longer, but work, pets and surgery meant I had to come back to California. My sister flew out to California from Texas to help me while I recovered, and to drive me to the doctor. The surgery took place the day after Thanksgiving, so my sister had to travel on Thanksgiving day. It meant the trip to Beverly Hills was easy because there wasn’t a lot of traffic on the road. The surgery itself I don’t remember. I do remember waking up at the clinic in tremendous pain, mostly from the catheter. They tried several pain killers on me, including dilaudid, fentanyl and oxycodone, but none of them had any effect. After a short time, still in tremendous pain, they let me go home since I was able to pee. That was the only criteria for being released. 

  I went home with a prescription for narcotics which didn’t work and instructions to wear compression stockings for days while I recovered. I think the incision was in my upper leg, but I don’t even remember now. I know they used a Starclose™ titanium closure thing in my leg, so an x-ray would be able to confirm where exactly the surgery was. (I since then have another piece of titanium in my body, in my left breast as an ID marker for a fibroadenoma which was biopsied and is benign. Just for those keeping track of what percentage of my body is titanium.) 

  A UFE is when little particles are injected into the blood vessels which feed the fibroid, blocking off the blood supply. Ideally, after the procedure the fibroid is starved and will then shrivel and shrink. The smaller fibroid would either then no longer be a problem, or would be much easier to remove because it would be smaller. If only.  

  After the UFE surgery, I had to wait several months and then have another MRI to see if it had worked. It hadn’t. In fact, the fibroid was larger now. It was still growing and not shrinking, closing in on 8 cm. Hands holding a grapefruit was an abstract description, so I researched things that were close to 8 cm in diameter and round. A baseball is 7.3 to 7.5 cm diameter. My fibroid was bigger than a baseball. And, according to my GP, about the same size as a 5 to 6-month-old fetus. Dr. McLucas wasn’t convinced right away that the surgery had failed. We waited and I had another MRI after another six months. It wasn’t shrinking or improving. Also, I had never stopped taking the pill. I don’t know where the time went, but in around October of 2019, Dr. McLucas suggested I stop taking the pill to see if maybe the bleeding was better.  

  For the first few months after stopping the pill, nothing happened. But I had been taking the pill every day since the end of 2017. And then the bleeding started again. Just as bad as before. I started to take the pill again, but one pill a day didn’t help. I started taking 2 to 3 pills a day, still having some bleeding. I made up my mind that I would have the hysterectomy. Unfortunately for me, in 2019 I switched my insurance to an HMO and the doctor my GP recommended for the hysterectomy didn’t take that insurance, so I couldn’t even get an appointment. I spent 2019 getting a couple more MRIs and trying to work with my insurance company to schedule appointments, which was extremely frustrating after having been on a PPO plan for most of my life.  

  For 2020, I went back to the PPO, for an extra $300/month in premiums. I called the suggested doctor to make an appointment, planning on April for surgery. A friend had offered for me to stay with her while I recovered, and April was good for both of us. And then there was a pandemic. No elective surgeries allowed (how this is elective is another problem with our current system), so I had to wait.  

  Then came the struggle of getting enough birth control pills out of my insurance to keep my life from being all about blood. For the few months when I stopped bleeding, I kept picking up my prescription, so it took a while for not having enough pills to become a crisis. Eventually that all worked out, but it did lead to some anxiety. Once surgeries became allowed again, I scheduled an appointment with the surgeon, no longer wanting to live with the daily cloud hanging over my head and the extreme amount of hormone medication I was taking to control the problem.  

  The surgeon scheduled my operation for September 11. Easy to remember. I was just going to my uterus and fallopian tubes removed. The ovaries could stay. He thought he would be able to do the surgery vaginally and laparoscopically, which was what I wanted to hear. He also told me I’d be “pleasantly surprised” by how easy the recovery would be. The pandemic had changed my desire to stay with a friend while recovering and to have friends check in on my cats while I was away from my own house, so an easy recovery was what I needed.  

  On September 11, I had to be at the hospital at 5:30 am, for a surgery which was scheduled for 7:30 am. A friend picked me up in the wee hours of the morning and drove me to Burbank. The hospital wanted me to fill out an advanced directive, which I wanted the same friend to fill out, so she went inside with me while we searched for witnesses for the document. Unfortunately, hospital employees can’t witness it, so I texted my friend she could leave. No advanced directed for me for this surgery. I spoke with the anesthesiologist, and she decided the doses of opioids I was given at the last procedure were too low, because the antidepressant I take makes them less effective. I was very worried I wouldn’t have any pain management after the surgery.  

  I may have been wheeled into the OR and asked to move from the gurney from the check-in room onto the operating table. Or not. Hard to remember. I wear glasses and had to take them off before leaving the check-in room, so I couldn’t see much of what was happening. I do remember when I was wheeled through the hospital corridor it reminded me of movies when the overhead lights are seen moving past in the point of view of the patient on the gurney.  

  When I woke up, I don’t think I was in my hospital room yet. I just remember a woman standing beside my bed saying something like, “There were complications. We had to cut you open.” Just what I didn’t want. I think I fell back asleep after that. I woke up again in my hospital room, which I was pleased to see was private, and a nurse asked me if I remembered that lady giving me the bad news. Yes. I remembered.  

  My plan was to go home the same afternoon after the surgery, but being cut open meant that was out of the question. I had two main areas of pain. One from the catheter, which they insisted on leaving in for the whole day, and one from the IV line in my arm, which was absolutely killing me. They gave me dilauded, and this time it worked. It felt great. But I think it almost killed me.  

  Late in the day, I lay in the bed, calming down and not feeling much of anything (the IV in my arm hurt no matter what), and being just between awake and asleep. I would snore with each exhale, even though I thought snores happened on inhales. And then after several breaths, I would stop breathing. I had to deliberately make myself breath again. I noted that even though I had the IV, with saline and antibiotics going into my left arm, there was no pulse monitor or anything monitoring my vital signs. If I did stop breathing, no one would know for hours. I wasn’t being checked up on very regularly.  

  But I didn’t die. At 10 pm, the nurse came in and got me up for a walk. We did one lap of the floor and I got back into bed. At 5 am, the catheter was removed and I went for another lap of the floor.  

  I got to go home that next day, after my surgeon saw me on another lap of the floor, that I was walking ok and alert. I really wanted to get out of the hospital. I was discharged around 11 am.  

  My friend picked me up and still offered her guest room to me, but I wanted to go home.  

  The pain moving around was terrible. I stayed in bed, but because of all of the saline in my system coming out, for the first day home I had to get out of bed and go pee often, about once an hour. I had to teach myself a new way to sit up, since just sitting up wasn’t working. Roll only my side, push myself up with my arms and grab the headboard to also pull myself up.  

  Five or six days of this, and I was finally able to just sit up. I moved out of the bed, onto the sofa. I was pretty mobile, but still had pain when I would bend down, like to pick something up from the floor.  

  I was given a prescription for some kind of opioid pain reliever, but I just used Advil. It only hurt when I moved, and I am not someone who enjoys feeling out of it. I spent several days in bed, just watching TV and movies. I had stocked up on frozen meals before the surgery, so I lived off of microwaved food.  

  It’s now a few months later and I’m moving around fine. No more pain. I did have hot flashes for a couple of months afterwards, but that has stopped. My doctor said it was a common symptom for people in recovery. As a cruel trick, I have the wounds from the laparoscopic attempt in addition to the big cut, so I have a direct comparison to what was and what could have been.  

  But it was the right choice. I feel so much better, and not just because I don’t have to worry about having an out-of-control period again. I have had migraine headaches for most of my like, sometimes as many as five a month. But I didn’t recall having many headaches since the surgery. So I marked February first and am happy to say I haven’t had a single headache, much less migraine, since then. I also have a lot more energy than before. The feeling that I need to go back to bed at 10am despite having just woken up at 8am is gone. If I have a nap now, I blame it more on pandemic conditions than on my physical state.  

  Ultimately, a lot of my health problems seem to have cleared up. They were all connected to my uterus. I wish I had skipped the UFE and gone straight for the hysterectomy, but how could I have known the UFE wouldn’t work? I couldn’t. I did the best I could with the available information. Hopefully by sharing this I’ll help someone else out there make a more informed decision about what will work best for them.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

It's All About Perception

 Not all tape measures are created equal. Unless you buy a calibrated or certified measuring tape, it is legal for the measuring tape to be off of accuracy by 1/32 of an inch for every six feet. I would imagine if you pick up a cheap measuring tape at the dollar store, the accuracy could be off by more than that. Same goes for rulers. And scales. Unless you are using an expensive scale at the doctor, there will be some margin of error.

 Imagine, these things which we assume are fact, like how long an inch is, have some wiggle room. It depends on your tools and how accurate they are. Aside from this being good to know and a reason to always use the same measuring tape when working on a project, it makes you wonder about how differently things can be perceived.

 I have tinnitus, and have for as long as I can remember. A constant buzzing/ringing in my ears. The closest thing I can think of to describe it to someone who doesn’t have tinnitus is, you know the noise crickets and cicadas make? Now imagine that a little bit higher in pitch and never-ending. Every once in a while it will end, for a second or two. Like all of the sound suddenly sucked down a drain. But it quickly returns and there it stays. Putting my hands over my ears just means I can hear it better. I’m used to it, but it is part of my perception of the world. The world buzzes. All the time.

 Think back on that infamous blue/black dress. To me, it always and only looked blue and black. But my perception doesn’t match the perception of a lot of people. We all have different experiences, so different that something which we think should be a “fact,” like the color of something or what “quiet” is, don’t match up from person to person.

 I bet about now you’re wondering how I’m going to bring this back around to perfume, which seems to be all I can talk about lately. Here we go!

I’ve been trying out various perfume samples the last few weeks. I always start the same way, spraying them on a piece of paper, or a tissue, or a napkin, and smelling them on the paper. One of the ones I got, as soon as I smelled it on the paper I said, “No!” and moved the paper away. But I know that things smell differently once you put them on, so I tried that one on, and…I like it. I like it when it is actually on me. The ginger which repelled me from the paper doesn’t stand out when I wear the perfume. In fact, the perfume in question, Whispers of Time, is so light and subtle, I can’t smell it on my skin after a couple of hours.

I debate with myself if a perfume which last such a short time is good or bad. And actually, it’s both. It’s good because it gives you the opportunity to put on something else after a few hours, but bad if you wind up just putting the same thing on, since the bottle won’t last as long. It is also good if the perfume you tried on turns out to be a stinky mistake. It doesn’t linger and make you regret the spray.

Similarly, the Mickey & Minnie perfume smelled overpoweringly like vanilla on the paper. But I tried it on and found it much nicer once I was wearing it. I get a lot more of the coconut on my skin, and the fragrance is lighter on my skin than on the paper, so I don’t feel like I’m drowning in vanilla and coconut.

 I broke down and got the big bottle of Mickey & Minnie. Here it is: 

Look at that! Such a nice bottle. And it came in a black and gold fancy box. I was going to buy Whispers of Time, but it was out of stock when I made my purchase.

Why now? you may be asking yourself. I mean, I’m not done collecting the Trend purse sprays yet. Why would I move on to the large bottles? Two reasons. Mickey & Minnie is limited edition and might not be available by the time I really figure out if I am committed to it. And they were giving away some items with purchase. So I purchased. For Whispers of Time and Mickey & Minnie, my perception changed when the delivery method of the scent changed. From paper to skin. It made a difference.

The gift with purchase was a full-sized perfume called Whispers of Innocence and a matching lipstick holder bow, with a tube of lipstick. I also got a sample of Whispers of Innocence, which seemed a little thoughtless to me. Hey, if you like the big bottle you just got, why not try it in a small bottle to consider buying a big bottle!

I don’t understand why the bow lipstick holder doesn’t come with a lipstick as standard. It should. But that is a complaint for another day.

 Whispers of Innocence has a lot of jasmine in it. But to me, when sprayed on paper, it smells like gardenias. I researched if jasmine and gardenia are thought to smell the same. The answer is no. But to me, in this perfume, they do. I have jasmine growing in my yard, so I think I know what it smells like. And I’ve smelled gardenias before. But this perfume, meant to smell of jasmine smells of something else to me.

I love the little queen bee on the lid. I haven’t decided yet to take the plunge and graduate it from paper to skin. I think it will have to happen very close to shower time the first time, so I can go wash it off if it doesn’t settle on me. I took a chance on a gift with purchase, and it might not have worked out. Anyway, the bottle is really cute.

I also expanded my collection of the Trend sprays with the Trend#4, United We Stand. Wow. It STINKS! I have to classify this as the worst of that collection, so far. Very strong, very lingering. So… I don’t think I can even get past the smell enough to try it on my skin. And just because I think it stinks, doesn’t mean everyone will think it stinks. It’s supposed to be comprised of frangipani (which is another word for plumeria) and parijata (which is another word for jasmine). 

Similar to when I make jewelry, I understand that not everyone shares my taste. I will always remember being commissioned to make a blue, black and purple necklace. Left to my own whims, this never would have happened. And even though I didn’t like the result, my client was happy.

 Not only do we all perceive things differently, we can’t take for granted that the things we think we all perceive the same, are the same. Or accurate. Or the same across different locations. If you want to smell like flowers vomited on you, go for it. I’ll pass.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

I Can't Stop Buying Perfume


Ahhh! All right. Here’s how my latest obsession, House of Sillage, is going.

Two new fragrances have arrived. The Trend 1.0 and the Trend #6. The Trend #4 United We Stand is on the way.

I though the Trend 1.0 for men was going to arrive in the same type of container as the Trend purse sprays for women, but it is larger. I got this gift set with lotion and bath gel. I really like the way it smells. I haven’t tried it on me yet, but I’ve sprayed it around and it is good. I’ve actually been using it as a kind of air freshener for the past few days.

It got me thinking about how I would buy cologne for my dad when he was alive. He was normally an Old Spice man, which I never bought for him. I would try at Father’s Day, birthday or Christmas to try and get him to use something a little fancier.

I distinctly remember buying him Drakkar Noir at least once. Looking at the composition of Drakkar Noir today, it is a very complex scent. I don’t think the Trend 1.0 is as complicated. I don’t even know if they smell anything alike, but I would have bought this for my dad. Or for a boyfriend, if I had one.

That got me wondering if it was weird I was able to flip the idea so easily. Dad. Boyfriend. Whatever man happened to be nearby, I’d squirt this on him. One of my friends thinks that’s ok. Another thinks it would be creepy.

But my inquiry revealed Old Spice is a common scent for a man. The all-purpose utility scent. Got a man? He should smell like Old Spice. I’m going to go buy a bottle of Old Spice at Target this week, just to see what it smells like. To see if I recognize the scent from my dad.

Anyway, I really like the way the Trend 1.0 smells and I like the bottle. You twist the bottle and the atomizer button pops up from the top. The container of perfume inside the bottle is replaceable, but I don’t think they actually sell the replacements, so… that’s weird. And the bottle is my colors: blue and silver. I debated keeping the little lotion and bath gel or giving them to someone. Then I thought, why would I give them away? I like the way it smells. Very clean. I’m thinking almost like Irish Spring? I’ve got to get some of that at Target also, to see if my association with it and the Trend 1.0 is valid. But a clean smell, even if a little manly, works for bath gel. So I broke into the bath gel. I haven’t made a move on the lotion yet.

Then I got another purse spray in the Trend line, the Trend #6, Bow Peep. The scent story is listed as black current, blue iris and vanilla bean. It really smells like vanilla. For a while, when I was in graduate school, I wore a lot of vanilla perfume. So I’m ok with vanilla. But I don’t think it would be a good every single day kind of scent.

Of the Trend line of perfumes I’ve bought so far, #10 is still my favorite.

I usually get a sample or two when I buy these things, so here’s what I got that’s new:

Whispers of Time

I also still had my sample of the Trend #9 City Dreams from my last purchase, which I don’t think I’ve fully explored yet. And I got another sample of Mickey & Minnie.

I liked City Dreams, but, here’s the thing, they don’t actually have it for sale on their website! They even sell a “complete” set of Trend perfumes, which doesn’t include City Dreams or the Trend 1.0 for men. Not so complete then, is it??? City Dreams is described as jasmine, praline and musk. I like the way it smells. I haven’t tried it enough to know if it is better for me than #10. Even though it isn’t listed as having vanilla, it also has a very strong vanilla vibe.

I sprayed both of the samples onto napkins that were laying around. When I smelled Whispers of Time, I think I actually said out loud, “No!” As if the cats really wanted to know my initial thoughts on it. I think the ginger in it was what game me that reaction. I will try it on, to see if I react differently, but probably it is not a winner.

And I’m looking for a winner.

Here's my collection so far:

I’m a little obsessive about some things. Like how the Trend comes in varieties 1-10 for women and 1.0 for men. I will eventually own all of them, even if I have to buy City Dreams from eBay for way more than it would cost to buy it directly from the House of Sillage website. Because it is on eBay, which means it existed once upon a time. Maybe House of Sillage will get it back in stock? I’m not in a hurry.

And once I’ve gotten all of the Trend, which only comes in purse sprays, I’ll move on to the cupcakes, assuming I’ve found a scent I like. They call their big perfume bottles cupcakes because they are shaped like, well, cupcakes. They are really cute.

If I can’t find a scent I like, I’ll be better off. The cupcakes are a little pricey. And my obsessive personality would probably compel me to buy a complete set of cupcakes, not settling for just one… or two.

I guess perfume has become my newest pandemic obsession/hobby. I wore Versace Bright Crystal today, from a sample. Love it! A full bottle of that might be in my future. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last very long. It might be a good “bedtime perfume.” Ha! I had never heard of such a thing until recently. I’ve never put on perfume for bed, but Versace Bright Crystal might be perfect for it.

I’ve got two more perfumes on the way! It’s an expensive hobby, but getting little boxes in the mail each week is making being stranded at home a little bit more exciting. And it gives me something to smell besides my cats.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Staring at a Maple Leaf: Souvenir Jewelry

 Some of my best memories of my mom are when we would go to craft shows together. She was a crafty person, and when I was little, she even participated in a few craft shows. They were the kind held in church gymnasiums. Usually, they were scheduled just before Christmas. We had a kiln in the garage and she did ceramics for a while. The whole garage was her ceramics studio. Then she moved to tole painting. Then wreath making. Both of those took over the kitchen in the evening after dinner.

But even after she stopped doing so much crafting, we would still go to craft fairs. It wasn’t really the same back in the day, as it is now. Nowadays, I can go to my local farmers market every Sunday morning and find arts and crafts booths. Back then, they were more of an event. You had to seek them out and wait for them to happen.

Similar to at bead shows, which I go to all the time (before there was a pandemic, of course), things move in trends. One show you will find more cherry quartz than you ever imagined. At the next show its like cherry quartz doesn’t exist and everything is turquoise. It changes unpredictably. One of the big trends when I was a child was electroformed leaves. I wanted one, but somehow it never really translated from me wanting one to my mom buying me one.

This is the maple leaf I eventually got.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine who loves to go to estate sales ended up buying the entire contents of a house. I was lucky enough to get lots of neat things out of the house, including an electroformed maple leaf, an electroformed pinecone and a couple of other smaller leaves I don’t know just by sight.

I polished up the maple leaf and I adore it. The chain is came on must have been 30 inches, so I shortened it to about 18. I actually have a maple tree in my yard. It is the only plant in my yard the previous owners asked me to preserve. One of them planted it in memory of her mother. And when I wear my maple leaf, I think about going to those craft shows with my mom when I was little.

It got me thinking about other items I have from craft shows. I’m sure I’ll think of others, but the main one that popped into my head was a coin pendant, where the man who made them would saw out parts of the coin to highlight the artwork on it. Part of why I remember the specific trip to a craft fair with my mom was because it was the day that Aaliyah died. I didn’t really know who she was, but it was the buzz at the fair. It was August 25, 2001. For some reason, I think we might have been in Reno, but I’m not sure. Maybe Los Angeles.

Here’s the pendant:


That got me to thinking about how my mom and I would sometimes buy jewelry on trips. That way we had something like a souvenir from our trips, but also something more personal and long-lasting than a magnet or spoon. Although my mom got the magnets and spoons, too, and had dozens of them.

 We used to go to the border towns in Mexico, specifically for shopping trips. One of those shopping trips was the first time I learned about color-changing stones. My mom bought me a purple-stoned ring, but when I got into the car, the stone changed to a blueish-green.


This is the one that changed color in the car:

I have a ring from Istanbul. I have a fire opal pendant from a cruise - - which I won! I have several pieces of jewelry from those trips to Mexico. Trips which I don’t think a family could take now.

 Fire opal:

A puzzle ring from Istalbul:
I have another ring from Istanbul that I couldn't find tonight. I was a woven silver mesh, which started to fall apart from too much wear, so I had to take it out of rotation.

These souvenirs aren’t my most expensive pieces of jewelry, but they hold great sentimental value. They bring back memories. Good memories.

Here are a couple more:

From Hawaii (my mom and I got matching ones):

From Pisa, Italy (I think it was $3 or so):

Sunday, February 7, 2021

More About Perfume: Trying to Appreciate House of Sillage


After showing some love for Fragonard, I’ve been thinking more about the perfumes in my life.

 Perfume is tied into many of my memories. I can remember what perfumes I wore in middle school and high school. How my mom loved to buy perfume and would give me and my sister a bottle each Christmas. It wasn’t Christmas to her if she couldn’t buy some perfume.

She had a few favorites. When I was really little, my mom wore L’Air du Temps. I’ll always associate the scent with her.

After church every Sunday, we would go to eat, more often than not at the mall food court where our (me, my mom and my sister) diverse tastes could be accommodated. Usually that meant parking at a major department store and walking through it on the way to the main inside of the mall, always passing the fragrance counter. Always stopping to smell at least a few of them on the way by.

I wore White Diamonds for a time. Then Passion. Or vice-versa. Elizabeth Taylor was big in the perfume world when I was growing up. Perry Ellis 360 had a short stint on my dresser counter. It was a complicated fragrance, though. Some days I liked it, other days not so much. Followed by Tuscany by LancĂ´me. It was much too mature for me at the time, and still a little stodgy.

One year my mom gifted me a bottle of Red Door. I was confused. It was because I had gone on a vacation and taken a small sample-sized bottle of red door with me as my travel perfume. It was out of convenience that I took it, not because I liked the fragrance. We returned that bottle and got something else.

When I was in France in 1996, I found Eau Belle d’Azzaro. It had light citrus notes with deep pepper underneath. At least it smelled like pepper to me. (It doesn’t have any pepper in it.) I stuck with that as my main fragrance for many years. I still have two bottles from those Christmases.

Then came Le Monde Est Beau by Kenzo. It smelled like magnolias to me. My mom liked a lot of the same perfumes I did. Then Light Blue by Dolce and Gabbana. I often return to light citrus scents, even though they don’t linger.


Anyway, targeted Facebook ads. Sometime last year, I started getting targeted ads by House of Sillage. The company offered two things I love: perfume and excellent packaging. I browsed the website, but was discouraged by the prices. Could I afford to spend $1000 on one bottle of perfume? Maybe? And if I decide to get one, you can bet I’m splurging on a limited-edition bottle. But was I willing to take the chance on it, nose unknown? No.

But the ads kept coming, and I was constantly tempted. Lucky for me, they have travel sprays which are much more affordable. And a good way to try something before making a real investment in it.

The first travel spray I bought was The Trend #5 (Tropical Jungle). It’s supposed to be Tunisian neroli, Bulgarian rose and Tolu balsam. I have misplaced the box with the second refill bottle in it, but meh. Did I like it? Not at all. Did I like the travel container? You bet. Was I done trying out these perfumes? No.


I have bought two more travel sprays. The Trend #3 and The Trend #10. I’ll admit it. I’m shopping based on packaging and not at all on what the perfume might smell like. Luckily, these were much more to my taste.

I adore the packaging on The Trend #3 (Beauty & Grace). According to the website it is orange flower, black tea and powdered sugar. I’ve had it for several weeks, but it isn’t my go-to scent. And as an aside, those cute little boxes are difficult to open.



I just got The Trend #10 (Lace Up). Calla Lily, jonquil and freesia musk. I like this one the best, so far. My biggest problem is that the scent disappears on me almost instantly.



I also got some samples with my purchases. I have a sample of the limited-edition Mickey & Minnie Collection fragrance. Bergamot, mandarin, orange blossom, coconut milk, amber and vanilla. The vanilla comes through the strongest for me at first, settling into coconut, cut with sharp notes of the mandarin.



And I have a sample of The Trend #9 (City Dreams). Jasmine, praline, musk. Thoughts on it, so far, is that it is ok. Maybe I’ll buy a travel version of it next. I'm still not convinced that the House of Sillage products are worth the money. They are beautiful, but I haven't found the scent that blows me away, yet. I'll keep trying.



One thing a lot of these perfumes have in common, in addition to sparking memories, is that they make me long for a different scent. Lately, I’ve been trying to catch a memory of the scent of Japanese honeysuckle. We had a large bush growing in our backyard in Texas. I would go outside, pick the flowers and suck out the sweet drop of nectar from them when I was little. I’d like to get a more tangible version of that memory back.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Card Games and Bags of Coins

 A comedian I follow on Twitter recently asked for suggestions of board games he could play with his 6-year-old and 12-year-old. Since he lives in England, I didn’t want to offer board games, which have different names in different countries or flat-out don’t exist in some countries, so I suggested a good old-fashioned deck of cards.

 I grew up in San Antonio. Just me, my parents and my sister. My relatives all lived in St. Louis or thereabouts. We would go to St. Louis every year at Christmas, sometimes one other time. Living so far from your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins made you all strangers. There was one big thing which changed my attitude from not wanting to spend time with these strangers to sort of looking forward to it. That was cards.


These were not innocent card games. They were played for money. It was gambling. And even at a very young age, I understood that I wanted to win money. Naturally at some point I was given my seed gambling money, but for a kid, that $1 in change was a gift, not a loan. And whatever I won was mine.

 To play a game, you had to contribute a nickel to the pot. We didn’t call it a kitty, although I’d probably call it that now if I could entice anyone to play. A nickel to play a game and then a penny for each time you had to pass. When you drew a card, you could play it right away or keep it. If you kept it, you were passing and had to pay. On some games the rule was set that you had to keep drawing cards until you could play one. Each drawn card was a penny.

 The way the pay-to-play was structured, it allowed players to sit out hands if they needed to go to the bathroom or check the mail or something. And people could drop by during the game, play a few hands and then leave without much disruption.

 I had a little change purse filled with my change. Mostly pennies, although you would get other coins as people used the money in the pot to make change. Out of nickels but have a dime? Wait until someone else pays and then take a nickel, put in the dime. Only stuck with a quarter? Maybe another player could make change for you. There was no credit, but if you were running short of pennies a kind grandma might spot you a couple to finish a game. You owed those back.

 The money was collected in a small dish, usually placed in the middle of the table, to the side of the game play. Somewhere everyone could reach it. I still look at small, useless dishes and think about what a good pot they would make.

 The change purse never fluctuated in value greatly. These were low-stakes games. Whoever was dealing the cards got to pick the game. Deal goes around the table. The dealer picks the game and can decided if the cards will be cut or not. Player to the left of dealer goes first. Play goes around the table clockwise. When you are down to one card, you knock. If not, you owe a penny. A knock can be said as “knock” or you can hit the table with your knuckle.

Here are the games I distinctly remember:

Crazy 8s: Each player gets 8 cards (6 if more than 4 play). The deck is put face down in the middle. The top car is turned as the discard pile. Play goes around the table with each player trying to discard all of their cards. They can play the same suit or number as the top card showing on the discard pile. If they play an 8 (free to play any time), they can declare what they are changing the suit to. If you can’t play you pick a card. If you can play the drawn card, you do. And you avoid paying a penny. Or you pick cards until you can play, paying a penny for each. First person out of cards wins.


 Up and down Broadway (different than up and down the river): Deal all the cards. Play goes around the table. A 7 is required to start play. If you don’t have a 7 and have to pass, you pay a penny. From each 7, the cards going up and down from it in numerical order are played until one player runs out of cards. First person out of cards wins.


Aces in the corner: Deal 7 cards. Put the stack of remaining cards down and turn over four cards around it. Play goes around the table. You can either play down on the original showing cards, or you can put an ace in the corner. On the original showing cards, you have to play down and alternate colors of suits. So you could play a jack of clubs on a queen of diamonds or hearts, but not on a queen of spades or clubs. Cards are played up in matching suits on the aces. If you can’t play, you can move something on the board to avoid drawing a card. Like move a 2 from the original stacks to an ace in the corner. If a whole original stack goes away you can play a king in its place.  


I’m struggling to remember if we played other games for money. There was some game we sometimes played which came with a huge table mat with drawings of cards on it, indicating where you had to play cards and in what combinations. I don’t remember what it was called. In high school, my friends and I played a lot of cards. We didn’t play cards for money but we played a lot of Spades and Pass the Crap. My parents loved to play bridge and I learned how from them, but we rarely played.

 My favorite part of a good game of 2-player Spades is when you deal the deck. The first person looks at the top card. If they want it, they move the second card to the discard pile without looking at it. If they don’t want it, they discard it and have to take the second card. Then the next player does the same. They go in turns, each making a decision on two cards until each player has 13 cards. This way they each have some limited knowledge about what they’ve passed on, but don’t know for sure if the good cards are taken or if they’ve been discarded. Anyway, I love that part.

 By a very young age, although now I’d hate to speculate what age it was, I was able to shuffle and bridge a deck of cards, deal them and do the simple math of the money in the pot. It made the strangers in St. Louis a lot less scary. It gave me something to look forward to and a little bag of money to covetously count when I was sad. Overall, even though I think Scrabble, Clue and other games are fun, everyone should be playing cards. For money.