Friday, April 30, 2010

La Notte Italiana

The movie
My former home-the monastery

The town from afar surrounded by girasole


This is the 3rd year of the Italian Film Festival with movies all over the place including here at UM. My film instructor Elena is one of the organizers. The opening venue was the very ornate theater in the Detroit Insititute of Arts. I couldn't convince anyone to come with me though at the end, Steve reluctantly came so I wouldn't have to walk the streets of Detroit alone at night.
The movie Baaria was all in Sicilian dialect though there were English subtitles. It was also filmed in Standard Italian as even the mainland Italians have trouble understanding the dialect. But we had the Sicilian version as the movie was an epic study of historical events over a 50 year period through the eyes of one person. Until the economic miracle of the 60s, life was very hard in Italy, the more so the further south you were so many became immigrants. Life was toughest in Sicily, which the movie portrayed in detail. Not a fun place to be. As with many of the Italian films we have seen, there is no pat ending and there are symbols and dream sequences interspersed so one has trouble following what is going on. The photography was stunning and the individuals were fascinating. I loved it though I knew Steve was wishing he'd just had stayed home. There was a wine reception afterwards but as it was quite late, I let him go home.

It was fun seeing Elena (who cut off her hair!) and Jim, my Italian 110 instructor. If they get enough people, he will be returning this summer for the program. The monastery has been repaired from the earthquake damage. Dean, the English teacher for Italians, already has plenty of students. I didn't see Rafaele, the program director but so many people were there. The program is a 5 week stay in an Abruzzo hilltown of 300 (Gagliano Aterno). Students live, eat and attend classes in a monastery. On weekends, we had field trips to Naples, Rome and Florence. During the week, small hilltowns had Sangras(food festivals) inviting us to take part. Lots of Italian culture-though mostly Southern hilltown. There were Italian students from the University of L'Aquila (near the epicenter of the April 2009 earthquake) in the program learning English. We were to interact with them. Joanne, one of my roommates, was also there last night. I had enrolled in that program 2 years ago with my 'retraining' allowance after being downsized en masse. It was a very special time for me especially as soon as I returned, I found myself in Cancerland. Mornings in the cool, still mountain air running on impossible slopes on an ancient Roman road still with 2000 year old markers on the side with a stray, lame Maremma sheepdog (the kids called him Dave)trying to keep me in the fold with body checks. Running while seeing packs of boar, a lone wolf, and several micro deer with only the sounds of my labored breathing and church bells.

Three days of Hell! I am overwhelmed with all that Naomi (I)must do. I will take a rare break from exercising today (telling myself that I've exceeded my monthly quota by quite a bit). Mom's night tonight. I've got the ingredients for a blackberry panna cotta. Should I make one big one or a bunch of little ones? Josh is coming by to discuss his meeting with Naomi and Dontae with his buddy the social worker.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

An Island in a Sea of Reality

My island of phlox, sedum and primrose in the middle of my yard where a tree once stood
One of the solar grazing balls-all lit up pink, purple and green at night contributing to the Vegas Strip aura of my patio island. When it stops freezing at night, I will add flowers

Ms Naomi at 30 weeks with a Sisley print from the Musée D'Orsay in the background. I have a Monet print on the opposite wall and a sculpture from the MOMA shop over our bed
Ann Arbor recently has been described as an island in a sea of reality. I am not sure what is meant by this: college elite surrounded by blue collar? a pocket of slightly lower unemployment surrounded by massive unemployment? animal rights people surrounded by communities with deer poles? Overprivileged kids surrounded by people scrambling for a living? I do know that reality is creeping into our little island. That big company that pulled the rug out from under us was the largest private employer and biggest tax payer. Now gone; its properties have been converted to state land (non-tax paying). Ms. Naomi is currently negotiating what it takes to get assistance. She's in line with plenty of others; people who never thought they would find themselves there. Our insurance won't cover the baby and unless she is a full time student, not her although she should be good until fall. Some of my audience might think why should my tax dollars support YOUR grandkid. Comfort yourself that it will take years for Naomi to recoup the hit we took when our company gave us a lump sum buyout and more than half of it went to taxes. I spend many hours trying to convert Naomi into a potentially productive member of society.There are haves and then there are have nots. Many haves have been converted to havenots. Still there is much resentment between the two.
I read an outraged letter to the editor of the WSJ yesterday from a physician whose clientele consists mainly of Medicaid patients. Apparently he walked through the waiting room and noticed that every single one of them had an expensive phone that he, himself, could not afford. Yet he paid taxes and they didn't. I can imagine what care he provides for these 'parasites'.
I don't like tax payer 'waste' anymore than anyone else in my particular household. I resent that taxpayer bailouts went initially to fund executive bonuses and corporate retreats. I resent the sham war that benefited reconstruction companies and other miscellaneous contractors, the beneficiary of which just happened to be a high executive officer. Giving every medicaid recipient an i-phone wouldn't even put a dent in our budget compared to an hour in Iraq not that I believe the whining doctor for a minute.
Physically our fair island is surrounded by an incomplete beltline of 3 expressways similar to the Périphérique that surrounds Paris (note to would-be drivers: never drive within it) except there is a minor hole on the western edge that prevents us from driving in complete circles. We live on the the northeast edge of it. I cross the M-14 bridge and I run by my small band of vultures -one circling closely over my head the other day and the red-tail hawk who seems to be chased by a flock of crows. The frogs now are silent and soon I won't be able to stop because the deer flies will emerge. But for now I run pass herons and egrets and the occasional deer.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Measuring happiness

I am no longer in the working world. Do I miss it? I do miss the infusion of cash and the camaraderie of my co-workers, which sadly was decreasing over recent years. What I do not miss is the decisions made by business school grads versus scientists in upper management. As time went on, more of my time was spent justifying what I have done or what I will do so my output could be measured that I had less time to do actual, productive work. Research does not mesh neatly with metrics. There is no formula that will predict success and when. One of the more ridiculous examples of this disconnect occurred in our final year: the measurement of our engagement or happiness.

Business school rule: Engaged employees are productive employees. The converse is true i.e. disengaged employees are less productive employees. So far I agree.

Assumption allegedly based on 'research' from the Gallup folks: The collective employees' engagement can be measured by conducting a survey asking eleven key questions. One of the questions was whether I had a best friend at work and I was to answer that on a scale from 0 to 5. There was no space for me to answer: You fired all my best friends: every last one of them! (Note that I didn't spell fire with a 'p' which is how it is spelled in these parts).

Assumption: Answers to these questions will be pooled according to the groups (ours was of 20 individuals) and weak spots will be identified. Focus groups will be formed in which these weak spots will be addressed. The onus of this will be on the manager of the particular group. The survey will be retaken. If the numbers don't significantly rise, the manager will be found responsible and his annual performance (which now was conducted 4 times a year to ensure objectives were continually being met-more time waste and more anxiety) would reflect it.

Assumption: Now that our key issues have been addressed, we will be happier employees and thus more productive. More return to our shareholders. All will be right with the world. So they made our cute boss responsible for our happiness and held him for ransom: Answer the way we want our we will shoot this dog! Although the boss in question was responsible for implementing the corporate will, none of us thought for a second that he was responsible for it; he was merely the messenger. This entire exercise increased cynicism even if we did improve the scores we gave. We were told that if the scores did not improve, we'd have these silly meetings until they did rise. Most of us did like the boss even if we didn't like his message.

We had some interesting assumptions of our own. How anonymous were these surveys? I can't remember if we filled them out on corporate computers or not. Wouldn't it be easier for the company to set their sights on the unhappy campers, get rid of them and then productivity will rise. We know nothing is private on their computers. Even if they kept their word about individual responses, our aggregate unhappiness might signal that this whole site is full of unhappy campers and should be excised in one fell swoop during the downsizing next year despite the more productive history. Were the other sites 'happier'? They knew how to fill out these surveys from greater past experience. Our responses were to be on a scale from 0 to 5. Many people answered 3, which unbeknownst to us, was not the desired response. We were to give all 5s. When asked why we gave 3s, some answered that since we also were graded on a scale of 1 to 5 with the majority in the 3 range, we figured 3s are good as we were continually told. To survive, you give the ones who sign your paycheck what they want: I gave 5s on the second survey. I don't know what my colleagues did.

This survey was hardly unique to our company: it is widespread. By the next year, our site was closed down. The company offered jobs at other sites to the alleged 'good' ones. Fortunately we could afford to be part of the ones 'left behind'. It was very sad to see the ones left behind without this option.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lonely Rats More Likely to Get Breast Cancer

Science news has been slow. Searching for new TNBC news, I read that certain combinations of drugs significantly extend the period before relapse in Stage 4 TNBC. Then I read what they deem 'significant'- extending the period of remission from 2 months to 4 months. Now that may be statistically significant ..........

I don't have a link for the title news. If it really was a study, I'd prefer they spend their resources elsewhere. Even the 'science news' in the WSJ was thin. There was a study reporting that depressed people eat more chocolate-one of those chicken or the egg situations. Another study saying that being 10-15 lbs 'overweight' was actually healthy (then it wouldn't be overweight would it). There was another article weighing the benefits of sunshine vs its downsides. Benefits: More vitamin D (so less certain types of cancer such as Breast), less depression. Downsides: wrinkles and skin cancer. It also distinguished between UV A and B. UV B reaches the deeper layers in the skin and is more dangerous for skin cancer. Sun tanning booths produce alot of it vs natural sunlight.

Naomi came over to study yesterday lured with the promise of having an artichoke. This is one food that the kids all love especially when served with a butter, garlic, lemon soy sauce. I have served them to their friends only to get very strange looks. I never had them as a kid or did I ever hear about them. My mom had the rotating 4 cans of vegetables system-canned corn, canned green beans, canned wax beans, canned peas-repeat cycle. Occasionally corn-on-the -cob would be thrown in but definitely no artichokes. In college, I belonged to a 'vegetable' co-op. If there were any left over vegetables, they were thrown into your bag along with the vegetables you ordered. I found an artichoke in the bag one day. A more sophisticated co-op member told me what it was and how to cook and eat them. Yum!

The baby is plenty active bouncing off the uterine walls before our eyes. The cool sunny weather is nice for running but there is a 'hard frost' advisory for tonight so all the plants need to come in.I have even more solar lights on my patio giving it a tacky Vegas strip kind of look. The squirrel last summer ate through one of my strings of lights, which I managed to splice back together. Over the winter, the electrical tape let in moisture so no lights. I fixed it all up yesterday and now my stars are back shining.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Learning to write

I've been told that my writing is 'serviceable' by a sophomore (college) English teacher. He thought I should become an English major (not a chance) but I would need to write better. Prior to my junior year in high school, I usually received 'A's in English. Of course the bar was set low even though I was in the 'accelerated' track. In the 11th grade I had Ms. U for 12 th grade Expository English. She was very hard to please but she was good. The only person who managed to please her was my friend Jane. Her parents had experienced unbelievable hardships in China during WW2 and escaped to the Philippines. Although Jane did not learn English until 6 (she knew several dialects of Chinese, Spanish, and Tagalog by then), she could very eloquently recount her parents' experiences. I would say she was an Amy Tan junior but I suspect they are the same age. Of all the correspondence I had from my teenage years, I've kept only 2 people's: Jane's and that of the friend I grew up with for the latter's illustrations (very good drawer).
Anyway, Ms. U had strict rules for writing:
1. No colloquialisms whatsoever
2. No using of the word 'get' as there was only a few acceptable uses for it and most likely you would not understand them. So as not to violate Rule 1, do not use it.
3. Using the word 'pick' when you mean select or opt was forbidden. You could pick peas or your nose but not from intangible choices. I still shudder when I hear the word pick.
4. No using the expressions 'I think' or 'I feel'. You are doing the writing. Obviously it is what you feel or think.
5. All writings were to be typed and free from typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors. This was before we had computers and Word. We did have somethings known as corrasible bond and white-out. Ones grade was lowered one whole grade for every 3 mistakes and you don't start with an A.
There were many other rules I forgot. This was an expository English class, not a 'creative' writing class. We were to explore in writing various themes of the books we read. She favored Conrad (yuck!!), Hardy (much better) and Shaw plays. The absolute worst book we read was To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. I still couldn't tell you what it meant.

I did take a few English classes in college even though I passed out of Freshman English on the AP exam. None of them was as difficult as Ms. U's class. She would reduce this blog to shreds but this is not an expository piece.

As a chemist I had to write often. Most of the time, it was detailing what I did in the lab in my notebook usually written in a shorthand that only a chemist could understand. No opinions were to be expressed (really should not have heated the reaction for so long) or unnecessary adjectives such as 'beautiful, white crystals were obtained'. We could not edit these notebooks. If we made a mistake, we were to cross out the offending part in a way that you could still read it and date and initial the correction.For a while, we had a Notebook Nazi who perused our notebooks to make sure we were conforming. Then we had 'e-notebook' that theoretically anyone within the company could read. Grammar was unimportant. During my early years, I was on a government contract and monthly reports had to be filed. Usually I was only responsible for my accounting (a pain in itself) and my boss wrote out the reports detailing what our group was doing. At one point, he became ill and I had to take over the report writing. We tended to work on the same projects for awhile so all I did was change the amounts of chemicals used and submitted it to the boss's boss before it was sent to a secretary pool. He came back furious telling me I was an illiterate idiot who didn't know the first thing about scientific writing. He threw an ACS ( C would be for Chemical)style guide for publications and told me to memorize it overnight. I meekly pointed out that I was merely reproducing what my boss had written for the last few months. Well he's an idiot too!
Among my crimes: Using the word 'reacted' as something that I did as in I reacted A with B to get C. Of course, I didn't 'react", I merely 'allowed' A to react with B. Now I could argue that A would never had gotten a chance to react with B unless I had put them together and heated them up in a solvent but there is no "I' in chemistry no matter how it is spelled. He wasn't fond of the word 'get' either. Obtained, provided, yielded..much better. Using 'reflux' as a verb was another of my crimes. Chemists in general tend to use nouns as verbs. We all know what they mean and it is faster to write. So instead of refluxing our reaction, we have to say 'heated under reflux'. Simple rules. I soon became adept at writing such reports, patent applications and various publications.
I have no trouble reporting herein my external struggles; internal ones are much more difficult. I will try to become more eloquent.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Markers

Markers are unique chemicals that certain tumors produce. By measuring the presence of these, one may determine whether a tumor is growing, spread or has disappeared. The most studied markers are the PSA antigen for prostate cancer and the CA 125 for ovarian cancer. These markers also can be detected in non-cancerous situations so they aren't a perfect detection system. Some breast cancers have markers also but in general TNBC does not.

There was a sweet, quiet woman in my LiveStrong class. She had just finished chemo as I had so our hair was about the same length (stubble). On the last day, I had asked what her plans were. She said that her markers had gone up though they couldn't figure out where the tumor was so she would go back on chemo. I see from yesterday's obits that she died.

My neighbor also has one of those marker cancers that he has been battling for years. For now he seems healthy and has regained some energy since stopping treatment. His markers are climbing however. They aren't sure why but something may be lurking under the surface. He is tired of having his hopes elevated or dashed by these marker reports. His attitude now when looking at them is "Whatever". He says he feels fine now and that's how he wants to live.

Against the foggy drizzle, my dogwood seems particularly bright. The lilacs in back are starting to bloom. In the Arb, the white ones (less lilac smell) bloom first but the traditional pale purple ones have started too. It is early for them. I like the deep purple ones the best.

Naomi finally came over. She seemed to be in a good mood but is easily distracted by her baby's movements as we studied. At one point, the baby seemed to lift her head in front of the abdomen so we could see and feel it. If one touches too hard, she retreats back into the depths. Naomi worries that it is too boring inside of her uterus . No reality TV inside of there.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I knew her when....

Josh and his aunt on a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island for everyone except me to do a race. I passed as I thought I might be pregnant (didn't become pregnant for another month) Their eyes are absolutely identical.
Josh,7, on Bainbridge Island, WA racing to the finish. Although he is very fast for short distances, longer distances quickly tire him


Today I was informed that a former roommate is now a potential nominee to the Supreme Court to replace Justice Stevens. I googled her unusual name..yep it was her though I wouldn't recognize her as her long wavy brown hair has been replaced by a silver bob. I didn't spend many nights in our room-I was usually at my boyfriend Pork Chop's in part because every damn night her father from a more western time zone would call our shared phone (to save money even though the family was quite wealthy)late, after I was asleep and I would have half-asleep but fully pissed to go fetch her (couldn't she anticipate this call?) and then try to block out her voice as she recounted to Daddy how awesome everyone thought she was for the day. He was famous too; I had even heard of him. But there will be no name dropping here especially when we are dealing with lawyers. I did admire her efficiency; she'd awake minutes before having to be somewhere with her clothes all laid out in advance. She'd quickly jump into them and off she went like a little fireman. She couldn't be troubled by make-up and as I see now, still isn't. But even if she doesn't make it to the Supreme Court, she is well on her way to sainthood. Very impressive resume.
So now begins the several days of rain, which we need. Also the last minute cramming for Naomi for her to finish the semester. Outside my window is the dogwood that wouldn't bloom last year but is in full bloom this year. Our house had impressive gardens when we bought it (27 years ago!!!) and the former owner was giving me the info on all her plants. Her retired father kept everything up. She pointed to the baby dogwood tree and said it needed to be pampered. I was thinking it would be dead before the summer is over but it is one of the few things that remain from the original gardens. With us both working full time, all these kids, marathon and triathlon training schedules, coaching various sport teams, being a girl scout leader, housework and garden maintenance took a backseat. I make various stabs to make things right and clean up small corners of my universe but much needs to be done.
It is also survivor day at the Wellness community but I think I'll pass.
Almost every day this week I've had birthday dinners/lunches; I'd better step up the running.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Learning to speak

Shanna among the mums when she was 9. They didn't have girls' soccer teams in her day so she and her friend played with the boys. It is hard to believe this cute little girl has her own 2 boys.
Me earlier the same year amongst the clematis. This flower is perfect for me as it needs little care.

In one of our cars, I have loaded the 6 slots in the CD player with Italian tapes so that I can listen to them as I drive. The ones currently in it aren't designed to be used in a car but I listen to the dialogs and see if I can understand what they are talking about. They ask questions but don't give me enough time to respond. I have a very poor memory for sounds. I still mispronounce beginning Italian words not to mention English ones.
Tongue-twisters in the past for me: statistical, diastereomeric, glomerular,enantiomers, amination vs animation (one being a common chemical transformation), phthlatic, etc. Of course most of those words I needed to use every day at work so I practiced, practiced, practiced so I wouldn't routinely embarass myself though this disability I have seems to be fairly common amongst chemists. One woman I worked with was unable to pronouce the tropical disease she worked on. When I was irritated with her, I'd ask what is the name of your project (of course I knew and it was something I could pronounce) just to hear her stumble.
Despite being brighter than the average bear, I had delayed speech. My mom had the disability worse than me without any compensatory mechanisms. She hesitated before every word she said trying to remember how it was pronounced as if she were speaking a foreign language. She quickly lost her speech when she had Alzheimers'. Her future mother-in-law, my dad's mom, was a language expert and appalled with my mother's lack of education. She figured if she knew a foreign language, it would be a good start and footed the bill for my mom to go to college. Of course this didn't work out as my mom was barely fluent in English much less learning to pronounce another language.
So this 'disfluency' seems to be genetic. My girls were fine, even Naomi with all her other disabilities is an excellent mimic. Josh however spoke his own language. The year before he went to kindergarten, I hauled him off to a speech pathologist. Despite his superior motor skills (he was a very good athlete), he had absolutely no control over his tongue nor any idea where to put it when forming sounds. Fortunately he was coachable. He is asked to speak before groups quite often at work so it isn't readily apparent that speaking once was difficult.
Now Oliver is having difficulty forming words and gets the aid of a speech pathologist. She has taught him sign language-fine if everyone knows sign language too. It is easier for him to control his hands and fingers than to use his mouth. Although only two, he can identify every letter in the alphabet and even tell you what word starts with it but he can't put two words together with distinctly different sounds nor can he repeat words with more than one syllable. I am thinking that he has no control of that tongue and has a poor memory of how things actually sound. He has a good memory about many other things especially his favorite subject: trucks-all kinds of trucks.
Our neighborhood is a melting pot of many cultures. I was amazed how quickly young children learned English. Some of them went from not knowing a word to flawless, accentless English within 6 months while their parents struggled. Julia moved to Zurich when she was 7 and quickly learned Swiss German translating for her parents who struggled to learn it. She said that even though she was there for 3 years, she has forgotten it all.
So many Europeans juggle 2 or more languages, I figure there should be no reason why I can't too. Did just the language impaired immigrate to the US? To make room for Italian, I seemed to erase all the Spanish I learned. I can read German (only scientific though) and know a bit of French. I am trying.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Georgia Peach

An out of focus Naomi at the doctor yesterday at 29 weeks. She still persists in wearing her regular clothes.

As I was driving the 5 miles to Naomi's OB yesterday, a car in my neighborhood suddenly dashed out of their driveway without looking. It was sunny and clear and I was driving a bright red car but this person didn't look. I slammed on the brakes and horn thinking dark thoughts about this probable teenager. Later it was on the same road as me darting in and out of traffic tailgating anyone in its way. Very bad driving! It ended up at the same medical office building as me. I thought-Good, I will give this person-probably a teenager-a piece of my mind but it turned out to be an elderly man carefully walking his wife or mother into the building. The woman either had had a stroke or had Alzheimer's. Clearly he had his hands full and didn't need a lecture from me. Still he doesn't belong on the road. Tailgating with a slow reaction time-not a good combo. Backing out into a neighborhood full of kids without looking:not good either.

All is fine with the baby. We brought the crotch shot of the baby hoping the OB could decipher it. No she could not but no visible penis even if it could be tucked away so Naomi is considering it a girl. The OB is very warm and friendly. Naomi likes her quite a bit. Her blood tests went OK-no diabetes or anemia. Strong heartbeat for the little one. Naomi will be there every 2 weeks now.

If we had taken the freeway to my birthday dinner across town, we would have intercepted someone jumping off the overpass into our path, but we had taken city streets instead. The Happy Hour drink special at this New Orleans style restaurant was a peach martini-a Georgia Peach. Later when Julia joined us, she had one too. They were very potent. Two of them made it difficult for me to concentrate but it was nice spending the meal with Josh, Julia and Steve.

At the gym, I am trying to increase either the weights or the repetitions. I am not satisfied with the status quo. Need to improve faster. But now I am able to use some of the arm machines that my frozen shoulder made it impossible to use before so I am getting better.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A year of healing

This is a transparency so it does not scan well. I am only a few months old here.Near my eyebrows, my skull has indentations which my mom told me were from forceps. Shanna ended up with those same indentations but no forceps were involved with her.
Me on my wedding day in 1977. I am cooking the wedding dinner

9th grade with my summer blonde, white lipstick, black eyeliner and a tie


With the crazy quilt I crochetted at some point during college. I am standing in front of Steven's Coop where I lived with several dear friends on this blog. It is not clear what color the building is but it's 'beach house' blue. We also had a red light bulb lit out front to give it that touch of class. Many good times. Unfortunately the building burned down 5 years ago.



I am 4 or 5 in this picture. My mom wasn't much for dealing with hair.


So now it's officially one year that I've been out of treatment. Only the scars remain and my sore shoulder, which is getting better. I can run more than an hour without stopping and I have had 2 haircuts. It is also my birthday. It seems like a very big number. In my mind, I am much, much younger. Who would have thought I'd be so old? But I am grateful to be so old. When I was diagnosed, it was not clear to me just how long I'd survive. In the support group, the moderator keeps trying to pinpoint what is the worst that we have survived; baldness? fatigue?isolation? but my answer is the thought of life going ahead without me.




Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Blueberries and bumblebees

According to the Wall Street Journal science digest today, mice with triple negative breast tumors fed blueberry extract equivalent to 5 oz of blueberries a day, had their tumors shrink significantly vs controls. No proposed mechanism but a big warning that often cures in mice do not translate into cures in humans. But eating blueberries couldn't hurt.

What does hurt is not seeing that a bumblebee is crawling under your arm until it is too late. I push the bee off maiming it and Dakota narrowly escapes being stung in the mouth. Four hours later, the sting still hurts.

Nice cool, calm weather to run in this morning. Yesterday I did a double workout by going for a long walk in the arb in the afternoon after running in the morning. Lots of trees still in bloom along with the wood lilies and trilliums.

Fifteen years ago, I had my thyroid destroyed with radioactive iodine. Finding the ideal replacement dose has been difficult and all this competing medication for my broken arm and cancer has complicated getting the right dosage. Just when I thought everything was fine, my 'natural' thyroid replacement is no longer available. The FDA is cracking down on older natural products demanding all these bioequivalency studies and no company is willing to do them. So back to the synthetic stuff, which is not the active ingredient but a 'pro-drug' that the body turns into the right stuff. Some tissue is more efficient at this than others. Anyrate, my primary made a huge math mistake in finding the equivalent dose. I am taking what I used to take years ago. I had my blood tested today to see where I am at. I think I got the dose right but have to prove it to them before I am written a new script. Annoying.

It is so strange that so many women I know need Synthroid-most due to Hashimoto's, an autoimmune diesease that destroys the thyroid. I had Graves' Disease, similiar, but the antibodies overstimulate the thyroid.

Naomi and her dog spent most of the day here. So far, no blow ups. We watched some of those birthing baby shows together. She and Dontae will take one of those intensive one weekend class to learn what is going on. She asks such naive questions. I watched with interest that show "16 and Pregnant". Almost all the potential grandmoms were uneducated, single, teenage moms themselves. Not much for me to relate to but there you have it, I am there.Well I guess she isn't 16 (technically now an adult) but still has no idea what she is in for. It is all a pretty pink dream for her. Magical thinking. And her baby is quite easy to see moving around.
So how do I feel about this baby. There is some magical thinking on my part that all will be fine and maybe this won't turn into a huge mistake. I see that I will need to help her. I can't be this 'you made your bed, now lie in it' type of mom. Another life is at stake.

It is so dry here now. I was watering my rock garden, my creeping phlox all in bloom now, and 3 robins flew in to try to get some water and hopefully worms.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Forget-me-nots

I finally got around to sprucing up my rock garden. There was this broadleaf plant with just the beginnings of blue flowers. I assumed it's a weed and start pulling them all up. In the middle of the night, it occurs to me that I just pulled out all my forget-me nots. Since I didn't clean up my lawn debris, I supposed I can recover some of them.

Biggest weed-grass.

Never did convince Naomi to study. She likes to put things off to the last moment. She says I put too much pressure on her but she never puts any pressure on herself. The semester ends at the end of next week then I will be free for a bit from my tutoring duties until this baby arrives.
I put all my pills for the week in a pill reminder. It seems that I am filling this thing up more frequently. Time flies. This week will be a year since I finished radiation. Time dripped by slowly while in treatment, especially the 16 long, long weeks in chemo.

That baby will be here in no time.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Reflux

Vesicoureteral reflux is a condition in which there is a defect where the ureter joins the bladder and urine goes back to the kidney. Bladder infections quickly turn into life threatening kidney infection. Bladder infections are also more likely due to incomplete flushing of the bladder. Even if the urine could be kept sterile through constant antibiotic consumption, the pressure of the urine could destroy the kidneys. It appears that 1% of children have this condition but girls are more likely to develop symptoms. It also tends to run in families with 20% of siblings likely to be affected and 66% of children whose parent has it are affected. Many times it spontaneously resolves as the child grows. The urinary tract is fully mature at age 7 or 8. This condition reared its ugly head when Shanna was 2.5 years presenting with a high fever and pain all over. It was puzzling as she had not had a cold recently so no ear infection or the usual secondary infection suspects. Although she was generally more articulate than most kids her age, she could not tell where it hurt other than everywhere. Even the pediatrician was initially puzzled until a urine sample was obtained (fun for a toddler). Antibiotics quickly cleared the infection. A week after we stopped the antibiotics, the situation returned. All sorts of very invasive tests were scheduled (conveniently on Josh's due date)to identify it. She had it on both sides and given a 50% chance of it going away as she matured. At the time, there were only 2 pediatric urologists in the state. The one we had to deal with at UM was a very unpleasant person with absolutely no social skills. Fortunately for us, he was replaced by a much more reasonable person that we dealt with for many years. The first one looked at my belly and told me I better hope that it was a boy. Really not much was known about the condition at the time. I had access to a medical library so I read everything there was. Now they know that boys can get it just as often if not more often than girls. Much, much later when they started having higher resolution ultrasounds, I had Naomi and Josh screened. They are fine. But Shanna was on antibiotics for many years developing allergies to the more commonly used ones and developing a lung condition from another. She did not outgrow it. They like to do surgery before puberty as there are much less blood vessels to deal with. The doctor told me after the surgery that I took her in at the nick of time as her blood supply increased considerably due to impending puberty. He was ignoring the more obvious signs. So she had the very invasive surgery at 10 (now done laproscopically)to reimplant both ureters and after a very difficult recovery, was fine.
Last week Oliver, just a few months younger than herself when diagnosed, came down with a mysterious high fever. Oh no, did she warn the pediatrician about herself. Even worse, her husband's nephew lost a kidney due to it so it is on both sides. She took him in. The pediatrician said that now every baby is checked prenatally for this condition during the midpregnancy ultrasound. There are many false positives with boys but rarely false negatives. It is amazing what they can see on these ultrasounds. The fever was gone the next day.

Sunny and cold here. Need to convince Naomi to study with me.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Toxins

Wine I bought for Shanna and me to share (and Daniel got a little second hand) when I was in Boston last month

The word toxin is so loaded. My least favorite commercial is the one for a facial cleanser that rids ones face of 'hidden toxins'. What toxins do we have hidden in our pores? Oil, decomposed sweat? Nothing very appetizing but nothing that will kill you. Second least favorite commercial has two women at a laundrymat with one asking the other to borrow a quarter so she can shrink her jeans down another size to fit her newly slimmed body from snarfing down Cheerios. Instead of telling her what a waste of resources this is and go get your own damn quarter, the friend ponders this imagining herself now slim once she eats some Cheerios herself. Then there is a voice over with the non sequitur people who consume whole grains weigh less than people who don't.
But the current toxin scare is the treatment of soy beans with hexanes. Apparently manufacturers defat soy beans by soaking them in hexanes. They obtain the soybean oil this way. The resulting meal is then used to make soy products such as soy burgers. Now it is true that hexanes (I use the word as a plural as the many isomers of hexane are rarely separated for industrial use) by themselves are extremely flammable and to breathe in concentrated amounts could cause neurological damage (as in teenage huffers) but I find it hard to believe that any residue would remain on your cooked soy burger. Hexanes are much more volatile than alcohol. At any rate, you don't risk your burgers bursting into flames as some articles suggest.Less clear is how much hexanes remain on uncooked items such as infant soy milk. I agree that should be looked into.
Yesterday afternoon was all Hurry up and Wait. Naomi's blood is taken and the lab uses it to concoct an anti-antibody preparation that took 3 hours. Then as Labor and Delivery was busy, we waited for them to have time to inject this Rhogam preparation. Apparently she needs to do this with every pregnancy as long as she persists in hooking up with Rh positive men. In the meantime, she did the glucose tolerance test which she did not enjoy either.
It is cold and windy out. I tried to minimize head winds as much as possible while running. The wind is stripping all the pretty blossoms off the trees.

Friday, April 16, 2010

New life

Primrose first appearing last week. Need to clean this rock garden
Naomi last week amongst the pink swag. I liked the sock garlands

Naomi at 28 weeks
So alot more is blooming now. My favorite: the weeping cherries though I don't have one. My crabs are late to bloom but my dogwood has produced some stunted blossoms. I also have a very pretty quince hedge covered in red blooms. It was 85 degrees yesterday. I worked out in the gym speaking to one of the LiveStrong counsellors headed to Boston. Monday is the Boston Marathon but it would be hard to qualify. My times in my 30s would have qualified me in my 40s but that's not how it works. But on my bucket list is running the Boston Marathon. I've done Detroit, NYC, Chicago and Columbus but long, long in the past.
Later Happy Hour at The Gandy Dancer. All sorts of fancy girlie drinks for $5. I went for an apple martini (good) and a mango mojito (not as minty as it should have been). Tasty and fun. I ran into a soccer mom who was an Italian major in school that I had been meaning to contact. She's led the Huron latin classes to Italy.
This afternoon: To the hospital for Naomi to get her Rhogam, a 3 hour minimum adventure.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hair, here!

Shanna is on the left dressed as Twiggy when she was 9. I thought she looked cute with short hair but she never really forgave me for the haircut. This was on a Girl Scout camping trip. I was the leader. We had dress up day facillitated by a mom who was a lounge singer and had plenty of fancy dresses to share. She was a small woman so the dresses weren't so big on the girls. Not the usual camp activity. I made most of the moms come with me. I'm not watching your girls by myself..but we had fun.

Shanna at 2.5 years. Her hair is kind of wavy here
Josh at 16 months with absolutely straight hair


By the time he got to high school age 14, it darkened and became quite curly. Now as soon as it begins to curl, Julia cuts his hair. If it were up to me...well it isn't but I wish he'd let those curls grow.



Expiration date

At the cooking class, we tell short stories about our circumstances. One woman's cancer came back on her 10th anniversary of survival. She knew stage 4 breast cancer was not good and in between tears asked So this means I only have months to live? Oh, it's not that bad. You'll have a year or two, she was told off-handedly. So in her mind, she set her expiration date to be sometime in April 2010, the more optimistic prediction. But now, she seems to be past her expiration date and will throw a party. Not only that, she can not foresee a revised date as her medications seem to halting the progression and actually caused a regression in the more crucial areas.

Recently a woman detailed the awful things that various physicians told her mother as she battled lung cancer in an article I read. She had so much material for this, she actually converted it into a book. Fortunately she and her mother were able to find a few compassionate, caring doctors but she seemed to find an inverse relationship between medical expertise and compassion.

I still remember the highly- deficient- in -people- skills radiologist who alerted me to my cancer. She delivered the news sighing with impatience at the seemingly stupid questions I was asking. It was at the end of a day and somehow I was detaining her and she let her irritation be known. And she had a new resident with her taking this all in. I instantly forgot her name but remembered her crappy perm and cold mien. Someday, I'll look her up and write a letter. You could argue that she saved my life but as another radiologist pointed out, my case was so blaringly obvious. No could be cancer but it is cancer.

One survivor recently got a letter in the mail that said her mammogram showed some areas of concern that were probably benign. Food for thought in the middle of the night.

So it will be toasty and I've been running alot. I'll go and work out the muscles. As time goes on, the arm hurts less and less (which argues against bone mets). I still can't do the stretch putting my hands on a doorway and leaning in. Only one hand can touch the door sill.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hair today..hair yesterday

My hair today-a little short for my taste
So occasionally I did have curly hair with the help of a perm. Don't I look
like a poodle? This picture was taken Oct. 1983 after a 7.6 mile race in Milan
that I did very well in. I started running after Josh was 6 months old and found
I actually was good at it. Shanna and Josh are in the background.
This week has been spent looking for stuff I lost. Credit card twice (found both times), driver's license (after 2 hours of tearing things apart-I remembered I put it in a 'safe' spot) and Naomi's medical requisition forms for her glucose tolerance test and Rhogam shot. Never did find the latter but I went in to get a replacement. Also I needed to get yet another 'proof of pregnancy' letter. Naomi applied for WIC(food for pregnant women) but apparently lifting up your shirt and pointing to the swelling isn't good enough for them. I haven't seen Naomi since she stomped out of here Sunday. Hoping no news is good news but in her case, that's rarely the case. She needs that Rhogam shot this week to prevent her from forming antibodies to her baby's blood, which most likely is Rh+. It needs to be scheduled as they will test her blood again to make sure she is negative.
So despite the beautiful weather, I've been in a funk. This too will pass.
I went to another survivor cooking class this evening-topic: quick meals. The best dish was this this leek, artichoke, carrot and tofu saute on top of tomato couscous. A lady I hadn't seen since we were both bald was there. So nice to have hair and not worry about the wig being askew. There were several new people there including a woman who was just diagnosed-she was understandably shell-shocked. Someone had told me that the week you first find out is the worst. I think they are right.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Recruiting

Shadows from a wall near St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City

Tuesday is science day in the WSJ. One of the most interesting stories concerns the signaling of the cancer cells to recruit healthy cells to maintain its growth. Turns out if you cut open a tumor, most of the cells are normal cells. I assumed that they were all tumor cells. The tumor even sends out signals to the bone marrow to produce what it needs. I have heard that in the cases when a primary tumor is excised, distal secondary tumors experience a growth spurt. Presumably the primary tumor sent out signals to suppress their growth but in its absence, the tumors are free to grow. Not all of these signaling compounds have been identified. One factor has been; the angiogenesis factor which is responsible for recruiting blood vessels to grow to supply the tumor. Avastin is a monocolonal antibody developed to target this. It works for a while but the pesky tumors develop alternate signalling methods.

Another was on healthy baby fat. Turns out that babies have brown fat full of mitochondria that kick in when they are chilled. Little babies don't shiver and are hard put to tell their parents that they are cold. Adults have both brown fat and white fat. White fat is mainly big lumps of fat. The article theorizes that when an adult is chilled, the brown fat starts metabolizing . They hypothesized that in lower temperatures, we'd lose weight assuming we don't eat more to compensate. Well I am out running in the cold and I am still fat. I used to swim laps for exercise in fairly cool water. I theorized that the cold water just made me produce another layer of fat to protect me like a seal. I switched to running and initially the pounds melted off but then my body learned to compensate. Sometime this fall assuming I don't become injured, I will run my 35,000th mile which translates into 1000 lbs of fat-a half ton. Am I 1000 lbs underweight? No..somehow the energy balance is on the input side. But running provides many other benefits. I have no varicose veins, my skin is smooth, I have good circulation, my heart rate is 55, it puts me in a better mood, and I'd probably be alot larger without it and much less firm.

This afternoon I went in to deal with the hair. Only the ends of my hair were curls-like a grown out perm. Short straight hair -think pixie-really wouldn't be a good look for me. Fortunately, after the curls were cut off, I still have chemo wave so my hair has 'body'. My hair is now lighter than it was. My 'roots' won't be as obvious. So some people get to keep their chemo curls forever; others a year. I guess I fit into the latter category. But if and when the wave goes away, I will grow the hair out to its former length.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ad Hominem Tu Quoque

Some days I can delude myself that all is well. Saturday was one of those days: beautiful weather and Naomi was her charming best. She is a very striking girl. The nasty brown dye she put on her hair is mostly gone and she styled her hair in long ringlets. She has a pretty smile and can be quite engaging when she isn't angry. She was very polite and friendly to whomever spoke to her at the shower. Fast forward to yesterday. I knew she had a big assignment on argumentative fallacies and needed much help as logic, to really understate the obvious, is not her strong suit.
Where are you? I kept calling. Eventually she came but she rather show me all that she registered for. Every last thing was pink. Now the baby is probably a girl, key word probably, but even so, who wants their baby to be in a sea of pink(not me!-very little pink for my girls). What happens if, help us, she has a boy later? By the time we got down to tackle her assignment, she was tired and crabby. I wasn't explaining things well enough..on and on. I reminded her that going to school was to help her not me and the day she realizes that, maybe we could say that she is on the road to maturity. I left the room and told her I would help her when she could control herself. Instead she left muttering something about quitting school (less than 3 weeks left). Well that certainly brightened my day and I was left to obsess about it most of the night. I did call today to make sure she did go to school and whether she was able to finish that assignment. She was able to give me the answer I wanted (that it might not be true is another issue.)

Ad Hominem Tu Quoque fallacy example:

Girl of Naomi's acquaintance: Having a baby while a teenager is bad because
it leads to poverty, disruption of education, lack of a childhood, tough on the
baby itself as you are not prepared, no committed father, etc but I am having
one anyway.

Naomi: Oh so since you are having one, it must be OK. I am going to have
one too.

The fallacy: Just because the arguer contradicted her first statement by
her actions doesn't invalidate her first statement.

As for metaphors, Josh had watched that same episode of the Gervais show making fun of silly adages. He is quite clear on the concept of an elephant in the room. We've dealt with a whole herd of them. He brought up a few more in his life while we walked and talked yesterday. He didn't understand the stitch in time, saves nine one though even though they illustrated it with a cartoon showing a hole in the shirt that the wearer ignored quickly turning into a bigger hole that now will take 9 minutes to repair vs one minute. Josh would just throw the shirt away. For me, with my old lady eyes, it would take me 9 minutes just to thread the needle. I wouldn't throw the shirt away. I'd just leave it in my pile of clothes that would be OK if I'd fix them if I ever got around to it and eventually, years later, throw or give it away as it no longer fit. He understood the simpler version an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Why don't they just say that in the first place?

So a bad night with my mind going to all kind of dark places. I ran for a long way without stopping this morning in an attempt to put things right. I then went to pick up Julia, who had been away for a few days (thus I had more of Josh) at the airport. She is a good daughter-in-law. Eleven years ago shortly after they met, Josh excitedly told me about her fine qualities, one of which was that she ate. Really she actually eats? The penultimate girlfriend did NOT eat. Josh didn't mind at first (cheap date, anyone?) but then questioned her friends. They never saw her eat either. Hmmm. Turns out she had other issues too.

After I dropped her off (she was nervous about Josh locking her out of the house-seems like they have a big key shortage there), I went to buy materials to jumpstart my garden. I ran into a soccer dad I hadn't seen in many years (you get close to these parents on the many trips for travel soccer). Just as I was telling him about Josh's life, Julia just happened to walk by (Josh left no food in the house) and I said Well there's his beautiful wife right now! She is very beautiful but as someone has said, doesn't seem to know it. She had caught up to me as I had sat in the parking lot for some time listening to the end of Dvorak's 8th Symphony, very inspiring.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chemo curls

One of the 'gifts' from cancer are my curls. As a child, my extremely straight hair was considered a cosmetic defect. I tried to curl my hair with the help of spoolies and dippety-do but the curls did not last long. Despite straightness being a recessive trait and both Steve and I having straight hair, two of the three kids have curly or wavy hair. Naomi straightens hers with an iron as does my daughter-in-law, who has beautiful blond curls naturally. In high school, late 60s, long straight hair was de rigeur so no more curling. But alas, along with my 6 month vacation from deodorant, plucking and shaving, the curliness has come to an end. I will have my hair cut next week one more time to see if the weight of my hair is straightening things out. I can't imagine having short straight hair.

Strange dreams last night. I dreamt I was pregnant too but had no time to pay attention to my unborn child as I was dealing with Naomi's. I was in a hospital for a cancer check-up (in my dream) and mentioned it to a doctor who asked if I'd like an ultrasound to see my baby. I kept waiting and waiting for the ultrasound and woke up wondering why I hadn't gotten an ultrasound earlier and then I remembered: I can't be pregnant.

I took a break from running today. Instead I went for a walk in the Arb with Josh and Sunny. The daffodils are out along with some wildflowers. Very pretty. Sunny likes the squirrels there of course.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My tumor's bigger than your tumor....

You don't always get what you want at the cancer store. I know I didn't.
This week a well known ex-tennis star, MN, announced that she too has breast cancer. Then she says it's DCIS (meaning abnormal cells within the duct-a precancer) and I am thinking, Ha that is nothing...quit yer whining. No chance of recurrence (so I thought-a woman on the TNBC page had her DCIS treated with chemo/surgery/radiation -overkill anyone? and the stuff still came back as a tumor two years later). The biggest shock to MN wasn't the inconvenience and pain of dealing with it (surgery and radiation)but how could she, picture of health and clean living get hit with this? Perhaps she attracted it through negative thoughts (the current thinking as expressed in such books such as The Secret-BTW, never give this book to a cancer patient) but to me it's a potshot. You've won the lottery though a Shirley Jackson type of lottery. (This is from the short story The Lottery that I read in 8th grade. A New England town goes through this complicated ritual every year to select a special person. In the end, this person is stoned to death by her former friends and my thinking then was WTF? I've since read that many objected to this twisted ending, no surprise, but others wrote inquiring which town is this and could they go watch?)

So not all cancers are equal. Some suffer more than others but we didn't get to chose which one we got from the Cancer Store. It is what it is.

We had the Mom's group last night. One of the moms had lots of life changing, positive news concerning herself. My cream cheese flan turned out OK even though I accidentally used the wrong ingredient. Flan is forgiving though. Lots of wine and tasty treats.

Today Naomi surprisingly agreed to come with me to a cousin's baby shower-a little girl due exactly one month before Naomi's. It was held at a beautiful house overlooking a lake. I got a chance to reconnect with some of my mother's relatives. The mom-to-be is my older daughter's age. The baby girls are going to have quite different experiences growing up.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Dropping in

The kids drop by randomly. I don't care though sometimes I am not at home. But this is a one way street. I was in Ypsi yesterday and decided to visit Naomi. I figured the two male roommates would be gone, which they were. I called from the parking lot.
What are you doing here? No, you can't come in! I'll be out.

Dontae's roommate has a girlfriend and 6 week old child, Ishmael (Call me Ishmael, aptly named). The girl, a year or two older than Naomi, is very hot tempered and very immature. Before the baby was born, she had been kicked out of the apartment several times, twice with police help but now she's back. She had the baby out of state where her mom lives but was quickly back as her mom kept 'telling her what to do.' She presumably tried to stay in a shelter, with a newborn! but that didn't work out. Not only that, she has invited a girlfriend, also with a baby in tow to stay there, just for a few days. The 'guests' sleep in the living room and request that Naomi and Dontae not make so much noise when they get up so early to go to work or school. They would sleep until noon if it weren't for those pesky babies. The place is very chaotic. I urged Naomi to come home but this was not well taken. I noted Dontae's car in the parking lot, undriveable without an expensive part. How does he get to work? Naomi drives him, almost to Josh's house, and picks him up with MY car. I was asking too many questions. She jumped out of my car and retreated into that hellhole of an apartment.

It was very cold and windy yesterday. Spring disappeared. I figured I'd go to the gym but my visit to the parking lot took my energy away.

Moms group tonight. My role is the dessert lady. I'm thinking flan.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Elephant in the Room

Yesterday was a dreary, rainy day though I did go out when it was merely misting. I watched some TV: The Ricky Gervais show in which 3 characters have inane conversations that are illustrated by cartoons. One topic was trite sayings that made no sense to them.

1. A stitch in time saves nine
2. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones
3. There is an elephant in the room

Of the three, the first makes the most sense though on first reading, it implies that someone is sewing time. And why nine? It really doesn't rhyme with time. But quite the opposite of this adage is followed here as in not fixing the brakes when they first squeal but waiting for total failure or the ignoring of the curling shingles. We are waiting for that hole to develop in the roof. I did try to make a few 'stitches' in Naomi's life but we all see how that turned out.

The show had much fun with the second showing an occupant chucking stones at his own walls and watching them break. They developed alternative sayings such as People who live in glass houses shouldn't walk around in the nude and People who live in glass houses need to answer the door. Why? They can see for themselves that you are in. The saying is an obvious off-shoot of what Jesus purportedly said: Judge not lest ye be judged or more graphically: Let he without sin cast the first stone. Somehow the glass house was added later.

In the Old Testament, the prescribed method of execution for unbecoming behavior seems to be stoning. So instead of just one or a few individuals being in charge of capital punishment, the whole community was encouraged to take part throwing stones until the sinner died. Jesus's new requirement that the stoners themselves should be sinless was big news. Bigger news: the sinner could repent. Theoretically, true 'Christians' as in those following what Jesus said, shouldn't be doing any judging at all, but alas, that isn't the case.

There is an elephant in the room isn't much of an adage, more just a statement. An elephant carries more weight than, let's say, there is a chipugpin ( aka Dakota) in the room or a bee in the room (cue Naomi screaming). It is so obvious that it is there that noone dare comment on it or be accused of stating the obvious. But the elephant is there and it's capable of doing serious damage so it probably shouldn't be ignored. But what can you do? The elephant really will be hard to remove from the room and might fight back. Therefore it will be best all around just to ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist even though it is staring you in the face.

There are a few elephants in my room.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Music Memories

Tonight Steve has been invited to go to a musical concert. He rarely does anything except with his family or by himself so this is unusual. But it has reminded me of musical moments in my past.

Beatles, Olympia Stadium, Detroit 1964. I loved the Beatles! We'd sit for hours playing their records over and over. While not listening to them, my friends and I would have spoken fantasy sessions involving the Beatles leaving their girlfriends for us-chunky prepubescents. I told the best stories of course. So when a wealthy neighbor of my grandfather invited me to go see The Beatles in person, I was thrilled beyond belief. Of course I could not actually hear them. What I did hear was non-stop screaming and ringing in my ears for the next few days; but there they were in the flesh! I screamed too.

Organ Symphony, Saint-Saens, Hill Auditorium 1972. I forgot what else was playing that night. So for the first 3 movements, I was impatiently wondering why this was called the 'Organ Symphony' as I heard no organs. Maybe amongst the orchestra there was a small organ I overlooked but then, the organ literally rose from a platform under the floor and struck the first few chords that filled the auditorium. Beauty!

Beethoven's Third Symphony, The Eroica. Various times in my life. Aside from listening to Marche Militaire in elementary school, I had little exposure to classical music. Woodwinds (unless you were very good) played 'band'-think Sousa; Strings played classical. I played the silly clarinet chosen as a 10 year old because I liked the name. It was an unfortunate choice for me (and I have only myself to blame)because it had a reed I kept breaking at 25 cents apop (this was alot of money when you had none) and it was impossible to play wearing a skirt without simultaneously 'shooting a beaver' unless you were very careful, which I was not. But in high school in a humanities class, we learned the history of music studying in detail The Eroica (not erotica as I called it then-it was written to celebrate Napoleon's heroism but then Beethoven decided that his hero had clay feet and erased his name from the dedication. We also studied Bach's Cantata Awake! A Voice is Calling! putting into music the parable of the Groom and the Twenty Brides (ten were wise, ten were foolish). As a child, I didn't quite know what to make of this story. But I found I loved Beethoven. Later I thought I found my soulmate with a French Horn/preMed double major so I learned alot about French Horns. The third movement features French Horns so over and over, I heard this. But the 4th movement is so beautiful we cried together over it.

Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8, La Pathétique: After I first heard this, I wanted to learn to play it. I can sort of (sort of) play the first movement in slow motion. After listening to me play, one might conclude that pathétique means pathetic but no, it means pathos. There are other piano sonatas too that I love. Steve and I went to a series of concerts before we were married featuring all 32 of them played by a South American woman with very tiny hands. The last one is really my favorite, especially the last movement but it would be very, very difficult to play.

The thunderstorms have stopped temorarily. Time to run! I of course, had many other musical moments in my life. I will get to them.

We watched some of the women's NCAA championship last night. I was rooting against the Huskies who ended up winning anyway. But their best player, arguably the best player in the country, shares a name with my putative granddaughter.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Test Anxiety

I will be so glad when this semester is over and cramming for tests is all done. Naomi will seem to understand things one day but when I quiz her the next, all is forgotten. There is a lot to cover in her anatomy/physiology class. On top of everything else, she will have panic attacks in the testing room. Her pulse races, she has difficulty breathing, and she sometimes blacks out. Since she has become pregnant, these attacks are more frequent: last week during the ultrasound and yesterday as we studied. I took her pulse: 104. But even after she seemed to calm down, the pulse remained high. According to the Merck Manual, a normal pulse of 70 will increase to 90 by the end of pregnancy but she is only 2/3 of the way done. But she says all went well today. Three more weeks and she'll take a break until the fall.
Loud storms all night. According to the weather map, I had an one hour window to get my run in. But the front suddenly veered north and we had beautiful weather instead.

I spent the afternoon with a former colleague comparing notes on the many challenges raising teenagers. It is comforting to know that I am not the only one facing this. An enjoyable time.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Fish by any other name

Yesterday at our Easter brunch, I overheard Dontae quietly questioning Naomi what everything was on the brunch table. All unfamiliar to him-quiche, bagels and..LOX. The pink flesh especially puzzled him. I told him that lox was one of Naomi's favorite foods until someone told her that it was actually fish.
Naomi's Logic:
I don't like fish.
Lox is a fish.
Therefore I don't like lox.
Even though I always liked it before.
Dontae asked if calamari were a fish because Naomi certainly eats that.
Actually it's a mollusk.
I have noticed that even non-Italian restaurants call squid 'calamari' now. I don't think I ever see the word squid anywhere. I guess it would not sell. I remember as a child going deep-sea fishing in Florida. Alot of the catch was this 5 lb flat, golden fish. I asked what it was.
Dolphin
Argh! It didn't look like Flipper.
Now it's been rechristened 'mahi-mahi'. Noone wants to eat something called dolphin.
In Italy, at the Amalfi Coast cuisine restaurant we ate at in Milan on the last day, they had a dish full of sea shells that I wished I had saved one of the shells as they were pretty. On a recent Anthony Bourdain show featuring Provence, he showed a plate of them and called them 'whelks'. Italian word: buccino. buccino sounds nicer than sea snails or whelks. And no, I didn't eat one.

Back to the lox. I suggested that Dontae try it to expand his horizons. Ha! Some of my readers are thinking-what a big fat, hypocrite you are!
He initially passed but somehow maybe to suck up to me, which he does try to do in hilarious ways, later he decided to try it eating it straight. Josh reminded him that he didn't need to do that, ignore what his mom said. But if he insisted on trying it, put it on a bagel with cream cheese.
He ate it straight and reported that it didn't taste fishy. He didn't ask for more. They then left for his mama's house probably so he could eat something not so weird.

At home, I saw a cute puppy bounding beside the Miracle Baby's motorized chair as they cruised the cul-de-sac. Twelve years ago, she was born at 26 weeks weighing 2 lbs, 14 inches long. She is very small for her age (normal to large parents) and has motor difficulties though she does not appear to have cerebal palsy. The puppy,Rosebud,is a 6 lb roly-poly ball of black fur born just 2 days after Dakota. She is mostly a miniature poodle but her very short legs suggest she has something else mixed in. I had friends with a yorkie-poo who looked very similar but had copper hair (and named "Copper"). At the Miracle Baby and her mom's suggestion, later I brought Dakota over for the two puppies to chase each other and roll together on the floor. Very, very cute! We all had fun watching their antics. Rosebud is a more suitable playmate than a 80 lb German Shepherd and a senile pug. Dakota, despite her size, insists on being the alphadog and occasionally was mean to Rosebud. Dakota's long nose and long tail suggests that something other than chihuahua and pug are in her background. Minipin? Italian Greyhound?Dachshund?

Studytime again as this afternoon will be too. I will be so glad when this semester is over.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Brunch


Julia's sister ( in purple) joined us

Powerless in Ann Arbor

Early yesterday morning, it was calm and sunny but by one or so, things changed. I heard a loud explosion. Apparently the wind knocked down a huge tree near us onto a power line setting off a fire. I am not sure if the boom was due to the tree or the power line exploding. We didn't get power until after dark. At dusk we wandered the streets like zombies to see how widespread the outage was finding our neighbors trolling similiarly. The frogs in our local pond are now active so Steve can hear them. Not long after we set up a system of candles and the hand-cranked flashlight power was restored in time to see the final buzzer of the MSU vs Butler game. Lost by a basket!
We had looked at the long range forecast. No temps below 40 for at least a week so we left the plants outside. But things change. It is 28 at the low point of Ann Arbor. There's frost here so goodbye to all my plants. They are close to the house so hopefully the leaking heat will save some of them.
Studying in the dark without a computer was not appealing to Naomi so we'll have to cram now.
Brunch at Josh and Julia's in a few hours.
Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Training run

Another beautiful card from Lesa of LittleLifePreservers. I've been getting these homemade, artistic cards monthly since I've been in treatment


Some days I have more energy than others. Yesterday, even though I had the wind on my back and a day of rest, I could not get myself to move even at my usual turtle pace. I later walked 3.5 miles so today, I figured my run would be difficult but no, I was all full of energy. The spring marathon training group was running the other way. They too appreciate the 'scenic beauty road'. Even better, they have a waterstop and a bathroom. A handsome young man shouted "How's your shoulder?"
Um..fine.
Who is this man and why does he know about my shoulder? Finally it occurred to me he was the orthopedic resident on duty almost 3 years ago when I broke my arm. He said that he often had seen me running while he rode his bike and that maybe I should switch to biking.
Hard to do one-armed.
But now I see he has switched to running. The ER resident had wondered out loud whether I was in an abusive relationship as he could not fathom why someone my age would be running. I wondered about his diagnostic skills as I did have running clothes and shoes on. Or maybe I always wore them ready to take off at the first hint I was going to be abused. But the orthopedic resident had come to my rescue saying that he sees me out there all the time.
Bringing up the rear of the training group was M, my LiveStrong trainer. I know she is headed for Boston. She's very tiny but used to be quite chunky. She brought in pictures to prove it. Her transformation was documented in Shape magazine. She works for the running store that sponsors this training run. I assume she was just keeping the back of the pack company as she is quite speedy.

Our hoped for marathon viewing session of United States of Tara did not come to pass as I lost the network suddenly. I suppose I could pay for it but I really don't watch that much TV to justify it especially as the weather is getting so nice.

Today more anatomy and physiology.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Frog went a courtin'...

Dakota and Spud basking in the sun. Dakota immediately claimed the middle of the pillow giving poor Spud only the edge.
Sunset over Nixon Rd. Unfortunately I couldn't capture the bright red colors I actually saw but they were very impressive



Frog courting sounds. The video itself is not interesting but the frogs in love were so loud, I recorded them for Steve's benefit. He was unable to hear them the other day.
When we were kids in music class, we had to sing this bizarre song, "A Frog went a courtin'". It appears to be a cautionary tale about the dangers of interspecies love. The frog falls in love with Miss Mousie but before she agrees to marry him, she needs Uncle Rat's permission. Eventually they do get married but the wedding is crashed first by bugs and a tick making the guests miserable and finally by a duck and a big gray cat. It ends badly; the duck eats the frog and the cat eats the rodents. The song itself is very long and repetitive but easy to sing as there is a very narrow range of notes.
Several frog species are singing their love songs now. My frog loving friend and I went out at dusk to a wet land last night to hear and record them.
It was a beautiful day. After working out with weights, I lounged around on my patio surveying all the work I need to do. Naomi and her puppy came over for more study time. Yesterday's topic: the cardiovascular system. Tight Pants May Attract. That's the acronym we made to remember the path through the heart the blood takes. Tricuspid, Pulmonary, Mitral, Aortic valves in that order. Baby Naetae was plenty active distracting Naomi.
Look what she is doing now! Did you see that?
I can see the baby move now especially when she is searching for a more comfortable spot. Note the use of the feminine pronoun. Although the sonographer wouldn't sign-off on it, she appears to be a girl.
After our frog search, junk TV! We are getting Showtime for I don't know how long. United States of Tara was especially interesting. A mom raising 2 teenagers has multiple personality disorder. The family is very accepting of this although the teenage girl definitely prefers some of the personalities over the others. Fun to watch!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

500th post-Twins

Baby TaeNae-26 weeks
Dakota in her new Snugli. With record high temps today, she won't need it

Siamese twins-Shanna and her Aunt Maddy. Shanna is 13 here


All my mom's grandkids in 2000. Josh 18, Leila and Audrey 15, Shanna 21, Thea 11, Naomi 9



The twins when they were 2 or 3. It's their birthday today. Age: 25. One is in grad school at Harvard; the other Columbia





Non-twin non-identical sisters 3.5 years ago at Josh's wedding. Who's
the big sister?
Already it is in the 70s and all the plants I kept inside now are soaking up rays outside.
The computer yesterday subtracted a few days from Naomi's due date. She was thrilled but as I kept reminding her that this was an artifact. Just because Daniel is as big as an one year old doesn't make him an one year old but she's going with the earlier date.
At one point yesterday, Naomi looked at the screen thinking she had some proof of her son:
There it is!!!
No Sweetie, that's the cord.




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