Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Idle time

Our fair city is now considering an ordinance banning the excess idling of engines, excess defined as over 5 minutes. This includes autos, trucks, lawn mowers, and generators. Being stuck in traffic will be excluded along with waiting in line at the drive throughs. It is unclear whether one would be permitted to warm the car up to melt ice that can't be chipped off but maybe garages will be made mandatory or maybe it will be all right to drive with ice on your windows. Some people pull over to take cell phone calls. Well they better turn their engines off. The chief area of enforcement will be the schools where students have to run the gauntlet of waiting cars and buses and their 'toxic' emissions. As the school bus services have been cut, more students come to school by private car.

In the past, there were recommendations by the car manufacturers to never drive a cold engine but now, due to superior oils, that is no longer the case. Why the ban? Air quality experts cited the extra toxins that idling engines produced. Some were carcinogenic. There have been studies citing the increase in autism as a function of nearness to expressways (hotbeds of idling) in LA. There was even a study of the decrease of autism near toll booths along the New Jersey turnpike since E-Z pass has been adopted.

I've looked at some of those studies particularly the LA one. Small sample size. Also, the expressway is hardly the sole source of idling cars.

No one likes to breathe in exhaust. At work, the 'fresh' air intake vents were stupidly situated right where the delivery trucks would idle filling our labs with truck exhaust smelling worse than our work. We complained to no avail although finally the delivery site was changed more for their convenience as our site expanded.

If the city were sincere about reducing exhaust due to idling, it would have more timed lights.

This seems unenforceable as most idling is on private property. If idling around the schools is a problem, ban it at the schools.

The last ordinance passed by our council ended up costing some of them their jobs. This was the one requiring a full stop, even on major trunk lines, if one even thought they saw a pedestrian intending to cross. The problem was judging this.In one case near our house, the bus stop was located right next to a crosswalk. Are they waiting for a bus or going to cross? People seemed to stop for no reason leading to collisions. The state has no law about this so out-of-towners had no idea what the expectations were.The ordinance has since been amended to the potential crosser actually having to step into the crosswalk. Presumably when the city get more money, key crossings will be activated by flashing lights, much safer.

It appears to be spring again. I am impatiently waiting for the sun to burn a hole through the ice so I can go for a long run.

Yesterday I heard from 3 people who seemed to be missing in action. One a work buddy who had told me that he was moving out-of-state last June and I hadn't heard from him since. Another was a woman who was diagnosed the same time as me with TNBC reported a year ago that she was seeing about a suspicious mass and was scared to death. She never updated her blog until yesterday (she was fine). And another is a stage 4 very young BC survivor; I assumed no news was very bad news but that does not seem the case.

I also had a nice afternoon with a good friend, so that was fun.

Monday, January 30, 2012

My beautiful DIL






In anticipation of their 30th birthday, Julia had these photos taken of her. For their birthday, I will convert one to canvas assuming I can get the original photo and not the thumbnails pictured here. They are not readers of my blog so maybe it will be a surprise. Which one?

I do like the bottom one for its artistry but the second one is most representative of how Julia looks.

It is icy outside again though it will melt by tomorrow. Yesterday we had a belated birthday dinner for Steve at Josh and Julia's. Maya charms everyone.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mal de mer

In one week I will be in the sun instead of snow. We are going down a day earlier than the cruise as flying in on the day of seems a recipe for disaster. I am trying to get ready. The cruise has 2 formal nights, maybe one formal dress of some sort will be good enough. The amount of luggage one can take has changed since I last went on a cruise; must pack carefully.

I am nervous about  possible seasickness. This has been a problem in the past, though usually scopolamine took care of it. I would get it when others did not. I think the situation has gotten worse since chemo (balance still off too). I got seasick last summer just holding on to an air mattress in very gentle waves. I have been on boats only twice since chemo: once in Lago Maggiore (covering a distance I could probably swim) and later in the Mediterranean along the Cinque Terre coast. No problems then but the waters were very calm.

It is snowing hard again. Fortunately I was able to run before the snow became too heavy. Still had to dodge lots of icy patches. I will be so happy when this winter is finished.

Family dinner tonight at Josh's..what I look forward to.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Super tasters versus non-tasters

To be filed under:
Yet another reason that I'm fat

Back in 9th grade biology (an interesting class that I partially discussed under Hamster Husbandry and  will in the future, discuss the strange introduction to Sex Ed I received there), we were introduced to genetics in part by examining our own traits and comparing them to our parents' and siblings'. (This must be done very carefully these days, if at all, due to privacy concerns). Traits discussed: blood groups, tallness, hair and eye color, tongue rolling abilities, relative finger lengths and whether we could taste a bitter chemical, PTU, or not.

Only 30% of those with Northern European ancestry are non-tasters ( being a non-taster is even rarer amongst other groups). It is an autosomal recessive trait (though men seem to express it more). If you have this trait, the shorthand  is tt.

tt=no ability to taste this substance and chemically related compounds
Tt=can taste this in the 'usual' concentration
TT=super taster. Can detect this substance in even the most dilute concentrations

With gene sequencing, now you don't even have to ask if one is a taster, it is an easy lab test.

So who cares if you can roll your tongue or not (I can) or taste this stuff (I can't)?

Well for starters, when I first came down with Graves' Disease (or at least when I was finally treated), I was given PTU to block the excess hormone that my strange antibodies were stimulating my thyroid to produce. I could not taste the stuff; others would complain how absolutely nasty it was. But more importantly the gene that controls this trait is also associated with taste bud density, taste in general, thyroid disease, smoking and coffee drinking preferences, and fat seeking in foods. Apparently we non-tasters love our fat more than the Tts and the TTs of the world and it shows.

On a somewhat related note, there was an interesting article today in the WSJ about how different cultures perceive others' taste in food disgusting or not notably in what fermented foods a given people will love. The assumption in this article was that taste is culturally determined.

Rotted ungulate bodily fluid anyone?

Yeah, that would be cheese, sometimes covered with obvious mold. We Westerners eat this with relish though we may be divided on the stinkiness we will tolerate. According to this article, many Asians find cheese absolutely disgusting, even the bland "American" cheese that Naomi requested in a Canadian restaurant (the waitress thought she would only eat cheese that was produced in the US and found her request odd and insulting.). The Sardinians push the envelope with their casu marzu, a sheep cheese that is riddled with live maggots. If the maggots have died, it is considered unsafe to eat.

Only Icelanders could tolerate their fermented shark festering in pits for 5 months.
The Japanese eat a fermented soybean dish known as natto for breakfast, which even the most adventurous westerner gags on upon tasting.

So I have no taste. My poor victims last night of my cooking; poorer as I usually cook only by taste. I try to make new things each time although I made my teri-yaki grilled scallops before (who doesn't love scallops? So tasty and quick to prepare. Downside: these suckers cost a lot). I served them over a pseudo-Asian salad of baby spinach leaves and a transparent, mung bean noodle. No I didn't forget to pluralize the word noodle. It turned out that what I had cooked was one, long hundred foot noodle making it impossible to toss amongst the greens. Lesson learned: break the mass up before cooking. It did taste good, if I say so myself, but as I have no taste, that would be suspect. I made coconut rice. I also served these things I didn't make but purchased from the new, huge Asian section of our local grocery store that serves the large local Asian population in our neck of the woods : seaweed sesame salad and steamed leek and mushroom buns.

But perhaps their tastes were blunted by the many bottles of wine consumed late into the night (and next day). It was fun as always. Love the Moms.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Maya goes to school

Her favorite activity: pretending to drive the car



Close-up of the papier mache dragon head made to celebrate the Chinese New Year

Dragon march: the instructor envisioned the kids marching under the dragon's body while shaking their noise makers. No kid wanted to be covered up.

She likes to scribble preferably with both hands at once

The car's motor: a headless grandma



Ms. Maya goes to a class once a week with others ages 12 to 24 months in which half of the time is free play and the other half, circle time in which the same songs are sung week after week. During the free time, lately she just wants to be pushed around in the car and is very resistant to being transitioned to another activity.

Twice a month she has speech therapy. This is not going well. It is scheduled during her nap time (must see about changing that) so she is crabby. Although they have taught her sign 5 or 6 words, actual words are not used. This is how the other day went. Maya was given a wagon ride, which she enjoys. Suddenly the wagon stops. To make it go again, Maya must indicate the sign for go. Instead she screamed while pushing her body back and forth, her indication that she wanted the thing to move. After starting and stopping about twenty times, all we were left with were a frustrated baby and an  instructor.

Today is her 18th month check-up (although she is almost 19 months). We know that from a WIC visit a few weeks ago, she is 50%tile for weight and 75%tile for height so they should be happy about that.(Update: she is 42%tile for weight and 87%tile for height according to the pediatrician) The lack of speaking, not so much but we are doing all that we can. Naomi is being watched carefully as they assume a low income young mother needs extra watching. And I guess I must be suspect as a grandmother because, if I were a good mother, I would not have had a child who became pregnant at 18.

I presumably did not speak until I was three although I don't know how much I trust the reporter of this. I do know that people judge intelligence from how articulate one is. This goes two ways: Naomi was put in the highest reading group in first grade because she was a fluent reader. It took another year to realize she had no idea what the words actually meant. I do not believe Maya is mentally slow otherwise. She is very alert and eager to try new things.

The Moms are coming over tonight. Must prepare.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Double birthdays

Baby Steve with his mom in the summer of 1953

The birthday boy Oliver with his brother Daniel

A recent picture of Oliver

Oliver doing what he likes to do the most: dig dirt
What better present to receive than what Steve did 4 years ago today but a healthy, beautiful grandson?

I got the phone call early the morning before that maybe Shanna was in labor, she wasn't sure. Plus it was 2 weeks before her official due date and she felt she would go past it. Fortunately my car was already packed with the baby equipment that her sister-in-law was lending. I had Steve gas up the car while I hurriedly packed and made coffee. It was the one day it didn't snow not even in the lake effect areas and the mountains in my path. I kept myself awake learning Italian. Twelve hours and 750 miles later (yeah I drove fast stopping only for gas and to pee), Shanna still was wondering whether she really was in labor. She hadn't bothered to pack for the hospital.
What are you waiting for?
From her south-east facing apartment, we could see the downtown Boston skyline. There was fireworks that night. Cool. As soon as I started to take a nap, the contractions started to intensify and off to the hospital we went around midnight. At 4 or 5 centimeters, she was in active labor.
Early in the morning, Oliver came out screaming and kicking by C-section. It was not determined that he was in a frank breech position until Shanna was getting ready to push. Very, very annoying that the midwife never checked by ultrasound what was going on. But the baby is what is most important, not the delivery.

Oliver is a budding engineer with his building projects. A cheap thrill is to take him to see construction equipment, preferably in action. Firetrucks are very fascinating to him too. He likes to spell words and at a very early age, could identify letters and the sounds they make. What he does not like to do is sit and eat. He wants to be on the go.

For my more local birthday boy, I am making his favorite dessert, cherry pie. He does not like cakes or hardly anything sweet for that matter but cherry pie, he'll eat.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nocebo/placebo

Recently a ER+ positive BC survivor was told by her new oncologist that she should switch from taking tamoxifen to the newer aromatase inhibitors (AIs) due to her decreasing bone density and presumably better survival with the AIs. I asked what did he tell her about the side effects of the  AIs?
Nothing.
Many women report crippling joint and bone pain from AIs (many of these women are my readers). This is a well known and very common side effect. Why wouldn't he have mentioned that to her? Certainly he knows..
I am going out on a limb here and assuming he is trying to prevent the nocebo effect. The nocebo effect is just as real and strong as the placebo effect. You tell someone certain things can happen and then they report that that they do even with inert "sugar'" pills. The negative are the 'nocebo' and the positive are the 'placebo'.
Well I wrecked that by rattling off the all side effects  I knew. Of course she could have read the package insert too. IMHO, she should know all the facts ahead of time before making a decision.

Before I had babies, I was listening to a friend practice for being a  LaMaze instructor. She accidentally used the word 'pain' a few times and quickly corrected herself and told me she was told never to use that word because anticipation of pain increases the perception of pain. She already had two babies with difficult, painful births. I asked her if she didn't feel a tad dishonest implying this all will be a piece of cake if you just would breathe correctly. She thought her births were exceptions (she is tiny; husband big: babies got their size from Dad).

The placebo effect is especially powerful for antidepressants. Allegedly effective ones are barely statistically superior to the placebo. I can understand why the placebo effect is so strong for treating pain but I was puzzled with its effect in depressed people. Don't they feel hopeless and nothing will ever become better? But I was told that even depressed people really want to get better.

What is shocking to me is that physicians actually prescribe known placebos to their patients. Of course they have to tell them or it would not be ethical. I imagine the speech goes something like this:

I am going to prescribe you a placebo today. In some studies, it is just as effective as X and with fewer side effects.

Sounds good to me, doc.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Our Dragon baby

On Chinese New Year's Day, Shanna's baby remained in utero, good as she is only at 31 weeks gestation weighing in with a probable 3.5 lbs or so. She will be a dragon baby, the most auspicious sign. In areas with high Asian populations, there will be a huge increase in births this year as there was in 2000, the last Dragon year. Although Steve and I were born in the same year, he is a Dragon baby whereas I am the much more inferior Snake baby, due to differences in solar calendars versus lunar calendars.

We were watching one of our favorite shows House Hunters the other day (Josh's house had been featured on one of the shows as the house that a couple out-grew). An educated Asian couple with a big budget were searching for a house in this particular episode. They listed their Feng Shui requirements, among them was the house had to face east versus west and have a curved walkway versus straight leading up to it. I forgot what the north versus south importance was.

So maybe that is why my luck hasn't been so good;  having been born a snake and  having been lived in houses with straight walkways and facing west for the past 35 years.

The main problem I find with our west facing houses is prevailing winds. Everyone's leaves, snow and general flotsam ends up in our yard. The worst case was our first house in which we were directly east of a neighbor's huge cottonwood tree and compost pile. Shortly after we moved there, the neighbor came to introduce himself as Mr. Doe, NOT Mr. John Doe, call me John, please. Well I guess we were very young. I knew the man from before as he was my instructor in the Know your Auto class I took a couple of years before but after the icy introduction and no glimmer of recognition on his part, I didn't remind him of that. My former boyfriend took his class in high school. When one of his fellow students said something about how gross the engine grease on his hands was, Mr. Doe told him to wait until he was married because he will have much more gross substances on his hands then. That  popped in my mind every time I saw him. He had a request, after we bag all of our lawn clippings, will we please add them to his compost pile. So we got to smell this too along with the rotted manure he added to his garden. And  that crappy cottonwood capable of producing tons of choking cottonballs and yard debris (added to the compost pile). Finally the impressive derecho of 1980 (no power for more than a week) with its 100 mph straightline  due west winds, knocked that sucker over. Our lawn was covered with its broken branches.

I don't put any stock in horoscopes and I am surprised when people do. One of my current middle of the night readings is Galileo's Daughter. Galileo first started out as a medical student. Part of practice of medicine then  was knowing astrology. From gazing at the stars for his astrology classes, he became an astronomer, which led to him publishing his observations that were in contradiction with church doctrine, thus the heresy trial. I think it took more than 300 years for the Church to apologize.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Five years ago today: A dividing day

One day you're this and the next day you are that. And it has to be a big thing too; not yesterday I had long hair and today I have short hair. We have thousands of those little moments.  I would say that becoming a mom is a big dividing day though it gradually creeps up on you; no big surprise when the baby is finally born but you are in for a whole lot of change from the baby's birthday on. Learning I had cancer was a dividing day; things would not be the same although gradually they are becoming more that way.

Five years ago, all 2100 of us co-workers were told to go to a mandatory meeting at noon. Since not all of us could be held in one place, we were split up by departments. Steve's department was bused off-site about 15 miles away; mine stayed on-site. Blocking the entrances were plains-clothed security guards; defibrillators were wheeled in. We were then told that our huge complex will be completely shut down, no time table was given and more would be revealed in the next few days but for now, we all could go home and process this information. And BTW, no talking to reporters as it might impact our severance package. Initial responses: tears, anger, disbelief. Some of the workers accused the management of 'coastism', the belief that intelligence only could be found a few miles in from either coast. We in the middle are just fodder.We were the most productive site; we provided most of the blockbusters despite our size. But life was not fair and this company especially was not.There was no one to blame in the room. Our local management fought to save us, I believe that.

Not everyone was crying, Steve was actually cheering although he had the good sense to keep this to himself. He was just sick of it. Work was increasingly causing more and more anxiety. Although we were fairly young to retire (53!!!), getting an extra two years of  salary and a promise to have health insurance until we were Medicare aged made things easier. Plus we could start collecting our pension although we would really take a big hit if we touched it before we were 60. Our house was paid for and we only had one kid left at home. Shanna and Josh were finished with school. Plus we were sure opportunities would present themselves after awhile, which they did though not particularly high paying ones.

Work actually was easier for me. I no longer needed to justify what I was doing. I made potential drugs that I thought might work and it looked like I was being very productive. I received a couple of bonuses for this. Because I was being so 'good' I was asked to stay on to the bitter end. Steve's department lasted longer, which was good so we didn't receive 2 mega checks in the same year. During this time, he was sent to England to work there for a month.

Previous to this, any of us thought we would have no trouble getting a job anywhere. We were presumably working for the best, we must be the best. And for those under 40, they still had a full dance card with multiple offers. But for the older workers...,not so much. You could feel the anxiety; months of looking with no prospects. Michigan already was suffering the downsizing of the auto industry. The bank/mortgage meltdown was about to happen. Meanwhile the company was by far, the city's biggest tax payer and the biggest contributor to various charities so even our neighbors would feel our pain.

So I no longer go to work; the world is my oyster; I could do anything I want. I no longer have to prepare absurd reports to justify my existence. The first thing I did was plan Shanna's wedding and then deal with the aftermath of my mother's death, just 3 days after my last day. We received a 'retraining' allowance to spent at an accredited institution of some sort. I enrolled in a summer abroad program in an Abruzzese hill town in Italy. How being fluent as a toddler in Italian will get me a job is yet to be determined. Fighting cancer, however passively, took up a great deal of time and energy. And although I never was a stay-at-home mom (excepting one summer), I am a stay at home grand mom.

The pension we receive turns out to be really small and our expenses turned out to be really big so Steve reluctantly returned to work although in a much more relaxed atmosphere. Plus he can quit at any time.

Back in the land of winter thunderstorms that kept me up last night, I am getting better. I tried to run just a little bit yesterday and it was a huge chore plus very icy in our neck of the woods. The warm rain put a dent into our uncleared streets so I gave it another try this morning. Much, much easier so it was a joy to be able to move again. Still not loving food, which may be a good thing. I went shopping yesterday and was having a hard time finding anything I could stand to eat. My formerly favorite red pepper tomato soup caused a reflexive gag just looking at it. It was the last thing I had consumed before my vomit fest a few nights ago.

I watched Ms. Maya while Naomi tried to straighten out the latest snafu with her benefits. It does not pay to get a job as it turns out. And Shanna received another demand for jury duty. Living in another state should be a good excuse. Being very pregnant, probably not. Last year, Naomi was supposed to do jury duty and found out that breast feeding is not a reason for exclusion nor was being a part-time student. She went anyway and was not selected at the last minute. I was supposed to start jury duty right before I was to begin radiation and was given less than a week to get a medical excuse meaning an extra hospital visit for me during a time I felt like death itself.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Winter vomiting bug

This is just one of the many names for the norovirus responsible for 90% of 'the winter crud' in the US. I have been referring to it in my previous posts as the Norwalk virus, which is just one strain of the norovirus. The norovirus is an RNA virus that lacks the waxy coat that other viruses and I assume most bacteria have. Why does this matter? It means that alcohol based sanitizers and detergents (hand soap) do not kill it. Chlorine bleach will however. It is amazingly infectious. As little as one to ten viruses will lead to an infection. It is spread on surfaces, through air , through direct contact and through food prepared by an infectious person. It can even become aerosolized in a public restroom when the toilet is flushed. What is amazing to me is that more people don't have it. Some how I have lived many years without having it but this year, I have gotten it twice as has Steve and Naomi. For reasons I can't understand, people with Type O blood are much more likely to contact it. I think I am the only one in my family who has Type O (though I am not sure about Ramy or Julia). I guess knowing what I do now, it was not wise to invite everyone over for dinner the day I was so sick around Thanksgiving though I took many precautions. Shanna got ill a week later but usually one gets it within 3 days. The rest of my guests did not get it.

On the positive side, no one dies from it and it is short-lived. One gets a short term immunity from it so hopefully I am good for the cruise leaving in 2 weeks. My friend and I made some arrangements for it last night so most of our stay is planned. She is still deciding about whether she wants to get up close and personal to the sting rays.

I did read a funny story about the norovirus outbreak. Recently there was a conference for journalism students in which the virus spread like wildfire. During the main speaker's talk, 50 students rushed out to vomit leaving the speaker puzzled.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pain

One of the last projects I worked on was Pain. As we were taught, there are two types of pain: nociceptive pain (good pain; warns the body to stop doing something hazardous like leaving your hand in the fire) and neuropathic pain (bad pain: serves no useful purpose). We were interested in treating both, preferably with the same medication (aka Magic Bullet) but this probably does not exist. Not all nociceptive pain is 'good'. Arthritis for instance although perhaps it discourages the sufferer from continuing to grind bones against bones due to no cartilage left. Narcotics treat both types with various success but have too many side effects. Neuropathc pain is due to damage to the nerve itself. Diabetic neuropathy and fibromyalgia seems to make up much of its cause.


Taxol can also cause lasting neuropathy. In my case, it only lasted for about 12 hours per drug cycle. Every muscle fiber seemed inflamed particularly in my hips and thighs. Fortunately it went away but it does not in many cases.
The best treatments so far for neuropathic pain were developed at our company and we were trying to do better. I am out of the loop now and legally can't discuss my previous work.

I have been told, not at work, that there are two types of pain; memorable and non-memorable. An example of  the former is dental pain and of the latter, childbirth. I suppose the latter serves an evolutionary function. If you truly remembered how awful childbirth was, would you do it again? I am guilty of this. I do remember thinking that I was experiencing severe pain but I couldn't even describe it to myself soon after the birth. Yet I do remember my adventures with an incompetent dentist when I was about 8 who insisted that he numbed me (no he did NOT!) extremely clearly. I got a taste of it the other week when they were preparing me for the crown.

It is hard to measure pain. In the hospital, they ask you what it is on a scale of 1 to 10 or they have pictures of distressed people and you point to the face that most mirrors your own. Not that they believe you. I was only 1 cm dilated and experiencing what I thought was severe pain and I was told that was impossible given how weak my contractions were (that could be measured). Naomi had the opposite: strong contractions that she could not perceive as pain.

It is annoying how little patients reports are trusted. The definition of asthma are three wheezing episodes witnessed by the doctor. Although many episodes have been observed by Shanna, Oliver will not wheeze on command.

From ages 14 to 18, I had severe dysmenorrhea that made me useless for about 8 hours each month. I would say that sometimes the pain would approach end stage labor. I would have dry heaves. I wanted this stopped. I went to the library to research it and was distressed to find out that it was not real and probably some psychological maladjustment on my part to woman hood. I started my periods at 12 but they were painless for a while. How come I suddenly started rejecting my 'womanhood'? This is before they knew about prostaglandins and blocking their pathway. My grandfather used to give us his medical journals. In it I read that those on birth control pills did not have cramps. Well sign me up. Of course my mother would not consider it but as soon as I got to college, I got on them and they worked. Or maybe I just accepted my womanhood. Later, simple anti-imflams did the trick, ibuprofen being the preferred medication.

I feel better today though I am still queasy. Ms. Maya did come down with a milder version of this crud. She still has a bit of an appetite so I take that as a good sign.

Friday, January 20, 2012

And the shoe dropped

 I am miserable right now with this probable Norwalk virus thing. It feels just like the crud I had around Thanksgiving but that was worse as I was expected to entertain and cook.

So if you ever feel nauseous, don't eat anything tomato based and definitely do not have a glass of red wine. I really didn't think I ate much yesterday but from the sheer volume of vomit, it appeared that I did and that my stomach must have a capacity twice as big as the normal person. I do have some heavy duty anti nausea medication left over from my chemofest days but I figured that would be counter-productive as perhaps it is good to remove the virus that took up residence in my upper digestive tract (not lower as it usually does).
The good news is that this thing should be gone by tomorrow and I haven't thrown up in almost ten hours. Coffee is out of the question. I have been drinking raspberry tea to get some caffeine.

Also Maya does not have it. Norwalk doesn't seem to attack babies but rotoviruses do. This would be life threatening to her.

As Steve was too ill to leave the house yesterday, I had to deal with the repairman. The good news is that the condo's wiring is all right. The bad news: Maytag sucks. Due to a faulty design, once this foam housing wears away, a sharp metal edge touches live wires and sets off enormous sparks. The place could have burnt down. It burnt out the circuit board. There will be a complaint filed with the consumer safety people. the repairman hasn't seen it before: just our dishwasher is faulty apparently.

Naomi is recovering too. As Maya napped we played 'seven little words'. Trying to increase her vocabulary in a fun way.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

I am surrounded by illness. Naomi spent some time in the ER the other night hooked up to an iv getting rehydrated from some sort of intestinal virus that is going around and last night, Steve came down with it. I spend much more time with Naomi than Steve or maybe they caught it from separate sources. I am hoping Maya does not get it. I had her for most of the day yesterday so Naomi could recover. Then I was around people with respiratory symptoms..
So far, I am just a bit more tired and was not very enthusiastic about running late yesterday in the cold wind which seemed to bother me more than usual. This morning would not have have been a good time to feel pukey as I spent a good deal of the time in the dentist chair getting my crown, repairing another chipped tooth that just happened the other day (gravel in my fig butter?), having a general check-up and cleaning. No cavities at least. It finally snowed giving me a slippery drive this morning. I lost control trying to make a Michigan left.

So this has been a week of ups and downs. Downs such as having a blogger friend die and Naomi's dishwasher almost bursting into flames (repair person is supposed to show up today). Ups include a nice  lunch with a friend and Happy Hour on another evening and a good visit from Josh. Also, through Internet sleuthing, I found the address of a child of a lost friend and sent a letter to it. Hopefully this will reconnect me with my friend. I last spoke to her in the middle of the night about 6 or 7 years ago. She was very upset and about to leave her third husband. After about 2 hours, I said that I really had to go to sleep (I was working that morning). I said I would call back in a few days but didn't until about a month later. By then, her home phone and her cell phone numbers were disconnected. Maybe she was mad that I didn't listen to her longer but she didn't contact me. I have a feeling she moved to be close to her sister who lives in another state but I can't remember the sister's last name for the life of me. Unfortunately my friend had a very common last name as did all her husbands. Her first child was born before she turned 19. I found someone with that name and birthdate close to where the sister probably lives. Hopefully the address is still good and he just doesn't throw my note away.

I did enjoy watching the Golden Globes or at least the part that didn't interfere with Downton Abbey. I love looking at the gowns. My favorites? Angelina Jolie's and Jane Fonda's. Ms. Fonda is in her 70s and of course she's had a lot of work but looks fabulous. They did show her back briefly and time has done a number on her back skin.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

They eat horses don't they? And bunnies..


I love to visit grocery stores in other countries. One can get a real feel for the culture from what is sold.
The yellow box is what we found on a Stresa, Italy grocery shelf. We couldn't believe our eyes! Recommended age for eating horse? After 4 months. Recently I looked into this further and found another company that produced homogenized horse baby food. They also sell lamb, rabbit, and 'struzzo' baby food. Any guess what the latter is?

Ostrich.

I am chomping at the bit to get out and run but alas, I am baby sitting. My little charge is sleeping (finally!). Her mom went to the ER last night all weak from throwing up with what I hope is food poisoning (versus stomach flu). Maya does not seem to be affected. I took her to her class this morning. Her favorite activity today was pretending she was driving a Little Tykes car with me providing the motor. She did not want to quit this. When it finally became 'circle time' she threw her very first tantrum clawing at my face as I took her screaming out of the car and then pounding the ground furious. Finally she was distracted with bubbles being blown every where and all was suddenly right with the world.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Snark


From my favorite Passive/aggressive notes

Monday, January 16, 2012

Maya in action





video

A Rare Blossom Dies


























Pictured above is the waratah blossom, a rare flower that grows in Australia, the symbol of New South Wales. My dear fellow blogger Cheryl of Indigo Dreaming (http://chezradford.blogspot.com/) nurtured it for years. It finally bloomed this fall giving her a little joy as she lay dying. This is her photo of it. Yesterday she died of the breast cancer that spread to her skin and underlying organs. She would update her blog regularly with pictures of its hideous advance. Most cancer keeps its ugliness hidden.

But despite this, she read my blogs and commented frequently with humor and wisdom. She was a rare blossom and will be so missed.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I pledge allegiance..

Our fair state faces many problems but what do certain legislators concentrate on?
Ensuring that every school child , including high schoolers, recite the pledge daily. I am not sure what the penalties are for non-compliance..cutting the district's funding? Firing the teacher?

In New York, I remember having to recite the pledge. I didn't have the slightest idea what it all meant. Not to toot my own horn here (although that's all I seem to do) but if I didn't understand it, I am sure my classmates did not either. I remember the one year, we recited it to an empty flag pole since the new 50 star flags hadn't come in yet or our school district couldn't pay for them yet they had discarded the 48 star ones. Yeah, just how old am I?

I don't remember reciting it in Michigan but maybe I did. I am sure that I did not do it beyond elementary school. Years later, when the New Jersey chemists were transferred to Ann Arbor, they got together for support I guess being stranded here in the wilderness, the Fly Over Zone, poor them. As I was dating Steve, (one of the NJ chemists), I was there. The NJ spouses were all full of negativity about having to be here in the Midwest (go home then). One was astonished to find out that her little darlings weren't regularly spouting the pledge and was going to make it a one woman mission to make sure they did. This wasn't a person I wanted to friend.

I see several problems with this potential law. First of all, not everyone here are American citizens, especially in Ann Arbor. Second of all, some people's religions prohibit this. Third of all, separation of Church and State anyone? Fourth, the teaching hours in high school are too short as it is..is this how we want their time spent?
And lastly, enforced patriotism seems a bit fascist to me. And for certain marginalized groups to repeat 'justice for all' when they have experienced little justice just increases cynicism.

Also being considered by the same people..drug tests for anyone who gets any sort of assistance..unemployment, WIC included. Wouldn't this be expensive? Nope. The recipients will have to fork over the money themselves to take the test..too bad if they don't have it. Too bad for their children if for some reason they test positive Too bad that there are false positives (see blog about Julia's wealthy friend being screened against her knowledge while she was giving birth, she had to prove the test was a false positive..she had the resources fortunately for her..meanwhile they threatened to take her baby away).
Yeah I know..no one wants their tax dollars used to support a drug habit. I don't either. I also didn't want them spent to support certain contractors that made out like bandits during the 'war' but there you go.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Interference Engines

Over the years, I have had many old cars and I think I have bought a few cars piece by piece as almost every part has failed at some point on some car. I hate being ignorant about things so at one point, I took a Know your Auto class. One of the skills I learned was how to gap spark plugs, useless information now as all cars now have fuel injected engines.

A friend called yesterday and asked if I ever had a timing chain or belt fail? Yes indeedy, at least twice, maybe even three times, in relatively new cars at that. I know the symptoms. And if they fail, you aren't going anywhere. One snapped on a railroad track when  Josh and Shanna were quite young and Steve was running in a marathon miles away. He also had all the AAA info. All of this was before cell phones. Somehow I  pushed the car off the tracks and went into a nearby store to beg for a ride to our house 6 miles away. Shanna was old enough to be embarrassed by that. The fix was fortunately inexpensive.

But in my friend's case, she was quoted thousands of dollars. Could this be right? And the car is fairly old so it would not be worth it but she is not in the position that she can replace it right now. It all hinges on whether the car has an 'interference engine' or not. This is a particularly crappy design flaw in which a broken timing chain could result in 'catastrophic' engine failure due to cams colliding with pistons at the wrong time. And these things are not rare. I suspect the one car that we let Naomi drive has one and even the car that stopped on the railroad track had one. I suppose the car companies can always say that they recommended that you change the timing belt at regular intervals if you complain. And according to my research, my friend  does NOT have one despite what the mechanic says. If they had a dealership in the town the car died in, she could find out for sure but it closed.

Another strange term I learned recently  was Supreme as in the orange was separated into its supremes. It is also a verb as in The grapefruit was supremed. And then we have Chicken Supreme which if I had to guess was chicken better than the rest or maybe with some cream sauce. But no, it means the breast meat has been separated from the bones, nothing more.

Winter is back. Yesterday running in stiff winds on ice was not too inviting so I waited until today. No wind but colder and more snow (not enough to ski on though). I ended up finding a parking lot that had been plowed and salted..boring but better than nothing.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Homelands




All of the above are scenes from York, a city in Northern England, in Yorkshire. This is the fartherest north I had ever been and coupled with the fact we were there in 2007 on the summer solstice,  it was the the longest day I ever experienced. Steve had been assigned to work in Kent County for 3 weeks. He was then free to travel for about 10 days with me. I chose York because we were both New Yorkers so we might as well see the original York. (Steve will argue that I am not a New Yorker because I came from 'upstate' and I only lived there about 8 years).

When I was studying in Italy, many of my fellow students were Italian-Americans discovering their roots and they went to connect with relatives. I was envious of them..lots of joyful discoveries and homecomings for them. I was asked many times there about my 'genitori'..my parent's people..not genitals. Saying that I was una americana wasn't good enough so I said I was tedesche (German), which was their second guess after danese (Danish..lots of Danish ex-pats there). But I am a mixture of Scottish, Irish, English, possibly French, Prussian, German, Polish, I have no real identity. On my mother's side, the country that many of her relatives came from no longer exists (Prussia). It has been hard to pin down anything from her side due to lack of education on her relatives' parts, lack of interest, lack of English, etc. For instance, when my mother's maternal grandfather died, the widow could not provide names of either of her parents-in-law or their birth places for the death certificate. I do know that from naturalization papers that they had a child born in Bergfriede, Prussia, my mother's uncle.

But things were different on my father's side. Lots of attention to detail, high education, good record keeping, etc so my roots are much easier to trace. Almost all the relatives on my father's father's side came from Scotland, but more than 200 years ago and these people are documented very thoroughly. My father's mother's side is a tad more interesting. Her father is from Dublin but I have conflicting reports whether his mother was a French woman named Jeanne Devereux or an Irish woman Jean Downy. His father was born in Dublin also so I guess if I went to Dublin, that would be a homeland of sorts. Her mother, Florence, born in 1860 in Iowa had gone to the Boston Conservatory of Music for what I assume was piano as she was listed in a census as a piano teacher. Florence's mother, was Sarah Mason, (my great-great grandma) born in 1824 in Halifax, Yorkshire, England to William Mason and the former Mary Lockwood, also born in Halifax , England. Sarah lived almost 87 years dying of Bright's disease, a catch-all phrase for various untreatable (then) kidney problems.

So Yorkshire is one of my homelands. When I watch Downton Abbey, I can pretend that it is about from whence I came (though I think it is not actually filmed in Yorkshire).


Thursday, January 12, 2012

The first time I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer...

was about 12 years ago.

It was a false alarm but I didn't know that for another 7 very long anxiety filled weeks after dealing with rejecting insurances, blizzards, what have you until I was told by UM that the lump wasn't worth biopsying.. I received this diagnosis from a radiologist in a small imaging center that everyone speaks highly of (except for me!) during the holiday season. All that was left that night was me and the radiologist. I remember she approved of me because after looking at my shoes, she said it was obvious that I care more about comfort than style or maybe this was a back-handed compliment like my former frenemy Cupcake gushing that I had the most perfect shade of dish water blonde hair. She also told me that I was LUCKY because my tumor was small, it was probably very early and thus treatable. I had a hard time wrapping my head around that..lucky would be NO cancer.

While I waited between numerous scans and the confirming ultrasound, I looked at a poster on the wall plotting women's deaths from heart disease versus breast cancer as a function of age. Excepting for the very young, heart disease looked like a bigger killer. How many women under 70 did I know that have been killed by a heart attack? None. How many from breast cancer? Plenty. I am not sure why that poster was even there.

She told me that I shouldn't have been too surprised by this diagnosis as from my history, she could see that my mother had had breast cancer.

But she was 64!


Well women are getting it these days ten years earlier than their mothers.

I then was miffed that she thought I was so old.

Age difference between my mother and I when I got 'real' cancer. Nine years. (and that suspicious lesion was removed in my 2nd surgery and was benign).

So the radiologist was wrong about my cancer, thankfully, but she wasn't wrong about the creeping downward age of diagnosis.  Even daughters of  women with the BRAC1 deletions are getting it ten years younger than their moms..this really points to something in the environment changing in the interim. It breaks my heart to find women on the internet in their twenties and thirties battling this dreadful disease. And it seems to be much more fatal in their cases in part because there is some disbelief that their lump could possibly be cancer due to their tender age. And what does this downward creeping trend mean for my daughters and granddaughters?

Last night was the Cooking for Survival class. We are trying to be good, us cancer battlers, trying to incorporate more green things, less fat, more whole grains, etc into our diet. Our salad was made from whole wheat bulghur, arugula, parsley and tomatoes. We had this multi-vegetable stirfry thing that was very tasty but involved lots of slicing and dicing. Our dessert was a pear upside down ginger  cake (fat was substituted with applesauce.) I am collecting all the recipes; all I need to do is get on the stick and make them more often and stop whining.

I try not to be too political  in my public postings but yesterday I got something from some obvious Tea Party fan. Her point was that she keeps herself healthy by eating right etc so she really is steamed about having to pay for health insurance when she doesn't need it and even worse for people who do need it because they didn't keep themselves healthy. I know it is wrong to wish cancer on someone but it would really pop her bubble if she got it despite being 'so good'. I didn't even try to respond.

I ran in the dark drizzle and fog this morning. It might be the last 'warm' day for a while. Spring in winter was too good to last.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A touch of glamour



My DIL is a natural beauty who rarely wears any make-up except for lip gloss but here she is is glamouring it up a bit. I assume Josh took this picture.

Today is a Maya day. We already went to her Fun at One class in which she is the tallest and least hairiest but the youngest. She had fun. Favorite activity: Jumping on the trampoline and getting frog stamps on her skin.
Later we go to the speech therapists' to see what they can do.
Then it is off to Cooking for Survival for me.
















Tuesday, January 10, 2012

More excuses for being fat

So even though I might be smarter than the average bear and realize that excess weight is due to a surfeit of intake versus output and that consuming more vegetables might be more beneficial than eating fig crackers spread with cookie butter (yes cookie butter..had to try it from Trader Joe's), I remain fat.

When I first met with the Moms 32 (!!!) years ago, I told them despite their lying eyes, I was really a thin person. I had gained 80 lbs pregnant with  Shanna. As she weighed somewhat less than that at birth, there was still a lot left over for me not to love. The excess was gone by the time she was one. The same story not much later with Josh though the weight gain wasn't as severe. Still I lost it all once I took up running. Same story with Naomi much later but then the pregnancy somehow triggered Graves' Disease. It made it much easier to lose the weight and I ended weighing as little as I did in junior high. Fine by me but GD has its own problems (heart failure anyone?) and it took almost 3 years to figure out what was going on. Since I was treated (by radiation), my weight has slowly crept from thin, normal, slightly chunky, to fat and then once I broke my arm and couldn't really move anything except the fork to my mouth, to very fat. And then I was hyPOthyroid, which helped preserve my new obesity even though the arm wasn't hurting so much. Just as I was recovering from that, CANCER, not a weight loss opportunity as one would think no thanks to steroids which made me ravenous and a low red blood cell count, which made exercising challenging.

OK so now I am not injured, have no signs of cancer, have normal blood counts and thyroid hormone levels, am able to run (albeit very slowly) for an hour and a half without stopping, know the basic rules  of input and output, I should be back to my thin self or at least my normal self but NO...

I read a lot and now have come up with some new excuses all gleaned from science pages:

  • I am fat because my gut is infested with these bacteria which extract nutrition from even celery and share it with the host. I recently met a woman on a research project at UM who is sequencing their genome in hopes of developing a drug that will just kill them. Strange, though, as I am the only one in the family infested with them (everyone else is thin bordering on underweight).
  • I am fat because I can't sleep.Sleep deprivation leads to low levels of leptin which signals saiety and high levels of ghrelin, which increase appetite particularly for cookies covered in cookie butter.
  • Stress..yep plenty of that especially in the past 8 years. Higher levers of cortisol, stimulates neuropeptide Y, which stimulates carbohydrate cravings. (I was on a project at work trying to find an antagonist to this, unsuccessful).
  • And today, I read that I am fat because I have a fat personality or a tendency to 'easily experience negative emotions'.
  • Multitasking which leads to mindless eating. Should convert my behavior to 'mindful' eating.
Yeah lots of excuses. But this should be fixable right? I did get rid of the cancer weight...

One more day of spring and then the real weather returns. I could see a beautiful sunrise again this morning but it didn't look as nice through my camera lens. Yesterday, Ms Maya and I went to an indoor playground. The squishy floor set off a dance reflex in her..she tries to invent steps, which have been becoming more complicated. Music isn't necessary to entice her to dance. She of course looks adorable doing her little dances.

Monday, January 9, 2012

To friend and to defriend

Alternate title: Defriending Frenzy

Yesterday we sit across from Josh and Julia at brunch on a crisp, sunny day. They are treating us with a Groupon that includes mimosas and bloody Marys. Steve doesn't drink (not since a few weeks before Maya's birth) and Josh does not drink 'in the middle of the day!'  so Julia and I drink their share. Waste not, want not.  We usually eat together about once a week but this brunch is a treat in part to make up for me being roused out of bed to drive through the dark and ice to rescue Julia the other day from being stranded. On this day, Julia is being unusually chatty fueled by the 2 mimosas slowly metabolized by her tiny body. She says something about a friend of mine.

And how would you know that?!?

Oh, we're Facebook friends.

Let me get this straight. You will be friends with  my friends but you won't be MY friend.

I wasn't going to say anything. I thought for sure after the rescue, the friend request sitting in her in box would be fulfilled but no. And I knew she had been on Facebook. OK, some people want their privacy but those some people are usually teenagers. Why do I want to be her friend? She takes lots of photos and posts them of my son.

But Julia said that she accepted my request (no you didn't). We are now friends one click later on the smart phone.

In the past week, I also have been defriended, a slightly sad but predictable event. Through a short grapevine, my opinion that a nephew was perhaps sharing a little too much, set off a defriending spree. I am sure I was the first to go. As that silly saying goes, he fixed my wagon.

Naomi and I were not friends while she was a teenager. I would send requests and was not at all surprised when they were rejected though she accepted those of some of my friends. Hints of Maya's conception were posted on Facebook which after a long interval, finally were revealed to me. After Maya was born, she finally accepted although she has defriended me a couple of times in anger. Josh refuses to do Facebook. I originally joined because Shanna would post videos of my distant grandsons, which of course I wanted to view.

Spring lasts until Thursday or Friday here.



Sunday, January 8, 2012

CANCER versus cancer

Recently in the NYT's science column, there was an op-ed about perhaps renaming very early stage cancer, so-called Stage 0  or sometimes carcinoma in situ, to something other than cancer as generally these conditions are survivable with very little treatment. Proposed name? Abnormal cells.

Cancer is hardly a single disease and all cancers certainly aren't created equal. A Stage 4 diagnosis with one cancer means almost certain death and something 60% survivable in another. I do remember being a tad resentful of a breast cancer survivor who was currently battling cervical cancer saying Breast cancer was nothing; try having cervical cancer! No one likes to have their suffering trivialized.This was just another variation on what I like to call My Tumor is Bigger than Your Tumor.


And you never know. A woman I know was diagnosed with BC in situ the same time I was diagnosed with Stage 2 TNBC. She was told the chances of it turning into 'real' cancer was only 2% and it was treated minimally. I went to her funeral this fall.

But today I did read of a  situation that might truly be called cancer vs CANCER. The president of Argentina, a woman my age, had a swelling in her neck suggestive of thyroid cancer. Headlines: The President Has Cancer!
New headlines: after removing the thyroid, no cancer cells were found but now The President Will Need Hormone Replacement for the Rest of her Life!!!!!

Almost all my friends are on thyroid replacement, which I find amazing. Why do our thyroids so often become non-functional? But at any rate, not to trivialize, the president's suffering, but the headline might as well read The President Will Need to Brush her Teeth for the Rest of her Life.


Still relative 'spring' here. Almost another week of it before winter returns. I am taking a short exercise break. With so much ice free weather, I can afford to.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Are you smarter than a chimp?

This is from Amazing Videos. Please watch
http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10151074491215405

Spring in Winter

This picture has little to do with the post. I recently had it converted to a 16x20 canvas that I picked up
yesterday
 and hung on the wall. It looks real good. I tried to make photo to canvas prints about 2 months ago and was
 rewarded by being ripped off by a company that still advertises

For the past few days and for at least 2 days to come, it has been sunny and almost 50, a welcome
 relief to me who hates the ice and drabness of winter. I have been trying to take advantage of this 
as much as possible going out for long walks and runs. Yesterday I had Ms. Maya who happily
 toddled back and forth on the sidewalks chortling over her ability to jump curbs.

What is warm is relative. One morning in a small, Italian village on the Mediterranean in October,
 we awoke to temperatures in the 50s. Our Swiss hostess informed us that this was the coldest it
 ever got there. Being Swiss, it didn't stop her from her early morning hour long swim in the sea. 
We went to a bakery with me being dressed in shorts and a short sleeved shirt (my friend was
 dressed more warmly spoiled from living in California for 26 years). The local ladies were
 dressed for a blizzard. One laughed as she saw me.
A week before, we were in Switzerland. It was in the mid 40s there when we took our morning
 walk. A middle aged man dressed in only a Speedo crossed our path and then jumped into the
 swift moving Aar (crossword puzzle alert: Swiss river almost always is Aar or Aare). Our first
 thought was that he was mentally ill, second thought, he is Swiss.
Where we were staying wasn't well known to Americans (unlike the nearby Cinque Terre region
 overrun with them no thanks to Rick Steves). We took a long hike through the mountains. The
 Swiss could be identified from afar as they usually wore no shirts and had walking sticks. The 
Italians dressed way more warmly and didn't have the sticks.


I saw a few people yesterday wearing shorts even though they were not running. We Michiganders
 try to soak up the sun when we can.

Ms. Maya's remaining teeth seem to be all coming in at once making her crabby at night so we
 were giving Naomi a break. We took her shopping with us. She was dressed all in bright pink
 but still several commented on what a cute fellow ' he' was. She does have a lot more hair than
 in  picture above but it is mainly on the back of her head. In the bright sun, the front straight
 hairs glint blond but the longer hairs in back are curly and darker. The hair still isn't very thick. 
One can easily see her scalp. She also isn't speaking. The pediatrician was all concerned that 
she wasn't saying anything at one; can't wait until she sees how much little progress that has 
been made at 18 months. But she is in speech therapy; we are doing all that can be done. She
 does like to imitate all sorts of behavior that aren't  verbal and seems happy and engaged. Also
 fresh in my mind was the anxiety I had with Josh not speaking in a manner that anyone could
 understand for almost 4 years and how he was classified by one tester as 'slow' even though
 the little scamp could play chess and now look at him.

At one of the stores, I bought a fruit smoothie for myself. Maya instantly demanded her share
 happily slurping it up with a straw; the cold must have felt good on her gums.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

As I drive off into the sunrise..

A Facebook friend from Ann Arbor posted this from today
Twice this week I have found myself driving into a sunrise. At least they have been pretty..all pink and orange providing a beautiful backdrop to the snow covered trees.  The first time was Tuesday rescuing Julia from my key stealing son: today to get some dreaded dental work done. On X-mas eve, a tooth broke in two. My dentist was gone until this Tuesday. Fortunately this thing did not hurt. For part of the 2 weeks I have lived with this, he had emergency back-up but I really didn't want to deal with that person. The dentist has a new way of pre-numbing one for the shot; instead of  just swabbing the area with a local, he sticks a huge wad of cotton impregnated with the local. Unfortunately, it dripped down my throat which felt like it was swelling shut. I thought I was going to choke to death.

My sleep cycle sucks. I was so happy the other night, I actually slept through the night. Usually I have no trouble falling asleep, I fell asleep just as Michigan was making a comeback in the Sugar Bowl for instance. Almost every night I wake up around 3 am and useless thoughts go through my mind. I read to think of something else. Last night, I couldn't even fall asleep and then once I finally did, I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to get up extra early to see the dentist. Well I guess I have all the time in the world to sleep..I just don't.

We will have a week of relative warmness. I've been gamely trying to keep up my running in very bad conditions (strong winds, ice). I will take a walk in the sun. Below is a photo I took in England. How I long for flowers again!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The point of no return

Lately our yellow rag, which sunk to new lows today with its sensationalistic story of a doctor looking out his own window, has been dutifully reporting on a spate of suicides around our fair city. The reasons were not given. In at least one case, mental problems were hinted at but in the other cases, everything on the surface looked just fine.  Well it is dark and around the holidays...and our economy really is bad here.

In the US, suicides are the 10th  most common cause of death versus cancer, which is number 2. Rates really vary according to sex and age. Teenage boys for instance are four times more likely to kill themselves than teenage girls. A boy a few years older than Shanna killed himself when he found out that he was not admitted to Harvard (though he got into all the other Ivies).  Over the years, various other boys have killed themselves, many just on an impulse.

Despite having  many family members that have had cancer, cancer never killed them but in two cases, suicide did. In one case, mental illness was involved; in the other, despair due to the Crash of 1929 led a great-uncle to shoot himself. He left behind a widow and two kids. He must not have lost everything because his widow was able to buy cheap and after the depression, was quite wealthy.

In Steve's family, cancer has killed more of his relatives than anything else.

I never knew anyone really well who killed themselves though I was acquainted with three women who did. One woman I had only met once but I thought I knew her as her significant other discussed her for hours with me over a period of a year. I knew that she was profoundly sad but she had a child, how could she leave her?
Another was a neighbor who I had spoken to on several occasions. She was a bright, pleasant woman giving no hint on the darkness brewing beneath the surface. Her two, young children found her, which she should have anticipated. Another woman was a co-worker who did a swan dive off a parking structure; again WTF?

Could these have been prevented? The ex-significant other beat himself up over this..he ignored a crisis call having dealt with them too many times before. Not too long ago, an older brother of a friend of Naomi's had some sort of break-down and left a note leaving parents frantically scrambling to try to intercede. They were too late. He seemed to be one of the most popular boys at school.

About 8 years ago, I came across, through snooping, a suicide attempt. I alerted the mother. Was there any gratitude here? No..far from it (See shooting the messenger) but I thought ( and still think) that potentially saving a life was worth it.

I was awakened quite early this morning with a request to drive my daughter-in-law to work as her keys were mistakenly taken. Argh! Of course it was near rush hour, the roads right around my house covered with snow and ice and  they live 15 miles away. Fortunately only a small area right around my house had the ice (although this sort of screws up my running schedule) but the whole adventure took an hour. Maybe she won't ignore my Facebook friend request...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A long, tall drink of water

We should have shot this from the side to show how big these stilettos were

Happy
A few years ago, the host in a restaurant looked at Naomi in amazement:

My, aren't you a long, tall drink of water!

Naomi hadn't heard  that expression before and found it hilarious. Teetering in her 4 inch bright red stilettos last night,  she was almost as tall as Don'tae. The mini skirt made her legs look especially long. This photo doesn't quite show how she looked. They went out last night for part of New Year's. We had Ms. Maya.
Josh and Julia were in Chicago having a night on the town while Naomi and her family kept Sunny company.

High wind advisory! Fortunately the winds didn't pick up to their gale force self until after my run. It felt good to be out in the relative warmth. Lots of people out there getting their runs and walks in before all turns sour.

A brand New Year! I won't put my resolutions out there but I have them.

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