Thursday, March 31, 2011

No longer a mom of a teenager..

Though still a mom of a teenage mom.

Naomi at one and eighteen.

Naomi turned twenty time flies!

We met with the minister this morning and checked out the church which will work perfectly. We really liked the minister too whose only daughter is a redhead and has a biracial baby. I am glad that this issue is we can resume planning. Naomi and I had a birthday lunch. Don'tae will prepare a special dinner for her when she gets home from school.

The church...

This church is one of the oldest in the Ann Arbor area. Fortunately it was recently remodelled and now has air-conditionning. It is light and sunny inside.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Out, out damn spots...

When I lost my hair 2 years ago, a black spot slightly larger than a dime was revealed that was in front of my ear. This spot never had seen the light of day. Melanoma? I asked my onc. She recommended a dermatologist who thought it was 'nothing' but removed and biopsied it..benign. But she saw a few pale brown spots on my forehead she found troubling (also never exposed to the sun..I have thick bangs) and removed them by freezing them with liquid nitrogen. Ow! Well they are back along with the black spot, which I can feel but not see, and new spots are forming..all on places where the sun doesn't shine.
A pain.
I was called bright and early to deal with Maya as Naomi needed to see her doctor concerning some infection she had. Then we spent a few hours studying as we have things to do tomorrow. I got to run in the afternoon. It is warmer then but my energy levels are lower as the day progresses. My responsibilities are gradually diminishing. Maybe I will start having fun soon.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mildred Pierce

Recently I have been watching both versions: the 50+ year old version starring Joan Crawford and now the current one with Kate Winslett.Talk about a bad seed!  A mother sacrifices everything for her evil daughter. It is not clear where the evil comes from other than it is just her nature. At least in The Bad Seed, they give some hare-brained explanation for that girl's evil. I watched The Bad Seed years ago staying home one day sick. The movie fascinated me.

Last night I had nightmares concerning Naomi. She was supposed to do something and she wouldn't so I tried to make her feel guilty by throwing myself on the ground sobbing. She was unmoved. In real life, she did what she was supposed to do so all is fine.

Still winter here although it is at least pretty out.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Above is the result of Maya's self feeding attempt. Although her gross motor skills are better than average, her fine motor skills could use some work. She is supposed to be working on her pincer grasp i.e. picking up food with two fingers. She has trouble with this but she definitely wants her freeze-dried yogurt treats so she dives head first into them. A few actually land on her lips but the rest end up on her face.

Last week on one of those morning shows, they had a set of biracial twins: one was blonde, blue-eyed and pale; the other appeared to be totally African-American. Some medical expert said the chances of this happening was just one in a million. Hmmm, a set of siblings in which one looks like the mom and one looks just like the dad I believe is more common than that. Apparently these twins attract plenty of stares and comments though I think most twins do, certainly my identical  twin nieces did. Some of the comments though are quite racist.
I am hoping that Ms. Maya won't be exposed to these comments but I know that she will. My ex-friend once said something about Naomi's brillo pad headed baby though for the record, Maya's hair, however scant, is quite silky. The new hairs are definitely blond, the old dark hairs are slowly falling out.

Still cold here with the dreaded north winds..maybe in April spring will come.The vultures have returned. I saw several (circling closely I smell like carrion?)on my run this morning. I spent one day shopping with Steve, mainly for books. Yesterday we went out for lunch with Josh in between his trips. Last weekend he was with one group of friends in Chicago, next weekend he will be with another group in
Austin  TX. Julia meanwhile spent the weekend in FL with her sportscaster friend covering the Tigers, 90 degrees there yesterday. We went to the restaurant with the cheddar ale soup though I didn't have it given its fat content.  Our waitress said No problem on cue when asked to fetch stuff. Josh regaled us with stories of his gambling friends. I hate gambling. It is definitely a disease and worse, it runs in families, Steve's specifically although thankfully he for the most part does not engage. Josh presumably does not either though he certainly is present while his friends do it. What Steve and Josh do though, is play the stock market. This is better because at least there is no house that has the edge. And I guess I do too, though passively. I am hoping against hope that what we have a large portion of our 401K in will rise. Finally it has begun to. Do we bail out now or keep holding? Clairvoyance would indeed be useful.

When I first received my dire cancer prognosis, the silver lining I found was at least I wouldn't need to be fretting about this. I refused to meet with financial advisors and told Steve, it's his future, not mine. But chances are increasing that this will matter.

When I had Josh, I kept trying to extend my unpaid leave as the boy just would not sleep through the night. During this time, I joined another mom's group that met during the day. All of them had two kids, one Shanna's age and one Josh's age. I lost contact with them after I went back to work. The other day though I noticed that one of the babies Josh's age just died in an accident. He was only 29.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

They eat horses, don't they?

Is it a dressing room? A shower stall? Or could it be..OMG!
For answers keep reading.

It is a warm April morning and we are walking along the shores of Lake Geneva or Lac Leman as the locals call it (why do we have a different name?). To our south, we see the French Alps. We could see Mount Blanc the day before when we were in Geneva. Beautiful gardens are in bloom despite the time of year; unusual waterbirds cavort along the shore. To our north, lies the city of Lausanne built into an impossibly steep hill with the Old Town way on top. We are staying in the Middle town (in the middle). We took a funicular down to Ouchy, the newest area where the Olympics headquarters are. Nature calls. We walk into a promising public building and open the stall pictured above. Oh look!  They have showers for the people wanting to swim in the lake, my friend says.
Hm. The showerhead  is awfully close to the ground..
Our first stand-up toilet! We would see another a few days later in a village in the Loire Valley that isn't nearly as clean and lacks the water feature.

Everyday, we learn something new. The day before, we especially learned how different American culture can be from where we were. Like when we were checking into our hotel. I had made a reservation for a double room but the lady at the desk is taken back when she sees that my companion is a woman.
I don't have a room with two beds! I assumed you had a husband!
I tell her that I do have a husband but he is thousands of miles away and my friend and I don't mind sharing a bed.
She looks very dubious. Apparently friends never share beds unless.....

A few years later, Steve and I stay at a chain hotel that contains the word "Swiss' Boston. Our room has twin beds. I call up to complain and am told that this is a European hotel (again, we are in Boston) and that's how things are there. I say that I have been to Europe, to  Switzerland no less, and they do indeed have double beds there. Still no double bed for us and the beds we have  are bolted to the ground.

But back to the clerk. She notices my last name and asks if it is German. Although we are in the French speaking section of Switzerland, she apparently is from the German speaking part and says she has a special affinity to those with German names. She of course is assuming I share the same ethnicity of my husband and that our family's working motto is not

We Do NOT Stick To Our Own Kind
(ignoring Anita from West Side Story singing to Maria to stick to her own kind)

My husband's name is German Jewish. I am not sure if she knows that and what kind of difference that would make. I half consider telling her my mother's maiden name, a clearly German name, so maybe she'd like me despite my tolerance for sleeping with women but I don't.

As for my mother's maiden name: remember that Seinfeld episode in which Jerry didn't pay attention to his date's name and now he reached a point in which he can not gracefully ask her What was your name again?
The only hint he has is that it rhymes with a female sexual organ. Mulva? Sagina? He goes through every possibility until at the end when she leaves him hissing..
It's Dolores!!!!
Well my mother's name just doesn't rhyme with a female sexual organ, it is the name of a female sexual organ, although a homonym. I am thankful that I wasn't given it as a middle name instead of my Irish grandmother's maiden name, which was bad enough.

Yep, it is German. I ask directions to a restaurant that I had read about.

We go to the restaurant, a beautiful old stone building in the old section. Its specialties are fondue the train earlier we compared travel notes with an American couple. The woman warns us never, never order anything called faux filet. It's their code name for horse. This is not true, BTW. Later I asked French people about this and it is really sirloin steak.Why the faux name was not explained. Of course I don't know why anyone would eat Mock Turtle soup either.

I try to memorize in advance the names of creatures (or parts of them) I won't eat in whatever language I am dealing with.
C-H-E-V-A-L is on top of the list. Pferd in German though the name itself does not sound appetizing. Cavallo in Italian. (we discovered this was a baby food flavor when we were in Stresa last year: as for more info on their 'ass' eating ways, search: 'donkey stew' in the search area)
It was written clearly on the menu as 'horse' assuming you could read French.
Americans do not eat horses. Indeed as a Mad Men episode featured, they don't want their dogs to eat them either, no matter how wholesome the horses may be.
But we stuck to the fondue, which was tasty, and wine. Of the 5 Moms: 3 of us prefer red wine, the other 2: white. My friend was in luck as she was one of the white preferring moms and all they seemed to have was white wine. After a while, I asked the waitress for some beer as presumably this was also a Swiss specialty (although maybe in the German part). She looked distressed. Did I not pronounce this correctly? I was speaking the French I had learned more than thirty years ago so who knows and she didn't speak English. She said something about having to ask her boss whether or not I could have beer and left. When she returned, she told me that I could NOT have beer, even though it was on the menu and they were not out of it, but I could have more wine. Fine. Alorsplus de vin.

I was wondering if something was lost in translation or maybe I was just violating some unwritten rule. Later, I asked the German loving woman back at the hotel whether ordering beer with fondue was some sort of mistake.

You never drink beer with fondue!!!!!

She said something about it would 'stop me up' if I did, which actually would be welcomed given that using a toilet involved aiming for a hole in the ground.
Back in Ann Arbor, a local restaurant that I love features Cheddar and Ale soup, which is especially tasty. Ms. Swiss Hotel clerk would not approve.

So back here if you ask a waitress for something they personally find revolting like catsup for your real fillet, what do they say?

No problem! 

as they flash their faux smile and fetch it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Womb with a Vu

A woman in Australia recently developed the PreVue. This is an ultrasound based device one can wear that broadcasts to the world exactly what is going on in there. No mention what happens to the fetus exposed to so much ultrasound waves. I also am not 100% certain this is not a hoax.

Still unbelievably cold here and worse, a north wind. Basically north is uphill on this side of the river. To go uphill with a cold wind in your face is no fun. But I did have the wind on my back some of the time.

I am making finally some progress finding a venue for the wedding. I should be able to lock it in next week. It will be a perfect place: small, historical, pretty, nearby..Naomi has attended this church as a guest a couple of times in the past and remembers how pretty it is. The former minister used to have a child on a soccer team I coached.

Today I had a visitor on my blog from a country that I have never heard from, a first. Swaziland. From what I can tell, it probably was part of South Africa at one time. Its claim to fame (this is all according to my FlagCounter)is that it has the highest rate of HIV with 26% of the adults having the virus.

And Happy Birthday to a beloved friend! You know who you are.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Is hope a plan?

There is a series of blogs now in the NYT written by an oncologist whose wife is going through treatment for breast cancer. He is not a breast cancer oncologist and appears to be learning new facts about BC as his wife's treatments continue. The chief advantage of having an oncologist husband seems to be no waiting for tests or appointments. He also seems to be the liaison between his wife and her doctors.

Recently he asked his wife's oncologists about the chances of her having a recurrence? I am not sure if she was present for this conversation. Her BC had spread to her nodes.

Either it will happen or it won't.

Surprisingly he was OK with this answer. I would have been very annoyed. Given that he is an oncologist himself, he has access to the commercial site that will spit out a number after one inputs the facts. Now the database is filled with old data. Treatments are always changing. For instance, BC is divided into just two categories: estrogen positive and negative.  The data is skewed by her2 positives that in the past showed a disproportionate amount of the deaths for both categories. Now that early her2 positives are treated with Herceptin, this is no longer so but the data is based on the past. Then there is the issue of the size of the tumor. I had two separate doctors in my team run through this with me and received 2 different results. In the input section, you could select 2-3 cm or 3-5 cm.  (after the surgery, the official size was 3 cm with another 1 cm satellite) My breast surgeon selected the first. She was intent on proving to me that I was NOT going to die and that the numbers seemed to be in my favor. The oncologist on the other hand selected the second category which resulted in much more pessimistic numbers. Her point was to look at results with chemo vs no chemo and notice the huge difference.  Basically chemo would double my chances of surviving. Still I would think that there is a big difference between 3 and 5 cm and their fancy program did not distinguish between this.

And just because 30% of women with your same situation die, doesn't mean you will too.

It is what it is.

Or the chances of the woman whose funeral I attended this fall. She had Stage 0 BC diagnosed at the same time as mine was. She was told that after they removed the DCIS, she only had a 2% of ever dealing with it again. And she is dead now, despite her really good odds.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mother of the groom dress

Above is Naomi and I at Josh's wedding back in 2006. We appear to be the same height because Naomi removed her painful heels and I am wearing mine. I loved this dress: diaphanous silk, so soft and light. I had looked for months to find it. Also notice my hair: this was my hair before cancer, straight and silky. I did not bother to color it even though there were streaks of gray. But after chemofest, my hair came back curly and devoid of color. It appeared to be black, white and gray with no blond whatsoever. It made me look even more haggard so now I have it colored. As time goes on, my hair becomes straighter and straighter but I don't think the color is coming back.

So I guess I should find a mother of the bride dress but I want to lose weight before the search starts. But if all else fails, this one fits.


Antihistamines and fruit juice

Currently there is a commercial for an antihistamine which brags that unlike its chief competition, you CAN drink it with orange juice: a strange marketing angle. I investigated this claim: not only can you not drink orange juice with the competitor product but you cannot drink apple juice or grapefruit juice with it either. It is presumed that since these juices are acidic (apple juice is only very weakly acidic), that the acids tie up the product and inactivate it. Hmm.. except the compound is orally active meaning it will hit the very acidic stomach and the compound is already sold as an acidic salt. Now I can see why an antacid would negatively interact with it (and they are contraindicated also) but not weakly acidic fruit juice. Grapefruit juice is another story as grapefruit contains a substance that interferes with cytochromes that metabolize some drugs leading in some cases to overly high drug blood levels (not decreased levels).
Well it's no skin off my teeth as I do not need an antihistamine. The only time I ever took them was  when I was predosed with them, steroids and proton blockers so I wouldn't react to Taxol and the vehicle it comes in.
But as time goes on, more and more drug interactions are discovered along with food interactions. One has to be very careful.
I had unwittingly made myself  hypothyroid by taking antacids around the same time as my Synthroid inactivating it.
Usually Thursdays are our chief study days but Naomi has something else she needs to do tomorrow so study day was today made difficult by Maya's crankiness. We were supposed to get freezing rain today but it does not look like it. Still, it will not feel like spring for almost another week.

Boring sorry.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thirty-five years ago today.....

I began work as a chemist in Detroit. I had spent time after graduation teaching gifted high school students by day and decidedly ungifted adults by night plus I was still finishing up my research job documenting organ of Corti (inner ear)damage due to antibiotics. I was the first woman ever hired (except for secretaries) in that department and they were nervous. As soon as possible, I transferred to Ann Arbor where I was living and preferred to stay.
Over the years, I worked on many projects: cancer, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, female sexual dysfunction, diabetic retinopathy, obesity, manic depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, neuropathic pain, nociceptive pain, and fibromyalgia. Before binding assays were developed requiring only a trace amount of potential drug, we had to produce relatively large quantities of material (at least 3 g) for testing. I probably have produced at least 1500 (if not more..if I had access to my work computer, I'd know this for sure) NCE (new chemical entities..never made by anyone else.)
The highlight of my career? One year, three of my compounds I produced were selected for further development. Corporate wide, only 33 such compounds were selected so 10% of the compounds were due to me even though I represented less than 0.1% of the chemists worldwide. My reward? Lots of stock options. What were these stock options worth? Nada, absolutely nada. But in other years, they would have amounted to a house or two.

On my thirtieth anniversary, my co-workers arranged a surprise party for me along the lines of What's my Line?
They had a narrator read stories written by people from my past and I was to guess who they were talking about. Many showed up and it meant so much to me.

I've been offered a few opportunities to return to work. They know I don't need benefits (although my current health insurance really does suck) and they know me. Steve took up one of these offers.
But somehow, I find myself otherwise occupied.

I got a run in before the deluge begins that may turn into an ice storm by tomorrow morning. Today is my easy day, schedule wise. The rest of the week..busy.

Naomi just received a request for jury duty..have to see if nursing a baby is reason for exemption.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy Hour!

Tonight was happy hour with the Moms sipping on our $1.99 cosmos(es)..always fun,  planning our Moms' cruise  for next year. Hopefully this will come to pass.

The day was spent looking for a church for Ms. Naomi. Our first choice did not pan out. It would have been cool, my grandfather's church. He did not convert to Catholicism upon marrying my step-grandmother although in her will, much money was reserved for the local priest to conduct masses (messes in French) to save his soul.

 Still waiting on our second choice. She meanwhile has selected her music, easy to do with Youtube. At least she's learning about classical music.

I returned home to find homemade hamantaschen. Happy Purim! Thank-you so much MK.

We had our first thunderstorm last night. The sump pump was working overtime keeping us dry. I had bad dreams about being submerged under water  and trying to find our pug who had fallen into a stream. Sadly this was the warmest day for the week. Some sort of winter storm is brewing and I had hoped that all would be over.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


"Is something wrong?", she said
Well of course there is, "you're still alive," she said
Oh, and do I deserve to be?
Is that the question? And if so, if so, who answers, who answers?

I, oh, I'm still alive
Hey I, oh, I'm still alive
Hey I, oh I'm still alive
Hey I, oh I'm still alive


Anytime some calamity takes place, you can be sure that someone will try to point out that somehow these people deserved it. Judge not lest ye be judged indeed. The Japanese disaster has been no exception.

We want the world to be a fair place: people should get what they deserved. I try to console myself when certain individuals seem to profit from doing me wrong, that there will be some sort of cosmic consequence. I wondered if my cancer was due to some sort of karma but seeing the little kids in the cancer ward answered that. They did nothing to deserve this.

When the Japanese story first was reported locally, they chose to highlight a local man whose vacation in Hawaii was impacted by big waves:no relaxing by the seashore for him. So many sad stories and this is what they focus on? Later they reported on another whose adult child was missing in Japan (since found a week later). This at least addressed the horror that many experienced: where are my loved ones?

In blogsphere, I follow many cancer survivors' stories especially ones that are similar to my own. Sometimes these people just seem to disappear: they have moved on. Recently one of them who was in treatment at the same time as myself for TNBC reappeared. She is currently awaiting biopsy results of a new mass that suddenly appeared. Her fear is palpable: please be benign, please!
This young mom certainly doesn't deserve to go through treatment again.

Recently the Supreme Court upheld the right of those so-called Christians to disrupt military funerals taunting the mourners with God wanted your son dead!
To me, this is similar to shouting Fire! for no reason in a crowded theater. And these "Christians" are obviously ignoring some key teachings of their presumed faith: see Love thy neighbor; judge not lest ye be judged, etc. But however abhorrent these people are, to deny them their right to spout their inanities  could lead to even greater dangers. Who is to judge what is appropriate?

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Maya eating: taken with iphone

Maya: using my new camera

Sign of a dying camera: I was trying to take a picture of these nice chandeliers at our lunch place but it seemed impossible to get them in focus

Our room in the B&B..first sign that something is wrong

The last two pictures illustrate what happens when the digital sensor fails in a camera. Sony cameras made between 2003 and 2005 have this faulty sensor as do other brands as they use the same Sony part. Presumably I can get this replaced for free..we'll see but in the meantime, Steve went and bought me an even smaller camera that takes up even more pixels.
But my beloved camera has had plenty of use in the 7 years or so that we had it. It's been to Italy twice and England once. It even went to Germany with Josh last summer when he was assigned to work in Cologne for a couple of weeks. When the camera started acting up the other day, accusations of me having dropped it or exposing it to heat (what heat?)flew but I found the problem on the internet. Not my fault. I am glad it didn't fail before this. Steve has a much fancier camera but it is too bulky to easily keep in a small space.

Maya spent the afternoon with us yesterday. She enjoyed her walk. The UM nurse visited her the other day (never has a baby had so much scrutiny). Ms. Maya now weighs less than she did at her 6 month check-up: 17# 2 oz though the nurse seemed unconcerned as newly active babies occasionally lose weight. She is supposed to be babbling using consonants but so far only makes vowel sounds, notably 'A' s.

We will have the 'big' moon tonight. Hopefully it will not be obscured by clouds.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A moms' group of ones own

There seems to be no shortage of 'babies having babies'. Naomi recently started her own group of young moms with babies to meet once a week. It turns out that Baby Lily lives only 2 minutes away by walking. There are 2 other young moms who couldn't make the first meeting. But the moms all have similar issues and it is good not to be so isolated. I know I treasure the time spent in my moms' group.

It was almost 70 yesterday. Alas a lot of the day was spent helping Naomi study. Julia was not able to go out with us as she had a test last night but Steve, Josh and I had a nice Italian dinner..I love Bolognese sauce. Downtown was extremely busy with St. Pat's celebrants all over the place. One had to be very careful driving as drunken students would suddenly dart in front of us.

Despite the warmth, there are still snow mountains around. I ran on the dirt road today as it finally could be trusted to be ice free.  In shorts, yay!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The birthday couple

Technically it is only Josh's birthday as Julia's was 10 days ago but we are celebrating them both tonight, difficult because the restaurants will be crowded tonight. Twenty-nine years: how time flies!

I drove myself to the hospital the night I went into labor with Josh. Steve was already in the ER dealing with a racquetball injury. After I dropped him off, I took Shanna, then 2, home to be with my in-laws. I packed and returned to the hospital. I was in early labor. I should have stayed home longer but I didn't think I could deal with a hysterical MIL and contractions at the same time.

Although the ER was packed that night and by triage, Steve was way down on the list as he just needed stitches for his split open forehead, the labor and delivery unit was quiet. For hours I was the only patient. After the nurse had efficiently taken my history, a med student showed up to take one also. At one point he accused me of misrepresenting my contractions.

Now you said you were having contractions every 5 minutes and I've been timing you. Six minutes have gone by and no contraction!

Oh you got me. I'm clearly faking this. Then while I was having a contraction, he kept repeating the same question over and over impatient that I wasn't answering immediately. When it was finally over, I told him that while someone is having a contraction, this is not the time to expect an answer and now the history is over.

But I need to take so many histories and you are the only patient!

Too bad. Check the nurse's notes and construct one.

Not much was happening. I was told to walk and walk and maybe something would. Second labors are supposed to be quicker but this was the exception to the rule. My doctor was not on call and his partner had no interest in coming in to see me. He ordered something to make me sleep. I slept for about 4 hours waking up drowsily for the contractions. Finally the next morning it seemed that I was actually dilating and my doctor made an appearance. He said something about me being in a good pattern now and the baby would be here soon.
Soon? How soon? I've been here a long time and basically I feel the same.I want a time.
He said by noon which was in 3 hours. Fine. I would be 'good' until then.

By then, the place was hopping with babies. Since I had several high risk factors, I needed a delivery room but none were available when I wanted to push. I was left in a hallway fighting the urge. Finally they cleaned up an abandoned one and Josh was out within minutes of me making that difficult transition onto the table.He was not a pretty baby with his swollen and bruised face. I am a large woman but still, a 10 lb baby just doesn't easily slide down. But he was healthy and strong, all I cared about at the moment. And I had the baby at 11:30 am so I did get him in before noon.

He has been a joy to raise and I treasure our relationship since he has become an adult.

Oh it is spring today! Sunny and warm. Too bad I have to tutor Naomi for a good part of the day. I will get that run in though.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Maya's new kitten hat
Oval Beach

My Dying camera

Me off in the distance
It had been a while since Steve and I went away alone somewhere. One of us has been always needed to be here but there was finally a break in the responsibilities so yesterday we left. One advantage of Steve's new job is that he can come and go as he pleases. When I made reservations Sunday, I had made sure that there was no rain in the forecast and it was clear then but somehow the forecast had changed to certain rain each day. But as it turned out, the forecast was wrong (again!). It did drizzle late yesterday afternoon when we had planned to take a long walk on the beach but instead, we sat on the porch in a swing together. It was warm enough outside that we were comfortable plus I was sipping on some warm coffee.
On the way there, we had stopped up an outlet mall. Now I am not much of a shopper but I did find some interesting things to buy. Today though when I had planned to do some shopping in the resort town we go to, almost everything was closed including my favorite clothing store. I guess we never came there at this time of year.
A strange billboard I saw on the way there:

He once was just a tool 
But now he is the whole shed

I didn't have time to read what this was an advertisement for or whether tool was a pejorative or not.

Don't be such a tool....

We had a nice dinner and later I had a nice soak in the outdoor hot tub. I couldn't persuade Steve to join me. Maybe walking through the snow on the deck to get to the tub wasn't inviting to him. He did hang around to fill my wine glass. I drink alone these days as Steve hasn't touched the stuff since June. But it was nice having the warm water percolate over me soothing all my aches.

We were staying about a mile from Lake Michigan, an easy run except the temperature had dropped and the coastal fog had converted the ground to black ice. Fortunately it was melting fast. I ran by a herd of deer. The leader stood motionless at the edge of the road while I passed within 10 feet of it. It was quite pretty running on the edge of the cliff looking down upon the water with fancy houses on the other side. After our gourmet breakfast, we walked along the beach, then to the town with the mainly vacant stores and then to another town that isn't so resort-like for lunch.

So it wasn't an exciting trip but it was nice to connect in a non-stressful environment sitting next to a fireplace.

Monday, March 14, 2011

How Michigan is different from all the rest?

  • No state income taxes on pensions.  If Snyder has his way, this will change.When the local 'newspaper' reported on this, people were strongly divided. Some idiot said that since old people use the roads, they need to pay the taxes. Well first of all, road repair is paid by gas taxes, a fair way to do it. Second of all, the income tax is peanuts for retirees versus property taxes.
  • No toll roads. We are surrounded by states that do. Since I travel so often through these states, I did get a transponder rented from the State of Ohio for 75 cents/month. Since one gets a discount for using it, one trip per year neutralizes the cost. Also I avoided a line from hell during rush hour at the so-called Weston tolls  near Boston. That alone made it worth it.
  • Highest speed limit around on the X-pressways. Most of the states around are 65 mph and enforcement of these rates seems higher. Canada has 62 mph though poorly enforced. This makes going through Sarnia more attractive than Windsor as more of the trip to Boston is in Michigan.
  • Higher weight limits per axle for the trucks. This leads to increased potholes.
  • Michigan is one of the few states that don't require a front license plate. This was a boon to Shanna living in CA where they photograph your front plate at intersections. Now it is a pain because she bought the car in MI and they didn't drill holes to hold the plate on the front bumper. She has the extra plate in her car but sooner or later, the wrong people will notice the lack of a plate.
A nice, albeit cold, sunny day here. I can here the trills of the red wing blackbirds now as I run by the wetlands. Spring is near.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Ah the many ways a mother can embarrass a child..even adult children! Today at lunch Josh grilled me concerning my conversation with his friends yesterday. What exactly did I say anyway? He wanted every word repeated. He was so sure that I would have said something inappropriate because I can't be trusted.

I talk too much and apparently I smile too much for no reason. Recently in my travel magazine, etiquette aboard the Trans Siberian Express was discussed.  Aside from never turning down proffered vodka, one is to keep smiling to a minimum as it is 1)a sign of insincerity 2)a sign of feeble mindedness. Josh thinks similarly. Also I speak too loudly.

Oh but I have other embarrassing tricks up my sleeve. Yesterday in the WSJ, they discussed amusia which they defined (wrongly as it turned out) as the inability to dance in sync to music resulting in random flailing. They illustrated the article without any explanation with a picture of Elaine Benes attempting to dance. Shanna had compared me to Elaine Benes in the past (So you think you can dance?). The word(s) that the WSJ should have used was beat deafness. Apparently one could be otherwise co-ordinated (I was the champion of the company B raquetball league and used to be fairly unbeatable in ping pong so I did have some skills somewhere) and still make a fool of oneself. Naomi asked me specifically to please not dance at a wedding that Don'tae attended. I am sure she we will request that I abstain at her wedding.

So what is amusia if it is not beat deafness. It is the inability to recognize music from random sounds. Tunes can not be recognized or reproduced.  I used to have a nice voice. Now it is true I had difficulty singing harmony because I kept slipping back to the melody but I did sing in a church choir and was asked to solo in an elementary school choir so I couldn't have been that terrible. Plus I could play in a band. Where's this wonderful voice of mine? Diminished to a range of 4 notes or so by puberty.

Hate this spring forward business even though as an alleged woman of leisure, it should not affect me.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The winning dress

Dress one back

Dress one
Dress two Naomi's second favorite
Dress two detail
Dress three
dress four
dress five
dress nine
dress 9 back
dress seven (my favorite dress)
dress seven
These are just a few of the dresses tried on today. One was selected...see it in August.

So the deal with these dresses..all are in size 10 so if you are smaller, they have to clip it smaller and put in bolsters.If you are larger...well too bad. Naomi weighs the same as I did when I got married though I am not as tall nor did I ever have a real wedding dress. I am just not the fairy princess type nor am I big on diamonds. I have a simple but somewhat artistic gold band. Naomi is a size 6 and looked great in almost everything. These pictures actually make her look bigger  than she is. One bride to be had her mom and 5 aunts with her all weighing in with their opinions on both girls' was fun. This place had much nicer dresses than the big chain shop Naomi went to previously. Sometimes they have very good deals but of course she fell in love with those that were not so economical.

We ran into Josh's best girl buddy who was there with  the ex-Mom's daughter and her 10 week old daughter (Moms..I have a picture now of the former EA). Also with them was a woman Josh used to date whom I never had met before. Small world.

There was not a cloud in the sky when I started my run this morning but not even a patch of blue left when I finished and it was not that long of a run. Even though I was dead on my feet yesterday, I had more energy today.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Traumatic birth

Almost every day this week has been spent babysitting or helping Naomi study and I am tired. Good thing I am 'retired.' But next week, she doesn't have so much scheduled and maybe, just maybe Steve and I can get away for a day or so.
Today she was in a study for traumatic birth as defined as a first birth in which the mom pushed for less than a half-hour or more than 2 hours. As she pushed for only about 5 minutes, she fell into the first category. All sorts of tests have been run to see what damage she has sustained, which I would guess is close to zero. I would argue that a baby that came out so fast without any drugs is just the opposite of a traumatic birth. Today she lay in a MRI. She thought it was relaxing as they covered her ears and had her encased in a warm blanket. Plus there was no screaming baby with her (she would be with me!). Today's effort netted her $220..not bad.
And there was more snow all over the place this morning..I am so tired of it. It did melt later so I could run without sliding around but as it was windy and I was tired, the run wiped me out.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Teas tease

Naomi's current candidate for a dress
Ms. Maya at 8 months

Tonight was our Cooking for Survivors, the subject being tea time. First various teas were discussed and sampled full of antioxidants that hopefully will prevent cancer cells from starting. Then converting the usual tea time goodies to something more healthy such as whole grain breads, neufchatel cheese instead of cream cheese, whole wheat no fat berry filled scones, etc. We had a few new members: one is a college student battling lymphoma. Yikes! 

I babysat Ms. Maya this morning as her mother dealt with various errands. She zips all over the apartment now by crawling. Still every object she encounters goes into the mouth. As you can see here, she still doesn't have much hair. The dark birth hair is falling out and being replaced by blonde hairs. Her blue eyes are now hazel and probably will be brown by the end of the year. It is fun to watch her grow.

If it were just a few degrees colder today, we'd have over a foot of snow but fortunately this time, it was just rain. I did not feel like running in it plus I was dealing with either Maya or Naomi a lot of the time.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sample size

Recently a study was published whose conclusions were that
1) if you had immediate family members with Alzheimer's Disease (AD), you had a risk of 4-10 times greater of having AD yourself
2) if that immediate family member was your mother versus your father, the risk of AD was twice as great.

Damn, while I was selecting which parent of mine should have AD, I should have gone for the dad or if given a choice, opted for the no AD parent. I am always making the wrong health decisions. See my bad choices at the Breast Cancer Store in which I apparently selected the High Risk of Recurrence Kind. Talk about buyer's remorse.

So how large of a sample is needed to jump to these conclusions and have them published in semi-reputable sources (I am reading this from the WSJ): 53 participants in which none of them had any apparent mental decline but 11 had a mom with AD and 10 had a dad with AD. All participants had their brains imaged and the ones who had parents with AD had 'shrinkage'. Furthermore, there was more shrinkage, significant shrinkage, with those with the moms with AD. Statistical significance means something very different from the layman's concept of it, a question of magnitude.

So what does this have to do with the pretty young women pictured at a wedding on the Palos Verdes peninsula outside of Los Angeles during the summer of 2006? The maid of honor is Shanna (who soon will be called a Matron of Honor). Anyway, these 5 women have since become moms of 8 boys (to be fair, one of the boys was born prior to 2006) and no girls. What are the chances of that? One in two hundred fifty-six (256 or 2 superscript 8).
Why is this so?
Palos Verdes contains an area of 'unstable' earth known as the Portuguese Bend. See above picture of the Pacific Coast Highway that is all patched up. I drove through there many years ago not long after the Northbridge Earthquake and saw this stretch with its many patchings with a sign: Caution! Unstable Earth! and was puzzled. Of course I am easily puzzled such as seeing signs on my recent drive Caution! Falling Rock Zone! What do I do with this information? Not park or build a house there? Apparently those who have ignored this sign have had their houses slide into the ocean thus the low density of houses despite its proximity to LA and the Ocean.

Could it be that exposure to this unstable ground influenced the genders of subsequent offspring? Or that 3 of these women were in my Girl Scout troop contributing to 6 of the baby boys, the lion's share, could exposure to me cause these boys? Going through Shanna's Facebook friends, there does seem to be a lot more baby boys among the former troop members.

I could write a paper on this and my conclusions, however absurd, should have the same statistical significance as the AD paper.

And if any of these wedding party members decide on a ninth baby, what are the chances it will be a boy?

One in 512?

Zero percent as it is about time for a girl to appear.

Fifty percent.

photo compliments of dk

Monday, March 7, 2011


You can see Josh in the background. Such a nice brother, taking his sister dress shopping though it is his wife Julia taking the pictures. It is her birthday today.

Syracuse..aka Snow Magnet..named after the Greek city that is now part of Italy, scared the daylights out of me yesterday. This part of NY is full of cities with names of the ancient world: Rome, Greece, Troy, Ilion, etc.I was thinking that I was born in NY and now I will die in NY.

I watched the babies one more time the night before I left so that their parents could have a rare night out. Since they left after the babies went to sleep, it was a pretty easy job for me except that Daniel woke up very upset to find himself with Not the Mama.

It was close to 60 when I left. While it was drizzling in the Berkshires, Steve called to tell me that somewhere between Albany and Syracuse, I would run into a blizzard. As it was still quite toasty, it was hard to believe but the temps kept falling and the drizzle turned into a few flakes and then snow coming down so furiously, I could barely see. Fortunately, not many trucks were on the road and I was on the least hilly part of the Thruway. Still when I had to switch lanes, I would hit a wall of slush that would make the car swerve. I went through about a 100 miles of heavy snow. I had stopped to rest at one point just to calm my nerves and to consider how much longer I wanted to drive in it though if I waited until today, it would have been worse. Eventually the plows were able to keep up with the snow and by the time I got to Rochester, I could drive at normal speeds again. I had the fastest border crossings ever this trip. I always have to decide which is the better crossing: Windsor or Sarnia. Windsor may be shorter (1.8 miles, I finally had the trip odometer on both ways) but it involves going through the city for a long time plus there was construction on the 401 and I though on a Sunday night, the crossing would be busier. I opted for Sarnia but it wasn't the best choice this time. The poorly designed 402 has no barriers to protect the west bound traffic from blowing snow. It was sunny but the north winds pushed dangerous amounts of snow onto the road that in parts turned into glare ice. There were 4 cars off the road because of it and the rest of us had to creep slowly on the very bad parts not to join them. The road crews must have thought since it was sunny and not snowing, their jobs were done. Ha. It was worse than the blizzard around Syracuse, plenty of accidents there too.

My satellite radio kept me company. And I had plenty of time to think though I guess I always have that.

I returned to a now empty corner and a zillion e-mails from Naomi asking which wedding dress I like. Above are fronts and backs of 2 that she is considering. I prefer the first..readers? She can focus on nothing else except this wedding.

The public health nurse who last month thought Maya had too low of muscle tone and who sent a team of nurses in to evaluate Maya (who thought Maya was wonder baby) came this morning. I wanted to question her myself. She now says Maya is fine but she said a month ago, she was looking at a different baby and that Maya somehow improved dramatically.

Fortunately the sun warmed things up from the frigidity of this morning so I ran up hills for the first time in a long time (I had been running at the Y and then on flat shorelines in Boston) I was still stiff and tired from the car ride so it was not too much fun.

No more Y. As Steve is working albeit for peanuts I will not qualify for a scholarship. And the money he earns is earmarked for other things.

Scenes from a visit

Oliver climbing the three story maze

Shanna and Daniel making bubbles

Mother and baby gorilla through the glass

Daniel falling asleep with a cookie in his mouth

Daniel and some sort of African chicken

Daniel on his first day at school in his class room

Mike's pastry shop ..Home of the Lobster tails

The baby gorilla through the glass

The Boston Children's Museum

Christopher the Lion

In my absence, Blogger has reverted back to its old picture loader making it hard for me to edit these pictures. Please Blogger, go back. (Note: It is a day later. In my settings I selected the 'old' editor and it turned into the 'new' editor..still can't control the sizes of my pix) Many of the pictures above are the kids at the Boston Children's Museum. Since I can not see the pictures, it is hard for me to caption them. There are some scenes from the zoo. I had to take the picture of the gorillas through the glass but you can still see how cute the baby gorilla is. There are some scenes of Boston taken from the wharf the museum is on in South Boston.


Blog Archive