Friday, September 30, 2011

The Perils of GPS

Travelling by myself, I am dependent on my GPS and my EZPass  transponder. (I wish I had the latter earlier; trying to scramble for tolls numerous times with a left arm that couldn't extend while I am trying to get to Boston before Shanna gives birth was not fun. Also we get discounts on the tolls). True the route to Boston is fairly straightforward but as I found out in my last trip, it is easy to get way laid.

It is 4 am and I seem  to be the only one on the expressway. Up ahead, I see flares across my path. I am forced off the expressway into I do not know where. In its clipped British voice, the GPS unhelpfully tells me to get back on the closed expressway. I do have a map somewhere in the car that may provide a hint where I am but I am afraid to pull over. I just drive a path that I hope is roughly parallel to the expressway which I think only added an extra mile to my route but some anxiety. In return for traffic updates in large metropolitan areas that give alternate routes, I see flashing ads for restaurants. In Buffalo, I am urged by this machine, not to go the usual route but another route that has me on surface streets during Buffalo's early rush hour. I am just hoping that I escaped a worse traffic jam but on the upside, I drive along the Niagara River for most of the route.

I thought by leaving at 8:30 am to go home, I would be missing most of the rush hour which should be headed in the opposite direction. Wrong unless it was even worse earlier, which I can't imagine. I ignored the GPS to take a longer route and ended up taking an hour for the first 15 miles. But after that, it was clear sailing, except for torrential rains around Albany that I could barely see through causing hydroplaning at one point ( I heard the next day was even worse along I-90 with major flooding). Somewhere around Hamilton, Ontario, the traffic comes to a screeching halt. Police are racing through on the shoulders. We are on top of a hill and I can see that the traffic (5 pm) is at a standstill but I am right next to an exit. I get off and randomly turn towards downtown. The GPS does not consider Hamilton a major metropolitan area so no alternate route is proposed, just an annoying voice urging me back towards the mess. I have no idea which way I am going as the freeway I got off  heads south at one point but mainly heads west so either I am going north or west. This GPS unfortunately does not give coordinates. I end up on the main street (King Street, a common name for main streets in Canada versus Main in the US versus High in the UK versus Corso in Italy) during rush hour! but at least it is inching towards my next expressway (the 403).

I think that the more than 24 hours that I spend alone on these drives will not be wasted. Without many distractions, I will be able to think deep thoughts and finally figure out what I should be doing with my life beyond Being Really Useful to my children. But instead, I play silly games like beat the GPS' ETA. This time is based on one never stopping for gas or traffic. It is solely based on the speed limits for the roads recommended. In the first hour alone, 40 minutes is added to the ETA. The original ETA is 11h 40 minutes.
Necessary stops: once for gas, twice for customs. The only way to beat the ETA is to keep stops to a minimum and go over the speed limit, which was hard in NY state given the rains though the troopers seemed to be taking a day off. However in Canada, the prevailing traffic is 10 to 15 mph over the limit as is MA. I cross over the bridge back into Michigan and there are open berths at customs..first time in Detroit and I zip through. But then I am corralled through a chute in which they are pulling apart two minivans in front of me and tell me to quit my engine. Oh, oh..but I have nothing interesting in my car. When it is my turn for the tear down, an officer asks why did I turn off my car? Um..the other guy told me too. They had no interest in my minicar and off I go.

I am obviously home now still catching up.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Scenes from Boston


dump trucks and dirt diggers, what more can boys ask for?

climbing up the bumpy slide

While Shanna packed, I tried to take both boys out. Only Danny agreed to this. We took a walk along the ocean in the fog

bumpy slide at Spy Pond

at their new school's playground

right when I left

Spy Pond

Double stroller..Dan already left but at least I got Oliver to hold still for a second. He seems to hate his picture being taken

In the corner, one can see the potty being prepared. Not too private

The family in front of their new house

Japanese garden on UMass campus with Danny running around

Car in Arlington covered with stuff. Oliver was so mesmerized, he walked right into a pole giving him an impressive goose egg

Kennedy library through fog

Shanna's kitchen before she moved in. Lots of boxes in it now

The last bit of track from the Minuteman railroad. For some reason the boys were fascinated with this

Where I do my running in Arlington. I ran to Lexington on Tuesday

New house, new minivan. Oliver can be seen in between

Oliver on bike

Prerevolutionary house on main intersection in Arlington

Row house

It is very hard to get 4 people to smile and look at the camera at once but miracles of miracles....

The snack after the playground

Spy Pond

Stairs and Harborwalk bike path near old apartment

Arlington statue

We love dump trucks!!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Spy Pond

Spy Pond is a pretty city lake 15 minutes away double timing it pushing a heavy, unwieldy double stroller filled with antsy little boys.I am not sure the difference between pond and lake. In Michigan, this would be a lake for sure but they use the word 'pond' here liberally. Along its shores is a very fun playground filled with toddlers and their moms. These moms are a different kind of crowd than the ones found around their old place. I know Shanna will make friends here. One of her new neighbors with a toddler in tow knocked on their door  this morning to welcome them.One of the boys' favorite playground pieces was the bumpy slide made up of wooden rollers. But what kept Oliver rapt was the digger equipment with a series of dump trucks, earth. movers and shovels that the kids could use to move the surrounding gravel around.Oliver interacted with several like minded boys, fortunately they all got along. In the corner, a little boy Oliver's age was sitting on a portable toilet demanding privacy while his mom bragged to the other moms how advanced he was at 40 months going potty in something other than a diaper. He was on that thing for 20 minutes so I don't think he quite has the hang of it. She meanwhile was giving the other moms pointers thinking out loud that perhaps she should go into business as a potty consultant. I am assuming that kids' anatomies haven't changed that much in one generation but the average age of potty training has been extended at least by a year. Shanna was younger than Danny is when she outgrew diapers. We sat on the edge of the pond eating teddy grahams and watching the geese fight. Their parents were back at their old apartment doing the last clean-up before checking out. I think I'll take a day off from running as it is 80 and humid. Now it is late in the day and I am bushed from pushing Danny on the swing. I was trying to teach him to propel it himself but to no avail. Ramy goes back to work tomorrow and maybe the rest of us can have fun together though so many things are still in boxes.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

To Being Really Useful

Here with the boys, it's all Thomas the Tank whose oft stated goal is to be Really Useful. We have the TV show, the books, the train tracks, the little engines. I am beginning to tell the difference between Percy, Thomas, Hiro, Emily...

I drove to Boston 4 days ago, a mind-numbing 12 hour drive. Fortunately it went smoothly. I had stopped at an Ontario rest stop where they had a fast food place named New York Fries. What did they sell? Various kinds of poutine including Tex-Mex about food fusion. You probably can't buy poutine in New York except maybe along the Quebec border. The next day, Shanna and her husband closed on their house in Arlington, a very cute suburb that they first moved to four years ago, while I watched the boys. It was a warm sunny day, not very fall like. We went on the ocean trail for a while. Oliver was riding his bike while I pushed Daniel in a stroller. Things have been very busy here and I haven't had access to internet until today, the day of the Big Move. I finally had some time yesterday to go for a long run along the water in the fog. My favorite spot is the causeway leading to Castle Island, a mile strip only a few feet wide surrounded by water.  Yesterday I could see no land as the fog was so thick. The planes I heard just above my head (Logan is on the next island over from Castle Island)could not be seen. I could hear the fog horns and the cries of the gulls. It seemed so unworldly.
We spent Thursday at their new place getting it ready for the move. We walked to the OB from the house. Lots of pretty gardens in the homes around her and the public gardens in the downtown area. They are very close to the Mystic River. I got to hear the new baby's heartbeat.
Yesterday was spent trying to pack things up. I tried to keep the boys from undoing all the packing as fast as it was packed up. I wanted to take the boys back to the water but could only persuade Daniel to come with me. He is really cute with his long light bright curls and big brown eyes. Unfortunately, it was still foggy so we couldn't see much though I let him feel a milkweed pod. The pods weren't ripe enough for the seeds to be dry so no silky parachute show for him. However there was a man with a weed whacker, how fascinating!
In the evening and pouring rain, I made my way through awful traffic to Little Vietnam to pick up dinner for all (well not the boys, they are very suspicious of most foods). I still think the Vietnamese food is better back in Ypsi. Our last night in Boston! No thanks to the nearby UMass , mascot: The Beacon, no quiet could be had. The air conditioning for the place gets shut off on Labor Day but the heat continues. We needed the windows open or we'd be steamed alive. A large group of students screamed right under the window. Security dispersed them but they reconvened indoors where they could be heard for miles. They will not be missed nor will their vomiting in the elevators. Being on the ocean was nice though.

I was so tired in the morning and I am not pregnant nor did I have to share a bed with antsy, crabby babies who couldn't sleep through the racket either. I was having a hard time Being Really Useful. The truck took forever to load involving elevators and a longish path to the truck. Fortunately the helper they hired was a body builder and inexhaustible. I got a burst of energy unloading the truck however once we got to Arlington. The new home is a 19th century row house, four floors. For now, I have the top floor with its skylight and gables to myself. The narrow stairwell couldn't accommodate their box spring so I don't know what they could do about that. They still didn't bring all the kitchen stuff  and the many boxes need to be unpacked but the hard part is over.

The new running path for me is the Minuteman Trail, which goes the alleged route of Paul Revere. It is slightly uphill to Lexington and shady for most of the route. One of the strange things about this town is no alcohol can be sold in stores though you can have a drink with food at a restaurant. Fortunately Medford and Cambridge aren't far away.

Back at home, Josh returned from Brazil much much liking his experience. Naomi did not get a job she very much wanted because she was 'too qualified' (!!!?). We finally got an explanation for our missing wedding pictures, the photographer needed emergency surgery and was hospitalized for 2 weeks. I can't imagine what could warrant this, he is such a young, energetic dude but pictures have been promised for next week.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Swimming in Tang

Not the ersatz orange drink that the Mad men had convinced the country, at least for a while, was just as good as orange juice but the tropical fish, the one played by Ellen Degeneres in Finding Nemo.

It was one of those magical moments of my life. I am snorkeling off some tropical island completely surrounded by blue tang, hundreds of them, each a slightly different shade of bright turquoise blue. They are right at my finger tips. I should be able to grab one but they are always just out of reach. I try to capture the beautiful moment with the underwater camera Steve had bought me and snap several pictures. Two weeks later, the developed photos show just ordinary silver fish. Did I see the beautiful blue and I didn't have the camera on the right setting or was the photo the  drab reality? Well at least I had my photo of the barracuda (silver!) and the  baby sea turtle.

Swimming separately are the schools of yellow tang. These fish are about a quarter of the size of the blue tang. They are juveniles and school with their peers, not their parents. At some point, the bright yellow fish morph into bright blue fish. I did not see any schools of tang teens..would they be green or blue and yellow spotted?

So why do I write of tropical fish that I am so far away from? The elusiveness of things that seem so close at hand. I am sitting on my patio trying to quiet an inner are not wanted! The hummingbirds are up to their usual antics trying to crowd each other off the feeder. The male has presumably already left for Belize or where ever they go. At one point, one of them abandons the feeder and  flits from tiny flower to flower of the impatiens just a foot away from me. She is right next to my head..I should be able to grab her but I suppose the microsecond I make a move, she is outta there.

I will be missing from this blog for a while, I will be in Massachusetts helping Shanna move and she has canceled the internet. I hope that I will have one last time that I can run along the ocean before we head inland. It is a long drive but I will use that time to settle my thoughts.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Nobody's business or threat to us all?

Recently our sorry excuse for a news source published pictures of the inside of a hoarder's condo. The mess just didn't consist of size 10 dresses with broken zippers that the owner hoped to fit into again one day or magazine articles that they just haven't gotten around to reading. No, the mess consisted of rotting food, feces, assorted trash, 30 bicycles... The smelly  mess has attracted all sorts of vermin and the authorities have ordered the condo association to clean it all up. The condo association? Well they can bill the owner if they'd like..
So in other words, the neighbors are going to be stuck cleaning up after this psycho.

It was strange, the public reaction. Many felt sorry for the poor hoarder, his privacy invaded with the photos published on-line. He is mentally ill, he can't help himself.

No sympathy here. A couple of years ago, a condo caught on fire in the complex where we have our 'investment'. I am not sure if the hoarder's habits led to the fire but it certainly made putting the fire out difficult plus it was difficult to rescue the hoarder. The neighbors were furious as their property (and lives if this had been in the middle of the night)was in jeopardy. The insurance rates went up right after that (as did the association fees). Not quite a victimless crime.

I occasionally watch the hoarding shows. Some of the hoarders are just collectors. Things all organized in boxes but their habit has caused them financial hardship. I don't have much problems with them unless kids are involved. But the ones who can't ever throw anything away, even a banana peel..
So on these shows (who would agree to be on one of these? free help?), the formula is to bring in some sort of therapist who tries to figure out what each object means to the hoarder. The hoarder usually admits there is a problem and agrees to do what ever it takes to clean up the place but as soon as the first object is up to be discarded, they panic.

The man who my father stupidly invited into his home in return for care (which was never provided) was a hoarder; a hard thing to be  when one is  basically homeless. He had a formula: weasel his way into homes and then not leave until the homeowner goes through the long, expensive eviction process and still wait until he is physically removed. In the short time he was there, he turned my parents' home into a trash filled rat's nest. My father tripping over his mess indirectly led to his death. We paid twice to have all this stuff removed.

My father had a variation of hoarding: he could not bring himself to spend any money without feeling some sort of pain. He paid all his bills on time but on every check, he would write on the check itself how the company doesn't deserve this much money, etc. He was profoundly cheap, never would tip, etc yet he had money. His self worth was in proportion to how much money he had squirreled in a bank. He would alternately brag to his friends how much money he had with how poor he was. Why was he like this? Who knows..he was raised in the lap of luxury, his father being a very successful physician but suffice it to say, life with him was very difficult and when I could, I left and didn't look back. Unfortunately my poor mother was stuck with this crazy man.

A few years before his death, I got a call from a social worker telling me this sad story on how my father was starving (though about 80 pounds overweight) and couldn't even afford the meals on wheels. She had gone to great effort to bargain the price down to a dollar a meal but still, this was too much. Would it be possible if I would pay for this as he had told them that I had a 'good' job? I told her not to waste one bit of sympathy on him. Though I didn't know how much money he had, I could assure her that it was more than what she and I had put together.

It was once thought that hoarding was a compulsive behavior disorder similar to those who can't leave the house, excessively hand wash, afraid of this and that but once medications were developed to address OCD, it was noticed that they had no effect on hoarders; they have a different errant pathway in their brain which has yet to be addressed successfully.

But hoarders have many victims..

Friday, September 16, 2011

Eating for Survival

Three years ago one would find me in the middle of the night bargaining Please go away! I'll do anything!
Now that the threat seems to be gone (or at least strongly diminished) it is easy to break promises or at least resolutions. What can I do? According to my research, not much other than check for local recurrences (difficult as my breast is a scar infested,  lumpy rock now; I could check for distal recurrences too but by the time they show any symptoms, it is too late). One thing I can do is change my diet. TNBC seems to thrive on high levels of glucose. Some success against TNBC has been found by using metformin, a glucose lowering agent, for even non-diabetics. Exercise lowers glucose too. My glucose levels never have been high, probably due to the exercise. The more obvious solution would be to limit consumption of quick metabolizing sugars and starches (high glycemic indices) to slower ones. I try to do this by using more whole grains but still I crave too much junk. I rarely eat fried foods any more (high fat diets have been linked to breast cancer). I should cut out alcohol completely. Alcohol interferes with the metabolism of estrogens, both natural and unnatural, causing spikes that at least feed the estrogen positive variety of BC. I do take lots of Vit D (low levels associated with many types of cancer) and some calcium (I am cautious with this one as it has interfered in the past with my Synthroid).

Near my house, there is a mostly vegan Indian restaurant (they serve a few paneer (cheese) and yogurt dishes but vegan besides that) that uses very little fat and uses 'back-to-roots' grains or seeds (millet, barley, flax, sesame, amaranth, and quinoa) versus 'modern' grains (rice, wheat, rye, oats). Their motto includes a culinary encounter of flavors, tastes,nutrition and healing by food. Steve and I ate there the other day. I liked it very much. I should eat all my meals there until I can get things under control. I also resumed my cancer survival cooking class. This week's topic was cooking with herbs. Some spices and herbs may have anti-cancer properties (turmeric and ginger come to mind) but they make low fat food more palatable.

Later in the week, Steve found himself with an unscheduled day off. We should do lunch. I asked, where?
Anywhere I'd like. I suggested a Vietnamese place. He agreed with a sigh. Yeah, poor Steve with me always getting my way. I then changed my answer to a steak place as it was his day off and besides, next week I will be in "Little Viet Nam" where Shanna for the moment, lives. Also I had gotten my way with the healthy place a few days before.

During my class the other night, another group came in for a meeting. With varying amounts of hair loss, these ladies were clearly still in treatment., an unhappy flashback. In their group was a woman who was diagnosed with TNBC the same week as I was...panic..did it come back? Turns out it was for a lecture on breast reconstruction. She had had a mastectomy but apparently now is considering this.

The Cancer Support Community (their new, impossible for me to get right, name) has a fund raising project: The Brides Project. They take donated wedding dresses and sell them to those with limited means..a win-win deal. I donated the 'never worn' dress that's been hanging around for 10 years now. Maybe they can use a maternity model too, I'll check.

My Brazilian traveler finally checked in this morning. He is still enjoying himself and they want him to stay longer. However, with his promotion, he has a new supervisor who wants him to do his "American 'work ASAP and did not give him permission to stay beyond what was originally agreed. The Brazilians have given him a busy schedule too in the off hours. This weekend: the turtle beach. It is not hatching season. Good intentioned tourists come in from all over the world  then to help hide the eggs from the predators and then guard the babies as they make their perilous journey to the sea. Lots of sea birds hovering over them wanting a turtle snack. During the off season, they are rehabilitating injured sea turtles so I guess that is what he will see. Also, one of his co-workers is in a blues band and has invited Josh to the club where he is performing. Josh went clubbing with them to the wee hours last night but is enjoying the new culture. A few months ago, some of the Brazilians were here. Their favorite store? Best Buy. Josh must have driven them there 5 times.

I will be gone when he returns. It will be Shanna's moving week to her cute community.

A day off from running even though it is ideal out there for that. I will plant a few of the perennials I purchased yesterday though I will have to uproot a few overgrown plants to make room for them.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


From the net. My picture is out of focus. This a more mature chrysalis as it becomes more transparent closer to hatching. The early chrysalis is more bright green. We saw them of different ages but none this advanced.
It is a cool, sunny autumn day here. I went to a nursery with a friend. A salvia plant was covered with monarch chrysalises. The jade green case has shiny gold dots on the top ridge.It is amazing to see this. Alas I only had a camera phone which I couldn't see to focus due to the bright sun. The monarch caterpillar feeds solely on milkweed which is loaded with oxalic acid, very bitter and poisonous to birds. We saw some of the caterpillars too; large with yellow, black and orange stripes on them.As they are so easy to spot by humans and potential predators (birds), they must have a back-up plan to survive: bad taste.I assumed they would make  the chrysalis on the same plant they feed on but no, they crawl to a different plant. Maybe better cover? The adult form will emerge in the next few days and then fly away to Central Mexico.

The plant that they feed on has always fascinated me: the milkweed. The most common form can be fifteen feet tall covered with 6-8 inch long seed pods. This year has been especially good for them as the milkweed by the river is enormous. For cheap thrills, I used to break open the ripe pods in front of the kids so they would be amazed at the hundreds of silky parachutes emerging. The milkweed at the specialty Michigan perennial store was barely recognizable. This variety had tiny pods and they had let the Monarchs strip the leaves. I assume this variety was selected for its flowers, long past bloom.
My attempt to photograph the caterpillar but sadly I missed the target as it was too bright  to see the screen
And the poor phone camera couldn't figure out what I was focusing on. The gold dots,not the leaves silly camera!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Metro sectional

This is the name of a cheap sofa offered by a discount chain in Michigan. I love the name. I am not sure it was intentionally used but maybe someone has a sense of humor.
No one told me this but I thought it was funny

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Three Marys

I am not much of a Facebook user. I do look at it daily but only post something occasionally. My 'friends' are a mix of old friends, some from childhood whom I haven't seen since, some relatives, two children (not Josh who thinks Facebook is stupid) ex co-workers, a co-worker's spouse, some cancer people (one of whom is dead), a boss, my hair dresser, children of childhood friends, an ex-boyfriend, some of my high school classmates, many of whom I didn't know in high school but have 'friended' me. In other words, the usual mix.

 Recently I had posted something that the only ones who responded were the three Marys. These Marys represented good friends from different periods of my life. Friends come and go. The friendships didn't really end abruptly but slowly faded away as circumstances changed. The first Mary I met at freshman orientation. We became close friends. She transferred to a school in NY where I visited in the aftermath of Hurricane Agnes. From her college town, I visited my birthplace devastated by the hurricane. I didn't see her again until a few years after we graduated and she moved to a Michigan suburb. Our families got together quite often until she moved again. She has moved at least 7 times and now is the farthest away. I am welcome to go there. Maybe I will. She lives on top of a mountain in the Smokies.

Mary number two was the girlfriend of a man who grew up in Brooklyn who had friends in common with Steve. We used to exercise together, my cross country skiing partner.She ran the last 6 miles with me of my first marathon. I would see her several times a week and we took some minivacations together. But after she broke up with her boyfriend and I became more involved with kid activities, we didn't see each other often. I did see her at the funeral of her boyfriend and just every once in a while after that. We are always theoretically planning to get together but just don't.

Mary number three was a co-leader for the first few years that we ran a girl scout troop. Lots of planning sessions and camping trips. She is a friendly, reasonable, caring person that lives in my neighborhood. Some how our paths rarely cross until yesterday. After she quit girl scout leading, I only saw her occasionally. When I had a miscarriage, I was devastated. I wanted to talk to someone who had an inkling of how I felt. I didn't want to listen to 'good thing you didn't get attached' 'all for the best' 'you already have two kids' any more. Miscarriages are presumably common but at that point, she was the only person who I knew who had had one so I called her.

Yesterday was Naomi's first day in training for something that we all hope will morph into a career (it seemed to go well). So on Monday afternoons, I have Maya. I took her to the park where I ran into Mary number three babysitting her youngest granddaughter, the spitting image of her mother who I first met as a 6 year old Brownie, Shanna's age. My three grandchildren are beautiful but none of them really look like my children. Maybe my now lime sized fetal grandchild will look like Shanna...Maybe in the future, Josh junior will appear. Maybe, maybe.
With us was another grandmother who drives daily 50 miles (one way) to our neighborhood to provide daycare for her daughter. Mary pointed out a few other grandmothers here who have grandbabies in tow and that we all should have a play group (all these babies are girls). So maybe we have a Grandmom support group. It was nice catching up.


Josh is still loving Brazil even though it took him away from watching his beloved Wolverines. His co-workers took him to the 'nicest ' beach where they rented a table and umbrella sipping caipirinhas, the national drink, a mix of rum, lime, and a sugar cane liquor. (Shanna and I had one at a Brazilian restaurant in Cleveland(?)  and yes, they are yummy.)His hosts were apologetic about the caipirinhas as they were not the best but they tasted good to Josh. Every Brazilian woman, regardless of age or excess of fat, wears those thong bikinis with their butt cheeks hanging out. They also went to the old town where all the 550 year old buildings are and ornate churches. He presumably has taken many pictures. Every day, he drives 20 miles through the jungle to get to work. He has seen no unusual wildlife except for very colorful birds.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The bus stops here...NOT!

As long as we have lived here, our driveway has been the bus stop for the high schoolers. We also had the city bus stop here for half of the time. We are not on the corner but the owners of that house had petitioned the powers that be to have all the bus stops moved to our house instead as the riders were disturbing their dogs. (Of course having their dogs disturb us was never addressed. For 5 years, their idiotic Great Dane would charge our fence snarling at our kids if they dared use our own back yard. The owners themselves would have regular screaming matches calling each other every word in the book. They eventually moved out and now illegally rent the house to large groups of loud young adults. Fortunately, the mosquitoes have kept them inside for the past month. But I digress.)

Tax revenues are down so the schools are scrambling to make budget cuts. They did vote to increase the pay of the new superintendent by 50K (we need to attract the best...yeah that has worked so well in the past). Freshman sports have been eliminated and busing has been drastically reduced. So many high schoolers drive to school; certainly they can all carpool or something.  Ann Arbor is a community of extremes: have a whole lots and have hardly anythings. There are large pockets of people where not even the parents have cars much less having a spare one for their teenager to tool around in. Well they can just walk in the darkwhile toting a heavy back pack sometimes on roads with no shoulders and in the winter, no snow removal, for a half hour or more then wait for a bus that delivers them well before school starts, . This might solve the achievement gap, which seems to be more along economic lines than anything else than the black/white gap. The poor just won't come to school. Until this busing crisis is solved, community leaders have been advocating for no-shows on Count Day. Each of these bodies is good for $6500 from the state. That will send our school district even further into the red.

Much to Naomi's chagrin, I didn't let her drive until she was 18. I really feel that most 16 year olds do not belong on the road. Just this year some 16 year old girl with lots of friends in tow, decided to play chicken with me while I was running on a slippery street. I've been watching her carefully having tracked the car to her house: one more incident and I will speak to the parents though probably they will defend their bear cub's right to maim people with all their might which is why I have left this alone.

So it is quiet now at 6:45 am in front of my house. If Naomi still went to high school, she'd have a 20 minute walk to the middle school so she'd have to leave before 6:25. Some of the kids in the condos will have another 20 minutes tacked on while crossing a street that the drivers mistake for the entrance ramp to US23. The city was going to put special flashing lights for the very dangerous crossing but instead opted to buy German public art for its new city hall. They can't do both.

It has finally stopped raining after 5 days. Many of plants are moldy. I spent a good part of the morning finally dealing with the wild blackberries that have sprouted everywhere. With the ground so wet, it is easier to pull them out.

I have to admit to losing faith with the UM football team. It didn't look good at all versus Notre Dame. But somehow they came alive and won. Even though Josh never went to UM, he follows the football team with rabid interest. His chief concern about going to Brazil was that he'd miss the games, which we are taping for him. He throws UM parties on Football Saturdays. Naomi threw her own last night.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Happy Cancerversary!

A graph that plots the chances of  distal recurrence (versus local recurrence) of estrogen positive BC vs TNBC. At one year, the chances of recurrence are about 4 times greater than ER+ BC.  At 8 years, the recurrence risk drops to zero for TNBC but remains more or less constant for ER+

So how much has my risk diminished? One would have to intergrate the area under the curve. Before we had computers at work, for certain applications we would blow up a graph, cut the irregular areas under the curve and compare weights. Lacking an analytical balance, I will just have to eyeball it and say that about 70% of my risk has gone away.
It has been three years since I entered the scary Land of Cancer. I have almost escaped it. All that is left is a mutilated breast, a deep scar in my armpit, bad balance, and a diminishing fear of recurrence. Truthfully I don't think about cancer much, bigger fish to fry, etc. I do keep up with the literature to prepare if it does come back. TNBC tends to come back fast and furiously as it targets soft tissue versus the bones. But as they say, I could get hit with a bus tomorrow.

Breaking an arm was much more painful and took almost as long to recover from but with the arm, there was not that chilling fear of death. It was a sucker punch. Please don't come much unfinished business here.

I went to my last support group more than a year ago, maybe two years ago. I can't remember. We had a mix of diagnoses and prognoses. One woman was Stage 4, fairly young and very bitter. She was angry about having to die so soon. What does one say? Some tried to diminish her fears with that old homily about not having expiration dates stamped on us. One person indirectly criticized her for being negative. But if you can't bring your fears and emotions to a support group, where can you.

It continues to rain here. The blimp is floating through our skies in anticipation of The Big Game which I am to tape for my international traveler. If UM loses, he said I could just erase it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

caju juice

Cashew apple plus weird cashew nut growing beneath it (from Wiki)
On the hotel's buffet table are many fruits Josh has not seen before along with an assortment of juices. His favorite juice so far? Caju or cashew fruit juice. The nut grows underneath the fruit. This nut is surrounded by poisons similar to that found in poison ivy which need to be burnt away to destroy them.

The caju hasn't found its way into North America because it bruises so easily.

He also is a fan of 'coconut kisses' which seem to be a mix of egg yolks, sugar and coconut.

The work day starts with a leisurely communal coffee break with really good coffee served in tall glasses compared to crappy vending machine coffee hurriedly sipped at ones desk alone that he drinks only to wake him up. As he is just south of the equator and it is fairly close to the equinox, days are as long as nights but begin at 5 am due to how far east they are with respect to the Eastern seaboard of the US. It is dark by the time he returns to his resort complex. He prefers Brazil so much more to Mexico City where he could barely breathe due to the pollution and altitude plus safety concerns were giving him panic attacks. Here he is at sea level with no close industry so all is clean. The guys will take him into the old city tomorrow, which is a world heritage site.

Before he begins to teach classes next week, he had to give a 4 hour presentation which apparently went well.

Back in boring old Michigan, it drizzled most of the day again but I was able to run out in the country for quite a while. I watched the adorable Ms. Maya in the afternoon while her mom looked for a part time job. She will be only taking one class this semester, which hopefully will enable her to earn some kind of living.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hands only communication

Fortunately Josh's large company has a tieline from its headquarters in Michigan to its foreign outposts. Thus phone calls are just as if he were calling me from Michigan. He is alive and has found his way to his workplace, a miracle given that his temporary supervisor who met him at the airport decided for him that he did not need a Garmin. Ha! He most certainly does as he gets lost in Michigan, a  flat state platted out in straight lines with the east-west roads called 6 mile, 7 mile, etc. Where he is now was one of the first areas Europeans settled. During the time that English speaking colonists were huddled in wood huts among muddy paths in Massachusetts and Virginia barely able to eke out a living, the Portuguese had cobble stone streets, stone houses and huge, gilt cathedrals in Salvador all still here 500 years later. The roads go every which way and there is not a word of English any where. He will plead with the supervisor to lend him his personal Garmin. Otherwise he is trapped in his pretty tropical compound on the beach which reminds him of his Jamaican honeymoon complex except it is not set up for the English speaking guest. He drinks some stuff called coconut water, half the price as 'real' water and is eating food that he has never seen before. So far so good.

He had to transfer planes twice. Once in Atlanta to get on the Brazilian airline that took him to Sao Paulo; then to fly north to Salvador. In Sao Paulo,, he saw no English. He finally found a speaker at a different airline's counter who told him what he needed to do. Find luggage, go through customs, check luggage again. He had just assumed these airports would be like Europe's. He is communicating mainly with his hands which can be dicey. In Germany, while asking for beer, he would hold up a finger indicating he wanted one (I did try to teach him to count, ein, zwei, drei..). However he would get two beers every time until he realized they counted his thumb.

It has been raining non-stop here for 24 hours and there seems to be no let up. I will try to be useful here for a change here in the doldrums.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fall flowers

Finally, the kind of morning glory I prefer is blooming. I have hundreds of the dark purple blossoms that are only one third this size growing like kudzu over everything

Moss roses among the ever spreading allsym

California poppies

Variegated cleome. Very pretty and easy to grow but they smell like a skunk sprayed them
I wake up in the middle of the night with a headache. Even sleep is a stress. In my dream I had gone somewhere with 2 small suitcases and now it is time to come home and there is no way to jam all my belongings into these suitcases. Also my friends are reminding me how we have to go NOW and I am not sure what my first move should be. I guess that I just have to leave most of the stuff behind but I am puzzled as all of it fit coming there.

I do so hate the nights. A good night is when I don't get up until 4 am. At least I can sleep in now that it is cool and there is no reason I have to jump right out of bed and run to escape the heat. There is no heat now.But I get up early anyway as it is my favorite time. As soon as I arise, Steve hands me a cup of coffee and I lose myself in e-mail, blog reading, puzzles..and I am hopeful for the day.

This is a transitional time. My life is spread out in front of me and I am not sure which way to go.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ready for Brazil?

So which bathrooms can you use? They are marked either M, D, C or H....

I ask this to my bear cub who hasn't prepared at all for his trip today IMHO. (C or H, if you are a man, would be correct)

His answer: None of them. He will not go into public toilets. Just as well as there are few of them and one needs to negotiate  in Portuguese for each piece of toilet paper.

Well, then, you better pack your Immodium.

He's never been a fan of public toilets. He refused to use the ones in his elementary school and particularly those of the Y day camp we sent him to. This made him particularly eager to get home ASAP. Well he is young and probably can get away with this. However,  I, myself,  can not go for hours without some relief and have  found myself teetering on urine soaked slippery foot pads (when chemo had destroyed the little balance that I had) trying to aim for some hole in the floor without compromising the dryness of my clothes which I had hoped, in my haste, that were safely tucked away. (once I had miscalculated..see i bagni d' Italia: a balancing act)

I made him take the book on Brazil. With an eyeroll, he accepted it but he probably will leave it at home.

A bigger question:

It is late at night and you can't sleep. You are 5000 miles from home surrounded by people who don't speak English and you have refused to learn even a word of Portuguese. Just how are you feeling now?

Answer: I have no idea. I've never been alone in my life before.

He has many friends. At college, he had 2 roommates and after college, moved in with us where Julia already was living until he could buy a house. Now Steve would be happy to be totally isolated for 2-3 weeks. People are an intrusion for him sometimes but I am guessing that Josh is more like me in this respect and will freak out. Or he will make friends with the Brazilians though the ones he is supposed to be teaching are much older than him.

But he is excited to be going and to see a different part of the world.

His buddy is in town fresh from exploring South America for the past four months. At one point, he and his companion were robbed by assailants armed with chunks of concrete and a board studded with protruding nails. This did not make it into the blog that I have been diligently reading but I suppose he kept it out to spare his parents, even more diligent readers, any more worry than they already had.

I will be worried until he comes back.

Meanwhile, my new grandbaby presumably is now the size of a fig and Ms. Maya is developing a tiny pot belly at 14 months.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Maya and Aunt Julia at their UM party. Usually Julia straightens her hair (!?) but here she let it go natural. Ms. Maya actually has blonde hair though there is a little of the dark birth hair left

A series of storms came through Saturday night. They tried to clear the stadium of 100,000 plus fans who were vulnerable to lightning strikes resulting in chaos.  Although the fans were baking in the 95 degree heat just minutes before, the temperature dropped more than 30 degrees and it was pouring rain and hail outside the stadium which at least inside had a little roof to cower under. I was out chilling with the Moms where the storm seemed to by-pass. Steve called to say we had no power, the torrential rains were causing our sump well to overflow and he could not get the generator started. He wanted me to look at the radar to see how much longer the rains would last. Fortunately right before our lower level was flooded, he figured out the trick with the generator (turn on ON switch..) and the pump saved us.

Going home, I could take the much longer but probably faster expressway or the direct route through town. As there is usually little traffic so late, I opted for the town route: a mistake. Branches littered the roads. Every last light was out replaced by hastily placed stop signs. The street lights were out too yet packs of students roamed the streets walking in front of cars oblivious to the fact that they would not be seen until the last second, dumb as deer 4.0 GPAs notwithstanding. My neighborhood was totally dark. The energy hot-line suggested that maybe, just maybe we will have power again by 11 pm Monday night. Argh!

Although Steve got the refrigerator to run briefly with the generator the night before, he could not get it to go yesterday even though power was running to it as evidenced by the refrigerator light going on. Did he burn out the motor somehow? Did we want to have to buy a new refrigerator right now? No. And if we did, would we stick to our so 1990s all white motif or would be go to a stainless steel model with an eye on re-doing the kitchen soon though the bathrooms are the first priority. It made us grumpy. And why always does  our neighborhood lose its power. Driving around, we could see that power was restored elsewhere. Even Naomi had power (we filled up her freezer and refrigerator) just a few blocks away. We had lunch out with Josh.  I spent a good part of the day in front of the window reading The Help. I didn't run so I wouldn't have to take a shower in a totally dark bathroom. As it became darker, we took a walk to see if we could figure out what was going on. The energy trucks were cruising through the neighborhood but didn't seem to be doing anything useful. We ran into a man who used to work for the big energy provider who told us we'd be lucky to see power before the end of the week given all the cost saving measures the company went through like trying to repair on the spot blown transformers rather than replace them and cutting work crews to bare minimum levels and since it was Sunday and then Labor Day, they would not be thrilled to pay all that overtime. Then in front of what seemed to be where all the lines come together and where a huge electrical box is, we found a retired chem professor who used to be my academic advisor briefly. Steve knows him as he was his boss' PhD advisor and was included in various lunches they had together. The prof also is an election official that convinced Steve to become the same. We studied all the wires going here and there. The prof had figured out what each one was good for but this still didn't answer what exactly what was going on.

At home, I was tired of sitting in the dark and went to Naomi's to watch Ms. Maya's antics, she likes to put on a show. Miracles of miracles, the power was restored more than 24 hours before predicted. I returned home to find the refrigerator quietly humming. Could Steve not hear that? But one less thing to worry about.

It was cool, misty and windy this morning. But I've become even slower. Just what is going on? Fortunately I felt just fine.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Cousin rivalry

Les Petites Choses

My bromeliad. I hang it next to the fence in the summer and just leave it next to the kitchen sink in the winter. It presumably gets all it needs from the air. I had assumed it was dead but suddenly these pink/blue flowers appeared.
Though the glass table above one can see my feet. I read the account of an early diarist whose first attempts of summarizing his life were to recount the facts of the day. He likened it to a home video concentrating on where the feet are going but one is left wondering where the head is at. And just where is my head these days? Well in a slightly better place than earlier in the week but due to privacy concerns, I will not elaborate.

I've been trying unsuccessfully to outsmart ants. I keep changing the complicated path they must follow to get at my hummingbird feeder. Up shepherd hooks, through 2 potted plants, crossing morning glory vines, down a chain holding a glass globe, down a hook, down a necklace to the mother lode: sugar water. This path is at least 10 feet. Just how do they sense the sugar swinging 6 feet above the ground? Trial and error and then they leave signals for their friends. This hadn't been a problem until this week. Changing how I hang the feeder slows them down somewhat but they regroup and find it again. Today I scrubbed all surfaces down in bicarb to neutralize their formic acid trails. This stopped the flow for about an hour: they must leave water insoluble phermone trails. Right now I seem to have stopped them by wrapping a chain with DEET impregnated towelettes: so far so good. But a new enemy has emerged: paper wasps. These aren't quite as bad as yellow jackets. You can swat them and they don't try to wreak revenge like yellow jackets. Their homes are easy to find so chemical warfare is coming.

Today is the first day of UM home  football games. The population of our town doubles and we have to time our comings and goings carefully in sync with the games. I am waiting for the game to begin so I can gather supplies for our Mom's group tonight. New guilty pleasure: fig butter. I will try to make something with it. Also it should be the last day of the intense heat. Since it was marginally cooler today, I went out for a while just in the shade of my neighborhood. I dripped sweat for an hour after stopping.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Where was I on 9-11-01?

I was in my office on this clear, cool, sunny morning at 9 am gathering my thoughts for the day. I usually had WDET on, a public radio station, which had (HAD!!!!) an interesting alternative/world music program in the morning interspersed with NPR programming and local traffic (I listened carefully for reports of accidents on the path my son would take on his long commute to work though at this point, he would be up at his college). There was a report of a small plane crashing into the World Trade Center. The reporter was puzzled as small planes travel by sight and it was so clear out. How many in the plane? A pilot and maybe a passenger or two? Maybe some casualties in the WTC? One of the  tres amigos called to ask what tests his then 15 year old son should take in preparation for college. (the son now is in med school getting married this month). As I am trying to answer that, I hear about the second plane and stop talking. As with everyone else who heard that report, terrorists came to mind. I told my friend what I heard and hung up and informed the lab. My co-worker's sister changed trains every day beneath the WTC. She should be at work already but she is not answering his calls. What happened if she were an half hour late that day, can I answer that? as I tried to console him. (she was fine though she had a very difficult time trying to get back to Staten Island). People hung around the radio as the reports got worse. My friend's daughter e-mails that she saw the first plane hit as she was walking to class at NYU. By the time she got to class, the other had hit too and classes were cancelled. She couldn't get back to her lower Manhattan apartment for several days. Not much work is getting done. The boss man shows up spouting some inanity about the terrorists winning if work is disrupted. This really annoys my co-worker with the still missing sister who just goes home for the day.
I am left alone in the lab with the task of the day, purifying my stealth compound. I hadn't been working on this project long, a very difficult one made even more so by the fact the compound had no chromophore. (almost everything I dealt with up to that point had one. What is a chromophore? Something you could see either by the naked eye (rare) or by uv light, much more common). My compound was full of inorganic salts, which although not toxic, needed to be removed by ion exchange chromatography. My good stuff would stick to a column while I washed out the salts, then I would release the pure material into a series of flasks. Just where the good stuff was hiding out was difficult to tell. If I put a small amount of a solution onto an absorbant plate, I could stain it with something that interacted with the amino group which would turn bright blue if I heated it enough and if it were concentrated enough. It was not working as planned and was giving me a headache. What was going on outside these walls anyway? I left.

The afternoon was spent watching the news trying to make sense of it all. In the evening, Naomi's soccer team went to a skills clinic, not cancelled nor was school. I sat in the stands with a soccer dad, a Vietnamese refugee. He was 7 when he got on one of the last helicopters out of Saigon. He was led to believe that this was going to be a fun ride but when his parents didn't get on with him, it occurred to him that something terrible was going on. He didn't see them again for many years.

I guess it is naive for me to think that being a member of a minority group that has experienced racism would make one more sensitive to the racism experienced by other groups though as time goes on, I am finding this to be the opposite. This man shocked me that day. He had plenty of time to figure out what went wrong: the Islamic world was pissed because the US protected Jews so much. And why should we protect Jews? What have they ever done for us?

How does one respond to something so awful? He seemed like a nice man (though as I found out later, he really was not aside from his antisemitism). I was speechless. He obviously did not know I was married to a Jewish man and had children of Jewish ancestry.

I feel like I have missed summer although today, we have summer with in spades. Now the high is projected to be 97 with high humidity too. I will not run today. Tomorrow will be toasty too but then it will be cool.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

El Flaco y La Gorda

These are opposites; as opposites as can be. Can we find common ground?

Things to consider in the middle of the night. I wish that I could just sleep. I try to distract myself with my books. I am currently slogging through Snow about a Turkish poet who travels to a border town, far from the reach of the government and finds a huge clash between modern, secular Turkey and Islamic traditional Turkey. Deep within him, a similar struggle exists. What does he believe? Who does he believe?

I watch my 3 hummingbirds battle for the right to my feeder. The little male usually loses out. Unfortunately, the hummingbirds aren't the only ones interested in the feeder. Nasty yellow jackets have started to stick their disgusting mouthpieces into it and the ants are unbelievably talented at finding the long, complicated path to the feeder. Half of the ants end up drowning so they aren't so clever. I hang the feeder in different places thinking that no way the ants can find it yet in a day or so, they do.

September first: the end of summer? But tomorrow will be a sweaty 96 degrees.


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