Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter Birthday!

Within a few minutes of birth held by her big sister

Two years ago
If one has a birthday in late March or early April, one can have an Easter birthday. So far, I've had only one Easter birthday. I was 4 years old and my mom had made a lamb cake covered in coconut with colored eggs surrounding it. As she was about to give birth to my brother, this was an ambitious project for her. I remember that it was sunny and warm that day (winters were longer especially in the snow belt where we lived in New York). I guess I have some Easter birthdays coming up when I am in my 80s.

Naomi, in her much shorter life, has had 3 Easter birthdays including the day that she was born. Upside to an Easter birth? No annoying med students using me as a teachable moment. Downside: no cafeteria for my support team..

As in general, I suffer in silence, I let Shanna, who was about to turn 12, attend the birth. In case things went wrong, she agreed to go to the waiting room. Watching ones mother writhe in pain is not the way to encourage grandchildren production. My labor, spurned on with pitocin, was short and brutal. I was begging for drugs on the 2nd contraction (went without with the others). I was given laughing gas, which is now not used in the US but is used extensively in Europe. Someday I will research the cons of this stuff but at that time, it was perfect. Does it lead to teenage pregnancy down the road?

It is also Maya's other grandma's birthday so that is where she is. I will try to find someplace open for birthday lunch. Later I will cook Easter dinner for Shanna's family although Easter for her in laws, isn't until May.

No sun right now but yesterday while running, I saw a butterfly, a viceroy I think. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Prostate cancer is to breast cancer like...

jock straps are to bras?
Blue is to Pink?

Sort of like those annoying SAT analogies but prostate cancer and breast cancer share many commonalities despite the dissimilarity of these glands.

How they are alike:

Incidence is about the same in the US with 200,000 new cases/year
Both are usually hormone mediated
Defects in the BRAC1 gene are associated with both cancers
Huge controversies  about screening as both screens (PSA levels versus mammograms) lead to many false positives and over treatment
Treatment is similar: blocking  the sex hormones being the first line of defense. Taxols are used in both treatments too as a second line
Pattern of mets are similar: bones, liver, lungs and brain
It is possible to live without either of these glands

How they are not alike:

Men can get breast cancer (interestingly it usually is hormone positive) but women can not get prostrate cancer
Breast cancer is twice as deadly killing 2/7 versus 1/7. n. b. these numbers are about 5 years old but I bet they haven't changed much. What has changed significantly is how long one can live with Stage 4 disease
Biopsy of and surgery to remove the prostate is much more difficult with more things that can go wrong
Much more controversy concerning treatment of non-aggressive cancer cells given that impotence and incontinence are common side effects of surgery with the prostate

I was reminded of this recently as I ran into my neighbor who has been battling Stage 4 prostate cancer for 6 years no. There is a larger range of scores that measure the aggressiveness of the cancer. Breast cancer is measured on a scale of 1 to 3 (3 being the most aggressive; almost all of TNBC is grade 3). Prostate cancer is measured on a Gleason scale from 1-10. If one's score is 8 or above, it will most likely spread. Very low scores are left alone and are monitored by PSA tests regularly. My neighbor is a 10 and was told that living beyond the next year was remote. He had no symptoms but his PSA levels were through the roof in a routine exam. The current advice is that asymptomatic men not bother with a PSA but this advice would not have helped my neighbor. And as for me, I felt no lump. My tumor was detected on a mammogram.

But 6 years later, he is still alive out taking long walks. The cancer is in his bones and liver. A drug will work for a while but then crappy cancer figures out how to grow any way. So a new drug is tried until progression begins. I have lost track how many clinic trials he has been on. The current one is so far preventing progression but the mets have not shrunk. He will be on some form of treatment until the rest of his life. But so far, he has outlived his expiration date by 5 years. The life of a Stage 4 breast cancer patient is similar. Right now though, they have been unable to stop the progression is momma sunshine's BC. And she just started her battle.

Ah Spring! Finally. I have crocuses in bloom and daffodils about to too. The bad bunnies have been eating my other bulb's shoots. Do they like red pepper?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Grappling with graupel

It's spring for Maya

I saw graupel once before: last year in Boston around this time. Most of March had been warm then a cold front came through. On a run, I was pelted with graupel, fluffy ice balls. It is not hail, much less dense, and it is not sleet..bigger size of the pellets. And on Tuesday, we had it here. It was in the 40s in both cases.

But maybe winter is about to be over here. We are all having cabin fever. I had the boys the other day. Oliver was running laps in the house with all his pent-up energy. I suggested he do this outside  Fine by him and he ran up and down the block. Danny didn't want to be left out but within a few seconds of his run, he tripped on air molecules and did a face plant.

I took the bike in for a tune-up yesterday so I will be ready to train next week.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Waiting for the other shoe to drop....

And then it did, with a very loud thud.

It seems like I have a good life. A family that loves me, no major health worries ( oh yeah! cancer but I think I reached the point that a new primary is more likely than a recurrence), no major financial worries, my kids and grandkids all living fairly close to me, a new baby on the way....

Things can turn on a dime in a second. This was sadly made evident the other day in which we spent 20 hours in hell due to a really bad split second decision..a decision as we mulled over the ramifications of it for hours,  that could change several lives just like that. If I were to blog then, it would have been full of anger, self pity, disappointment, guilt, exasperation, frustration  disbelief, shame..about every negative emotion you could come up with. It had all the makings of The Worst Day of My Life but then there was an unexpected reprieve...

Still some nasty loose ends to clean up. I need to be vague here.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Raw Carrot Test

During freshman orientation at UM, we submitted to a battery of tests. One tested our reading speed. I had messed up the grid answering vertically when I should have filled in the grid horizontally. This impacted my score. I was treated with numerous follow up phone calls urging me to enroll in a speed reading class because with my score, success at UM was doubtful. These I ignored as I know I am a quick reader even compared to my UM peers.

Another test was dubbed the Raw Carrot Test because it contained the question: Do you prefer raw carrots to cooked? (Raw definitely) I can't remember if this was a personality test or a career choice test, either way, I don't know how my answer would impact the results. The only other question I remember is whether I climb steps one or two steps at a time. I guess this would show if I were impatient or had extra long legs.

The other day at my Cooking for Survival class, we were treated with a variation of this: Which is more nutritious  Cooked carrots or raw?

Answer: cooked carrots. Per carrot, the antioxidants (mainly carotenes) are twice as bioavailable when cooked. This is true for many of the vegetables containing fat soluble vitamins. I assume cooking breaks down the cell walls to release them.

The focus this month were superfoods. Number one food on the anticancer list would be...KALE. Not a fan of it. This was the second month in a roll that we dealt with this vegetable. She bought a bunch of black kale which is especially narrow, rough and curly with the idea that the deeper the color, the more nutrients. Kale bruschetta was made (which was continually mispronounced with a soft ch..I kept my pedantic self in check..hard as it was). A tastier dish was carrot/sweet potato coconut curry soup chock full of antioxidants including the stuff found in onions and garlic and the tumeric of the curry powder. An even tastier dish was a quinoa spinach casserole containing sun-dried tomatoes (more nutritious than raw tomatoes) and cheese. This was pure comfort food. I could not get enough of it. The week before due to the extended version of a 24 hour bug, I hadn't eaten much. This week I was ravenous. So many times I have to tell myself No..No NO!
One of the main problems with these recipes is the amount of slicing and dicing involved. One lady worked on the kale for a full hour. I chopped up 6 cups of carrots and almost an equal amount of sweet potatoes. I also was in charge of onion dicing. My hands stunk for a good day after that (yes I wash my hands).

I dutifully save all these recipes. What I need to do is to adopt them more in my cooking. I know what I need to do..why is it so hard for me to start?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bringing summer inside

My azalea is in bloom. Ramy got me this almost 7 years ago when I broke my arm

Geranium. This plant is about 8 years old

Kalachoe or however it is spelled

primrose. As soon as the ground thaws, this is going in my rock garden

A pretty silk scarf I bought the other day. So flowery and light. It does make me think of spring
I try to keep alive some of my patio plants inside. I think I killed my 5 year old rosemary and my airplant didn't get watered for about a month but other things look like they will survive. It is bleak and gray out yet again. As long as the ground is not slippery, I can run.

Friday, March 22, 2013

An Evening with Chuckie Cheese

Trick photobooth. I look especially scary

The guest of honor on a merry-go-round

The grandbabies with Chuckie Cheese. Maya is making sure he keeps his distance
Maya gets so excited when she sees a Chuckie Cheese commercial. However, when faced with the giant rodent in person, she was terrified.

Still winter here.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tessa turns one

Such a happy little girl!

chillaxin' with Grandpa the other day
Tempus Fugit! It seems like only yesterday we were eagerly awaiting her birth in Boston. And such different weather! Temps in the eighties, spring flowers, cherry blossoms..
Today we have snow (again!!!!!) and it was all of fourteen this morning.

Part of the joy of grandparent hood is reliving the days spent with ones own children, my pretty babies. Although none of the grandbabies look like my children (the spouses's dominant genes won out in each case) Tessa so much reminds me of Baby Shanna in temperament  Always smiling; just happy to observe others; and very quick to learn baby tricks and speak early.

Tonight her birthday will be celebrated at Chuckie Cheese's which will be more thrilling to the young guests than the guest of honor.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Healing tones

During my BC yoga yesterday, our instructor had a crystal bowl that gave off a very loud single tone when it was rubbed: E Sharp I was told presumably heard by our heart. I hope my heart is now healed. I was amazed at how loud and long the tone was.

Our original instructor, Momma Sunshine visited us as a fellow yogi. She is now being treated for Stage 4 BC. Chemo has weakened her considerably. She is also on a clinical trial to trick her immune system into destroying her cancer cells. We all hope this works out. She adopted a baby girl a year ago that just happens to share the name of my potential grand daughter, a Scottish name meaning white and fair currently trending upward on the baby name charts. Well my maybe grand daughter may be white and fair (Josh and Julie were both childhood blonds though Josh's hair has darkened considerably) but her baby certainly does not fit the name though she has a Scottish last name too. She looks a lot like Ms. Maya. I will not reveal the name as it is not my place and for all I know, it is just a trial name. But it is growing on me more so than the boy name.

On this same baby name trending chart, I noticed my twin nieces' names are both going up too especially the slightly older niece. They were off the charts when they  were born. At least for females, you can pretty much guess how old someone is by just knowing their first name. So many of my classmates were Patty, Debbie, Kathy, Barb, Nancy or Sue. These names are off the charts now.

I am glad it is not a running day today..winter that just won't quit. And it is good that Shanna escaped Boston when she did. Last year snow totaled 9 inches. This year 59, with more coming.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Josh's upside down baby at 12.5 weeks. All is well. They can test for Down's Syndrome at this point by measuring the neck folds

Some of my lilies from last summer. Oh so long ago. Last year, we had summer in March. This year: all winter
So what makes a good present? Obviously, something the recipient would want but, as I argued, something the recipient would not have bought for himself. We compromised: a gift card so he can buy himself even more books. And lilies....Day lilies and Asiatic lilies and Easter lilies. Pictured above are tiger lilies.

Plantings will be sparse at their new house. Day lilies spread and are easy to take care of. They have a collectively long blooming period (though individually..only a day). The other lilies have a brief period of glory but they are so, so pretty. They are also easy to maintain year after year.Well at least Julie seemed excited.

We had birthday dinner last night with Shanna, Josh, Julie, Steve and myself. Fun. Naomi was out celebrating St. Pat's Day somewhere. Oh my Irish genes are becoming more and more dilute. I have one Irish great-grandfather. But even he was part French. I don't think Julie is bringing anything Celtic to the table either.

What I haven't determined yet is whether these lilies will become beautiful deer food. Their new house is adjacent to a large field. Even before deer were being spotted almost around every corner, twenty to thirty years ago, I would see them in a park I cross country skied in only a mile, as the crow flies, from their house. During that time, I rarely saw them any place else in Southern Michigan.

Note: I later researched this. Next to hostas, day lilies apparently are the deer's favorite food. Mixed opinions on whether deer like the other kind of lilies. One lady thought that since the deer ignored them for 10 years, she was safe to plant more. But one day, they all were eaten down to the ground. What won't they eat? Cosmos, zinnias, marigolds, cleomes, lavendar, herbs.

I awoke to see a large mass of snow quickly approaching from the south. If I was going to run on relatively unslick streets, it had to be right then. Fortunately the strong winds subsided when the snow came. Gee, last year at this time, it was eighty. Where is our global warming?

I will go to yoga now. My attendance has been rather sporadic due to illness and bad weather.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Baby Boy turns 31!

At 4: Always smiling

At 1, with a lady that has a really bad perm. Another one of my hair experiments gone bad
All grown up and about to buy another house, have a baby, and maybe get married again
Last year during my month in exile, I missed several key birthdays: both Josh and his then wife turned thirty (the latter being especially annoyed that I seemed to have forgotten her) and Naomi turned 21. However, I was around for the most important birthday of all: Miss Tess's who will turn one this Thursday.
How time flies!!!!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Crime and Punishment

I have been following the case of the  Michigan grandmother who shot and killed her 17 year old grandson who had lived with her. From all reports, he was belligerent, drug abusing  and just all around scary. She didn't know what to do with him. She had bought a gun a few weeks before the shooting to defend herself from him. Right before she shot him, he demanded her car and money so he could flee to avoid jail time.
She claims self defense. The prosecuting attorney claims this can not be true as her lipstick wasn't even smudged. Besides,  her first words were that she murdered her grandson. I think she meant killed, a difference. She is obviously in hell. It is hard to watch her being badgered by the lawyers. I am hoping that the jurors have a heart and common sense.

And then we have our local story. A few months ago, a brawl erupted right after a football game between cross town rivals in Ann Arbor. During the handshake, the head coach of one team seemed to shove the other head coach. Then the assistant coach punched the shoving coach..then all the kids decided to get in the action. A player hobbled on crutches from the bench and swung a crutch. A referee grabbed the crutch from him before he could hit someone. Another player suffered a concussion when he was shoved to the ground and pummeled by two minors. Aside from the concussion kid, no one was injured.

So who does the prosecutor go after? Not the responsible adults (one was fired, the other two quit). The 2 juveniles that caused the concussion were but as juveniles. I agree with this. They were clearly engaged in dangerous, life threatening activity. But the lone adult, an adult by being just a few months older than the concussion kids, the one who allegedly swung a crutch (but didn't actually hit anyone) is being charged. By all accounts, he is a good kid but he is being charged with a felony, attempted murder. He happens to be black. The coaches, who theoretically started the whole thing, are white. The community is up in arms because of the racism factor and the overkill on the part of the prosecutor, a man I happen to hate with good reason. Even the school board just passed a resolution urging that all charges be dropped. For lifting a crutch in the air, this young man could be barred from ever having a job. How does going after this kid (yeah 18 is an adult, he is in high school) make our society better? How many kids do we lock up on spurious charges?

Sample case he went forward with:  a crazy man is observed shaking a pet parrot. Was the parrot injured? It reportedly lost a few feathers and was unhappy but fine otherwise. This man was successfully sent to prison for 3 years.

Beware the Ides of March. Last year on this day, a F3 tornado raced (although race isn't the right word, I calculated it inched through at the speed I run) my son's town missing him by a few blocks. It wiped out a house he almost bought. Trees were covered in pink insulation. Lawns still have glass shards inbedded. People claim that insurance does not cover 'lawn vacuuming'. Reading the complaints people have about how insurance companies treated them during the aftermath is interesting. Suffice it to say, they were not in 'good hands'.
I missed this. During  the storm, I was enjoying a beautiful sunny day in Massachusetts awaiting my grand daughter's birth. Then I got a series of phone calls. A few from Josh I missed but were pleas for advice as the clouds swirled above him (I would have told him to hide in the basement but he chose to try to out run the storm) and one from my friend huddled in her basement 3 miles away from Josh saying she thinks Josh is about to be hit.
Another annoying storm is to hit us soon. Wish winter were over. I did get a run in so I am definitely on the mend.
A picture my friend took in the sub near Josh's

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Riding slow in the fast lane

The story of my life....?

No, just a silly story that made the rounds on the news recently. A woman gets a ticket for driving 62 in a 65 mph zone. Oh the outrage! But as it turns out, the ticket wasn't really for going 62 mph, it was for driving in the passing lane forever while enraged drivers interested in going at least the speed limit passed on the right. If you are not passing Lady, stay to the right! It is the law in most states but I don't know how much it is enforced given how many oblivious people flaunt it. They must enforce it strictly in France or maybe they are just extra courteous there (what are the chances of that?). I drove on one of their peages (expensive but very fast toll road) and was impressed how quickly cars zipped back into the right lane after passing without a second to spare. I think the speed limit was around 90 mph (150 kph).

At any rate, I think the woman deserved the ticket.

The other day as I was trying to stop from vomiting, I get a call (private on the caller id) from people purporting to be from Consumer's Reports wondering why I had ignored their many letters to renew (did we get those?) but not to worry, they can renew it over the phone right now..just give us your..Don't care to discuss this right now, I snarled. C'mon, it will just take a second .. I hung up.

Well Steve's sphere of responsibility includes taking care of magazine subscriptions  He assured me that we he more than 3 years on this subscription. This put a bee in my bonnet. I called CR's subscription department to ask if they had any reason to badger us by phone when we had so much time left and furthermore  we request that even if it does expire, we'd prefer not to be badgered. They said that they never would have done that. They don't even have our phone number and furthermore, don't even have my name.

Well you must have sold your list of subscribers to scammers.

Or not. Within minutes of hanging up, I get yet another call, this time wondering about my subscription to Discover (which I used to have) in what I think was the identical voice. Guess what my response was?

More reasons to ditch the land line. Usually I don't even answer unfamiliar numbers on the caller id but where my friend is staying currently, when she calls, it shows up as Private.

Maybe I am just crabby for having a 24 hour virus last 6 days. I did return to exercising today at the Y after trying to make sure I was re hydrated (had stopped peeing). My body had trouble regulating its temperature..unduly hot! Even lifting weights was extra hard..but I felt better that I had at least done something.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New Beginnings

We went with Josh and Julie to the final inspection of the interior of the house which just got its certificate of occupancy. Turns out the builder wants them to close ASAP even though there is no porch, yard or front steps. Josh was thinking of closing in a month but no, it will be in less than 2 weeks. Yikes! And the other house needs to be put on the market.
The fireplace works!

View from the family room to the front hall. All the walls are the same yellow but the lighting makes it look like orange here

It will be fun to change this light bulb

The kitchen. Need to get a refridgerator

Soaking tub

2 sinks
S the inside of their new house is finished. We went through testing everything to see what the builder should fix. It has 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths along with a living and dining room plus a good sized'eat-in' kitchen. What it needs is a patio.

Still don't feel 100% back to normal. Steve is getting me some mushroom barley soup. Maybe I can keep that down.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


As I have said before, I worked on a pain project at work. There are two types of pain: nociceptive pain that alerts the self that something is amiss in hopes that it gets fixed (put your hand on something hot OW! you remove the hand) and neuropathic pain, which serves no good purpose. Neuropathic pain is damage to the nerve itself and very difficult to treat. Those undergoing cancer treatment are introduced to nasty neuropathic pain; Taxol is notorious for inducing it. On the third day after treatment, every muscle fiber would ache. There would be no position that I could get comfortable in. Fortunately for me, after a day or so, it was gone. Some people have this pain years after. I do have some neuropathic pain due to damage from either surgery or radiation (I vote for the latter) Occasionally I get shooting pains in my bad breast. But then it disappears  Sometimes it feels like I have broken a rib which set me off on Oh No, it's come back as bones mets! but then it goes away.

But yesterday I was plagued with nociceptive pain. I believe I have noro virus aka winter vomiting bug. But its presentation is much different than what  I had last year (twice!) which was severe vomiting for 12 hours and then, I am OK. Noro virus is very hard to avoid with little kids. Due to the virus lacking a sheath, alcohol does not kill it so sanitizers are useless. Also it is highly infectious, just one or two viruses are enough to infect. And the suckers live a long time without their host. It is amazing that we all don't have it. I was vaguely nauseous for 3 days then suddenly I had severe stomach cramps..I was really afraid of becoming dehydrated as there was no break in the 'action'. But the cramps were the so painful. Also I could not get warm even though I was fully dressed under 2 thick comforters, I still shivered. Me, who runs outside with just a t-shirt when it is 30. I am much better today with just the nausea but this is no fun. Since eating is out of the question, maybe I'll lose weight but I can't exercise (too weak).

Another subject: sneaky airlines. I went to purchase some tickets on-line and the website froze me out. I called to complain (entered the wrong password and it would not give a second chance). They asked if I just wanted to buy my tickets from them..sure but now I noticed they added a $50 service fee (with no warning!!!) Quite the scam, make the website impossible to use so you are forced to call them and then get charged $50 for a minute's work on their part. I would tell you their name but since they were good enough to remove the charge when I noticed it today, I will give them a pass but caveat emptor!!! Also all these miles I have with this airline only count towards getting free tickets not anything else. Even though I have more than 100K miles, since I didn't actually fly all that, no upgrades, no buying tickets for free on the phone, no nothing. That was not made clear to me before either.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Day in the Park

Sixty Degrees!!!
Time to let the kids run around outside.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Raspbarb crisp

We had Mom's group last night. I bring the dessert. I mulled my options: a Swedish cream cheese coffeecake that Kris had posted the recipe for yesterday? A Mont Blanc? This is riced  sweetened chestnut puree heaped over a mound of whipped cream. I used to eat this tasty dish at a Hungarian restaurant on the Upper East side (alas closed). I also had it in Bern, Switzerland of all places where they called it Vermicelli (Italian for little worms). I just had to hydrate some dried chestnuts and whip some cream energy level was low. Plus where is that ricer anyway.

So I bought a raspberry-rhubarb crisp and ice cream. Am I lazy or what? But it was an interesting combination.

The hosting mom lives out in the country on a dirt road. We are in the middle of the big thaw. To avoid a mile or so on  a badly pitted road, I ended up going 3 miles on the road from hell full of tire deep mud pots ( I was lost). If we resume our house hunting, paved roads will be a top priority. But it was fun. Our friend recently returned from a trip to Morocco and Spain. She is a gifted photographer. Alas, no photos to share but she had some very elaborate Spanish Christmas light displays, much different than seen in the US.
From the web:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Miracle Babies

These little girls were born yesterday weighing 4#10oz and 4#9oz. They were due April first  but twins generally come 3 weeks early  Their mom, my fellow yogi, has Stage 4 breast cancer. Not long after I met her, she shared that she was expecting twins. Seeing my shocked face (I knew about thee BC) she added that a surrogate was carrying them. When she was first diagnosed, she was told that chemo would probably destroy the baby making so she was able to 'harvest' some embryos before it began.

They do look precious.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Why are kids getting more allergies?

To avoid allergies, parents (up to now) have been told not to introduce highly allergenic foods such as peanuts, eggs soy and fish until 3 (eggs can be introduced at 2). But has this advice been working? Are less kids developing allergies? No!!!
A group finally tested whether this advice was sound. Jewish babies in Israel eat peanut products commonly before 6 months of age compared to Jewish babies in England who aren't exposed until much later. Which group exhibited the most peanut allergies? The group who wasn't exposed until later.
Suddenly the thinking is that maybe if a kids is exposed early, the body won't react as if it is a foreign substance when they are exposed to it later. Other factors may be in play. For instance the increased number of immunizations a child gets now might super sensitize his immune system.

Still the authors caution avoidance of potential allergens to high risk groups. Who would those be? Siblings of super sensitive kids and/or kids with eczema.

As a child, I knew no  one with a peanut allergy. I live with a woman with a severe sesame allergy though.
These are the allergies I have: sulfonamides, super sensitivity to poison ivy, nickel (contact) and a mild cat allergy.
What Steve has: none
What Shanna has: sulfonamides,  rabbit, cat and guinea pig dander and  probably dust
What Josh has: cat dander and spring pollen
What Naomi has: none
What Ramy has: none
What Oliver has: Pistachios
What Daniel has: All nuts, peanuts, soy, dog spit, egg whites. Excepting for the dog spit, it is hard to avoid a lot of this though fortunately his reactions are mild. He had fairly bad eczema as a baby
What Tess has: Nothing so far but she has not been exposed to much. Fortunately she does not have the scaly skin patches.
What Maya has: No allergies.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Growing backwards

Today would have been my mom's 86th birthday if she hadn't died of Alzheimer's disease (AD) more than 5 years ago. AD is known as the Long  Goodbye. Abilities slowly fade away until the person can not do anything. It is childhood in reverse. Instead of gaining new skills, one loses them. I always tried to figure what level my mom was at. When she came to live with me in 2003 while I was trying to place her in a nursing home, she spoke as a 3 year old. She could no longer do puzzles, not even ones designed for 3 year olds. She could identify letters but could not read or sign her name. The most advanced skill she had was that she could tie her shoes.A year later, she could not speak at all except to say yes. Ultimately, she lost the ability to swallow. Even a 7 month  preemie could do that. Or maybe she just refused to swallow. It was not clear.

Recently my older aunt sent me a packet of my mom's letters dating from 1999. The ones from that year and the next year seemed like my old mom. Starting in 2001, she is forgetting words and grammar.

There are a lot of cars. I had a problem to make a left. The cars kept coming. I had my foot stopped and tried to move. I am still bumpy.

Sept 2002
 should tell you for the shoes and the powder. HR won't let me to anything. (HR is my father)

May 2002
I do a lot of working on the lawn. Always doing something. Its the best I can to do maybe. I'll get out of the JAIL.

Feb 2003
How are things going. Not much. I do all the work. I spent the days. HR didn't like what I would do. You have very nice and I have all the ones have.

April 2003
We had ICE and it a lot lost there for a home It had to get it back . I am confusing. I have put the dishwasher in 4 times.

Her later letters were written on scraps of paper like on the backs of flyers she received in the mail. Maybe she couldn't find her stationery. She stopped writing in April 2003. She could no longer take money out of the bank because her signature would not match the one on file. Around April, she could no longer balance her checkbook. In September of 2003, my father needed to hospitalized and I took her to my house as she could not be by herself. I had taken her out for a day in August and she still seemed like she could be left alone but in a month's time, she went downhill fast. I was working at the time. I found out I couldn't leave her for a minute. She'd turn on the stove after putting paper on it. She'd wander around at night. Very stressful. My father didn't want her in a home because he didn't want to pay for it. I eventually convinced him that she'd burn the house down. With his mobility issues, he would be burnt alive.

Glory be! The big snowstorm missed us! Poor Maya is sick throwing up and is lethargic. Finally she is getting better.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Life in the Fly- over Zone

There seems to be an attitude that intellectual life only exists on the coasts; the middle of the country is just one big wasteland. I read reviews of promising movies in national publications but somehow these movies just don't make it here to the heartland. Steve previously worked in NJ. When he and his co-workers were told that they would be transferred here (gasp!), some reacted as if they were being exiled to the ends of the earth.

During the recession of 2008, our governor proposed a deal: if film producers would shoot their movies in Michigan, the state would pick up half of the production costs. In return, hopefully Michigan would have a new industry. New jobs ( though temporary) would be created and there would be a trickle down effect to help our flagging economy recover. I suppose the positive effects were impossible to measure but the negative effects were not. The new governor said this was a money losing scheme and ended it.

But the upshot was that many movies were filmed in Michigan, a lot in Ann Arbor alone. Some even in my neighborhood. Of course Ann Arbor was the most insulated from the recession: other parts of the state would have benefited more from our new industry yet they had to pay for Ann Arbor's windfall (how ever big that was). In chemistry we had something called the Markownikoff Rule when determining how HX adds across a terminal double bond. It is this (also known as St. Matthew's rule) Them that has the most, gits. In chemistry, the carbon with the most Hs, gets the additional H. Yet another example that life is unfair.

So I imagine the thinking behind the movie producers. It would make sense to go to Michigan but Yuck! What part of the state would be the least painful to tolerate for the few months' duration? Ann Arbor of course. Our little island of enlightenment  An island of brie eaters surrounded by Velveeta (liquid gold?)eaters. The Harvard of the MidWest!

During our blizzard of last week, I watched one of the products of this experiment: The Five Year Engagement.  A promising San Francisco chef sends himself into exile to Ann Arbor to appease his fiancee. Of course, no one would pay more than $8/ hour for his skills since in this wasteland, that is what we pay fry cooks. No concept of gourmet eating here! To get along with his new friends, he finds he has to embrace deer hunting because that is all we do in the MidWest. Lots of scenes of deer slaughter (fake thankfully), in the spring no less! (we do have a season for this, no leaves are on the trees then). Nevermind that his character is Jewish (observant Jews leave hunting to the blood thirsty goyim) but maybe that was part of the big sacrifice he had to make finding himself in God-forsaken Ann Arbor. Lots of snow shots! He makes his escape back to San Francisco where all is great! His fiancee finally realizes just how awful soul sucking Ann Arbor is, and joins him for a happy ending in Alamo Park (the last part of San Francisco I visited on our recent trip. It is pretty).

Where would you rather live? Our street last week.

Or around Alamo Park. This was taken in Novemeber
Well they are right about the winter. Not fun. I read something today that we had one of the snowiest Februarys on record. Need to plan an escape....

Monday, March 4, 2013

My grandbaby is the size of a kumquat

S/he has gone from poppyseed to apple seed to olive. I really don't think s/he is as big as a kumquat but that's the yardstick I found online. Last week the baby measured in at an inch at 9.5 weeks.
Painting in class

Josh's house. Since I've been there, they put up siding, floors, lighting, the granite. Should be done in a few weeks

Shanna's house now has most of a roof
I've not been on this blog much lately. Too busy celebrating Triple Negative Breast Cancer day (yesterday)?
No just been busy with grandbabies. I took Maya to class today  as her mother has a task early in the morning to perform for the next week and a half. Maya is making good progress. She sings along now to the songs they have. Still a year behind in language though.

We did have a 'family dinner' here last night. Once those houses pictured above are finished, maybe I won't be the only one cooking.. One of the dishes I made was with shaved brussel sprouts. Fry them up with some bacon, shallots, garlic and add some balsamic vinegar...Yum. But it was nice having all the kids and grandkids together though we were missing Ramy who seems to be working around the clock.
Julie is very excited about her baby-to-be.

Off to Happy Hour with a friend!

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Draw-a-Man test

This is a picture that Shanna drew of a person not long after her 4th birthday and a full year before she entered kindergarten

I had a friend whose job was to screen children for kindergarten readiness. A quick screening tool is to ask  them to draw themselves or a man. The drawing should have a body, head, arms and legs. All other body parts are optional. This is not a test of artistic ability but rather that of perception. Shanna drew the elbows as lumps on the arms. She has the correct number of fingers. I am not sure what the lumps in the neck are. Shoulders? If the kid draws legs coming out of the head, maybe they are just not mature enough.
Shanna seemed to pass all these tests with flying colors more than a year before school started. One of the tests is seeing if a child could correctly identify 6 colors. Sounds easy right? Josh could not do it. He knew the names of colors but could not match them up. No he was not colorblind, just totally uninterested in color. I am not sure if he could draw a person because he would not sit still enough to do it. He signed things with a backward "J'.

Naomi had lots of artistic talent and her pictures were  quite elaborate. She seemed ready for kindergarten. She could even read. But as it turns out, she had a well hidden disability which did not surface until second grade. After much testing, it was decided that she had some sort of language processing disorder. She has an inability to make inferences. This has very much negatively impacted her life. How do you treat it? The 'experts' didn't know.

February is finally gone though March right now isn't much warmer. I am so ready for spring!


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