Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Soggy Halloween!

Allie's skeleton glows in the dark


Tess is a zebra;Daniel a power ranger and I think Oliver is Captain America
Unfair that it is raining non-stop on the day that kids look so forward too. At least it isn't cold. We probably won't get many kids tonight.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The third receptor

The scenic beauty road near me that I ran and biked on this morning.As one can see, it is sunny. It is also relatively warm and windless
How you are treated for breast cancer depends largely on your receptor status for estrogen, progesterone, and her2. Of these three factors, progesterone is by far the least important factor though in studies correlating breast cancer risk with replacement hormones,an association with increased breast cancer with use of replacements with estrogen  and progesterone is observed but not with estrogen replacement alone. (using estrogen alone with women with uteri however increases chances of uterine cancer and blood clots).

I returned to the Y yesterday for the Livestrong program for recovering cancer patients. There is time to do an aerobic workout, work out on the machines and then meet to stretch and do balance exercises. Why do I still need this nearly 4.5 years after treatment ended? I still can't fully extend my right arm. I still have balance issues (though much less). And I can't expect too many days like today (perfect) to go outside and do my workouts. Plus despite all the free weights and exercise bands lying around my house, I don't seem to have enough discipline to use them. So first the elliptical and then the weight machines. As usual, I do fine with the lower body ones but I seemed to have lost a lot of upper body strength. It will return. I see myself carving a body out of this mess like a hot knife through butter. Our instructor had to leave right before our class was to begin. A back-up person had us do various stretches. I could no longer do the hurdler's stretch on the left side. Doing the group activities is optional.

Back on the machines, I see a woman I met 4 years ago in the cooking class. A relief: she is still alive! On her tenth cancerversity (when usually you could breathe a sigh of relief), she discovered that BC returned as Stage 4 in her bones. She was told that at best, she had 2 years left. She made a mental note of her expiration date as she called it. I met her around the time of the expiration date. Blocking estrogen did not slow the mets but it turns out that blocking the progesterone did. I didn't get a chance to talk to her but the fact she was on one of the machines bodes well.

And yeah, I am so sore today from those machines. I kept waiting for the endorphins to kick in on my run. They did but alas, they faded. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ghosts of Halloween past

Shanna as a mouse? cat?Still looking for her Don Mattingly photo
1987? I didn't spend too much on costumes in those days
Without make-up in 1988. They looked so much alike. I believe Allie has their eyes

In the hottest summer ever (1988), we decided to travel cross country to see South 
Dakota and Yellowstone, where we met up with Steve's brother and sister. Shanna 
was reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder's books then so we followed her trail from
 Wisconsin, Minnesota to South Dakota. Pictured below is Josh and myself in front 
of some Laura Ingalls museum, the Corn Palace with Steve and the kids (no Naomi 
in those days) and in the Badlands where it was a cool 110.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Wine no more..

For the past 2 weeks, I've been conducting an experiment on myself. What would happen if I cut out the wine (and other alcohol)?

I didn't completely cut it out. If I was around friends, I would limit myself to 2 glasses but if I were by myself or with Steve, nothing. I have said this to no one so far as I have a habit of breaking promises to myself. Steve must notice the lack of dirty wine glasses around but he has said nothing. Of course he has said nothing when there were too many glasses (and empty bottles) around. He hasn't drank in over 3 years

This all started with the strep throat. Alcohol does not feel good on an inflamed throat. But in the doctor's office I was weighed. I didn't look on the scale (bad enough mood already) but later the bad news was on my receipt along with my other vitals. OMG!!! Biking 1500 miles and running almost as far has been for naught? I felt drastic measures needed to be taken but drastic measures rarely work over the long haul so on to Plan B, baby steps. I would only socially drink and at that, limit it.

I found myself looking forward to 5 a bit too much (would not drink before that time). Yeah I know a bit might be good for me as it relaxes me but I was going beyond a bit. A zillion empty calories. And maybe it is linked to why I wake up so much in the middle of the night though so far, I still am waking up.

And alcohol consumption is linked to breast cancer. The worst case is drinking when consuming hormone replacements. Apparently alcohol interferes with the metabolism of  estrogen leading to estrogen spikes leading to stimulation of any cancer cells that might be hanging around. Now TNBC is not stimulated by estrogen but who knows if it didn't start out as estrogen positive and just mutated into TNBC cells. And I threw away the estrogen replacements as soon as my suspicious lesion was discovered.

Well so far, I haven't noticed a whole lot of positive effects but I guess I need to give it more time. I really do miss it.

Yesterday I went for my long bike ride waiting for it to be at least 40 before I began. Still my toes became numb with cold. I was invited to Josh's for dinner with an interesting twist, I should bring dinner as they are too exhausted to cook it for us. What should I bring? Something about matzoh ball soup?Well I only make that when I have a chicken or turkey carcass around and it isn't especially healthy (and it is very time consuming to make). So grilled chicken caesar salad, rice with broccoli and mixed berries for dessert. No wine.

Little Allie looked like an angel, not the devil baby keeping them awake the whole night before. They were tired. And after work this week and last, he is to be entertaining his former hosts, the Brazilians. They were so nice to him, he feels he has to return the favor.

And then on to more episodes of Orange is the New Black. Yeah I did drink some wine.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Middle of the night reading

Room by Emma Donoghue

A 19 year old college student is abducted and put in a sound proof shed for 7 years. She is allowed to keep her kidnapper's child. This little room is her son's entire room. He is the  5 year old narrator of the book. Ma's teeth have rotted out. The kidnapper is losing his house due to foreclosure. What will happen to them?

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

A long story of 2 generations of family struggling. Lots of political intrigue. Evil Republicans versus ecological concerns. Betrayals.

Talk before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg

A woman takes care of her 42 year old best friend dying of breast cancer. Very sad but interesting. How to keep hope alive in a hopeless situation.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

A young adult raises his young brother after both parents die of separate cancers in a short period of time. Meanwhile he is trying to find himself as a writer.

The River Midnight by Lilian Nattel
 Life in a shtetl in late 19th century Russian partitioned Poland. Lots of overlapping stories. Steve's grandparents came from similar villages from the same area.

One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus

To keep the peace, the President agrees to send one thousand white women to the Cheyenne. Women go there voluntarily to escape all sorts of hell back home. Most of it is narrated through the eyes of a former Chicago socialite whose parents threw her in a mental hospital after she married and had a child with a working class person. Anything would be better than the mental hospital where she is routinely raped. Her fellow wives have similar stories. By luck, she is to be married to the Chief. But lots of culture shock and as usual, the white men don't keep their promises..

Sea of Glory by Nathaniel Philbrick

This is a true account of the U.S.  Exploring Expedition aka The Ex.Ex. of 1838-1842 which had several purposes: to hopefully claim new lands (late in the game for that) map out Antarctica, map all the islands they can find in the Pacific and to collect flora and fauna from said lands. The collections ended up being the basis of the Smithsonian Institutes. However, the head of the Ex. Ex. is a maniac who makes everyone miserable. On land,Charles Wilkes seemed to be fine but when the going got tough, he goes crazy. There were many witnesses to this and he ended up being court martialled after the trips were over. He is the basis of Captain Ahab in Moby Dick as Melville read everything he could about the exploits. Some of the details of this book were boring (like most of Moby Dick)and it took me almost a year to finish but I learned a lot.

This is just part of a huge stack of books I have in the spare room. Need to clear them out for my guests next week unless one of them would like to read any of them.

Waiting for it to be warm enough not to freeze my ass off biking (as if).

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fried Ice Cream

Yesterday I asked Steve to find some cinnamon ice cream to complement the apple crisp I made for the Moms. He came back with the Fried ice cream. Never heard of it but it does have cinnamon along with pieces of something (donuts? snickerdoodle dough?) suspended therein. A new one for me.

The hosting mom lives out in the country. Her driveway seems to be paved with fallen black walnuts squishing under our feet as we walked up it. On her property, she has some rare American chestnut trees that were spared in the blight so she occasionally has chestnuts if the squirrels don't get there first. In the spring, the yard is covered with morels.

My mom loved 'free food' such as black walnuts. Yes black walnuts taste good, though I didn't think so as a  child but they were so much work to extract. Extra bonus, hands getting black touching them. She even made jelly from our choke cherry trees.

But it is always nice being with the Moms. Wine, tasty food (though somewhat boring dessert) and lots of sharing. It's been almost 34 years since we first started meeting with our bobbleheads. Now we have almost 9 grand babies (one is due in 6 weeks) between us. One of the grand babies is taller than the grand mom. ( I bet all my grandbabies will be ultimately taller than me except for maybe Tessa though she is tall now).

A slightly warmer (than what it has been) weekend. But instead of calm, it will be very windy. I rather have the calm.

Friday, October 25, 2013

How do you like them apples?

The title of this post was from a line in Good Will Hunting. When this movie was imported to France, the translator just could not come up with a similar line in French. In your face?

Last year the early spring then freeze killed all the apple blossoms so no apples here last year. Peaches blossom at the same time but their blossoms are hardier (even though the fruit is more delicate) so at least we had peaches, a superior fruit in my book.

But our delayed spring this year translated into a bumper crop of apples, so many that growers are having trouble finding pickers. A friend recently shared her pickings with me, a half of a grocery bag..lots and lots of apples. Today I spent close to 2 hours peeling and slicing to get 8 quarts of slices which were then converted into 2 apple crisps. One of these will be taken to The Moms tonight. I am the dessert lady. I was going to make poached pears in wine but maybe some other day.

Aside from the walnut and hickory trees, there are lots of abandoned apple trees along my bike routes. An additional hazard is running over the mashed apples, slippery, and upsetting the wasps feeding on them.  All will be gone soon enough. Gray, cold November is almost here.

One of my nieces enjoying the fall

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Baby Girls

After first haircut

She'll have to wait awhile for her first haircut
I spent the past 2 days visiting my grand babies. Yesterday I biked to Shanna's, a much easier trip than biking to Josh's. For starters, it is down hill and almost ten miles closer. Extra bonus, a tailwind. I just needed to make a choice between taking a dirt road or going on a heavily travelled state trunk line. Paved it was. Fortunately I am separated from the 70 mph traffic by rumble strips.

And today I drove watching Allie as her mother worked out and did shopping. Allie now how has a social smile so that makes her especially endearing. Alas not captured by photo.

It is indeed a luxury to watch these little ones grow up.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The most photographed baby ever

Blame it on the Momma

How come when a child does something horrific, people ask what kind of mother did this person have anyway?

Years ago a colleague's teenage son was found at night on a freeway overpass shooting out windshields of passing cars on a stretch of M-14 where there are no exits for miles. Although no one was killed or even injured, the victims were not amused. Why did he do this?

After the arrest, we were discussing this at work. My boss, a crabby man very quick to blame people for this and that (I was treated to a tirade because I used reflux as a verb in a report) was surprisingly equanimous. You just never know what you get. No blame. Just a sigh as so far he was lucky though later his daughter did the unforgivable (at least for a while) by marrying outside the faith. He seems to have made his peace with that. When I saw him last, he told me he spent his Friday nights bundled up against the cold watching his grandson from that marriage play football.

I read the shooter's father's obituary the other day. He was almost 90 (seeing long life in an organic chemist always makes me feel a bit better). In it, it had said that he had 4 sons, one whom predeceased him. Was that the shooter? Did he succumb to mental illness? Or was he one of the other three sons who had married and had kids and even grandkids.

I never discussed this my colleague. I didn't know him well and he was assigned to a different therapeutic area (we tended to stick to our own area..I was originally cancer and then spent most of my time in psychiatric disorders.)

I did go X-country skiing with him once. Although he was almost 30 years my senior, he was hard to keep up with. He was Swiss where skiing is learned early. To get to the trails, we skied across a large lake. As it had been cold for quite a while, chances were that it was frozen (and this was when winters used to be cold). However frozen lakes make all sorts of scary cracking sounds which made me nervous. He implied I was a big baby. Frozen lakes always make noises.

I don't have much patience for people who blame their current unhappiness on their parents especially when it has been years since they were under their influence. Naomi to her credit does not blame me for her current situation though she expects a lot of help. She says she does not regret for one moment having Maya.

While I sit here, I am listening to Satie's Gnossiennes. They are so haunting particularly Nos 1 and 3. We had our first frost here this morning (Shanna had hers while she was gone but she is in a lower lying area than we are) .

New rule for Sue: no fun things until I at least get some chore out of the way. With all the time theoretically on my hands, this house should be sparkling clean. I made some small progress today. Yea Sue.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The trouble with "L'

Oliver's version of his family
When I was with Daniel the other day, he said  he 'wuvs' it.
So you really wuv it?
He as indignant as he could be:

I didn't say 'wuv', I said WUV.

So he can tell the difference when I say it, not just when he says it.

His brother can not say Ls either or  Rs which makes it hard for strangers to understand his name when he says it.
I took Josh in for speech therapy when he was 4 because he was unable to say Rs and diphthongs containing S. I can't remember if he could say L words. To get rid of his lisp, he had to pronounce S in front of a mirror taking care to keep his teeth closed so  the tongue would be behind them. He speaks well now.

I was an English speaking partner for a Japanese businessman in an ESL program back in college. His goal was to correctly pronounce Honolulu where his company had an office.
Maybe he thought he was pronouncing it correctly and was too polite to correct me when I told him he wasn't. English speakers rarely mix up their Ls and Rs. My gross stereotype was that Chinese people could pronounce Ls but not Rs and Japanese could pronounce Rs but not Ls especially as Chinese names have Ls in them and Japanese commonly have Rs though my business man did not. I've been since told that this is not true. Both languages contain a sound that is half way between an L and an R. I can't even imagine how to make that sound. I tried to tell him where to hold his tongue. The tongue is closer to the teeth with an L. I am not a speech therapist or otherwise maybe I could have helped myself. I still have trouble reproducing an Italian R reliably though sometimes I can.

I biked to Josh's yesterday. There is a smooth, direct road  that goes there but in mid-day, it would be busy and a mile of it is closed due to construction. I took 7 miles of a dirt road which took me to a paved bike trail that comes close to his house. However it had rained quite a bit the day before. There was enough sunshine to dry up the paved roads but not the dirt ones. Right away I had to go down a steep, slick (wet clay is especially slippery) pothole infested stretch. Soon I was covered in mud. I stopped to text Steve to request another outfit but too late for that. Fortunately not the whole road was like that (but I bet half of it was, a reminder to myself never to buy a house on a dirt road). Parts were stunningly beautiful. Fall colors, horse farms, a deep blue sky. The section that paralleled the closed road was especially treacherous and traffic filled. I was well aware that I was blocking traffic but the road was so bad, I don't think a car would dare go faster than me lest it broke an axle. I rode through parts of three counties to get there. I was only on the trail for 5.5 miles. It wasn't as smooth as I remembered. At Josh's after I brushed as much mud off as I could and removing my outer shirt which left me with a much cleaner shirt (though sweatier), I was free to watch Allie as her parents went on a rare trip, just by themselves. She is so cute. Last week, she had profession pictures taken. We are eagerly awaiting those.

Later a fun Orange is the New Black viewing marathon session. Five episodes to go and then maybe a new season starts.
Hopefully Ms. Allie will have no trouble with L
Odds are against it

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Midwest accent

Excepting for my first 8 years, I have lived in Michigan all my life. For the most part, I speak like the people around me. And it seems to me that national broadcasters speak with a similar accent. Now I share a bed (when I am not having insomnia) with someone who insists I don't speak correctly. His Brooklyn accent is not obvious until he says something like

Florida Orange ( I make all the 'o's long as they SHOULD be, he doesn't)
And I also make the words merry, Mary and marry all sound alike whereas he says each word differently.

When I was 14 or 15, I went on my first trip all by myself to visit my penpal in a steel town just south of Pittsburgh. I had met her on a family vacation in Florida when I was 12 and we corresponded faithfully after that.
Her family (especially her mom) bent over backwards to entertain me taking me to Kennywood, some old school waterpark along the Youghiogheny, a  family picnic, tours of Pittsburgh, etc. The steelmills were in full operation then blackening the sky even during the day. About ten years later when I was visiting Soulmate in Pittsburgh where he was a med student, they were mostly shut down.

But the visit wasn't that much fun. She had blossomed into some beauty queen who spent most of her wakening hours baton twirling (she was a majorette) and entertaining her new boyfriend. Their PDAs made me uncomfortable and envious. Also she and her friends made fun of my accent, which I was unaware that I had.
 I did think they had one.
What are you'ins going to do?
You-ins? You-uns?
I know the South has you all or yawl depending on what part for second person plural expressions. Later Steve's father would say 'you people' but here we don't address that so much and just hope no misunderstandings arise. We just seem to use the all purpose 'you' .  Italians have 4 different 'yous' depending on formality and plurality.

But the thing that amused them the most was my improper pronunciation of short vowel sounds, notably 'o'. Her new boyfriend's name was Tom. I would say "tahm'. They would say something like "toom' (long o).
Now that I've been on this earth for a while and met many people from all over, I do realize how grating some find our pronunciations.

I guess we both figured we didn't have much in common. I am not sure we even wrote to each other much after that though I had her senior photo (very pretty).

Last June, I did my bike ride starting in Pittsburgh. I hadn't been there since Soulmate had left. We went along the Monongahela until the point that the Youghiogheny flowed into it. Then along the Yough until the last day. ( Youghiogheny means river that flows backwards in some language, should have known that we were in for steady hill climbs as we were going against the northward flow). Her town was where the confluence of those two rivers are. We rode through the shuttered steel mills (ugly), past Kennywood, through her town (on very hard times) and then onto coal mining country, also over there). We were on an old coal train route. We probably went by the waterpark. I forgot its name. I should have asked Rash Sister, who grew up in Pittsburgh or even Soulmate might know though he lived 100 miles away.

 Anyway, the first day reminded me of my long ago trip and my pen pal. What had happened to her? What was the chance she didn't get married right out of high school and thus unsearchable. I googled her name. No hits but she was going by a 'diminutive name' such as Sue. I googled her probable name. BINGO, a hit. Only it was an obituary (Oh no!) but looking further, it was of a 90+ woman, her mom (the very nice lady). Penpal's new name was within. She was on Facebook but it appeared that she rarely used it. I messaged her and heard nothing until a few days ago. She said that her husband (Toooom) had remembered me (they had just started dating) implying that she hadn't and caught me up with a few things in her life. So mystery solved. Maybe she will remember the waterpark.

Cold, cold cold but it is warming to semi-tolerable levels. The plan is to ride to Josh's house and have Steve drive me back. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Confessions of a Teenage single mom

Naomi (and Maya) gave her presentation yesterday to the high school parenting class; the one in which they have an artificial baby to watch that cries incessantly and keeps track of neglect. The message that the class tries to impart is that although babies are cute, they are a lot of work so one might want to think twice before acquiring one.

I asked her if she were nervous.
Why should I be nervous?

She was encouraged to focus on the negative. When she didn't sound negative enough, the teacher brought up that Naomi's mom was battling breast cancer while she was becoming pregnant and how hard that must have been.  Reflecting back on her story, she guessed she sounded pretty pathetic and hopeless. But every time Maya started to speak, the students would ooh and aah as she is so cute. She was asked several different times in a variety of ways whether she regretted her decision to have Maya.

Absolutely NOT!!!!! Maya is her reason to live and the source of most of her happiness, etc.

So I guess that was a mixed message.

And as she asked me later, what would she  be doing if she didn't have Maya?

There was another murder in that hell hole she used to live in the other day. That makes 3 in the past year though to be fair, one of them was in a different complex a few blocks away. This one sounded like it was in her building or at least next to her old building. We bought the condo so they would have a safe place to live (and in a better school district) but as soon as their marriage dissolved. Don'tae moved right back there. Fortunately a few weeks ago, he moved to a much safer place well away from there so I have a few less worries.

As I sat for what seemed forever in the dentist's chair being fitted for a crown a few days ago, the dental assistant told me her story of woe which in a nutshell is that her 18 year old is pregnant. All her dreams for her daughter are destroyed! And various people are getting all 'judgy' on her for 'letting' this happen. Her daughter will name her son after a zodiac character and not the cool, hipster one Leo that some of Shanna's generation are choosing for their boys ( I do like Leo too). Her dilemma was how to muster some enthusiasm for this baby as otherwise, her negativity will cause a rift in their relationship. When I was finally able to speak, once my mouth was free of cotton wads, dental putty, drills and what have you, I told her that this story sounds a bit familiar. They all will survive but not to be so quick to have them marry. Who wants to stay married to someone they selected when they were 18? Well it turns out she did but her husband died in an accident just 2 years ago. More tears.

It's cool and drizzly. No more Indian summer. I should have biked yesterday while it was sunny and calm.

Friday, October 18, 2013

With all the bad side effects, it should be working..

I received a message while I was staying at Shanna's from my neighbor that her husband's prostate cancer mets had progressed despite the Taxol and now they will mull over several clinical trials in the hope that maybe they might stop this hideous progression.

Since he felt so horrible taking it, we assumed it had to be working...

I remembered an absurd line on the The Big C (a show in which the main character is dealing with stage 4 melanoma). She is being treated with chemo for the first time and notices no side effects in the subsequent days. She panics because if it doesn't cause bad effects against her good cells, it must not be affecting her bad cells too. I guess this is a common belief.

I did wonder if any of the Red Devil was actually staying in me. Shortly after it was administered, I went to pee and a bright red liquid came pouring out of me. On the next day, I went for a run, carefully as heart failure is one of the charming possibilities of the Red Devil. To my surprise, I felt fine. But soon the queasiness started.. and after the second round, the hair falling out.

Maybe it worked as I am alive and have no signs of cancer. Without it (and the cytoxan and taxol), I was given 50-50 odds of surviving. With it, my odds would improve twofold, which as it was pointed out to me, the biggest bang for the buck one could have.

If you were taking the analogy section of the SAT, Breast cancer is to women as_____is to men, the correct answer would be prostate cancer. These body parts do not seem to be analogous excepting they have something to do with reproduction and one could live without either of them but when cancer strikes, they start acting very similar. Same incidence, same dependence on hormones (usually) same pattern of mets. As my neighbor had the very most aggressive kind, he was told that the average time of survival was about a year. This was 6 years ago. After surgery and radiation, the next strategy is to block the hormone that the cancer feeds on. This works for a while but then the cancer learns to live without the hormone. The charming medical term for this type of cancer is 'castrate resistant' though no actual castration is involved (just chemically, I guess).

What does one say? There's still hope that one of the clinical trials will work and if that doesn't work then the next one and so forth.

One of their sons is married (Shanna used to babysit both of their sons). He has apologized for not having a child yet just in case that was high on the bucket list. My neighbor is satisfied that both sons have been successfully launched. Yep that would be a good feeling.

As far as my unlaunched one goes, she has been invited back to her high school today with Maya to give a talk to the parenting class about her experience. Surprisingly, she does not seem nervous. It always amazes me the things that she can handle and what she can't. She can waltz into an all African-American camping unit with the loudest mouthed girl openly hating her at first glance and then makes that girl her best friend. She can stand at the free throw line with lots of eyes on her depending on her to make that basket and she does. But can she make simple arrangements on the phone regarding health care etc? 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


One of the few advantages of being an ex-employee of a pharmaceutical company is that we get their products through our health insurance for free. Alas the few medications I have taken in the past were not in therapeutic areas of our company's interest. However I see they have been still busy buying up companies and spewing out the employees while keeping the products (Steve and I were victims of this). We just received a new list of covered medications. I see that they must have sucked up a company that makes thyroid medications so this will be a potential savings of $120/ year for me assuming I can get my doctor to write a new script.

I took the list to the doctors' yesterday ( I actually just saw a nurse practitioner) and told him to select a cure for me from that list. The preferred drug was not on the list but he chose one that should cure me. I was cautioned that the pharmacy might not have that particular brand and he would append a note for them to give me his first choice if that were the case. I assumed the drug would be ready when I got there but no, I had to wait for 20 minutes. This might not sound like much but I was feeling very badly. And when it was ready, I saw that the appended note to give me the the desired drug was not followed. We could call him to clarify?No, not in the mood to wait around there for a half hour for a new prescription. Then the tech tried to convince me to get a flu shot. Um I have an active case of strep throat. Not a good time.

The Red Devil is one of our company's acquisitions but if a drug is administered in a hospital setting, it is considered a 'treatment', not a drug and therefore we don't get it for free.

I often gave lectures and demonstrations outside of work. I was told not to use the word 'drug' as it has a negative connotation. The blue crystals of Walter White come to mind I guess. Incidentally, the crystals being blue is NOT an  indication of purity. They would be clear or white. Whatever was causing the blue color would be easy to remove. The Red Devil however is intrinsically deep red . No removing that color. Many years ago I was on a project to make analogs of it. Little did I know that it would be pumped through my veins at some point.

I feel much better but I am in isolation which makes me  sad. Steve and Naomi are with the baby. Steve is not coming near the baby in case he is a silent carrier (common with strep). He has some chore to perform around that area so that will keep him out of the house. So I wouldn't go crazy, I went for a bike ride keeping the bike tracker app off as it makes me push myself too much. I felt fine. And it was pretty with the fall colors, big billowy clouds. Two of the cranes were back in the cornfield and a deer slowly crossed in front of me. I will try to run tomorrow (which probably is harder on my cardiovascular system).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It only hurts when I swallow

Yesterday started off good. a sunny, crisp fall day. I went for a long run on the scenic beauty road. and then went on a short bike ride. But by late morning , I was shivering. I just could not keep warm. I thought I had overdressed for my run. Did biking in a sweaty shirt cause me to become chilled? I huddled under a blanket. By evening, my throat started to ache. Not too bad, I assumed I'd be fine by morning but no, during the night my throat became worse and worse. This morning using my flashlight app, I noticed that danglely thing (uvula?) at the back of my mouth was swollen three times its size. Everything was beefy red with patches of white stuff. Classic strep throat? I had taken a bunch of aspirin so I could sleep so that took care of the fever.

I had a Rapid Strep Test at the doctors which has a high rate of false negatives. But fortunately it was positive so I wouldn't have to wait a day or more for the traditional culture. And good that it as strep, which can be treated versus viral throat infections.

But this is interfering with my plans. No baby holding tomorrow. No this, no that. I might be contagious for 48 hours while on antibiotics. I called the dentist to explain. They want me to come in anyway.

How did I get this? I haven't had this since I was a teenager when I had it maybe 5 times. A lady in the waiting room says it is going through day care centers. She got it a few weeks ago and still hasn't recovered and now is thinking about another line of work. Very young children present differently: no sore throats, just runny noses.

Such a waste being sick! I am feeling better though. Below is what I am missing from being ill

Monday, October 14, 2013

One flew over the hornet's nest

Cosmos No sign of the hummingbirds since I returned. Did they fly south already?
Hornet's nest hidden behind our basketball backboard a few years ago. Dontae and his brother pissed them off by playing basketball. We have also gotten rid of the wild grapes that were attacking our house
Recently on the news they featured a horrific story about Giant Chinese Hornets. These things have always existed but this year, they have a bumper crop of the thumb sized hornets who live in enormous nests five times of the basketball nest we had above. So far, 42 people have died. No they didn't die of anaphylactic shock but from the enormous amount of toxins these creatures inject. As little as five stings can kill a human. A few more can kill cattle. Survivors have bullet sized holes on their bodies as the venom is flesh dissolving.

Everyone there is hoping for a killing frost soon. In the meantime, well protected crews are burning the known nests with blow torches.

I am not a fan of stinging creatures. Each year features different ones. Although we don't have hornets, paper wasps and the worst, yellow jackets this year, we have a sizeable nest of small, mean wasps in my rock garden, the very same variety that I had stupidly locked our bikes to a pole containing a nest of them a few months ago. These nasty things love sugar and have been harassing my hummingbirds. On one of my feeders, I have wasp guards but they are smaller than the yellow jackets the guards were built for and can get through the holes. I have found out the hard way that there is little correlation between the size of the creature and how awful the venom is. A few years ago, I was stung by an enormous carpenter bee, which probably weighs just as much as a Chinese hornet. However, it didn't hurt nearly as much as a yellow jacket. Fortunately carpenter bees work alone. Thousands of individuals don't form a stinging swarm after you.

On the day Julie was in labor, one of the small evil wasps stung me. I immediately put on a paste of baking soda meant to denature the venom but the stuff was injected well below the surface. By the time I got to the hospital (to see the baby)my wrist felt like it was broken. A small pit formed on my arm where the toxin dissolved my flesh. A very small pit especially compared to the poor Chinese victims.

One of my favorite hornet stories was in Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead about his WW2 service in the Pacific. His company was a recon mission to check out the Japanese that had probably infiltrated behind their lines. However his men stumbled upon a hornet's nest (not clear if they were the massive Chinese variety) which scattered the men screaming in all directions. Not good if stealth is your prime objective. The commander radioed to ask what was going on.
We ran into a hornet's nest sir.
Literally or figuratively?

Naomi is especially phobic about stinging creatures. Somehow wasps have been getting into her condo and usually end up on her window trying to escape. On one of the days she called me 4 times insisting that we drive from wherever we were to kill these things IMMEDIATELY!!! I told her just to swat it with a magazine. What happens if I miss? It will come after me looking for revenge? Will Windex kill it? Only if you get close enough to drown it, you are better off swatting it. Steve did make a special trip there last week for wasp killing.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Home again

A scan of the houses surrounding the park near Shanna's. Lot sizes are small, porches are big to encourage interaction between neighbors. Houses can't be the same color as the one next to them. Garages are mainly accessed through alleys though Shanna has one of the few front facing ones
chalk artists

Tessa at home taking a nap. I took the kids to the park to burn off some of their energy.

We are home again from our 5 day stay on Shanna's. They had a good time on their honeymoon.
This is Day 7 of Indian Summer. Temps reach almost 80 during the day but then drop down at night. The park pictured above was covered with frost on Friday morning.

We had gotten into a routine: get the boys up a bit past 7, make lunch for Oliver, select clothes for them. I thought they would be capable of dressing themselves but they are easily distracted and usually I'd end up doing it. Make breakfast, walk Oliver to the bus stop to await the bus, go home and drive Daniel for his 3 hour long preschool session. Tess would get up sometime while I was dealing with the boys but she was Steve's responsibility. While Daniel was in school, I took an hour or so to run through the cornfields. Only once did I see a deer. No other wildlife.

The witching hour (or more) would begin when the boys were reunited. I tried to keep them active riding bikes but sooner or later they would clash. Also on my agenda was to convince them to pick up after themselves. They will dump a box of toys out, play with them a bit, then on to the next box to dump. Soon we are knee deep in toys. Yesterday I turned off the TV and said none of that until the floor is completely toy free. Tessa and Oliver agreed to clean up but Daniel said that he didn't want to. Well I don't want to clean up after you. Well I am too tired to pick things up.Well then you can't be with us. You have to lie down in another room.
He cried piteously in the other room for 10 minutes before he was allowed back in. At one point I threatened to call the mamma to say that she could stay another week in Vegas (as if).

Shanna did call while I was in the midst of changing a diaper that had exploded everywhere. All 3 kids were crying (boys were fighting over some toy). I had the kids to myself. Are we having fun yet? Finally I did pick up after 3 tries on her part. Everyone was calmed down by then.

Their neighborhood is still being built. While I was there, construction would begin noisily at 7. Next door siding was being put on involving a buzz saw and a staple gun. A few doors down had an especially noisy, obnoxious crew who listened to heavy metal music all day pumped up to full volume swearing at each other loudly, oblivious to all the small children near them. Do they have kids? Do they talk that way in front of them?
Yesterday I took Oliver to soccer through the dense fog. Kindergarten soccer consists of 4 kids from each team running after the ball. There are no goalies or no rules such as offsides. The other team scored in the first few seconds when his team had a goalkick (usually an advantage over a corner kick) but the little boy could only kick a few feet in front of himself and the other team was lined up (all offsides but they don't call it) ready to attack. During  Naomi's first year of play, the goalie (they had goalies) could run to the corner of the box and throw it. At that age, a kid can usually throw farther than they can kick. A player is in the game only half of the time. A ball needed to be cleared from his team's end. Oliver ran onto the field to clear it. Too bad he was on the bench at that moment.

We did enjoy the kids but we do have a greater appreciation for what Shanna does every day by herself.

Venus or Spacelab. 
The Spacelab is making its rounds. The sky was clear and we have a full view of the southern sky (back here, objects better be high in the sky for us to see them due to all the mature trees). According to the website, Spacelab was supposed to be over the cornfields Thursday and Friday night. Steve insisted that the bright object there was Venus. Who knows? I didn't see it move so maybe he is right.

Happy Valley
Not happy for UM fans. How could they lose? Michigan was well ahead with only minutes to go when we drove home last night. I check the web upon my return...OT. And it just got worse.

Back to bicycling
I did nada yesterday besides a walk with the kids. But on a beautiful sunny day this morning back to bicycling. I almost became a speed bump when some silly woman on a dirt sideroad came barrelling right in front of me. I wear bright clothes but she didn't even look. Lots of bicyclists (and bikers too) out. Way more than usual. I see new markings on the road. TDL. I spent a few miles pondering what that could stand for until I found their rest stop (the place I buy my cheddar cauliflower) Tour de Livingston. Livingston is the county 8 miles northwest of us. But it seems like they were touring in our county instead.
Later a visit from Maya (or rather a changing of the parents that takes place at our house every Friday and Sunday) and then a brief visit to see Allie (and her parents).

Friday, October 11, 2013


You'd think that here in the absolute quiet of The Flatlands (the name of her community has the word Hill in it..ha!)I would sleep well. No such luck. Instead I wake from numerous dreams. I must not be too imaginative as I keep having variations of the same dream over and over. I am back in college to earn my degree for real this time (for the record, I do have a degree). What is apparently keeping me from finishing is that I can't remember my schedule. In the last dream, I write it down numerous times in a notebook. But I have trouble getting to my first class as I don't know the train's schedule (no such train in real life) I decide to run through the snow to class running between blackened snow drifts. I make it in time but don't know where to go next? Where is that notebook?

Always frantic in my dreams and full of anxiety. Rarely do I dream about my current life or even in my life past college. Why haven't I had a date in years? I wake up wondering this. Oh I am married.

I did have a dream about an old friend. I have dreamed about him before. He is dead in real life from a brain tumor but in my dream, I am upset because he defriended me on Facebook. Even if he were alive, he would have nothing to do with Facebook. He would find it an inane time waster. I did like him a lot but I didn't have a crush on him. Still I dream about him.

When I first was diagnosed with cancer, I asked  Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Is this Karma of sorts? He was a partial answer. I didn't visit him as often as I should have while he was dying. I did go to his funeral while I was in treatment.

Day 4 of grandchildren.  Oliver is having the most problems missing his mom. On Wednesday, he fell off his bike scraping his knee. He insisted he could not walk or put on his soccer stuff for practice later. When I mentioned we would go to McDonald's first if he could walk, then he did. I thought the practice was at  6:30. There were a couple of kids there earlier and Steve said he read it was 6, can't I get anything right. I was right but Oliver had an extra 20 minutes of practice. He was running just fine. Daniel and Tess played on the playground as the sun set. The bats were fluttering above. Fortunately we have been having Indian summer. No trouble getting them to sleep that night.

Oliver refused to speak to his mom and do much of anything the next day. Giving the three baths energized them and they didn't want to go to sleep. Even the usual angelic Tess didn't want to cooperate. We kept her in our room for a while. I noticed the light on in the boys' room and asked Steve to shut it off. He came back after a while saying that Daniel was missing. Not downstairs, not anywhere. Back in the room, I noticed a heap of bedding next to the sleeping Oliver. Yep there was Daniel.  Oliver does like to hide from me but not Daniel. This morning Oliver had an especially difficult time getting ready. And then he accidentally stepped on an older kid's craft set at the bus stop. She called him a stupid kindergartener and he burst into tears. He spent the rest of the time huddled under my coat until the bus came.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sue in Exile

Here I am driving a minivan with 3 child seats.  One of my charges forgot to take his underwear down this morning before using the bathroom. Another insisted on no syrup on his waffle after we already put it on. Then when we made a new syrupless waffle, he asked why wasn't it cut up and where is the syrup?

A rare break in the action. Oliver is in school; Tessa is taking a nap; Steve returned home for supplies and to water the flowers and Daniel is next to me playing on the beloved iPad, one advantage Gramma has over the missing mom.

I had three kids too but they weren't so close in age. Shanna was almost 12 when I had Naomi. I guess my chaos was more spread out.

This morning Oliver was difficult to wake up. I let him sleep as long as possible but we have to leave for the bus a bit passed 8. Once I returned from the bus stop (kindergarteners need an adult at the stops), time to get Daniel ready and off to his school 5 miles away.We are then left with one child, the easiest one. I go for a run, easy in the flatlands here. Even though east of here is fairly developed, directly west is all farms and dirt roads. My route looks like the opening scene for The Middle; straight as an arrow road going in between fields of corn. Thankfully very little traffic.  Corn fields even abut Shanna's back yard but I suspect, not for long.

Yesterday I did most of this on my own as Steve was dealing with Naomi stuff. Fortunately the weather was nice. After an hour in the park, Tess and I sat on the porch watching the boys bike back and forth. I try to keep them as active as possible because I want them to sleep. Tonight Oliver has soccer which should help him sleep. For homework, he has to read to me. He is a quick learner. He makes good guesses for unfamiliar words and remembers them when he sees them again.

Back when I was in kindergarten, there were only 3 goals to attain: learn the alphabet; count to 20; and tie ones shoes. Although Oliver has trouble with the last skill, he attained the others by 3. When I coached soccer for 7 year old boys, the number of kids able to effectively tie their shoes was about zero. Of course, soccer cleats might have been their first non-Velcro shoe. His school is big on ability grouping both for reading and math. I am guessing he will be in the top groups for both. When I was in ed school, they were very  much against that but I disagree. Even though we had grouping when I was a kid, I remember being impatient listening to kids struggle over words. I'd finish the sentence for them.

Using an unfamiliar computer is always an adventure. For reasons I don't understand, the screen will suddenly switch to an advertisement that is hell to get out of. Can Windows 8 suck any more? Hopefully by the time we need a new computer, they will revert back to 7. I'd use my iPad but can't get the wifi to work.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Eight Days

Tess met her cousin this morning

DIY project gone awry. Will embroider some flowers on it to make it more special. It will fit maybe for another 2 weeks

Extreme closeup of those baby blues
Josh returned to work today. Julie is still recovering from the birth so I had the hard job of holding Ms. Allie while Julie took a nap. So far a pretty good baby but she does confuse nights and days. But during the day, she is fun.

Tomorrow Shanna goes on her honeymoon and we move in with her three.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cranes and frogs

Sandhill cranes

Despite the steady drizzle, out I went on my 22 mile bike ride. I stopped to photograph a flock
 of turkeys right next to the road. Alas they scattered as soon as got the iphone out. So many
 frogs,mainly roadkill, were on the road! Again I saw my 8 sandhill cranes grazing in a plowed
 over corn field but this time I set Steve with his zoom lens to photograph them.

Ah new parenthood. Josh was giving me advice on how to hold a baby yesterday. I said he 
must regard it as a miracle that he and his sisters made it to age one.
Well maybe you forgot. (he didn't think Allie was getting the proper head support, she was
 and she was content)
I just had those four recent refresher courses.

We watched UM retain the little brown jug. At one point, the camera showed some of the
 tailgaters outside of the stadium. There was Josh's ex-wife catching a football on national TV.
 Some photos of Allie yesterday. Note the blanket

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Art in the Night

The fire breathing dragon looked especially cool at night with its body covered with zillions of little lights

The glass orchids were in the Top Ten. Alas it didn't win. I got a living version of this for Baby Allie

Orchids from above

Bizarre street scene

Also top ten Made from suspended pieces of bamboo

This quilt is entirely one piece of carved wood. Also Top Ten (didn't win)

Dessicated eggplant slices

Small part of an enormous painting

peanut shell art

At night We had perfect weather despite an earlier forecast of thunder storms

These are preserved leaves Very pretty at night

A friend of mine had not gone to ArtPrize before. When another friend bailed out at the last minute, I happily agreed to take her place. Plus I hadn't been there at night. I was afraid it would be very crowded but the thunderstorm forecast kept some away (never did rain while we were there, perfect weather) and we got an ideal parking spot.

Part of the experience is the Pub Crawl where various bars have speciality drinks on sale. We had the Amway Grand hotel's featured concoction, a Long Beach tea. One more of those and we'd be truly crawling.

It is impossible to see everything unless you went there every day for a week. I tried to show my friend some of the highlights while going to some nearby venues I'd missed. I thought more would be lit up at night but still the stuff that was made the night look magic. Lots of music in the air, an excellent dinner in the BOB (Big Old Building full of art and trendy restaurants) good vibes all around.

On the long way home, the sky was lit with distant lightning most of the way. And it had poured back here.


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