Friday, November 29, 2013


Tess happy to see a baby


Shanna, her MIL and just a small amount of the food. No one went hungry

Happy Allie

Boxes of cousins Everyone here is a cousin of a cousin of a cousin

hosting family

Maya loving the drums

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgivikuh!

From web

Let's see how many holidays we can mix together. The boys and my handiwork from yesterday
Shanna should be busy preparing stuff for our mega Thanksgiving as I type. I had the kids while she prepared yesterday. The boys helped decorate the tree. The rule was that only grandma got to put up the glass ornaments way up high beyond curious fingers. Is this glass? Question of the day. Their contributions  densely covered a small area of the tree. I redistributed things later. No angel tree topper this year..not on a 9 foot tree. I lit up all my lights around the area which Tess took great delight in. She loves pointing out and at lights. Daniel soon became bored. Oliver stuck it out longer though towards the end, it was ten more ornaments and then you can have the ipad.

While Tess slept and the boys enrapt with the ipad, I went for a brief run in the windy cold. Someone was out deep frying a turkey on their patio. Today looks even less inviting outside (snow on the roads!). Later Naomi came over to prepare her Thanksgivikuh contribution..ambrosia, food of the gods. In the past, I only made it on Thanksgiving due to its junkiness though with somewhat healthier updates. Fresh pineapple, mandarin oranges, coconut, marshmallows and vanilla yogurt (instead of sour cream). It is a kid favorite.

So what I am thankful for today despite the ill-timed cloud hanging over me? Most of all my family, my friends, near and far, my family's health and my health (except for that cloud). I am thankful that all the kids and grandkids live less than 20 miles from me and I get to see them so often.

Happy Thanksgivikuh to all!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

No Time to Wallow

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
 The Godfather

I did my wallowing yesterday. And as I think about it, which again is way too much, it is probably nothing. The biopsy is scheduled on the 5th anniversary of me receiving my first chemo. I went through a dry run of it yesterday because they were afraid that given my breasts, they might not be able to do it 'the easy way'. What's so special about my breasts? Well despite my sexagenerian self, I have breasts of  a much younger woman meaning that they are  dense, hard to see things in a mammogram. They were afraid that the target area, thankfully small, would not be visualized. But they think they can do it so that is a bit of good news.

But no time to wallow. Tomorrow Shanna is having her BIGGEST THANKSGIVING EVER!!! 
She has invited all of us and even more of her in-laws. There will 35 people or so at her house. The guests are bringing all the side dishes. So that she can prepare in peace, I have her kids today. Meanwhile I am to transform my house into a X-mas wonderland by Saturday for our Moms party. Our nine foot tree is up, good thing we have cathedral ceilings but it needs decorating. I plan to have Oliver and Daniel help with that this morning. Last year Oliver put up a small area of ornaments just a few feet from the ground but I am hoping his range has expanded. This is our first fake tree, obtained on after X-mas quick sale. Steve has never appreciated the trees and hated the mess the natural ones caused so this is our compromise.

And I have ingredients on hand for the side dishes for both the Moms and Shanna's. Main dish Saturday TBD. Naomi has agreed to make ambrosia, Sue style, for tomorrow and will assemble things here today also.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Biopsy Purgatory

I thought I was free when 5 years passed.

I thought I was free when the tech said today Things look good.

Silly me! Apparently what she meant is that the scan looked good from a technical standpoint..that she could clearly see my new lesion.  Not good for me necessarily. She was mysteriously replaced by a new tech.

A zillion painful, expensive scans later (just last week my battle was to have them code it for a screening mammogram...HA!)

So what do I have? I have a small area (4 mm) of calcifications that was not there before about an inch from where my old tumor was. If it were closer, she would have considered it fat necrosis which is what it could be even at this late date. It is small so that if it's cancer, it is more likely to be DCIS (in situ..not invasive) but still even small tumors can be invasive. Given my checkered past (dumb expression), they recommended a biopsy right away. Unfortunately I have to be aspirin free for 5 days previous so it will be next week instead of this week.

It's so long since the first tumors that it is probably NOT a recurrence but a new primary.

If it is cancer of any sort, genetic testing is indicated. I didn't meet the requirements back in 2008 as I was over 50 with no young cancer patients amongst my relatives (though my mom and her sister had BC as older adults). They since have changed that to 55 because they found plenty of cases of BRAC1 among people just like me. The genetics are such that to have it, one of your parents had to have had it.No smoking gun there. As I have 2 daughters and 3 granddaughters, I owe it to them to find out.

I don't know if I can face another cold winter of chemo. No more radiation though. If it is TNBC, then mastectomy (wish I did this in the first place)

But then could be nothing.

After my fun morning in the hospital, I went for a run to hopefully produce some endorphins to counteract this extreme sadness I am faced with. I am skipping the Livestrong thing today.

I try to live by Don't worry about this until you have to.

I hope I am the False Alarm Queen.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Death of a boss

Quiz time:

Which is correct?
a)  I reacted A with B in order to obtain C.

b) A was reacted with B in order to obtain C.

c) A was allowed to react with B in order to provide C.

Years ago, I had selected b) in a report I was writing. I did know enough not to use a) as there is no 'I' in chemistry despite its spelling. The passive voice is always used. The problem with choice b) is that the implied subject is myself and technically I am not doing the reacting. c) is the correct choice even though there is a whole lot of actions behind the bland verb 'allow'. (these things just don't react without considerable help...they didn't get into that flask by themselves).

Who did the reacting? My then boss (technically my skip supervisor).


Despite being a science major, I did have a high grade point in my English classes though I never took a scientific writing class. He threw an ACS style guide at me and told me to read it THAT NIGHT. The rules of writing scientific papers are fairly simple and straightforward. It is just like learning grammar rules of a foreign language (an easy foreign language).

He was both Steve's and my boss. Once we were married, the powers that were decided we shouldn't be in the same section. Later on, different powers that were decided that we shouldn't even be in the same department. Towards the end, we were even in different divisions though I could walk to his lab in less than 3 minutes.

He was my boss or my boss's boss for about 9 years. He was pretty crabby but predictable. I really didn't mind him because I knew underneath the bluster, he was OK.

I saw him at a co-worker's anniversary party 7 years ago. He seemed pleased to see me and told me a story about one of his kids. Five minutes later, he then told me the same story again. Then later, the whole story again. Hmmmm.

I read today that he died Friday (after sundown) of Alzheimer's. This wasn't even in our paper but in a link to someone else's  obituary (someone who I thought I knew but needed more details to confirm), I saw his unique name. The funeral was today (48 hours to burial for Jewish people). Since it wasn't in our paper, I felt they were limiting the attendance at the funeral which is sad. He was a very bright man but Alzheimer's just erases all of that.
Running is less fun these days. It was warmer today (22) but with the winds and icy spots, I was not enjoying it beyond feeling that I was accomplishing something.
Josh brought Allie over for a visit yesterday so her mom could have a break.
Today I heard of  results from testing of Oliver and Maya. Oliver's results could be expected but Maya's......

Naomi was made to feel like a failure.
We asked her to write her name (only recently could she even say her name).She didn't respond. We asked her again. Still no response. We put a pencil in her hand and then repeated the question. This is what she wrote:

(A weak scribble)

We asked her to identify letters in the alphabet. She said either A or P for all of them. We asked her to count to 20. Results 2,3,4,6 8, 20,2. We are unsure whether she lacks desire or ability to learn or both.

For the record, Maya is 3. As I said before, when I was in kindergarten, we were considered to be doing well if we knew the alphabet, could count to 20 and tie our shoes. Now apparently you are expected to read and do math problems.

They will give Maya more one-on-one interactions. She doesn't answer questions in groups.

When Josh was 4, he was given a language skills test. He was given sentences that he was supposed to correct the bad grammar therein. The instructions were: what is wrong with this?
The windows is open.

He corrected the best he could the content of the statements instead.

I was told that he was extremely deficient and that no way was he ready for kindergarten. My gut (wishful thinking? prideful mom?) thought he was very bright with enunciation issues. My gut was right and it is with Maya too. Below: my big-eyed baby, a tabula rasa. She can be anything.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hoosier Mama

Hoosier Mama is a specialty pie company in Chicago, not in Indiana as the name would imply. Not sure of why they use this clever name. Do they use their Hoosier mamas' recipes? They do sell some Hoosier specialties such as sweet cream pie and vinegar pie along with fruit pies that are common in Indiana but hardly exclusive.

But since our Hoosier visit, I have been interested in that huge women's prison in Rockville, near where we stayed. 70% of women prisoners are mamas and most will be released in less than 5 years. A few of the prisoners are pregnant when they began their terms. What to do with these babies? Unlike the sad episode in Orange is the New Black where the inmate's baby is taken from her without even her getting a chance to hold or even see it, low risk prisoners in Rockville actually get to keep their babies with them in a special unit where they have parenting classes, etc. Along with having at least an 8th grade reading ability, candidates for this program must have a release date in less than 18 months. And there are parenting classes for the non-pregnant prison Hoosier mamas too as they probably will be reunited with their children. They have lots of other educational programs too to hopefully prevent recidivism. Seems to be a model prison.

I assume there will be a future episode on Orange is the New Black on what happens to the baby fathered by the nice guard.

The Oprah network had a reality show a few years back featuring stories behind the bars of these prisoners at Rockville sort of a precursor to Orange is the New Black. Tonight I will resume my marathon viewing of the episodes (not the Rockville ones).

And I didn't try the vinegar or sweet cream pies  during our stay. I did have some blackberry cobbler that though tasty, was more like a pie than what I think of as a cobbler. I think cobblers should have a sweet biscuit dough on top; this one had a pie crust (but no bottom crust). I prefer crisps which I make with oatmeal-brown sugar topping. The favorite around here (my house) is peach-melba crisp which has raspberries.

Ugh cold!!!! I could tolerate it (current temp is 11 deg) if it weren't windy also. Usually I would bike today but that is totally out of the question. And yesterday, I picked the worst time to run. Somewhat tolerable to begin with then total whiteout conditions that included slippery streets. I ended early.

Josh's family is visiting in a few hours and then maybe it will be better outside. I haven't seen Ms. Allie in over a week. Haven't seen Shanna's kids either. Every day I suggest, they are someplace else.

Below is my niece enjoying the snow and cold. She has a photographer friend with a good eye for color.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Chokladkrokant Bredbar

Stuffed timber rattle snake complete with tail that really rattles
Swedish name: Ilsken

The real thing off my bike trail in Maryland. As I was unwilling to sacrifice my foot to provide a scale to measure them, you have to take my word that they were huge
Off to IKEA yesterday scouting for gifts. The title refers to this chocolate-crunch caramel spread we bought. We had Ms. Maya with us. She loves the stuffed animals there but wasn't sure about the snake and refused to ride in the cart with it. She was more comfortable with the bear below:
They had a bunch of cute hats she tried on. My favorite, the bean blossom one:
Also purchased: a very cute table lamp that will fit right in with our purple and orange bedroom (yeah really) and some X-mas decorations. Due to diverse travel plans, X-mas will be celebrated in just one week by the Moms at my house.

And then off to some hard cider tasting with a friend going through a X-mas parade to get there.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Can you write your name in the snow?

The above is a question my husband is asked every year at his physical. He hasn't tried but he supposes he can.

There is a rule of thumb about prostate problems: the percentage of men who have them is numerically equal to their age. So at  60, chances are he has them..but he doesn't.

A long time ago I was asked if I had frequent urination (one of the many symptoms of Graves' Disease). I asked the young doctor to define what that meant. He amended the question to whether I ever had to get up at night. Doesn't everyone?

No. That's not normal. (Do they ever say what is normal in med school/)

But he was very young. I knew plenty of people who got up without having Graves' Disease.

These photos are about 70 years apart of Steve's mom

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hair today

I do like my hairdresser, an interesting lady who now operates from her country home rather than a downtown Ann Arbor salon. She raises chickens. The eggs from the bantam hens are exactly half the size of the full sized chickens. She is a Goth/Mormon currently with multicolored hair. We always have good conversations while she deals with my hair..
But I hate my haircut this time. Much, much too short. It looks similar to what I was sporting as a 2 year old with micro bangs. Not a good look. The cancer peeps say it looks cute but...

I guess it will grow. The color is OK.

After 2 phone calls, I finally straightened out the mammogram code. Still if they see something suspicious, back to the $1000 scan. In the past, they took scans at multiple angles to line up the scan with the one the year before. I had a 5-6 cm lump that further tests indicated was a seroma. About a month after the last scan, 4 years after the seroma had formed, it burst in the middle of the night. So the scan should show that it is gone.

A cloudy day. Running in the morning, lifting weights in the afternoon and then a nice visit with a friend. And I bought another outing for Steve and me for when I go stir crazy.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Biking in the cold....

One more month left of disappearing sun but for today, we have sun. So despite the windchill of 24 degrees out I went.
Ann Arbor is surrounded by a greenbelt of farms. Young farmers lease the land and so far, are doing quite well. This is one of their barns

Actually I took this last week. I said that apples are overproducing this year to make up for last year's no crop. These are crabapples getting in on the act too.

Well not is all prosperous on my route

Country church which is the sole source of traffic on weekends. I try to avoid it when services are letting out.
It's a balancing act weighing more cold and less wind with later on when it is warmer yet windier. Parts of me were overdressed; other parts froze notably my ears, knees and toes. But it was good to be on the bike on such a sunny day. The strong east wind portends rain tomorrow. I can tolerate much more cold while running but I think 30 degrees is the absolute lowest number I can stand biking.

I am afraid of slipping in the doldrums. I had a nice long talk today with Soulmate which cheered me up.

Also sources of pleasure:
From last week. Mission impossible  is having all 3 look at me.

babies are easier

Josh sent me this of Allie's first laugh

I was going through old pictures. Turns out I had gone to an Indiana covered bridge before. This one is in Bean Blossom, Indiana (love the name). This was about 10 years ago before Naomi even hit puberty (and now has a 3 year old). Below that is Steve and his siblings during the same time.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mammogram anxiety

Steve and I have opposing philosophies:

His: If it hasn't happened; it won't happen.

Mine: If it has happened once, it will happen again.

Lightning does indeed strike twice or sometimes many times. Even houses  in our neighborhood were struck twice in one year causing devastating fires even though they weren't likely targets.

Next week is the dreaded mammogram. Now the reality is that I am maybe only 50% more likely to have a bad mammogram than the average woman. Chances are, it will be clean. Chances are that I am more likely to have a new primary than a recurrence at this point. And mammograms do not detect what everyone fears the most: mets. But still I dread the day. It will bring back the day 5 years ago that everything changed, a dividing day with relative content on one side and supreme fear on the other.

And to make things more annoying, according to the reminder I got in the mail, it is a diagnostic mammogram versus the screening one I swear I was promised by my onc last year as it is 5 years out. What's the difference? A thousand bucks. Screening mammograms are covered by my insurance; diagnostic are not (not until a high deductible is met). I made a phone call a few days ago to straighten this out. They haven't gotten back to me yet.

A pretty, sunny day here though it is cold. I ran in the morning and had my Livestrong class in the afternoon. I did weights. Then dynamic balance exercises with the group. Try standing on one leg with your eyes closed....

Monday, November 18, 2013


I returned to my cooking class for survivors the other day nervously because I still had a cough 2 weeks after becoming ill. It is one thing to expose a newborn (and her parents) and an almost 90 year woman to this crud, it is even worse to expose immuno-compromised individuals on chemo. Checking various sources, the contagious period lasts as long as 5 days after the first symptoms appear so everyone should be OK. Plus I was not spewing anything.

Immediately Hope plopped down next to me. She is a Stage 4 breast cancer survivor who now has 8 month old twin girls. The last time I saw her, a few months before the birth (she used a surrogate), she had long flowing hair and looked fairly healthy. The other day, she was bald and yellowish and tired. The cancer has been in her bones, liver and brain. She refuses to listen to guesses on how much time she has left though her husband knows. For now, her new chemo seems to be working and she is very optimistic and cheerful. If all it took was a good attitude, she'd be cured. She is about Shanna's age and lives just a few miles from her.

I think of how tired strong healthy Josh and Julie are taking care of one baby and am amazed that Hope can take care of 2 while doing chemo. Her husband is often gone but her still working out-of-state relatives come in to help when he leaves. She is an amazing person. She proudly showed me photos of her peanuts, though she occasionally posts on Facebook. They look very much alike though they are from different eggs. One  is significantly bigger and more advanced than the other.

Another young mom was there. She was not a patient but her toddler son has been battling leukemia since he was 9 months old. He still needs a year of treatment. He has the kind that has a 90% survivor rate but still, how unfair for a little one to go through so much.

What people go through.

The storms came through last night wreaking havoc though our power was only gone for a minute. There was only a 75 minute window in which it was not raining so out I went for a bike ride. Just as I was putting the bike back into the garage, the deluge started.

Back to making photobooks as my living social deals are about to expire. I get these things thinking I have all the time in the world and then find myself frantically putting things together.

And tonight, I deal with this mess my hair has become.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Out of jail

I decided to get a run in early the next morning. It seemed to take forever for the sun to come out. I ran through the city for a while until it was light enough to run through the woods. Lots and lots of deer. Unfortunately, Hoosiers let their dogs run loose so I was followed by menacing dogs on several occasions.
funky breakfast cafe

Included in our stay was a breakfast voucher for the Jail House Cafe. It didn't cover much but fortunately the coffee was very, very good and the internet actually worked. So yay!

So back to tracking down those bridges with our handy map. When we were getting gas, Steve left his wallet ( I can it his man purse) on top of the car. He realized this about a half mile later. It didn't seem to be in the road. Back to the gas station to see if it was there or if anyone turned it in. No. Then to slowly go down the road again. Not there. We did see a pick-up truck where we had turned around (in an unopen business). Hmmm. Then the pick-up truck followed us honking and flashing its lights. Yeah they found it. So there are some good pick-up drivers out there. Yay them. And yay me for not whining to Steve on how I knew this would happen some day.

We tackled the area north of the town this time. We missed all those due east of us. Oh well, another trip.
A highlight for me was going by the Amish school during its recess. Lots of buggies parked nearby. I know they hate their photos being taken but I couldn't resist one taken from the car window:

The kids go to this school until 8th grade, then to work. Indiana has the highest percentage of Amish people per capita though PA and OH have more in absolute numbers. Then is NY then close is MI.

We ate a tasty lunch in Marshall, Under the Arch. It had a small bake goods store within. Sassafras jelly anyone? We did get some toffee fudge.

More bridges, these all were in Turkey Run State Park. I had been there twice before camping there when Naomi was a newborn and later on a weeklong bike ride. We stayed in various state parks in Southern Indiana (which for the record is hillier than hell unlike the northern half). The park is beautiful but this time we concentrated on the bridges. My favorite:
Then the slow ride home as I was avoiding Indy. Indiana has many little counties all with very elaborate courthouses in their county seats. Should have taken more photos. Michigan in contrast has very unimpressive courthouses. Ann Arbor is the county seat but it has a small drab courthouse even though its population is 20-fold or more than those Indiana counties.

A highlight: I thought I saw eagles in a corn field and asked Steve to drive back to them.
Are you sure they just aren't turkeys?
Well turkeys would have made more sense but I swear I saw white heads. This is where his camera came in handy. The first picture is what my iphone would have recorded. The next two have the telephoto lens.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Our Night in Jail

The local Hoosiers said we missed the end of the fall colors by a week. Oh well, no fall foliage/covered bridge shots for us though I guess the colors of the bridges should shine. We were lucky that it wasn't too cold or worse, raining as we walked quite a bit looking for those bridges.

It was a much longer drive there than I remembered even though a new freeway opened up in Ohio lopping off 30 minutes or so. We stopped in Zionsville, a fancy suburb of Indy for lunch at a place we ate at long ago full of rich ladies that lunch. We walked around some admiring the cute shops. One restaurant featured soft drinks I never heard of. Rhubarb soda? Lavender soda? We ate dessert at a patisserie specializing in French macaroons. The owner was a former airline attendant assigned to Paris where she became obsessed with Laduree macaroons. Once she figured out how to make them (and I bet they are difficult), she opened up Le Dolce Vita mangling the French and Italian language. My favorite: Caramel Sale. Now 'sale' is Italian for salt but she is describing a French macaroon. In French, 'sale' means dirty which isn't what she meant. So her language skills are sketchy but excellent coffee and macaroons.
Fancy bathroom in lunch place

The French macaroon place

nice iron work on one of the buildings

We were mired in traffic jams around Indy so on the way back, we avoided coming any where near it.

Rockville, county seat of Parke County is 60 miles due west of Indy almost to the Illinois border.The mayor of the town, Debra, owns our Old Jail Inn, the former county jail. 2700 people live in town, another 1200 right outside in the Women's maximum security prison and the town is surrounded by 1000 Amish (she claims that makes them diverse). Do the women prisoners count as they can't vote? Yes because the city provides utilities to the prison. Famous prisoner? Daughter of Ariel Castro (crazoid in Cleveland that kidnapped 3 teenagers) who slit her baby with a knife due to craziness. And they have the three generation scary family there of murderers. We were the only customers that day. And as she was off doing mayor stuff at night, we had the entire jail to ourselves. Sort of spooky. Included in our voucher was breakfast at the Jailhouse Cafe, a jail tour (did that on our own) and a bottle of wine from the Drunk Tank that is open on weekends only in the basement. Good wine.

But while there was daylight, off we went equipped with a  not very good map (and we couldn't use our phones as it is in a Verizon dead zone and the internet wouldn't work either in the Inn) to go find those 31 covered bridges some of them on deserted one lane dirt roads. We got lost several times. I think we saw 12 bridges in all, half on the first day, half on the second. We missed about 5 nearby that we just could not find. The countryside and the bridges were very pretty as hopefully our photos indicate. Restaurants were few even though we were staying right on the town square (Jailhouse Cafe is not open at night).We found a Mexican (well, I guess they have some diversity)restaurant on the outskirts of town that seemed to be in a remodeled car garage. But the food was very good . Then we went back to our deserted Jail for the night.
Below is the door for our Bonnie and Clyde suite: The  guns were the decor and the cellblock which had about 6 less expensive rooms. One of the pictures is the outside of the building.

Unlike the former inmates, we had a pillowtop bed which was comfy. We needed extra blankets as we couldn't figure out how to make the heat work. Nor did we had internet. Maybe Debra turned the router off? But the wine was tasty and there were lots of interesting books on Covered Bridges and Famous felons (what a combo) so we were entertained. We could have watched TV if we chose but it was a fun day. More tomorrow.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Hoosier Holiday

Too tired to write: In the meantime, photos:

We got the deluxe Bonnie and Clyde Suite

Pillowtop bed. Bunks overhead were original inmate bunks

A Cellblock with the less deluxe rooms

Parke County Courthouse

Other rooms not so big

Steve in our room

Outside The Drunk Tank: good wine too. A bottle was included in our deal

I like the reflection

This thing was scary huge

No running across these bridges

Eagles in a corn field

Inside graffiti. Some of Naomi's friends call her Nay-Nay
Long story short: we slept in a jail and saw 12 out of a possible 31 bridges. Fun times..will elaborate later.


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