Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I have a little confession to make...

A little background:  I used to hang out here, and moreover, POST here - A LOT!  Over time, things sort of waxed and waned, and I'd post from time to time, but nothing like the first few years.
Every time I thought I'd have more time to focus on being here and sharing ideas, something would come up.  We moved.  Work suddenly got incredibly busy.  Then both of my parents were ill at the same time and passed away within 3 months of each other.  Then we moved again and had a number of estate things to work on and get settled.  Then we worked on the house a bit.  FINALLY - finally things began to settle down once and for all after the first of the year. "Great!", I thought, "Now I'll have time to get back to my blog and catch up!" And then...
Then spring rolled around and I finally had to admit to myself that I wasn't feeling great - I was definitely having some health issues.  It didn't seem to be anything serious, really - just a lot of little symptoms that had been bugging me for quite a while.  Then a few new symptoms began popping up and I knew it was time to go to the doctor.  It was May and I had a physical scheduled for the middle of June, but my Kevin insisted that we not wait, so I made an appointment for a few days later.  I'd been doing some research to try and correlate the symptoms and what I was finding ... well, it wasn't great news.
At first the doctor thought we were kind of crazy and a bit over anxious, but she finally relented and did a number of tests.  I won't bore you with names of all the tests, but trust me - there were quite a few. Some of the results came in quickly, while others took a bit longer, the the result was the same. The bottom line is:  I have cancer.
Kind of shocking, I know.  I have carcinoid cancer and have apparently had it for about 10 years - without even knowing.  For those of you not familiar with this type of cancer - which frankly, is probably most people since it's quite rare - it is a slow-growing, non-aggressive cancer.  The primary site is typically found in the 'gut' area, at least that's where it begins. In my case, they haven't found the primary site, which my oncologist said doesn't matter.  Once it spreads, it doesn't really matter where it started.  In my case, when we found it in May, it had spread to my liver and is considered Stage IV. Which, though frightening, isn't quite the same as when you have a Stage IV breast cancer or other cancers.  Basically what it means for me is that, by the time they found it, it had already traveled to the liver - which makes it Stage IV.  The doctor said that people can - and do - live with this type of cancer for years.  Obviously, that's what we're hoping for!  And honestly, it's a very good probability.  With the exception of the two cancer markers used to diagnose this cancer, all of my lab work is good.  If you were to see me, I clearly don't appear to be ill.  In fact, I feel great!  
The bad: This type of cancer does not work well with either chemo or radiation. There are other treatments available to me when I need them, but they are not the standard types of either of these treatments.  Additionally, this particular cancer causes right-sided heart damage - which I have.  The two valves on the right side of my heart both leak.  A lot.  I was having really bad edema which was exacerbating my symptoms. They referred me to a cardiologist who, initially suggested open heart surgery.  But after we talked and looked at options, we decided to try medication first.  I've been on it for a month, and it's working like a charm.  So.  No surgery at this time.
The good: I am on a medication that I inject twice a day.  It has alleviated all of the symptoms that lead me to the doctor in May.  I've been using it for several months now and it's working very well.  It's cut my cancer markers to less than half of what they had been, and it's helping to shrink the tumors in my liver.  All good news.  I have no new symptoms and since this medication is working so well, we're staying with it and just monitoring blood work.  I see the oncologist every two months unless something comes up.
Now that things are sort of on an even keel and we've settled into a new 'normal', I'd like to get back to blogging again.  Since I haven't been doing this for a while and I need to get back to it being a 'habit', I might be pretty slow at first. Then again, maybe not! It all depends on what I've seen. Or done. Or heard. I'm going to try to make the posts more frequent, though they may not be terribly lengthy in nature. But, then again, maybe they will!
Basically, the point is this: having had my life turned upside down a bit, I find that I am noticing things I hadn't before. I am seeing more things, and seeing them from a different angle, and how I feel about things? ... well that's kind of changed, too. I want to relay those thoughts and feelings, and commit them to a page - or a venue - such as a blog post.
Along the way, I'd really love it if you shared your comments with me. I'm anxious to 'meet' some of you who may have been reading my blog for a while, but haven't introduced yourself. I'd love to know what you're thinking.  
I kind of feel like this journey is starting anew. I'm ready to get started! I hope you are, too!

Friday, December 13, 2013

The $60,000.00 Cuppa Coffee

We have some friends who are going through a very difficult time in their lives right now.  They’re a young couple with two small children, and E  has cancer. Unfortunately neither of their families has been terribly supportive; the good news is that they have lots of friends who love them and are willing to do anything necessary to help them out.  We consider ourselves fortunate to be among those friends.


E  has had a difficult time with the chemotherapy drugs.  His body has had some odd (skin blistering and falling off) and violent (excessive vomiting) reactions and the medication has been changed several time.  M has been struggling trying to get everything done.  She’s a full-time teacher, mom and wife, while honing her skills as a part-time researcher (trying to glean as much helpful information about the cancer) and taxi driver trying to get her hubby back and forth to chemo treatments.  We have another friend who recently retired and has been happy to transport E back and forth to appointments and such.


The other day M came flying into the office with a strangely irritated look on her face.  She told me that they’d received their bill in the mail for the first two months of E ‘s chemo; $120,000.00!  She said she nearly passed when she opened the envelope.  Thankfully they have insurance, so they don’t have to pay this amount but … WOW.  She was very animated as she told me about the bill and added a good dose of humor along the way.  She mentioned that they’d included a tear-off section on the bill where you could enter your credit card information and send it back.  Yeah, right!  I told her it was too bad she couldn’t send it back with an audible laugh track.  Then she said she knew how she’d get back at them.  She said that she noticed that they offer free coffee in the waiting room while you’re waiting for your patient to finish their treatment.  With a twinkle in her eye she said that she was going to tell our friend N to drink as much coffee as she possibly could each time she took E in for a treatment.

Yep.  That’ll do it!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Little Christmas Mistletoe

A friend of mine came to work the other day with his pinkie finger all bandaged up.  Seriously - from knuckle to tip, it was all cozy and snug inside an enormous wad of bandages.  I asked him what happened and he said that he nearly cut his finger off Sunday cutting mistletoe for his son's Boy Scout fundraiser.  OUCH!

He went to the ER right away - where he promptly waited 5 hours to be seen.  Shortly before the doctor came in, he went out and asked someone if they thought his finger was still viable for a repair; they looked at, said 'Yes, there's still a little bit of pink left'.  A few minutes later the doctor came in and stitched it back together.  He didn't know how many stitches they'd given him, but he said it circles the entire pinkie in something that looks like a blanket stitch.  Again I say OUCH!

He brought the mistletoe in to work to sell.  A dollar a bunch.  Boy, that seems like a mere pittance compared to what I'm sure his doctor bill will be!

Anyway, here's our Christmas photo … oddly enough, with mistletoe!  (**Disclaimer:  No fingers were harmed in the photographing of this mistletoe.  Pinkie swear!)

The Great Pumpkin … Mystery

(I have no idea why part of this post, and all of the last post is in black…talk about your mysteries!) 

So I’m doing a little advanced planning.  I’m planning on making those adorable plush velvet pumpkins that are so popular in the fall (see, told ya I was planning in advance!).  One of the things I love about the pumpkins is that their stems are real pumpkin stems - which is what brings me to the advanced planning bit…

This year we had 4 pumpkins of various sizes and shapes on our front porch.  They will meet their demise this weekend to make way for something a little more holiday appropriate, but before they do, Kevin is going to carve off the pumpkin stems for me.  Four.  Only four.  Now, of course, I wish I’d planned even further in advance and picked up a few more pumpkins before they were all gone.  But alas, I did not.

However.  An interesting thing happened over the weekend.  Kevin and I were driving along one of our favorite routes and we passed a house that had bunches and bunches of pumpkins lining the wall, driveway and front porch.  The pumpkins were all shapes, sizes and varieties.  Sooo cool!  We passed in on Saturday.  Then again on Sunday.  I drive home from work that way, so Monday and Tuesday I spied the pumpkins again.  Finally on Wednesday, I decided to go up to the house and ask if, before they tossed them out, I could have a couple for my craft project.  I wrote out a slip of paper with my name and phone number and the word ‘Pumpkins’ on it to hand to the homeowner should they agree with my request.  So.  I ring the doorbell and a very nice lady answered the door.  I told her that I had a strange request.  She immediately told me that she was not the homeowner, but she asked if the request was about the pumpkins.  I said it was and asked if the homeowner was around, and sure enough, she was.  She joined the other lady at the front door and when I mentioned the pumpkins, they both giggled.  They said that the pumpkins really weren’t theirs.  The homeowner said that she woke up one morning and went out the front door, and there they all were...dozens of pumpkins!  Seventy in all.  She still has no idea who put them there or why.  It’s the Great Pumpkin...mystery!  She invited me to take as many as I wanted, wished me a Merry Christmas and that, my friends, was that!  I am now the proud owner of six more pumpkins with fun and unique stems for my craft project.  Yahoo!  

PS - She did mention that the pumpkins had been disappearing over the last several days and that I was the first one to actually ask if I could have one.  I’m glad I did the right thing and asked -- it was completely worth it to hear the story of how she acquired all of those pumpkins!

I Like Pie

At our school, we do our morning announcements on closed-circuit television.  Which is fabulous!  The kids love love it and it gives them a chance to have a live, in-studio, on-air performance.  ...the only caveat is that sometimes, 7th and 8th graders don’t necessarily possess the best on-air presence.  Often, the word ‘photograph’ comes out pho-TO-graph.  And though they’re learning, their inflections aren’t exactly, well, accurate.  For instance, years ago our Home Economics teacher had planned a food sale for after school.  It was around the holidays, and her students made various kinds of pie; the sale was a slice of pie for $1.00.  To promote the pie sale, she asked to have a blurb put in the student bulletin to be announced over the air the day of the sale.  The two student announcers that morning were supposed to have a  witty repartee about the pie sale; the final line was to be an enthusiastic ‘I like pie!’  However, the young announcer who delivered the line did so with a very somber - almost sad - face and a downcast ‘I like pie’.


Bless her heart.  She has no idea how many hours of entertainment she has provided our family over the years.  Every time, and I do mean every time, we talk about pie, invariably we all put on the most somber face we can muster and solemnly state ‘I like pie’.  Then we giggle and guffaw until the next time we say it --- no doubt an hour or so later.


Thanksgiving is a big pie holiday.  You guessed it … we like pie.  


I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Does every Polaroid picture look like Christmas morning when you were a child?

Straightening out some drawers over the summer, I found a Polaroid camera and several boxes of unused film.  I couldn't tell if the camera still had film in it or not, so I clicked the button and, lo and behold, a photo popped out.

It was Kevin, sitting on the floor inspecting something he'd just received in the mail that day for his drum kit.  I'm not sure whether it was the look on his face, or the ubiquitous quasi sepia toned graininess of the picture, but he looked like a little boy on Christmas morning opening his gifts from Santa.

We had a good giggle over it and then wondered to each other if every single Polaroid picture in the world has the same resemblance: Christmas morning, circa 1970's.

Photos have changed a lot over the last 30 - 40 years, that's for certain.  And pretty much, Polaroids have come and gone.  Still.  There is something utterly charming about capturing a goofy pose and silly grin - and having the results to share instantly.  Somehow taking a selfie and sharing it on Facebook just doesn't have the same thrill.

Just sayin'



Friday, September 13, 2013

Reading Between the Lines

For about the last six years or so, the women on our staff have had a group WOFA.  It stands for  Women of First Avenue.  We mostly get together over the summer while we're off, but we get together during the school year sometimes too.  We've done all sorts of different things: mani/pedi's, movies, tea, craft projects - you get the idea.

Just before school started this year, one of our teachers - a woman - sent a message to everyone about getting together before the school year started.  She sent the message out to everyone on staff, but when one of our WOFA members saw the email, she assumed it was going to be a WOFA event; she didn't realize the message had been sent to everyone.

With that in mind, her response was perfectly normal ... for a WOFA event, but not so fitting for the whole staff.  Not that it was inappropriate by any means, it's just that, well, it wasn't really applicable to the men on the staff.  And if you knew our staff, you'd know that this incited some riotous emails sent to the whole staff.  Most of us have been with each other for a very long time and know each other very well - kind of like one big family.  You know, that kind of family (insert mischievous grin here).


Subject:  Long Time, No See

SR: (Female)   Hello everyone!  How about a pre-school, end of summer gathering this Thursday August 22nd around 4:30-ish?  Any suggestions for a good place in Arcadia/Monrovia?

MM: (Female)   I'm in!  Just a thought - there is a pedicure/manicure place in Pasadena called Dashing Divas.  On Thursdays and Fridays they serve complimentary cosmos!  They are super clean, everything is sterilized and they have a healthy outlook on things.  Very cute, relaxing, with a leg massage, and we could all start school with attractive feet!  A basic pedicure is $25.00, a manicure is $20.00.  I'm open to anything!

DP: (Male)   Let the comedy begin in 3...2...1...      Missed you guys!

JR: (Male)   Can't remember if it was Michael or Mark who suggested that place.

MG: (Male referred to in JR comment above)   I don't care who suggested it.  Just hand me a Pale Ale and I'm in!

Welcome back everyone!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's Finally Back!!

Someone came into the office the other day and announced that, my all-time favorite, pumpkin spice latte has returned to Starbucks for it's annual fall run.  YAY!

She said 'It just seems too early,' and at that point, I had to agree with her.  That was last week when our temperatures were into the triple digits with nearly triple digit humidity to match (Speaking of which: when did we move back east? Man, I hate humidity!).

Our temperatures have dropped this week and, this morning on our early walk, it was actually pretty cool outside!  So cool, in fact, that I wished I'd worn a sweatshirt.  And then it hit me:  I'm going to stop and pick up my first pumpkin spice latte of the season!

Mmmmmmmm.  I have to say that it's just as delicious as I remembered, and it was such a treat.  I was talking to Deb on the way to work and asked me what the occasion was.  I told her I didn't need one - I was getting it just because I wanted to!  She smartly replied "Well, then I'm going home ... just because I want to!"  Well fine.  Go ahead.  But you won't have any money for pumpkin spice lattes, so neenerneenerneener!

...and counting

In 2005, Kevin and I heard a story about the Green Bay Packers.  The story was about how loyal the fans are and that the team is community owned.  Literally.  The Green Bay, Wisconsin community owns their own team.  Kinda cool!  At some point during the story, they mentioned that season tickets are sold out for years and years, but you can put your name on a waiting list.  Each year they'll send you a post card to update you with your priority number for being able to purchase season tickets.

Well, now ... that was just an opportunity that was too good to pass up!

We sent our names in - and then forgot about it.  Late summer the following year, a post card found it's way into our mailbox:  our 2006 waiting list priority number arrived safe and sound!  At that time, we were number 67,856 on the waiting list.  Whoa Nellie!  That's a pretty high number!  Guess we'll have to wait until next year.

By the next year, 2007, we'd moved up!!  ...to 66,980.  Wheeee!  Now we're cookin'!

We've been receiving a post card each year, in spite of two moves, to update us on our 'low-on-the-totem-pole' priority number.  A couple of weeks ago, our 2013 post card arrived:  we are now in the 'almost-there-yeah-right' position of number 58,520 on the priority waiting list.

Gee.  If I think about it reaallly hard, I can almost feel the snow falling now!


...well, maybe not.
 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tony Bennett on the Eve of His 87th Birthday

This is the first year in many that we've had so few nights at the Hollywood Bowl.  Few though they've been, the performances have been wonderful!

In August, we caught the legendary Tony Bennett in concert.  Amazing!  He performed on a Friday night and the next day was his 87th birthday.  How cool is that?!  Often you find that an older performer has a voice that's not what it used to be, but this was not the case for Mr. Bennett - he was fantastic!  Even managed to do a little soft-shoe here and there.  Both Kevin and I were thrilled that he was at the Bowl this year.  We've both said for a long time that we'd love to see him in concert, so this offered the perfect opportunity.
Photo OC Register

This past Friday night, we saw The Blue Man Group.  Who would have thought that three guys with blue faces and black clothing who do not utter a single syllable could be so awesome!  The show was  chock full of incredible music and musicians, humor, talent and a ton of fun!  
                                                                       Photo LA Times

This weekend:  Earth, Wind and Fire.

Stay tuned!