Thursday, December 29, 2011

Omne Trium Perfectum III ~ Revenge of the Appliances

I've already done two posts this year on how things happen in threes: first it was flat tires on each of our three vehicles in July, then it was various elements of the well and water system in September, now it's aging appliances. We have to replace the washer, dryer and dishwasher. Now to be fair to these old dears, they gave us 15 years of good service, amazing in this day and age.

Though it was tempting to hit the big box stores for appliances, we decided to shop local to keep our dollars local. Our favorite repair expert gave us recommendations on brands and models and what to avoid which helped us narrow down the list tremendously. So off we go to Santa Rosa and at our first stop ~ boom there's the washer and dryer set that was high on the list on sale. The color is silver which made us laugh out loud. Our sales person gave us kind of a quizzical look until we explained we just celebrated our 25th (silver) wedding anniversary. Silver will work really well in our newly updated laundry room.

Okay two down one to go. On to the dishwasher section. It was suggested by our repair person that we bring some of our dishes to assess how different racks will or won't work, a dry run so to speak. We narrowed it down to two models and after talking to our sales person about pros and cons we make a choice, it too is on sale. Inside an hour we're done, so we treat ourselves to lunch, a walk around Spring Lake and Mission Impossible at the movies. A day well spent. 

Alas, today there is one more set of three: An appraiser is showing up this morning (We're refinancing to reduce our interest rate to 4% and lower monthly payments by $160), the appliances are getting delivered and installed today and our exterior paint guru is, weather permitting, going to prime and paint our skylights.

I'm definitely in for the day, but my studio is warm and I'm working on some great projects. That said, Puleeze let this be the last set of Omne Trium Perfectums!

 Acorn Brandy

Happy New Year! Your mission for 2012 is to fill your life with love, creativity, plenty of play days and time with your friends. Now get to it!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I Left Town with Santa and Returned with the Fool on the Hill

December 21st was our 25th wedding anniversary. How time flies when you're spending it with your best friend: still in love and still laughing. We had some lofty ideas about what we were going to do to celebrate: from returning to the scene of the crime in Gold Hill, NV to spending a few days on the Rogue River in southern Oregon at our favorite getaway. What we decided on was a little staycation to explore some of our own neighborhood and off we went to Healdsburg, a little town about 20 miles to the north of home. 

We went up Tuesday morning and returned Thursday afternoon. The weather was unseasonable to say the least: cold in the morning, but sunny and in the mid sixties during the day. I actually had to water my flower barrels before we left town!

We rented a small cottage about a quarter mile from the downtown square and did a great deal of exploring on foot: walking to breakfast, lunches and our anniversary dinner, 9 antique stores and cooperatives, and two second hand stores. One afternoon we hopped in the Honda and visited two nearby casinos and entertained ourselves for a couple of hours at each. On the way back we stopped at the huge Salvation Army Thrift Store complex north of town (an awesome place to shop for anything). 

Needless to say we had more to show for the shopping than from the casino play, but it was all fun. We found 3 shirts for Rod and 3 sweaters and a tank top for me. We scored a pair of vintage wrought iron stands that will make great new stick stands for our fair displays and this awesome jester's hat (Peter Connors has met his match).

On our first day walkabout we passed a small bar and restaurant called Barndiva. The menu looked interesting so we decided that's where we'd have dinner on the 21st. When we arrived I mentioned to the hostess we were celebrating our wedding anniversary and thought nothing more of it. During a fabulous and tasty dinner our waiter delivered to flutes of champagne as a treat from the house and the truly decadent dessert arrived with candles. We felt really special and were delighted with the whole experience.

It's amazing what you can find close to home and the best part is that it took less than an hour to get home. We're usually on the road this time of year, but since Rod saw his family in November we find ourselves at home with no promises to keep for only the third time in 30 years. What a delightful dilemma! We're going to do a little work outside today since it will again be sunny and warm. Christmas day we're going to pack a lunch and head down to Marin County for a picnic and hike on Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Woods.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Breast Cancer Journey - Post Script I

As mentioned in my last BCJ post I graduated from "radiation class" on December 9th. I had none of the expected side effects like a raging sunburn or fatigue, only the alleged diaper rash on my left tata. It has faded over time, though still a visual, there's much less itch.  

However, as the first post treatment week went by I started experiencing some extra added attractions:

  • slight swelling ~ expected ~ I'm very flat chested so having a breast in my way is amusing to say the least!
  • soreness ~ expected
  • left nipple feeling like roasted marshmallow ~ unexpected
  • sporadic sensation of needles pricking said nipple ~ unexpected
  • occasional pain and super sensitivity ~ an unexpected step up from soreness.
This time of year clothing optional is not an option so I found a soft cotton tank top that goes under anything and helps with irritation. I called in and talked to nurse Kim at the Rohnert Park Cancer Center on Friday. She said the first week after finishing treatment is usually the worst with the symptoms like I described. A well kept secret I'm thinking, funny that wasn't mentioned. Then again perhaps I should have asked.

She did mention a product available at Target made by Ameda called ComfortGel Pads that are used by nursing mothers. We had a good chuckle at the thought of a 66 year old asking where the breasting feed pads were located. There is something amusing in any situation.

Well, off on our 25th wedding anniversary adventure tomorrow morning ~ a staycation at a sweet little place close to home for a few days and then a Christmas camping trip on the north coast. We haven't been at home for Christmas in 30 years - no sense changing a tradition.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reuse & Recycle = Elegant Zeroscape

In early spring our Oregon Oak leafs out to a gorgeous canopy that shades the house, and provides habitat for numerous birds and our the resident squirrel families. The added bonus is an elegant visual for us and the neighbors and a perfect spot to hang two swing chairs for summer reading.

Late fall arrives and with a few cold nights the leaves begin to change and drop off over a period of weeks ~ creating raking and play opportunities for Rod and the kidlets next door. This year however, we had a cold snap and then warm, gusty Santa Ana winds out of the north. Not only did the leaves all come off all at once, the wind neatly pushed them up against the back fence.

We decided it was time to lose our pathetic excuse for a lawn which was basically mowed weeds. We hired our teenage neighbor Solomon to lay out gopher cloth and then bring the leaves down from the back. The tree provided about a six inch deep cover of the whole area. It will mulch over time, and our beloved poppies may show up again in spring. 

A simple and elegant solution ~ repeat next year

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Breast Cancer Journey ~ 1st and Goal

My 20 day radiation schedule has gone quickly, only 2 marbles left in the out box! Monday was the last day of traditional radiation which targeted the whole breast. The last four days target the area of the original tumor and incision, it's called a "boost" and is site specific.

My "A" team of fellow travellers at the cancer center have all been a part of the journey and we sometimes have a chance to visit while awaiting sessions. On Friday we got off on a tangent talking about the ailments du jour. Suddenly everyone got really quiet and then we burst out laughing, aghast at the idea we were becoming our mothers. One said her grandmother used to call it "organ recitals" and they were banned from family gatherings and dinner conversation. A conciousness raising moment for sure.


Spirit Horse

As for the decorative sunburn and random rash I was blessed (too bad there's not a font for sarcasm) with just the rash. It looks like someone placed a pancake over my breast as protective gear and then dusted the surrounding treatment area with buckshot. I don't have kids but I'll bet it's akin to diaper rash and it itches like poison oak. I quickly found a solution to that little inconvenience: Mama Meryl's Healing Salve. It's made here in Sonoma County and available at Sebastopol Hardware. We've been using it for years for everything from cuts to scratches and burns to stings. One of the main ingredients is calendula which is in a number of recommended potions in the "dealing with it primer" for radiation patients so you may be able to find something akin to it closer to home.

Not feeling the predicted fatigue or I've just been too busy with life to notice it. The serendipitous timing of our four craft fairs following each week of the radiation sessions is perhaps no coincidence, but a handy coping tool nonetheless. I will say that during the last week or so, when 4pm roles around the barcalounger, a tall glass of water and a couple of chapters of an NCIS marathon are a pleasant diversion.

Once I graduate on Friday I'm going to take December off and give my body a rest. The next step in this journey will be five years on an estrogen inhibitor called Anastrozole which of course has a host of potentially nasty side effects.

I've always be one to question authority so I'm doing some homework. First I'm looking into an alternative to ingesting medication orally by talking with a compounding pharmacist who can use my prescription to make a topical cream. We also have local MD who believes in incorporating alternative therapies into her practice and some of those may mitigate potential side effects of the medication. Her specialties cover my gambit of concerns: women's health, oncology and hepatology. Both are willing to work with my oncologist at Kaiser so once I have more information I'll contact him to discuss possibilities.

Apologies for the football analogy in my title today, but our beloved SF 49ers have come back to life after what seems like decades. It just goes to show you should never give up hope ~ ever!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Little Did We Know

Dear Trisha, It seems impossible that a year has passed since we lost you. Not a day goes by I don't think about you and I'm sure that's true for all of us, friends and family.

Sunlit Wagon Wheel

Being a visual person, I think of you as the hub of a wheel, each spoke a different aspect of your diverse array of friendships. You had an irresistible enthusiasm for adventures of all kinds, pursuits you delighted in sharing with your pals. You left a wonderful legacy of spirit that brought together the people who shared your life. Thank you for being in mine.
Trisha was a gifted photographer with an uncanny ability to capture fleeting moments before they disappeared: the impetuous expression on a child’s face, a shell on the tideline, or a quiet moment that captured a doe in the glowing long-light of a late Ruby Mountain winter afternoon, a moment when friends were relishing their bond of friendship, Vince reading his last poems, sharing the awe at the beauty of the light on the land. 

She loved horseback adventures and long days in the saddle, nights around the campfire under the stars giggling with friends, entranced by music and stories, coyotes singing in the distance. She was passionate about music and trains and went on just about every Roots on the Rails adventure offered from Canada to Mexico. She would regale me with stories and introduced me to new music I might not have discovered on my own.

 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
Betty, Trisha and Carol

 Rod's paper airplane that won Trisha
a Professional Bull Riding Championship jacket
signed by Adriano Moraes

Betty and Trisha in Monument Valley

Trisha, Michael and Martha in Churchill, MB
on the Polar Bear Train

We all shared everyday cares and joys with her in different ways: maybe while organizing a closet, on a horseback ride or perhaps on hands and knees working in the garden. The girl embodied serenity and grace dusted with a wicked sense of humor: a true and honest friend and the ultimate straight shooter. All would agree she was the perfect partner in crime. We shared the gamut of emotions over the years we were in each other lives ~ but mostly irrepressable laughter.

The great Benbow Adventure 2009

Each of us had future plans with her and said “see you next week” or “see you in April” with the absolute expectation we would. Little did we know. To her friends each escapade shared was a grand, unexpected and priceless adventure: be it a music train, cowboy poetry or thrift store shopping, playing Mexican train or penny slots, road trips with cameras and no promises to keep, or riding in the back country. All of our lives would be less rich had she not been part of them.
Heartfelt thanks to Betty P, Betty R, Martha, Margo and Melinda for allowing me to share their thoughts and words. Trisha will always fill our hearts and her gift to us is that we have all found each other along the trail.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Breast Cancer Journey - Radiation Therapy

So after a few days off, I am back in the saddle.

Last Wednesday was a test drive of what will be my treatment scenario at the Rohnert Park Cancer Center. My radiation therapist and nurses checked and rechecked all settings and finalized positioning for safety and efficacy of treatment. It took about half an hour and I was done. I'm now familiar with the layout and very comfortable with the crew who will see me through each session.

I received a scan card so I can check myself in each day and head to the changing room. Once changed you come out to a pleasant little cove of chairs until called. My appointments are all at 10am, so I cross paths with the same dedicated warriors every day. We share stories, bits of our lives, and find laughter in our little corner of reality.

Sun's rays via a raindrop
on the tip of an apple blossom bud

My team double checks all the parameters to make sure all is in proper alignment before we start. The treatments take less than 5 minutes and I don't feel a thing. So far I'm not experiencing any side effects, but radiation therapy is cumulative so I've been told that the treated area may appear to get a sunburn and I may experience fatigue a few weeks in. There are creams and potions for the skin, but my friend El says good old aloe vera works the best. Fortunately I have a large plant that has gone feral under our pear tree.

I've always been a visual person so I decided to track the days until end of my treatments like I did when my friend Trisha and I retired. All you need are two vases or jars ~ one with the number of marbles for each day until you're done and one empty. Transfer a marble everyday after you return from your treatment session and feel the glee of seeing the balance change!

Deep Space Phenomenon

Speaking of marbles, check out this beauty from Sean Clayton. Suggestion for a daily plan after your session: take a time out, put on some music and loose yourself in a universe of your choosing. They're playing "Dance to the Music" on the radio right now, how perfect!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ah Autumn!

A few photos from yesterday's walkabout between appointments

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Luck of the Draw

Rod and I decided to go to the movies last Wednesday afternoon. Once there we realized we were an hour early so off we went for a walk. Many of our local parks have benches along the trails to honor the memory of someone. I always read them and as I passed one in particular, I was struck by a dedication to a 20 year old. I started thinking about some of the amazing moments in my life that have occured since turning 20 in 1965.  

1967 ~ Bought my first car a 1963 VW Bus
1969 ~ Watched a man walk on the moon with my grandma Olive
1970 ~ Spent a month on the road exploring western Canada with my dog Charis as co-pilot, climbed Mt. Robson with some new friends I met along the way and experienced a glacier calving at Berg Lake

1972 ~ Visited the Colorado Rockies for the first time, the same month John Denver released "Rocky Mountain High" in the summer of my 27th year
He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Comin' home to a place he'd never been before
He left yesterday behind him,
you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door…

1973 ~ Started what would be a 33 year career at the Bodega Marine Lab
1975 ~ Looked a grey whale in the eye as it raised its head up out of deep water next to Death Rock at Wrights Beach - I have witnesses
1981 ~ Met the love of my life at the Ft. Ross VFD music festival in Cazadero
Rod and Hazel Sit Down

1985 ~ Was present at the birth of my goddaughter Casey
1986 ~ Rod and I married at the haunted Gold Hill Hotel in Gold Hill, NV
1988 ~ Bought our first home and have been here 23 years
1996 ~ Celebrated our 10th anniversary by renewing our vows at Gold Hill
2006 ~ Retired on April Fools Day with my best friend Trisha. We treated ourselves to 2 weeks in Hawaii and never looked back

Trisha, Rosie and Me in Waimanalo

2008 ~ Attended my 45th HS reunion and had lunch with some of the gang

Julia, Lynn, Laurie, Melinda, Gayle
Mary, Lynn and Taffy

2009 ~ Saw NYC for the first time
2010 ~ Attended the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, NV
2011 ~ I'm winning the battle with breast cancer and we're celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary on December 21st

How lucky we all are to still be here looking forward. Just yesterday morning I was laughing out loud as several of us Mill Valley kids were on Facebook trying to identify our classmates in a 6th grade class photo from 19 ought 50 something.

Your homework: Initiate random acts of kindness, thank a Veteran and take care of your little corner of the world. Wealth is not defined by financial success, but how you spend the time you have, spend it well.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day of the Waltzing Trees

So what did you do yesterday? We took 2 trees on a road trip.

Our long time neighbor Elder Tom passed away in late September. He and Rod were buddies and Rod has been maintaining his yard and fruit trees for over 15 years. We're now working with the executor of his estate.

Tom had two favorite trees in planter boxes. The one on the front patio is a Japanese maple. It was planted in a 30"x30" redwood box about 20 years ago when it was a wee sprout. It's now close to 18' tall and has a trunk about 8" in diameter. It's so root bound it needed to be watered daily and was starting to show signs of distress. The other is a 10 foot tall blue spruce that was at the corner of the guest room.

The trees needed to be moved but there was no accessible place on Elder Tom's property to plant additional trees so we asked the executor if we could move them to our property as a memorial to Tom. He felt this was a a great solution so we called our friend Chuck at Apple Blossom Nursery to come up and give us a hand. He is a master on a tractor.

The spruce was the easy one, the Japanese maple proved to be challenge.
Chuck had to negotiate our power lines, a low hanging oak branch and thread his way between the blue spruce and our herb bed to reach the spot.

Root bound was an understatement for the maple. The redwood planter box had to be pried off and a breaker bar used to loosen some of the roots before it was gently lowered into its new home.

Several hours of watering and a B-1 feeding last night and a couple of hours of water this morning should get both trees on the path to recovery and growth. It's really cool to see them when I look out of my studio window. A variety of small birds are already exploring. The pictures are from early this morning.

Oh, and the old apple stump we removed for the maple planting was relocated on a whim and a prayer to a place down with 2 other apple trees in the pasture. It had a little bit of new growth on it so we're hoping it will get a second chance. It was one of my favorite eating apples before the gophers got to it.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Breast Cancer Journey - Off Season Training

I usually avoid traveling to the east side of Hwy 101 into Santa Rosa or Rohnert Park like the plague. I save up errands and appointments so I only have to go in every week or two. This week was an anomaly for sure, but all for a good cause ~ my future health!

I met with my Oncologist on Monday ~ reports are good, the tumor removed was about half the size they anticipated. I have positive estrogen receptors so it has been suggested that I start a regimen of Anastrozole to help lower estrogen levels ~ as if menopause wasn't enough! One of the possible side effect is hot flashes ~ Geeze Louise, I made it all the way through menopause with one night sweat and no hot flashes, so I'm hoping that whatever my body knew then it remembers now! Due to a long list of other potential side effects I've asked if I can start when I'm done with radiation. I should hear back in a couple of days. I don't want to hammer my body with too much all at once. Tuesday was a follow up mammogram to see if there were any residual calcifications. Report back from radiologist was that films were clean and clear. Oh Yeah!

Wednesday off to the Rohnert Park Cancer Center (RPCC) to meet with my Radiation Therapist and discuss preliminary treatment plan: five days a week for four weeks. We've got it worked out so I'll be done about a week before we take off on our 25th wedding anniversary adventure (destination pending ~ we keep getting new ideas).  

I got Thursday off and didn't leave the property except to attend a concert at Studio E with singers/songwriters Tom Russell and Thad Beckman. It was an amazing evening full of laughter and outstanding music dedicated to my late friend Trisha and shared with family and friends.

Friday took me back to RPCC for a CT scan, to document my treatment plan, design positioning devices to keep me in same position for each session and tattoo my skin for positioning accuracy (we're talking four blue freckles here, nothing major). I met with nursing staff for patient education and got more homework. On Nov 9th they'll do a Sim Verification or dry run and perhaps my first treatment.

Trisha's Bobcat ~ Cherry Camp Vineyard 2009

For anyone who knows me, Bobcats hold a special place in my life. As I walked into my Radiation Therapist's office and sat down I looked up at the calendar on the wall ~ there looking back at me was a Bobcat and the words of William Wordsworth "Let nature be your teacher". I no longer question these experiences, I just know my husband, friends and spirit guides have my back and are with me for the duration of this journey.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Oh If You Could Smell My Kitchen

We came in from the garden Wednesday afternoon expecting to sit down and watch the World Series, but Game 6 was called on account of foul weather. I went out to my studio to work, but after about half an hour the aroma from the kitchen drew me back into the house. Rod had decided that it was a good night for Pizza and I don't mean take out. We're talking homemade from scratch sourdough (thank you Nancy) with herbs and ingredients right out of the garden.

The Aroma Generator - Onions, Garlic, Oreganos, Tomatillos, Sun Gold and Heirloom tomatoes gently simmering for sauce.

I checked back in about half an hour later and the sauce was beginning to take shape - color magnifico red.

Thursday is the day the waste management trucks come to pick up recycle, garbage and yard waste. They won't come to the top of the hill so we all wheel the carts down to one place on Wednesday night. This time the men of the ridge top and the three kids took off all at the same time so the gang found out about Rod's pizza making on the walk. Neither family was available to join us so he promised them each a pizza. They'll be delivered today "Meals on Heels" for reheat and eat!

Ingredients on hand from the garden: zucchini and crookneck squash, Asian pear, red bell pepper and herbs. Add to that asparagus, crimini mushrooms, mozzarella fresca, Parmesan and goat feta cheeses in various combinations.

Pizza #1 disappeared shortly after it emerged from the oven!

Pizza #2

Pizza #3 

We'll have to tape Game 6 tonight cause we're heading out to one of our great local music venues called Studio E to see Tom Russell and Thad Beckman. If you ever get a chance to see them in your neck of the woods, don't hesitate.

Friday, October 21, 2011

How's Your Addition?

What do you get when you add up 64+6+4+4.5? You're saying 78.5 of course. These are not random numbers, but rather the combined ages of the "Top of the Hill Gang" which includes my husband Rod the Kid Magnet and our three adorable neighbors. 

Truth be told Rod is really a 6 year old trapped in the body of a grey beard. So lose the 4 in 64. Age matters not when it comes a fertile imagination, a sense of play and why not do something creative instead of chores. The four of them built this dude while I was out running errands.

The straw from summer mowing is kept in a large pile just outside the garden for our composting bins. The four of them took the garden cart down to the pasture to bring up enough to stuff the shirt, head and pants. When they started moving straw they uncovered a whole new world of bugs and from what I hear got temporarily sidetracked on another learning adventure. Kids, dirt and bugs are a magical combination.

Once back up to the yard, Rod built the frame and the kids did all the stuffing. The face is an old canvas clothes pin bucket that had outlived it's prime.

The funny part is that we all do a double take when we drive in. Our scarecrow looks a little like Rod cause this is his usual gardening outfit, less the hay of course.

Power to the child in all of us!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Choose Your Attitude

I've always had a positive attitude: it could be genes, it could be growing up in a small town, or the shear luck of the draw. Whatever the reason my outlook on life is a key ingredient of my well being.

Life continually throws us challenges but how we choose to grow from the experiences are the important lessons. I lost my parents when they were in their 70's ~ far too young. Little did they know that the lifestyles sold to them as healthy in their youth would be their downfall. They were not of the generation who chose to question authority and trusted the family doctor without a second thought. What I learned is that we have to be our own advocates and take responsibility for our well being.

I've lost close friends to disease and accidents, beloved pets when I made the choice to let them go with dignity. I've faced medical challanges for 20 years and have recently been dealing with breast cancer. Each experience has helped me grow, made me wiser and taught me how to deal with adversity. I've learned that exercise and changes in diet are the best things you can do for yourself at any age. But probably the most important lesson is that life is short: do what makes you happy, start work on your bucket list, keep people in your life who love you for who you are and make you laugh.

This brings me to a conversation with my surgeon when I had my stitches removed last week. Much of the information given to you regarding surgery and recovery tells you to rest and don't do much. I told her it wasn't my style to sit around and I was off and running (albeit carefully and with some common sense) on autumn projects around the house and at a neighbor's the day after my surgeries.

She said to me "Your big picture perspective, positive outlook and sense of humor play a huge part in your overall health and healing". She drew a box in the air and then made a small box in the lower corner of that square. "You have chosen to perceive your cancer as only a small part of your life experience, it will never rule you. Unfortunately many patients choose to let cancer become their life, they become victims of their diagnosis rather than taking on the challenge and looking ahead".

No one said life would be easy, or fighting a life threatening disease would be a cake walk. I just want to encourage anyone dealing with cancer to remember your friends, family and a army of survivors have your back and are there for you. Call in the troops!

This morning's Press Democrat has a great article about cancer survivor Nina Sibert. Her cancer and treatments were far more radical than mine, but her outlook is very similar. Please read and share it. I hope to meet her someday. Here is the link:

Now go outside and enjoy your day!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Breast Cancer Journey ~ Bottom of the Ninth ~ Grand Slam

D Day Part Deux, Thursday October 6th

We awoke to thunder, lightening, rain, then sun and the news that one of our gang of "Usual Suspects" is moving home from out East. It was gonna be a good day, even with surgery scheduled around 3pm.

After reading the initial pathology report my surgeon suggested that we create a larger margin of clear tissue where the tumor was removed from my left breast. Just a little added insurance. There were no "wasp on steroids stings" (radio tracer injection) or wire guidelines this time. She had been down this trail just last week so it was a pretty simple procedure.

It's kept cool in the admittance room where you wait to get wheeled into surgery. They have you put on a huge, double layered soft paper gown/tent that ties in back and has a series of strange little vent holes in it. Much to my delight I learned there is a heat pump and hose that hooks into one of the vents and blows hot air into the gown to keep you toasty. I need one of these for watching TV in this winter! I was home by late afternoon with an appetite (18 hours with no food) and very little discomfort.

Friday I was supposed to relax and take it easy. Needless to say, sitting still is not one of my strong suits unless I'm totally enthralled in a book or at a music venue. Rod has gotten really creative, short of tying me down, with keeping me put. After breakfast he emptied our overstuffed piggy bank on the counter and said "sit, sort and count ~ right arm only". That kept me out of trouble for a little while.

He's pretty sweet for a tough guy. He's been fixing me fabulous meals and doing the dishes. How often is that going to happen? This morning he made us designer pancakes. I got a pony and a redwood tree and he made himself a dinosaur.

Just in, hot off the wire:

We've hit a grand slam out of the park ~ I just talked to my Breast Care Coordinator about an hour ago and the news is that my margins are clean. Game 1 is in the win column, but it's important to not lose sight of the fact this is an ongoing series, kind of like the playoffs. Once I talk to my oncologist on October 24th I'll find out more about my post-season training schedule of radiation therapy. 

That said: just a reminder to never lose your sense of humor, always question authority, dance in the kitchen and walk in the rain. Let your mind out for a run around the block.

Rain Couple

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dew Drop Inn

A foggy autumn morning drifts in without a warning

 I cannot see across the pasture
But spiders have begun to gather

Strings of pearl strung about the yard
and a little sun on the liquid amber

Like four aces to a gambler
we have a stunning visual card

Go outside and play
live each day
as if it was your last
tomorrow is only the future
and yesterday is just the past

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Breast Cancer Journey - Top of the Ninth

A little rain today, the air smells fresh and I'm on one of my inexplicable tears about the house: cleaning out drawers, rearranging my studio, switching pictures on the walls and delivering a Jeep load of cool stuff to our VNA Hospice Thrift Store.

I'll bet you're saying to yourself "What is she thinking she just had surgery on Wednesday?" Well the first couple of days I took care to keep my left arm close to my body. I'm mostly a "pullover shirt" kind of girl but I inherited some beautiful button up shirts, so like Napoleon (wrong arm, but you get the picture) I was able to tuck my left hand in between the buttons and be good, at least for a couple of days. 

I have felt really good, none of the side effects listed as possibilities ever showed up. For me it has been therapeutic to be doing what I've been doing, albeit very carefully. Ye olde sports bra was the best discovery of the journey: it applied pressure, shielded me from ice packs, protected the area from arm movement and kept my tatas from dancing around on my daily walks.

The highlight of my Saturday was a long hot shower ~ four days is a long time for this Pisces to be out of water, but I did okay. Camping has educated me on the art of the sponge bath. There are stitches and steristrips holding the incisions closed and then a huge patch of sterile gauze for cushioning and protection. The stitches and steristrips stay in place and you remove the pad to shower. The part they don't tell you about is that the tape to keep that pad in place is seriously akin to duct tape - Everyone should have a roll in their toolkit!  Ouchamaymucho!

Update: My surgeon called this afternoon to say that my lymph nodes and vascular system are clean as a whistle which is excellent, cool beans, and just plain outstanding news. 

However, though the pathology report doesn't come out and say it directly, she said there is some concern that the margin, the extra area around the tumor that is removed, was not clean, that some of the cancer cells could be at large. We talked about it and decided the best approach is to go back into the incision and remove additional tissue. Since I already have an appointment on Thursday we'll take care of it then. Get to skip the dreaded radio-tracer bee sting and needle localization and go directly pass go to surgery for a gentle sleep and a little more tuck and roll.

I will still need to follow up with radiation in a month or two, but feel I have been dealt an amazing hand. I owe a lot to the women who took this journey before me, including my mother and a number of friends. I stand strong with my sisters around the world who are now on the same journey. Remember attitude is everything and don't hesitate to ask questions or get a second opinion.

A Promise to Pay it Forward: 10% of all my Etsy and craft fair sales this fall will be donated to Susan G. Komen For the Cure. Their website at has a lot of helpful information and ways to get involved.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Breast Cancer Journey - D Day Done

09/28/11 ~ To borrow a phrase from my two favorite Marines (the real Ken Rodgers and the mythical Jethro Gibbs from NCIS) OOORAH!

We got up when it was still dark and Rod took me out on the front porch to show me the sky. Long ago, when my parents passed away, we assigned them each a constellation, the Big Dipper and Orion's Belt. Both were visible, one right off the front porch and the other behind redwoods out back, so they too were part of my posse.

No coffee, no food = torture!

First stop to Nuclear Medicine for the radio tracer injection, said to feel like bee sting. I didn't feel the needle at all, but on the bee sting scale I'd say the injection was akin to a giant wasp on steroids. Take comfort in the knowledge it was only long enough to chant the F bomb to myself seven times.

Next stop to have what they call a needle localization. Numbing injection didn't hurt at all. The radiologist inserts a small tube with a small gauge wire down to the tiny marker placed when I had original biopsy. The wire guides my surgeon to the exact place.

Next stop outpatient surgery clinic for admissions and chats with my operating room nurses, anesthesiologist and surgeon, all while lounging in a comfortable bed with back and knee supports and warm blankets. All I needed was a stuffed teddy bear. The atmosphere was relaxed and calming. I wasn't nervous at all. They hooked me up to IV for fluids and I presume sedation, because the next thing I know I'm in recovery with my eyes half open. While I was there my surgeon went out to talk to Rod. She is really confident that she got it all, and the sentinel node was very small which is a good sign. Tissue and nodes are in for biopsy so we'll know for sure in a couple of days. The stay in recovery about an hour and a half and then we were on our way home.

Next stop our favorite Chinese restaurant to pick up a couple of orders of hot and sour soup (our version of chicken soup) and the video store for a few movies. I parked myself in one of the barcaloungers: Rod ceded the remote to me, served me soup and with an ice pack chaser and left me to rest for a couple of hours. 

The movie we watched last night was Rango. The animation, writing, and constant play on words keep us laughing out loud. Lucky I didn't pop a stitch. One of the lines we wrote down (we listened to twice so I think we heard it right) was "it's a puzzle, it's like a big old mammogram". Somehow appropriate for this adventure, wouldn't you say? If you haven't seen it, rent it.

09/29/11 ~ I've had very little discomfort today, haven't needed any pain medication. I am one lucky rascal. I owe a huge hug to my posse of friends from near, far and other dimensions who have been sending me energy and positive thoughts all along the road. My friend Nancy just dropped off home made cookies and my neighbors down the hill brought me a dozen yellow roses! Sweeet! Well back to the barcalounger: soup, movie, ice and a foot rub on the menu tonight. I'm pretty easy to please.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Breast Cancer Journey - D Day

Yikes, lumpectomy surgery is tomorrow but my proverbial ducks are lined up and my questions asked so I'm as ready as I'll ever be. Taking notes really helped! Kaiser staff and doctors played a huge part in preparing me for this journey and lessened my fears of the unknown. There is the great interactive program on their website that walks you through each step and what to expect at

The X Factor: The biography I wrote for my 40th Tamalpais HS reunion (2003) was entitled "My Middle Name Should Have Been Serendipity". If you've read any of my blogs you'll begin to understand this cosmic force of nature has been a huge part of my life's journey. I found out today that not one, but two of my friends had the same surgeon and said she was the best. Works for me!

My knight/chef will be there at every turn and has promised to spoil me rotten and give me foot rubs while I heal. Friends from near and far have checked in with good wishes, healing thoughts and humor. What more could a girl ask for?

D-Day starts early

At 7:45am I head to Nuclear Medicine for an injection in my breast of a blue and/or radioactive tracer that travels along the same path cancer cells travel as they spread. I've been told the injection can be uncomfortable (might sting a bit, uhuh!) and asked if there was something available to mitigate the discomfort. Found out there is topical compound that will numb the area and asked for a prescription. Never be afraid to ask about options!!!

That done, I'm off to the mammography clinic. My tumor is so small it cannot be felt so I'll be having something done called a "wire localization". The area will be numbed with a local and then using ultrasound or x-ray images a very thin wire will be guided to the tumor. My surgeon can then follow the wire to the tumor during surgery. When the tumor is removed the surgeon will also take a margin around it to be tested.

My cancer is called "invasive ductal carcinoma" which means it has escaped the duct wall and may have moved into the lymph system. If it has reached the lymph system, the sentinel lymph node, the one that is the brightest blue or has highest level of radiation from the tracer injection will be removed for biopsy along with a few others. 

The ideal scenario would be to find that: (1) the margin will test negative, meaning no cancer cells have spread from tumor and (2) sentinel node will confirm no cancer has reached the lymph nodes. I'm voting for this one. A possible scenario is that the margin is positive and/or nodes are involved. If that is the case additional surgery may be required. I'll know stage and next steps in a few days. Surgery will only take a couple of hours, then a couple of hours in recovery and I can go home. I can't wait for Thursday because that will mean Wednesday is history!

Yes, I'm a little nervous, but whatever the outcome I know I have a dedicated posse riding shotgun. This is just a bump in the road, or maybe one of Petaluma's infamous potholes, but my ponies have always been 4 wheel drives, so out of my way world I'll be back in the saddle in no time.

Original Posts:
A Journey of Another Kind 08/23/11
Nobody Told Me There’d be Homework 09/06/11
Required Reading:
Just Laugh Out Loud 09/09/11

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Eight Friends, Dinner and a Movie

We spent last Sunday afternoon in Santa Rosa at a private screening, for friends and supporters, of a powerful documentary made by our friends Ken and Betty Rodgers. It's about the 26th Marine Regiment, Bravo Company and the Siege of Khe Sanh, Vietnam in 1968. It is an incredible story told by those who lived it, survived it and are sharing the experience in their own words. The title is:

"Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor"
For a link to the project blog and trailers please go to

After the screening, eight of us gathered for dinner at a Thai restaurant on lower 4th St. called Khoom Lanna, a short walk from the 6th Street Playhouse. As Betty and I looked around the table we realized this group of friends, old and new, from all walks of life had been drawn together by a common thread, our late friends Vince and Trisha Pedroia. We could only smile at the synchronicity of that moment and the serendipitous chain of events that brought this film from an idea to a realized dream. There be magic afoot.

The opening of a dialogue

After my husband Rod and I got home we started talking about Vietnam. I was a college student in my early twenties and pretty much out of touch with the realities of the war, perhaps by naiveté or by choice I don't remember. Rod had tried to enlist several times, but because of a medical condition was turned down.
We all need to think about the cause, effect and consequences for the generation, our generation, who was in the middle of it. I believe the film will provide new understanding and long overdue healing: for those who lived through it, for those who kept the home fires burning, for those who protested it, and for those too young to understand it.
The Vietnam War tore this country apart. No matter what your opinion was, it's now time to open your hearts and minds to the men and woman who did what their government asked of them. One of the terrible things about the Vietnam War was that our returning soldiers were not treated as heroes as are today's veterans, but as pariahs, spat upon and called baby killers. I hate the concept of war but I will always support the men and women who serve.
Unfortunately history continues to repeat itself and the same mistakes are made over and over again: A government of old men sends children to war and then looks the other way at the pathetic care provided for veterans and their families. The Ship of State following its Train of Thought over a cliff.
It's time for a sea change, a transformation of our thinking as human beings. Perhaps today’s young men and women can get it right and find another solution to the unending cycles of war that seem to stalk each generation.

Friday, September 16, 2011

September Song

One morning you wake up at your usual time and realize the sun's not up yet, what's up with that? It's getting dark earlier too and the leaves are starting to change.

Oh wait, it's September. Shoot another summer bites the dust which means another year has passed, AGAIN! Okay so we're getting older, can't stop time, but you can enjoy the season. We often get our best weather this time of year.  

Autumn means less work in the garden as summer crops begin to fade and bulbs are pulled up and stored for spring.

September is the beginning of our craft fair season, which is a lot of hard work, but loads of fun. Tomorrow is our first, the 2nd annual Much Ado About Sebastopol Renaissance Fair. License to dress up and play make believe. How many adults do you know that get that chance?

For us it also becomes "nesting" season as in "let's clean out the nest and auxiliary storage nests and reduce the amount of stuff we possess". Henry David Thoreau said it best:

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!
Live the life you've imagined.
As you simplify your life
the laws of the universe will be simpler."

We used to take things to the flea market and make a few bucks, but who wants to waste a day anymore? We now donate items we no longer use to local charities to support their missions, all needed in these times.

So start with a drawer, start with a closet, start with room. Doesn't matter where, but just start. You'll be amazed at how good it feels, and you might even create a great new space for your favorite feline to snooze.

Closet Cat