Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Art of Giving Care ~ October 11, 2015

My husband Rod is my caregiver, chef, minister of laughter, partner in crime, world class snuggle and best friend. In spite of all that is going on in my life, he makes time to give back to the community at the Council on Aging's Meals on Wheels Program. I'm so proud he's been named October 2015's Volunteer of the Month.

I'll have an update on me after we meet with my oncologist on October 15th. Let's see if I can continue to baffle the medical community!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

De-Liver Me Tour ~ Face the Music and Dance ~ August 31, 2015

Remember Plan B?

My last update, on June 15th, discussed the aforementioned Plan B for treating the two new liver tumors (Sebastian and Brunhilda). It's called Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (or SBRT). I've come to understand there is no simple description for anything in the medical field, hence their fondness for acronyms. 

The SBRT was to be done at Kaiser SSF. It starts with imaging to precisely map the exact position of the tumors and create a customized treatment plan. A device called a CyberKnife (conjures up all kinds of images) directs radiation beams to the tumors. 

The first order of business is at PET/CT scan. You are injected with a radioactive sucrose solution and then have to still for 30 minutes, then lie still for another 30 minutes during scan. The solution seeks out hot spots of metabolism which are indicators of inflammation and cancer activity. 

Say What?

The results from the scan were not what we were looking for but not surprising since we already knew that pancreatic cancer can be aggressive. When the doctor at Kaiser SSF called me he said  "Sorry to have to deliver the news, the pancreatic cancer has metastasized, good luck with chemotherapy". 

Straight To The Heart
Straight to the Heart

Talk about straight to the heart of the matter. I never did like things sugar coated. I don't know if the radiation for the liver tumors is still an option, but I will ask. At the moment, in spite of everything, my liver continues to function pretty well, so it might be best to leave things be for now.

The Learning Curve that Never Ends

Life is about choices and finding your own way. I do not want to do chemotherapy for any reason. I've watched too many friends suffer through the treatments for no apparent gain, other than feeling like crap the last months of their lives. For me it's about quality of life, not quantity. We've made an appointment with my oncologist to talk about other options that might be available. We also have an appointment with a doctor who is an internist with training in Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine. She'll help us navigate the road ahead: what to expect, concerns and issues. 

Metamorphosis I, 5x5 Inch Print

There are promising studies on Cannabis extracts (oils and tinctures) that have been shown to prevent formation of blood vessels to tumors, stop metastasis of cancer to other areas of the body and inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells. With my oncologist's blessing I'm working with a local doctor.

I am a warrior and my job is to continue baffling my doctors and defying the odds. I'm still determined to outlive the expiration date on my American Express card in Fall 2017. 

Wolves - Original Wolf and Warrior Woman Art - Ink Painting in black and white

Whatever is to come brings no fear. I have Rod, friends, family and spirit guides watching over me at all times. We never know what is ahead of us so it's time to face the music and dance.

Lighthouse Waltz Art Print
Lighthouse Waltz

Thank you, as always, to my fellow Etsy Artisans who are always able to help me illustrate my thoughts.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

We Are Giants ~ August 11, 2015

Our neighbors Mike and Carol gave us two tickets for the Giant's game. This is the first time in over two years we've gone to SF for something other than medical appointments. What a treat. We left Sonoma County around 2pm to miss traffic. Weatherman once again missed it completely having predicted wind and drizzle. It was clear and about 66 at game time and clear and 64 at 11:30 pm when we hiked back to where we left the car. 

Parking was an adventure in itself. The last time we went to a game was August 2013. The tickets were a gift from our friends Jeff and Kathy and they told us about a nearby parking structure that would simplify the experience. Try as we may we couldn't find it. After a number of laps around the vicinity we spotted a public parking lot near 2nd and Townsend, only $20 and about a mile walk to the stadium (perfect for our exercise regimen). One spot left and it's lucky #7. There was a space in front of us, they always stack em down there, but attendant assured us no one would block us in (they close long before the game is over). 

The park is not open until 5 so the first stop was the Fan Store next to the Willie Mays Gate. I really wanted a Giant's Gamer Babe T-Shirt. To my disbelief they didn't carry them, what's up with that? Oh Well! Back across the street to MoMo's for a bite to eat on the veranda. Table 49 (49/7=7). Prices a little steep, but it is San Francisco and we'd go back again for sure.  

Seats fabulous, Section 125, Row 30, Seats 5 and 6, just past 3rd base looking over the Giant's dugout. We remembered pillows for our bony butts and jackets just in case. Sampled desert fare, took a walk along the promenade to check out the view and crowd and talked with seat mates until game time. Rod brought Mike's glove just in case a foul ball came our way. The closest one was about 20 feet in front of us and next section over, but we were ready.

My protector

Getting to see Madison Bumgarner pitch an entire game and watching the Giants create magic live is awesome. We heard this in an interview on the way home.

Madison Bumgarner headed up the dugout steps for the ninth inning when manager Bruce Bochy asked how he was feeling. ''Why are you even asking?'' San Francisco's ace cracked. Minutes later, he completed a five-hitter with 12 strikeouts, backed by Brandon Belt's two solo home runs that broke up a pitcher's duel as the San Francisco Giants beat the Houston Astros 3-1. 

The game was sold out as usual. When we watch out of town games it always seems like there are more Giants fans in opposing stands than locals. You gotta love it. 

Hiked back up to the parking lot after the game. Three cars in the lot and one is parked directly in front of us. Fortunately we'd left some wiggle room behind the Honda and were able to pull out of lucky #7 with ease. Got home about midnight (we're not usually up that late) and jumped in the hot tub to check out the Milky Way and shooting stars from the meteor showers.

A grand day for the home team and us. Thank you Mike and Carol. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tombstone Series ~Those Big Business Sons of Bitches ~ Letter to John L. Lewis ~ January 21, 1949

As a miner and mining engineer, my Grandfather had a unique perspective and intimate knowledge the conditions miners were forced to work under. During his time in Washington, DC he also took on Standard Oil, Land Grant Railroads, Bureau of Mines, Bureau of Land Management and the Interior Department to expose the "thefting and framing" of the American public out of billions of dollars of mineral rights. He felt it was his mission to bring the heat to the feet of those "Big Business Sons of Bitches". 

This letter is to John L. Lewis, head of the United Mine Workers of America.  I believe the letter they both refer to was the one grandfather wrote to Donovan Richardson, who was the publisher of the Christian Science Monitor at the time. It was published on May 22, 2015, under the title "Tombstone Series ~ Those Big Business Sons of Bitches ~ Letter to Donovan Richardson ~ November 10, 1949"

Looking at previous correspondence I believe the date on this letter, in relation to the others, should have been dated January 21, 1950 and not 1949, though we'll never know for sure.

History is a tapestry woven of threads and memories and times long forgotten. The beauty of these old letters is that a new light is shed on first hand accounts of important moments in history. Stay curious and as Grandpa used to say "Good Hunting".

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Tombstone Series ~ Dr. Robert Fulton Winchester 1845-1932

Robert Fulton Winchester was my Great Grand Uncle, brother to Charlotte Maria Winchester Bagg wife of my Great Grandfather Stanley Chipman Bagg. 

He was born April 27, 1845 in Brewer, Maine. As a young man interested in medicine, he became an apprentice to a doctor, and then volunteered as a surgeon for the Union army during the Civil War. After the war ended he attended Bowdoin College in Maine and graduated in 1867. Drawn by the lure of the west, he moved to San Francisco in 1868 to set up his practice. 

When the smallpox epidemic broke out in San Juan Bautista, he volunteered to leave his practice to come to the aid of the stricken community where he met Colonel William Wells Hollister. Impressed with his dedication Colonel Hollister asked him to move to Santa Barbara and become the family doctor and run a clinic. 

According to Walker A. Tomkins:

"As an enticement to get Dr. Winchester to come south, in 1870 Colonel Hollister purchased 1,000 acres of prime land in the doctor’s name in the lush arroyo west of Ellwood Canyon. Winchester agreed to the move. After a few years, he grew tired of rural life and moved into Jose Lobero’s adobe at 110 West Carrillo Street, which the Hollisters had used as temporary living quarters while the Glen Annie ranch house was being built.

In 1872, Dr. Winchester started his practice in competition with the town’s well-established Dr. Brinkerhoff. When the Fithian Building opened at State and Ortega in 1896, Dr. Winchester leased a suite of offices. By this time, Winchester had served as Santa Barbara County coroner, county doctor and city health officer. He retired from practice in 1925, although he continued to see patients for the rest of his life. He died at age 87 at his home at 412 West Montecito Street, Santa Barbara, now a historic landmark".

The Trussell Winchester Adobe circa 1903 at 412 West Montecito Street
from the family photo collection

Charlotte Winchester Bagg

Once Dr. Winchester was settled in, the Winchester tribe headed west from Maine. From a letter written by my Grandfather to Mrs. George H. Finley, who was doing a story for the dedication of the Adobe in 1957. 

"Charlotte (my mother) was a passenger on the first Pullman sleeping car to cross the continent to San Francisco. From this I assume the Tribe was along: Sara Blake Kidder Hayes Winchester (Aunt Sadie), Uriah Winchester, Sarah Augusta, and Charlotte Maria to settle in Santa Barbara with Robert. The above advertisement is dated 1937 which means Charlotte and family came west in 1877." 

Sarah, a Santa Barbara school teacher, purchased the home at 412 W. Montecito in 1882. In 1884 the ownership passed to Robert and then to niece Katherine Bagg Hastings in 1929. It remained in the Winchester family until 1955 when Katherine bequeathed it to the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. 

Tell me my Great Grand Uncle, Dr. Robert Fulton Winchester, doesn't bear a resemblance to Tom Skerritt

Dr. Robert Fulton Winchester

Actor Tom Skerritt

Monday, July 27, 2015

Tombstone Series ~ Old Tombstone Bloody as Modern TV Version ~ October 11, 1961

I just found this newspaper column from The Arizona Republic buried inside an unmarked folder. Sometimes it pays to look twice, you could unearth a gem. 

The columnist: Donald Dedera was born March 16, 1929 in Arlington, Virginia. After high school, he enlisted in the USMC as a photographer. In 1948 he enrolled in Arizona State College in Tempe and graduated with a BA in Journalism in 1951. He worked for The Arizona Republic from 1951 to 1969 and became a daily feature columnist in 1953. His communications career spanned 60 years and includes approximately 23 books and over 2,000 journal and newspaper articles. This column came out of a conversation with my grandfather, John Sherman Bagg. 

Television struggled to become a national mass media in the 1950's, and became a cultural force, for better or worse, in the 1960's. One must appreciate the irony of the comment regarding a low juvenile delinquency rate in Tombstone. This article was written in 1961 when television was still in it's infancy, but apparently already having an influence on the children of the world. Two series stand out:

Tombstone Territory: 1957-1960 ~ "Tough sheriff Clay Hollister keeps the law in Tombstone, Arizona "The Town Too Tough to Die" with the support of his faithful deputies and the editor of the local newspaper".

Marshal Earp: 1955-1961 ~ "Marshall Earp keeps the law, first in Kansas and later in Arizona, using his over-sized pistols and a variety of sidekicks. Most of the saga is based loosely on fact, with historical bad guys and good guys, ending up with the famous shootout at the O.K. Corral".

Post Script: It was actually 7 months later when the family returned to Tombstone. They arrived on October 27, 1881, the day after the shootout at the OK Corral.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Into the Wild Blue Yonder VI ~ June 7th to June 10th

We've turned the proverbial corner and headed south on Hwy 101. Like two old team mules we knew our way home and the barn was calling. We love to travel but cherish home base and our friends and neighbors. 

Bit by Bit- a  pastel drawing from artist Wendy Leedy's mule collection- fine art print, signed
Bit by Bit

We left Lincoln City after breakfast and headed to Bandon for the night. We were hoping to get some walks in along the way, but it was colder than a Witch's Patootie along the coast, 54 degrees and 15-20 mph north winds. Too cold to play outside, so we made it up along the way. We stopped at the venerable Sea Hag Restaurant in Depot Bay for clam chowder (a great warmer upper). Next stops were at a couple of our favorite casinos in Florence and North Bend to play a bit. We didn't walk away with any winnings but logged five miles of walking indoors today.

Explored old town Bandon, visited our favorite kitchen store, Bandon Mercantile (we always find a must have there) and found a new addition to the town's landscape. A visual wake up call I'd say.

Got a good night's sleep drifting off to the sounds of the ocean. After breakfast we once again tried a beach walk, but the winds persisted. I am the original weather wuss and was chilled with 5 layers. Even my Nordic viking was caught off guard so after short walk we got back on the road.

The drive from Bandon to McKinleyville, through Redwood National Park is gorgeous any time of year, we took our time and made a few stops along the way. Got into Blue Lake in the late afternoon, had dinner and called it a night. After breakfast we visited with our friends Tom, Linda and Noah for a bit before we hit the road.

Our neighbors Susi and Carol had been taking care of what we call the "upstairs" of the property: watering the gardens, indoor plants, feeding the wild birds and keeping birdbaths full. I had texted Carol we'd be in a couple of days early, the 10th (which is her son Evan's birthday) instead of the 12th. Little did we know what these two would do. Carol let Susi know we were coming in early and she decided we needed some supplies and asked Carol what we ate. Carol put on her thinking cap for a minute and said "Wait, they haven't pick up recycle yet, let me go check the bin." She came up with a list and Susi had the larder stocked before we got in. These two are the cat's meow. 

The icing on the proverbial cake: Shortly after we got in Evan came over with a little ramekin of cheese cake. He had helped his mom make his birthday cheesecake and invited us over to sing Happy Birthday and share. Home, off the road, food in the refrigerator and cheesecake for dinner. It doesn't get much better than that. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Into the Wild Blue Yonder Part IV ~ June 3rd - June 7th

June 3rd and 4th ~ The back roads to Hillsboro and our friend's aerie, high on a knoll, are visual feasts. We arrive to clouds and then a light rain. Coming from northern California, where rain has seldom been seen this year, we are enthralled. What, we have to stay inside? What do you do on a rainy day? Let me think: build a fire, catch up, swap stories, enjoy the view, play cribbage and enjoy Deb's cooking.

She is a master chef and loves cook for friends. There is a small chalkboard to the right of the refrigerator with the menus for the day, for arrival night my favorite, Moroccan Pastilla. We can sit and talk for hours at the counter, and sometimes I even get to help out.

The sun came out and we got a bit of walking in and then took the rest of the day to relax. Visiting Art and Deb is like time out at a B&B Spa. To top it off the sky provided us with a heart.

June 5th and 6th ~ We head for Canby to stay with Rod's niece for a couple of days to help celebrate his grand niece Shawnail's high school graduation. First though we made a stop at Champoeg State Park for a long walk along the river in the cool of the morning. 

Got to Canby Friday afternoon and had lunch at the Backstop Bar and Grill. We went back that evening to have dinner with Rod's sister Debby and nephew Emmett before the graduation ceremony. Those without tickets to graduation sat in the bleachers, those with tickets sat on the football field for the ceremony. It must have been 90 degrees on the field in the evening sun, we had shade and a light breeze up in the bleachers.

On Saturday we helped Dawn and Andrew prepare for the graduation party at their place. The entire day and evening was low key and great fun. Met some more of the family. 

June 7th ~ Breakfast with Dawn and family at the restaurant where Shawnail works. It's been in the 80's and heading for the 90's in Canby, so we are heading for the coast. A little side trip to Domain Drouhin Winery near Dayton to pick up a present and then out to Spirit Mountain Casino in Grand Ronde for lunch. 

Domain Drouhin Winery 

Lincoln City was a welcome change: a nippy 61 and foggy, no middle ground in Oregon. Played the penny slots at Chinook Winds where we're staying. Not much luck but plenty of fun on new machines that actually play with you, as in give and take. Tomorrow we head towards home.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Wordsmith Series ~ Dancing on the River's Edge ~ July 15, 2015

Choice is instant and final
Choose right and move forward
With confidence
Choose right for minutes at a time
And gain the sensation of flight

The rock you stand upon
Must be connected 
To the rock you flow to
And the choices you plot
Flow ahead of you

Clackamas River 

Slide Rock, Oak Creek Canyon 

And present themselves
As solid and reliable
Before you get there

© Rod Helvey July 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015

Into the Wild Blue Yonder III ~ May 31st - June 2nd

May 31st ~ After breakfast we packed up and headed north on Hwy 97 out of Klammath and west on Hwy 62 to Crater Lake and the Rim Overlook. First thing we spot is this structure, a sheltered viewpoint situated on the caldera rim about 900' above the lake. It's called the Sinnott Memorial Observation station.

We really wanted to check it out but the path was still blocked by snow. It was built in 1930, the first structure built in Crater Lake National Park using rough stone masonry construction. It's named for Nicholas J. Sinnott who represented eastern Oregon in the House of Representatives from 1913-1928. As chairman of the House Public Lands Committee he actively supported the park. We got a nice long walk in along the rim. Part of the rim road was still closed due to snow but we did get a bit of exploring in on the west side of the lake. 

Sinnott Observation Overlook

Bluer than Blue 

Crater Lake partially fills a type of volcanic depression called a caldera that was formed by the collapse of a 3,700 m (12,000 ft) volcano known as Mount Mazama during an enormous eruption approximately 7,700 years ago.

Water from melting snow, rain and springs began to accumulate in the massive caldera about 5,000 years ago. Inflow, seepage and evaporation of this closed drainage system now vary less than 3 ft (1 m) per year. In one spot the lake is 1,943 ft (592 m) deep and the average depth is 1,148 ft (350 m). It’s also one of the bluest lakes in the world. Pure water has an intrinsic blue color because it absorbs most of the red wavelengths of light.

We toyed with the idea of staying at the venerable Crater Lake Lodge, but it was too pretentious and overpriced. Decided instead to stay in a cabin at Mazama Village just down the road near the campground. There is a small store and a restaurant within walking distance. Evening included a nice supper, some reading and early to bed. 

June 1st ~ Headed for Bend the back way to pick up Highway 97: south on Hwy 62 and northeast on Hwy 138: Wide open high desert vistas and large ranches. We stopped at the Warm Springs Casino just north of Madras for lunch and found out the back road we wanted to take towards the Metolius River, near Sisters, was not open. Rats, it promised to be an adventure. So we back tracked to Madras on Hwy 97 and then west on Hwy 126 and headed for Sisters for the night. The Best Western Ponderosa was a great spot with log furniture and llamas grazing at the fence line. An easy walk to dinner and back. 

June 2nd ~ Surprising fact for a destination spot, nothing opens in Sisters until 11 am, we couldn't find a restaurant for the life of us. Rod finally spotted a place called Melvin's Fir Street Market and Deli. A great discovery: the owner ran the store and was chief cook and bottle washer. We had the Full Monty: bacon, eggs and smashed potatoes (named for his friend Monty who we got to meet). Also met another character who told us about some morel mushroom gathering spots at the recent burn areas. 

The Metolius River defies basic geology lessons. It literally springs out of the shadow of Black Butte Mountain, on the east flank of the Cascades. The source of the springs is evidently unknown, but it is thought that it might actually be a large drainage basin on the other side of the mountain near Black Butte Ranch. 

A short walk through the woods takes you there

The unusual fault that created Green Ridge is thought to have brought the springs to the surface here. The mountain is a volcano, and a past eruption may have blocked or buried the flowing river as it existed before. The spring flows at a consistent rate of 45,000 to 50,000 US gallons per minute.

The river walk is absolutely magical.

After a delightful morning of exploring the river we head northwest to Hillsboro, OR to spend a few days with friends Art and Deb. Never ones to take a main road we left the Interstate to the fools and explored Hwys 20, 22, 221 and 219 to get there. It's about a 3.5 hour drive from Sisters, but through some beautiful hill country, farms, ranches and small towns. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Into the Wild Blue Yonder, Part II ~ May 29-30, 2015

May 29th:

After breakfast in Chester it's north on Hwy 89 to Lassen. We never tire of the trip, the mountain air and the views. The journey is uncrowded, the weather gorgeous. Times like this we miss the motorhome and camping opportunities. Cooking outside, sitting in front of the campfire, and star watching miles from civilization. 

We saw a number of these at higher altitudes in pine forests. With a little research we discovered they are Sarcodes sanguinea or Snow Plant. It has no chlorophyll and derives nutrition from fungi in the soil. Learn something new every day. 

Highlight of the day was a stop at Manzanita Lake for a walkabout of about three miles. Saw blue herons, osprey, ducks, geese, goslings, and a muskrat. 

Had a picnic outside the Manzanita Lake Store and then drove down to the park's south gate so the Rodster could do a little fishing. I was happy as a clam sitting in the shade reading some of my Grandfather's letters. Late afternoon we continued on Hwy 89 to the town of Burney where we spent the night at a little hotel in town.

May 30th ~ When in Burney you have breakfast at Blackberry Patch. Once packed up we headed to McArthur Burney Falls for some hiking and fishing. 

Flashback: In 1970 I hiked up Berg Lake on Mt. Robson, in British Columbia, with new friends Bobbie and James. It's a 15 mile hike that took us two days. I had my pup Charis with me and he would often take off ahead of us to explore and then come back and check in. 

The Lodge at Berg Lake

While Rod was fishing Burney Creek I was doing much the same. Hiking on ahead and walking back to touch base. I got in 5.5 miles and found some beautiful places to sit in the shade and just be. 

Walking near fallen trees along the trail we heard the unmistakable sound of chewing. Coming up the path from Lake Britton to the campground we heard the same sound, even louder, coming from living trees. The ranger told us it was an infestation pine bark beetles.

From the SF Chronicle March 2015: "Pine trees across the state have been dying off by the thousands due to pine beetles that take advantage of their drought-stressed bodies. The small groupings and vast swaths of dead trees create an especially dangerous fire hazard in already parched conditions..... experts warning that the situation is on track to worsen". Worst of all this isn't just a local problem, it's happening all across north America. What have we humans done?

After a snack we continue north on Hwy 89 and pick up Hwy 97 to do some exploring on the way to Klamath for the night. The Hwy 97 corridor from California through Oregon is visual feast, a legacy of the volcanic activities of the past: outcroppings, gorges, rich farmland, marshes and large ranches follow the road north. We stayed at the Best Western in Klamath and walked a few blocks to dinner. Early to bed, tomorrow we head for Crater Lake.