Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Cheez

They're not all this adorable, but some of them are.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Losing Streak

Oh, the things I've lost in the last year... the list has grown exponentially the last couple of weeks, as I lost my driver's license, my only major credit card, and a check. And today, I realized I lost an entire day.

I've also lost my ability to concentrate, to finish tasks. I've forgotten appointments, even when I get a reminder the day before. I'm quite sure this is all due to chemo-brain.

Today, I left the house and noticed all my neighbors had put out their trash a day early. That's kind of weird, isn't it? No... no, turns out it IS trash day. How did that happen? It was Monday, and then I'm pretty sure it was Tuesday... and then suddenly, it was Thursday! I don't know where Wednesday went. I wish it was like Daylight Savings Time, and I could get the day back next spring, but I'm afraid it's just lost forever. It's as if a whole colony of Borrowers has moved in to the Villa.

There is a chance, though, that I'll find my credit card and my driver's license. I hope they're keeping my diamond necklace company.
ADDENDUM: I found the credit card! It was somehow tangled in my sheets; probably fell out of a pocket at some point. Still no sign of the driver's license. Or the check. Or the diamond. Or Wednesday.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Happy Feet

I've had a three-tiered sneaker hierarchy for years. The new, clean ones are my dress sneakers. One rung down is the everyday sneakers. And at the bottom, the dirty, nasty, holey pair used for lawn-mowing and little else. When I buy a new pair, everyone moves down one rung, and the old mowing sneakers finally join the landfill.

That was before I became destitute. The old shoes finally fell apart and my former dress sneakers were now performing triple-duty. And they look atrocious. But it just kills me to pay $40, $50, even $60 for sneakers so I kept putting it off. A Famous Footwear shoestore opened nearby, and offered 20% off coupons, so I figured it was time to shoe-shop. When I got to the store, I learned they were having a second-pair-half-price-deal and I could use my coupon for both pairs. It was a coupon trifecta!

I started trying on sneakers; wow, I've almost forgotten what a new pair of sneakers feels like. Nike, Adidas, New Balance: my feet were elated and kept trying to dance. Then, just for the heck of it, I put on a $70 pair of Saucony shoes... and I swear, my feet started moaning and writhing. It was like that scene in When Harry Met Sally! They were having shoegasms, right there in the store.

I interrupted, telling my feet that we would find a perfectly acceptable pair of $40 shoes, but they just kept going back to the Saucony. I'd picked out two other pair and was ready to take them to the check out, when my feet hurled themselves to the floor and threw a screaming tantrum. "You never let us have any fun!" shouted Lefty. "We don't even wear low heels anymore, just these old clodhoppers." sulked Righty. Then they started with the pleases. "Please, please, pleeeease!" I held firm, because you know what happens when you reward bad behavior? That's right: more bad behavior.

At least, that was my intention: my feet were turning themselves blue and refusing to leave the store. So... I caved. I bought the Saucony, which turned out to be on sale for $55. My second pair, the Avia, were half off of $40. With my 20% off coupon, the total was about $60 for both pairs, allowing me to believe that I really only paid $30 for the Saucony. Of course, my feet are ecstatic, and full of promises for future good behavior. "We'll never ask for another pair of shoes. Not even if they have toe cleavage!" Yeah, right.

Well, they're usually very good feet, and it has been a long time since they've had really comfortable shoes, so the Saucony shoes are a rare indulgence. But it may be awhile before I can wear them in public.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Are We Finally Ready to Save Ourselves?

Health Care Status Quo Would Be Disaster for Middle Class

How’s this for a health care plan? It will make your premiums go up—in fact, it will double health costs over the next ten years. It will strip millions of Americans of their coverage. It will send our deficit through the roof.
Government Plan Can Coexist with Private Insurance
WASHINGTON – A new government health insurance plan sought by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats could coexist with private insurers without driving them out of business, an analysis by nonpartisan budget experts suggests.
I'm going to let myself hope that this time, health care reform will pass. I'm going to let myself hope that everyone's irrational anxieties have been addressed (see the first article, an op-ed), that everyone's ready, that we're going to not only save the country, but wrest health care from CEOs and lobbyists, and give it back to American citizens. A girl's gotta have a dream.


We have developed a tradition of adding "-gate" to every scandal since Watergate, so I've dubbed this Gates-gate. In case you've been on the moon for the last week, I'm referring to the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the respected author, speaker and Harvard professor. Upon returning from a trip, Professor Gates found his front door difficult to open, and he and his driver had to force it open. A well-meaning neighbor called the police to report what she believed was a break-in.

And here's where it seems to go from a silly misunderstanding to something much more sinister. I'm sure Professor Gates wasn't his most charming self; he was exhausted and peeved...but wouldn't you think that a police officer would be used to dealing with people who are tired and frustrated, and unhappy at having to deal with a police officer? This slight, frail, 58-year old gentleman produced identification that proved he was in his own home, yet he was arrested and taken in to custody for several hours. I don't doubt that he displayed some attitude; who wouldn't under those circumstances? We learned the officer called for more back-up: "Keep the cars coming." For one man who walks with a cane? Gates says he asked three times for the officer's name and badge number and was refused each time. The officer claims he provided this information three times.

There was probably some poor behavior on both sides., but it sure looks like a black man can be arrested for simply expressing outrage, for being "uppity," for being black, in his own home.The charges against Gates have already been dropped; I doubt that would have happened if the police believed they had a valid case.

The election of Obama proves this country has made great strides overcoming a history of racism; the arrest of Professor Gates proves we've still got a long, long way to go.

UPDATE -- I just read the arresting officer's report at Smoking Gun. This officer's report is so one-sided, I find it very hard to believe. Here is another version, provided by Gates' attorney.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Go See...

Funny Family Photos!

I'm just not photogenic, and when I force a smile, it looks more like a teeth-gnashing grimace. Sometimes I just try to keep my face neutral. I did this recently for my drivers' license photo, and I look like one of America's Most Wanted. Bad idea. My new strategy is to try to "smile with my eyes." No big, creepy grin, but I try to look as though I'm trying not to laugh... imagining a little kid has just said a naughty word. I did this for my passport picture and it's much, much less horrible. For me, "less horrible" is an excellent picture.

It's not just me. Here are two sites dedicated to excruciatingly bad/somber/strange photographs. I've been howling over the Happiest People Ever (samples above). If the wedding was that much fun, imagine the reception! Page after page of laughing at sourpusses. Equally hilarious but more diverse: Awkward Family Photos.
Here's the "3rd Happiest Place on Earth. Wanna hear a story? No? ...okay."
As long as we're snickering, I can't resist one more collection of bad tattoos, all new misspellings!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Les Films Francaise... and a few more

I happened to get three French films in a row by chance; they offered a range of styles and subjects. Cache was a deathly slow, plodding mystery. What really happened? Who was responsible? Why didn't the ending answer any of the questions? The real mystery was... why they made the movie.

Next up was The Widow of St. Pierre. On a bleak Newfoundland island, a captain's wife is determined to "rehabilitate" Neal, who killed a man in a silly, drunken rage. The townspeople grow to like him so much that they refuse to carry out his death sentence. It was a little grim (and the first few scenes on a fishing boat almost did me in) but I enjoyed it. Ironically, the two lead roles were played by the same couple as in Cache.

Ma Vie En Rose (My Life in Pink)
was a funny, charming, and often painful story about a seven-year old boy who already knows: he's supposed to be a girl.

I learned that The Italian Job with Charlize Theron and Mark Wahlberg was actually a remake, so I got the original, made in 1969 and starring Michael Caine. The story was completely different; the only common element was the thrilling chase scenes with Mini Coopers. The ending was brilliant.

I've Loved You For So Long, another French film, starred British actress Kristin Scott Thomas. Finally, French spoken slowly enough that I actually understood some of it! It was about a woman getting out of prison after 15 years, and her story was revealed, bit by bit. Those Frenchies, they like a sad story.

I watched a very old (1936) movie starring Gary Cooper, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. An average guy, maybe a bit eccentric, suddenly inherits $20 million dollars. He's surrounded by snakes and thieves and has to find a way to hang on to his principles. Heavy-handed with the morality, but 30s movies aren't known for their subtlety.

Happy Go Lucky is a British chick flick, but it's a cute one. When her bike is stolen, eternally cheerful Poppy decides to take driving lessons., from a surly, imperious and heinously bigoted driving instructor. Eat your heart out, Bridget Jones.

And now for the stink bombs. I was originally thrilled when I learned Dana Carvey had hosted a tv show in the mid 90s. I was excited to see what The Dana Carvey Show, which also featured Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell, had been all about. I think it's safe to say this was the low point of Carvey's career. Wendy and Lucy: if you ever want 90 minutes of unrelenting misery and grief, here's your movie. She's broke, her car breaks down, her dog runs away...maybe it should be played in reverse.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Cheez - They're not all this funny, but some of them are.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


by David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
I love this poem. I'm much comforted by the idea that when I'm lost, the forest still knows where I am.

I wonder, what is the analogy for feeling lost in life? I know many will leap to offer, "god knows where you are." But I think perhaps if you've been diligent, showing your care, expressing your affection, practicing kindness, maybe love knows where you are, and will lead you back.

They're basically the same idea. In The Gospel According to the Coot, god is love, compassion, the instinct to choose caring over apathy, kindness over cruelty. God isn't outside of us; if s/he exists at all, it's inside our hearts.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Requiem for a Nice Kitty

We are a bit somber and subdued in the 'Hood, mourning the recent loss of a kitty pal, Magic. The fact that he was an Old Guy brings some solace. He lived a good long life in a loving home, enjoying the attention and companionship of two other cats, two humans, and one fine dog, followed by another fine dog. On the other hand, the fact that he was an Old Guy also means a greater loss: he was part of the family for a long time.

I can personally attest to Magic's sweetness. He was just a courtly, nice old guy; the kind of cat about whom even avowed cat haters would concede, "but that one's okay." A good-natured guy, Magic never cornered or confronted anything. He would rush to the door to greet anyone who arrived, but most people just walked by him, not noticing his effort. When dogs came in, he stayed where he was and greeted them in a friendly way. Even with big strong dogs, like Sonny, he would stand fast but discreetly slip away when the opportunity presented itself. One thing he really disliked was having stray cats coming around. Old Guys like to have their turf respected.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to share our lives with furry critters know what a privilege we enjoy. In return for providing food and housing (and they don't eat much or take up a lot of space), they offer us unconditional love, unlimited affection, and unwavering loyalty. We definitely come out ahead on that deal.

Magic left our world quietly, at home, enjoying a last cuddle. I guess that's about the best any of us can hope for. Rest in peace, Magic. You'll be missed.

CLARIFICATION: Magic was not my cat, but my friends'. He was the "brother" of Molly's best friend, Gracie.

(P.S. As the owner of a black dog, I know it's difficult to take a good picture of a black pet! These don't do him justice, he was a very handsome fellow.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Spectacular Movie Night Extravaganza

Kerry & Mary Ann kindly offered their driveway and garage for the annual spectacular Movie Night Extravaganza! Gary, our A/V guru, put together an interesting collection of entertainment that included an episode of Lance Link, a hilarious show from the 70s that was a spoof of the popular spy shows, with chimps acting out the roles. There was a short feature about some of the menfolk traveling to Kentucky for a car race. Gary always includes advertisements about the snack bar and nuclear bombs from the 50s. And the feature movie was Woody Allen's "Everyone Says I Love You." Our beacon, the Giant Corona Bottle, lit up the delightful pitch-in buffet and popcorn machine.

Molly and Gracie worked the crowd like the seasoned party girls that they are. What a fun summer evening. For a bunch of geezers, we sure know how to party. Thanks, everyone!

Tour de France Cancer Hero: Bonne Chance, Lance

I've been watching bits of the Tour de France. No, I won't call it the Tour de Lance, but hats off to Lance Armstrong, coming out of "retirement" to compete against riders nearly half his age. On the one hand, he'll always be the idiot who let Sheryl Crow get away... on the other hand, here's a cancer survivor who set the bar pretty damned high. (Way to make the rest of us feel like underachievers!) Lance is actually in second place, but I think just the fact that he qualified makes him a winner.

Today is probably the most spectacular, scenery-wise. The Tour is in the Alps, and will be dipping into Italy and Switzerland as they climb and descend two mountains: the Col du Grand St Bernard (sounds like the GrawnSawnB'nawnn), is 2,469 metres (8,100 feet) and the Col du Petit St Bernard, is 2,188 metres (7,180 feet). Then they will have a 30km descent. This isn't just a bike race, I've learned, there are scads of rules: the riders must do this, and the teams must do that, and on and on. There was some big controversy about the results from the previous stage, but even after listening to 10 minutes' discussion about it, I still had no idea what the issue was. Well, it certainly provides the commentators plenty of discussion material.

From a design standpoint -- something that is often neglected on Versus! -- I think the logo is brilliant. Didja see how the "our" in "Tour" make up the cyclist and bicycle? Speaking of design, one thing I've learned from just the bits that I've watched: no one, not even these guys with their world-class physiques, no one looks good in bicycle shorts.

The Tour is on the channel I call "Kill Bambi," but, I've learned, is actually called "Versus." In other words, it's all about the manly art of competition, whether that's cycling, Indy cars, beating each other up, or more often, hunting and fishing. As fas as the latter, I don't think hunting a deer with a rifle or even a crossbow is much of a competition. Drop the hunter, naked and barefoot and unarmed, in the middle of the woods, and then challenge him to track, catch and kill a deer. Now that's a fair fight.

Photo Copyright © IMAGO (and obviously, not "live.")

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Please, please me

Bro 1 is a talented gardener and a skilled musician and composer (recently musical director/conductor of a community theatre production of South Pacific), Those are his hobbies; his "day job" is in international travel. As a result, whenever he travels, people are very, very eager to please and impress him.

He and Sis-in-law are currently on a well-deserved vacation: a Russian/Scandinavian cruise. What's great about this cruise line, he says, is that it includes almost all shore excursions. (On most cruises, you could easily spend more than the cruise on day trips.) Upon boarding, they were immediately upgraded to a suite. With a butler. Must be nice! Bon Voyage, mon frere.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

In Good Company

A friend who's participating in the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life sent me some pictures. He made luminaries for Andre, Margaret and I! Cake was only for survivors - I hope he enjoys a piece for all of us. Thanks for including me.
My friend Michelle (Foodie and blogmother) participates in our local Relay for Life every year and I was always proud to support her. ACS and LLS (Leukemia Lymphoma Society) are among the very few organizations that provide direct services to patients.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Just An Average Little Miracle

Last night I enjoyed a free concert at a local park with the Hoodies. I rode with Kerry and Mary Ann; Nick had thoughtfully gone early to save us seats in the shade. The barely-bearable heat slowly cooled and occasionally the tiniest breeze found us. For my pitch-in contribution, I made Karin's famous picnic sandwich (it's in the cookbook) with fresh pesto from my own basil. I haven't yet mastered the construction of the sandwich, but it still got rave reviews. The band was quite good and played for about two hours without a break. One of the singers was a petite woman, maybe 30 years old, with an incongruously huge, husky voice. Although I could live without hip-hop and Neil Diamond, I was very impressed with their skill and versatility.

After a few songs, some little kids got up to dance in front of the band, and then some moms joined them. Eventually, a few dads got in the spirit. I was watching one in particular, a good dancer with the kind of natural rhythm and loose-hip moves very few heterosexual men enjoy. He was dancing with his daughter, who was maybe 10-11 years old, trying to teach her a sort of Lindy or jitterbug. She was clearly having the time of her life, squealing with delight and beaming like a 1,000-watt spotlight. It was unrestrained joy, and I wondered if she would remember this evening, 10 or 20 years from now.

How glorious it was to be feeling better than I have in at least a year, and sharing that beautiful evening with the friends who have been with me every step of the way. They are still as kind and thoughtful as they've been since the beginning: "Are you okay? Do you need anything?" I indulged in a glass of rosé, courtesy of Gary and Kelly.

Life doesn't hold a lot of big miracles, but little ones are all around. Like the incredibly delicious fresh peach I've sliced on my cereal for three days. Like the radiant smile of a little girl dancing with her dad. Like the comfort of friends who will never let you fall. If you're paying attention, you can string them together like pearls, and and bask in their glow.

It Happens Too Often

I ran into my neighbor J. at the grocery store yesterday. She's not one of the Hoodie insiders, but she does live in the 'Hood. Over the years, we've gone from nodding acquaintances to "Hi, How are you?" to brief chats about gardening and the weather. I mentioned that I hadn't seen much of her lately. After a quick sidelong glance left and right, she said "Well..." and launched into the subject. (As I've mentioned, I have the kind of face that people talk to.)

Turns out over the past few years, J. has also been the victim of Doctors Who Don't Listen, which also made her the victim of botched surgery, among other things. I'll spare the details, but there were actually two separate health problems, and both times, she was stuck with doctors who ignored what she was saying and followed their own agenda. It was a horrifying, tragic tale, all the more so because most of the issues, if not all of them, were probably avoidable.

I can't criticize on this topic. I suspected for years that my GP was not a good listener, and I imposed on my gynecologist for all kinds of health care, in order to avoid going back to the GP. When my MM symptoms began and I knew I had to see the GP, I put up with her nonsense for six months, knowing in my heart that she was full of crap, and wasn't really listening to me. I kept telling her I thought I had cancer; at one point she turned and snapped, "Why do you keep saying you have cancer? You don't have cancer!" And then, I broke my back. An earlier diagnosis might not have made any difference in my treatment or in the progression of the cancer, but it might have saved me from the fracture that changed my life forever.

But the truth is... I knew she wasn't paying attention, wasn't listening, wasn't giving my concerns any real credibility, so if anyone is to be blamed for the delayed diagnosis, it's me.

And that's the reason for my rant here. If you think your doctor's not listening, give her one more chance. Grab her by the lapels, or take her hand, make some kind of physical contact, then look her in the eyes and say, "You're not hearing me."

Don't say, "I'm sorry, you're not hearing me." and don't say, "I think you're not hearing me."

Say, "You're not hearing me. This is what I'm telling you..." and then give her one more shot. Give her one more chance to pay attention and hear what you're saying.

Don't give her six more months or four more shots. And if you still have any qualms, if that nagging little voice is still concerned, then change doctors. Immediately. I know J. would agree with me: you don't have to explain or apologize - just do it. It may just save your life.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Les Fleurs du Jour

My zinnias just now starting to get buds. Seems to me that this time last year, I was picking zinnias every day. I'm not sure if it was our cool spring that slowed them down or not, but my crop will be smaller because something (probably those @#!! chipmunks) snacked on the seedlings. Well, the current bouquet features purple coneflowers, a few marigolds, and tithonia, the beautiful orange flower. I've also heard it called a Mexican sunflower. The butterflies and hummingbirds love them! I also added a few tansy leaves. They're so pretty: curly, bright green leaves. I have no idea how to use tansy in cooking, but it sure looks good in a vase.

Speaking of which, here is a bouquet of oregano flowers. They are teeny little bright pink flowers, very airy-fairy. I would normally just add a stem or two to a mixed bouquet but I have so much, and it's blooming all at once, so I decided to just fill a vase with oregano.

The weeds are about to take over, but I hear we're in for some cooler weather this weekend, so I'm going to at least try to stem the tide. I'm also saving the mowing chore!

My light load today includes a little grocery run. I'm joining the Hoodies at a free concert in the park and want to contribute something to our pitch-in picnic. We have a great series of free concerts, but the July weather usually keeps me away; sort of a summer version of hibernation. I really wish the cool-down would start today.

BIM UPDATE: The Bimbeaux, my next-door neighbors (three very young, very pretty girl people) continue to party every weekend and for some reason, every Wednesday night. They usually manage to keep it fairly quiet, but my bedroom is at the back of the house. I'm afraid my parents' next visit will not be restful; the guest room is at the front of the house. I think they must all work at restaurants/bars; either that, or they're vampires.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

This link was sent as a comment. It's such an interesting article, I wanted to share it here. Thanks, Anon.

A New View After Diagnosis: Helping Cancer Patients Find Meaning.


Happy Blogiversary to me. Yes, it was a year ago, and I can't believe my first post was "Camp Itchy Crotch," a diatribe about a yeast infection, as a result of diabetes, as a result of steroids, as a result of chemo. It took me a while to warm up to the subject of cancer, but I've hardly shut up since.

I received my MM diagnosis in December 2007. Realizing I was in for some serious down time, I started talking about a blog with my knowledgeable friend Kelly, and foodie pal Michelle. But it didn't actually happen until Kelly came over and walked me through, step by step. I think I could have gotten here on my own eventually, but her support sure made it easier. I don't know if my fairy blogmothers believe it, but I have tried very hard to keep my *PITA quotient to a minimum.

So - a year later, still no remission but the blog has been an amazing experience. It has been a wonderful distraction, especially through the darkest days of the stem cell transplant, blood clot and port explosion. We've shared many walks down memory lane, most of them happy. It has provided an easy outlet for venting; yes, sometimes **too easy. Best of all, the blog became a conduit to some very special new friends who've created a network of support and comfort.

*PITA = pain in the ass
**Without the blog, I shudder to think what my response might have been to The Meanest, Nastiest Person I've Ever Encountered, but it probably would have involved bail at some point.
P.S. The archives show some older posts; they were just given older dates so that I could link a separate page. Another quirk of Blogger.

A Working Vacation

I’m on cancer vacation - sort of. For the first time in 18+ months, I’m not in treatment, on any drugs except my maintenance stuff, and have no medical appointments. But it’s not a “lay around and catch up on reading” sort of vacation.

I need to scurry to two different pharmacies to take advantage of $20 kickbacks with transferred prescriptions. I’m reapplying for a grant from a cancer organization and I’m in the process of refinancing my house. Both require a fair amount of time and reams of paperwork. Speaking of paperwork, I've been very neglectful and everywhere I look there are piles of paper that need to be filed: bills, insurance, etc. I'm in danger of becoming one of those crazy people who has little paths through the clutter.

I’m overdue on mowing but out of gas, so first I have to fill the gas can. I need to drop off a couple months’ worth of recycling. (We have curbside recycling here, but they charge for it and it’s privatized, so I refuse to use it.) I need to get to the post office and FedEx, then come back and mow at least half the yard if it’s not raining. I'm halfway through Laundry Mountain, with hopes of reaching the summit today. And very soon, I will either have to clean the Villa or apply for a Superfund Grant. Things are getting toxic around here.

Gosh, it's tiring just thinking about everything that needs to be done! Of course, fatigue is still an issue, so most days I manage to get two or three chores done before dropping like a stone. It seems endless, and overwhelming, and I really, really wish I'd had the sense (or lack thereof) to have married some nimrod so I could just crawl back into bed and know that someone would still be working on The List.

So it’s not a real vacation, at least not yet. I’m hopeful that if I just keep my head down and keep plowing through my tasks and errands, eventually I’ll work my way through all the to-do’s, and have a day (or several!) to just completely decompress and pretend I’m on a real vacation.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Question for my MM/cancer pals (both patients and caregivers):

My support group often doesn't have a specific topic; it's just people getting together yakking about vacations, movies, whatever pops into their heads. I find that a huge waste of time and would prefer a specific topic, related to MM. A few examples might be:

  • What does remission really mean?
  • What exercise/fitness programs are realistic and safe for MM patients?
  • International travel for MM patients?
My question to you is... what subject(s) would you like to see addressed by your support group and/or a qualified speaker? You can email me directly if you prefer. THANKS!

It's the Berries!

I lo-ho-hove blueberries. They are my second-favorite berry, after raspberries. But since I'm not a jillionaire, and I can't always eat raspberries within eleven seconds of purchasing them, I eat blueberries a lot more. They are fairly easy to pick: not too much bending, not covered with thorns and definitely not as bee-licious as many other berries. Blueberries also freeze brilliantly: spread them out on a cookie sheet in a single layer and after they're frozen, transer them to a ziploc bag.

This is my mother's recipe for Blueberry Kuchen (it's that choking-on-a-chicken-bone, foreign language "ch"). My German-born neighbor recently told me that it is more correctly called a Torte, and that a Kuchen is actually a cake, like a coffee cake. You need a spring-form pan for this (although I guess you could make it in a regular pie pan if you don't have one.)

Blueberry Kuchen/Torte
CRUST - combine 1C flour and 2 Tbs sugar. Cut in 1/2C (one stick) butter or margarine (butter!). Mix in 1 Tbs cider vinegar. If necessary, add a few drops of ice water. Spread in bottom of pan and up 1" around the sides.
FILLING - 3C fresh blueberries, 1/2C sugar, 2 Tbs flour, dash of cinnamon. Mix all together and spread evenly over crust.
BAKE at 400ºfor 50-60 minutes. When cooled, sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar.
Peaches are in season at the same time, so I often make a peach-blueberry pie. Just peel and slice peaches and come up with a total of 3C fruit.

BLUEBERRY facts from this month's Real Simple magazine:

  • A single bush can produce up to 6,000 blueberries a year
  • Native Americans used the fruit, leaves and roots of the plant to treat coughs, flavor soup and dye cloth
  • They're big in Japan: more than 500 metric tons of blueberries are shipped there from the U.S. each year.
July is National Blueberry Month. Find a place to pick near you,

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Movies That Make Me Want to Pack a Suitcase

ROMAN HOLIDAY -- A princess rebels against her royal obligations and escapes to explore Rome on her own. She meets an American newspaperman who, seeking an exclusive story, pretends ignorance of her identity. But his plan falters as they fall in love. Hepburn is cadaverously thin, Peck is... yum, yum, yummy. (Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn)

A MONTH BY THE LAKE - For 16 years Miss Bentley has spent the month of April at an elegant hillside villa on Lake Como, where guests are treated like family. This year, 1937, she is melancholy about her father's recent death, but perks up at the arrival of a handsome new guest, Major Wilshaw. A mutual flirtation develops... until the nanny of a visiting family begins to flirt with the Major, purely out of boredom. This is about love, foolishness, jealousy, maturity and compassion... but it's all easy to miss because of the spectacular scenery in and around Lake Como, Italy. (Vanessa Redgrave, Uma Thurman)

ENCHANTED APRIL -- Two married women trapped in unhappy marriages decide to rent an Italian castle for a get away vacation. To save money, they advertise for two more roommates. One is an elderly widow is struggling with loneliness; the other is Lady Caroline Dester, a gorgeous flapper who believes that she is sick of men. From "This slow-paced gem is about the civilizing influence of Italy on beleaguered Londoners both male and female and has its own civilizing influence on the viewer. It's almost like taking a little mini-trip to Italy, a gorgeously filmed enchantment." (Miranda Richardson, Joan Plowright)

UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN - While on vacation, a just-divorced writer buys a villa in Tuscany on a whim, hoping it will be the start of a change for the better in her life. Restoring the home and learning the Italian way of life also restores herself. Along the way she finds that sometimes what seems like a mistake is really a blessing. (Diane Lane, Sandra Oh)

BONJOUR TRISTESSE - Cecile -- a gorgeous young Jean Seberg -- is the spoiled 17-year-old daughter of Raymond, a wealthy Parisian widower/playboy. Vacationing on the French Riviera, her indulged lifestyle is threatened when her godmother, Anne, is invited to visit and Raymond abandons his playmate, Elsa, for a serious relationship with Anne. Cecile plots with Elsa to split up the pair but the plan does not turn out as expected. This movie made a lot more sense to me when I learned it was based on a novel written by a 17-year old. Again, the scenery stars. (David Niven, Jean Seberg, Deborah Kerr)

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS - An established, professional con-man and an amateur wanna-be vie for the attentions and the bank account of an American heiress, agreeing that the loser will depart the exquisite and exquisitely rich town of Beaumont-sur-Mer, the fictional Beaulieu-sur-Mer. (Steve Martin, Michael Caine.)

AMELIE - Educated at home by her parents, Amélie lives in a fantasy world of her own. When she finally leaves home and finds work as a waitress in a Parisian café, life is uneventful until she discovers a lost treasure belonging to her apartment's former occupant. Returning the box of mementos and seeing the owner's delighted reaction, Amélie sets out on a mission to make others happy. Along the way, she falls in love herself, and discovers that reality can be more fulfilling than romantic daydreams. (Audrey Tautou)

With the exception of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, these all probably qualify as Chick Flicks. What's your favorite travel movie?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Welcome to my Pity Party

Wednesday's doctor's appointment should have been the low point of the day, but I had the bright idea to walk a bit with Miss Molly. It was a pleasant day, and I knew that another heat wave was on the way. On the second block, something horrible stung my hand. Stung the holycrapmotherofgoddess out of my hand. I didn't see it - just a dark flash zooming by - but a searing, excruciating pain was instantaneous and only continued to get worse. I'd gotten stung on my little finger, but it felt like I'd stuck my hand in a buzz saw. I've never imagined pain on this scale from a bug bite! I walked home with my hand up in the air, as if I were waiting to be called upon, and immediately went through my arsenal: ice, baking soda paste, benadryl pill, benadryl gel, hot compresses, calamine lotion. Nothing helped. I finally took some of my Big Guns pain killers, hoping that when I woke from the inevitable 2-hour nap, it would have improved. No such luck.

I managed a couple of errands yesterday morning, but the poison was spreading across my hand and the pain had only abated about 10%. I made it home and repeated the pain pill routine, again without any relief. My pitiful little hand had turned into a fat, angry red blowfish.

Today, I had to go for my monthly Zometa and another CT Scan. I was grateful that Supernurse G had planned my visit carefully so that I would only need one stick: I would get my IV and blood draw at the infusatorium (they always check creatinine before giving Zometa), then off to radiation where the same IV would be used for the contrast stuff, and after the scan, back to the infusatorium for Zometa. Hooray, good plan! Except... it's still my turn. So the scanner wasn't working and I had to drive somewhere else for the scan, and then drive back for the infusion. They wrapped my IV for the trip, unwrapped it, rewrapped it, and re-unwrapped it. It wasn't that bad, and I was grateful that I didn't have to drive further, but it was just One. More. Thing. Oh, and our blistering heat has returned and has anyone, EVER thought of planting trees to provide some shade in parking lots?

The nurses at the infusatorium were all very impressed with my pufferclaw, but didn't agree on what to do. Two felt that I could wait another day before seeking help, and two thought I shouldn't wait. (It does look like cellulitis, and I was hospitalized for that once in high school.) But I think I can tough it out one more day, and if it still looks this bad tomorrow, I'll go to a Doc-in-the-Box and start on an antibiotic.

Any day now, it's going to be someone else's turn for life to suck. And when that happens, look out! Until then, I guess I'm still The One.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Go See...

LinkSome very funny, topical cards at someecards.
Celebrities' Baby Naming - Somebody stop them. Think of the children!
Hey, Cinderella, how big is your carbon footprint? Find out here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Big C Update, Part Twoth

The good news is, not only do I get a chemo "vacation," but it was the doc's idea. I'm sure he sensed that I was on the verge of throwing in the towel.

The bad news is, that's the only good news. My numbers are almost the same as they've been for the past four months, and a few of them are creeping in the wrong direction: IgG, IgA, IgM, Monoclonal Protein and those pesky Free Light Chains.

So, enough, at least for now. I get a month off. Meantime, I will have yet another scan, and try to figure out why my hips are giving me so much trouble. (I refrained from saying "My hips don't lie!") Depending on where the numbers are a month from now, Doc thinks I should either go back to Revlimid or maybe get on a clinical trial. I'm not so sure, but maybe after a month off, I'll be a little more amenable to the idea.

Mini-rant: I'm tired of radiologists who try to justify their outrageous bills by writing their reports in impossible medical-ese. Schmorl's nodes, Scheuermann-type changes, Multilevel spondylitic ridging. One of my favorite terms: grossly stable. I can -- and have -- spent an hour with a medical dictionary, but it would be so much easier if they would just climb off their pedestals and write their reports in English.


If you live somewhere dark enough to see a beautiful summer sky at night, you might want to know what you're seeing. Go here, and type in your zip code and the date to see a map of your night sky:

There are also some beautiful photographs of weather/scenery.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Big C Update

In the early 80s, there were two recurring characters on Saturday Night Live that were particularly memorable. Joe Piscopo and Robin Duke played Doug and Wendy Whiner, a couple who -- as you might guess -- whined about everything. (Well, in the early 80s it was funny, especially if you were stoned.) I haven't said much about The Big C lately because, even to myself, I'm starting to sound like Wendy Whiner:
My baaack hurts.
My nuuumbers suck.
My riiibs hurt.
My hiiips hurt.
My nuuumbers still suck.

I justify my crankiness by reciting to myself my litany of treatment over the last 18 months:

  • radiation
  • chemo
  • prep for stem cell harvest
  • port insertion
  • blood clot from port insertion (which felt like a rusty harpoon sticking out of my neck and was probably the worst of the whole stem cell experience!)
  • stem cell harvest
  • big, hairy mega-chemo followed by stem cell transplant
  • port explosion and replacement
  • spinal surgery
  • more chemo
  • and yet more chemo
But so what if some or all of the whining is justified? What's the point? Doesn't endear me to anyone. Doesn't make me feel any better. I skipped my support group meeting last month, afraid that if I opened my mouth, Wendy would speak. I'm feeling a little more confident today, especially after venting here, so I'm going to a meeting tonight. My feelings about the group's usefulness to me fluctuate wildly, but they are all wonderful, sincere people. Even if I did channel Wendy Whiner, they'd probably still be caring and supportive (at least the first time).

Following my post about what I believe was my last chemo, I received a note from a fellow MM patient who has been through a rough time recently. I was comforted to hear her say she knew what I was feeling, but she cautioned me not to give up yet, and I know I will at least hear what the doc has to say, and listen with an open mind.

$1.4 million per day fighting health care reform

The nation's largest insurers, hospitals and medical groups have hired more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress in hopes of influencing their old bosses and colleagues, according to an analysis of lobbying disclosures and other records. The tactic is so widespread that three of every four major health-care firms have at least one former insider on their lobbying payrolls, according to The Washington Post's analysis.
And that's the problem right there. Our Congresspigs need us for elections, but then they discard us like a used tissue. We can't ante up like the big boys, the lobbyists.

The health care industry is spending more than $1.4 million a day on lobbying. And most of the lobbyists are barely-former politicians and political aides. Overall, health-care companies and their representatives spent more than $126 million on lobbying in the first quarter, leading all other industries, according to CRP and Senate data.

Didja get that - $126 million in the first quarter? This is why, when those drug companies and health insurers vow to help cut costs, we have a hard time believing them! This is also why every discussion about health care must include a discussion of campaign finance reform. It looks like I'm in good company with the folks at Change Congress:
Here at Change Congress, we believe that politicians should work for the people, not special interests. But it’s not enough to push politicians to stay out of the system of corruption—we have to reform the system itself. That’s why we support a hybrid of small-dollar donations and public financing, to keep big money out of politics.
I would like to see this administration completely upend the lobbying industry. The Supremes decided (wrongly, in my opinion) that imposing restrictions on lobbyists infringed on their freedom of speech. The result is an engorged, constipated Congress that has abandoned the business of The People, focusing instead on its next meal. Now that we see what a dark, dirty place that path leads to, I think it's time to revisit that decision.

Al Franken gets the Senate seat and the last laugh

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. And I get the second-to-last laugh!

After 8 months of whining, wrangling and challenging, former SNL writer Al Franken has been declared the WINNER of the Minnesota Senate Race.

And it gets even better: Republican Norm Coleman has been ordered to pay Franken almost $95,000 for his appeal of the election results. Minnesota law required Coleman to cover some of Franken's court costs because the race's outcome didn't change. As far as challenging the election results yet again, Experts Agree: Norm Coleman Doesn't Have a Chance. Give it up, buddy, it's getting embarrassing.

The flip side, of course, is that with the Democratic majority, "the age of excuses and finger-pointing is over." Don't blame your inertia on "bipartisanship," boys and girls, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Job One: Take American Health Care out of the hands of Health Insurers. The charge has already been leveled, by an Independent: Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Demands Democrats Commit to Stopping Health Care Filibuster. Go, Bernie!

An intellectual and closet policy wonk, I believe Al Franken can only elevate discussion of this and other critical issues. And I feel safe in promising you that he will never, ever tell anyone to "go f*ck yourself" from the floor of the Senate.

(Has anyone checked Bill O'Reilly's blood pressure lately? A girl can dream...)

Crazy Comes Back

Incredible, I know, but not only was Crazy back on my porch yesterday, she brought two little nutjob offspring with her. I answered the door, and Lunatella was busy doing something with her cell phone. She said something about coming back to thank me for letting her use my phone the other day (and rifle through my charitable donations and select several for herself)... but I believe we covered that already.

Luny never makes eye contact; meanwhile, the little nutters, around ages 4 and 6, are literally jumping up and down hollering the whole time, causing Miss Molly a serious Freak. She starts barking her Mean Bark, something I might only hear once a year or so. "Uh, okay, you're welcome," I mutter. Before I can shut the door, Nutjob One is trying to open the screen door, yelling, "I WANNA PET YOUR DOG!" Really? This viciously barking, teeth-baring little beast? "Sorry, she doesn't to be petted right now," I say, and this time succeed in shutting the door. I watch her through the shade, making sure she doesn't help herself to anything else on the way out.

Is she casing the joint? Is this just an unstable person who'd skipped her meds for a few days? I honestly could not hazard a guess, but it was clear that something is off. And if by some chance she comes back a third time, I will have no hesitation about calling the police.

Speaking of crazy... what's the real story behind the resignation of über-Conservative love monkey and professional victim Sarah Palin? Award-winning journalist, filmmaker and historian Geoffrey Dunn has some interesting theories. I'm fascinated that pundits believe the resignation is either (a) a clear indication that she's ready and willing to start working on a 2012 presidential campaign {{{shudder}}} or (b) a clear indication that she's giving up politics and moving to the private sector to make real money and avoid having to resign if certain ethics issues bubble up to the surface.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I could never, ever have a slobbery dog but they sure are fun to watch. I'm watching a rerun of Turner & Hooch, the Tom Hanks movie in which he plays a neat-freak cop who gets stuck with a huge, slobbering mastiff that may have witnessed a crime. I'd forgotten how funny it was! Tom Hanks made some hilariously funny movies early in his career: The 'Burbs, Dragnet, Big. (Punchline was funny, but very dark.) The Money Pit can still bring me to tears. Splash had some great moments, especially with John Candy. But I think T&H might just be the funniest.

As soon as it's over, I'll get to work on the first blueberry-peach pie of the season; I think it's my first in two years. The Hoodies have a soirée this evening. Normally I'm not a fried chicken fan, but I hear MA's is outstanding, and I'll get a chance to try it this evening. I hope my blueberry-peach pie proves itself worthy.

Pet Peeve-O-Rama

The word is across, not acrosst.
There is no "T" in across.

The word is especially, not ekspecially.
There is no "K" in especially.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Rebel Without a Clue

I was a year ahead in public school, but Cousin 2 and I attended Sunday School and Hebrew School together. Lucky for me, there were a couple of real monsters in Hebrew School, so my antics were under the radar most of the time. Hebrew School culminated in a Confirmation ceremony. Our putz of a Rabbi at the time thought it would be groovy and hip to perform Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream (or whatever it's called) instead of a traditional confirmation ceremony. We all had feeble, reedy voices and no one wanted to do it. No one. But this psycho-rabbi could not be dissuaded. It was beyond idiotic. Oh, sure, he was fired the next year. I've managed a smile here, just because it's finally over.

My teenage years were a torment for me, and I made sure to spread it around. Don't be fooled by these pictures; they might have been the only smiles I produced during that 6-year period.

I'm not sure why I was so miserable. I had almost no self esteem, and yet that didn't stop me from acting like an arrogant little brat, at least to my family. I guess we are willing to expose our very worst to the people we believe will always forgive us.

School was torture. It was the very beginning of "mainstreaming," putting the really stupid, remedial kids in classes with the rest of us, and dumbing down the curriculum for them. I did brilliantly at subjects that interested me, and had no cares at all about getting Ds in classes that didn't interest me. At least once a year, I was hauled into the guidance counselor's office for the "We Know You're Not Stupid, We Have Your Test Scores" speech. I was bored out of my gourd, and had a "zero tolerance" policy for boredom.

I skipped school a lot, but often went to the public library. Or attended Vietnam war protests. Dad recalls dropping me off at the high school's north door, and driving around the block to bust me sneaking out of the south door. I broke all the rules and attended half-days both Junior and Senior years, and I still couldn't manage to get to class more than twice a week. If I could attend twice a week and get Bs, there was no incentive to go every day just to get As. There was actually some question as to whether or not I would graduate; I think I was short the number of credits required. But the administration finally decided that handing me a diploma was much better than dealing with me for another year. (Or more!)

But it left such a bad taste, I really had no interest in going to college. I took a few classes at a local university extension, but my heart wasn't in it. I'm sorry I didn't go away to college, but the money might have been wasted; I'm not sure I was ready to put for the effort required.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Take a Chill Pill

Now that you're in a lather (if you read the article referenced below, you should be)... go check out the Eight Tips for Conquering Anger and Irritability. There's always something helpful at the Happiness Project!

Sick? You're Cancelled! (Healthcare, USA)

Executives of three of the nation's largest health insurers told federal lawmakers in Washington on Tuesday that they would continue canceling medical coverage for some sick policyholders, despite withering criticism from Republican and Democratic members of Congress who decried the practice as unfair and abusive.
I'm pretty sure it's just a matter of time before DieSuckah Health Insurance cancels me. After all, I'm no longer a profit center, I'm costing them money.
Medical Insurance Cancellation Tricks

Nothing like being cancelled when you are at your most vulnerable, and least able to fight back.
...policyholders with breast cancer, lymphoma and more than 1,000 other conditions were targeted for rescission and that employees were praised in performance reviews for terminating the policies of customers with expensive illnesses.
Health insurers refuse to limit rescission of coverage

Seven Powerful Laws of Health Insurance. If you can only stomach one article, read this one.

That ought to curl your hair and get you ready to sign a petition. I'm still looking for the petition that RESCINDS Congress' shamefully excessive uber-deluxe health insurance. Let them shop around like the rest of us -- that might motivate them to make real changes. In the meantime, there's the Citizens for Real Health Care Reform. Go, read, sign, and spread the word.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

LaCootina, The Human Crazy Magnet

A fairly typical experience ...

A midafternoon knock at my door shows a young woman, seemingly distressed, asking to borrow my phone. "Just a minute," I say, unable to come up with a reason to say no. I bring my cordless phone out onto the porch, and decide that I will just sit there with her while she makes her call. For reasons I couldn't explain, my radar is already detecting Full Boat Crazy. (I'm secretly proud that I have thought to bring the phone out, instead of bringing Crazy in to my home.)

She dials a number and has a lengthy conversation about how she has to cancel her appointment, she couldn't call sooner because you-know-who has changed her cell phone contract and she can only receive text messages, she can't send them or make phone calls. She finally hangs up. She doesn't have a purse, but has a pile of purse-contents: keys, a cell phone, a zip-loc bag with lots of cards, and several other items. While she's talking, she peels off her shirt (thankfully, she has a tank top underneath) and takes off her shoes and socks. "Boy, it's hot in here! Do you mind if I open a window?" They are all open already, just 3-4". Without waiting for an answer, she lifts two windows wide open. It makes no difference: there is no breeze today.

She's yammering the whole time about... I don't know, I've tuned her out. She starts pawing through that zip-loc bag of treasures. "Here!" she says excitedly. "You can have this!" It's a $2 discount card to a cheesy amusement park about 100 miles away. "Oh, and this, too!" It is a "concert series VIP upgrade." At a venue I've never heard of, I'm now entitled to off-menu dining, aglass of house wine, and a souvenir program and button. She looks at me like I'm supposed to drop to my knees at this incredible act of generosity but I'm clearly too stupid to realize it.

"This is my business!" she says, and hands me another card. Okay, I think, maybe this will tell me something. Maybe it's her parole officer's business card, or the address of her halfway house. But no, it's a complicated hand-drawn diagram with lots of illegible scribbling all over it. Goddess help me, she starts explaining: "This is me, Kay, and this is my true love, B. He's the King and I'm his Queen. And we're B-K, you know, like Burger King! Except I haven't met him yet! And these are the three Esses, because three is my magic number. I have three kids, did I tell you that? And this represents the beauty of the natural world, and this is..." On and on it goes for five solid minutes, then we have to flip to the back side, where more incoherent scribbling supposedly explains that it's an international non-for-profit (I swear that's what she said), because she will accept donations from anywhere in the world. I'm way past my limit, so I finally make excuses, wish her luck, and get myself and my phone back in the house. "Okay!" she says. "I'm just going to change into my shorts and I'll be on my way!" Ooookay.

My library friend is coming by, so I happen to have left on the porch two movies I am returning, and a bag of books I am donating to the library. I can see Lunatella through the shade, and after changing into her shorts, sure enough, she starts pawing through the bag. I race back out because I don't want her to take the movies; I'll have to pay for them if they go missing. I tell her she can have anything in the bag and she begins to launch into a monologue about her reading preferences. I interrupt: "Okay, I've got to go now," and bring the movies back inside with me. She takes about half the books, gathers up her discarded clothes, ziploc bags, cell phone, keys, etc. and finally leaves. When I think it's safe, I put the movies back on the porch.

That was my 30 minute sojourn to crazytown. I have no idea who she is, why she chose my house, when or if she'll be back. But if it's not her, it will certainly be someone else. Even when I'm not looking, Crazy comes knocking at my door.