Monday January 16th 2012, 11:59 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

The alarm rang at 4:28 this morning. There was a moment of mild panic when the printer refused to print her boarding pass.

Richard had the presence of mind at that hour to tell her she could present it on her new phone at the gate, getting it to come up for her so it would be ready.

Did you hear about the TSA recently confiscating someone’s cupcake because of the “gel-like substance” on top? Our citrus sponge cake went unadorned last night. I cut a big chunk at 4:45 to supplement her two-flight airline pretzel supply, ziplocked it, and off she went, returning to the land where water comes in white in the winter.

We were back from the airport while it was still the dark of the night and fell back into bed while we could.

Just for fun: the snowboarding bird. The size, beak and use of a tool look like the crow/jay family, but I’m not quite sure what it is. Anyone?

The kitchen knows
Sunday January 15th 2012, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Granny Smith apple crisp. Fresh-squeezed lemons from the tree with orange juice (to make up the shortfall) sponge cake: Betty Crocker circa 1952, substituting the juice for the boiling milk, adding zest from the lemons and using almond oil, no butter for Michelle…

There was a baking binge tonight, topped off with Michelle’s addition of raspberry almond bars after I got done with the oven. Sweet baked with sour, sugar with tang. Thirteen by nine three times over, with some of those cookies to be delivered to her friends.

Someone we love is leaving tomorrow, can you tell? Here. Eggs, oats, ground almonds, fruit, flour–food to nourish and see her off with. And for her to show up with.

Paying it forward
Sunday January 15th 2012, 12:06 am
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Purple or pink. The purple was in my stash of finished projects (that seemed too lazy), the pink a ball of yarn that caught my eye today: it had been tucked away forgotten because there was just one ball left.

Thin, yes, not a lot of yardage, true, but still, especially in this mild climate, I thought I could make do with that–and it’s hard to go wrong with baby alpaca and silk.

I cast on as Michelle went off to her friend’s wedding and then made it up as I went along, hoping it would work.  Then I wrote what I did so I can do it again.

That doctor Tuesday was a peach and I want to make sure she knows that. You never know who could use a lift.

The envelope, please
Friday January 13th 2012, 3:09 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Life

The anti-tumor-necrosis-factor drug that saved my life in ’03 blocks one of the body’s ways of fighting off cancer cells.

I’ve had nearly nine years since then. I’ve spent the last three days considering how good a tradeoff that risk was and how glad I am that that drug gave me that time.  While expecting more: remembering the time we passed a flock of newly-sheared sheep along Highway 5 on our way to southern Cal, when our youngest whined unexpectedly into the quiet of the car, “We’re not STOPPING, M o o o o o mmmmm!”

Hang onto that thought.

Tuesday, in OB-GYN, I guess the doctor felt I was being a little too blithe about the whole thing and had to make sure I understood that this…was what was normal and this…was what the ultrasound had showed. She did a biopsy, and wanting to be sure she had enough cells, did it again. She remarked that I had a high pain threshold.

Breathe deep.

I went home and read up on endometrial cancer and the studies on the survival-rate effectiveness (not!) of lymphadenectomy with clinically-observed and the most-common stage 1. Etc.

They told me I would get the results in a week and I was thinking better to wait less than you thought you’d have to than longer, right? And so I hoped it would turn out to be sooner than that ohpleaseohplease.

I got an email this morning asking me to sign into the clinic’s online site. Already? Oh good. I think. Took a deep breath, knowing it would either say what I hoped or else it would ask me to come in to be told the news in person.

Signed in. Went to my inbox there. Slow, slow motion, as if the whole thing were echoing the endless, dragging last three days.

Not even the doctor, just a note from her nurse. No cancer cells. No precancerous cells. No sign.

NO CANCER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s a good thing Richard was still home so I had someone to dance with.

Michelle flies home from school tonight for her friend’s wedding. There is serious celebration to be had.

(Ed. to add: that drug was Remicade, and I was put back on it 8 months later for awhile, then three years ago Humira, an improved variant.)

Pretty in pink
Thursday January 12th 2012, 11:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,LYS

I went to knit night determined to finally finish that baby hat. Which I did. But when I pulled it out of my bag, I got asked point-blank if it was for Jasmin‘s baby.

Yes it is.

Good time, good LYS, good friends, good yarn, and now it is done. (No, no picture, I have to keep some surprises, you guys!)

Meantime, if you have a moment: Lene has written a powerful post that is being voted on for a best blog post award in Canada, and it would help her in her effort to raise the profile of disability and access issues if it were to win; one-time voting goes till Jan 20 here if you are so inclined.

Heard at the hospital conference room
Thursday January 12th 2012, 12:08 am
Filed under: Friends,Lupus

I took my knitting but it stayed in the bag. I didn’t want to miss a word.

I had extra incentive to go to my lupus support group today: a representative from Human Genome Services, the company that makes Benlysta, was there.

Benlysta being the first treatment for lupus approved by the FDA since, I kid you not, 1955. I think corticosteroids were still extracted from cadavers back then.

The rep was a registered nurse and she knew her stuff and she clearly loved being able to offer good news to patients, at last, at last. She said that now that that monoclonal antibody finally got through, there were more in the pipeline targeting other cells too.

She answered a lot of questions from the group.

I told her I’d been put on Remicade (when it had a black-box warning against its being given to lupus patients) when it was still experimental; we’d had to read about every single mouse that had sneezed before deciding to go ahead with it. It saved my life, so, hey, sneeze away! But after it was approved, all that trial information seemed to vanish–granted, this was going on nine years ago. You know, back when the Internet was still in training pants.

Then she gave us something useful for every patient everywhere: she told us go to and type in your disease.

Someone finally did that?! (Knowing how bad the problem has been of clinical trial information not being shared lab to lab and manufacturer to patients.)

Go check it out.

Cool! (I just did, and it seems a lot smaller than I hoped but it’s a start.)

One of the things she did say was that if you’ve had cancer it rules you out for Benlysta.

Basal cell? I asked.

She considered a moment and answered, Talk to your doctor. (In other words, not a no. Good.)

She handed out her card so we could ask her personally more later if we wanted. Very nice. I laughed in delight when I saw it, then had to explain: my friends back home in Maryland will get it when I say Shady Grove Road. Cool!

And her last name: Hawkes.

Okay, c’mon, now, is that perfect or what? For me, at least. Love it. Ms. Hawkes, your namesakes put on quite a show around here.

After she left, some of the younger patients did too and suddenly it was just us oldtimers left. We talked.

One, it turned out, had just been put in that definite-no category. Bigtime. That was such an unexpected piece of news; we held her in our arms and our love and each of us asked to be asked to do things to help. Chemo is rough stuff. Let’s keep in touch more than this once a month thing.

Cancer clears out the emotional debris and leaves only the things that are most real: the caring. The desire to make things better for each other. Love made luminous.

Lupus does too, but in slower motion and often far quieter colors.

I am so glad I didn’t miss that meeting. That was why I most needed to be there. I’d had no idea.

It’s in cap-able hands
Tuesday January 10th 2012, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

I was at the OB/GYN office today for a test and while waiting for the appointment started in on a small pink baby hat.  One nurse, then a patient, then someone else happened to walk past, and as they did I caught each one noticing my gray hair, my baby knitting, and then discreetly (they thought) checking out my belly to make sure I wasn’t the one expecting.  Uh, that would be a no.

I was at a meeting at church tonight with it in my hands again.

One young mom said something that made it safe to ask her the obvious–yes, she was due in May–and she clearly wanted to…but stopped, embarrassed, just happening to mention it was going to be a girl.

Right, then, I should have a little left over when this is done. It’s always more fun to knit for someone you know is going to appreciate it.  No, I didn’t hear a hint, did you? No worries there.

Then she wondered if I could teach her how to knit?

Absolutely! (And I am most definitely going to knit a little something for her baby!)

Meantime, just for fun, there’s no place like home.

Playing bit parts in the Streep show
Monday January 09th 2012, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Don’t tell them the Iron Lady is a paper tiger…

I mentioned in the Fall having set a chair just forward of under the birdfeeder and discovering my wild guess was correct: the squirrels suddenly refused to take a long leap sideways at it to knock the seed out if they thought a competitor might be able to just reach right up there with a tiny leap and beat them to it.

And when they come at it from below, the cover shuts down fast over the portals.

Over several months, though, they eventually learned to jump a bit sideways from the top of the chairback to get a swing going to it; they might not profit, but the ones below looking up hopefully at the pinata certainly did.

So I experimented.

Newspapers to try to mess with their grip blew off or got ignored after a day or two. But then.

Newsweek did a cover story on the Margaret Thatcher movie coming out; with their logo plastered in red across her forehead, Meryl Streep’s face covers the front page.

With her pearly whites showing in that smile. Prominently.

More than a week later, the little bushytails have finally decided it’s okay to jump to the seat again, but they absolutely will not look anywhere but down when they do. The cover is hanging down sideways by the spine, it has been rained on once, but it is still a human face and it is very clear they recognize that.

They will not rise up on their hind feet now on that seat: they will not expose their most tender parts to those teeth.

Just because it felt like the right thing to do
Sunday January 08th 2012, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

When our kids were little, a trip to Urgent Care or the ER meant a stop at Rick’s Rather Rich on the way home for some of my husband’s patented Emergency Room Medicine, daddy style: made-on-the-premises ice cream, a special treat. There’s a wooden placard inside the little shop declaring, “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.”

A million miles from Rick’s, our child with ITP ended up in emergency a few days ago.

And a friend there, having no idea we used to do that…showed up later in the day with ice cream to try to make things a little better.

(Ed. to add: my forever thanks to all those who can donate blood and do. You’re a life saver.)

Part two/Who knew
Saturday January 07th 2012, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I emailed that pharmacy last night and we went over first thing. They did still have Richard’s med and the pharmacist told us I was supposed to have been asked to verify the birthdate.

And then she looked and went, “Oh–but even the birthdate is very similar!” I was watching the clerk’s face yesterday and I didn’t hear or see it and I don’t think they did ask, but if they did, Richard pointed out, my hearing was an issue.

She very carefully marked both patient files so that staff would know next time. She thanked us for coming back and was about to send us on our way when I stopped her with, “Wait a minute–when they rang me up yesterday, I asked them, ‘Are you sure?’ I was thinking, that’s not enough, is it?”

And then I looked at the new bottle in my hand and told her how much we still owed her.

She thanked me yet again and told us again, as that got rung up, how glad she was that we’d come in. I imagine so.

But she really wanted to ask questions the moment Richard mentioned my hearing, and that delay seemed to have broken the ice for her: did I have any experience with Meniere’s? Yes I did. With rotational vertigo?  Yes, years ago.  Any other cause…? Yes.  Clearly she wanted to talk to someone else who knew what it was like to go through those kinds of symptoms; Richard gave her a twirling-room description with arms flailing that had her laughing.

And clearly she wanted to meet someone else about her own age who already wore hearing aids to reassure herself it would be okay to start considering them.

You know that I feel that if you need help hearing, get tested and get the help; it’s easier to start younger than older to retrain the brain to pick out voices from a crowd and sounds out of noise again. And it’s so much better just to be able to understand why things sound the way they do–you lose your high frequencies first so you lose the consonants but not the vowels.  Making no sense of speech makes sense once you know. So fix it.

I wonder if the other person mixing those bottles up was all part of a Plan unseen to help get her where she needs to be. Curious.

Always read the label
Friday January 06th 2012, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Picked up the hubby’s new prescription at the drug store. He got home, looked at it, did a doubletake and went, wait–that’s not the… then he read the super-fine print I hadn’t even seen.

Written in the very tiniest letters used only for that, there it was: wrong home address. Right name, wrong person, wrong med. And of course the place was closed by now. Who knows if the other guy came in too? If he did, he didn’t notice in time for the pharmacy to call us; I really hope he reads his prescription bottle and doesn’t just take something that may be very wrong for him. Egads.

Puts a new twist on the old Sandra Boynton birthday card: HIIPA birdies, two you’s.

Meantime, I finally got that hat mailed today and took pictures of it with my new Iphone. I love that the phone offers instructions as you go when it’s new, and I wonder if it keeps doing that after you’ve gone through those steps a few times?

Last night
Thursday January 05th 2012, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Family

Up a little past midnight, all of us. The alarm went off a little before 5:30. I knew I would be too tired to drive, Richard had an early meeting at work and needed the speed of the carpool lane even at that hour, so we did what we all really wanted to anyway and got to spend a little last time together.

John has safely arrived in Texas and we got home from the Oakland airport just before the sun was up.

Looking at my needles, today was simply a day for playing with yawn instead.

And there they go
Thursday January 05th 2012, 12:32 am
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family,Friends

(One more Parker birthday photo.)

John stayed healthy, no sign of my germs, for which we thank the heavens. And so it’s safe for him to pack to go give his grandparents a two-day hug before heading back to school. (Staying at his aunt’s just to be sure.)

Tonight I got a chance to talk a bit with him and one of his friends whom I hadn’t seen since probably their high school graduation five years ago, and it intrigued me how important it felt: there is nothing in the world like a little face time to make someone feel like, no matter how few the moments of time scattered over however long, we are forever important to one another and that’s just simply the way it is.  A good lesson for a young man. Heck, me, too.

Michelle’s already back to class.

It’s going to be too quiet. I’ll get busy with planting some new jumbo (they’ll be huge!) amaryllis bulbs, Richard’s Christmas gift, and when I inquired of (company deleted later) what they wanted me to do with the wrong ones they sent me they told me to consider them a gift: the ones that were supposed to be in that box are now going into a new one on its way.

They grow and they blossom and they never stay quite the same.

On JRR Tolkien’s birthday
Wednesday January 04th 2012, 12:08 am
Filed under: Friends,Life

(Totally stole that title from a comment by Becca’s husband.)

I’ve been hoping I can get over my cold fast enough to get to Jasmin‘s baby shower this Saturday; her baby, long nicknamed Sharkbean in utero, was expected Jan. 25th.

I saw a FB note from my friend Becca, (side note to some friends: she used to live in our ward, yes, that Becca), that her doctor had told her this morning she was in early labor and to get to the hospital. Becca made a side trip to make sure her kids would be picked up from school, was coming down the freeway in the fast lane, and…

…blew a tire. Called AAA. Yeah, we’ll have someone out there in about an hour. Wait: you’re what?! “They called everybody,” and so Becca posted a picture of a handsome young fireman peering in her car window, who, she said, was very happy not to be delivering her baby.

She posted updates all day, laughing over outrageous name ideas, and while she was…

…Jasmin posted. Totally scooped her. At 4:07, her baby girl had arrived, safe and sound and beautiful!

Wait, what? That one’s not due yet!

Becca posted how labor isn’t boring anymore, she and her husband were watching a movie, waiting for the kid to get on with it. And then finally, at 9:32, another beautiful baby girl arrived into the world.

Back when I was at that stage, I had an obstetrician with a poster of a newborn with the caption, “A baby is God’s opinion that the world shall go on.”

The whole world is reborn in the face of a child. But don’t be surprised if she likes to play with toy firetrucks next Christmas. Or thinks she can grow little toothy fishes from the proverbial bean sprouting out of a filled dixie cup.

Welcome to the world, little sisters.

Back on the birthday boy’s day
Monday January 02nd 2012, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Family

Parker two weeks ago at his birthday party, teaching his new alligator about a long-tail cast-on; clearly, the kid is a natural-born knitter.

We were told he adored pull toys now but  he’d still rather crawl because he can go so fast the way he knows he’s good at going. This one’s made from rubberwood trees that are no longer producing; it puts their trunks to good use. (Wait, shouldn’t there be an elephant model, too, then?)

And of course he showed everybody just how cheerfully fast he could demolish a birthday cupcake.

Life is sweet.