Monday, June 30, 2008


We have no telephone service right now. When we figured this out earlier today, neither one of us got excited. In fact, I felt relieved. We both have cell phones so it's not like we can't call 911 in an emergency. But the thought that I won't hear that insistent ringing is quite comforting. I think Kerry did something about getting it fixed, but I'm not really sure and I don't really care.

The flip side of this was the time I spent yesterday with our friend Steve learning how to use the Blue Tooth in my Prius. At midnight tonight it will be illegal in California to talk on a handheld cell phone while you are driving. I think it's a great law; so many people weave all over the road when they talk. Now they will get a ticket. With each ticket the fine goes up.

So Steve got my car to be a telephone and now our house phone is silent.

That's all from Lincoln, CA.
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Friday, June 27, 2008

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes....

It's from grass fires started by lightening strikes. I was hoping to see lightening in Minneapolis, but it all happened back at home. My asthma started acting up just as soon as we got off the plane. So tonight we are sleeping with the windows closed and the air conditioning on. I'm going to have to find my surgical masks. That will help when I'm out tomorrow.

Looking back on our trip to see my sister, I have to say that it was harder than I thought it would be. Her husband is a saint. She is so depressed and anxious (and so in need of a medication change). This morning I found her still in bed at 11:45 a.m. She had been crying for most of the morning because we were leaving. She said she doesn't want to live in her body any more and wants to die. That is the depression speaking. Hopefully her psychiatrist will adjust her meds when she sees him on Monday.

Today she had a swallow test to find out what was going on in her throat. To do the swallow test she had to eat things. Her husband and I conjectured that she ate more during the test than she did all week. Food is a big issue. She says she can't eat; you get her to eat and then she says she is going to throw up. If you work with her to breath in through her nose and out through her lips she doesn't throw up. Very frustrating for everyone.

The staff where she lives now is great. I think they saw a lot more of me than they wanted to during the past ten days. I tried to educate them about anxiety and depression. They are used to people with knee and hip replacements. I was Vicky's advocate; today I thanked them profusely for being so helpful.

Next week she also sees the surgeon to assess her belly wound. To give you an idea of what happened to her belly during all the surgeries; her belly button was cut in half and each half is several inches apart. Yuck. If they hadn't done that her belly probably would have shut her lungs down or exploded. Nice work Mr. Surgeon.

She also has a consultation with an ostomy nurse; one of you wonderful bloggers gave us all kinds of things to think about in this arena. So we found a wonderful woman close by who will assess her and find the best bag for her situation.

One thing I keep going back to is my brother and his cochlear implant (it's a thing that makes a deaf person hear; that's the short version). My sister would benefit so much from one but with all the surgical mistakes that have taken place she will never do it. That's something her surgeon will never know; he robbed her of the chance to hear normally.

This is a pretty depressing post but I needed to say these things. We are very glad to be home. I have an applique class tomorrow morning and then I'm going to veg until our friends Steve and Janet visit on Sunday and spend the night. They are the parents of the late Abby. Good people. It will be strange to not have Abby here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

All things considered, I think she's doing well. She wouldn't tell you that but her husband, Kerry and I would.

Big challenge this week has been to get her to eat. The speech therapist came by today to watch her swallow. She has her official swallow test on Friday afternoon. Mike, the speech therapist, said she could start eating regular food again as long as she drank the thickened liquid with her meals. Tonight she ate some wild rice and chicken casserole, corned bread with butter and canned pears. We haven't seen her eat this much since we've been here.

Yesterday in PT she walked 120 feet with her walker. That's a new record for her. Once she starts eating a bit more regularly her strength will improve.

She sees her new surgeon on Tuesday to have her belly wound checked. I told her I would try to find out what I could about the surgeon (Marybeth) on the Internet. The only interesting information was that she gave $350 to Obama's campaign. Vicky liked that. This is the person who most likely will reconnect her colon to her small intestine at some point in the future.

I'm really glad she's seeing her psychiatrist on Monday. From my perspective as another chronically depressed person, she needs her meds adjusted. Everyone wants to treat her body but they forget that her brain is part of the whole picture and they can't just isolate the body.

She's already worried about our departure on Friday. The good thing is that she will have to leave the rehab facility for her swallow test before we leave for the airport so we won't be saying goodbye in her room. Her swallow test appointment is on the way to the airport so we will stop there first.

It's cold pizza, from the best pizza place in town, for tonight's dinner. I'm not a fan of pizza but I love this stuff.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Vicky had a great day today. Nothing like two pints of whole blood plus a good night's sleep to bring things much closer to normal. Her temperature is normal and her heart rate was 97. Kerry came up with a great phrase which really got to her: "you have to eat your way out of here." She has lost five pounds since she arrived because she doesn't eat; she's nauseous all the time because of all the pills she takes. Taking pills on an empty stomach would make anyone sick.

We agreed that every waking hour she would eat a spoonful of yogurt or applesauce every 30 minutes. I think she really heard what Kerry said. When we left tonight she was eating her chicken noodle soup.

Tomorrow she comes home for a barbecue. Cousin Dennis and his wife Carole will be here. Adam is cooking his famous ribs. I think coming home will be really good for her soul. Her cats really miss her. Of course, she is worried that they have fogotten her. With enough treats in her lap, they will not forget her.

BTW, her address is Vicky, Room 402, Guardian Angel Transitional Care, 400 Evans Ave., Elk River, MN 55330.

Another Report From The Land Of The Ketchup Council

Vicky had two pints of whole blood yesterday to boost her hemoglobin. By the time she left the hospital she was already looking better. With little sleep the night before, however, she was pretty weepy and tired. Finally got her to go to bed early.

She's always afraid the ostomy bag is going to leak during the night because it has several nights in a row. She has enough fears as it is and the leaking bag is totally unnecessary. I did some research on line last night so feel better prepared to talk with the charge nurse today. I've also found two ostomy nurse practitioners in the area. I sent them e-mails last night asking for advice. It would be worth it to pay one of them to visit her.

Now if we could just get her eating. She has lost another five pounds. Neil and I are both worried that she will need the feeding tube soon. If that happens she might have to go back to the acute care facility because Guardian is not equipped for that.

We are heading there in a few minutes. Adam is cooking dinner tonight and tomorrow night. That is heaven. I don't mind cooking but it's always nice to have a couple of nights off. Neil is looking better now that he's getting some good food. And today he's visiting Vicky and then going to play golf. That always revives him no matter how many golf balls he loses.

So, anyone out there know anything about ostomy bags and what the best ones are. I've asked the World Wide Web for help before and she has always come through. So let me know.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Reporting From Lake Woebegone and the Chatter Box Cafe

I think Vicky is doing very well; she doesn't always believe that. Her pneumonia is caused by food aspiration. Her throat nerves and muscles aren't in good shape thanks to all the tubes that were in there for so long. That means she doesn't realize that the food is going to her lungs not her stomach. So she's on antibiotics, a mushy diet so she won't aspirate and has an appointment with a swallow specialist so she can learn to overcome this. This means no more diet coke because everything she swallows must be thickened. It doesn't change the flavor but it does change the consistency. She's craving diet cokes.

Yesterday we made a list of the 30 things that she can do now that she couldn't do when she left the ICU. I think she was a little surprised at the length of the list. She has moments where the old Vicky kicks in. Yesterday we were going to go to the courtyard area to get some fresh air. As we approached the door she said, "let me see if I can roll myself over the bump." A few minutes before that she was definitely in the dumps. She did the same thing on the way in; she got over the bump both times. We added that to the list.

Went to physical therapy with her, and despite her protestations, she did very well. Today we are going to work with the physical therapist to set goals for her. For example, walk the length of the PT room twice with the walker, the safety belt held by the PT and the wheel chair behind her. Next would be not having the wheel chair behind her. She's a teacher by training and profession so I'm hoping this will work.

We've also made a list of what she wants to be able to do. We are going to put dates by those things today.

Today or tomorrow she will have a blood transfusion because her hemoglobin is low. That will really help because she has no energy. Unfortunately we have to take her to a hospital to get that accomplished. Today is the Farmer's Market in Elk River, the town where her facility is located. As soon as she heard that she said, "can I go?" I immediately placed a phone call to find out if the area of the market is paved. Haven't heard back yet, but the fact that she wants to go is wonderful.

She just called; the power is out at the facility; it's not the power company's fault. They are working to restore it. I'm just glad she doesn't need any power to keep her going.

So that's all from the Chatterbox Cafe. Thanks for all the movie suggestions. I read the cards you folks sent. Loved them and so did Vicky. I'll blog the new address tomorrow so you can think about sending another card. Blogauthor sent a Christmas card and said Vicky was getting her first card of the season. So think about getting ahead of the Christmas rush. Any card will work to cheer her up.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

No Colon Cancer Here

Had my colonoscopy yesterday afternoon and passed with flying colors. Now if I would just stop farting, I would be happy. I sound like a little putt, putt car. I had lots of drugs for the procedure so don't remember much of anything except Kerry telling me it was time to wake up. They gave him one of those big pagers with lights that you get in restaurants so they could find him when I was in recovery. He immediately asked the nurse, "how far can I go with this and still receive a signal." She said no one had ever asked her that before. Only Kerry

Came home, ate some toast, drank some Sprite and went back to sleep until about 10. Then stayed awake a few hours and back to sleep again. Drugs are wonderful.

We leave for the airport in about 90 minutes to go to Minneapolis to visit my sister. She just called in tears; she said she wanted to be healthier for our visit, but now she has pneumonia. I reminded her that last time I saw her she was in the ICU at the acute care facility and she was hallucinating. Then I reminded her of all of the things she can do now. I finally got her to laugh. Her other big worry is that they will send her back to the hospital because of the pneumonia. I reminded her that they rarely hospitalize people with pneumonia. Blogauthor knows that better than any of us.

I'm hoping for a big thunder and lightening storm while we are there. I loved them when I lived there and really miss them. California rarely gets them. Everything smells so good afterward.

We change planes in Salt Lake City on our way to Minneapolis so we don't get in until 9:30 tonight.

I think my sister and I are going to watch lots of really funny movies so she laughs a lot. Any suggestions? Doesn't matter how old they are. Also I'm going to get her mailing address again so maybe some of you could send cards again. I'll post it tomorrow.

I'll be reading blogs and blogging while I'm away.

Friday, June 13, 2008

In Memory of Abby, A Great Golden Lab

Our friends Steve and Janet recently put down their wonderful golden lab, Abby. They wrote a loving tribute to her which they said I could share with all of you. She's pictured below doing what she did best, being a pillow and a friend to a child (Mathew) who knew he could trust her to be gentle. Here's her story as told by her mom and dad, Janet and Steve.

November 13, 1995 - June 3, 2008

Our sweet puppy girl is gone. And what a girl she was.

From the day she was born to Daisy and Luke, one of three girls and four boys, she stood out from the crowd. She was spunky. She'd roar off after deer as if she was bravery personified until the deer turned around and she'd make tracks for the safety of the front porch. She was stubborn. By the time she (and Janet) graduated from obedience school it only required fifteen commands of "Down" before she'd comply. She was spirited. As a puppy she'd arrive at the vet's office, paw the big glass entry door until it slammed open, visit all the dogs and cats in the waiting room, shakedown anyone with treats in their pocket, and head for the door as soon as her name was called. She had an incredible nose. Or was it her hearing? We never could figure out how she could be clear across a huge field and know that we had unwrapped cheese. She was patient. Children could crawl all over her and she'd just get up and move only to be crawled over once again. She had a tail that wouldn't quit wagging, a smile that never stopped and a sweet nature that won us over from the first time we laid eyes on her. And that face. What a beauty she was!

Of course, she had her rowdy moments. When Steve worked in the yard she'd steal a glove and hold us both at bay while we chased her around the yard trying vainly to get it back. Empty toilet paper rolls, Steve's handkerchief, empty plastic bottles and shoelaces were all fair game. Carpet was for digging. Leashes were a bother. Heeling was for wimps. What was the point of fetching if you had to return it? "Leave it" was practically her middle name. Water was for swimming, not baths. Sand made her wild. Vacuums and hair dryers were terrifying. Rolling her over on her back was never, ever allowed. Barking was saved for serious occasions. Birds were fascinating. Cats were pals but they never knew it. German Shepherds were for flirting. She never met a dog cookie she didn't like. Whenever one of us was in the shower it was time for a nap -- right outside the door. Whenever we spelled "w-a-l-k" or "s-w-i-m-m-i-n-g" she was on her feet and ready to go. Kindling on the front porch was for chewing. Collars were for licking and so were feet. The ocean was paradise.

She was the only dog to make regular appearances on the 29th floor of PG&E in San Francisco (interjection from the blogger: that's where all the officers, aka stuffed shirts, from the utility had their offices. It was like visiting a morgue. No one ever laughed. Abby didn't care.) She went to Gumps (a very high class gift store in a ritzy part of San Francisco; I never bought anything there but they did have puppies from the SPCA for adoption in their windows at Christmas) and Williams Sonoma. She dined on bacon at Harry Denton's (a very tony restaurant in San Francisco; Abby was not a snob, nor were her parents). She went down a slide and Steve has the claw marks to prove it. She attended the Memorial Day Bash thirteen times (that's where we camp every Memorial Day) She went to weddings. She posed for photos. Whenever Steve got an ice cream cone, Abby shared it. She could pop bubbles with her nose. She drank water in cadence. As she got older she tried the couch in every home we entered. On cold nights she loved sharing our bed and taking over. She visited National Parks. She appeared in Country Coach's (their motor home) "Destinations" magazine. She saw bears, deer, eagles, coyotes, buffalo, bobcats, turkeys, newts, snakes, elk , antelope, armadillos, javelinas, roadrunners and never bothering anything. Except for mice. If a mouse crossed her path it was gone.

In ten years in the motor home she got to sniff most of America and Canada. Each new overnight spot was an a adventure. And everyone we met was there just to see Abby. Trails were paradise and not to be passed by. Any body of water was meant for swimming. Any ball or Frisbee was hers. If it looked yukky it was worth a taste.

She was our Abby or, sometimes, Angel Mae Louise. After expensive vet visits she was known as Goldie. When she was boisterous she was Devil Dog. Even as her hips and shoulder deteriorated and she had trouble walking, she'd ignore the pain to please us,. Her eyesight went a little but her hearing stayed acute. Making the decision to end her life was torture for us but we did it for her. Before she suffered even more. She's buried in a beautiful spot on Yellow Dog Ranch within sight of our barn. The original Yellow Dog lives on forever in our hears and in the hearts of our family and friends.

We miss you Abby.

I just needed to share that with you. Steve and Janet are great folks and Abby was wonderful.
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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Kaleidoscope Of Color

I'm working on a quilt called a "One Block Wonder." Instead of several fabrics, you have just one, which you can see here with the cranes and flowers. You cut the fabric into 44-inch-long panels and then layer them until you have six layers. You align those layers so all the figures in the fabric line up at the edges. That took a long time, and I still didn't get it perfectly.

Then you cut 3-3/4 inch strips of the six layers of fabric lengthwise. Now you use a triangle ruler to cut the pieces for the fabric. Each six-layer triangle then is put into a hexagon like the ones shown here. You can click on the pictures to make them larger. Once you have all the hexagons sewn, you place them on your design wall to decide how they will go together. I think each hexagon looks like a kaleidoscope of a section of the fabric. I especially like what happens to the necks and wings of the cranes. Pretty cool. I'm not sure I explained this very well; it wasn't easy to do. But I'm really enjoying building the hexagons.
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Sunday, June 08, 2008

A Weekend Of Death And Life

My friend Nancy died on Friday night. I don't know any more than that. There will be no memorial service. It feels incomplete to me, but we have to respect her wishes.

I do think that a few of us from WOW (Women of Wine) will go to our favorite wine bar one of these days and drink a toast to her. We, of course, will all wear hats in her honor.

Went to a baby shower last night that was for couples so it was a lot more fun than most baby showers. We didn't play any games, thank God.

Most of the weekend has been spent making the tote bag shown here. I have it hanging on the end of my ironing board, in case you are wondering. I ripped out more than I sewed but now I know what I'm doing so could probably make another one in half the time.

I found the fabric in New Mexico. It's pretty wild. There are pockets inside and the bottom is a heavy piece of matte so it has a solid bottom. There are two layers of fusible fleece throughout the bag to give it some stiffness Not sure what I will do with it, but I sure like the colors. I think I'll call it "flying saucers over a chili patch."

So, a lot of sadness here. I keep saying to myself that I can't believe she is gone. She would have liked the tote bag.
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Thursday, June 05, 2008


Today has been a hard day for me. Last night I talked to one of our mutual friends, Jane, who brought me up to date on what happened to Nancy and what the prognosis is.

When she was first diagnosed I did what I always do about sickness, I turned to Blogauthor (you can find her at for advice. She's really smart about drugs (no she doesn't take them; she can be silly without much of anything except her son), clinical trials and all that stuff. As usual she responded with all kinds of information, but I realized very soon that it was too late for Nancy. Thank you Blogauthor. You are always there for me. I'll do the same for you any day.

Back to Nancy and my angst. She went to ceramics class on Monday, had a long talk with Jane after class, had people for dinner Monday night and then when she woke up Tuesday morning she couldn't speak or move the left side of her body (she's left handed). She may have had the stroke during the night or whenever. We really will never know.

A CAT scan and an MRI confirmed that the metastatic cancer had moved into her brain. That means it's in her brain, lungs, liver and bones. Jane said that her body is simply shutting down. And she's in a lot of pain.

All day I've been thinking about her and what's happening and how quickly it happened. No visitors, which I can respect. I want to remember her the last time we had wine together. I feel terrible that she is being robbed of some wonderful years.

Did I tell you she was a tap dancer? Yes, for many years she tap danced with a group in the San Francisco Bay Area. They even tapped their way through parades. Absolutely destroyed her knees; she said she wouldn't have had it any other way. She loves her tap shoes.

Now I find myself thinking ahead to her memorial service. Nancy also wore hats everywhere; that was her signature. The chemotherapy for her breast cancer made her bald; the hair that grew back was less than glorious. Thus she started to wear hats. I'm going to encourage all of her friends to wear hats to her memorial.

Getting old really sucks.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Vegetables For The Week And Other Things

The only vegetable I had to look up was the chidori kale. I thought it was something you plant as an ornamental in your garden. Turns out you can eat it too. I thought I didn't like radishes but it turns out I do, or at least these beautiful organic ones. I'm fixing the Chinese cabbage tonight in a stir fry with lots of garlic, onions and Asian chili garlic sauce. Add to that a barbecued steak and you have our dinner for this evening. My goal every week is to use up all the vegetables I get. We accomplished this last week and are shooting for doing it this week.

Four weeks ago tonight I was having a glass of wine with my friends Jean and Nancy. That was when Nancy told me she had metastatic cancer in her liver, lungs and bones. The doctor had given her a year to live. The cancer metastasized from her breast cancer 14 years earlier. Tonight she's in the hospital because she had a stroke, is paralyzed on one side and can't speak. This is a woman who is an accomplished ceramicist. Her hands and her clay are her loves right after her husband Richard. I just can't believe how cruel life can be to the best people.

We had our puppy raiser phone interview this morning with Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). If all goes well we will pick up our puppy on Tuesday July 14th at 2 p.m. in San Rafael, CA We will go through an orientation and then take the little critter home. I learned a lot on the call. Females are not fixed. When they go into heat you have to bring them back to CCI for kenneling. That could be as long as three weeks. During the 16 to 18 months we might have a female puppy, she could go through two cycles. I guess that's when we take our long trips.

On Monday my sister moved to a rehab facility where she will be until she is able to go home. Don't know how long that will be. It's going to be really good for her emotionally as well as physically. She gets to wear clothes. Imagine that. It's been four months since she's done that. Also, she eats in a dining room (gets there in a wheel chair for now) with other people. Kerry is very jealous of her flat screen TV. We are flying to visit her on June 17th for ten days. He will probably just move in and watch tv all day while she's in physical therapy.
Also was astonished to learn that only 35% of the puppies raised go on to be service dogs. If our puppy flunked graduate school then we would have first dibs. We still have to have our home visit but the woman who interviewed us today said we sounded like good candidates. We chose July 14th for pick up because we come back from Albuquerque the night before.

Puppy is immediately enrolled in puppy kindergarten. We take the dog once a week until he or she advances to first grade. Then the requirement of training classes is reduced to twice a month.
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