Saturday, June 30, 2007

Patient's Progress

The Patient has notified his doc that he is ready to have the feeding tube removed. Big step! He has taken all calories by mouth for a week and has decided it is time to go all the way. He can still use the supplements in milk shakes along with some ice cream for an extra caloric boost. Surgery will be scheduled for after we return from our trip to Bozeman to visit Cait and Mike. In about three weeks he should be tube-free. Good job! It will have taken him 8 months to recover enough to be without. That's about average. If you know him you know that the word "average" just doesn't apply!

The crepe myrtles are in bloom in town. These trees look like big scoops of raspberry sherbet. Picture tomorrow.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


That is the question. I heard about registering my cell phone with the DO NOT CALL service, the one we all (I hope) signed up for three years ago to have your land line removed from lists used by telemarketers. Now, apparently, you can do the same for your cell lines. I passed this on because some months ago a friend mentioned that she had received calls on her cell and she had to pay for them. Then a second person mentioned that she, too, had been pestered. There is, apparently, a debunking of this caution. But I did it anyway. I may be the first (and only) to do it, but at least I won't get the calls if/when cell numbers are released to telemarketers.

It always amazes me to take a trip to CostCo. I get in line with my chicken breasts, bulk paper napkins and big box of cereal. In front and behind are people with enough goods to last me three years in two different households. It still has the cheapest gas around; almost Mexican prices.

The houses of the Augustines, the Julians and the Caesars continue to be a warring group of vipers' nests. Robert Graves is doing a masterful job of telling this bloody tale of intrigue, corruption and ambition.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

the culprit unmasked

The X-ray was normal. The culprit has been fingered as the parasite. "Give it a few days and we'll see." So I guess I'll give it a few more days and then we'll see. Meanwhile, a bit better this afternoon.

My sister is in very good spirits, but complaining about the hospital. Beds uncomfortable, food just so-so. She must be feeling better.

I Claudius continuing to be fascinating. Soap operas did not begin with "As the World Turns."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

how are you?

The alleged parasite is still a big problem. I went to the clinic today for an abdominal X-ray, just to be sure that a parasite is the culprit. No report yet.

I have had a visit from a delightful woman with whom I worked at the big U many years ago. What a great walk down memory lane.

My sister is still in the ICU but is feeling much improved. The vascular surgeon is "guardedly optimistic" about the foot issue. He has called in a "vein mapper" to gauge how Vic's blood supply is working. Have you ever heard of a vein mapper?

Monday, June 25, 2007

wheel-spinning on Monday

This morning we packed up Vincent (the van) and took off for Jackson to shop at Ceramic Tile of Jackson. This is a most unlikely emporium to find in the Gold Country. They have a spectacular selection of Mexican tiles. I took my box of tiles (to match), charts, graphs, my camera (to take snaps of what they have in case I want to match), my Mexican tile books, measuring tape, and graph paper. Jackson is about 50 miles from here, through gorgeous rolling foothills. The grasses have all turned golden with old oaks scattered about. We found the place - after a couple of false turns - only to find it is CLOSED on Monday. Like French restaurants, non? After a quick drive-thru of downtown Jackson we came back home. By the way, if you are thinking of taking a trip to Jackson, go during the week; the town was ours. Not a visitor to be seen. We'll try again either later this week or next. No, not next. We're zipping off to Bozeman for a three-day visit with Caitlin. But soon.

Real life ~ as opposed to the fantasy life described above ~ intruded when I got a call from my brother-in-law telling me that my sister is in the ICU (again). Chest pains. I'll know more tomorrow after they run a battery of tests. She may have to have an angioplasty on her left leg to break up what they think is a blockage preventing good circulation to her leg and foot.

Reading: I finished The Map of the World and am about a third of the way through Robert Graves' I Claudius. You always know when you are in the hands of a truly great writer. He's one.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Saturday in the Valley

I "talked" to Ruby this morning via Skype. She thought I was my sister, her Granny. She couldn't figure out who the person on the video screen really was. But we'll keep it up for the time they are here and perhaps she'll figure it out. She is extraordinarily verbal; she has something to say about everything! Her parents were taking her to the San Diego Animal Park this morning; she mimicked the sounds of all the ferocious animals she was going to see.

The Farmers' Market was loaded with gorgeous fruit ~ nectarines, Babcock peaches, Freestone peaches, plums, berries of all sorts. And bunches of beautiful flowers. I bought a hanging basket of impatiens for my back garden. I have a birch tree that has some perfectly placed branches that are very hospitable to such decorative plants. Veggies that have now made their appearance include Japanese eggplant, okra, all varieties of summer squash, tiny bok choy, Chinese long beans, beautiful onions, and, of course, corn. But overall the whole Market is pervaded by the scent of basil.

Ah, summer.

Friday, June 22, 2007

baby love

Here's a real "awwww" picture of people I actually know. My grandniece Ruby is visiting her grandmother in San Diego. Oh yes, her parents are there, too. Here she is with her granny, Vicky. Niece Kaley has installed Skype on my sister's computer so I can talk to and get a good look at Ruby tomorrow. I'll report.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

a critic at large

Despite the precariousness of my medical situation, this afternoon I went to a matinee of The Light in the Piazza at the Sacramento Community Theatre. This hour of the day ~ 2 PM ~ is the "blue hair" special. I think I was the youngest person in the theatre. Or almost. As far as the performance, let me say this about that. I thought the music was excellent, the singers superb, the story a bit far fetched but charming and romantic, the sets disappointing. Why? This musical is set in Florence. Some of the action takes place in the upper-class apartment of a Florentine family. The sets were much too Zen to believe. I've seen Florence. It's not a Zen kind of place. The sets needed more decoration, more evidence of the richness and beauty of the city, the gorgeous distractions that embody Florencel.

Regardless of picking those nits, it was delightful to be at a live performance, to get swept up in the energy and enthusiasm of the play. I should do this more often. Every time I go to the theatre I say the same thing. Next production is Les Miz in a couple of weeks, then Nunsense. I'm hooked.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

sick day

I spent virtually the entire day in bed, dealing with the miserable effects of the parasitic invasion. As a consequence of this malady I missed my early morning walk through our quiet neighborhoods. I didn't get a chance to check out the gardens and listen to the swish, swish of the automatic sprinklers and the pool sweeps. Keeping things green or blue, depending. I finished my meds yesterday. Now it's a matter of waiting until things clear up. Or don't.

Two new movies arrived today;
Jules et Jim and Splendor in the Grass. Both of these are old favorites that I decided to revisit. Tomorrow won't be a movie day, however, as I am planning to go to a matinee of the Sacramento Broadway Series presentation of The Light in the Piazza. This is, of course, depending on whether I can sit up straight and concentrate!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

a gift for your ears

I heard about this chap on NPR this morning, an unexpected talent found on a British version of American Idol. He's not Pavoratti, but then, who is? He is singing one of my most favorite tenor arias, this from Turandot.

Grab a Kleenex and Listen up!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Father's Day in the mountains
From daughter Caitlin, who lives in Bozeman, MT

However you all spent your
Father's Day, I'll bet it was nothing like
what happened here! Welcome to Bozeman's first annual Father's Day Gopher
Hunt! Sponsored by the Gallatin Valley Baptist Fellowship, the rules were
simple: Collect as many gopher tails as possible in four hours. Promoted as
"part of our sportsman ministry program", the Reverend William Johnson
offered as the grand prize a new .22-caliber rifle to the family collecting the
most tails.

And what a family affair! Landowners adjacent to the church gladly
permitted their lands to be used as the "killing fields" since gophers
are quite the nuisance--they chew down grass meant for cattle and horses
and dig enough holes and tunnels to damage ranch machinery.

The results are in: The most gophers were bagged by Wayne Langel and
his son, Jessie, 12. Unfortunately, the dynamic duo didn't return to the
meeting point on time (neither of them had worn a watch), so they were
disqualified. Therefore, the grand prize was awarded to Chuck Rasnick
who brought 8 gopher tails to the awards table though he thinks "we killed
14 but couldn't find 'em." His children, Elizabeth (4) and Charlie (7)
aided their father with their own BB guns.

A picnic lunch followed, and everyone was in great spirits!

Can you imagine this going down in your town? Where I live all these
people would now be in jail.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Another day at the movies

Being housebound is not all bad. I saw another couple of movies today; A Chorus Line, an oldie which I had seen in Santa Barbara when Cait was at UCSB, and Mixed Nuts, a frothy little number with Steve Martin and the divine Rita Wilson.

But right now I am feeling so cranky and uncomfortable that I think I'll just shut up shop for the day.

Hasta mañana.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Saturday at the Movies

Because of my delicate condition ~ battling an intestinal parasite (parásito intestinal, thank you very much!) ~ I stayed home and watched movies. First was Spellbound ~ not the Hitchcock version, the spelling bee one. Terrific. Winning word: logorreah. Yes, I did know how to spell it. But I try not to use it too often.

Then I watched Sunday, Bloody Sunday, with Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch. I remember this from 30 +/- years ago. It has held up well. I would characterize it as "restrained." I would hate to see what might be done to this delicate story should Hollywood get it's feverish hands on it.

Late breaking news: Mike Nifong, ill-considered DA of Durham County, NC has been disbarred by the NC Bar for his utterly frivolous and unethical prosecution of the Duke Lacrosse players. Perhaps he and Roy Pearson can get something going together. Dare I suggest they open a sporting goods-cum-dry cleaning establishment?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Root Beer Float weather

Captain Carb came home with a 4-pack of Virgil's Micro Brew Root Beer and a carton of Dryer's Double Vanilla ice cream. Next thing I knew he was slurping down a root beer float. Good calorie count on that one. It was cooler today; only about 98º. Even cooler tomorrow; 95º if we're lucky.

The town is chock-a-block with parents and other family here to celebrate the graduation of their loved ones. After this weekend the town will be ours again. Students gone. No lines at supermarkets, banks, restaurants. It will be quiet and peaceful for the next three and a half months. It's nice the education industry, our main employer, takes a holiday.

I trust everyone has been reading the hilarious account of the judge in Washington, D.C. who is suing his dry cleaner for $54 million for misplacing a pair of pants. No? You've missed it? Google Roy L. Pearson and read all about it. Even the Trial Lawyers Association is mortified by his antics. and that's going some.

Finished the truly astonishing Life of Pi. Next read: Map of the World by Jane Hamilton.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What can you do?

It's 102º degrees. Hot breeze. The garden wilts. The breeze strengthens and blows one of the umbrellas out of its stand and into another umbrella and breaks it. Impossible to sit at the table outdoors for lunch. Too hot. The only thing to do is drink lemonade, get into the pool and wait it out. Rarely is it too hot to sleep. The Sacramento delta breezes come up at night and cool everything down. Not last night. It was miserable.

As if that weren't enough, it appears I have brought home with me from Mexico an intestinal parasite. Ciprofloxacin for five days. Then we'll see. This happened once before and I was treated there. That time I had to dose myself for 30 days. Everything's faster in the USA.

Stay cool.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

99º in the shade

The valley is doing it's mid-June thing ~ hotting up. The pool is cool and refreshing and the house is cool, even without the AC. The overhangs are so deep that direct sun never comes in during the hot months. Plus the new tile floor keeps things cool. For even more hot weather comfort, I put together a wonderful salad for lunch. The Patient bought beets at the Farmers' Market so, with a nod to Pica, who tossed together a similar recipe, I used them thusly.
Ingredients: mixed greens (including radicchio), beets, Kalamata olives, tiny tomatoes, chopped red pepper, chopped celery, Feta cheese, vinaigrette dressing, sprinkling of fresh oregano, a bit of crusty bread. In the end it all turns a delicious pink color. Welcome summer!

We have found our digs in Florence for the fall trip. I used VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner. This is a great site; listings for apartments all over the world.

New read: The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Finished The Alteration . Another instance when you know you're in the hands of a maestro.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

just an uneventful Tuesday

It's about time that we have a day without drama. No doctors, no tests, no waiting for results. Early morning walk with pal Babz, through the beautiful UCD campus. Students whizzing around on bikes, speeding to classrooms where they will display their learning during this finals week. I looked at these fresh-faced kids and realized that grandson Andrew will be one of them soon. Then a massage. Then errands. Then home. Then a lovely afternoon of reading and swimming and enjoying the quiet. The pair of hawks have been very busy in the tree either putting the finishing touches on their condo nest or putting up stores for the expected chicks. Lots of circling and squawking but no knowing what they are up to. The temperature is up here in the valley; it is rumored to be 98 degrees tomorrow. Early dinner. Just an uneventful Tuesday.

Monday, June 11, 2007

And finally, thank you Dr. Schmidt

We went up to Roseville today for the final OK from the medical establishment that has taken such good care of the Patient over these last nine months. In five months, before we take off for Italy and Mexico there will be another CT scan and a round of doc visits. Then nothing more for at least six months or until we get back home. (If all goes according to plan, that will actually be seven months.) If anything should come up during the Mexican interlude the Patient can always fly home . However, we trust that will not happen. All three of the doctors, in fact four, counting his regular physician, have been helpful, careful, forthright, approachable, thorough. I won't say it has been a pleasure to deal with them. Let's just say that none added to the stress of the situation and all did their best to ease the fear and worry. I cannot say enough about the good care they gave both of us.

To celebrate the good outcome of this round of tests and appointments, I wanted to make something yummy for the Patient's carb intake this evening. First was pasta with my very own sauce. Then I concocted a Three Berry Cobbler. Local market has blueberries, blackberries and raspberries available so it seemd like a good choice. (The apricots are coming in like mad; apricot pie or cobbler is next. My favorite, hands down.)

These are the three berries. They are very sweet and juicy! I've never seen such big blackberries. The are surprisingly flavorful.

I added more liquid to the fruit mixture. The Patient has a hard time swallowing things if they are too dry so I inceased the poaching water to 1 1/4 cups.

The Patient squirted a big ribbon of ReddiWip over the cobbler but I was so appalled at the ruination of a perfectly good fruit dessert with that stuff that I refused to take a picture. Nonetheless, it was tasty, fruity and fragrant. Biscuits were tender (lotsa butter).

Saturday, June 09, 2007

You go girl!

I hope everyone saw the Belmont Stakes this afternoon. A gorgeous filly, Rags to Riches, beat all those pushy foals to win the race. She looked back after winning, gave those boys the horse's stare: "Take that, big boys!" First time in over a century -- 1905 -- for a filly.Yeaaaah!

The big shopping expedition yielded one (1!!) pair of Levi 501's. Who ever heard of gearing up for a shopping spree and buying just one of anything? Unless, of course, it's a Georgio Armani ball gown or a Lamborghini. But nothing else fit properly. The Patient's frame still needs about 20 more pounds before he sinks any of his hard currency into his wardrobe. Perhaps before the Italy trip he'll splurge and buy another pair of jeans.

We then took a quick trip out to the Mexican supermarket for a look around and to buy some Manila Mangoes (the very best type - 3 for 99¢), some Mexican dulces for tomorrow's breakfast, and the big raspadas, like a thin, crispy tortilla but half-again as big. These are perfect for tostadas.

Along with the sourdough waffles, tapioca pudding, corn bread, coffee cake, pasta and rice, Captain Carb has requested pizza. Tonight's menu is pizza, tapioca pudding and biscotti. A really good menu for a diabetic. If it puts weight on him, who am I to fall back in a swoon and cry, "Enough!"

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Thank you Dr. Grennan

Another thumbs up message from the oncologist this morning. Good news comes in waves! "Eat, eat, eat," was his prescription for the Patient. He weighed in at 147.5 with clothes and shoes, so it's probably more like 144, but that's up 2 or 3 pounds since a week ago. If he had not been sick and was eating as he is now he would have put on 20 pounds in the last two weeks alone. He eats as many carbs as he can manage, probably 500 grams a day. In light of his new figure he has decided he wants to go shopping. Shopping?! This is absolutely unheard of and completely out of character. But I am happy to accompany him to be sure he doesn't make some unforgivable sartorial errors. Actually, it will be jeans and trousers that don't show his baggy rear end, but still have a bit of expansion room as those carbs stick and fill out his figure. (The doc said that his body is spending all its caloric energy getting him well. That's why he doesn't gain weight.) If this is what it takes to get him into a fitting room . . . No, it wasn't worth it. But I am glad he will get some new duds.

We are now concentrating on getting plans settled for Italy; a week in Florence, two weeks in Vicenza. Our favorite apartment is not available until after November 4. We will travel first to Florence at the end of October, then on to Vicenza the first two weeks in November. It is exhilarating to think about travel and, essentially, the future, now that the Patient has been cleared for take off.

New reading: Kinglsey Amis's The Alteration. A great romp!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Thank you Dr. Carr

The Patient got a clean bill of health from the head/neck surgeon today. The rotten tonsil is completely gone ~ "Tonsillectomy by radiation" he called it ~ and the lymph gland has shrunk back to normal size. The doc still wants to see him again in about three or four months to keep an eye on things; this is considered "normal" follow-up for at least a year. But believe me, we gave a real sigh of relief when we left the office. First thing? Stir up a gin and tonic and make those plans (again) for Italy this fall!

Tomorrow is another appointment, this one with Dr. Grennan, the oncologist. The Patient's blood numbers are still low; he's quite anemic but getting better very slowly. We'll see what he has to say.

Needless to say I am greatly relieved that the prognosis given to us nine months ago was in fact correct. All the doctors said this was a very treatable form of cancer and that the success rate was about 90%. This is one time when the Patient does NOT want to be in the top 10th percentile! His recovery over the past six months, since ending treatment, has been wonderful to watch, and each day brings some tiny step forward. Next goal; get rid of the feeding tube and take all food by mouth and put on about 20 pounds. With his intake of carbs he should now weigh about 200 pounds! He has set mid-July as the date for tube removal. Meanwhile, he continues to gain strength and stamina, and after today's news, his optimism is at an all-time high. Mine, too.

On this very up-beat note, here is a new picture of my great-niece, Ruby. Her little polka-dot dress is one I bought for her in Paris and she is finally big enough to wear it. Très chic, Ruby!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

And then he was gone . . .

This is a picture of one of the world's truly great mothers and her son, a mother who listens closely to her children, talks to them as if they were rational human beings (most of the time), who has their health and welfare as her primary interest, and who has a whopping good sense of humor about being a mom. I have always been impressed at her methods, amazed at her talents and gifts, and awed at the results. She has managed to raise two charming and civilized children while still remaining their "friend." This photo was taken at the Senior Banquet on Friday night. Alex spent the evening talking to Andrew, giving him a mom's last minute attention, committing his face to her memory, hearing his every word as though he is about to disappear. Indeed, he is. He is now off to college. Whatever hasn't been taught will remain elusive. But he has been a good student and has been well taught by his mother. He has learned the lessons of gentleness, civility and grace. He goes well educated.

Monday, June 04, 2007

first, the really good news

When we arrived home this afternoon there was a letter from The Patient's radiologist, giving him the preliminary results of his last CT scan. After cutting through all the medical terminology we decided what it means is that everything looks very good. What's supposed to be gone IS in fact gone. He still has to see the head/neck surgeon who will have the final word. But there is rejoicing here on Monterey Avenue tonight!

Now on to the good news about the weekend's events. It all sped by in a blur of good food, good fellowship, good times with family. First, however, the mascot of the hotel. Charming, no? This little mosaic fountain is in courtyard of the hotel and even though our cottage was in the back we could heard the gurgle of the water. Very delightful.

Friday we met Andrew after his morning commencement rehearsal. He had to run some errands in town, then we stopped at Bart's Books, the wonderful outdoor bookstore. In his career at Thacher he had never managed to get there and, like the Patient and I, wandered around amazed at the number of books, the miles of shelves, and the whole idea of an outdoor store. There is a discreet notice on the door that tells customers that if they find a book on the street-side shelves that they want and it's after-hours, just drop the money through the slot. Imagine! We had lunch in the patio of a little restaurant downtown. Warm, sunny, lovely. We delivered him back to school and went back to the hotel to read, relax and prepare for the evening's banquet. All those kids we saw in jeans and tank tops at the rehearsal had somehow been transformed into scrubbed, coiffed and smartly dressed young men and women just about to leave the protective (and protected) haven of Thacher for the big (bad) world. (I didn't get any good pix at the banquet; it was so incredibly cold I spent the entire evening shivering and trying to keep warm. I finally put a turtleneck shirt over my dress in a feeble attempt to stay thawed. But I think Alex took some snaps and she'll send them and I'll put them up.)

Saturday morning we all gathered again under the big tent on the lacrosse field for commencement. Fifty-nine smiling faces lined up to be bag-piped across the field. It was a gorgeous day; bright, sunny, still a bit cool. The coastal fog that creeps over the foothills and settles in the lower valley was visible below us, but up in the hills it was crisp and clear. The tears ran down my cheeks when Andrew strode down the aisle, all 6 feet of him, decked out in his seersucker suit. There is a very nice Thacher tradition at graduation. Instead of just calling the student's name, having her/him walk across the stage to get a diploma, designated faculty write a paragraph describing each student, telling about the student's history at Thacher, each one's gifts and talents, and what having each student at the school has meant to both classmates and faculty. So there were 59 individual stories; funny, moving, awe-inspiring in many cases. These kids have had an education of such depth and breadth and rigor that many of them will be shocked when they get to college at how far they have already come. Their genuine affection and respect for one another was easy to see and very satisfying. After all, Andrew has lived and grown up with these kids; it's like a big, extended family.

After the ceremony we all trooped up into the center of campus for a buffet lunch held outdoors in a big patio. And photos.
First, we have Andrew, Em and Alex. That's Pete in the background in the hat.

Here's the graduate. Note the white bucks!

Cait and Mike gave Andrew a wonderful watch as a gift.

We spent the afternoon at Vic and Tom's hotel (the sister hotel to our; The Emerald Iguana). Cait and Mike went back to Santa Barbara, Alex and Em stayed overnight with Vic, the Patient and I went back to our hotel.

Sunday we drove over to meet Cait and Mike for brunch (Dungeness crab hash, layer of mashed avocado, two poached eggs. Delish!) in Santa Barbara. Here's what I mean about the jacarandas. No photo can do them justice, I know, but I just thought I'd try. These trees are in full bloom all over the city. What a gift! What a treat! We drove back to Ojai via Route 150, over the hills and around Lake Casitas. Again, we started down in the cold and fog but broke through into blazing sunshine about two-thirds of the way up the road. Typical Santa Barbara summer day!

We left Ojai at 6:30 this morning. Good old Vincent (the car; you know, Vincent Van-Go) and the Patient's good driving got us home safely seven hours later. A long day. That's why I am writing this now; gotta hit the hay early.

I did manage to get two books finished, watched the debates (interesting; my guy didn't shine), visited with family (Pete's) whom I hadn't seen in quite awhile, and saw my beloved grandson off to a new chapter in his charmed life. Good work for a weekend.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

fast and furious

The internet connection here comes and goes. As a result I have not been able to keep up on a daily basis. I will recap this wonderful weekend when I get home tomorrow. Until then let me just say that we saw Andrew successfully graduate from Thacher, had family all around for a wonderful visit, and generally had a marvelous time. It's been a good get-away for the Patient, too. I laughed when he packed it, but he has put his waffle iron to use every morning! Now it's time to turn on CNN and see what the democrats have to say for themselves.