Thursday, March 30, 2006

April's column

In what is possibly the fastest turn-around ever, my latest column, What about lunch?, is now available in the April edition of the LowCarbLuxury online magazine.

I had ricotta pie featured in the column for lunch today; it really is the ideal lunch (at least for me). I have a refrigerator full of Italian food just now, since we had cannelloni for dinner last night for DH's birthday. (I didn't make it, we got take-out from Buca di Beppo.) Since the kids won't eat cannelloni, they had pizza. Add in the insalate caprese and cheesecake, not to mention the half-round of bread in there, and you've got a complete feast.

Which means, of course, leftovers for dinner tonight. Yes!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

under the gun, again...

What happened again today?

Got up feeling much better, practically normal.
Took DS2 to school, came home, made the crust for the savory ricotta pie that will be featured in April's column at LCL.

Went to pick up DS2. Came home, finished the pie. Made DS2 lunch. Kicked around on the web for way too long. Ate some of the pie for lunch. (mmmmm) Took a shower -- ah, so nice to be able to stand upright long enough to wash my hair! (I didn't have to double over in pain even once today.)

Went to pick up DS1 at school. Came home, and finally satisfied with the pie, started banging out my column. I am grateful I had done all the nutrition calculations much earlier in the month. Stopped writing to go pick up DD from her dance class. Came home and finished writing the column, then took some photos to send with it to the magazine. Not my best food shots, but good enough to give the idea of the thing.

Made dinner, but didn't get to eat with the family -- just had another quick slice of pie and then out the door with my "thyca buddy", JT, who lives just three miles away. It was nice to have someone to share the ride with. JT laughs easily and we have very similar lives (husbands in the same field and her 2 kids are the same ages as my oldest and youngest) and we have identical senses of humor. In short, she's great, and it was fun driving up with her.

ThyCa meeting was awesome, as usual: Gail is so knowledgeable, and we have a great core group that looks after each other. We got to applaud both guys who were there tonight, because both had recently had clean scans and bloodwork. It will be so nice to be there!

Came home, watched House with DH, and now on the computer... overall, a good busy day.

Tomorrow: DH's birthday, shopping's a must! I must find out if he would like another cheesecake...
Pie for lunch, pie for dinner...

ick, day 2

So today I'm better than yesterday, but not all that much. I relied today on meds to ameliorate the worst symptoms so I could function minimally. We all survived. (In other words, I did breakfasts and lunches, and put together a dinner of leftover steak for them and poached eggs for me. That was hours ago and my stomach is still complaining about it.)

I saw the PA at my doctor's office this morning at 10:45. She was appalled at how bad my post-nasal drip was, and declared I have a raging sinus infection. I'm now on Zithromax and Mucinex. Yesterday's fever hasn't returned, for which I'm grateful.

I really detest being sick like this. For the past few years, since I've been on the major-surgery-every-six-months rotation, I haven't been getting these incidental illnesses. I thought having cancer perversely granted me a "get out of being sick" card.

So much for that idea.

I hope I feel better tomorrow. I can only hang around in sweats so long before I get annoyed at myself. (Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I have given up caring how I look. If you felt the way I do, you, too, would be grateful to be upright without puking...)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

rough week

I'm not exactly sure where this week went. Mostly it was consumed in writing up the catalog for DS2's school's silent auction, and in being worried about friends and family members, and family members of friends, who are going through all kinds of medical misfortunes.

Today, I'm brought low by a bad stomach, and as usual I have no idea what's going on. Did I pick up a bug somewhere? No one else in the house is sick. Is this a side effect of my new arthritis medication? I need to look that up. Is this just a reaction to the persistent post-nasal drip I've been dealing with since the onset of the sinus junk last week? Or maybe it's just because I've been staying up too late and am thoroughly run-down.

I talked to my bro in PA and he's recovering from an ear infection so bad it burst his ear drum. He said that his business started with sinus junk, too, so tomorrow I'm going off to the doctor to make sure it's not an infection.

On the upside, DS1 finished both his book report and his ecosystem diorama; both were due Friday, but involved way too much work to leave them for after school finishing. Neither one of these projects were things he could easily do on his own, so it's a relief to me that he's finished.
New England Coastal Forest

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


That's the verification word I get whenever I try to leave a comment on a Blogger blog this evening.

Very weird. It was working fine earlier. And today, for the first time in about a week, Blogger blogs have been coming up with nearly normal response time. So I'm guessing they fixed one problem and introduced another at the same time.

It's annoying, because there are at least 3 comments I'd like to leave on Blogger blogs, but I can't -- it's not just that you get smenita everywhere you go, it also doesn't work when you type it in!

The price of free software...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

and another thing

I don't like the look of that lump on the right side of my neck. I don't have any measurements to prove it, but I think it is bigger than it was, and it's certainly bigger than when I went to Houston.

So, here are some pictures that will help me keep track of it. My sister asked me what I think it is: Cancer, I said. If it gets noticeably larger I'll send an email to my docs in Houston and see what they think.

it's that time again

How's the scar?
Neck dissection scar at 5 months post-op

For an indication of how far I've come, here is the 5 day post-op photo, and here is the 3 month post-op photo.

I didn't take this latest photo; I cropped it from the series of images I now have on disc from my mole mapping, also known as "total body baseline" series of photographs. The process was painless but bizarre: standing still against the blue background in various poses, in various states of undress, while the kindly impersonal photographer directs you to hold various limbs at various angles. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes, but there's no way to not be acutely self-conscious during the entire process.

The disc has software that lets you zoom in and around, and of course I looked at some of the photos. I have, without exaggeration, a zillion spots/freckles/moles -- in other words, things that I need to keep an eye on, melanoma-wise. I'm glad I had this done, no matter how much I cringe when I see the photo of my backside.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

slow going

I've had junked up sinuses for the past 3 days now, and DH has strep throat. I don't feel like doing anything, but that's not an option -- the catalog for the preschool silent auction is due tomorrow, and my column was due on the 15th (I've notified my editor that it will be late).

I hate being behind, but that isn't enough to get me moving today. I will eventually... the laundry is started, and the kitchen is under control, so I haven't been a total slug. I don't want to be up till all hours tonight (and I want to watch The Sopranos guilt-free), so I suppose I should get to it.

It doesn't help that DH has the NCAA tournament on!

Friday, March 17, 2006

a measure of greatness

This week has been filled with many small moments, and a lot of time spent in the kitchen. So far I've made pancakes, bacon (two different mornings), oatmeal M&M cookies, and blueberry muffins (and coffee, specifically for DD). I mention these only because they are in addition to all the "regular" cooking I've done: the toast, scrambled eggs, tuna sandwiches, pasta, grilled cheese, myriad snacks, roast chicken, salads (and salads and salads) and casseroles.

I spoke with a girlfriend this afternoon, she's having a similar spring break with her two boys. We are both somewhat exhausted but not frazzled, enjoying the break from school and the time with the kids. Neither one of us has done anything extraordinary or exciting. We're just managing the days.

In light of how many difficult days I've had, and knowing that the likelihood of more in the future is mostly certain, it's a great thing, having such a normal life.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

getting busy

"The Plan" is still amorphous, but I did get to some work today.

My blogfriend Louise has launched a new site: wikiCancer, and today I started the thyroid cancer page. It's funny, because while my own plan remains indistinct, the plan for the thyca pages sprang, Athena-like, fully formed from my head.

Don't you just love it when your brain figures out stuff for you without you having to actually think about it?

today's assignment

I'm stuck.

I have no idea what to do with myself. I have ideas of course (teaching, software development, tech writing...) and have been perusing local ads for various jobs that might suit, once the kids are all in school next fall. I keep smacking up against my lack of qualifications on one hand, and my utter resistance to going back to school on the other.

The fact is, I'm fairly certain I'll need another round of surgery in the fall, in spite of my endocrinologist's encouragements. So I have to work around that possibility, which includes an entire month of not being able to drive. That brings me round again, for the umpteenth time, to really working on my writing -- and back to stuck, again.

For most of my life, I've struggled off and on with imposter syndrome. In some bizarre variant of bi-polar disorder, I swing from feeling competent and capable to utterly helpless and hopeless. By any objective measure, I'm doing fine. By my own internal metrics, my accomplishments range from admirable and respect-worthy, to merely OK, to negligible. Let me be clear: on any given day, an accomplishment I was once proud of can be reduced to "nothing special." Twenty-two columns? One day, they're quite good, another, they're lame.

I know it's stupid. I feel paralyzed these days, unable to do anything because of a certainty of failure. Funny how I can't recall ever really failing anything (OK, there was that one test in finance back in '85), especially something I really put my heart into. So why is it that I'm hesitating?

Now is not a good time, I say to myself. (And it really isn't, since all three kids are home on spring break this week, crying out for entertainment or supervision, or at the very least, snacks!) But when will there be a good time? I'm tired of being stuck. Clearly, I need a plan, which brings me back to the inertia again: why make plans when they just get blown out of the water? What's the point?

Well, in this case, if I don't do something, these bad feelings will only get worse. Even if the plan sucks, it will still be better than nothing.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

washed out

After 143 days with no measurable precipitation, the skies opened upon us late Friday night. The rain was unrelenting all day yesterday. The Ostrich Festival was battered, and had to close by 2:30PM because the conditions were so bad. All day yesterday I thought, If it's still raining tomorrow, we won't be going!

This morning, the sky was clear and the air was very cool. An unfamiliar snowcap rests on many of the mountains ringing our valley. All during the day today, I heard people remarking on how weird the mountains look with all that snow on them.

We decided to head out early to the festival, figuring it would be crowded because of the weather yesterday. We knew there would be mud. It was a good day for a fair, at least as far as today's weather. We hadn't counted on the extent of the flooding at the fairgrounds.

We lined up to get in about 11:30, with the gates opening at noon. The kids handled the wait well, especially after all the waiting-on-line practice they had at Disneyland. When we finally got in, the entire kids' ride section was closed, still under inches of water, in spite of the pumps they had going to move out all the water. We saw the main fairway was already churned up, but workers were spreading hay to absorb some of the water and make the walking less treacherous. It helped, but there wasn't enough of it, and we all ended up mud-caked.

We ate lunch, and then went off to explore what rides there were -- the older kids are big enough to go on nearly everything, but DS2 doesn't like fast rides, even the ones he is big enough to ride. As the day went on, we found that they had moved the kids' truck ride over to the main area, and DS2 rode that twice while DH took the older 2 on the bigger rides. I had to carry the little guy everywhere; his shoes are slip-ons, and he would've lost them in the mud for sure. (There's nothing quite like the sucking-pull of mud that has a hold of your shoe -- even though I was wearing my old Reeboks, tied on snug, I felt as if I was about to lose a shoe, more than once.)

At a certain point DS1 had had enough, so I took the boys to watch the Purina Incredible Dog challenge, which was a lot of fun. (We had missed the early ostrich races, and the later ones didn't start till 5PM. One of these years we'll see 'em.) The dogs run an obstacle course, quite challenging. They had several different breeds and even one little mixed breed, Mesa, who had the best runs of the day. Even DS1, who is not at all fond of animals, enjoyed watching the dogs.

By the time we were tired of that, they had opened up several other rides in the kids' area, so DS2 got to ride some of them. DH and DD joined us, and all 3 kids rode some more rides, and ate cotton candy. At that point I was exhausted, and we were all muddy, so we came home. I took off my shoes in the garage, and sent everyone else around the back way to take off socks, shoes, and pants, then DH hosed the mud off everything. Here's hoping the boys' shoes are dry by tomorrow, or they'll be stuck wearing their old (too small) shoes... they're around here somewhere.

I didn't go on any rides, leading me to realize it's stupid for me to get an all-day ride ticket, especially since DS2 is big enough to go on all the kid rides himself. That will save us some money next year! I did get an ostrich burger for lunch, and it was quite good, as were the spun potato and spun apple (both deep fried, the apple dipped in a sweet batter first) that we all shared. The food was ruinously expensive but it always is, so we knew what to expect -- but we still shot down the kids' pleas for takeout, and made do with what we had on hand for dinner.

We made it clear beforehand we weren't going to buy any toys, and we weren't going to play any games. (I am horribly bad at carnival games, and I'd rather not throw my money away. I also won't permit my kids to throw my money away that way, either -- they don't need any more garish stuffed toys even if they did win!) DS2 asked a few times for something, anyway, but I shut that down, and he gave up asking. When he saw a little boy his age with a plastic samurai sword (he's gone through two of them already), I reminded him that he already has 4 (much better) swords at home. (He loves them, too, practicing with them every day.) He gave up, making it nearly a whine-free day.

Miraculous, that.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

winding down

I've been running around on errands all week, in preparation for a number upcoming events. DD is going to her first sleepover tomorrow, and Mom leaves for Boston Sunday morning. Sunday is also our day to go to the Ostrich Festival... and Monday is the first day of the kids' Spring Break.

So: big changes coming, with Mom leaving -- at least we have the buffer week of Spring Break to get me back in the swing of things and used to it just being me & the kids around during the day. Transition time, so I have to be atuned to the kids' moods and make sure that any unusual bumps get smoothed out.

Lots of knitting going on, too. I finished DD's blanket, and another skinny scarf for the silent auction. I'm working on the last silent auction piece now, a black wrap. It's going well, it's just a question of keeping at it.

I'm up to full dosage on the new arthritis medication, but I can't tell if it's doing any good yet. Supposedly I should give this stuff a good 3 months before making that call. It's OK, I can live with things as they are now. Other than that, I'm doing OK, except for some post-op throat weirdness that comes and goes. I am resigned to such weirdnesses now. It's just life.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

all clear

I saw my dermatologist today for the "full body exam," an intensely weird, thankfully brief, experience in which the doctor looks over every inch of my body for suspicious moles. Melanoma is a scary, sneaky bastard, so I have to go for one of these exams every six months. This time, like the last time, there were no trouble spots identified. YAY! (That does not even begin to cover the relief I'm feeling over not having to have more biopsies.)

Yesterday, I got an email from my endo's nurse in Houston, with the news that my thyroglobulin (Tg, the thyroid cancer tumor marker) was once again undetectable. This was good news again, even though it's not as meaningful as it could be, since my suppressed Tg has been quite low even in the presence of substantial amounts of cancer. It's certainly better than having the Tg go up! Now if only it will stay undetectable in the fall, when they test it under Thyrogen stimulation, I can be in remission for real. In the meantime, I'll be keeping an eye on the lumps in my neck, and hoping they'll go away.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

naive, optimistic, or just dense

My RA is acting up. It's not as bad as a true flare, more like it's reminding me of what life was like before I went on the minocycline. Now I vividly recall why I asked the rheumatologist for the drugs in the first place, and I see that it has taken some time for "not working" minocycline to completely leave my system. (I've been off it for over a month.) I'm starting on azulfidine (too lazy to look up the correct spelling now), but that's a ramp-up process and it will take a good three months at full dosage to see whether or not it's helping.

It's funny how easily I forget how bad I feel sometimes. (Actually, I believe this is an effective, involuntary psychological defense mechanism.) Even when I was feeling crummy a few months ago and decided to go off the old meds, I didn't feel this bad. I even started to think that maybe I could go without taking any RA meds at all. HA!

Sometimes my optimism amuses me.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

project(s) at hand

I may not be writing, but I'm keeping my hands busy these days.

A couple of weeks ago, I took my Mom over to Big Lots and we hit the jackpot: bins and bins of specialty yarns for only $1 per skein. Typically, yarns like Lion Brand's Fun Fur or Bernat's Boa sell for $5-6 per skein, although you can sometimes get them on sale for about $3. One dollar per skein was an extraordinary bargain.

I decided on the spot to make some scarves for the preschool's silent auction (handmade things are always good). I got some nice fuzzy, furry brown for DS2 (who was with us that first day), so I could knit him a puppy. While I was pawing through the bins, I saw some beautiful pink/purple variegated yarn that I knew DD would love, so I bought a quantity to make a blanket for her, too. (Technically, it's for Teddy, but it will be big enough to wrap wround her, too.)

Here's the first of the scarves for the silent action, knit from one strand of a light blue eyelash+bobble yarn and one strand of jewel-toned furry yarn. The scarf is 5 feet long and exquisitely soft and warm.

And here's DD's blanket, in process. She can barely contain herself and every morning asks if I'm done yet. I think if I bound it off and handed it to her now, she'd be thrilled -- but I'll persist until it reaches the proper size.

These are all straight garter stitch, no pattern at all. I took a guess at how wide I wanted the scarf (30 stitches) and used that gauge to figure out how many stitches to do for the blanket (75 stitches). I'm using nice big, but not too big, size 11 needles, and the work just flies.

Knitting with these yarns is a bit like knitting in a blizzard, because it can be hard to see the individual stitches. I'm a bit hyper about dropping a stitch because it would be nearly impossible to see. But the upside of this difficult yarn is that the fuzzy/furry business hides a multitude of sins. You can't see anything woven in or the occasional missed thread -- they look great, they feel great, and they cost next to nothing to make. And they're working up so fast! This is the best kind of project for me.