Tuesday, August 29, 2006


The WBS was clean. The ultrasound noted a small node on my left thyroid bed that was not previously present but which favored benign, and should be followed by u/s.

My Thyroglobulin (Tg), with my TSH all the way up to 54 via Thyrogen injections, bumped from 0.4 up to 5.7.

Dr. W is very pleased with these results and is happy with me coming back in a year for follow up. It is true that I still have some cancer cells somewhere, but the likelihood of finding them is very, very small. If the cancer were aggressive, it would be making a much bigger show than this.

So imagine me doing the Snoopy dance... I'm seeing Dr. C, the surgeon, tomorrow morning. Dr. W will defer to Dr. C, if he wants me to come back for follow up sooner, but the bottom line is, right now, I don't need any treatment. I can go home tomorrow as planned.

Cue heavenly choirs: Hallelujah!

WBS, new machine edition

I've just come from my whole body scan (WBS), and all I can say is: wow. This was my first WBS here at M.D. Anderson, all of my others have been in Phoenix; this was a huge improvement.

There's a brand new machine here, so instead of having a narrow plank to lie on, with flimsy velcro straps helping to hold your arms in place, there's a nice, still narrow, but comfortable bed, with two "wings" that they snap into place for your arms to rest in. Awesome. I was actually comfy, and my arms didn't fall asleep, even though I almost did.

Second major improvement: instead of spending 90 minutes in the machine, I was out of there in 45 minutes. Granted, they only took one image of my neck (20 minutes), but the WBS part of the scan only took 25 minutes instead of an hour. That's a huge, huge difference.

My only problems were minor. My toes were cold but that was my own fault, I had brought socks to put on, but I forgot them when I put my bag in the locker. The tech brought me a blanket but it didn't help; I'm used to that, which is why I brought the socks. The other thing, I'm having problems swallowing when upright, so having to lie on my back didn't help that, but I made it through OK.

My thoughts were cycling, weirdly, between two extremes: I hope it's negative and I hope that if there's cancer there it shows up this time!

I'm nervous that my Thyrogen-stimulated Tg numbers won't be back from the lab by this afternoon, and I'm not willing to put all my eggs into the cancer-free basket on the strength of negative u/s and wbs, especially given how much my throat hurts, post-Thyrogen shots.

Seeing Dr. W this afternoon, and will post the news when I have it. In a fit of optimism, I checked the airline's website to see I could possibly get out of here earlier tomorrow, but I'm already booked on the first viable flight after my early appointment tomorrow. I can't wait to get out of here.

Monday, August 28, 2006

two days in limbo

It approaches surreal, being here. I've spent the last two days holed up in my room, except for my excursions for my injections and going to Mass. In a way, it's nice, because I have all my food from home, and good, familiar food is a comfort. In just about every other way, it's miserable.

Oh, the accomodations are fine, but I don't like being alone for such a long stretch.

Saturday I spent reading: DD's new book, The Tail of Emily Windsnap, which was adorable, the classic The Island of the Blue Dolphins, which I had somehow never read before, and then all 562 pages of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, which was brilliant but annoying with its obsession with sex and bodily functions. I had my iPod on all day, practically. It was awesome not having to listen to hotel sounds. Keith Jarrett's 6-disc set Live at the Blue Note, and Paul Crossley's Complete Piano Works of Debussy are perfect music to read by.

Sunday morning, my eyes felt like two coals in my head, so I didn't read anything and spent the day watching the Project Runway marathon on Bravo (DH: "Wow, you must know all the commercials by heart now." Yes, I do, and wish fervently that I did not.)

Both nights I stayed up late but when you don't have anything to do, you can nap in the afternoon, so I'm not concerned about it. I'm not driving, I'm not looking after anyone, so if I want to nap, I can.

The Thyrogen shots have made my already lumpy-feeling throat feel even more lumpy. The second shot made it feel even more lumpy and constricted than the first shot. Of course, this is freaking me out, but I'm trying to keep a lid on that. There's no point in panicking even if there is something bad going on in there. We'll just have to wait and see.

I'm going for my ultrasound in about another hour, but when I'll actually have it is a very fluid concept. Time, this visit, has been restored to the state of fungibility it had on my first visit here: one hour waits to be called, 45 minutes back in the exam room, another indeterminate length of time for the drugs or whatever to be brought up. It's kind of insane, and the major reason I wasn't concerned that I was 15 minutes late for my appointment this morning. As it was, I didn't get the RAI until nearly 11AM, two hours after my scheduled appointment time.

For the first time, I had liquid RAI. It tastes like water. The tech unscrewed the lid of the tiny vial, and stuck a bendy straw in it for me to drink, and then added water to make sure I got it all. It was easy. Since this is I-123, with very short wave lengths, and since it was such a tiny dose, only 5mci, I'm OK to sit here in the Internet room and type away.

While leaving Nuclear Medicine, I met another woman and her husband, she's having her scan tomorrow, too. We talked. It was nice to talk to someone who is going through what I have gone through, and more -- she has had external beam radiation and three surgeries, but she still looked fantastic. Coincidental or not, we have exactly the same doctors, so I expect I'll be running into her tomorrow again. It was very nice to have someone to talk to.

Off to get some lunch, now, and this afternoon is the ultrasound. I do not want to go, but I have to know what's happening, and so I will.

Last week I stood in the kitchen and said, I don't want to go.

And DD, all of seven, replied, You gotta do what you gotta do, Mom.


Later: The ultrasound went very well; the radiologist didn't see anything to warrant doing a biopsy. It was probably the fastest u/s I've ever had: click, click, click, the tech was like a sports photographer, racking up dozens of images in what felt like about 5 minutes. She asked me if there was a reason I would scarring along the upper right part of my neck, and I had to tell her about the right neck dissection, which I thought was odd -- she should have known about that, right? It's in my records. Well, I've said it before and I'll say it again: any day they decide not to stick needles in your neck is a good day. I'm hopeful.

Friday, August 25, 2006

and it only took 7 hours

I'm in Houston.

Packing was a trip, since I brought food, a lot of food. I put fragile, squishy things into boxes and then packed the boxes into one of the big cooler bags I use for groceries, which fit nicely in the suitcase. The only thing that leaked were the bottles of oil and vinegar I packed, but even those didn't make too much of a mess since I presciently put them into a ziploc bag. (I would've been insane not to.)

Everything survived the trip, even the no-salt tortilla chips. I expected them to be crumbs by now, but a remarkable number appear to have survived intact. When I open the bag they will all crumble to dust, I'm sure, a side-effect of being de-pressurized in the luggage hold. We'll see.

I can not adequately express how much I do not want to be here. But I'm here, so let's get this over with, right? Tomorrow I get my first injection. Whee!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

the problem with YouTube

It's not just YouTube. It's podcasts, and vidcasts, or videopodcasts or whatever they're called. A lot popular bloggers are podcasting and vidcasting now, and it seems you can't help but come across a half-dozen YouTube embeds during any web crawl. Perhaps I am a dinosaur, but these latest web fads fail to captivate me.

Dean Esmay of Dean's World posted Resolved: Dean Puts Up Far Too Many YouTube Clips.

He does indeed put up a lot, but I'm not complaining about that. Dean's into good music and likes to spread the word. YouTube's great for that. Here's my response to Dean:
I'm fine with scrolling past them, but I wouldn't miss them if they were gone.

I like reading, it's quick, and there are often fun links to follow. YouTube, podcasts, and all that jazz forces me to sit and watch/listen at the speed of the recording, and there aren't any embedded links -- it is what it is. My favorite thing about the 'net is that it handily gets around the limitations of traditional print media without losing its strengths: win-win, now that we've got big, high-resolution monitors. Audio and video are stuck in the past, and from what I can tell, always will be.
The first issue is that these methods try to impose a use of my time. I find myself closing most videos after a few seconds. I get the idea, I don't need to see all 3 minutes of it, I figure -- so at least I do have some control. But I can't affect how less information-dense video and audio is than text with links can be. I don't see how you can get around that limitation with current technology, although the Hot Air site does a decent job of including links alongside the video player. Another minor consideration: you can't leave comments on a podcast or a vidcast, although you can often comment on the blogpost giving you the link. But those conversations rarely develop into much of anything -- which makes sense, given the thin nature of the source material.

But there is a major consideration I forgot to mention in my comment to Dean: unless you're wearing headphones connected to your computer, there will be audible sound. Clicking on a text link can be risky, but nothing like clicking on an audio link. You don't know what volume the audio will stream at, and you can't be sure of the content, either. It's akin to taking an XM radio, randomly turning both the tuner and volume dials, and then turning it on. You could get vitriol pouring out at top volume, or a nicely modulated symphony. Or you could get a really loud symphony.

That's fine if you work alone, but in an office environment, or if there are kids around, it's a no-go, especially if you can't be sure of the content of the clip you'd like to play. Daily I find myself teased by YouTube clips and podcast links waiting to be clicked, but I have to pass because the kids are two feet away. And no, I'm not going to put on headphones to listen to a 2-minute clip, at least I haven't so far. No one has been able to sell their audio/video persuasively enough to get me to do that (yet).

I've tried listening to a few podcasts, but I can't do it at the computer -- sitting here, listening, feels silly. No one has inspired me enough to get into the habit of downloading their podcasts to listen to on my iPod when I'm away from the computer.

When I'm away from the computer, I want to be away from the computer.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

on top of things

This is my third round of LID, and I've had more whole body scans than I remember (I'm not sure if that's suppression or repression at work there.) I feel pretty comfortable about this process, but I'm still checking in over at the Yahoo! Thyca support group to get myself back in the zone, if you will.

It's a good thing, too, because just now I came across something, as Monty Python would say, completely different. There was a message today asking about eating lemons before a whole body scan (WBS).

Now, I've heard of using lemons to clear the salivaries after RAI treatment, but not in conjunction with an RAI scan.

Noted thyroid cancer expert Dr. Kenneth Ain posted his advice, which is basically as follows:

1. One hour before the scan, peel and eat a large lemon as you would eat an orange.
2. Every 10-15 minutes after finishing the lemon, up until the time of the scan, use water to swish around in your mouth, and swallow the water.

The purpose of this procedure is to remove residual RAI from the salivary glands, and to help remove any radioactive saliva from the lining of esophagus. Radioactive saliva can be mistaken for persistent or metastatic cancer; with this protocol, the odds of that happening are reduced.

I've printed it off to bring to Houston and show my doctors there, and I'll be sure to find a lemon somewhere before my scan next Tuesday.

what to eat on LID*


Seriously, you have to cook larger amounts than you normally would, just so you don't spend all day, every day, cooking. Or obsessing about cooking. It helps enormously to have, say, cold sliced pork in the refrigerator that you can easily reheat for breakfast.

I may have scandalized a few readers with that thought, but the rule around here is There are two things you can't have for breakfast: lunch and dinner. If it's food, it's fair game. I need protein in the morning, or else I'm useless for much of the day, and since whole eggs, butter, cheese, yogurt, and cream are right out, I'm content to have a slice of last night's dinner along with some fruit.

I have become an LID minimalist. My first two rounds, I had the energy and enthusiasm to make things like apple pancakes for breakfast, and to bake breads of both the yeast and quick varieties. This time around, I'm happy with roasted meats, my daily salad (minus the olives and roasted peppers, alas), and fruit. A lot of fruit.

If I want something crunchy I have my Trader Joe's no-salt-added tortilla chips, which approach divine. A handful of pecans is nice, too. In fact, a handful of pecans and a handful of dried apricots are my preferred "LID lunch to go", being easy to pack, easy to carry, nutritionally dense and thus satisfying.

I've had some disappointments this time around, too. The chicken I get at Sam's Club now has added sea salt, so that's right out; I ended up getting some Foster Farms at Henry's. The pork I usually buy may or may not be OK, but I don't know because I get the whole loin and then cut it up into individual roasts and then freeze it -- so instead of chancing it, I just bought some pork tenderloins that were awesome. And last night we had some grassfed sirloin (from Henry's) that was quite tasty,and there's quite a bit left in the fridge, too.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment was finding out that my favorite cafe, Flancer's, does use iodized salt in its bread. Whether or not they were doing it last time I was on LID, I don't know. There's no point in lamenting the fact that I may have screwed up my scan, because even though the scan was negative, my Tg was elevated, and so they nuked me anyway. And I had terrific uptake after the RAI treatment, I remember Dr. S commenting that he was surprised by how much uptake there was. So the past is past and I'm not concerned about it, I'm just bummed that if I want bread, I'll have to make it myself. (My problem is that I want really good bread, and that requires a significant time investment. It's easier to just skip bread altogether.)

But I haven't been completely lazy. Monday I pushed through my fatigue and made tomato sauce and Italian sausage. The linked recipes were my inspirations, but here's what I actually did:

LID Tomato Sauce
The recipe linked above is a little too plain for my family's taste, and it uses butter which is an LID no-no. This recipe adds a bit more depth of flavor using tomato paste (Contadina brand contains only tomatoes, no salt), and adding dried herbs. I pretty much always have these things on hand. I'm not sure how "authentic" it is, but everyone liked it very much.

1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
6 baby carrots, chopped
1/2 small zuchini, chopped (I didn't have any celery)
salt and pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
2 dried bay leaves
1 can Contadina tomato paste
2 cans Trader Joe's no-salt-added tomatoes
1-2 tsp sugar

Heat oil over medium-low heat in large pot, and add the onions and garlic. Saute the vegetables until they are soft and the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots and zuchini, and saute for about another 10 minutes until they are softened, too. Add salt (about 1/4 teaspoon, you can always add more), fresh ground black pepper, basil, oregano, and tomato paste. Mash up the paste into the vegetables and stir well to combine. Cook for a few minutes so that the paste comes up to temperature, then add the canned tomatoes and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally so the sauce doesn't stick to the bottom. Lower the heat and allow to simmer for at least an hour.

Stir, and taste. If the sauce tastes bitter or acidic, stir in a teaspoon of sugar, then taste again. Add the second teaspoon if the sauce needs it.

Remove from the heat and let cool so you can safely handle it. Discard the bay leaves. For a smoother sauce, puree in small batches using a blender (I did) or food processor, then return to the pot to keep warm for dinner.

LID Italian Sausage
I didn't have the ground anise that Emeril's recipe called for on hand, but no one complained about it's absence. This went together in a snap and tasted very good, even though I didn't have time to let it sit so the flavors could mingle properly. Ideally, you would mix this up the night before you want to eat it, but it's good even if you cook it right away.

1 pound ground pork -- be sure no salt has been added!
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1+1/2 tsp paprika (the sweet kind)
3/4 tsp toasted fennel seeds
1/2 tsp salt
several turns of fresh ground black pepper (about 1/4 - 1/2 tsp worth)
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
1 scant T dried parsley, or 3/4 T fresh Italian parsley, minced
1 T red wine

If you are using dried parsley, put 1 T of water and the parsley in a small bowl and microwave for about 10-15 seconds. This will help rehydrate the parsley so it's not crunchy in the sausage if you are cooking it right away.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, being careful to sprinkle the spices over as much meat as possible so they don't clump up. (I got a mouthful of cayenne! Yikes!) Cover and refrigerate until you're ready to cook; overnight is desireable, up to 24 hours is OK, but if you have to cook right away, you should be OK.

You should taste a small amount before cooking up the whole mess, so take about a tablespoon or so of the mixture and press it into a flat patty, and then fry it quickly. In a non-stick pan, it doesn't need anything at all. Let the little patty cool and taste it, then add more salt/pepper/cayenne according to your taste.

Form the meat into little patties (I got eight out of a pound of ground pork), then fry for about 6-8 minutes on each side, making sure they are thoroughly cooked.

Barilla pasta's only ingredients are semolina, durum flour, and vitamins, so it's LID-friendly as well, and makes an excellent accompaniment to the sauce and the sausage.

(*) LID= low iodine diet

Saturday, August 19, 2006

pretty things

On the way home from Mass this evening, DH asked me if the diet was making me crazy yet. I was happy that he even had to ask. No, the diet (low iodine diet, or LID) isn't making me crazy, but I still have just about no patience these days. It's a combination of three things: 1) the pending trip to Houston and the inherent (possible) horrors it will provoke 2) being on the diet and having to be much more mindful of what I eat than I usually am and 3) this persistent sinus infection that is making me feel like crap. I started on Levaquin yesterday, let's hope it knocks the infection out soon.

Anyway, one thing I did last week was put out all the pretty things I bought back East. Each one of them gives me a feeling of "home" even though home is definitely in AZ and not MA anymore -- "home" will always be near the beach. So:

These are my North Country Wind Bells, aka buoy bells. They are heavy, and not at all wind-chime-y sounding. One day last week, DS1 lay outside on the grass just listening to the bells: They sound so peaceful, he said. And they do, making me think of waves crashing and fog rolling in, but the sound of the buoy bells telling anyone out there exactly where they are.

This is my beach-in-a-bowl. There's sand from our favorite beach, and real sea shells, and glass sea shells, and my beautiful starfish from Pairpoint Glass Works. The bowl was an absolutely steal at IKEA.

I have new artwork, too. This one is tiny, and I'm not sure where it's permanent home will be. This scene is so far from the reality of life in the SouthWest, the type of thing I looked out my windows and saw during the winter months of the first 30 years of my life. It fills a hole I didn't know existed until I saw this tiny print (yes, it's really a notecard) at the gift shop at Old Newgate Prison.

This one isn't new at all. My mother bought it years ago from the Collector's Guild; it hung in my bedroom. And now it's hanging in my bedroom again. I've always loved the colors and the composition, with its dreamy river and ethereal trees. I don't know how to describe the technique other than to say that some of the foliage looks like it was stamped or printed from some intricate lace. I tried to find some information online about the artist (Rivera), but couldn't find anything... but it doesn't matter. I love this work for both nostalgic and contemporary reasons.

Last but certainly not least, my birthday present from my sister J. It's a gorgeous cultured pearl necklace with peridot chips.

It's so unlike anything else I own, but it's perfect. I wanted earrings to go with it, but no dice at Ice, where she had ordered it from... so I had my friend Lisa Maynard restring the necklace for me, harvesting the last two pearls and using them to make earrings. Here's the ensemble:
I promised J I'd take a picture of me wearing it, so she can see how absolutely smashing it is (scar? what scar?). She says peridots are for luck, and I must wear it to Houston. I will.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


I'm not exactly depressed, I just don't feel like doing anything. I'm simultaneously free and constrained -- a few hours here or there, then obligations that must be met. It's weird and I'm not used to it, and being on the LID is making me grumpy even though I don't feel at all hungry or deprived. I do get frustrated trying to figure out what to make for dinner, but even that is not the end of the world. I just need to get a grip.

Small things are sending me over the edge these days. For example, the pick-up routine at school has been most likely irreversibly screwed over, and it looks like I'm going to have to come up with something clever to avoid having to spend 40 minutes getting the kids every day. We'll see.

Yesterday vanished with very little accomplished, although I did catch up with two girlfriends (there went the day.) Today I took DH's car in for an oil change and brake inspection and there went two hours, and now I'm whiling away the time before I have to go pick up DS1 for his orthodontist appointment.

I don't like this purposelessness. I have to figure out something to do with myself!

Unfortunately my persistent sinus infection is getting in the way of me doing anything productive. I've accomplished a bit by puttering, but really, I know I can do more and it bothers me that I'm not. DH's advice: Get yourself a good book! In other words: relax! quit stressing yourself out!

How I love that man.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

no worries

A major component of the shift I was just talking about is that DS2 is now in kindergarden. All day, because the school no longer offers half-day kindergarden, and because he was ready for it, and because there was no way I was sending him to a different school than his brother and sister.

The idea of my baby (how he would protest if he heard me call him that!) away at school all day has tormented me. Yes, he has been at school before and never had trouble -- but those were 3-hour school days. Yes, he has been away from me for more than 3 hours, but then he always had his brother and sister with him.

That first day of school was quite literally the longest time he had ever spent away from his family, since the day he was born.

His most particular, and to me potentially problematic, quirk is his unwillingness to deal with large numbers of people, where "large" means any number greater than 6. His typical response depends on the constraints of the situation. If he can withdraw, either to a quiet corner or from the room completely, that's always his first option. If he's forced to stay, he almost always crawls into my lap. If that's not an option, he creates his own private play zone with his always-in-the-pocket Legos. His first instinct is to disengage, so I wondered how it would go for him in a classroom full of 28 kids when disengagement is not possible.

So far, it has been fine. I didn't talk to him at all about his shyness, but I did mention it briefly to his teacher. On the very first morning, when all the kids were quite wide-eyed with that deer-in-the-headlights expression of terror, I gave him this one reassurance:See, this is your table, your team. You don't have to know everyone all at once, you can get to know your team first. He relaxed immediately, if not completely -- it's much easier to deal with a team of 5 or 6 than an entire class. I know also that if I were there, his reaction to it all would be very different. He's quite a competent little boy when he knows he has to be, when it is expected of him.

I like this age, this milestone. DS2 talks to me about his day, remembering different things at different times. I heard about things like his "excellent lunch" and "running around like lunatics" at PE. This is the time when I finally get to uncover more of his personality, just in the way he presents things to me, and what things he chooses to report. I have to relinquish the idea of knowing where he has been and what he has been doing all day; I'll never have that knowledge again, and I don't need it. He tells me what I need to know, and we discover his abilities together. It's funny that I've had him at home with me for more than five years, but I finally feel like I'm getting to know him now.

Now, there's more to know.

shifting gears

First, a visual cliche:

The cherries have been abundant and delicious this summer. It feels like I've never bought them before, and perhaps I haven't. Before this year, no one but me would've eaten them, I think. The kids are growing up and growing into more tastes and experiences. It's quite a trip.

Last week was the second major life-shift in as many weeks: the First Day of School.

They started Thursday, having to become accustomed once again, or for the first time, to early mornings, dress codes, lunch boxes and all that. For the children, it's a shift up, but for me, it's not-quite-the opposite. From 8AM till 3PM I'm in parent-neutral, and then from 3 till bedtime, I'm on again.

I've been keeping busy with the tasks I've ignored for too long: cleaning out the garage, hauling out-grown clothing and toys off to the donation center, that sort of thing. Plus the usual housecleaning and grocery shopping and laundry, which could keep me busy all the time, but I push back against that idea. (No one cares if the tops of the bookcases are dusty, least of all me. The dust remains.)

DH and I had lunch together on Friday, kind of a mini-date, not even an hour stolen in the middle of his workday. He has to go out to eat anyway! When we were dating, a million years and three lives ago, we went out to lunch every Friday unless something dire prevented it. It's lovely for us to have this time again, and I'm really looking forward to establishing the practice, even if he just comes home to eat lunch with me here.

This week, we'll have five consecutive days of school, and it will be a challenge for all of us. Homework starts this week, and extra-curricular activities will be starting up soon. There is more than enough to keep me busy around the house, but my faith in my discipline wavers. I think, I'd like to get a job, but I have to wait until I get back from Houston.

There it is, again: I'm between gears, stuck in neutral. It's only for two more weeks, and then I can figure out something. In the meantime, I'll try to keep busy during the days and keep up with the kids in the afternoons. It's so odd to go from being around them all the time, every day, to having them gone for the better part of the day. They spend more time at school than they do at home in the evening, before bed: 7 hours there, 8:15A to 3:15P, but then it's 8:30P bedtime. No wonder the days seem infinite without them around.

I dislike quite intensely this feeling of having to stand still while my kids are zooming off into the future.

August's column

Things have been in a state of mild upheaval, so I forgot to post about August's Low Carb Luxury online magazine column.

This month, it's Green and Crunchy Kung Pao Chicken, featuring lots of ginger, garlic,and red pepper flakes, and a bunch of delicious veggies.

It's polling as one of my more popular recipes, with four approving e-mails so far. It's not hard at all, but it can be a time consuming with all the chopping and other prep work. It's totally worth it, though. DH started lobbying me to make it for us, soon, when I mentioned my fan mail.

It will have to wait a few weeks, though. The low iodine diet (LID) starts Monday, and that means no soy sauce, among alot of other things.

in print

My tip has been published in the September/October issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine.

"A Cut Above"

It took me an inordinate amount of time to compose the email I sent to these guys, but obviously, it paid off. Here's my original, which isn't all that different from what they printed:

Have you ever tried to slice a sandwich in half, and have all the inside ingredients squeeze out the sides? There’s an easy way to slice your sandwiches, keeping the fillings neatly inside. Simply cut the top piece of bread into halves (or quarters) before placing it on top of the assembled sandwich. Then you can gently hold onto the top pieces, and use the existing cuts to guide your knife to cut through the fillings and the bottom.

This tip works for everything from peanut butter and jelly to “Dagwoods”, and is especially useful in slicing sandwiches made from hard-crusted breads. Using a serrated knife helps, too.

Friday, August 11, 2006

the impervious unconscious

Whenever some aspect of my life spins out of control, you can bet that one particular person will show up in my dreams.

It only makes sense, really: the first time I needed to retake control of my own life, he was there and gave me the guts to do it. He believed I could, and eventually his faith in me bore fruit. And so, here I am.

I know why I'm having tortured dreams these days. The upcoming trip to Houston and all the tests. The lump I can see in the side of my neck, and the trouble I'm having swallowing. I'm justifiably nervous -- OK, not-so-justifiably petrified -- that I'll need more surgery. On the bad days, I think I've got brain metastases, or that I'll need beam radiation, or something truly horrid. (It's kind of funny how "neck dissection surgery" doesn't even rate "truly horrid" on my terror scale anymore; since I've been through it already, it's a known quantity, and that helps a lot.)

Still, knowing why I'm having these dreams doesn't mean I appreciate this guy, who will always own a piece of my heart just as I will always own a piece of his, however small, showing up in my dreams and putting questions to me that he would never ask in Real Life. But in the dreams, we're back where we were 15 years ago, only we're not.

It's confusing. Dreams are, right? But it pisses me off that the dream-me will be on the brink of making an obviously bad decision -- changing her mind after being firmly set against that wrong choice -- and that's when I wake up.

What I really want is to reset my unconscious so that I dream something else when I'm feeling out of control. Why does it always have to be the same thing?

At least I have the benefit of recognizing it for what it is, now.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Here's what it looks like:

So, what does it feel like? Remarkably, and unsurprisingly, exactly like 42. You'll have to excuse the beach hair in the photo, which I didn't crop even though I'm not thrilled with that particular view of my thighs. But it's me, so there it is.

Notice how you can't even see the scar in that photo (even if you click to see the larger version)? That's so cool. Of course it's still there, but I think I'm the only one who ever sees it anymore. No one else gives it a moment's notice.

On to specifics: the marble in my the side of my neck subsided a few days after I posted about it, so there's clearly a reactive node there, regardless of whatever else is in there. But my neck has really been bothering me a lot lately, and whether it's because there are new nerves growing back in or something else going on, I have no idea. I'll find out soon enough, I think.

I had a reprieve from my RA for most of my vacation. At least, I think of it that way. I took one Aleve most nights because of all the various things I was sleeping on then, not one of them could be called comfortable, and the Aleve helped me to wake up in the morning without that familiar hit-by-truck feeling. A few days before we left, when the really killer humidity moved in, my RA started to flare a bit, even with the Aleve. I stopped taking it when I got home, and I'm having issues that I'd peg as 3-4 on the pain scale.

The main problem is my sciatica is back in a big way, and I'm not having any luck putting my hips back into alignment the way I used to be able to. I'm having nerve issues all down my left leg, and my toes are numb a good part of the day. It's annoying.

Sometimes, the toes on my right foot get numb, too, which makes me think that maybe there are some calcium issues going on... just another thing to get checked out in in Houston in a few weeks.

My digestion calmed down remarkably over vacation. I didn't have any acid problems at all (even with drinking Manhattans nearly every weekend!), and everything just seemed to be working OK. Since coming home it seems out of whack, again, but I was thinking that the NSAID in the Aleve was probably helping (ironically) my gut, too. So I might go back on it...

... even though Aleve whacks out my blood sugar and gives me a huge appetite and I'll end up gaining weight, which I don't want to do. I did put on a few pounds, I think, over vacation, but after a few days home again I'm back to where I was when I left.

My salivary glands are unhappy right now, lots of tingling and general ick. I feel obstructions in my throat high up near the lump and down near my scar.

But I have energy, and I've managed to get everything I needed to get done, done: tonight was "meet your teacher" and I had all the supplies ready (only missed one item out of a jillion, so that's OK), and made the pizza and cheesecake and had everything ready for a nice dinner when we finally got home. The teachers are all nice, but it sure is odd to think of having all three kids in school all day long!

Friends and family called to wish me a happy day, and I miss everyone even while I'm glad to be home. There's still so much to do, but fortunately plenty of time to do it in, I think.

Another year. I do wish I could make Time Stand Still:

freeze this moment a little bit longer
make each sensation a little bit stronger
experience slips away...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

we're all all right

The blur continues.

The trip home was uneventful except for the mistakes we made regarding our expectations of the T. F. Green Airport experience, which I am embarassed to admit are the same mistakes we made last year, namely: 1) it's nigh impossible to find a gas station if you get off the highway at any exit before the exit for the airport itself and 2) the food offered once you've passed through security is limited in selection and extremely pricey. Next year, we'll remember where the close gas station is, and we'll pack a lunch.

Today was a whirl of activity, mostly because I discovered that I had not registered DS2 for kindergarden. I'd just signed him up in what was essentially a wishlist, not realizing that I had to formalize the process by completing a huge stack of paperwork. Or maybe I did the paperwork and then I lost it, or the school lost it, or something ate it -- but the school did not have it, and so did not assign him to a teacher.

Panic ensued, more or less.

But I got the packet today and completed it, and the enrollment director (God bless her, she was so kind to me), told me there had been a cancellation so DS2 is in. Yay!

DS1 had two doctor's appointments today, one with the ENT for a follow-up on his surgery, and one at the orthodontist for impressions for his retainer. He did very well at both. In between, we hit the Post Office (picked up all our held mail), Target (school clothes), Sam's Club, and Trader Joe's. It took me about a half-hour just to put away all the groceries... and three times as long, I think, to sort through all the mail and open the envelopes and then file it.

Laundry awaits, still. We did most of the unpacking on Wednesday, but my clean clothes are still in my suitcase, and my vanity/sink area is a disaster. I'll get to it eventually.

Tomorrow: shopping for school supplies (the list is quite scary), a trip to Borders, and "meet your teachers" in the evening. Pizza for dinner, with cheesecake for dessert.

Odd? Maybe, but when you make your own birthday cake, you get to choose what you want. I choose to load up on seafood (look for anchovies on that pizza) and dairy for the next week or so, because after that it's the LID again. That diet seems expressly designed to torment me, as I love everything from the sea, and often live on eggs, cheese, and yogurt in various forms. I'm sorely tempted to try making coconut milk yogurt this time.

The kids seem unaffected by jet lag, except for waking up at ungodly early hours. My internal clock is completely fried, apparently, since I'm exhausted from the moment I wake up until, say, now, when I could easily pitch forward and sleep on the keyboard. But I won't. I'll go take the cheesecake out of the oven, and then take myself to bed.