Tuesday, November 27, 2012


So I've applied for a job at a school that values its teachers very highly. 

I wonder what it would be like to work in a place like that?  I applied not sure if I would be OK with accepting an offer.  Of course I don't have an offer, but what would I do?  It depends.

To help me fill in the ledger, I looked back over the blog at what I've written about my school.  Brief flickering moments of joy shine among long, frustrating slogs.  That's the impression I have of the last two and a half years, interspersed with some true disasters -- the 2nd science fair that the students just didn't do, dealing with students who are not normally socialized, etc.

And I still feel like a square peg in a round hole, even more so when I look at the grades my students are earning in other classes, and I click through to see their assignments in the other classrooms.  I see that I have three times as many assignments/assessments - usually 3 or 4 a week.  How else can I hold them accountable?

The bottom line is the majority of my students don't care whether or not they pass science, because they can fail science and still get promoted at my school.  This policy is sub-optimal, as institutional support is lacking from the get-go, but I'll still go through the motions of printing out missing assignment reports and calling parents and all that.  But every time I do those things, I keep thinking, why am I bothering with this? No one cares about this except me.

This week, balancing chemical equations to a crop of eighth graders who can barely do fractions.  It's going to be interesting.

Oh: Thanksgiving was awesome.  I have photos and will get them up eventually.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I want to say something about today

I started the day running late because I couldn't decide what to wear because that new teal shirt I just bought has a grease stain on it already.  And it's cool, cold almost, in the mornings, but hitting 80 by mid-afternoon and that means dressing in layers and figuring what I have to layer that won't leave me either too hot or too cold seemed impossible this morning.

I ended up going into work in a perfectly serviceable outfit that I did not like one bit, and that set the tone for the day.

It should have been my easy day, since I only teach 3 (long) classes today, but it wasn't.

Without getting into anything specific, let me just say this: if a student makes comments about my personal appearance ("Mrs H has a nice butt") and constantly invades my personal space and touches me even though I have repeatedly made it clear that behavior is unacceptable, the person that needs to change is the student, not me, regardless of the excuses her older sister and her mother make.  That exchange was the coup de grace.

I'm seeing way, way too much "I reject your reality and I substitute my own" behavior.  There is only one reality and we all have to live in it.

Or maybe we don't, but I don't want to live in the world some of these people are inhabiting.

Monday, November 12, 2012

home alone in "winter"

My kids have school today, and I do not.   It's weird to be home by myself, and even weirder to think that just a few years ago, this was my default existence.   I'm thrilled to have this extra time to catch up on grading and planning -- the last two weeks we've had things scheduled nearly every evening after school, which makes it hard to keep up with everything else.

Not-summer is in full swing, arriving as it usually does: one day, it's just not hot any more.  It would be nice to slide gently into cooler temperatures, but we routinely go from the mid-90s to the mid-60s in three days or less.  I'm scrounging around in my closet looking for shoes after wearing sandals every day for the past 8 months.  Presently I'm in a sweatshirt and slippers and feeling chilled.  It's only 72 degrees in here and I'm used to it being 80.

It's hard to convey a "laughing at myself" tone of voice in print -- but I am.  I don't miss Massachusetts winters one bit, as even in this 72 degrees my hands are feeling stiff.  For me, cold = pain, and I am very grateful that this is, more or less, as "cold" as it will get.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

digging out

All apologies to East Coasters who are literally digging out in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  I'm just digging out from the pile of grading that I managed to stack up, somehow, but am finally clear of, just now.  That was a long slog, but instructive.  It doesn't matter what odd things are popping up on the school schedule (high school AIMS tests, for example), I should still keep up on my grades because they seem to multiply if I leave them out of the gradebook for any length of time.

Recent days feel like a long series of unsteady stumbles from one minor crisis to another.  DS2 is reprising his annual "I don't feel like doing my schoolwork" routine, precipitating extra work for DH (checking math homework) and me (checking the signed agenda and other completed homework).   DS1 is doing congressional debate and impromptu speaking, and, as usual, puts in just enough effort to be fair-to-middling or sometimes even pretty good, but doesn't push for excellence. 

My own students require a "means business" teacher and I am too much of a squish to do that most of the time.  One of my biggest problems, I just realized today (stupidly, some 13 weeks into the school year) is that on Wednesdays and Thursdays I need to eat!  The other days I get my prep hour around 10 so that's when I have my breakfast.  On block days, I don't have the same schedule, so I end up starving and cranky.  Not good. 

Healthwise I'm doing well on my weight (steady around 137 if I don't drink alcohol too often), reflux, and arthritis.   I have enjoyed the occasional Starbucks tall decaf skinny mocha without getting sick afterwards, so that's progress.  I'd love to be able to drink coffee regularly, but I think it's the dairy that's getting to me, and I love my half-n-half possibly more than the coffee.  I've been having Trader Joe's peanut butter filled pretzel nuggets for breakfast, and that amount wheat doesn't seem to be triggering any horrible reactions.  Admittedly some nights my entire body is throbbing with pain, and I'm not exactly sure why, but at least I'm still sleeping well and generally feel fine when I wake up in the morning.  My hands are bothering me slighly these last few days.  I'll just have to keep an eye on things as the weather cools down.

Crazy weekend ahead - debate tournament and DD's birthday party.  We survived Halloween with a minimum of fuss (other than me haranguing DS2 about blowing off more schoolwork...), but that's just an illusion.  We're in the crazy time now, and there will be events every week between now and Easter -- or at least it's going to seem that way.

Friday, October 12, 2012

slipping away

One more day of fall break left.  Where did it go?  What did we do? Nothing major.  Lots of little things... I have this sense of being "nibbled to death by ducks."  Not that it's been bad, it hasn't been.  It just hasn't been much of anything.  (I should make a list of all those little things so I won't feel so discouraged.)

...and I still have all my papers to sort for filing, and my lesson planning to do, and I need to get back into my classroom before Monday so that Monday isn't terrible.

I hate presidential election years.  Politics shrouds everything and distracts me and makes me anxious, even though I can't do a thing about it.  There's a fine line between interested/engaged and obsessed, and I'm working it.

That other thing, so obscurely referenced in the last post? Yeah, I got over it. It's true that some problems really will go away if you let them.  I wish more people realized that -- it's not denial, or giving up, or anything negative.  It's an active decision to let something go, and then following through on that decision.  We define ourselves as much by the things we choose not to do as by the things we choose to do.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I'll get over it

Periodically -- not often -- I have a conversation with someone I know, and that person says something that makes me reevaluate the entire relationship.  Our perspectives are drastically out of alignment.

It's very weird to find out, sometimes after many years, that what I thought was so, isn't.

I think about asking for clarification.  Did the person really mean that?  But I've found in the past when I dredge up stuff like this, the person usually doesn't even remember saying it.  A sentence that has been reverberating in my brain for days, that I keep trying to parse, to assign some meaning to that doesn't re-write the relationship -- it was just something to say, something tossed off in the course of the conversation.  So I don't think there's much point in bringing it up.

Then I step back again, and think, does it really matter what was said?  Does it really change the relationship?  Can't I look at our shared history and see what actually is, and not get all over-analytical with it?  Actions speak, but if the motivation is opaque, what then? Does it really matter why people do what they do, or does it only matter that they do it?

I know it's pointless, but I keep worrying this like a loose  tooth.  Whenever I have nothing else to keep me busy, my thoughts go back to it, fruitlessly.  I'll get over it.  As far as the rest of the world is concerned, everything is OK, even if I'm not feeling that way.  Eventually, I will.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

in that groove

It seems every week when I speak to my Mom, there's really nothing new to talk about.  Nothing major, anyway -- we are in the groove.  Sure, RE started last week for me (looks like 21 students, too soon to tell what the personality of the class will be), and the kids had a recital yesterday (they acquitted themselves well, but not well enough by some lights), but other than that? We're well into the school year routine, that groove that could so easily become a grind.

Work is killing me this year.  I keep thinking (and saying, to different people), this is my third year teaching the same curriculum with the same materials, but I'm working twice as hard.  Part of that has to do with de-facto managing the math teacher who is covering one of the 8th grade science sections, but a bigger part of it has to do with our new schedule.  We are supposed to identify students for intervention (academic, behaviorial, whatever) so they can get the time/help they need to make up their work or understand concepts, or whatever.  Exactly how or what we are supposed to do to identify these students was never explained, so I've worked out a system where I review grades every weekend, print out missing assignment reports, and get those to the students each week.  However, that's not enough -- students that fail an assignment or quiz are required to re-take it.  How?  When? I've spent countless hours setting up online make-up for the nearly half of my students who need them... but a bare fraction has completed the online work.

I believe the system could work, but the staff was given no training whatsoever on what we have to do to support it.

Add to that our new requirements in our daily lessons (language and content objects posted, explicit vocab instruction, Common Core standards...) most of which I was doing anyway, but now I have to document -- yeah, that's not a groove I'm in, it's a grind.  

In happier news, continuing the diet is doing good things.   Yesterday we took the kids to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory and yet this morning my weight was down to its lowest point in I don't know how long (133).   OTOH, Friday afternoon I had a small decaf Americano and then DH and I went out for Thai food, and by bedtime my hands were so swollen I could hardly get my rings off.  Was it the dairy in the coffee?  Something in the curry? The rice? I have a hard time thinking it was the rice with the Thai food. I only ate about a half-cup, total.

My g/e doctor was facinated by these results -- particularly the RA in remission.  I reminded him that I tested negative for celiac by biopsy (the most accurate test).  He replied that I could still have a sensitivity to wheat, which seems borne out by my experience.   He was OK with the DGL and D-limonene (I just started another round), but I don't think he paid too much attention to that information.  My throat still feels sore but not lumpy, and after not being able to sing at all last weekend, yesterday I could sing in both high and low registers comfortably for the first time in ages.  I asked for an H. pylori test and should get those results later this week.

I'm vaguely uneasy about my latest walk-through evaluation at work, which was terse to the point of ridiculousness, and negative about a lesson I considered very successful.  Then I got parked in a useless professional development session Friday afternoon which left me even more unsettled, but I'm putting that on the incompetent facilitator. I'm also agitated about how intervention is managed.  Just now I need to think about what to do about these things, if anything.  So far I'm just keeping my head down and doing my own work.  What I really have to decide is if that's the best long-term course of action.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

...and it's back!

Even after buying a new Toshiba laptop last Saturday, I still kept trying to get the old laptop back online.  I limited my efforts to one-thing-per-day, and multi-tasked while I was at it.  I was very motivated to get the old machine back up because having to port my iTunes library and re-install Rosetta Stone -- just those two things alone -- were looking to take an entire day that I didn't have.

So Thursday, I finally tried un-installing the virus protection software I had installed, and of course that was it.  (rolls eyes, throws hands up in air, sighs exhaustedly)

A short list of the things I discovered through web searches, that I tried unsuccessfully:

- Apparently, this is a problem that Vista-running machines have had going back to 2009.  Microsoft knows about it, and has a "fix" that addresses it, that resets the DHCP flag.  Didn't work for me.

- Updating the Wifi adapter's drivers did nothing except delete all my saved network access keys.  Fortunately, the only one I didn't have available (for work) the tech guys at school put back on there in about 3 minutes.

- Disabling the wifi adapter, rebooting, re-enabling the adapter did nothing.

- Editing the registry to reset those DHCP, IP-getting, etc  flags didn't help either.

- Command-line stuff to reset the winsock didn't help, but the suggestion in that forum's long, long chain of comments that it had to be the security software finally penetrated.

- The only way to successfully uninstall the virus software is to boot in safe mode so it doesn't get loaded into memory on startup.

I'll back-fill this with links, etc later, but just now I've got to go retrieve one of the offspring from a sleepover.

¡Estoy contenta, mi equipo esta trabajando de nuevo!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

spanner in the works

My laptop somehow forgot how to access the internet in the time between 11:30PM last night and 10AM this morning.  I've spent the majority of the last 4 hours trying various things to get it to work, including Microsoft automated fixes and manual registry editing.  So far, no go.*sigh*

The laptop is antique, by laptop standards -- checking the blog here, I bought it March 1, 2008.   Four years, 6 months is nothing to sneeze at.  I've replaced the battery a couple of times, and the power cable died as well, but overall, it has been a solid little machine and I like it.  It works for me, and I have everything on there that I need, and nothing that I don't. 

Honestly, I'm hoping if I leave it turned off for a while, when I boot it up again it will decide to work.  I'm not expecting it, but it sure would be nice.  There's no point in sending it for diagnosis and repair, that would cost more than the thing is worth. 

So I maybe getting a new laptop soon.  I really can't function without one.

Meanwhile, I have about 5lbs worth of papers to grade, lesson planning, and all sorts of other school-related work I need to clear this weekend.  The grading I can do on any computer with a web browser, but the rest of the stuff I need to do on my laptop, and fortunately not much of that requires network access.  I'll be bouncing between computers until this issue is resolved one way or another.

Friday, August 24, 2012

well, that didn't work very well

It was one of those days.  Nothing went spectacularly wrong, just a series of little "off" things that stack up into a general feeling of psychological dislocation.

The day started with my desk -- and all the student desks -- absolutely caked with dust.  I don't know what's going on (bad air filters?), but I don't have 15 minutes every morning to clean my room.  Really all I can do is dust, and that just pushes a lot of it onto the floor, which was also filthy.  The students complain, but short of mopping it myself, there's nothing I can do about it.  They don't pay me nearly enough to get me to mop on top of everything else.

Then, my 8th grade lab was such a disaster that I called it off only moments in and converted it into a hasty demonstration instead.  The students were not following directions (you don't measure flour in a beaker, dear) and there was too much chaos.  It's my biggest class and I'm going to have think carefully how to manage them.  Usually I have 10 extra minutes with them, but on block days, they've got the same time as every other class, and that nets out to less time for teaching because I have to spend so much time dealing with distractions.

[On that front: I've heard, and followed, the advice to just answer off-topic questions quickly and efficiently, to minimize time loss... but I'm done with that.  If every time a kid raises his hand it's to ask something like, "Can I go to the bathroom?" or "When do we get out of this class?" it tends to get on one's nerves.]

At any rate, it's not working with that class and I'm stuck as to what to do about it. 

It didn't help that 4th hour's lab went off, apparently, without a hitch -- they even had time to clean up.  I'm not exactly sure how that happened, since it's the class I don't teach.  I did find flour in a lot of beakers, though, so I'm suspicious.   If the other teacher can do it, why can't I?  There are about a million reasons, the chief reasons being he's male, and new at our school, and has a lot of teaching experience... but I worry about him going too fast, that the students aren't getting it but are too apathetic to speak up about it.

8th hour intervention was a serious of minor screw ups, with many students not knowing where they were going.  Everyone eventually got settled but then we realized that my students (in my colleague's intervention classroom) didn't have anything to do because I'd sent their work to study hall, figuring that's where they would be.  I'm teaching a writing intervention for the next 4 weeks which works much better for me than last year's math.

Stayed after until 4PM because an old colleague dropped by to visit.  It was nice to see her, but by the time I got home with the kids I was exhausted, and DS1's curriculum night was tonight.  Since I was literally falling asleep, I made myself a cup of instant coffee, and drank it cafe-au-lait style with coconut milk.  I miss the creamy mouthfeel of half-and-half, but I'm not willing to go there yet.  I was taking a risk with the caffeine anyway.   It tasted pretty good, considering it was instant coffee. And it woke me up, and continues to keep me awake, since I drank it at 6:30PM. 

Curriculum night itself is both delightful and somewhat depressing.  I'm so happy my kids are going to a school with such a fantastic curriculum, but then I get a little sad about where I'm teaching and the general bad attitude that many (if not most) of my students have towards learning.  I feel so starved for that kind of intellectual stimulation that I always end up talking the teachers' ears off, and then I feel embarrassed because I talk too much.  They are uniformly kind and intelligent and have never given me the impression that they want me to shut up and go away, but looking back I always think, "Was that too much? That was too much."

Got home and speed-cleaned DS1's room, much to his irritation.  He didn't mind when I picked up his laundry but got piqued when I started moving some other stuff around.  I don't blame him for being annoyed.  I blame me for drinking caffeine and being both physically and mentally wired.  Too much stimulation all around.

Now it's Friday, I have about 5 pounds of papers to grade, lesson planning to do, and it's nearly 1AM.  Tomorrow will be here way too soon.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


It's not even 8:30PM and I've already finished my lesson plans for the week.  Of course I still have a huge stack of grading to do, but grading is easier.   I've been thinking about what's really important to me, and therefore what I should be giving my time to -- it helps me limit the amount of time I spin my wheels, doing nothing and then getting annoyed with myself.  Here's my list in no particular order:

Sleep.  This hit the top of the list last weekend when I was up until 1AM finishing up last week's lesson plans.  No more of that, not when I'm getting up earlier to try to fit in all these new priorities.

Cooking.  It's therapeutic for me.  At least one great meal during the week, and at least one really great meal on the weekend.  Plus Sunday breakfast, and pancakes for the kids during the week, and stuff for me to bring to work to eat (like hard-boiled eggs).  I made a blueberry pie today -- 20 minutes from walking into the kitchen to putting the pie in the oven.  It's not hard, I just have to do it.

Spanish: I missed three or four days last week -- we had something scheduled every night.  It's the same this week, but there's no reason I can't put in 10 minutes here or there.

Distant Friends:  Every summer I get together with my East Coast friends and then it seems as if we retire to separate planets.  Every year we say, "We have to keep in touch better!" But then we don't.  So this year, I'm writing more -- just little updates when there's news. It's another thing that only takes 10 minutes here or there... easy, and so lovely to hear from them.

Down Time: Whether it's watching a show or two with DH or the kids, reading, or just brushing the cat, I need some time to myself every day.

That's the list for now, but DH put together the new Total Gym he bought last week, and I will learn how to use that.  Exercise is probably the best therapy for RA, and even though mine has settled back down, I'd like to keep it at bay.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

6 steps forward, 1 step back, repeat

Sticking, mostly, to the new diet: no grain, no dairy, no sugar, no caffeine, no chocolate, no alcohol.  I splurge a little from time to time but overall eat well.  I take DGL three times a day and I'm about to take my third D-limonene capsule, so it's too early to tell if that's working.

Results: very little heartburn.  RA still gone (miraculously).  Weight: dropped a little more, so now I actually weigh what it says on my license, or maybe a pound less.  My throat is sore, though, and I don't know whether that's from silent reflux (reflux when no symptoms of heartburn are felt), or because I started teaching and spend all day talking.  The lumpy-throat feeling comes and goes (not-good sign) but I'm having only minor problems singing (very good sign).  I don't know.

Ginger root in warm water before bed, still, too.  I like it.   And my digestion has finally slowed down again, so maybe I did just catch a little bug.  It's nice when all the systems work the way they are supposed to.

Today I wanted a coffee, but the desire for coffee was outweighed by the thought of having to deal with heartburn, so I had just a sip of DD's and settled for that.  I would like to be able to eat like a normal person again some day, but I'm not ready for that yet: my occasional splurges don't unwind all the progress I've made, but they do push me back a little. A step back now and then is OK as long as the general momentum is forward.

Thursday, August 09, 2012


With the exception of a major splurge on my birthday (more about that later), I have changed my diet drastically: no dairy, no grains, no sugar.  I stopped taking the omeprazole, it wasn't helping anyway.  I'm not drinking ginger tea any more (unless I feel like a cup of tea), I'm grating fresh ginger into warm water and drinking that before bed.  I'm also doing a nifty little exercise from Dr. David Williams that he describes in his article on Natural Treatments and Remedies for Acid Reflux to reposition a hiatal hernia -- it seems to help.

Things that are better:
* my weight is down to its lowest point in probably 2 years.  I'm still not at the official weight listed on my driver's license, but I'm not sure I weighed that much when the license was issued.
* my RA appears to be back in remission (yay!)
* heartburn-ish feelings are much rarer than they used to be at the beginning of the month, when I didn't want to go anywhere without some Tums

Things that are worse:
* sore throat with that lumpy feeling: there's still reflux going on even though I don't feel any heartburn.  Earlier this week it actually felt better, but starting school again has set it back.
* completely out of whack digestion -- I've gone from gastroparesis back to the rapid transit problem I had years ago when I had my gallbladder removed.  I've backed off my Vitamin C completely to see if that helps, and today it does seems a little better.

My DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice root extract) arrived today, and I have some D-limonene arriving soon.  Both of these are supposed to help support the mucous membranes of the stomach and intestines (DGL) and the esophagus (D-limonene).  The D-limonene is a 20-day regimin, which will bring me right up to my appointment with my g/e doctor, and we'll see what he says.

So far my voice (after 2 talk-heavy days of instruction) is holding out OK, but talking so much on a throat that is already sore from reflux isn't good.  I'm working on giving myself more vocal rest in class and plan on being quiet this weekend.

I wanted to feel better by the time school started and I do -- not perfect, but definitely moving in the right direction.  Here's hoping it continues.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

mostly well

Yesterday afternoon was the last of my follow-up appointments.  Since we've been home I've been having tests, seeing doctors and getting test results:

* The ovarian cyst has disappeared.  My CA-125 test was normal also. 

* The enlarged, persistent cervical lymph node is still there but hasn't changed.  It has none of the hallmarks of a cancerous node.

* My blood work made all the doctors happy.

* The gastric emptying study was interesting.  There was no sign at all of gastroparesis, with transit out of the stomach completed by 60 minutes, which is relatively fast.  However, there was significant reflux at the same time.  This finding is consistent with how gross I felt lying on the table to be scanned so soon after eating. 

The stomach/reflux issue is the worst thing I'm dealing with now.  Having the Prilosec (omeprazole) doubled to 40mg twice a day hasn't helped.  I think it has actually made it worse,  particularly since I was taking so much ibuprofen while we were away.  I may have given myself an ulcer(!).  I am frustrated also with my weight, which keeps going up even though I am not eating horribly and I haven't been just sitting around.  I really thought that spending more than 12 hours prepping, painting, and reassembling DS1's room last weekend would have helped me lose a pound or two, but instead I gained a couple. 

I did research last night and have decided to try the advice/protocol here: Get Rid of Heartburn and GERD Forever in Three Simple Steps.  I am fairly confident that my internal flora is in order, so I'm working on the diet and supplement angles.  I am encouraged by how much the Yogi ginger tea I found last week at Trader Joe's is helping, particularly since the ingredients there are listed in the "Bitters" section of the discussion on Kresser's site.

I'm also starting an exercise regimen, combined yoga and strength training for about 20 minutes a day to help with overall fitness and stress reduction.  School is starting tomorrow (students return next Wednesday) and I know that is increasing my stress levels, which isn't helping.

The RA?  I'm on a waiting list at my rheumatologist's. Since I haven't seen her for over a year, I need a 30 minute appointment, and she's not doing them now.  (When I explained this to my endo, she said, "That sucks."  Yes, yes it does.) I'm hopeful that the gut and the RA are related, so if I can get the stomach in order, this flare will finally subside.  

On the other hand, nothing is stopping me from doing what I really want to do.  I don't feel great but I'm not incapacitated and I do feel marginally better than when we first got home, thanks to the ginger tea.  I wish I felt better for the beginning of the school year, but I'm functional, and that will have to do.

Friday, July 27, 2012

a day with Yossarian

Alas, mine is not the special 50th anniversary edition with all the extra goodies.  Same cover though, minus that nifty "50" seal.

This book caught my eye last Friday at Zia Records while the kids were browsing music, so I picked it up.  I read To Kill a Mockingbird in its glorious entirety on our travel day, and all the rest of my summer reading books I had boxed up and shipped home so I wouldn't have to stuff them into our luggage.   Something about this edition appealed to me.  Perhaps it's the white paper and the not-tiny print that enabled me to ready it without my cheaters on?  It was $4.99 so I bought it.

It was mostly waiting-room reading until today, when I really had nothing better to do.  Oh, yes, I could have done laundry or found some other housekeeping to do, but there was nothing pressing to do today.  The garage, the living room, the guest room and DS1's room are all in states of disarray because we had Retrofoam come in and insulate our pathetically non-insulated house.  (Have you seen how they build out here? Frame, styrofoam, chicken wire, stucco.  I'm not kidding.  The occasional piece of plywood.  I suppose they use Tyvek now too but I wouldn't count on it.)  This process necessitates drilling lots of holes in the walls and then filling them with this awesome expanding foam.  Today was Day 3 because of various snags that I really would sooner forget, and the guys were here from shortly after 7AM until almost 4PM and there's only so many hours I can spend on Spanish and web surfing.

Tomorrow I will paint over all the little well-patched holes inside (we paid them to do the outside walls) and get everything back in some semblance of order, but today I couldn't do anything, so I read.

It's a bit surreal, spending hours in WWII Pianosa and Rome and its environs with Yossarian and the various captains, majors, colonels, and generals who conspired to make his life unbearable, while periodically dealing with insulation installation,  piano practice, meal preparation and all the other things that make up my normal daily life.  The contrast could not be more complete.  I found myself at times thinking that Heller really pushes it too far, past surreal into absurd, but then he allowed one of the characters a recognizably human, competent, or kind moment.  M*A*S*H is a love letter to the US Army compared to Catch-22.  God does not fare well, either.

I was going to say it has a rather bleak view of traditional mores and morality, but then I realized that the rationalizations and behaviors depicted here, basically forced upon the characters by their untenable situations, have become more or less the norm.  No restrictions or repercussions for indiscriminate sexual activity (although Yossarian did get the clap once), denigration of religious faith, situational ethics, promotion of incompetence, worth based on relative merit -- all this goes on daily, and we don't have the excuse of being asked to fly yet-another-5-missions through heavy flak.  Heller was prophetic, or at least a keen enough observer of human nature to distill into his dozen or so characters the majority of the ways we can go bad.

I can see why it endures.  For all of the absurd conversations and impossible situations, the characters are solidly real and recognizable.  In Heller's introduction to the 1996 edition, he talks about the "Yossarian Lives" stickers an interviewer had made up.  It's a relief that he makes it to the end of the novel alive, sure.  But it was the image of Orr in Sweden that redeemed all the insanity that had come before it.  Even Heller has hope for the human race.  So do I.

Monday, July 23, 2012

things we always do

Very long, because we always do so many things...  

Hike to the Punch Bowl at Beebe Woods

It's really a walk in the woods.  We often talk about wearing swimsuits and using those rope swings to jump into the Punch Bowl, but we haven't done it yet.  We usually content ourselves looking for wildlife.  This year we rewarded with not only tadpoles and a frog (only one, sadly), but also a catfish.

The Traditional Bench Photo, Ninth(!!!) Anniversary edition


Big fat tadpole, well-camouflaged

Laconic catfish.

It was a hot day but cool enough in the shade in the woods.   When we came back to the car I wandered around the restored grounds taking pictures of Highfield Hall to show my mother.  They have done tremendous work restoring the old mansion and grounds.
The magnificent sunken garden between the hall and the theater

Spectacular view of the restored Highfield Hall and its beautifully landscaped grounds from the entirely new parking lot below it.

Chapoquoit Beach

We are not "beach day" people any more, if we ever really were.  Now we putter around in the morning and early afternoon, doing what needs to be done, and head to the beach for a few hours at the end of the day.  There were times when this was tremendously frustrating to me, but I got over it.

Timing the camera to the jump is always tricky.

 We only made to the beach a handful of times this year, but the sand was soft and white and the water was gorgeously clear -- cool the first few times, wonderfully warm after that.  No jellyfish, very little seaweed, and few bugs.

The only time all year we got ice cream from the Ice Cream Man!
The kids took themselves off to Bayside several times but I did not join them. Usually that was after dinner and I was working on my Spanish or just hanging out with Mom.

Ice Cream

I lost count of how many times we went out for ice cream.  It was kind of ridiculous, but in a good way.  Dairy Queen had coffee soft serve "for a limited time", and it was delicious, so we kept going back.  I think we went at least 4 times, maybe 5.  That doesn't sound like that much but when you factor in that we also went to Smitty's (2x), Ghelfi's (2x), and Ben and Bill's Chocolate Emporium, you can see that we were practically going out for ice cream every other day on the Cape.  The trend continued in CT, when my mother-in-law took the kids down to Bloom Hill for ice cream at least 3 times in the one week we were there! 
Strange things happening @DQ

Woods Hole, with and without bikes

Before DH came, my sister-in-law and I took all the kids down to Woods Hole for a day.  We had lunch at Pie in the Sky as usual, and then we went on the Ocean Quest discovery cruise.  More on that later, since it's not something we always do.  Pie in the Sky remains awesome, and we didn't mind going back there with DH when we biked down with him one day.

The big tree just across the street from Pie in the Sky
Feasts and Parties

Both my family and DH's family enjoy eating, perhaps too much.  Summer and just being there is enough of an excuse for us to throw together feasts and parties whenever we can.  Our first feast -- lobster and steak, with corn on the cob -- was to celebrate the arrival of my Louisiana brother and his family.  Two days later we had Mom's 85th birthday party,with something like 43 people in attendance, all immediate family: children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren.  What an awesome day.

Awesome 85 Cake

Cake-baking (and decorating!) Sister and Mom

On the 'regular' days we had only minor feasting of ribs or burgers on the grill.  I believe I made at least three blueberry cakes, but only one peach pie.  It took forever for the peaches to come in this year.

Three weeks after my Mom's party we had a birthday party for the guys in the family who are turning 50 and 60.  We called it "The Old Man" party, and it was a slightly smaller version of Mom's, but still quite awesome, even though the soon-to-be-50 guy got called into work.  (All of the party decorations were carefully stored away so they can be used on me next year.  I have mixed feelings about that!)
My Mom's newest great-grandbaby

They may be 60 but they can still handle those knives!
DD practices photo-bombing.  Yes, the lobsters are bigger than the bottle of wine.The platter in front is waiting for the corn on the cob.  The pie was awesome.
Our last feast was perhaps the best for us, because it wasn't a crazy day.  Just us, my Mom and my sister, three lobsters totaling 13 pounds, corn on the cob, lobster bisque, baked stuffed quahogs, and peach pie.  These were the first lobsters we had bought at Falmouth Fish Market because Green Pond didn't have any of the big guys.  We were very, very pleased with them.  (We probably could have done with just two, because we had nearly an entire lobster left over.  It did not go to waste, it made great lobster salad the next day.) 

Talcott Mountain I: Concert

We heard an evening of Elton John music this year.  It was delightful.  The kids enjoy the picnicking more than the music, but that's OK.  We brought bottles of wine from our trip to Mystic and enjoyed sipping and singing along.
DS2 grew four inches in the last year.  He's not little anymore.
Pre-concert entertainment with smart phone photos.
Talcott Mountain II: Hiking to the Heublein Tower

DS1 suggested this on our last full day in CT.  It was humid but the shade of the mountain made it bearable.  The heat and lack of rain really stressed the plants in CT, in contrast to how lush and gorgeous everything looked on the Cape.  Still, we had a great hike, with one nifty new find.
The catch-basin where we often find big frogs was more like a mud puddle, but there were dozens of these tiny, well-hidden tree frogs.

At the top of the moutain, a cardinal posed perfectly framed by the window in the shell of the field stone house.

One of my favorite views of the Tower.

A porch, a swing, a beautiful view. 
The kids stay with their Nana and Papa, and DH and I take off.  On the way down we stopped at Bishops for a quick sandwich and a tasting of their fruit wines.  Their raspberry dessert wine is outstanding.  We stay every year at the Mermaid Inn. It's charming.  Mystic is charming, and although we've talked about going somewhere else, nothing else seems as appealing. 
towards Mystic Seaport

The S&P Oyster House.  We dined outside here for the first time ever.  Their calamari is the best I have ever had.
Amazing icon of St. Michael, winner of the painting prize at the annual art show.


It was very hot and humid in CT, draining us of all ambition.  DS1 worked on his math course and I worked on my Spanish and all the kids slept very late every day.  DH did some research and tracked down a go-cart place and bowling alley, and we had a blast.  The go-kart track was a well-designed figure 8 with curves and hills that were just sharp and steep enough.  Afterwards, we went and bowled a game of duckpins at a bowling alley so old-school that you had to manually remove the dead wood (not allowed in duckpins) and reset after your frame.  We played by time, not by game, so after the first game when we still had more time, DH and I bowled another (he eviscerated me) while the kids played the arcade games.  DS2 was thrilled with his inflatable tie-dye guitar.

We bowled again in Falmouth, too, at Ryan (formerly Leary) Family Amusements near Town Hall.  It's easier on everyone because the system is completely automated. DS2 found his stride and clobbered us all. If there were candlepins around anywhere, we would probably bowl more often, but tenpin is just not as much fun to me.

Something jinxed us this year.  On my way out with the kids we had a medical emergency on board and were diverted to St. Louis, where we had brutal turbulence.  Kudos to SouthWest Airlines, though, because if I were having a heart attack on a plane, I would want them to land it to get me to a hospital, too.  Anyway, we arrived hours late.

DH flew in on July 4th and had weather delays of two hours.

All of us flew back last Thursday, where we had both weather delays and a medical emergency (when a bloody nose results in blood also flowing from the eye, well, yes, you should get that guy off the plane.) Instead of landing at 9:30PM we landed at 2AM or thereabouts.

This little guy kept us company in Phoenix before our first flight out.
In the midst of all that we marveled that it hadn't happened to us before.  We've really been very lucky.  The kids were all old enough to deal with it well, and it really wasn't a problem.  We go into "travel mode" and just stay there until we're home.

And now we are home, and glad to be here.

compare, contrast

I had my second follow-up ultrasound today, of my neck.  The experience could not have been more different from last Friday's pelvic ultrasound.  On the positive side, I wasn't exhausted from only three hours of sleep and a long day of travel the day before. I was only the tiniest bit uncomfortable during the exam but that's because frankly I'm not very comfortable anywhere these days.

The pelvic u/s was mercifully short, whereas today's seemed to go on a while.  I've had longer ones, but I've had much shorter neck ultrasounds, too.  There was the usual clicking and typing and beeping as images were recorded.  The technician spent about ten times longer on the right side than on the left.

Of course I know what it means that she spent so much longer (10 minutes versus 1 minute) on the right: there was something to look at there.   This is still just a suspicion, of course, but my anxiety increased when the tech asked, "When is the last time you had a CT of your neck?" 

That is not what a thyroid cancer patient wants to hear. 

I told her I had had a PET/CT scan in February or March (can't remember exactly when, now. Sheesh.)  "Did they see anything?" 

Again, with the questions I don't want to hear.  Response: No, not in my neck.  They biopsied one of those nodes on the right side, too, and it was negative.

Of course, the tech can't say anything at all at this point and probably shouldn't even have said what she did, so she just said, "OK." 

And then I went home, and now I'm waiting until my appointment with Dr. B on Monday afternoon to find out what, if anything, is going on.  I should hear the results of my pelvic u/s with any luck on Wednesday.

I am not good at waiting.  My RA is still flaring along with my gastroparesis.   I was very unpleasant to the receptionist at my rheumatologist's office today (I did apologize, but still feel guilty about it), because she was insisting I had to be treated like a new patient and thus would have to go on a waiting list to get an appointment. The compromise was she would check with the doctor to see if a 15 minute appointment would be OK; I will call tomorrow to see what the outcome is.  While all this is going on I keep thinking I need to get into a regular exercise routine because it would probably help tremendously but everything hurts and I feel pukey and who wants to work out feeling like this?  Not me.

I just want to feel better by the time school starts.  I'm not even letting myself imagine teaching while feeling like this.  I'll be better by then.  

landscape projects

The only place I do any gardening or landscaping work is at my mother's house.  My siblings do the heavy lifting of the fall raking (really, spring raking: the oaks hang onto their leaves until the new leaves push them off), so that by the time I arrive in June, there's very little clean up to do... relatively.  It's all relative, here.

(Apologies for the festival of bad photographs that follows.)

B.B. (before blogging)

The Side Yard, victim of both neglect and incidental destruction
when the neighbor's backyard septic system was rebuilt.

The side yard is a complete mess right now, but I'm including this to show that there is some evidence of the very first yard-tinkering I was allowed to do: about 20 years ago, I transplanted some day lilies from the woodsy backyard of my house in Natick, and that single orange bloom is evidence that some of them are still alive.  There's quite a lot of good stuff in that little jungle, including honeysuckly, azalea, and bleeding heart, not to mention the little hydrangea my middle sister planted at about the same time.  The soil here is extremely poor and the water situation is dire (as in, the plants here only get wet when it rains, and the soil doesn't hold onto it at all), so it's kind of amazing any of this is still alive.  There's also a teeny tiny Japanese red maple that you can't see, that I'm hoping will someday take off.  It's up to 8 leaves this year, so that's an improvement.  This is on deck for next year.


Center flower bed, where it's shady all the time and water is an iffy proposition.

Those little snakes of ivy climbing the tree represent a major victory.  The irises are filling in nicely, too.  I didn't do much weeding of this bed this year because it wasn't that bad, which means next year it will be horrific, or maybe not.  The good plants and the mulch seem to be keeping them down.  It was nice to see the friendly little purple vinca flowers, all 3 or 4 of them, among the ivy.
I .

Bare but not neglected, at least.

I took Mom to Mass on her birthday and then we drove by Dad's grave. In that moment, it didn't seem too overgrown, so one evening I grabbed my gloves and few plastic grocery bags to go and thin out the irises around it.  When I got there, I realized I had greatly underestimated how overgrown it was. My older sister had put in irises soon after the headstone went up.  I don't know anything about irises in general, but these particular irises multiply like crazy.  One of my brothers thinned them out aggressively about 5 years ago, and those are the irises at the house now.   But five years of unrestrained growth led to such a thicket you could see only the middle "ON" of "O'CONNELL".   It took me about 6 hours to dig up everything (no point in leaving anything there to overgrow again) and add back topsoil and mulch.

Mom wants to just leave it with the mulch for now, but I have a contact who can put in seasonal flowers and maintain it for us.  Contacting her is another thing on my constantly expanding to-do list.


What do you do with leftover irises?  Plant them, of course.

I ended up with two huge lawn-and-leaf bags of plantable stems with roots and bulbs, so I put in a bed of irises along the driveway.  By the time this photo was taken, the transplants had succumbed to the heat, but in June and early July they looked great.  My brother assures me they'll come back next year -- these things refuse to die.  It rained the entire day I put this bed in.  Most of the time it was just a light drizzle, but over the course of the day it progressed to a steady, soaking rain.  It was warm and there were only one or two cloudbursts, so I just kept at it.  The wetter it was, the easier it was to plant, anyway. 


Backyard, where chaos is only a season or two away.

See that line of rocks?  There's another row of irises in front of it -- mostly bulbs went in there.  Behind it, I put in 10 rose bushes that I picked up for the amazingly awesome price of 2 for $3 at the Christmas Tree Shop.  The roses may or may not make it, but $15 for 10 rose bushes was irresistable to me.   This was a multi-day project, too, as first I had to clear out all the grapevines and wood plants that were taking over the yard.  The good thing about the vines, etc, is that they hid the leaf pile, but they had enroached a good 4 feet and were going for an all-out invasion.   The two evergreens to the left were so entwined with grape vines that their growth was being affected, so I freed them up, and then I decided to take back the yard.  Then I had all those iris bulbs left over so I put them in, and then I happened upon the rose bushes while I was looking for flipflops for DS2.  The way I see it, those rose bushes were meant to go in, because if I hadn't already cleaned out the space, and if DS2 hadn't lost his flipflops, I wouldn't have seen the amazingly cheap rosebushes or had a place to put them.


Time spent planting new stuff > time spent trying to kill old stuff, this year.  Win!
I don't blame my Mom for putting in those yucca plants years ago.  It's not her fault I have an irrational hatred for them.(In Massachusetts. Out here in AZ, they don't bother me at all.) They are a non-native species and they're impossible to kill, but I feel as if I am making some progress in eradicating them.  The first year I put in the hydrangeas, I simply dug out all the roots (some of them as thick as arm) and thought that would be it.  That was before I knew how pernicious yucca is.  In the following years I tried digging out the new plants and spraying the roots with Roundup, but that didn't seem to have any effect.  I only started getting results after finding the definitive yucca eradication advice page, How to Kill a Yucca Plant.  By the time I read the site, I had already dug up and chopped off dozens of plants, since every time you dig one up, it seems to send up at least three more.  I used the chop off the tips, submerge them in Roundup routine a couple of years, but it leaves a lot behind to clean up, and I'm never there to do it.  So the past two or three years I've used a modified version which works well with smaller plants:  pour boiling water over them to remove their waxy coating, soak them with Roundup, and wrap them in plastic.  The benefit of this method is that you don't have to wait until the plants are a foot tall to do it -- you can go right at the little ones.  I won't know how effective it was until next year, of course.

My mother thinks I work too hard, especially since I'm supposedly on vacation while I'm attacking all these plantings.  I tell her it's therapeutic and she laughs.  The fact is, I love flowers and I have always wanted the house to have hydrangeas, day lilies, roses, and ivy I see around many other homes there.  Since I'm the one that wants it, I'm the one who is doing it... little by little.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


That's an accounting acronym for inventory management: last in, first out.  It's one of the few things that has stuck with me from the one and only accounting course I took back in college.

But this post is LIFO because it's about events, not stuff.  On our first day home I had stacked up a few appointments, including bloodwork (only two sticks!) and my pelvic ultrasound.  While I obviously won't have the actual results from either test for a week or two, I was very encouraged by the brevity of the ultrasound.  The technician didn't see any reason to prolong the exam, which in any reasonable universe can be construed to mean that there wasn't anything to see or measure.


Vacation is over even though work hasn't started.  There are so many tasks to accomplish to get everyone ready for the new school year, and I'm steadily ticking them off my mental lists.  My plan is to recap the summer over a series of posts arranged not chronologically but by project or event.  This summer was quite different but still wonderful, and I am back in that odd place where I am happy to be home but missing nearly everything about the Cape dearly.

The Punch Bowl, a kettle pond at Beebe Woods

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Yes, I did title this post in the cheesiest possible way.

I finally installed my Rosetta Stone Totale Spanish (Latin America) Christmas gift -- over two hours to install all 5 language levels!  -- and have worked through Unit 1, Lesson 4 - Core lesson. 

It's awesome.

Best part: there is zero translation.  It's all image-and-audio based.  You look at pictures, you hear words, you say words (or sounds).  If you're typing anything, it's in the new language.  This is, of course, brilliant, from a business model perspective because they can use the same Spanish (Latin America) software to teach anyone who wants to learn, regardless of their native language.  But it's also brilliant from a language acquisition perspective, a topic I know quite a bit about thanks to the state-mandated SEI training I needed for my teaching certificate.

The games (for review) are fun and range from simple (the one where you click on the picture matching the phrase you just heard) to maddening (the one where you try to get Bingo by clicking on words on a Bingo card that you hear in the native speaker's story.)  The native speakers do not speak with exaggerated slowness, and great deal of time is spent on ear training, as in  Wait, what did I just hear?  Fortunately you can (almost) always click on a button to hear a phrase repeated.

The voice recognition software is awesome, too.  It kept dinging me for saying "nosostros" when I should have been saying "nosotros" with no "s" before the "t".  It's a very subtle difference, but it wouldn't let me continue until I figured it out and got it right.  There is a really good balance of just repeating what the native speaker said and having to generate your own responses, too.

So far so good.  The program spirals back periodically to review older, already mastered material so it doesn't fall out of your brain, the same way you would, in real life, continue to use those first simple words and phrases day to day. 

High point so far: I managed to roll an "r" once yesterday. I hope if I keep practicing, I'll really be able to speak Spanish properly, not just comprehensibly.

Lord of the Flies

I started it on the flight out and finished it today. It's a little thing, but it does not go quickly. Golding's prose demands thinking about.

Somehow I managed to get through all my formal schooling without ever having read it. I knew of it, and knew the plot outline as well. And now having read it, I can see why it's on reading lists.

In contrast, DH and I saw Prometheus last weekend, and it was a crashing (literally) pretentious bore.  Its attempts to tackle primal questions (Who are we?  Why are we here?) were so awkward and obvious and predictable.  Lord of the Flies asks many of the same questions but with elegance and power.  Both works have scenes of terror, suspense, and violence, and both deal with isolated populations coming to grips with human nature, but that's where the similarities end.

100 years from now, we'll still be reading Golding, and no one will even remember Prometheus.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

"I have a knife."

On the last day of school, I brought eight huge seedless watermelons to share with all my students and co-workers. How does that work? This:

is how you slice watermelon on a school campus. It's plastic, and you would have to try very, very hard to injure a person with it. I didn't let anyone else even touch it and kept it in closely guarded custody.

I didn't know whether to be amused or exasperated by the 7th-grader who insisted that I could not slice watermelon with a plastic knife, notwithstanding that I had already sliced up four or five that day before having that conversation with her. A lot of junior high kids struggle with the intersection of reality and their concept of it.

coasting, now

School is out!  Thursday was my last day with students, and it drifted by with endless streams of students in my bare classroom, come to have watermelon and listen to music and hang out.  Friday I spent less than two hours finishing up, packing my desk and labeling my furniture -- and then spent another couple of hours wrestling with slow computers and OpenOffice, running some simple analysis of my students' AIMS scores.  (Short answer: better than last year [yay!] and reasonably well correlated to my benchmark test [yay!].)

It took a while for it to really sink in, but by yesterday evening I was practically giddy.

Today? Planning this last week at home, cramming as many home cleanup and improvement projects as possible into these few shorts days, working around the already-scheduled appointments. 

Monday I'm going for the CA-125 blood test, which is screening for ovarian cancer.  It's not definitive in and of itself, but it will provide some information as to what's going on with me.  I've already scheduled a follow-up ultrasound on that cyst for July, and I will do my best not to think about it until then.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

strawberry almond cake

It's the end of a long, busy week, and the refrigerator was nearly empty this morning, except for that container of strawberries I bought last weekend, which no one had touched. The milk was nearly gone, we had about a half-cup of sugar, so how could I make a strawberry version of our summer favorite blueberry cake? I've never really forgotten any of my Make It Low Carb routines, mainly because I still use a lot of them. So, with some tweaking:

Strawberry Almond Cake
with vanilla and nutmeg

Wash and drain the stawberries. Hull and quarter them.
Drizzle them with about a tablespoon of sugar-free vanilla syrup. (I use Torani or DaVinci)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 9x13 pan with aluminum foil for easy cleanup. Spray the bottom and sides of the pan with no-stick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine:
1 C all purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
1 C almond meal (I use Trader Joe's)
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C granulated Splenda
1/2 C Z-sweet (erythritol sweetener)
2/3 C shortening (I use Spectrum Organics)

Work these together until they look like crumbs. The fastest way to do this is with clean, dry fingers. The almond meal and the soft organic shortening work to make this a little sticky, but just scrape as much off your fingers as you can.

Reserve 3/4 C of the crumb mixture to sprinkle over the top.

To the remaining crumbs in the bowl, add:
1 scant tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
about 1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg -- you don't want to taste the nutmeg, you just want it to enhance the other flavors

Stir all to combine well, then add:
1 C almond milk (unsweetened, unflavored)
2 eggs, beaten
Stir well to combine, making sure there are no clumps of dry ingredients. Pour into the prepared pan and spread the batter evenly.

Sprinkle with about 1+1/2 cup of the sliced, macerated strawberries.
Sprinkle the reserved crumbs over the top.
Lightly dust fresh grated nutmeg over the entire cake.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

The strawberries were not the best ever, but they tasted awesome in this cake. The combination of the strawberries and almonds with the hints of vanilla and nutmeg was even better than I expected. Also even better than I expected is the texture, which is moist but not too heavy, perfect for a quick bread (which this is, notwithstanding that it's called cake).

It made a nice breakfast with coffee. It came out of the oven about five hours ago...there's about a quarter of it left. I doubt it will last till tomorrow.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

clearly ambiguous

I received the ultrasound report in the mail today. Unfortunately, I was right to doubt the receptionist's cheerful "It's completely normal!" summary... but I don't think I'm headed for surgery, either. (whew!)

The report itself is a paragon of brevity. However, the concision with which the radiologist expressed his findings leads to some confusion on my part. For example, nearly all of the radiological literature (I'm great at reading this stuff, since ultrasound is one of the main tools for diagnosing thyroid cancer issues) clearly distinguishes between functional cysts and others. So the finding of a "small complex cyst with thickened wall and mural nodularity" is not entirely consistent with the impression, "Small complex cyst of the right ovary... likely reflects a small functional cyst".

That was the first impression, concluding with, "consider followup as indicated."

The second impression was that there were small follicles on the left ovary, with interval resolution of a left-sided ovarian cyst. So there was something going on there at some point, but what "interval" are we talking about here, the one since the last u/s report (November 2010)? Who knows.

At this point, I'll wait for my doctor to get back to his office (Tuesday), and call and ask how they want to follow up on this. I'm thinking -- hoping -- all he'll say is I need to go for another ultrasound in a bit. I can handle that.

In the meantime, the large amount of web pages discussing ovarian cysts are consistent in mentioning the very, very low occurrences of malignancy, so that's encouraging, too, even though thickened walls and mural nodules are flags that this particular cyst should be monitored.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

run around

It feels like I spent the entire weekend shopping with DD in preparation for the graduation recital this evening. Saturday was a bust, but Sunday was very successful, and she looked beautiful tonight. The boys were also quite handsome, notwithstanding their new haircuts. DS1's is too short, and DS2... well, there was a slight mishap with the trimmer. It will grow in.

Earlier today, DS2 had his fifth grade commencement ceremony. I left work at 1PM to get there on time, and it was delightful to leave. No one wanted to do anything today, and I fear that will be the case from now until the very last day, so I am essentially babysitting. It's not fun. Perhaps tomorrow will go better.

In between the commencement and the recital, we were home for about an hour. Since there was no call from the doctor about the ultrasound, I called the office. The receptionist told me that the doctor and his wife, the NP, are both out all week... but then she looked for the ultrasound report and told me that it was completely normal. I was nonplussed. First of all, that she would just give me a result over the phone like that without the doctor's say so -- but perhaps he had already seen the report and OK'd it. I don't know. Second, that the u/s showed absolutely nothing, because there is definitely something going on, and if it's not with the ovary, then what is it? That internal ultrasound took forever, and the tech was definitely measuring something. Normal ultrasounds are over in like 30 seconds. Usually.

I wondered if she read the correct report, so I asked her to mail me a copy. She said that she would be happy to, so I'll see it in a few days if she actually does put it in the mail. Maybe she was looking at the report from 2005 that said exactly the same thing: nothing.

It's good news, in the sense that it's not bad news, but it's still frustrating to feel so peaked and have no answer as to what's going on, and therefore no end in sight.

I flew threw the first two volumes (books) of Game of Thrones, but I'm resisting getting the next one until school is out. I would much rather be in Winterfell than in reality right now, but I simply have too much to get done before I can indulge like that.

Friday, May 18, 2012

breathe through it

Had the ultrasound on Wednesday without major discomfort. To be precise, I had two ultrasounds, the abdominal and the internal -- the first was quick with a few photos, the second interminably long with many, many photos. The tech took a million pictures with the Doppler on.  I am not encouraged.

I think:Please don't let this be cancer. I don't want to have surgery this summer. And I think, Well, even if it is, it must be small -- I just had that PET/CT scan in mid-March and it didn't show anything of significance.  (It did show a small metabolic focus in the left pelvis, chalked up to "physiologic (aka normal) activity in the ovary". Ha!) And then I try and think of other things that could cause this level of of ongoing pain and discomfort and general things-not-working-right , and there's really  not much.  More prolapse?  Fibromyalgia flare?  Seems like I'm reaching.  An ovarian cyst is the best fit, but what kind of cyst?  I just keep hoping it will go away, like all the others have.  Most functional cysts have resolved before they hit the 6 week mark, and this one hasn't.

In the meantime, I've gained about 5 pounds at the worst possible time, but it doesn't matter what I eat or don't eat because 3 solid weeks of very faithful dieting netted me a zero pound weight loss.  Whatever it is that's going on, I'm not going to drop those 5 pounds (now up to 10) that I had wanted to, before summer and bathing suit weather.  Too bad. 

Kids start their last week of school Monday, and Monday is DS2's 5th grade commencement and the graduation recital for all 3 in the evening.  From there, it's all downhill for them.  Me, I have to make it through June 1 to be well and truly done.

I hope for news on Monday -- if I don't hear anything, I'll call on Tuesday.  The waiting really is the hardest part, I turn into a big ball of tension and forget to breathe.  So I try to remember that, and not take my stresses out on everyone around me.  Inhale, exhale... inhale, exhale...

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

there goes another month...

I had hoped that after all my testing was over and I finally had my answer that I would have some kind of peace. It turns out that whatever relief I got from the resolution of the medical situation was replaced with other stresses, so it was all a wash.

Kids are fine, husband is fine, house is fine. School oscillates between being deeply satisfying and unbelievably frustrating. I'm struggling with lesson plans that work beautifully with two classes and fail utterly with two others. I don't get it. I remind myself of the Chinese proverb defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting something different to happen. Me, I hope that when I do the same thing -- teach a particular lesson -- I get the same results, or at least something similar. No luck.

I remain at a loss for how to deal with certain students. "I didn't know you wanted us to learn this, I thought we just had to take the notes," one student said to me today. Of course the entire purpose of taking the notes is to help the students learn, and I have -- innumerable times -- explicitly told them that, just as I have explained why I ask them to do each particular task or assignment. Everything I ask them to do is to help them learn, but at this point, I'm left with no alternative but to assume they are being willfully oppositional. Of course that's exhausting, and sad -- they don't trust me, or care enough to try, and that's very hard to deal with.

In among all this foolishness is an ovarian cyst I have been dealing with since Easter. I hope it resolves soon. Standard medical advice says to wait 4 weeks before contacting the doctor. I really don't want to deal with yet another round of medical testing.

Tomorrow is May, and the whirlwind begins in earnest: a concert with DD, Feed My Starving Children, the last debate tournament of year, ASP testing for the kids, graduation recital, awards dinners, finals, etc and so forth, straight through to Memorial Day. I don't finish school until June 1st... only one more month.

Many plans have been made for the summer, very few for beyond that. We'll see.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


The scan was clean. (Some close to me are saying "of course," but you know, I try not to count on that.) My next follow-up will be my usual 6 month ultrasound & bloodwork, both painless (mostly) and inexpensive. I can get that done in July before the new school year starts up.

How wonderful to be able to make plans now!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


If the scan was clean, then whatever is making my tumor marker rise is too small to see by conventional methods, so no treatment is indicated now. I'll be subjected to "watchful waiting" for the foreseeable future to keep track of my numbers. The relief I feel at not needing treatment will be offset by my annoyance at having to go through all this hassle and expense only to end up with essentially no data.

If the scan showed one or two small spots, then the situation is slightly more complicated: I could go for treatment or I could stick with watchful waiting, perhaps tweaking my medication so my TSH is even more suppressed. I will feel some relief at knowing the current state of my disease progression. This will be offset by my anxiety over the sure knowledge that my cancer is back again, which in turn will/may be balanced by the fact that it took over 6 years to show up again. This particular see-saw doesn't stop there, though, because, you know, Dr. Clayman promised he got it all, and I believed him.

If the scan shows enough disease progression to require treatment, I will get the treatment, of course. It will most likely be surgery, unless it's in an inoperable place, which would be weird, and would then probably need some kind of external beam radiation. Ick. Sometimes I'm afraid that my undiagnosable headaches from a couple of years ago (which never went away, I just know how to manage them) are actually from metastases, but that's really unlikely.

Options 1 and 2 have me planning my summer vacation Tuesday evening. I'm looking forward to that. Option 3 is not exactly unthinkable, and it really does help that I've been through a neck dissection before, but I don't have any feeling about this one way or the other. I just don't know.

My general response to this situation is: I don't have time for this. Can't you see I'm working here? I'd like to continue to do that, OK? OK.