Monday, June 28, 2010

Motto for the year

It works. This is the brownie pan, "as seen on TV," made for the edge lover. The divider, not shown in this picture, lets the brownies cook so that every brownie has edges.

My sweet sister-in-law Sherry gave us the pan for Christmas. I finally used it for the first time this weekend. I only waited six months to try it out.

I used the special brownie mix my other thoughtful sister-in-law gave me. Duncan Hines Chocolate Chunk, since discontinued, was my all time favorite. Susan found two boxes in her grocery store and sent them to me, a while ago. I had used one, but had been saving the other for a special occasion.

What could be more special than celebrating successful surgery? In hindsight, there must have been hundreds of times I should have used that last brownie mix. I had been saving it for years evidently, as it had an expiration date of May, 2006. Time does fly, doesn't it? The brownies were still deliciously devoured.

But that brings me to admit that I am a Hoarder, historically using "seconds and surplus" for everyday, saving the "good stuff" for "special" occasions.

I come by this attitude honestly. After my grandma died in her late eighties, her daughters found dozens of brand new nightgowns and other new clothes in her drawers. She was waiting to wear them until she had to go somewhere. She never did.

I grew up using and re-using. Brown paper lunch sacks, plastic sandwich bags and aluminum foil were used over and over in the lunches my mom packed for me and Dad. Scraps from one dress made the accents for another (or went into a quilt.) I wore my best dress only on special occasions. We had everyday stuff and "company" stuff. That's the background of a lot of people my age, growing up in the sixties with parents who themselves grew up in the lean thirties and forties.

Flash forward thirty years and I'm finally "getting it." I am learning to value my stuff by what it does, not what it costs. Do I have designer clothes I never wear, perhaps even with the tags still on? Now I pass them on without hesitation. I don't have to earn the right to get rid of nice things. Let them be nice for someone who will appreciate them. The same rule applies for furniture and nick-knacks and (especially) gadgets that seemed so necessary. Rather than move stuff from closet to garage to attic - just pass things along. It lets me smile.

And for those things I keep, I am trying to use them! How ridiculous to save a brownie mix for four years.

And for the things (shoes) I truly want, I now give myself permission. Recently, I agonized over replacing my kitchen mixer with a new one in a more modern color. There was nothing wrong with my thirty year old mixer. But how silly to keep something just because once it was expensive and still works.

We're hosting a garage sale next month, a fundraiser for Wiley's soccer team. I've started filling the back porch with stuff - bedding, laundry baskets, storage containers, pet paraphernalia, dishes, books, clothes, shoes, electronics........

Love it, use it or go ahead and lose it!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Domestic Engineering

See this sweet baby? Don't be deceived. His middle name is "Houdini." You leave him angelically sleeping, gated in the kitchen. Then, fifteen or thirty minutes later, you realize you are hearing (untrained) puppy noises from the living room.

The first time or two, I thought someone left the gate ajar. Then reality hit, the reality of a motivated puppy, hungry for attention and aware of the other dog free in the house, squeezing through slats faster than a shiba chases a cat. It was hard to get a picture - he could be all the way out before the lens focused and the shutter snapped.

So I applied my fancy education, and started counter tactics. After all, I spent my first two years of college as an engineering major. Surely I could outwit a two month old puppy.

Pretend the pictures below are time lapse photography. They recreate the battle which escalated over several days.

First, I set up basic obstacles to block the biggest gaps, using a trash can, a printer still in the box and Wiley's trumpet case.

Winston liked the new game. He would push the trash can or the printer box back to make room for his escape, not even a challenge. I replaced the trash can with a box of copy paper and swapped the printer box with the trumpet case.

The box of paper was only a slight deterrent. He got his teeth into it, pushing it back, once again able to slide through. I used a spare cat litter pan, held in place by the box. He could not penetrate the heavy plastic. Instead, he climbed over the trumpet case.

I added a cookie sheet, to increase the height. So now I'm barricaded out of my own kitchen, waiting on a puppy to grow.

Unfortunately, this puppy has morphed into a teenage boy, skinny and all legs. After a trip to the hardware store, we added a plastic barrier, which he chewed through within a couple of hours. (I left the boxes in this picture so you could see how much he chewed them.)

Adding a layer of chicken wire to the gate finally did the trick.

That's where we are now - wishing Winston would widen.

A good match

Last night, watching a recorded show, I was feeling particularly wretched. In the good old days, I would have said I had the "mocus of the pocus." I'm not sure what that means or where the expression comes from, but it works.

In times like this Ricky feels particularly emboldened. As he fast forwarded through the commercials, the remote control button mysteriously malfunctioned during the ads with pretty (VS) girls. The second time it happened, I managed to pinch him. The third time, I feebly attempted to take over the remote. He leaned over with the threatened ear slurp. I backhanded him in the face. He laughed. I retreated to regroup for another day.

It's nice to have life getting back to normal.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Call me Semicolon

I always wanted a nickname, although this one is not what I had in mind. My husband thinks he's quite clever.

We had my surgical followup this afternoon. The fantastic news is that my cancer was only Stage 1, so no chemotherapy. I will have three month checkups for a couple of years, followed by six month checkups for three years, lots of blood tests and scans and, predictably, another colonoscopy next year and then every two years for a while. I can live with that!

We also found out the surgeon removed eleven inches of my colon. Evidently that is not a big deal. Of course there are more tidbits related to recovering from colon surgery, but they fall under the category of TMI.

I'm not hesitant to share my history and recovery issues with anyone who has an interest in or concern about colon cancer, just send me an email or leave a comment. Keep in mind that I had no noticeable symptoms, other than perhaps increased fatigue, which I attributed to my busy lifestyle. At least five of my friends have now scheduled their first colonoscopies. What are you waiting for?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

They did it to me again

Feeling a little stir crazy, I joined the family for a trip to Tinseltown this afternoon. It's the rare movie that can entertain a middle aged couple, a twenty something daughter and a teenage son.

I'm usually so-so with animated films, but "Toy Story 3" was worthy of the 5 star rating it received from both the Dallas and Fort Worth newspapers. It is just the right mix of clever humor and a good story, laugh out loud scenes and misty eyed moments.

"Toy Story 3" is a good movie to see if you are sometimes dismayed by life changes or have a hard time letting go. Unlike "Up," it is semi rather than bittersweet, so I left the movie refreshed and encouraged rather than emotionally drained. I'll be sure to watch it again three summers from now, as Wiley heads off to college.

Thank you, Pixar, for a fun afternoon.

I do have one beef, though. One of the reasons I go to the movies every now and then rather than waiting for the DVD is to see the previews. That's how I fake my way through adult conversations later on. Today's previews were for "Despicable Me," "Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue," "The Smurfs," "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hooie," and "Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore." I'd be golden if I had grandkids. I don't, but if you do, and need a heads up, let me know and I'll fill you in.

Monday, June 14, 2010


My telephones (the old fashioned kind) are fixed!

I can now close this chapter of the "How Many Things Can Go Wrong at Once" book.

While I was in the hospital getting my broken colon fixed, two of our three air conditioners, the pool pump and the telephones quit working. Air conditioning and pool pumps are mighty important in the Texas summer. My telephone lines are critical to my office at home.

One of the air conditioners was fixed before I came home on Tuesday. The second, the one that cools our master bedroom and living room, was replaced and working by Wednesday night. The pool guy replaced the pump on Thursday.

That left the phones.

I have two "land lines" I use regularly - one for work and one for home. They're both on U-verse. Out of the blue, the two lines started acting as one. So if I was on my work line and a call came in on my home line, it terminated the work call. And vice versa.

So imagine being randomly knocked off a high-level conference call, or a call finalizing an IRS audit or a call with the doctor whose time is so precious.

The U-verse technician came on Thursday (the same day I called) and couldn't figure it out. He kept wanting to tie it to some event, but no, the phones have been working fine for over a year. He replaced the modem, tried different configurations, all to no avail. After more than two hours, he gave up and said he would report back that another tech should come out.

Friday I waited and used my cell phone for any call I cared about. Nobody came to fix the house phone problems.

This morning, after another 55 minutes talking to U-verse, we got on the schedule for a second service attempt.

When the tech called this afternoon for better directions, I was skeptical that today would go any better than Thursday. But after about an hour, he used his intuition and tried something. Our home alarm system was wired in to both phone lines. When he disconnected one of the phone lines from the alarm system - voila!

Now why did everything work fine for over a year, and just last week the alarm wiring mattered?

Gremlins, once again!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Did anyone get the license plate number of that truck?

Yeah, that truck that hit me last Friday. Modern medicine and the human body are miraculous, but, this time, it really will take some recovery time. I had a few inches of my colon removed on Friday night. Tuesday afternoon I came home. I have a one-eyed smiley face on my belly now, but all the pertinent parts seem to be functioning. It will just take some time.

Wednesday I spent the day in a friend's recliner, since, to add insult to injury, our air conditioner went out while I was in the hospital.

Yesterday was kinda' fun - did interesting client work that had to be done due to the State of Florida deadlines that are non negotiable. Read a couple of fun books. Went for a short drive.

Paid the price with an uncomfortable night, so here I am, in the recliner, taking life easy a few hours at a time.

I came up with a few numbers to summarize the last week..........

1 - The number of cancerous polyps I had removed by removing that section of my colon. (For some reason, I really, really don't like the work "malignant.")

2 - How many hours I spent in recovery after my three hour surgery. Normally, it only takes about an hour in recovery. However, one of the rules is that you have to be able to talk before leaving the recovery room. During recovery, someone would ask me questions. I would give a thumbs up, or a thumbs down or a shake of the hand, depending on the question, but would not talk. Finally, they sent for Ricky, out in the waiting room, telling him I was fine, but had some "issues" and needed his help. I think finally I said "don't want to talk" and they took me to my room.

3 - The days between my cancer diagnosis and surgery, performed by one of the top rated surgeons in the Dallas area.

15 - The number of family and friends who took over the waiting area during my surgery.

29 - The median number of days between a colon cancer diagnosis and the necessary surgery if you live in Canada.

34 - The number of lymph nodes removed and tested, all of which were negative.

Countless - The friends, family, students, co-workers and friends of friends who have sent prayers, notes, cards, flowers, balloons, food, time, encouragement and support. It has been overwhelming and humbling.

Even without the vacation I was so looking forward to, it's going to be a great summer.

Friday, June 4, 2010

I know my limits

It's lunch time. I haven't eaten in almost two days.

I told the boys they had to go out for lunch.

Too bad I don't have time today to go weigh in for the month of June at Weight Watcher's. "Making my weight" would have been a piece of cake. Ouch.

Putting things off

I keep intending to post some things, really. If I have time today, I'll even post some more after this. Yeah, that's what I always say!

But I kinda' took last weekend off, with my parents visiting. Ricky, Wiley and I played golf Sunday afternoon and I did all right - had a lot of fun. A little storm came through and blew most of the people off the course. We played 18 holes in about three and a half hours, with the course virtually to ourselves. Awesome!

Then Monday, with the phones quiet, I finished a particularly tricky tax return.

All good reasons for taking a break from the computer.

Tuesday morning was my follow up visit on the colonoscopy. The short version - I'm having surgery this afternoon and am looking forward to about a five day hospital stay. The GI doctor who did the colonoscopy said I would be in the hospital seven to ten days! What!?! Heart transplants don't take that long! But the surgeon said, if she's able to complete the surgery laparoscopically, it's much shorter.

I don't think the news is too bad. I've been having a lot of medical tests done over the past few months which haven't shown anything alarming. I told the GI doctor I had been putting off getting braces on my teeth, though, until I knew I was going to live long enough to get my money's worth. He said I should go ahead and get the braces.

So here I am, doing laundry, finishing some client stuff, dry and thirsty after no food yesterday and nothing at all today. I had to drink the "koolaid" again last night to clean out the system. Sigh. But it's not that bad.

Come to think about it, I would amend that old expression to say that "nothing in life is certain except death and taxes and laundry." It's an interesting day when you're covering all three.

The bottom line - if you're reading this and you are fifty something like me, go ahead and do all those pesky things the medical folks tell you to do. It makes a difference. If I can do it, so can you.

And for some people, who read this blog, and promise that they are going to call...... You know who you are and you have my number!