Friday, August 31, 2007

Photo Hunt: Dirty

The theme for the photohunt this week is dirty.

The photographs which I selected are about a beautiful dance between a couple of butterflies. The dirty part is how I accidentally kept interrupting them. They would get right up to the moment of
coupling and then be startled by me trying to take a picture. Here's an example of a tender moment I interrupted.
They didn't give up but were rudely interrupted by me more than once. I was trying my best to be quiet but sadly I wasn't always successful. It made me feel dirty and insensitive. Here they are in the throes of courtship and passion and then that nasty old human kept stumbling around and interrupting them.
There were even some extremely shy moments where the pair would separate and seek hiding places hoping that I'd go away and leave them to get down to it.However, they weren't easily distracted from their mission. Survival of the species is a powerful motivator. This isn't a casual dalliance but an important part of their life.
Finally I grew a conscience and when the shy lady came out of her cover one last time, I let them get to it and didn't try to take another picture. I do after all have a heart.

I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of dirty pictures the rest of the photo hunters came up with for this week's photo hunt. The links at the bottom of this post will take you to the other photohunters. Saturday is the photo hunt day but I'm posting early and what with time differences it's Saturday somewhere. To find out how to join the hunt and play with us you can go here.

I am adding my fortune to this post at the end. A blogger had linked a place where you can get your fortune and I got mine on Thursday. Here it is. Although my fortune is tame, I think some are dirty to the point of being risque so you might not want to get your fortune there.

My Fortune Cookie told me:
People are beginning to notice you. Try dressing before you leave the house.
Get a cookie from Miss Fortune

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Shy Beauties

The first girl has pulled her frilly sleeve over her face but she's blushing so hard it doesn't hide her embarrassment.The mother tries to protect her shy child from view but the awkward moment gets caught on film.The purple pair are high tailing it to the woods for a moonlight dance. They don't seem quite so shy. I think they merely want a little privacy to enjoy each other's company. Finally a little one is trying so hard to hide under its mother's dress, it would be invisible if it had chosen a lighter outfit.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Summer ending

I am trying to get motivated to go for a walk. It's in the low 70s and won't reach 80 until mid morning. Wooohoooo. The heat has been a killer this summer and I will be so glad to see it go. I am particularly glad that there is an end in site for the people without A.C. They have set up extra facilities for people to get inside a cool spot (primarily for the elderly) but it's never enough for the need. I was struck by the catch 22 situation of air conditioning units being offered to people that could establish their need in terms of health and finances, however, they also had to be able to establish that they could pay the increases in their electric bills which the A.C. units would bring. Let me see if I can get this straight. There is a city wide program to provide people living below the poverty line with an air conditioner if they have health issues which means the excessive heat is dangerous for them but at the same time they can't be poor because they have to be able to pay the higher electric bills that will result from having an A.C. unit. Those are the kind of radio reports that make me want to drive off the road in frustration.I could say a great deal more on the topic of programs which always seem to fall short of helping people that need them the most but I guess I'll get back to my petty concerns. Yesterday I took photographs of all the vines and ivies which I haven't started to deal with yet, knowing that now that I have opened the door to being sensible, anything can happen. Removing the miniature fig vine and carolina jasmine from my chimney and siding was only the first and most needed step. Now I have to decide about the increasingly thick ivy on the bricks and the rasberry, potato vine and ameliopsis on my deck wall. The good thing about the deck wall is the damage is already done. Years of birds drilling holes and nesting inside the wall means the plant matter serves the much needed role of hiding the damage. The big decisions will come when I replace the wall.The gate and fence is safe too. I hate chain link fencing and bit by bit it has been softened by vines and in terms of the borders of my secret garden, completely hidden by nandina, blueberry, and privet hedges. It's taken a while but my secret garden is almost secret enough for me to walk outside in my night gown and not worry about scaring my neighbors. The only thing I have to keep in mind is the meter readers. They have a hard enough job running from meter to meter in the heat without being scared by half naked old women. I wonder when the demands put on being a meter reader made them start running. They used to walk between houses but now they all run. Stuff like that bothers me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It's not easy being grown up

With one mature decision, my garden has lost a little bit of magic. It's not easy being grown up, at least for me, and reaching the mid century mark you'd think it wouldn't be so hard. I used to joke about how eventually the plants would provide the structure for my house. The walls might crumble but the dense wall of plant matter would replace them and I'd live inside of a plant. All well and good if you are a fairie but replacing brick and siding with out of control plants isn't great for home equity.
Seriously, I never intended the miniature fig vine, and carolina jasmine to do what they did. A couple of mild winters created the out of control situation. The main reason that I made the mature decision to deal with it is because I was afraid to build a fire last winter. The bird cover was the perfect spot for the vines to collect at the top. Not only were birds kept out of the chimney by the cover, the vines which collected there seemed likely to send the smoke back into my den/office. Therefore, I decided I either had to do something about the vines or forget about fires. I love having a fire in the winter so I did as much as I could, and hired someone to do the rest.No worries. I may have given in to the lure of the winter fires I enjoy but nothing was killed. That's right, the process will start all over. The miniature fig is whacked off the siding and chimney. The carolina jasmine has been whack down to the lines which were supposed to contain them. However, both plants are alive and well and ready to grow again. I do feel like I've temporarily lost a bit of magic and after seeing what happened to the siding where the fig vine attached itself, I no longer believe that I can live inside of a plant.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Holding on

We had a short downpour yesterday which wasn't enough to put a dent in the drought but I was able to watch the parched plants drink up each and every droplet. When they were full, they appeared to be hanging on tightly to the water providing me with some photo opportunities.Much as the berries were holding on to the water as if they feared it wouldn't come again, I was rushing out to photograph them. It has been so dry with only sporadic brief showers that every time I learn something while playing with photography immediately after the rain, it almost feels like the last chance. I know it will rain again but it's hard to believe when the earth gets parched to the point of cracking.The moth was holding on so tight to the screen that I wasn't sure it was alive until hours later when it moved slightly and eventually went on its way. There are so many situations where we have to hold on until its time to let go. As a parent, I have had to let go many times in good ways.Holding on until it's time to let go may be the hardest lesson life teaches us up until the final parting. The trick is knowing when its time because sometimes life is predictable and fair and sometimes it's anything but fair. I'm finally reaching an age where I understand some of what my mother tried to tell me when I was so angry about the injustices in life. I don't have any great answers, merely understanding, so I guess I will stop there.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Recess is ending

I was glad that the photohunter prompt for this Saturday was happy. I posted my happy shots Friday and spent Friday afternoon (slow work day cooperated) and Saturday looking at what others had done with the theme. Although Saturday is the official photohunt day, with time differences as well as how large it's become the photohunt seems to get spread out over a few days which I like too because I try to visit as many as possible. It's a nice diversion for me, particularly since the heat cuts into so much of what I enjoy doing. This time of the year is perfect for me to begin an activity like that. What I liked in particular about the happy theme was it reminded me of what makes me happy and there is quite a lot in that category. On the somewhat frivolous side, I enjoy blowing bubbles and I'm glad to be reminded of that. I am going to try to spend some time in the morning and perhaps early evening if it's not too hot, blowing a few bubbles and watching them float off until they pop. I need something frivolous to take the edge off of the next month.The reason I titled this post recess is ending is because that's how I feel about August coming to an end. September looms with a different doctor's appointment each and every week. All are routine follow ups but I can feel the tension rising. I'll have to be sure to blow some bubbles. My first appointment in September is with the rheumatologist and my last one at the end of the month is with the surgical oncologist who has been following me since I got staged with Stage III melanoma. The middle appointments include my gynecologist and dermatologist. I won't be free and clear until early October when I see my pain specialist. Then I should get a break until December when I see the medical oncologist. I don't know why I let the tension rise about these fairly routine appointments. I shouldn't need any scans until my annual full body PET/CT in March and that's always the big tension producer. I am well aware of how fortunate I am to have good health insurance and a job that I can do from my home computer. Work is one thing I don't discuss on my blog but I will say that being able to primarily work from home and only occasionally commute to the office is an enormous perk in my situation. I can spread out the work week and take breaks for doctor's appointments and blowing bubbles as the need arises.I'm glad that I have so many positive aspects of my life that make me embarrassed to give in to the lure of excessive whining. One large reason to celebrate is that I haven't had any further metastatic disease beyond the one lymph node. That is enormous considering the risk factors. I've had a few scares but during the time period where I had to have comparison scans and repeats in three months, the scares ended up being established as false alarms. That's what I call lucky as all get out. Why then is there always a BUT in everything I say, even if it's not spelled out. It's not always stated but it is often implied at the very least. Maybe if I turn it on its head and put the boogeyman first and the good part last it will help. Nope that doesn't work. I tried it and it's much worse. I truly am fortunate. I have good friends, a supportive family, a job that I can do in spite of some physical limitations, I can still do some gardening, I can go on pleasant walks and even slow hikes, I have excellent medical care, my prognosis improves with each and every year that passes, I can be intellectually engaged, and that's only about me. If I start thinking about my daughter, a whole new set of fortunate events arise. In the final analysis, there isn't even a but worth saying. Bill and I have trips planned to the mountains in October and to Manhattan to celebrate my 50th birthday in November. My daughter is coming home for Christmas. Nice to have fun events to look forward to. All this and bubbles as well. All of the sudden my mood has improved.

Friday, August 24, 2007

PhotoHunt: Happy

The photohunt theme this week is happy. I explained about photohunt in my Saturday post last week which was my first week of participating. Checking the literal meaning of happy, I found four distinct definitions in the online Merriam Webster's dictionary. The meanings ranged from good fortune, well adapted, pleasure, all the way to dazed irresponsibility. Since we will need 15 inches of rain to pull out of the drought where I live, I consider any rain to be a fortunate event. Each and every shower this summer has made me very happy. Thus the rain dripping off of the hibiscus pictured below is my first happy photo.
The rose of sharon (hibiscus) is well adapted to survive where I live. I am always pleased to see flowers in my garden. Which leaves the last meaning given for happy, a state of dazed irresponsibility. For me blowing bubbles on my deck, for a few minutes, when I should be doing some tedious task is a pleasure well worth the irresponsibility. That's why bubbles are featured in my happy collage below.
click inside picture to enlarge

My daughter is 22 now and has always been a bright spot for me so I included pictures of her growing up. My parents lived long enough to know my daughter and that made me very happy, therefore, I included some shots of my daughter with her Grandma and Grandpa. I like the theme, happy, and look forward to seeing what everyone else did.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wondering how this is going to work

I have made it pretty clear, in a number of posts on my blog, that I approve of water conservation. I was thrilled that the city where I live, which isn't exactly known for common sense, would instigate year round water restrictions. People can still water their lawns but until today, only on alternate days. Rather than making this a short term policy during the summer after water is limited, the policy was put in place for the whole year which I heartily agree with. The new wrinkle is that starting today, due to the severity of the drought, people are only allowed to water their lawns once a week. They still have me. I agree. No problem. Maybe this will help shift more people towards conservation minded landscaping. Save the water for food crops when it's in such short supply. What startled me, and set me wondering how it would work, is one of the penalties.After two fines, the city will cut the offenders water off. Surely I am missing something. Will the water ever get cut back on? Does this mean if you miss the notices plastered all over the place you have to move to another city because your town won't give you any more water. Don't get me wrong. I have very little sympathy for people ignoring the warnings and fines. I don't even water my lawn once a week, then again I've replaced my lawn with a wild garden which is coping pretty well. I've collected rain water when we have had the periodic showers. The showers haven't put a dent in the drought but have helped on a small scale, and the collected water has stretched it out a bit further in my garden. I still can't help wondering what will happen to people who have their water cut off. Since the worse offenders so far have been people on large estates with automatic irrigation systems, perhaps they'll move to a wetter climate.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Confusing, complex, no one answer

I recently read several medblogger short pieces on CAM (complementary and alternative medicine). The danger of making the patient feel responsible for the progression of their disease came up as a side piece but was referenced back to the CAM disscussion. Personally I don't think it's useful to talk about CAM as one big animal, any more than I think it's useful to talk about conventional medicine as one big animal. Individuals are helped by digits from both animals and not helped by digits from both animals. I think it's necessary to discuss specific treatments and diseases to have a meaningful discussion. For both animals it's possible to pull off a finger and say, look, that hasn't held up under clinical trials as being helpful, why do people keep saying it is helpful. I think the part of the discussion I found the most interesting was the suggestion that part of the downside of CAM was making the patient feel like it was their fault if their disease progressed (for example, positive thinking back firing if the disease progressed and the patient ends up thinking it's their fault). I agree that is bad but I think that the same thing can happen with conventional medicine (the patient feeling like it's their fault) and that's what I want to discuss. It's odd that this subject pushed my buttons. I have considered going to an integrative medicine clinic at the university where I go for melanoma follow-up but I haven't done it yet. My doctor has never tried to pressure me into treatments I didn't want to do. However, I know people that were pressured into a treatment they didn't want to do initially. The specific treatment that I'm think of is interferon as an adjuvant treatment for stage III melanoma. Some of these people say, I didn't want to give up, in explanation of why they did the treatment. They have every reason for saying that because their doctor made them feel like not doing the treatment was giving up. Since, in some cases, my prognosis as a melanoma patient is as bad or worse than their prognosis is, I find these statements troubling. The last thing I have ever done is give up.One of the problems with high risk melanoma is that after surgery (assuming any involvement can be surgically removed), the options are fairly limited for an adjuvant treatment. Melanoma is resistant to many of the chemo and radiation treatments which have been somewhat effective in treating some of the other cancers. There is research being done into new chemo, radiation, biologic and bio-chemo treatments for melanoma but the options continue to be limited. The only FDA approved adjuvant treatment for stage III melanoma is interferon. The side effects can be grueling and the benefits continue to be debated. If a patient wants to educate themselves there is a lot of confusing literature to read.
A patient could read, Pros and Cons of Adjuvant Interferon in the Treatment of Melanoma; then a somewhat less than enthusiastic discussion called Helping Patients Decide Whether to Choose Adjuvant High Dose Interferon; and then the doctors who didn't like that wrote, Response to "Helping Melanoma Patients Decide Whether to Choose Adjuvant High Dose Interferon". Let me just say, it is very confusing and hard to know what to do. What it boils down to is that people like me can have a (1) lymph node dissection, (2) do interferon, (3) try to get into a clinical trial, do (1) and (2), or (1) and (3), or (1) and observation, or in some cases opt out of the LND and do an adjuvant, or do none of the above.What I did was after my SNB was positive, I had the groin lymph node dissection but I chose not to do interferon. I didn't consider clinical trials until I was too far out from surgery to get into one. Let me just say, that was NOT doing nothing. I've whined enough about the aftermath of my surgery. There is some debate about the LND and until recently no long term studies showed that it improved prognosis, although there have recently been some studies showing that a LND may improve prognosis. In the past, based on what was know at the time, the LND was more for staging. In a case like mine it's even murkier because a primary as thick as mine was, has a high risk of turning up beyond the lymph nodes. I don't have any regrets about my choices and I also have the utmost respect for people that have gone through the grueling interferon year.What I object to is the idea that choosing not to do the interferon year, or a clinical trial, is equivalent to giving up or doing nothing. I wouldn't mind so much if this attitude was coming from the patients. Heck, in my opinion, if you deal with the crappy treatments, I can handle a bit of attitude. What bothers me is that this attitude, of which I speak, is often in the form of quoting doctors. In my opinion a doctor shouldn't pressure a patient into a treatment which at best is helpful to a small percentage of patients. That's one thing I'm grateful for about my doctor, he was neutral about interferon. If he hadn't been neutral, it wouldn't have changed my mind but it would have put additional stress on me. Sure, the doctor can give their opinion and if they aren't neutral, I think they should say so, and say why. However, I don't think it's fine to bully a patient and make them feel like not doing a treatment with questionable benefits is a weakness on their part. The good news is many stage III melanoma patients won't recur after surgery whether or not they do an adjuvant treatment. In my case, I had slightly less that 50/50 odds (as much because of the deep primary as the positive node) of surviving 5 years. However, for me the good news is that now I have made to past 2 years, my odds will keep improving.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

How Many Fresh Starts

I know that I've announced a fresh start at least twice since I started blogging. Fresh start as in walking log. This is my fourth fresh start over the past 9 months. I am also keeping a sub total and will be interested in where I come in at a full year. It would be easy to feel like I'm going down hill and not in a good way. My first fresh start was an effort to find a new normal and do the best I can with what I have to work with in the here and now. It was counter productive for me to keep looking back and say: this time last year I was jog/running 5 miles most mornings. Since my emphasis initially was to get back to where I was prior to my groin lymph node dissection for node positive melanoma, it took me a long time to stop using BEFORE as the yard stick.My first fresh start in mid December, 2006 was an attempt to establish a routine of walk/jogging between 2 to 3 miles 4 or 5 days a week, as I recall. I realized that running wasn't going to happen. Hard to let go of that because I didn't start running until I was in my mid 40s and I had worked very hard at getting into good shape, after letting the middle age process take over. However, I had a lot happen that made it unrealistic to keep trying to get back to where I was at the beginning of 2005. Therefore, setting new goals made sense. Pretty quickly, it became obvious that jogging was hurting more than it helped. Every time I'd feel good and break out of a walk into a jog, I'd end up with more crap. In the middle of my first fresh start, I tried to set even more realistic goals. At a bare minimum I would walk briskly 2 to 3 miles every other day on average, but hopefully more.I did well with that realistic goal until the severe heat. For the past two months I've had two more fresh starts (30 days a piece) and have continued to do a little worse in my efforts physically. But fall is on the way and in honor of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I will begin anew. If I add all my logs together from the first fresh start mid December, I have walked 100 out of 239 days. By that, I mean for exercise, not a la di da di da stroll. Not every other day, the bare minimum, but not nothing either. It's at least remotely possible that I will be able to average in at every other day for the full year. I have about 90 days to go and if the weather improves and I am inspired I may be able to start walking 5 or 6 days a week.I am going to try very hard not to think about where I'll come in at the year mark, when I add my logs together from each fresh start. If it's going to be a fresh start I need to think about doing the best I can over the next 3 months. I'm also not counting the hand full of times I make it to the pool or gym. Those are side issues. If I got into a regular routine of water aerobics or water walking or using an indoor track or an elliptical trainer, that would be enough from an exercise stand point. However, every time I try something new I hurt myself no matter how wimpy the effort. Over the past 2 years since my melanoma dx, I've tried a lot of different things at various times. It has all backfired with one exception. Walking. Walking under 3 miles a day works (anything over that and I pay). It also has enormous psychological benefits. I like the sites, sounds, and smells of outdoor walking on woodland and lake trails and I have access to them less than a mile from home. If someone would just turn the sun down a notch or perhaps if I would go to bed early enough to get up by 6:00 am, that could work too. I'm about ready for sweaters and coats or even being able to walk in long pants for a change. I am almost 50, hear me whine!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Saturday PhotoHunt: Two

I have recently found out about a fun blogger activity called PhotoHunt. The basic idea is that there are pre-selected themes and anyone who wants to play can go to the theme list and see what the theme for a given Saturday might be. Then you can tag your post to make it easy for others to find you. You can also add a comment to the home page , if you like, after you post. My first photograph for this week's theme is the cropped goose above the Photo Hunter button, at the top. It occurred to me that the shape of the body of the goose looked similar to a 2. I also liked the pair of geese I photographed last fall and therefore, I am including them below since they add up to 2 geese. The advantage to beginning with a theme like 2 is that I have loads of photographs which I've taken in the past that work with that theme. For fun, I took some more to add to what I already had on hand. The disadvantage to a theme like 2 is there are two or rather too many possibilities. I hope it's alright that I went with too many photographs. The photo above is a close-up of two ameliopsis berries. They are quite small but I like the way they look together in a close-up shot. The one below cracks me up because the two ducks are simultaneously scratching an itch. Not that I find having an itch that's hard to scratch particularly amusing but if someone took a candid shot of me and a friend and we were both scratching an itch, completely irrespective of what the other was doing, it might be amusing after the fact. I mention that so any ducks reading don't think I'm picking on them.
I took the photograph of the two morning glory flowers, below, a week or so ago. I've been taking a lot of closeup shots of individual morning glories but there was something about these two that called out to be kept together.
A couple of cups were calling me to include them as another two. If I were a poet I'd probably try to come up with a poem for a couple a cups. I'll spare you my couple a cups poem since I'm not a poet. I rarely use those cups but looking at them on my screen makes me think I should have someone over for a tea party. Maybe I will.
I think I'll end Theme Two Saturday with a perfect pair. Those two would be lovely as individuals but my romantic side enjoys the way they are heading out together into the sunset on the clear lake. The place holder for PhotoHunt 71: Two on the hosts site is one way to get links to other PhotoHunter's, take on two, if you are interested. You can also use any of the zillion alternate links I have scattered around. Hey, this is my first time and I'm trying . . .