Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Please save me from the neighbor with the concrete backyard

User warning: Please do not read any further if you don't want to hear complaints. I just need to get this off my chest so that I can stop thinking about it.

Today was trash day so I got up to do assorted things before the trash truck hit our street - clean the dogs yard, empty trash cans, take out newspapers, etc. It gives me once a week where everything is more or less cleaned out.

After doing that, I decided to work some more in the back garden so that I could put more stuff into the leaf bin. This is always a very relaxing chore for me - sunshine, the dogs laying on the patio and lots of greenery around me. Even though I am working, I enjoy it and feel a sense of accomplishment and ease. So this morning, I was busily trimming the climbing rose, cutting the suckers off of the Maple Tree, fighting my endless battle with the Morning Glory Ivy that has infested the neighborhood, pulling up weeds, whatever got into my eye. I filled my trash can and headed out to the front yard to dump it into my leaf bin. There was my neighbor standing there. I must say that this neighbor hates plants. She concreted in her backyard and talked the city into removing the city tree from her front yard and not planting another one (too many leaves). The woman has a gardener so she doesn't even have to do that herself. She just hates plants. She has had cancer too but I guess no one ever told her about the healing power of plants.

Back to my story. There she was standing there. Do you need help?, she asked. I said no thank you in the politest manner I could conjure up. She stood there as I raised the can and dumped it into the bin. Are you going to cut the Wisteria?, she asked. I said no and she said but it is so tall. This plant is in my yard a good 6 feet from her fence or her property line and none of her busines. Then she asked if she could come in my backyard and see if I had anything planted along the fence. I said no. Just No. She was really stepping over the line by then. Then she asked me if I was okay? I said yes. All this time, I am trying to get into the quiet, peaceful, privacy of my yard but she has her hand in the hinge of the gate and I will pinch it if I close the gate. She doesn't move. Then she comments on how nicely Smokey has been laying there while we were talking. This is his normal style. He is a good dog. Then, she asks me if I had any problems? and I said no. Do you? I asked. Shocked, she said no. She said that she heard some whining like a dog and scratching and thought I had passed out or fallen in the house and so she went to get our neighbor, Don (Who is a very nice guy) to come over and look. As I reread this, it all seems petty and like she means well. I am just not explaining it very well. She goes on and on and it is really not kind, concern for me. It is nosy, pushiness because she is always there. I can't even relax in my own house. It is one thing if is a friend always there - fun, fun but a nosy neighbor - ugh. And she is always complaining about something with MY house. Complaints about her life, her house, etc. I could stand but leave my house alone lady!

Back to the story. At that point, I had had enough. I told her that I appreciated her concern but that I am okay and that she is invading my privacy and needs to ease up and leave me alone. I said that it is my house and I don't appreciate people coming to check up on me, look in my windows, etc. Please note that I do not mind my family and friends checking to see if I am okay and Helen, the neighbor on the other side, has a key to my house in case anything happens. I just need this nosy woman, F, to leave me alone and stop snooping around my house. My life is my own business and not hers.

Even after I asked her to leave me alone, she wouldn't leave. She looked at me and said you are red. Did the doctor say you can go in the sun? I said yes and that I really needed to leave and go relax and she said yes, you should stop gardening and go rest. What I really wanted to say was that she was really stressing me out and taking the joy out of my gardening. Instead, I asked her to move her hand so that I could close the gate and not pinch her fingers. Then I closed the gate and went back to my gardening. I tried to relax and get her out of my head but just couldn't so I thought I would write this to purge her from my mind. I am afraid to go out in my own yard or do anything because she is always there. I can't even enjoy the privacy of my backyard because I can see her looking between the slats of the fence to see what I am doing and then she starts talking over the fence to tell me what needs to be done. I am a big girl and not in need of another mother. The one I have is just fine thank you. I have paid special attention to making sure that no plants hang over her side of the fence or get near it so she really has no reason to be involved in my life. She just needs to get her own life. I told her nicely today to leave me alone. The next time, I am not sure if I can be so nice.

So now, I will be off to a shower and see if I can wash these bad thoughts away. Anybody out there got any suggestions as to what I can do with this neighbor?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

random thoughts

Yep. It is me. The dog lady again. I am desperately trying to get some pattern, routine or whatever you want to call it back into my life. The last surgery just sent me for a loop - a really big one. I slept well which is fortunate but slept all too well which is unfortunate. I still haven't managed to get my sleep pattern back and find myself sleeping in much later than I am comfortable. Gettting up at 8:30 makes me feel like I have lost half the day and then I don't want to go to bed until 2:00AM. I feel all discombobulated as they say (don't know who they are but sure that "they" are everywhere around us). There is so much to do but I am not feeling so motivated. Hoping that getting a routine back will help. Thus, the new obsession (which is really an old obsession) with walking the dogs.

But, first, yesterday.

After walking the dogs (which you had the delight -or maybe simply skipped- of reading about), I wrote some checks for ATW, wrote a check for my own bills, found the mailman and gave them to him to mail, caught up on emails, caught up on blog and talked (argued) with the phone company. It seems that it is that time of year again when I have to call them and re-negotiate all of my services. This is the most annoying thing in the world. If you do not call, they simply raise your charges to a horrendous rate and when you notice, you have to fight them to get everything reversed and get the new lower rate anyway. There autta be a law! In checking the comparison to last year, it seems that I was being charged $4.99/mo. for my worldwide long distance connectivity instead of the $3.99 guaranteed me in my negotiation of last year. It seems that AT&T randomly decided to discontinue that promo sometime during the year and raised my rate. Ok, it is only $1.00/mo. but aren't our rates high enough anyway. And why do we have to pay $4.99/mo so that our random calls outside the US will cost us 39 cents or thereabouts depending on the country instead of $3.99 per minute. What an outrage. You have to pay the rate even if you might only make 2 or 3 calls outside the US/year. Anyway, I asked her if there was a rate cheaper than $4.99 and she said, "yes, $3.99". I asked what the different in benefit was and she said none. They were the same plan. The only reason I was on the $4.99 was because I was on a special rate and when it expired, it went to $4.99. Everyone else who was not on the special rate was at $3.99. Are you as confused as I am by now? And that is only one service! Lets move on to DSL -that lovely service that allows me to keep writing these rants. :)

DSL. Hmmmmm.... The phone company does not want to speak to you in person so they offer you a better rate if you go and negotiate your services online. If you think the phone is confusing, try online. I got totally lost in the mire of all the crappy ads and false advertising and promises that really weren't only to be told that I didn't qualify for any rate breaks. I am still on the phone through this - not willing to let my live voice go. I asked for the $12.99/mo rate for DSL and was told that I couldn't get that one. It was only for "new" customers. So much for valuing those customers that have supported you over the years. Comcast cable will give you the new customer rate if you call in. And I do believe there is something in the laws of our great nation about charging different rates for the same services..... So I asked her what was the cheapest rate that I could get and she told me $17.99 if I upgrade to their faster speed product. I told her that I wasn't interested. I wanted the cheapest. You know what happens. You upgrade to the more expensive product, go through your promotion and then they raise you to some gawdawful rate. When you ask to be downgraded back to the cheaper product, they charge you. Well, she told me the cheapest was to upgrade, so I tried it. Guess what! I am not allowed to upgrade because AT&T doesn't have the faster internet for my address. Am I laughing yet? I think not. Although it is all too ridiculous. Sooooo......now, the cheapest rate I can get is $19.99. I have to pay $2.00/month more to get inferior service. How does that figure? And $7.00/month - more than 50% more than a new customer..... And $5.00/month more than I paid last year when my connectivity was already crappy and AT&T hasn't done anything to improve it. I was so disgusted at this point that I just told her to have a nice day and hung up. If you don't see me writing here anymore - and that just may be a possibility that would thrill you if I have any readers left by now - then you know it is because I have become so fed up with AT&T that I have bagged the whole thing.

Woooooooooooooo...........sigh........deep breath. Didn't expect to go into the AT&T issue so much. The fingers just got away from me.

So, for the rest of the day. After the AT&T call, I felt the need to commune with nature and relax my psyche so I went out to the back yard and started working on the jungle that has grown back there since my surgery. It was relaxing cutting back the bougainvillea with all of its beautiful pink blossoms and pulling weeds. Pulling out the ivy provided much needed anger management and stress relief. I filled a trash can and took it out front to dump into the recycling bin and ....da...da...da.daaaaaaaaa (or any theme from a suspenseful horror movie), my neighbor came over. She always comes under the guise of being nice, friendly and concerned but ends up with being nosy and whiny. She has never failed to complain about something - and always on my property. Get a life lady. She started off by asking if it was really me...hmmmmm....as if I had somehow changed bodies with someone? And went on to say, she thought it might be my sister (whom she has never met)...more prying to see if I have had someone over the hourse. Then she asked me if my hair was really mine. I know that a lot of people have asked that with the strange hair I have now after chemo but geez I have had this hair for over 9 months now. Then she got to the source of what she really wanted to know....the Morning Glory Ivy. She said, do you know that your ivy is growing into my yard. I informed her that it was not "my ivy" and that it had come from the yard next door and that I was fighting it too and constantly pulling it out and that she was welcome to pull it out on her side. It would not hurt my feelings. She then said well do you know it is growing in the top of your bush by the fence? As if I couldn't see it there? This has been going on for 9 years. It is nothing new. Just made it to the top of her complaint list .....after my Mulberry tree being too big (Do you know the branches are growing over your roof?), my drain pipe (behind my gate in my backyard where she can only see it by looking over the fence)being down (Do you know the drain pipe on the side of your house is missing?) and various other items that are solely my responsibility and have nothing to do with her. Anyway, I tried to politely extricate myself by telling her I had an appointment and had to go.

Next, in my exciting day? I had a shower and got dressed and headed out to my car, turned the key and ......nothing.......a BIG NOTHING. Completely dead. I got out walked around to the trunk and found it unlatched...closed but unlatched. Apparently, it had been that way for nearly 2 days. I called the towing company and they came out and jump started the car and I headed off to San Jose for another SCIOS treatment. The system owner had asked me to come be a guinea pig to train another new operator. I happily went since it meant I got a free session. She treated me for various things but, most importantly, for the hormone imbalance that I asked for. If it works, I will get my period back and come out of chemo menopause, a pretty daunting task for any treatment system. I will keep you posted on whether it works or not.

The evening was finished off by a nice Indian dinner (Shiva in Mountain View) with friends and a great, deserved glass of beer.

This morning, I overslept again and got up and started with a walk with the dogs again. Thomas got to go first today since he was second yesterday. He had a very good day and I didn't lose my cool or even be challenged to even once. We walked down doggy row where he sat quietly, walked, didn't lunge and didn't even pant heavily. Next came doggie gate. After an initial slight pull, he fell back to his heel and walked up to the gate with me, turned around, sat down, got a look on his face like "I'm bored" which Cesar says is calm submission. Next came doggy corner. What a breeze. 50 minutes later, we were back home - a happy dog and a happy owner. Next came Smokey. Thomas barked when we left but at least didn't give that heartbreaking puppy cry. I walked Smokey over to my Sis house but couldn't get an answer at the door. We left and walked for about 20 more minutes and came back. Sam came and looked at the doggie and told me about Elephants (Elepans?) and then we continued on our walk. For the last 15 minutes, Smokey was completely off leash walking by my side. All-in-all, a good doggy day.

Guess I will go do some gardening now. Painting tonight. I am looking forward to it after missing last week.

Monday, August 28, 2006

2 steps forward, 1 step back

Reinspired by Cesar, I decided to work with the dogs separately this morning. Smokey came out first and it broke my heart to hear Thomas literally crying like a little puppy to be left behind. Still, I think it is for the best. Smokey's walks are being overshadowed by the attention to Thomas' discipline and I noticed that Smokey had started to cringe when seeing other dogs in anticipation of Thomas' reaction. This was not good for him or good for Thomas.

Only half a block into our walk, Smokey and I were lucky enough to come up to a dog playing in the front yard with its master - a woman I had seen before but didn't know. I asked if it was okay to introduce them and she said yes. Her dog was very calm and playful. A few corrections to Smokey from me and one from her dog and he was soon relaxed and playing in her yard. Time for us to move on. We took a nice long walk over by Peet's and Piazza's and down San Antonio so that he could be exposed to the loud sounds of trucks banging that make him nervous. He did very well and we soon arrived back home.

Thomas was so excited sniffing Smokey to see where he had been that he didn't even notice the leash and collar I was holding for him. He calmly accepted them and we headed out the door. Of course, Smokey wanted to come but stayed back when I told him to (after a couple of practices). He didn't cry but barked - stopping once we were out of sight.

I walked Thomas around the dog course - past doggie corner, doggie row and the infamous doggie gate. He did fine in the beginning although still having some problems with his heel. When we reached doggie row, it got too much for him and he started barking (though not lunging). He sat which was good but kept on barking. I started to lose my cool while trying to remind myself to stay calm assertive not excited crazy. It wasn't working. Then a neighbor came walking by with her old German Shepherd and Thomas went into a new frenzy. I tried choking up as the trainer had said which choked Thomas but didn't hurt him and didn't stop him either. Finally, I decided just to walk because I couldn't maintain my cool. I am sure that folks watching thought I was being so cruel but Thomas was not being hurt or abused. I love him too much for that. One woman pushing a baby stroller with twins went by and gave me the dirtiest look. I felt so bad and wished I could assure her that Thomas was alright. I don't hit, beat, kick or do anything to hurt him. Just trying to work with his manners so that he can be around other dogs.

Well, on we went with the walk. We were coming up to Dog Gate. Thomas always goes a little crazy here. I never hear the dog there anymore and wonder if he has passed away. Thomas still reacts and did so this time. However, he didn't go entirely crazy and I was able to get him around to a sit fairly easily and we resumed our walk out to Rengstorff and down by the park. Two more little dogs across the street. I gave Thomas his corrections and remained calm. He barked and lunged but soon figured out that I was walking the other way and did his best to stay by my side while still trying to see what was going on with the other dogs. The kids playing in the park soon caught his attention. He wanted to play, too. I kept him by my side and the little kids came and stared and giggled and smiled. He took it all very well and happily stayed by my side. This was a lot of stimulation for him this morning so I walked him over to HP where he could just work with me. We worked on turns until he was walking by my side with the leash hanging loose down at his side. He did very well and we reentered the neighborhood where he walked on a loose leash at my side all the way home. He is such a good boy. I wish I knew what the issue was with other dogs (although he gets along fine with Smokey).

This was two hours of exercise for me and I will try to work with them as much as possible each day. Good for now but when I am working at a job? Oh well, cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, I am hoping to overcome this dog problem and stop having the neighbors look at me like I am a meany when walking Thomas around other dogs. When it is just Thomas and I with no other dogs, they come up and talk and are friendly (With Smokey, they all smile and greet me). Why do I care? Because I love my dogs and want them to be good citizens so that every one else loves them, too. Most of all, I want them to be safe and not hurt themselves or have anyone else (man or beast) want to hurt them.

Wow! Okay. That is enough about the dogs, huh? I am not really a crazy dog lady. :) Just posting my day.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Exercise, Discipline, Affection

No. That is not the recipe for catching a good man (or training one). It is the mantra of Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer. You can catch him on the National Geographic Channel. I am a big fan and went to see him give a seminar yesterday. Not only does he have a way with dogs and with people but he is also very funny. We all laughed so hard at him while, at the same time, learning how to be calm assertive with our dogs so that they could become more stabile and enter into a calm submissive states of mind.

I have used his techniques on my dogs and they have helped out a lot although I still need more training on handling Thomas. Thomas is quickly becoming rehabilitated and today we were able to walk by all of the "hot" doggie zones without him barking once. For the most part, he was good on the leash too although at one point, he did make himself gag. I quickly relaxed him so that he would stop gagging. With his heavy panting, a number of passersby comment on him working hard or being tired. That is just his way. Smokey is right beside him and not panting at all. We walk to the park and I let him drink all he wants out of the drinking fountain but he still pants.

Anyway, back to Cesar. He is a funny guy and really great with the dogs. His body posture says it all and during the seminar, he showed us several times how changes in body posture could change energy. It was amazing but, as people, we could really feel the change in energy. It is all too hard to explain. You just have to watch the show on T.V.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Weigh In Challenge

This week was a real challenge for Weight Watchers and me. I had been celebrating my birthday (last Wednesday) for days on end. Scones, pastries, champagne, wine, ice cream, more ice cream, pasta, steak, chips, dip, cheesecake, ice cream cake. Whew! I get full just thinking about it. It was all too wonderful but, like all good things, needed to come to an end. By Sunday, I had gained 5 lbs (in 5 days). It probably would have been more had it not been for the 9 hours or so of walking up and down hills and along the beach in Carmel.

My job between Sunday and today was to take off the 5 lbs I had gained. I almost succeeded. 4.6lbs. It was enough however for me to pass my weigh-in at Weight Watchers this week. Not passsing would have been a disaster. All of my hard work would have gone to waste (waist) since I would have had to start my 6 weeks of maintenance all over which would have meant more money ($$) since I would have had to pay for all of those 6 weeks. Anyway, I passed and now have only 1 more week of maintenance - next week - before I make it as a lifetime member and don't have to pay anymore - yippee! Not entirely true - if I go more than 2 lbs over my goal weight, I have to pay but only for the meetings that I am over goal - and I only have to weigh in once/month, although I can attend as many meetings as I like for free and can weigh in more often if I choose.

And speaking of money, for those of you that have been such great supporters through my fight with Social Security to obtain my long term disability, I won and have finally received my check. That meant that I was also eligible for an extension on my COBRA so I could continue my good health benefits. I thought that would be automatic once I received my letter from SS. NOOOOOOOO!!!!! It wasn't. COBRA, being another federally run government program, had to give me its own hassles. It took 3 weeks of battling with them and me being on the phone nearly every day for them to finally give me my acceptance on the last possible day before losing my health insurance. How nerve wracking! They didn't even look at the paperwork until 3 days before my benefits expired although I had faxed everything in to them weeks before. Aaarghhhh! There are serious problems with our federal government - starting with Bush.......But don't get me started. Or rather let me put an end to this now. All is well that ends well. I now have my health insurance and disability and can rest comfortably knowing that I can finish my treatments and get on with life! :)

And it is a beautiful day! Seriously. Got to go get me some of that sunshine.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Monet and the Women of Gee's Bend

What do Monet and the Women of Gee's Bend have to do with each other? Absolutely nothing except for the fact that one was an exhibit at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco and the other was an exhibit at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco and the same ticket got us into both exhibits. It was our intent to go to both so we were pleased that the ticket worked for both. It was a good deal and even better for me since my friend, Carol, decided to give me the ticket for a birthday present. What a nice surprise!

We started with the Monet exhibit. After donning our headphones - a must for me as a budding painter and follower of Monet's impressionest style - and headed into the exhibit. Each painting was an exciting new experience for me as I examined the brush strokes, colors and style. What a genius. I can only aspire to make anything 1/20th as good. Had I seen paintings and, in particular, Monet's paintings before? Yes, I had. But never with the eye of a painter. Everything was transformed. I could imagine him painting in all of the dark colors first and then see the strokes and brighter colors as he gradually came "into the light" and then more strokes of dark where he had added too much light. Layer on layer of beauty and amazement. Some of the strokes thin and flat, others like glops of paint. The glittering and rippling of the water, the movement of the flowers with the wind. I could have stayed there forever looking at the paintings.

Next we drove over to the DeYoung in Golden Gate Park to see the Women of Gee's Bend exhibit. I had read about these women in the Life section of the Sunday Mercury News. The article was written because of new postal stamps coming out that will feature some of the quilts made by these women. The women are descendants of slaves in Gee's Bend, Alabama who started making quilts in the early 1800's. The quilts were made from any materials at hand - flour sacks, sugar sacks, old clothes. There was no money to buy fabric. They were made to use and keep warm. In 1997, a historian of African American art came upon a photo of one of the quilters and her quilt in a book of portraits of quilters. He found the quilter, Annie Mae Young and she offered him the quilt for free. He insisted on paying and she asked for $25. He countered with $3,500! Word got around town about the "crazy white people" overpaying for quilts and the man ended up buying more than 100 quilts. He also helped the women set up a Collective and began exhibiting the quilts worldwide. That resulted in the exhibit that we visited at the DeYoung. Today, some of the quilts sell for more than $20,000 and you can buy books, postcards and prints featuring them. As for the quilts themselves, each is different and unique. It is interesting to follow history through them. The cordoroys of the early 70's, the polyesters of the late 70's, fabrics with the red, white and blue, Vote, etc and other slogans of the 60's/70's. The designs and patterns often just look like a mishmash of patchwork until you realize how each of the odd sized pieces needed to fit together like a big puzzle. I think that Monet would have really appreciated their work! It was a good complement to his art.

The day was bright, sunny, warm and clear - a treat in San Francisco - and my only regret was in not bringing my camera. After enjoying the exhibits, the day ended beautifully with a glass of wine and some calimari at the Left Bank in Menlo Park.

Monday, August 21, 2006

16th Herceptin Infusion

Wow! I can't believe that I have gone through this 16 times already. That is a lot of trips to the infusion room. Pat, who is usually my nurse now, and I have this down to a routine. I put on the Imla at home to numb the area around my port. Pat takes it from there. She removes the steritape from over the port and counts 1, 2, 3. On three, I take a deep breath and she sticks the needle into the port. I feel just a slight pinch. The port is then flushed with Saline and I get hooked up to a Saline drip. Pat takes the order for the Herceptin to the pharmacist who then prepares my dose. The Herceptin bag is then hooked up to the pump which is hooked up to my port and proceeds to drip the Herceptin into my veins for 1/2 hour until the bag is empty. Another 1/2 hour on the Saline to make sure I am properly hydrated and don't get a fever and then Pat flushes the port with the blood thinner, Heparin, counts to 3 again, I take another deep breath and she pulls the needle out. A tiny, circular bandaid is then placed over the needle prick and off I go home, stopping at the coffee cart to get a Cafe Mocha on the way. Sounds simple and it is but the whole process, including seeing the doctor, takes about 3 hours (1/2 a day). I am usually tired afterwords and have muscle fatigue in my hips, buttocks and thighs from the delivery agent in the Herceptin.

Only 2 more of these to go! And then I am finished with my treatments. Still one more heart scan (September) and 2 more surgeries (2006-7) to go but all minor compared to what I have completed already. Oh, and my blood counts have come back some - white and red are both in the range, though on the low end. The hemoglobin, hematocrit and iron counts are still below normal although they are slowly crawling back up to where they should be. I imagine I will continue to feel some fatigue until they come all the way back.

It is still unreal to think of almost being done with this whole adventure. I am looking forward to it but also feel a little bit of loss not to have to be doing this "job" of managing my health every day. Whew! Time for a new job and hope this one (Cancer) never comes calling for me again.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Best Birthday (Almost) Ever

Since I still have not lived forever, I reserve the right to have better future birthdays. However, this one was great and will definitely be up there in the top 10.

It started the day before when I packed up my car and Smokey Bear (one of my dogs) and headed down to Carmel for some rest and relaxation. The beach, the trees, the wonderful outdoors.

We arrived at the Cypress Inn in Carmel at 1:30 and walked into the lobby to find two of my friends - Cathy and Susan - there waiting for us. Smokey and I got checked in and then headed off to move the car to an all night spot. We got back just in time for Afternoon Tea at 2:00. The Cypress Inn is known for this and it is wonderful. We "took tea" in the beautiful courtyard. Smokey was laying under the table while the three of us enjoyed our tea. Each person got a beautiful tray with their own FULL size teapot and tea bags of our choice. There were also little cucumber and lox sandwiches (no crust), huge scones and 3 cookies on each tray. It was a good thing that I did not eat lunch as this thoroughly filled me up and also raised my sugar levels high enough for me to fly.

After tea, we took a look at the room which was very cute and nicely furnished with 2 twin beds and a dog blanket in case Smokey wanted to sleep on one of the beds. Free bottled water was included as well as a snack bowl of fruit and and honey peanuts. Cream Sherry was also provided free though I didn't have any. On request, I was given dog dishes so that Smokey could have his water and food in the room.

I changed into jeans, a sweater and sandals and we headed off to walk the town. Smokey was very happy walking along with us and going into all of the shops and galleries. Everyone was so nice and he received lots of pets, water and dog cookies everywhere we went. At last, we arrived at the beach and had a good time walking along the water's edge. Evening was coming on and it was beautiful.

My friend Cathy had to go home but Susan decided to stay for dinner. We headed back to the hotel and were surprised to find that the hotel had given me a birthday card and bottle of champagne. I forgot to mention earlier that I also had, almost to myself, my own concierge to take care of Smokey and me during our stay. His name was Andrew and he was 32, tall, single, unattached and good looking and a real sweetie. He found us and told us about the champagne which he proceeded to bring to the lounge where we were sitting and open and pour for us. We had a nice conversation with him and then he made reservations for us at the Forge in the Forest since I wanted steak for dinner.

Well primed with the champagne, we headed off to the Forge in the Forest for dinner. They sat us in the back couryard with the other dogs. Every table had at least one and many had two dogs laying under it. Smokey was pretty tired by then and happy to lay under our table at my feet. The waiter brought him a bowl of ice water which he turned his nose up at and would not touch. The restaurant has a Doggie Menu from which you can order kibble, hamburgers, steaks and other food for your dog. I figured Smokey already had his kibble that I had brought for him and which he had not touched, back in the hotel room. I wasn't spending money to order anything more for him.

We ordered our food and half a bottle of wine and proceeded to enjoy a nice leisurely dinner. Of course, I couldn't finish my steak and handed the remainder to Smokey under the table. He ate it with great delight. For dessert, the waiter brought me a chocolate sundae with a candle in it for my birthday.

We headed back to the hotel and Susan left for home. Smokey and I were now on our own. We went into the bar where there were 5 dogs packed into close quarters. One even stepped over where Smokey was lying to get by. Smokey growled a little at that but settled when I told him to. I think I might have growled too. It was such a surprise. Having had enough alcohol and sugar for the day, I settled for a Cafe Mocha (Starbuck's watch out) and chatted with the other people in the bar. A wierd older guy tried to pick up on me so I told him my name was Victoria, like the Queen and when he didn't get the hint, I left. Back in my room, I poured myself another glass of champagne from the bottle that Andrew had left there and read the nice note that he had written to "Cathy and friend" after his talk with us. Boy, I could get used to having someone like him around. Smokey still wanted to go out so I took the champagne down to the Great Room and sat in front of the fire place while I finished my glass. By then, it was time for bed.

My birthday dawned nice and early at 5:30AM. By 6:30, I was up and out of the door with Smokey, headed for the beach. We walked all the way to the end where I let him off leash to run. He had to check out every seaweed pile, which, from his following actions, I am guessing every other dog on the beach had also checked out. He then ran to a sandpile and started digging and excitedly threw himself down and rolled all around in it. Wondering what the interest was, I went to check it out and saw that he had found a dead seagull and was rolling all over it. EWWWWWW!!!!! I called him off and it seems the seagull was already dead enough and covered with sand enough that he didn't get all smelly from it. Thank goodness!

After about 2 hours, we headed back to the hotel for continental breakfast which was included in the room charge. It was another fabulous spread - bagels, pastries, fresh fruit and, of course, tea. We sat in the courtyard and I ate until I almost burst. Smokey enjoyed half a cinnamon muffin but turned his nose up at the fruit (which he usually likes).

After packing up and checking out, we headed into town again and visited some more galleries and shops for about 3 hours. We went to Diggity Dog where they sell everything for dogs including dog strollers (just wierd). Smokey surprised me by lifting his leg in the store and peeing on a basket of soft toys. This is from a dog that never even had to be house trained. I am guessing that the excitement and smells just got too confusing for him and he forgot where he was. The sales girl was very nice and said it happens quite a lot. I was humiliated. Now I had to buy something so found some dog cookies that Thomas could also enjoy when we got home.

Finally we walked back down to the beach so that we could enjoy the sand and surf one more time. Our last stop was watching some Plein Air painters doing some beautiful work overlooking Carmel Bay. I enjoyed speaking with them and was surprised that they not only knew of, but were friends with my teacher.

We went back to the car where Smokey eagerly jumped into the back seat and lay right down. He slept all the way home. I think he was very tired but he never once complained and , unlike many of my other travel companions, never got tired of walking. He was always ready to go with me.

After coming home, saying hello to Thomas and having a shower, I headed off to Olive Garden where I had a truly awesome dinner with my family. Most of them made it which was surprising considering that it was early in the evening on a weekday and a work day. I was very happy to see so many faces at the table. We ate, drank and made very merry. At the end, the waiters brought me an ice cream sundae with a candle on it and everyone sang happy birthday!

It was the perfect end to a perfect birthday.

My sister came over to my house after and we shared more wine and relaxed watching tv before I drifted off to sleep with a happy smile on my face.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Maintenance - strange things the body does

Here it is - WW day again. I still have 4 weeks of maintenance before I can become a lifetime member. After today, it will be 3 weeks.

As mentioned in earlier posts, I had a bit of a splurge this week - celebrating the end of my official recovery period from my surgery and just plain enjoying one of summer's pleasures - ice cream - and another of life's pleasures - chocolate.

So, here is how it went:

Last Thursday, I bought 1/2 gallon of Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, Hot Fudge Sauce and Organic Whipping Cream in the Can - yum! yum! yum! I tried, really I did, to share is with my Sister and her family but, alas, no such luck! After that, I went home and had a nice BIG hot fudge sundae. As if that were not enough, after dinner, I had another one.

On Friday, I fully expected at least a 2 lb weight gain on the scale. Not to be. I was down .8lbs! Friday, I continued to consume the rest of the goodies in 2 more HUGE ice cream sundaes.

On Saturday, I was sure that would show up on the scale. No! My weight was exactly the same. At that point, could I let sleeping dogs lie? (Sorry Smokey and Thomas). No! I dug out the gift certificate for 1 lb. See's chocolates that I received for Christmas and had been saving for the right time. I guess Saturday was the right time. I eagerly drove off to See's and chose my pound of chocolates - piece by piece - caramels, marshmallows, truffles - most dark chocolates and chewy - my favorites.

My objective was to have a few pieces, freeze the rest and just have a piece now and then. Not to be. This chocolate urge had just grabbed and had me completely trapped in its jaws. I am guessing that is what 6 weeks of deprivation will do for you. :)

I ate my few pieces, then went back for more. And then more after dinner. On Sunday, I finished off the box - all 20 pieces - yum! yum! Now, you would think this had done something to the scale but NO! - still the same weight.

I felt like I was really pushing my luck (not to mention my weight) by this time so, having had my splurge, I resumed my usually healthy lifestyle. The rest of Sunday and Monday were the normal. The scale still showed no change. On Tuesday, I was running around, busy with lots of things and didn't have time to cook dinner so I ran to Safeway and grabbed a Cobb Salad from the deli which I then took home and consumed.

On Wednesday, I got on the scale and was up 1.5 lbs. - SHOCK! Could that salad really have done more than Ice Cream Sundaes and Sees Chocolate. Maybe the dressing or the salt - Who knows?

This morning, about .7lbs had dropped off but I am still going into WW with an intrepid feeling. I don't want to mess up this maintenance now when I am so close. Oh Lord, let me pass the weigh in please!

And no more Safeway salads for me!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Today, I had my first post-cancer interview. Downtown San Jose. The outside temperature read at 105 degrees and there I was in my suit. Nonetheless, I stayed cool (Thank goodness I am a hot weather person). For some reason, my face decided to break out today and I had several nasty bumps that refused to be covered by makeup. Don't know where they came from. But who am I to complain? Hot weather and bumps are a breeze when compared to my last interview when I had to wear a wig (not my style as my BIL let me know), draw on my eyebrows and eyelashes and go to radiation treatment that morning.

This interview seemed to go well. Keeping my fingers crossed that they think so too and decide to take me into their "family".

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

And you thought giving birth was tough

When I first saw this photo, I thought it was a new "fake" story of a Bigfoot, Yeti, or some other mythical being. To my surprise, it was a real story about the biggest baby Panda born in captivity. To read the story go to PANDA

In the meantime, you can enjoy the photo of this little "cutie".

Monday, August 07, 2006

SCIOS for diagnosing and treating what ails you

Today, I had the opportunity to try out the coolest new invention ever. It is called a SCIOS and is the latest development from the Quantum Physics geniuses of the world. The way it works is very simple.

You wear all of your clothes. No little funny hospital gowns here. The only thing you have to do is take off any jewelry that you don't normally sleep in - which for me included earrings, watch, finger rings. Next, a electrode halo is placed on your head and bands placed on each of your two wrists and two ankles. This "wires" you to the machine - somewhat like when you are doing an electrocardiogram. No pain or feeling involved.

The SCIOS is then activated and does a "handshake" with your body. By means of some sort of "waves" or "vibrations", it makes a diagnostic of over 10,000 items about your body. These include all of the basic functionalities we are familiar with from doctors offices - including liver, kidneys, bones, brain, heart, lungs, etc. but also include other items not usually checked on by doctors such as dehydration, nutritional levels, temperament balance, hormonal balances, blockage along the meridians (from Chinese medicine) of the body and more - too many more to describe here or even fathom in a one hour session.

The SCIOS can either work on items you are concerned about or it will choose for you the top 10 items it believes your body wants to work on. Interestingly enough the run on mine brought up physical stress, stress on my liver and kidneys, hydration, allergies and bone issues - all related to my last year of damage done to my body and the areas my body is trying to repair. It also came up with digestion - over and over - until finally the woman doing the demo asked me if I was hungry. I said no but I usually eat at 6:00. I didn't have my watch on so didn't know the time. She checked. It was exactly 6:00 and the SCIOS was picking up my hunger.

The scan also showed on my mental/emotional balance that I am a strong expresser of Perfection coupled with Curiosity and am Compulsive. Now we all know that but how did the SCIOS know it? I did no talking. This came up from the scan.

After the diagnostic is done, you can choose areas you would like the SCIOS to work on for you. Because this was a demo, we worked on several areas. One was the alignment of my spine. The SCIOS showed some compaction and a pinched nerve in my neck (C6) and some compression in my lower lumbar - both correct. It then proceeds to enable the body to treat these areas so that it can make the corrections.

Other treatments it ran were for general well-being, temperament balancing and a cancer reduction.

The woman that did the demo has been trying it out herself on her family. She was referred to me by another contact who has known her for over 15 years. She told me a story of her uncle that has a debilitating illness (Hodgkins?) and could not walk or get out of bed to go to the bathroom. She worked on him with the SCIOS for about 4 hours one evening and then went to bed. Her aunt came and told her that her uncle had gotten up by himself and gone to the bathroom several times in the night and that he was so excited that he came and KNELT down by her bed to touch her arm and wake her and tell her.

She is also working on her husbands asthma and wants to work on her own weight.

I, myself, don't know how much I believe in this SCIOS but I do know that it works on theories of self healing and Chinese medicine that I support. I do believe that we have within us the capabilities of making ourselves well - albeit sometimes with the help of acupuncture, reiki, exercise, nutrition or Western style medicine. After all, if we can make ourselves sick (psycosomatic illness becoming actual incident) why shouldn't we be able to make ourselves well? Our minds and bodies are incredible things that we just don't know enough about yet.

I really think that this is worthwhile to try out. Teresa has told me that she will do a demo for anyone that is interested. It only takes a group of about 6 people. Her office is too small to hold that many so having a place (someone's house) would also be helpful. Of course, she would like to build her client base but the demo doesn't cost anything. Just let me know if you are interested.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

15th Herceptin treatment

The last week was pretty boring. And guess I am getting so also.

Had my 15th Herceptin treatment. 3 more to go. The last one is October 2. Hurray! I will miss my nurses but it is good to be able to move on.

Tuesday, the trainer came for Thomas and I was very pleased to see him (Thomas, not the trainer) laying on the front lawn with 2 German Shepherds (the trainers dogs). He (Thomas) wanted to get into trouble but was laying very calmly with them next to him. A big improvement but still much further to go.

On Wednesday, encouraged by Tuesday, I took both dogs for their first walk alone with me since my surgery. It went okay but Thomas still got up and rowdy when another dog appeared. More work to be done.

I finally got my Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream to make a hot fudge sundae. Thinking it would be fun to share my celebration with Susan, Stacey, Sam and Riley, I took everything over to their house only to find that Susan and Sam were asleep since she (Susan) had to work that night. Quel disappointment! I went back home and celebrated with myself. Maybe next time guys!

Friday was another day of fighting with the COBRA people over my health insurance. Ugh! Only 7 more days until I am without health insurance - what a scary thought - and these people just can't get their acts together. Call us back on Wednesday they said...... How long can it take them to tick off three boxes and give me my approval??????

Saturday, I joined a Dragon Boat race team to race on Sept. 23rd. Our first practice is the end of the month. It was a great group of people and I am really looking forward to racing with them.

Now, I am just hanging out. It is the first morning in a while that I have not woken up lethargic and exhausted. Hopefully, that means that my blood counts are finally coming back and the anemia is being beaten back.

So much for my boring life.