Wednesday, December 26, 2012

One of the Many Reasons a Credit Union is Better than a Bank

On December 18, I came home to this on the porch:


This was was that red lettering said:


This was what was inside that brown box:


This is what the card said:


And THIS was inside!

How cool is it that not only our credit union so appreciates our business that they send us a REALLY useful gift for the holidays but that they also know us well enough to know we hadn't wrapped a single gift a week before Christmas!

Customer for life.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Spider Story Update

The post dated September 11, 2012  (it seemed like years ago, for as long as it's been since I posted) and A Couple of Half-baked Thoughts and a Spider Story was about the end result of some sort of insect bite I received in early August. I am now scarred for life. I am not kidding. Not pretty.

I ended up seeing the doctor about a week later simply because some lymph nodes on my head and neck on the same side as the spider bite were swollen. After having had another lymphectomy, I didn't want to take any chances. The doctor immediately diagnosed the bites as spider bites and prescribed antibiotics, steroids, and topical cortizone.

I have since done HOURS AND HOURS of Internet research on spider bites and have learned that spider bites are extremely difficult to diagnose unless you catch the spider in the act and most doctor-diagnosed spider bite are usually something else.

Almost as soon as I began using the topical cortizone, the skin at the site of the bites became necrotic. It wasn't until weeks later, too late to do anything about it actually, that I remembered that one of my professor colleagues is a spider researcher.

I showed him the bites and he said in no uncertain terms, "Not a spider bite."

I asked him if it would do any good to bring him a spider specimen. That man got positively giddy. That is why he is known as "Spiderman" by this students, I guess.

We've seen numerous spiders, unfortunately in BonnieBlue's room, and it seemed logical that if I was bitten by a spider it was one of the many we've been seeing. I killed two before I remembered I was supposed to get an undamaged specimen.

The fated day came, and according to Spiderman's directions, we caught one in a small jar, filled it with isopropyl alcohol, and put him in the freezer until I could take him in.

Spiderman identified the little hairy intruder thusly: definitely a male sheet-web spider (Family Agelenidae), probably of the species Agelenopsis pennsylvanica.  This is a spider common to Ohio (and Pennsylvania, I would assume), and he indicated that there was little or no chance that it gave me the awful scar I now sport. Spiderman also offered that what happened to me looked just like what happens as a result of staph infection.

So, tens of more hours on the Internet, and I was convinced. I either contracted the staph at the doctor's office, or from the topical cortizone, or carried it home with me from the hospital when I had a mastectomy. Another friend told me that staph is commonly found in horse barns; that is consistent with an insect bite from the garden as we fertilize with horse manure.

So, mystery solved, at least in my head. I am styling my hair so that the forehead scar is hidden and the nose bridge scars are fading. I may be beautiful again someday.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Barbie Musketeer for Halloween 2012

Seemed like a good idea to combine these two posts, given the topics.

First Halloween.

How cute is this?!



I was inspired by these.



Google really is the end-all-be-all for creating Halloween costumes. I found this picture when I Googled "Barbie Musketeer tutorial," which took me to Brown Paper Packages, a blog by a woman who made these great Barbie Musketeer costumes for her kids a couple of  years ago and posted a tutorial.

I gave myself permission to NOT be supermom and instead improvise as needed. I cannot actually sew very well, so the first things to go were the skirt and shirt. Target's clearance rack provided a $2.40 skirt that I added a $2.00 ruffle to (for a petticoat; didn't turn out so well and BonnieBlue was visibly and verbally disappointed in it). She already had the shirt. This woman (a.k.a. SuperCostumeMakerMom) made the hats, corsets, and boots. I improvised on all three: 1) The corset I made had no rouching on the back but I'm planning to add that; I didn't have elastic thread and didn't have time to go out and get some; 2) I bought a pink cowboy hat at Target for $8 and a fake feather at Michael's for $3; and 3) The boots were duct-tape over boots she never wears.

The whole point of this post (except, of course, to show off my child) is to share the idea she came up with for making boots. She made them like this:

1. Have child put on an old pair of ballet-type Mary Janes (they'll never be able to be worn again, fyi)
2. Pull on a pair of old knee socks over them.
3. Duct-tape from shoe to top of sock.
4. Cut off down the center using a pair of surgical scissors.

Somewhere in there she also added the boot cuff, but again, I improvised because I didn't have time. I was sewing right up until it was time to leave for the church Halloween party.

But man-oh-man, I thought this was brilliant! What a great way to make any kind of costume shoe!

Unfortunately, BonnieBlue was would have nothing to do with me duct-taping her lower let. So here's what I did:

I took a pair of boots her older cousin gave her that she won't wear and stuffed a pair of my winter socks in the shoe part, one in the toe and one in the heel. Then I placed a water bottle in the shaft of the boot.






Then I started duct-taping, starting at the toe and working my way up.



Using both sturdy all-purpose scissors and fabric scissors, I cut them down the middle. I added duct tape to the open ends that I had just cut, and then added another piece on each side so that the tape extended out beyond the boot, giving me enough room to add some eyelets. 




Added some gold trim bought by the yard at JoAnns for a couple of bucks.


Again, she wasn't too thrilled with the boots, but several of the little girls at the Halloween party were ga-ga over them and asked where she got them. Unfortunately for me, no glowing-child-response of "My mom made them!"  Oh well.

All in all, about a 20 dollar costume, that she didn't hate too badly.

As Halloween approached she did say over and over again that she wanted to be Jewel (the female bird in Rio). I agonized over not making the costume that she really wanted, but I couldn't  figure out a way to do it that would be...well, doable.

I'm not all that bummed that she wasn't as excited as I had hoped she would. I'm pretty sure she got the message that I wanted her to: We don't buy pre-packaged, crappy costumes. We buy a few accessories and make our own crappy costumes!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Goals Lunch & The Lean

Time for a post, and I've got just the topic to keep me at it for many weeks.

I work in higher ed, a job requiring a lot of self-discipline in order to get research and writing done so that I can get published so that I can get satisfactory annual reviews in order to keep my job.

I have absolutely no self-discipline. If it weren't for the strategies based on the principles of behavior that I apply in my life, this would be me.


Picture from affordablehousinginstitute.org. Where they stole it from I have no idea.
Only those cans would be Diet Coke cans and those chips would be in the bag. Because who bothers with portion control when eating chips? Not me. And apparently not this cat, as that is way more than one portion there, Puss.

As evidence of my lack of self-discipline, I am blogging on a Monday afternoon instead of working on the aforementioned research and writing. One could argue that I'm doing it on my lunch hour. But professors do not get lunch hours.

I'm not complaining though. I leave work three days a week at 2:30 to pick up my 5YO from school. Okay, I then work 2 days a week from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. straight through to make up for those 3 days, but hey, my point here is that I have a very flexible schedule.

OFF TOPIC! See, no self-discipline!

Back to my original topic...

Others in my profession seem to need some sort of structure as well to get things done, so a few colleagues and I have started a goals lunch group. We meet for lunch once a week and set goals for the week. Whoever doesn't meet their goals has to buy lunch for everyone else. Your goals are totally up to you, and it's the honor system for reporting.

Last year I was pretty listless about the whole procedure, so this year I added a "public posting" component and everyone agreed to join me, so now we write our goals on a big post-it and report whether we completed them.


It's a nice weekly get-together with colleagues and friends. The punishing nature of buying lunch usually does a pretty good job of keeping me on track with my goals, and the public posting provides a forum for me to "reward myself with a check," which is usually enough of a reinforcer (in combination with the punishment)  to keep me honest and "motivated" (not a word we behaviorists like but it works for me here).

I'll have to ask them, but I think this will be our 7th year of doing Goals Lunch. I got tenure, so I guess it's working for me overall. Though one year, I had to buy lunch about 14 times.

This year we've added to new members to the Core Group, including Melly, who I'm sure I've mentioned before. Smartest person I know and kind as they come. But with an edge. I like that in a person.

In the interest of keeping with my Gone With the Wind theme, the other two Core Group members shall be known as Suellen and India. This year we have 2 new additions, K1 and K2 (I can only take the GWTW theme so far before it becomes taxing).

Soooooooooooooooo....

Melly and I decided we are going to "do" this book:
In a nutshell, it's a book about "leaning" into veganism.

Let me just unequivocally state right now that I have no intention of giving up meat and dairy completely and forever, but I need to eat healthier and given that I have no self-discipline, I need some structure to do so. This book is more than about veganism; it seems to be (I am only on chapter 4) about living a healthier life.

Anyhoo, Freston lays out a day-by-day plan of making one change a day: 1st day, drink 64 ounces of water; 2nd day, eat a hearty, healthy (no animal products) breakfast; 3rd day, eat an apple, etc. Each day is cumulative (i.e., you do that day's change AND all prior changes).

The idea is to "crowd out" all the bad stuff with good stuff.

Melly and I have made adjustments and our plan is that we are going to do it week-by-week instead of day-by-day. When we get to a daily-weekly goal that we think we are not going to adopt as a permanent part of our lifestyle, we are going to make the adjustment for that week and then agree to do it for a certain number of days per week after. For example, there comes a time in the 30 days-weeks that we are to be totally animal-product-free. So we'll live that week without animal products and then commit to one or two or three days a week of animal-product-free living from then on.

Because we're both behaviorist, we're going to take data on our progress, graph the data, and do some more public posting. I may post here just to keep a record somewhere other than on my computer. (My computer crashed this week and of course, I had not backed up for a few months, so I'm just sick about what I may have lost.) And to shamelessly get some "atta' girl" shout-outs from my 6 blog followers/readers.

Thanks to my blog followers/readers! You're swell!



I'm in week 2 of The Lean, so I'm drinking 64 oz of water per day and eating a hearty, healthy, no-animal-products breakfast every day. In addition, I'm working on reducing my Diet Coke intake by reducing it by 2 oz per week. I started at 20 oz/day (which was a reduction of about half) and this week I'm down to 16 oz/day. I'm also shooting for 26 min of some sort of exercise per day (I started with a goal of about 20 min/day and began adding minutes each week).

So far, I have not had to buy lunch! Yay!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Couple of Half-Baked Thoughts & A Spider Story

A month is probably too long to go without posting.

If I make pizza every Monday night, she'll grow up loving Family Home Evening.



Am I right?

Those peppers and tomatoes on the pizza are from our garden.

Here's a shot of today's garden harvest.


Fortunately, whatever is eating at the rest of the tomatoes does not seem to like Romas. But we've been able to harvest very few of our Early Girls, Belgian Giants, and the-other-kind-I-can't-think-of-right-now due to the worms and holes. 

Asian lady beetles--or the aphids they are feeding on--ruined about half our green bean crop as well.

We had a great crop of broccoli. In fact, we're about to put in a second planting. Our eggplants and green peppers did well, too. Rhett planted pickling cucumbers but we didn't get enough to make pickling them worth the effort. He also planted the eatin' kind, but we only got 2 or 3 out of that plant.

I wanted to can the green beans and tomatoes, but now that the new school year started, there is no time for that. If we hadn't switched to semesters this year, I'd still be on summer break and could do it. We must keep that in  mind for when we get the plants in next year.

Reader beware of the next few pictures and if you're spider phobic, just leave now.

BonnieBlue took this picture of me tonight when I was cleaning some strawberries for her (definitely her favorite fruit). This will be my "good side" from now on.


Why?

Almost exactly one month ago I was bitten by a spider, while I was sleeping. It happened on a Friday night. I didn't even think it was a spider. I had been picking  tomatoes that evening, so I assumed the bites were mosquito bites. Unusual ones, certainly. By Sunday, one on my nose was swelling to the point of pain and the lymph nodes in two places (forehead and in front of ears) were noticeably swollen. I went to the doctor the next day (Monday) because of those swollen nodes. I took this picture Monday night.


The swollen nodes were of concern because once you have lymph nodes taken out (as I did during both my breast surgeries), you don't mess around when you notice swelling. The doc took one look and said "Those are spider bites." She put me on antibiotics, steroids, and a topical cortisone.

I really wish I would have taken a mid-way point picture, because shortly after the doc visit, the tissue became necrotic (dying!), and I had big black wounds on my face up until 3-4 days ago. The forehead bites became especially ugly.

I've been wearing band-aids because it was so disgusting to look at. I had to wear 2 on the first day of classes!

Two funny things: 1) Our academic unit formed a new department with other units and at the first faculty meeting, it was announced that a photographer had been hired to take our head shots for the new department website. Um, no, not me, thanks. 2) Our PR person called me to say they wanted to do a feature on me for one of the annual publicity brochures they send out to the local community and other campuses and could I do a professional photo shoot the next week? Um, no. I explained to her the situation and she totally understood. She'll call me next year.

The scabs finally fell off a few days ago. Mind you, I never, not once, scratched at these puppies. The scabbing occurred due to the necrosis.

Anyway, here's a shot I took tonight. I actually have divots in my forehead and nose bridge from the bites!
 So how did it happen?

The best that I can figure is that when I was picking tomatoes, I had to stick my head into the plants (we don't prune) and a spider got tangled in my hair. That night, I slept on the couch (this fact is important in a minute), which I often do when I have insomnia. I think the spider was so pissed when it finally got out of my hair that it crawled down my face and bit me a few times, and in my sleep I brushed at it, sweeping it up, and then, pissed again, it bit me there, on my forehead.

Tuesday after the doctor visit, my husband suggested we get rid of the couch, which he has been begging me to do for months, if not years. It's a hand-me down from friends, a great leather couch, and I think it is the most comfy couch EVER, especially to sleep on, but my defenses were down, and truth be told, I have been having visions of painting the living room and getting a new couch. So I caved in.

Together we moved it across the room to take it outside, and a freakishly large spider scurried out from underneath.

And it was not your ordinary-sized house spider (if there is such a thing). It was black/brown and at least an inch or so across. Ugh. Ick. Shudder. It had to be the culprit. Especially because it looked just like the spider that crawled out of the basket of tomatoes that I had picked that Friday night. Only bigger. I killed that basket dweller. I could not get to the couch dweller in time before it disappeared. I couldn't get that couch out of the house fast enough. I had visions of Charlotte's children (re: end of Charlotte's web and the thousands of spiders coming out of that nest/web/cocoon/thingy). Ick. Shudder. Bleh.

So let me bring this story full circle. This morning, BB was being difficult, so I sent her to her room for a time-out. Now, I JUST cleaned that room from top to bottom...LITERALLY...because we're going to have it skim-coated and painted. In addition, time-out is really effective for her because she HATES to be alone. So, when she came tearing out of her room hysterically crying that there was a spider in her room, I didn't believe her.

Shame on me.

It came out into the hallway. The culprit! I shot my foot out but geez! That thing was fast and it scurried into the dining room onto the rug, and I lost it! Ugh. Ick. Shudder.

And we were late for school.

I had to let it be.

Tonight, I came in from harvesting the garden to answer the phone, and there it was, scurrying from the rug to the baseboard on the far side of the room. I had my hiking-stomping boots on now!

Squish.

Normally, I let spiders in the house be because I know they're beneficial (note: the basket-dweller mentioned above was not a house-dweller; I knew it came from outside). Not this one. This one disfigured me.

How badly?

The absolute sweetest man I know is the doc in charge of the ER at our university, and his oldest son is in med school (his family and ours attend the same church). He told Rhett yesterday that I should go see his son in a few weeks, when he's doing his cosmetic surgery rotation.

Ouch.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Couple of Days of Productivity

I

Love

Making

Bags.


I don't know how long this will last, but I'm going with it.

Here are the teacher bags, all done.


I followed the tutorial at Rachel Griffith's P.S. I Quilt blog. I blogged about it a couple of posts ago: It's a simple tute, though I got bored stiff sewing 1.5 inch strips together for the body so on one I did four different size strips for each side, and on the other I pieced 3 same-size blocks for the sides.

I stuffed them with some Purell foam, Sticky Notes, a pen, a highlighter, tissues, gum, and candy.

I got really good at making these. I even memorized the tutorial. So, even though I've been looking for the perfect bag for my iPad with Otterbox case (seriously, I've spent about 12 hours total searching the web for an easy-enough-for-me pattern/tutorial that has what I want (not picky there, but definitely no rounded corners, pleats, ruffles, etc.), I decided to give this bag a try, making it bigger.

A month or so ago, I bought this fabric at IKEA (at the time, I had NO idea IKEA sold fabric!). It's heavyweight, almost (but not quite) canvas.

I LOVE THIS FABRIC. So much so, I'm afraid to cut it.

So I decided to practice with scrap fabrics, so that I could get all the measurements and adjustments right and written down.

I'm not good at the math involved in increasing fabric cut sizes in patterns and tutes, so I decided to eyeball it.

I had made my sister, a lover of all things pigs, a table topper one Christmas and didn't like how the first one turned out, so I made her another. But I saved the first one.

I put my iPad on it and it seemed like if I cut it in half and put another equal-sized fabric in between, it would be close to the perfect size. AND it would show off the pigs.

The bag is really busy because of all the scraps, but here is as far as I got today.


The bag is sitting on the liner. You can't quite tell, but I decided to sew the handles onto the body of the bag instead of just at the top because of the weight the bag has to hold. An iPad is light, but the case I have adds about a half- to 3/4 pound more so it's almost 3 pounds. I also want to carry a notebook, my wallet, and my phone, so it had to be roomy.

The dimensions so far are 12 inches tall, 16 inches wide, and 3 inches deep. When I make it again, I'm going to knock an inch or so off the sides and decrease the depth to 2 inches. The straps will all be one fabric, too, but I didn't have enough of one fabric to make long enough straps for this practice bag.
Also, I'm dying to try Soft and Stable because the fusible fleece I used for this isn't as sturdy as I'd like it. It doesn't need to be, though, because I'm not looking for protection for the iPad as the Otterbox takes care of that. But still, I'm just not into floppy purses.

You can see on the left of the bag that I have a phone pocket pinned on. I've already changed my mind; I'll put it on the inside of the bag, because then I can just sew it on with the machine without worry about how it will look.

I am also going to put another pocket inside for my glasses, too, which I'm finding I need more and more. *Sigh* I'm not very fond of the aging process. I don't mind losing a breast, but I do mind losing my up-close vision. I'll split sew the pocket so that I can put a pen in the other. How organized am I?

Here are some things I've learned from this practice bag:

1. Make sure the direction of the fabric is correct for the sides (my pigs are upside down on one side, which can't be helped for the practice bag because I had to cut a table topper in half, and I couldn't very well turn the fabric upside down because then the border fabric would be near the bottom instead of the top).

2. Sew the handles on before I piece the two sides onto the bottom and leave a quarter inch hanging over (on the inside, which will be hidden by the lining).

3. Use fusible fleece on the handles. They're a little too floppy for my liking right now.

I'm excited about my practice bag! I think it's going to look quite scrappy when I'm done, imperfections and all.

Now I have to decide which fabric to use on which parts of the bag. Should I do three alternating wide strips on the sides and the striped fabric as the bottom, lining, and handles? I'm not sure about using any white on the bottom because of dirt. I could put feet on the bag to prevent any problems, but that would mean going to JoAnn's before I work on the new bag.

One more look at the choices:


Or, should I use the black fabric as the bottom and make it a little "taller" than the sides (showing it off more), the black-and-white swirly and chevron fabric as the sides, and the white and green fabric as the lining and straps. I could then use the striped fabric for pockets inside. I'm kinda' liking that option.

Or, same as above but having white and green fabric as the side (showing it off more), and the swirly-and-chevron as lining and straps. I'm just not sure how those swirls and chevrons will play on the straps. But I think that fabric won't show dirt from use (oil from my hands, etc.) as much as the white and green.

Help!?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Homemade Week

This is what I've been doing all week.


Lynd's fruit farm is on my way/way back from work; they have a peach sale every year: $10 a peck when you buy at least 5 pecks. Last week I bought 9 pecks. It took me forever to get around to canning them. In fact, they were so ripe, I had to freeze about 3 pecks so they wouldn't rot before I could can them. I gave some to friends and we ate a bunch, accounting for 1 peck, so I ended up canning 5 pecks. In case you were curious, 1 peck equals about 5 canned quarts and 1 pint. I did a bunch of pints to give away as Christmast presents.

I gotta' tell you (if you don't already know it), Ohio peaches are awesome! We had a bit of a drought this year, which resulted in sweeter-than-usual fruit. Yum, yum, yum. I used the lightest syrup I could because they're so sweet.

We have friends who moved to Florida about 2 years ago, and I really want to visit them this winter or next spring break; if we do, I want to take them about a half dozen jars. Because living on the water is nice, but canned Ohio peaches...ain't nothin' like 'em! Nice gift, eh?

Next bumper crop...


This is the first batch of tomatoes from our garden. I anticipate that we will have about 20 more like this before the end of the summer.

I want to make and can salsa.

Unfortunately, I don't know if we have enough green peppers on the vines left, and the onions came up months ago, so it won't be quite the homegrown effort I anticipated. Still, I'm hunting for good salsa recipes. I think pints of salsa will also make great Christmas gifts.

I've been wanting to make some "butter 'em up" gifts for BonnieBlue's teachers, so I spent a lot of today making these.


I found the free tutorial at P.S. I Quilt. She calls it a friendship bag. Aren't they darling?

I made one for BonnieBlue two weeks ago, when she asked me to make her a purse (my heart leapt at that moment!). I let her pick out most of the fabrics. Did she or did she not pick the absolute cutest stuff!? Truth be told, I already had the fabric for the handles and the green fabrics, but she picked the others. And they were in the clearance bin! Woot!

I realized just now looking at the picture that I didn't stitch around the top of the bag. I also didn't quilt it. That just adds too much time, so instead, I used WunderUnder to stiffen up the fabric. And thanks to my crafting mentor, Mama Pea, I made a few adjustments, including making the straps like she does. One of my favorite of her tips is to use a contrasting thread and lengthen the stitches for a more professional look.

I have one more bag to make (BB has two teachers and an aide...private school; don't judge me). After I was almost finished with the first bag, I was reading her student handbook and noticed that there was a sentence about not giving teachers gifts. My stomach dropped a bit, but when I read on, the sentence ended with "unless homemade." Whew!

I'm also going to make one for a little girl at church who is 10 (BB is 5) but who is awfully kind to BB; she even invited BB to her bday party this week at a fun-n-games place! It was kind of last-minute, so I didn't yet have a chance to get her a gift, so I'm going to make a bag for her and fill it with nail polish, polish remover, and cotton pads. Cute, no?

And at Christmas, I want to make some for my nieces and sisters. But I'm not sure what to fill them with. Any ideas?

I hope this post isn't a hot mess of incomprehsible drivel. For some reason, my excision site is more swollen than usual and hurts a bit, so I took something for that AND melatonin to help me sleep, two things in combination that usually lead to...well, incomprehensible drivel.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Egg Biscuit "Muffins"

I'm a food blogger wanna-be, but unfortunately I'm a marginal cook with very little time (although a lot of room) for improvement.

This morning, I impressed myself.

I read food blogs with a borderline obsessive-ness, though I only occasionally make any of the dishes/items I read about. It's sort of a relaxation thing, I guess.

I read. I look. I sometimes save in favorites or even copy and paste to my recipe file. I rarely follow through.

Today I followed through.

I had seen a few posts about baked egg "muffins" made with pre-made biscuit dough in cupcake tins. I can't remember on whose blogs I've seen these, and I scrolled through my digital recipe file without finding any recipes, so I can't credit the originator.

I do follow Our Best Bites, and I remember this post about ham and egg cups, using ham slice to hold the egg. A great idea for the gluten-intolerant and low carb eaters.

So, anyway, I've been thinking about the coming school year and BonnieBlue starting kindergarten. We'll be getting up early, on a schedule, the first time in her life. She doesn't like eating first thing in the morning, so I've been trying to think of things she and I can eat in the car on the way to school. She doesn't much like granola or cereal bars, and I wanted something with protein anyway. She will eat bacon and eggs, so I thought I'd try these egg-biscuit muffin cups.

I have moderately high cholesterol, so I didn't want to use a whole egg in each "muffin" but egg white alone is b-o-r-i-n-g tasting. So I mixed whole eggs with egg whites. In addition, my garden harvest is coming in, so I wanted to use up some green pepper, tomatoes and onions. The zuchinni is not from my garden. I love zuchinni, but the squash bugs were so bad this year we decided to take a year off from squash, zuchinni, and pumpkins.

The ingredients:


 It's important to use the jumbo biscuits, and not the smaller non-flaky kind. But, you do have to slice these biscuits down the center, keeping their circular shape, so that you have two round biscuits. I couldn't take a picture because I needed both hands for slicing.

  1. Spray oil in the cupcake tins.
  2. Flatten out the biscuits and lay them in the tins.
  3. Beat two eggs in a bowl and add 1/2 cup of egg white.
  4. Spoon a tablespoon or so into each biscuit.
  5. Add a little bit of each veggie and a bit of chopped bacon.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes or until egg is done.
  7. Remove from oven and sprinkle a little bit of shredded cheese on top.
  8. Loosen from pan. Let cool a bit.
  9. Remove from pan when cool enough to touch and cool further on wire rack.


Unfortunately, BB wouldn't try one, so I had to eat hers. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Just Sayin'

I enjoy reading other people's blogs more than I like writing my own.

And I'm starting to like Pinterest. Uh oh.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The TV is on Vacation

One week ago, BB watched about 7 hours of t.v. because of how much I had to do.



I am a bad mom.

That night she was crabby and cranky, so I made the decision that the t.v. had to go.







When Rhett and I met, neither of us had a t.v. By choice, not poverty. My how times have changed.

I told BB that the TV would come back when she learned how to read.  The first couple of days were great. She's definitely been spending more time with books. Then one day I had a meeting I had to take her to, so I took the iPad.

It has now crept into the #1 time-sink spot. It appears that I have to send the iPad to the beach, too.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Axillary Webbing or Cording

I titled the post what I did because I want to anyone else looking for information on that condition to find my blog.

I'm not above using my mastectomy to increase my blog traffic.

Just kidding.

Seriously, though, there just isn't much out there about this condition from a first-person perspective that isn't utterly scary, so I wanted to give an upbeat, optimistic view.

This will be a bit repetitive as my last post was about this, but I wanted to provide an update.

About a week and a half ago, I noticed something that felt like a tendon extending from my armpit when I would raise my affected arm (the arm on the side of my mastectomy). It caused great pain around my bicep and inside my elbow, and it restricted my ability to raise my arm or straighten it. Severly. I was incapable of straightening my arm without feeling pain, and I was unable to raise my arm above my head and straighten it at all.

A few night ago, I began researching on the 'Net. Apparently, this is not an uncommon side effect when lymph nodes are removed.

In short, the news on outcomes was more than a bit depressing. However, the treatment indicated is exclusively physical therapy. From a P.T. experienced in working with axillary webbing. After reading a couple of studies, I was not optimistic. In fact, I was downright scared that it was something I was going to have to live with for the rest of my life. I was decidedly freaked.

I indicated in my last post that I didn't want to share the picture that I took, but I've decided to go ahead and show it, in the interest of providing information to other women looking for someone who has gone through this.

Just so you know, it ain't pretty.

This is what it looked like on Tuesday of this week.


Let me assure you, it feels a lot worse than it looks.

You can kinda' see how the cord curves up towards my bicep. Follow the shadow. In all the pictures and information I could find on the Web, the cording or webbing traveled straight down the arm. This cord curved around my bicep. That freaked me out even more.

So, the next day after the depressing Internet research, I went to my P.T. for a regularly scheduled follow-up. In response to her "how are you doing?" I told her about the cording and asked her if she knew about axillary webbing. She said she did and got right down to business.

I stripped to the waist (not something you normally do during a P.T. appointment) and lay down on the PT table. She conducted the usual measurements, checking for swelling and range of motion improvement. The results were not good for either: Increased swelling and not a lot of improvement in my ROM.

After measuring, she began working on the cording in my armpit, manipulating, massaging, pushing, pulling, squeezing, and in all ways tortuous, caused me the most bizzare kind of pain I have ever experienced, and let me tell you, I have experienced some various kinds of pain in my life. 

It got so bad that I made her stop for a few minutes because I thought I was going to throw up.  

After the nausea passed, I laid back down, and she went at it again. Oh. My. Heck. I now get why some people call P.T. pain and torture.

I was flat on my back and she had my upper arm at a 45 degree angle, so that my arm pit was right next to my ear. Her hand was also right next to my ear.

After just about 20 more seconds, I heard her finger crack and pop, and it startled me so much I flinched. I immediately asked her if she was okay, and she laughed a bit. She told me the noise I heard was my cord "releasing."

Wow. I raised my arm straight above my head. I got up and moved it every which way. No pain. Tremendously improved ROM. Wow.

Amazing.

This is what it looked like later that night.


She tried to explain what happened, but without knowing the technical terminology, the best I can explain it is to say that the cord was kind of stuck to something else, but she got it unstuck through the manipulation and massage.

Words cannot express how relieved and happy I am about this outcome. So, so happy. So, so relieved.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Recovering From Mastectomy, Part II

Up until 2 weeks ago, it had been about 35 years since I had regularly gone bra-less and that's because I had not yet developed a reason to.

It is an odd experience to go bra-less in public for the first time in 35 years. It's a self-concious experience. But you know, nobody probably even noticed. And likely no one  noticed that I had only one breast. But I feel like a hippie.

Half a hippie?

Even after two weeks, it's a little weird. It is still incredibly uncomfortable to wear a bra, mostly because I'm swollen and sore underneath my arm right where the bra hits.

The "sunburn" feeling on my suture/scar area is lessening, though.

I've been doing my physical therapy almost everyday.

But I feel like I'm making absolutely no progress. I think that is because of something called axillary webbing syndrome (AWS).

It looks like this:

image from http://www.vodderschool.com/treatment_of_axillary_web_syndrome
 That's not my arm. I did take a picture of mine intending to post it, but I was too freaked out about my inability to get a clean shave (more about that later in the post) to share the picture, but it looks just like this. If you can't figure out what is wrong in this picture, just raise your bare arm above your shoulder and look in the mirror at your armpit. Then look at this picture again.

You will not have that cord popping out in the middle of your arm pit, and you also won't feel a pulling in the bicep, elbow, and/or lower part of your arm, where the cording connects to other muscle tissue. Some women with the AWS even feel it in their wrists.

I've been reading about this issue just tonight, and I'm freaking out. I will be calling the nurse practitioner in the morning, just so that she and the surgeon know about it, but I already have an appointment with my physical therapist on Wednesday. Apparently, the only treatment is physical therapy, including stretching and "scar release" (Yikes! What is that?).

This is a self-diagnosis so far, but I'm pretty sure I'm right.

So, about that 'not shaving' thing. After lymph node removal, it is recommended that the patient not use a razor to shave under the arm of the side that the lymph nodes were removed from. For me, that's the right. In addition, the use of anti-perspirant is verboten. I assume it's from the aluminum used in anti-perspirants, but I'm not sure. No razors because nicks may increase the risk of lymphedema (chronic swelling) in the affected arm, one of the most common (and for me, dreaded) side effects of lymphectomy.

10 years ago, when I had my lumpectomy, the scar from the lymphectomy was so minor, so not near my "hair patch" (ewww, did I just write that, let alone think it?), and so very well healed after just a few weeks, that I continued shaving with a razor. But I did not wear anti-perspirant. Or deoderant.

Do you know how few deoderants are just deoderants? VERY few. I found one brand, and it only had one scent. And it was men's...Speed Stick, I think. Finally, about a year or so ago, I discovered Tom's. Why it took me so long, I'll never know.

Yeah. 8+ years without using deoderant. I hear ya'...gross.

But really, I learned that if I shaved frequently, washed frequently, and laundered my clothes well, I had no problem with odor. But all that diligence (and by "diligence" I mean the shaving frequently) is tiring. Hence, the onset of a search and the discovery of Tom's.

But with this scar, even with "just deoderant," I'm not supposed to apply anything to the affected underarm, probably ever, but certainly not until the scars heal/close.

Because of this, a few days after my mastectomy, I ordered an electric razor so that I would not run the risk of nicking my skin on the affected underarm. But with that cording, I can't get a clean shave. And it's been over 95 degrees every day for more than a week now. And hair traps moisture. And moisture plus heat equals bacteria. And bacteria equals odor. Body odor.

I stink.

But only under one arm.

I. am. sick. of. smelling. like. a. men's. locker. room.

Trust me. I wash under that armpit daily. Sometimes two or three times a day. I change shirts during the day.

It doesn't help much.

Who would have thought that this would be the worst part of a mastectomy?

Am I blessed or what!?

Friday, June 22, 2012

It's Like Sunburn...Only Worse.

I thought I might ramble on a bit about what "post-recovery" is like.

Since the tubes and drain came out on Tuesday, I've been living life "normally," whatever that means.

My range of motion in my right arm is interestingly limited. Interesting because it feels like if I stretch or reach too far, I'll rip something under my arm. My NP (nurse practitioner) told me that it will feel like that, but that I shouldn't worry about it; I won't rip or tear anything. So every day I reach both arms above my head, reach my left hand over and take my right hand and pull my arm over to the left. Wow, ow. Be grateful you can do that without pain. I hope I never take it for granted ever again.

I also do the wall crawl. I stand toes and nose to a wall and place my right hand as high as I can on the wall, which is about with my arm "to the square," (i.e., my arm at a 90 degree angle to my torso). Then, I crawl my fingers up the wall. Again, wow, ow.

Since I'm allowed to drive now that the drain has been removed, I've been out and about. The first thing I did Wednesday was go grocery shopping. And bought a 10 lb. watermelon. Got it into the cart okay, but getting it out was interesting, one arm and all.

Since I was going out, I decided to go ahead and wear my "falsie." It's just a shoulder pad-like form with batting in it. At first I took a bunch of the padding out because I thought it was waaaaay too big. Then I put more than half of it back. I used to be a B cup. I think I'm a C now. That's what 30 extra pounds have done for me! (The excised breast was definitely still a B, as radiated breasts tend not to grow.)

Anyway, so I wore the falsie Wednesday and Thursday, but at about 5:00 on both days, I was in excruciating pain. A pain so familiar, yet how could that be? Today, I finally realized what that pain reminded me of.

It's like having the worst sunburn ever. Times ten. No, times a hundred. That's the familiar part. Now imagine wearing a sandpaper bra on a sunburned boob (or for you guys, think of the most tender part of your body being sunburned and then wearing a sandpaper garment over it).

There you go! Now you know this pain of which I speak.

The NP had told me I wouldn't need the painkillers anymore but that 800 mg of ibuprofen would do the trick for whatever I felt. And she said to taper off down to 600 mg and then 400 mg until I didn't need it anymore. I'll tell ya', ibuprofen wasn't cutting it for this pain, so each day I took a painkiller in the early evening. And then a muscle relaxer before bed. Still sleeping nicely, thank you very much; not missing you, Mr. Insomnia.

Today I experimented with no falsie to see if it was pressure (ever so slight as it was) on the sutures or if it was really just the fabric against the sutures. Turns out, it's the fabric, though the pain wasn't quite as bad tonight. It did help that I bought and installed a bra extender so the pressure on the under-the-arm sutures wasn't so bad.

Tomorrow I shall swing freely (sans bra) with a large shirt to test the theory further.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I'm Like a Whole New Woman! (minus a breast)

Holy Moley! What a difference it is to have the drain and tubes OUT!

I had my  follow-up appointment with my surgeon this morning. I am doing so well that my drain and tubes came out and he took me off all the medication (except ibuprofen as needed). The only restriction now is that I can't lift more than a few pounds with my right arm. I'm going to start physical theraphy next week, but I'm supposed to start trying to increase my right arm's range of motion right away so that I don't get a frozen shoulder.

It feels incredibly tight (the right arm/shoulder) but the NP told me to keep pushing it past the comfort point, so I am. Ouch.

I think what will be hard from this point forward is BonnieBlue not getting to go to a different house every day to play. She really enjoyed that.

I hope you don't get tired of reading how grateful I am for all the prayers and positive thoughts. I know for sure it made a difference. Thanks!

Best news of all is that the final pathology report came back negative, so that means no chemotherapy. Hoorah!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Recovery

It's been a week since surgery, and today is the first time that I've been able to go without pain meds for long enough to post since, well, that last post.

I wasn't really sure what to expect as far as pain and limitation of movement. A large portion of the surgical area has been numbed, though I'm not really sure how (nerve block maybe?). It's not totally numb, so there are some odd sensations, and I think the numbness is gradually wearing off so each day I'm feeling more and more prickly sensations.

The part that actually hurts is where two tubes have been stitched to my skin. The tubes are attached to a hemovac drain, which works by negative pressure and drains the lymphatic fluid from the breast and armpit. Here's the really weird part: I can feel and see one of the tubes under my skin just above where my breast used to be! And I thought the weirdest thing I'd be looking at was a boobless chest! Wrong.

Okay, perhaps I should have warned you that this post might gross you out.

Everyday the drain has to be emptied and the fluid measured. Once the fluid is below a certain amount for 24 hours, the drain can be taken out. I'm pretty sure that's going to hurt like the dickens. My follow-up appointment is tomorrow morning; I'm hoping the tubes and drain will be removed then because the fluid measurements have been pretty low for the past 2 days. I'm not allowed to drive or lift my arm above 90 degrees until the drain is removed; hence, the hope.

The tubes are like 3 feet long, so I've kept them looped up and binder clipped to my waist band. I'm using one of those honkin' big binder clips. I've been living in yoga pants and Rhett's old shirts, so I've been as comfortable as I can be, given that I have two tubes sutured to my side.

The pain has been pretty minimal today, but I've been pretty much popping the pain killers at 4 hour intervals for the past 4-5 days.

The suture site (where the tubes are) has a dressing that has to be changed everyday. How fortunate I am (and Rhett is) that I have nurse friends. Not that  nurse has to do it, but it's nice to get a professional assessment each time the dressing is changed. The worst part of this whole recovery ordeal is having the surgical tape removed from the the area that is partially numb. It's such a bizarre feeling it makes me nauseated and light-headed.

I'm still quite upbeat about it all. Though one thing I've noticed is that having a flat chest makes a round belly all that much more noticable. Gonna' have to do something about that for sure.

BonnieBlue seems to be doing okay. I hate it that she's watching so much TV this week, but there's not much else I can do. She has asked to see my chest, and I've shown her with my bra on (the bra covers the impressive scar). She was totally nonplussed. Kids are so much better at this stuff.

Rhett is doing well (I think), too, especially since nurses are taking care of the dressing changes. He took all of last week off but went back today. I tease him about it "being hard on him," but I'm sure it is. I think it's hard to watch a loved one go through something like this. I know I'd rather it be me than him or BB.

Thanks again to everyone for all the prayers and positive thoughts!

Friday, June 15, 2012

It's a Wonderful Life

*Disclaimer! I'm on prescription meds so please forgive any errors in this post.*


George Bailey ain't got nothin' on me.

Remember the end of the movie, when he opens a copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that the angel Clarence left for him? The inscription reads, "no man is a failure who has friends." And remember how the whole town chipped in to save George from financial ruin? As a result of the town's generosity, George's brother, Harry, toasted him as "the richest man in town."

In fact, I am the richest gal in town. I have been utterly humbled by the generosity of people in my life: some I never met, some I barely know, and some I consider dear friends. After this week, those strangers and almost-strangers shall henceforth and always be counted among my dear, dear friends.

Here is a short list of how I have been blessed by the generosity of others these past several days:

1. Two women (one I've never met) who have undergone mastectomies relatively recently were willing, even eager, to answer my questions and tell me about their experiences.

2. My department colleagues sent me a pair of cozy soft pajamas to recuperate in.

3. Tens of people (I don't think I can even count the number) have prayed and are praying for me.

4. Aunt Piddy in Atlanta sent BonnieBlue a "surgery day" box. Inside was a bunch of candy, cookies, crayons, coloring and activity books, and mini-horses to keep her busy on the day of my mastectomy.

5. My dear friend, Melly, with whom I work, came to sit with me the night I was in the hospital and was absolutely willing to stay all night had I not kicked her out. Before she came to the hospital she dropped off not one, not two, but 3 freezer meals!

6. Greg from TellingDad blog (again, someone I have never met) dedicated a blog post to me and my breasts. You can read it here: http://www.tellingdad.com/2012/ta-ta-tata/
He ought to win an award for the title alone. While you're there, read some of his other posts. He's a funny guy.

7. Rhett's work colleagues sent me a fruit bouquet.

8. The administration of the university I work for sent me a gorgeous flower arrangement.

9. Mama Pea, quilter extraordinaire and unofficial mentor, made and sent me a table runner that reminds me of the beach, which is my happy place. See her pattern review and the finished product here: Summer Table Runner (I would have taken a picture, but I am currently experiencing the effects of a prescription pain killer and a muscle relaxer and the steps involved in taking the picture, uploading to my computer, resizing, etc. is more than I can handle right now).

10. One of my friends, a nurse, stopped by the evening I came home to check on my drains and chat. She brought me ice cream.

I'm pretty sure Graeters' Black Raspberry Chip can hasten the recovery of anything. But just in case, she brought me a pint of chocolate Haagen Daz, too.

11. Another nurse friend stopped by the day after I was discharged to clean and re-dress the "wound." (and she brought a yummy meal with her)

12. One of my sisters drove 1.5 hours to see me today to clean and dress my wound.

13. People have been dropping off meals everyday starting on the day I had surgery.

14. Four people have sent cards; one even sent me an amazon.com gift card encouraging me to download a book to enjoy while recuperating.

15. Three different families have taken BonnieBlue home with them to play for a few hours each day so that I can rest.

16. Another dear friend tonight dropped off another pint of Graeter's Black Rasperry Chip because really, we here in Central Ohio absolutely do believe in the healing powers of that ice cream.

That isn't even all of it! I am simply in awe of the selfless service I have witnessed. What a great lesson for me to be a better giver of service once I am better and able to give of my time and talents.

I'm hoping that time will be soon.

The next time I post, I'll synopsize my surgery experience.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Post-Op

Melly is typing this for me.

Surgery went well. Lymph nodes came back negative for invasive/atypical cells (yay!). I'm supposed to be discharged between 10:00 and noon on Tuesday. I'm so grateful for everyone's prayers and kind wishes and for feeding my family.

That's enough for now. I'm tired; anti-nausea medication makes one drowsy.

Wiki-P, you are dead to me.

I am sorely disappointed in Wikipedia.

I hate to admit this, but I am a closet-Wikipedia fan. Frankly, it's often my go-to site for information I do not know. So, when I wanted to figure out the root word meaning of mastectomy, I went to Wiki-P (my pet name for the site).

Might I suggest to you that you NOT look up 'mastectomy' on Wiki-P. Right there is a picture of what I can only assume is a mastectomy, but frankly looks like a botched lumpectomy. This is not anything like the picture the NP showed me during the surgery consult. If I come out of surgery looking like that, I will not be happy.

Turns out, the root word 'maste' is from the Greek 'breast.' Okay, makes sense. Another word for mastectomy is mammectomy, though. That one makes more sense to me.

(I really hope you can see that screen shot; if not, this next bit isn't going to make much sense.)

Notice that box with the shield-like icon in the corner. I love the intent to education d.com has here. But. There are so many aspects of this content I am troubled by, I'm just not sure where to start. How about with "Mastectomy is always a good word to know." Um, really?! Always? This is one word I'd rather no one ever had to know because it never had to be invented because there was no such thing as breast cancer. But hey, that's a pipe dream, sure, I'll give you that. Really, my question is this: Is any word always a good word to know?

And that second bullet point. Did someone really use 'dingus' as the wrong answer in this little word game (I looked it up just to be sure, but I guessed correctly due to my superior knowledge of root words)? And as far as I know, there is no such word as thingumbob. It's thingumabob. Who's with me?! Am I right?! Say yay!

Well, I went off track a bit. I was posting tonight to share with you the pre-surgery preparations. First, I finally read the little surgery handbook my NP gave me 4 weeks ago. I was relieved to read that if I am experiencing pain or nausea in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), I am to ask my nurse for meds. Whew! Permission to exhibit drug-seeking behavior. Yahoo!

So, an interesting tidbit. I have to shower with an anti-microbial soap, CHG, brand name Scrub-Stat. Twice. Once tonight and again in the morning before I leave for the hospital. I've done it once now and am disappointed that I do not feel any cleaner than I do after a shower with Dove.

I am not to wear lotion, nail polish, make up, or jewelry. I am looking down at my naked toe nails as I type this. I anticipate a pedicure in my near future.

I was also supposed to be on a low-fat diet. Oops.

I knew that one of the great blessings I would have from this experience would be to see so much good in so many people, and it has started already. Aunt Piddy in Atlanta send BonnieBlue a "surgery-day" box. I hope she forgives me; we opened it today as it was a rough day. After she took out all the candy, cookies, crayons, horsey toys, and coloring books, she said, "I can't believe she loves me so much!" God bless Aunt Piddy.

Melly, bless her heart, is going to pick up another front-fastening sports bra for me. I have my special mastectomy one, but I'll need another in a day or two. I was going to get it this week, but changing the surgery date quashed that idea.

I saw family last night at my nephews graduation party. Lots of hugs (we are NOT a hugging family). That was nice. Lots of people at church today wishing me well and affirming their prayers. I know a lot of great folks. Me lucky.

I'll try to post from the hospital via dictation to Melly tomorrow night. I hope I wake up to do so!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New Surgery Date

My surgeon had a cancellation so I'm going to have my surgery on June 11 instead of June 18. A week earlier may not seem like a big deal to some, but I view it as 7 fewer nights of insomnia as I worry.

A lot of people have asked about recovery and how long it will take. It depends on how long it takes for the lymphatic fluid to stop draining. Well, not totally stop, just not drain so much. I can't remember how many (few?) cubic centimeters but once my drain is collecting only a certain amount of ccs for 2 or 3 days in a row, then I'm allowed/encouraged to get my arm moving. Until then, I am not supposed to raise my arm above 90 degrees. No driving, no hair brushing...what else takes an arm raised above 90 degrees?

For some women, the drain comes out in 10 days. For others, 8 weeks. The average is four weeks, so I am shooting for 2 weeks.

I am assuming that I'll be feeling relatively okay after a few days in bed, so I'm guessing it'll be a pain in the patootie to have to restrict myself until the drain comes out. I've got a good book to read and my iPad for movies.

I'm starting to feel like I'm sinking a bit into a depressive state, but I think that's because I have to grade papers tonight and get graduating seniors' grades posted by noon tomorrow. I am having a difficult time focusing.

But by this time next week, surgery will be over, and I'll be home from the hospital!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Update on Tattoos

I just couldn't bring myself to put the term "nipple" in the title of the blog post. Heaven only knows what kind of traffic it might have brought to my site, though!

One of my angels sent me info that there are, indeed, nipple tattoos and nipple reconstruction. Who knew!? Another amazing benefit of this process: the education value!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Oh, no you're not, young lady!

So here's what I've been thinking about for the past couple of days.

A nipple tattoo.

Stay with me.

When Rhett and I went in for my surgery consult, the CNP (certified nurse practitioner) showed us a picture of a woman who had had a uni-lateral mastectomy (the picture was only from neck down and ribs up).

What was startling to me was not the lack of the breast so much as the lack of the nipple.

I haven't researched if a nipple could be reconstructed, but I gotta' believe it can't be done.

So, that leads me to....

A nipple tattoo.

Here's the catch. I'm LDS (member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...crickets....yes, Mormon!) and our last president (my favorite so far, though I've only been a member for the duration of only 2 presidents), the venerable Gordon B. Hinckley, counseled the members to not get tattoos. The reasoning was along the lines of your body is a creation of God, beautiful as is, don't mar it with ink, etc.

I am on board (no offense if you sport a tattoo). First, because when I converted, I promised to honor the prophets' counsel (by the way, our presidents are also prophets) because I believe by doing so I will be blessed, protected, and happy.

So far, so absolutely good.

Second, I was never into tattoos. Frankly, I am surprised as all get-out that I made it through the latter half of my second decade on earth without one. No doubt the only reason was that there was not a tattoo parlor in walking distance of Water St. in Kent, Ohio, where I matriculated (go look it up; I'll wait).

Water St. was where most of the bars near Kent State University were. I think. I can't really remember. 'Nuff said.

(Disclaimer: I converted when I was 32 and graduated college when I was WAY younger than that. Jumping on the wagon was one of THE best things I've ever done, and I have the Church to thank for that. Best 3-step program ever--1. Faith 2. Repentence 3. Baptism). And all the meetings I could ever hope for. No coffee, though.)

Anyway, back to that nipple tattoo. Tthanks for staying with me.

So, I am left wondering, would a nipple tattoo really count as a tattoo or is it more like, well, reconstruction? Honestly, I am not looking for a way around the prophet's counsel; I am seriously wondering.

And Aunt Piddy, aren't you glad I didn't post any pictures with this entry?!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Garden in! (almost)

Rhett is all about growing some of our own food in an effort to become more self-reliant. Years ago he rototilled the flower garden (the day before I had an outdoor party!) that the previous owner had put in and nurtured to a glorious splendor, and this year he rototilled up a fence-side strip of garden.

Earlier this spring he put the cold weather "crops" in: radishes, broccoli, and green onions.
We've already harvested some of the radishes (seen above on the left).  Big radishes!

Earlier this week, for Family Home Evening, we planted most of the tomatoes.

BonnieBlue loves watering; so far, the only thing about gardening she likes, other than digging for "treasures" in the dirt.

Below are the plants we started with at the beginning of the evening.
After planting the tomatoes, Rhett put in the green peppers. He also put in those plants at the back/top of the picture, but for the life of me I cannot remember what they are. I think more broccoli. I still haven't gotten my geraniums in around front, but I will do that soon.



Here's a view of our garden from the back door before Rhett put in the green peppers. Off to the right, he is going to plant green beans, both pole and bush.
There will be quite a lot of beans and tomatoes this summer! Our intention is to do a bit of canning. I really want to can salsa, but also stewed tomatoes and, of course, green beans.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Where have you been?

Is that what you want to know?

The sad news is that I've been in angry land. I've been in angry land since the day of my last post.

I realized I was in angry land that day because the sweetest woman in the whole world asked me how I was doing and I jumped on her, all angry-like, telling her she can't be asking me that every time she sees me.

Who does that?

Resident of angry land, that's who.

A few hours later, I was sitting alone in a big room waiting for a faculty meeting to start and that's when it hit me. I am angry.

I am angry I am going through this again.

I am angry because I have to wait to excise the boob that is trying to kill me.

I am angry because I have to wait to find out if the cancer has spread.

I am angry because if it has spread, then this is what is probably going to kill me, not old age. I was okay with that 10 years ago. 10 years ago I was ready to die, even willing.

I am angry because this time I have a child, a precious child, and I am not so ready or willing to die anymore.


I am angry because I had to suffer through the loss of a mother to cancer when I was a child, and I do not want to suffer through what terrible agony my mom must have suffered knowing she was having to leave her girls behind to fend for themselves without her. But more than that, I don't want my child to suffer what I have every day since my own mom died.

There's more that I am angry about, but I really don't want to be a downer.

Have you ever heard of a "downer cow"? The term refers to any cow brought to slaughter that is unable to walk under its own power. Downer cows, by FDA edict, are not allowed to be slaughtered, so workers do everything they can to get the cows to stand up and walk under their own power, from prodding them with electric shocks to powerful waterhose blasts to other incredibly inhumane tactics. For the past ten days, I have felt like both a downer cow and a slaughterhouse worker trying to prod the cow to get up.

I'm exhausted.

By the way, the day after I realized I was in angry land, I apologized to the sweet woman and told her to keep asking how I am.

And now, I'd like to tell you a happy story. Maybe I should have started with that. Oh well. Better late than never.

The day I went to the doc to hear the results of my mammogram, I was supposed to stop at a stranger's house right after to pick up some free stuff. This is something I occasionally do because I participate in a practice called Freecycling. If you've never heard of Freecycle, it's essentially an online organization dedicated to keeping things out of landfills by assisting people in passing stuff along to someone else who wants it instead of throwing it away. To find out who may want it, you join the Freecycle Yahoo group in your local area and post an "OFFER" ad. Or if you're looking for something in particular you can post a "WANTED" ad. Rhett thinks I'm going to be murdered at one of the pick-ups, but so far so good. It's really a cool thing.

Anyhoo, I responded to a woman who was offering a pattern, the fabric, and everything else needed to make a summer skirt. Since I have a hard time finding skirts I like (and that fit right), and since making my own clothes is usually not nearly as cost effective as a good sale but I still kinda' enjoy sewing, I thought this fit the bill. The problem was that after finding out at the appointment that I would have to have a biopsy, I forgot about the pick-up and went on to work. "No-show"s are bad news on Freecycle, so when I got to work and remembered that I forgot, I emailed the person...let's call her Angel...to tell her I was really sorry. And because I didn't want her to think I was a flake, I told her why I forgot, hoping she would forgive me and still let me pick up the stuff.

Turns out, she forgave me and told me not to worry, as she was a survivor herself.

What a coincidence!

Or was it?

There's a reason I call her Angel. I began thinking of her as an angel shortly after that day.

I asked if I could pick up that night, and she responded that that was fine. We exchanged a few more emails after I picked up, and I realized what a genuinely nice person she was. Through this entire process, what had been most troubling for me was that I didn't know anyone who had had a mastectomy that I could talk to. And that is how I get through things best, by talking to people who have been there before.

So, not-her-real-name-Angel is my Angel because, as it turned out, she has had a bi-lateral mastectomy. She was a sanity lifeline for me as she answered questions and gave freely the advice and counsel I so desperately needed.

I have no doubt that Heavenly Father put her in my path at the very moment I needed her to be there.

(Just so you know, none of that anger was directed at Him. I suppose that's what makes it hard to process through. If only I knew WHO to be angry at.)

Interestingly, just a few days ago, I got back in touch via email with the teacher in whose classroom I did my dissertation 8 years ago. I had contacted her months ago to guest lecture in my class but then never followed up with her. She was contacting me to follow up, and in the process of our email exchange, I began to remember that she also had had breast cancer and a bi-lateral mastectomy. I asked her about it and told her why I was asking. I have a lunch date with her soon, another person Heavenly Father put in my path to help me out.

Guess what her name is.



Angel.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Surgery date set

I'm having a uni-lateral (that means only 1) mastectomy on Monday, June 18.

One day after my 14th wedding anniversary, by the way. What a way to celebrate, eh?

Here are some details I am going to share because so many people have offered to pray that I want to give them the specifics of the prayer (can't hurt, I'm thinking; I gotta' believe God loves specificity).

Although the atypical cells that are showing up on the mammogram are restricted to a duct (hence the diagnosis 'ductal carcinoma in situ'), the med experts have no idea if this is a new cancer or a re-occurrence of the old one. The profile of the cells from this recent biopsy are identical to the ones from the tumor 10 years ago, but that is not conclusive that it's a re-occurrence. It could just be a new occurrence with the same profile.

It's the best cancer, by the way. Isn't that funny? Not in a ha-ha funny kind of way, I realize, but you get me. If you knew you were going to get breast cancer and could choose the type, this is the type you should choose.

Anyway, at some point during my mastectomy surgery, the surgeon will remove 2-3 lymph nodes and biopsy them. Okay, I realize this is weird, but I LOVE the name of this procedure: a sentinal node biopsy. It conjurs an image of little blobs standing guard with full body armor and little spanish army helmets and swords, fighting off cancer cells in the form of arrows. The analogy breaks down a bit, I realize, as I would think it's difficult to fight off arrows with swords, so as I further develop the image, I see them wearing magic bracelets ala Wonder Woman to deflect those nasty little cancer bullets (instead of arrows because I'm not sure WW ever deflected arrows). That latter part, the Wonder Woman part, is more in keeping with the whole 'breast' part of the cancer, so let's go with that.

Hard to credit this pic: I found it on Google images, traced it to a blog, and then spent about 15 min trying to find the original source. I'm going to assume it's in the public domain. If not, may the copyright owner have mercy on me. 

Anyway, the nodes will be biopsied during surgery, and if they find atypical cells in those nodes, we jump to worst case scenario. Atypical cells there indicate 'invasive' which, of course, indicates cancer. We still wouldn't know if it's the old cancer or a new, but it suddenly occurs to me at this point, who the hell cares?

If the cancer is in the lymph nodes, then the surgeon will remove all the lymph nodes on that side (it's the right side, in case I've never mentioned that, 'cuz you know you'll want to look!), which has the potential long term complication of edema (swelling) of that arm. That alone is a sucky outcome but it gets worse.

I'll probably have to do chemo again. Yuk. The upside to that is that I have been REALLY hating my hair for the past few months so I'll be able to get that radical buzz cut I was so fond of 10 years ago (I'm not kidding here. I LOVED having no hair). The CNP (certified nurse practitioner) told me she can't put a percentage of likelihood on this scenario, but if she had to guess, she'd put it at 10-20%. Let me tell you, though, me and Murphy's law, we're like this:
image retrieved from http://www.designofsignage.com/application/symbol/hands/largesymbols/fingers-crossed.html

So, if you're wanting to pray for me (please!), here's the core of the prayer: no cancer cells in the lymph nodes! Thank you!

In keeping with my effort to find the gratitude (see 1 Thessalonians 5:18), the biggest blessing of all, despite the setback of having to wait 5 weeks (!) for surgery, is that my dear sweet sister-in-law (SIL) E (since Scarlett didn't have any brothers, she had no SILs so I'm just going to go with my SIL's initial E) will be coming down to stay and help out with my post-surgery care and Carmen. Yay!

Also, I'm going to go on a 5-week intense workout regimen. Best to undergo surgery as healthy as possible!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Un--freaking--believable!

I like to think of myself as a calm person....oh, heck, no I am NOT.

I was told at my Tuesday surgery consult that the scheduler would call me the next day (Wed.), but I was free to call her as well. So, at noon on Wed., when I hadn't heard from her yet, I called.

"Oh, I haven't even looked at your orders yet. I'm sure I'll be calling by the end of the week."

Ugh.

Today, at 3:00 p.m., I couldn't take it anymore and called her again. Someone else in the office answered and said I should call her back in 5 min. I called 15 min later (amazed at my fortitude? me too). Same someone else answered. Bless her heart, she put me on hold to find scheduler. Scheduler, bless her heart, said she had all the orders in front of her and would call me back by the end of the day.

4:45! Ring goes the phone. I'm pleasant. It's not her fault. I'm told Monday, May 18. Surgery at 11:30 a.m., injection at 9:30 a.m., be at hospital at 8:30 a.m.

Great! Thanks! Call husband. He cautiously informs me that there is no Monday, May 18.

OH.
MY.
HECK.

I am going to strangle someone! I immediately call back (4:50 p.m.). No answer.

So, I am either having a mastectomy on Monday, June 18 or Friday, May 18. I'm pretty sure my surgeon only does surgeries on Mondays and Wednesdays, so it looks like I have to wait until mid-June. I'm hoping against hope that she meant Monday, May 14. I doubt it.

Again. oh. my. heck.

Upsides to a June surgery (I'm working hard on that gratitude thing):
1. Quarter is over, so no need to freak out over getting coverage for class and how to get grading done.
2. Darling sis-in-law, who will be out of a job come June 1, will be able to come and take care of me and help with Carmen.
3. I have plenty of time to complete projects at work.
4. Might not have to take leave.
5. I could go to my niece's wedding in Houston.

Downsides:
1. I'm teaching a summer distance ed. course; I don't know how this works with leave.
2. I have to wait. If there is undetected invasive cancer, that kind of freaks me out that it's going to be 5.5 weeks before we know that!

#2 counts for, like, 100 downsides.

Okay, I'm going to take a deep breath and maybe go to the temple sometime this weekend. That should help.

And I might start a new sewing project.

During the time between my biopsy order and my biopsy, I was a crazed woman so I made this for my new iPad:




 My friend, Mama Pea, made one and reviewed the pattern and showcased the finished purse on her blog. I searched for patterns for an iPad carrier/purse but the one she found was the least complicated (and I still messed up). The pattern was designed by Julie at Intrepid Thread and shared for free at Cutting Corners College by Riley Blake Designs.

I had a really tough time because the pattern was specific to the Sweet Nothings fabric (Riley Blake designs), and I had a hard time mentally translating. I had to work off the computer screen because the pdf of the pattern was 60 pages long (or 90, I can't remember now) so I wasn't going to print it out, and it didn't occur to me to cut and paste right from the blog site into a Word document. Duh.

Anyway, the screw-ups weren't too bad, and it only cost me about $3 for the hardware, $2 for thread, and $5 for the fusible fleece. I already had the fabric. It did take me about 16 hours to make it, though, because I have such a hard time reading patterns. At my consultant rate of $100/hour, that's a $16,010 iPad purse.

Someone did ask if it was a Wang. Before she got up close.

The problem now is that I bought an Otterbox case for the iPad, so it will no longer fit in the bag.



I knew I was getting the Otterbox, but I didn't think it would be a problem to just take it out of the Otterbox occassionally. I should have read the reviews first. It is nearly impossible to remove the iPad once it's in the Otterbox. And, since my 5-year-old often uses the iPad, I think the durability of the Otterbox wins out over the cuteness of the bag.

What I discovered making the bag was how relaxed I was while sewing even though I had a hard time with the pattern. Given how stressed I was anticipating a painful biopsy (which turned out to be not painful at all), that is saying something.

Hence, I think I'm going to make another bag that the iPad-in-Otterbox will fit into. That might get me through this stressful weekend of waiting to verify when my surgery will actually be. Does anyone want the one pictured?

Thanks again for all your prayers and well-wishes!