Friday, April 29, 2011

Mama Liz's side

Here I am with some cousins from my mom's side, on a recent weekend whiz trip that Mom and I took to SF. From left, Cousin Katie (daughter of Mom's oldest brother), Cousin Laura (also known as Same Socks Laura--daughter of Mom's first younger brother), Mom, and me (other, youngest brother not represented by any daughters in this picture, unfortunately).
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Dad's Relatives and Me

On the left is my Aunt Linda, Dad's older sister. She lives in Bangkok and is quite the world traveler (runs in the family, it would seem). In the middle is my one-week-from-being-96-years-old grandmother, who just had her knee replaced and is back living at home, on her own, in the house where my dad grew up. And there on the right, photoshopped in from a 1/3-times larger picture, is me.
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bad Dog

This morning has been a slightly disheartening reminder of why people save money (note—I said "slightly". There's nothing major to worry about here. You can read on.), namely, to pay for problems that arise, unexpectedly, just when you're looking outside at the brilliant sun and thanking the powers that be for the (finally!) advent of spring. I have just realized, just now, that Ian and I in general do not lead too frivolous of lives. Sure, I've been suffocating in sweaters and we could build a second home entirely out of books (almost entirely out of books that don't fit on our shelves, even—that's the next level of discharge that we must engineer); but we don't really bandy about large wads of cash.

Except in the case of our boat.

You will remember that I grew up in a power boating family. We started with a ski boat, moved on to a 26-foot cabin cruiser, and ended with a 36-foot luxury yacht (by our standards, of course, not Paul Allen's). For several years, I didn't do much boating, but then I bought Ian's and my current home in Wallingford, a mere six blocks from a lovely lake. I yearned to have a boat—a power boat—to feel the speed, to sneak peeks into the backyards of the rich and famous, the weeping willows dipping into Lake Washington, and all the faded, curving fiberglass slides that no one ever used standing as sentinels on the ends of docks. More than that, though, I wanted to be able to take said boat and visit—quickly—other islands amongst the San Juans than just those four serviced by the ferries.

I yearned for years, but could never quite make the decision to buy a boat because I knew, from deepest childhood, the troubles that went along with the joys and I also knew that my father, the Mechanic, saved us countless hours of aimless, dangerous drifting and thousands of dollars of repair and maintenance costs. It is, in fact, very true that a pleasure boat can be defined as a hole in the water into which you pour money.

Anyway, when Ian and I subsequently did NOT move to New Zealand in late 2007 (subsequent to renting our house and selling our cars and spending four months flitting hither and thither about Europe and then living for three months in the lovely but small guest room of some dear friends—all mere months before beginning this blog), I declared that we would be buying a boat. If we were here, we were going to have access to all sorts of water.

So we did, and we have. We bought a Sea Ray because they have a good reputation and it is, in fact, a really fun, fast, stable boat; and we had a radiator put in so that the normal engine cooling system—sucking up water—would be circumvented so that we could go in sea water (which, with its salt and electrolytes would corrode important parts of the mechanical workings that make the boat go) . . . and herein lies our unforeseen expensive problem, poised to chomp away the first tender shoots of a savings account that I've been so carefully tending the last several weeks.

If you alter the basics of a boat, there will be issues. In our case, the radiator that was installed to cool the engine just wasn't efficient enough and so, for the last 111 hours of engine use, even though the boat hasn't been overheating, it has been running hot, which is hard on the engine in the long run. Mercury, which makes the engine, has suggested adding some sort of pump to the system which makes it better somehow (I have a better picture in my mind than I am able to explicate here), and we need to have that installed . . . for $1,008. Or not use the boat. Or use it for many fewer years than we would like.

One thousand dollars, of non-frivolous money, for frivolous, non-environmental fun. Sure, we share this fun with as many friends as possible in the summers (and, it sounds like with the upgraded system we'll actually be able to keep the boat running all winter, thus sharing with intrepid friends all year long), and we are SO looking forward to more outer-islands in the San Juans again this year, but wow. Huh.

I stood up to shake it off after hanging up the phone with Dave, one of my friends at Sea Ray, and took a quick trip to the bathroom. I returned to the living room, my chair, my laptop, my coffee. I sat down, replaced the computer on my lap, picked up my mug, took a sip, replaced the mug on top of the cedar bentwood box Ian made me for our first Christmas together, next to my cell phone, turned back to my computer . . . turned back to look more closely at the top of the box. LITTLE SPLASHES OF LATTE EVERYWHERE. On the box, on my phone, on the pens lying there. What the . . . ?

"HOOVER." I said, and he, sleeping innocently 3 feet away, leapt up and came wagging over, tail down, ears back, a picture of guilty contrition. "YOU WERE DRINKING MY COFFEE." Apparently, EVIDENTLY, GUILTY AS CHARGED.

And a little more insight into how I view the world—I did not think "EWWW" and race to the bathroom to throw up—I thought "Damn. Now I don't have as much coffee anymore," as I finished it off.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

In All Fairness to Seattle Boat

When I last wrote of the Seattle Boat/Lake Union Sea Ray "struggle" (shall we say), Seattle Boat was going to get my boat down from dry stack using a large metal plate to cover the hole in the ground and then take the boat across the ship canal to Sea Ray, where Sea Ray could perform the dewinterization. Also due at this time was the 100 hour service (boat "mileage" is measured in engine hours because distances are pretty hard to judge), which involves the boat being pulled out of the water at Sea Ray's service facility. Dewinterization can be done in the water. Anyway, Ian and I thought "Great. We'll just have them do the service at the same time."

But then, the morning after I last wrote, I got a text from Seattle Boat saying the boat was in the water and Sea Ray could come whenever (NOT THE PLAN AS I KNEW IT), and so I tried to talk to Sea Ray to find out what was up but they didn't seem to know . . . but then a couple hours later someone else from Sea Ray called to say that they had finished the dewinterization and the boat could be stacked again. Whaaa??? Well, that being the case, I texted Seattle Boat letting them know they could put Dogfish away and suggesting that they choose a more accessible spot this time—at least for the time being. (You are maybe beginning to see the kinds of things I fill my day with when not actively involved in cancer, horses, rocks, or Gyrotonic: hyperbolic, maddeningly inefficient minutiae.)

The need remained, however, for the 100 hour service (and repair for a coolant leak discovered during the dewint), and so I scheduled me to drop off the boat this morning. Initially, I thought I would have to drop off the boat at the end of Ian's work day so that I could get a ride back to my car (also the ends of the work days for both boat places), but then I really looked at the distances. By water from Seattle Boat's dock to Sea Ray is, according to the path feature on Google Maps, 335 yards. Under favorable conditions, I could give Dogfish a big shove and she would glide perfectly into the slip across the ship canal, because my innate physics brilliance and physical prowess would have allowed me to give a push of just the right amount of force to counteract the friction from the lake water. The return trip by land to my car, under unfavorable conditions, was less than a mile, which I could easily walk—much more easily than trying to coordinate with Ian on top of Sea Ray and Seattle Boat. Today the conditions were, alas, unfavorable, and I had quite a wet mile-long loop. But the boat will be really, REALLY ready if we ever stop getting rain.

An aside about the rain in the Northwest this year: We have so much snow pack right now that the state is considering asking the wind farm in southeast Washington to close down periodically—because we will be making too much electricity with our hydro turbines??? Also, the reservoir up on Snoqualmie Pass on I-90, which delivers drinking water to the City of Seattle, is FULL-FULL, which it has almost never been—usually, there's a small, murky puddle of water surrounded by tree stumps. I have it on good authority that all the stumps are currently submerged. And, although I can usually have a dog walk during a dry part of the day, that hasn't been true nearly as much for the last several months. We really are fulfilling our reputation.

But back to exonerating Seattle Boat. When I arrived today Sean, the manager of the Lake Union marinas, was there and was genial. Pleasant, even, to the point of mild joking about the weather and our recent debacle (!). He showed me where my boat is usually stored, and sure enough, right behind it, affecting ONLY my boat, was a circle of cones about 8 feet in diameter, marking the place where the repair was seasoning. Sean explained that he hadn't known that the work was going to be done; my boat was the only one affected; AND I was the ONLY CUSTOMER who wanted a boat down that day. Or probably for weeks.

I'm not quite sure what the lesson is here: You never know when incompetence is going to filter down and affect you? Sure, that may be part of it. But it's probably more true to say that curve balls come at us from all directions, all the time. Some miss us completely. We deflect some without really knowing it—maybe a momentary twinge. Some graze our elbows or knees and inconvenience or annoy us. Some end up connecting directly with us and really beating the shit out of us. But for all of these, the best way we can react is with grace and empathy. Breathe in. Breathe out. There is always enough time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I saw Taya today, whose self-created bodywork system is suddenly becoming THE THING for massage therapists to learn and who is, therefore, more often these days traveling around the country teaching courses than waiting at her Everett-area office for my call, and she scolded me when I told her I was rock climbing regularly again.

"Bu . . . I . . . No, reall . . ." I kept trying to say, and she just kept scolding.

"Your body is still in healing mode! You are still on drugs! Rock climbing is hard on you! Horses, yes, ride those, horses are good for you. But this climbing! You need to be careful! You need to not overdo things!"

"I already have ONE mother," I finally managed to wedge in poutily, when she paused for breath.

"I'm the one keeping your body healthy, though," said Taya, "not your mother!"

When she finally petered out, I had had time to ready my response. "I'm not climbing high walls," I said, "I'm just bouldering. I mostly climb with a friend, for about one hour, once a week. We take turns on the walls. We stop when we're tired."

"How safe is it?" she asked.

"Very safe—there are big thick mats on the floors, and I'm conservative about what I attempt. One thing I've discovered is that, from doing Gyrotonic, I have a really good sense of my body and what I need to do—which muscles I need to use—to accomplish a climb. And if I can't do it, I can't. But climbing's REALLY FUN!"

She looked at me sideways, still unconvinced.

"Look," I said. "In my horseback riding lessons, I'm jumping, but I'm jumping two-foot fences." I held my hand off the floor—short. Two feet. "I am not jumping Olympic-level jumps." I raised my arm over my head—tall. Scary. "Likewise, in climbing, I am doing beginning-level climbs—they are barely harder than ladders."

She didn't exactly humph, but her "okay, well, I just want you to pay attention to your body," sounded humphy.

What I remember from several years ago, when I first started rock climbing, was that going twice a week was ideal. That would allow my hands to heal and my muscles to stop aching—ready to be broken down again. I also used to horseback ride twice per week, and it's possible I even Gyrotonicized two times per. Certainly, when I was doing Pilates, that was two per. But I just can't do it now, this two-timing—I don't have the energy. I'd love to be able to ride twice per week and double the speed at which my jumps get higher (because 2 feet is higher than they used to be); or climb a couple times so that, likewise, I would be improving more rapidly, and able to handle the routes that weren't just like ascending ladders. But those days aren't these days.

These days, I sleep 8-9 hours per night, usually waking between 8 and 9 in the morning (I used to rise at 7:30 on the dot—for years, really). I don't usually schedule more than one thing per day, and I get a bit worn out—emotionally, physically—if I don't have a day completely off every week (I'm continually learning this). I still revel in difficult physicality, in the day-after burn, in the intense sweats and the gulping of water—but I have to revel at half-mast now.

I've been feeling faintly frustrated by this half-mastedness; the flagrant sloth of sleeping until 9 or—heaven forbid—later some days; my begrudgingly recognized inability to anymore go all out, all the time. In part, this may be a side-effect of fully incorporating cancer into my life: I don't really think about it unless I'm directly involved in it (i.e. someone is sticking a needle into my chest to access my port, or I'm putting in my ear plugs so the noise from the MRI doesn't deafen me or drive me bats), and so whatever my body is doing to integrate the pharmaceuticals and the supplements and keep the cancer at bay, whatever incredible amount of work that that takes, I'm pretty much completely unaware of it, at least in any conscious way.

And so, thank you Taya-mom for reminding me that I am, in fact, still (always?) in healing mode. I won't take your advice and stop climbing altogether, but I will allow myself to start finding 50% to be sufficient. Glorious, in fact.



Wednesday, April 6, 2011

“Hanger”, Flattery, and Things Nautical

Life has been gliding smoothly along without too much of interest happening these days, mostly just the warm but mild pleasures and subtle pains of day to day existence at home in Seattle with dogs and Ian. One thing that is interesting: as I've been budgeting (for real! I'm still keeping up with it! After a month!) instead of refilling my home with sweaters, I've actually found that my home FEELS FULL AGAIN, and I'm thinking about clearing out the next layer! You might think that I should hold off on jettisoning sweaters until a different season—it IS spring in the Northern Hemisphere, after all, and so maybe I'm listening too closely to immediate sensation (who needs sweaters in Spring?)—but let me and my immediate sensation tell you this: here in the Northwest, any season is sweater season, and therefore any season is appropriate for clearing them out. I've been thinking about all my piles of clothes and shoes—not only the sweaters—and what I truly use and what I don't, and how to get rid of the surplus. Garage Sale? Consignment? Simple donation? Hand-me-down to friends and relatives? It's all very exciting, all over again, this clearing out process.

As far as singing out my soul, that's coming along at a snail's pace. A s l o w snail. You see, I have taken the idea somewhat literally, and am trying to write a song, one that I've been chewing the cud on for several years now (I'll be sure to be done with the cud before I begin to sing). I thought I had made a breakthrough with the chorus yesterday morning, but then I realized as I was driving to an appointment later in the day that I had, in fact, practically plagiarized another song. Imitation being the purest compliment notwithstanding, in songwriting, it is illegal. Anyway, I took a different tack yesterday evening, and while the whole thing sounds like a honky mess at the moment, I might be on to something. Don't look for me on YouTube any time soon.

Speaking of different tacks and other things watery, we tried this morning to have our boat de-winterized so that, if the rain ever does stop for longer than 23 minutes, we can enjoy a spin around the lake. Maybe it's just our luck with Seattle Boat Company (our marina operators and a little bit my nemeses), but when the team from (their rival) Lake Union Sea Ray arrived to have our boat taken out of dry stack and dropped in the water so they could work, our boat was unavailable, and would be for at least a week. Um, hello? How about an email or phone call letting us know that this might be happening? Or even, how about a response to the text I sent you late last night alerting you to the need to get the boat down? You could've contacted me this morning and saved a lot of time and hassle—mine, yours, and the poor technician simply out trying to do his job. It turns out (after calling three levels of marina operators, ending up with the highest, who knows my name from previous issues with them) that the owner of the property (Seattle Boat is only leasing for their dry-stack marina) had chosen this week to fill in potholes without informing even the marina operators. Of course there was a huge hole right behind our boat, rendering it impossible for the giant Marina Bull forklift to reach little blue-striped Dogfish. It's okay, though—Seattle Boat has a huge metal sheet that they will put over the hole tomorrow morning—since I went through the trouble to ask for a month's moorage refunded—and get our boat down and over to Sea Ray, free of cost. I grudgingly say fair enough; I'm not missing out on anything. Today does not seem to be a day with longer-than-23-minute dry spells.

I climbed again today at Stone Gardens, between talking to levels of Seattle Boat marina management, and again my fingers are clumsy and swollen and rock-burned and my arm muscles look BAD ASS (I just checked them out). Here's a situation to muse over: one of the things that I have a hard time gauging, understanding, and preparing for, in my life as it is right now, is when I am going to need food, what kind, and how much. My long habit has been to have a 16 oz latte in the morning (split quad), which I savor as I laugh over the comics, puzzle over the Sudoku or the crossword, read my morning email, and now sum up my daily budget. After I've been up for an hour or so, I eat whatever is on offer in our house—toast with peanut butter and banana, rice pudding I made the night before (with ¼ the sugar but twice the large, juicy raisins), granola, protein smoothie. I then take a bunch of pills and go on about my day, usually at home until after noon, as the body often reacts—to pills, coffee, food, comics, who knows what all—unpleasantly, to varying degrees, before noon. Anyway, this morning was a coffee and rice pudding morning, and it was a late-ish morning, and so I wasn't hungry for lunch before I met my friend at the gym at one(ten). We climbed until about 2:30 and then I took the dogs out for a walk at the nearby botanic garden.

Dogs and I were barely inside the garden gates when I realized that I was almost dizzy with hunger. Ian seems to stay in the hangry (a word we learned from our dear friends in Texas) stage indefinitely once he reaches it—tetchier and tetchier, and more and more sure the world is out to get him; Hoover is hangry unless he is eating. Today I, however, passed completely through hanger without even noticing, straight into Imminent Full System Shut Down. My stomach groaned and burbled and began eating up my body, starting with my brain, which made the world look dark and disorderly (and made me forget I was wearing my sunnies in the woods). I lurched around the park, desperately urging the dogs to poop so that I could get back to the car and bolt down some Brazil nuts (the snack that lives in the car) and an apple (the snack that I'd brought). All I could think about were those nuts and that apple. Perhaps coffee and rice pudding aren't enough fuel if you're going to be lifting 160 pounds up and down precipices for over an hour.

As you can tell, I made it back to the car, though, and the dogs didn't poop—bonus walk! I survived on my snacks until I arrived back at home and then enjoyed a leftover bowl of the halibut green curry we had for dinner last night. Ian's home early to distract hangry dogs—Hoover began hooting at me at 4pm on the dot—two hours early—and Spackle at 5pm on the dot—and all in all, it's been another fine day in Seattle.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Metapost: Inappropriate Content

Regular readers will notice that I deleted my two most recent entries. Writing a public, searchable blog where I talk about boobs means that I occasionally get hits from people searching for something more salacious than breast cancer treatments, and I do think that's darkly funny, in a sort of "ha ha—took YOU by surprise" way. However, the possibility that people who were being abused would be stumbling upon my blog never occurred to me until yesterday. But simply the words "I Thought I Was Done With This" could easily call to people suffering all sorts of emotional or physical or psychological trauma. And so having become, with the help of my husband, much less of a dimwit, I'm not going to write lightly about such things again. I apologize to my readers: known, unknown, and especially those of you struggling with difficulty, and in some cases horror, in your own lives.