Monday, May 16, 2011

Catching up

It's been over a year since I have blogged, and that is hard to believe. That year included a fairy tale trip to Gallicia in Spain in May along with my sister Mary, hosted by my daughter-in-law's wonderful, remarkable parents, Rafael and Pilar. I wrote about that to family and friends...actually writing only through half of the trip, which also extended on to a week's stay in London with my daughter-in-law Cristina and son Dale William.

But I missed the family reunion at Spofford Lake in New Hampshire in August; my cancer was acting up. But I was in high hopes of having a stem cell transplant at Stanford University in the fall (Mary is a donor). However, it turned out I had too many cancer cells in my body to go ahead with the transplant. Instead, I was put into a research program, taking an experimental pill to shrink the lymph nodes in my body (I have both Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and non-Hodgkins lymphoma) along with chemotherapy to tackle the leukemia.

The routine was biweekly trips to Palo Alto, with the chemo taken only once a month. I needed a number of platelet and red blood transfusions, but all seemed to be going well; the lymph nodes certainly had shrunk back, until Jan. 4 of this year, when I had to go to Reno's Renown Hospital's emergency room with horrendous stomach pains. This began a 2 1/2 month stay in the hospital, with short breaks of a day or two.

My first visit was for an obstructed colon. Surgery was out of the question because of my platelet counts; the surgeon was not optimistic that I would survive. It was a trying time. Mary flew from Virginia to be on hand for over a week; my sister and brother-in-law, already traveling to visit, stayed a few days, and Cris and Dale, who had just returned to London, turned around and came back for about nine days. I was the center of a lot of attention, but I was also so miserable and often groggy from morphine that I could hardly appreciate it. I did know how tough it was on Dale and that broke my heart.

Less apparent to me were the number of people who were praying for me. My sisters put me on a number of prayer chains, as did members of our church, small as it is. I am absolutely convinced that the prayers of these people, most of whom didn't know me, but prayed because they love Jesus Christ, saved my life.  I pray today for God's grace and peace for them.

Still, when I went home at the end of the month, I found myself back in the emergency room three days later and back in the hospital with a high fever and double pneumonia. There went another month. I was virtually chained to my bed with an alarm system so I wouldn't get up on my own. During this time I lost over 20 pounds...and they were muscle, not fat pounds. I could no longer walk unassisted. So at the end of the month I was released to a rehabilitation hospital where I spent nine days. All was not over: Less than a week later I was back in the hospital for an additional nine days because of more problems with the colon. All the while I had to take tremendous amounts of antibiotics and have several transfusions; I thought they were trying to make me chemically perfect, which I believe is an impossibility.

When I came home on March 19, finally, I was pretty much a basket case. Dale became my long-suffering nurse. He still is, although I am walking much better now. I think the muscle tone in my legs and most of my balance is back, but I tire easily, and sometimes I just hurt. This week I went back to Stanford to see if I can get back into the research study, or at least be able to take the experimental pill again, but I have no definite answer on that as yet. In the meantime, I feel a shadow of my former self. Gone is most of my energy. I haven't been able to babysit, and I miss that intimacy with my grandchildren. When Ione sees me, she hugs me and tells me she loves me. I tell her I miss her. Maddox, almost 6 now, is less demonstrative, but blessedly impish.

I do a lot of reading, too much really; it gives me a backache after a while. I have cooked a little, and I think I need to force myself to do more. I go to physical therapy, and I enjoy that; I do well. Several of my sisters call me almost every day, though we are widely separated geographically, and I've come to know my big brother better through his phone calls. The kids call too; I know they are worried, and I wish they didn't need to be.

I have a lot of trouble sleeping at night. I try to ration the pain pills, which do bring on sleep. The nights seem so long; I wake up and sometimes get up several times. I want to be very strong and brave about what is happening to me, but inwardly I am not.  I have faith in Jesus Christ, but sometimes I don't. Last night I cried because I thought I really have no faith; I don't trust. I know this is all in God's hands. But I know I want to see my grand kids grow; I want to see the grandson Cris is expecting in October.  I don't want Dale to be left alone and bereft. I feel so bad thinking of leaving him.

If I were a better Christian, I should have more faith. I have had a good life, a wonderful life, and I praise God and love Him for the many blessings he has bestowed on me. But I don't want to take the cup, although of course, like everyone, I will. I hope it will be later rather than sooner. I hope my kids will remember that I want them to hold a big Irish wake to remember me. I want them to stick together and look out for their father. I hope I'm not being a great big baby.

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen."    Hebrews 11:1

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cheers for the outdoors!

At last, grandma and the kids can play outside!

On this spot, the Donner party camped before their ill-fated ascent of the Sierra Nevadas. Maddox makes it a living monument. And Ione tries to escape the camera with her usual blur of movement.

Foiled this time!

No longer my passive photo model, Maddox mugs for the camera, while Ione imitates a shizu.

               Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

and be a child again!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

When the sun shines...'s easy to praise God as we should every day.

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that have made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Psalm 148

Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights.
Praise ye him, all his angels; praise ye him, all his hosts.
Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light.
Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.
He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass.
Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps:
Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word:
Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars:
Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl:
Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth: 
Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children:
Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.
He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of  Is-ra-el, a people near unto him. Praise ye the LORD.

The picture is of Pyramid Lake near Reno, Nevada, and the beautiful language is from the King James Version of the Bible.

Enjoy this and every day that God has made!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Egads! Where went March?

Is it really over a month since I blogged. Oi! But March has been busy. First and best was the visit of my son and daughter-in-law from London. What a treat!  And of course Cris came supplied with European chocolates and fine (but fiercely hot) ginger/ chili cookies. These were definitely not on Dale's to eat list, especially since he has been suffering a bout of GERD (acid reflux disease).

Our son brought his cigars and some rather good scotch, as always, and we all sampled the American microbrews he can't find in London. London, it turns out, is not really a beer and ale town, or at least not an adventurous one. My personal favorite is India Pale Ale, perhaps because my father drank it when I was little, and we kids always drained the bottles to the last drop before depositing them in the return case in the cellar (or at least I did). Over the winter, Dale and I have just stored beer in the garage, where it has been plenty cold, but as the weather has warmed we've gotten in the habit of leaving it there and drinking a cool bottle or even one at room temperature. I think that better brings out the flavor. I guess it's something I have in common with the Brits.

While he was here, Dale William got a tattoo...a free one because he bumped into his tattoo artist at an old hangout. Although I wasn't an original fan of multiple tattoos, I've come to accept my son's appreciation of this "body art," and this time I went with him and Cris not only to the tattoo convention that happened to be in town, but also to watch Dale get the freebie hour glass etched on his leg.  I'll admit it was fascinating. Tattoos aren't for everyone, for sure, but they are for my son. He loves them, and others do as well because they love him. One possible exception may be Cris' grandmother in Madrid (who does like Dale) but not the tattoos at all. Fortunately, his can be covered by long sleeves, and he works in advertising where eccentricities are accepted.

The best thing about family visits is how distance and time away evaporates as soon as everyone is together again. Our daughter Lisa hosted Dale and Cris at her house, but we all got together for a couple of family dinners (a belated Christmas turkey, apparently not easily available in London, and an early St. Patrick's Day Irish stew). Because daughter Hilary and son-in-law Dustin are next door, Dale William and Cris had a good bit of time to spend with their nephew and niece. Maddox went bowling with the grown ups and was upset when one of his balls knocked down only nine pins. "He's a competitor," said his uncle. And Maddox is; he was happy to whip around on his Christmas BMX bike and show off his increasing skills on a skateboard.

Ione overcame a very short initial shyness and then reveled in the attention only a little girl with a sweet (and sometimes mischievous) smile can evoke...especially from grandpa!

However, all good things must come to an end, and unfortunately Dale and Cris' visit ended before our Reno weather turned from late winter to sunny spring. But hey, what are they used to in London!

But I am doubly blessed because in six short weeks, I'll see them again in London with one of my sisters and then travel on to Spain to tour Galicia with Cris' parents. I've been to Spain once before, and the country is beautiful; the people are welcoming, and life is lived wholeheartedly. I can hardly wait!
I do worry that my Spanish skills (I've been teaching myself all year) will leave a lot to be desired, but I think Cris' Mom and I will be able to communicate. I know we will be able to enjoy. that was the beginning of March and on March 19th, I began a new journey that may occupy me for the next year and which I'll write about tomorrow (I hope, or perhaps the next day).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Holy Moses!!!

"Holy Moses" were the exact words out of my mouth as I walked out of the bedroom this morning and looked out the office window: snow and lots of it! But this has just given me an extra opportunity to try out my new camera, a point and shoot Sony Cybershot DSC H20.

I chose a point and shoot because I've become quite the klutz with my DSLR, missing most of the good low-light shots I really wanted to capture (and I hate flash, with which I've always been unsuccessful). I've had the new camera for three days now, and I am very pleased. It is almost klutz-proof (the exceptions being when my granddaughter Ione chooses to move too  abruptly). With a memory stick PRO-HG Duo, the pictures load zippily into iPhoto, and that certainly is a change from the past.

Here are some of my shots from Friday:

Maddox in his "Mohawk"..."The kids (at pre-school) laughed and laughed." And it was a good day..."no time outs," he reported on his arrival home. Hurrah! He gets to watch "Toy Story."

Meanwhile, Ione and I hung out together: and she took some advantage of her brother's absence to test out his clothes and the toys he's outgrown, but not entirely, not completely enough to really want to share with a little sister.

And Saturday, Grandma stayed home and baked tomato soup muffins for church on Sunday, which (due to the Sunday morning scene outside) never made it to our church that is 40 miles away.

So the kids came out to play:

...and to snitch graham crackers...

and to tell Dad all about it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Do You Want to Clone a Caveman?

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Most of us chuckled at GEICO's caveman ads ("so simple even a caveman can do it!") that placed a couple of Neanderthal-appearing guys in a contemporary setting where they are regularly offended by Neanderthal-acting humans. But some day in the not distant future, the joke may be on us as scientists clone Neanderthals in the lab and create, perhaps, a modern day Neanderthal community, with which we humans will need to deal ethically and legally.

BioEdge, an on-line review of issues in bioethics, quotes John Hawks, a University of Wisconsin paleoanthropologist, who says "In the end, we are going to have a cloned Neanderthal." Hawks is opposed, but others interviewed by Archeology magazine, from which BioEdge draws its review, favored cloning. George Church, genetics professor at Harvard Medical School, even believes it may be unethical not to clone: "Just saying 'no' is not necessarily the safest or most moral path. It is a very risky decision to do nothing."

According to Archeology, Neanderthals and humans co-existed for 6,000 to 7,000 years before the more adaptable humans pushed Neanderthals into extinction some 30,000 years ago. The Neanderthal, who Archeology notes, broke away from the lineage of modern humans 450,000 years ago, was physically different from the human: shorter with a protruding brow, stronger upper torso and a larger brain cavity. He lived in communities, buried his dead, made and improved on tools, and likely communicated in a language. Archeology quotes Jacques Hublin, a paleoanthropologist at Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany: "they [had] a different way to give birth to babies, differences in life history, shape of the inner ear, genetics, the speed of development of individuals, weaning, age of puberty." But others believe Neanderthals were not different enough to be considered a separate species.

Bits of Neanderthal DNA have been found in a cave in northern Spain where 11 Neanderthals were murdered about 49,000 years ago and then cannibalized. Geneticists like Professor Church believe it may be possible to create a Neanderthal person by implanting a stem cell with Neanderthal DNA into a human blastocyst and then keeping all the non-Neanderthal cells from developing. Of course, just as does embryonic stem cell research, this requires eliminating human life and is opposed by many, like myself, for this reason.

But there are other reasons to balk at cloning a Neanderthal. Church, himself, acknowledges that anyone cloned would lack the social and environment factors that shaped the original: "They would be something new," he says, "neo-Neanderthals." "This is a species-altering event. It changes the way we are creating a new generation," says Lori Andrews, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law. Archeology notes that "legal precedent in the united States seems to be on the side of Neanderthal human rights" of which would certainly be the right not to be experimented on. This might make moot Professor Church's desire to use a cloned Neanderthal to further medical research.

Archeology quotes Bernard Rollin, a bioethicist and professor of philosophy at Colorado State University who believes "the problem lies in how that individual would be treated by others." Rollin says, "I don't believe it is fair to put people...into a circumstance where they are going to be mocked and possibly feared, and this is equally important: it's not going to have a peer group. Given that humans are at some level social beings, it would be grossly unfair."

In the end, Archeology poses the question: "The ultimate goal of studying human evolution is to better understand the human race. The opportunity to meet a Neanderthal and see firsthand our common but separate humanity seems, on the surface, too good to pass up. But what if the thing we learned from cloning a Neanderthal is that our curiosity is greater than our compassion (remember, as Archeology states, the number of sick and dead individuals produced by nuclear transfer cloning is the reason nearly all scientists are opposed to human reproductive cloning") ?"

More likely what's learned (or relearned) would be that our technological know how is greater that our wisdom.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Count Me In!

This is the Mt. Vernon statement, signed by a group of conservatives today at Mt. Vernon:

A Constitutional conservatism unites all conservatives through the natural fusion provided by American principles. It reminds economic conservatives that morality is essential to limited government, social conservatives that unlimited government is a threat to moral self-government, and national security conservatives that energetic but responsible government is the key to America’s safety and leadership role in the world.
A Constitutional conservatism based on first principles provides the framework for a consistent and meaningful policy agenda.
  • It applies the principle of limited government based on the rule of law to every proposal.
  • It honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life.
  • It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and economic reforms grounded in market solutions.
  • It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that end.
  • It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood, community, and faith.
Does this match your beliefs?