#326–Successful Backstreet Gallery book-signing . . .

Note: Because I’ll be having leg vein surgery on Thursday, there will be no post this week!!

Backstreet Gallery is home to many talented artists and five talented authors that include Kathryn Damon-Dawson, Pattie Brooks Anderson, Larry LaVoie, Karen D. Nichols, and me.  On Saturday, February 19th, from 3-5 p.m., we were at Backstreet for a book-signing. Our books cover many genre.

Back row: Me, Pattie Brooks Anderson, and Karen D. Nichols. Front row: Larry LaVoie and Kathryn Damon-Dawson.

–Kathryn’s memoir, Adventures With 75 Papa Charlie, is very close to publication.  It’s about flying all around Alaska with her husband, Rand, in their Super Cub N75PC from 1975 to 2011. This is not the first book for this award-winning watercolorist. In 2012 she published Dogs, Crows and the Corn Chip Dance, in collaboration with her granddaughters.  It’s a delightful watercolor-illustrated children’s book.

–Pattie Brooks Anderson published her first novel, Sea Change, about a woman who changes her life when she moves to the Oregon coast. I just finished reading it and thoroughly enjoyed the plot twists and turns. Pattie is also the author and illustrator of ecological-themed children’s books, Enchanted and Star, and Raven’s Legend, the Spirit Bears of the Great Bear Rainforest. Pattie is a water-media artist known for her ink/watercolors, many of which illustrated her children’s books.

–Larry creates beautiful intricate woodcarvings and is the author of more than 20 novels, which he just recently began displaying in the Gallery. The novels include spy thrillers, mysteries, suspense, outdoor adventures, conspiracies, and detective stories. And many are set in small towns along the Oregon coast.

–Karen D. Nichols’ new release, The Ring–Journey Without End, is an epic story woven in love, loss, adventure, survival, and renewal, covering decades.  All of her nine novels have a surprise ending, mystery, suspense, adventure, romance, and a dog story or two. This prolific author is also a multi-talented artist who works with collage, watercolor, oil, and acrylic.

–And then there’s me. I’m known as “The Bridge Lady of the Oregon Coast” because of my two books about McCullough’s iconic, historic bridges––Crossings and The Crossings Guide. I also have two other coastal books, The Oregon Coast Guide to the UNEXPECTED!!! that covers the odd, unusual, and quirky, and Around Florence about the history of the Florence area. Another two books are personal. Devil Cat and Other Colorful Animals I Have Known is five stories about animals I’ve rescued that became great pets––eventually. And The Cancer Blog, for those who’ve had cancer and for those who haven’t is a week-by-week look at navigating chemo (while trying to stay positive) after I was diagnosed with late-stage lymphoma seven years ago.

Notice that only four are in the original photo.

Four of us participated in the book signing. Kathryn decided not to come since her new book was not ready yet. The four of us had a good time and sold books.

It was successful for two reasons. 1) There was quite a crowd in town because of the Wine, Chowder, and Float Trail on Presidents’ Day Weekend, and 2) several of us worked to make sure it was a success.

There had been an article in the Siuslaw News about the book-signing a few days before that Karen wrote and I edited. There was a photo shoot scheduled for the five of us, but I was unable to be there. So, Gallery member Meredith Draper worked her magic and photoshopped another photo of me into the book-signing photo.  I’m using it in this blog post. She used it on Facebook with a small article about the book-signing at the Gallery. I created a flyer, using the same photo, and went up and down Bay Street and distributed them the morning of the event. That morning, Karen put signs out in front of the Gallery. Stephanie Ames, in charge of Gallery Display, was there early to figure out exactly where each author could set up their table. It was too cold to set up outside.

This is the flyer I created in the middle of the night and passed out up and down Bay Street.

We all arrived early and were set up before 3 p.m. The four of us were well spaced inside the Gallery. So, we were socially distanced and everyone wore masks.

Several folks who had previously bought books came to chat with me and bought more books. I had a great time. The one that really made my day was a lady from North Bend. She and her late husband had bought Crossings shortly after it first came out way back in 2011 when I gave a presentation at the History Museum when it was located in North Bend. She told me how she loved Crossings and had shared it with many people. She was so thrilled to see me and bought two more of my books!

All of us felt we had a successful book-signing. And Larry sold the most books!!! Way to go, Larry!

Note: Backstreet Gallery is open daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Tuesdays.

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#325–Hellish name for beautiful flower . . .

Hellebores have beautiful flowers, but because they face down, they are difficult to see.
If you place the blossoms in water, you can see how lovely they are.
The ‘Lenten rose’ comes in many colors. From white to . . .
. . . shades of pink to purple.

The ‘Christmas rose’ has darker leaves with creamy blossoms that turn greenish.
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#324–My mailbox—a precarious life . . .

When we bought the house in 1984, we had no idea that the location of the mailbox would turn out to be so precarious. It was located right out in front We thought it was perfect.

This old photo shows the mailbox (to the right) right in front of the house.

That first mailbox, which was there when we bought the house, was wiped out by a large truck that took the turn too wide. I found it lying on the ground beyond help when I came home from running errands. My husband, Walt, replaced both post and mailbox.

The second one, was hit by a young man we’d hired to clean the roof gutters. When he was done, he got in his truck, which he had parked out front near the relatively new mailbox. In his maneuvering before he left, he backed up and knocked it askew––it sat cockeyed, looking like it had a hard night. I don’t think he even realized he had damaged it. I tried propping it up with rocks, but it kept listing. The mail lady suggested fixing or replacing. She was clearly annoyed. So, Walt replaced the post. This time, he put it in concrete. And we were able to save the mailbox.

That was the third post, second mailbox and left unscathed for many years. It even survived a drunken neighbor, who trying to avoid the mailbox, drove up through the yard. On his wild ride, he damaged two azaleas that later died. And weeds still come up wherever his tires traveled. I remember the squealing of brakes in the middle of the night and the damaged yard the next morning. I still cuss him when pulling out those weeds.

Trees have grown and no more mailbox in front.
Moving it to the other side of the driveway greatly improved its life expectancy.

Then my neighbor across the street came home one day and knocked it over and totally demolished it. He totally broke off the post and smashed the mailbox. He said the sun was in his eyes and he thought he was clear of the mailbox. He felt terrible and offered to pay for all repairs.

By then, Walt had passed away. So, I got a new post and mailbox and hired a neighbor boy to put it on the other side of the driveway. It took about 15 years and three accidents, but I finally figured out a solution. It was a good move. The “new” mailbox is now about 20 years old and beginning to show its age. In that location, it has been safe from accidents by vehicles, but it did have a close call a couple winters ago when a very large branch came down in a major storm and brushed against it. It didn’t even get a scratch.

A few weeks ago, I noticed how grungy it was looking. So, I got out some soapy water, a small brush, an old towel and scrubbed it clean. It looks–-not exactly new—but much, much better.

So nice and clean! Thanks, Ned! Couldn’t have done it without you!

All these remembrances about my mailboxes are because of Ned Hickson, former editor at the Siuslaw News who is now a mailman with his own route. He posts photos of his favorite mailboxes on Facebook once a week or so. After looking at those, then at mine, he shamed me into cleaning my mailbox. So, I’ll blame my newly clean mailbox and this blog post on him! It’s your fault, Ned!

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#323–Hurry up and wait––for prescriptions . . .

Hurry up and wait applies to the military, my late husband used to tell me. And when I was in college, it definitely applied. We would get up in the middle of the night and rush to get to the front of the line to wait for certain have-to-have classes. In those days (early ‘60s) at San Jose State, you had to line up and sign up in person for the classes you took. I’m sure, these days, it’s all done online.

Now, it’s pharmacies that cause us to hurry up and wait.

Day before yesterday, when I was at my post-op in Springfield for my leg vein surgery that took place last week, I asked about the darkish pink color that covered much of my lower leg that was hot to the touch. I asked if it was normal after this type of surgery. The answer was, “No! Definitely not!”

The Fred Meyer in Florence is a big-box store.

Just one more twist in the saga of my leg vein surgery. The physician’s assistant thought it was Cellulitis. She called the doctor in, and he confirmed it. Oh goody! I first noticed it last Thursday, so it had been doing its thing for six days. They prescribed an antibiotic to take twice a day for a week. And to start that night. It was not only hot to the touch, but also was starting to pulsate. If not treated, it could become very serious and put me in the hospital with treatment through an IV. I needed to get treatment started right away.

I headed straight home and got to the Fred Meyer in Florence about an hour and 30 minutes later. I got gas, a few groceries, and checked out the line at the pharmacy. It was out the door, into where the carts are kept. I got in line and waited 15 minutes and it did not move. So, I went home and decided to try again in the morning. I was exhausted.

I got there about 10 a.m. and got in line. It was a few spaces shorter than last night and was moving. At 11 a.m., I got to the window, and was told to come back after 2 p.m. It was not ready.

Something to occupy my time while I’m waiting in line.

I came back at 5 p.m. This time, I brought something to occupy my time. It is the “kid’s page” in the Siuslaw News. I love word puzzles, so I got the word scramble done and also found the route through the maze. I know it’s the “kids page” but I just love doing those kinds of things. After that, I became friends with the lady behind me. And I chatted with friends who were on their way out.

The line was not moving very fast. Every time it did, we cheered. It was a congenial group. I, finally, got to the window at 6:30 p.m. and was able to pick up my prescription.  I raised my hands in the air and let out a whoop! Who knew this prescription that I was supposed to start taking the night before would require a total of two hours and 45 minutes in line! Hurry up and wait, indeed!

This is the third episode like this I’ve endured in the past few months.

When I had my colonoscopy on January 8, I stopped by to pick up the gallon of electrolyte yuck that had been called in weeks ahead. Not ready! Came back the next day! Not ready! Came back third day and needed to use the next day. This time, it was ready. That was approximately an hour in line each time—total three hours.

The Fred Meyer on W 11th in Eugene is a huge big-box store–at least twice as big as the one in Florence. I had a hard time trying to find the entrance that I came in at.

Last December 13, I was stuck over in the valley because of snow and had to transfer five different prescriptions from Florence Freddies to Eugene’s W 11th Freddies for a procedure planned there in a couple days. I waited in line an hour each of two days before I wised up to their “ticket” system.

I think, I’ll mention it to the Florence Freddies. If you wait in line once and your prescription is not ready, you get a ticket. Then, when you come back, you don’t have to wait in line again. You sit in one of the chairs up front and wave your ticket. And they get to you right away.

I didn’t know what the ticket was for when it was given to me, so when I came back the next day, I got in line and waited. After an hour, and only half way to the window, I figured it out. I left my spot in line and sat up front and waved my ticket. It worked.

This is the ticket I waved to keep from waiting in line again.

I know part of the problem for the Northwest is that Bi-Mart closed their pharmacies. And the Rite Aid in Florence is open but I think the pharmacy is still closed. Of the five pharmacies in town, two are closed.

So, pharmacies have become the latest “hurry up and wait” situation. This simply can’t go on like this. And I don’t have an answer.

P.S. Once I started taking the antibiotic, my Cellulitis was better the next day (Thursday)—no more pulsating and not quite as hot to the touch. Whew!

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#322–It’s actually begun––the good, bad & ugly . . .

The saga of the surgical procedure on the varicose veins in my legs started on December 13 when I had the pre-op for the procedure that was to take place that week. Between snow and a broken laser machine nothing went to plan back in December. (See #316–Much ado about nothing . . .)

Now, it is January, and the laser machine has been replaced with a better one. I made reservations in the same hotel, called a cab two days ahead to get me to Summit Surgical by 7:15 in the morning, and called the same friend who was to pick me up last December that it was on again.

I had stopped taking all supplements five days ahead. I had the four prescriptions I filled last December. I had the necessary compression hose. I had loose clothes and loose sandals to wear as requested. The weather was cooperating. Boy, was I ready!

Summit Surgical is on the second floor. This building is becoming very familiar.

I didn’t stop taking my prescribed medication for my restless legs and felt guilty about that. I thought that I really shouldn’t be taking it, so did not take it the morning of the procedure. And that turned out to be a mistake.

I got up that morning at 5 a.m., got dressed in loose fitting closes with shoes that fit loose enough to handle bandaging on the leg being operated on. Was able to have breakfast at 5:45 instead of waiting til 6. Got back to my room and rubbed one of the prescriptions, lidocaine cream, all over the leg being operated on. Then I had to wrap it in Saran Wrap. That part was creepy. I felt like I was turning into a monster from a horror film.

The taxi came while I was still Saran Wraping and texted me that he was there early. I let him know that I would be out soon. I actually came out exactly at the time I had requested he be there. And we got to Summit Surgical 15 minutes early. The lobby was open and I got in the elevator and pushed the button, and when the door opened, I got out and was surprised to still be in the lobby. The elevators weren’t working yet. Soon a worker came along and got it going. Then when I got to the second floor where Summit Surgical is located, no one was on duty to check me in. There were others in the background busy, busy.

After a half hour, someone came and got me and said it was time to prep me and that I could be checked in later. So, it began. So far, so good!

Here is what the compression hose look like that will be put on my leg after the surgery. And I’ll have to wear it for two weeks. They are very difficult to put on.

I was given a Valium beforehand and another about halfway through. The doctor got started and was moving along nicely and then my restless legs kicked in on the leg being operated on. Oh! No! I should’ve taken my medication that morning.

With restless legs, you don’t have control of the twitches and spasms. It usually is with only one leg at a time. So, I kept willing it to move to the other leg. And it did for the most part. There were still some small twitches. Every time it moved, the doctor would say, “You have to keep your leg still.” At first, he was pleasant, but soon became more and more adamant. I don’t think he understood restless leg syndrome very well. The younger physician’s assistant tried to explain it to him. After the doctor had finished the main long vein, he said that he could not continue with the smaller veins if my legs couldn’t be still. He would do the rest in the hospital where I would be under anesthesia and my legs wouldn’t move. This was bad.

I was to alternate walking and elevating my leg and having ice on it. The blue is a holder for the ice that got moved every 15 minutes or so to a different part of the leg.

Dang! I so wished I had taken my medication that morning. Just as Omicron variant is peaking, I’m going to be in the hospital. Not at all the way I had it planned. If everything had gone to plan, I would be back at Summit Surgical next week for the second leg. Now, I don’t know when that will be. And they will have to finish the first leg and do the second leg probably all in the same day. They will let me know when it is scheduled.

After my friend got me back to my room, I was still dopy and napped. Then did as I was directed. I walked and iced and elevated my leg. Again and again. I didn’t want to get blood clots.

For my two-night stay at the hotel, I had brought plenty of food in a cooler and they offered a wonderful breakfast. So, I ate familiar food for the most part. But I must have eaten something that did not agree with me.

The day after the procedure I slept in and got to the breakfast just as they were about to close up shop. I had eggs and potatoes and chicken fried steak with gravy which I had not had in decades. Then I packed up and drove home. As soon as I got home, I hit the bed and slept for an hour and a half. Then I started putting stuff away.

Now here’s where it gets ugly. About 4 p.m., I had a bout of diarrhea and another and another, which continued for the next 24 hours––no warning and about every 15 or 20 minutes. I got so weak and tired. All I wanted to do was sleep. On Friday, I’d lie down for a nap in the morning and wake up two hours later. And do it again in the afternoon and wake up three hours later. In between, I tried to walk and ice my leg and whenever I was in bed, I would elevate my leg or at least try to. By Friday evening, the bouts were less frequent. And by today, Saturday, much better. I actually felt like myself this morning. No naps today, don’t feel weak, still a little diarrhea but it gives warning and the bouts are hours apart instead of minutes. By evening, it seemed gone.

I elevated my leg on the table, on the recliner, in bed––actually wherever I could.

I don’t think what I went through after getting home had anything to do with the surgical procedure. All I had was two Valium. The surgery was Wednesday morning, and it didn’t hit me until Thursday afternoon. I think it might have been something at breakfast, something I brought to eat, or something I came in contact with. I don’t know. I just know that I never want to go through that again. And it feels sooooo good to be my normal self again!

Even with the best of planning, you just never know how things are going to turn out! Good, bad, ugly, or all three!

Tune in next week for the next chapter in this saga of the surgical procedures for the veins in my legs.

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#321-The WHY behind my cancer . . .

(Note: The next post will be on Sunday, January 30. i had surgery on my veins in one leg on Wednesday. Since then, all I want to do is sleep!)

Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with late-stage lymphoma in late September. And the sentence that stuck with me in the lymphoma info given to me was this: “Patients with this diagnosis can count their lifespan in months—not years!” That got my attention! I wanted to start treatment the next day.

Before treatment could begin, I met with an oncologist and had numerous tests to determine type of lymphoma and extent of spread. Then the exact protocol of treatment could be planned. So, it was the third week in October when I began treatment, which lasted for five months. It was heavy duty, but I survived it. I chronicled the whole experience each week in my blog posts. The whole five months worth of posts, plus a few chapters, became my latest book, The Cancer Blog. I put it together in 2021.

While I was reliving every week of my treatment this past year, I began to wonder why I got such a serious, life-threatening cancer. Most cancer can be attributed to hereditary or environmental causes. Cancer does not run in my family on either side. And all my aunts and uncles on both sides lived into their 90s and my mother to 105. So, I’ll rule out hereditary.

As to environmental, that’s a different story. I can’t prove it, but here’s my theory. I taught school in the Los Gatos School District in California for 22 years all at Blossom Hill School between 1963 and 1985. And for all but my first year, I was in the old wing of the school. Three other teachers who taught for decades in the same school, also in the old wing, became very ill and all three have passed away due to their illnesses. We were all hired the same year—1963—when the new wing was built.

There were four of us who spent decades teaching in the old wing. There were teachers that spent decades at Blossom Hill who taught in the new wing. To my knowledge, none of them experienced the same type of health problems as those of us in the old wing did.

My first class at Blossom Hill School, 1963-64. In the background is the old wing

Anne spent her whole career there from 1963 until somewhere around 2004 to 2006 when at the age of 63-65, she was asked to retire a couple months early because she was exhibiting symptoms of short-term memory loss that affected her teaching. She had been there, in the old wing, for 40+ years.

Then there was Madeline, who taught in the old wing for a few years, went to Spain and taught a few years, and came back to Blossom Hill in the old wing and taught there for many more years. Her total time there was about 25 years.

Lastly, was Jean who taught in the old wing for about 40 years. She was hired in 1963 and retired when she was about 65. That was around 2003 to 2004.

This is staff of Blossom Hill School in 1985, my last year. Jean is in back row on left end and Anne is next to her. Madeline is on left end of middle row and I am two places over–right in front of Anne.

I saw Anne the summer after she retired. She would seem like her old self and ask me how I was doing and what I was up to, and within 10 minutes, was asking me the same questions all over again and 10 minutes later and . . . Her husband could not leave her alone, even for a minute. She was diagnosed with a fast-moving dementia and within a year and a half of my visit, she passed away. She was in her mid-60s.

While Madeline was still teaching at Blossom Hill––she contracted lymphoma and died while undergoing treatment. She was in her 50s.  

After Jean retired she had lymphoma four times and survived treatment each time. Each of those cancers exhibited as a lump in her neck. This location, makes it easy to spot. The fifth time, she was diagnosed with lymphoma, it was in her abdomen, like mine. That is much more difficult to detect. This time, it was late-stage, and she did not survive. But she did live into her late 70s.

During my last week in June 1985, the whole school held a special going away assembly for me. My first graders are seated behind me. I am facing almost 200 4th-6th graders and about half were my students. This is the old wing in background.

I taught for 22 years and was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2014. It has been seven years, and now I am 80. I realize that this particular form of cancer may return. So, I am on the watch for it.

My theory is that the four of us were affected by asbestos in the old wing. I know the floor tiles were asbestos. They were fully exposed to us for several years, and then as the dangers from asbestos were being made public in the ‘70s, the tiles were covered with thin carpeting with no padding.

We also had heavy, green drapes that we pulled when we showed films during some of the science units that we taught. They were there the entire 22 years I was there. And all of us pulled the drapes whenever we had earthquake drills. I think those drapes were made of fabric including asbestos. One of the custodians complained about the “asbestos” drapes in the old wing more than once.

This is the architect’s rendition of how Blossom Hill will look after the remodel work done in 2007. In the background is the two-story classroom building to the left that replaced the old wing and a multi-purpose building to the right in the background.

I can’t prove any of this. The old wing of the school is no longer there because Blossom Hill School underwent extensive remodeling several years ago. And I am the only one left alive of the four of us who each taught for decades in the old wing. Like I said before, those who taught for decades in the new wing, built in 1962-63, did not have the same types of life-threatening health problems.

Because four of us had such life-threatening diseases and we all worked for decades in the old wing of the school that had asbestos in the building materials, I strongly feel that contributed to our serious health problems.

Anyway, that’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it.Read on; I’ve included some info to back me up.

***

RESEARCH RESULTS

Medical––Info from 2016 from Archivos de Bronconeumologia, 2016 

Various elements suggest a relationship between asbestos and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Firstly, the relatively high prevalence of the association between mesothelioma and lymphoma (both rare in the general population) is difficult to attribute to chance. Secondly, extranodal lymphoma (a variety particularly observed among immunocompromised individuals) has repeatedly been reported.1 Thirdly, the recognized effects of asbestos on immune mechanisms5 confers biological plausibility to the notion of a relationship between asbestos and lymphoma.

–Archivos de Bronconeumologia is a scientific journal that preferentially publishes prospective original research articles whose content is based upon results dealing with several aspects of respiratory diseases such as epidemiology, pathophysiology, clinics, surgery, and basic investigation.

Asbestos. com—Info from “Asbestos in Schools: A Guide for Parents & Administrators,” 2021

Understanding the Risks of Asbestos Exposure in Schools––The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are asbestos-containing materials in most of the nation’s primary, secondary and charter schools.

When these asbestos products are damaged or wear down over time, they put students, teachers and other school employees at risk of asbestos exposure.

Inhaling or ingesting microscopic asbestos fibers can lead to serious health conditions, such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, decades after exposure. Asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma.

If a school was built before the 1980s, it likely contains some form of asbestos.About half of all schools in the U.S. were built between 1950 and 1969 —a time when asbestos was added to virtually every kind of building material to increase durability and fire resistance.

At that time, the general public wasn’t aware of the health dangers of asbestos exposure. Products containing asbestos do not pose a threat if left intact and undisturbed. But most of these materials are now deteriorating and can be easily damaged during negligent maintenance work or improper procedures.

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#320–To Sir Groucho with love . . .

On January 4, I lost Sir Groucho. He was lovable, feisty, and playful right up to the end, and he was still able to beat me up the stairs. He was somewhere between 19–21 years old. As a rescue, I didn’t know his true age. I do know that he was my companion for the past 12 years.

Last photo taken of Sir Groucho in the fall of 2021.

What did him in was a large tumor on his heart. For the last couple of months, he had been doing a lot of gagging—trying to cough up something. With his history of hairballs, I thought that was the problem. When I took him in for his yearly checkup on October 29, he was doing the gagging a couple of times a day and had developed a moderate heart murmur. And this cat that had always weighed between 9 and 10 pounds, had dropped to just under eight pounds. From time to time, he did cough up a hairball.

He loved being up where he could look down. The neighbors will miss seeing him in the window. This was taken earlier in 2021.

I had no idea, I would lose him on January 4 when I took him in. He had an appointment to see what kind of anesthesia to use when he had his teeth cleaned later in the month. But when I told Dr. Barstow he was doing the gagging several times each day and nothing was coming up, she wanted to do a radiogram to see if something was causing the problem. That’s when the tumor was found. She also noted that his heart murmur had greatly worsened, and he had dropped to 61/2 pounds. She told me he wouldn’t get better––only worse––and that his time was very limited. So, we made the decision to euthanize him that day.

As I write this, it’s been a week and a day, and I’m still in shock. I keep expecting to see him and to hear him throughout the day. Losing a pet, is like losing a member of the family.

He certainly knew what a bed was for. We shared a Kingsize bed, but often I woke up on the edge and he was stretched out in the middle.

I miss his presence; wherever I was, he would find me and stick nearby. I miss his conversations with me. Even when he lost his hearing this past year, he continued to voice his opinion. I miss him sitting on my lap whenever I was at the computer. I miss his visits to cuddle during the night. He was the most lovable cat I ever had.

In his younger years, like in this 2011 photo, he was fearless. Like I said, he loved to be up high.

Now that he is gone, I don’t miss picking up the pieces of litter from his litter box that got trailed around the house because of his furry paws, and I don’t miss cleaning out the litter box every morning and evening.

I can now close doors. Before, he would scratch at any closed door, until it opened. I can now sleep in, if I want to. Before, he would start meowing somewhere between 5 and 6 o’clock most mornings.  I can now sit down and read a book. Before, he would climb into my lap and rub his head against any book, making it hard to read.

After this 2014 photo, I started calling him Sir Groucho. He had come a long way from the battered, bedraggled cat, my neighbor and I rescued.

But I would gladly put up with these petty annoyances to have Sir Groucho back. He was such a major part of my life. I miss him so.

Note: My June 2020 blog post is a photo essay of Sir Groucho with many of my favorite photos of him. And my book, Devil Cat and Other Colorful Animals I Have Known includes a chapter about my early years with Sir Groucho––“Black and White Yet Colorful All Over.”

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#319––Colonoscopy––to have or not to have after 75 . . .

Last September when I told my primary care doctor that I thought I should have a colonoscopy, he said that they are not usually recommended once you are past 75. I told him I knew that, but I was high risk due to nine polyps found in 2016. And, I told him, two of those were pre-cancerous. He then said that it takes about 10 years for a pre-cancerous polyp to become cancerous. I told him my father lived to be 91 and my mother to be 105. So, I could live 25 years or more. I wore him down.  He finally agreed to refer me to the same place I had two previous colonoscopies in Springfield on the PeaceHealth Riverbend campus.

Giving serious thought to deciding whether to have another colonoscopy before seeing my doctor and doing some research.

Months before the appointed time, I was sent paperwork where I had to fill out my medical history and answer a zillion questions. Then there was a TeleHealth phone call with the doctor who would be performing the procedure, to make sure I had good reasons for wanting a colonoscopy, that it was my decision, and I was of sound mind. Only if he was convinced would I be able to have a colonoscopy. I told him that I would be really pissed if I died of colon cancer when I was 85 or 90 and could have lived to be 105 or more. I convinced him.

Then lots of texts to me from the colonoscopy folks to make sure I called ahead and then picked up my prescription for the gallon or so of yucky stuff to take during the prep for the colonoscopy. And to make sure I called to schedule an appointment for a Covid test at the walk-in clinic here in Florence four days before the procedure. It had to be negative. And more stuff to fill out online. I heard from them every few days for weeks.

In the past, there was no Covid test to worry about. But I don’t remember so much paperwork. When I got to the Gastroenterology Center on the day of the procedure, I had more paperwork to fill out, check over, and sign—several pages, in fact.

These folks do have the process down to a science. Weeks before the procedure, specific directions were sent to me by email. What to do five days before, four days before, three days before, and one day before. And what to do on the day of—five hours before and two hours before. I followed it, checking off as I completed each one.

One major requirement is that you have to have a driver pick you up after the procedure. You cannot drive yourself. I had taken care of that back in November.

Meanwhile, the weather was making life difficult for those traveling on Hwy 126. This past week on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday were King Tides, and heavy rain. During this time, the highway was closed at Cushman for several hours around high tide twice each day. And then on Wednesday was a mudslide between Mapleton and Florence that closed the road for several hours. And another mudslide on Thursday closed the road for awhile. About that time, my driver decided she didn’t want to risk getting stuck over in Springfield and not be able to get back the same day. So, she wouldn’t be able to be my driver after all.

I made reservations for one night at the same place I had stayed a few weeks ago.

She let me know about 2 p.m. on the day before my procedure, and panic began to set in. I went over the paperwork from the colonoscopy folks and found a place to click on for acceptable drivers in case you don’t have one. No, on taxis or Uber or Lift. But medical transports were okay. So, I went online and clicked on that and picked one and called. They could pick me up at the medical facility after my procedure and drop me at my lodgings and they could also pick me up in the morning at my lodgings and take me to the medical facility. So, I signed up for the round trip and gave them the times.

Now, I needed to find some lodgings. I called the same Comfort Inn Suites where I stayed a few weeks ago. (See “#316–Much ado about nothing . . .”) I reserved a room for one night.

Then I called back the transport folks to tell them where I would be staying. Then I called Comfort Inn back because check-in time is 3 p.m. and I would be picked up there at 10:15 a.m. and returned around 1:30 or 2 p.m. All of which were before 3 p.m. They said I could drop off my stuff in the morning when I got there and they would keep it safe for me, and I could check in whenever I got back from the procedure. Whew! The panic subsided.

Now, all I had to worry about was Hwy 126. I checked the tide tables, which were going down each day at high tide. Driving over would be between tides, which should have no water on the road. The weather report was for heavy rain and windy while I was going over, so mudslides were still a worry. I checked TripCheck the night before and morning of about 6 a.m. I decided that if Hwy 126 was closed this side of Mapleton, I would leave at 7 a.m. and go through Reedsport and Cottage Grove to get there. If it was open, I could wait til 8 a.m. to get to the Comfort Inn by 10 a.m.

As it turned out, I got all the yucky stuff taken—2/3 by 8 p.m. the night before and 1/3 between 4 and 5 a.m. the morning of. I packed a small overnight bag with just the essentials and a cooler with lots of food for afterwards. At 6 a.m., TripCheck had Hwy 34 closed but not Hwy 126. So, I took off at 8 a.m. on Hwy 126 and except for an accident that must have happened just moments before I got there, where I had to skirt my way through all kinds of stuff all over the highway that had been dumped by a trailer off the road on its side, the ride over was uneventful. No high water, no mudslides, no problems. Thank goodness. I worried as much about that as about getting a driver and lodging at the last moment.

I was picked up by the medical transport on time, got there and prepped and the procedure took place while I was out. Technically, I’m not totally out, but as far as I was concerned, I was Afterwards, it took me awhile to wake up. The procedure was over shortly after noon, but they kept me until 3 p.m. because there would be no one to keep an eye on me in the hours immediately after the procedure in my room at the Comfort Inn. They prefer that someone be with you for a few hours after the procedure.

My cooler can hold a whole lot of food and I had it packed full. As it turned out, I only ate half of it.

By the time I got back to the Comfort Inn and checked into my room, I was ravenous. It had been 27+ hours since I had eaten solid food. So, I had some lunch—small portions, not too much, nothing spicy, no alcohol. I followed directions. Then I took a nap. After I got up, I ate some dinner—more of food I had brought. By then I was beginning to feel almost normal! The next morning, I felt totally normal. I had a wonderful complimentary breakfast and had an uneventful drive home on a lovely day of no rain.

During the colonoscopy, they did find one polyp, and it has been sent to be biopsied. I hope it is benign. I’m glad I decided to have one more colonoscopy, in spite of the obstacles put in my way.  

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#318–New Year’s resolutions—not . . .

2021 RESOLUTIONS

Keep up with reading matter

This pertains to newspapers, magazines, and other reading matter that comes through the mail on an almost daily basis. I did better this year; I got to the accumulating piles more often. But this is an area that still needs work.

Lose weight

Not so good. I actually gained weight. Now, I have even more to lose. Yuck!

Working in the yard is my main exercise.

Excercise regularly

Not so good. Basically, my only exercise was working in the yard. I did walk a lot when on the trip to Montana, Yellowstone, and Tetons.

New book

Yes, yes, yes! I got it done ahead of schedule. I wanted to have it ready for the September Florence Festival of Books, and I did! Yay!!!

Considering all four resolutions, I’d score myself 40%–not so good.

2022 NON RESOLUTIONS

I won’t try to lose weight.

I do need to finish the fudge and chocolate chip cookies I made and gave away as gifts. There are still cookies left as well as some fudge. And, of course, I need to finish off the eggnog and whipped cream. This is the only time of year I indulge in fudge and eggnog. And there’s the cookies and muffins given to me as gifts. I do love to eat, including all these fattening foods.

I use the same recipe each year, and I’ve had it since my best friend gave me her mother’s recipe when I was in high school.

I won’t exercise except what is required as Physical Therapy after leg vein surgeries.

Once my veins are operated on, I will need to wear compression hose, put my legs up above my heart a few times a day, and walk or use the exercycle 30 minutes a day for a few weeks.

I won’t worry about keeping up with reading matter.

I always start off good. Then I get really busy and piles begin. I will get to them when I get to them and not worry about it.

I won’t worry about clutter accumulating.

During the Covid lockdown, I cleaned and organized everything. Now some areas are beginning to show need of that again. I’ll get to it when I get to it, and not worry about it.

By the way, I should mention that I believe in reverse psychology!

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#317–Looking back at 2021 . . .

Winter in Yellowstone

In spite of Covid, this turned out to be a productive and memorable year. This post is basically what I sent out as my Christmas letter.

Last spring, I put together a book, The Cancer Blog, a compilation of the blog posts I wrote during my five months of chemo, while fighting late-stage lymphoma in 2014-15. I shared them with folks similarly diagnosed and was often told I should put them in a book. Once I reread them, I agreed. The book went to the printer in late May, and copies arrived in July. I like the way it turned out.

The Cancer Blog is my sixth book. Book sales were bleak in 2020 and only somewhat better this year. I have great hopes for 2022.

I went nowhere for 15 months, except Eugene and Yachats a few times. Then in July, my roommate from college days, Dr. Alice Ruzicka (aka Teeta), and I spent five days exploring the coast north of Yachats. Each year, I visit her in California, but not in 2020. We stayed in a historic Victorian B & B in Astoria for two nights and one night each in two of my favorite places—the Inn at Otter Crest at Cape Foulweather and The Adobe in Yachats. Teeta was doing a test drive of her brand-new Tesla, and I was her tour guide. We had a grand time!

Then in August, I put 2,800 miles on my car—my brother Harry and his wife Jayne, my sister Edna, and I all went to Montana to scatter my parents’ ashes on the old homestead where my dad grew up. That was my dad’s wish, and my mom wanted to be with my dad. We all met in Twin Falls, ID, and traveled together from there. We visited cousins, saw museums, did the scattering, and had a gravestone placed at the family cemetery on the ranch. The homestead portion of the ranch has been in the family since 1908. Then we left Montana and headed to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons for a few days each. The whole trip took a lot of planning and turned out fabulous. It was the trip of a lifetime!

Last of ashes being spread by my brother, Harry, at family cemetery. Notice temporary placeholder for gravestone. Two weeks later actual stone was placed there.

I have continued being a docent every Sunday at the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum—next year will be my 20th year as a docent there. And I am very involved with Backstreet Gallery. I am now the secretary and chief editor. My books are on sale at the gallery. I love being a part of this wonderful community of talented people.

After months of debating whether to have the Florence Festival of Books, we held it in September with Covid protocols in place. By allowing only 2./3 normal amount of tables, there was room for social distancing.

William Sullivan and in distance Bob Welch at their tables. My publisher, Bob Serra, is speaking with William Sullivan.

And to celebrate our 10th milestone FFOB, we had Bob Welch and William Sullivan as Friday afternoon panelists and they were terrific. And our Keynote Speaker was Melody Carlson, one of America’s most beloved and prolific romance writers with more than 200 books to her credit. She, too was terrific. We did not have large crowds, but everyone who came seemed to really enjoy themselves. I considered it a success.

My oh-so-lovable companion, Sir Groucho!

Sir Groucho, around 20 years old now, is doing all right, even though he’s lost his hearing.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Judy and Sir Groucho

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