Barbara and I just returned from a two week trip to Colorado Springs to visit our grandson Jaedon and our one-year old granddaughter Braxsyn (Braxie). We made it an easy drive by taking three days to Colorado, and four days returning, allowing us to drive shorter days. The weather cooperated on the drive to Colorado, but as soon as we arrived, the temperatures dropped to the low 20's and it started snowing. Most of the snow melted by the time we departed, but we drove through some light snow in New Mexico on the way home.
The highlight of the trip was being with the grandkids. Jaedon was so excited to see us. He had gifts for us and we had some for him. When he lived with us I took him with me to Caltech, and he talked with my astronomer buddies about how disappointed he was that Pluto is no longer considered a planet. Well, Mike Brown, the astronomer at Caltech who discovered the new object (which resulted on Pluto's demotion) has written a book titled "How I Killed Pluto, and Why It Had It Coming." I got him to autograph a copy of his book for Jaedon, and he wrote a nice inscription. Jaedon was thrilled with the book and immediately started reading it. I also gave him a computer program to learn German, since he had expressed an interest in the language.
In exchange, Jaedon gave me a keychain with a little model of two peas in a pod. He says, "Papa, you and I are two 'peas in a pod'." He also gave me a laser flashlight - I had given him a tiny flashlight when I was last with him.
Jaedon slept with us in the motorhome, allowing us to play games with him during the evening, and spoil him with ice cream. That's a grandparents' prerogative to spoil their grandchildren. Jaedon also played the guitar for us. He started learning the guitar two months ago, and he is already able to play songs, including ones that he creates himself.
Braxie, just one year old, has just learned to walk. She is so inquisitive that she must be blocked in to the living room, lest she get into something dangerous. She was shy around us for a while, but after a day or two she warmed up to us. She would allow Barbara to hold her, but she was a little more reserved around me - she would play peek-a-boo and hand me her toys for me to hand back, but when I held her she immediately bailed.
We took a bunch of photos. Click here to view them.
I met my match when it comes to eating ice cream. Josh put me to shame. He actually bought a full 3 gallon tub of his favorite ice cream (Snickers) at 31 Flavors, and we all enjoyed some of it. He even sent a quart of it home with us (Thanks, Josh!).
Barbara's pain attacks continued during the trip. Luckily, pain management gave her enough meds for the trip, so there was no concern about running out. We have an inverter in the motorhome, allowing Barbara to use her heating pad which helps ease the pain.
Yesterday, I finally had the stitches taken out of my back. The pathology report confirms that the doctor got all of it (clear margins). I still can't ride the bike for one more week, to avoid pulling on the wound and creating a bigger scar.
We attended Kanan's school jogathon. The kids solicit donations, and then run laps around the schoolyard to convert the pledges into money for the PTA to fund school activities. They have one hour, and Kanan always completes 40 laps or so. Michelle is the master organizer, and she leads a very capable group of parents. My job was to keep the water jugs full. With the kids drinking water each lap, I was busy. Barbara took care of questions from the kids and parents. She also took photos, and cheered the runners. Here are her photos.
Saturday night we celebrated Barbara's birthday. Michelle asked Barbara for her selection of food, and Barbara (always thinking of others) chose MY favorite: tostadas. Michelle made a wonderful dinner, and Sherri made two forms of rice: bland for Barbara and spicy for the rest of us. Brian made his special guacamole, which was marvelous. Sherri gave Ma a soft jacket to keep warm around the house. She is wearing it all the time now. I gave her a Droid X phone. I wouldn't have known what it is, if it were not for Josh demonstrating his Droid to me when we were in Colorado. Barbara was not happy with her old cell phone, and this was a big step up. She is experimenting with it and all of the "apps", but it is overwhelming. Verizon offers a two hour class on Sundays, and we plan to attend it. Gone are the days when it was obvious how to use a phone! I took some photos. I especially like this picture of Jessie and Britt with Barbara.
Junie took Barbara out for brunch to the Dish Restaurant in La Canada. Junie is a scream, and she regaled Barbara and me with tales of her rental house which she inherited; it has now been declared a hazard because of lead contamination. Never mind that the renter is a painter, and lead was found on his painting equipment stored around the house. Anyone else would be depressed by the situation, but Junie is so upbeat that she can survive the calamity intact - and keep us laughing.
Barbara met Michelle and Kanan at Saladang Thai restaurant. Kanan was truly entertaining. When the complementary dessert came, it was multi-flavored sherbet. They each wanted just one of the flavors, and they wound up trading the plates around the table, each taking their flavor. By the time that the trading was done, Kanan's sherbet had melted, and Barbara offered him a straw to suck it up. Normally, that would be out of place, but at the time they all laughed along with him.
Barbara made a date with Cristina, widow of Barbara's chemo buddy Bob. I drove them to Montrose for the Farmer's Market. After shopping, and having lunch, they walked the mile back home. These outings help Barbara to cope with the negative stuff like pain attacks and difficulties with doctors and insurance denials.
Barb's friend Mary brought Barbara some specially baked chocolate chip cookies, fresh from Mary's oven. I love these gifts which Barbara shares with me.
Barbara (and I) are overwhelmed with her new Android phone. So, we took advantage of a free class given by Verizon early Sunday morning. We got a beginner's tutorial, and it helped a lot. On the way home from the class, Barbara ran her first "app", a navigation program which uses the built-in GPS to give driving directions, just like the stand-alone GPS units. It worked perfectly, guiding us home the fastest way, which is NOT the direct way. I am impressed, both with the app, and with Barbara's new found techno-ability. Now, she just has to learn how to answer the phone, without deleting the caller (me) from her contact list!
Jaedon has been very concerned over the plight of the Japanese people who have been affected by the earthquake and Tsunami. He decided to put his guitar playing to good use. Sandra and Jaedon contacted the American Red Cross, and they were delighted to have his support. They sent pamphlets and information on how to conduct a fund-raising event. Jaedon performed on his guitar in a park, shown here, and collected over $100 on the spot. He is delighted to have been a part of the relief effort.
Sandra has encountered a difficulty with Jaedon's counseling. Jaedon really likes his counselor, but she has informed Sandra that she cannot continue counseling Jaedon without approval from his father Jason. Well, Jason has not contacted his son for over a year, and we don't know where he is. Sandra has appealed to the court to authorize treatment without tracking down the father.
Jessie is now 16, and is showing some of the rebelliousness of a teenager (no big surprise). Her extended family has all gathered together to try to figure out how to proceed. We are worried that Jessie might make decisions which do not bode well for her future. It was easier when she was 5 and I played with her under the dining room table.
Barbara has had some very painful episodes. Since we seem to have a disconnect with her current pain management doctor, she intends to meet with another doctor in the same office. Dr. Nemat actually suggested this at our last meeting, and it may be the best thing for Barbara's care.
Barbara has become quite the gadget freak. She is master of her collection consisting of calculator, two cordless phones, her 'Droid, the TIVO control, and the TV remote.
Barbara and I traveled with the motorhome to Mountain View (north of San Jose) for a benefit 5K walk for cholangiocarcinoma. We have never been to an event specifically for cholangio patients and supporters. The proceeds go to cholangio research at Johns Hopkins. The run honors Jim's wife who passed away from cholangio. Jim's sister, Joyce, started the event a couple of years ago and has developed it into a multi-location run, with several simultaneous runs across the country.
Barbara was the only survivor present, and in honor of her eight year struggle, she said a few words to the group, and she was asked to untie the ribbon, starting the walk. Here is the crowd waiting to start.
The walk was scenic, along the wetlands adjacent to San Francisco Bay. Wildlife was all over. What a fitting place for a walk for hope.
Barbara was delighted to meet in person some of the people whom she had only known via the internet. Marion is on the board and one of the moderators of www.cholangiocarcinoma.org which is a well managed, and extremely useful meeting place for those affected by cholangio. Barbara enjoyed talking with her.
I attended a Glendale City Council meeting and spoke in favor of a new "Safe and Healthy Streets Plan", that sets the tone for Glendale to make life better for bicyclists and pedestrians. I had spoken at two other meetings - the Planning Commission, and the Parks & Recreation Commission. The plan passed the council by a unanimous vote. It was the culmination of a lot of work. My comments were duly recorded on the video of the meeting (my segment is from 53:45 to 56:45).
Barbara and I attended a conference on aging, presented in Pasadena by AARP and Kaiser Permanente. The keynote speaker was Dr Juanita Watts, who was my brother Boyd's personal physician for many years. She urged us to keep fit with adequate exercise, and demonstrated with several audience members how simple the exercises can be. When she returned to the stage, she was out of breath. Aside from her own fitness, her talk was very good, as were the breakout sessions afterward. I attended a session on Medicare, since Barbara and I will be making Medicare out primary insurance later this year. Barbara attended a session on maintaining good memory functions in senior years (but she can't remember what they said). She had a bone density scan, which was better than we anticipated. We had some lively conversations, given that the Republican Party is currently trying to cut back on support for medical care for older people.
On my birthday, Michelle cooked me a great tostada dinner. It's one of my favorite. Then, on the weekend, Sherri cooked a wonderful Moroccan chicken dish - a scrumptious gourmet delight! Barbara baked me a chocolate cheesecake - it doesn't get any better!
Barbara and I went to a track meet for South Pasadena grammar schools. Kanan ran the 800 yard run. He didn't win, and was bummed out, but we comforted him and pointed out that Barbara and I did a lot of running and very seldom brought home any awards, other than the satisfaction of having participated.
I brought Kanan to Caltech's "Take Your Child to Work" day. I also volunteered to chaperone one of the groups (the one with Kanan in it). We first checked out the turtles in a pond on campus. We had a wonderful meeting with Professor George Rossman of Geology, and he showed the children dozens of mineral formations that are in the Geology Department museum. He engaged the kids, and there was much spirited conversation. I was amazed at how much the kids already knew.
Our next stop was the carpenter shop, where the staff helped them with individual construction projects. Later, we had hamburgers and hot dogs in Tournament Park on the campus. Then the kids went to the gym, where Kanan first ran relay races, and then played indoor soccer.
Lastly, all of the groups were back together for an astronomy talk by Dr. Carolyn Brinkworth, who is one of my coworkers at IPAC. Kanan summed up the day, "This was the BEST day! Thanks, Papa."
Today, Barbara slipped and fell on our stairs, twisting her ankle. It's swollen and very painful. It's probably not broken, but the injury is really restricting her movement around the house. I retrieved her walker from the storeroom, and she is using it for the first time since her last surgery.
Mothers' day was very nice for Barbara. Michelle, Brent, and family sent a nice bouquet of flowers (Barbara is trying to retrieve her photo of the flowers on her new Android). Sunday morning, we celebrated Mothers' Day at Foxy's restaurant, courtesy of Michelle & Brent. Sherri also helped fund the occasion - here she is with Jessie. Ma enjoyed her eggs Benedict, and Brent ordered an outrageous French toast made from a cinnamon roll. Talk about decadence! Sherri, Kanan, and Jessie were all smiles. It was a fun time with the family. Later, Barbara got a special phone call from Sandra in Colorado Springs.
Barbara's foot is much better. The next morning, she was able to walk on it again, and the pain is gone. We dodged a bullet this time.
Barbara is making frequent visits to Dr Lad, our family dentist. She needs a bunch of work, which is not an enjoyable prospect. At least she is not receiving chemo, which lowered her resistance to infection and made dental work dangerous.
We attended a dance recital presented by Kanan's dance studio. Kanan has been learning break dancing, and he has become very good at it. The theme of the recital was the advancement of human civilization through the ages. Kanan's troop made a dance routine around the discovery of fire. Kanan was one of the prehistoric men who were overwhelmed by the sage's demonstration of igniting a fire. Kanan had a special solo, where he demonstrated his amazing dance ability.
Yesterday, we participated in the Lakewood Relay for Life, sanctioned by the American Cancer Society. As cancer survivors, we were honored with a sit-down breakfast, a survivor's lap, and medals and T-shirts. The LA County Fire Department was out in force, with an aerial ladder truck and a number of firefighters. One of the firemen was especially nice to two children, both fighting cancer. He showed them through the truck and its equipment, and had them try on his firefighter clothes. What a wonderful experience for these deserving kids!
Our future plans include the Norris Festival of Life celebration, and a dedication of a brick for a Norris courtyard. The brick is inscribed with Barbara's name recognizing her contributions to Norris.
On June 1, I will be honored for my 45 years of service to Caltech. I was overwhelmed to read a very nice article about my career in the Caltech daily news bulletin.
On Memorial Day weekend, we were at the Great Western Bicycle Rally in Paso Robles, CA. It's three days of bicycle events for the 1500 participants. Barbara and I did a ten mile ride around town, with some hills to make it interesting. Barbara did well, until her pain flared up at the very end. I was proud of her strength. I entered the "Ultra Distance" competition. I usually rack up 150 miles, but this year I only managed 55 miles. I could make excuses, but the real reason is that I am getting older. At the awards ceremony, I got a lot of razzing from my fellow Los Angeles Wheelmen. When the winner of the "girls 9 and under" was announced with 45 miles, Rod Doty commented, "You 'smoked' her!" Good fun!
I was recognized for my 45 years at Caltech at the annual employee recognition ceremony. An especially good photo was taken of Barbara and me at the reception following the ceremony. Then we were guests of Caltech at a luncheon at the Athenaeum, the faculty club. Sitting next to me was Tom Soifer, the manager of the Spitzer Science Center, where I work. He is also the chairman of the Physics, Math, and Astronomy Department at Caltech. It was a great chance to chat with him about non-work related things. He took a bad spill on his bicycle a few years ago, and has not ridden since. I'm just very lucky that I have never had a serious altercation with a car. We also compared notes on how difficult it is to be called by your middle name (he is B. Thomas Soifer and I am R. Booth Hartley). The salad was delicious, although a little spicy for Barbara - we had to call for a glass of milk to calm her taste buds.
Barbara and I attended the Norris Festival of Life. They hold the event every year to honor the survivors, and the staff and volunteers at Norris. We have been to the event for the last four years. They always have a talk by a physician, and by one or two survivors. This year we were addressed by a prostate cancer survivor, who is also blind. I know him from the Norris prostate support group. We were surprised to run into Bry Thorne, whom we know from our running club, the Foothill Flyers. I knew that he had been treated for prostate cancer, but his most recent medical issue was that he was taking his granddaughter down a slide and Bry fell off the slide, breaking his back. He was getting around OK with a walking stick, but I imagine that he feels a lot of pain. As he says, "It should have killed me, but I'm still kicking." We will see Bry and a lot of our other Foothill Flyers running buddies in the upcoming reunion which Barbara is hosting at our house.
Barbara hosted a big reunion of our Foothill Flyers running club. Many of the old-timers from the 1980's attended. Lots of us are no longer running, but the old spirit is still there. We had a great time reminiscing. Barbara cooked for a week. She made five enchilada casseroles, our favorite salad, zillions of deviled eggs, and a carrot that's to die for. Junie came over early and helped finish some of the preparations, and keep the buffet table full. Michelle cooked five opts of refried beans, but she was unable to attend. She and Brent are very busy with Brent's mother, who is seriously ill.
Some of the runners brought their kids, who loved swimming. But the rest of us were content staying on dry land, and trading old stories and new ones. Here are some photos of the occasion.
Barbara and I drove the motorhome to Oceanside to enjoy the festivities at the start of RAAM. Robb Warren reserved a special place in the inspection area for us to park the RV. Mary came down by train, and we picked her up at the train station, and enjoyed dinner with them. It was fun to see our friends like Mike & Cindy Roark, Karl Schlederer from Austria, Lon Haldeman, Mike Shermer, and Seana Hogan. Lon hung out in our motorhome for quite a while, and we heard about all of his charitable work in Peru. He is an amazing individual. Here are some photos.
We got a last-minute alert from Michelle that Kanan's graduation was the next day. Luckily, we were free and could attend. Click here for some pictures. Kanan now goes to middle school, where he will have multiple teachers, rather than just one.
Barbara still thinks often about her brother Tommy, who died two years ago from bladder cancer. His wife, Jane, came to Escondido to visit their son Curtis and grandson Antonio. Barbara and I made a quick trip to Escondido to be with them for the day. I love talking with Antonio about space and astronomy. He is very smart, and surprises me with the astronomy terms that he remembers from earlier conversations. Here are our photos.
Michelle, Sherri, and Jessie took us to breakfast at Foxy's for Fathers' Day. I enjoyed my favorite omelet. Michelle made a special batch of granola for me to enjoy for breakfasts at home. She had to relate some bad news: Brent's mother is so ill that the Colorado River vacation is off (I was invited to go along). A few days later, his mother died, and he is handling all of the arrangements, and making sure that his father is being cared for. Our hearts pour out to Brent in this time of stress.
Daughter Sandra and her family (Josh, Jaedon, and Braxie) arrived from Colorado for a 2 week visit. Braxie is as cute as can be. Check out the photos. I had lots of good times with Jaedon. He was disappointed that most of the kids on our block were on vacation, but he got to play with Kanan. Sherri took Jaedon to her boy friend Brian's, and they got to jam on the guitars - Brian has several guitars, including an electric one, and he taught Jaedon some good techniques. Josh helped Sherri with suggestions for her web site, where she is selling her handmade jewelry.
At the end of the visit, there was some discord, but I hope that we can all recover.
Today we saw Taline at Norris. Dr. Lenz is on business travel. Taline reported that Barbara's PET scan of last week was clear. It showed no active disease, and the spots in her lungs were unchanged. Barbara's CA19-9 is now 120, up from 96. This is the highest it's been for a couple of years. Taline, like Dr. Lenz, minimizes the significance of the CA19-9 level, but Barbara and I are more concerned. We know that some of Barbara's tumors in the past were not visible in the scans, but were found during surgery. The CA19-9, however, faithfully dropped after each surgery, and then rose until the next surgery. It may be the only indicator that we have.
Barbara and I supported Brent and Ron as they ran Angeles Crest 100 Mile endurance Run. It was Ron's first time, and Brent stayed with him the whole way. Ron had some difficulty with the heat, but then perked up during the night hours. Brent never seemed to falter, though he's pretty good at hiding pain. I took a bunch of photos.
I had a special mission to get a continuous GPS recording of Brent's race. This required recharging his GPS watch at each aid station. I brought along an uninterruptible power supply, which gave us 120 volt electricity at the chairs where Brent and Ron were being serviced. Mission accomplished - the watch ran for the whole 30 hours (it normally dies after 16 hours).
Barbara apparently got hit with altitude sickness. It's happened before at the same places, around 7000 ft. She was in misery, with a splitting headache as I drove her down to lower elevations. She finally got some relief after we were home for an hour. She said that the pain was unbearable, and her regular pain medicine doesn't do anything for headaches. We'll need to talk with our regular physician about altitude sickness prevention medicines.
For the last week, Barbara and I have led separate lives. I went with Brent and Michelle to the Colorado River (their Christmas present to me last December). Barbara stayed home and enjoyed the "solitude". Actually, she got very little solitude. I called nightly and we enjoyed our routine game of Sudoku. Cherie, Barbara's daughter in all but blood lines, came for a visit on Sunday and the two were able to catch up on "woman talk". Junie also visited Barbara for an afternoon. Of course, Barbara was on the phone with Sherri, Sandra, and Jaedon, who had a birthday during the week. Barbara visited our dentist: he had pulled a tooth which was unsalvageable, but she still has pain in the area. She also saw Dr Ryan at pain management. Nothing new, I am told.
Other than that, I only know what happened to me, so I'll relate my tales. If you get bored, you can check out the photos and ignore the rest of this update.
I volunteered to tow Brent's tent trailer to the river. He is already towing his boat, and the tent trailer solves the problem of where the kids sleep. This time we were bringing Jessie, Kanan, and Kanan's friend Matthew. I drove Brent with me in out motorhome to Phelan (near Victorville) where he keeps the trailer at his dad's home. Upon arrival, were surprised to find the tent trailer blocked by somebody's car. A few calls revealed that the car belonged to a friend of Brent's ex-wife. So, Brent enlisted the aid of his brother Craig to go fetch the car keys from the owner, and we got the car moved - a delay of an hour. We proceeded to hook the trailer to our motorhome: Brent inserted a "ball hitch" into the towing "receiver" on the motorhome and secured it with the pin. We lowered the trailer tongue onto the ball and secured it. We laughed at the flimsy "safety chain" and Brent joked that if the trailer came unhitched, he would prefer that the chain fails, and lets the trailer crash without hurting the tow vehicle. Next problem: the trailer lights weren't working. The wiring adapter to hook the trailer lamps to the motorhome had been constructed by Brent's employee last year, and it had worked just fine. So, Brent disassembled one tail light on the trailer. The lamp socket fell apart in his hands. (I'm sure glad they weren't "my" hands). I whipped out my trusty soldering gun, and we soldered a jumper wire from the trailer wiring direct to the bulb (don't do this at home!). OK, now the lights work, sort of - the turn signals are pretty faint, but maybe I can avoid making any turns.
So, after the delays, I gently pull out, maneuvering past the rock work in the driveway. Once into the street, I start to accelerate, and BAM, the trailer comes loose and is swinging wildly back and forth. My initial thought was, "Why doesn't the blasted chain break?" I was afraid that slowing the motorhome would cause the trailer to crash into the motorhome. I very gently eased the rig to a stop. The noise had been loud enough that Brent and Craig came running. We found that the ball hitch had slid out of the receiver. Apparently, Brent had not pushed the ball hitch far enough into the unfamiliar receiver, and the retaining pin had missed the hole in the ball hitch. Only friction was holding the pieces together.
Luckily the motorhome was not damaged, but the trailer's front jack was bent back and its heavy mounting plate was torn. Oh well, we can fix that another time (when we rewire the trailer and replace the taillight).
So, with that disaster out of the way, I proceeded to the river. Since I would now be arriving after dark, I elected to stay overnight in Harrah's free RV parking lot (they hope that you'll lose lots of money in their casino). I actually chose Laughlin because of its proximity to the San Bernardino County communications site. For three years I have been trying to get my scanners working at the Park Moabi campsite near Needles, but I have only been able to get one old scanner to work. I figured that a nice loud signal might help me solve the problem.
As an aside, most people would assume that a lone man would visit Laughlin to gamble, get drunk, chase women, or some other vice. I've never had any interest in any of those things. Give me a scanner, a computer, and access to a well stocked buffet, and I'm in heaven.
By morning, I had solved my radio problem (for you radiophiles, I needed to set the scanners to "splinter frequencies". I still don't know what that means, nor, apparently, does the website where I get most of my frequencies. I discovered the solution by accident when I noticed that the scanner was rounding off some frequencies to values different from what I expected.) [See what I meant about "being bored"]
I headed off for Park Moabi. I called Michelle to check on their progress. She said that they are already at the launch ramp, and she didn't sound happy. Upon arrival, I find that the boat's battery is dead. Brent charged it last week, but the charge didn't hold. Brent had a jumper battery, but it too was dead. So, he pulled out the trusty "third" battery. Bingo, the boat started, and Michelle and I drove the RVs to the campsite to wait for Brent to arrive in the boat. Instead, Brent calls Michelle, reporting that the boat died again, and he can't get it started. Michelle climbs into my RV, and we drive back to the boat launch over the mile-long rutted dirt road, still dragging the tent trailer. We bought a new marine battery in the marina, and deliver it to Brent. Problem solved!
With the difficulties behind us, we enjoyed a blissful five days on the river. We went out boating every day, twice going down to Lake Havasu through the Topock Narrows - a peaceful stretch of river where boats must go slow, and the cliffs tower above you on both sides of the river. We spent many fun hours towing the kids in a raft behind the boat see photos, and jumping into the water every few minutes to keep cool in the 110 degree heat. We had picnics out on the water and on the shore near the London Bridge. Michelle kept me well fed, even though I had tons of food prepared by Barbara. What a luxury.
As all good things must come to an end, we started to pack up on Friday. Michelle noticed a problem: the slideout on their RV wouldn't retract. Brent crawled under the RV but couldn't see any reason for the failure. He decided to use his spare battery to power the slideout motor directly. It groaned a little but did little else. I asked if this was the same battery that had failed to start the boat. Yep, and it hadn't yet been recharged. I suggested fetching the "third battery" (the one that DID start the boat). Success, the motor pulled the slideout back into its retracted position. Yet another thing to be fixed when we get home.
But wait! There's more!
Time to retract Brent's awning. Oops, it won't retract. I'm still not sure what solved that problem, but we did find a tiny lever marked "open" and "close", and it seemed to be stuck on "open".
With the awning fixed, we start toward home. I make a quick stop in Needles (Yes, another communications site). So now Brent and family are ahead of me. Approaching Daggett, I see them stopped on the shoulder of the freeway. I stop, and find that they have blown a tire, and the casing ripped through the floorboard and damaged the furnace. They had called for road assistance to install the spare tire. Since I couldn't help, I proceeded to Phelan to drop off the trailer. I called them and they were back underway. Whew!
As if we weren't exhausted enough, we did a triathlon the next morning at Lake Castaic. I had volunteered to accompany Kanan, since the race management required that young racers have an adult with them on the swim and the bike ride. The race was delightful. Kanan started swimming at an astonishing pace, but quickly slowed to a more reasonable one. His bike ride was outstanding; he pulled away from me on one climb. Late in the ride, he passed a tiring rider and shouted, "On your left!" A few minutes later he told me that he really enjoyed being able to shout that warning (since it meant passing a slower rider). After the bike segment, I urged Kanan to run on ahead like he did last year. I continued my walking, but unlike last year, there were runners behind me. In fact, I beat six runners to the finish line. Since there were only two other competitors in the 65-69 age group, I received a third place medal. A fun day! Here is our team after the finish.
On Sunday, Michelle hosted a get-together for everyone who helped Brent and Rob finish Angeles Crest 100 Mile Run. It was fun to hear the details of what happened between the aid stations.
Barbara has finally given up her hospital bed. It was on a free loan from the Convalescent Aid Society. Barbara replaced it with a big, cushy recliner. She is delighted. It is more comfortable to watch TV than it was sitting on the edge of the bed. We thought that eliminating the bed would free up some space, but the recliner is pretty big. Barbara seems to be swallowed by the chair when she sits in it.
Barbara saw the dentist again. She still has pain where he removed a molar. They will wait and see if it improves.
On Saturday, Barbara hosted a party in our back yard. Barbara's brother Bill and his wife Vicki came down from their vacation in Montecito. Vicki's mom, Barbara Netter, had hoped to come, but she had cataract surgery on Friday, and wisely avoided the long drive. Bill's son Scott, his wife Dina, and children Zack and Alexa joined in on the fun. Later, Michelle and Brent, and some of their running friends (Ron, Jolie, Giovanna, and Jack) came by after they ran the Bulldog 50K in some of the worst heat that we've seen. It was over 100 degrees, and runners were being evacuated by ambulance and helicopter. They found the pool refreshing after their ordeal.
Barbara cooked for the entire group. As usual, she spent several days preparing (but she loves feeding gourmet food to everyone). Included in the menu was enchilada casserole, pasta salad, Beckstrom salad (yum!), rice pilaf, home baked bread, granitee, lemon pound cake, and Crème Brûlée. Everyone loved the offerings (except Zack, a typical 9-year old).
I took some photos of the relatives. Excuse the blurry ones - I forgot to enable the flash. After the party, we noticed something on the pavement. A closer inspection revealed that it was some very nice artwork by Zack. We've never seen our chalk used in such a nice way.
I've been neglecting this log. I went to Oregon to ride Cycle Oregon, a week-long cycling trip in the coastal mountains. We rode from 45 miles to 90 miles each day, with climbing varying from 2000 feet to over 5000 feet. I had a ball, but it was exhausting. With my overweight body, the climbing was tough. In fact, one day I accepted a transport to the top of the next climb, reducing my climb from 5000 feet to 2000 feet for the day. We camp at each overnight stop, but I signed up for the "Tent & Porter" option, where they supply the rider with a tent already set up, with your gear already in your tent. They have catered meals, and a semi-truck with showers at each overnight camp. All you have to do is ride and eat. Now that's my kind of vacation!
When I returned, I was swept up in all the details of my retirement, which is effective yesterday, Sep. 30. I also needed to finish up a couple of my tasks. They didn't want me to retire, so I have been hired back as an "occasional employee." I can come in when they need me, and stay away when there is nothing happening. It's the best of both worlds - I can pick and choose and help them on the things where my experience is unique.
Barbara has been doing well. She still has the pain attacks every day, but she has the pain meds to deal with the issue. We saw our cardiologist, and he is happy with her heart. He says, "It ain't broke, so we won't fix it." It's a refreshing difference from the treatment after her VATS surgery, when they wanted to keep her on Amiodarone, even after her atrial fibrillation has ceased.
Barbara and I were at Kanan's eleventh birthday party at a Mexican restaurant in South Pasadena. It was fun to see him and Jessie again. They have just returned from a two-week cruise in Italy, Greece, and Turkey with Conrad and his family. Kanan is sure a cute kid, and Jessie becomes more beautiful every day.
Yesterday, my group treated me and Barbara to a lunch at Claim Jumper in honor of my retirement. Barbara was able to see how compatible we are. The group is like a family. The occasion was delightful, very relaxed, with everyone telling stories from out mutual past. I've never enjoyed such a get-together as much as I enjoyed this one.
Sherri is staying with us tonight. Right now, she is making jewelry. She is doing quite well with this side business.
Now that I'm retired, I need to get busy and plan some motorhome trips with Barbara.
We saw Dr. Lenz and Taline. They reported that the PET scan and CAT scan show no new tumor development. Barbara's CA19-9 has risen slightly from 120 to 122.5, an insignificant change. As Taline says, "If you had any cancer, you'd be dead by now, having had no chemo for two years." They suggest returning in six months instead of three months.
This is all encouraging, except that Barbara is only too aware of numerous stories from her web research, where cholangio sufferers are declared "cured" only to have the disease come back quickly and take their life. So, we'll take what we've got, and make the best of it.
Meanwhile, we've had a series of meetings related to my retirement. We have a financial counselor helping us. We've also met with Social Security to see if Barbara can receive more money by switching from her own benefits to spousal benefits. We've talked with three persons at Social Security and received three different answers. She is scheduling another meeting, and we will be armed with information from AARP which clearly states that she is due spousal benefits.
Michelle hosted a jewelry "trunk sale" at her home to display Sherri's custom made necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Sherri really has a flair for designing these pieces, and it was fun for Barbara and me to see Sherri in the limelight. Michelle's friend Ron spent all day preparing unusual hor'derves. Quite a feast.
Monday, Barbara saw our dermatologist. Barbara's scalp is showing the signs of all of the months of chemo. The skin is scaling. He gave us more of the topical solution which I apply every evening. It's to be applied to the scalp directly, not to the hair. It's a challenge for someone like me who never had any cosmetology experience. After I'm done Barbara's hair looks like those demos of electrostatic machines, sticking up at all angles. But Barbara never complains.
Last weekend I drove to the San Francisco Bay area to see the SOFIA aircraft. It is a 747 airliner, with an infrared telescope mounted in the fuselage. The scientist whom I met on Cycle Oregon, Ed Erickson, had notified me that the aircraft would be available for a rare public open house. I'm glad that I got to see it after hearing lots about it from the astronomers at Caltech. After seeing the aircraft, I visited the Computer Museum in Mountain View. Seeing many of the old computers which I once programmed brought back many memories. I finished off the trip with a bike ride through my alma mater Stanford, and into the hills behind the campus. A refreshing weekend.
Today, we drove out to Mt. Sac College to watch Junie's teenage kids run in a cross country track meet. Schools from all over southern California were represented. Both Nancy and Jeffrey did well, and they were pleased with their performance. Here is Nancy finishing her race, then talking over her race her accomplishment with Barbara. Oh, to be able to run again!
Next week Barbara has an eye exam and appointments with Pain Management and Social Security. Things sure seem to stay busy.
Barbara and I attended the Relay for Life 24-hour walkathon in Glendale sponsored by the American Cancer Society. We participated in the survivors' lap. Here is Barbara chatting with another survivor after the celebratory lap, and here am I, tipping my hat to the spirit of the event.
Last Sunday, Barbara hosted a gathering of what I call her "Kuchen Klatsch". She has so much fun with these women, all professionals in the medical arena. I missed out on the fun, returning from a bike ride just as they were departing, but I could share Barbara's glow as she recalled some of their conversations.
We had another meeting with Social Security. At last we have the definitive answer to Barbara's application for spousal support, which would be half of the Social security that I receive. The first rule is that Barbara is only qualified for spousal support if half of the support that I was entitled to receive at my normal retirement age (65 1/2 years old) is more that half of what Barbara was entitled to receive at her normal retirement age. Never mind that Barbara started her payout earlier than her normal retirement age, or that I started my payout much later. The bottom line is that Barbara's earnings qualified her for more than half of mine. So she does not qualify for spousal support, and there is no reason to apply the formulas to reduce the spousal support for her early payouts. Looking back, only one person at Social Security gave us wrong information. The current interviewer, a supervisor, guessed which employee had given us bad information, and planned a reprimand.
We saw Dr. Ryan in Pain Management on Friday. No new developments. The pain meds are working as expected, and no changes are planned. Instead of returning in one month, we persuaded her to schedule the next visit in two months.
Barbara bought us a big screen TV - 60 inches! We've mounted it on the wall in the living room, and I got DirecTV to install a high definition DVR/receiver. The picture is fantastic! To celebrate, we invited my brother Boyd and his wife Yvonne over to watch Stanford VS USC football game. The only thing better than the picture was the game itself - never have I seen such a competitive game. It went into triple overtime. Of course, I was overjoyed that Stanford won, but the game was wonderful entertainment.
On Halloween, Barbara did her own brand of "scaring". She became a vampire and left the kids awestruck (and the parents delighted). Check out this close-up. There were fewer kids this year, and I'm going to have to take the leftovers to work, where they will disappear in minutes. Otherwise, I will be tempted, and I am trying to lose some weight.
We are planning a motorhome trip to Arizona to see Sandra and family - including Braxie and Jaedon. They are going to be visiting friends in Tucson and this will give us a chance to see them without the long drive to Colorado. Hopefully, we will also see Barbara's nephew Scott who is serving at the Army base at Fort Huachuca.
At the American Cancer Society run, Barbara met some of our local firefighters. She promised them a homemade chocolate cheesecake. Here I am licking the pan - that's the closest that I got to the cake. Barbara knows how much I like the chocolate. She talked with the firefighters later in the day, and they raved about her work of art.
Are we busy? Well, in one day, we had a contractor tearing up the wood dividers in our outside pavement, followed by our exterminator killing the bugs nesting below the rotten wood. On top of that, the gardeners were making lots of noise with their machines, and our new bathtub was delivered - we are remodeling our bathroom. Barbara is doing all of the negotiating, and all of the design work, and acquiring most of the fixtures and cabinets. It's all overwhelming, and Barbara is feeling the stress.
Earlier in the week we had a tree service trim all of the trees in the yard, and remove a big pine tree which was destroying our front walk. The tree had been planted by my mother 50 years ago as a "cute little Christmas Tree." Well, when it grows to thirty feet and threatens the house foundation, it isn't so "cute" anymore. Here are a few photos:
Today they started the demolition of the bathroom. Things will be a little disrupted for two weeks. Barbara is looking forward to a nicer bathroom and the new Jacuzzi tub.
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