Monday, August 31, 2009



Lights are starting to go up here and there. The chandelier in the hallway, outdoor lights, bathroom lights. I'm keeping just ahead of the electrician and have made many trips to Lamps plus. For about a week, I had a crick in my neck from looking up. All are selected now and I can put this task to rest.
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009


We're putting a stainless steel tool cabinet in the kitchen. I bought it at Lowes and now have to have it modified to go into the island. Remove feet, remove handles on the sides and electrical outlet. I'm hoping it will work and I like it. If not, we can remove it and replace it with a conventional cabinet.

I plan to use it for knife storage, small gadgets - there's never enough room for these and oddball things, like box graters, oil bottles, measuring cups - the tools of the trade.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Post Op

I painted cabinets on Saturday after having just returned from Stanford on Friday night. That is how good I've been feeling. Other than a small amount of pressure in the head, everything is about the same except that I feel more stable. This morning I walked toe to heel down the kitchen floor following the tile line and was able to stay upright. While sitting, I'm feeling no waveriness. Tinnitus is the same as pre-surgery. No pain in the jaw line. My sense of taste is still messed up but no worse than before. Hearing seems to be the same as pre-surgery. I do have a hearing test scheduled for September so I'll find out then exactly how it's doing.

I spent most of yesterday online writing back to people who had sent good wishes - and posting items on the acoustic neuroma association forum. Just info about how I feel. Some people are nauseated and dizzy for days post cyberknife. Others experience horrible tinnitus and jaw pain. I'm either really lucky or my turn will come later?

I've posted this pictures of the guys at the wedding because they are showing the feelings that I'm experiencing. If I'd tried this
now I'd end up in the hospital.

So far, so good.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Radiation day 3

Day three was similar to the other two days, but now it's old hat for me. I actually enjoyed it more and was able to focus on the procedure and worry less about claustrophobia. Today I asked the tech to take a few pictures of me in the mask. Boo!!

Soon it was over and mask in hand I got in the car and we left. Packed up and went straight to the airport for an uneventful ride home. As it was almost 6 pm we stopped at Kings Fish House for a delicious meal. Richard had soft shelled crabs and I had sand dabs. The cats were happy to see us and I fell into bed, exhausted.

At 4:00, my eyes popped open and I recognized the typical steroid effect...for me it's SPEED. So now I'm on the run for a while and will probably collapse this afternoon. I'll try to enjoy the high while I have it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Celebration dinner at Tamarine

Even though I'm tired, I'm very relieved to have the procedure almost over. Tomorrow is the final day and we can go home. To celebrate we ate at Tamarine, a Vietnamese fusion restaurant we discovered earlier in the week. Richard had a repeat of the cod cooked in a clay pot. I ordered grilled scallops in green curry. Richard had a splendid beer and me a glass (2) of Alsatian
Gewurztraminer. For dessert I had the tapioca cooked in coconut milk and two sorbets - one mango and one coconut. Richard had a wonderful citrus flan. The meal was splendid. We took a wander through the Barnes and Nobles which is housed in a beautiful old Spanish building. By the time we left, Palo Alto was coming alive - almost 8 p.m. The early diners like us were slogging toward our cars, our wallets a little lighter, making room for the on-time diners, mostly 30 somethings, more vivid, more lively and with fatter pocket books. As the world turns.

2nd day of radiation

Today when I arrived at the cyberknife suite, the waiting room was empty so it was much less festive. Yesterday the other two patients had completed their treatments and were happily on their way home. Same protocol today as yesterday; a beautiful blond woman with a huge engagement ring dispensed the pills - steroid for swelling and an anti-nausea pill, unidentified. My tall thin and very young Asian tech came out to get me and we went straight in and started the procedure. I asked him if they had a name for the machine - he said "cyberknife 1" - which surprised me. I would've thought the first thing they would do is name it. I climbed on the gurney, they masked me down, left the room and cranked er up. She chirps, buzzes, hums and squeals. I heard very high pitched sounds continuing for some time and then something like castanets. The sounds come from all over. I opened my eyes for a while and stared in hers. A little light seems to be coming from her head and she moves around quickly from spot to spot. I saw the red lasers for directions today too. Because I was less nervous and more interested today, I saw more and actually enjoyed part of it. It seemed to be over fast.

Dr. Soltys came in just as I was leaving and asked if it had gone OK and if I was feeling OK after yesterdays treatment. Yes, yes, yes on all accounts. I asked my few questions about getting copies of my tests - yes, at the radiological library right behind the cafeteria and I received 18 grays of radiation broken into three doses of 6 grays each day. He was all smiles and said he would see me tomorrow before I left.

Overall this has been a great experience. Stanford hospital is beautiful. The main lobby looks like a 5 star hotel lobby. There is reading material and libraries everywhere. The cafeteria has decent food. People are friendly and cooperative for the most part. If I was forced to think of something to complain about, I'd have to think hard.

Well, tomorrow it will be over with, the tumor will have been dealt the coup de gras and the rest will be history. I have a 97% chance that the tumor will die; a 30% chance of losing the remaining hearing in the AN ear and an almost zero chance that balance, taste will return to normal. However after the vestibular training that could improve.

They are doing research for a cure for these tumors, but are finding that it is very difficult to grow acoustic neuroma cells in a petri dish. Out of sixty samples recently they were able to get two strings to grow. Not enough. They are trying to determine the chromosome which is responsible for the tumor suppression protein and why it is screwed up. If they figure this out it might be possible to develop an oral dose of this protein which one could take when the tumor is discovered. This might prevent further growth and if symptoms aren't bad at time of discovery then people could function quite normally. A lot of "mights".

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

1st day of radiation

Nervous this morning but took an ativan half hour before my appointment. When I walked into the waiting room, Bubbles Wanda was there and the wife of another man there also for AN treatment. This was very relaxing and as these people were at the end of their treatment they were able to reassure me that it would be simple. A young woman came out and gave me a bit of steroid and one anti-nausea pill. I told her I'd taken an ativan and so she didn't give me that. As we were talking a doctor came out...he's a nuclear medicine pioneer and has multiple degrees in the software aspect of the cyberknife, the engineering and the medicine. he was incredibly smart and funny and most enjoyable to chat with. Turns out he was one of the inventors of the cyberknife..the guy on the left.

Wanda and her husband left and I was called in. The room is white with a gurney on the side and a huge robot that looked like the female in "Alien". She was rumbling away in the background, just sitting there waiting to go. The set-up here in Stanford is the only one in the world where there is only one human and one robot alone in the room and the robot works on you. They set me up with my preformed neck piece and buttoned the mask in place. It was looser than it seemed yesterday. They reassured me that I could swallow if I had to, even sneeze if required. They tucked me in, turned on some music and the treatment started. I could hear some clicks and a couple of whirs; the opera soared through the sound system and I found myself watching for glimpses of my huge, mechanical surgeon as he/she worked her way around me. It was very hard to see it clearly. At times the cot moved as well. 35 minutes went by fairly quickly and I was only moderately uncomfortable. I asked them if I fidgeted too much and they reassured me that I was OK. I called Richard and he was there in 5 minutes and we came home.

Later in the day we went to the Sunset Magazine garden and had a walk around; lunch at a Middle Eastern restaurant - gyros, babaganoush, hummus and pita bread with a couple of salads. We bought baklava and some other sweets, spent 5 minutes in a used bookstore then went over to the Cineplex and saw Cold Souls. I slept through some of it as did Richard. Good premise but not a well directed movie. Now we are home and I will be going to bed soon to be ready for a repeat of this morning.

I'm now 3/5th's through the process. Hurray!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stanford - Monday

Today we met with my two doctors, the radiation oncologist and the neurologist. Dr. Soltys, the radiation oncologist looks about 23; Dr. Chang looks just right - young enough to be up on the technology and old enough to be mature. After reviewing my case and doing a few short tests on site...closing my eyes with my hands in front, walking a line toe to toe, he said I was a bit unsteady. He whispered in my good ear and then in my bad ear..a sort of empirical test of his own.

Next was an MRI which I wasn't expecting and wasn't on the schedule. There was a bit of a mix-up with where to go and what to do. It ended up gobbling up the afternoon. I was finished about 4. Richard and I went shopping at Crate and Barrel and Adronico's market, then walked a bit around downtown Palo Alto. Ate at Tamarine which was excellent. Richard had clay pot cod; I had chicken cooked with a kumquat glaze and roasted cauliflower. We shared some anise rice. For dessert I had a coconut tapioca with two sorbets..unbelievably good and Richard had a flan.

This morning I had a cat scan and they made my mask. I was finished at 9:00. They told me to plan for the whole day - a nice surprise that it was so short. Now the actual radiation is all that's left.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Yesterday we left from Burbank, flew up to San Jose, rented a National Rental Car and checked in at the Marriott Residence Inn in Palo Alto. Out to dinner at Il Fornaioa downtown and had an excellent meal. My wine, a Grillo was great. Richard had prosciutto and Melon and a mixed seafood grill appetizer plate. I had a pasta, like ravioli but bigger and free form in shape, filled with squash and walnuts with an excellent tomato/red pepper sauce. Bread was excellent and a cup of coffee at the end was also great...tasted like it smelled. Back in the room we watched the finale of Mad Men..we couldn't get the opening segment as we don't get AMC in the room.

This morning everything went smoothly. We met Dr. Sotsly and Drs. Chang one right after the other. They told me my tumor was growing out of the auditory canal in an unusual way which is why it is causing the hearing loss. They didn't seem particularly concerned about the other symptoms. They ordered an MRI which we had a bit of confusion over but finally had it. They sent me over at 12:30 and after straightening out the mix-up I was MRI'd about 4 - a short one with contrast only.

Richard and I went out and shopped at Crate and Barrel looking at tables and chairs, the to downtown Palo Alto and strolled the main street, cruising Restoration Hardware.Our meal at Tamarine was excellent. I had chicken with kumquats and roasted cauliflower; Richard had Cod roasted in a clay pot. We shared rice cooked with anise. For dessert, I had coconut tapioca with two sorbets and two sauces; Richard had a citrus flan with a cream sauce. We both had a Vietnamese coffee sweetened with condensed sweetened milk. It was great. For wine, I had an Alsatian gewurtztraminer and Richard an Alsatian beer. Nice meal to end Day 1 of the proceedings. Only 4 left to go.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Antique Door

For a small cupboard in the kitchen, I found the perfect antique door. It was hanging at Mrytle Creek nursery and when I brought it home, it fit perfectly in the space and looks excellent with the beams. Richard instantly liked it, so I am happy. G & M cabinets will be doing our cabinet job and they are ready to start next week. As we will be gone, we have to delay until the following week, but I hope they will complete the job quickly. William the designer has already given us a few tips. He really knows what he is doing so I feel we will be in excellent hands.

Pictures attached show the door at the nursery and then sitting in it's spot in the kitchen.

Choosing the cabinet manufacturer was the last big choice we have to make so I am pretty well finished with decisions.

As we fired our plumber on Friday, we do have to choose a new one but the job will now consist only of installing things. No big jobs remain. We will never understand what was happening with the plumber or why he chose to work in such a wierd fashion. He never returned phone calls. Never.

Chris and Ashley

Chris and Ashley were married last night with a lovely ceremony outdoors in Riverside. The minister who performed the ceremony is a bike riding/marathon person Chris has trained with for a couple of years. Everyone looked wonderful - of course the bride was gorgeous and looked like she had a twenty inch waist. Despite the fact that he is now 25, Chris looks about 17. He was very calm and seems to have matured by leaps and bounds overnight.

Kim looked incredibly glamorous. She had a beautiful dress, her hair was colored a reddish brown and she had professional make-up done. Mark, her fiance, said he was seeing a Kim he'd never seen before. Once she got used to the idea, I think she liked herself. At first, when she looked in the mirror, she screamed.

We sat with Ron and Bette which was great - also Jimmy shared our table. He is recovering from shoulder surgery. Ross and Marie were also there; poor Marie is grieving the recent loss of her father.

Most fun of all was to be had watching the little kids. Beth was a flower girl and Brandon the ring bearer. They had such a good time dancing and just exploring around all the tables, acting like, well, kids. One not-quite-toddler was underneath the tables, rolling herself along, eating jelly beans that had fallen to the floor. She would roll and flop herself from spot to spot. Richard thought she looked like a schmoo as she had little hair and a pear shaped long dress. A funny little thing, she would look you in the face and hold your gaze for a long time, unblinking. What are they thinking?

Jennifer is pregnant again. This will be number 4. She is still home schooling the bunch of them. I don't know how she does it, but somehow she handles it all. The kids are always clean and well dressed. Overall they are well behaved and a pleasure to be around.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Five Spice French Toast

We were following on the food network the reality show, "Who will be the next Food Network star". A friend of our nieces was a contestant and made it to the final show, where he was aced out. A very creative cook, he posts notes and blogs on his Facebook site and the other day, discussed 5 spice French Toast. We tried it, adding about 1/2 teaspoon of the spice to two eggs with
some cream. He suggested dredging the toast in panko crumbs before frying and this added a wonderful crispness. Overall it was an excellent product. Jeffrey served it with caramelized peaches. We used plain maple syrup and found the combination pleasing. The picture posted is from Jeffrey's very interesting notes on his facebook page.

Today our front door is being refinished at last. It's been in terrible condition for a year or more and I've been putting off the expensive refinishing until the remodel is complete. But, we are going so slowly, we have time to do our maintenance work on 1022 at the same time.

An Old Trunk

Searching for an antique trunk has driven me into many of the used, recycled, antique furniture stores in Temecula and Fallbrook. In most cases, very creative people own these places. At the Red Rooster in Fallbrook, I met a woman who was doing antique painting on old tables. Learned a lot about the process from her. When I told her what I wanted in a trunk, she gave me a bunch of ideas about handles, finishes and sizes. It's not an easy item to find. Trunks are either expensive and custom, with beautiful inlays and hardware or cheap World Imports types or really beat up unusable pieces. I'm leaning towards a cheap World Imports that I finish myself.

I've almost finished antiquing the guest bathroom cabinets. They are still not distressed enough, so I will sand more today and apply another stain variation. I'm thinking of modifying the cabinet pulls as well.

Nothing much will be happening until we get back from Stanford. Today the concrete guys are supposed to be cleaning up the place and we will decide on the main concrete color for stamping. Gail will be hanging the entry way chandelier. After finishing the cabinets, I'm going to start the massive cleaning job, starting with the Avocado door.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tile redux

Choosing tiles for the outdoor patios has become difficult. Finding 4 tiles in coordinating colors of dark blue is taking computer time viewing and reviewing the options. The decision seems important because tile is so permanent and we will be seeing it underfoot for the rest of our lives. One of the tiles, I love and everyone else loves. The remaining tiles get a lukewarm reaction from others and from me, but I've exhausted my resources and so must choose.

Manny the tile guy has been one our better contractors. He tells us a price, shows up when he says he will, works quietly and cleanly (no blaring radios, no coffee cups and lunch remains) and he does a good job. He's actually been a lot of help making tile decisions - little things but important for effect. Like light grout in the upstairs bathrooms. The contrast is very nice and without
it, the tile would all run together. He loves the tiled arch and told me he could create one of his own as soon as he can find a house.

While looking at the floor tile, I'm starting to think about granite for the kitchen and for the backsplash. I'm thinking of something simple because the kitchen is a rather busy place as the design now stands.

Forty years ago

Yesterday we spent some time reminiscing about 1969. The typhoon in Taiwan triggered the discussion. During that typhoon Richard lost everything he owned at the time (primarily a record collection) and broke a bone in his foot. The photos of the torrential rains and mud slides transported him back 50 years. His typhoon was in 1959.

Meanwhile, the media is featuring Woodstock memories, the walk on the moon and Nixon's election. Seems like yesterday that Linda was visiting and we watched the Neil Armstrong from the house trailer that Van de Kamps was using as a test kitchen. What a thrill. We saw the film "Moon" the other night and remembered those great moments. Even the Vietnam war seems like yesterday. When we visit Vietnam a whole generation of people barely remember it and refer to it as the American war. Spin, spin, spin - everybody sees events through their own prism and spins wittingly or more often innocently. The scribes among us get to preserve events for posterity written and seen through theirs eye. The non-scribes' point of view dissolves over time and space.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Our Concrete Takes Off!

The decorative bands were poured around the house and we had a disaster. The concrete "took off" which means it started to set up before the finishers could get the troweling done. About 1/3 had to be hammered out and we are arguing about the two bands that make up the front walk. There are crumbling spots on the sides...the result of having the concrete half set while troweling. We think the whole band should be removed and Ken is pushing back. Meanwhile the site is full of concrete chunks and Ken wants to move forward and pour before it's cleaned up. We know we would just have more mistakes and another disaster and so are pushing him to get everything cleaned up before we pour again. Looks like it will be put off until we return from Stanford.

Meanwhile I've met with Manny on the exterior tile and he is looking for a source. He is also finding us a travertine counter top and will be doing a back splash. I have to pick out the granite for bathrooms and kitchen.

I've been antiquing the guest bathroom cabinets. So far they look OK. I have to find some way to distress the doors a little more. I'm going to try a rub on wood stain to see what happens.

We have all our reservations ready for Stanford. I've been reading more info on line and have a pretty good grasp of what to expect both during the treatment and afterward. I'll be a happy person on the 22nd when I have this event behind me and when I can stop worrying about more growth. I believe the little sucker advanced a bit recently because I am more tottery and the eyesight is worse (wavy horizon).

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Lina Story

As she was grousing about men - how much attention they need, how helpless they seem to be at times, Lina's grandmother concurring, told Lina that at one time, she thought her husband was just stupid. And she thought his typical male behavior was unique and didn't realize that much of the behavior she interpreted as stupid was simply male.

For instance, she told Lina that her husband would often forget to zip up his fly and she would do it for him if she noticed it. One Sunday in church, she was distributing communion and her husband entered her queue to get his wafer. As he approached her she saw that his fly was undone and when he got in front of her, instead of handing him his communion, she reached down and zipped up his fly.

For anyone, this move could have been embarassing. For a hispanic male, it was macho demolishing and he was furious with her humiliation of him in public. She told him that it was an automatic response...she'd done it so often over the course of their marriage, it was a built-in response.

Lina, my Guatemalan born friend, the story-teller, speaks English pretty well now. Ten years ago when I first met her, she was just beginning to acquire a vocabulary. Even so, she told me stories that had me falling down in laughter. She's very good and I wonder how fine a tale she can weave using her native tongue. She has a wonderful sense of humor and heartily enjoys making other laugh. Her friendship has been very enriching to my life.

Roadrunner attack

I heard a racket in the living room and walked over to the window in my office. A roadrunner had gotten into the house and was running repeatedly at full speed at the wall. He crashed into it and turned to see me at the same time. Luckily, he managed to get out the door and took off down the hillside in enormous leaps, disappearing quickly. As he wasn't wearing a helmet, it seemed risky at best. I wondered if he was the same bird who wandered into my office a few years ago. On that occasion, the cat was acting funny, slinking around pressing up against the walls and dropping into that leopard-like crouch cats assume when they are ready to pounce. As I could hear a scratching sound in the office, I walked in and saw an enormous roadrunner...he must be about 18 inches high - the tail extending back about a foot. This bird was in distress and panicky, running back and forth over my printer, banging into the windows. Between the cat and myself, we must have terrified the poor creature. I got the broom and used it to gently prod him toward the door. Once through it he did the acrobatic and astonishing leap thing and vanished in short order.

I'm calling this an attack with tongue in cheek. The poor bird obviously has little in the way of grey matter - but he/she survives and survival is everything. I doubt that once a bird has such a close call - a close brush with humans that he would come close to the house again.