Friday, August 29, 2008

Update on Willow

I took Willow to get an ultrasound today. She doesn't have any growths or signs of heart disease, but her pleural cavity has an abnormal lining of cells. This makes diagnosis a little more tricky, because there is no growth to extract cells from. She may have mesothelioma or adenocarcinoma. Inflammation or infection could also be a cause, but the lab work probably would have showed higher white blood cell counts if that were problem.

Other than heavier than normal breathing, she doesn't seem too bad. The vet who did the ultrasound was surprised by how much fluid was in her lungs, because she seemed like such a happy dog. The other vet remarked that she probably has no idea what is going on with her.

So we'll talk to an oncologist and figure out what to do. My initial thought was to make her more comfortable, but we'll consider the other options. The approach to chemotherapy is not the same in animals as in people. It doesn't make them sick or make their hair fall out, because the goal isn't necessarily to completely eradicate it, but to control it.

I was anxious all day, but I'm feeling a little better thinking about how we might be able to cure her. I'm trying to be strong for Willow, because she is happier if I am happy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Antidote to Whining

So, as I've said before, the antidote to whining is probably gratitude.

Thanks to (almost all people who don't even know about this blog, and should probably thank in person):

- Kathy for being my cycling partner for most of the ride. She spent a lot of time waiting for me, as she climbs and descends much faster than I do. I felt safer knowing someone was keeping track of where I was.

- Tim for sending the route out for the ride weeks ahead of time, for carefully planning a safe, manageable, but challenging route, and for arranging SAG support for this tough ride. Also, just for being a supportive coach and a good guy.

- Jeff for helping Tim plan the route and giving me encouragement. Also that East Bay cyclist who came with us on the ride, but whose name I don't remember.

- Mike, for providing SAG support and encouragement.

- Kim, for keeping me company for a good part of the climb up Mt. Diablo, for being willing to ride the course with me if I decided to make the entire climb, and just being a comforting, kind person.

- Sally for sharing her water and salt tablets with me.

- Martin for calling me to congratulate me and making sure I was OK.

- Amy for emailing me encouragement before the ride.

- Tons of other people who gave me encouragement along the route: Mike, Lennard, Tanja, Kathryn C, Cara, Michele, and people I may have forgotten or whose names I don't know.

- God for getting me safely through it all.

- Me for being gutsy enough to do a ride like this.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Willow

Willow has had abnormal breathing, so I took her to the vet on Friday. The vet did an X-ray that showed she had fluid in her lungs. They did a bunch of lab work, gave her some medicine, and told me they'd let us know what they'd find. She seemed to be getting better, so I thought all the worry was for naught. But then I got a call late last night from the vet, and found out that her test results are most likely to be consistent with lung cancer.

I won't go into the personal details about how I feel about this. If you've ever loved and lost a pet you probably know. I don't have any deep thoughts about this, and any that I might have would sort of sound detached, analytical and callous anyways. This blog is mostly read by people who care about me more than what I write about anyways, so I just thought I'd let you all know what is going on, so you can understand if I seem a little subdued.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mt. Diablo - First Attempt

View Interactive Map on MapMyTri.com

I did most of the ride linked above on Sunday. I didn't quite make it to the top of Mt. Diablo, because of a miscommunication between myself and my cycling partner. We had about 20 minutes to go when we turned around. Still the second climb of the day had more elevation gain than the amount we had to go up Mt. Diablo, so I feel like I had a successful ride nonetheless. It was my longest, hottest (93 degrees) ride I've ever done, with the most climbing. The ride up Mt. Diablo itself was fun. It hadn't gotten too hot yet, and I think summiting peaks on my bike has the same sort of appeal as swimming across bodies of water. I don't want to say that you feel like you've conquered it, but you have a feeling of attachment to something powerful. And though it was almost too hot to enjoy it, the sky was beautiful and blue against a sea of yellow grass.

A lot of awful things happened on this ride, but I suppose it is just more to whine/brag about. I told my Auntie Shirley that trying to be an athlete was supposed to teach me to be less of a whiner, and she said that maybe it would just afford more opportunities to whine. Here I go with the whining:

- I'm a chicken at descents, and lots of climbing means lots of descending. I really freaked out on the last descent of the day. It was really steep, and the caffeine gel I consumed probably made me more nervous. (Me and caffeine don't generally mix. See http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail91.html to get some understanding.) My contact lenses also dried up a bit, and at one point sort of came slightly unseated, which was really freaky on a steep curvy road. Gotta work this out before I ever do a ride like this again. I also somehow forgot to go easy on the front brake. I haven't been on my bike in about a month (other than the trainer) so maybe I'm out of practice, and maybe I was just not thinking clearly. My right leg started shaking violently and uncontrollably from nervousness, which made me feel even more unstable.

- I got a flat 2.5 miles from my car! I don't know what happened to my tire. I stopped because it was making funny noises. When I looked at it, it was bulging out from the sides. I thought I could ride on it for 2.5 more miles, even though it stuck on every rotation on the bump, but it popped shortly after that. Thank goodness that didn't happen when I was going fast downhill. I think I would have lost it. I was a mess and somehow incapable to changing my flat. The tire itself was thrashed, not just the tube. Luckily, one of my teammates, Kathy, who rode with me for most of the ride, drove her car to see if I was OK. I guess I would have eventually managed that flat, but I was having a hard time. I think I would have not taken her up on the offer of a ride if the tire wasn't thrashed, but I figured I'd have to change it again when I bought a new tire, so it wasn't worth it.

- The second climb was just plain hot and miserable. At least one person on the road that day, a much better cyclist than me, ended up lying down for a while. I went my own pace, and I'm sure that's the only way I survived.

- I lost my salt tablets. At some point, I guess the plastic baggy fell out of my "Bento Box."

- I got a cramp in my right hamstring. This actually wasn't so bad. I took a short break, ate a Gu, and drank some diluted Perpetuem and it seemed to go away pretty quickly.

But all in all, I'm carrying away good feelings about this ride. One of my teammates, who is an experienced cyclist, told me it was the hardest 75 mile ride he'd ever done, mostly because of the heat. I think about what I did, and I feel like a badass when I consider how far I've come in the last year.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

My Dad's best friend, S.S., died on Wednesday. Our families grew up together, which made them as much part of my family in my heart as people related to my by blood. I think of people as family when they are bound to you in such a way that time and distance and circumstance don't sever the bond you feel with them, and this is the way I feel about the man who died and his family.

While I was growing up, our families had bible study with them every week at the church. Our parents had discussions, while we played in the adjacent nursery. The bible studies sort of evolved into "salons" met in our homes where philosophy, religion, family life, and world politics were discussed. As I got older, I preferred to sit in the hallway and listen to their conversations instead of playing with the other kids sometimes. These discussion I eavesdropped on shaped me into the person I am today.

I related to my Dad's friend for most of my life as a child to an adult, so the picture of him in my mind is sort of immature and largely shaped by the opinions of the other adults who knew him. My mom told me he was a genius, one of the few true intellectuals she knew. My main impression of him is of someone who was intelligent, conscientious, but dissatisfied with himself. At the funeral yesterday, I learned more about him as he was outside of the context of my family. People talked about how he was sort of both a jester and a Socrates, challenging and questioning everything, and distancing himself from all of it a bit with a sense of humor. This is exactly how my father was, and how he tried to teach me to be. I'd say of the two of them, my dad had the dominant, extroverted personality, so maybe that is why it was harder to see S.S. in that way. Maybe what I saw of him was really himself all along, but I thought of it as a reflection of my father. I then adored and still love my father, but I remember one moment being slightly envious of S.S.'s children, because his slightly more apologetic, humble nature was refreshing.

The service yesterday was beautiful in its simplicity and earnestness. The decorations were simple: photos of S.S. and his family, the awards he received as an aerospace engineer, and bouquets of wild, colorful flowers arranged simply. We met under some trees in the back of the church. S.S. didn't like church and all of its churchiness: the buildings, the institution, the structure of the service, and the elaborate robes the priest wore. Those are all things I personally like, but I appreciated the honesty of this service. The priest herself spoke a little and gave an abbreviated version of an Episcopal memorial service. The rest was people sharing their love and appreciation for S.S. as a person, and offering their support to his family.

People didn't sugarcoat or hyperbolise his life. They spoke fondly of the love he had for his wife and children, the pride he took in his work, his generous nature, the care he gave to his wife's ailing parents, and his intelligence and humor. I liked what my Dad said about his life best of all. No one should have suffered in his life the way S.S. did, but he fought for happiness anyways, so that he could hand it over to his children. It's the type of legacy and accomplishment that doesn't fit into the type of thing that most people find it easy to measure, to describe in sound bites or paragraphs, or hand out gold medals for, but it is a type of heroism nonetheless.

"After All" - Dar Williams

Go ahead, push your luck
Find out how much love the world can hold
Once upon a time I had control
And reigned my soul in tight

Well the whole truth
Is like the story of a wave unfurled
But I held the evil of the world
So I stopped the tide
Froze it up from inside

And it felt like a winter machine
That you go through and then
You catch your breath and winter starts again
And everyone else is spring bound

And when I chose to live
There was no joy - it's just a line I crossed
It wasn't worth the pain my death would cost
So I was not lost or found

And if I was to sleep
I knew my family had more truth to tell
And so I traveled down a whispering well
To know myself through them

Growing up, my Mom had a room full of books
And hid away in there
Her father raging down a spiral stair
'Til he found someone
Most days his son

And sometimes I think
My father, too, was a refugee
I know they tried to keep their pain from me
They could not see what it was for

But now I'm sleeping fine
Sometimes the truth is like a second chance
I am the daughter of a great romance
And they are the children of the war

Well the sun rose with so many colors
It nearly broke my heart
And worked me over like a work of art
And I was a part of all that

So go ahead, push your luck
Say what it is you've got to say to me
We will push on into that mystery
And it'll push right back
And there are worse things than that

'Cause for every price
And every penance that I could think of
It's better to have fallen in love
Than never to have fallen at all

'Cause when you live in a world
Well it gets in to who you thought you'd be
And now I laugh at how the world changed me
I think life chose me after all

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Matthew 25:33-40

The Son of Man will put the sheep (good people) on his right and the goats (bad people) on his left. "Then the king will say to those good people on his right, 'Come. My Father has given you great blessings. Come and get the kingdom God promised you. That kingdom has been prepared for you since the world was made. You can have this kingdom, because I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was alone and away from home, and you invited me into your home. I was without clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you came to visit me.' "Then the good people will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you alone and away from home and invite you into our home? When did we see you without clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and care for you?' "Then the king will answer, 'I tell you the truth. Anything you did for any of my people here, you also did for me.'

Maybe I met Jesus today and totally blew it. I was having lunch with Oxy in Flip Flop at the Walnut Ave Cafe. She was on a short lunch break, so we took seats at the counter instead of waiting for a table. We sat next to an older gentleman. He started talking to us. And he wouldn't stop. Long after he was done with his lunch and got his bill and change, he kept sitting with us and talking. He was waiting for his car to get fixed, and lived far away, so he had time to burn. He was retired and was probably lonely. It's not that he wasn't an interesting guy, it sounded like he maybe was. I just didn't feel like extending myself.

Oxy kindly asked him questions, smiled and engaged him. I sat there quietly, hoping he would leave. I'd occasionally feel bad about this and smile and ask a question, but mostly I wanted to sit and talk with my friend. I was working at home that day, and was a little lonely myself, and I don't get to see Oxy all that much, especially not alone, so I really wanted to talk. I love all my friends, but she's a rare friend in that she's both a good listener and discrete, and I have a rapport with her that I have with almost no one else. I felt selfish for wanting her all to myself. I felt intruded upon, but maybe that is just "lunch counter culture." When he left, we shook hands and exchanged names and smiles, and when he apologized for monopolizing the conversation, Oxy and I both insisted that he didn't. So maybe I'm not as evil as I think I am. Maybe I'm just tired and lonely and shy.

Why am I blogging about this? To punish myself by letting everyone know how rotten I can be sometimes? I just remember things better when I blog about them. I hope next time I meet someone who could be Jesus in disguise I'll remember to be kind and think what I would do if he were Jesus, or maybe even better, to remember what I would want someone to do if I were a lonely stranger. I honestly think this was a bad moment for me, and not a reflection of my true character, but it's one more opportunity to reflect on how I could be a better person. Thanks for being a good role model, Oxy. Please forgive me old man, wherever you are, if I came off as rude. Oxy said I didn't, but I feel like I was.

I Hate Everybody

This is a post of mine that I wrote, but didn't publish almost a year ago (9/1/07 at 2:09 am). I didn't publish it because I was afraid it was too negative. I'm not in a "I Hate Everybody" kind of a mood at the moment, actually. I guess I'm publishing it because I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately. (And I figure my blog readers might want something to read. Lazy, I know.) I think I may have reached a level of maturity about this in the last year that I should also write about, so I'll write more later.

I'm in that kind of a mood. I don't hate everybody. Actually, Raybon says I don't really hate anybody. He says I just dislike people, and that hate is too strong a word for how I feel. So...

I don't like you if:

1) You act like you like me, but put me down
2) You malign my accomplishments and celebrate my failures
3) You assume I have bad intentions when I don't
4) You talk about me behind my back
5) You use me for what I have to offer, but don't appreciate me

The worst part about all this is, the more I dislike people because of the above things, the more I become everything I hate. My bad attitude to some people colors my perception of people who have done nothing bad to me, and I have trouble celebrating and appreciating other people. I feel evil. This is going to take some prayer and reflection. How do you learn to forgive, but have a healthy amount of caution about making yourself vulnerable to others? How do you guard your heart and love others at the same time?

I bought a book today by Anne Lamott called "Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith." I heard her interviewed on NPR, and she said she almost called the book "Forgiveshness", because forgiveness is a central concern to her, but is almost impossibly hard. She writes "I wish grace and healing were more abracadabra kinds of things, that delicate silver bells would ring to announce grace's arrival. But no, it's clog and slog and scootch, on the floor, in silence, in the dark."

*Sigh.* My life has been so easy, relatively. No one very close to me has died tragically. I've never wanted for anything necessary for my survival, never been threatened by terminal illness, and never been hurt by an act of deliberate violence. I think sometimes I must have a very young soul, because I'm so easily tripped up on my path to enlightenment by silly things like not being invited to a co-worker's birthday party. My life is cushy enough that I have to seek out challenge and adventure. I need to reflect on what I've been given, be grateful, and try to give back as much as I can, with a sense of love and gratitude towards God and the universe.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Cruz Cruise - Progress Over 5 years

My Time Top Time Percent Difference My Rank Total Rank Percentile
2004 71.03 45.44 36% 46 72 36%
2005 42.42 32.9 22% 30 52 48%
2006 56.9 46.5 18% 19 66 71%
2007 46.6 37.7 19% 29 65 55%
2008 45.7 38.1 17% 22 78 72%


Comments:
2004: Had been swimming Masters a little over a year at that point. One of the choppiest swims I've ever swam. I remember ending up with a sore neck from cranking it from sighting.

2005: I barely remember this swim, except that it foggy, so they shortened the course. My biggest improvement was made this year, as this was the year I first started swimming seriously and regularly with the larger Master's group at UC Flip Flop.

2006: When I swam this race, I remember feeling like it was the best race of my life. I went into it not even thinking I was going to race hard, but ended up wondering if I'd skipped a buoy, because I came in behind a woman who swam a lane up from me, and my times were much closer to the leaders than I expected. This was the year I trained at Cowell's more than any other year, favoring the ocean to the pool.

2007: It looks like my progress slipped this year a bit, and I wasn't very happy with my performance.

2008: Back in the game. I swam for fun, bit I swam hard, and was pretty surprised at how well I did, considering I've been swimming much less this year than last, and my Parkside Aquatic Mile results were not great.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Things I'm Grateful For

- That I can run 11 miles and feel tired, but otherwise not too bad
- That I can swim 11 miles, even if I'm a wreck afterwards
- That I'm of sound mind and body (most of the time)
- For the ocean, whose power to calm and energize me are beyond my ability to explain
- For a family that loves me
- For a good husband, who has stood by me at my worst moments
- For Willow, my snuggly doggy
- For forgiving friends, and friends who ask for forgiveness
- For the sweet kids that I tutor, who teach me so much about how great life is by their curiosity and the ease with which they like and trust me
- For the challenges that face me in my life, and the strength God gives me to rise up to them
- For easy times that I can coast and relax and rejuvenate

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Winner and Defending Champion!!!

I swam the 2 mile Cruz Cruise today. I just realized that this is the 5th year in a row I've done this race. It's the only race I've done every year since I started competing in swimming.

I got first place in my age group. Out of 1. Same as last year. I got first out of 3 two years ago, so that makes me three year defending champion!!! That's kind of goofy. I looked up my old results, and I got 2nd out of 3 the previous couple of years.

That's all... I'm too tired to say anything else. Fodder for all of you who think all I do is talk about my results.