Friday, November 20, 2009



This is the last picture I took of my kitty Nero when I was home last summer. When I think of him this is pretty much what comes to mind... my sweetheart snuggle kitty. I already miss him but I suspect it won't fully hit me until I go home for Christmas and he won't be there.

He and his sister, Emily -- who is doing well, have held a very special place for me. They were part of a litter of kittens my sister and I raised since they were three weeks old when their mother went missing. I was a college freshman and had late rehearsals which combined with my sister very early coffee shop schedule helped us feed the pack of six every three hours without it being too taxing on either one of us. Jayna had more feeding shifts during the day but my schedule made it so then she could sleep through the night and go to work.

I often think of those days of bottle feeding the babies. . . especially when they were just old enough to walk and learning to run. . . I called them goslings. This is one memory I would like to share.

When we couldn't watch them they would live in the hall bathroom with their litter box, their 'nest' and other necessities. We kept a night light on. Most distinctly I remember feeding them when I got home from rehearsals. First I would prep their formula and get everything ready in the kitchen then it was time to go get the babies-- my favorite part!

I would quietly crack open the bathroom door. In the dim light I could see a nest of fur and six tiny pairs of eyes all looking directly at me. For a second everyone was still.

"Gooooossssliiinnngs!" is what I would quietly call to them which would trigger the cutest stampede EVER!

They would follow me down the hall to the kitchen where they would be fed one by one starting with the smallest one (another orange boy) working up to the largest ones with feeding the undersized ones in between. I would sit at the table with my legs curled up onto the chair to avoid the over eager leg climbers. As the kitten became full they would form a new nest of fur in front of the refrigerator. Nero was the second to smallest kitten and he melted my heart. . . and he had a way of doing that over and over and over again.

I will always have an affinity for the big orange kitty who loves to snuggle.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Geiger Counter Fun

At first it sounded like we had crickets in our house... occasional little chirps. Then it abruptly sounded like we had several very angry crickets...

"That was your toothbrush." Dennis called from the bathroom.

Really what's the point of being radioactive if I don't get to play with a geiger counter? Well, to be honest I don't get to play with it much of course because being the source of the radioactivity makes impossible to measure anything else accurately. But others get to play so that's fun... except when I can't be in the same room... but when they provide a nice narrative of what they're scanning and how it's reading (we turned the beeping off after not too long-- when I got close it turned into one solid, very shrill, beep).

It was fun-- thanks Honey-- and educational! I learned a lot more about radioactivity because of all this.

taken this morning almost 48 hours after dose
set on the second to least sensitive setting, measuring the I-131 that is "sticking"

We went in for the scan at the hospital on the 5th. When we met with the doctors to review the results they asked how I was feeling and I told them that I was feeling quite well.

"Any guesses as to why that is?" surprisingly sarcastic for an oncologist.

We suspected as much when the scan was days away and I wasn't feeling exhausted-- there were a lot of thyroid cells left over and the little over achieving stragglers where producing enough hormones to keep me functional and feeling fine.

It kind of makes me sad to kill them -- very cruel but then I remember that (collectively) they fired the the first shot and that this is no time to get soft.

My dose of radioactive iodine [100 millicuries (mCi) of Iodine-131] was ready for me the next day. It has a half-life of 8 days and comes with restrictions to protect others, namely, Dennis.

To keep the loved ones safe it comes down to Proximity, Time, and Hygiene.

Here is my brief science lesson some of which I actually remember learning in high school:

There are lots of types of radiation (notably from the sun etc.). Like light and heat, the closer you are to the source the more potent it is.

Unlike light waves radioactive waves can travel through things including people --this is what we're trying to limit because as it's passing through it can damage one's molecules along the way which can have an accumulative effect of being bad.

Different radioactive particles/wave types have different strengths. I'm sending out beta (kind of a sissy) and gamma (more of a school yard bully, not a real thug) both of which drop off in strength significantly with distance. **Dennis noted different ways of personifying these particles. That the beta particles are pretty big schoolyard bullies but they can't climb fences or run very far and thus not much of a threat once you're out of noogie distance. He then said that the gamma particles are like a pipsqueak with a B-B gun in that they can hit you from further away but the chances of it really hurting much is slim... especially the further away you are.**

To illustrate this the medical physicist measured me directly after taking the dose up close I measured at about 500, at three feet away I measured roughly at 75, and at six feet away I measured a 4. This shows why proximity (aka cuddling) is bad.

It also stands to reason why the amount of time someone spends in proximity makes a difference and why the restriction recommendation is to keep seven feet away from the people you see all time but they say I can go out in uncrowded public now that it's been a couple days. (keep in mind the rooms of our house are about nine feet in each direction, making it challenging to hang out even in the same room)

The third area of consideration is hygiene. I'm emitting radioactivity all the time but I'm also secreting it-- mostly through urine, then through mucus, then through saliva. In this way it's like the flu and obsessive hand washing really helps cut down on the creation of new radioactive surfaces. The couch where I've been sleeping had very little radioactivity but the waste basket containing my discarded tissues was on fire (I made it a point to discard all of my tissues in the same basket). And since my computer keyboard measured clean it shows I've been keeping on top of the hand washing.

Other odd precautions that make sense:

Flushing toilet several times after each use
keeping toothbrush completely segregated
using my own tube of toothpaste
making a few dinners ahead of time (just so Dennis doesn't have to after he gets home... although he is more than capable and willing)
covering my sleeping couch with blankets that can be easily washed once I get to move back to the bed.
having my own dishes and disposable flatware
my own box of tissues and waste basket
my own hand towel and segregated laundry
no kissing (bummer!)
no cuddles (total bummer!)

So yes it's very inconvenient and not very fun but before the week is through I'll be able to go about business as usual. I'm going to add extra time to the limitations because we know that there are a lot of thyroid cells that the I-131 is sticking to.

Questions? I might revise this when I re-read this tomorrow and give Dennis a chance to point out any glaring errors. The logical thing would be to hold off on pushing the publish button until then-- but it's late and I want to get this up.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Doing Well

We have been enjoying our visit with my husband's mother. Yesterday I took her to Old Town Lansing where we got to look at cute little shops and walk along the river. and for dinner we roasted a turkey and had biscuits and mashed potatoes along with some other goodies-- It's been great to have Lois with us-- we really like her! (I have some nice pictures of her, and I'm glad to have them but I think she would be happier if I didn't post them on the internet even though the pictures are nice and she looks very nice in them)

So far we've gotten out of house every day and I hope that will get to continue as this afternoon we sticking to rainy day activities-- because today it turned into a rainy day.

Rainy day activities have consisted of sewing and reading... but mostly sewing. Between the two of us over two days we've finished 5 quilt blocks which is pretty sweet as I have many more to do and it feels good to whittle down the number of unfinished blocks.

"But Kristen, where did these quilt blocks come from in the first place?"

I'm so glad you asked! These are all from 'quilt block of the month' programs-- which are very fun and get you to try new things. It basically works like this: your local quilt shop sells you a pattern and fabric to make one quilt block (about five bucks) with the idea that you come back the next month with that block completed to receive another pattern w/fabric which you finish and bring back the following month so in theory you can make 12 coordinated quilt blocks for $5. This is great and fun... and just the beginning. Once they get you in the store there are all sorts of things they sell at you (it's a store, I don't hold it against them, I just don't have the cash). The most common, aside from all the little things you can buy that do one thing really well, is the "finishing kit" which gives you instructions and fabric to turn your block into a quilt top-- these typically cost at least $60 (so I never buy them) which sometimes does not contain the batting backing or binding that you will also need to truly finish. They also get you with 'bonus blocks' which cost a little extra and often look so nice and if you don't complete your previous month's block then it will cost another $5 to start up again.

And then sometimes you can get behind (like me right now) because inevitably life gets in the way. This problem is compounded by the fact that I still have blocks to do from last year's block-of-the-month program in Sacramento that I didn't get to because we got married and moved out of state (but I still had very nice people pick up my blocks for me). It's fun to see how different shops run their block-of-the-month programs. All in all I'm having a good time of it and learning new things but will probably take next year off with the hopes of finishing some of these quilts.

Since this afternoon I've felt considerably tired... a little more than I think is normal. We'll see if this is the beginning of the downhill slope or just a lazy rainy day.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Quick Update

In recent days I've had a slightly noticeable influx of "how are you feeling?" It's not bad to ask but it reminded me that perhaps I should give an update since it has been a little while.

I feel fine, quite normal, it might take me a little longer to get going in the morning-- but I think that that is really more of a motivation issue than a chemical imbalance issue. I usually have been getting my first wind around 1:30 or 2pm-- but other days when I know I have something with a deadline to do and somewhere to be I've been able to get up and at them without a problem-- so I'm being lazy lately.

I stop taking the temporary replacements on the 20th. This is also the same day that Dennis' mom, Lois, is coming for a visit. We're looking forward to that-- we'll see how my energy goes. I could see it going either way-- down because I'll loose thyroid hormones or level or up because we'll have out-of-town company and I like to have visitors! ... especially when they are nice like Lois!)

I'm reminded that life is good by times like yesterday morning I had a visit from a cardinal just outside our kitchen window. At that moment I was really glad I hadn't yet pack up the humming bird feeder. Perhaps there is something to be said for procrastination? no.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Mid to Late Summer is when you find little toads-- it's too cold to find them now so I like to look at these pictures and think of July and tiny toads!

He's pretty little!

But not this little!

It's a good thing these guys hop around, otherwise you'd never see them! So tiny!

In this shot it easy to see just how new this toad is... he still looks like a tadpole.

On my first visit to Michigan, the July before we were married we saw tons of these little toads crossing the trail in the park behind the house. It's a pretty brief window when these guys are out and about in large numbers. I'm so glad we got to see them again this year.

And I hope we get to see them next year!

oh and you can click on the pictures to see their tininess even bigger!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sew, What Have You Been Up To?

I haven't written about sewing for quite a while which is weird because I sew and haven't stopped sewing for any noteworthy length of time but just noticed that sewing has not been fairly represented. So let me present:

This is a my contribution to a wedding quilt for Katy and Andrew's Wonderful Wedding. Each guest was mailed a 10" (or maybe 12" ?) square of white muslin and asked to personalize it and mail it back. The mother's of the happy couple then covertly assembled and quilted it all and displayed it at the wedding. It was very sweet!

I had the idea buzzing around my head to make a quilt using only white fabric and create the pattern through texture and piecing alone. I would still like to do a whole quilt that way some day but it was great to actually do something along those lines. I also thought it would be fun to send back a square of white fabric... but I did end up writing on it since the directions said to be sure to include your name-- and I always follow directions.

It reads: "Wishing you both the best kind of happiness-- the kind that comes with love. from Kristen & Dennis"

Sappy I know but it's for a wedding and weddings are the best time to be sappy!

A great book that I used for reference and inspiration is The Art of Manipulating Fabric

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bee-Bop-a-Ree-Bop Rhubarb Pie

We have a neighbor down the street-- one of those guys that's lived on this street for the past 60 years. He used to own about five houses on the street (including the one we're renting now). Now we just owns three (not the one we're renting now) . He's a nice guy. He grows rhubarb but doesn't do much with it so this spring he asked us if we'd be interested. We said "yes." And he said "I'll be right back."

It was a lot of rhubarb he brought over so I made two pies using my apple pie recipe and delivered one back to him. See? It pays to be nice!

Wouldn't this be a good time for a piece of rhubarb pie?

... I think it's quite fitting that my 50th post is about pie...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Two Pints of Cream

We were invited to a waffle breakfast and I was asked to contribute whipped cream topping. And since these were friends that would appreciate it, I decided to whip it 'in house' and since these are really good friends that would appreciate it I picked up and extra pint and made butter.

So I learned that a pint of whipping cream will make a cup of butter and a cup of buttermilk (which I used for biscuits). It's fun to make butter but we'll have to wait until we have good friends that own a cow and so we get cream on the cheap since currently it's not exactly cost effective-- but still nice for special occasions-- and super tasty on waffles with their homemade blueberry syrup!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Time Line

This morning we met with the radiation oncologist for a consult and now we have a working time line for the first test to find straggling thyroid cells.

So I will continue to take my Cytomel (thyroid replacement hormone with short half-life) until the 20th of October (it's a Tuesday)... which means I have just under a month of feeling relatively well-- yay!

The Tuesday after that (the 27th) I get some lab work done and stop eating certain things and taking certain drugs (nothing I regularly consume was on those lists-- i.e. Slim-fast shakes).

On Monday the 2nd of November I do more blood work.

Then the next day (the third) I go to the center to take my little dose of radioactive iodine.

This allows us to do the scan on the 5th and review it with the oncologist. They say about 80% of patients still have thyroid cells on their first scan so I'm guessing I will too. If I do we will schedule a time when I can come back and get my big dose of radioactive iodine. They used to be able to give the big dose on the same day as the scan if needed but there is a shortage of radioactive iodine so I must wait until they have a pill for me. (they say it takes about a week)

After I take the big dose and live secluded for a few days I may start hormone replacements again-- yay!

So now you are updated! Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 25, 2009

New Update

We got back from the doctor's office with some news with which I am quite happy-- although not that much has changed.

First we have an appointment to see the radiation oncologist Wednesday morning (the very next happening Wednesday-- yay) and will find out more info about that process (how long will I be radioactive? will I leave something like a radioactive snail trail behind me? and important things like that)

Second and more exciting is that I got a prescription for a temporary hormone replacement. Here's the cool thing that I learned today:

Thyroid hormones have a pretty long half-life so it takes quite a while for them to naturally dissipate (about six weeks) taking the thyroid-less person on a slow gradual decline into a pit of despair. Where as this version of thyroid replacement has a short half-life so it dissipates roughly twice as fast as the stuff my thyroid left behind. So this is roughly how I think of it. This has no scientific bearing... it's just my current understanding.

The x axis is time in Weeks, the y axis is how I'm feeling (very measurable).
The red line is my perceived progression with taking the temporary hormone replacement, the blue line is my perceived natural progression.
The aqua shaded parfait illustrates bonus better feeling time, the brighter the better.

Hormone Dissipation: Feeling vs. Time

(channeling my father here)

So now I'm feeling just fine! It's nice to know that I can somewhat rely on feeling fine for a given time but there is still a lot that we'll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Park Lake... or is it Lake Park?

Feeling the need to update. The last post seems too serious... especially for hanging out on top of the list. We see the doctor tomorrow... would you like to add to my list of questions so I can be sure to answer them for you? I'll check the comments tomorrow morning and add anything to my list.

Earlier in the month was our ward picnic and afterward we went for a bike ride around the lake-- technically around the lake... more like the on the streets that surround the lake. which is why I didn't even know there was a lake there (mostly private). Then we walked one of the trails around the park and here are some things that we saw.

pretty marshland

little froggies
(I guess it's pretty obvious how we like to see little frogs and toads)

and deer... little ones!

with spots!
how can you not be happy and see little deer with spots?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pathology Report-- and the Envelope Please...



You know it's a bad sign when it's the day you're supposed hear back, it's 5:45 pm, the phone rings and it's not a nurse, it's your surgeon.

Cancer on both sides so it's good we took the whole thing out. Only one lesion was on the surface, the rest were safely tucked within the thyroid tissue. We have an appointment on Friday and will schedule a meeting with a radiation oncologist who will oversee my radioactive iodine treatments. It will be probably about six weeks before the first treatment because right now I still have thyroid hormones inside and they have to be completely gone before we send radioactive iodine after any rogue thyroid cells. And in a very brief description of the feeling of getting the thyroid hormone to zero my doctor said, "you'll be pretty miserable."

I'm going to ask for clarification on that.

It's been just under a month since Dennis and I celebrated our one year anniversary. I cannot help but liken this situation to when someone buys a new car or washing machine... as soon as the warranty expires ::poof:: the thing falls apart and you're just out of luck. Sorry Honey. And I bet it's even worse when you're still making payments! I told him that he should have gotten the extended warranty.

Even though we knew that the thyroid could contain cancer and the cancer has already been removed I'm surprised by how it feels, relating oneself to having cancer. I think it's a very loaded word, perhaps because it runs in my family it carries a lot of weight with me-- but I think it carries a lot of weight with everyone-- cancer = bad, that's pretty clear.

Then I feel a little betrayed by my own body-- we're supposed to be on the same team-- seems you can't trust anyone, especially your own freaking body, how could she do this to me?

Then I realize that's not very productive and that I just need to process this a bit more and adjust. hmm... I'll be back a little later.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Back from the Hospital

So I just had a total thyroidectomy... and in case I didn't know what it was called before arriving at the hospital I would be sure to know after being there for ten minutes. It was like a quiz with every new person I encountered leading up to the procedure, that and my birthday and how to spell my last name.

I'm fine with them being thorough-- please please be thorough!

So I'm feeling alright. My throat is sore, it hurts to swallow, and the muscles in my neck are stiff. None of this is surprising.

It was scheduled as a outpatient procedure but I was held overnight for observation. I was glad for that little extra time to make sure things were fine before sending me home.

Dennis has been especially sweet. Before heading into the hospital he braided my hair-- into pigtails. I got a couple of blisters on my left hand the day before so did not have the dexterity to do it myself. The braided pigtails were a stroke of genius as they allowed me to be in bed for days without getting into a tangled mess-- so if you ever know anyone with long hair who will be in bed for several days, do them a favor and braid their hair into pigtails! It was nice to have something be comfortable.

We took some pictures before leaving the house, knowing I'd never be quite the same. Here is one of those pictures (the lack of glasses and the button-up shirt were part of planning ahead):

So naturally when you have a before picture you have to have an after picture. This one was taken this morning almost two days after surgery:

So yeah, no bandage-- I was surprised by that too. I'm stitched on the inside and glued shut. The surgical tape in the center is from when the doctor removed the drainage tube the next morning... but we don't have to talk about that. This is about as high as I can currently lift my head comfortably without feeling any pulling. If your gruesome sense of curiosity is not yet satisfied you may click on the above picture to see it larger.

So I'm off to take another nap but just wanted to let my three readers know that I'm doing fine and I really appreciate all the prayers and well wishes and good thoughts sent my way-- I feel it made a difference-- Thank you!

-- and the free slipper socks are totally worth it!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Last Day

I'm going in for surgery tomorrow... wish me luck!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Not Dead Just Busy


Well I had a great month of sculpting at the fair... pictures soon! It was great to see family and friends in the area-- almost made me sad to leave! But there's something about being home and seeing the beau that surprisingly tips the scale.

I do not have a ton of time to write as you see I got home just in time to start canning and as you know tomatoes do not wait for long! About 35 plants made it through our scary wilt that had us both depressed earlier in the summer. For a while it seemed that every day more plants were showing the inexplicable symptoms that promptly leads to death. All it seamed we could do is watch. Toward the end I tried burying the steams of the very newly infected plants so the tomato could make new and hopefully more effective roots. I don't know if this made a difference but most of those plants recovered and the spread stopped-- although that could have been lucky timing.

The wilt claimed just about a dozen tomato plants and decimated our zucchini... but then stopped... and we are grateful. Of course then the counters are covered with impatient tomatoes yelling at me to make decisions and do something yummy with them-- and hurry up about it. It's not too bad and so far I've been able to keep up reasonably well and even can salsa at a friend's house with her tomatoes last week. But I'm just barely keeping up... if I finish my two batches of salsa today I would have cleared the house of harvested tomatoes. .... ... but I know there are more waiting in the garden! Part of me is thinking about how things would be had all of our plants lived-- I doubt I'd be at the computer right now.

In other news I have surgery scheduled for the 15th . I'm getting my thyroid removed. This has been a little while in the making. It started with a routine physical that lead to a thyroid ultrasound to measure the larger bumps thereon. From there it was suggested that the largest bump (or node) on each side be subject to a fine needle aspiration (tiny biopsy). When both sides came back "highly suspicious" for cancer the decision was made to remove said thyroid. Of course a few days of freaking out were included in there too for good measure-- can't skip the freak out!

So I have a lot to do before then... the tomatoes are calling!

We're feeling that it is the best decision given the circumstances.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Puppet Festival-ness

I recently returned from the Puppeteers of America National Festival and had a great time!! A really great time! Perhaps the best time I've ever had at a festival which is saying a lot since I always have a good time... but this time was even better!

I think it helped that at this festival I taught a workshop... a long one. I think it helped to be more involved. The workshop went really well! I had a great group and we had a good energy for all three days-- fantastic!

I made an effort (though it wasn't hard) to be more social this festival... that probably made a difference too. Yay for new friends! and yay for strengthening not-as-new-friends! Yay!

There were great shows a well! (and no painful shows!)

And fore the first time I had items for sale in the Puppetry Store... and did pretty well and it also inadvertently served as a place to display my work. It wasn't uncommon to talk with someone and have it come around to "oh, I saw your masks in the store..."

s w e e t !

I also need to redo and downsize my carry around portfolio-- eventually. It's currently 11x17... a little obnoxious and since now I have a website, oh yes I have a website, I can hone the portfolio to make it more straight froward... 'leave them wanting more' as it were.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Andrew and Katy Got Married!

You may remember when they got engaged-- but now they're hitched! I'm so glad that I got to go back to Sacramento for a week and help out... not that they needed much help.

I did get to take pictures, however, lots of pictures-- more pictures than I've ever taken in one day. Then I got to edit those pictures... I know what you mean Andrea! (although this was child's play compared to what you do!)

I wouldn't call myself a photographer, just a willing friend with a camera. So here's a sneak peak-- I'm mailing off the disks to the happy couple today... I suppose I should ask their permission before posting these...

Each table had a row of vases containing Gerbera Daisies... very pretty!

I couldn't possibly be happier for these two! Two great people making one great couple!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mushroom Hunting

The season is passed but I thought I'd share a little bit about this fun experience.

I first heard of morels from the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle where the authors had morel mushrooms growing on their property and where a prized treasure. So I was exited when I was told that our wonderful park out back also provides a season of Morels (just when I thought it couldn't get any better).

I never thought I would be a mushroom hunter. never. I always pictured short stout fellows with bushy gray beards, dirty clothes, missing teeth, and a hat made of tree bark with moss growing on it. And don't forget the mesh bag.

We did some research online and found that this type of mushroom is pretty safe to gather and eat if you know what to look for (if it looks like a morel-- there are a couple different types-- and it's hollow then you're good).

Here's a closer look at what morels look like:

in the "wild"

in the hand

and on the plate!

Since the park is public there are a lot of other mushroom hunters so we never found a ton of them. It's not exactly easy but it's really fun when you find one-- makes me feel feel very 'hunter/gatherer.'

It seems the general online consensus to prepare morels fried with some sort of coating (other wise they shrivel to nothing). They were pretty tasty... especially for free!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

a few more pretties

I love this picture

These white flowers are one of the common understorey plants along with the may apples (below) that have umbrella forms that remind me of Dr. Seuss.

Couldn't just grow around the leaf, this one had to bust through.

..and oh.. hello? A tree frog about 1 1/2 inches long and candy colored . It's the only one we've seen here to date but we will surely keep an extra eye out for them now that we know they're here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cuteness Overload

Baby Foxes
There you go...
...Bask in the Cuteness

love the black sox

Saturday, May 9, 2009

More Pictures of Animals

We have better pictures! yay! Dennis did a good job getting these shots!

I like how they lift their feet up!

The Heron has proven difficult to photograph but I'm pretty happy with these.

GOSLINGS!! Two of them! The whole little family hit the road over night. I'm sad to no longer have them in the pond but I'm glad we got pictures when we did-- these little guys are maybe a day old.

And so it appears there were two geese tending the nest (we only saw one at a time and assumed mama goose was on her own-- we were mistaken). But oooh soo cute! Baby Gooses!