Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where Am I Standing?

We ran several errands late this afternoon and had dinner in Worcester.
Where was I standing when I snapped this photo?
(You can click on the image to get a better look.)

: : Update: Well that didn’t take long! Mike quickly identified that I was standing outside Wild Willy’s. Karl came by shortly thereafter and concurred.

I’m happy to report that Wild Willy’s still makes an excellent burger and a mean cup of steak chili!

You can follow along with The Wormtown Fleet by clicking here and following the “Linky blog hop” links.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Most Best

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now. The working title in my mind was “How To Be An Excellent Hospital Visitor”. The problem is that it really was a story of how our niece Kate was “An Excellent Hospital Visitor”. Before I was hospitalized back in early July, my doctor had prepared me for what could be a stay of just three to five days, but, if the worst of the possible complications developed, it could be up to two weeks. Kate immediately got back to us and invited Uncle Chuck to stay with her and her husband Phil. They live less than half an hour away from the hospital and knew that Chuck was going to stay in a hotel close to the hospital. They also offered meals or just a place to rest and relax whenever he needed it. Once it became clear that the surgery was a success and I would likely be in only a few days, Kate immediately scheduled a visit. Her first instinct was to smuggle her dog Murphy in with her! We suggested that since we had seen him the Sunday before, just two legged visitors would be more appropriate!

That’s how Kate came to visit her Auntie and Uncle the day after my surgery. She appeared in the room with an armload of tropical flowers half as tall as she is, a card signed by her entire branch of the family, some lovely linen spray in case my room smelled a bit too hospital-y for my taste and her cheerful and drop dead funny personality! Talk about a breath of fresh air! She also brought a flash drive with her. She and Phil had traveled to Ireland earlier in the year and she had uploaded a slew of gorgeous photographs from their trip. Chuck had his laptop which he quickly set up on my wheely bed tray. He and Kate pulled up chairs next to my bed and we enjoyed an Irish travelogue!

Now you see why I planned to call this post “How To Be An Excellent Hospital Visitor”. But I really could have titled it: “How To Be An Excellent Niece”!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Thumbs Up

We’re late to the party, but we finally bought a flash drive. Actually, until now, we couldn’t think of a good reason to justify the purchase. If we need to move files around we just do it wirelessly on our home network. Then we found ourselves bringing our computer down with us on our visits with Al, Carrie and Isabella. We would swap photos and files back and forth with their laptop. But if we just loaded the items we wanted to transfer to their computer onto a flash drive we could leave the laptop at home. And we could still off-load their photos onto the flash drive to ferry back with us.

Decision made, we bought an 8GB SanDisk Cruzer. It’s light as a feather, ridiculously small and easy to use. We just plug it into one of the USB ports on our Macs and it appears in Finder. We drag and drop JPEGS and files and we’re on our way.

If you click on the link you’ll see the color we chose. Yes, it’s pink. In person, it’s really a sort of plummy metallic magenta. And yes, Chuck is a very good sport! Actually, the day I had my surgery I carried a hot pink, madras plaid, patchwork tote from L.L. Bean as my purse. (Here it is in navy.) All my medical paperwork fit in it easily. But when I realized Chuck would have custody of it until I got out of recovery I asked if he wanted me to choose a different bag. He replied that he was sufficiently secure in his masculinity that he would gladly carry my hot pink tote bag. So you see, the plummy metallic magenta flash drive was truly not a problem!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Three Weeks!

Miss Isabella Rose turned three weeks old yesterday!!! She was serenaded by her Mom, her Great Grandma Nana, her Uncle Chuck and Auntie Lee. When Isabella (then "Bambalina") was born she weighed just one pound, six ounces (624 grams) and was 12 inches (30 centimeters) long. As of yesterday, she is now 14 inches (35 centimeters) long and weighs one pound, fifteen ounces (879 grams)!

Isabella has coped amazingly well with her sudden departure from her mother’s womb, into the room filled with the equipment and round the clock medical staff necessary to attempt to replicate that perfect space. We have been amazed by the technology which monitors and supports our grandniece. And we have been humbled by the expertise and compassion of the nurses, doctors and support staff of the NICU.

Our niece Carrie, Isabella’s mom, has been recovering steadily from the Severe Preeclampsia and all the attendant medical challenges. She and her husband Al have been marvelous to one another and loving, attentive parents to their daughter. Being able to watch them has been a lesson in grace.

The Wormtown Fleet #1

Jeff of Wormtown Taxi chronicled it all on his blog; from the razing of the old buildings to the clearing of the land through the plethora of rumors and, finally, the results. Even though we have driven by the new WalMart off of Route 146 a million times (hyperbolically and emotionally speaking) we had never stopped. Last night we did. I snapped this photo of one of the miniature wind turbines which top each parking lot light stanchion, pinwheel style. We then went inside the crowded temple of all things cheap, consumable and disposable.

The wind turbine was the highlight of the trip.

You can follow along with The Wormtown Fleet by clicking here and following the “Linky blog hop” links.

The Wormtown Fleet

Jeff of Wormtown Taxi has been battling with and blogging about his cancer diagnosis and treatment. His daily routine has been dramatically altered which means he is no longer out and about on the streets of Worcester, Massachusetts. Jeff has been an inveterate snapper of photos. As he drove his taxi throughout the city and beyond, Jeff took photos and video of whatever caught his fancy, struck his funny bone or, most likely, triggered the sharp-eyed cynic in him.

Nicole of Nicole, Worcester (AKA NIcoleCommaWoo) reached out to Jeff’s fellow Worcester Area bloggers to see if we could all band together to train our cameras on Worcester. Yes, it’s true, we all recognize it is a sisyphean task for us to collectively try to match Jeff’s productivity. But we can give him a tip o‘ the hat as we humbly post a few of our own pics.

Here’s Nicole’s more thorough explanation of what “The Wormtown Fleet” is all about - and how you can join us in the project.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jam Jar

Nope. It’s not something you spread on toast in the morning. It’s a wine from South Africa. It’s a Sweet Shiraz. It was fruity and fun and almost too drinkable! We had a simple meal of salad and pizza. The screw top Jam Jar 2009 was just right with both. Oh, and so was the price. We bought ours at Wine Nation in Millbury.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I know that there is sunshine and all manner of flora and fauna outside this summer. I know that United States and international politics have not evaporated. I know that the environment and the economy are both still struggling. And it’s not that I don’t care. It’s just that our world has shrunk. The lens we focus to view life through has sharpened and narrowed.

Here’s what we see through that lens:

: : Today marks six weeks post surgery for me - just two more to go.
: : Carrie is doing quite well. She and her husband Al are still working together beautifully as they care for each other and their new daughter.
: : Isabella is one tough little chick. She is sweet and mellow and feisty all rolled up together. She has completely captivated us all. In her thirteen days there has been only one substantial scare - one in thirteen days! Amazing, really, for a child born so soon; so small. (Yes I am knocking on wood.)
: : My sister Gail (Grandma or perhaps GG) heads back to Georgia tomorrow - not the direction she wishes to head right now.
: : My tooth broke and required a trip to our good dentist and (cha-ching) another crown.
: : iPhoto ‘09 and Photoshop CS5 and I are on very good and close terms. I take huge numbers of photos of Isabella and the family and spend hours (which feel like minutes) poring over them; trying to find the best ones.
: : The Boston Red Sox are 69 and 52 on the season - that’s 69 wins, 52 losses, which is incredibly good considering the dugout and bull pen look more like hospital wards.

Happily, most of what is listed above is now good and positive. Some of it has been stressful and challenging. But beyond normal daily routines, we have allowed little else in. I need to correct that last statement. We have not only allowed but welcomed your encouragement and good wishes for Isabella and her parents. Thank you!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

One Day At A Time

This has been an unusual few months. As my sister-in-law put it, we got “up close and personal with the health care system” this summer. (Yes, she is the mistress of the understatement!) I’m at the five and a half week mark in my post-surgery recuperation - less than three weeks to go. Our niece Carrie’s condition improved enough so that she has been discharged from the hospital. And our beautiful grandniece Isabella continues to make progress.

In her first week Isabella gained a little weight and added an inch to her length. When we spend time with her, despite her petite size, we have absolute confidence she will grow and thrive and have a long healthy, happy life. It is only when the phone rings with updates or we look up a symptom or procedure on the internet, that we feel a little flush of fear wash over us.

The risks are never far from our minds. Yet we try to stay focused on the all that is good; all that is working. We remain grateful and try to remember to be here now.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Knock Wood Before Reading

In the short six days that Isabella Rose has been with us she has done remarkably well. In fact, her doctors have said that she is doing better than many other babies born at 26 weeks. Every afternoon at 4:02 pm her Mom and Dad sing Happy Birthday to her. We are now in day seven. Tomorrow afternoon will be her one week birthday. We are amazed and grateful and hopeful.

Carrie, Isabella’s Mom, has been riding a bit of a medical roller coaster. She has been making steady progress, looks wonderful and is in good spirits, but she is still in the hospital. However, when you calculate what her body went through with the Severe Preeclampsia and the caesarian section we are left amazed and grateful and far more than hopeful.

Al, Carrie’s husband and Isabella’s Dad has been wonderful. We’ve loved Al since long before he and Carrie married. We always knew he was a good guy. But this medical crisis has only served to bring out the best in him. Watching the easy, gentle and loving way he and Carrie have between them is another cause for gratitude and yes, joy.

Thank you for your good wishes and support. It means so much to all of us.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Day Three Begins

Today was another positive day for Carrie and Bambalina. Carrie felt much stronger and better than yesterday. Bambalina had a good day too and met her Great Grandmother “Nana”. She also held her Daddy’s finger!

The other big news is that the name Bambalina will now be retired and become part of our beautiful grandniece’s birth story. As of today, her name is officially Isabella Rose! Miss Isabella is only 52 hours old. Yet she has nestled right into our hearts and filled us with wonder.

Friday, August 6, 2010


: : Carrie and Bambalina continue to hold their own and make progress despite the unexpected dangers of the last few days. We are so grateful for the excellent care and attention they are both receiving.

: : The CEO of the hospital I stayed at a month ago replied to my letter which was a happy surprise. Best of all, my letter was being forwarded to nine additional department heads whose areas of responsibility I had commented on.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Early Arrival

Miss “Bambalina” arrived very, very early. Late this afternoon, our niece Carrie delivered her daughter who weighed in at just one pound, six ounces. Carrie is doing well after the wrenching fight with Severe Preeclampsia and amazingly Bambalina is doing well too! Al and Carrie have yet to settle on a name so we get to call the newest member of the family Bambalina for just a little while longer.

Chuck and I were lucky enough to see Carrie briefly and spend a great amount of time with Al and Bambalina in the NICU. We know that after only 26 weeks traveling with her mother, she will be taking it ounce by ounce and day by day. But she and Carrie are receiving the best possible, compassionate, highly skilled care. And I have to tell you that the more time we spent with Bambalina, the more she struck us as relaxed and sweet as well as strong and tough.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I Took Names

Jeff of Wormtown Taxi has been dealing with cancer along with other health challenges. Reading his descriptions of his current hospitalization sent chills through me. He uses words like “torture”, “sadists”, “maximum annoyance” and characterizes the purpose as [for patients to be] “driven down into complete submission”.

It sounds absolutely dreadful and I sincerely hope that Jeff is back home with Kathy very, very soon.

But it did remind me that I wanted to mention another important part of my drastically different recent hospitalization: I took names.

Starting with my CT Scan weeks before my surgery, I began making note of the names of the kind, friendly, well intentioned people who worked with me. Three shifts a day, the names of my nurses and aides were written for me on the dry-erase white board in my hospital room. With Chuck as my nearly constant companion, he jotted their names down for me, along with the volunteers and anyone who contributed to my care. A few weeks after I got home I drafted a letter. I worked on it over several days. Eventually a three page missive - heck, if it were put to music it would be more accurately described as a paean - went into the mail.

I wanted to be certain that the hospital CEO, the director of nursing and others knew exactly what they had done right. From the spectacular nurses to the spotless facilities to the room service style food to the pre-op nurse who managed to get my IV started deftly and painlessly (usually an enormous challenge) - I wanted to give them details. At first blush three pages may sound excessive. But it needed to be done. Obviously the hospital already has a patient centered culture, but it can’t hurt to hear from someone who noticed and appreciated all the details - big and small - which made my hospital stay such a superb experience.

Monday, August 2, 2010

What Worked

I was lucky. I knew I would be hospitalized and having surgery several weeks ahead of time. As a result, I was able to prepare and figure out what I needed. Besides finding a brilliant, compassionate surgeon, here’s what worked for me:

: : I purchased and read quite a bit of Peggy Huddleston’s book “Prepare for Surgery, Healer Faster”. I did not follow all of her advice, but I found it very useful. I did listen to her companion relaxation CD - a lot - (which I loaded onto our iPod) and found that to be tremendously helpful throughout the entire process. I listened to it when I felt my anxiety begin to rise in the weeks leading up to the surgery and in the hospital at night when I couldn’t sleep. (Both are available on Amazon here and here.)

: : I created a folder in iPhoto called “Favorite/Special People & Places”. I dragged in photos of family, friends, Bar Harbor, Acadia, favorite digi-scrap layouts and so on. I loaded that folder onto our iPod. Many, many times I flipped through those photos, each of which made me smile. Connecting visually with the people, places, memories and moments I love made me feel good and calmed me down. It also helped me think ahead to what I would like to do after my recovery.

: : I reached out to the people in my life who I could count on. Chuck was naturally and rightfully at the top of that list! I knew I needed kind, well intentioned and funny people pulling for me, each in their own unique way. I sent out the call and the responses bowled both of us over.

: : As soon as I went into surgery, Chuck began sending group e-mail updates to those close friends and family members who were part of my “team”. That kept them informed and their responses were tangible support to Chuck while he waited. When I was out of the recovery room, Chuck continued the updates and the responses cheered us both immensely.

: : I remembered to be me. I made sure to engage positively and with good humor with every person I came in contact with. I wanted to be sure that I would not be just another number. I wanted to connect with the people responsible for my care. Coping with life’s challenges through laughter is one of my favorite strategies. Kidding around with my surgical nurse on the way to the operating room; joking with my nurses over profoundly embarrassing personal moments - that guaranteed I was not a number! I was Lee.

: : I walked. Before surgery back in 1987, my sister Gail advised me to get up and walk as soon as I was able. It was good advice then and now has become the gold standard for post-op recovery advice. This time I would emerge from my room, wrapped in my robe, one hand on my IV pole, the other on my incision and slowly but surely travel up and down the hallway. I did so at any hour of the day or night, always encouraged by the nurses and Chuck.

I was lucky.
I remain filled with gratitude for extremely good health care, fine health insurance, excellent nurses, generous friends and family and my understanding husband.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Salmon & Potatoes

After my two week post-op appointment (see "Returning..." below), Chuck took me to a Trader Joe’s. My energy was still very thin, but we needed to stock up on some easy meal options. I had seen the TJ’s pre-cooked salmon in the refrigerated section for ages, but had never tried it. This time I did and what follows turned out to be delicious - and blessedly uncomplicated.

Lee’s Salmon & Potatoes

Trader Joe’s pre-cooked salmon - comes refrigerated, having already been steamed with just salt and lemon (Substitute leftover poached salmon)
Yukon Gold potatoes, 3/4” dice
Onions, coarsely chopped

Olive oil
White Wine
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder

Light Sour Cream
Cain’s Mayonnaise
Lemon Juice
Trader Joe’s Mustard Aioli Sauce (Substitute a little mustard & some garlic to taste)

Lemon wedges

Toss the cubed potatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and dill. Make sure they are well coated. Spread on a parchment paper covered baking tray and (convection) bake at about 400F until tender inside and crispy and golden brown outside.

Meanwhile, saute the onions in olive oil, butter, water and white wine.Season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder and dill. Remove from heat when they are golden and soft - and most liquid has evaporated.

In a small bowl mix two parts light sour cream to one part mayonnaise, a splash of lemon juice, a heaping teaspoon of Trader Joe’s Mustard Aioli sauce, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and dill.

On a plate, place a layer of the hot roasted potatoes.
Spoon some warm sauteed onions over the potatoes.
Place the cold salmon chunks on top.
Add a squeeze of lemon.
Drizzle the sauce over all and enjoy!

Serve with a tossed salad or other veggie.

We had leftovers. So I created this variation for brunch:

I placed some cherry tomatoes, sliced in half, cut side down in two gratin dishes. I spooned the leftover onions over the tomatoes and popped the dishes in a hot (400F) convection oven. When they were sizzling, I added the leftover potatoes on top.

Meanwhile, I poached two eggs.

When the potatoes were heated through, I removed the gratin dishes from the oven. I placed the leftover cold salmon chunks on top of the potato layer and slid a poached egg on top. I drizzled the last of the cold sauce over all.

Both versions were very satisfying. The first was cool enough for a summer evening. While the second, in the gratin dishes, held the heat and would be good any season of the year.


I put Pink Granite on hiatus back on July 6th. The next day I had surgery. I’m happy to report that everything went better than my surgeon had anticipated. The care I received from my surgeon, as well as the nursing staff at the hospital was wonderful. And Chuck has been taking excellent care of me ever since. This coming Wednesday will mark the halfway point in my healing and recovery time. I’ve been back on Twitter for a while now - 140 characters was far less intimidating than a full blog post! But it feels very good to be back here.