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Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Last week was the third time I got pulled away from a Brooklyn writing retreat. Last week I heard the worst reason I could have imagined. My daughter was told she had an osteosarcoma, which is primary bone cancer. She was told this on the phone from a stranger. After she hung up, she called her dad. After he hung up, he called me. "You need to come home." What now? It was getting to be a running joke. My Brooklyn friends began taking bets on how long it would take before I flew out of town. I never imagined the reason would be my daughter has cancer.

I'm asking him questions that he has no answers to, and all he keeps repeating is "You need to come home." Well, duh! Was that statement even necessary to utter, never mind three times? When I asked him why our daughter didn't call me, he said she didn't want to bother me. Seriously? For all the times I've been "bothered" by ridiculous crap, being told you have cancer doesn't rate a higher "bother" than those? After I hung up with him, I called my daughter.

After listening to my husband, I already know I will have to be the strong one. I feel guilty I'm not there to hug her as she spills. Fucking writing retreat. Once I get passed the initial shock stage, I ask how this all came to be. In a nutshell...she slipped on a rock in a creek a couple of weeks ago. She landed on her front leg. As the days went on, the leg bruised, became swollen, and a pretty big "lump" sprouted. In her case, lumps sprouting never seem to go away. Instead, their roots expand and strangle. When it got to the point where she could barely put pressure on that leg, she went to the Doctor's Express and they took x-rays. The staff sent her on her way.

The next day, a Thursday, she received a call from the center stating that the radiologist saw an osteosarcoma. My daughter first thought they said chondroma so she said, "I have a lot of those and there's really no treatment. Ok, thank you." The girl on the phone said, "No it's a sarcoma, and that means cancer. What doctor do you want us to send the report to?" I can only imagine what went through her head at that moment. She told them to send them to a local Orthopedist who she had seen one time before, last year. She set up an appointment for Monday. My husband got in the car on Friday, and I was back in town on Saturday.

Of course, the first thing one does when hearing such a diagnosis, is head to Google. First I searched about the cause, and treatment of osteosarcomas to brush up on them, then I searched for specialists in it. It's a given she would not be getting treatment in Roanoke. I think the rate of getting osteosarcoma is like .02% It's not a big name disease like breast or lung cancer. Most local orthopedics are schooled for sports injuries, not limb-saving cancer treatments. Still, the local ortho center could at least look at the x-rays and give us a second opinion.

On Monday we went to the Ortho, and the disc that the Doctor's Express gave us of the X-rays were unreadable, just thumbnails that couldn't open. The Ortho ordered more X-rays, and even though my daughter showed exactly where the problem was, they went by what was written on the chart, right knee, so that new set was no good either. More X-rays taken. Up to this point, we had only seen the PA, not the DR. After the X-rays they took us to see the Dr.

Without even looking at her leg,  never mind examining it, he declared he didn't think it was a sarcoma. He then went into an explanation about how rare they are (yes, we know), and how they don't usually form on the leg (wrong, that's the most common place.) He then proceeded to zero in on her ankle which also showed a chondroma. He went into something about bones' positions causing her pain while walking. He also mentioned something about fixing that and straightening her leg at the same time. What...is...he...talking about? We are not here for that. We are here to talk about what a radiologist said is a sarcoma.

I asked him why I didn't see the tumor on the X-ray where she is in pain. His reply was, "I can't answer that." Huh? True, I was praying to Padre Pio all weekend to heal her, but does the little monk really work that fast??? I asked about her fatigue, "I can't answer that." I asked how come her blood pressure 154/100 was so high (another sign according to the cancer.org site) She usually has low blood pressure. His reply, "I can't answer that, I'm not that type of doctor." And I guess I understand...he's a specialist, not a general practitioner. I just thought since they are symptoms of osteosarcoma, he might have been familiar with them.

So I point blank ask him, "Can you definitely tell me if she does or does not have osteosarcoma?" "Probably not, but I'll order an MRI to be certain." Ok, good, that's all I want. That's all I need from him, even though it pissed me off that he didn't want to tell them to look for cancer, as he didn't want to, in too many words, "color their findings." I think it probably has more with insurance protocol as to what type of doctor can request an MRI for what type of illness. Whatever, just get it done. Might as well do as many tests as we can locally before heading out of town, if necessary, for treatment.

Believe me, there is nothing I want more than to believe that he's right and she "probably" doesn't have cancer, but I'm not betting on "probably." Roanoke has a piss poor rate of correct diagnosis and I know we need to take matters into our own hand. I wish that I had the powers to just call in the tests I want taken. Unfortunately I'm not a doctor and I need that intermediary. The ortho didn't say we should see her primary, nor did he order blood work. I guess he's not that type of doctor. So we went to the primary doctor, who took us a little more seriously, and ordered various tests. No, there is no "you got cancer" test, but there are numbers that can be looked at to see something is awry.

As of this writing, the blood results have not come back. The MRI has been scheduled in a week from now. For a disease that is so fast moving there sure is a lot of waiting, and the waiting is the hardest part.







Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Monday, July 6, 2015

Coney Island Fireworks

A couple of shots taken while watching fireworks in Coney Island from the boardwalk...














Fireworks every Friday night in Coney Island at 9:45pm.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Weekend in Raleigh

When my 22-year-old son told me his company was moving from Roanoke, VA to Raleigh, NC and they had made him an offer he couldn't refuse, my emotions ran wild. Although I was thrilled he would be advancing in his career, I was worried about him fleeing the nest so soon, and so far away. Deep down inside I knew Roanoke would not be the place for him to carve out a career, but it's hard letting go of your first-born. Well, after spending an extended weekend in Raleigh with him and his girlfriend I am so happy he jumped ship!

Although busy, he seems very content with his work environment, and I absolutely love his home environment! Besides the affordable, clean, safe, amenity-filled apartment complex they live in, I found Raleigh itself to be so much nicer than Roanoke. Frankly, since it was further south, I expected it to be filled with confederate flag waving rednecks. Nope, not at all. Ok, so the drivers stink, and much like Roanoke drivers, do not know how to use a signal, and come to practically a complete stop when making a turn, that's not enough of a reason to dislike Raleigh.

Pretty much everyone I met was friendly, although Roanokers were as well, before I actually moved here, so that's not a reason to love Raleigh. What I really was impressed with was the amount of culture that is available in Raleigh. Of course my son and his girlfriend hadn't been to any place I wanted to visit, so the out-of-towner, me, showed them what's right under their noses.

The museums rock! We visited the science museum first, and didn't spend nearly enough time to see the entire complex because I wanted to visit the history museum right across the street before it closed. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences puts our science museum to shame. Four stories high with a bridge to another building it has so much to offer, especially for kids of all ages. Without going into everything I highly recommend it to anyone who has children. Oh, and did I mention it was free? Here's a couple of pics...








You are allowed to go inside the butterfly exhibit, it was cool


Right across from it is the North Carolina Museum of History. It's not as large as the Science Museum, but I found it quite interesting as I stumbled upon some exhibits regarding slavery that will come in handy for my book. The reason I was so gung-ho about going was I had seen a Pharaoh sign and assumed they had Egyptian exhibits, but no, they didn't, that was a misleading sign for the restaurant inside. It was still worth the price of admission, which was free!



We parked in a lot downtown that charges $2 per hour...very reasonable for a downtown lot. And had it not been, 97 degrees out we would have done some more exploring. I'll save that for the next visit.


I did find my Egyptian art the next day at the North Carolina Museum of Art. I couldn't even begin to list all they have in the two buildings and the 160 acre outdoor museum park, which again, was way too hot to explore. After visiting this museum, in case you already haven't, you will realize what a joke the Taubman is. Oh, and did I mention the admission was, yup, free!

Many Rodin works of art were on display





A Nick Cave creation, yes that Nick Cave
I think this was called Bridal. Something similar happened  to me with my first wedding bridal gifts

There is no shortage of restaurants or shopping centers in Raleigh. We hit a Trader Joe's,  passed numerous Ross's (my favorite) and every other department store you can think of. If the girl was with me on this trip I imagine we would have entered Sak's, Nordstrom's, and the malls. Instead, I brought my husband to this antique-type farmer's market/village right down the road from the apartment. He found four different metal bases that he is going to re-finish to make either granite tables or wooden ones. What a score! When we had gone to Black Dog a couple of weeks ago they wanted $185 for he most rusted piece of crap you could imagine. Yeah, no. Here's a couple of what we could fit in the car. Had we had the van we would have brought even more back. Can't wait to see what he will do with them.


I also saw a sign on the same road for a Durant Nature Park so I talked them into checking it out. We drove down a dirt road to a parking lot and walked through the woods on a trail and found this lake. It was so peaceful, and once again, if it wasn't 97 degrees I would have loved to walk around it. I'm sure it's gorgeous in the spring and fall.






Raleigh has a lot of natural parks, lakes, trails, etc. My son is not the outdoors-type, but I plan on checking them out next time I go. And what was great after a hot day of sight-seeing was taking a dip in his complex's pool. Nope, neither he or his girlfriend have used it. Crazy! I wouldn't leave it!



I couldn't believe how quiet it was by him. You couldn't hear the neighbors at all. No screaming kids, no power tools 24/7, just the sweet tweet of birds. If it all works out and my son decides to stay in Raleigh (he's waiting to see which neighborhood Google is going to lay its fiber optics in before deciding where to buy a house) this could be my future hometown. Although the beach house was always the dream house, I don't think it's doable. So...I told my husband that I would settle for an in-ground pool instead.


I think my daughter would really like the area too and perhaps she will ask for a transfer to the television station there in a couple of years. I think I prefer her to be in Raleigh before heading to Manhattan. Only time will tell if Raleigh is "the" place, but as long as my son is happy, I'm happy. Leaving Roanoke was the smartest move he could make. Now, when am I going to be able to do that????

Father and son reflecting...

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Protect That Wallet!


Since it recently happened to someone in my family, I thought a post about what to do if your wallet is stolen would be in order. I guess the first bit of advice I can impart is to try and not get that wallet stolen! I don't know if it's because I was born and bred in Brooklyn, rode the subways, worked in Manhattan, traveled amongst Gypsy pick-picketers in Italy, and spent innumerable days in crowds, that I am always very aware of where my pocketbook is.

My preference is a shoulder bag that I drape diagonally across my chest. That bag will not have just a snap closing, but will be zippered, and most likely have a couple of compartments that are also zippered. The victim in this tale used a backpack-type of article as a pocketbook, which may look stylish and is convenient, but provides the worst kind of protection. It's even worse if the backpack is only closed with a type of drawstring which leaves an opening under the flap where a hand could easily be inserted. To prove my point, as we were waiting on a line, I slipped my hand into said backpack and the victim didn't even realize it. Although it was a possibility that the victim had her wallet slipped out by a stranger on an elevator in her "fancy" apartment building, this was not the case. Note: if you notice someone you don't know is standing by the front or side door of a building that needs a pass to enter, you DO NOT hold the door open for them, and then ride the elevator up with them standing behind you!

When I'm in a restaurant, I never, ever, ever drape my bag across the back of the chair. That would mean the only eyes on it would be the person who is sitting across the table from me. We're conversing, eating, and drinking so they most likely wouldn't notice if someone slipped it off the back of the chair. Also, never, ever, ever put your bag on the floor, especially not next to an open seat where someone could sit. This happened to a friend of mine many years ago while we were at a happy hour in Manhattan. We were having a good time when a woman sat down next to us and struck up a conversation. She left after about five minutes and the waitress came over to us and said we better check our bags because she thought there was something "odd" about our visitor. Sure enough, my friend's wallet was gone. As we were talking the thief dropped her napkin and retrieved it along with a stuffed wallet. I have the habit of always keeping my pocketbook on my lap. Yes, it's annoying, and drives my husband crazy, but that's what I do.

If you are at a party, or in a club, or in a bar, just like you should not leave your drink unattended, do not leave your pocketbook alone. Although it's good to be trusting of people, something I definitely am not, if you meet people and do not know them do not leave your pocketbook in a room while you go to the bathroom! This is what happened to the victim. Just because a person is an assistant manager and their girlfriend is a bartender in a local downtown restaurant and they live in your "fancy" apartment building, that doesn't mean they are on the up-and-up, and should be trusted. An invitation to "hang out" at their place might be the pre-cursor for forming a friendship, but one should be treat strangers like strangers, with a wary eye. Oh, and when you go back to your apartment and find your wallet is gone do not think for a moment that those newfound "friends" would ever admit to taking it.

So you were foolish, you were robbed, or perhaps you just lost your wallet, what do you do first? Before you call your mother, call your bank, immediately! Tell them to cancel your debit card. Ask them to tell you the last couple of charges to make sure your card hasn't already been used. Next, call your credit card companies, and alert them. If you had any cash in the wallet, especially if it was stolen and not lost, you can kiss that goodbye. Your license is gone? That really sucks. Now you not only have to go to the DMV, but you have to worry about identity theft. Since this particular victim is already a victim of identity theft, has no credit, and is in fact "deceased", or, owns a house, car, jewelry loan, all obtained by the age of 14, depending upon the credit bureau, she's already living in a nightmare. So good luck to a thief trying to be her!

So what else is in your wallet? Most likely your health insurance card. You need to call them and alert them in the chance that the thief decides to go to an emergency room that night. You don't want to be responsible for their medical bills when you can barely pay your own. Never, ever, ever carry your social security card! You're only helping the thief become you since there's no picture on it. Your library card should also be reported, although chances are the thieves aren't well read, but why take a chance? All those discount cards could probably wait until you go to the store and then let them know.

Should you let the police know? Although they will not find your wallet, I think it's a good idea in the chance that someone commits a crime or traffic infraction and uses your license which you wouldn't even know until you got pulled over for something, or began getting summonses in the mail for missed court dates. In this particular case we waited until after going to the DMV to get a replacement, which will cost $20, and you will not receive one on the spot. Since we suspected it was stolen and not lost, but didn't have definitive proof, we hemmed and hawed on what to do. I was all for going to the cops, but was vetoed down. A couple of hours later after carefully mulling it over, I insisted we go to the cops, but by that time, something miraculous happened. The victim got a call from a stranger who lived in Washington state. The woman found a wallet in the parking lot of the Bonsack Kroger. Inside she found a little slip of paper with a phone number scrawled on it which happened to be the victim's cell phone number. She called it and drove all the way downtown to return it. She was an angel indeed, and may good fortune follow her wherever she goes!

So, a couple of things...we now know the victim certainly did have her wallet stolen as she had never been to that Kroger. The thieves probably went to one far enough away so that the name wouldn't be recognized and most likely tried to use the debit card but couldn't. Since there was no cash nor credit cards in the wallet, haha!, they tossed it. Now, if it was me, I would have taken that wallet, and debit card to the precinct and had them dust for prints to see if they matched anyone in the system. In fact, I probably would go back to the "suspects" place and hand them something to get a copy of their prints to match. But the victim is not me...she doesn't have the 100% Sicilian vengeance gene. I imagine she will not approach the couple either as I would, but I hope I drilled into the victim's head to avoid them at all costs, never venture into the restaurant where they work, and never open her door if they are standing on the other side. So much for living in a "fancy", over-priced, under-secured, downtown building. No, there will be no renewal of the lease.

Had the victim not had that tiny slip of paper with her phone number on it, which she doesn't even remember putting in there, her wallet would not have been recovered and we would be fretting, wondering, what deviousness she would be encountering in the future. So, it got me thinking...most of us have cell phones and as we may be listed in a phone book via our landline, chances are you no longer even have a landline, so there is no listing to find you by name. Not everyone would take the time to mail a wallet back if found. So now I have instructed all of us in the family to put our cellphone numbers on a piece of paper with an, "if found, please call, thank you" note on one side and an "in case of emergency, please call" with my number on it. I think everyone should do that. Maybe you already do, but I never thought of it before this happened, so, for me it was a lesson learned. I hope the victim has learned lessons as well.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Granite Serving Stones


I'm pretty fortunate that my husband doesn't laugh at all of my ideas, but in fact, can usually implement some of them!  Our latest foray in me taking advantage of his talented hands, deals with reclaimed granite. We've gotten our hands on some lovely pieces which I initially envisioned could be recycled into cheese boards. Upon further reflection I realized they can be used for many things, as you can see in the above flyer.

We have a couple of pieces ready to go and they will be available for local folks at the shop. I haven't decided yet if I want to delve into on-line selling, but between these granite creations, and his various wooden pieces, I have been thinking about maybe talking my husband into joining some local craft shows or markets. I just have no idea how to go about it all! The reality is that there are no old mechanics and he's getting "old." We need to come up with another way to bring income into the house and since he loves woodworking and creating beautiful objects d'art I hope I can help him fulfill his dream of doing what he loves.  If we were to depend upon my book sales we would starve, and since prolific is not a word I would use to describe my writing, and I'm not a romance writer, we're not going to be getting rich on it any time soon.

I've taken shots of some of the pieces he has already finished and would like to share them. All the serving stones come with a cheese spreader which will most likely change after they are sold. The small and medium ones right now have a marble handled one, and the larger pieces come with a Il Mulino New York stainless steel one.

The pieces are all irregular shaped, have different dimensions, some more smooth sides than others, and all are heavy. The added red oak feet serve not only to protect your counter tops, etc. but also serve to elevate the piece so you can slip your hands underneath and lift it easily.

If you are interested in any of them, or have questions, just drop me a line at Light540@gmail.com. And if you locals know of any festivals, markets, stores, etc. that you think we would fit in with, I'd appreciate hearing about that too! I'd also love to hear your experiences with Etsy, Amazon and/or eBay as a possibility.

The first five taken outdoors to better reflect their color

This is the largest one...approximately 14.5" x 9.25" - 2 smooth sides

$45

I call this Arkansas - approximately 9" x 8" - 1 smooth side

$35

I call this slice of pizza - approximately 10" x 12" - 2 smooth sides

$35

I call this sushi slate - approximately 12" x 5" - 3 smooth sides

$35

You can't really tell but this has a green tone to it - approximately 8" x 6.75" - 3 smooth sides

$30

To really appreciate the beauty and colors of the stone you have to see them in person. I have them on display at the shop in Salem so feel free to stop by. We have a couple of beautiful square pieces and Frank is already thinking about how to make them into end, side, and perhaps even a coffee table. Stay tuned...