31 August 2015

Saying goodbye

I wish I had some good news but I am saddened to pass along the news of SIL's passing.  Julie passed away peacefully Saturday afternoon at MD Anderson with friends and family by her side.  

She has been struggling with her cancer for the past two years with various degrees of success but, ultimately the cancer spread and took her light.  She went into the hospital two weeks ago in a good deal of pain and nausea.  They tried to stem the pain and give her some comfort, but the cancer had spread to the point it that not much could be done.  The past few days were hard on everyone.  She had been slowly declining since the weekend and things did not look promising.  Along with my wife and I, several of Julie’s friends took turns staying with her at the hospital so she had someone with her.  Our son drove down Friday afternoon to see her as well.  We went up to the hospital Saturday to sit with her and her friend, not really sure how much time she had.  She passed away quietly around 3:00 pm with my wife by her side.       

This has been long in coming.  Julie was nephrologist (kidney doctor) and knew the score.  Ever since she was diagnosed 2+ years ago, she was pessimistic about her chances but chose to fight it regardless.  Despite all of the obstacles thrown her way, she kept fighting it.  Several months back, she and her oncologist decided the chemo wasn't doing anything but making her sick and stopped the treatments.  Afterwards, she seemed resigned to her fate.  My wife stayed with her throughout the entire process.  Staying at home with her, the multiple trips to the hospital/ER, taking care of her treatments.  She set aside a lot of things to be at her sister's side, providing some comfort.  I'll have to admit, it wasn't easy, I am not sure I would have had the stamina to do it.  

To provide some minor respite, we tried to get her out of the house for a day just to break the routine, even if for a short while.  She loved spending Saturday afternoons over at my brother's garage (GRAJ).  Between talking on cars, family, dogs and eating something from the grill, it was something that enabled all of us to forget about life for a while.   My wife would bring her over to our house every other day as another break.  Julie loved walking the dogs with me when I got home, even if it was 98 degrees outside.  She looked forward to it, it gave her some relief from the pain, and the dogs certainly didn't object.    We spend a lot of time discussing her status while walking the dogs.  We covered a lot of topics, ideas, questions.  I broached the subject of her final wishes.  With her mother's passing earlier this year, she decided to be cremated but did not want to be buried back at the family plot in Arkansas.  Instead, she wanted to remain with us, although, we haven't determined where we will wind up.  I told her that I wanted to be cremated as well but, in lieu of a burial, I wanted my ashes spread over Kyle Field.  Fat chances of that happening - something about some sort of regulations against that.  I was not trying to be morbid on these discussions and she felt some relief to unload on me as it was hard to discuss these issues with my wife.  We also talked/debated about a memorial service.  She did not really want one because she didn't want to burden everyone and didn't want people to feel sorry for her but  I kinda convinced her that her family and friends might want to have one, if for anything to remember and honor her life - sort of a sense of closure for everyone.  We have yet to figure out any details (still too painful to consider), but we have debated using the local church near the medical center.  That way a lot of her coworkers and friends could attend.

Right now, things are moving slowly.  Understandably, momma is exhausted.  I am taking off this week to help settle her affairs, play chauffeur, clean out litter boxes and serve as a general roustabout.   

22 August 2015

The long goodbye

I haven't posted much about my SIL lately.  Honestly, guys, it wasn't because I didn't care or want to share, but, the news just really hasn't been good.  SIL has been fighting the good fight and struggling against her cancer but the journey hasn't been easy. 

Julie went under the knife almost 2 years ago and it has been a struggle ever since.  A lot of infections, much pain, many trips back to the hospital.  

This past weekend we did our weekend trip across town to my brother's garage.  Sort of a break from the routine/rut but I think that Julie felt she needed one more last time with the family.  My son and his wife were down for the weekend and got to spend some time with her.  It was a good time but Julie was in a lot of pain and really not feeling well.  I think it was because she felt this was the last time she would be at the GRAJ.  We kept an eye on her and kept asking if she wanted to leave early.  We did finally pull out early and, on the way home, she and my wife decided that she needed to go to the hospital to try and see if they can do something about the pain.  She checked in late Saturday night and they diagnosed her with pancreatitis.  They were able to deal with it somewhat but she is in a lot of pain and is very tired.  They moved her to palliative hospice care to try and dial in her pain meds and she has been there all week.  My wife has been up there most days and I have been going up in the afternoons to sit with her and give her a little company.  She is struggling and discouraged and ready to go.  Her doctor friends have been by several times and have talked with us on the side and have been pretty honest with their thoughts/opinions.  Her chances of getting any better are pretty nil.  The cancer has metastasized into her lungs and has made it hard for her to breath.  We are headed up to the hospital now to sit with her and talk about what she wants to do.  Julie just turned 62 two weeks ago and the past two years have been very hard her and my wife.  We are preparing for the inevitable but I know this will devastate my wife.  I know that Julie has thanked me for being there this week but I feel really helpless.  All I can do is be there for her and her sister.  It is no longer a matter of if, but a matter of when.  Everyone asks if they can do anything but it is really in the Lord's hands right now.  

19 August 2015

Taking it easy

Claire's back home tonight.  The vet said she came through her procedure with flying colors.  No complications and they were able to remove the mass easily.  They are sending it off for a path test but the vet said it didn't look bad/alarming so he felt this was more of a cyst/growth, but I'll wait until the lab test come back next week.  

Meanwhile, Claire is on the DL for the next two weeks.  No walks, no swimming and no baths until the stitches come out.  I will take her back on Friday to have her bandage removed.  She is a bit groggy and not up to her normal personality, but it may take a day for the effects of the anesthesia to wear off.  In the interim, she's getting extra attention/loving.  


18 August 2015

Paws crossed

A lot of things on the plate right now.  We are handling some challenges with SIL that I will elaborate on later.  SIL would come over to the house every 2-3 days to walk the dogs with me when I get home from work.  It has turned into a routine that the dogs seem to love even if it is still 95 degrees.  Even though she is getting tad older and a wee bit slower, Claire still loves to roll over and do some "grass twerking" when we get to our local pocket park.  Seems to be a routine for her and who am I to deny her inner puppy.  

When we were out last Thursday on our normal walk, I spotted something odd with one of her paws that I hadn't notice before.  I thought one of her pads was cut or inflamed but it turned out to be not the case.  Some odd growth on the side of her left paw.  It looked red and swollen and I initially thought it was some bug bite but it wasn't bothering her.  She wasn't limping or showing any signs of distress even with me poking at it.  Not something I wanted to see.  Goldens are susceptible to getting mast cell growths, some of which can be cancerous.  One of our club members just lost her dog of 12+ years yesterday due to a massive tumor under her neck and this kind of discovery frankly scares the shit out of me.  I booked an appointment with the vet on Saturday and had it checked out.  The vet said took a simple biopsy and said there were some suspect cells and growth that needed to be addressed soon.  Not willing to wait, I booked her into surgery in the morning to have the mass removed and sent off for analysis.  Right now, it is small enough to be removed without having major complications but I am still concerned.  Claire's a tough old girl but I still worry any time they put her under.  I am sure she ain't going to be happy but I'll post her progress tomorrow when she gets home.   

15 August 2015


I normally don't do movie or book recommendations.  I feel that my tastes in books & movie differ from other (normal) people.  My picks can be somewhat twisted (or warped as the wife tells me) and what I find funny/interesting doesn't always follow the norm.  I'll leave the movie reviews to Abby.  She is way better at finding good movies and is pretty much spot on when it comes to her reviews.  That said, I did want to share one of my recent screenings.  I have a number of different movies queued up in my Netflix account.  They are all over the road from new releases to comedies to classics.  One that I bumped to the top of the list recently was the movie Wild with Reese Witherspoon.  Based upon Cheryl Strayed's tale of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone. 

Basically a story of a woman of finding redemption by hiking over 1000 miles on the PCT one summer.  The PCT is over 2600 miles long and runs from the Mexico border all the way up to Canada crossing a wide variety of terrains/mountains.  Not your typical Sunday stroll in the park.  Definitely not for the novice or faint of heart.  Cheryl hiked it solo back in 1995 after some personal tragedy as a means of finding her self.  An interesting saga of how an ill prepared person with grit & determination can overcome some daunting challenges.  Cheryl was definitely not prepared at the outset of her hike but she managed to conquer the trail despite all of the obstacles she encountered along the path.  And, while I am not an overly huge Reese fan (was a pretty good June Carter), I really liked her portrayal.  Very compelling.  Something that I is on my bucket list that I will probably never cross off.  And I found the story so interesting that I went out and bought the book.  I've only done that 2-3 times when I found a movie interesting enough to dig into the back story.  Again, I normally don't recommend books but this one was a great read.   

I've hiked small portions of the Appalachian Trail (AT), but nothing more that a couple of weekend treks.  Backpacking has always been a passion for me.  Hiking & camping along the mountain trails was something that I would prefer to do in lieu of a vacation at a spa resort.  That's why I was really into our treks at Philmont in New Mexico with the scouts a few years back.  Unfortunately, we don't have too many mountains down here on the on the coast.  I guess it started out when my family spent a few summers camping out in Colorado when I was a young pup.  Long road trip from New Jersey in the old Pontiac station wagon.  Later, when both brothers were off at college, my parents & I spend a few weeks in Red River, New Mexico.  My dad & I hiked up to Middle Fork Lake and spent a few nights camping out.  That sort of sparked my passion for backpacking/camping and led to my walkabout in 1977.  The summer prior to my junior year I was taking some summer classes and working a minimum wage job down at the Chrysler dealership.  Things were at a lull at the time and I was taking one of those motivational speaking courses for.  One of the exercises was to express your passion and what you would do given the time and availability and I expressed my desire to go backpacking in the mountains.  The instructor encouraged me to follow through on that desire and I jumped on the idea.  Mom wasn't exactly thrilled with the idea but supported me nonetheless.  I loaded up the Plymouth and headed west to West Texas and New Mexico.  I spent 2.5 weeks roaming through west Texas and hiking the mountains of New Mexico.  From the Guadalupe Mountains to Cloudcroft to White Sands to the Gila National Forest to Red River to Palo Duro Canyon.  Nothing like the trek that Cheryl made, but it was a cathartic road trip for me.  Something to recharge the batteries.  Deep down, I'd love to make a long hike like she did but, at this stage, I have too many obligations and conflicts.  

12 August 2015

Warm enough?

Been a wee bit warm down here of late.  I guess we are making up for all that rain we had earlier...

Working on staying cool, keeping the yard alive.  Thinking about giving the dogs a Chihuahua haircut, but, not really.  I would probably wind up ostracized from the Golden group.      

I would write more but I think my keyboard melted.  

09 August 2015

Psst. C'mere. I gotta deal for you.

H-town.  Ya gotta love this place.  Granted, it doesn't have the majestic peaks and vistas of some places.  No interesting trails like the Incline or historical sites like the Arch, but we do have a beer can house and the Space Center.  And we have our share of interesting people with a talent for turning a profit.  

From localized flooding to irrepressible heat to alligators in your yard, there is always some story or event that really stands out and makes us unique.  From last Tuesday, we had a incident at the local Victoria's Secret shop down in Rice Village.  For those not familiar with Houston, Rice Village is in the hoity-toity district with a bunch of high end stores that tend to cater to people with more discriminating tastes.  Not your normal Target or Walmart crowds.  Anyway, there was a break in at the Victoria's Secret.  Seems that some folk decided to drive a van through the front of the VS storefront and make off with some of the goods.  Speculation is running amok about who would do this nefarious deed and what would be the market for said items.  Yea, right.  I always buy my wife's unmentionables s from a roadside vendor or off of Craigslist.  Oh, wait.  If I am mentioning them here, can they still be considered as "unmentionables"?

That sort of reminds me of one of my old scout stories.  I got a million of them but, to paraphrase the Vegas slogan:  What happens on the trail, stays on the trail.  Well, not so much the trail, but one of many scout stories.  Many, many moons ago, when we were knee-deep in scouts, we did a lot of things to raise money for the troop (keep it clean, folks).  One of our many fund raising ideas was a community garage sale.  Everybody donates items for sale to the troop ans we have one massive yard sale with all proceeds going to the troop.  Was a fun/interesting event.  If you have ever done a garage sale, you know that you can see/sell a lot of interesting things.  And with other people donating stuff, anything is up for sale.  While sorting through all of the incoming donations, Tracy, a friend and one of our scout moms, picked up an interesting thong that was up for sale and noted that:  "Oh, yea, I always get my underwear from garage sales".  That cracked up most of us running the whole sale.  I just have to wonder, exactly what is the market for a van full of hot undies?    

01 August 2015

Tails from the road

Points to Shadowrun.  I figured she might know where I was a few weeks back.  After all, I was kinda in the neighborhood (if not across the state).  I had a business conference in Chicago for a few days at the end of June.  I'll admit I've been to Chicago many times but usually it is either passing through or visiting plants on the west side of Chicago.  I have never been downtown so I took the opportunity to check out the local flora and fauna.  I got in a couple of nice long runs along Lake Shore Drive, found an amazing pizza place (Blaze Pizza) that makes your pie in 3 minutes, hiked across downtown to visit some of the tourist sites, took the "L" train back to the airport.  Pretty good conference, a nice break from the daily headaches at the office.  One more city off my bucket list.       

Chicago Skyline
Navy Pier

Cloud Gate

Water wall
Two guesses where what TV show this fountain is featured in
Some really good pizza

Last weekend I took an extended trip up to New Braunfels (south of Austin) with my brother and his family to spend some time tubing on the Guadalupe River.  It's sort of a summer tradition down here in Texas.  Take a scorching day and go spend it floating down the river on inner tubes with a few hundred other people trying not to get fried.  Momma and SIL were not able to go so I took the furry kids instead.  First time they've been to the river.  For two old hot dogs (who don't swim), it was an interesting weekend.  Hot, wet, & overfed but I think they made out just fine.  

We even squeezed in a side trip to a local dog park that just opened up.