Monday, July 15, 2013


I was looking at my calendar today and I realized I have 5.5 months to get my world together, sort it out, and dispose of the detritus (and there seems to be more detritus than anything else!), if I want to embark on the Epic Bike Ride by the beginning of the year. That is not a lot of time considering I won’t be home all the time (because I have doggies and kitties to take care of) and the huge pile of stuff I have to do. Preparing to leave for about a year is daunting. I have to get my bike and equipment together, I have to get rid of almost everything I own and I have to arrange for storage for the rest and then get it stored. I have to get my truck working so I can use it to store stuff and then sell it.  So, maybe it's time for some lists in order to create order and eliminate panic. Lists are a good way to start a plan, right?

The first item on my mental list was to take my bike down to Recycled Cycles to get shorter pedal cranks to accommodate the wonky knee.  So today I met Trout and my bike down there and it seems the concept of shorter pedal cranks is easier said than done. First, they didn't have any 165 mm cranks in stock, but in addition I'll probably have to get a new bar that attaches the cranks to the cycle and new front cogged gear thingies (as you can see, I don't know the proper terminology) - 3 of them and then pay the labor to get it all changed out and that's probably going to cost about $300 to $400 dollars - money that I don't have.  I'm going to call REI since that's where the bike originally came from, and see if it would be easier to do it there. All in all, very disappointing and dispiriting. I really want to get on the bike and do my daily morning rides and we are in the midst of the best biking weather we get here in Seattle - it doesn't last long, and I'm sitting on my ass trying to figure out how to get it done. It's not like I have all the time in the world.

Well, at least I can start making lists.

BIKE   (Bold = already have)
Shorter pedal cranks
Bike lock
Front basket
Tire pump
Water bottles
Water bottle cages
Extra tire tubes
Tire repair kit
Bicycle tool (the kind like a Swiss army knife?)
Back wheel fender ( for all-weather riding)
Toe cages?
Panniers (thank you to Ryan, my BH)

Polarized sunglasses
Short sleeve top (wicking)
Long sleeve top (wicking)
Fleece top
Waterproof windbreaker
Bike shorts
Bike pants
Bike gloves
New Ipod or MP3 player

Furniture - 3 chairs, 3 bookcases, stereo, stereo cabinet, dresser, gazelle freestyle elite, leaded glass cabinet doors, bedside end table/cabinet, small rolling B/F cabinet.
Ironing board and iron
Tote bags
Kitchen stuff
Brand new white Kitchenaid mixer still in box
Massage table

Tangerine Kitchenaid mixer
Tangerine Kitchenaid blender
Sewing machines
Down comforter

Fix truck
Sell Truck
Sort, sell, donate, store…
Make route maps
Get references for
Get my phone switched to my new Iphone (courtesy of the dazzling Sandi Day) then switch to cheaper service with internet capability 

I know I'm missing a lot here, but I'll use these lists as a starting point and add to them as I need to. What I don't have listed is all the quilts I have in progress that I'd like to finish before I take off. I don't know that I can't finish them all but I'd like to get a few specific ones done. Oy!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Great news! I saw my doctor today and I am off the Coumadin! O happy day! (I apologize for excessive exclamation.)  In three or four weeks I'll go back for some routine blood tests and one to check if I have the same genetic mutation for clotting that my mom has.

To celebrate, I stopped for lunch at Which Wich on the Ave. - they are a local sandwich shop that offers a lettuce wrap alternative. Being off the wheat I haven't been there for a sandwich in months, and having limited vegetable options while on Coumadine, I was unable to do the lettuce wrap. It was delicious, and really a treat since I haven't eaten out in so long.

Being off the sugar and wheat has been fairly easy. I have been tempted, but I just say no thanks. I was at a friend's house for 4th of July and she made a beautiful peach tart (the type of thing that is hardest for me to resist) but I said no thanks.  And one day when I had no food prepared at the house and was rushing off to work, I stopped and got an sandwich because I knew I wouldn't make it until six, but I felt like crap the next day, so, maybe the wheat does affect me and I just never noticed before. The side benefit of this diet change, besides feeling better, is that I've lost 22 lbs. without even trying. My jeans are loose.

Next week I'll get my new, shorter pedal cranks on my bike and I am looking forward to doing a bike ride every morning. I am also looking about my place and seeing how much stuff I need to get rid of - it will almost be a full time job in itself.

Hopefully, my blog entries will become more frequent in the future.  TTFN.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


So, I was talking to my friend Jodi last weekend and I was telling her how I was trying to cut out sugar in my diet.  I started by eliminating cookies, the next week I stopped the ice cream. But the more we talked the more I realized that this incremental getting rid of sugar was a bit bogus.  I can eliminate one thing every week and still eat plenty of sugar for months. This is why talking about it is good - it gives form to nebulous thoughts and helps to tighten up your resolve. So I decided then and there to just quit sugar and wheat. I added the wheat part because so many of my favorite things are baked goods. If I eliminate both, then temptation for scones and pastries gets a double whammy.

Many friends recently have eliminated wheat from their diet and they all feel much better for it. And as Jodi said, wheat is inflammatory, and inflammation is strongly correlated to disease. So - no wheat, no sugar.

It is now day 8 of no wheat, no sugar. Here is how it is going. It's kind of like when I became a vegetarian and I thought I was eating a vegetarian food only to find that there was a meat product in it; Chicken broth in the vegetable soup; Animal fat in pastries. Or like when I went out for dim sum with friends from work and every time the wee Chinese lady brought a dish by I would ask if there was meat in it, and she would reply. "Just a little bit."

I was at Uwajimaya the other day (our local Japanese supermarket) and I thought, rice crackers! Perfect. I lived in Japan until I was 6 so there are Japanese foods that are so much a part of my life, and Osembe (rice crackers) is one. I picked up a bag of nori maki - the crackers with the little piece of seaweed wrapped around it - my favorite.  I snacked on them at work and the next day too, and then I decided to read the ingredients and they have BOTH wheat and sugar!  One day I went into a bento café and had orange chicken which came with the iceberg salad with the delicious rice wine vinegar and sesame oil dressing. As I was eating I began to suspect that the chicken was breaded with wheat instead of panko, and I had a real sneaking suspicion that there was sugar in that dressing…

So here's the deal - you really need to read the labels. Some peanut butter has sugar in it, some rice crackers have wheat. It is ubiquitous. It's kind of like high fructose corn syrup - it's in everything! Also, I realized that eliminating sugar means really curtailing what I drink. I am mainly a water drinker, but I have coffee a couple of times a week, and I drink my coffee sweet - so no coffee. I don’t really drink soda, but every once in awhile I like a root beer or a ginger ale, and. no shaken black tea lemonade from Starbucks in the summer! Oy!

I decided that the easiest way to stay off the wheat and sugar was to make a big pot of something at the beginning of the week and eat it all week long. Last week I made a huge quinoa salad with root vegetables and tarragon vinegar. For book club I brought a quinoa salad that had sautéed onions and zucchini in garlic. Today, as I finished the last of the quinoa salad, I made a crockpot full of chicken, quinoa, barley, onions, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, corn and pozole. And lots of garlic. That will also last me all week. This works well for me because in the kitchen on a daily basis, I am lazy. If there is nothing ready to eat I will just make a sandwich. Which is not really an option any more. Though, when I am off the Coumadin I can make "lettuce wiches", and eat lots of salads. And have broccoli for dinner. I think I'll make my favorite Hungarian dish of all the ones my Grandma taught me, Szekele Goulash. I can't eat it now because it's a lot of sauerkraut, which is cabbage, which is high in vitamin K.

They say it takes a month or so for the sugar craving to go away. I hope it happens sooner. Tomorrow morning I'm meeting my friend, Trout, for coffee at Fremont Coffee House. They roast their own beans and brew a really great cup . I don’t think I'll be drinking coffee though. Maybe a cup of Earl Grey instead. I usually arrive hungry because they have good pastries and quiche, but I think I'll have to eat breakfast before I go, to keep temptation at bay.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Germination of an Idea

About a month ago, I was having coffee with my friend, Trout.  On my way home I stopped at the University Book Store (mainly to use the bathroom - now I understand why I have to pee so much - the cyst puts pressure on the bladder). On the sale table in the front of the store they were having a winter sale - 90% off selected sale books.  Some of you may know, I have a book fetish, addiction, call it what you may. I am trying to get rid of books and only borrow from the library and not buy any more. I have 4 bookcases filled with books and stacks of books by the bed and on what is supposed to be my shoe shelf. It really is out of control. I looked through the sale books anyway and came upon one called, "Over the Hills; A Midlife Escape Across America by Bicycle", by David Lamb. There was a picture of a guy in bike gear with his bike standing by the Continental Divide. It was on sale for 99 cents. I bought it thinking about how much Trout would love it, since he is a bicycling guy. After that I continued up to the KUOW studios where I was volunteering that afternoon for the pledge drive.

As with all pledge drives, there is down time. If you have a really lively table, you never need to bring your book out, but my table was not so lively and I started reading Trout's book.  Mr. Lamb is a journalist and when he was 53 he was having a bit of a mid-life crisis, so he decided to get on a bike and ride across the United States. I could not put the book down. It reminded me that one of the things that I thought I'd do "someday", ever since I was about 18, was to ride my bike across the country. As I read this book I began to think that I might still be able to do it, and that I wasn't getting any younger, and that if I was going to do it, I should do it soon.

Now that the thought was in my head, I couldn't shake it. I got on Google Maps and started looking at possible routes. I got on Craig's List and looked at bikes. I got on and signed up, which I had been meaning to do anyway. Once I signed up with couchsurfing, I started looking at possible stops on possible routes to see what was available. I was pleased at the variety of choice.
This idea grew hourly. I could visit so many friends along the way. I could meet so many people along the way. I could take pictures and blog about it. I could go as slow or as fast as I wanted to, because my purpose wouldn't be to set any records, but to enjoy the journey.

The purpose of the Journey. I thought about this for weeks, I started talking to a few people about it. First I told my boss, Robert, that I was thinking about this. He thought it was a great idea. "Of course I need to get a bike." I said. Robert replied. "We have 2 in the basement that we never use. You can have Patrick's - you're about the same height, it should fit you."

I checked with Patrick to see if it was OK with him that Robert was offering me his bike. It was. He hadn't be on it in six years, I could have it. The beginnings of change are taking shape!

Trout picked the bike up for me and took it to his basement where he could work on giving it a tune up. First thing we did was get the tires pumped up. Then we put it on his indoor roller rider thingy and I got on it to check seat height and comfort. First glitch in the plan. My left knee cannot make the full rotation unless the seat is too high for me to get on or off comfortably. My knee has definitely stiffened up over the years, but I didn't realize how much. I could pedal, but every time the knee came to the upright and flexed position, I had to shift my hip up to accommodate the strain in it.

Solutions? I'm doing exercise to try and get back some more motion, and, I'm going to see if I can get smaller pedal cranks - I only need about 5 more centimeters. Somehow, I will make this work.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Prologue to Change: Crappy Year - Part II

After I got out of the hospital, I spent a couple of days with my friend, Mel. But there is nothing like your own bed, and even though I couldn't do much, at least at home I could sew. After about a week I started going back to work. I was amazed at how quickly my breathing got better once the treatment started - it wasn't perfect but at least I could function.

So, all was going well until one morning when I got this excruciating pain in the lower right side of my abdomen. It was the worst pain I've ever felt and it had me doubled over and, once again,  gasping for breath. I tried to straighten up 3 times and each time the pain went shooting through me. I grabbed  my phone and called 911.

So here's the deal - when you are on Coumadin there are things you have to watch out for: swelling of the legs, discoloration of the legs and internal pain. If you fall, you have to go to the hospital. You have to worry about internal bleeding. I read all the literature I was given, plus more research on line. When I got this pain, I thought I might be dying. No waiting about for a day or two to see if it goes away.

The firemen and paramedics arrived, all cute as per their reputation, and started checking me out. My blood pressure was racing of course and one of them thought it might be my appendix, until I assured him I no longer have my appendix. Another thought it might be a hernia, but I knew it wasn't. We have a history of hernia in my family from my maternal grandmother's side. The boys get inguinal hernias and the girls get hiatal hernia. I had one when I was born - it was fixed by surgery when I was 2 and they reached down and grabbed my appendix while they were at it. My older brother had the inguinal kind, as did his son. My younger brother and my sister never had them.

Once again I found myself in the ER having tests done. It turns out I have an orange sized cyst on my almond sized ovary and the thing was torqueing, causing all the pain. At least it wasn't internal bleeding. After about 8 hours they released me with information and prescription drugs that did absolutely nothing to ease the pain, but they did make me fall asleep. If you can't get rid of it at least you can sleep through it.

After numerous phone calls and doctor visits, ultrasounds and pelvic exams, the Gynos confirmed that it was indeed a cyst, 99% sure it was not cancerous, but nothing could be done about it until I was off the Coumadin. I was told this while flat out on a gurney, in writhing pain. I suggested stopping the Coumadin, doing surgery, then going back on it. No. No go. Her hand on my shoulder, the nice doctor said, "The PE can kill you. This may hurt like hell, but you're not going to die from it." It's hard to argue with that logic.

The good news is, after a rough 3 weeks, the pain went away, and stayed away, knock wood. I guess it took awhile for the cyst to get as big as it is and all the while it didn't hurt. I must have done something physical, which I cannot recall, to cause the thing to torque. If I hadn't done so, I might not even know that I have a big ol' cyst in me.

So, bad start to 2013. Here's the thing though - I am not in pain, but my breathing still isn’t 100%. I feel like crap a lot of the time and my boss, Robert has told me on several occasions, that my memory shows some deficits. Of course, he's still frustrated that I haven't learned to read his mind yet.

Feeling like crap: Low energy. Breathing not great. Occasional tingling in my arms. Occasional numbness in my hands. Difficulty concentrating. Hair falling out more than normal.

These are all side effects of the Coumadin. And then there is this feeling I get of just not feeling good. It's happened 3 or 4 times, when I think, uh, maybe I should go to the hospital. But then I wait a bit, drink some water, eat a banana (always trying to keep my potassium levels up), do some yogic breathing (grateful for that retreat years ago to Esalen where I learned the yogic breathing!) and it lessens. I don’t like it. I don’t like worrying if there is something going on that I can’t control. Sometimes I think it is my heart, but I know it's not because I've been hooked up to a EKG 3 times in the past 4 months and there are no signs of anything wrong.

Oy. I am looking forward to getting off this damn drug and getting the damn cyst removed and getting back to normal. But normal has changed.

Here's a weird twist in the story. About a week after I got out of the hospital for the clots, I went back for a checkup and a refill on the drugs and shots. While waiting at the hospital pharmacy I got a phone call from my cousin Kimmie in Florida. She's not sure if I know or not, but my mom is in the hospital. She had just heard from her father (my father's brother) who had stopped by my parents house to visit, only to find my dad coming out the door saying, "I can’t talk right now, Sun's in the hospital."  I thank her for letting me know and call my dad.  (Sun or Sunny or Sunshine - that's my mom.)

Me: Hi dad. What's going on with mom?
Dad: How the hell do you know?
Me: Dad, you can't stop the flow of information.

At the time of my call they weren't sure what was happening, but it turns out, she had a DVT and a PE! She had also been suffering with the flu, had been inactive, and  found herself unable to breathe. She passed out in the kitchen that morning.

After she was back at home and recuperating I called her. I told her this could just be some weird kind of coincidence, or, maybe it's genetic. I have a friend who has a genetic mutation for clotting, as does her mother. So my mom got the test and yes, she has a mutation for clotting. Under normal circumstances, I would have a 50/50 chance of also having the mutation, but considering I already have the clots, the doctors agree, it's probably a 99%+ chance that I also have it.

Unfortunately, my mom is having a harder time. She's 80 and I guess that's part of it. When the blood clot traveled north, it caused damage to her heart, lungs and her kidneys are a bit damaged too. Knowing this, I count myself lucky, but can't shake the feeling that I might be living on borrowed time.

Prologue to Change: Crappy Year - Part 1

As some of you may know, this year, so far, has not been much fun. It started the first week of January when I caught the flu. I called it the "Special Express" flu since it traveled to me from Virginia via Kellie, Dmitry and Mathilde. When it's the holidays, and one of your best friends in the whole world comes to visit with her 18 month old daughter, you don't worry about the germs. You want to hug and kiss everyone and munch on the baby as much as possible. And, Mathilde is very munchable.

So, I got the flu and was down for 8 days straight. Under my down comforter, shivering and sleeping. For 4 days, I didn't even go downstairs for food. I did a short cost/benefit analysis in my head and concluded it was not worth it. On the 9th day, I was feeling better, though still coughing. I got up and got dressed and went downstairs to take a walk to Bartell's Drugstore for some more cough medicine, and, oh maybe some chocolate. When I hit the cold air, I started coughing. Then I couldn't catch my breath. I waited a bit until I could breathe again and continued down the street. Within half a block I was completely out of breath and sucking air. No matter how much I sucked the air I couldn't catch my breath. It was scary. I tried not to panic. I leaned against a building gasping for about 5 minutes. When I felt better, I looked down the street - 4 more blocks to go…Fuck it. Not worth it. I turned and headed back home. By the time I got there and up the stairs to my building, I was sucking air again and my hands were getting tingly so I knew I was hyperventilating, even though I still felt as if I could not get enough oxygen. I found a bag to breath into, got back to normal, but I didn't want to even think about the stairs up to my bedroom. I watched some TV and eventually went back upstairs and back to bed. If I wasn't moving around, I could breath fine. If I moved, even to get up and go to the bathroom, I couldn't catch my breath.

Now, I am not the person who runs to the doctor for every little thing. The more I can avoid it, the better. I took my usual, "let's wait a day or two and see what happens" approach. Two days later, no improvement and I am at the doctor's office. At first she thought I had pneumonia, however, I had done some research on-line and I doubted it was pneumonia, but I didn't really want to consider the alternative. The doctor gave me a nebulizer treatment. She said it would open up the passageways in my lungs and make it easier to breathe. Then the nurse came in and put a pulse/ox monitor on my finger and said, "Let's take a walk around the clinic." Three quarters of the way around (and it is a small place) I was gasping for air again. The doctor said it isn't pneumonia, but having ruled that out, she feared it was a pulmonary embolism. She said I needed to go to the emergency room immediately and she sent an email to the Harborview ER and followed it up with a phone call. She wanted to be sure they took care of me immediately and I wasn't sitting in the waiting room for hours. I appreciated that, but it also scared me. This is worse than I thought.

I called 4 friends for a ride to the hospital - the first 3 went directly to voice mail, but my friend Trout answered and said he would come and get me right away.

In the ER, the first thing they did was start an IV and draw some blood. I was so dehydrated that the blood clotted up before the lab could do anything with it. They started an IV saline drip. In all, I got 3 liters of saline. I knew I was dehydrated because every time I peed it was dark yellow, and I was trying to drink water - it felt like I was pounding it down, but to no use. Then they started tests. Xrays of my lungs, Ultrasound of my legs. I had two DVT's (deep vein thrombosis, aka blood clots) in my left leg and something indeterminate happening in my lungs.

I was admitted to the hospital and a different team of doctors took over. They ordered a CT scan of my lungs, but not until I had the 3rd liter of saline, which was finished about 2:30 AM. So at 3 AM they wake me up and send me to get the scan. I got back to my room about 5AM, wide awake, nothing to do. Then I remembered that in Florida it was 8 AM, and I called mom.

The doctors came in later and told me I definitely had a PE (Pulmonary Embolism, aka blood clot) in each lung. Hence the breathing issue.

They said that the clots were the result of my complete inactivity for 8 days and my extreme dehydration and perhaps there is some vein or muscle scar tissue in my left leg from a reconstructive surgery I had in 1980. Moral - even when you feel like crap, get up and move around. Also, try not to wreck your knee whilst skiing.

The treatment for DVT and PE is blood thinners. Thin the blood out and the clots will eventually dissolve. Blood gets thinned with Coumadin or it's generic, Warfarin. To dissolve the clots you need an INR between 2 and 3. A normal INR is 1. Until your INR gets up there, you are also given anti-coagulation shots as a "bridge". These are not fun. You give them to yourself (unless you have someone who will do it for you) in your stomach. They leave giant bruises and hard lumps. Both eventually go away, the bruises first, the lumps later. They are also extremely expensive. I was shooting up twice a day for almost 2 weeks. A 4 day supply was over one thousand dollars. All I can say about this, is: Thank you Harborview and your sliding scale for those of us who are underemployed, poor and uninsured.

The other thing they did was insert a vena cava filter into a vein in my abdomen. This is a tiny device that looks kind of like an umbrella - closed, they slide it into place and then tug on the release and 4 prongs open up, like the ribs of an umbrella. This is a preventative measure; the doctors feared that in the process of dissolving, parts of the clots in my leg would break off and travel north. The filter was there to catch them and prevent further damage to heart, lungs or brain. Fortunately, for me the damage was only to my lungs. It could have been worse.

I was in the hospital for 3 days, released on January 21. I am still recuperating from the clots. I want to thank the support of friends and family for their assistance, phone calls, visits and after-care. Especially Juls, Trout, Mel, and Kellie. And mom and dad of course.


This is for my friends and family, if they are interested. For those strangers who may happen upon it, I hope you get something from it.