Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Two new websites

“The most powerful element in advertising is the truth.” — William Bernbach, creative director and one of the three founders in 1949 of the internationally-renowned advertising agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach. 

THIS IS a semi-blatant ad — or you could be magnanimous and chalk it up to just keeping you in the loop about my (not-very-interesting) life.

Paul and I just finished a couple of websites; one is for the Des Moines Musicians' Association which is the local music union. Yup, Paul is a "union man". (A million points for anyone who knows from what very, very old but very, very funny movie the line, "Are you a union man?" is from!)

The second one is for the worm poop people. Yup, worm poop. The correct name for this product is worm castings, which is a nice word for . . . worm poop! 

It's miraculous stuff, though, and I think it could literally change the world for the better. Really! It's natural fertilizer that's entirely non-harmful to plants, animals, people, children and the environment in general, yet works better than any chemical stew.

I've made a screen cap of both sites to possibly maybe maybe entice you into actually clicking on the links and seeing the sites. Des Moines Musicians' Association

Yup, that's Paul in the slide show. His certainly isn't the only photo, but since I had my
choice of which one to screen cap, of course I would choose Paul.

Central Iowa Organic Fertilizer

The photo is of our own garden.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Jump baby, jump!

“If my dog is barred by the heavenly guard, we'll both of us brave the heat.” — W. Dayton Wedgefarth

I'M WORKING on a post that shares the third installment of New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof's series, When White Don't Get It. It's likely to take me a few days, so in the meantime I'm giving you a little piece of perfect adorableness. You may have already seen it because it's gone viral, but whether you have or haven't, it's worth a few dozen more views.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Lung cancer in nonsmokers on the rise

“Don’t let your doctor exclude the possibility of lung cancer. There might be something else going on. Don’t let them write it off if you’re a nonsmoker. It’s possible.” — Tori Tomalia, non-smoking lung cancer patient

I JUST read this NBC News article published today, and I must say I'm shocked at the level of my ignorance about lung cancer. 

I had no idea that more women die of lung cancer than from any other kind of cancer, and in fact according the the American Cancer Society, it kills more men and women than breast, prostate, colon, and pancreatic cancers combined!!

The additional bad news is that the survival rate is only 16 percent. 

I also was unaware of the increasing incidence of lung cancer in nonsmokers. Certainly I knew that from time to time people who don't smoke develop lung cancer, but I thought it was a rarity. Not so. And youth is no guarantee against the disease.

So with a sense of some urgency, I'm sharing this NBC News article with you.

Lung Cancer for Nonsmokers Still Stained by Stigma

By Susan Donaldson James
November 15, 2014

Tori Tomalia, a mother of three young children from Ann Arbor, Michigan, was diagnosed last year with stage IV lung cancer. She was only 37.

“I actually thought it was impossible for a nonsmoker to get lung cancer at my age,” she told NBC News.

Emily Bennett Taylor, a healthy athlete from Los Angeles, California, was even younger when she got her diagnosis at 28. Her doctors were also surprised and brushed off her chronic cough as asthma.

Lung cancer is the top cancer killer of women, and some medical experts say that they are seeing more patients in their 20s and 30s, many of them nonsmokers. But because lung cancer carries the stigma of smoking, experts say it is often overlooked in non-smoking patients — and doesn’t get the kind of funding or support given to breast cancer and other big killers.

“One of the big problems is there is such a big association in the public’s mind between smoking and lung cancer,” said Dr. Lecia Sequist, a medical oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

“No one deserves to get lung cancer,” Sequist added. “But we are seeing a lot of patients who never smoked or smoked years ago or only in small amounts. We just don’t know why.”

Arielle Densen and her mother, Barbara, who was a nonsmoker and died of lung cancer.

Of the estimated 108,000 new lung cancer diagnoses among women each year in the United States, a shocking 72,000 will die, according to the American Cancer Society. The disease takes more lives than breast, prostate, colon, and pancreatic cancers combined, and its survival rate is only 16 percent. 

Besides smoking, exposure to second-hand smoke, asbestos, radon or having a family history can put a woman at risk. Doctors and and their patients say it’s the stigma associated with smoking that is hurting them most, impeding research and compromising good patient care.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Lung Cancer Alliance, for every person who dies of breast cancer, $26,000 is spent on research funds, yet less than $1,500 is allocated for those who die of lung cancer.

“My doctor said, ‘Nobody your age and healthy ever got lung cancer — don’t worry.’”

Activist Arielle Densen lost her mother, a nonsmoker, to lung cancer, and is on a mission to bring awareness to the issue during November, Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

“The statistics on lung cancer are so staggering and so many young, non-smoking individuals are dying from this disease and no one is really talking about it,” Densen said.

“If you factor in private donations, the funding gap widens incredibly,” she said. “Susan G. Komen alone raised $428 million in 2012; whereas the largest lung cancer groups bring in about $3 to $4 million a year.”

Emily Bennett Taylor said her lung cancer diagnosis came in 2012 when she was seemingly in top physical shape.

“I played volleyball in college and still played a couple of times a week,” she said. “For all intents and purposes, I was healthy.”

She had just done a 13-mile mountain hike, when she said she noticed a cough and wheezing that “got worse and worse” and a pain in her right shoulder blade.

“They thought maybe I had allergies or had developed asthma late in life,” said Taylor. She was given an inhaler and had to wait months before seeing a pulmonologist.

But Taylor kept thinking about a Jill Costello, a UC Berkeley student and captain of the crew team who had been diagnosed with lung cancer at 21.

“I pushed for an X-ray,” she said. Doctors found a stage IV tumor in her right lung.

Taylor’s cancer had metastasized outside of the lung, so the standard of care was palliative, but she fought for unconventional treatment. She moved to New York City and persuaded a top surgeon at Mt. Sinai Hospital to shrink the tumor through chemotherapy and then remove her lung.

She has since had follow-up radiation and 18 months later, is now cancer free. Taylor said she hopes no other nonsmoking women will face the stigma she experienced.

“We don’t look at any other cancer this way,” she said. “People think you did it to yourself or made a poor choice. It’s time we started realizing it isn’t just an old smoker’s disease.”

Taylor now volunteers with the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, which this year launched the first-ever Genomics of Young Lung Cancer study for women under 40. The study is looking for a unique cancer subtype that might be treated differently.

Genomic testing shows great promise in the treatment of cancer in young women, according to Dr. Deborah Morosini is vice president of clinical development for Foundation Medicine, Inc., in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is doing the genetic testing for the study.

“What has been an enormously lethal disease with lack of pharma has been really turned around with the radical advent of target therapies,” she told NBC News. “This is something that can actually move the field forward.”

Morosini, a pathologist who worked in biotech, was propelled into advocacy after the death of her sister, actress Dana Reeve, wife of actor Christopher Reeve. She, too, was a nonsmoker and died of lung cancer in 2006 at age 45.

“My life was fragmented and I wanted everything to be guided by Dana and Chris’ memory,” she said.

Morosini said her sister might have benefitted from new therapies that pinpoint the genetic make-up of a tumor and “target” its driver.

“We can uncover note 315 genes and you can find whatever the driver is for the tumor about 85 percent of the time,” she said.

Tailored drugs can give a patient more time — months and sometimes “a few years,” she said, but the tumor eventually become resistant.

“That’s where the magic in genomics comes in,” said Morosini. “We can look at the tumor again and see what else we can target.”

Tori Tomalia, who is now 38, has benefited from this therapy. For 11 months, she has been on the new drug Xalkori, which has fewer side effects than chemotherapy, and is “cautiously optimistic” about her future.

She urges young women who have a persistent cough to ask their doctor for a lung scan.“For months everyone told me I had asthma, a cold, bronchitis,” said Tomalia.

“Don’t let your doctor exclude the possibility of lung cancer,” she said. “There might be something else going on. Don’t let them write it off if you’re a nonsmoker — it’s possible.”

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The wonderful ice cream suit

“True love cannot be found where it does not exist, nor can it be denied where it does.” — Torquato Tasso, 16th century Italian poet

I CONFESS to being a clothes horse. I'm sure it has to do with growing up having little, but it's also related to being design-y. I’m the creative director of the small agency my husband and I own, and that's what my degrees are in.

When I fessed up to Paul about the guilt I feel at times, not to mention lunacy, about my overly-extensive wardrobe, Paul brushed it off. “Getting dressed is just another way you design. Plus it makes you happy.” 

It's true. I’m dazzled by all the permutations of color, shape, line, texture and contrast, and acquiring an item is like adding a new color to my box of crayons. 

I’ve accumulated a grandiose wardrobe because it makes my eyes happy, I have a black belt in extreme sale shopping, I keep my clothes pretty much forever (this week I finally gave away a little black sweater I'd owned and worn for 30 years) — and my husband is an enabler. 

I say this because he is. Trying to get him to shop for himself is challenging; I have to time an expedition just right and then make it a surgical strike (it's such a guy thing) — but on the other hand, he will shop till he drops for me. 

We recently found ourselves in the near vicinity of my favorite mall, and I took a run at getting him to look for things for him. He was not in the mood. 

Since it’s a 35-minute drive from home, we don’t get to this mall often, so I thought I'd duck into a couple of shops, if he didn't mind, for a quick perusal of the clearance racks. I spied a white linen pencil skirt that fit like a dream and was drastically clearance priced. It was a keeper. 

While I'm in the dressing room, Paul often takes it upon himself to pull things he thinks I should try. I tell him he can just chill or go to the bookstore, but he says, “I know, but I like dressing you up and seeing you in nice things.” A woman could do worse.

Paul is the only man who has ever been able to pick out clothes for me. Before Paul, the previous contenders leaned heavily toward the controlling, and in response I became very oppositional. Mr. X would say, "I like your hair long" I'd cut it off. "I love it when you're tan." I'd immediately invest in high-SPF sunscreen. "I think long fingernails are sexy." I'd trim them so close I looked like a nail-biter.

I'd gone through some radical style shifts from glam-girl to the no-makeup, short-short-hair, oversized-baggy-clothes phase I was in when I met Paul. For him, however, I started buying clothes that fit properly and were flattering because I thought he would like them, uncharacteristic behavior for me for sure. The difference between his predecessors and him was that from the beginning it was clear that Paul loved me for me — as me.

The everlasting proof was when early on in our relationship I came down with a bacterial infection and got very sick. On the drive back from the doctor's office, I was so out of it that although I knew Paul was talking to me, it was as if I were in some alternate dimension where I could hear what was going on around me but not participate or respond. Paul kept talking to me and waiting for me to reply, but . . . nothing. 

About half way home he paused, and I could almost hear him say to himself, "Right, then," and he embarked on a conversation with me as though I were "present" that he maintained all the way home. I knew then that he would love me no matter what for as long as I exist. If I were stuffed and mounted on the wall, he would still love me. 

On the day I found the white linen pencil skirt, Paul spotted the matching white linen jacket. I didn't think I wanted it, but I tried it on for him. It was a perfect fit. Still I was reluctant to purchase it because it was more money than I thought we should spend. That's when Paul said, "You're kidding me! Come on, it's The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit. How could you possibly not get it?!" 

The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit is a straight-to-video movie we like written by Ray Bradbury that tells the story of a magical white suit one man wants so much that he recruits four other men to pool their money to buy and share it, and wearing the suit helps each man realize one desire. That sold me.

And what wish came true when I wore my wonderful ice cream suit? It's always Paul.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Get a mammogram

“Every woman needs to know the facts. And the fact is, when it comes to breast cancer, every woman is at risk.” — Debbie Wasserman Schultz, U.S. Representative for Florida's 23rd congressional district and the Chair of the Democratic National Committee

A WEEK AGO I had a 3-D mammogram. I was nervous because I had been negligent and not had a mammogram for probably five years. Most unwise.

Thankfully, all is normal.

I'm using this circumstance to encourage all women past 40 to get a mammogram now.

Below are some basic facts about the importance of mammograms, gleaned from the website, a nonprofit organization "dedicated to providing the most reliable, complete, and up-to-date information about breast cancer."

(PS: For women in the Des Moines area, 3-D mammograms are no extra cost at Broadlawns Hospital.)

Mammography: Benefits, Risks, What You Need to Know

Mammograms don’t prevent breast cancer, but they can save lives by finding breast cancer as early as possible. For example, mammograms have been shown to lower the risk of dying from breast cancer by 35% in women over the age of 50. In women between ages 40 and 50, the risk reduction appears to be somewhat less.

The value of screening mammograms was questioned in November 2009 when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that routine screening mammograms for women with an average risk of breast cancer should start at age 50 instead of age 40. The recommended changes were very controversial and were not universally adopted.

Since that time, the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Radiology, the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network all have issued guidelines saying that all women should be eligible for screening mammograms starting at age 40.

Five important things to know about mammograms

1.  They can save your life. Finding breast cancer early reduces your risk of dying from the disease by 25-30% or more. Women should begin having mammograms yearly at age 40, or earlier if they're at high risk.

2.  Don't be afraid. Mammography is a fast procedure (about 20 minutes), and discomfort is minimal for most women. The procedure is safe: there's only a very tiny amount of radiation exposure from a mammogram. To relieve the anxiety of waiting for results, go to a center that will give you results before you leave.

3.  Get the best quality you can. If you have dense breasts or are under age 50, try to get a digital mammogram. A digital mammogram is recorded onto a computer so that doctors can enlarge certain sections to look at them more closely.

4.  Mammography is our most powerful breast cancer detection tool. However, mammograms can still miss 20% of breast cancers that are simply not visible using this technique. Other important tools — such as breast self-exam, clinical breast examination, and possibly ultrasound or MRI — can and should be used as complementary tools, but there are no substitutes or replacements for a mammogram.

5.  An unusual result requiring further testing does not always mean you have breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 10% of women (1 in 10) who have a mammogram will require more tests. Only 8-10% of these women will need a biopsy, and about 80% of these biopsies will turn out not to be cancer. It’s normal to worry if you get called back for more testing, but try not to assume the worst until you have more information.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Benefits of aging

“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” ― Robert Frost

SO MUCH to write about, so little time. So many issues I care passionately about, causes to be championed and lies to be exposed. So many people to be mourned, celebrated, thanked. And then there are those individuals I want to smack up side the head. 

But today, I'm giving everyone over 50 a virtual hug by sharing this wonderful piece of writing by New York Times writer, Frank Bruni.

Gray Hair and Silver Linings
By Frank Bruni
November 8, 2014

I TURNED 50 just the other day, but I got the gift that I most needed nearly two years earlier, from a couple of strangers whom I never saw again.

I was in a surgeon’s waiting room, about to have a crimson hillock carved from my back. This, I’ve learned, is one of the rites of aging: Your body starts generating superfluous things that you wish it wouldn’t — hairs, pounds, moles — and the removal of some is a matter of survival, not vanity. In this instance I had a baby cancer between my shoulder blades, and it threatened, if unattended, to go from relatively harmless to decidedly unfriendly.

Seated across from me were a man and a woman, neither of whom looked a day under 70. I could tell from their conversation that they’d just met, and that they’d both been in this place and through this drill many times before. When it came to carcinoma, they were frequent fliers.

“Too much tennis,” the woman said to the man as she pointed to a subtle divot on her neck, where the sun had done its cruel handiwork.

“Golf,” said the man, touching a similar dent on his brow. “Should have worn a hat.”

She gently pulled up the hem of her skirt to reveal a jagged, angry red line just below her knee. It gave her an excuse to show some leg.

Then she reached over to touch a patch on one of his forearms, which had also gone under the knife.

“Yard work,” he said, in what struck me as a deliberately virile, even boastful tone of voice. Her fingers lingered on the spot. He let them.

It reminded me of that scene in “Jaws” when the shark hunters compare scars, except that the battles that my fellow patients had waged weren’t with the deep’s monsters. They were with the body’s betrayals.

Cosmetically, these two had been diminished. But by other yardsticks?

As I watched them turn rogue cells into compatible memories, affliction into flirtation, I couldn’t help feeling that they’d actually been amplified, and that there’s a mercy and a kind of miracle in the way we’re constructed. We have tricks of the mind and tools of the spirit infinitely more potent than the ravages of time.

Its passage isn’t something I’m happy about. There’s a whole lot of downside, and I don’t mean just the odd growths, the weakening knees, the blurring vision and the crawling metabolism, none of which got the message that 50 is the new 40, at least not in my case.

I mean the lost ambitions. There’s a point at which you have to accept that certain hopes and dreams won’t be realized, and 50 sure feels like it.

I mean the lost margin for error. When you’re in your 20s and even your 30s, you can waste months, squander love, say yes to all the wrong things and no to all the right ones. And you can still recover, because there are many more months and loves and crossroads to come. The mistakes of youth are an education. The mistakes later on are just a shame.

And I mean the lost people most of all: the ones from whom you’re separated by unmovable circumstances; the ones who’ve died. By 50 you start to see the pace of these disappearances accelerating. It’s haunting, and even harrowing.

But there’s something else that you start to notice, something that muffles all of that, a muscle that grows stronger, not weaker. More than before, you’re able to find the good in the bad. You start to master perspective, realizing that with a shift in it — an adjustment of attitude, a reorientation of expectations — what’s bothersome can evaporate and what only seems to be urgent really isn’t.

I was talking about this recently with a close friend who’s only a bit younger than I am, and she said that with each year, she finds her friendships less volatile and easier, because she increasingly succeeds at looking past their flaws and disappointments and homing in on their pleasures and on what set them in motion to begin with. And she wonders why she didn’t do that sooner, why she gave in to so much fury and sorrow when she could have just let those emotions go.

YOU get older and you let things go. You say goodbye to the most isolating parts of your pride and, if you’re lucky, you slough off some of your pettiness.
You finally appreciate the wisdom of doing so, and you come to recognize that among multiple vantage points and an array of responses to a situation, you really can elect the most positive one.

There’s truth to those old saws about clouds and silver linings and lemonade from lemons. But it can take a good long while to wake up to that: to divine the lessons beneath the clich├ęs and embrace them without feeling like a sap.

On the morning of my 50th birthday, I got a call with the results of a test that I’d actually forgotten was being done. A tiny dot that had recently appeared on my nose was indeed precancerous and had to be eliminated. There’d be some sort of freezing followed by some sort of chemotherapy cream and then, if that didn’t work, some sort of carving. Been there, done that, and will probably have to do it over and over again. Too much beach and too many tanning beds in my heedless past.

I thought, Oh, well. I’m blessed with insurance. I’m not a model with a career on the line. I’m not a looker being defaced.

And then I thought about the man and the woman in the surgeon’s waiting room, and how they’d stayed with me ever since, becoming more vivid in my mind as I closed in on 50. They’d underscored aging’s upside, helping me understand it more quickly and clearly. They’d embodied the possibility that you gain as much as you lose, and that there are slivers of opportunity and points of connection where you least expect them.

I have no idea how or if their conversation ended. I left before they did that day. Maybe they never exchanged another word.

Or maybe they swapped telephone numbers and, right now, they’re off together on vacation somewhere. They’re moving less nimbly than they once did. They’re wearing much more sunscreen. But they’re savoring the moment in a heightened way, and definitely not taking it for granted.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The day after

"You know how people say, 'Living well is the best revenge?' No! It's not! Revenge is the best revenge. That's why there's a word for it. That would be like saying, 'Corn is the best petunia.'" — Paul Bridson, trombone player and husband extraordinaire

NEEDLESS to say, I'm not the happiest camper today. I was too upset to sleep last night, so Paul read me the below article from Addicting Info. I liked it. And PS: I'm leaving it in big type for your reading pleasure and comfort.

Look out, turtlehead. Oh wait, that's disparaging turtles.

Chill Out, Liberals! The Republicans Took The Senate And That’s TERRIBLE…For Them
Addicting Info

What? Did you think this would be good news for Republicans? Not a chance!

You see, for the last 6 years, the only thing Republicans have had to do is say “No!” to anything and everything President Obama and the Democrats put forth. That’s easy when your base hates the president so much they would happily light themselves on fire if he said “Third degree burns are bad for you.”

This rage keeps the right wing voting for Republicans as long as Republicans tell them what they want to hear: Obama is a Kenyan Muslim socialist Commie Nazi that stole the elections, government is the problem and we’re here to stop Big Gub’mint blablabla…

But now Republicans have to do something they no longer know how to do: Lead.

Shooting spitballs from the back of the class at the smart kids doesn’t require much effort. Standing at the front of the class and solving problems requires both brains and discipline and the GOP is sorely lacking in both.

This is the same Republican Party that forced a government shutdown because the Tea Party caucus blocked their own debt ceiling bill because it wasn’t extreme enough.

This is the same Republican Party that forced Speaker of the House John Boehner to pull his own immigration bill because the Tea Party caucus decided it wasn’t extreme enough.

This is the same Republican Party that has been threatening to impeach President Obama for years. Heck, they came up with a ridiculous lawsuit against the president that no law firm will take because judges keep laughing it out of court.

The Republican Party is controlled by crazed extremists and they will use their new found power to prove just how crazy they are. They can’t help themselves.

Here’s the next two years:

Now that they have the Senate, conservatives will demand that the GOP repeal/defund Obamacare but the ACA is too deeply entrenched now. Attacking people’s healthcare is a sure path to electoral suicide but the base won’t care because they hate Obama with a blind rage. If Republicans don’t try, the base will turn on them and here come the primaries from the far right.

Impeachment!!!! The base and Fox News want impeachment proceedings so badly they can taste it. The base is dumb enough to think it will work, Fox simply wants the massive ratings the doomed-to-fail impeachment hearings will bring. Republicans in the Senate still remember how much damage their last attempt to impeach a Democratic president did and won’t want to even try. And then here come the primaries from the far right again.

The House will pass insane bills and the Senate will try to smooth out the extremism to attract even a handful of Democrats. The House GOP will froth at the mouth and here come those primary challenges.

Ted Cruz will be running for president and will take every opportunity to undermine Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader. Cruz already has a track record of sabotaging the GOP for his own personal gain. Expect that to get worse.

Several other Republicans will be running for president as well and they will be loudly demagoging to the farthest of the far right. Expect normal humans to be nauseated.
Mitch McConnell has already said he will be trying to blackmail President Obama at every opportunity with threatened shutdowns. How do you think that’s going to go over with the public?
Sure, the press will mindlessly repeat Republican claims that Obama is responsible for the continued gridlock but the thing about being the one writing the bills to put in front of the president is that your name actually has to be on it. Now Democrats can sit back and point out the GOP’s extremism and even the “liberal” media will have a hard time blaming Democrats for it.

So, really, not much will change in terms of policy making. Republicans will face President Obama’s veto and they are FAR from the votes necessary to override it. Harry Reid has ZERO incentive to work with Mitch McConnell after his scumbag behavior for the last 6 years and despite what the Fat Smug Bastard says, I don’t see Obama rolling over to accommodate Republicans who have been savagely attacking him since the before he was even elected.

And finally, there’s 2016. Remember that awesome Republican wave in 2010? Well that wave crashed in two years. Republicans will have about 24 seats up for and the Democrats will only have about 10. And it’s a presidential election where the turnout is always higher. On top of that, Hillary Clinton will most likely be running and that will bring out an even higher turnout.

Remember, the higher the turnout, the worse Republicans do. This is the sole motivating factor behind their myriad voter suppression schemes.

Even worse for Republicans, they won’t have a black guy on the ballot to run against that will take the wind out of their sails. It’s easy to get the right-wing racist vote out. Voting against a black man is like masturbation for the conservative base. Voting against a woman isn’t quite as exciting and the GOP’s upcoming misogynistic attacks on Clinton will enrage women voters.

Republicans will enjoy the Senate for two years and then lose it, big time. Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about the House until the next Census in 2020. Perhaps a few more Republican governors will be outed and we can redraw the districts to be less completely gerrymandered, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

If you’re still freaking out over the Republicans taking the Senate here’s a joke to soothe your nerves:

Knock Knock!

Who’s there?


Republicans who?

That’s the question kids will be asking in 20 years when the majority of Republican voters die of old age and the party collapses!