Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hitting tennis balls, making plans

Counts from Monday: Platelets, 15 (OK for me); hematocrit, 23 (yuk, whatever happened to making my own red blood cells?); and white count, 5.9 (good). 

Yesterday, tanked up on the platelets and blood that I got at the clinic, I conducted an experiment.

I went to hit a few tennis balls with my friend Joe Smith. I dusted off my racquet and put a can of new balls in my bag just so I could hear the popping sound of opening a new can. (We could have "played" with any old balls, but I wanted the new ones that were gathering dust along with the racquet. Also I figured that if they had a decent bounce, they'd be easier to hit.)

I slung my bag over my shoulder and as usual grabbed too many things at once. I dropped my plastic water jug on the floor, and the water spilled all over and the jug broke. Put everything down, cleaned up the mess and off I headed.

It was really hot, about 90 degrees. We did our mini-tennis at the net, and I got most over. I had been worried that my skinny legs were still too wobbly, but I quickly discovered that my skinny arm was the problem. My light racquet felt incredibly heavy. We walked back to the baseline to hit some groundstrokes, and we actually had a great rally pretty quickly.

But I could see that was about as far as I should go, so we walked a short distance to the Mount Holyoke library, which has a cute little coffee shop inside. We got muffins and coffee and sat outside. Much more my speed.

I decided to make a small bet on the future by reserving three nights later in August at a bed and breakfast on Cape Cod (Wellfleet) for the three kids and me, and hopefully Ben's girlfriend if she can get the time off. Since these are supposed to be my penny-pinching days, I looked on the internet for inexpensive places. There was a problem with most of them. Then I found a bed and breakfast with a suite that includes three bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and deck with water view. 

The deck with view caught my eye. The kids could go off on excursions that might be too much for me, and I could stay "home" and read in a nice place. Also we could save money by cooking in, which would probably still be better for my dietary restrictions anyway. (No restaurants for quite some time.)

I splurged.

As many survivors know, making plans is complicated. It's exciting to have something to look forward to, but you're also afraid that something bad will keep you from going.

Twice I've made and canceled vacation plans due to illness. I told Katie that I was a little worried about planning anything, because "Every time I plan a trip, something happens."

She corrected me. "Not every time, Mom. Most of the times that you've made plans everything has been fine."

As my father used to say, "Good clear thinking."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Adventures with a small 'a'

There are Adventures, and then there are adventures.

At this point, I find enough excitement in adventures with a small "a."

On Thursday night, the power went out in a storm. Ben was home for a couple of days, and the four of us were sitting at the kitchen table talking. Suddenly, after a big flash of lightening, the lights out. We couldn't see a thing. The kids headed for the cabinet where we keep the flashlights. We have a few; the little ones worked but the big one needed batteries, which Joe found and installed.

Meanwhile I tried to make my way to the cabinet on the other side of the room for matches to light the candles. I stepped on the dog (who didn't protest) and felt my way around the table. Katie came in with her cell phone open and found me pinned behind a chair against a wall in the wrong part of the kitchen. We found a bunch of matches, and the candles, lit them. It's amazing how quiet it gets in a power outage, with all the background buzzing and humming gone. Sort of makes you want to unplug everything.

Next order of business, according to me: "Save the Klondike bars!" Everyone obliged. Ben went to bed, while Katie and Joe sat in the candle-lit den and sang songs they learned in Spanish class. I kind of puttered around and watched the candles flicker. It was nice. Too soon, the lights came back on.

Adventure #2 was going to a cookout at my friend Ken's house in Ware. The name of the town, of course, elicits an irresistible "Who's on First?" response, as in,
"I'm going to Ware."
"I just told you, Ware."

First I had to think through whether I should go or not. There's that whole early recovery period when you're not sure you're up to being with people and answering their questions. Then there's the question of too many germs floating around when in a group. I decided that if it was raining, I wouldn't go because they'd be in the house as opposed to outside.

It was a beautiful sunny day, so off I went. It doesn't take long to get there, but it feels like you're going into the boondocks. It is real country, with horses and old farmhouses and open spaces. Because of my restrictions, I felt I better pack up. I need to keep hydrated, but when it comes to bottled water, I can't drink spring water, only Dasani and Aquafina. I wasn't sure how the tap water would be either. I can't drink beer and I didn't want soda. So I filled a jug with water and took along the glass of iced tea I was drinking so I could have something for "journey," which actually wasn't more than half an hour.

I put some animal crackers in a bag in case there was nothing I could eat and grabbed a handful of Bing cherries, one of my latest must-haves. I knew it was a little silly to bring food (certainly there would be something I could eat), but I needed to do it anyway. Juggling all of this stuff, I got into the car. The cherries promptly rolled out on the passenger seat, but I applied the five-second rule and scooped them up.

The cookout was great. I ate a well-done hamburger, half a hotdog (a dog ran over and scarfed  up the second half after I put it down for a minute) and quite a few desserts, after I scanned them with my X-ray eyes to ensure they were cooked in a clean kitchen. It was good I brought the water, because Ken said his water comes straight from a spring into his well, and I wasn't sure it fit my guidelines.

I was happy to see the people from work who were there. Some still had jobs, but there was a group that had been laid off. We tried to think of a way we could band together and make a lot of money quickly, but, alas, nobody had any ideas.

"Well, if you think of anything, I'm available in six months," I said.

After I said that, I realized I had taken a tiny chance in talking about the future. I didn't hold back in fear of jinxing myself. Making any kind of plan is hard for me to do, because it seems that I've gotten sick several times after planning an adventure that never happened.

But I felt OK with it. I felt good about the whole day.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Time to evaluate cost-cutting measures

How much is too much – and too little – when you're trying to save money?

This falls into two categories, decreasing your carbon footprint by cutting back on energy use (which also saves money) and just plain cost-cutting.

I am not in financial trouble now, and I know I have it better than many people. But recent changes in my situation make me nervous because I now have to cut into my reserves. As I wrote before, the newspaper terminated me, which means I now have to pay a much higher payment through COBRA. The subsidy for the first nine months makes it bearable, but the second nine months is ridiculously expensive, and after that I'm on my own. I think I also wrote that Bates College, where Joe will be a junior, gave him generous grants his first two years and cut him off this year. He's a good student and productive member of the community, so it's not anything he did; probably just the way things are going at most colleges. In any case, I an awaiting the result of an appeal. 

So what to do? I don't spend any money going out to eat, because I'm not allowed to. Sometimes I make chicken one night and have it three different ways the next few nights. I have my little extravagances, like a subscription to the New York Times and good desserts (which I should be eating anyway to gain weight), and, now that I'm allowed, if I really want a cup of coffee at Starbucks, I buy it.

To save money and energy, I unplug appliances when not in use because these "energy vampires" use power without our knowing it. I turn out lights and sometimes don't turn them on, reading into the dusk in semi-darkness. I have some energy-saving light bulbs; I'm working slowly on converting the house. I read somewhere that it wastes energy to wash a dish in hot water and then put it in the dishwasher, because you're then using hot water twice, so I try to remember to use the cold for the first rinse. I wrote a story about a movement trying to get more people to used clotheslines,  (check out the Project Laundry List website) instead of the dryer, but I can't go that far, although I do hang some things up.

When I forget to take my reusable bag to the grocery store and end up coming home with plastic bags, sometimes I put trash in them to get a double use and save on trash bags.

Sometimes I don't turn the lights on in the living room, which is on the other side of the staircase from the den, dining room and kitchen, where we usually hang out. This drove my mother crazy. "Will you turn on some lights?" she'd say. "Forget about the electric bill."

It does affect your mood to have part of the house in darkness, so I often though not always follow her advice.

And of course there is always the question of how high to turn the heat when the weather cold weather comes. I keep it pretty low ("Wear a sweater!" I say to the frozen kids) and try to turn it on only at the last minute; my parents would come from their overheated New York apartment and turn my heat up so high I thought I would broil.

Paper towels produce a dilemma. When we were growing up, my father worked with a man named Alex who had trouble making ends meet. My father asked him how he did it, and one item on his list was, "I don't use paper towels." Now I am supposed to use paper towels so I don't get germs from a dishcloth, but sometimes I think of Alex and feel wasteful doing it. 

Recent "cost-saving" measures have made me wonder if I might be going a little overboard. When I went to make granola the other night, I realized that all the slivered almonds (about $2 for the container) that the recipe calls for had been eaten, but there was still a larger container of whole almonds (about $4). I didn't want to waste the whole almonds, so I sat down and cut 3/4 of a cup of them on a cutting board. Was this smart for a couple of dollars? The knife wasn't that great and my platelets are low, and here I am whacking away at almonds. Today I bought a new box of slivered ones.

My mother was always particular about the kind of napkins I used. She didn't like the cheap, thin ones, preferring Vanity Fair. Out of habit, that's what I buy now. I have a partially used package under the cabinet, but I haven't brought a refill up to the basket where we usually get them. Basket empty, we've been using a piece of paper towel for a napkin. (We could now go into a debate about napkins, such as are they necessary anyway and whether if we re-use cloth ones that might not save any money because they need to be laundered...but let's not.) 

Tonight as I pulled off a couple of pieces of paper towel for dinner, I stood in the spot near the counter where my mother often stood. I heard (or imagined) her voice loud and clear: "Take out the napkins, for goodness sakes!"

So I did.

None of us never knows how much time we have, so shouldn't we use a nice napkin if we want?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

'Pleasant' day at the clinic

I made some red blood cells!

Woo hoo! Who knew this could feel like a big accomplishment?

On Friday my hematocrit was borderline for a transfusion, around 25, and Melissa said I'd probably need blood today. But I went up to 27 on my own. This still is not very high, but I feel pretty good and was glad not to get transfused, which for two bags of blood is usually at least three hours.

My platelets were 17, also good for me at this point, but I received two bags because they were donated for me and would have expired. White count was stable. (I'm not sure exactly what it was, because I forgot to get the printout and Melissa didn't tell me the exact number.)

It was crowded at the clinic today, and there were no chairs or beds in the infusion room. So I got transfused in a new unit called Shields Warren, which is kind of like flying first class. The chairs are further apart, it's nicely lit, and it's blessedly quiet. My nurse got me a warm blanket and asked if I wanted to take my shoes off. I bent down to do it but she took them off for me. Meanwhile another nurse from the infusion room had ordered lunch for me  – my typical egg salad sandwich and Sun Chips – and she waltzed in with them on a tray held high. It was all actually very pleasant, including the Benadryl snooze.

I was disappointed that I had lost a pound, especially since my appetite is back, nausea is gone and I'v been eating. I guess it's like reverse dieting. If you get hung up on each pound in either direction, you can drive yourself crazy. Well, I think I'll go eat a Klondike bar, the newest thing in our house. They're kind of small, often necessitating another trip to the freezer for a second helping. We have a crunch kind and an old-fashioned vanilla. I think I prefer the plain kind, but maybe I'll have one of each.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bites from the past

     Above, granola and the newspaper make a nice start to 
         the day. Below, Margaret gathers some of the ingredients.

When I moved to Western Massachusetts for a job at the former Transcript-Telegram in 1979, I lived in a funky apartment in Northampton. The paper, in Holyoke, Mass., was a good little daily. The place was lively, filled with smart, mostly young reporters and editors who worked (and played) hard. This was in the days of typewriters, and at deadline, there was a cacophony of reporters banging on keys and ripping out pieces of paper. There was a rush for the one OCR (optical character reader) where you had to feed in your stories and then a rush for the couple of computer terminals where you needed to read your story before passing it on to an editor. 

But the reason for this post is not to wax nostalgic about the good old days of journalism – we did have our fun – but to talk about a connection to this era: granola.

The funky apartment fit my tastes nicely. The landlord had never gotten around to putting doors on the kitchen cabinets, but I kind of liked that unfinished look. It was in that kitchen that I grew bean sprouts in a  jar on the windowsill and made my own granola. I can't remember where the recipe came from.

I met my friend Margaret at the paper, and we formed a lifelong friendship even though we didn't work together very long. We were both there for only a couple of years before going to bigger newspapers, but it was so intense it seemed like much longer.

This winter, when I was in the hospital waiting for my transplant, Margaret was going through some recipes when she found the one for granola (recipe below). She hadn't made it in over 30 years, but she made a batch and brought me a jar. It was delicious! (Ah, and yes, it brought remembrances of things past.) Not too long ago, I called her house and got her husband, Nick, who said Margaret was busy "making Ronni's Granola." I got all excited and thought she was making me another jar, but really he was just using the name of the recipe. When I told her my misunderstanding, she did, of course, make me a jar which she brought to the infusion room one day when I was getting platelets. (She lives and works in the Boston area.)

Now that I have a little energy back, I've made it myself a couple of times. There was a gap in between both times, and after the second batch came out at around 11 p.m., I devoured a bedtime snack of granola and blueberries. 

On the health front, I went to the clinic Friday instead of my usual Monday, due to availability of platelets. My platelet count was 10. Well, at least it wasn't in the single digits. White count was stable, but hematocrit had dropped to a borderline 25-ish, after I was so happy it was 31 on Monday. I could have gotten blood Friday, but I actually feel OK, so I'm going to wait until next week. Katie drove home while I slept off the Benadryl. 

Here's the recipe for what we now call Ronni's and Margaret's Granola

6 cups old fashioned oats (not quick cook)
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds
1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup halved cashews or slivered almonds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup sesame cooking oil
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Mix liquids and salt over heat
Pour over dry stuff and stir thoroughly until coated
Spread out on two greased cookie sheets
Bake at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour; check frequently and turn at least once
Add 1 cup raisins or cranberries

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Running errands, chasing dogs

Errands can be a real pain. But when you have to ask everyone else to do them for you, you want to run errands yourself because it will make you feel more normal.

Not too long ago, I could hardly walk to the corner. Now I have increased my walking distance; I go a mile around the lake but instead of driving there, I walk, which probably adds another half-mile or so. At the lake, the joggers run past me. I have tried running a couple of steps, but my legs have no spring, so obviously I am not ready.

But yesterday I was ready to do some errands. I leashed up the dog and walked down the street to the fire station, where I put my water bill payment in the slot. Then I went to the mailboxes outside the post office and mailed a couple of bills. Finally, I walked down to the street to the optometrist's, hooked the dog up outside, and went in and got my glasses adjusted.

Woo hoo! These felt like really big accomplishments.

Then I walked the dog around the lake. She had been swimming a lot and smelled awful, so we had her groomed last week. I hate to keep her on the leash, because she needs the exercise, but I didn't want her to go in and get all smelly. So we made a compromise: I let her off in a spot away from the swampy areas, so she got her swim in and a little romp and didn't get stinky.

I had a couple of mishaps, too, but they were kind of funny so I didn't mind.

We have a little wooded area in the back of our house where we sometimes let Maddie run and pee. She usually just runs back in the door for her treat. Yesterday she decided to dash through the trees into our neighbors Eugene and Susan's yard. This involved me pushing my way through the trees to go get her. Eugene and their son David were reading in the yard. Maddie ran over and started licking David's feet, then ran around in circles, at one point grabbing Eugene's sneaker and running with it. I used my sternest DROP IT and she finally did.

They didn't seem to mind, but it was a little embarrassing. In any case we used it as an opportunity to chat for a minute. I couldn't get the dog to come back with me, so Eugene tied a rope around her collar and I got her back.

Later in the day, I opened the cabinet to take out a box of fettucini. By accident I held it upside down and the contents fell out. Pick-up-sticks all over the place. Actually it was near Maddie's bowl, and when I said "leave it" she thankfully did. So I cleaned it up in peace and found a new box of pasta.

Kind of annoying. Kind of normal.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lost and found department

I went crazy over losing a certain necklace.

I bought it with Diane at one of our favorite stores, Limited Editions, in Newton Highlands near her house. It was right after the presidential election. She bought a necklace also. Feeling slightly goofy, we called them our Obama necklaces. They were a little bit expensive, but we were in a celebratory mood. Instead of a chain, mine has tiny stones and a pendant made of two stones, a smaller on top of a larger. I forgot what they are, but one is clear and the other is a cloudy grey.

When I left Diane's house to come back home, I left some jewelry on a dresser, figuring I'd pack it up next time. I remember thinking I had left two necklaces, one of them the "Obama" necklace. But when my brother-in-law packed it all up and gave it to me in a baggie, the Obama necklace wasn't there.

I got that feeling you get when you can't find something (like car keys) and you are SURE you left them in one spot but they are not there. I really wanted to find that necklace, although I did know that I have probably too many necklaces already and only one neck. I asked Diane over and over again to search areas of her house where in might have gotten lost. She said repeatedly that she just couldn't find it, and it would turn up in a bag or a pouch somewhere.

Last week, I went to the store to see if they had another. They said they weren't even sure what it was, and that they had only had one for sale anyway.

A while ago, I wrote about a similar problem with a "missing" bracelet that I found in my room. I was doing some yoga and stretching when it popped into my mind where it might be.

Well, yesterday I was doing the same yoga and stretching when an idea popped into my mind. I wondered if the bracelet was in a dresser drawer where I hadn't looked. I got up, opened the drawer, and put my hand on a red jewelry pouch. The "lost" necklace was in it.

Naturally, I called Diane and apologized. I also have to draw the same moral that I did with the bracelet: If you let something go a little, as happened when I was doing yoga, answers will come more easily than if you search too hard.

Speaking of losing things, my friend Vytas sent me a funny e-mail called "Questions and Answers from an AARP Forum." Here's one that I related to. Q: Where should 60-plus year olds look for eyeglasses? A: On their foreheads.

I'm not 60 yet, but I constantly lose my glasses. In the hospital I was always looking for them after I took them off for one test or another. Diane bought me one of those beaded necklace things that attach to the glasses so they're always around your neck when not in use, but I kind of forgot to wear it.

Without the glasses, I can't see well enough to find them, so I often walk around patting areas or getting one of the kids to find them for me. I told Vytas I just came up with a system. I put the dark-rimmed ones down on something light, and I put the ones with the thinner wire rims down on something dark, so the contrast helps me see them. Of course it didn't help today when  I put the glasses down on the bed and then took off the dress I wore to the clinic and laid it on top of them.

Today's clinic visit was relatively short. My platelets were 15, hematocrit 31 (up one from last time all on its own) and my white count was 5.7 (normal). I got a bag of platelets that Diane had donated. Dr. Alyea came by and said he was pleased that I had held on to a good amount of platelets over the weekend, and that my counts looked pretty good. I'm not sure if I have to go back this week or if I can wait until next week; I'll talk to Melissa about it tomorrow. 

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Travels on the Pike, busy week at home

First of all, thanks to everyone who gave advice and support about my work and insurance situation. (Explained at the bottom of this post.) I did fill out the COBRA paperwork, which I got a few days later. I have questions about the ways, unfair I believe, that they are treating me differently from the other laid-off employees, but I don't think I should go into that now. Sigh.

My friend Barry drove me to and from my appointment yesterday. At 5, my platelets were low again. On Monday, they didn't have the matched platelets I usually get, so they gave me the freshest available from the general pool. I haven't gotten much of what they call a "bump" from the general platelets, but I had to have something because they were so low. In the meantime Diane donated the platelets that more closely match my typing, and so I went back yesterday to get them.

I didn't need blood (WBC was 30), and my white count was good, too, at 5.8. Diane had actually produced two bags of platelets, but Dr. Alyea ordered one. (Usually if two are available, they give me both and say to come back in a week.) Barry was sitting with me when my infusion room nurse said that Dr. Alyea wanted me to come back Monday and have my counts rechecked and get the other bag if I need it.

Barry must have seen that look come into my eyes. "Don't make anything of it," he said.

Later, back home, I mumbled, "Why would he want me to come back so soon? Maybe he found something in my blood work and he wants to see if it's still there on Monday and he'll tell me then." Katie was the voice of reason. "Mom, we've been through this before," she said. "If he had something to tell you, he'd tell you right then." Oh, OK. New thoughts: He wants to recheck the platelets earlier than usual so he can get an idea of when they start to fall, or, he was doing something else and the nurse asked him over the phone what he wanted to do and he said, "Oh, just tell her to come back Monday," without it meaning anything.
Gotta love that Masspike (formally known as Massachusetts Turnpike, the highway that we take to Boston.)

Well at least I'm not spending all of my time driving back and forth. Erin, my yoga teacher and now friend, came over for tea Tuesday morning. She brought a delicious pineapple which she cut up in no time. (My habit is to wait until I think they're ripe, then realize they're overripe, then put them in the fridge and then throw them out...well, not all of the time.) I told Erin that I was trying some standing poses, such as triangle pose, but having trouble keeping my balance. She showed me how to do some of these poses using a chair so I don't have to worry about toppling over.

On Tuesday night, Deb, Charlotte and their black lab puppy, Mary Margaret, came over for our annual Fourth of July cookout, three days late, but who cares. Joe cooked hamburgers, chicken and kielbasa on the grill, and we had salad, fruit salad and potato chips (delicious and nutritious) plus chocolate sour cream cake for dessert. 

The puppy is now four months old and quite feisty. She and Maddie ran around and around, tumbling over each other and at times playing tug-of-war with Maddie's new rope toy. I think Maddie had enough – sometimes she pinned the puppy and held her down – but she doesn't really know how to put her in her place. I'm not sure she wanted to.

Today my neighbor, Susan, and I (with dog) went to Deb's for four-o'clock tea. It wasn't really tea because we all drank Deb's good strong coffee, but it was fun to call it that. Deb arranged a platefull of goodies, and we ate and talked while the dogs played in the fenced-in yard. Maddie has been zonked since we came home. Meanwhile I'm trying to walk a little farther, maybe a mile and a half or so, which I did before going to "tea." So I should sleep well too.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

This is what I do for fun

Katie drove me back and forth to Boston yesterday. It worked out well for both of us. Diane came and took her for a walk in Brookline, then she came back and took her own walks, popping in and out of the infusion room to check in with me.

She's been playing a song from the opera "Hansel and Gretel" that has gotten stuck in our heads. Various translations give it different names; in hers it is called "Brother Come and Dance With Me." As we approached Dana-Farber, I began singing my own lyrics to the catchiest part of the song: "This is what I do for fun, this is what I do for fun, fun fun fun, fun fun fun, this is what I do for fun."

When I went to get my blood drawn, the nurse opened my files and said something about "antecubital fossa." For a brief moment I panicked at this new word. "What are they looking for now?" I wondered. The nurse explained that it was just the term for where they usually draw my blood – the depression at the bend of the elbow. Oh.

I knew my platelets would be low, because I was counting petechiae (tiny burst blood vessels) again, and I was right: They were a pathetic 4. I was surprised to learn that I also needed blood because I had just gotten it a week ago and I felt OK. My hematocrit was a borderline 25. My white count, at least, was stable.

I saw Melissa before I went into the infusion room and she said that she and Dr. Alyea would come in to see me. "He has some ideas about why all of this is happening," she said, referring to the low platelets and rbc. Panic time again: "What KIND of ideas? Bad ideas?" I said to myself. I kept it in, though, and went off to get transfused.

When they came in, Alyea said my body was obviously chewing up platelets and red blood cells. He said it will probably help when they take me off of one of my drugs, Prograf, but it's too early to do that now. He said he was putting me on a low dose of steroids for the GVHD found in my esophagus, and that this might help with my platelets and rbcs.

Neither of my scary projections came true. I wish my mind would leave me alone.

I closed the place down again at 7:30 p.m. Katie drove back with no problem. All in all it was fun fun fun.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Lured out of bed for a good cause

The sound of the phone ringing woke me in the middle of the night.

Well, it wasn't actually the middle of the night. It was a little after 8 a.m, and it was my friend Joe Smith telling me that he and our friend Ken Ross were coming over soon for "breakfast at Wimbledon."

I groaned. I had gone to bed at my customary time – around 12:30 a.m. – and so it really felt like the middle of the night. I've been setting my alarm for 10 a.m. just so that I don't continue to lie in bed until 11 or sometimes noon. But 8 a.m.? Ken had said the other day that they might come over, but since he never confirmed, I figured it wasn't happening.

I said to come on over. I put on my traditional outfit, starting with my running pants. Then I lay back in bed – always a bad choice – and of course fell quickly back asleep. I woke up to the sound of their cheerful voices at the door. So I ran down, still wearing the T-shirt I wore to bed, and looking as disheveled as a person with nearly no hair can. I let them in and ran back upstairs to put on a better T-shirt and splash water in my face.

Ken had brought strawberries, one of the ingredients for "breakfast at Wimbledon." (The other is cream, which we didn't have.) Joe brought coffee, and I supplied banana bread and zucchini bread. 

We watched the better of the two women's semifinals – Serena Williams defeating Elena Dementieva of Russia 6-7, 7-5, 8-6. As you can see from the scores, it was a close match, and it had a lot of great points. Serena will play her sister Venus in the women's final. It was a good morning.

I got my taste for coffee back, which makes me feel closer to my normal self. Joe's strong coffee really hit the spot. Still, I'm trying to not get re-hooked on caffeine, so I'm drinking decaf or half-decaf.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, I learned that I was among the latest group of people being laid off from the newspaper. There were about 12, including reporters, copy editors and photographers. It doesn't affect my income, because they weren't paying me any money, but of course it does affect my insurance. I will have to pay into COBRA for 18 months, and then I will be cut off and will have to find my own insurance. I think they are trying to deal unfairly with me, because the human resources director, who called me, said the company was cutting me off from insurance the next day.

I said that's impossible because I go to the clinic every week and I haven't even received the COBRA paperwork. They said OK, July 13. Later I learned that it's illegal to cut you off abruptly and that they need to give you 30 days. They gave everyone else 30 days, and me half that.

Unfortunately, they are treating me differently, and unfairly, in a range of other ways. These are things that I am working on. 

I wish people would read newspapers. It is so sad that such a wonderful industry seems to be dying. All I can say is we had a good run. As for me, I'll deal with the job thing later. It's not really at the top of my list right now.