Sunday, October 31, 2010

Regina Barbara Werner Holst, my maternal grandmother

But to me, she will always be Gaga.  I was responsible for naming her because I couldn't say "Grandmother," when I was a toddler.  Gaga was as close as I could get, and it stuck with all nine of her grandchildren.

Regina was born January 20, 1896, either in Kewaskum or New London, Wisconsin.   The first picture below was when she turned 16, the second her New London, WI, high school graduation picture.

(the quotes below are her words, based on interviews I did with her over a week in January, 1973, for a journalism class during Interim at Macalester College)

Regina was the youngest of four and a much spoiled and cosseted baby of the family. The death of her father when she was 16 affected her deeply. It  meant there was no money for private college for her as there had been for her siblings--all the family's money now came solely from income from several properties owned by her father, Anton.  Anything left over went to pay for her older brother Matt's college tuition.  So the summer after graduating from high school in 1913,  Regina went to to a teacher's training school. However, she was unable to find a teaching job in her district because, according to her, "the Superintendent just didn't like Catholics."

Nursing School

She turned to nursing as a second choice and overrode her mother's objections that it was 'unladylike.'  St. Joseph's School of Nursing, affiliated with Marquette University, offered free tuition, room, and board, so she made the 150 mile trip from New London to Milwaukee and enrolled. 

Her initial determination to go to nursing school gave way to a severe bout of homesickness in her first term.  Although the Director of the nursing school, Sister Mary Alberta, forbade her from going home, my grandmother ignored her just as she had her mother, and in the end the Director took the extraordinary step at the time, of allowing  this very stubborn, probationary nursing student leave to return to New London to see her mother.  But all it took was one weekend, and my grandmother was more than ready to come back to St. Joseph's. "By the third day at home, I even found myself wanting to be back at school.  I missed my friends there almost as much as I had my mother before."  Homesickness cured, she became an earnest if occasionally scattered student.

"One day when I was a probationer, I was helping Miss Wilson do the rounds in the obstetric ward.  I could do everything but give medications then.  Miss Wilson had red hair and she liked to talk to the doctors so she pulled me aside and asked, 'Werner, can you take the temps?'  I nodded and she went off and flirted with several of the doctors who were on that day.  I knew the whole procedure for taking a patient's temperature:  stick the thermometer in carbolic acid, then water, then wipe off with a cotton swab and stick it in the patient's mouth. We had only one thermometer then so I had to repeat the procedure on every one of the patients.

"As I started recording the temperatures, I kept noticing the women's temperatures kept climbing higher and higher.  When I brought the results back to Miss Wilson, she got very excited and started calling all the doctors, saying 'Your patient's very sick and we don't know what's the matter.  You'd better come at once!'  So all the doctors and Sister Chlotilda, the floor supervisor, rushed over to obstetrics.  In the middle of the confusion, Sister Chlotilda asked Miss Wilson if she'd taken the temperatures and she had to admit that she hadn't--she'd asked me to instead.  Then Sister Chlotilda turned to me and asked me if I knew how to take temps.  I nodded yes and then she asked if I'd shaken down the thermometers after each one.  I felt as if the ground could just swallow me up.  I'd forgotten that part.  But I never forgot to shake down a thermometer after that.  Poor Miss Wilson with the red hair probably never forgot either."

Nursing school may have been free, but the student nurses more than paid for it.  "We started at seven every morning if we were on day shift and worked until seven that night.  After that came studying.  And we not only had to care for the patient but we had to clean up every room as well."

Her third, or last year, Regina was selected to go with a staff doctor to a private home and attend an operation.  "House calls were pretty common in those days but a house operation was relatively rare...It was so exciting to be going to someplace outside the school, but I was nervous.  The reason we were doing this operation was that the man lived far away and was quite rich, so he could afford the expense.

"The doctor I was going with, Dr. Levings, was one of the big staff men and I was so scared about the operation was that  all I could think of on the train was what steps I should do first, second, and third in an operation.  I thought about it so much I got everything scrambled and then I had to start again.  Dr. Levings gave me a newspaper to read on the train and all I could do was just look at it, the words made no sense.  All I could do was think about the operation.  I was so afraid I was going to make a mistake somewhere.

"When we go to the house, Dr. Levings looked at the man before operating and decided not to because his fingernails were turning blue and it was clear he was going to die.  I hate to say this, but I was relieved that we weren't going to operate because I was so afraid of making a mistake.

"We stayed until the man died and his relatives asked me to remain and take care of the funeral arrangements.  Dr. Levings thought it would be all right so he left me there.  but her forgot to tell the school so they spent several anxious hours before they found out where I was.  The school agreed to my staying there for a week but told me to get right back as soon as I could .  They needed me pretty badly and it felt nice to be needed.  But it was kind of a holiday being away from st. Joseph's and I enjoyed it."

Another fond memory at St. Joseph's was when one of her teachers congratulated her on a paper she wrote on the digestive system. "The doctor told me my paper was even better than the medical students.'  And it was.  But it really surprised me.  Compliments were rare and I was always surprised to receive them."

In the spring of 1916, Regina graduated from St. Joseph's School of Nursing.  She was named valedictorian of her class of around 30 students.

St. Joseph's School of Nursing graduation, 1916
Regina is center front

St. Joseph's School of Nursing graduation, 1916
Grace Bogenberger, Regina Werner, Mildred Ryan, Mildred Hehne

Director of St. Gabriel's School of Nursing, Little Falls, MN

In 1916, a state law was passed in Minnnesota that required that a registered nurse to be in attendance at all obstetrical and surgical cases.  This created a problem for St. Gabriel's Hospital in Little Falls, Minnesota because, although St. Gabriel's had been established in 1892 by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, (an order that by 1962 had founded 4 hospitals in Wisconsin, 7 in Minnesota, 9 grade schools, 4 homes for the aged, 2 nursing schools, 1 high school, a junior college, and several other educational institutions), there were no registered nurses at St. Gabriel's.  And a new very modern 50 bed hospital had just been built.  So Sister Mary Rose Ethier, Mother Superior of the Franciscan sisters travelled to Milwaukee and attended the 1916 St. Joseph's graduation where she askedSister Mary Alberta, St. Joseph's Director, to recommend the best new graduate of  St. Joseph's, one who could undertake the task of creating a nursing school at St. Gabriel's.  Sister Mary Alberta  recommended my grandmother.

Grandmother accepted the position but had one immediate hurdle to surmount.  She had to pass a  state Board nursing examination, and Wisconsin required that applicants be 21 years of age.  Regina was only 20.  Sister Regina (not to be confused with my grandmother), a Sister of St. Agnes, was on the St. Joseph's faculty and she advised my grandmother to fake her age.  Regina took the advice and aged a year, something she assured me when I interviewed her in 1973, she did not take lightly and never did anything like it again. 

Even at her artificially advanced age of 21, when Regina arrived in Little Falls on October 2, 1916, many of her students were older than she was.  "I was really afraid," she admitted, "I'd never been quite this far away and alone."  And because she was the only registered nurse at St. Gabriel's she was quite busy with just nursing duties at first.

In addition to overcoming  bureaucratic red tape, my grandmother had another unexpected battle after arriving in Little Falls, this one with a tapeworm.  "In the summer, right before I left for Minnesota, I had this creeping feeling...I went to see a doctor in Milwaukee and he gave me some pills but they didn't work because the creeping feeling would return right before a meal and go away right after I ate.  I always had to be sure to eat on time or I would become nauseous.

"Well the feeling didn't go away, so I consulted another doctor and he told me, 'You've got some type of worms,' gave me some medicine and it still didn't help.  So I waited until I got to Little Falls and saw another doctor there.  He told me that I had a tapeworm which was causing the creeping sensation, and had to get rid of it before I really got sick.

"He gave me a bottle of some vile medicine, told me to take half of it, then watch to make sure I passed the tapeworm--especially its head.  If I didn't get rid of the head, which is about as large as the end of a pin, the tapeworm could grow back and it would take me as long as six years to find out if it was still there.

"I went back to St. Gabriel's.  Told Sister Mary Theresa (superintendent of the hospital) that I couldn't be disturbed for the day, went to my room which was in the basement of the new hospital, shut the door and drank half the bottle.  I pulled up a large glass jar but nothing happened.  I had to go back and tell the druggist I needed a larger dose.  The second time I drank the whole bottle.  I was sitting on the jar next to my bed and I got sick to my stomach, threw up green all over my bed, and passed out on the floor.

"When I came to, the tapeworm was inside the jar, so with a tissue forceps, I lifted it out and placed a newspaper on my bed and spread the thing on it, back and forth and back and forth.  It was at least 20 feet long.  But what scared me was I couldn't find its head and I didn't want to wait another six years for the same thing to happen all over again.  I can tell you they were an anxious six years, when I had time to think about it.  I was so relieved, you just can't imagine how relieved, when the six years were up and there was no sign of the tape."

Regarding the lack of registered nurses at St. Gabriel's, Mother Mary Rose asked Regina to teach a class of Franciscan sisters who had been nurses in the old hospital, and prepare them to take the state board examination.  "Although most of them did not have a high school education, they did have a valuable foundation of the principles of nursing.  Under a temporary waiver of the strict nursing laws in Minnesota (which my grandmother engineered) all of the Sisters were allowed to take the state board examination and readily passed.  They all were excellent nurses, and now could fill responsible positions at the hospital."  In addition until the Sisters had passed the State Board, the Bishop of the diocese did not allow the nuns to witness or care for O.B. cases.  Their admission as RNs freed more of my grandmother's time for teaching  and administrative duties.

Sister Mary Theresa was the Hospital administrator, and part time anesthetist.  In those days chloroform or ether, or a combination of both were the only anesthetics used.  Sister Mary Coletta was the first and second floor supervisor and Sister Mary Bernard ws in charge of the laboratory and third floor.  Sister Loyola was the Operating Room supervisor. "Our janitor was a very able man, but at times would go off on a binge, just as steam was needed for sterilizers in the O.R.  Fortunately Sister [Mary] Theresa also knew how to operate the boiler."

The nursing students had no uniforms to begin with, so Regina designed them.  They were striped blue gingham with white collars, detachable cuffs, stiffly starched white aprons, and black stockings.  The caps were patterned after those of St. Joseph's School of Nursing, and were awarded in a capping ceremony after successful completion of a three month probationary period.  They were also awarded stiff white duffs and a bib for their aprons in the capping ceremony.

Red Cross Day at St. Gabriel's Hospital.
Dr. J.B. Holst with the nurses
Loretta Kujawa is the patient

Regina used the nursing program at St. Joseph's as the model for St. Gabriel's. The nurses' education consisted of three years of study and practice.  Nurses and probationers put on 12 hour shifts at the hospital.  "[The] duties of the students included, besides ordinary bedside care, the administration of hypodermics, hypodermolysis,  irrigation of the bladder and stomach, enteroclysis, rectal feedings, enemas, douches, hot and cold packs, poultices and plasters.  A treatment they liked to side step was the 'prolonged douche' which had to be continued for at least a half hour and required gallons and gallons of hot water.  .[note to my readers:  these words are taken verbatim are from my 37 year old transcription, when I was not as knowledgeable about medical terms]

"Besides the daily bath and oral hygiene, it was expected that the nurse also clean the patient's room.  Students were taught that the comfort of the patient was of greatest importance." Many of the student lectures were given in the evenings by the 12 doctors who had privileges at St. Gabriel's, each of whom selected a speciality and in addition to a series of lectures, tested the students on the subject matter. 
In addition to instructing her nursing students, Grandmother provided classes in elementary hygiene and nursing to the residents of Little Falls.  And, she had duty in the operating room, which sometimes went beyond  normal requirements.

"A Mrs. Corbin was scheduled for an appendectomy one afternoon, but when the two doctors who were to perform it arrived, I discovered, or rather one told me, he was unable to perform the operation and I had to do it.  Mrs. Corbin was already under anesthetic and all opened up.  You see, these doctors had taken an overdose of opium and that's why they couldn't operate.  One of them said, 'You take the scalpel, Miss Werner.  You can do a better job than I could anyhow.'

"I tell you, I never worried so much about one patient as I did Mrs. Corbin after that operation.  I used to come up and visit her two, three times a day."  It was my first and last appendectomy!"

Life at St. Gabriel's was not all work and no play.   "We had many happy hours together.  Picnics at the Sisters' farm, Halloween and Thanksgiving parties--and best of all the Christmas party.  Sharing gifts and a beautiful dinner helped to banish the nostalgia that creeps in on these special family days."

Nurses having a picnic on the Farm

"After two years, the hospital received the highest praise from the [Minnesota] State Board.  Many of our innovations were recommended to other hospitals."

Red Cross and St. Francis Nursing School, Breckenridge

In 1918, after war was declared, Regina decided it respond to the urgent call that went out to nurses in the United States, and signed up to join the Red Cross and go overseas.  The nursing school was running well and she felt comfortable leaving it in the hands of the Franciscans.  She returned to Milwaukee, where her mother was now living, and prepared to join the war effort, but by the time she was ready to go,  peace was declared on November 11.  Then the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918 swept through Milwaukee and she was ill and then convalescent for several weeks. However, her brother Matt wanted to go to law school, and money was needed to help pay for this.  So Regina found a job as a health inspector in  the Milwaukee public schools.  She worked there for three months.  During this time she began receiving letter after letter  from the St. Francis School of Nursing in Breckenridge, MN.  They desperately needed a director of nursing and their Franciscan counterparts in Little Falls had been effusive in their praise for Miss Werner's administrative and teaching skills.  Although she was not eager to leave her family again, St. Francis made her an offer that she could not refuse.

"I asked for the phenomenal fee of $110 a month and they accepted.  That was with room, board and laundry too, so it was quite a lot of money in those days.  And of course anything I could give to Matt would help, so I accepted the position."

The St. Francis School of Nursing had been in operation since 1908, so Regina readily assumed the position as director and took up teaching again.  Things went smoothly except in one instance involving one of the doctors there.

"[Dr. Cross] and I became very good friends at Breckenridge.  He was always coming  and asking my advice. 'What do you think, Miss Werner?' he'd always ask.  But then something went wrong and he became mentally wrong.  He was a big huge man, a surgeon before this happened and one of my dearest friends.

"One day two doctors came to me and asked if they could keep Dr. Cross in the hospital overnight.  Mental patients aren't usually kept in ordinary hospitals but he was too uncontrollable at home and they needed a safe place for him temporarily and the doctors promised that they'd always have someone there watching him. I agreed, rather hesitantly, and they put him in a room several doors down the hall from mine.

"In the middle of the night, I was awakened by a terrific yell coming from that room.  I got up, put on my bathrobe, and went down the hall to investigate.  I opened the door and he was standing there stark naked with the moon shining on him.  He screamed, 'There she is!  There's Miss Werner!  I'll get her!' and started coming towards me.  I really was frightened half to death and started running down the hall with Dr. Cross right behind me.  I turned to go down the stairs and he was directly behind me.  I had my keys with me, remembered the night nurses' room was next door, unlocked the door and pulled it shut behind me.  He was trying to kill me because I had helped lance a boil on his finger that afternoon.  The two doctors finally showed up and put him in a straightjacket and they took him to a mental institution in North Dakota.  I was shaking that night, uncontrollably, and the next day."

Grandmother was being pursued by another man at this time, but this was in a romantic vein.  Dr. Claude Frederick Holst from Little Falls, started paying social calls on her when she moved to back to Minnesota, although Breckenridge was 140 miles distant. "Dr. Fred was 22 year older than I was and I suppose I looked upon him as a father figure.  But we had the best marriage you could ask for.  He never tried to order me around and was so patient and kind to me.  Everything worked out for the best."

However, their wedding was postponed by a natural disaster--a tornado.  "It was at suppertime.  We were all sitting down to dinner when word came that there had been a tornado near Fox Home (15 miles east of Breckenridge).  It had knocked a train off the tracks and there were a lot of people who had been hurt.  I grabbed a pillowcase and stuffed it full of a much medicine as I could and we left for Fox Home.

"When we got there we found the train lying sideways in a big pool of water and many, many people who needed medical assistance.  The railroad dispatched a special, I think they called it a 'Y' train, to get us out there and we brought the injured back in it.

"The next day after we'd brought the people back from the train, others from the surrounding countryside where the tornado had hit, began pouring in (to St. Francis).  All the sisters had to give up their beds and many of the injured were just lying on straw mattresses on the floor.  Things were so hectic.  Sister Mary Elizabeth, who was head of the hospital, begged me to stay until the crisis was over.  She told me, 'If you stay, we'll give you the nicest wedding breakfast.'  So I stayed and helped.

"At first we gave first aid, which was just hit and miss, to those who needed it most then we settled down to giving nursing care.  We had two little boys who came in with pieces of straw blown straight into their calves.  They said when the tornado struck, they got scared and crawled into a cold oven to hide.

"I worked for two straight days without changing my clothes and lost 20 pounds.  Dr. Fred came for the wedding, saw me, and said, 'You look terrible.'  He was all for taking me away right then but I'd promised Sister Mary Elizabeth so we waited until the crisis passed and then got married (June 19, 1920).  The wedding breakfast was, like she said, the nicest."

As Mrs. C.F. Holst, my grandmother gave up her nursing practice and became a full time mother with many outside interests.  She helped form the St. Gabriel's Hospital Women's Auxiliary which raised money for the hospital.  The nursing school continued until 1934 when the Depression shut it down, graduating 75 nurses.  It reopened in 1942 and stayed open until the late 1960's when it closed for good.  More than 600 nurses graduated from the school.

When Dr. Fred died in 1953, Regina moved to Salt Lake City and worked for the Latter Day Saints' Hospital from 1953-54 while my father was doing an internship there.  She then returned to Minnesota and worked for the Home for the Blind in Minneapolis until she came down with hepatitis and retired to Little Falls. 

Gaga died on December 31, 1981, after suffering a series of strokes over a period of several years.  Her life demonstrated to me that women could have careers and be successful, and I credit her example with propelling me through law school and beyond.  Her favorite motto, was "to teach is to learn twice."  She had high standards for her grandchildren, but only because she had them for herself.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

CT scan results 10/29/10

Good news!  The tumors continue to be stable, and one in the left lower lobe continues to shrink:

CT Chest With Contrast

restage lung cancer


CTB C1 Chest CT

Region of interest: Chest

Type of scan: Single phase spiral

Superior Extent: Base of Neck

Inferior Extent: Through Adrenal glands

Reformats: Coronal

Automated exposure control and statistical iterative reconstruction techniques substantially lowered patient radiation dose.


Decrease 1.7 cm left lower lobe nodule, previously 2 cm, image 99:

Series 3.
Stable 8 mm ill-defined ground-glass opacity in the left lower lobe,

image 66: Series 3.
Stable 5 mm nodule at the left lung base on image 92: Series 3.

No new pulmonary nodules are present.

Stable aortopulmonary window nodal mass measuring 2 cm. No axillary or hilar adenopathy is present.

Mild coronary artery calcifications are present. Heart size is normal.
Partially visualized portion of the abdomen is normal.

Right-sided port catheter terminates in the lower SVC.

No suspicious lytic or blastic osseous lesions are present.

1. Decreased 1.7 cm left lower lobe nodule, previously 2 cm. Remaining pulmonary nodules are stable. No new nodules are present.

2. Stable aortopulmonary window nodal mass measuring 2 cm, decreased since 09/16/2009.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Good thing the Vet is so close

Yesterday, Mr. Scooter ran across the street to bark at our neighbor who was mowing his grass and managed to get a toenail caught in something, and almost completely ripped it out.  Those toenails bleed like a son of a gun.  I could see the blood all over the road and when I picked him up it dripped all over my arm and hand.  Luckily, Lily, my every two weeks cleaning pro, was there and she got some paper towels and drove us the two blocks to the veterinarian who completed the toenail removal and bandaged him up.  Of course, by the time we were back home, Scooter managed to rip off the top part of the bandage.  Thank goodness for duct tape and for the Cone of Shame.  So, every time he needs to go outside, I have to put a baggy with rubber band over the whole mess and then he clumps down the deck to the backyard. 

His bandage should come off tomorrow, Friday.  Which is the same day I go in for my next CT scan.  This time with contrast.  So, fingers crossed that things continue to shrink or at least not growing.  If so, I will be back on Mon for my next chemo.  If not, then we will see. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

30 Years Ago Today


I got married.

It was one of those whirlwind courtships that come with youth and idealism.  I had just finally broken the last threads connecting me to my former Muslim medical school boyfriend in Brussels when he came to visit me in D.C. in late February.  Two weeks later I met Bob, a friend from college, for dinner after work in Dupont Circle at Vesuvios Pizza.  Bob was married and a matchmaker at heart.  He brought along another Macalester  alumnus to pizza, a guy named Jim.  Jim didn't remember me initially that evening, but I certainly remembered  him from college.

Jim was distinguished by a gold capped front tooth, giving him a bit of the air of a pirate when he smiled broadly.  He had lived in Kirk Hall the year that I was a resident assistant in that dorm.  He was an English major at the time with long hair, and was more, shall we say, laid back than I was attracted to, so we remained simply acquaintances for the remainder of my time at Mac.

However, when we re-met--7 years later--he had revved up both his career and his personality following graduation, obtaining a Masters of Public Affairs from the University of Michigan and then moving to DC and  working as a staff economist (loosely speaking) on the Senate Labor Committee, which was headed up at the time, by Senator Harrison "Pete" Williams, soon to be infamous and convicted for his role in the Abscam bribery case.

The dinner was breezy and fun and Jim called me later that week to make a date.  He picked me up Friday evening (it was Good Friday) in his friend Andy's old Mercedes outside the Pentagon where I worked as the Special Assistant to the General Counsel, and we went to dinner at a fancy Asian restaurant.  We found that we had many things in common besides going to Macalester and one date grew into more.  Soon we were talking on the phone every day and night if we weren't going out.  Two or three weeks later, he proposed to me at the Tune Inn, a dive of a Capitol Hill bar that was popular with young Congressional staffers.  I accepted gladly, and then the real fun began.

My parents came to visit a month later and we announced our news.  They seemed  pleased (although, of course my mother had her reservations about the University of Michigan given that she was a Minnesota grad).  Next we flew to Ohio to tell Jim's parents:

I was Catholic at the time, so Jim agreed to do an Engaged Encounter weekend, which was required (or pre-Cana classes over several months) before you could be married in the Catholic Church.  We got through that ok, and then found out that the priest at the church I was attending in Old Town Alexandria, did not do 'mixed' marriages, even with the Engaged Encounter completed.  We went to plan "B" which was to hold the wedding in Lexington where my parents lived.  In the meantime, I had gotten very busy with my job, so it seemed an ideal solution, particularly as my mother, who had done another wedding at her house for my next oldest sister, seemed to be an old pro at this sort of thing.  We initially set the date for October 18 but my youngest sister had a dressage/jumping event that weekend, and we agreed to move it to October 25.

I flew home the Tuesday before the wedding. My first clue that I was no longer on the east coast was the bright blue "Reagan Bush" yard sign in my parents' front lawn.  When I protested to my father, he responded that he was simply trying to let the neighbors know what kind of bush he had in the front lawn. Of course, this is the same father who voted party over religion when he and Mom voted for Nixon in 1960 and were staunch Goldwater supporters in 1964, so I knew my leg was being pulled to the point of dislocation. Both Jim and I worked for the Democrats, and most of our friends who were coming from out of town to attend our wedding were Democrats as well.  Finally Dad agreed to pull the sign out and store it in the garage on our wedding day.

We had arranged to go to the Keeneland thoroughbred races that Thursday and had set our DC friends up to stay with friends in Lexington, to help make a longer trip affordable.  It was a beautiful fall day and such a treat to attend the races with a large group of friends, intent on having a good time, even if none of us cashed many tickets.  Friday night was the modified bachelors' party--all of us went to the gay nightclub in town to drink and dance. I left early, mindful that I had to get up  the next day, but Jim stayed to the bitter end and at some point danced with some one's purse.  He was rather the worse for wear the next day.  And the best man was late to the formal picture taking before the wedding.  So you won't see Jud in the formal, wedding party picture:              

I got up way too soon on Saturday, so I could have my hair done professionally for the big day.  I had a hairdresser who had done a nice job cutting my hair when I was a law student so I returned to Steve for the haircut of my life, but for whatever reason, he botched the job, giving me bangs when I really did not ask for them.  I came home and tried to comb my 'don't' into something presentable, but it was not very attractive and showed in most of the pictures. 

My wedding dress however was another story.  It was made by a young dressmaker just getting started in Crystal City outside DC,  named Hannelore.  She charged me $211 to make the off white silk gown from a pattern I brought to her.  I understand that she eventually specialized in wedding dresses and  is much more expensive these days. Her workmanship was exquisite and the dress was a real pleasure to wear (the shoes were not. I had to change into flats to make it through the reception.)  How was I ever this skinny?

Jim's father was a Presbyterian minister, so we worked with the priest at the Newman Center to make sure Leonard was included in the service. He gave the sermon, which consisted of finding various pieces of colored paper stored in his pockets that had advice for us newlyweds to help us through the years.*  What we were not prepared for is during the priest's recitation of the standard vows was that he asked Jim if he would agree that the children born of our union would be brought up Catholic.  That had not been discussed with us prior to our wedding and I held my breath, but Jim, a trooper at the time, gave the correct answer and we sailed through that part.

Beth and Carol playing Jesu, Joy of Man's Desire

The bagpiper is one of Jim's roommates from college, Tad, who from what Jim told me, liked to ingest lots of garlic in some misbegotten health scheme which made their dorm suite in Kirk quite odiferous, because Tad also liked to exercise on his bicycle in the common room of the suite. Tad loved bagpipes and practiced  at odd hours, using his chanter when he was indoors so as not to blow the other dorm residents out of their rooms. Tad  agreed to come to our wedding and play, but when he showed up in Lexington, he had forgotten his kilt. My mother loaned him her kilt and it fit Tad just perfectly.  He even used the fabric she had left over when she had it shortened, for the wrap around his shoulder.  I am sure that the Newman Center, where we were married on the campus of the University of Kentucky, had never had "Scotland the Brave" performed as a recessional before.

After the ceremony was over, we went back to my parents' house for the reception.  This being 1980, there was champagne and beer in abundance and the food was fabulous, having been prepared in my folks'  kitchen by Lexington's best caterer:

What we completely forgot, was that some people, might not drink alcohol at all.  Those folks being Jim's parents.  Oops.

Then there was the reception line.  Both mothers were in it as were me, Jim, my youngest sister who was the maid of honor, and maybe the best man, but maybe not.  Things went swimmingly at first:

However, as we were greeting folks who were coming through the front door, friends of my parents from Defiance, OH, Bill and Betty Kirtley, were coming through the back door through garage.  Bill saw the "Reagan Bush" sign and, on his own, decided that it needed to be paraded through our reception:

My mother was the first to seen the approaching lawn sign of doom, while the rest of us were preoccupied:

She recovered quickly.  But then, Jim and his mother saw it:

Things could have gotten ugly, but my father waded into the fray, caught up to Bill and tried to tell a few jokes, repeating the lawn sign one to smooth ruffled feathers.  Dad did manage to get the sign out of Bill's hands and back into the garage where it stayed for the rest of the reception**:

And eventually we all got to leave the reception line and get a drink and things got better.

Another interesting conflict that developed during the wedding, was that as Jim and I had been living on our own for a number of years, we didn't think that we needed all the traditional wedding gifts that friends and family showered upon you, and we wanted whatever money our friends would spend on those gifts to go to a cause that was near and dear to our hearts:  Macalester College and minority scholarships.  Several of our friends there had been African American and my current boss was African American, so it made perfect sense to us.  I thought I might get an official imprimatur of approval for our idea if I wrote to Miss Manners at the Washington Post.
Miss Manners responded in a column published in the Washington Post in the spring of 1980:
Yours is the most altruistic of the many letters Miss Manners receives from people who want to have some control over the selection of present they expect. Others ask 'How can I let them know I want money instead of some crummy toaster?' or "Instead of each giving us silver we won't use, why can't our friends get together and pay our mortgage?" Then there are the people who either sympathize with their friends' problems of buying present or profound distrust their taste, and want to say, "No gifts please" on their invitations.

What Miss Manners must tell all of you, regardless of your motives, is that there is no tasteful way--not even any moderately decent way--of directing present-giving, when you are on the receiving end.

Contrary to general belief, present-giving is never required. It is traditionally associated with birthdays, Christmas and weddings, but cannot be used as an entrance fee to related festivities. You must pretend that you invite people because you want to celebrate important occasions with them and you must seem pleasantly surprised when they give you something. To act as if it is such standard payment that you can acknowledge your expectations is rude-rude-rude.

Perhaps what has confused you is the business gimmick of the bridal registry, by which engaged couples inform stores of their tastes in the hope that their friends will come in, get this information and act on it.

There is just enough distance between the giver and the receiver to make this a passable practice. The bride and bridegroom do not actually instruct their friends--they only tell their preference to a neutral business establishment. And the present-givers only receive information if they ask for it.

Another practice that has confused you is that of bereaved families who ask that "contributions" be made to a charity instead of flowers being sent to them or the funeral. This is also a borderline case, most practical when there are huge numbers of mourners and it is known that there will be more than enough flowers (Notice to florists: Miss Manners adores flowers, and believe that they are an important symbolic part of a funeral, but too many of them, sent to the bereaved family's house, can be oppressive.

However, we were talking about weddings, not funerals, and the charitable donation idea is appropriate to the latter, not the former. Your wedding guests should not have to "memorialize" you with a charitable contribution in your name. If they want to remember you charitably, they can invite you to dinner.

So the answer is no. Miss Manners knows you mean well but you must take what people decide to give you looking grateful that they went to the trouble to get you anything at all. And then you can exchange it.
Reading Miss Manners today, I can see that she gave me excellent advice.  But back in 1980, it was not theadvice I wanted to hear.  So, I simply disregarded it, and hand wrote notes which I inserted in every wedding invitation that we sent out--over 200 of them.  My mother was horrified.  That was not the way you did things, neither when she got married, nor in 1980. So Mom engaged in a bit of guerrilla warfare herself,  and without my knowledge, set up the traditional wedding gift table in the back bedroom, just in case any of her friends didn't want to give to the minority scholarship program at Macalester.  Just like the Reagan Bush sign, I discovered the gifts table when I came home, but unlike the yard sign, I was not get it removed.  So it stood during the wedding as a symbol of the clash between traditional bridal mores and my rash assault upon them:

Mom: 1,  Me: 0.  But Macalester did receive $1005 from friends gracious enough to overlook my very bad manners.  It was a lot of money back in the day, and both Jim and I were very thankful. 

As the reception was winding down, we discovered that many of our friends didn't have plans for the evening.  Utterly on the spur of the moment, we called a restaurant in the Tates Creek shopping area to see if their private dining room on the second floor was available.  It was, so the party spilled over to there and eventually to their second private dining room. At that point, I was drinking bloody marys and the festivities became very loud and boisterous--with many jokes being told by those at the table.  In the second room there was a large joke that had to do with the Arch in St. Louis, but in the dining room I was in, the only joke that I clearly remember from that night was one told by Jack Edwards, a Macalester classmate (who I just learned passed away this past March--gads!).  Jack, although he grew up in Louisville, had a store of Sven and Ole jokes from his time in Minnesota and he spun them out that night, one after the other.  The one I remember was about Sven and Lena, his wife.  Lena was feeling poorly it seems, and Sven took her to the doctor to be looked at.  The doctor examined Lena and came out to Sven,  and said, "Sven, I'm afraid Lena has acute angina."  "Oh, dat's ok, doc," said Sven.  "I know dat already.  I peeked!" 

October 25, 1980 also marked the last day I ever smoked a cigarette.  I gave up smoking as my wedding gift to Jim.  But, of course, I tried to smoke all that I had left that day.  This just made the next morning, getting up for an early flight to DC and then on to St. Thomas for our honeymoon, that much more enjoyable.  Not.  I barely made it off the plane in DC and to the bathroom before I gave back my breakfast and part of my supper from the night before.  Luckily our friend, Karen, was on the same flight back so she shepherded me to and from the women's room, while Jim waited outside, a reversal of roles from the day before.  Giving up smoking meant quitting a habit I had developed for 9 years.  I say, with 20/20 hindsight, that I would not have quit that way again, because our honeymoon turned out to the one from hell.   But that is a story for another thread.

So, Happy Anniversary to me.  Glad I quit smoking 30 years ago.  Should never have started, but coulda woulda shoulda.


*Four years after we married, Jim's parents divorced after 39 years of marriage.

**Unfortunately for Bill Kirtley, we had a fairly bad recession Reagan's first two years in office.  Bad enough that it closed Bill's business in Defiance. 

I guess that's those are some illustrations of the law of unintended consequences.

Update October 26, 2010.  I was at  Metropolitan Markets tonight picking up a coupon special.  And who should I meet there but my former husband.  Who looked directly at me as one would a constituent, but did not register that this person smiling at him was his former wife with chemo shortened hair.  Almost 19 years of marriage, and he did not recognize me.  It will be interesting to sit with him at Sarah's award ceremony next Friday.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What Max taught Scooter and Truffle

Here are Truffle and Scooter at Greenlake, retrieving their toy from the water.  You don't find many dachshunds who voluntarily retrieve, let alone retrieve in the water.  But Max and I taught Scooter one day when I went into Lake Washington to retrieve Max's float because he couldn't see it.  Scooter got very anxious and thought I was running away, so he jumped in the water and paddled out to see where I was going and if I was all right.  After that he was a water dog too, and I had to get him his own floaty toy.  Then after Truffle joined the family, she was taught by both Max and Scooter, and a little bit by her own jealousy at being left out of the fun. 

Thus, when I take the terrible two for a walk around Greenlake, they expect to stop at a little bay past the Bathhouse Theater and swim for a while.  Their legs are too short to balance in the water so they use their tails, which circle furiously like a helicopter rotor as they swim out and back with the brightly colored rubber bone gripped in their teeth.  Usually Scooter starts out winning the race for  the first throws, but eventually Truffle gingerly surreptitiously wades out halfway into the water, to give her a headstart after Scooter's brought the toy back.  So, she takes over for the second half.  Folks usually stop and ask questions or comment when we're there, because it's so unusual to see these little guys behaving like water dogs.

It's probably too cold to take the two dachshunds to Greenlake for a swim fest these days because they don't have the double coat to keep them warm in the water like Max does.  And Max can no longer retrieve in the water because his vocal cord is tied back.  Should he get water in his mouth there's a significant danger that it would travel to his lungs and he would come down with  pneumonia as a result.  So for now, we'll go back to retrieving on land for all three.  Come spring though we will be back at Greenlake for a dip.

Wherein I rub shoulders with celebrity and talent!

First story:

I was invited to the Battlestar Galactica exhibit opening last night at the Experience Music Project by my friends Mike and Janet, whose daughter, Ariane, is a curator with the EMP.  We toured the exhibit which is very fun, although  the Cylons weren't up yet.  They should be in another week, so I plan to return.  Several of the characters, writers, and directors from BSG were there and spoke about the planning and filming of the series.  It was fascinating to me, as I am a fan of BSG and science fiction in general, and it was a special pleasure to have my picture taken with Edward James Olmos, Admiral Adama. 

I was introduced to BSG late in the series, but liked it immediately.  Lucky for me, cable-less wonder that I am, Mike and Janet not only had cable, but were into the series and generous in opening their house to me and some other friends who otherwise would not have gotten our weekly fix while it ran.  We brought dinners, they provided the tv.  It was a great trade.

BSG ended before my cancer diagnosis, but cancer, specifically, and fear of the unknown, more generally, played a very large part in the plot.  Overcoming that fear in the face of almost certain annihilation or failure, and going forward with life--what a concept!  I've always been taken with science fiction that deals with larger issues of belief; books like Grass by Sherrie Tepper, Hyperion by Dan Simmons, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell are a few examples.  Placing the story outside of current space and time permits an author a greater artistic license to explore the issue of belief, but it also requires the author to construct a reality that is not only logical but resonates with the reader.  These books, and the BSG series (minus the second season) make it look easy.  

I caught up with BSG by  purchasing those seasons for the years that I had not contemporaneously watched it, and was pleasantly surprised to find a college friend guest-starring in a BSG episode.  Carl Lumbly played troubled Lt. Danny "Bulldog" Novacek in a 2006 installment.  Carl and I were resident assistants in the same dorm our last year at Macalester, and 4 of us lived together in an apartment the summer of 1974.  At Macalester he was quite fond of the Steely Dan song "Midnight Cruiser" and would leave notes on my dorm room door for my roommate, Margaret, and I signed "MC."  I have usually discovered Carl by accident in roles in West Wing, LA Law and the movie, Brother from Another Planet, as well as Buckaroo Bonzai. 

Last night I tried to tell Admiral Adama, by way of introduction, that I knew Carl, but my voice is again not so good, the room was huge and noisy and when I thought about it afterward, I was embarrassed by my "star struck-ness" because even if he had heard me, he probably would not have recalled Carl from just one episode.  Olmos was incredibly patient with the long lines of people who wanted to shake his hand, get his autograph and pose with him.  I was very impressed with the kindness shown to all by the BSG celebrities who attended.  And for those cynics of you out there, it really did not seem too much like a re-enactment of Galaxy Quest, although earlier at dinner we all chanted, "By Grapthor's Hammer!"

So Say We All!!

Second story:

This year I put on reserve all the books that were nominated for the National Book award, in an effort to broaden my horizons beyond simply reading science fiction.  The first book the library had available for me was So Much for That by Lionel Shriver. My book group read We Need to Talk about Kevin  and we had a huge impassioned discussion about that book.  I opened it up on the bus ride home from work the day I got it, and I thought, "Uh oh, this might be a problem."  The story deals with a guy who devoted his life to saving money, so he could retire to a tropical paradise, but  the moment he plans to take off, with or without his wife, she is diagnosed with mesothelioma.  So.  I decided to do the patented Regina speed read in order to blow by the bad parts.  Turns out that was not really possible with this book.  But funny thing was I ended up really enjoying it, despite the bad things that predictably and unpredictably happen and for all the good things too.  I ended up highly recommending it on my Goodreads site.

Towards the end of the book I found a typo.  Actually it was the use of a homonym and it caused my latent copy editor personality developed during two years at the Mac Weekly, to rear her head.  "Hued" was used when the word should have been "hewed."  So, for the first time in my life, I went back to the acknowledgments, found the editor, and then googled her name with that of the publisher and located her email address.  I sent the editor an email lightly griping about the incorrect word usage, and was shocked to receive a reply back that same day, thanking me for discovering it and letting her know.  She said it will be corrected in the paperback edition.  But an even greater thrill was that the next day, Lionel Shriver emailed and thanked me as well!  I can tell you that my day was made. How very gracious!

Of course, this means that I have now just made myself open to correction for all misspellings and incorrect word usages made on my blog.  For that, all I can say is take it up with my editor!  I hope I don't hear from these guys! Hat tip to Jolene.

Monday, October 11, 2010 FUNdraising party a huge success!!

At least on my terms.  It rained like crazy that evening.  The event was held behind Hale's Ales in The Palladium, a huge echoing cement warehouse, just perfect for a nine piece rock band.  The fellow at the front door told people to follow the yellow brick road around to the back to the fun, but the rain was so prolific that the yellow brick road was under water at several parts.  So huge kudos to the more than 150 people who turned out and who donated almost $4,000 to cancergrace that evening!! Folks from the AG's office, the prosecutor's office, cancergrace, the View Ridge Swim and Tennis Club, my book group, my church, and just dear, dear friends all came to celebrate and contribute.

Here are some pictures taken by Laya, a cancergrace moderator from Los Angeles,  who flew up from Los Angeles to be present. 
Rusty Fallis, AAG, addresses the crowd prior to starting the show (Dan Satterberg is far left)

The Approximations were a fabulous rock band. I can't tell you how many people told me that they were the best band they'd heard lately! Thanks so much to them for making it an evening to remember.  My daughter even coaxed me out onto the dance floor where I relived ancient history in my cowboy boots.

But it was Dr. Jack West who was the star of the show:

My daughter introduced Dr. West, as Rob McKenna was a no show, probably due to the weather.  Dr. West spoke about his idea of educating cancer patients so that they could get the best care possible and how world class hospitals and clinics, like we have in Seattle, are not available to everyone. gets 20,000 hits a month from over 100 countries around the world.  It's a continuing presence in many peoples' lives and it has made a significant difference in the quality of their lives.  All for free.  All on the internet, available to anyone.

As of Saturday night, we had raised almost $4,000 but I heard that there were checks at the office for me today.  Since I was in chemo Monday, I will pick them up on Tuesday.  Here's hoping we can get close to $5,000 for a very worthy cause.  And thanks to those who came and who contributed even if they could not attend.  And special thanks to Kathleen Hale and Hales Ales for their help.  Blessings to all of you.

There are more pictures at:

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Update on Max and other things

As you can see from the photos, Max is getting back to his old self.  Perhaps a creakier old self, but nonetheless he is enjoying chasing and retrieving his 'kong' and no longer has stentorian breathing that sounds like he is having a heart attack.  It is a wonderful time with him.  The other two have their noses out of joint because of all the attention showered on Max, but that's good.  It evens the playing field.

Chemo went smoothly this week.  My blood count was normal throughout, which surprised me, given that I still have the walrus-bark cough from the flu.

The benefit is this Saturday at the Palladium behind Hale's Ales in Ballard.  It really should be a blast.  The group who is performing, The Approximations,  sounds pumped, and invitations have been flying all over the place. My work office had a silent auction today and we raised almost the entire cost of the rental for the Palladium, so YAY work friends!  You are the greatest!

And then, family news.  The exciting news, which I've shared with as many as I can on Facebook and elsewhere, is that my daughter was voted the "Outstanding Medical Student" of the year for the WWAMI area (Washington, Alaska, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming).  I am so proud of her!  And I bet all those docs in her past, i.e. the  Drs. Holst (Fred andBurton), the Drs. Murbach(Edwin and Clarence), the Drs. Fauster (John U. and John U.  Jr), and my dad are all cheering for her.  I know my brother, the anesthesiologist, is.  The award will be given on Nov. 5, as part of the American College of Physicians' MCE in Seattle.  I am invited to the luncheon and just thrilled to attend.

Seth, my second child, but oldest boy, is doing Water Polo at the Univ. of MN in addition to seeking his BS in Engineering there.  I will finally have to learn the fight song.  Better than Michigan (mind you, I was raised by a mother who graduated from MN when they were competitive with Michigan, so....)

And then my youngest.  Good thing he's there to tether me to reality.  Yesterday he called to see if he could take the two dachshunds on a walk around Greenlake.  I said yes, with gratitude, because they love it, particularly when they get to retrieve their ball from the water (they were taught how to by Max--you cannot believe the attention that they get because no one has ever seen a water retriever dachshund until now).  That evening got a call from the youngest, who informed me that Scooter had pooped in my car on the way to or from Greenlake, but he had cleaned it up.

Tonight I went looking for a bra that I had left in the car in a sack, that I had intended to return to the store for a refund, because it did not fit.  I did not find it, so called youngest son and asked if he had seen it.  Turns out that he had used the sack (a cloth reusable sack) to clean up the mess in the car, either not noticing or not caring that there was a bra in the sack, and he dumped the whole mess in a trash bin at the end.  He was shocked, shocked, that I had noticed the bag missing and confessed that he thought that if I didn't say anything, he could let it slide unremarked.  Obviously he forgot who he was dealing with.  When I told him I wanted him to reimburse me the cost of the brassiere in cash, his response was, "But Mom, you always pay me in checks."