Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Of eggshells and heart sacs


It’s been a year since I last posted, and I’ve missed it. Writing for others seems to help me crystallize my thoughts and stay positive so ultimately, this exercise is for myself. With that, here is today’s offering…

I was making pancakes this morning for Alder and his friend, idly breaking an egg when my mind wandered back to a sixth-grade field trip to the Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. The tour included the hospital kitchen. I vividly remember a guy standing in front of a vat, or rather, I picture the vat itself – an elongated rectangular trough that was apparently some kind of cooking apparatus. In my mind it was gigantic, and was filled with gallons and gallons of yellowish liquid. A man in a paper hat stood before it, dragging a large metal spatula back and forth through the trough of what turned out to be eggs. 

As he sloshed around the yellowy ocean of congealing egg, the cook told us a story. He told us ships’ cooks had to use powdered eggs on long voyages at sea, and they tasted terrible. But the cooks would pack a few real eggs. They’d crack one egg into each batch of fake eggs and throw in the whole thing, shell and all.

Eliciting the anticipated “Eww!” from his audience, our chef got to the punch line: When sailors would come across little bits of shell in their eggs, they would think they were eating real eggs.

I’m not sure why this story stuck with me. At the time, it was the horror of it. The thought of someone intentionally poisoning breakfast with the shards of eggshell appalled me.

It also conjured the difficulties of the seafaring life in a visceral way. There is nothing worse than grinding your teeth on an errant bit of shell. To have that experience be a positive – something that would somehow lift one’s spirits – tells you how low those spirits must be. I think my spoiled little 12-year-old brain realized for a brief flash that if a sailor’s life is so miserable that eggshell in his food is a bonus, I’ve got it pretty good.

My pericarditis seems to be the eggshell in the food of my life. It manifests as discomfort created by friction between the heart and the heart sac, or pericardium, and is a result of inflammation of the pericardium. Cardiologists describe the sound they hear through the stethoscope as a rub. Ay, there’s the rub. Indeed.  

It started when I was about 95 percent through "active" cancer treatment, down to the last five days of radiation. Through a series of mishaps beginning with my delaying care (i.e., my old friend denial) and continuing through misdiagnosis and a potentially fatal administration of the wrong drug, I found myself hospitalized with a giant needle in my chest in February 2014. The needle aspirated the fluid that was compressing my heart and limiting its ability to pump blood.

The inflammation at the root of the problem has since been controlled by another drug, less immediately lethal but more insidious as it has a tendency to rob the body of its ability to perform essential functions. I have tried for 20 months to wean off that drug, and as I have written before, have repeatedly “failed taper.”

The most recent failure occurred last month. The symptoms were subtle enough that I could deny it for a few days, and there is good reason to travel that River of deNile. Because here’s the thing with steroids: when you’re down to, say, 4mg per day, and your symptoms flare up, you can’t just tamp it down with a 20mg hit and revert back to 4mg. No, you have to start the taper again. It’s like Candyland, where you’re almost to the candy palace and you pick up Mr. Plum, banished back to square one to start the long slog again.

I have tests and appointments in Seattle on Friday. I look forward to them with that vague hope that something new and encouraging will come of it. Plus, I love the warm blankets at Swedish, and the aquariums and jigsaw puzzles and the attention of medical professionals. I have a twisted sort of nostalgia about my cancer treatment, and there is comfort in seeing my doctors and nurses again.

Maybe my cardiologist will magically tell me my heart looks perfect, and declare that THIS TIME the taper will work. My oncologist will tell me my bones aren’t melting away despite the calcium-dissolving properties of three of my medications. She’ll tell me those medications are keeping the cancer at bay, that I will be able to raise my children, look to the future. I am, after all, only halfway to 89 as of my half-birthday last month.  

As I made pancake batter this morning and remembered that sixth-grade field trip, all these thoughts came tumbling into mind. For a brief moment, not quite an epiphany but a moment of clarity, I realized there was a lesson in the story the paper-hat-clad cook told us in the bowels of Beth Israel Hospital 30 years ago.   

Today I recognized the eggshell story as a testament to the power of the mind. I can only assume that that bit of calcified grit in their breakfast triggered an association in the sailors’ stomach or brains, and – here’s the kicker – the eggs tasted better for it.  

It’s a classic paradox. Maybe, I thought, I can turn my assumptions on their heads. Maybe it’s all about the eggshells, the gritty bits in the teeth of our lives. They remind us of what’s good and real, conjure a gut-memory of the deliciousness of life. That faint rub in my heart is telling me that I survived cancer, that I may be out to sea where the eggs are made of powder, but I am strong and alive and able to savor what I have. Or maybe I’m deluding myself – but that, again, is the power of the mind, and I’ll take it.  

A highlight of our lives was hiking the Chilkoot Trail for five days in August. I first hiked it 20 years ago, and even before I had kids I wanted to take them over the Chilkoot Pass. I'm grateful to Joy for helping make it happen, and to Rosie and Alder for being so game. 

Rosie and her pal Anna ran "Beat the Odds" 5k . I was at home succumbing to the odds.

Rosie and Alder in July on Little Haystack, surveying the upcoming route over Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire.  

Portrait of a Working Mom, a.k.a. how Alder entertains himself while I neglect him. Who knew my crappy phone could do this?

Let's see what happens when you put an African fat-tailed gecko and a cricket in a Magnetile maze...

Monday, November 10, 2014

When the fix is ... nonexistent

On July 4, 2004, I watched an only-in-Alaska sporting event called the Mt. Marathon race in Seward. Runners climb 3000 vertical feet in a mile-and-a-half, then turn around and scream down the mountain. The fastest runners average 12 miles per hour on the descent. To borrow from Woody in Toy Story, “That’s not running, that’s falling with style.”

The mountain is mostly bare rock, and you can watch much of the action from the streets of Seward, where the race starts and ends. I watched runners stumble across the finish line mud-spattered, bloodied, gasping for air.

I had to do the race. I just had to. The giddy thrill of my spectating experience instantly morphed into a delusion that I would run the race the following year. I wandered around Seward babbling my newfound ambition to anyone who would listen. Locals explained that I would literally have to win the lottery to get a race number. I was undaunted.

Undaunted, that is, until I hiked the trail the next day.

Patiently indulging my fantasy, John took then-two-year-old Rosie to the aquarium while I climbed Mt. Marathon in preparation for my race. Several minutes up the trail, I encountered the rock wall I had watched tens of racers deftly skitter down as they neared the race finish. I could not, but not, find the nerve or the fingerholds to scale it. After several attempts, I succumbed to my fear and sheepishly trudged up the trail that wound around the backside of the cliffs. The rest of the ascent was an exercise in staying attached to the mountain on the loose scree and tethered to my bearings as fog ensconced my world.

On the descent, I again attempted the cliffs, again chickened out, and then and forever stopped talking about getting a race number.    

Memories of my Mt. Marathon experience flooded back when, in 2012, a Mt. Marathon racer disappeared. Michael LeMaitre had never hiked the trail, and he was the last racer up the mountain. Race volunteers at the turnaround rock, situated below the summit, left before he reached their perch. They passed him heading up and asked if he needed help. He said he was fine. That was the last anyone saw of him.

His distraught wife sued the City of Seward, which sponsors the race, for $5 million. Last month – after more than two years of legal warfare – the City announced a settlement for $20,000, the minimum the city figured it would cost to go to trial.[i] Throughout the case, vitriol and suspicion flowed from city authorities; Peggy LeMaitre was painted as greedy, manipulative, moronic. It was suggested she staged her husband’s disappearance for money.

I read the news stories with abject horror. Last month marked four years since John’s death.  After he died, several friends suggested I consider suing for wrongful death. There was a reasonable case: the barrier he’d innocently vaulted was apparently below the required height for barriers that conceal a drop. Money could help offset the loss of his income.  

But I knew that suing would shunt time, money and spiritual energy from the work I needed to do healing and raising my children. I knew that wrongful death cases have a low rate of success. And I suspected that, should the case hit the papers, the greedy-widow narrative would bubble to the surface. And most of all, I knew in my heart that even the best-case scenario, a legal “win,” would not lessen our anguish.

John’s accident was one-part bad luck, one-part bad judgment. Or maybe two-parts of one, one-part the other. The point is, all accidents are some combination of a potentially unsafe situation and an error or series of errors in judgment. The law is ill equipped to find truth in these situations. Accidents are nuanced events.  

But several people counseled me to keep my options open. So I talked to an attorney, and filled out a form that effectively put the City of Minneapolis on notice that I reserved the right to sue, thus freezing the statute of limitations. This bought me time, and helped me think through what I wanted. And what I really wanted was for no one else to die the way John did. I wanted the barrier made safer.  

In the end, largely through the persistence of John’s mother, that’s what happened. The city determined that the barrier was below height standards for bicyclists, who were at risk of toppling over it while riding alongside it over the bridge. The city added a metal rail, raising the height of the concrete barrier.

Perhaps the city’s actions suggest I might have won my hypothetical lawsuit. Probably not. The law is an ugly beast. More likely, like Peggy LeMaitre, I would have been left bitter and depleted and mired in injury that’s been compounded by insult.  

I imagine Peggy never saw it coming. Wrongful death attorneys with their no-money-down deals can seem like a safe gambit. Well-meaning friends and family probably encouraged her to seek justice or demand accountability. She was vulnerable, hurting, angry; and the people who loved her wanted to fix it.

Therein lies the rub. Human compassion compels us to want to solve problems. When we see someone hurting, we want to jump in and save them, take action, do something – anything.  
But there are problems that can’t be solved. I’m not the most Zen of people and I can’t meditate to save my hide, but I’ve come to see that there are some situations you can’t fight your way through. You just have to sit with the pain, the loss, the lack of explanation. Sometimes there’s no reason and no remedy.  

I experienced something similar, albeit on a smaller scale, with the loss of my breast. As fast as they could say you’ll-never-be-a-lumpectomy-candidate (doctor-speak for, “we gotta slice this whole sucker off”), every medical professional I encountered assured me I could get reconstruction (doctor-speak for “fake boob”).

What they’re slower to explain is this: a fake breast will never look or feel like a real breast, and it will take varying degrees of time, money, discomfort and risk to construct. In my case, it would likely have required a high degree of all of them, and after figuring that out, I opted out. A year after my modified radical mastectomy, I’m comfortable in my body, relieved to be done with needless procedures, and glad I resisted the tacit pressure to pursue a fix.

My point is this: If someone you know is experiencing loss – whether it’s a spouse, a breast, a job, a house, a marriage – you don’t need to suggest a fix. Sometimes there is no fix.

But if you can’t solve your friend’s problem, you can sit with them through the long process of getting used to it. Bring flowers, bring chocolate, bring quinoa-kale salad. Bring a good joke. Bring your running shoes if running is better than sitting. Most of all, bring your patience. Help them get through each hour, each day, until the habit of living slowly brings joy and color back to their world.   

On one of Joy's and my less ambitious but always enjoyable hiking adventures. I'm having difficulty getting pics off my camera (operator error) so pics are limited.

Not Mt. Marathon -- Zombie Run in Juneau. The zombies got me but Alder outran them for 5 whole K!

With help from Sarah's mom, my awesome daughter Rosie and her friend Sarah MADE their Pink Ladies jackets.

Meantime, Legoman might be my crowning creative achievement. Design credit goes to Alder, and "making it happen" credit goes to Amy, with love and appreciation.

And love and appreciation to Brian, whose talents include installing bamboo flooring.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


The past few weeks have been dominated by Stuff. We sent 300 pounds of Legos and other assorted goods to Alaska by barge, mailed three boxes of books and files, and filled five 50-pound suitcases to take advantage of Alaska Airlines’ free checked baggage for Alaskans.

We got rid of even more stuff. We gave most of it away but there was one item I had a hard time letting go of – a Kenwood car stereo deck. It’s not that I wanted it, I just wanted money for it.
The car stereo (upside down, sorry)
Remember Shel Silverstein’s poem, Smart[i]? I read it to Alder recently as he was learning about money, and I couldn’t help thinking I’d been the fool who turned her dollar into five cents.

Yes, this has something to do with a car stereo. It starts last summer, when in my frenzy to leave Juneau I failed to ship my car to Seattle. In August, while driving a borrowed car, I rear-ended someone (a car dealer, it turned out).[ii] I again considered shipping my car down, but it was the end of summer and vehicle slots were booked for several weeks. I decided to buy a car. I test-drove a bunch of Priuses and then purchased a 1990 Toyota Corolla with 202,000 miles. I thought it was wildly funny that I bought a car that was older than the guy who sold it to me.

He had replaced the engine with a Japanese one with only 85,000 miles, and had replaced the brakes and tires. It had no rust, all service records going back to its conception, and a skookum stereo. Suddenly $2400 seemed reasonable. I figured I could drive it back to Juneau with all our stuff and sell it there, or sell it in Seattle before we left and recoup most of my money.  

In theory. Enter reality.

After taking Brian to Bellingham in January (our first major highway drive in old faithful), Alder and I spent the weekend with friends in the area. Driving home Sunday afternoon, I felt a bang. I was in the third lane from the right on four-lane I5, and managed to limp into the breakdown lane before the car crapped out entirely.

I turned on the hazards and assessed the situation. It was raining buckets and darkening quickly. A sign said Exit 202 was one mile away. The car shook with every passing vehicle. Alder sat big-eyed in the back seat.  

I called my dad and said casually, “Hi Dad, can’t talk but I was just wondering if you could give me Mom’s AAA number again? Thanks.”

Before he could ask a question, I hung up and called AAA. They promised a tow.  

For the next hour-and-a-half, Alder and I sat in the darkness in the shuddering car. We stayed buckled. I almost had Alder wear his bike helmet, but figured it would scare him. And if an 18-wheeler nicked us, we’d hurtle off the embankment and Alder’s Styrofoam brain bucket would be worthless.   

A car rolled to a stop in front of us. An old guy got out and I was terrified he would be flattened walking over to us. I cranked down the passenger window and he leaned in. “I saw your little car. I have the same one so I thought I’d see if I could help.”

I told him Triple-A was on the way, though by this time I was becoming doubtful. He wanted to push us farther into the breakdown lane. I told him I had tried putting the car in neutral, but even on a downward incline it wouldn’t roll. He pushed the car anyway. It wouldn’t budge. It wouldn’t go into neutral.  

He asked if I’d sell him the car, and wrote his name and phone number for me. Jack. He told me he’s 75 years old and cars are his hobby: “Some guys go fishing. I work on cars.”  

By this point he looked like a drowned cat. There was nothing more he could do for us, so he left.
The tow truck finally arrived, huge and Technicolor light-flashy. This wasn’t a hook-up-your-car-and-pull tow truck; this was a big rig with a ramp and an overhead pulley system that picked up our little tin can of a piece of crap car and gave it the ride of its life. Alder scaled the steps up to the cab and got the ride of his life.  

The tow truck deposited us in a lot in front of a place called Wright Automotive. I asked what town we were in. Marysville, he said, and left. It was now 8 p.m. Sunday evening, and we were alone in a dead car in front of a closed auto shop.

Fortunately, we had friends who would be returning to Bainbridge from up north, and when I called they offered to pick us up. I have no idea how we would have gotten back to the island without them.     
Our friends were about an hour-and-a-half behind us. I was relieved to be off the highway, but disconcerted by the occasional pickup truck that would circle the semi-abandoned lot. I turned off the interior light and slunk down in the seat. When we started to get chilled, I dropped my aversion to idling and turned the car on for heat and tunes. I cleared off the front seat so Alder could party up front with me. We ate granola bars and clementines and had a Beverly Cleary reading marathon. Alder never complained.  

When our rescuers arrived, we gratefully loaded our stuff and ourselves into their van. By the time we got home, we had turned a three-hour trip into a seven-hour epic.[iii]

We were also without wheels again. The next day James at Wright Automotice called to deliver the verdict: transmission is dead, and the car isn’t worth investing in a new one. It’s totaled. He said I might be able to get $300-400 for it from a “pick ‘n pull.” They tow your car, take what they want for scrap, and dispose of the rest.

I called good-Samaritan-Jack, I called some pick ‘n ‘pulls, and I called Jack again. We met him at Wright Automotive four days later (I borrowed a car). He gave me $400 and I gave him the keys to the castle.

We agreed I’d keep the stereo, but Jack didn’t have tools to remove it. James-the-mechanic said he’d charge me labor to remove it, and that if I left the car in his lot another day he’d charge me to store it. Jack then had an idea, and produced a new-in-the-box car stereo from his car. I took it, rationalizing that I could sell it for $100.    

James watched the entire transaction with bewilderment. When I asked about Washington state sales taxes, he said there would be no tax because the car had no value. Jack was unfazed. “I like these little cars,” he said. Now he would have two – plenty of parts.

Jack told me he thought he could get a used transmission for $500 or so, and could do the work himself. He told me he’d messed up his life and lost his family due to alcohol. He said he’s been sober for 20 years. He told me he likes to help people by volunteering to change their oil and work on their cars.

He called me a few days later to tell me he’d registered the car. A few days after that, he called to say he’d found a used transmission for $550.  

This was January. In May, as I contemplated shipping our inexplicable accumulation of crap back to Juneau, I offered the car stereo on Craigslist for $40. The first respondent asked if I’d trade it for medical marijuana. That’s rich, I thought. The other two prospective buyers wanted me to meet them off Bainbridge Island.  

I listed it again on Craigslist last week for $30. A guy asked if I’d take $10, or wait until Friday when he’d get paid. I felt sorry for him and said I’d take $20.

When he showed up (in a tow truck, as it were) and I took his ratty ten-dollar bills, I felt foolish. I had been giving away clothes, toys, books, a case of Ensure, food, cookware, a bike. But that damn car stereo represented all that was left of a bad investment, and I was determined to get something for it.

It’s kind of like when everything is going wrong but dammit, your hair looks good! Or when your to-do list overwhelms you, so you add “brush teeth,” and check it off. You gotta do what you gotta do, and sometimes you just have to laugh at your own incredibly imperfect humanness.   

A note on our whereabouts: After a whirlwind week of packing, purging and cleaning, Alder and I said goodbye to Bainbridge on Monday and flew to Boston, where we reunited with Rosie. We’ll be here a few weeks before trickling back to Juneau separately. 

At his last Lego Club, the instructor asked Alder if he's excited to go back to Juneau. He paused and then said, "I'm excited to go to Juneau, but sad to leave here." In many ways life was relaxed and easy on Bainbridge. People were kind to us, the school was wonderful, and we are grateful for all the island and the community provided.

[i]“Smart,” by Shel Silverstein
My dad gave me one dollar bill
'Cause I'm his smartest son,
And I swapped it for two shiny quarters
'Cause two is more than one!

And then I took the quarters
And traded them to Lou
For three dimes--I guess he don't know
that three is more than two!

Just then, along came old blind Bates
And just 'cause he can't see
He gave me four nickels for my three dimes,
And four is more than three!

And I took the nickels to Hiram Coombs
Down at the seed-feed store,
and the fool gave me five pennies for them,
And five is more than four!

And then I went and showed my dad,
and he got red in the cheeks
And closed his eyes and shook his head-
Too proud of me to speak!

[ii] See “Chemo brain” for the gory details:

[iii] This is one of those stories I don’t usually tell my parents until several years have passed. I was prompted to recount this adventure by Mike Hawker, who can only aspire to mishaps like mine.  

Kindergarten graduate with his cookie.

Celebrating the last day of school with friends on the ferris wheel. Fear and thrill mixed.

An inadvertently pink lunch with Koh (beets, red cabbage, red onion, and apple).
My parents' 52nd anniversary was Tuesday. I'm so grateful for the love and care they give, not only to my family but to everyone in their sphere, and far beyond.

Overheated but happy berry pickers. Rosie has been sweet to little brother.

Not the most successful lemonade stand, but possibly the most scenic.

We love Good Harbor Beach in the late afternoon. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cane toads

In the first months of diagnosis and treatment, lists of questions littered my spiral cancer notebook in preparation for each medical visit. Questions like this:

Can my specimens be saved for potential genetic, pharmacogenetic and pharmacogenomic studies? (Yes.)

Should I take probiotics during chemo? (No.)

When/how will we scan or otherwise gauge response to chemo? (MRI, halfway and after chemo.)

How long between mastectomy and radiation of I don’t get tissue expanders? (about a month)

What are the pros and cons of a skin-sparing versus regular mastectomy? (Use your imagination.)

What is gated breathing? (a way to minimize collateral damage to the heart during radiation)

When can I get my port removed? (Unfortunately I rushed this one.)

Does L-glutamine help with Letrozole side effects? (Nah.)

Why does radiation make you feel tired? (It kills tons of healthy cells.)

And so on.

Yesterday I saw my cardiologist (well, his physician’s assistant) and my oncologist, for the last time for six weeks and three months, respectively. And my question lists were blank. I just can’t think of anything more to ask. I go to each appointment with the vague hope that I will come away with something new, but deep down I know the truth, as I texted a friend:

 “There’s really no new information to be had and I need to get used to that.”

“You mean no new info on how to deal with pericarditis?” she asked.

“Or cancer. Or prognosis. It just is what it is and it’s time to resume my life. At this point the experts don’t know any more than I do, I just need to find physical and mental coping[i] strategies.”

“It seems so shocking in a way, doesn’t it?” she asked.

“It’s like that with a lot of things, like learning disabilities, autism in kids … you just have to figure out what works. … I guess it’s not shocking to me because I feel like I’ve always been aware of the limitations of medicine. But emotionally you still want more definitive answers.”

“I guess that’s what I mean,” she responded. “It’s very hard to accept that there are no answers.”

We concluded that we humans are just smart enough to royally screw things up for ourselves.

And this, fundamentally, is where my love-hate relationship with medicine originates. I spent a semester during college studying rainforest ecology. I snorkeled naked on the Great Barrier Reef, camped on an island inhabited only by fruit bats, and acquired a tattoo and a collection of scrub-itch scars on my midsection as lifelong souvenirs.

I also learned about the clumsiness of human ingenuity. The cane toad, introduced to Australia to eat beetles that fed on sugar cane crops, proved worthless against the beetles but have become a bane to Native fauna thanks to a nasty poison sac on the toad’s back. It’s potent enough to kill a crocodile or pretty much anything else that messes with them, and the toads are now believed to number in the billions.[ii] They lurked everywhere and we were as scared of them as we were of the pythons in the trails and the venomous spiders in the showers.

We humans mean well, but sometimes we just don’t get it. We can’t predict all the impacts when we tinker with a complex ecosystem, and the human body is one strange and complex ecosystem.   

Medicine is mostly a process of trial and error – we look for things that seem to improve some kind of symptoms or pathology. We do clinical trials in an attempt to assess whether the benefits outweigh the harms. We trade risk, as my rheumatologist said – for example, decreasing the risk of pericarditis recurrence by increasing risk of, among other things, gastrointestinal disorders (with steroids) and deposits on the back of the eye (with Plaquenil); decreasing risk of cancer recurrence by increasing risk of fractures and osteoporosis (with Letrozole).

There are other risks and side effects. The skin on the back of my hands has turned leathery. Lotion pools in the cracks like rain on a parched desert. I looked up prednisone side effects again: yup, there’s dry skin. I tried to avert my eyes from the rest of the sorry litany.  

And those are just the known risks. We don’t understand all that goes on in the darkness under our skin. Everything we introduce has the potential to be cane toads.

And so, ultimately, the job of a patient is to accept the limitations of medicine. I don’t want to place all my hopes on some external cure or palliative or I will find myself taking layer upon layer of drug to mitigate the effects of the one before.

I am also trying to learn patience: Be a tortoise, not a hare, I keep telling myself. When I want to be off steroids NOW, when I have to walk instead of run, when I am tempted to double the reps in physical therapy – be a tortoise, be a tortoise. Slow and steady wins the race.  

An article in yesterday’s New York Times described a shift in the understanding, treatment and prognoses of breast cancer. This bit caught my attention:

“‘There’s no right or wrong decision, as long as patients are well-informed and choose what is best for them,’ said Dr. Jennifer K. Litton, a surgical oncologist at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. ‘The old days of paternalistic medicine are gone.’”[iii]

I have learned what I can from my doctors, my body, the terrifying drug inserts; now it’s up to me to cultivate acceptance and patience, and to find a way to balance risk and reward in my life. We can look for guidance, seek a guru or a quick fix, but in the end, we are the only ones who inhabit our own lives and bodies.

[i] I actually wrote “cooing.” I am a terrible thumb typist.  

[ii] Looks like the problem is only getting worse. See National Geographic News’ Poison Toads Leap Across Australia:

[iii] Outsmarting Breast Cancer With Evoloving Therapies, by Jane E. Brody:

Running down a trail near North Beach in Port Townsend. The simple joys...

Canoeing with Brian and Alder (hidden behind me) in Eagle Harbor.

You can put just about anything in a rice paper roll and it'll be delicious. Suggestions: shredded carrots or other crunchy veggies; shrimp or shredded chicken; and lettuce, fresh basil, cilantro and/or mint. Use sweet, salty and/or spicy sauce.

The wheel of life aka morning meds. 
Starting down beautiful Mt. Townsend.
Just had to add this picture of Alder jumping off a rock and throwing a frisbee. (credit: Brian Hild)
...and this one of me looking contemplative at North Beach. (credit: Brian Hild)
Ordway Mathfest. Play six games and get a cookie and milk. Math + sweets = Alder heaven.