The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I've been busy all day lining up my ducks in preparation for tomorrow. Surgery is scheduled for 7:30am so we have to leave the house at 5:00am to be at the hospital two hours prior.

I'm hungry! When they say a "clear liquid diet" the day before, they might as well say "You can't eat anything". Broth, tea and jello don't count as food. They are just alternate forms of water!

I think Lucy can sense that I'm leaving. Roll your eyes if you want but she won't leave me alone today and she woke me several times last night wanting me to cuddle her. She behaved the same way the last day and night before I put her on the plane to Pittsburgh in February.

I probably won't feel much like blogging tomorrow but I'll try to get back on sometime Friday. Wish me luck!

Buck! Buck! Buck! part deux

Nikki is coming! Nikki is coming! I go in for surgery on Thursday and she will arrive from Germany that night (even though I told her not to come I'm glad she didn't listen to me). Sherry and her whole family have been incredibly supportive and I know they would take very good care of me, but having one of my girls here will make me feel so much better. To nurse someone through that first week after a major surgery is such an intimate interaction; it's always best done by the loving hands of immediate family. I'll be in the hospital until Sunday or Monday and then Nik will still be here for the first few days after I come home. I can't think of any better medicine!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Out, damned spot! out, I say!

Good news! My surgery has been moved up to this coming Thursday, May 1st. I'm so glad. I've been pretty nonchalant about the whole thing so far but truth be told it has been weighing on my mind. How could it not! Hmm.....let's see, I might have ovarian cancer. I might not....but I might. It will just be good to finally know, one way or the other. I want to go to Seattle in July and to Puerto Rico sometime this summer but I've been holding off buying any plane tickets 'cause I just don't know what's in store for me over the next few months. There's also that little matter of moving to Scotland in the fall!

Benjamin Disraeli once said, "What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens." It's kind of like when you worry about someone you love because they are out of pocket and you can't reach them. You imagine all kinds of terrible things that could have befallen them. Then they call and everything is OK. All of your fears turn out to be unfounded. It's always when you aren't expecting anything at all and then the phone rings and WHAM! you get blindsided by something terrible. So I figure that since I've been worrying about this for almost 3 months now (and sometimes imagining the worst!) that it will turn out to be much ado about nothing.

Sherry will take me to the hospital on Thursday. She doesn't plan on coming home until that evening so hers will probably be the first fuzzy but familiar face I see once I come around. I'll be in the hospital until Sun or Mon but I'll have my phone with me so I'll be able to talk, text, email and even blog if I feel up to it. God forbid I should be completely unplugged for 3 whole days!

Friday, April 25, 2008

And Another Thing

Do you ever wonder why some movie lines make such an impression that everyone remembers them? I got to thinking today about some that have stuck in my head and decided that a little trivia would be fun.
So I've added Do You Remember.... to the sidebar. This first one is really easy. I'll change it out every week or so. If anyone has a quote that they think would be fun to use, by all means email it to me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pounding The Pennsylvania Pavement

I had a great day yesterday. I spent 7 hours actively participating in our electoral process. I encourage anyone who truly believes in a candidate (any candidate!) to get involved in the campaign process. It is so empowering to feel like you are contributing more than just a vote to help your candidate win!

Besides being politically satisfying, it was just a beautiful day to be out walking. The tulips are out in force in everyone's yards, kids were outside playing (no school yesterday) and Mount Lebanon neighborhoods are so pretty. I had to smile when I saw 3 little entrepreneurs with a sidewalk lemonade stand. They were also offering freshly popped popcorn for 50 cents. They served my buttery purchase in a homemade paper cone. It was so cute!
A little later, as I walked by a couple of young boys playing catch, who had been watching me hang *stuff* on doors, one of them asked me, " Are like a mailman or something?" Imagine trying to explain canvasing to a 9 year old in 15 words or less.

At another point in time, just as I was feeling pretty cocky and mentally patting myself on the back for being so proactive in my political beliefs, I started up a set of about 6 stone steps to the next house on my list and promptly...... tripped! Fortunately, I caught myself before I knocked out my front teeth but it did serve to put my ego back in check. LOL!

There were campaign yard signs all over the place, but one yard, in particular, made me stop and do a double take. On one side of the yard was a Hilary Clinton sign, and on the other side of the same yard was a Barack Obama sign. I had to laugh, conjuring an imaginary conversation between the two voters in that household: "This is my side of the yard and that is your side." "That's fine with me as long as you keep your crummy sign on your own side!"

I finished my second route and returned to the campaign office just in time to get a seat to hear Sen. Bob Casey Jr. speak to the volunteers. Besides being the junior senator from PA. Sen. Casey is also the son of the 44th governor of Pennsylvania. After he spoke he then introduced former Sen. Harris Wofford. Sen. Wofford was a friend and advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King and a part of JFK's presidential campaign and administration.

I snapped a couple of pictures of them individually with my phone as they each spoke and as they were leaving I asked if I could get a picture of them together. Sen Casey suggested that I should be in the picture, too. So we gave my phone to someone else to take the picture and the Senators put me in between them. It's an awful photo. I had been out on the streets all day long and looked pretty ragged and the guy who took it didn't center it very well but I'm keepin' it! I was honored to stand between these two men.

Senator Obama is not expected to win Pennsylvania's primary today but he still leads Senator Clinton in delegates and in the popular vote. If Sen. Clinton wins by less than 5 points there will be increased pressure for her to drop out of the race but if she wins by more than that then today's results will give her campaign renewed vigor. What an exciting time to be politically active!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Barack The Vote

Tomorrow is the Pennsylvania primary. Even though I registered to vote when I got here I can't vote in PA until the general election (I already voted in the Az primary in Feb.) so I'm going to spend the day canvasing. The local Obama headquarters is right around the corner. I would have worked this past weekend for the campaign but I love Shauna more! It's a beautiful morning here in Pitt so I'll spend it outside hanging door hangers for my favorite candidate. Go Barack!!

A Beary Good Weekend

I just had the best couple of days! Shauna came for the weekend. She landed at 9:30 yesterday morning and stayed until 6 o'clock this evening. We filled every minute!

Everyone here in Pittsburgh met Shauna back in 2001 when she and Nikki came with me on the Ocean City trip, so after we dropped Shauna's stuff off at the house our first stop was to go see Sherry's mom, Lois, who just had back surgery on Thursday and is still in the hospital. Don, Sherry's dad, was there so we spent a little time with both of them and then went over to Sherry's Aunt Peg's house to say Hi before going to lunch at Panera, a great little restaurant at the Galleria Mall. We needed sustenance for an afternoon of serious shopping! My girls are my favorite shopping partners and New York & Co. was having a big sale. Since we both needed some new summer clothes, the timing was perfect. We spent several successful hours in just that one store!

We arrived back at the house with just enough time to get showered and changed for Aunt Peg's big birthday bash. The celebratory dinner was at Jamie's, one of her favorite local restaurants. Somewhere between 70 and 80 people turned out to help Peggy celebrate her 80th birthday! We filled the restaurant's banquet room and I now know why Jamie's is a favorite. The food was great. I reintroduced Shauna to everyone throughout the evening. They all remembered her and were very happy to see her again. After dinner at least half of us reassembled at Aunt Peg's house for cake and ice cream, along with a full bar in the kitchen!

The party was still going strong when Sherry, Shauna and I left about 9:30pm. Steve had bugged out earlier to go to a friend's house so Sherry rode home with us. It was after 11 by the time we finally fell into bed. Poor Shauna had worked all day Friday, then hopped a redeye from Seattle to Pittsburgh and we had been running all day. It was definitely pillow time!

I let her sleep until 8:30am this morning, then woke her up with mommy kisses the way I used to when she was little. We started out the day with coffee while watching and transferring to my laptop the video that I shot last week when I was in Washington D.C. Then we had to try on everything we bought yesterday to be sure we still loved all of it. We did.
It was almost noon by the time we threw on our walking shoes and set out. I love the fact that my girls are both enthusiastic walkers and are always up for *Mom's 8 miler* whenever we get together. It's just too bad that we never have anything to talk about. HA! We jumped from one topic to another, to another, and another, tripping over each other's sentences and circling back around again; all the while oooing and ahhhing at the houses along the way and pointing out the ones we really liked.

Once again, by the time we found our way home, we had just enough time to each jump in the shower before we had to run out the door again. This time, though, we were off to the airport. It was a short visit but those 32 hours fed my soul.
I love you, Sugarbear......

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hallowed Ground

Today is the 262nd anniversary of the Battle of Culloden.

The date was the 16th of April, 1746, but the story began in 1603 when King James VI of Scotland (the only child of Mary Queen of Scots and heir of the Stuart Dynasty) ascended to the throne of England upon the death of his third cousin, Queen Elizabeth. He then became James I of England as well as James VI of Scotland, uniting the two countries under continuing Protestant rule.

The crown passed through the Stuart descendants, a mixed bag of Catholics and Protestants, for about 100 years until the Settlement Act of 1701. This Act prevented James III, the great grandson of James I from claiming the British crown in 1714 because he was Catholic. The next nearest Protestant claimant to the throne was a German from Hanover. Thus began the Hanovarian Dynasty of George I and the struggle of the Jacobites (from the Latin for James) to return the throne to the Catholic Stuart Dynasty. After a failed attempt from France by James III himself in 1715, the cause was passed to his son Charles Edward Stuart, known also as Bonnie Prince Charlie.

In 1745 Prince Charles made his move. He landed in Scotland, gathering his forces predominately from the Highlands and swept through the country on a wave of national pride coming within striking distance of London itself. Through a series of bad command decisions, though, the Highlanders eventually found themselves, on Culloden Moor, exhausted and facing the Hanovarian forces who were well rested and under the sharp command of the Duke of Cumberland, the younger son of King George II. They were outnumbered 9000 to 5000.

It was a slaughter that lasted last than an hour. Survivors were given "no quarter" and the dead were buried by the local citizens. There were too many for individual graves so the bodies were interred in mass graves according to their clan. The clan stones still stand on Culloden Moor to this day. Jacobite sympathizers were hunted down over the coming months, many of them killed or taken prisoner to be executed or transported to the colonies in America. The wearing of kilts and clan tartan were outlawed as well as the playing or possession of the bagpipes, considered not a musical instrument but an instrument of war. The Highland clan way of life that had flourished for 600 years was exterminated.

Clan stones on the moor

A visit to the Memorial at Culloden, today, feels more like a pilgrimage to those who love the Scottish Highlands and her rich history. It truly is hallowed ground. Quiet contemplation in front of each of the Clan stones (many with freshly laid flowers), looking to the top of the Memorial with it's inscription to the fallen Highlanders and imagining the ancient way of life that was crushed on that fateful day is sure to move all but the most hardened of hearts. I encourage all who visit to walk the battlelines. Begin at the line of red flag poles that represent the place where the Hanovarian troops were positioned. Look across the Moor to the blue line of the Highlanders. Then walk to the other side and look back across. Look at how boggy and uneven the ground is and try to imagine the physical struggle and confusion of a battle in such a setting. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of reverence and respect for the men who had died in the very field where we were standing. I do not exagerate when I say that we could very nearly feel their presence all around us.....

Buck! Buck! Buck!

Shauna is coming! Shauna is coming! She is arriving Saturday morning at 9:40am and will be here until 6pm on Sunday. A whole 32 hours and 20 minutes with my little Sugarbear! She just emailed me and pretty much said, "So, Mom, what are you doing this weekend? I thought I'd come visit." Oh boy, Oh boy, Oh boy! What a great suprise!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Family and Tourism

I left Pittsburgh at 11am last Wed for the 4 1/2 hour drive to Paul's house in Haymarket, VA, which is about a half hour outside of Washington D.C. First of all, let me say that I love road trips. I always have and so was looking forward to the drive over. It was a beautiful drive, too. I feel like I have been so starved for lushness and greenery over the last decade and a half that I had a hard time watching the road. There was just so much pretty scenery upon which to feast my eyes! I drove through an intriguing little town called Berkley Springs, West Virginia. The highway went right through the middle of town so the speed limit was drastically reduced which allowed me to rubberneck at a much less dangerous speed. I drove past small shops, ball fields and playgrounds. I hesitate to use the word quaint but I couldn't help wondering what it must be like to live in such a pretty little storybook town.

I met my cousin, Paul, just this last September but we connected right away. I think we would have had a lot of fun if we had grown up together. On the other hand, I am 8 years older than he is so I probably would have thought he was just a little pain in the ass and most likely would have locked him in a closet if given the chance! As it is, though, in adulthood the age difference feels negligible. So I was really looking forward to hanging out with him for a few days. I knew we would have fun. And that we did!
I got to meet his wife, Genelle, for the first time and their two boys. Zach is 18 and Austin is 15. I'm not sure how they turned out so great with such a demented father but somehow they did. Must be Genelle's influence. She is about as sweet as they come.

We hung out at the house that first evening and Paul showed me his recording studio in the basement, which I promptly renamed The Man Cave (but you have to put your hands on your hips and deepen your voice when you say it). Paul built it himself and soundproofed the whole thing! It's pretty cool. The next day Paul gave me a driving tour of Washington D.C. He's lived there off and on for most of his life and he was like a walking, talking guide book. We stopped at a place called Hard Times Cafe in Alexandria for lunch. They served some awesome chili. From there we went to a little park near Reagan National Airport to watch the flyover of 3 vintage war planes. After the flyover Paul showed me where we could stand so the commercial planes that were taking off from the airport would go right over our heads. I had to try to get that with the video camera!
Then Paul said he had an idea and we headed out of the city. I asked where we were going and he said it was a suprise. So I just enjoyed the beautiful drive. We ended up at Mt. Vernon! We didn't go into the house because the line was too long but we poked around the grounds and the gardens and then went into the museum. It was very cool!
We picked Zach up on our way home and stopped at the grocery store. By the time we got home Genelle had dinner well under way. She made chicken cordon bleu and it was delicious!

Friday morning Paul, Zach and I were out the door a little after 6am in order to beat the traffic into the city. After we dropped Zach off we had some time to kill so we went to breakfast in McLean. We then hit downtown Washington D.C. about 8am. Paul runs his own business having to do with construction permitting and, since he had taken the day before off to entertain me, he needed to get some things accomplished that day. That worked well for me because I wanted to go to a couple of museums and I always prefer to do museums alone. That way I can go at my own pace and not have to worry about anyone else. So he dropped me off. It would have been nice if he had slowed the car down a little more, though. I'm not as good at tuck and roll as I used to be!

I walked to the U.S. Capital building first. The very heart of our government! I got goosebumps. We can all be cynical about our country and our government but it's still pretty amazing to stand on the steps of the Capital and know what that building represents.
From there I walked down the National Mall to get back to the Archives. It didn't open until 10am but my personal guide told me I needed to be in line early because only so many people are allowed in at a time and the line really backs up. I waited my turn and was rewarded with the opportunity to see The Charters of Freedom. The Declaration of Independence, The United States Constitution and The Bill of Rights. Those precious documents that we all take so for granted. Those documents that set forth the ideals that our forefathers believed in strongly enough to fight and die for.
I've seen a lot of historical places and artifacts in Europe and, as everyone who knows me knows, I love British history. But this is OUR history. It is what makes us who we are as a collective people....Americans. If you see nothing else in Washington D.C. every American should visit the National Archives.

My next stop was The Smithsonian Natural History Museum. I picked up a brochure and map at the entrance and immediately felt overwhelmed! Where to start? Well, the first floor, I guess. I wandered through it all; the dinosaurs, the sea life, early man, western cultures, mammals, the ice ages. I had to smile when I saw The Tower of Time and thought of the 11 year old who was the only one to notice the inaccuracy that had stood for 32 years but because of him had been corrected by the time I got there.

From The Natural History Museum I returned to the Mall. I got an ice cream cone and just sat for a few minutes. Wow! The sun was shining; it was a beautiful day and I was sitting on a bench on the National Mall, eating ice cream. I could see the Capital to my left and the Washington Monument to my right. Life was good! As soon as I polished off my cone I set off to the right. I was hoping to get to go up to the top of that most famous monolith (or phallic symbol, depending on how you look at it!) but all of the tickets for the day had already been given out. So I just walked around it and craned my neck to see the top. I got a great shot of the Washington Monument the day before with a cherry tree in the foreground!

Just behind the Wash. Monument is the WWII Memorial. It's beautiful and very moving. I took lots of photos.
Unfortunately the battery in my camera died as I was approaching the Lincoln Memorial. I brought an extra battery but it did me little good tucked away in my suitcase as it was at that moment! So I put the digital away and used the video camera to record the rest of the afternoon which included the Lincoln Memorial, the White House and the Viet Nam Memorial. I stopped to read some of the letters that had been left at the Wall. One was from a man who had been a pen pal when he was 12 with a man whose name was written in the stone. Another was from a young woman whose father had asked her to leave flowers beneath the name of his friend. So sad. So many lives uselessly wasted. At least at the WWII memorial you had the feeling that those men and women died for a worthwhile cause. They and their families suffered no less but the difference in the mission of the two wars was so stark.

Paul picked me up at about 3:30 that afternoon and he humored me by driving past the U.S. Supreme Court building before we headed home. My feet and my back had given me about all they had to give by then and it was good to ride.
That evening Paul's friend Scott came over and the three of us ended up hanging out in (deep voice) The Man Cave until the wee hours of the night. A few beers, a few shots of tequila, some music. A good time was had by all...

Unfortunately, Genelle had to work on Saturday so Paul, Zach, Austin and I went to the Air and Space Museum at Dulles. There are some pretty cool planes and space stuff on display. We wandered through the whole museum and checked out everything, including the mini model that was shot as the Mother Ship in Close Encounters. The highlights of the afternoon, though, were the space shuttle Enterprise, the Concorde, and the Enola Gay! Somewhere along the way Zach came up with a new nickname for me. Being only 4' 11" tall, I thought I had heard them all but this was definitely a new one. Ahem...allow me to introduce myself. My name is Connie but you may call me Stubby. LOL! I'm still trying to think of a way to get him back.
Paul had agreed to run sound for his friend's band that night so Genelle and I went along. The music was a little (!) harder than I prefer but I had a good time.

Sunday morning Genelle made a huge breakfast before I headed back to Pittsburgh. I had a great weekend. I got to see our nation's capital and spend time with new found family. My first visit but not my last. Zach graduates high school in June so I'm going back in a couple of months. I've posted pics in The Colors of My World if you are interested.

I'm Sure Strangers Are Laughing

So I'm out for my daily 8 mile walk right now. It's a beautiful morning and I feel great! I have my iPod crankin' all my favorite tunes and I'm just bebopin' down the road. When you're listening to great music a body can't help but physically react to it. My kids all know how I can get that one hand going like I'm leading the orchestra. I can just imagine what all the drivers must think as they pass me! LOL! Oh well! If you haven't heard a female group called Antigone Rising you really should check them out.

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Girl Meets Doctor

When I walked into the Gynocologic Oncology clinic at Magee Women's Hospital this morning the first person I saw was a woman wearing a scarf to conceal her lack of hair. That made my stomach tighten a little but I pushed on in. After I checked in and filled out the registration paperwork I took a seat in the waiting room. It was very strange to be there. I half expected Ashton Kutcher to jump out and tell me I had been Punk'd. No such luck, though. Ashton never showed his cute little face. My name was finally called and I followed a nice nurse even further into this little adventure of mine. After taking my vitals she showed me to an office where I waited to meet one Dr. Thomas Krivak.

You know how you get a feeling about people when you first meet them? Good or bad, there is always a gut feeling. Well, I got a good one. He is very down to earth and relaxed and when we talked it was more like just having a conversation not 'my first consultation with the cancer surgeon'. It felt a little surreal, though, when he said that if I did need chemo that he would have to go back in after the initial surgery and do another procedure to put a port into my abdomen. I guess they fill your belly with chemo and then let you sort of marinade in it for a while until your system absorbs it. But that all depends on the treatment plan and IF they find cancer. He also wants to remove my appendix while he's in there, as well as both ovaries and my little invader, who is about the size of a small grapefruit now (aren't you glad you asked?). He scheduled my surgery for May 7th which is about three weeks from now but if there is a cancellation he will try to get me in sooner.

So I had all my pre-op stuff done today before I left the hospital. I had an EKG and a chest Xray done along with bloodwork. I hate getting blood drawn. My veins are so small that I always seem to end up getting poked three or four times before they finally hit the vein. It was no different this time. The nurse tried my left inner arm at the elbow first and got nothing, then tried the back of my left hand. That vein blew so she called the IV team and they sent someone else in to try. The second woman managed to snag a vein in my right arm but barely got all that she needed before it just went dry. All totaled she took about 20cc in 5 different tubes.

So there it is. (I'm ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille.) It's just a waiting game now. I'm kind of suprised at how calm I feel about all of this. Most of us know someone who is dealing with cancer and think to ourselves "Geez, if that was me I'd just freak." Maybe I'll react differently if the diagnosis doesn't come back in my favor but I don't think so. Ovarian cancer is (to me) the scariest kind of cancer. They call it the Whisper because there are no symptoms until the disease is pretty well spread. So most cases are not even diagnosed until it's too late. But I truly don't feel like I'm in peril of dying. If it is cancer I think we've caught it early and the doctor will stage it at 1 or 2, in which case, the chance of survival is very good. Stats show that only about 20% of ovarian cancer cases are caught at the stage 1 level but the chances of survival after 5 years are almost 90%. Stage 2 cases have a 60-80% survival rate afer 5 years. Stage 3 drops to 20% and stage 4 is only 10%. BUT I personally know someone who survived stage 4 ovarian cancer! Someone has to be in that 10%! But if Dr. Krivak does find cancer when we get up close and personal I just don't feel like it's going to be advanced. And it may not even be cancer! It could just be a benign cyst. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. I think it's here that I'm supposed to say something about this being the longest three weeks of my life coming up but at this point that would be a little melodramatic. I'm just going to stay busy and pass the time by getting out and enjoying this beautiful Spring weather that is breaking. So no more talk of cancer or surgery or chemo until next month!

P.S. If you don't get the joke in the title of this post you haven't been reading Nikki's blog and if you are not reading Nikki's blog you are missing out on some really great writing!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Birthday Bugs

Happy Birthday Fred and Bud!
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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Mobile posting

I love technology! I can post to my blog from my phone. Now when I see something or think of something while I'm out and about I don't have to wait uhtil I get back to my computer to post. Next thing is to figure out how to take a picture with my phone and then add it to the blog with text. This is really cool!

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D.C. Diversion

My dictionary defines the word Diversion as ' activity that diverts the mind from tedious or serious concerns; a recreation or pastime'.

That's just the ticket I need right now! Actually I've been planning on visiting our nation's capital this Spring ever since I first decided to come to Pittsburgh. My cousin, Paul, lives just outside of Washington D.C. and has graciously agreed to show me the town. So I'm going to hop in MYRDTOY and cruise on over while the cherry trees are still in bloom. I've always wanted to see D.C. and I'm really excited about it. I'm kind of bummed that the Smithsonion American History Museum is closed for renovation until the Fall but I plan to spend a lot of time in the Natural History Museum. And did you know that the Smithsonion has an International Spy Museum? How cool is that!? And, of course, all the monuments on the mall and the others nearby. My camera and I are going to be such tourists!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Captain, We Have An Invader!

Knowing that I was headed to Scotland this fall, I made sure that I got all my medical checkups taken care of before I left Tucson. Being a military veteran, I get my medical care at the V.A. hospital. When I went in for my annual *peek and poke*, as a friend of mine calls it, my doctor discovered that my right ovary was enlarged so she sent me for an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed a mass on the ovary that measured 6cm. There are two possibilities. Possibility #1 is a benign cyst. A fairly common occurrence in women, although 6cm is pretty big. Usually a cyst will burst on its own long before it gets to 6cm and the mother ship never even knows it had an uninvited passenger. Possibility #2 is (enter black cloud) ovarian cancer. "Hmm.." says I, "that can't be good." The Dr. wanted to send me for an MRI but there wasn't time to get it done before I left so I promised to see to it as soon as I got to Pittsburgh.

I have to admit that I did freak out in the beginning. I called my friend David, in Phoenix, who had been recently diagnosed with cancer. He listened to me cry and comforted me with words of understanding that only someone in his situation could give. Then he made me laugh. David and his wife Nena have been my very dear friends for over 20 years. I was still concerned after we hung up but I wasn't crying anymore. Besides I still had a lot to do before my impending departure so I just kind of filed it away at the top of my mental to-do list once I got settled in Pittsburgh.

I had my first appointment at the V.A. hospital here a couple of weeks ago and explained the whole thing to the new doctor. She looked at all of my records and scheduled me for another ultrasound and an appt to see a GYN doctor afterward. These both happened this past Friday. After a conference with the GYN doctor and the radiologist who read the ultrasound it was decided that I should have a CT scan done right away. The mass had grown from 6cm to 9cm in about 7 weeks. A "simple" cyst (as opposed to a complex one, I guess) has thin walls, clear fluid and no echo sounds. I struck out on all three counts. So they whisked me over, gave some not-too-bad stuff to drink, stuck an IV in me so they could inject some dye and passed me through the O-ring a couple of times. That big white machine whirring away with me sliding through it always makes me feel like I'm in 2001: A Space Oddessey. Then back I go to see the doctor again who proceeded to do another *peek and poke*. After all was said and done it was decided that I should see a gynecologic oncologist at Magee-Women's Hospital here in Pittsburgh. I should get a phone call today sometime letting me know when my appt at Magee is scheduled for.

I know, for sure, that I have to have surgery. And I suspect it will be very soon. I was hoping they would be able to do a laproscopic procedure but no such luck. My little invader is too large to pull out through a little hole without the risk of rupturing it. They have open me up ("Cut me Mick") to get to it. They will remove both ovaries (take two; they're small) and biopsy a couple of nearby lymph nodes. All of which will then be sent to Pathology.

Sooo....We really won't know anything definitive until then. I am of two minds. One side of me is concerned. Who wouldn't be? But then there is the smart-ass side of me that says, "No, no, no...this will just turn out to be a benign cyst. It can't be ovarian cancer. I don't have time for cancer. I have plans!" May I remind my gentle readers of the title of this humble journal? It says Journey to the Highlands, not Jouney to the Highlands by way of Ovarian Cancer. Hahaha! Sometimes I really crack me up! OK, now I'm just getting silly. It's 5 in the morning and I've been awake since 2 so I guess I'm getting a little slap-happy.

I debated about whether this was an appropriate subject for the blog but my girls have taught me that the blog is for me. It's my journal. If others find it interesting and want to follow along that's great but don't write it for other people. Hence the entries concerning the Irish Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of Arbroath. They are important to me. So if my little invader turns out to be just a benign cyst then I'll use the blog to whine about the inconvenience of it all. If it turns out to be wearing a big C on it's little invader name badge then I will probably have a lot more to say as time goes by.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Declaration of Arbroath

Anybody who saw the movie Braveheart is familiar with the Scottish patriot William Wallace. After Wallace's execution in 1305 by King Edward I of England the Scottish people rallied around their King, known as Robert the Bruce, who continued the struggle against Edward's son and English domination.

Having soundly defeated King Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn after nearly 20 years of war, King Robert the Bruce and the Scottish people might have reasonably hoped to be left in peace. But the English king did not give up so easily and the Scottish Wars of Independence continued. In the propaganda war, the Scots were at a disadvantage in relation to the influential power of the Pope in Rome - he was more interested in gaining support for another Crusade to the Holy Land from the English king. The Pope had excommunicated Robert the Bruce, not unreasonably, following Bruce's murder of a rival to the throne on the altar steps of a Franciscan priory. But prompted by the English king, the Pope also excommunicated all the people of Scotland.

The Declaration of Arbroath (sometimes called the Declaration of Independence) was Scotland's response to the excommunication. It is one of the great icons of Scotland and is in the form of a letter (in Latin) to the Pope from eight earls and 31 barons of Scotland asking him in rousing terms to acknowledge Scotland as an independent nation and to reject the claims of the English king. The Declaration was ahead of its time as it sets out that the king (previously regarded as appointed by God) could be driven out if he did not uphold the freedom of the country. It later became a model for the American Declaration of Independence.

It sets out the long history of Scotland as an independent state and cleverly tries to persuade the Pope of the legitimacy of Scotland's case. It's most famous and most quoted passage is:

"For so long as there shall but one hundred of us remain alive we will never give consent to subject ourselves to the dominion of the English. For it is not glory, it is not riches, neither is it honours, but it is liberty alone that we fight and contend for, which no honest man will lose but with his life."

The Declaration of Arbroath is more correctly entitled "Letter of Barons of Scotland to Pope John XXII". It is dated 6 April, 1320. While the original Declaration was delivered to the Pope, a contemporary copy is held in Register House, Edinburgh. The translation below of the full text is based on one published in 1689.

1320 Letter of Barons of Scotland to Pope John XXII
(Declaration of Arbroath)

To our most Holy Father in Christ, and our Lord, John, by Divine Providence chief Bishop of the most holy Roman and Universal Church, your humble and devoted sons: Duncan Earl of Fife, Thomas Randolph Earl of Moray, Lord of Man and Annandale, Patrick of Dunbar, Earl of March, Malise Earl of Strathearn, Malcolm Earl of Lennox, Wilham Earl of Ross, Magnus Earl of Caithness and Orkney, William Earl of Sutherland, Walter, Steward of Scotland, Wilham of Soulis, Butler of Scotland, James Lord of Douglas, Roger of Mowbray, David Lord of Brechin, David of Graham, Ingelram of Umfravil, John of Menteith, Guardian of the earldom of Menteith, Alexander Fraser, Gilbert of Hay, Constable of Scotland, Robert of Keith, Marischal of Scotland, Henry of St Clair, John of Graham, David of Lindsay, William Oliphant, Patrick of Graham, John of Fenton, William of Abernethy, David of Wemyss, William Muschet, Fergus of Ardrossan, Eustace of Maxwell, William of Ramsay, William Mowat, Allan of Moray, Donald Campbell, John Cambrun, Reginald le Cheyne, Alexander of Seton, Andrew of Leslie, Alexander of Straton, and the rest of the barons and freeholders, and whole community, of the kingdom of Scotland, send all manner of filial reverence, with devout kisses of your blessed and happy feet.

Most holy Father and Lord, we know and gather from ancient acts and records, that in every famous nation this of Scotland hath been celebrated with many praises: This nation having come from Scythia the greater, through the Tuscan Sea and the Hercules Pillars, and having for many ages taken its residence in Spain in the midst of a most fierce people, could never be brought in subjection by any people, how barbarous soever: And having removed from these parts, above 1,200 years after the coming of the Israelites out of Egypt, did by many victories and much toil obtain these parts in the West which they still possess, having expelled the Britons and entirely rooted out the Picts, notwithstanding of the frequent assaults and invasions they met with from the Norwegians, Danes, and English; And these parts and possessions they have always retained free from all manner of servitude and subjection, as ancient histories do witness.

This kingdom hath been governed by an uninterrupted succession of 113 kings, all of our own native and royal stock, without the intervening of any stranger.

The true nobility and merits of those princes and people are very remarkable, from this one consideration (though there were no other evidence for it) that the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ, after His Passion and Resurrection, honoured them as it were the first (though living in the outmost ends of the earth) with a call to His most Holy Faith: Neither would our Saviour have them confirmed in the Christian Faith by any other instrument than His own first Apostle in calling (though in rank the second or third) St Andrew, the most worthy brother of the Blessed Peter, whom He would always have to be over us, as our patron or protector.

Upon the weighty consideration of these things our most Holy Fathers, your predecessors, did with many great and singular favours and privileges fence and secure this kingdom and people, as being the peculiar charge and care of the brother of St Peter; so that our nation hath hitherto lived in freedom and quietness, under their protection, till the magnificent King Edward, father to the present King of England, did under the colour of friendship and alliance, or confederacy, with innumerable oppressions infest us, who had in mind no fraud or deceit, at a time when we were without a king or head, and when the people were unacquainted with wars and invasions. It is impossible for any whose own experience hath not informed him to describe, or fully to understand, the injuries, blood and violence, the depredations and fire, the imprisonments of prelates, the burning, slaughter and robbery committed upon holy persons and religious houses, and a vast multitude of other barbarities, which that king executed on this people, without sparing of any sex or age, religion or order of men whatsoever.

But at length it pleased God, who only can heal after wounds, to restore us to liberty, from these innumerable calamities, by our most serene prince, king, and lord Robert, who, for the delivering of his people and his own rightful inheritance from the enemy's hand, did, like another Joshua or Maccabeus, most cheerfully undergo all manner of toil, fatigue, hardship, and hazard. The Divine Providence, the right of succession by the laws and customs of the kingdom (which we will defend till death) and the due and lawful consent and assent of all the people, made him our king and prince. To him we are obliged and resolved to adhere in all things, both upon the account of his right and his own merit, as being the person who hath restored the people's safety in defence of their liberties. But after all, if this prince shall leave these principles he hath so nobly pursued, and consent that we or our kingdom be subjected to the king or people of England, we will immediately endeavour to expel him, as our enemy and as the subverter both of his own and our rights, and we will make another king, who will defend our liberties: For so long as there shall but one hundred of us remain alive we will never give consent to subject ourselves to the dominion of the English. For it is not glory, it is not riches, neither is it honours, but it is liberty alone that we fight and contend for, which no honest man will lose but with his life.

For these reasons, most Reverend Father and Lord, We do with earnest prayers from our bended knees and hearts, beg and entreat Your Holiness that you may be pleased, with a sincere and cordial piety, to consider that with Him whose Vicar on earth you are there is no respect nor distinction of Jew nor Greek, Scots nor English, and that with a tender and fatherly eye you may look upon the calamities and straits brought upon us and the Church of God by the English; and that you may admonish and exhort the king of England (who may well rest satisfied with his own possessions, since that kingdom of old used to be sufficient for seven or more kings) to suffer us to live at peace in that narrow spot of Scotland beyond which we have no habitation, since we desire nothing but our own, and we on our part, as far as we are able with respect to our own condition, shall effectually agree to him in every thing that may procure our quiet.

It is your concernment, Most Holy Father, to interpose in this, when you see how far the violence and barbarity of the pagans is let loose to rage against Christendom for punishing of the sins of the Christians, and how much they daily encroach upon the Christian territories. And it is your interest to notice that there be no ground given for reflecting on your memory, if you should suffer any part of the Church to come under a scandal or eclipse (which we pray God may prevent) during your times. Let it therefore please Your Holiness to exhort the Christian princes not to make the wars betwixt them and their neighbours a pretext for not going to the relief of the Holy Land, since that is not the true cause of the impediment: The truer ground of it is, that they have a much nearer prospect of advantage, and far less opposition, in the subduing of their weaker neighbours. And God (who is ignorant of nothing) knows with how much cheerfulness both our king and we would go thither, if the king of England would leave us in peace, and we do hereby testify and declare it to the Vicar of Christ and to all Christendom.

But if Your Holiness shall be too credulous of the English misrepresentations, and not give firm credit to what we have said, nor desist to favour the English to our destruction, we must believe that the Most High will lay to your charge all the blood, loss of souls, and other calamities that shall follow on either hand, betwixt us and them. Your Holiness in granting our just desires will oblige us in every case where our duty shall require it, to endeavour your satisfaction, as becomes the obedient sons of the Vicar of Christ.

We commit the defence of our cause to Him who is the Sovereign King and Judge, we cast the burden of our cares upon Him, and hope for such an issue as may give strength and courage to us and bring our enemies to nothing. The Most High God long preserve your Serenity and Holiness to His Holy Church.

Given at the Monastery of Arbroath in Scotland, the sixth day of April in the year of Grace 1320, and of our said king's reign the 15th year.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Nuggets from NPR

I love NPR! I never know what cool little tidbits I'm going to hear that I might not have gotten from anywhere else in my little world. I was very excited the other day when Sherry's dad told me where to find my old friends on the Pittsburgh radio dial. This afternoon I was listening to Robert Siegel, the ever comforting voice of All Things Considered. This man could describe paint drying to me and I would somehow find it fascinating but today he really was talking about really interesting stuff.

It seems that researchers from The University of Oregon have found evidence that humans roamed the Americas more than a thousand years earlier than previously believed......14,300 years ago!

I had just been watching something about the Clovis culture on the History Channel the other night so when, today, they said that this human DNA evidence predates that culture by 1,200 years I was amazed. I also took a little pleasure in hearing that the site of the find is in Oregon, less than 300 miles from my hometown.

The other story that intrigued me was about a Michigan fifth grader who, last December, was visiting the Smithsonian Natural History Museum (Tops on my must see list next week. What? Did I not mention that I'm going to Washington DC next week? Well, more on that later). Anyway, this 11 year old was looking at the museum's Tower of Time and noticed that it wrongly labeled the Precambrian as an era, when it is actually a supereon. He knew this was wrong because he had just been studying the subject in his science class. Imagine how many uber-educated adults have perused the Tower of Time over the last 27 years! Did not one of them notice the error? Or did someone see it and think, "It's not that big a deal"? Young Kenton Stufflebeam thought it was a very big deal and brought it to the attention of the museum biggies. Can't you just picture it? A little kid pulling on some guy's coat tail "...excuse me, sir..."
The Smithsonian Natural History Museum corrected its mistake this week.
Are you smarter than a fifth grader?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Oh Spring!

This little guy seems to be watching for something. I think he's looking for signs of the changing seasons.

And here it is! The Crocuses are the first to peek through.....

with Tulips and Daffodils preparing to make their own annual debut soon.....

I just really liked this shot. The shoes sitting on the chair with the gardening tools leaning against the other side of the door suggest to me that someone has been working in the yard. I like that the chair color matches the door, too.

So, this was my first attempt to add photos to the text of a post. Hopefully I'll get a little faster at it!

I'm anxious for Spring to really bloom in all its glory around here. In past years when I have visited Pittsburgh in the fall I have always been impressed with what a beautiful city it is. The natural landscape is lush and hilly. As I've said before I love the local architecture, too. But in winter it all looks pretty dreary. The trees all look like standing skeletons with their barren branches and the heavy stone houses under the dreary skies remind me of a scene out of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. It was really pretty when everything was covered with snow but now it just looks depressing under cloudy skies. But I have faith! Mother Nature is just toying with me; building my anticipation. Today is warm , in the low 60's, but overcast and very windy. I'm just about to set out for my walk. No gloves needed today but maybe I should wear heavy shoes so I don't get blown over when the wind gusts!

Weiner Dog Heaven

I find this so funny. I watched and I giggled and the more I watched the more I giggled.
Jerry’s fetching game