The Xtandi Factor

Part of my life this year has been spent on the road.  While a couple of those sojourns have gone to the southland, most of those traveled miles have been within the northern part of California.  And much of them have been to see my dad, who has been battling prostate and bone cancer for the last five and a half years.  This time last year, my parents made a journey to my neck of the woods, seeing a doc at UCSF, where chemotherapy was advised.  Taxotere was introduced into Dad’s retinue in late January, 2014.  Suddenly this whole cancer-gig was more than the quarterly Lupron shot and doses of Zytiga, which not longer did the job.

And as it seems, just as speedily another year has passed.  How many miles have been collected by my car, how many miles has my father trekked?  Far more than I’ve traversed, for my dad isn’t the same.  He might have been feeling on top of the world in late September, claiming he had another twenty-five years in the tank, but now in mid-December, he’s a different person.  Radium 223 is still off the shelf, so Xtandi is the next option, a drug similar to Zytiga, taken in pill form.  Dad will start Xtandi this week, and we’ll see if it helps, his PSA and overall demeanor our gauges.  He’s also lost ten pounds since September, the chemo-style nausea having returned, without the chemo.

If you’ve never heard of any of these terms, no worries.  Neither had I, until Dad was diagnosed, but the realm of cancer is like an alternate universe.  We’ve been relatively fortunate; prostate cancer is quite treatable, and some men live for many years.  But not all.  Dad also has COPD, so that complicates matters.  When he was first given this news, I wondered how he would cope with chemotherapy; he has an indefatigable spirit, but the body is a separate element.  The doc at UCSF maintained that Taxotere is a milder form of chemo, compared to other drugs.  And for the first seven rounds, Dad tolerated Taxotere like a champ.  But in the eighth and ninth sessions, Taxotere came out with mean left hooks that left my father gripping the sides of the ring, wondering what in the hell had happened.  There was no tenth dose; in early July, Dad was clearly on the ropes.  But in late September, he had regained strength, his appetite, even his love of ice cream was returning.  Another quarter century looked like a walk in the park.

Two and a half months later, those extra years seem fleeting.  It makes me wonder about the nature of medical intervention, but more, I ponder if one day I am in a similar situation, what I would choose.  Dad isn’t doing this all for himself; he’s doing it for Mom, their children and grandchildren.  We all love him, want him to be around forever.  But forever on this corporeal planet just doesn’t happen.

On other planes, yes.  But not on Earth.

As Christmas approaches, I ask my husband and kids, “Okay, is there anything else you want?”  We’re lucky, for tangible blessings are within our grasps.  But the intangible aspects are all I wish for my father; to be pain-free, to be comfortable, to not be nauseous.  I will never forget coming home from that UCSF appointment in a pouring Bay Area rain, traffic on I-280 at a standstill due to a nasty looking accident just south of San Francisco.  My father’s impending date with chemo butted up against intense gratitude that my husband and I weren’t involved in that collision, that life and death were constantly battling for supremacy.  One year later, I mull over that evening, so many nights and days in between, miles on motorways, a baby born, more on the way.  And my father is still here, telling tales, also looking like a man I have never before seen.  He is still my father, but no longer is he the strong, forceful character of past days.

Where Xtandi fits into all this remains to be seen.  I hope it lowers the PSA, I hope it affords my dad some relief.  But respite isn’t a cure.  Through all of this, I have prayed for the will of God to be done.  And every day that prayer has been answered.  I don’t know why chemo left my father so debilitated, while his PSA bounced right back up as soon as Taxotere stopped being administered.  But I do know that regardless of what Xtandi does or does not do, Dad will continue to chat and joke until he simply can’t.  I’ll keep driving, as long as my car holds up.  Blast the tunes, be they Christmas-themed or tropical pop; Dad’s still holding court.  I’m ready for another road trip, on this concrete and ethereal pathway taking my father home.

Where has December gone?

I know that’s an often-heard phrase at the end of the year, but seriously, where has this month disappeared to?

Oh, the tasks I could list, ones accomplished, others screaming for attention.  I have sewing to do, shopping to sort, baking to begin…. Advent is a blessed season; it’s also very busy.

I was going to title this post: It’s Only A Tall Tale.  But that was hours ago, when I was thinking about writing, or the lack of it.  Since this morning I have shopped, not all for Christmas, for we still need to eat.  I’ve finished that Christmas lap quilt top, but also decided I have to set it aside.  The place mats are more important to complete, and prioritizing is the key for this Advent season.

Awaiting backing fabric, then I can baste them.

Only so much time exists; I need to make the most of mine.

Never has December felt so squeezed.  I’ve written books in December, for goodness sake!  Not this year, although The Hawk teases.  January, I muse, because writing still means much to me, even if in our Christmas letter to friends and family quilting made the most noise.  But I continue to consider that novel, and what I most pondered this morning was that no matter how big it has become, at the end of the day, it’s merely a story.  Characters weave in and out, plot lines twist and turn, nuances niggle, but it’s simply a tale borne of a dream.  Yes, it’s meaningful, yes I love it.  But it’s not going to fall apart if I forget to write something here or there in the first dang draft!

Whew!  That frees up some of my creative juices.  That also lets me breathe easier, in that come January, when I have a modicum of free time, I can sit at this very computer, pull up that document, and once again add to that novel.  Never has one book taken so much of my time, but sometimes projects linger far longer than we wish.

Like my eldest daughter’s tree skirt; she bought this fabric in 2013, started sewing it in summer of 2014, and will “finish” it in 2015.  Those quotation marks are in regards to the quilted aspect of the skirt.  Right now it’s fully functional, just ask Buttercup.  She thinks it’s groovy.

Well, she likes the tree too.  She likes Christmas, because her people are home more, plus guests.  I want to complete the place mats to take to Buttercup’s house for Christmas Eve next week.  Not that Buttercup will get a place mat, but she’ll wag her tail, ever so pleased that folks are at her domain, to lavish all their affections upon her.

Buttercup could care less about Advent, my WIP, or place mats.  To her, it’s the people who matter, people speaking to her in a sweet voice, or rubbing her belly.  Christmas can get hectic, frantic even.  But I don’t wish to be overwhelmed by hustle and bustle and lists.  I want to revel in what this season means to me, faith-and-family-wise.  Sometimes that’s difficult, I won’t lie.  But it just takes a little cognitive prowess to place items in the right order.  A lap quilt falls to the bottom of the list, just above a novel.  Place mats are high on the list, along with gifts for my husband.  I can shop with him for other things, like ice cream and ham and perhaps even trekking to the mall.  But it’s all about getting done what truly needs to be accomplished.  And letting the rest fall away.

Even in December, not everything manages to reach finality.  Actually, December is the first month of the church year, the beginning of something so new and beautiful, that to think we can get it all done in one month is silly.  The Hawk will move along as its supposed to, that quilt will find completion one of these days.  Christmas is about new and precious moments.  I want to enjoy each as they are presented, not worrying about too much else at all.

A Quilt for My Godchild

Days ago, I finished this quilt, but just as I did, I had to leave for an extended sojourn; doctor appointments and an all-too-brief visit with Grand-Master Z.  I was away from home for one week, many miles traversed during that time.  And tomorrow I’m again on the road, like a traveling circus of sorts.  But before I left again, one special quilt needed to go to the post.  And yesterday I accomplished that task, so my goddaughter will have a quilt in time for Christmas.

And an extra little blanket, for her dolls.  Nothing like employing scraps for such a good purpose!

This is the last quilt of the year, or the last big quilt for 2014.  If I can swing it, I’ll make a lap quilt next week, and I have some place mats that I’d like to finish before the 24th.  But in my initial foray into quilting, this year has been filled with fabric, and these warm blues, aquas, and periwinkles were some fabulous cottons with which to work.  Not often colours in my retinue, but now I’m hooked, even if the shades of the season are red, green, and white.

Right now, Christmas feels sort of far away….

Part of that is having not been at home for much of this month.  Between the end of Thanksgiving and right now, I’ve hardly been in my house.  Luckily I spent much of the end of November sewing place mat tops, this quilt, and a few other bits that now wait for me to complete them.  This Christmas quilt in blue was done in time, yet I didn’t have a proper box in which to post it.

After a few deliveries during my absence, an appropriate box arrived.  Now this quilt is on its way across the country, to a not-so-chilly locale, but quilts are necessary regardless of the lack of Christmas-style precipitation.  And I have one more item checked off my list.

This comforter was a good way to wrap up my first year of quilting, a year that upon reflection looks like one lived in some sort of alternate universe.  The whole sewing-gig could constitute its own parallel world, but then there is my dad’s battle with cancer, which seems to be changing just as quickly as quilts come and go.  Dad isn’t doing so well, and I can’t say just where 2015 will take him.  Those twenty-five years he felt he still had, back in late September, seem to have slipped away on a furious wind.  There’s a storm blowing through Northern California today, and I feel like that storm has found my dad.  And there is very little I can do for either tempest.

All I can do is pray, wait, and sew.  And maybe one of these days I’ll write.  But The Hawk feels ages away, like writing was my old life, not so much ingrained in this new realm.  This new realm consists of beginnings, endings, fabrics, and road trips.  No idea where to shoehorn a novel into all of that.

Master Z's adorable tootsies...

Master Z’s adorable tootsies…

Yet here’s a Christmas quilt in blue, for a child close to my heart.  Life is a stream of fluid currents, and as long as I keep my head above the water, all is well.  Doesn’t matter where I’m heading, so may the wind blow, and the post go.  This is simply another day, another entry, another gift; it is the season of Advent.

And now for Advent…

When we lived in Britain, where Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated, Christmas was suddenly flung onto the landscape, as days grew short and dark.  While we Yanks were contemplating turkey and mash and our own brand of footie, the English were gearing up for December.

Now, on the first of that month, the first Sunday in Advent has come and gone.  One blue candle was lit last night, prayers were said, readings digested.  I have plenty of which to be thankful, but Advent is different than Thanksgiving, and while Silicon Valley isn’t as cold and dark as Yorkshire, England, Advent is still Advent, regardless of the continent or time zone.

I spent last weekend with family; Dad is so-so, but was well enough to carve the turkey, with my late grandmother’s ancient electric carving knife of all things.  I wasn’t sure if he’d manage that task, but as Mom scooped stuffing from the bird, Dad waited patiently.  Of course my parents stuff their turkey; Dad likes the old ways.  It will probably take him on his death bed to let anyone carve the bird he’d been roasting since the crack of dawn.

Buttercup is still Buttercup; I took her on a few walks, and we chatted with a ninety-one-year-old World War II vet, who thought both Buttercup and I were cute girls.  I asked him where he’d served, for my husband’s dad had been stationed in Germany.  This chap, whose name I didn’t get, was in India and Burma.  He was thankful for Harry Truman, who was not a college graduate, he noted.  Truman dropped the bombs, ending the conflict.  This man said the worst two words a soldier can hear were Fix bayonets.  He teared up as he spoke, which made me thankful he could speak of this at all; he would have been sent to mainland Japan if not for Truman, and he didn’t need to tell me what that meant.  No idea why I ran into him, other than to hear his experience, which will add in some manner to The Hawk.  And for Buttercup to be admired, of course.

Golden trees not far from where that chap and I conversed.

Golden trees not far from where that chap and I conversed.

Now all those moments are memories, which is what will happen to the fabric I cut later today; I’m making a Christmas lap quilt for a chap not as old as that WWII vet, but indeed an older fellow who my husband and I see many Sundays at our fave breakfast spot.  This man is moving east, to live near his son, and my husband mentioned to me that he might need a lap quilt.  Somehow I’ll squeeze in one more quilt before 2015 rolls around.  Plus it gave me an excuse to hit the weekend sales.

Sunset on Thanksgiving, outside my parents' front door.

Sunset on Thanksgiving, outside my parents’ front door.

But all of this has little bearing on Advent, other than making up the world in which Christ came to save.  Now turkeys and golden leaves are sent to the back burner, while a different season emerges.  But Advent isn’t a time of shopping or baking or wrapping presents.  It’s about considering a gift more precious than any we can conjure.  I don’t know how it fits in with what Truman did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Dad’s cancer battle, Buttercup, or that vet, who didn’t know why he was telling me all these things, but still he spoke, that he didn’t want to kill Japanese men, women, and children with a bayonet.  He never feared for his life, only for what soldiers were to do to others.

Then we chatted about how his German father landed in San Francisco; in 1914, the man’s German ship was refused coal at a coaling station in Hawaii.  The US was a neutral nation in the First World War, so that man used $28 to take a different ship to America, landing in San Fran with fifty cents in his pocket.  He wandered around, until he found a hofbrau, where he met that WWII’s vet’s mum.  And one hundred years later their son of ninety-one years stood talking to me, on the eve of Advent 2014, while Buttercup sniffed the road, getting me tangled in her long purple lead.

Advent is about celebrating life.  Living from day to day with joy and gratitude is the same.  May this Advent season bring you an eased heart.  Now, time to cut fabrics…

The Disintegration Process

I’m borrowing this title from Blue Elephant Stitches, because I found it captivating, and aligned to how I want my quilts to evolve.  While I’m not even done with my godchild’s blanket, I’m already hoping for its eventual destruction.

I firmly believe that nothing last forever, not quilts or books or anything else.  Maybe that sounds like a defeatist theory; why create something if it’s going to crumble into dust?

Why not?  I’m not going to live forever, why should I expect my hobbies to?  Now, that doesn’t deter me from sewing, or writing.  It just makes the pleasure of those activities more keen.  They are meant for this moment in time.  To not engage in them would be as wrong as thinking they are going to last indefinitely.  Maybe that’s something which is being lost in this rather technically-minded world.

Life cannot be captured in photos, it can’t be preserved in videos or in memorabilia.  It can’t be rendered in novels, even via ebooks.  It’s the daily process of interaction, that can be assuaged in pictures and correspondences and tokens, but not usurped by better methods.

I can write all the books I want, sew till no fabric remains.  But without love, I am but dust in the wind.

Thanksgiving is three days away; I have many blessings over which to be so grateful.  Every day is the perfect day to give thanks, but life seems crowded with less stellar ideas that steal our thankfulness.  I especially feel that way after a day spent watching football; commercials make make me want to scream.  Better are the simpler joys, and the acknowledgement that all I hold in my hands is exactly what I need.

We are born, then we perish.  The measure of our lives isn’t how much we accumulate or how long wrinkles are kept at bay.  The fullness is achieved by the love shared, sometimes in hugs, other times by gifts given, but the proffered affections matter most.  Making quilts and writing novels are pastimes I enjoy, and I’ll keep doing them until I am no longer able.  But they aren’t the be-all end-all.

They are part of the disintegration process, which I fully embrace.  As long as it’s laced in love, no pain intrudes.

Quilt Ripening

A good friend of mine uses ripening to describe herself, and other things, that need time to percolate.  I thought that word was perfect to illustrate how the Tropical Pop quilt has finally been completed.

(Actually I washed it Monday, then set it on the top of the sofa, so technically it’s been done all week now….)

So, this morning, I had some decisions to make, about quilts and novels and cranberry sauce.  The sauce will be made today, then frozen, until next week, when the hubby and I venture north to spend Thanksgiving with my folks.  The novel, well, of course I mean The Hawk, the novel is still being read through, but now I have a plan for it, somewhat fiendish, if authors can be thusly termed, and at times we can, for how we torture our characters, as well as ourselves, in the process.  As for the quilt….

A scrappy binding, mostly blue, as my sister loves that shade.

A scrappy binding, mostly blue, as my sister loves that shade.

I gazed at the Tropical Pop quilt, which I had yet to photograph.  Once it’s been photographed, it’s truly in the proverbial can.  But this week I’ve been so busy, and it actually rained here yesterday, precluding me from hanging it on the line.  But today, well, today my husband comes home, today ends the week, and today I have more than a few inklings about what to do with that novel, with cranberry sauce, and yes, with a quilt.  I also had a few items that could be cleaned, so I threw them, and the quilt, into the washer.  Tropical Pop was getting a second laundering, whether it needed it or not.

A few additional squares muscled their way into this quilt, camo from the BIL quilt, some batiks as well.

A few additional squares muscled their way into this quilt, camo from the BIL quilt, some batiks as well.

When faith drives a person, regardless of its origin, life moves at a pace that often times is unexpected.  It also moves in a manner that leaves the person a little out of the loop, until clear guidance is proffered.  It doesn’t matter if it’s about quilts or books or cranberry sauce.  Ripening of all these things occurs at varying rates, but can all fall on the same day.  And that includes me too; I’m ripening from day to day, husband here or gone, rain or shine.  Part of my changes are wrapped up in quilts, novels, and cooking.  But those items evolve as well, and now that the quilt is out of the dryer and photographed, it’s ready to be delivered to my sister.  As for the novel, I’ll get to that soon enough.  Same for the cranberry sauce; I had to buy clementines, and will cook that up this afternoon, with some toasted walnuts added for crunchy good measure.  Then it will sit in the freezer, ripening for a few days, before I serve it next Thursday.

Stitched in the ditch, it was backed with an old flannel sheet, making for a very malleable quilt   right from the get-go.

Stitched in the ditch, it was backed with an old flannel sheet, making for a very malleable quilt right from the get-go.

Everything needs a little ripening now and again.

And that includes my godchild’s quilt top, which I finished yesterday, the binding too.  Now that top adorns the quilt wall, well, it’s concealing the Christmas place mats, which are also ripening.  I took this shot, because I liked how the shadow of the mini blinds projected onto the wall.

The binding is on the left...

The binding is on the left…

Are they foreshadowing something?  I don’t know.  But they make for a nice photograph, which is about all I can ask for, when shooting a quilt top.  Not sure if that has any purpose in the ripening, other than aesthetically.  Which is all the Tropical Pop quilt was doing this week on my sofa, ripening aesthetically so I could wash it again today, then write this somewhat silly post.

That too I take on faith.  What other reason is there for all this tropical popping, cranberry saucing, novel blah blah blah nonsense?  Not much, if you look at it rationally.

But, if you dare to read between the lines, ahhh….  What might be discerned from quilts and novels and cranberry sauce?  I’ll leave that, for it’s ripening right before our eyes.


With the husband away, I’ve been keeping busy, mainly with sewing, although a few other tasks have come to hand.  Tonight I did some reading of The Hawk; usually I read first thing in the morning, but then usually I don’t write a blog entry this late in the day.

The current state of the quilt wall, a harbinger of the season to come…

Usually by now the husband is home, dinner has been partaken, and I’m content to ramble with the man I love.  But this week isn’t like most weeks I know.

Now, I could say that about much of 2014; usually my loved ones don’t undergo chemotherapy.  Usually I don’t fashion quilts.  Usually I’m writing…  Writing, hmph!  Not much of that this year, but perhaps that’s foreshadowing the way my life is looking to evolve.  Less words, more fabric, hehehe.  Um, hey, fabric, pretty colourful fabric…

No, no, this post is about writing, or the lack of it, but sometimes in order to write correctly one must look back at what was written, or think about what is going to (eventually one of these days) be written.  Because one of my favourite parts of writing is foreshadowing.  It’s like being able to see into the future, gleefully taking stock of all that is still to come.

Now, I have no idea what’s happening tomorrow.  I mean, I can assume what will or won’t occur, but within the confines of fiction, I’m aces with the realizations!  Okay, I’m pretty good at it, and The Hawk is a perfect example of how sometimes I’m even smarter than I know.  Of course, it would takes ages for me to give the background on this or that plot line to fully illustrate just how clever I am, although clever isn’t truly the correct word; damned lucky are the best words to describe how I fall into writing.  I am gosh darned blessed to put this scene here, that twist there, and only in reading over the whole bleeping enchilada do I get to savour that, well, blessedness.  Not luck at all, merely the awareness of writing something that is more like a gift than a chore.

That’s what writing is for me, when I manage some.  It’s the biggest treasure in the world.

Now, treasures come in a variety of guises; some are amazing, like the extra chocolates left over from the party favours I made this afternoon.  Some are trickier to discern, like my father’s chemotherapy.  Fatigue and nausea continue to plague him, and Radium 223 is still a no-go.  But he’s here, five and a half years after cancer was diagnosed, so I can’t complain, and neither does he, which means I really can’t gripe.  And as for writing, or the lack of it, well, I’m placated when I read a few chapters of a VERY LONG BOOK, finding that what I set into motion in chapter 22 plays out very well in chapter 71.  How cool is that?  And now in chapter 72, I’ve planted the seeds for what’s going to occur in chapter….  Well, I don’t know the number yet, but one of these days I will.

(I’m sure of that.)

Ahem, and when I do, I’ll smile, thinking to when I foreshadowed the fact that The Hawk got that far.  Not sure I’ll post about it, maybe I’ll be too tied up in sewing.  Right now, Christmas place mats adorn the quilt wall, my godchild’s quilt sewn into rows, which need to be sewn into a quilt top.  But the finished party favours are taking space on the work table, why I’m not pinning rows together, but blogging instead.  And if that wasn’t enough….

Master Z has made his appearance!  I’m a de facto grandmother as of late last night, to an eight-pound, nine-ounce bundle of joy.  It’s an odd sensation, I’ve never been a grandmother before, but now his photo graces my phone’s lock screen, and I’ve been considering that little miracle on and off all day.  The party favours aren’t for him, but they are baby shower-related, which I’ll wax more about soon enough.

Let’s just say that for now, Buttercup is still the grand-basset.  But in a few months, she’ll assume the moniker of grandma-dog.  She’s a grand old lady, if nothing else, worthy of all the loves given to her.  There aren’t any bassets in The Hawk, but one of these days, a story will come along, with her name written all over it.  And in the meantime, I’ll be thinking about the WIP, which is The Hawk, whether I’m writing it or not.  Foreshadowing counts, that’s all I’m saying.


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