At my grandfather's memorial so long ago now, someone described Granpa "always going full speed, until he stopped"--at which point they had to pull him and his snowmobile out of a snowbank or pick him up from where his horse threw him, or whatever. :) I thought that was not a bad way to be (if a bit impetuous; but that was my grandmother talking!).

Today was one of those days when I channeled my granpa--it was non-stop, one active meeting after another all day, about everything from the basics (when I was meeting with a new grad student) to getting an abstract out, to finishing a paper (meeting with someone farther along!), and let's not forget an hour and some of a fairly energetic lecture toward the end of the day. In between I had 20 minutes here and there to get an email out, check a draft letter of support, clean up a biosketch, address this or that. Full speed ahead!

And then I came home at 6 pm and fell asleep on top of the hubby, napping in front of the TV for half an hour. ;)
So Friday of last week, I was walking with the hubby from my office to the nearest reasonable coffee shop, and the path took us through a big hall/meeting space on the ground floor of my building. This area was packed with young women, but there were no signs as to what was going on or why they were there, other than that it was clearly deliberate; there were rows of chairs set up and most of them were being sat on, as their occupants chatted as though waiting for an activity or speaker to start.

Ok, so that was odd. But as we walked back and forth through them, I realized they were all a) young, b) slender, c) white to olive-complexioned, and d) they all had long, straight hair. Seriously! They weren't all blonde; hair color had all the normal varieties, though no one was pink or blue or any unnatural shade. But everyone's hair reached at least to their shoulders or farther, and it was all blunt cunt; no one had any interesting asymmetries going, no one had even a short bob. No one had curly hair. Wavy, yes, and some was thick and others were fine. But no one had curls. No one was fat (or even very curvy), no one was pierced or tattooed, no one was even overly short, though there were a few very tall ones.

Sorority recruitment, it turned out. That was my bet when I realized how physiologically homogeneous they were, and I confirmed it later when I saw someone manning an official (though still unlabeled) table, and could ask them. Yes, stereotypes are occasionally true. ;)

It is very disturbing to see that lack of variety in such a large group of people. It was just on the edge of noticeable--they weren't all cookie cutter, stepford wives versions of each other. But dang, they had a really constrained set of variations, which just made it weird and uncomfortable until I figured out that's what I was seeing. I knew I was not a fan of sororities, and that just confirmed it. :P
well quickly: Mom's been in the hospital, then moved to a rehab center, where she still is. She's been slowly recovering from the issues with the chemotoxicity, and still has a gall bladder drain that she's hoping will come out on Tuesday. After they figured it out the first time, she was getting better, then she had an infection, dehydration, she's better, she's worse--but the past few days have been a steady upwards trajectory, walking first with a walker and then a cane and then just fine on her own; and she was able to leave the rehab center for a few hours yesterday for tea at home, and today for church. After church she wanted to go out for lunch and get a steak!! Which is simply marvelous. :) :) They are hoping she'll be released to go home on Friday.

And then we start the whole shebang over, but let's not consider that right now. I got to call her for a few minutes tonight and it was the most valuable thing that's happened to me recently, to hear her voice and her laugh. :)

Meanwhile, life continues for those of us not tied up at the hospital. I'm totally behind on pretty much everything, but I'm ready for class tomorrow, at least. I have papers and reviews hanging over my head, and my free time tomorrow is working on grant text for a meeting Tuesday. That's why we have meetings, to prioritize whatever we promised to do for the meeting! I can count at least 8 things I was supposed to have finished by now, but oh well, crap. The things we *have* made progress on are good.
We finally started (and finished) watching Season 3 of Sherlock; we missed it when it came out earlier this year on PBS and had to wait for it to come out on Netflix, and then find time to watch it. :)

The first two seasons they stuck closely to the original books, and I was very impressed by how well they did the translation to modern day London. The third season they went completely off book and my goodness they were good. The second episode, at John and Mary's wedding, was hysterical! It was fun to really know not what was going to happen next, and I liked what they did with Mary. Cumberbatch was good as always. ;)
I got to talk to Mom yesterday evening, for the first time in a week and a half. It was good to hear her voice, even though it had to be brief. She had good energy and sounded very normal, but couldn't talk for long.

They had thought she'd be transferred to a facility where she could get physical therapy etc. today, but they have to check that the drain they put in is still working, keeping the fluid out of the space below her lungs. Yeesh. If it ain't one thing...

Yesterday though, I fell down the stairs and bruised my back rather badly. We have two steps down between the dining room and living room, and it's all hardwood floors, and I was wearing socks to keep my feet warm. And I somehow mis-stepped on the top step, my feet went out from under me, and I went flying up in the air, coming down with the lower step hitting me just below the small of my back. Very odd sensation--I knew it was coming and had a few seconds in the air to think, holy crap, I'm going to crack a vertebrae. Hope I can still walk after this.

But luckily I didn't crack anything, not my back or neck or head, though I have a lovely massive bruise and scraped skin right across my spine. I had a hard time breathing properly for what probably seemed longer than it was, but I lay there on my back waving my feet around weakly (both from the pain and a desire to make sure I could) for a few seconds and trying to reassure the hubby that I wasn't dead.

Wow was that painful. I was limping about like an old lady for the rest of the day, even with two Alleve in my system. Today it's down to just sore, I can walk around without a problem, but the occasional combined turn and move or lift will make me squeak a little. I can't believe I didn't chip anything; my mom cracked her tailbone doing almost exactly that move when she was younger than I am. Like I said to the hubby, good thing I am carrying a lot of padding. ;)
What I sent to my family about DragonCon--this weekend is the big Sci Fi/Fantasy convention in Atlanta, DragonCon. Some of my students go to it and so do a bunch of the faculty apparently! But the parade is public and free, so I went to watch it Saturday morning. I actually gave up about halfway through, because the heat and the crowds were just overwhelming--unless you get there at 8:30 for a 10 am parade, you don't get to see very clearly! I will remember that for next year. The crowds had to be seen to be believed.

It opened with a lone bagpiper, followed by the DragonCon banner. There were dragons, of course, and Dr. Who groups of various sorts (there were a lot of women in blue and white fluffy ball dresses, as some sort of Tardis), Xena and the Power Rangers, Lego Xmen, dinosaurs, vampires (followed by a real blood drive mobile which made me laugh) and zombies and the entirety of the Periodic Table! :) And I didn't see the whole thing (there were half a dozen Ghostbuster cars, plus the De Lorean from Back to the Future and Speed Racer's #5). And lots and lots of groups I didn't recognize. The guys behind me were naming groups as they went by, which helped--the dwarves from the Hobbit marched by in their barrels going down the rivier :) --but there were groups from various online games and such that I'd never heard of, and probably movies and TV shows as well. Not a lot of floats, though. Mostly just marching spectacle.

Much fun!
Well they figured out that Mom had a bad reaction to the chemo--chemotoxicity is the technical term. She is still in the hospital after a week, but they put a stent in her pancreas on Wednesday and now it's just a question of physical therapy, because she is very weak. But they are probably going to let her go sometime soon, it's just a question of exactly when and whether she goes home or to an intermediate place where she can be more mobile but still looked after for a while longer.

But it is depressing because they had hoped that 3 months of chemo and she'd be ready for the surgery, and this means that won't happen. They have to dial it back, slow it down, and that extends the chemo period for maybe as much as a year. SIGH.


But she's able to get up and walk around, and she isn't in pain, she's able to talk again (the chemotoxicity had led to fluid build up under lungs, so she couldn't breathe or talk much until they figured out what was and drained it). So the improvement is a massive relief!

Phew, for that.
So Mom's been back in the hospital since Friday. She started running a fever and they admitted her that afternoon to start doing tests, and it's been up and down since then. At first they thought she might be able to come home on Saturday, but no such luck--some of her symptoms got worse, they had to do Xrays of her abdomen, etc.

The current consensus is a) she's doing better, feeling well enough to read the paper this morning and b) there's nothing obviously wrong, so it's apparently chemotherapy toxicity, which can come on suddenly even a week after the treatment, according to the doc. So they have to dial it back a bit, either in dosing levels or frequency. But Dad expects her to be in the hospital another few days.

Dad's been a love about emailing us kids every few hours with an update. I've emailed back generally cheery and upbeat responses, though I finally texted my sister yesterday to explain that I was totally freaking out about it, and we had a good phone call. She was in the same state as me, not sure what to do or when; the plan originally had been she was supposed to be over at their place today, making soup for mom for the week (since Mom has all these digestive issues anyway even before this, gluten free and fat free and no potatoes and just a whole bizarre list of stuff she couldn't eat), and as of yesterday it was not at all clear what was going to happen, whether she should be buying groceries or not. SIGH.

But Dad's not feeling expansive--in my last email to him I asked directly what hospital they were in (he hadn't said!) and whether we could do anything like call their church or anything, and his email in response was surprisingly brusque, for him. He's usually quite polite and friendly, so I figure he's taking it understandably hard. He said he's emailing friends from church separately, so that's good.

Aaaaand the first day of classes is tomorrow. Of course. :P
Well I spoke too soon. A week ago Sunday we made an offer, did the negotiations, and came to an agreement; and then we went into the 12 day "withdraw at any time" period. Last week Wednesday the hubby was there when they did the inspection. And of course the inspection report comes back with all sorts of issues, but several of them raised a number of flags.

Basically the house hadn't been renovated much at all. They had done a nice job with the counters and cabinets in the kitchen, but the electrical was funky--not seriously problematic, but needed some fixing. The crawlspace under the house had standing water, which bothered us a lot. There were lots of little things with the roof, dry rot around the windows, and the various appliances like the A/C and water heater were within a year of dying.

So last Friday we made a revised offer, and they didn't come back to us until Monday, basically not giving us the info we wanted about the AC unit. We made one more offer/request, and they came back saying no. So we ran the numbers one more time, estimating how much it would cost to do all the expected repairs, on top of paying the new mortgage and the original mortgage until we can sell the house (at least 6 months), and it didn't work. We withdrew the offer yesterday evening.

Of course, today they came back to us matching our last offer, but it's too late/not enough, once we figured out how much fixing the crawl space etc. would cost.

So we get to try again next spring--when the interests have gone up, and who knows what will be available. But we need to have a buffer on top of the downpayment, because any house will need repairs of some sort, so we need to wait.
Hm, so Mork is gone. :( I heard last night a news blurb that Robin Williams had been found dead, and I figured 63 was a smidgen young--but the hubby pointed out that man had done so many drugs in the 70s and 80s it was a wonder he made it this far. But it turns out it was possibly suicide? He'd been battling depression? That's not good. I knew he's gotten help back in the 90s or something--it was when he stopped being funny, to be honest. I always had wondered why his stuff from the 80s was hysterical but later stuff wasn't, until I found out he'd been to a shrink. (Same goes for John Cleese--it seems to be a rule that a) standup comedy comes from psychological pain and b) fixing the pain while good for the person is bad for the comedy.) I'm sorry he had it, and that the pain got to be too much. :( He gave me many laughs when I was a teenager, though I wasn't a fan of his movies in general.

Best wishes to his family, of course. That must be unbelievably difficult for them.
So much going with nothing happening... I developed a cold in the middle of last week which pretty much made the weekend all sleep, but after a week it has finally worn off. I have, however, discovered sloe gin! We were out for dinner the other night and were next to one of the big liquor stores, so we stopped in after dinner to pick up the next bottle of rum and see what else took our fancy. I always like to try something new, so I was picking through the sections with liquors made of things I've never heard of--the nice thing about having smart phones is I can stand there checking out what something is while the hubby pores over exactly what kind of vodka he wants, and that sort of thing. It turns out Mahita tastes like pine, as far as we can find out, so we voted against that. But they had some bottles of sloe gin in next to the elderberry liqueur and St. Germain and other random stuff, and since I like gin I looked up sloe gin to see what it was, and picked up a bottle. It's sloe berries steeped in gin, so hey.

But while we were standing there discussing it an older woman came up to us and asked us for advice on what to buy--she was apparently having people over after dinner and wanted something to serve them that wasn't as cloyingly sweet as dessert wine. So we walked her through the various options that we know about that were all laid out there, from citrus-based, nut-based, berry-based, chocolate-based, coffee-based, etc. She said she already had brandy and sherry, so she didn't think fruit-based would fit; so she picked out some Fra'angelico and I hope it worked out for her. That was fun. :)

Sloe gin is great! At least to me--I've got the kind of palate that can't taste scotch or whiskey or different kinds of wine, but I have definite opinions about tequila, gin, and brandy. Sloe gin is purply plum in color and the hubby says it smells like cough syrup, but it tastes like berries. It tastes round! The taste of berries is not overpowering, it's not really sweet, it's almost cranberry-like but it's not as bitter as Campari, though it's heading that way taking blueberries with it. It tastes round--I don't really know what that means, but tasting it evoked all sensations of little round blue berries. You can't drink it and not have that imagery. I said to the hubby it tasted round and he agreed. ;)

Tonight I had a sloe screw (sloe gin and orange juice)--the flavors spread out so you taste first the orange juice, followed by berries, then the punch of gin. Noms. :)

Mom had her port put in today for the chemo. I called last night and they were both doing well; they'd been to the chemo class, of all things, that the medical center offered, and were feeling very reassured. Mom pointed out it was the same place she had chemo 20 years ago for her 2nd round of breast cancer, and it was completely different--totally improved! Whereas before she had to whangle and wheedle to get a topical painkiller just for the needle biopsy, and if you got sick from the chemo you had to call for a prescription and then stumble out and get it--now they are putting the anti-nausea medication right in with the chemo, she automatically gets a prescription for pain killers, anti-diarrhea medication, etc. on the off chance she might need it. Preventative! pro-active! Dad said a good hour of her pre-port surgery time was interacting specifically with a doctor about any potential concerns--not waiting to deal with side-effects, but talking first about potential concerns. Lots of work to keep her positive, well-informed, and comfortable. That's what I call good healthcare; and as mom attests, it didn't used to be that way, so it's a good thing it's that way now! She starts the chemo on Wednesday.
I had plans this summer. I was going to diet and exercise and get back in shape, as well as getting a bunch of papers in and revamping my class for the fall.

We got a bunch of papers in (and rejected, and revised and resubmitted), but there are still some hanging over my head. I did get some grants in, either as co-PI or subaward PI. But the rest of it? Not so much. :P
Hanging out with the family last Saturday, the nevvies are really growing up. The younger one is faster at verbal skills than the older one (the younger one is a noticeably better speller and reads much more quickly), but the older one is working in math classes above his age range. He's going into 7th grade this fall, new school that is much bigger and will have a locker and have to move around from class to class (I remember that!); but it's only a few blocks away from his house, and when the school had an orientation for new students he saw a lot of kids he'd played soccer with were going to be there too, so it's not like it's all new faces.

I hadn't thought about the role that playing soccer or other activities would play in helping the kid find his feet socially as he moves along. Since I never did team sports, they always look to me like just a sport, not very interactive--you go, you play, when do you meet the players on the other teams? But apparently with enough time and energy eventually you do. And I guess every year he meets a batch of other kids who are on his team, that he trains with for the season and becomes friends with. That would give him a broader network than just the kids in his own school classes.

They aren't on Facebook yet, though my sister-in-law said it would likely be soon, they are just trying to figure out how to make it work--I can't imagine having to come up with rules for kids' internet use. The only metaphor I have is my parents' rules on TV use: only certain shows, only a certain amount of time per day. That doesn't really translate into rules for internet use--time limitations are one thing, and webnannies will do something for limiting which sites they can go to, but there's still the question of netiquette, how not to be a troll, how to recognize and handle trolls (how do you even bring that up when you don't know what they might see?), how to avoid flame wars, how to try to review what content they are seeing (my mom always knew what books I was reading and could talk to me about them if they were at all problematic, but tracking what websites these kids have seen would be a bit more challenging!).

How not to be a jerk online: 12 easy steps. :)
But there's still the question of what will they see, how to get them to think about what they see, how to respond to it (think critically? Talk to mom? Look for other sources or points of view on it? Evaluate the source of the website?) even if they aren't actually commenting on it, etc. Not like I expect my nevvies would turn into those monsters who killed someone after falling for that Thin Man story or whatever it was--but why didn't those kids' parents know what their kids were up to? Somebody was not paying attention, hadn't taught their kids about right and wrong obviously, but also about not believing everything you see on line, and how to make judgments about it.
So Mom is in good spirits and not noticeably yellow any more, though she is very, very tired and always cold. She sees the chemo doctor later this week to get the treatment plan (how much chemo and radiation and when, and how long it will take to see if the tumor is receding to the point where they can cut it out), and then we go from there. As she said, from here on it's just a slog.

But she had told one of her doctors that she was ready to split up her jewelry among her two daughters and daughter-in-law, and he said, "Now who told you do that? There's no need to rush into that." or words to that effect. Which for some reason I found more reassuring than almost anything else that was said in the last week.

My brother, sister-in-law and nephews came over at tea time yesterday and stayed through dinner (order-in Chinese!! Yay!). But mom's friend Maryann called around 5:30 and offered to come pray for Mom and Mom said absolutely, so we had a lovely prayer meeting for about 15 minutes at 6 pm. Standing around Mom (she got to sit, obviously!) with our hands on her shoulders and eventually tears just running down everyone's cheeks (except the nevvies but they are young and it's not their mom).

There are some things you want so much, you can't say them out loud, hence my tears. But this is important to mom and dad, and reassuring to the childhood patterns in me, so hey. It was good. Mom and Dad are very pleased that all her doctors are Catholic and offered to pray for her almost to a man, at various points.

Dinner was just everyone chatting, the nevvies insisted on one round of Mad Libs before leaving (which worked surprisingly well). Then the sis and I bought a bottle of wine at the convenience store across the street and sat in our hotel room putting most of it away and chatting about books, TV shows, relationships, etc.

Had breakfast with mom and dad this morning--dad had hoped they could both drive me to the airport this morning but mom was not up for it, so he drove me and we got a chance to chat a bit. Apparently my coming up this weekend meant a lot to both of them, for all I felt kind of like I strong-armed them into it, offering numerous times until I got a yes response. ;) So that was the right thing to do.
this week has been a series of ups and downs--first, the confirmation that it was pancreatic cancer, and another CT scan to get a better contrast on where it was. The confirmation that it was not particularly early stage, and it's positioned around the hepatic veins so they can't do surgery and get it out. That was all by Wednesday night, which is why yesterday morning I was crying while driving to work (which I do NOT recommend).

But then last night came the news that while it is not as teeny as might be hoped, it has not metastasized (sp?), which is absolutely great news for prognosis. She'll be starting radiation/chemo to shrink the tumor away from the blood vessels (for some time X, not sure what X is), so they can then go in and do the surgery. She goes next week to find out what the chemo/radiation cocktail is going to be.

Fingers crossed her tumor does not put up a fight!

In weird news, I was awakened at 3:30 am this morning by a loud pounding on the door and insistent doorbell ringing. I don't think the hubby ever woke up, but once I figured out it wasn't a dream I wrapped myself in the local blanket and went to answer the door. It was the cops responding to a 911 call, confirming everything was ok. They claimed they'd gotten a 911 call from our location.

Now both our phones were plugged in just a few feet from where I was standing, and no one had touched them in hours. But he confirmed the address and I confirmed the hubby and I were fine, and he went on his way.

So two questions from that: 1) how did that happen? Is it suddenly a cool prank to call 911 and give a fake address? did someone have a phone number that used to be billed to our address and they butt-dialed 911 at 3 am? How random would that have to be?

and the 2nd question is, how much time to cops have to waste responding to wrong 911 calls?

Don't get me wrong, I've done it myself. In ABQ at work one time I was calling someone in the 919 area code, so I had to dial 9-1-919- phone number, and I missed the 2nd nine, hit 911 by mistake, realized what I'd done, then promptly hung up to start over. And in 10 minutes there were cops in my office confirming that I was ok--which was pretty impressive, given the way phone numbers at work got swapped around, I thought. But that's when I found out that once that 911 call goes through, hanging up does not cancel the call. Stay on the line and explain to the dispatcher you're cool and it was a mistake, otherwise they figure out where it came from and come find you.

So what 911 call went through that they thought came from our address? In ABQ we were on a street that ran all the way through town, so if this had happened there, I'd have assumed they should have been at the same address but SE instead of NE. But here, we're on a little spur. There's no corresponding address in another quadrant. They'd have to be on a Circle or a Lane instead of a Drive, or something.

(Hmmm--actually there is a place with our address on a Circle somewhere near by, I think. I hope they didn't make a 911 call and then the cops didn't show up!)
Nothing to do know for mom except wait. I offered to fly up next weekend like I'd offered to fly up this weekend, and the response was the same--the thought of visitors was a bit much. (though her email today says no, come on up, so we will get that arranged!)

In other news, work has been productive. Cawr's second paper is under review; Vepa's first paper ever is under review (and she was so excited to push the "submit" button! :); Naco's one paper is out with co-authors and should be submitted this week, and his second paper is with me right now for one final pass before sending it to co-authors and then for submission. The team locally is going great guns, and as a group they are really coming to grips with at least three different software packages that they need to do these resting state fMRI analyses. We aren't top of the line, but we are doing what the mass of labs are doing, so we should be in good shape. I'm expecting some papers out of that this fall! (Which is exciting for both me and the students. :)

Plus, I've made a connection with an energetic young psychiatrist at the hospital at the end of the block, who runs the treatment resistant psychosis clinic and is VERY interested in getting research going. We had a long discussion this past Monday with the imaging center acting director on how to scan clinical patients there, etc. We have some ideas! We just need to get it going.

The hubby's been doing great on the text mining project, keeping all the master's and PhD students charging along so we know actually have a functioning infrastructure, where we can query PubMed, then pull the relevant files from some journals and shove 'em straight into a database properly divvied up by section (Introduction, Methods, Results, Conclusions) for later processing. Woot!! Plus the CS Prof we are working with says the hubby should be on these students' committees, which is a good thing for him to have on his CV.

And at work the Chair who hired me has moved up the ranks to something else at the college level, and the Associate Chair is now the new Chair. I am hoping he is not Too Nice for the Job, but he's been working with the old Chair for years and knows all the ins and outs, she thought the world of hi, so I have confidence in him. He and I are meeting for lunch this coming Tuesday to discuss where I'm at and my space needs, etc. (on his initiative! Which is very nice).

Hmm. A quick tour through Priceline and Delta shows that leaving for DC on Friday evening and coming back Sunday is going to be over $1000 for two adults. I need to dig some more!
Many thanks to all for the good wishes. Mom had surgery yesterday, to get a biopsy and place a stent in the duct so everything will keep working; she had an allergic reaction to one of the medications, which slowed things down a bit, but she was home yesterday evening, and Dad said she was already looking less jaundiced.

I'll call her today. After talking to her on Monday I called her again on Tuesday after work and had a decent chat; tried to call Thursday night but Dad was on the phone with someone so I sent an email wishing her well for the procedure on Friday, and swapped some email over that. My brother took Dad out to lunch yesterday while Mom was under the knife.

My sister's been texting regularly to check in on me and we had a chat Tuesday morning before work. We both fell apart on Monday night--she cried for hours, I cried longer than I have since Grandma died back in 1980, but the hubby said it was only about 5 minutes (*felt* like longer). I was ok talking to Mom and Dad that night but then when Dad said, "Do you want to talk to your mom again?" I just lost it. The thought that a day is coming when I will want to talk to her again and not be able to...

Tuesday she told me not to be a worrier, God is in control, all that good stuff. I said it wasn't worry per se, it was more anticipation of loss; even Jesus in the Garden of Gethsamane said "Hey, if there's a way we could avoid this, I'd love to hear it." Facing squarely the anticipation of pain and loss is not fun, even with all the spiritual faith and confidence you could have. But I do love my mom--she said she had no regrets, she and I had no unfinished business, she just regretted not being around to see me get the Nobel Prize for curing schizophrenia. That made me laugh!!

But given the issues she had with her mom, the fact that we don't have unfinished business is really a blessing. I can count the number of times I've had a knock-down-drag-out fight with my mom probably without putting down my drink. For all I was raised with corporal punishment--we were spanked and slapped for back-talk in a way that would raise eyebrows today--I never felt that she didn't respect me, that I wasn't my own person or that I didn't have her full support, that I had to agree with her in lock-step or anything. Even though she had strong opinions and no fear of expressing them and expecting us to agree, she was very open about raising us to be adults, to "work herself out of a job" as she always said; and I have very much enjoyed both that process and being her friend as an adult.
So over the weekend I worked a bit and took a lot of time off, playing a new game at :)

But then yesterday evening after work I was next door at the neighbor's because she was getting a quote on new windows, and we need new windows too so she let me join in. (We'll see how THAT goes!) In the middle of it my brother called but I missed it.

So the hubby and I went out to dinner, and in the middle I remembered my brother had called so I stopped to check it, and while I was working through that the hubby checked his email and there was a message from my mom.

The email said she'd been in for a CT on Friday for some odd problems and got the results back, and there was a mass on her pancreas. Where there had not ought to be one, and the doc said it looked like cancer. More tests needed to be sure of course. (My brother's call was assuming I had seen the email--but my mom had sent it to my old yahoo email so I didn't get it.)

The hubby offered to cancel dinner and go home, but I figured no, nothing I could do anyway, I'd hold it together; but when we were done he suggested I should go, so he paid up and drove home while I called my mom from the car. ("Got your email, mom--what the hell?") She'd had a cold over the 4th of July weekend the last time I talked to her, but that was fine; but at the tail end of the cold in the middle of last week she started getting chills and fever feelings without running a fever, and got into the doc on Friday who noticed she was turning yellow! So he got a CT scan for her right away, and she proceeded to get yellower over the weekend while waiting for the results.

And there we are, with the dreaded and deadly diagnosis "pancreatic cancer" hanging over our heads. She's in to see the gastro enterologist tomorrow, with the expectation of a biopsy shortly. But her bile duct is blocked! She's lost 10 lbs already--she can eat but her body can't do anything with it. I'm a little concerned she isn't in the hospital already; can you let people walk around for days with no bile?

I called her again today at the end of the business day and she sounded good, not faint or exhausted. But she's definitely facing squarely the idea that This Is It, and that is understandably difficult for the rest of us.
what is unbelievably cool, of course, in the wake of reading that Civil Rights movement book, is someone on my Friends page at FB liked something that Congressman John Lewis posted on his page--so now I'm following Congressman John Lewis, who talks occasionally about all the stuff he did that I was just reading about! (history! Squee!) And when he's not doing that, he's posting stuff about loving your neighbor and forgiving your enemies, etc. Yay!!

Today he had a press release about John Siegenthaler (, who I also remembered from the book.

Information, I has it!! (Fear me! :)
I think I have found the Best Book I Read This Year, even though it is only July. I finally finished The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation, by Roberts & Klibanoff, and it is rare that I am that moved by a work of non-fiction.

It's a tough book to read on a number of levels. First, it's written by journalists, and it has that point of view--it has a cast of thousands, with people popping in for a few paragraphs to do something important and then disappearing. There are a few names that continue throughout the entire book--Myrdal, Ashmore, McGill, Kilpatrick, to name a few both good guys and bad guys--but it took me a while to settle into the style of the writing. It is NOT a novelization. It's a detailed history of the growth of the civil rights movement, starting with WWII and continuing to pretty much the death of MLK Jr, from the point of view of how the press played a role in both suppressing and facilitating the changes that came through, over 2-3 decades.

As a result, it's fascinating. It starts with Myrdal's 1944 book, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, which is eye-opening to begin with, and the impact of that book is woven through the rest of the history--everyone who is a player has read it, along with other key pieces that come later. But when you start with that book in 1944, followed by Brown vs the Board of Education in 1954, and then by 1964 things haven't really changed *that* much--I had a lot of sympathy for the groups starting to splinter off from MLK's approach and argue for violence in return. I mean, holy crap. 20 years is a freakin' long time to put up with only the hope for change, small steps, the South basically trying to ignore the Supreme Court rulings when they do come, growing awareness of the violence, etc.

It's dispassionate writing in most places, which I found even more impactful. As it builds to Brown vs the Board of Education (1954), then Emmett Till in 1955, with the detailed descriptions of how that all went, then the fight to get Autherine Lucy into the University of Alabama that took THREE years, and she's finally accepted and allowed to register, goes to campus in the fall of 1955--and lasts no more than 3 days until the racist mob riots force the university to suspend her, claiming they can't provide a safe environment.

I actually had to put the book down and cry for a while at that point. Since I didn't know the story about the University of Alabama, I really hoped that it would work out for Autherine, and was devastated when the bullies and bigots won. How could that happen? I object strenuously to people behaving that way, and the rage and guilt and despair over the failure of human nature was just too much at that point.

But the next 10 years was more examples of that--cultural-level extreme bullying, in essence, at Little Rock and Montgomery, the riots at the University of Mississippi over the first black student, people getting killed or permanently maimed as they tried to register to vote, register for classes, get lunch at a deli, march, you name it. People who thought they had and should keep the upper hand got outrageously, inhumanely violent in keeping the other guy down.

It's really unbelievable, as it is laid out here, dovetailed with the growth of TV news, the role of text, the understanding of the value of the camera both still and moving, the different roles of the black and white press over time, the different approaches from within the "border states" vs the Deep South, the places that integrated their universities without a whimper vs the places where the governor or police commissioner refused, the political theories about "interposition" and how those played out, the attempts from certain southern editors to argue "You're one too!" highlighting racism in the "integrated" north, the growth and fading of the NAACP, the SNCC, how those groups played together or didn't. Etc.

There is so much you can take from this book, not just about race relations and history but the development of the news media in this country, as well as a deeper understanding of how humans will behave toward each other when the balance of power is in question. It's definitely worth a long, slow read.
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