Saturday, July 31, 2010

Meet the Ratley in the Garden! I *adore* this picture!!

Used with the permission of Dame Margo of Toronto

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mathew Brady

Civil War Battlefields and Broken Dams

When kids are little

visit Rand McNally prompted sites of note.

National Parks, Monuments, Civil War battlefields.

Why go to the Nation's Capitol to show children Democracy

and not stop at Gettysburg?

So the site today of raging battle exposed,

invited introspection

long line of rubble rock across the beanfield

after the dam broke

scour hole below and I was with the Louisiana boys behind

that long rock wall that marked the cornfields edge.

The roar of cannon, smoke, dark water rising

blood, Iowa soil here, such a defensible position rock rubble

if only one stays down, but here to drown were you so foolish

or to drown in blood so far from home Louisiana boy

behind the wall.

But this no Monument to what?

Here a field and the D-9 pushes the rocks to the hole

and again as a field the story fades.

By Phil Specht on July 28, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jumbled thoughts after reading wikileak

Redtail dropping below me down the middle of the road

did you spot a groundsquirrel?

The steep hill had me flying on your back

you not knowing the thrill it gave me

and simultaneous concern for I could not stop

truck and trailer on a dime like you as you nabbed the prey

and feet apart we made eye contact

you looked over your shoulder and aborted your mission

and a flare of left wing and you were there on a branch to my right

as I passed in an instant

you quicker than the pilot of a drone

and no friendly fire from me.

By Phil Specht on July 26, 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

And the Heat Goes On. . . .



Friday, July 23, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010 4:13 PM, EDT

I finally got a hold of someone in NYC to find out the results of Ally's HAMA at 3:30 today. She is still positive. Grrrr. BUT, they did say her level is coming down, so we do NOT have to do another round of Rituximab! We just get to hang out for 3 weeks and retest her HAMA then. I am very much looking forward to nothing to do for 3 weeks (even though I have to work every day next week).

Today Ally was also screened for preschool. Turns out she is wicked smart! She had no problems with any of the tasks they asked her to perform, and she was not painfully shy, just extremely shy with the teacher. There were even a lot of skills she has that they didn't even look for, such as letter and number recognition and saying the ABC's. The teacher said it was the fastest screening she had done all summer. The preschool is not full yet, so it looks like Ally will be able to attend in the fall; but if there are more children signing up as the summer progresses, that have more academic needs than Ally, she may not be able to go. It makes me so happy and I kind of want to stick my tongue out at the stupid tumor and say something like:, "Ha ha stupid tumor, Ally wins AGAIN!" Small victories are sweet.

I will keep you posted with the preschool situation (we still have to talk to her doctors about that) and all of our fun adventures. Thanks for all your thoughts about the HAMA test today...good news that it is dropping!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010


Sand Pit Beach

The beach at the sand pit

was any shore you landed

since the river had left a sand deposit

bigger than the dredge line reach

but the favored spot was nearer parking

so the tunes from the eight track

the booming bass in the Cougar

always reserved the closest spot for that reason

made the season

or the far end where the last sand pile

made privacy possible for love making or a toke

since the muscle car drivers at the parking lot

there swilling brews knew nothing of either.

By Phil Specht on July 16, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Thursday, July 08, 2010


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010 12:34 PM, EDT

My work switched insurance companies on July 1. I had several conversations and e-mails to make sure everything would continue to be covered. It has not been a fun process, and in the end is costing us a little more money in premiums and copays; but Ally is still covered (and that is all that really matters, as we are up into the millions for her treatment). Today the new insurance company made me laugh. A few weeks ago I called them to get her 9 prescriptions transferred. They prefer her meds to be shipped via UPS to us, rather than use the local pharmacy (or pharmy, as Ally calls it). So, yesterday I called to make sure they could send us next month's meds (we only needed the 2 she uses on a daily basis). She said they had already been sent out (the two we needed and another we use sometimes) and we should be getting them soon. They came today. Six huge bottles. Four of which are full of the same medicine. A medicine we have literally used 2 times (2.5 mls worth, each time). We now have 1800 mls of something we have used twice in the last 6 months......Ahhh the joys of miscommunication.

Monday, July 05, 2010

My life in flowers. . . . .

My life in flowers. . . . .

1. The Peace Rose, perhaps the only flower my mother ever bought. The rose that brought my father home from the war, and ended my life as a well traveled child.

2. The Madonna Lily that daddy bought every Mothers' Day, each planted below the living room window. A front flower.

3. The dusk task every summer evening: rubbing the aphids off of the rose buds.

4. I always got to wear Saturday night's gardenia to church on Sunday. And it was mine till it died, and beyond. Even the brown leather petals smelled lovely.

5. I wanted gardenias for my wedding, but it was July, and had to settle for a flat white orchid. Which smelled like nothing.

6. My own first garden: digging out the forsythia (don't like stupid plants) listening to the radio coverage of the MLK riots. It and about seven bushels of construction debris. Replaced it with a mock orange.

7. Many daylilies, only orange and yellow then. Reliability is to be prized in growing things.

8. No house plant I owned during that marriage lived. Even bamboo died. When I left, I invested 25 cents in an areca palm from Woolworth's. It lived, and many other slips and bits and gifts did too.

9. When I left for China, I gave away all my plants. The papyrus traveled to Boston, and was installed at Digital next to a friend's desk, and grew nearly three storeys before I returned. I was given granddaughters, but the cats keep eating them. It grows wonderfully for my son.

10. The Li in my Chinese name, Zhu Li, means jasmine.

11. My second garden was captured wildflowers and blown in volunteers -- bouncing bet, Queen Anne's Lace, ox eye daisies, a five petal pink wild rambler, roadside daylilies. After a couple of years, and both of us with jobs, nursery stock got added. Tree peonies, iris, daylilies, astilbe, bleeding hearts, hollyhock,Solomon's Seal, foxglove. It was harder leaving that garden than selling the house.

12. When I found the cabin in Cazadero, it was raining, and the smell was wonderful! Bay laurel. The first I'd ever known. I lived in the redwoods, a second growth mother next to my deck. Some nights I danced nekkid on that deck under the redwood and stars as big a teakettles and frying pans. When I came east again I brought both a laurel and a redwood. Both died even before winter.

13. Here, the pinkwooded hemlock, which must be a near relative to the other, though it will never grow so large or live so long, and is in fact dying from the predation of a tiny piece of lint called a woolly adelgid. All, all dying. The garden again weeds and wildflowers: phlox, beebalm, forgetmenots, crown vetch, butterfly weed, Jerusalem artichokes, black eyed Susan, swamp milkweed, white snakeroot, bouncing bet again (soapwart). jewelweed, Christmas fern and staghorn fern, and my mother's iris which I brought home after she died. And a Peace Rose. The purple loosestrife, an invader but beautiful is establishing itself on the bank across the river, and I've been warned it will destroy my marsh, but it's so beautiful. . . . I suspect I'll wait too long to try. False indigo runs both sides of my dirt drive all the way to the state road. My pasture/meadow has mayapple and, bull thistle (but not much). Up road is mullein and black cohosh. On my drive to town I know where the wild columbine, the bachelors button, the St. John's wort, and the fox glove grows. And when to look for them. I brake for flowers (and butterflies).

14. The two years in NYC were orchid years. Flower shops on every other block, and huge bunches of orchids to be bought on the way home or to someone's for dinner. With editing, a bunch can be made to last two weeks.

15. The past couple of years, I've begun to notice how lovely the grasses are. My love is a plant scientist, and a grass man. His opening letter to me suggested I needed to add lady slippers to my list of interests. I laughed, and said: they're there, look again.

16. I'll admit reluctantly that I adore blue devil. I even tried to transplant it (with gloves on), but its taproot defeated me.

17. I have a bumper sticker on my car, made by a friend who had a cafe press shop: Plants are ethical beings -- eat an animal instead.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Friday, July 2, 2010 12:04 PM, EDT

Yesterday Ally's doctor was a little amazed at how well Ally was handling the chemo. Toward the end of the 3rd hour of post hydration she stopped in the playroom where Auntie Kelly, Ally and I were (Thursday is not a Pediatric Clinic day, so there were no other kiddos there, so we were the only ones who got to use the playroom!). She was slightly surprised to see Ally still energetic and playing.

We brought a puke bucket in the car with us, but other than Ally being a cranker pants in the car (probably due to her 15 minutes of napping) she was fine.

This morning I gave her a dose of anti-vomit medicine. It is either working very well, or Ally is just not getting hit with side effects. She has not complained of a tummy ache or anything like that. She is eating well and we even went to the park this morning. She did ask to go up for her nap an hour before it usually is, so she is showing some signs of being tired, but hopefully this will be the only side effect we will see.

Next week we will get a blood draw to check her counts, please pray that they don't drop so low that she will need GCSF injections.

Happy Fourth of July!

Cheryl Vatcher-Martin

The schoolhouse bell

silent since the emptied countryside
left the one room school pupiless
stood watch as a grain augur
shoved through a window
in a vain attempt to give slate roof utility
filled the classroom with surplus corn
government bins all full
a desert caused by bounty
neighborhood free of all but corn rows
and the giant machines that devour them
silent the bell rung for Liberty on the Fourth
singing in chorus throughout the land
under paintings of Washington and Lincoln
this schoolhouse bell
rang one last time for the wrecking ball
the schoolyard itself now a cornfield
littered with slate
and no chalk or the hands that held them

By Phil Specht on July 4, 2010

Friday, July 02, 2010

Summer of Darkness

the earth is bleeding

we heard the music of an underwater menace

Great White, lurking near the beach for unwary swimmer

tho this summer no one ventures

to the fouled beaches

as the danger now is blackness

and the summer water not red with blood of body

but oil black earth blood brown darkness of soul

gone mad with grief and anger

spewing contempt for mere mortals

what soundtrack this?

are hills alive with the sound of music?
(from whence our help comes)

or dying cries of dolphins

and turtles burned alive

By Phil Specht on July 2, 2010

Back from the big city. Ally catch-up time.

Thursday, July 1, 2010 1:35 PM, EDT

Ally is all done with chemo. We had to wait a couple of hours for it to start, because she was not quite hydrated enough. The actual chemo only took 30 minutes. Now we get to hang out for 3 hours of post hydration. Her oncologist wants to make sure Ally pees out as much of the chemo as possible. Ally is doing a great job today. (They even opened up the playroom, just for her.)
She took a 15 minute nap.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 10:25 AM, EDT

We are at the NH medical center right now. Ally is getting her second dose of Rituximab. It is scheduled to last just over an hour! We originally thought it would take all day. What a pleasant surprise. One of the premeds for Rituximab is Benadryl, which should make Ally sleepy, but of course she is not.

We got a wonderful reception when we arrived here. Everyone was very excited to see Ally, and even though she got super shy and refused to speak, she was excited to see everyone as well.

Tomorrow we come back for chemo. It is not a very low dose as we were lead to believe in New York. It is a significant dose (1/3 the dose of high dose chemo). It may make her hair fall out, she will probably puke, and her counts are going to fall, but hopefully not to the point were we will need to give her the GCSF injections.
Today Ally weighed just over 26 pounds!