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7/1/02-Mon.-We've had showers about two-thirds of the time over the last six days. The downpours have probably provided about five or six inches of rainfall, all we might usually expect in two or three months. Fran says, per a TV report, we're in a large weather pattern, forecast weeks ahead of time, that suggests cooler temperatures and increased precipitation here well into July. Alright!

I just hope the exterior of our house, which needs various repairs, new caulk, paint, etc., is up to the challenge. Would hate to see any major leaks.

I made an appointment today, for 7/22, with yet another doctor, who's on vacation till then. Several concerns continue.

Also this morning, after our walk, I wrote the first draft of an investment essay we'll use in this month's issue of our online family newsletter.

Learning again the not so pleasant lesson that I am not in control. Most of what's been going on since my retirement has emphasized this theme, not one of my choosing. Would anyone volunteer for this course? But it seems to be a mandatory part of the curriculum.

Yesterday and today I've been taking over the counter 12-hour Contac caplets, to help deal with the presumed allergy-related symptoms (from a very high mold spore count in this area now), which, in turn, are possibly related to some of my neck and right jaw pain and perceived swelling problems. Even though these seem odd places for such difficulties to show up, so that one might think I'm treating the wrong condition, oddly enough, the Contac helps. While taking it, I notice much fewer and less intense unpleasant sensations than without it.

By this afternoon, though, my system was suffering from a different malady: racing thoughts, sleeplessness when I tried napping, and a rapid flickering in and out of multiple mental images or, in other words, a "speed trip." (I recognized these reactions for what they were from a few episodes of drug tripping during my 1960s counterculture days.)

In the throws of this intoxication, it was all too easy to start obsessing once again about my imminent death from cancer, which, in my addled state, I convinced myself was now attacking my brain.

Hmm. Fortunately, the episode lasted only a couple hours. By this evening I had pretty well decided that the (latest) "correct" basis for my difficulties, besides a drug overdose, was a cervical disc protruding on the right side of the spinal cord in my neck, with consequent radiation of pain and super sensitivities into my jaw, throat, and shoulder areas. Although it seems that lately I'm needing to see one doctor or another at least every other week(!), I suppose before long I really should get the situation checked out by an actual M.D. I'm mindful of the Mark Twain wisdom that the person who treats himself has a fool for a patient.

7/2/02-Tues.-Quite depressed this afternoon, at first, but felt better later.

Various circumstances keep intruding into the neat, orderly retired life I'd imagined for myself in the years leading up to this phase. Most of them, if I had my druthers, I'd just as soon do without. But it is as little up to me as it is at her discretion when we take Pepper for visits to the vet. However much they may be for her own good, she would forego them, if she but could.

If I am indeed dying of lymphoma or carcinoma, the sooner I confirm it the better, scary as that is. Then, in whatever time I have left, I can concentrate on being just as clear, open, and aware as possible.

But if I am not yet under imminent threat, or if, at least, the odds of death very soon are small, I can regard the extra, unanticipated ordeals of the days and months ahead as like those I faced when starting several other adventures: commencing university life; basic training for the U.S. Army; beginning from scratch, with almost no money, in San Francisco; initiating a meditative life; embarking on a fresh time of renewal in Virginia, then again in Texas, and so forth. When it was happening, not all was pleasant. Yet, looking back, each of these periods was filled with vivid, real experiences that were particularly memorable and meaningful. It was as though I were more fully alive than in the many intervening years, when existence was so predictable, routine, and "under control."

7/3/02-Wed.-4 AM. Up with good old fashioned sinus allergies. At least I am comfortable dealing with this familiar malady.

Meanwhile, can hear the deep rumble of thunder. Per local news and radar, it is from a large storm in Blanco County, just to the west and southwest of us. We may later get some rain from the fringe of this weather. In the past week we've received about eight to ten inches of precipitation. Our yard has flooded several times, never seriously enough to threaten the house. Only a little south of here, over fifteen inches have fallen in the same period!

Later-Sure enough, we're getting still more falling water, at times rather intense again. Hope our geckos, so used to a semi-arid environment, are OK despite the yard having turned to swamp.

We watched some of a cute little movie, "Woman on Top," last night, then tried it. Seemed to work well for us.

I arranged yet another doctor appointment this morning, first available, for later this month.

Completed our monthly budget analysis. Including hefty expenses, like another car for Fran in June, and the ever dropping stock market, we're down about $80,000 for the year so far.

Notwithstanding '87 and '90, as an investor this is the longest and worst downturn in equities I've experienced.

No way to know when the hemorrhaging will end. Nerve-wracking. We've been buying up good bargains, only to see some of the new assets drop like a stone as well. Will hold off on any additional purchases for awhile. Keeping equity and non-equity liquid assets in a three to one ratio.

No nibbles yet from my efforts to get a part-time job.

Listening to classical music and the drip or roar of rainfall. Reading Lazy B, by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and her brother, H. Alan Day. The work reflects a more politically conservative outlook than my own. Yet, because of my connections to the American Southwest, my folks' small ranches near Austin and then Waco, and the Republican allegiances of most of my extended family, there is much here that is familiar and to which I can relate.

7/5/02-Fri.-To help celebrate our Independence Day, Fran and I watched the charming videotape movie, "Princess Caraboo," last night and can recommend it. The story reminded me in some ways of "The Elephant Man," especially as it too was a period piece; and one theme of both was how folks deal with the unfamiliar, but in this case people's reactions to the exotic were used to advantage, while in that of the unfortunate "elephant man," of course, he was much more a victim than a beneficiary of others' responses to someone perceived as strange.

In reading Fran's recent gift to me, Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, quite interestingly and well written, I was surprised to discover an aspect of Texas history never mentioned in school when I was a boy here. It seems, according to Grant, that the war for Texas' independence from Mexico occurred mainly because the settlers here from the U.S. wanted the "right" to bring in and own slaves, which at the time was already against Mexican law. A few years later, the annexation of Texas, a new slave region addition to the U.S., tipping the delicate balance between the abolitionist north and slave owning south, helped catalyze the political confrontations that, finding no better resolution, led to our country's Civil War. With all our jingoistic and patriotic fervor about Texas' and later the U.S.' victories over Mexico, it is well to remember that one of the main things we are celebrating is a seizure of an empire of new territory from a sovereign state, at least partly in order to perpetuate the barbarity of one people's ownership of another, under desperate conditions for the latter, and solely for the commercial interests of the former.

I find it entirely consistent that, particularly in the American South, since well before the Civil War and continuing to this day, many of our most ardent Christians have persisted in a policy combining racism and patriotism, an approach that exposes the moral bankruptcy both of our dominant religion and our nation.

That we should still be urging the rest of the world to follow our lead, indeed, insisting on it, even as we blatantly side with the religion and race of one set of people, the Jews, against another, whose claims, objectively, would seem to have at least some merit, may indicate that we have not yet learned much from our (white-washed) history lessons. Though we cannot and should not tolerate 9/11-style terrorism, our modern "crusades" may have little more ethical legitimacy than did the medieval ones. Certainly it is unseemly for us to couch the killing of innocents and others in terms of its being "good" if we do it and "evil" if done by those less content with our version of the status quo. Yet this tactic has worked for generations of popular politicians, and is not at all limited to the leaders of our great country. Ours is a fine nation, but could be a much better one without our self-righteous, aggressive pursuit of our way or no way, particularly in the absence of an honest recognition that we have had some huge ethical errors in the past, so that our moral record is far from unblemished.

Have made yet another medical appointment, this one for early on Monday, 7/8. The sharp pain at times from the lower part of my mouth, radiating into my jaw, neck, and shoulder, still occurs. There are no sores in the mouth itself. This is instead caused by something apparently just below it on the right. I've given the condition plenty of opportunity to have healed. However, there's been no improvement, except with the lymph node swelling having gone down. If anything, the sensitivity has increased. When I described the symptoms, the nurse gave me her first available opening to see the physician, though when I'd earlier asked about how soon I could see the doctor she'd said it would be in August or September.

I feel as I imagine a defendant might who is waiting for the jury to return its sentence and does not know how long the deliberations may last or whether the outcome will be death, release with a warning, or an indefinite period of unpleasant confinement before his fate is resolved.

I'll be mowing the back yard later today. Otherwise, I'm taking it easy. May do some writing for my mom's 80th birthday celebration, to help keep my mind off whatever may be learned next week.

7/6/02-Sat.-The diagnostics beginning Monday will likely determine whether I am to live or soon die. If the latter, it will be dramatic. There may be a lot of emotion, which, of course, will not change anything. Death is the most natural phenomenon. And after whatever time I shall have, the grief will simply be over. Like me, it will just cease to exist. Whatever intense feeling there may have been near the end, it will leave no memory. So what will it matter?

They say of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) that it does not eliminate the discomfort of dentistry. It detaches one from the experience and stops any recollection of it.

So, yes, there is the pain. But if one cannot recall it, maybe it is as if it did not occur.

Tempests exist. Then, afterward, the sea is again as calm as if no storm had happened.

It is not so much the prospect of dying itself that bothers me, but the extreme anxiety, confusion, lack of control, regret, anger, and depression associated with an inevitable loss of vital function and of all one has held dear. If I shall, at the moment of death, no longer remember such turmoil, that, at least, would be a blessing.

For the present, I am able to but get through this period as best I can and hope that, once again, despite the several serious symptoms, my time has not yet come. But I've never before felt as sure as now about the end.

Still, it's certainly possible I have a bad but non-lethal infection or a benign, though fast-growing tumor. We'll see. Need to try to keep my mind from obsessing on it, staying busy with other things!

Whether or not my forebodings are accurate, however, I'll attempt to be mentally well focused and, in social interactions, to remember Martin Buber's existential philosophy, that the meaning of life lies in "meeting others on a level of depth and creating new understanding (from The Mystic Heart, by Wayne Teasdale, p. 37)."

We went today for brunch to a favorite food hangout, Buffet Palace. So far there's nothing yet wrong with my appetite!

On our walk this morning we saw a deer, eight to ten rabbits, and about sixteen zillion mosquitoes.

7/8/02-Mon.-Insomnia last night for a couple hours. Fasting since 8:30 yesterday evening, in case the doctor wanted to have blood work done after this morning's appointment. He didn't. However, they rushed me for a CT scan, which also required that I have been without food.

The scan procedure was interesting. After they put the contrast dye into my arm vein I felt as though my temperature went up several degrees. The technician suggested I drink plenty of fluid the rest of today to flush out and counter a dehydrating (and radioactive?) quality of the dye. I'm told it will be a day or two before the results are available.

The doctor seemed as stumped by my symptoms as I am. He suggested they could be caused by a blocked gland, an abscess, a tumor, a thyroid problem, or something entirely different. He asked me several questions about exposure to hazardous materials or radiation. I explained about the x-ray treatment to shrink my thymus gland, when I was about one year old, but that I knew of no other harmful environmental exposures.

He said he'd get the chart from my prior physician and also see what the CT scan shows. If it is negative, though, it seemed he would not be too concerned to pursue things much, as though it would be a fishing expedition unwarranted by the symptoms at this point. He mainly just wanted to rule in or out a tumor. I agree! Maybe we'll know before long.

So, unless I hear otherwise, I am going to put this episode behind me, at least until/unless things get a great deal worse. Looks like maybe I'll live awhile longer after all. (Fran, I'm sure, would not be surprised.)

7/9/02-Tues.-It turns out the CT scan was positive for lesions of the thyroid. Additional diagnostics, and possible surgery, chemo., and/or radiation therapy, will be required, starting tomorrow. (Just because you're paranoid does not mean people aren't out to get you.)

7/11/02-Thurs.-It's 4 AM again. I'm likely to receive another call from my nurse today, giving the results of yesterday's diagnostics concerning thyroid function and lesions. Suspense.

As with my very first diary entry, way back in December, 1971, cannot seem to sleep. Have therefore been up reading, petting the dog (who got up when I did), having a light snack (quietly so as not to awaken Frances), and then hanging out with the computer, seeking info. and resources related to cancer.

The next thing I learned is that the most important decision one can make, who has a serious neoplastic disease, is whether or not to fight it. Given that if I die of this thing, I'll be "dead for a very long time," I think I can answer that in the affirmative.

Then I discovered that most thyroid lesions, the vast majority, are benign. So, that's hopeful. However, when they are symptomatic, with lymph swelling or neck pain, as has been true for me, the chances of a benign type are less. Oh well. Meanwhile, I seem at last to be ready for some shut-eye!

Later-It's late afternoon. I finally heard from my physician's nurse about the latest diagnostic results and learned they are referring me once again, this time to an endocrinologist who may, in turn, send me for a biopsy and/or surgery, though the nurse was unclear why either would be necessary, given that she said the blood testing had shown my thyroid was functioning adequately.

The most remarkable result from yesterday's evaluations was that I have a significantly enlarged thyroid, normally associated with iodine deficiency. Indeed, the thyroid enlargement by itself, even without cancer, seems to often cause the symptoms of jaw and neck pain, lymph swelling, and pressure on the trachea or, below it, on the esophagus. The lesions referred to from the CT scan are likely not cancerous, but rather nodules or lumps in the thyroid gland, which develop as an overcompensation for iodine deficiency!

For some reason the nurse was disinclined to be more specific with me. However, I gleaned from online investigations that the most common cause of iodine deficiency in developed countries, where iodine is routinely added to salt as well as bread, etc., is an autoimmune disease of unknown cause, generally referred to as Grave's Disease. Since there is often a hereditary aspect to this, and my sister already has been diagnosed with it, it would seem this is the mysterious source of my recent difficulties as well.

So, though not so pleasant procedures, including possible biopsy and/or surgery, may still be required, followed by a careful, chronic balancing of body chemistry, it seems this crisis is resolving itself away from a life-threatening scenario after all.

Not necessarily coincidental is that folks with thyroid disorders often have trouble sleeping. Speaking of which, I feel a need for a long-delayed nap!

7/12/02-Fri.-My brother, Allen, in his mid-forties, a successful professional, but unlucky in investments (never saw a bet or a speculation he did not like) and matrimony (married once, divorced by her after three years, because she was a flake; and he stopped playing her wacky, self-indulgent games), writes that he has a blind date tomorrow, in Ecuador. He's flying down there for it. Says if she does not show up, he'll get in on a vacation package tour into the mountains instead. Allen may know at most about five words of Spanish. So far, Allen has tried his luck with meeting women in the U.S., Germany, India, and Nigeria. After this, he'll just have Australia and Antarctica to go, to complete a date search on all the world's continents.

Medically, things are resolving for me. I've been given some medication that should help shrink the swollen thyroid. If not, I'll likely need surgery in six months or so. Cancer has now been formally ruled out. Yes! Week after next, the G.I. and genitourinary systems get checked out, in separate exams. Certainly am looking forward to them! Not. But afterward, hopefully I can relax and enjoy life for awhile.

Frances and I (and the mutt) are on the road in the morning, heading for Waco, and a visit there with my mom and some other relatives. Oh boy! Well, it might actually be fun.

My better half showed me a neat specimen in our back forty this morning, a huge horn worm (sphinx moth caterpillar), really cool!

7/13/02-Sat.-A stormy, wet afternoon and evening here in Waco. My niece, Esther, and I went to see the movie, "The Bourne Identity," this afternoon, and enjoyed it. It's good entertainment, though with an implausible plot. Meanwhile, Ron and Jane went to a couple other movies they liked better, and Fran and Mom rested, read, or kept busy on Mom's computer.

7/14/02-Sun.-The pressure on the trachea persists, accompanied, the last few evenings, with congestion, pain, and swelling at the top of the windpipe. The constriction of the means to air is distressing. And I've a bad ear infection. Well, I'm just too pathetic! Guess I'd better off myself. (Not!)

Physical aspects of existence aside, it's been a fairly good visit during the day, with pleasant times chatting with nieces, Esther and Jane, as well as their father, Ron, and my mom.

Mother took us out for lunch to a pretty good Italian restaurant. Ron and his girls went swimming. Mom gets in the water on average about ten hours or so a week, for her work at the YMCA/YWCA, and didn't feel like swimming. I needed a nap and also wanted to avoid aggravating the ear problem. Fran was still busy with her computer projects.

My mom and I had a couple nostalgic interviews, with me rapidly writing down her answers to numerous questions about her life, in this case all her jobs and several of her travels. It's a way of getting a handle on a person's existence. In the process, a host of things came out that she'd never shared as explicitly, at least not in my hearing, like Dad's physically abusing her (which I'd known) being a prelude to sex (which I'd not).

Or like that her mother was "just" a servant, a maid in a rich man's home, that her father was the rich man's nephew and met her mother, a nice looking woman, while visiting his uncle, but never really loved her and was continuously running off, just sticking around, in the early days of their marriage, long enough to get her pregnant each of three times, then disappear again for weeks or months at a time, finally leaving for good when Mom was nine.

Or like that she loved the times one of her great uncles would come take her to the carnival or her cousins would take her into Chicago, where great Chinese or Italian dinners with "coffee" (wine served in coffee mugs) could be had for a dollar.

I'm writing a story of Mom's life for her 80th birthday celebration, in October. She thinks (I hope) that these sessions are just for my personal interest or for short essays for our family newsletter.

Meanwhile, each night while we're here, Mom makes herself several strong bourbon-and-coke mixes and, after a few hours of this, does a super job playing the drunk, eventually incoherent as well as barely able to stand and weave her way toward bed.

The exercise regimen has suffered this weekend, but meditation has continued.

7/15/02-Mon.-Mom left about 8:30 for a couple water aerobics exercise classes she's leading this morning. Though nearly eighty years old and getting to sleep most nights by downing stiff drinks, she is in great demand at the 'Y,' usually teaching five to fifteen strenuous workouts a week, besides all her other social outlets. (She does storytelling, is the local service vice-president for a well known charitable organization, keeps up with numerous grandchildren, and so on.)

We departed around the same time, heading home. The sky was mainly overcast, often with neat cloud formations. Pepper was exhausted and slept soundly almost all the way back.

It now takes only an hour or so of normal conversation a day before my throat is sore, in the vicinity of the swollen thyroid. Afterward, just swallowing is painful. The nodules, multiple and ranging in diameter from 1-2 cm., feel as though they are being pressed against the soft part at the base of the neck, just above the sternum. This is like beginning to be choked. It is quite disconcerting, a hard, constant lump in the throat and against the windpipe. However, I do not wish to dwell on it here. Until or unless I indicate this has resolved, the reader (if only a future self) should assume it is just another ongoing malady, about which I'll try not to bore with excruciating, repetitious detail.

I stopped, on the return trip, for coffee and a bathroom break. My beverage was free since I'm a "senior." Fran was happy to get a kids' size chocolate shake. Our drinks averaged about sixty cents each.

Nice to have had our journey, but also to be back. We received over an inch of rain while away.

7/22/02-Mon.-My sister-in-law, Mary, suggests I look more in depth into the basis for my thyroid problems. She believes that how we are oriented psychically or in the astral body, and so on, affects, or rather manifests, in the physical reality. Noting I had mentioned that the predominant symptom of the thyroid enlargement, and nodules, is of "a lump in my throat," so that it feels harder to breath (though doctors assure me this is not actually the case), she points out that this is a classic way of expressing being on the point of crying, and wonders if I have some major, unresolved grief issues. While I suspect this technique of analysis is more projective than objective, it is true that I can think of several quite saddening concerns about which I have not completely come to terms.

She suggests not only that I find ways to deal with the grief demons but also to try exercises like writing with a non-dominant hand, that is, writing out questions with the dominant hand and answering them with the other one, to help explore underlying dynamics that may have led to the thyroid abnormalities.

Mary added that she has found writings of Louise Hay helpful with respect to better bringing the unconscious to the conscious and then releasing the blockages, which, hypothetically, are behind the dysfunctional gland. I told her that I am frankly skeptical, but that I want to be receptive to anything that might possibly help, particularly as the alternatives at this point seem to be living with an uncomfortable problem, perhaps for quite some time or the rest of my life, or eventually having surgery in a fairly sensitive area, and then, at best, doing without the organ. She intends to send me some ideas and literature. OK. Bring it on!

Lately the medication for the problem, or its interaction with another pill I take, has apparently been causing some strange reactions. This morning I woke up at 4:30 with chills, as if I had a bad fever. These persisted for about three hours, then went away. A couple or three mornings ago, I had significant dizziness, such that I could hardly walk for about the first hour after getting up.

This was particularly embarrassing as it occurred when Fran wanted to work on a house repair project. She wound up doing what got done, but in the process discovering that the rotten boards and siding in question were more extensive than we had realized, and calling a contractor for an estimate, rather than our tackling the mess ourselves.

It was about at that point I realized I'll not feel really alright about things until I'm either working again, at least part-time, or the assets I manage for us are once again showing good results.

I need to feel more productive and useful than I can when barely able to get out of bed and our portfolios keep going down by multiple thousands of dollars a week! It is, after all, more "macho" to be bringing in plenty of money and also managing a profitable nest egg than sitting around, barely able to stand, as the asset values drain away, like the blood from a kosher killed calf, and one's wife looks after the house maintenance.

I do not really think I am not a man if I do not fix our major siding rot problem, if my dad did not like me, if we will never have the children I had once very much wanted, if I do not assure we are millionaires in the next year or two, if I am not bringing home a fat check anymore, or if I was not able to prevent my younger brother, Ralph's, death from brain cancer. Yet, at the moment, in retirement angst, such concerns rear their ugly heads.

There, Mary, are some issues with which I might deal, among others.

My brother, Allen, who just went to Ecuador for the first time last week, has surprised most everyone in the extended family with an announcement that he and the lady he only met down there a week ago love each other and are engaged. He wants to get married next month, though she apparently wants him to return one more time, to meet her mother, first. Whew! This is an interesting development. It is at once intriguing and amusing. Allen is normally such a shy, retiring gentleman, and there has been little hint of romance in his life for many years. This is all "out of the blue."

Fran went today for her permanent crown on the tooth that had needed a deep filling and root canal. Now, orally, everything seems to be fine. She elected to have a gold one, since the tooth is not right in front and this costs a little less than porcelain. She's joking now about feeling like she has a jewel in her head.

At about the same time, I was having my first appointment with a urologist. His news was comforting (no major problems) and disappointing (besides the medication I'm already taking, not much can be done at this point - things more a bad nuisance than a serious medical problem, so surgery is probably not warranted). Since little improvement can be anticipated, it will not make it any easier getting further work. Plus, he says I now must give up caffeine, one of my few remaining pleasures! Ha.

Over the past couple or three days, we have completed the latest creation of our family and investment newsletter. We like the results and have gotten some positive feedback on the issue already.

Tomorrow I have the last doctor's appointment for awhile (yea!), this time for a G.I. exam, and so am on a special, liquid diet today. It's not much fun, but will be over by mid-morning.

Our period of frequent rains has finally come to an end. The cooler temperatures and extra wet stuff were great for awhile. Now, though, the heat plus humidity index is over 100°F and the mosquitoes have become a terrible problem, even coming into the house, several at once, almost every time we, or our dog, need to go out of or into the house.

There is also a threat now of West Nile Virus, which has begun infecting a few people and lots of birds and livestock, as well as mammals in the wild, in Texas. Not many years ago, this was an isolated problem up in New York. Now it has already swept across much of the nation. My veterinarian brother-in-law, in Wisconsin, has had to start vaccinating horses for this disease.

Tonight we're finishing watching a videotape of a movie with William Hurt, that turned out to be strange and dark, reportedly based on a script of Orson Welles, not long before he died, "The Big Brass Ring."

7/25/02-Thurs.-Sometimes on a lazy weekday afternoon, the body well rested and relaxed after a nap, though thoughts of reproduction be absent and life's cares have not ceased their nuisance gadfly goading, for no sensible reason, as if possessed of a completely independent, yet playful nature, certain complementary proximate parts of a he and a she may mingle in a manner most pleasurable and stimulating. If I go back to work I shall miss such times as this Thor's Day PM has been.

Frances was content this morning to remain occupied with her computer projects, while the mutt and I took our constitutional. I saw nine deer, including two bucks with impressive When I told Fran of this on my return, she asked if my first thought was "Where's my rifle?" "No. I'm not that good a shot," I answered. "Where's my mortar?" is what I thought instead. But I'm joking. Though several in my extended family are hunters, I've never been into such sport.

Finished watching a quite good, though almost painfully dark and intense, videotaped movie, "The Sweet Hereafter." This is one I would definitely recommend.

We've gotten and accepted an estimate on the immediately necessary house repairs. The work should be done in the next couple weeks.

Maria and Sandy have been in touch. We'll likely get together again for lunch next month. Maria is having a housewarming soon too. Frances and I are invited.

The weather is back to normally daunting here in central Texas. The heat index was 101°F this afternoon, and is predicted to be 106 tomorrow.

7/27/02-Sat.-I've decided to start a week-long special cleansing diet, followed by a very well balanced one, low in salt and other sources of extra iodine, one of the main culprits, it now appears, in my current thyroid difficulties.

Yesterday as well I took Frances to see "Men in Black II," which we thoroughly enjoyed.

We had done our walking exercise (Pepper and I) vs. photography and seed gathering (Fran) routines at Zilker Park that morning. I watered the dog down several times, whenever I noticed, despite our getting underway before 8 AM, that she was dragging from the high heat and humidity. I observed more damage that had been done in recent weeks by flooding, from high Barton Creek waters. Indeed, they are still not completely back to normal.

7/30/02-Tues.-Am enjoying a lovely comedy video film, set in a small village in modern Ireland, "Waking Ned Devine."

Yesterday the contractors came and replaced the rotten siding on our chimney. They did a decent job, though in a couple respects it was less than we'd been promised by the estimator. And since they had to get more materials than predicted, it is likely the company will want to alter the final bill. Yet, if they'd told us at first, we would have gotten the extra supplies ourselves.

Today Fran started on the next big project, cleaning, re-caulking, and painting the house exterior. Then we made a trip for more paint and other necessities. Starting tomorrow, I'll be joining Frances in the beautification effort.

Not much else is going on so far today. I spent about an hour learning the hard way more about Quicken and working out the price history and cost basis of one of our assets, recently sold.

I also went over to Barton Creek Mall, walked my usual two miles, and investigated a little the prospects at the shopping center for part-time employment. Was surprised that both the major bookstores, previously there, are now gone, replaced by glitzy shops I'd never enter.

This evening, we're going to a favorite Asian buffet eatery, joining others to celebrate Matt's birthday, a little late since he was out of town at the right time.

We need to begin thinking of what to do for our mutt's birthday. Pepper will be thirteen in two weeks. I suppose we'll take her over to PetsMart and let her pick out some special treats and rawhide chew-things.

The meditation continues. It feels as though it needs an injection of new focus or motivation, but is unlikely to get it while other concerns are uppermost in mind.

Medically, things are neither better nor worse. Trying to keep things in perspective, I note that, just a few weeks ago, when I thought I had cancer, rather than just painful, benign nodules in my neck and a pesky prostate, I was ready to see the meaning and value in a single moment of extra life and had no patience with worries over the quality of such living. An existence filled with little nuisances, or even a few big hassles, was just fine by me if the alternative were nothing at all. So, all factors considered, "life is beautiful!"

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