May 2013


February 15, 2010:  A lot has happened!

Welcome to my blog!  I know, you’re going to say “It’s about time”…well, that’s what my son John has been saying since Christmas 2007, when this was his present to me.

Of course, getting a Christmas present is one thing–but sometimes figuring out what to do with it can be difficult.  True, for someone  my age (I was 75 on November 20, 2008) the whole idea of blogging can be terrifying–but it was an intriguing thought and something John has been bugging me about for years.   He says it will be easier than sending out my occasional mass emails–but I think I’ll probably have to do both.

John is being very helpful.  He comes out to visit several times a month and gives me advice, tutorials, and encouragement…straightens out problems…fixes things…and tries to help me understand the “semantics” of WordPress–a blogsite he says is especially user-friendly.  This user is still somewhat confused, but I hope I will eventually be able to use this effectively.

What I intend to do is share thoughts, writing, memories, music, recipes, and whatever else occurs to me.  There may be news…political commentary…satire…and some links to sites of interest.

So here it is.  Let me know what you think!

Dottie

(dottiegutenkauf@gmail.com)

December 13, 2010

HARD TO BELIEVE–BUT TRUE!

A headline in the Courier on Saturday, December 11, caught my eye.  It was “Civil War still divides nation 150 years later,” and the Associated Press article describes the “celebrations” planned in southern states of the anniversary of the Civil War–or, as some historians call it, “the War of the Rebellion.”  In South Carolina, they’re having a “Secession Gala” on December 20; in Georgia, they will re-enact the state’s secession convention; and Alabama will hold a mock swearing in of confederate president Jefferson Davis.  There are, according to the article, organizations “working to incorporate both the black and the white experience,” but in my humble opinion, they’d have to reinstate slavery if they wanted to be really authentic.  Of course, they deny the Civil War was about slavery, but we know better.

The head of the Alabama NAACP is quoted as saying, “It’s almost like celebrating the Holocaust,” and he is absolutely right.  An attempt to divide the United States of America to preserve slavery is not something to be “celebrated.”  A solemn and genuine commemoration would mourn the lives lost and celebrate American unity.  Perhaps that’s too much to ask in 2010.

Disclaimer: both of my maternal great-grandfathers were with the Union Army, and my mother grew up in Alabama, where she attended what was probably the only integrated school in the state at that time.  


November 27, 2010

What a lovely Thanksgiving holiday this has been.  Our son John and his partner came out yesterday with delightful dinner treats and John stayed to help with some projects (including the photos posted below).  What would we do without our wonderful children, who are always helpful and whom we love dearly.  THANK YOU, JOHN!

Here’s what John helped me post:

On October 29 Joe and I received Community Service Awards from the Plainfield Area NAACP at their annual Awards Dinner, held this year at the Spain Inn in Piscataway.

At left, the photo taken by our friend Joan Hervey for the Awards program; at right, the photo taken by Laurence Rice at the  dinner.  The Awards were presented by Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, who also read a letter from the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District which, frankly, brought tears to our eyes.  We spoke of the historic changes we have seen, and expressed our concern at the increasingly strident and toxic nature of so much contemporary political discussion.  This country has made a lot of progress but we can’t take anything for granted!

November 20, 2010: Today is my birthday and I am 77 years old.  Never thought I would make it this far!  I’ve received calls, emails, ecards, etc. from friends and relatives and will enjoy the day.  Best wishes and thanks to all!

November 8, 2010: I have set up a new page, titled “Dreams & Memories…” and actually posted something on it.  I’m going to try to post more often–there are a lot of things I think may be worth sharing and I want to turn my good intentions into reality.

November 7, 2010: It’s been a busy time and things have gotten away from me, although I have published some more poetry on this blog and read some of it at the Fanwood poetry group, which meets once a month and which inspires me to write more.

Joe and I received the Community Service Award from the Plainfield Area NAACP on October 29, and it was awesome to be included on the list of honorees.  My son is teaching me how to do this blog stuff–what would we do without our children!

Joe celebrated his 85th birthday October 13, and we surprised him with a small family gathering at the home of Joan Hervey & Linda Geczi–our daughter and son-in-law came down from the farm with our grandson; their daughter came from NYC with her boyfriend, and of course our son was present for the festivities, which took Joe completely by surprise.  Lox, bagels, onion, cream cheese–fresh tomatoes from the farm–and interesting cheeses from upstate New York–all followed by an incredible chocolate birthday cake.  Thank you, Joan and Linda, for putting this together!

April 6, 2010: It has been a difficult and busy time.  But now that summer is apparently here, we can enjoy the breezes at night and watch the planes as they fly over our area.   Mornings are cool and full of birdsong.  The maple tree has burst into leaves that weren’t even hinted at last week.  And I have (finally) posted a new poem.

Thanks for your patience!

Update–July 5, 2012

I haven’t blogged in a long time–so long that I had forgotten how, and our son had to show me (again).

It’s been a difficult year and a half for both of us.  Joe had a stroke on December 22, 2010 and spent some time in Somerset Medical Center before being transferred to JFK/Johnson Rehab, then to JFK Hartwyck Oak Tree on Oak Tree Road in Edison–a fabulous place with great physical therapy, speech therapy, and a terrific nursing staff.  He didn’t come home until April 2011.  Then he was hospitalized with pneumonia twice in 2011–in September and November.  After his return home last  November, the Veterans Administration provided us with a home care aide three times a week for two hours per visit.

And a good thing, too!  Because my life became terribly complicated during that time, when I was diagnosed with a particularly nasty form of cancer in my liver (more on that later).   Then in February of this year, Joe was hospitalized with pneumonia (again), and wound up at Hartwyck Oak Tree (again) until finally coming home April 28.  We have a VA home care aide once again, which makes life much easier for both of us.

While all this was going on, we have tried to stay as active as possible in the Restore Muhlenberg Coalition, and although we haven’t been able to have regularly monthly meetings as we did in the past, the Coalition is still alive and kicking.

During this whole time, we have been touched by all those who have expressed their concern, those who have reached out to us to offer help, and those who have kept us in their prayers.   We’re very grateful to all of you!

July 17, 2012Ocular Melanoma?  What’s that?That’s a question I hear a lot—most people (including many health professionals) think of skin cancer when they hear the word “melanoma.”  In fact, if skin melanoma is diagnosed early and treated properly, most with the disease will survive for a long time (think of John McCain).

Not so with ocular melanoma, in which the malignancy grows inside the eye.  It’s difficult to diagnose because the symptoms, which may take a long time to be evident, can be confusing when they finally appear.  Opticians and optometrists don’t have the equipment for diagnosis—that can only be done by an ophthalmologist or a retina-vitreous specialist with ultra-sound.  And—unlike melanoma of the skin—ocular melanoma metastasizes very quickly, sometimes even before the symptoms show up and the diagnosis is made.  It especially loves livers, lungs, and brains, but sometimes shows up in other organs and in bones as well.

I was diagnosed with ocular melanoma in my right eye in late 2008, and treated with radiation at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York City in January 2009.  I have had annual abdominal MRI exams and regular follow-ups with my ocular oncologist ever since.  Three years after the initial diagnosis, an MRI revealed a lesion in my liver.  My ocular oncologist put me in touch with a liver specialist at Sloan, who I have been seeing regularly.  Unfortunately, the first CT scan at Sloan of my chest, abdomen, and pelvis turned up two lesions in my liver as well as a lot of what are termed “pepper flakes” (small lesions scattered throughout the liver).  A needle biopsy revealed that it was metastatic ocular melanoma.  I had four infusions of Yervoy (a chemo agent) from December 2011 through May 2012; and the last CT scan on June 28 showed that the tumors have shrunk.  My next CT scan is scheduled for early August and we’ll see where we are and where we go from there.  There are other treatments available and I may wind up in clinical trials.

A recent article on ocular melanoma made the front page of the New York Times this month, and you can read it at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/10/health/genetic-test-changes-game-in-cancer-prognosis.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120710.  There are a lot of flaws in the article, and I recommend you read the comments if you can.  Many of them are from knowledgeable medical practitioners and ocular melanoma survivors, and most point out the shortcomings of the article—but all contain useful information.

Interestingly, shortly after my initial treatment at Sloan in early 2009, I wrote a poem titled “Bitter/Sweet,” which you can find elsewhere on this blog.  A number of health professionals with whom I shared it after my liver mets were diagnosed have asked, “How did you know?”  The best answer I could give was, “I don’t know how I knew, but I knew.”  In recent months, since the diagnosis, I have learned a great deal—through email lists and attendance at conferences with medical specialists, patients, and caregivers.  One of the most important things I have learned is that ocular melanoma is a vicious beast which is difficult to diagnose, deadly,  and metastasizes quickly—and that while there is no absolute cure, there are treatments available to at least prolong life, contrary to the doom-and-gloom in the New York Times article.

My advice:  if you start seeing flashing lights or an unusual number of black floaters, get thee to an ophthalmologist quickly!  Early diagnosis and treatment is possible, and there are many long-term survivors.  I hope to be one of them!

I have voted for Sharon Robinson-Briggs every time she ran for office–school board, two mayoral primaries, and two mayoral elections.

But this year, I’m voting for Adrian Mapp for Mayor of Plainfield.

Not that Adrian walks on water–who does?  I’ve known a lot of politicians in my life–and still do–and haven’t ever met one who is perfect.  But I think Adrian will be a better mayor.

Sharon has been personally good to Joe and to me.  She named me as one of Plainfield’s “Phenomenal Women” early in her first term.  She was instrumental in giving Joe and me the NAACP’s Community Service Award  a few years ago.  For all of that, we have been grateful.  But this year, at a Democratic City Committee meeting, she presented three women, including me, “Phenomenal Woman” citations because our husbands had died.  Frankly, I thought that was silly–and Joe would have laughed.

Sharon can be a very nice and gracious person–giving hugs and kisses to all.  But she has not been a good Mayor!  She will no doubt give us a long list of her accomplishments, but many of them have been initiated and carried out by others–some by city employees, some by Plainfield citizens–yet Sharon will try to take credit for all of them.  And she is unwilling to share any blame for any of the city’s many problems.

As mayor, Sharon has been a dismal failure.  The turnover in department heads has been disastrous, and the city’s finances are in disarray.  The City Council hasn’t been given a budget on time for years.  She insisted on heading the Muhlenberg Community Advisory Group, which delayed its startup–and to this member, the results have been, to say the least, disappointing.  There  haven’t been regular meetings, and the scheduling of those meetings has been haphazard–often resulting in conflicts with other important city meetings such as the Planning Board and the Historical Preservation Commission.

I could go on and on, but it’s not necessary.  It’s time for a change in Plainfield’s City Hall!  I have no doubt that Adrian will conduct the business of the city in a professional manner–without the hugs and kisses–and that he will be able to get things done appropriately and in a legally proper way.  I believe he can put an end to the constant bickering that has prevented much of the City’s business from being done properly for so long.  I believe he understands that the mayor’s role is to work with the City Council, our legislative representatives, and the freeholders, and our citizens–and to bring together all of us to improve our city.

We should be ONE PLAINFIELD–ONE COMMUNITY!