Dec 202012

The Holidays are upon us, so I thought I’d share images that motivate and inspire me during this time of year, as well as memories from my childhood.  All these images evoke very special feelings for me; I get feelings of happiness, gratitude, joy, and that warm fuzzy feeling one gets when they are so happy.

Before the images, I’d like to share some childhood memories.

When growing up, our home always felt so warm.  No matter what was going on, good time or bad, our house was always welcoming to everyone.  I recall a few cousins who used to say that our house felt homie, unlike their home.

My mom used to set up our Christmas tree around December the 12th, which is Dia de la Virgen Maria.  I remember helping her wipe down the ornaments and all the lights.  She used to fix any extensions that would not lit, ALL of them!  I loved setting up the nativity set and as many decorations as I could.  We had a  Santa Claus with a light inside and it would go in the living room window, right in front of our Christmas tree.  We also had this ball that would make bird sounds…I LOVED it, but of course, it would get annoying after a while and I had to turn it off.   Then there’s the music box.  Gosh, how much I liked that thing.  I would turn it on here and there, but especially on Christmas morning.

Wow.  What memories.  I loved going to church on Christmas Eve and almost every year, after church, it would start to snow!  So we’d head out of church to go home (we lived a block away so it was an nice/easy walk), and we’d walk home in the snow.  It was absolutely beautiful.  I love snow.  And I especially love snow during Christmas.

Now for some images that conjure the Christmas spirit to me.



How about some food motivation?

I grew up eating menudo and tamales for  Christmas.  We also had chips, dips, various cheeses, and a variety of nuts.  My mom used to also make bunuelos (haven’t had these in about 15 years!) and biscochuelos.  She made hot chocolate a few times.  Hot chocolate made from Chocolate Abuelita bars is SO good!  The biscochuelos look like a tried flour tortilla and we served them with a syrup made from piloncillo, an unrefined brown sugar.  Take a look of the images I found in  Google.


What foods do you enjoy for Christmas Eve/Christmas day?  What motivates you during the Holidays?  Do you like all the decorations?  I decorate with traditional colors, how about you?!

Meet Henry

 Posted by
Dec 142012

Henry is a beautiful Alaskan Malamute who was scheduled to participate in the Mason Bone Cancer Study at The Pennsylvania Veterinary School.   He was going to be the 7th dog in the study, and would have received his vaccine in last week

Carlos and I thought we were a bit crazy, driving 8 hours for Sasha to receive this vaccine.  Robin, Henry’s mom, was making the trip from from Santa Fe, NM up to Philadelphia, PA!  And, she was going to be staying in Philadelphia,  for about 2 months!  Given that the vaccine is within three week intervals, it made sense for her to find a place where she and Henry could call home, during the trial.  Kudos to Robin, Henry’s mom, for her willingness to make such a trip!  Our 4-legged friends are definitely worth it!

Unfortunately, Robin slipped while taking out the trash and was taken to the ER.  She has a bi-malleolar, tib fracture and dislocation and will be needing surgery.  Needless to say, she will not be able to drive for up to four months post her surgery, making it impossible for Henry to  be able to receive the vaccine.

Here is Henry!

Don’t you just love him in that pajama top?!  And those ears!  I love the ears!  “The better to hear you with, my dear.”

Carlos and I were so sad to hear about what happened to Robin, and bummed that Henry will not be going to UPenn.  We wish there was something we could do.  If we were closer, we’d take him to UPenn ourselves =)

We hope Robin has a speedy recovery.  We send a big hug to Henry and hope that he continues to do well.

An Update on Molly

 Posted by
Dec 032012

Molly, who was the 2nd dog to receive the vaccine in the Mason Bone Cancer Study is not faring as well as we all hoped she would.  Here’s an update on beautiful Molly from her mom Jennifer.

On November 27th, Molly had her 2 month appointment at UPenn. Her bloodwork was excellent-completely normal and her physical exam went well. Unfortunately, her 3 tumors doubled in size in just 3 weeks and a 4th tumor has appeared. She seems to be sleeping more and her legs are stiff when she walks. Dr. Mason explained that is a normal symptom. We have one more option and that is to begin the oral medication Paladia. Some Oncologists believe it can shrink tumors.

Molly - Mason Bone Cancer Study

Molly is asleep next to me as I am writing this. She is exhausted from spending the day in Philadelphia, but she clearly loves Dr. Mason. There was the sad realization that today may very well be the last time they see each other.

Molly was just started on Palladia  It is an oral pill given Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. A one month  supply cost a little over $600-not cheap. Mark’s cousin, Dr. Cermele had been a resident at RedBank Animal hospital and strongly encouraged us to try Palladia. The chief Oncologist there, Dr. Clifford had conducted a study that showed Palladia can stabilize the size of the tumors sometimes for up to 22 weeks. We will see.

We were saddened to hear that Molly’s tumors increased in size, but we are hoping, wishing, and crossing all our fingers and toes that Paladia will make a difference for Molly.  May she be with you for a long time to come.

Nov 292012

Napoleon Hill is one of my favorite authors.  I thought I’d share a few of his many great quotes.

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit. 

No man ever achieved worth-while success who did not, at one time or another, find himself with at least one foot hanging well over the brink of failure.

Before success comes in any man’s life, he’s sure to meet with temporary defeat and, perhaps failures.  When defeat overtakes a man, the easiest and most logical thing to do is to quit.  That’s exactly what the majority of men do.

~Napoleon Hill

Meet Abby

 Posted by
Nov 272012

Abby is a beautiful Rottweiler who was scheduled to participate in the Mason Bone Cancer Study in early  November. Unfortunately, a heart  condition found during Abby’s evaluation at UPenn disqualified her from participating in the clinical trial.

Read Abby’s story in her mom’s (Barbara) words:

Abby (front) and Ziva (back)

Abby’s life with us began as a search for a playmate for our other Rottie,  Ziva.   As Ziva got closer to her first birthday, I could see how much she needed a playmate to keep her company while we were working and to have another dog close in age. We had another dog, Nikki, who was already 13 and not at all able to keep up with a very rowdy and hyper Ziva. I began looking for another Rottie and soon found an ad for a puppy in Gates County, North Carolina. We made contact by phone and received pictures via email. We knew she would be named Abby before we even met her. What else would a die-hard NCIS fan name Ziva’s sister!  When we brought her home, Abby and Ziva bonded immediately and from that day forward, where you found one the other was always close By.  Ziva finally had a playmate with the same high energy and rowdiness as she. About 10 months after Abby joined the family, Ziva became seriously ill, she wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t play and quickly lost about 30 pounds.  Abby was always right there beside her, lying beside her, trying to get her  interested in a toy or just running around after squirrels. ZIva had no energy but she had Abby looking after her. Lab work revealed Ziva had Addison ’s disease. After treatment with Prednidone and monthly Percortan-V injections, Ziva was quickly back to her usual rambunctious self and she and Abby were once again terrorizing the squirrel population in the back yard. Ziva, as expected with Prednisone treatment, gained a large amount of weight and one rainy day in December, slid and tore her CCL. She required surgery and 8 weeks of crate rest. Who was continuously right there by her side, always lying in front of Ziva’s crate? Abby! She was never very far from her sissy.

Ziva close to her sister Abby

Abby was always the healthy one, never sick and nothing ever slowed her down. The only real issue she had was her right eye was constantly bothering her and eventually she had to have surgery because her bottom eyelid rolled up into her eye. The poor baby did great through the surgery but was not at all happy with the huge “E” collar she had to wear. Ziva was always right beside her, making sure Abby was okay.  Pat had wanted to breed Abby so we had delayed having her spayed. I just never had a good feeling about allowing her to have puppies. Nothing I could really put my finger on but it just didn’t seem like a good idea somehow. So finally when Abby was 3 1/2, we decided it was time to spay her. She came through the surgery well with Ziva helping her bust open a couple of stitches during her recovery. Hey, what are big sisters for anyway! Abby healed just fine and things were great with her except the weight gain I expected, just never happened. I thought Abby was so lucky!  About 5 months after her surgery, Abby developed a limp in her right rear leg. Thinking she might have a CCL issue or worse, we immediately took her in for x-rays and an exam. We were overjoyed when the x-ray appeared to show nothing was amiss. It must be a cruciate tear then. After resting it for a couple of weeks, it didn’t appear to be worse but no better either. One evening she bumped the knee after jumping off the chair to go outside. She was immediately in excruciating pain. We immediately took her to the emergency vet.  There was no swelling and they looked at the x-ray taken 2 week before. Still thinking it must be a CCL tear, the vet said we really needed to have the veterinary surgeon look at it. The surgeon we used with Ziva was out of town so we had to wait another week or so to get her in. In the meantime there was suddenly this huge hard lump that appeared just below her knee and she was increasingly in more pain. When the surgeon finally saw her, he immediately thought it was Osteosarcoma but couldn’t rule out anything else without a biopsy. That was the day after Abby’s fourth birthday. A week later he called to confirm the diagnosis of OSA. I was totally devastated, Abby was just a baby!  We immediately scheduled the surgery for the next day. I started looking at everything I could find about OSA, the treatments, prognosis, etc. I also started looking at clinical trials and saw the UPenn study for the cancer vaccine. The internist at the veterinary hospital sent a tumor sample to UPenn to see if it was the tumor type they were looking for and it was.


Sleepy Abby

After much consideration, we decided to have the chemo treatments with Carboplatin and Abby did tolerate them remarkably well. Once the chemo was complete, we sent the lab sample to UPenn to see if Abby could be a candidate.  We met with Dr. Mason on November 7th. Abby seemed to enjoy her visit with Dr, Mason and her assistant. The initial samples sent up showed Abby’s immune system was not replicating lymphocytes the way it should. We were afraid she had already developed lung metastases and would be excluded from the trial due to that. After the complete work-up with Dr. Mason was complete, we were quite relieved to hear that Abby’s lungs were cancer free. What we didn’t expect was that the cardiac work up revealed that Abby had Dilated Cardiomyopathy. This of course made her ineligible to participate in the clinical trial. Abby still remains very happy and playful. She still plays with Ziva and they both continue to terrorize the squirrels in the yard. Her appetite is very good. A little too good, actually, she weighs 106 lbs. and has to eat diet food just like Ziva. We will be taking her for more chests x-rays every 2 months and in 3 months she will begin seeing a cardiologist for treatment of the cardiomyopathy. She had no symptoms during her visit to UPenn and it was recommended that she be checked again after 3 months.

Abby enjoying a toy

This is where we are at this point. I will continue to do whatever I have to do to make sure Abby is well taken care of and stays healthy and cancer free as long as possible. I continue to spoil her rotten along with Ziva and love and cherish them both for as long as they are with me.

Tripawd Abby enjoying play time

We are so happy that Abby continues to feel well and enjoy a happy life with her family.  Our fingers are crossed that the cancer will be kept at bay and Abby’s heart condition will be effectively managed.   Go get that Squirell, Abby!!

Our Thanksgiving

 Posted by
Nov 252012

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We had a very nice day along with a delicious meal.  The pack was thankful that we shared some turkey and gravy with all of them, too Smile1

This year, it was just Carlos and I sitting at the table to enjoy our Thanksgiving feast.  Carlos’ cousin has joined us several times in years past, but this year he decided to save his vacation time to visit us and other family on Christmas.  My brother lives in Atlanta; my parents, my sister and her two kids live in Tucson, AZ.  Carlos’ family live in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Indiana and St. Thomas.  We are all spread out, as most families in the USA are today.  We’d love to spend the holidays with family, but we are also quite content to do our own thing and enjoy the time with our dogs while we plump ourselves up on left over Thanksgiving chow.

Check out the spread.  It might not exactly be magazine cover worthy, but it was all delicious!!

Cranberry relish

Stuffing and mashed potatoes

The bird

Our 2012 Thanksgiving Table

We also made pumpkin pie and bought some pecan and sweet potato pie, but I forgot to make some peas!  I know; it’s still a lot of food for two people, but its Carlos’ favorite holiday, and he loves the leftovers 🙂

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner.  Did anyone go shopping on Black Friday?  We stayed home and played with our dogs in the yard for a while, then took Sasha, Tommy and Argus swimming.  It was a nice and quite weekend.  Just the way we like them 🙂






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