Asheviller: Ron and Valerie Move to Asheville…

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Sep '11

Dog Bites Bear v2.0

Serena did it again. She gets a piece of a bear’s backside at the very end of the chase. She doesn’t continue chasing him so I think she just doesn’t want bear in her yard — which runs from light-pole to light-pole. Check out her “happy dance” on the walk back.


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Jul '10

Bigfoot Lives in North Carolina!

I always thought that Bigfoot/Sasquatch was a Pacific Northwest creature living deep in the Cascade Mountain forests. His lore is so well known out there that Seattle’s pro basketball team has a Bigfoot mascot named Squatch. However, just when we thought it was safe to go into the North Carolina forests, we hear about a recent sighting of the big hairy guy just 53 miles from Asheville. After reading the news article and listening to the radio interview with the man who saw him, I think there are multiple reasons not to venture too far outside the city limits…I think I hear banjo music…

Bigfoot has apparently gone blond and lives in North Carolina. At least according
to Cleveland County resident Tim Peeler, who told local authorities of his encounter
with the 10-foot tall creature, reports the Charlotte Observer.
Peeler thought he was calling coyotes, but instead got surprised and frightened by
what, or who, came a-calling. "Instead of them, him," Peeler, who lives in a rural
area near South Mountains State Park, told NBC affiliate WCNC NewsChannel 36.
"This thing was 10-foot tall. He had beautiful hair," said Peeler, adding that it
looked like the creature had six fingers on each hand.
"I come out here and rough-talked him and run him off," continued Peeler. But then
the creature returned. Luckily the encounter ended safely when Peeler got a bit more aggressive.
"I said, 'Get away from here! Get! Get!' and he went right back up that path again."
Sgt. Mark Self of the Cleveland County sheriff's office responded to the suspicious person call placed
by Peeler. "It scared me," said Self. "This is just totally blowing my mind that they even brought it
back up," adding that the Sasquatch legend has been in the county since the 1970s.
"It doesn't bother me now -- I don't think there's anything to it," Self said. Still, the sheriff's
office plans to continue its routine patrols of the area. "If we see something, we’ll try to capture
it and take it into custody," he added.
So campers and hikers visiting the state park, one of North Carolina’s least-developed recreational sites,
be forewarned -- you might want to plan on carrying a big stick, and leaving the coyote caller at home.
-- Kelly Burgess, LA Times

Below is a radio interview with Tim Peeler, the guy who saw Bigfoot, by Seattle radio personality, Dori Monson. I have no idea how Dori kept from laughing.


Aug '09


Here are a few other titles for this post: 

“Say What?”
“Just when you thought it was safe”
“Houston, we have a problem”
“Whoda Thunk?”
“Not so fast”
“Wow, I didn’t see that coming”
“You can’t always get what to wa-ant” (apologies to the Rolling Stones)
“What a mess”
“What now?”
“You’re serious?”
“The best laid plans of mice and men so often go astray”
“We were going to stop in Spokane, anyway”
“It’s only heart surgery”

Are you sitting down? The short story is that our cross-country driving trip is off and instead I’m going to have heart surgery ASAP in Spokane. No joke.

First a bit of background. When I was 24 and living in Johnson City, TN, I went for my first real physical outside of little Edinburg, PA. The doctor comes in, does his pleasantries, puts his stethoscope on my chest, listens, listens again, moves it around, says “hmmm,” listens some more, stands back and says, “do you know you have a heart murmur?” Never had a clue. He then asks if I would mind if his interns could listen because “it’s pretty pronounced.” A few minutes later in walk several interns, same age as me, who proceed to listen to my chest as the doctor explains what they should listen for. Fast forward to nearly every visit with a new doctor I’ve had since. Same scenario, though not always with interns. I’m told it’s nothing to worry about, that it sounds like a leaky Mitral Valve, that 5% of the people have it, and since I’m not having any symptoms (shortness of breath, dizziness, etc) that I’m fine.

Now, on a parallel track I’ve also had marginally high blood pressure — 140/90ish. I’ve never done anything for it. Doctors have always said to watch it and if it ever got higher we’d address it. Three years ago it started to creep up to 150/95ish and I had a couple instances of heart palpitation. Two years ago I went for a physical. After the nurse took my BP and the doctor (and a couple interns) listened to my heart he told me that I needed to see a cardiologist, that my high BP, my murmur, and my palpitations were likely related. Valerie had been trying to get me to go for a while so this was the push I needed.

I month later I go see a cardiologist, Rubin Maidan. After a short listen to my heart he schedules me for a stress test, electrocardiogram (EKC), and an echocardiogram. A week later I’m on the table, and on the treadmill, and on the table again while the doctor and his technician watch the EKG and the images of my heart on the screen in normal and stressed conditions. The diagnosis: MVP (Mitral Valve Prolapse with regurgitation), a very leaky mitral valve with maybe 30% regurgitation and an enlarged heart. Translation: the heart valve between the left atrium and left ventricle goes past its normal closed position and 30% of the blood flows back through. My heart has to work harder to compensate so it’s enlarging and my blood pressure is increasing. My enlarged heart is also stretching out the electrical pathways and that could be causing my occasional atrial fibrillation (A-fib). Several times during the test they ask me if I have any shortness of breath or light headedness. Nope. I do my 12 minutes on the treadmill no problem. Pretty good for a guy whose heart is only operating at 70%. I’m now on a yearly test schedule to see if my heart gets worse over time.

Last summer I have the test again. Over the previous 12 months I logged 5 instances of A-fib. The doctor thinks that’s acceptable — but if they go longer than 24 hours, I need to go to the ER. My heart looks unchanged. Blood pressure is down a bit. That’s good and is probably due to me walking every day and taking Lycopene. I will probably, eventually, maybe need to get the valve fixed in my lifetime, but for now it’s unchanged. Come back next year.

Over the last year I’ve only had 3 episodes of A-fib, though one was nearly 24 hours (see 20th Anniversary). My blood pressure is great at 120/70ish. I feel fine. I briskly walk with Serena at least 45 minutes a day. Last week we hiked around Cougar Mountain. Did I mention that I feel fine? Today’s test should be routine. Valerie didn’t come because I was so sure I was fine. We leave on Sunday for our 6+ week roadtrip to Asheville. Ha Ha Ha. Curveball.

The technician, the same one I’ve had the last two times, isn’t her usual chatty self. While she’s doing the ultrasound she asks me repeatedly if I’m ever short of breath or dizzy. Nope. I ask her what she sees (as we know, she’s not allowed to say). She says that she needs to go outside to log her measurements, get the doctor, and that she’ll be right back. They come in and Dr. Maidan asks me if I’m ever short of breath or dizzy. No, again. He and the tech peer over the screen and start talking medicaleeze. I hear “maxed out”, “new jet”, “increase over last year by a centimeter.” Hmmm. I get on the treadmill and begin to walk. Every minute or so it increases in speed and elevation so that by 10 minutes I’m jogging up hill at a pretty good clip. The goal is 12 minutes — which I easily did the last two years. As the minutes tick by I’m doing fine. The doctor comes in and out. I can carry on a (slightly winded) conversation. The nurse takes my BP three times. It’s fine. My heart rate hits 186 at 12 minutes and the technician reminds me that I did 12 minutes last year and wants to know if I want to try for more. At this point I think I have an idea where things are going, I need to man up and prove that I’m healthy, so I say “sure, lets go” and I run full out, up hill, for another minute and a half. Then I quickly jump off the treadmill onto the exam table where she does an ultrasound of my stressed heart.

Dr. Maiden comes back in to look at the screen where the tech has placed non-stressed and stressed images of my heart. There are two view angles for each and they are running in an endless loop of a few beats. He toggles between that view and one with color doppler (think weather radar) that shows blood flow direction, red one way and blue the other. After a minute or so he swivels the stool around, clasps his hands, looks me in the eye and says, “I’m sorry, but it’s time. You need to have your valve fixed. Your heart has enlarge 1cm over the last year. It’s now the same size at rest as it is when stressed. A second  area of regurgitation has formed because the original one has maxed out. I recommend doing this sooner than later. One year would be too long, six months too long, three months max, one month better.” Yikes! 

We discuss the fact that I feel fine. That I can do 13+ minutes on the treadmill. He tells me that most patients with my level of valve failure can’t climb a flight of stairs. My heart is compensating but it’s reached the point where it can’t compensate any more. And, my lower blood pressure may be the result of my heart not being able to keep up. It’s possible, after I get the valve fixed, that I’ll have high blood pressure again.

We talk about the valve repair surgery. He recommends getting it done in Spokane. A Dr. Leland Siwek there does it robotically through 4 dime-sized incisions. He’s done several hundred repairs this way. In hicksville Seattle they still do it the old fashioned way by sawing and cracking your chest open. Apparently, Dr. Siwek is pretty well know for this surgery. Dr. Maiden will send my info to Dr. Siwek. I need to schedule an angiogram to get a detailed map of my heart. And, I may need additional tests, but we need to hear from Dr. Siwek to see if he wants them.

So, I don’t know when this will all happen. But, it will happen soon, probably in September. We, obviously aren’t leaving on our road trip to Asheville on Sunday. We don’t know what this means for selling our house. It does mean that no matter what we won’t start construction this fall — but that wasn’t happening until we sell the house, anyway. It’s all quite the Curveball.

More coming as I learn it.

P.S. Here’s a video that talks all about the valve problem and the robotic surgery.

P.S.S. Another video from Cleveland Clinic about mitral valve repair using robotics.

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May '09

Jay Leno and 17 Years

What do we have in common with Jay Leno? Jay took over the Tonight Show from Johnny Carson in May of 1992, the same month we moved out here to Seattle. Jay’s now leaving the show after 17 years to strike out and try something new. With a little luck, in a couple months, we’ll be moving to Asheville to do the same. It just doesn’t seem that long ago.

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Mar '09

Long time, no bloggie…

It’s been a while but I’ve been super busy and just couldn’t find the time to blog. From February 26 through March 4, I was in San Antonio visiting my two, going on three-year-old, niece (and my sister, brother-in-law, and step-niece). What a cutie – and smart, too! Then, Friday through yesterday, our friends Cara and Mike were in town visiting from Phoenix. We had a very interesting dinner at Culinary Communion. The theme was eggs.  Let’s just say, it was the most daring stuff we’ve ever eaten.

So, what’s happened over the last 10 days? Valerie did an awesome job re-doing the powder room with new countertop tile, vessel sink and faucet, and new paint and Venetian plaster. Just a couple odds and ends are needed to finish it up. It looks FANTASTIC – hope the potential buyers think so, too.

We received a bid for a couple repairs (what we thought were the most expensive ones) on the white house. We have a buy-as-is contract with a $3000 limit. Adding up the contractor bids plus material costs and my labor (at a measly $20/hour) to fix the rest of the items on the list we’re over $8600.  Ouch. It would easily be over $10,000 if all the work was contracted out. We’re sending an itemized spreadsheet to the seller’s agent today with no actual request, just the info. We want him to chew on it to see if and how he responds – “let’s negotiate” or “hell, no!” If he doesn’t respond by tomorrow, our contract deadline, we’ll send him our offer. If this deal falls through, we’ll probably rent  – maybe this same house…

We’ve been reviewing the latest draft from Steve, our architect. It’s mighty close and the footprint might now be locked down. There are just a couple interior nudges, nips, and tucks to do and we sent that list last night. Hopefully Steve can get us another (dare I say final?) draft to take with us to Maui on the 24th. Last week Steve also sent a very rough draft of the 119 page specification document for review. Getting those details down will be the next step.

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