And then there were four


The following “You Gotta Laugh” column … a tribute to my sister … appeared this week in The Tribune Newspaper. I have reposted below … and provided a link to their website! Note you can sign up for free with a username and password for their site.

Tribune website

Did I ever mention I am the oldest of five? My sister, Mary, is just 19 months younger. During our growing-up years, Mary and I had lots of adventures together and shared a room until we hit our teenage years. Today it seems a lifetime ago.

My favorite photograph of my sister is one that resides on a shelf in my sewing room. In the black and white pic, Mary is sitting confidently atop a furry-maned Shetland pony. I feel certain she was about three years old. The cutie pie has short blond hair and round face with a smile that says let’s get this party started!

My mom tells the story how one day a man with a pony and a camera walked around our neighborhood offering to photograph children. He even came prepared with a cowboy hat and chaps for the kids to don. The chaps had a lasso and the initials “RR” embroidered inside the lasso loop on the lower leg. I like to think the initials stood for Roy Rogers and not the dude with the camera.

Actually, Mary and I both had our photos made that day. The only difference is the way we held our cowboy hat with our right hand up in the air. Today Mary and I sit side-by-side frozen in time in a double frame.

Then there was the time Mary lost her two front baby teeth. Not a remarkable incident, except the permanent ones were taking forever to make their appearance. While most kids were singing “Santa Claus is coming to Town,” Mary proudly sang, “All I want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth” with a lisp. When her front teeth finally did appear, there was a little gap. It was just enough to squirt water through.

When we got a little older, Mary and I would escape the house on Saturday for the local movie theatre leaving our little brothers and sister in the dust. Back in the Stone Age, a movie ticket cost 35 cents and bought two movies, cartoons and previews. For ticket money, we scoured the neighborhood ditches for glass soda pop bottles. At two cents deposit a pop, it didn’t take long to hit our goal. A quick trip to the drug store for candy and our mom didn’t see us for hours.

It didn’t matter what kid-friendly movies were playing. We watched them all. I do recall one that scared the bejeebers out of both of us. It was an Edgar Allen Poe inspired flick entitled “The Mask of the Red Death” starring Vincent Price. Imagine trying to crawl under the seats as the tension builds on the screen. We crouched on the sticky concrete floor waiting for the scary part to be over. It never happened. I think we lasted 30 minutes before running toward the exit and all the way home.

Fast forward a bunch of years. Mary and I married our respective sweethearts six months apart. We even lived a short distance away from each other for a time. I remember the day Rick and I got the call in the middle of the night to drive Mary to the hospital. She was in labor with her first child, Christy. Since her husband was a fireman stationed downtown, Rick and I were the designated backup drivers.

When we arrived to pick Mary up, I will never forget finding my sister calmly watering her plants, feeding the fish and straightening up the kitchen. She obviously was not in a hurry … but we were. After finally getting her loaded in the passenger seat of our little Toyota Corolla, Rick sped toward downtown where Greg would be waiting at the hospital’s front door. Each time my sister made a peep, Rick would start to sweat. We were not trained in labor and delivery. Then Mary let out a wail at a red light.

“Geez, it’s three in the morning. There is absolutely no traffic. Do you think it would be OK to just go through the red lights?” Rick stuttered.

Not even waiting for a response, he put the pedal to the metal and we arrived 20 minutes later at the hospital to a waiting Greg.

My sister, Mary, died the day after Easter of Ovarian cancer. The disease took her just seven months after diagnosis. She was 62 years young.

Quilting projects finished in 2016!

pop-pop-and-dr-jacob
So taking a look back on 2016, when the year began I would have never guessed the subject of cancer would have overtaken this blog, and our life. But it did. Hubby is doing great. But he is just halfway through treatment.

So despite how the year unfolded, I still found time to finish five quilting projects. A few of the quilt projects had been started in 2015. For me … the creative outlet of cutting big colorful pieces of fabric into little pieces, and then sewing them back together, is a huge stress reliever. Sounds crazy … I know. But quilters totally get it!

The projects finished include an I Spy quilt for St. Martha’s Catholic School fundraiser. I used a jar quilt pattern purchased from Missouri Star Quilt Company, along with a layer cake of novelty fabric also purchased from MSQC. Kim Norton used the digital pantograph called “Graffiti.” Personalize It Kingwood embroidered the label!


I also made my grandson, Jacob, an I Spy quilt using the same pattern and novelty fabric. I altered some of the “jars” to include a few special pieces of fabric. I named it “I Spy Jacob.” Jake picked out the binding fabric. Kim Norton machine-quilted using a multi-colored thread called Cleopatra. The digital pantograph is called “Circle Swirls.” Again, Personalize It Kingwood embroidered the label.

The Christmas table runner was made out of extra squares placed on point from my “Santa Baby” quilt for my little sister, Gretchen. My adorable sister picked up two 2016 Row-By-Row patterns/fabric for me in her part of Texas. Making her a Christmas table runner was the least I could do! I gave it to her at Christmas. Unfortunately, the photograph of her with the table runner turned out too dark. The lighting in my family room sucks! The table runner was machine-quilted by the amazing Kim Norton of A Busy Bobbin with Raspberry Ripple colored-thread using a digital pantograph called “Star Dance.”

I also finished a 2015 Mystery Quilt for my lovely sister-in-law Bonnie. The block-of-the-month was purchased through The Fat Quarter Shop, one of my go-to online shops for quilting fabric and projects. Bonnie, who lives in faraway Oklahoma, received the quilt in time for Christmas. This quilt was so fun to make and was my very first mystery quilt. Each block was designed by a different quilt designer. I named it “Town Square.” The quilt was machine-quilted by Kim Norton, of A Busy Bobbin, with Canaan-colored thread using a digital pantograph called “Creeping Fig.” The quilt label was embroidered by Personalize It in Kingwood.

My last finished project was for my brand new grandson, Baby Ben. He is a doll! Ben turned two-months-old this week and now he has his monkey quilt just in time for “tummy time.” The quilt pattern is by The Teacher’s Pet in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After piecing the wide fabrics, the monkey and Ben’s name were fused, zig-zagging around the fused edges. A couple of years ago I made Jacob a baby quilt using their giraffe pattern. So cute. They also have a flamingo and alligator version. Kim machine-quilted Ben’s baby quilt with Limestone-colored thread using a digital pantograph called “Whole Lotta Bubbles.” Personalize It Kingwood embroidered the quilt label.

A cancer journey with immunotherapy – infusion #10 and #11


In mid-November, Rick had his 10th maintenance infusion of Nivolumab at MD Anderson. Of course, the day is a bit more involved than just heading up to the 8th floor. During our appointment with our awesome oncologist, Dr. Campbell, we talked about Rick’s bloodwork. All looked good … except his pancreas, or lipase, level inched just over the line to 326. Something to watch … but we got the “Mother May I” to head to infusion floor.

Since we have already spent a fair amount of time over the past few months on the 8th floor, we have got to know a nurse that really knows her way around putting in an IV. She seems to be able to get that sucker placed with a minimum of “ouches” and little to no bruising. So of course, now we request the amazing Elizabeth! I think we were headed out the door for home by 2 or 2:30 p.m. A most excellent day!

Then last week, on December 1st, we went to MDA for Rick’s 11th infusion. Again, bloodwork looked great … except lipase had nearly doubled to 710 … not as high as after his kidney surgery. But not good. But the dude is feeling just fine. Yep … we got sent home anyway. The old “do no harm” was invoked and we certainly gotta respect that. We don’t have to like it though. I think we sat in the waiting room for ten or so minutes digesting what just happened. I didn’t cry. But we were both quiet. Then hubby placed a call to our oldest. Katie had Baby Ben a couple of weeks before and lives not far. So instead of an infusion … we opted for holding our new second grandson tight for just a few hours before heading north! It was also a most excellent day!

Our kitchen remodel – week #3

I am liking what is going on in our kitchen during week #3. It is starting to get very interesting at the Frantz house. The week started with more floating, taping and some new texturing on a few walls.

Shaker-style cabinets were also delivered. Gilbert is Finishing Touches amazing cabinet maker. Geez … even unfinished, I can already tell our kitchen is going to exceed our expectations! Gilbert and crew spent two long days working their magic. During our planning meeting a week or so back, Rick and I asked for a few subtle changes to the cabinet detail to add a tad bit of character and he delivered!

Another amazing breakfast cooked on the grill … veggie egg white omelets and sausage! We even plugged in the toaster in the living room for some toast. Felt so much like camping out during our college days cooking on our propane Kangaroo Kitchen!

The week ended on Halloween with the painters coming back in to start preparing the cabinets for paint. Our very pregnant daughter, awesome son-in-law and little Jacob drove in from Houston to check out the construction zone and trick-or-treat in the neighborhood. What a fun night!

Three guesses what happens most of next week!

A cancer journey with immunotherapy – infusion #7 sweet spot and a return trip!


Last week we had a major milestone with “the schedule” at MD Anderson. We discovered our sweet spot after lots of 12-hour “infusion” days. Basic schedule now is bloodletting at 6:30 in the am, meet with clinical trial nurse and oncologist at 8:30, and then a lovely infusion before and during lunch! No more grumpy bug faces on our part. I think we got this! Maintenance infusion #7 was a like a gentle fall breeze and we got home about 2 pm.

The most interesting part of the day was meeting with one of Dr. Campbell’s fellows! I learned our awesome oncologist, Dr. Campbell, gets a new one each month. I wish I wrote down his name. The young man was chatty … I love that … and has a PHD in immunology. He told us Rick had kidney cancer long before the severe symptoms appeared that lead us on the quest to figure out what was wrong. He called those scary symptoms the “tipping point.” I learned once you get to that point it is imperative to quickly get a correct diagnosis and start treatment. We also learned that Rick’s clinical trial for clear cell kidney cancer now has all their sixty patients. Rick was number 36. No more slots are available. So far Rick is still the rock star performing the best in this particular immunotherapy trial. Sixteen and one-half months to go!

The day after the infusion we took a trip … back to Washington, DC … to hang for a few days with our son and lovely daughter-in-law. We were there last in March to fulfill a promise and witness Kate’s confirmation into the Catholic Church. That trip was also after Rick’s very first infusion after being approved for the clinical trial. We went back and forth on the teeter totter about whether we should go. Rick was in lots of pain and nauseous most of the time. It was Rick’s decision to go for it … and we made it happen. I remember pushing him through the airports in a wheelchair. Back then he didn’t walk much in D.C. He was mostly there in spirit.

What a difference seven months make. This time we stayed up late, walked our feet off, got up and personal with lots of Washington D.C.’s monuments, went on an awesome history tour (History Nerds) of the Gettysburg battlefield, played trivia with Ricky’s cadets in a bar, toured the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and so much more. I think I got my hubby and travel buddy back!

My favorite day was the Gettysburg battlefield tour in Pennsylvania. Ricky and the lovely Kate had purchased the tour for hubby’s birthday present in September. I had no idea Gettysburg was only a ninety minutes drive from Washington, D.C. Al Condit was our amazing tour guide on the History Nerds tour bus which lasted just over two hours. The comfortable bus held about a dozen people. Al knows his Gettysburg history and provided non-stop fascinating commentary and occasional videos on the famous three-day battle. We got out of the bus a couple of times … once on the Confederate side and once on the Union side at Little Round Top. While there are many ways to experience Gettysburg … I totally recommend the History Nerd tour. Just saying!

I spy Jacob!


Our grandson, Jacob, loves to poke around my sewing room. I make it a point before he is due to arrive to lock up anything remotely interesting and dangerous to a two-year-old like pins, rotary cutters and scissors. Earlier this year he got a peek at the “I Spy” quilt I made for a charity event. Little did Jacob know I was working on one for him also!

The pattern is again from Missouri Star Quilt Company and so is the novelty layer cake fabric of ten-inch squares. With Jacob’s quilt, I added a couple of his favorite Minion fabric “jars.” I also used a mottled black fabric for the background which I love over the flat-looking black fabric on the charity quilt.

After finally getting the quilt top finished, I asked Jacob to pick a binding fabric. The charity quilt binding was black and totally worked but I wanted to try something different. Jacob’s choices were ladybugs or zebra print. Obviously, ladybugs won! The ladybug fabric is by Charley Harper.

The awesome Kim Norton, at A Busy Bobbin, quilted with an all-over digital pantograph design called Circle Swirls using a multi-colored King Tut thread (921 Cleopatra). I absolutely love collaborating with Kim! The adorable Tracy at Personalize It embroidered the quilt label for the back.

A cancer journey – struggling with the schedule

Infusion time!

Two weeks ago, Rick had his first of many “maintenance” immunotherapy infusions of Nivolumab for the clinical trial he is on for his clear cell kidney cancer. The hope is the drug will re-train his “T” cells to recognize and destroy any remaining cancer cells.

Fast-forward to yesterday and we were hopeful to get the go-ahead for “maintenance” infusion number 2. We gotta do this every two weeks for about 20 more months … not to mention scans every few months. It is going to be a very long haul … but I believe the worst is behind us. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that Rick had a kidney/tumor removed two months ago. Seems a little surreal. Rick has been back at work for the last few weeks and was finally cleared to climb on all that fun metal stuff at the plant.

It is why Rick and I have been huddling with the calendar trying to figure out how to integrate these MDA visits into our lives with work and family. The whole infusion thing reminds me of baking cookies. The infusion recipe has a specific order and involves several ingredients starting with blood work. Actually, Rick and I lovingly call it an old-fashioned bloodletting because they take over a dozen vials of blood. That is done the day before, or at the very least two hours prior to meeting with the clinical trial research peeps. She asks bunches of questions to see how Rick is doing and records the answers on a computer. I don’t think she found a spot to record my answer, “Rick has his sense of humor back!”

Next ingredient … we stir in a meeting with the PA, the lovely Simi, and sometimes Dr. Campbell, the oncologist. If all the blood work looks fine, we head to another floor to bake at 350 degrees or until done. Actually, that is where we go for the actual infusion. Like waiting for bread to rise, that part involves waiting around for a couple of hours for whatever goes on behind the scene and finally the infusion. Why am I telling you all this? Because these infusions days can easily burn a whole workday.

So Rick and I tried an experiment this week with the schedule. Rick drove to MDA from work late in the day on Wednesday for his blood work. On Thursday, Rick and I met with the clinical trial “team” in the early afternoon and was approved for his infusion. We figured it would be way easier to make up a few hours at work then a whole day. Good news … his lipase numbers had dropped again. Rick was now so close to the absolute top of the normal range. Actually, there was a few minutes when it looked like we might be sent home again. Imagine throwing out a perfectly good batch of unbaked cookie batter. It felt like that!

I left MDA at 3:30 pm to head back to meet Mimi and her bus. Rick finally pulled up into the driveway after 7 pm. I could tell by the look on his face this wasn’t going to work and he had a “Plan B” in mind. I have a call into Dr. Campbell’s awesome scheduler, Lauren. Hopefully, she can work some magic for when we head back down to MDA in two weeks for “maintenance” infusion number 3.