Monday, March 29, 2010

A Hard Week (Update on Mother)

It was a very, very hard week. The therapists stepped up the intensity of Mother’s therapy. And, she’s not a happy woman. It didn’t help that she was sick from UTI and antibiotics. There is one portion of therapy that she absolutely hates and tries to refuse. She whines and complains the whole time.

It’s coming down the wire – she must succeed in therapy or it’s going to stop (Medicare will no longer pay for it). If it stops, she will likely never return home.

Mom was warned Thursday and encouraged at the same time of what will happen if she either refuses and/or is not a happy camper. And yet, she pitched a fit on Friday. Tried to refuse because she didn’t want to go to the ‘gym’ – she hates and maybe even fears that one portion of therapy. Both my brother and I talked with her and eventually talked her into going. It’s simply not working and there is nothing more we can do.

I was really devastated because I had hopes. I thought Mother wanted out and back home. I stayed with her trying to get her to eat, drink and keep her spirits up. I also looked out for her well-being. But lately, she’s been saying she doesn’t care. She hasn’t said that she “wants out of this place” for some time. Lord, I grieved badly Friday. Everything just came crashing down on me. Daddy’s passing over a year ago made everything rougher for us all.

I think she’s been here too long. I think the surgery was done just a tad too late; but, that couldn’t be helped because we didn’t even know it was a possibility. I think she’s gotten used to the nurses and caretakers here and no longer panics. I think she may not really want to return home because she’d be alone again. Although, she’d have somebody there to assist her if she did return home. I think she’s depressed and discouraged because of the dizziness issues she still gets. She wants to get well immediately and that’s not going to happen. It’s going to take time and she has no patience with herself.

This is the last week – the last ditch effort. If she doesn’t show improvement and/or refuses, her last day of therapy will be Friday. To be honest, I don’t have much hope that it will continue. She’ll end up in the nursing care program.

Mother is a lot stronger. She can do things for herself now. So, I’ve been slowly “withdrawing” – trying to get her used to being alone and doing things alone. If she needs help, she has to ask. I’m trying to get her to use the call button. Hopefully, the nurses and caretakers will respond to her in a reasonable amount of time.

The toughest part will be today and tomorrow – I will not be with Mother during her therapy. I am disappearing before they come and returning later in the day. I just KNOW she will have “abandonment” issues. But, there is nothing I can do about that. Hopefully, she will do well without the support of a family member present. We’ll see…

I am returning home with my Dan on Sunday no matter what happens. And, it’ll be two weeks home, two weeks here, two weeks home – on and off in the beginning. I don’t want Mother to think I’m going away to never return. And then, gradually, it’ll change to fit our circumstances.

I love my Mother. I hate seeing her decline. I just don’t like the idea of her just lying there doing nothing (which is what she’s currently does). She has no interest in life – not even playing cribbage, a game she used to love playing. She doesn’t even want to watch her favorite programs on TV.

I just wish… I wish for some things. But, life just stinks sometimes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fun in the Kitchen Extras

I thought I post some pictures that didn’t make the cut in the original Fun in the Kitchen post on making tomato sauce for pizza.

I love this shot. The onion is in focus and my hand peeling the skin is in bokeh. Just perfect. The way it should be.

And, this shot is wonderful… The spices resting on top of the tomato sauce mixture before being stirred in. The only thing that bugs me is the finger up at the top. It reminds me of a deceiving rope tornado for some odd reason – It just doesn’t belong there. Yes, I have a weird imagination – I never claimed to be normal.

Such a happy cook – who is she?

“You listening to me?!?”

This cook was chattering away about a new cookbook while the photographer was taking pictures of the whole kitchen and setup.


The cook is still chattering away and the photographer is still ignoring the cook.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Alice in the Wonderland and some Bluegrass

Our weekend was very good. Dan arrived late Thursday night. He got Friday off because he was on call the weekend before. So, we had a three day weekend to be together somewhat. We spent some time with Mother on Friday and Sunday. We took some time for ourselves Saturday.

Here are a couple of things we managed to do:

Alice in the Wonderland

We went to see a movie Saturday afternoon. Dan found “Alice in the Wonderland” showing at the local AMC theater in closed captioning (CC). I have wanted to see it since seeing a few trailers on it and Dan loves going to the movies. So, off we went. The nice thing about AMC is that the “normals” can watch the movie without seeing CC. The deaf uses a simple device, which rests in a cup holder that enables them to see CC.

Anyway, Alice in the Wonderland is your typical Tim Burton movie – odd and dark. This is not your typical “Alice in Wonderland” story as the main character, Alice, is much older and she falls into wonderland without remembering her earlier adventure(s) as a younger child. She’s the only hope against the Red Queen.

I enjoyed watching this movie. However, it is not a movie I would watch again nor is it a movie I would purchase when it comes out on DVD.

If you desire to watch it, I would wait and rent it when it comes out in DVD for cheap or even wait until your local library has it and then watch it for free.

Bay Area Bluegrass jam

We went to the local bluegrass jam Saturday evening. Many people show up early and have jam sessions. They also have concerts so to speak that begins at 7:00pm. I was more into the jam sessions this time around as the bands playing weren’t my cup of tea. I really enjoyed the “slow jam” where beginners of all ages tend to hang out to learn the ropes. I also enjoyed a couple of other jams that spontaneously formed. A few were very lively and one group even played/sang an unusual version of “happy birthday” song to an 18 year old banjo player. We stayed there for approximately two hours before heading home.

If you really want to attend a bluegrass jam and even concerts, I highly recommend going to this particular one which is held every third Saturday of the month (except for May and December). Lots of people there and it’s free to attend. You can even gets eats (typically hot dogs and a drink) for cheap. You can also get coffee and/or homemade snacks for a donation of 50 cents each.

Dan is now on the road and on his way back home. The only thing bad about having a longer weekend is that the goodbyes are harder to take. I really had a good weekend. I just wish it didn’t have to end.

A Constant Battle (Update on Mother)

Mother’s therapy session was good on Monday. She was encouraged because she experienced virtually no pain. She still has the shakes real bad on her left side and I think it’s mostly due to stress, fear, and weakness (from not eating and drinking enough).

She stubbornly refused to do anything on Tuesday. She was not herself then – kind of loopy and extremely sleepy. It made me wonder if the nurse gave her either a pain or sleeping pill because all she wanted to do was just sleep.

She did some therapy on both Wednesday and Thursday in spite of feeling poorly. She didn’t walk on Wednesday. They had her doing leg and arm exercises in the “gym”.

She tried to walk using the parallel bars on Thursday and succeeded in taking maybe seven tiny steps. Her right foot is hurting her something awful and that leg just wouldn’t cooperate much. I fear that her body is giving out. However, I’m proud of her for working through the initial pain. It took her three attempts (stood up three times) before she finally felt she could try walking. It showed me how determined she was in getting better and wanting out of the Rehab and back home.

On Friday, she refused to do anything again as she was feeling sick. I was discouraged. One of her physical therapists suggested that maybe Mother would do better at home with in home care and having therapists show up there because it just seemed like Mother wasn’t improving. By this time, Mom had gone without eating much of anything for more than two days. It was beginning to worry me because I knew she was getting weak.

My brother’s wife is a nurse and suggested that Mom get tested for UTI because all the symptoms she was having all week long could result from that. So, my brother had the nurses get a urine sample and send it in to get tested. Sure enough, it turned out that she does have UTI again and it’s a bad case this time around. They are getting some kind of testing; but, it takes 48 hours to get the results back. In the meantime, we must get her to drink more fluids. She hates to drink water and it’s been an uphill battle since way back when (the beginning of it all) to get her to even drink anything much less eat.

In the meantime, she started to feel better Friday night and ate a little dinner. She was more like herself even though she was a little loopy. She ate cereal Saturday morning and ate a little lunch and dinner. She also ate some cereal Sunday morning and some lunch. So, it’s been encouraging to see her revive.

My understanding is that my brother wanted Mother to get antibiotics right away and told the nurse(s) on Saturday (the day we found out she has UTI) to get the prescription filled and started right away. Come late Sunday morning, it turned out that the nurse didn’t even get that done. Her excuse was that she didn’t get a call back or something or other and decided to wait. My brother was understandably upset with this. He immediately called Mother’s doctor. Mom’s doctor called back right away and he took the phone to nurse. The antibiotics were finally started about thirty minutes later.

I am not going to lie – I dislike this particular nurse. She’s going to end up killing someone via carelessness someday IF she hasn’t done so already. I don’t know what these poor souls do without having someone there to fight for their loved ones. I am glad that Mother has me around to make sure she gets what she needs to get done. Otherwise, she’d be neglected. Mother is blessed to have my brother fighting for her in all these medical and legal battles because I certainly don’t have to fortitude to do those kinds of things.

I just don’t understand this place at all – there is laziness for one and apathy for another. It has been a constant battle to get some policies changed simply due to neglectful ways. I wonder how long it was this way until I/we showed up here at the rehab? Don’t misunderstand me; there are some wonderful workers / nurses here and both Mom and I like a few of them. However, there are others that just shouldn’t be working in a place like this – they don’t have the desire to help people like Mother let alone the very elderly and the terminal ill.

Anyway, when Mom had the surgery, we had hope. I even looked at the calendar and set the first weekend of April as a goal for me to return home. It’s been discouraging and I hope the surgery wasn’t done too late. In other words, I hope Mother hasn’t gotten too weak and as a result, will never recover completely.

We still have hope. It’s just going to be a constant battle. Even though the first weekend of April is only two weeks away, I still have hope I can return home. Anything can happen in two weeks. Even if I don’t return home the first weekend, I can shoot for the second weekend of April. We just have to take it one day at a time... one week at a time… I can’t stay here and with her forever… I want to go home… I miss my Dan… and my kittehs…

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Book Review: Dewey: The Small-town Library Cat Who Touched the World

Vicky Myron with Bret Witter
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, ISBN: 0-446-40741-0
Date Published: September 2008


DEWEY is the heartwarming story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa, as told by his owner and companion of nineteen years, Vicki Myron, the librarian who found him on a frigid January morning when he was abandoned as a kitten in the book drop slot. It is also the story of a remarkable small town, which burned down at the beginning of the Depression, only to rebuild itself, and which was almost shuttered during the farm crisis of the 1980s, before regrouping and rededicating itself to small town American values. Dewey's local charm and worldwide fame became a symbol of hope for this recovering town. Through Dewey's antics, we come to know and love many of the colorful and inspiring people of Spencer. But perhaps the most inspiring person in Spencer is Vicki Myron herself, a single mother who survived the bankruptcy of her family farm and working in a box factory to put two of her brothers through college to become one of the leaders of the Iowa library system. Dewey is one lovable, roguish cat who managed to transform an entire town and inspire people across the globe.

I have wanted to read this for some time. I have always loved animal stories. I’ve read Marley & Me and loved every bit of it. I’ve have also read James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small series in my youth and loved them all.

I was expecting the book to be about Dewey the cat. But, it turned out to be more than just about Dewey. It was about the small town, Spencer, in Iowa and about the author herself, Vicki Myron. Because of this, it is not your typical cute cat stories. Most everything is all intertwined into Dewey’s story.

He is the perfect library cat – who wouldn’t love an outgoing and calm cat like him? Because of his personality, he became famous worldwide.

Personally, I liked the book Marley & Me more than Dewey, which is surprising because I am a cat lover.

My personal rating: 4 out of 5 stars. The only reason why I gave it a 4 instead of a 5 is because it sometimes went into details about either the small town and about the author that didn’t relate much to Dewey himself. It just didn’t seem to flow or intertwine together well. But, that is just my two cents.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I issued a photo challenge to Dan that is related to my weekend getaway – take pictures of the sharks’ teeth I’ve found and saved throughout the years. I had to tell him where to find them – they are in a pill bottle that I stored in one of the mini Lang cedar chests (along with other small mementos) I collect which is inside the safe in the office.

He asked what it was exactly that I wanted. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted and ultimately gave him the creativity since he was the “photographer”.

Aren’t these amazing? These are not the original pictures since I had to resize them for posting on this blog; but still, it gives you an idea of how gorgeous the pictures turned out. I had totally forgotten about the necklace I made with the help of my brothers. I absolutely love these pictures!

Update on Mother

As most of you know, Mother underwent surgery, a procedure called kyphoplasty, to help alleviate her back pain. Basically, this procedure injected bone cement into/onto her fractured vertebrae to help stabilize it. My understanding is that she not only had an older fracture, she also had a newer fracture. We were told by the doctor (surgeon) that she is a prime candidate for this procedure. Here is a recap of our week:

She went to St. Luke’s last Tuesday morning. The ambulance service messed up. They were supposed to arrive at 9:45am; but, they did not show up until 10:30am.In spite of the ambulance being late, we managed to arrive around 11:15am – not too bad considering. Mom’s procedure was set for 1:00pm. However, it was delayed because she was fibrillating. The initial examiner wanted a cardiologist to check her out and give the okay. A Doppler machine arrived to take images of her heart. Eventually, the cardiologist arrived, checked her out, and gave the okay.

However, an order was given to check out her legs for blood clots. I do not know who gave this order – Most likely the person who gave her the initial pre-op examination. So, she was taken down to get Doppler images done on her legs. That alone took an hour.

She checked out and was finally given the okay for the surgery. Both Mike and I were relieved. Mom, however, was terrified. By this time, she was over tired and wanted to go home. She had lost her courage. She is way too much like me – scared of any and all things surgery-wise. I guess I inherited that from her. Anyway, she was encouraged to hang in there and to think about the ultimate result – freedom from pain.

She was eventually given a little morphine while waiting to take away the pain as she had been weaned off certain pain meds. They finally took her in for the actual procedure around 7pm. She was out and in recovery a little after 8pm. The doctor said “it was a textbook procedure” and “it was successful”. He also said that “he’d be very surprised if she still had pain after the surgery”.

We did not get to see her until after 9pm and she was doing real well at this time. She smiled at me real big and that did my heart good.

She was eventually taken to a private room a little after midnight and we all saw her to make sure she was settled. I was more than a little surprised to see she was in pain because I had seen her earlier and she was doing fine. She was begging to either go home or for one of us to stay with her. It broke my heart to see her like that. A nurse came in with a pain pill and that kicked in about 15 minutes later and she was doing better. She eventually calmed down and started sleeping. So, we all went home.

I had to hitch a ride with my brother and his wife because I rode over with Mother in the ambulance. I also stayed at their house overnight. By the time we arrived, I was so tired that I was beginning to feel sick myself. I slept deep. So deep that I found myself being awakened by an earthquake – I realized it was from my own snoring. I rarely snore. I’m sure of that. Ha!

I got up; left for St. Luke’s, and arrived a little after 8am. I have to tell you that Houston’s rush hour traffic is an absolute nightmare! Anyway, Mom was doing well. She was conversing and in very little pain. I was encouraged by this. I sat in a chair beside her, caught up on the ‘world’ with my laptop and chatted with Dan via Instant Messenger. My brother was there all morning working from the room (he had to leave after lunch to go to the office where he works). Another brother showed up later in the morning and visited with Mom quite awhile.

Mother was discharged around 3:30pm and was sent back to the Rehab place. I watched them load her on the stretcher. Other than her dizziness problem, she had very little pain. That was an awesome sight to behold. I had to let her go by herself as I drove myself to the hospital. She was fine with that – another first. She arrived at the Rehab facility just before dinner and was in good spirits.

Thursday was a very good day for her. She was sitting up somewhat when I arrived that morning. She was very nervous and scared about therapy though. She didn’t know what she should do or not do. Doctor told us that she was free to do anything she was capable of doing. The therapists encouraged her to sit up and get into a wheelchair. I could see the difference. It was like a miracle happened. She was no longer moaning in pain. She was actually sitting up straight and conversing with the therapists and me. It was an amazing difference from before her surgery. She even wheeled herself a little around the room. It did my heart good to see that. And, there is hope now. She even said “she’s going to walk out of this place”.

She started to feel ill later in the afternoon. I didn’t know what to make of it. She really did seem “off her feed” so to speak. I texted my brother to let him know Mom was not feeling well. I did what I needed to do for her after dinner and let her sleep.

I arrived earlier than usual on Friday because I was worried about her. She was not doing well – feeling nauseous, crampy, and dizzy. I texted my brother. It dawned on him that she may be experiencing withdrawal from Fentanyl – a pain medicine. Sure enough, all her symptoms match the symptoms of withdrawal for this medication. She is still getting another pain medication – a patch on her back. My brother is going to talk with the doctor about these things.

She did okay in therapy – still not experiencing pain, which is a very good sign. She didn’t do as much on account of feeling yucky. Once she gets to feeling better, we hope her progress in therapy will take off. She’s a very stubborn old lady as she refused to do the second reps of warm up exercises saying “it’s dumb”. Neither Mike nor I could convince her otherwise.

So, here’s hoping that things will continue to look up for all of us.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Weekend Getaway

My weekend was wonderful. I so badly needed to get away for a bit. We went to Galveston Island and stayed in a hotel that Dan booked earlier in the week. We walked along the Seawall earlier Saturday. It was supposed to be a warmer (70 degrees); but, the wind made it feel like it was freezing. It was just my luck to have forgotten my jacket. However, I was so happy to be walking along the beach that I pretty much ignored the cold biting wind.

I had taken off my sneakers and socks and just walked along the shore relishing the feel of sand under my feet. Eventually, I noticed areas where tiny fragments of shells and beachy stuff accumulate along the edge of where the water comes up and recedes.

I dipped my toes into the water only to quickly withdraw because it was freezing. However, I just had to take a look to see if I can find a shark tooth. I’ve been finding sharks teeth since I was a little kid. But, I haven’t found any for years and years, most likely since hurricane Alicia (or the tropical storm Allison) because the hurricanes along with humans pretty much destroyed what used to be a diverse ecological system. I’ve read several years ago that Galveston is trying to change all that and restore what used to be.

Anyway, I bravely stood in the shallow water with feet gradually going numb scanning the debris of shells and whatnot brought in from the tides. My Dan refused to even dip one itty bitty toe in the water – a very wise man. He must have thought I was nuts. The water came in a rush a couple of times soaking the tops of my rolled up jeans. But, I didn’t care because I was happy just being there on the beach.

After a few moments, much to my surprise and exhilaration, I found a…

shark tooth! I was thrilled to pieces because it was the first I have found for eons. I think Dan was amazed and thrilled for me. I couldn’t keep from bubbling over from happiness for awhile. Dan kept it safely for me in the little watch pocket of his jeans.

Once we decided we had enough of walking along the Seawall, we decided to head on to the State Park and explore awhile. I was saddened to see the changes there due to IKE. According to the Ranger at the “headquarters”, IKE lifted the big concrete walkway and shoved it into the old nice headquarters they had. The waves then took apart what was left and washed the rest away.

They now only have a small headquarters and are still rebuilding the park itself. The one change I like is that we can now camp somewhat near the shore. Both Dan and I agreed that it’d be fun to take time and camp there someday.

We purchased a park’s pass, which is valid for a year and at any state park. We might as well get one considering we’re planning to go to Garner early August. When I opened the door to the truck after we parked in the day use area, I immediately spied a penny on the ground. I exclaimed to Dan that “God must be smiling down on us”. First, I found a shark’s tooth and then, a penny.

We then walked along the beach for awhile. My mind flooded with memories of the days long passed. I eventually braved the cold waters again to look for sharks’ teeth. I was absolutely thrilled to find…

five more sharks teeth! They were somewhat smaller than the first one I found; but still, it was awesome. Dan found a beautiful decent sized shell that was undamaged. I was thrilled with that find too.

We then headed back to the hotel and crashed for the rest of the day. Since we were tired and really didn’t want to go anywhere, we decided to splurge and have dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. It wasn’t great food; but, it sure beat going back out.

I was so tired from worrying about and being with Mother for weeks and the day was so complete and relaxing. I just crashed early. I was asleep by 8:30pm according to Dan. I didn’t get up until almost 8:00am the next morning. I did wake up a few times in the night, which is normal for me. But, I slept deep, which is what I needed so badly.

We relaxed a bit Sunday morning and surveyed the ocean from the balcony of our room. We then went to Kroger for some milk and a bottle of water. We then decided to go to Moody Gardens. However, the Rainforest portion was closed – they’re in the middle of remodeling.

In a way, I was glad because I didn’t want to be spending any more money. I told Dan that I thought I would like to go on the Bolivar Ferry and explore the other side for a bit. So, we rode that ferry and I just loved every minute of being on it. We then, drove down a ways down the road looking at all the houses and wondering if there was any public access to the beach. We explored a place called “Surfside” and thought to ourselves that it’d be fun to rent one of these houses for a couple of weeks.

We then decided to head back and try accessing the beach another day. After riding the ferry back to Galveston, we decided to call it a day and head back “home”. We did drop by to see Mother for a few. She looked tired but well.

It was an awesome weekend – just what I needed.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Book Review: Stranger in a Strange Land

Author: Robert A. Heinlein
Publisher: ACE trade, first edition, paperback, ISBN: 0-441-78838-6
Date Published: October 1, 1991

Summary (from Goodreads)

One of the greatest science fiction novels ever published, Stranger in a Strange Land's original manuscript had 50,000 words cut. Now they have been reinstated for this special 30th anniversary trade edition. A Mars-born earthling arrives on this planet for the first time as an adult, and the sensation he creates teaches Earth some unforgettable lessons. "A brilliant mind-bender."--Kurt Vonnegut.

I’ve heard so many talks about this particular book recently that I finally got around to purchasing the original uncut version at a deep discount to read.

This book may be classified as Science Fiction; but, I don’t think there is much that classifies it as science fiction other than the fact that people went to Mars and one lone orphan of two highly intelligent people, raised by Martians since a baby, returned to earth as a young adult. This book is more philosophical in political (libertarian?), religion, and sexual areas. I totally understand why this book became a cult classic of the hippie movement.

With that said, I must say that this book was not my cup of tea. It was a huge disappointment. It was slow going at first. But, the story started picking up in Part II. Even then, it was tedious to wade through. I did “grok” the book. However, it was ideological to the point of being an impossible dream. Also, there were some aspects that I did not care for nor agree with.

For example, near the end, the “discorporation” of people just because wrongness existed within them bothered me. I have always felt that no matter how evil a person is, there is always room for redemption for them if shown the way.

Another thing that bothered me was the free-love and “polyamorous” relationship thing. I think the concept unrealistic simply because we are human. I also think that sex should be reserved for the marriage bed – between husband and wife and none other.

I also did not like how the main character had a messianic complex.

If you’re a devout Christian (like I am), I would highly recommend that you do NOT read this book.

My personal rating: 2 out of 5 stars