Keeps on Giving

If you know me personally, you know I’ve been sick. Since Thanksgiving. That’s a long, long, time of being sick. It was dragging my ass through my December teaching, feeling poor for the holidays, not being productive because I haven’t felt right. It’s been tough. I powered through and still did things, including all my holiday celebrations, but I wasn’t my usual sparkling self. People kept saying to me, go to the doctor. But I don’t. I’m not a doctor person. And a cold is viral, there isn’t anything a doctor can do. But it wouldn’t quit, it wouldn’t go away.

2014 ended rough for me, my mom being so sick and having surgery, then me getting sick, then my aunt was diagnosed with cancer, and Kelly found out she needed surgery, and Mindy learned her collapsed lung will always be partially collapsed, and suddenly I blinked and went from August to December.

When the new year hit, I was actually relieved. I felt like things would have to start trending upward. And they have, sort of. Kelly had her surgery and while it didn’t go perfect, she is recovering and will be fine. My aunt had surgery to help with her cancer and it went very well. Now we have to hope this is the start of a healing process for her. My mom is scheduled to have her reattachment surgery in February, earlier than expected, so this is great news.

But I’m still sick. My ribs have been sore for a while now from all this coughing. Then Saturday hit and things went sideways. I got a flat tire on my car. I’m blessed that my dad took care of it for me, even though it still cost me $120. Then I coughed so hard my back spasmed and I couldn’t move. But luckily my sister had pain medication to help me get through. We finally saw my nephew Simon for Christmas and got to spend some much needed time with him. Sunday I wasn’t really feeling better. And my house was a disaster. Literally a mess in every room and I still hadn’t taken down my Christmas decor. The tree, yes, but not the decorations. But I was in such pain I couldn’t move. I called in sick to work for Monday and then I was sitting in my chair in my living room and I started crying. I was in pain, feeling poorly, and feeling overwhelmed. Everything just got to me, all at once.

Finally, I took a deep breath (which hurt) and starting talking to myself. Out loud, yes, but sometimes it helps to hear the words. I told myself it was okay, there really weren’t that many problems, and the mess was something I could easily fix once I felt better. I reminded myself that while this was a thing, I’m generally healthy, I have a good job, a good family, wonderful friends, and while we have had our share of problems, we are all still here. (Side note to mention this has been on my mind often because when my mom was sick, I worried she might die and it scared me, and with all the health scares for my loved ones…then Kelly just learned that a close friend of hers, her husband unexpectedly died at the age of 43. I know it can happen so it has been on my mind.) But the people I love are still here.

Monday, after another night of barely sleeping, I called to get a doctor’s appointment. Of course, I couldn’t get in for a week. So I looked up urgent care and they opened at 1:00pm. I got ready and headed over and was there at the stroke of 1. I got right in and had an exam, where I learned I am actually much sicker than I realized. I have a sinus infection and bronchitis. Far more than just a cold. It started as a cold, but developed into these other things at some point. I also have sprained my ribs from coughing. Fortunately, I have not fractured my ribs, so that is a bright spot. I got medication (though it took me 90 minutes at the pharmacy, grrr) and headed home to my messy, messy house to recover. I took my pills on Monday and they knocked me out. Asleep before 9pm. I woke up once during the night, took another dose and slept until 10 am Tuesday morning. Luckily I had already told my boss I wasn’t coming in on Tuesday.

I relaxed and recovered for most of Tuesday. I read a new book. It felt good, I haven’t felt like reading at all since I’ve been sick. I actually forced myself to read a few books in December, but otherwise, no interest. Then, about 7pm last night, I felt like myself. Not completely recovered, but better. So I got up and tackled my house. I put all my Christmas stuff away. I broke down the boxes in the corner that had been taunting me since Christmas. I gave homes to all my new Christmas gifts. I organized a cupboard in my kitchen that needed it. I did my dishes. I handwashed several items that wouldn’t fit. I cleaned my counters off completely. I ran three loads of laundry. I got everything back in order.

When I went to bed last night, I slept, deeply, soundly, and dreamlessly, for the first time in weeks. I finally felt as though I had turned the corner. I was up this morning to my clean house, ready to tackle the day and head back in to work. I hopped out of the shower, dried off, and used the toilet, then headed into the bedroom to dress. Suddenly I heard a sound I shouldn’t have been hearing. Running water. Did I not turn the shower off all the way? I went in to check and….stepped into a mess. My toilet was overflowing. Dirty water running everywhere. My bathroom is bordered by carpet, so I grabbed clean towels from the closet and built dams. I called my dad to find out what to do. He talked me through it and okay. I then called work to tell them I would be late and set about taking care of yet another mess. And it was a mess.

But now it isn’t. I got it fixed and cleaned up and threw in a whole load of dirty towels in the wash before I left for work. I also jumped back in the shower to rinse off and wash my feet. Gross.

When all is said and done, this has been a pretty awful week for me and many people I love. Yet, here I sit, blogging, not to tell you how rotten it was, but to tell you how lucky I feel. Life will always throw messes and challenges at us and we have to learn to deal and try not to get overwhelmed by it. At the end of the day, what matters is the people we love. If you still have everyone you love and they are, healthy (mostly) and happy, then it’s all going to be just fine. And if you don’t, if you lost someone, then it’s heartbreaking and horrible, but you still have all the moments that you shared with them. You still have the memories, good and bad, because for whatever time you had, you got to love them. So I’m happy and blessed with the people I love.

I don’t do resolutions in my life, but I notice a lot of bloggers choose words to help define their year. I don’t do that either, but this year, if I had to, I’d choose love. I’d choose to be happy and blessed with all of the life in my life and let that be my focus for 2015 and every year beyond.

A Year of Movies

One year ago, December 2013, my mom and I went to see “Saving Mr. Banks” the story of Mary Poppins. It was terrific. We were both off of work and were talking about how much we love going to movies together. Then we came up with a plan. What if we go to a movie together every single month of the year. I loved this idea. And so we began.

January: “American Hustle” This was probably the worst movie we saw. It was a big deal when it came out and it was terrible. We both wanted to leave before it was over.

February: “Monuments Men” This was in honor of her birthday, she picked the movie. I wasn’t that in to it, but it wasn’t too bad. She really liked it.

March: “Divergent” I got to pick in honor of my birthday. I had read this book series and really liked it. Mom had never read it, but she enjoyed the movie as well. I thought it was great, a strong retelling of a great book.

April: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” No doubt in my mind we were seeing this. I’d been looking forward to this movie for two years. (For the record I’m already looking forward to the next installment, due out in April of 2016) Of the Marvel movies, Captain America is my favorite character and my favorite movies. This did not disappoint. It was phenomenal. Best movie of the year, IMO. But mom also wanted to see “Draft Day” and I did, too, so we broke the rules and doubled up in April. Draft Day was pretty good, but it’s hard to go wrong with Kevin Costner, especially in a sports movie.

May: “Maleficent” We both wanted to see this and were glad we did. Much better than anticipated. Arionna’s pick for best movie of the year.

June: “The Fault in Our Stars” Another movie we both wanted to see because the movie looked good. I’d been avoiding the book for a while, but decreed we both had to read it before we went. We both did and we both liked the book. In a rare surprise, I thought the movie was better. Terrific movie.

July: “Jersey Boys” I had zero interest in seeing this, but with no better options, I agreed to go, since Mom really wanted to see it. We brought my sister as she seemed excited to see it. It was better than I expected. Quite enjoyable, really.

Then August hit and we were preparing for family vacation. We didn’t get to a movie. We talked about sneaking out on vacation to see something in Brainerd…but then Mom got sick and that pretty much took care of that. Our year ended in July, which was disappointing, because we were both enjoying it so much. It’s nice to do with someone else, because then you see movies you might not have, otherwise. We have decided, even though she is having her next surgery in February, we are going to do this again this year. Well, attempt it again, I suppose. We’ll just have to get our February movie in before the 17th, and hope she’s feeling well enough to go before the end of March.

I’ll be back next December to report how we did, let’s hope we did better than 9 movies in 7 months. Here’s to another year of movies!

Just Because

Is there a better reason than just because? I don’t think so.

Only a minute or so ago, I recieved a text from my mom. It was this:

IMG_0712Followed by the words “Happy Thursday! Love you♥”

And it made my day. Just because. There was no rhyme, no reason, she was thinking of me and sent me a little dose of her love .

Thanks, Mom. I love you, too.

The Chase

I don’t think at this point it is a surprise to anyone that I love Christian Kane. I think it’s been covered quite handily on this blog-seriously, search his name, it’s almost embarrassing, except I love him, so it’s not.

Therefore, imagine my utter happiness to receive this brand new photo of him, as a text messaging gift via my mother at 6:48pm last night.

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I know what you’re thinking. My God, he’s hot. Oh, wait, that’s what *I* was thinking. YOU were probably thinking, “why do I care what time her mom text her?”

Well, because, as it turns out, and I am assuming a bit here, my mom was on Facebook a few minutes prior, saw that photo, thought of me, and text me the photo to brighten my Tuesday night. It did, by the way.

Here’s the cool thing. At that exact same time, way across town, Kelly was getting a pedicure. She was playing online and saw a brand new photo of Christian Kane and, naturally, thought of me. She text me that photo.

Which is how, literally, within seconds of each other, they both text me a photo of Christian Kane. Here is THE VERY BEST PART.

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They aren’t the same photo!!!!!!!!

True story. At 6:48 pm last night I received two text messages. Both contained photos of Christian Kane, but they weren’t the same photo. They are obviously from the same photo shoot (I assume a promo for his new show, The Librarians,) but two different, equally awesome pics of my main man, Christian Kane.

How is this possible? I have no idea. I couldn’t believe it when they came in during the same minute. It makes it easy to love technology when things like that happen. Oh, and for the record, I do NOT hate text messaging when it contains photos of Christian Kane. Those are always welcome. Day or night. Even the same minute.

And that is the story of how my mother and Kelly were racing to be the first to send me a picture of my favorite singer….and tied. And I won. Thanks to you both! I lovelovelove them.

P.S. And while it was a fun little coincidence, this is mostly just an excuse to post pictures of Christian Kane and endlessly type Christian Kane. Remember in junior high when you had a crush on a boy and you’d write his name all over your notebook? This is kind of like that, only in the modern technology world. Christian Kane. Christian Kane. Christian Kane. See?

P.P.S Also, the title of this post, The Chase, is also a song title by, you guessed it…Christian Kane.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Do kids still write those in school? As a teacher, it seems like I should know that. So I am going to offer my report of my summer vacation. Warning, this is going to be incredibly long. Scary long, possibly.

My last post was August 20, 2014, nearly one month ago (Edited to add, I’ve since remembered and posted my August Books, so that is no longer true, but when I started *this* post, it was true. Edited again to add, by the time I got permission to post this and got the whole thing written, it’s been a month and I’ve posted several times. But imagine it’s about 6 weeks ago while you read this.). Right after that post, I went to the State Fair with my family and then the next morning we left for the lake, for a long overdue family vacation. We had been planning a week at the lake since about February of 2013.

We arrived on Saturday and spent a couple days just swimming (in a cold lake in cool August weather) and boating and relaxing. It was all beautiful and serene and just what we all needed. Then Tuesday hit and things went all to hell.

About noon on Tuesday, August, 26, my mom went inside to lie down because she suddenly wasn’t feeling well. A few minutes later, she went to the bathroom and broke out in a cold sweat and the shakes. She got a sudden pain in her abdomen and called for my dad. He got her in bed and was tending to her. Everyone knew mom was sick, but we didn’t know the extent. Eventually, my dad came down the stairs and said to me, “your mom needs to go the hospital and she can’t go by car, figure out what to do.” I ended up calling 911. The call was answered in Brainerd (which is Crow Wing County), then I was transferred to Morrisson County. They said they would send an ambulance but a first responder would be on its way. I asked how long and he sidestepped the question. Should’ve been a clue. They also asked us to have someone waiting out front because we were at a resort. So, yes, I stood outside this whole time, just waiting on help for my mom.

About 15-20 minutes after the call, the first responder arrived. Evidently these people do this as a supporting job, because they all came from something else. A total of three first responders arrived, all before the ambulance got there, just over 45 minutes after the call went out.

My mom was taken by ambulance to St. Gabriel’s hospital in Little Falls, MN, about 45 minutes away from the resort. We waited a bit and then got in the car to head to the hospital and find out what was happening. We were all pretty scared, my mom is not a medical panicker. She is very calm about all things health related, so for her to ask for an ambulance, it meant something was really wrong.

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(The moment they put her in the ambulance, one of the scariest moments of my life).

We arrived at the hospital and she was in the ER. Only one of us could see her at a time, so I went in first. I was told that they were assuming appendicitis, and were about to send her in for a CT scan to confirm. We had the kids with us, so we left the hospital and went into town to get dinner. This was Chad’s birthday dinner. Happy 30th, Chaddo. Eventually, my dad called and informed us that it was NOT appendicitis, and they were having a surgeon come to read her scan.

She was diagnosed with diverticulitis. It is, simply, an infection in her colon. She spent the night at St. Gabriel’s and was admitted and moved to a room. We went to see her the next day and spoke with her doctor about moving her. Because we aren’t from that area and we only had two more days at the resort, we wanted her moved home. They said they would arrange for ambulance transport to the hospital of our choosing. I chose United and they had to call and arrange a bed for her and a doctor to accept her. They told us, Wednesday afternoon, that she would end up leaving sometime Thursday afternoon.

She was in a great deal of pain and on a lot of medication at that point, so we all left her there to sleep and went back to the cabin. About an hour later, pretty soon after we got back, the nurse called and told us her transport was accepted and she was leaving that night. They called us at 7pm and she left Little Falls at 9pm. We had just sat down to dinner, so we finished eating and discussed options. It was decided that we would pack up the cabin that night and just drive home at night, rather than waiting for morning. We packed up that cabin in about an hour, it was actually kind of miraculous. We were on the road at 9pm, so about 45 minutes behind her.

We went to United that night to see her get settled. She saw a surgeon the next day and it was decided that she would have laparoscopic surgery on her abdomen to see how extensive the infection was. The hope was that they could do a wash out, to clean out the infection, and avoid a colostomy. Her surgery was scheduled on Friday, August 29. Her doctor said things looked good enough that they ended up only doing the washout, instead of the full colostomy. One of the things they were monitoring was her white blood cell count, which shows infection. A healthy human should be between 4 and 10, her counts were in the high teens at this point. In Little Falls, she was in the low 20s.

They spent several days having her get up and walk, move about, while testing her blood, and pumping her full of antibiotics. She was on an NPO diet, which means nothing by mouth. So, ice chips only. For days, she didn’t have anything to eat. Only ice chips. About Tuesday, a full 8 days of being in the hospital, she started to feel hungry. Her surgeon moved her to a clear liquid diet (chicken broth and jello, basically).

She finally got to go home on Saturday, September 6, after 12 days in the hospital. It’s very rare these days to spend more than a couple days in the hospital, 12 is almost unheard of. Her WBC was 15 when she got to go home, still too high. She had to go to her doctor to get her bloodwork done, but it looked like we had dodged a bullet.

Then we found out, from her doctor, that her WBC was high again, up to 22. That same day, Wednesday, she was not feeling well. Finally, my dad called her doctor at United and they said to bring her in, so back to the ER she went. She had another WBC check that night, and her number was 25, the highest it had ever been. It was supposed to be going DOWN this whole time, but it kept going up, and up a lot. Regardless of the gallons of antibiotics pumping through her system, she was not fighting the infection. They readmitted her that night, Wednesday 9/10, after a measly three days at home.

By Thursday, her WBC was up to 29, and that was it. Her surgeon said they had to go in and fix this thing. She was scheduled for a colostomy later that day. Their initial plan was to enter in laparascopically and see what they could see and try to fix what they could without opening her up, but as soon as they got her in the OR, her surgeon said she knew they had to go in. They did an eight inch incision in the abdomen and removed about one foot of her colon. Apparently her colon was horribly infected, it looked bad even to the surgeon. She was given a colostomy bag, a drainage tube, and because of the infection, they did not close the incision, because it would have become infected (100% chance, said the doctor…and doctors rarely deal in certainty). So she now has three holes in her stomach.

For those who don’t know, a colostomy bag is a drainage bag that is attached to the end of her colon. Her colon is now not connected inside her body, instead one end now comes out through her abdomen, the healthy end, giving the infected end a break, allowing it to heal. Which means that bowel movements now come out through her abdomen and are deposited into the colostomy bag. Got that? Yep, it’s gross, but it is also saving her life, so we deal. She will wear the bag for about six months. We are hoping she will heal faster…but they are estimating six months. At that point, she will have a colonoscopy, to make sure all is healed up, then they will do ANOTHER surgery to reconnect the ends of her colon, allowing her to lose the bag and hopefully be healthy and live a normal life thereafter.

This, the colostomy, is the worst case scenario, and we knew that from the beginning, but as it turned out, this was what was needed to get her back to healthy.

Of course, she is still in the hospital. She needs to heal more, and her WBC needs to be down to reasonable levels before they will let her go home. After home, she will have a home health nurse come out three times a week because she will still have to learn to deal with the colostomy bag, how to change it and care for the ostomy (the colon sticking out of her body), as well as dealing with the 8″ open incision on her stomach. Which requires a VAC pump to help it drain, which needs regular cleaning and disinfecting.

Plus, she needs to get stronger and begin eating more. She’s barely had any food in the last month (almost a month). Here’s to hoping that she’ll go home soon, as of right now, she’s been in the hospital 21 days. I thought 12 was outrageous!

So many people have been kind enough to stop down and visit, send gifts, and, most importantly, send their thoughts and prayers. It’s been wonderful to see the outpouring of love. Turns out, people really like my mom. (Just kidding, I knew that, who is more awesome than her?)

For those who wonder what they can do…nothing. Though I genuinely appreciate the offer. As, I’m sure, does she. The outpouring of love and support we received was generous and wonderful and, as a family, we are all grateful.

And that is that. A super long post about what I did on my summer vacation.

***Edit*** I didn’t have a chance to post this after I finished writing it, so I can give that final update now. Mom has been home for about a month, after a whopping 24 days (in total) in the hospital. She has a nurse that comes to help her out at home, but she’s recovering really nicely. She finally got her VAC taken off and now just keeps her incision clean and changes her colostomy bag. Her energy is surprisingly good for someone only a month post surgery. She still gets tired easily but other than that, she’s really doing great. She has some restrictions on her diet, but they aren’t too terrible and her appetite is back, so she’s able to eat regularly, go on short walks, and generally just keep in improving. My dad even finally went back to work after 7 weeks at home/hospital with mom, so I definitely take that as a sign of improvement.

And what did we learn from all this?

Well, now every member of the family can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the large intestine.

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See?

Love you so much mom, and so glad you’re doing better and are practically back to your old self!

 

Birthday Mom

Happy Birthday, Mom!

As always, I love you very much and wish you the very best of birthdays. I’ll see you at the movie tonight and we’ll have a celebration for just us, but this is a brief recap of how we celebrated with everyone else.

After the great Pesto Disaster of 2014, we settled on Sausage and Spinach pasta bake, Crockpot White Bean Soup, and bread. I thought lunch was terrific, even Arionna ate well!
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She was also a big help in opening your presents….of course.
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This little guy wasn’t much of a help in anything, but he’s nice to look at, so we keep him around.
And, of course, the day wasn’t complete without a shot of you, cuddling Emmy’s kids.
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Remember last year?
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Things have changed….just a little!
And the rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing and talking and cuddling on the couch and reading books, talk about a perfect day!
Then, a few days later, on your actual birthday, I met up with you after work to see the movie of your choice The Monuments Men.
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You liked it immensely, I thought it was just okay. The two women in the theater thought it was the funniest movie they’ve ever seen, judging from the way they cackled throughout.
Most importantly, we got to be together…and eat junk food.
I hope you had a wonderful day (sorry to be a day late with the post….having internet at home is somehow making my life harder!).
I love you bunches and bunches, as you well know. Even if you are 57…wait, 59….wait…I’m so confused!

Hallway Design

As you walk into my house, you are in the main entry hall. This was a very blah space that I have hated from day one. It’s a tiny, dark hallway with zero natural light, unless you leave the front door open, which I hate to do, because you can’t see it from upstairs, so it makes me feel unsafe.

When I moved, my mom gave me a hope chest that used to belong to Kelly. I didn’t want it, but my mom said I could use it as a bench/storage in my entry, and since I had nothing else, I took it. But I never liked it. And with white walls, poor lighting and furniture I did not care for, this was my least favorite room in the house (except for maybe the laundry room…but that could be for different reasons!)
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This is the entry hall on day one of painting. This is about 11am, the best light I get in there all day and you can see how dark it STILL is.

Just plain walls, completely unassuming.

I like my rooms to assume.

Have you seen my living room? My kitchen? My bedroom? My bathroom?I like bold color and a cohesive design. My house is vibrant and colorful and very much me. But this space, the first thing you see when you walk in the door is not at all who I am. I’ve wanted this space done since the very beginning. When I first started planning, this room was going to be two shades of blue, a light sky blue and a deep cerulean. That was the plan. But as the years passed, it changed, I didn’t love it, it didn’t feel right.

Back in Februrary, I got paint samples in these colors (because all the decor I bought was around that color scheme) and hung them on the wall. People would come over and vote on their favorites. And I hated it. It wasn’t me and it wasn’t right. I knew it.

I needed inspiration and a new idea. Then out of the blue, I saw this photograph.

flat paint for the walls, the same color in high gloss to do the art. photocopy a swirly pattern onto a transparency and, using an overhead projector, blast the image up onto the wall and trace it with a pencil! use a pencil that's close in color to the wall paint.

I don’t even remember anymore where I saw it. But that teal and green combo were exactly what I was looking for. I began hunting for those two samples. Pretty soon, the blues were gone and these had taken their places. I had clear favorites…but what surprised me is that when I got the samples, I found a deep fuschia color that called to me. I decided to trust that instinct and I am so glad that I did.

I worked out a detailed plan that incorporated all three colors (teal, green, fuschia) into that tiny hallway. My mother and I started painting this summer (let’s face it, she did the bulk of the work on this) and finally finished a few weeks before Thanksgiving. It’s tough. There was much taping and retaping and color changing. Since I used such vivid colors, we had to do as many as four coats in some places. However, the hallway is finally done.

You saw the plain view, above. Here is that same view (with the door closed, as it was December!) finished:
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Pretty different, yes? No, you can’t see the teal in these, but you can see the cute table/lamp…..
Here’s the view from down the stairs:
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Here is that same space now:
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There’s the teal! It looks way darker in this photo than it does in person.
Here is the space to the left of the door, as you walk in. The hope chest used to sit here:
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Here is that space now:
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By the way, it was that chair that pushed me in this direction. I had seen the green/teal kitchen pictured above and loved it, but I still wanted that hope chest gone and something more welcoming in its place. Then, I found this chair at Home Goods. It was the exact shade of green I wanted and I fell in love. I bought the chair before I even had the paint picked out. And it all worked out so very well.
This is looking as you would when you enter the house (front door at your back):
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Complete with my lovely mom, beginning to paint!
Here is that same view now:
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Yes, I should have cleaned out the painting supplies before taking this, but I was just so excited!!!
And that’s it, my fully completed hallway. Yeah, it’s a tough space to photograph, it’s WAY too dark (did you catch how ALL the pictures are grainy?), but I’m so happy with how vibrant it looks. Now I finally feel that when you walk into my home, you feel my presence immediately when you enter, and you know what to expect!
If you know me, please drop by to see it, I promise, it’s way nicer looking in person.
Now I only have the family room left for record…let’s hope I get to that in 2014!
(P.S. Mindy, did you notice that I finally hung up the decorative plates you bought me for my birthday THREE years ago? I’ve been waiting for the perfect spot and this is definitely it)