Thursday, January 31, 2008

Love is blind

I just got back into the house, settled into my chair (see how Kev's recliner has now become my chair...) with a nice cold glass of water. I worked up a sweat taking a walk outside with Kevin. Since there's ice under the snow everywhere, it was potentially treacherous, but Kev hung onto me like I was his 98-year-old granny. Truth be told, it made me feel more comfortable. Wearing that big neck collar limits my view, and I'm not supposed to be moving my neck to look down (or up or sideways).

But oh my heck! it was nice to get outside. We basically took a walk from the house to the pole barn, where I let Barney and Betty out so they could romp around with Reilly, then over to our outside wood stove so that Kev could load it, then up the back trail around the other side of the house back around to the pole barn to put Barney and Betty back into their run. No, it's not that long of a walk around our house, but it sure tuckered me out. I've only been doing a little walking here and there the past 2 weeks (2 weeks ago since surgery! 2 down, about 4 to go to hopefully resume to normal life!).

Barney is so funny... the poor brute is totally blind now, but he's still pretty much as enthusiastic as ever. Kev was really watching him so that he didn't knock into me or knock me over. Barney brought sticks to me 3 times, but when I throw them, he has no clue where to head out to retrieve them until he hears Reilly going... and then, of course, it's way too late. But I was also feeling very sad for him a couple of times. His blindness combined with his lifelong fear of ice gave poor Barney a few moments of not knowing where to step and of being afraid... When we were walking in front of the house on the way back to the pole barn, I heard him whimpering behind us... he had apparently stepped on a patch of ice under the snow and it scared him. Kev called to him and told him it was ok, and Barney was able to continue forward, but he was doing a type of walk that was in between walking upright & normal and walking belly to the ground.

When we reached the cement approach to the pole barn garage, Barney wouldn't walk on the cement. He knows it has patches of ice on it. The dog run is on the side of the pole barn, and Barney went all the way around and finally scooted next to and along the dog run fencing so as to get back into the dog run with as few steps as possible actually on the cement. Once in the dog run, he was a happy, happy camper. Definitely in his comfort zone.

Barney is way too young to be blind; he's only about 5 years old. I believe it must be a genetic thing. Other than his blindness, he's one huge, handsome yellow lab. Joycie's boyfriend, Mike, was asking her about breeding his family's lab with Barney, but I won't let that happen. Kevin never had Barney neutered; I think because Kev was thinking if Barney was a great hunting dog, we may want to have one day gotten a puppy from him... continue the line, so to speak.

But no on both counts. He's not a good hunting dog, and he won't be fathering any puppies ever. He's not really a good watchdog, either, he wasn't even before he went blind. Barks at everything and anything, sometimes all night long. But he is a lovable big ol' Barn. He is the sweetest dog, and he will lavish love on us unendingly. Ol' Blind Barney loves Kevin beyond anything else. Barney is a pig for food, but he would choose Kev over a tasty morsel any day... all Kev has to do is that whistle of his or call him and Barney rushes to him. Big floppy ears, happy spittal flying as he jumps on and about Kevin, and you can just hear Barney's "I love you, I love you, I love you." He's a great dog.

So Kev and I are walking down the drive to the pole barn, wrapping up our walk, with Reilly dragging yet another big stick toward Kev (he's always hoping), and Betty trailing along behind us as usual, with Barney doing his half-belly walk thing, big feet splayed out timidly advancing through the ice/snow... and I asked Kev, "So when you have a blind dog, would you get him a leader person?"

You say po-tay-toe...

Many years ago, I bought Kevin a big, comfy recliner for a Father's Day present from me and the kiddos. This recliner is definitely meant for a large, tall person. I tried to sit in it the evening I got home from the hospital, but my head hit a spot on the chair that made my head tilt forward slightly... which was too much for my aching neck. The next morning, I got the idea of putting a cushion on the chair and sitting on it. VoilĂ ! Comfort achieved. The cushy back parts hit my head, neck and shoulders right where they ought. Ahhh!!! I found I could sit in this recliner and take off the uncomfortable collar, because the back of the recliner provides plenty of support for my neck. I have also found that it's really the only comfortable place for me to sit in this entire house. Here is a photo of the recliner where I will be spending many a day incarcerated, er, I mean recuperating...

Incarceration... Recuperation... it's a blurred line, I tells ya...

Anyway, the chair's upholstery is a dark green microfiber faux suede, which was a new thing for La-Z-Boy at the time. I would never recommend this fabric to anyone for any furniture; it's not what I would call durable; this recliner began stressing at the seams almost immediately, eventually ripping in a couple of small places. Also, this fabric doesn't seem to breathe, so when you sit in this chair for any length of time, such as the duration of a movie, your ass and back get good and warm… too warm for my taste. Which probably explains why Kev rarely stays awake through any movie... between being tired after a long day, and comfortably settled in a chair that gets increasingly warm, it's like a sedative.

I have thrown a cotton sheet over it, and that helps make it more comfortable for me. A bed pillow on each arm so that my shorter arms are comfortable, and I’m good to go. Or stay, as the case may be. For hours. And hours. Interrupted by occasional short walks and little exercises I’ve been assigned to do by Dr. Adams.

I also use a board that is my "portable desk" across the arms of the chair, which is handy to hold my laptop. (My laptop is my work computer, and I finally began retrieving my e-mails from work this week... the first time took over an hour... ugh. Thankfully most of the e-mails are the type I can simply delete. Yay. I'm not really ready to get back into work yet, though I do plan to be working from home soon... just gotta get past the pain-pills-needed phase, and I'm getting there; been slowing down on them all this week.)

Let me tell you the story of my portable desk. Back when Kev and I had been married for only a few years, we purchased the property where we now live from my sister, JoAnne. We built a pole barn and finished half of it off into living quarters. We lived in that pole barn for 6 years before we had our house built. When we were first living in the pole barn, we had no telephone yet and no electricity. Electricity came very soon after, but for a while, life was pretty rustic. Also, Kevin was working a ton of overtime on his job, so I spent many, many a lonely dark evening in our new home/pole barn. No electricity, no TV. I did a lot of reading, and then I started playing around with leftover pieces of lumber from building our pole barn. Now that was fun. I made some silly, funky things. I remember making something I guess one could call a magazine rack. Yeah, it was basically a piece of crap, decorated with about a zillion nails. I had fun, what can I say? You know, I think it's still out in that pole barn somewhere...

My Dad built our kitchen cupboards for us in the pole barn, and we still have them. They're beautiful. He used fir plywood, and the grain of that wood is wild and gorgeous. Fit the pole barn well. Now, only the bottom set of cupboards, with the formica top, sink, drawers and shelves with doors remain in the pole barn. The top cupboards (shelves and doors) we moved downstairs in our house in what is currently my craft room.

I used a leftover piece of that fir plywood for my portable desk. I cut it to the size I wanted on Kev's table saw and sanded it well. I then painted a design around the outside edge, heavily influenced, I am sure, by issues of the magazine, "Country Living." I then put 2 coats of varnish on it.

Note the date I painted on the edge... Nov. 6, 1986.

I can't tell you the number of times this portable desk of mine has come in handy. And whenever I use it, I'm reminded of our days living in the pole barn. Good memories.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

In a brass bra...

Kathy is helping us out so much with getting Sammy to and from where he needs to be... When she found out I had this surgery scheduled, her offer to help, especially in regard to transporting Sammy, was immediate and genuine. Also, Kathy is the type of person that thinks about the complete picture, and the resulting picture after that... I mean, she will figure out the details and ask questions or provide answers to questions I didn't yet realize needed answers. The number of times I've needed her advice and insight and her help is too numerous to count. I'm smart, but I can be scatterbrained & at times too impetuous & shortsighted, and my sister Kathy has saved my butt over and over again. I love that woman!

Kathy offered to take Sammy to school this week for us because Kev is working afternoons. Yesterday morning, Kev had to work over, and he didn't get home until around 3am or 4am. I had my cell phone alarm set for 5:50am to wake me so I could wake Sammy. This is our usual routine. I call him on his cell to wake him up in the morning so that he can get into the shower, and so that I don't have to walk up the stairs to wake him. (My ankles hate stairs first thing in the morning... they're too stiff to work well on stairs.) Sometimes I have to call Sammy 3 or 4 times before he actually wakes and answers his phone. Then sometimes he'll fall back asleep, and I have to start calling him all over again. I've taken to making him get out of bed and stand up while he's on the phone with me.

Yesterday morning, I distinctly remember my cell phone alarm going off. I called Sammy on his cell. I remember it took 3 calls to wake him and get him going into the shower. In truth, I barely remember any of this... it’s all a pain pill induced fog. Kathy arrived at about 7:00am to pick Sammy up, and he wasn’t ready. I talked with Kathy on the phone, while she was sitting in her car in our driveway waiting, & told her that I called him when my alarm went off and I didn’t know what the heck was taking him so long, and I was yelling at Sammy to hurry. Sammy being late made Kathy late for work. Dammit! I know Sammy felt awful about being late. In the car with his Aunt Kathy, Sammy told her, "I know my mom thinks she called me at 10 to 6, but she didn’t call me until 10 to 7, I swear!" I had to check my 'calls dialed' on my cell, with which I intended, of course, to prove him wrong... but it proved him right... my first call to him was a 6:49am. Somehow, I lost an hour between my alarm going off and calling Sammy. Weird. Poor Sam.

Sammy and his Aunt Kathy made a plan on the way to school. From now on, when she is to pick him up and drive him to school, Aunt Kathy will call Sammy on his cell phone at 6:00am. It’s a good plan, but I wonder if Aunt Kathy knows that it sometimes takes 3, 4, 5 or 6 calls to get the boy to answer...

This morning, I vowed to make sure Sammy was up and ready on time, so as to not make his Aunt Kathy wait for him. Sammy and I talked about it last night. He told me of his plan with his Aunt Kathy. Since I wake him at 5:50am, 10 minutes earlier than the planned call from Aunt Kathy, Sammy’s plan was to be up and out of the shower by the time Aunt Kathy’s call came through. Sammy is very aware of what a huge favor his Aunt Kathy is doing for him, carting him around so much while I still can’t drive & his Dad is working, and he doesn’t want to make her late for work again.

My alarm went off at 5:50am this morning, and Sammy answered on my first call. He was in the shower when Kathy called me... no school today.

I heard Sammy’s shower stop, and I hollered up to him, as quietly as I could holler (coz Kev was still sleeping), “Sammy, no school today.” I expected a rather unhappy reaction due to having already gotten up & taken a shower, but all I heard was a heartfelt “YES!”

And now as I sit here typing away, the house is dark and I can hear the wind outside. It’s a very strong wind. I know it’s super cold out, because I had to let Reilly out to take his morning pee. Which probably froze as soon as it left his body! Yes, it’s that cold. It's colder than a witch's... well, you get it.

I’ve got the local news on, and it’s all about the weather and school closings. It’s around 7:00 am now, and the temperature is 9 degrees F., with the wind-chill factor, it’s -19 degrees F. with the wind at about 20 mph, with gusts approaching 50 mph. Words like “fierce arctic winds” with “blowing snow” are being splashed across the TV screen.

Yesterday afternoon and early evening, we had a lot of rain, and then as the evening progressed, the temps dropped, the rain became frozen slush, then lots of snow. The wind picked up, and the roads are now treacherous... ice covered and lots of drifting snow with the high winds. There isn’t a school open anywhere near us. They’re listing the school closings at the bottom of the TV screen, and I’m reading school district names that I’ve never even heard of before... the list just keeps going and going and going. CMU is also closed this morning; Joycie said they will decide by 10am if classes will be called off for the entire day. There are a great many people without power, also. Quite the storm, and it looks like a lot more snow and super cold temperatures are in store for the rest of the week.

Along with the wind outside I’ve heard about 3 big bangs so far this morning. One seemed to bang against our house. I have a feeling that the oak trees in our yard, which always have dead branches in amongst the live branches, are fixin’ to let go some of those dead branches, because the wind gusts I’m hearing sound pretty darn persuasive... One big gust just made me feel like our whole house was fighting it. Lots of noise. House won. Thank goodness.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Back to those handy bullet points

  • I took this photo of a purple finch on January 13th. Isn't he a beauty?

  • I normally sleep on my belly, and the physical therapist that visited me in the hospital told me that position was the worst possible position for your neck. She said that I must not sleep on my belly, and I explained that even if I go to sleep on my side or my back, I always end up on my belly. Can't teach an old dog new tricks and all that. So then she said I had to wear my collar to bed. That would be very uncomfortable. I suggested that I simply sleep on our sofa, because that's the only place I sleep where I never end up rolling onto my belly. So... ever since the surgery, I've been sleeping on my back. That was fine with the hospital bed that I could raise and lower to comfort level. But I have to admit, I'm getting a little tired of sleeping on my back on the sofa. This afternoon, I was once again reading through the 6 pages of instructions from the PT, and I discovered that I can sleep on my side! You have no idea how happy that made me to read that.

  • You know how once you run out of milk, all you want is a glass of nice, cold wonderful milk? And you know how once you are told you can't sleep on your belly, all you want to do is lay down on your bed on your belly? *sigh*

  • When I cleaned out my rolltop desk the other day, one thing I found is this little, orange Tupperware container. It's the one I took to have the nurse put my staples into it. I got this at a Tupperware party back in 1980 or 1981, and you could only get these at a party, if I remember correctly; you couldn't order them. When I found it in my desk, I was so happy. Look! I found you! And let's not discuss the part about how I totally forgot your existence. I used to have an olive green one, too... I wonder what happened to it... And, please remember, this was the very early 80's, and I was around 20 years old, and times, well times were very different back then. For example, we thought it was really cool to keep a couple of joints and a clip in a handy little Tupperware container like this one. Tupperware... it can store everything for you! Oh, Tupperware was big back then, none of those Ziploc or Glad storage containers around back then. Tupperware was it, baby! Later, in the mid to late 80's, I used this orange container for holding hair bands. Back then I had really long hair, & I liked to drive with the windows down in my car... but if I didn't pull my hair back into a ponytail, it was agony to brush all the snarls out. I was constantly losing hair bands, so I would buy a pack and stuff them into my neat Tupperware container and store them in my purse. Always at the ready.

  • Sandy sent me a wonderful gift basket from L.L. Bean, and it arrived early Monday morning. It's the beautiful birch basket pictured below, and it was filled with blueberry pancake mix, lemon & blueberry muffin mix, maple syrup and blueberry preserves, along with a sweet blue kitchen towel that reads L.L. Bean on it. And it came with Sandy's impeccable timing. Her note said she wished she could be here and make me breakfast in bed and take care of me. I had had a rough night, so the beautiful note and lovely gift made me bawl like a baby. In a good way. Then Kev made some of the pancakes for breakfast, and they were super delicious.

  • I'm using my new birch basket to store all my meds and paperwork. I love looking at it.

  • Kathy drove me over to Saginaw yesterday for my appointment, and she took very good care of me. I was totally in the mood to be coddled and babied, and I felt better holding onto her arm while walking through the snowy parking lot. On the way home, we swung through Pizza Hut and picked up 3 of those $5 pizzas, which I had ordered so that Joycie & Sammy would have something to eat after the basketball game. On the way out of the Hut, Kathy carried everything and gave me her keys to open the trunk of her car and the car doors. While she put the pizzas in the trunk, I got settled into the passenger seat. I noticed an old skeleton key on her key ring. When she got into the car I asked her about it. She said that on one of Bob's (her husband) annual sailing & scuba diving trips with his friend, Mike, Bob visited an antique store and found this key. He bought it for Kathy, and he gave it to her when he returned from that trip, telling her she had the key to his heart.

  • I love this photograph... "at the beach"

  • On another one of my brother-in-law Bob's sailing & scuba trips, he and his friend, Mike, visited a small, uninhabited island. They hiked around on the island, and on the top of a hill, someone had built a large structure from stones on the island. Whoever did it pieced stones together perfectly, creating a square platform. I can't remember if Bob said the stones had been shaped to fit together, or if whoever built it just used the stones available. Bob stood on it and sat on it, high up on that little island. I think Bob has a photo of it, I'll have to ask him... I remember thinking that it must have taken a very long time to build that large square platform, and it must have been very hard work hauling all those stones to that spot. Who would do that and why?... I would like to know that story.

  • Before Kev left for work this afternoon, he put a new bandage on my incision, taping it up really well... he used lots of paper tape on it. Barb, the surgical RN, after removing the staples, brushed some brown glue on each side of the incision and placed 4 or 5 pieces of tape across... butterfly stitches that will remain there for one week. OMG, it is itching there like crazy and it's driving me nuts. Kev taped it so well that I can't really get to it. Which was, of course, his plan. I remember back in 1982 when I had surgery on both of my ankles and both were encased in those old, heavy plaster casts from my toes to just below my knees... for twelve weeks... yes, 12 long weeks... and oh, how itchy it was under those casts. Of course, you're not supposed to stick anything down the casts, but of course, I did. I tried a variety of things. The best was one where I took a wire hanger and bent it like a long U so that there was no rough wire edge going into the casts, and I would use that to itch up and down inside my casts for hours and hours. I couldn't do much else, because they weren't walking casts. And it felt sooooo good. But this neck incision is different and there is no hanger equivalent to satisfy the itch.

Staples-free day

Yesterday, I had an appointment at 4:45pm to see Dr. Adams at his Midland office; he’s the most excellent neurosurgeon who did my surgery. Dr. Adams is ultra busy. I think he has offices in 4 cities; his main office is the one in Saginaw. Around noon, I received a call from a young woman in his Saginaw office, and she told me that Dr. Adams was in surgery and wouldn't make it to any of his Midland appointments that afternoon. I had to go over to Saginaw to see Barb, his surgical RN, to have the staples in my neck removed. It was all rush, rush, and they wanted me over there as soon as possible. They even asked if I could make it there in a half hour. Ummm, no. We live more than a 30-minute drive from there. Thankfully, my sister, Kathy, was able to leave work right away, dash home to get me and drive me over there. Kev could not because he had to go back to work yesterday, & he's on afternoons this week. I couldn't drive myself because I'm not allowed to drive yet.

Once in Room No. 4 with Barb, as she was getting the implements ready to remove the staples, I told her I wanted to keep them. She immediately said no. Hey, wait a minute! Kathy piped in and told her she would just have to give them to me, and that yes, we are dealing with a very strange person. (I reveled in the description, being a big fan of strange.) Barb laughed. Kathy said, no, seriously, she even brought a container to put them in... and she pulled the little plastic Tupperware container out of my purse. Barb looked at it, then at Kathy, then at me, and she acquiesced. Smart gal, knows when she’s beaten. Ha! Kathy told her, "She even wanted to keep the chunk of bone they had to remove from her neck, but they wouldn't let her." Barb looked at me and said, "Honey, you are strange." I smiled and said, "I know."

Barb proceeded to remove the staples, and I could feel them being pulled out and then hear them landing in my little Tupperware container. I hurriedly told Kathy to hand me my phone, and had her take a photo... warning: this photo is kinda gross. But it's interesting.

Barb finished up and informed me that I was the only person that had ever asked her for the staples. Kathy informed her that I would most surely do a blog post about it. Oh yeah. Here they are, my staples:

All in all, a fun time.

Except the end part... where Barb told me my follow-up appointment with Dr. Adams was scheduled for April 7th. WTF! I can't return to work until he gives the go-ahead, and that has to be sometime well before April 7th. Barb asked what kind of work I do, and I told her. She said that I could contact her in 6 weeks and we would see if I was able to possibly return to work on a restricted schedule.

I was flabbergasted. I remember my initial appointment with Dr. Adams, from which I understood that for 2 weeks following surgery I wouldn't be able to do much of anything for myself, but I would likely be able to return to work after 4 or 6 weeks, depending on my progress. Though it's very, very difficult to get an appointment with Dr. Adams, I'm going to call today and see if I can see him a the 6-week timeframe, and go from there. I'm not going to risk anything going on with my neck just so I can return to work, but I'm also not going to set here on my ass in my living room until April 7th either. I shall find the happy medium.

I am on restricted physical movements right now and am not allowed to lift anything over five pounds. A half gallon of milk is my limit. I can begin to slowly start lifting my hands over my head, starting at should level and progressing slowly, so that I can brush my own hair and stuff. I do have to wear the collar whenever I am up and about, although if I'm sitting, like in the recliner, as I am now, or sleeping, I can forego the collar.

I got a lot of odd looks yesterday walking around with that collar on. I'll have to get a photo and share it with you. It looks like it's part of a Star Wars costume. Boo-yah! May the force be with you.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

News & whatnot, worthy of bullet points

  • This is gonna be a long post. So, depending upon your preference... sorry! or... you're welcome!

  • I've been given some beautiful flowers from family and friends. Giving flowers to people when they're recuperating from an illness or surgery is a fine tradition... coz these have been really cheering me up! There are a lot of Peruvian lilies in these 4 bouquets, and I looked up the meaning... Peruvian lilies mean "friendship and devotion."

  • One bouquet is missing from that photo; my friend, Sandy, sent me a gorgeous bouquet in a small white basket. When we brought the flowers home from the hospital, we covered each of them (the basket from Sandy and 2 vases, those 2 on the left in the photo above) really well in plastic bags because it was so very cold out. The flowers in the basket must have been more tender, because they didn't recover from the cold ride home from the hospital. I was sad about that, but at least I got to enjoy them while in the hospital.

  • In my department where I work, anyone in a hospital stay traditionally receives a bouquet of flowers from "the department." Since I knew I was going to be a recipient, I talked to the woman who handles the flower thing in our department, and I requested that instead of having flowers delivered to me in the hospital, to spend that money on donuts for everyone at work. I figured I would get a bouquet or 2 from friends or family while in the hospital anyway, and since my mom and sisters are allergic and would be visiting me, I thought one less bouquet might be a good idea. It worked out well, too, because the flowers I got in the hospital consisted mostly of those beautiful Peruvian lilies, which are easier on the allergies than some other varieties of flowers. The folks I work with got donuts this past Monday, and I heard they were well received. Fun!

  • My niece, Michelle, had her 21st birthday recently, and the family gathered to wish her well and have cake & ice cream. Michelle's recent beer pong table artwork was my inspiration for her birthday present from us... a martini set, a bottle of Blue Sapphire gin, a bottle of olives, some fancy toothpicks and that little olive dish I made. Chelle doesn't care for olives, but the olive dish can hold fruit on toothpicks, too. Also, Joycie & Mike put together a little notebook of martini and cocktail recipes for her... it was fun! Happy Birthday, Chelle Belle!

  • Just before I went into the hospital for surgery, my sister, Kathy stopped by with a sack full of DVDs for me to watch during my recuperation at home (and I've already enjoyed a few; good choices!). She also gave me a beautiful gift... Kathy said it was my "feel better gift," and I just LOVE it. It's this beautiful snowflake pattern afghan that Kathy spent hours crocheting. Note the lovely detail, like the pretty edging. It's made from an oh-so-soft yarn, and it drapes on me like a form-fitting hug of softness. I love the shade of blue... skies and snowflakes. I'm lucky to have such a talented sister, aren't I?!

  • Other big news this week is that my nephew, Michael, won a coveted CMU Centralis Gold Award scholarship. We are all so very, very proud of him. The Centralis competition is a great deal of work. It began with something like 2,000 students taking the initial writing competition, then they selected a few hundred to go through the 2nd phase of the competition. It is an honor just to make it to that 2nd round. In that phase, the student had to prepare a set of papers... I'm not sure exactly what all of the requirements were, but I know that one included submitting a sheet of paper with a single sentence describing yourself. Think about it. I think writing that one sentence would be very difficult. Another requirement was a one-page description about yourself, in any format you wanted... since Michael will be pre-med, he did his like a medical chart, and it was very cool. Very smart and talented. Though he doesn't seem to want to share it often enough, Michael's creativity and "right brain"* activity results are keen, as is his sense of humor... coz you just know any young man that can make a face at you like this when you're taking his photo has a streak of fun in him a mile wide...

  • Even making a face like that, Michael is a handsome fellow.

  • Michael and Michelle each got a sweet little digital camera for Christmas from Kathy & Bob (their parents). I've seen some beautiful photos that Michelle has taken, and I'm actually using this one, below, for my desktop background. I got it from one her blog posts. I love that I can see the field in the drop of water. Michelle will often post some of her beautiful photos on her blog. Joycie has told me that Michael has some beautiful photos that he’s taken posted on his facebook, including a photo of the Midland Tridge that Joycie said looked like a professional photo. I, of course, would love to see those photos of Mike's, but facebook is not like myspace, and I cannot get to his profile, or whatever it's called, to see his posted photos. *sniff*

  • A couple of weekends ago, when I was working on something particularly difficult and frustrating (from my job, that I was working on from home), I ended up cleaning out my rolltop desk... in an effort, I'm sure, to avoid the work. Kevin gave this rolltop desk to me as a gift after Joycie was born, and I've always loved it. It sets in a corner in our bedroom. It has lately, though, become the dumping ground of various things having no set destination in our home. For some reason, I felt a cleaning out mood settle on me strongly when I started to go through this desk. I threw out enough stuff to fill 5 plastic grocery bags. Those who know me and my packrat inclinations were likely just now very impressed with that statement (as well they should be). I also found some items that I didn't realize I had been missing... like this beautiful Waterman fountain pen that Kev gave me years ago. I removed the dried out ink cartridge and put in a new one, and it works like a charm, a lovely flowing charm... I love writing with it.

  • My step-mother-in-law, Sharron, gave each of us some CDs this Christmas onto which she had burned jpg’s of scanned old photographs. This included a CD of photos of Kev since the time he was a wee little baby. And wasn't he a cute one? (he still is!) What a great idea, huh. I know that must have taken Sharron hours and hours. We've been enjoying them immensely.

  • My BFF, Sandy, and her husband, Brian, purchased some property a while ago, out in the country about an hour or so from their current home. Right now, they live in a nice house on the usual, small lot in a nice neighborhood in Hurst, Texas, which is situated between Dallas and Ft. Worth. They’ve been living in this house for years. The area is all one big metropolis. The 5 acres they bought is a very different setting. Sandy sent some photos of their land to me a long time ago, and I'm gonna surprise her now by sharing them with you. It's beautiful Texas acreage. These photos, below, were taken in late November of 2005. Brian has been working on clearing the property where they will have their house built, along with Brandon's help on occasion. They signed with a builder just recently, and if ground hasn't already been broken for their new house, it will be soon. Very exciting!

  • I'm sure that Shadow and Scout, the 2 black labs that let Sandy & Brian, and often Brandon, live with them, will love the new life ahead of them out on that 5 acres. The first 3 photos below are Shadow, and the next 3 are the younger Scout... aka Shad and Scouty.

  • I've been trying to convince Sandy to do a blog while their house is being built... it's not too late to start, Sandy!

  • I found these photos of a praying mantis that I took on August 10, 2007, and never did anything with them... I noticed the bug at the entrance to Space Studios, and this is the first tan colored one I've seen. Cool, huh. I think they're neat bugs.

  • I've been writing this post pretty much all day long, with many, many interruptions, pauses, little naps and the like. Just now, Kev changed the dressing on covering the railroad tracks on my neck. They are itching so much! So I’ve had my fingers on them, and there are a couple of staples I think I’ve just about worked out of my skin, which is probably not good. But it itches like crazy! So this time, Kev dabbed the site with hydrogen peroxide to kill any germs from my constantly pick-pick-picking-scratch-scratch-scratching fingers. OMG, that felt so good. It feels good when he slowly pulls the old dressing off, too, even though the tape pulls at my skin & hair. Anything to make it feel something other than itchy. So now I’m all bandaged up again and am trying very hard to keep my fingers busy typing instead of sneaking up to the back of my neck.

  • We keep all of our wound treatment supplies, like gauze, bandages, band-aids, ointments, tapes, etc. in a large, square pink Victoria’s Secret gift box. It’s one that held a birthday gift for Joycie a couple of years ago. It’s such a pretty box, and it’s also nice & deep so it holds quite a bit. So whenever one of us is cut or scraped or otherwise in need of that type of first aid care, we say, “go get the Vicky box stat.”

  • My sister, Janet, & her husband, Bob, made us a big pot of chili, and we've been enjoying it very much. Yesterday evening, we made taco salads with it, and they were so dang good. We haven't had a taco salad in ages. Kev and I had another taco salad for lunch today, and Kev said, "remember when we used to make taco salad all the time?" I was thinking the exact same thing. We used to make taco salad at least once a week. I guess we eventually got tired of it, and then forgot about it. Taco salad season is definitely upon us once again. Yum.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Never tell your story first...

I know I'm lucky with how this neck injury has turned out. The neurosurgeon, on his first visit with me after the surgery, the day following surgery, told me I was "very fortunate." In fact, he told me I was fortunate about 3 times in a 4 minute conversation. The "rock" of calcium from the broken bone fragment & the calcium my body eventually deposited at that site was about the size of his thumbnail, so kind of a big chunk pressing more into my spinal cord. And the relationship of that rock to my spinal cord was more pressure than was originally thought. I remember something about him saying it was surprising I walked upright into the hospital for surgery. Crazy lucky. Whew.

So sitting here in the recliner at home trying very hard to do nothing now (because I started feeling better and did way too much yesterday... with a huge set-back on my progress last night), I did some more research on the 'net.

From the information I could find, it seems that a fusion of C5, C6 &/or C7 is most common as an anterior fusion (from the front, or the throat). There was less information available about the kind of surgery I had, a posterior fusion, where the incision and work is done from the back of the neck. I did find this article that I thought was super interesting, with good photos. The poor old man in that article had anterior fusion of the C5 & C6, plus posterior fusion of the C3 through the T-1. This part of the article is my favorite:
Ten weeks following stabilization surgery, the patient had a follow up visit with his physician. At the time of this visit, the patient's cervical spine had completely healed with no neurological deficits, and he was discharged from the physician's care. The patient's strength continued to improve with 4/5 to 4+/5 strength in the bilateral upper extremities and 5/5 in the right lower extremity.

And this 80-year-old man also had a broken and dislocated left hip. Ouch. Makes my posterior C5-C7 fusion seem piddling. Well, maybe not piddling, but holy cow, can you imagine being 80 years old and going through all that. Must have been a tough old guy.

Dr. Adams, the neurosurgeon who did my surgery (and who is absolutely a wonderful human being), told me I can expect to have 5% or less than 5% reduction in mobility once I'm completely healed. That's nothing, really. Compared to how I've been feeling the past few years... that's nothing. And already, just after surgery, when walking the hallways during our strolls on the advice of the PT who came and talked with us in the hospital room, I could sense a big difference. Before surgery, walking that distance would cause a sharp pain in the small of my back... it's gone. Totally enjoyed the strolls Kev and I took. Serious hope for the future. Kev and I started making plans about all the stuff we will do together once I'm healed. Walks, bike rides, canoe trips... Yay!

So anyway, after reading that article above plus some other interesting online references (like this and this), I'm convinced my neck injury occurred initially during that car accident I was back in 2004. I believe my C6 was fractured during the impact, and the resulting calcium deposits my body sent to that site began the pressure on my spinal cord. The pressure and inflammation causing nerves to be pinched or pressed, which caused the pain across my left shoulder and down my arm, as well as the headaches. Then the physical therapy I had this past June is when I believe the broken piece of the C6 was moved to a more inconvenient position, putting further pressure on my spinal cord. One thing they would do at PT is have me lie on my belly on a padded table, with my face in a hole in the table so that I could breathe easily. They would then take a solid, hard foam wedge and, beginning at the top of my spine, press the wedge down and push it forward along my spine. If I remember correctly, this was to create some more room between the vertebrae and release the pressure on the pinched nerve for which they were treating me at that time. If it had been a pinched nerve, I believe that treatment would have been appropriate. But all I knew then was that it hurt like holy hell. After that treatment, I was sick. I was dizzy and nauseous. I vomited a lot. I was still very ill the next morning, and when I called the PT office, I was told that reaction was normal. I was told that the pain would get worse before it got better. When my nausea was still frequent, almost constant, a PT there told me there were nerves that ran along each side of my neck that triggered nausea, and she somehow made me think that my feeling the nausea was progress in treating the pinched nerve. I knew, though, that something was seriously not right. I quit going to PT after less than half of the prescribed visits. I believe that I'm very fortunate that hard foam wedge they used on my spine didn't result in a serious spinal cord injury, with paralysis or even with my kicking the ol' bucket.

Fortunate, indeed.

And I firmly believe once I'm healed, I'll be practically as good as new. If that 80-year-old man can recover from all that he had done to his cervical vertebrae, then my case should be a piece of cake. Chocolate with chocolate frosting.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Update, or Blogging While Drugged

One thing good about having surgery is certainly the prescription pain killers. Those things really work. Thank goodness.

So I had surgery on my neck, as planned, on Jan. 18th. I had to report to pre-op at 10am, where I went through all the various steps to prepare for actually going into the surgery. I had to shower and rub the back of my neck with this pink soap for five minutes. Sounds easy, but have you ever rubbed one spot on your body with a cheap washcloth and soap over and over and over for 5 minutes straight? Ugh. Dressed in the lovely hospital gown the nurse left for me, and having raided the closet I saw her get it from for a 2nd one, which I wore like a robe, I shuffled myself back down the hallway to the pre-op waiting room. The 2 nurses there were real nice. Having determined they would be unable to get in a good IV, they wrapped both of my arms in very warm blankets. Blood was drawn at some point, and I talked to an anesthesiologist. Then I was kissed goodbye to from Kev and wheeled down the hall. My bed was parked in one of the curtained slots, and again, the nurses and technicians and whoever else I saw there were all very nice. An IV was hooked up with one successful poke. I don't really remember too much after that.

Kev was given a 4-digit pin number for me, and while he waited in the large waiting room, updates on surgery patients, listed only by the pin numbers, rolled through a large screen hanging at the top of one wall.

The surgery was supposed to have taken only about an hour, but it took more than double that. The surgeon explained to us later that there were eventually 3 anesthesiologists working on me, and they had trouble getting me to sleep. Once he started the surgery, it became clear that the extra bone growth on my C6 vertebrae also included part of my vertebrae that was mostly broken off and hanging there, and it was more into my spinal cord than had been previously thought. The surgeon had to fix that and then fuse not just my C5 and C6 together, as originally planned, but also had to fuse my C7 because of the poor condition of my C6. Pins are in there, too.

I don't remember much about coming out of the anesthetic, or how I was transported to my official hospital room. But by late Friday afternoon, or was it early evening?, I was well ensconced in a comfortable hospital bed with 4 pillows and 2 wonderful nurses. The nursing staff team up, an RN and a LPN work together. I'm having trouble remember some names now, but the first RN was Joyce. So very nice. Over the weekend, I had Janelle and Amy, both also wonderful. Janelle was the RN, and as such, she was in charge. She is young and pretty, with perfectly applied makeup, and one of the most caring people ever. Some of the nursing staff you can tell are born caregivers. Also on the list of wonderful nurses there are Char, Denice and Debra.

For some reason, nursing care during the daytime shift was much better than the nighttime shift. From the first night on, I had trouble getting pain killers on time. I remember sitting in that bed one night, finally bawling with pain (and anyone who knows me, knows that is not like me) before I could convince the young, mean nurse Kristy to give me some meds. I still don't know what the issues were exactly. Especially since my doctor gave me enough pain killer prescriptions to shut down any level of pain I may have over the next six months... but in the hospital, the meds were doled out to me during the night shifts like I was an addict they were trying to control or something. Each night there was a pain-filled haze of nightmarish proportions.

I was ready to go home Sunday morning, but unfortunately the drain tube they inserted under the surgical site was draining a great deal more fluid out than would allow me to go home. Something like it had to be under 30 ml (or cc or ?) in a 12-hour period, and I was over 55. Then I didn't get to see the surgeon on Monday because he ended up with an emergency to handle. I finally saw him late afternoon Tuesday, and he immediately gave me the ok to go home. I busted out crying. It was strange. I didn't feel like I was gonna cry, but as soon as I realized he said I could go home, Bang! floodgates opened. Jeez.

The surgeon also looked at the incision site, and was super surprised... I had told him I heal quickly, much more quickly than the average person. He didn't think I was telling him the honest-to-God truth, but I was. My incision started itching early Sunday morning, like not too long after midnight. Itching because it was starting to heal already. So the doc told me to make an appointment for next Monday to possibly get the staples removed. When I called Wednesday to his office to make that appointment, the nurse started to correct me or argue with me... she told me that the staples stay in for 30 days so I had to be mistaken. I told her that truly I wasn't mistaken, and that the surgeon was seriously surprised by the progress of the healing on my incision, as had the nurses been... and I get this reaction a lot. I finally convinced her to make the appointment that her boss had told me to make. Fingers crossed the staples will be out at that appointment. They are bugging me big time, and it's itching there to beat the band.

Back to the detail of getting discharged... talk about so close, yet so far! As soon as the doctor left the room, Kev and I, and Sammy, too (well, mostly Kev and Sammy since I couldn't do much of anything) right away started to pack things up. Kev even made a trip down to the car with things. I got his help getting dressed from the waist down. The nurses still had to pull out the drain tube and bandage it up, plus all the paperwork. I had pushed the nurse call button, but as you can guess, if you've ever been through this... it took forever. Unfortunately, this whole fiasco took place at shift change. And it was also about the time my last set of pain killers were wearing off, which was just before I was due for my next set of pills. One of the day RN's had told me to be sure to tell the nurse, the RN, when I was discharged to give me a shot of Demerol for the car ride home so that I could go through that with as little pain as possible. The night shift RN I got wouldn't even give me a Tylenol. Nothing. Before I even signed my name on the papers, the pain was already getting too much to bear, and she wouldn't give me anything for pain. She explained I was already "checked out" and since I wasn't in the computer, there was nothing she could do. I told her I had asked for a shot of Demerol an hour earlier in preparation for the ride home, on the advice of an RN (who she knew). Too bad. I told her it was real clear to me that she didn't fucking care, and she should be ashamed of herself, but that if she had it in her to be ashamed for what she was doing to me, then she wouldn't be doing it. I think that was when I said to her, "you suck." I'd say it was the pain talking, but if I were to come face-to-face with her again anytime soon, I'd probably have more to say to her.

The car ride home was awful.

Thank goodness for leftover pain killers in our bathroom medicine cabinet. I don't really know what all I downed, but Kev was there watching over me, and I was finally settled on the sofa for a little while until they kicked in a took an edge off the pain.

Kev got my six prescriptions filled the next day, and pain management is easy-breezy now.

Kevin gets the Husband of the Year award for sure. That man has taken such good care of me. Even in the hospital, it was Kev that did almost everything for me, helping me up and to go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, get fed, get comfortable, taking walks, getting sheets changed, helping me wash up, everything. He was very watchful and protective. I think he wanted to strangle a couple of the nurses on my behalf. I should have let him have a go at that last one.

All the nice nurses really liked him, too. They would bring in a new hospital gown, or something and Kevin would tell them he would help me, and he was sure they had a lot of work to do, so he'd be happy to handle it alone. They would come in to be sure I had ate, or used the potty, and he'd give them all the details. The PT people would stop by to make sure I was up and walking, and he'd give them all the details.

It really has been impressive how wonderful he's been taking care of me. Just now, I am home alone for the first time since surgery a week ago, and he called some family members to make sure they call and check on me until he can get back from town.

All my family and friends have been wonderful. I've gotten lots of calls, cards and visits. Flowers and candy. And dinners - so nice! Our friends, Tracie and Annette, surprised Kevin at the school when he picked up Sammy from practice Sunday evening with dinners, homemade chicken noodle soup and bread from Tracie and cheesy potato casserole and baked ham from Annette. My sister, Janet, delivered a big pot of chili this morning for us. It's been real nice to have that wonderful food all set to eat in the fridge. And my sister, Kathy, is helping so much to take care of Sammy, and I know we can count on her for the duration of my recuperation. My family rocks.

This post has turned out to be longer than I expected... and it's taken me so long to get it typed out... I've been snoozing between paragraphs, I think. I'd read it over and make sure it makes sense, but that just seems too much to do right now... So you will all have to be stuck reading my drug-induced ramblings.

Oh! and I almost forgot. Photos. Gruesome, gory photos. Ye of weak stomachs may wish not to click on these links.

The first time my dressing was changed in the hospital was Sunday morning, and the young technician (not a nurse) doing it, Ashley, was a sweetie. When she got the old bandage off, I asked her if it'd be ok if Kev could take a photo of it with my cell phone, and she said sure, just hurry. (Not supposed to have the cells on in the hospital.) So he did, and then he showed me this photo. I told Ashley that it looked like a butt crack, and she burst out laughing, and totally agreed with me. It was the swelling. She explained that if the drain wasn't in there, the swelling would be really, really bad.

Yesterday evening, when Kev changed the dressing again, I had Joycie take this photo. Still some swelling, but much better. Just under 30 staples, I think. Oh, and this photo shows how they shaved my hair off my head... they went half way up my scalp in the back. That's gonna itch, too.

I tried to get the surgeon to save the bit of bone for me that they removed from my C6, but he couldn't. They send it off to the pathology lab or something. I'd like to keep the staples, though. Is that too weird?

Update: Here is a link to show where the C5, C6 & C7 cervical vertebrae are located. Good diagram from U of M.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Yesterday evening was an interesting one... and it continued on through the night. In fact, this morning is still in the throes of that very interesting zone.

Kev was at work; afternoon shift this week... 3:30pm to 11:30pm, so he gets home at midnight. Joycie, Mike (her boyfriend), Allison (her bff), Sammy & Sammy's friend, Zack had all went to the basketball games at the high school. Though, Joycie, Mike & Allison left after the girls' varsity game, and they met up with friends at a local pizza place. Sammy and Zack stayed for the boys' varsity game, then Zack's mom delivered the boys to Espresso Milano, the coffee shop where Joycie and the gang were then congregated.

Mike and Zack both had plans to stay overnight. Sammy and Zack had plans to pull an "all-nighter"... plans they have made in the past and failed to fulfill. As Sammy put it, "OK, Zack, but you always fall asleep." The gauntlet thereby being thrown down.

I had a nice, quiet evening by myself in the basement, recording DVDs and working on some pottery. Since I worked a full day at the office, I was surprised that I was able to continue, awake and alert, for so long... I stopped around 9:30pm. Those who know me well, know that lately my bedtime is closer to 7:30pm. Even more interesting... I was still awake when the kids all returned home at about 10:30pm. Granted, all I was doing was playing Hoyle card games on the computer, but still... awake.

Once they were home, there was no sleeping to be had. The 5 of them started a very lively game of Life Twists & Turns, the game with the electronic lifepod. I continued playing around on the computer, enjoying the conversations going on at the dining room table behind me. Well, most of the conversations. The frequent tidbits related to burps got less enjoyable as they progressed.

The boys had a grand plan for how to stick to their all-nighter commitment, and it involved copious amounts of Mt. Dew.

I finally caved and hit the hay just shortly before Kev got home from work around midnight.

I do not know what time the 30-year Life game ended, nor when Allison left for home, nor when the boys went downstairs to play Guitar Hero... I was in and out of sleep all night long. I do know for certain that Sammy and Zack were still up (all-nighter success! Yay!!!) and playing at my computer when I finally dragged my tired, sorry ass outta bed shortly after 9am.

The boys are not the only ones who can have a plan... I promptly told them to pick out a movie and get off my computer, because I wanted to use it.

They are now sleeping on the sofas in the living room. I took one look at his pale face, and just as I knew would happen... Zack didn't even make it half-way through the movie...

Sammy came close...

Even Reilly is soundly tuckered out this morning... when The Boy does not sleep, neither does he... he is (I cannot resist), dog-tired...

Mike is still asleep in Joycie's bedroom, and Joycie is still asleep in Sammy's bedroom. Kevin just rolled out of bed, and as quietly as possible made another pot of coffee (as I have just finished my first pot). Our house is very quiet, except for the buzzing of Sammy's phone. His phone was sitting on my computer desk, and when I sat down here, I wisely switched it to vibrate... It started buzzing at about 9:45am, and he's gotten quite a few text messages and missed calls in the past hour and a half.

I predict it is going to be a quiet day. Fingers crossed.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Bless me

I like to take note of bumper stickers. Lately, I've noticed that I don't see many of them... but I'm seeing a lot of car window decals. So I have decided that they're the same thing... car window decals are simply the modernization of bumper stickers.

I saw this one on a crappy vehicle yesterday...

(For all you Catholics who just got interested, you can buy it here for just a $1.83!)

The crappy vehicle was old and nondescript (coz I don't even remember what it was), and the Blessed Virgin was placed in the center of his back window. On the lower, right-hand corner of the same window was another decal. It read, in all caps, "MY OTHER RIDE IS YOUR GIRLFRIEND."

Gee, I hope she's not named Mary. But wouldn't that be ironic?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


On the last day of school before Christmas break, Sammy's Spanish teacher made "Mexican Hot Chocolate" for all the kids in class. Sammy was raving about it. He gave me all the details... Mrs. B. had some chunk kind of chocolate, and you can buy it at the grocery store, and she put it in a pan of milk with some sugar and while it heated up and melted the chocolate, she used a wooden thing to make it thick and creamy. He wanted to go to the grocery store NOW to get the Mexican chocolate, because he said I wouldn't believe how good it was.

I trust Sammy's judgment on all things hot chocolate, because since that boy was very little, he's loved hot chocolate. When we're anywhere near a new coffee house, he wants to stop in & try their hot chocolate. There's a really, really good coffee house in Midland, a nearby town, called Espresso Milano, and Sammy likes to go there on a regular basis to get their hot chocolate. He doesn't have too much trouble convincing me to take him there, because both Kev and I have a Major Thing for their "White Rabbit" cappuccino, which is a vanilla flavored strong coffee drink.

I usually drink my coffee plain black, which is what I need first thing in the morning. Straight, strong black coffee, no flavors, not sweet. By the time I get to Espresso Milano anytime we go, though, I've already had my pot of coffee at home. A White Rabbit is like a treat. A sweet, yummy treat. With a coffee kick. I often like mine with an extra shot of espresso. Mmmm...

So anyway, back to Sammy's new found love of Mexican hot chocolate. I did a little research on the Internet and discovered just how ignorant I was about hot chocolate. Mexican hot chocolate, or rather, hot chocolate made the traditional way it is made in Mexico, is a serious drink, and seriously wonderful. I found a kazillion web sites (almost 300K on a Google search!), but my favorite site was this one by Linda Stradley, "Rediscover True Hot Chocolate", which includes a lot about the history of hot chocolate. It also has a picture of the wooden implement like the one Sammy's Spanish teacher used, and it's called a molinillo.

So right before Christmas, Kevin and I did some shopping, including some grocery shopping. While at the grocery store, I found the Mexican chocolate Sammy had told me about. And then began my search for a molinillo. I thought it'd be really cool to give those 2 things to Sammy for Christmas, like to put them into his stocking.

I discovered that if there is a store that sells a molinillo... we could not find it. We actually ended up over in Saginaw, which is quite a ways from our home, and I ended up calling places there and in Bay City. No luck. I did have several people suggest I try "Peel N' Pare" in Midland. I had already called them... they were my first call. On our way back home, I decided to go into Peel N' Pare and see for myself.

Peel N' Pare is a specialty cooking/kitchen store, with just about anything you may need for gourmet cooking (except large appliances). They also have a lot of specialty and expensive coffee beans for sale, though they don't make coffee there (it's not a coffee house). It's not a big store (and surprisingly, no web site), but they have a lot of stock. And it's what I would call a high end store. Lots of expensive stuff. But they have items that you really can't find anywhere else in our area. Beautiful, pretty stuff. If I had a fortune, I could spend a good chunk of it in that store.

Alas, they had no molinillo. But at the suggestion of someone there, I bought this for Sammy for Christmas... the "Bonjour Caffé Froth Monet" in the blue and white box. It's a milk frother; a simple tool that froths milk like crazy. Right near the froth tool, the store had a huge display of bottles flavored syrups, so I bought these 2 for Sammy and a couple of the red plastic tops, too... These are the kind that Espresso Milano uses...

This is the Mexican chocolate I found at the grocery store. It comes in round, individually wrapped patties inside the box. It's not dense like baking chocolate or a Hershey bar, and it's got some spice in it, like cinnamon or something. It smells wonderful.

This is how the frother works. You pour milk into the glass container up to the line indicated...

Then you put the tool in and just pump it up and down...

I discovered you have to be sure to bring the tool up above the milk and back down into it to get a really good froth going.

It's very quick, about 20 pumps and you're done. 20 seconds. A little milk goes a long way...

Then I put the container into the microwave for about 45 seconds to warm it up. I quickly learned to put it on a paper plate or something, because once the frothy milk starts heating up, the froth seems to grow... sometimes over the side of the container...

I decided to make a couple of homemade White Rabbits for Kev and I this morning, so I poured in some French Vanilla syrup, some frothy hot milk and then some double-strength coffee...

I mixed them up well and topped them off with more strong coffee...

So good...! See how much nice foam there is on the top.

Quick and easy. We don't have a cappuccino machine, and though Kev has suggested one for me for a gift, I've never wanted one. This milk frother tool is super easy, super quick and super easy to clean. And our homemade White Rabbits are really good. Really, really good. And I didn't have to spend twelve bucks for 2 of them either. (Though, heck, yeah, I will still do so at Espresso Milano, because though our homemade version is wonderful, it's not quite as perfect as Espresso Milano's...)