Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rain - Our Crops Are Saved

We have had steady rain here for 7 days straight. There is a storm system just off shore and wave after wave of heavy torrential rains have been falling, and we have accumulated an estimated 9-14 inches since last Thursday. Today is Wednesday and we are supposed to have the worst of this storm today. I have literally never seen anything quite like this, and have been on the verge of a panic attack for two days.

Downtown Laguna Beach is closed due to flooding and mud. The Ortega Highway is closed due to mudslide. Trabuco Canyon Road is closed due to mud. Silverado Canyon has been evacuated, due to mudslide. The airport in Corona is completely flooded. It is advised to pretty much stay away from the canyons and foothills. Highway 241 is closed at Highway 73 for flooding. Some homes in San Juan Capistrano have been evacuated due to mud and rock slide. And this is just in Orange County.

Thankfully we are in the flatland of Irvine, and other than the streets flooding over, we have had no real impact here. But I start to panic whenever I have to get in the car and drive in this. Californians are notoriously bad rainy day drivers, and while I am confident in my own abilities to drive in any type of weather condition (and I know when NOT to get behind the wheel), I am not even a little confident in the ability of others to NOT HIT ME. Last Friday, I was getting on an entrance ramp to the 55, and the pickup truck in front of me spun out and almost took me with her. My heart still pounds when I think about that.

Under normal circumstances, I enjoy the rain, because it happens so rarely here. But this year has had more precipitation than usual, and the ground is so over saturated that there is standing water everywhere. And the storm drains are totally inadequate to handle the deluge.

I know, in my head, I have little to worry about, but my gut has been churning for days, and I finally broke down and cried today over the stress that I am causing myself. I really need to think about something else, but I am not sure I can get the committee in my head to change subjects right now.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Vigil

Last night, we went to the candlelight vigil for the children who committed suicide as a result of anti-gay bullying. It is so sad, that they gave up and saw no other way.

I remember the bullying I received in school because I was tall, skinny, and a "little different". It was painful. I managed to survive a suicide attempt as well. At the time, I told myself that I sucked so bad that I could not even kill myself right.

I know this post is kind of bouncing all over the place, but I still have difficulty facing the pain of that era in my life head on. I am not sure if I will ever be able to.

We had a conversation with K about bullying. I asked her if she had seen any bullying at school, and she said that she had not. We told her that if she ever did, that she should stand up and say something, and if that did not work to stop it, that she should find an adult to deal with it. I wish more people would stand up against bullying when they see it. I wish that Mr. Wolf would have done something about the boy who repeatedly punched me in the back of the head in high school. I know he saw what was happening, but because Mr. Wolf thought I was a reprobate, he did nothing.

For all who are bullied, and are feeling worthless. You are not worthless. You have value, you are beautiful. Don't give up. It really does get better.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Better Mood Today

Probably because it is Friday, and K will not have to do 56 hours of homework tonight. Have I mentioned that IUSD is really big on overloading the poor kids with hours of busy work. Most of the homework is just plain makework to "prepare them for the NCLB" testing and does not teach anything besides how to be a dutiful future paper pusher. In my humble opinion, this is not education.

OK, rant over. Last night, I had to kick myself in the hiney to get myself to choir practice, it is not that I did not want to be there, I just did not want to leave the house. Yes, I am in kind of an agoraphobic funk right now. I am so glad I forced myself to go. It was truly what my psyche needed.

After choir practice, one of my friends called me to tell me to turn on Project Runway, because it was a really good episode, and I am so glad I did. I am not going to spoil too much of it, except to say that I loved the fabric that Mondo designed (and his inspiration for it) and that if I were like 15 pounds lighter, I would SO rock the pants he designed. I get tears in my eyes still thinking about it. After Project Runway was over, I called my friend back and we had a really cool talk about the show and about life in general. We talked about our sadness over the rash of young people committing suicide lately, and while we did not solve the world's problems, we did get to share what was on our minds and hearts. I love that!

This week has been fairly difficult. Monday it was 110 degrees outside and the rest of the week it was in the 90s and kind of humid. I have asthma symptoms when the weather gets like this. But I am glad to see the heatwave break, and as a bonus we had drizzle and lightning last night as well as thunder this morning. I LOVE thunderstorms.

Happy Friday everyone! Hope you all have a fun and restful weekend.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

No, darling snowflake, your backpack CAN'T ride in the car with you!

For anyone who has been reading this blog regularly, you already know that I consider K's school parking lot the swirling vortex of suck. We all take turns driving like idiots, and on some days, EVERYONE drives like an idiot. There are two "lanes" going through the parking lot. The right lane is the "drop off lane", should be self explanatory, the operative words are "should be". The left lane is the thru traffic and parking lane (the left lane has access to the parking spaces). Not rocket science, but you really would not know it by how people behave. It really is a most special place.

But there is an affliction that has affected fully 1/3 to 1/2 of the parents dropping their kids off at school. I will call this affliction "No Backpacks Allowed in the Car" or NBAC. For those afflicted, all backpacks are put in the trunk (or in the rear hatch for wagons and SUVs), requiring mom or dad to put the car in park, get OUT of said car to walk to the trunk/hatch, get out the backpack(s), and walk around to the OTHER SIDE of the car and hand the backpack(s) to their child(ren). This is in the "drop off and keep moving" lane. It is not like this parking lot is huge by any stretch of the imagination, but the NBAC people can seriously add 5-10 minutes to the morning drop off time, and it is completely unnecessary. Seriously. WTF.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Air Travel

Air travel has been a royal pain in the buttocks since even before September 11th, 2001. But now it is seriously jacked up.

I have an artificial hip, a steel plate and a bunch of screws in my pelvis. So I set off the metal detectors even before 9/11. Now, because of all my "hardware", I feel like I have to get to the airport insanely early because I am afraid I will be pulled off into a room and strip searched.

When we arrived at John Wayne Airport and went through security, I managed to be screened by a female guard who took her job WAAAAY to seriously. She asked me several times whether I wanted to have a private screening. Every time she was about to frisk me she asked me if I wanted a private screening. I almost replied, "No, do you?" Our flight out was otherwise uneventful.

Our trip back was a little bit more interesting. We had a stop in Salt Lake City. We looked before we left for the Minneapolis airport to see if our flight was going to be on time and it was delayed. No big deal, we had a 2:15 layover. We watched the movie "Bolt" before we left for the airport.

At the Minneapolis airport, I took a picture of the Snoopy statue and the doorway into the Senator Larry Craig Restroom Tap Dancing Studio - Home of the Wide Stance. Our plane was delayed for a very long time. Long enough that when we took off, we knew that our over 2 hour layover was pretty much gone. We landed 5 minutes before our connecting flight was going to take off. Woohoo.

Because it sounded like we may still be able to make the connection, we got off the plane as fast as we could and ran our behinds off (ala OJ Simpson) from the end of one terminal to about midway into one of the other terminals. They had not shut the door yet, but they informed us that we had been booked onto a flight into LAX.

Um....NO!

Then they tried to rig it so we could get on our original flight, but the seats had just been booked that were left. They got us on the next flight to John Wayne in first class (YES!!!!!) and gave us each a $6 voucher for food in the airport for our trouble. I am still very very very very sore from running with all of our possessions through two terminals. It was a blessed miracle to have the first class seats with legroom after that ordeal.

Our friend met us at the airport and drove us home. We got our stuff in the house, and I literally fell into bed and slept for 11 hours. The house was hot because we had been gone and the AC was not on, but it was good to be able to rest after the stress of dealing with Delta Airlines' issues.

LAX, REALLY!!!!? Hell to the NO! Especially after the extra airfare paid for booking to and from SNA.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Home

We came home to Minnesota this past week. While much had changed, the visit cemented in me how much I really miss it here.

We got our big thunderstorm tonight, complete with lightning and thunder (and tornado warnings in neighboring counties). Have I mentioned that I like thunderstorms? It was cool seeing the lightning in the sky as we were driving this evening.

We got into town on Monday (the 12th) evening. Went directly to Culvers! Yummmmmmm. They really need to open a Culvers in Orange County. I mean really, we ARE getting a BW3 (Buffalo Wild Wings). Monday we pretty much just chilled at my parents' house.

Tuesday, we went to see "Despicable Me" in 3D. Fun movie. I want minions! Then we went to Target, so K could do some shopping (Grandma and Grandpa gave her a gift card!). K wanted to have Juicy Lucys for her early birthday celebration so we went to the 5-8 Club. Again... YUMMMMMMMMM.

Wednesday, for most of the day, we just hung out at my mom's house, because S broke his leg and needs surgery, and is not getting around very well, and my dad was gone for most of the day. Later we took K shopping for shoes, because there is no sales tax on shoes or clothes in Minnesota. She got two pairs of shoes for $27.98. Not bad at all. Then we left K with my parents and went out to dinner with four of my friends at The Chatterbox in Powderhorn Park. We later went to Bob's Java Hut and watched the people on Lyndale Ave. Good times!

Thursday we took it easy until we left for Target Field. My photos of Target Field will be uploaded when we get home. Target Field is a beautiful ballpark. They really did a great job with the details. The Twins were hosting the White Sox (which is always a fun series because of the rivalry). Although the Twins lost 8-7, it was a fun game to watch.

Friday evening, we went to a barbecue at my husband's best friend's house in Monticello. It was so wonderful to hang out and see everyone after several years. Tonight we went to a party celebrating two people's long-term recovery and I saw people I had not seen in probably 15 years. We also went to a reunion of the Minnesota Maulers football team and it was fun to see the guys who played football with my husband again. It was kind of weird that I was the only spouse there, but oh well.

We go back tomorrow morning (Sunday). I am really sad to leave. But glad that I got to see so many people that I have not seen in so long. It was really a good trip.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Another Anniversary

Tomorrow, July 7, is the 23rd anniversary of my final radiation treatment. While the first series of treatments covered more area of my body, I have to say the second series was far worse as far as the side effects went.

The area exposed in the second series was about a 4" x 10" rectangle along my abdominal midline below my diaphragm. This is when I stopped eating completely. While I was not eating much when I had the mantle (neck, and entire thorax) radiation, because food was too dry to go down, when I had the abdominal radiation, food came back up too readily. To this day, I cannot even fathom wanting to ingest a liquid protein shake. I get nauseous just thinking about it.

My treatments would have ended a week earlier, but my maternal grandpa died and with my doctor's okay, I went to spend a week in Milwaukee with my family. I did not know at the time that it was going to be the last time I saw my cousin, Gary.

At that time, Gary, unbeknownst to anyone but his parents, had just been diagnosed with HIV. Apparently, Hodgkins Lymphoma has some very similar symptoms to full-blown AIDS. And Gary, bless his heart, was asking me some rather pointed questions about what I was going through. I was confused as hell as to why Gary was asking me these gruesome questions, especially since Gary had a delicate sensibility. Yes, Gary was gay. But I have known straight men that had just as delicate a personality so let's just leave the stereotypes alone. Anyhow, at one point during our conversation (and I still kick myself mercilessly over this) Gary told me that he dreamed of meeting a nice woman, settling down, getting married, and having children. I wish I had told him to cut the bullshit, that I knew he was gay, that I loved him for who and what he was, and that if he wanted to marry a man and settle down, I would have nothing but blessing for him. I just did not have the guts at that time to say what needed to be said.

Gary died in the summer of 1990, when I was pregnant with my son. He did not allow his parents to tell anyone until a few days before he died. I did get to talk on the phone with him before he passed, and I told him I loved him, and that I wish I had known sooner, because I would have wanted to do something, anything, for him.

His death changed some things in his immediate family. Both of his parents got involved in AIDS related charities in Milwaukee. One of the things my aunt (Gary's mom) did, while I was sick, was send me these anonymous notes and little gifts (all containing Hershey Kisses), throughout all of my treatments. We were all trying to figure out who was sending the stuff the whole time. The last little gift came the day of my final treatment, when she revealed that it was she that was sending these things. I know people think I am so strong, but really I am not. She may never know how much the anonymous little notes and gifts helped me get through that time. One of the things she does with the AIDS hospice now, is send the little anonymous notes and gifts to various patients there. My aunt and uncle have served as the Grand Marshals of the Milwaukee Gay Pride parade. My aunt also made a quilt panel to memorialize Gary's life. Here is a photo of his little section:



I still cry when I think of him.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Swim Meet

K had her first swim meet of the season today. It was at a pool that we had never been to before, so we attempted to get there early. Thankfully our friends A and S had gotten there and saved us a spot for our canopy next to theirs.

Because it was the first meet this year, the procedures seemed to start off a little rusty (all around - not just the host team). Thankfully the rust was shaken off quickly and we were home after the meet before 1:30 PM.

K swam in the mixed medley relay as the backstroke leg, the butterfly, freestyle, and the mixed freestyle relay. She turned in personal best scores in both of her individual races. Not bad for having been out late last night. In fact, last night, the nerves got the best of her and she was nauseous for much of the evening. Thank goodness she got over that and was able to swim this morning.

I am on the ribbon writing committee for the team, so our family pretty much has our volunteer commitment covered for the season. At one point, the co-president of the team came into our canopy to ask for help at the scoring table. S (who shared our canopy) was unable to go help, so I did. My job for the team has now changed to card sorter and Heat Winner ribbon writer. K and S (the people inputting the times into the computer) had gotten behind, as K, who was trying to log both the Heat Winners and the DQs (disqualifications), before the cards were input by S. I got over there, and was able to get to work on the HW stuff, and in no time we were running smoothly. So the co-pres asked me if I would do that job for the rest of the season. I work so well with K and S, so I said I would. Even though it is quite a longer time commitment (basically the entire meet). I love working with people who are easy to work with. It makes things so much more pleasant.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer

My goal for this summer is to get more organized. I am starting with the garage. The garage has gotten to such a state that we can only park one car inside. This needs to change. I figure if I work on it for a couple of hours a day, I should have things back to being manageable in about a week or two.

I would work longer, but between the heat, and my back pain, I really can't overdo it.

So far, the weirdest thing I have found in the garage is a dog leash. What makes that weird is that I have not owned a dog in my entire adult life. Not sure where the leash came from, but it is going to the Goodwill drop box, since we have no need for a dog leash.

I will be making a run tomorrow to the Goodwill dropbox, with about a trunkload of various items we have no need for. May as well offer them up for reuse.

One bad thing, somehow a bottle of Murphy's Oil Soap exploded on the garage floor, and I almost fell on my ample arse when I slipped on it today. I am not sure if there is a more slippery substance than Murphy's Oil Soap. Not sure if I want to find that out either.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Photos of Plants from the Campout

Not going to do a whole lot of text here, just going to let the photos speak for themselves.

















































































































Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Game Show

Yesterday K and I went (with a bunch of people from K's school) to be in the studio audience for a taping of a new game show to be debuting on the brand new Hub Network (a collaboration between Hasbro and Discovery) in October. It was a fundraiser for the PTA, the 15 people who went, earned almost $300 for the PTA.

The show is called "Pictureka!" and is based upon the popular board game bearing the same name. K happens to have both the "Pictureka!" game and the "Pictureka Kubes" game. They are both fun and fast paced games, based upon finding items hidden in the pictures. With my vision, I am at a distinct disadvantage in playing the game, but it is still a lot of fun.

I have been to tapings of other shows before, most recently, a taping of The Price Is Right. To say that the producers of "Pictureka!" have yet to work the bugs out of the production would be a vast understatement. We got there about 2:00 PM and were there for the taping of 2 1/2 episodes. The episodes are 1/2 hour (probably more like 22 minutes) in length, and we did not end up leaving until 7:45 PM. In most cases, having been to tapings before, a half hour show normally would take about 75 to 90 minutes to get through. So for the episodes we taped, the max should have been about 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Not 5:45. Yikes.

Most of the staff were young kids in their twenties, which was kind of funny. When it was time to distribute snacks, water, etc. their lack of inexperience in dealing with large groups of people, especially children was very apparent. Handing stuff out one at a time does not work in such situations. Finally one woman who was with a group from Compton Parks and Recreation got up and loaded up on stuff and helped the 'kids' get it all doled out. It was pretty comical.

Of course, we could not have our cellphones in the studio, so there was no way of contacting anyone outside to let them know we would be running later than planned. UGH.

For awhile, I was seated next to a guy who was a 'paid audience member'. I found that phenomenon to be rather interesting. I would seriously consider doing the paid audience gig, if I lived a lot closer to the television studios in L.A. J. was an interesting guy. Very funny and snarky. They had the children sitting in the center section, separate from the adults, as this is a show aimed to kids from 7-14.

K and I did have a good time, in spite of how disorganized the production was. And as a bonus, I was able to take a photo of K with the Hollywood sign in the background on my cellphone.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Camping

We went camping with K's Girl Scout troop this weekend. There were camp songs, camp fires, silly skits, a wonderful Bridging ceremony (our girls bridged from Brownie Girl Scouts to Junior Girl Scouts). We went on a robust hike. Had numerous runs to the BIFFY, encountered Poison Oak on the hiking trail. Thankfully nobody got the rash from it.

We really packed a lot into the camp out. All the girls learned how to light a one-match fire, cook over a propane camp stove, cook over a charcoal grill, and of course they made S'mores over the camp fire.

All in all we had a great time. Our weather was really nice (not too hot - got pretty cold at night though). The only two casualties for our family were the broken air pump for the air mattresses and the broken pole for the rainfly on our tent. Not bad, not bad at all.

Overall, our girls were well behaved, and I think they all learned a lot. I would even venture to say that our girls were better behaved than the Boy Scout troop that was in one of the other group campsites.

As soon as I find my camera, I will post photos of the various plant life we encountered on the trip. Such rugged beauty.

I know I will sleep well tonight. Especially since, near our campsite, was the home of a rooster that was seriously in need of some re-calibration. The darn thing was crowing all night long.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Milestones

The Brownie troop had its final meeting (as a Brownie troop) last night. On Friday, at our family camp out, our girls will bridge to Junior Girl Scouts. I am so proud of our girls, and what they have accomplished as Brownies. Seems like only yesterday, they were Daisy Scouts, and now they are on the verge of the next level.

Our girls (most of them, anyway) have gone through the splitting of troops because of differences in opinion between adults. I think sometimes we all lose sight of what this is all about. This is about the girls, their healthy development, and challenging them to do their best and become strong and confident young women. It is not about being a glorified play date, tea party, or an avenue for the leader to feed her own needs for public approval. As a co-leader, I strive to keep the girls' best interests in mind. And thankfully, our troop's leader has the same philosophy regarding the troop as I do. She is really an incredible woman.

I wanted to leisurely spend the week preparing for the camp out, but due to some other circumstances, I am going to only have today to prepare. Oh well.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Without Kids, Life Would Be Far Less Interesting

I would have never mistaken a glue stick for a lip balm, like I did today, if I were not a mom. Because I would not have glue sticks in the house if I were not a mom.

I would have never helped K make a playdough porcupine.

I would have never helped S make a pinewood derby car festooned with Green Bay Packer stickers and colors, even though I am a Vikings fan, if I were not a mom.

I would have never bought Barney dinosaur and Dora the Explorer videos if I were not a mom.

I would not find myself spending countless hours on a pool deck, or at various baseball tournaments, softball, soccer, basketball, and football games if I were not a mom.

Glue stick not withstanding, I am so glad I am a mom.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spasms

I am having both the spasms and the pain tonight. I had the Brownie meeting this evening, so I had to go without the meds, because I have to be able to be clear, present and to be able to drive home. Now that I am home, I decided to skip the Baclofen and take the Soma, along with the Vicodin. I really hate this. I would love to be able to go a couple of weeks without my back screaming at me. I really would.

I am grateful that I had four days last week without pain. It was truly luxurious.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Baclofen Day 2

Tonight is the second night with the Baclofen. So far I am a wee bit less than amused. While it is doing what it is supposed to with regard to the back spasms, it has made me rather listless and flat. I will have to scour the side effects to see if flat affect is listed. The house could be burning down and the Baclofen makes me feel like I just don't care. NOT. GOOD.

I will give it probably two more days, before I go back to taking the Soma. At least on the Soma, I am not flat. I am not used to having no emotions at all. I might as well be a freaking robot the way this drug is affecting me. Yuck. I mean really, I cannot even generate very much outrage over how British Petroleum wants to stick the US taxpayers with the bill for cleaning up their mess in the Gulf of Mexico. Normally I would be livid about stuff like that, and right now all I can muster is a "Meh." This is so not like me at all.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Jacob's Ladder

We are climbing Jacob's Ladder
We are climbing Jacob's Ladder
We are climbing Jacob's Ladder
Soldiers of the cross

Went to see Dr. C. (pain management specialist). I have gotten a lot more relief from the epidural cortisone injection than I did when I had the facet joint cortisone injections. He is puzzled by this, since he thought the MRI ruled out any nerve involvement with my back pain and spasms. And since I do not have sciatica, and haven't since I had the surgery in 1992, the epidural really should not have done squat.

I asked him today about the spinal chord stimulation. He said he thought I would not be an optimum candidate for it, because I do not have the sciatica. But he also said he would keep my file with him and ask a couple of his colleagues what they thought.

Now that I am to the point that the slightest wrong move does not send me into excruciating pain and soul crushing muscle spasms, I will be starting physical therapy to strengthen my core muscles and stretch my back muscles.

Here is where the climbing Jacob's Ladder thing comes in. We have worked from relatively mild anti spasm medications (Flexeril), to medium (Skelaxin), to strong (Soma). We have now left Soma behind and have moved up to Baclofen. He is starting me on a really low dosage, and probably will bump it up later as I am able to tolerate it. Quite frankly, after taking my first dose a few hours ago, I am thinking I may go back down to the Soma. The half tablet I took today has sucked the life right out of me. I feel listless and like I have been dragged behind a truck for 5 miles. There is no way I can function like this, and will likely only be able to take the Baclofen at night. Of course, I can only take the Soma at night as well, because of the drowsiness and lightheadedness. UGH. I am wondering if the Baclofen is something I will get used to so I don't feel like this every time I take it. If not, the next stop up the ladder is Neurontin.

I also had the "You know, doctor, you have me on some heavy duty drugs...and I worry about dependence" talk with him. Having been prescribed the various muscle relaxers and having the standing Vicodin ES prescription, there is cause for some concern. Ultimately, only I know whether I am taking the meds inappropriately or not (I have not taken them inappropriately so far, but the potential is strongly there, and I am at least aware of it). But for me, it added a measure of safety for me to be able to have this conversation with him. Dr. C. reassured me that I was not using the meds excessively and that he would not refill them if he thought I was.

Dr. C. seems to think that some of my problems are related to the buildup of scar tissue around the laminectomy site. That and the osteoarthritis of the facet joints are probably the crux of my issues. And sadly, there may not be a permanent fix for it. He said, at my last visit, that although there is some compression of the discs, that lumbar compression was not the major thing causing my pain and spasms. This may be as good as it gets. And that makes me kind of sad.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Nightmare is Over

Okay, so it really was not a nightmare. We finally got in to see the Pediatric Orthopod today. Sunday night, when they were splinting K, I asked if it was a radius fracture. The tech said, "No, she fractured her ulna." which did not make sense to me but, so be it, she and the ER doc (who I only saw on the way in) are the professionals.

She did fracture her radius and not her ulna. Her fracture is diagonal and right into the growth plate, which, in a weird way, is a good thing. Because it is near the growth plate, it is likely to heal faster. But needs to be watched closely.

I paid the extra $40 for K to have a waterproof cast, since swim team starts soon and I at least want her to go to practice. Plus, my back cannot take the stress of giving her a bath, I will have to help her, but at least I don't have to hold her arm up while she rinses her hair, etc.

Her cast is pink. Above is a picture with her identifying features blocked. We have an appointment for a recheck next Thursday.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My Head is in Orbit

Would anyone who finds my head whenever it lands, please kindly send it back to me? I may need it again.

Yesterday morning, I called the CHOC Orthopaedic office and was informed that they would do a review board and get back to me to schedule an appointment. Well they called and got our voicemail (when I told them specifically to call my cell). K's appointment is scheduled for June 8 (!!!!!!!!!).

Um, today is May 18, are they trying to tell me they can't get her in to put a cast on for THREE EFFING WEEKS???? Are they really THAT busy?????

So, as calmly as I could, I called them back. (Maybe it was better that they called the home phoneline...) I told the person on the other end that K has a TEMPORARY SPLINT, and that she needs a permanent cast and a note from doctor with her restrictions before I can send her back to school. And June 8 is the first available appointment????

She told me that, yes indeed, they could not see her before June 8. I told her that was unacceptable. I also told her that I might as well take K out of school for the rest of the school year if we cannot get in until June 8. She then looked into the records and said, "Oh wait, you have a PPO, let me give you our 'Private Office' number. Make sure you tell them you have a PPO or they will hang up on you."

So I called the private office number, and K has an appointment for this coming Friday (May 21st ). Now why did we not get this 'Private Office' number when we left the ER? The ER knew we have a PPO and not an HMO. Perhaps if I had been able to call the 'Private Office' in the first place, K may not have had to miss an entire week of school. Best Health Care in the world.

I was respectful and did call the first office to cancel my appointment.

Now if you excuse me, I am going to go outside and look up to see if my head is ready to land.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Night in the ER

My husband took K out late yesterday afternoon to the park. She fell out of a tree while she was climbing it and injured her wrist. No big deal, it was not swelling up too much and I figured if I gave her some Tylenol and iced it, things would be fine. About 3 hours after she injured it, she was still in excruciating pain, still not a lot of swelling, but the pain was pretty bad. We decided to head to CHOC. At first I thought I may have been overreacting, but since Urgent Care was closed, we kind of had to go to the ER.

We arrived about 9:30 PM. After about an hour in the waiting room, we were brought back to another waiting room. Saw a doctor really quickly, then waited for x-rays. After the x-rays were taken, we waited awhile, then a nurse put a splint on K, told us she had a hairline fracture on her ulna near her wrist and gave us the number to the CHOC orthopaedic clinic.

Called them first thing this morning, and was told that I have to wait until the "review board" looks over her files, before they will give us an appointment. WTH??? So I am waiting for them to call me. In the meantime, her splint is a temporary one, she is desperately in need of a bath, and we are not allowed to get the splint wet. GREAT. It was a very small consolation that "fractures get priority" with the review board. It could still be tomorrow before I hear from them. *sigh*

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tattoos

This post is brought to you by a discussion that occurred on Facebook amongst some of my friends. The question posed on one of my friend's status updates was "Do you have any tattoos, if so, what and where?".

I got my first tattoo when I was 22. She is a unicorn's head on my left shoulder. At this point she is really faded and at the very least, could use a color touch up, but things like bills and food tend to take precedence over tattoos. Responsibility. Bleh.

We are going to go back in the wayback machine and revisit my radiation treatment era for the next ten tattoos. I have ten India Ink dots tattooed on my chest, abdomen, shoulders, and back. These tattoos were done for two reasons, first being the necessity of properly aligning the lead blocks that protected my lungs, heart, and thyroid from excess radiation while they were blasting the shit out of the tumors in my lymph system. The second reason for the tattoos is they are a physical record of me having had radiation treatments and are there to tell medical professionals and practitioners that I have undergone radiation, when and if I can't tell them myself. This protects me from unnecessary exposure to x-rays and other radiation.

Yes, I have had x-rays, CT scans and other nuclear medicine diagnostics since 1987, sometimes they are necessary. They do try to protect me from unnecessary exposure, as I have had quite a dose of radiation way back then.

I remember when they first placed the dots, and all the times that they drew the gridmarks on me in permanent marker. This part of the post is probably going to be a little "squicky". I got really ookey vibes (as in "sexual predator") from one of the radiation therapy techs when I first started to have my treatments. It was not anything I could really wrap my hands around, but more of a gut feeling. My sense was, during the "drawing days" (the days they drew all the gridmarks all over my chest and back), that he was deriving some sort of sick pleasure from drawing all this stuff on my body. It was really humiliating. What made it worse was being told by the radiologist not to wash any of it off for two or three days at a time, because they were trying to make sure everything was lining up properly. I wore a lot of turtlenecks and high necked t-shirts in those days because I was embarrassed about the graffiti on my body. I will be forever grateful to M for helping me to still feel beautiful and loved while all of this was going on. He ignored the writing on my body because he wanted to be with me, and although we went our separate ways romantically, we have remained close friends to this day.

Radiation therapy for Hodgkins Lymphoma, at least back in those days, was a daily thing, Monday through Friday. I had two cycles of treatments. The first cycle was, if I recall correctly, somewhere between 6 and 8 weeks in length. During the first cycle of treatments, a rectangular area from my chin down to the bottom of my rib cage and including my entire chest was exposed. I had an entire month off between the two cycles of treatments. Midway through the first cycle of treatments, I noticed that the tech that made me really uncomfortable was gone. I never said anything, more because I had no concrete evidence than anything else, but I am guessing someone did have evidence and did say something.

The side effects of the first cycle of treatments were brutal. I was fitted by an oncological dentist, for trays, so I could give myself daily fluoride treatments, because my saliva glands were knocked out by the rads. As a consequence, there were things I could not eat, because they were too dry and since my mouth was dry as well, I had difficulty swallowing. This was when the mashed potato and gravy diet started. If I went out to eat, the restaurant had to have mashed potatoes and gravy, because I could at least swallow that. I started drinking Ensure® to get the actual nutrition I was missing because I could not eat. I lost weight (not that I had a whole lot to lose, because I was tall and skinny to begin with). I had ugly purple radiation burns on my neck and chest, in addition to the permanent marker graffiti. My hair fell out in all the areas exposed to the rads. On the back of my head, from the notch in my skull down, was bald. Silver lining - I did not have to shave my underams for months! The worst thing about this phase (even worse than losing part of my hair) was the fatigue. I slept for 12-18 hours a day. I would have slept for 24 hours a day if I could, because I was THAT tired. I could not predict, from day to day, what my energy level would be like. It was really frustrating. People would ask me, "Do you want to do such and such next Saturday?" and I would have to respond with, "I don't know, I can't plan that far ahead. Can you call me next Saturday, so I can see how I am feeling then?" The people closest to me totally understood, but it still hurt, that some people dropped out of my life because I could not make commitments in advance.

The second cycle was a little shorter in duration and exposed only a rectangular area of about 6" X 12" along my abdominal midline (to zap the lymphnodes in my abdomen along the aorta). I found the side effects of this cycle to be worse. Add nausea and vomiting to the mix of the above symptoms. It was at this time that I also went on antidepressants and serious antinausea medications. I was not suicidal, I just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up again. I was tired. I was sick. I was battle weary. And I just wanted it to be over, to feel better, and to live a normal life of a young woman. And it just was not happening. Cancer has a way of taking 'normal' away, forever. I sometimes still grieve the loss of normalcy.

The running joke, for years, about my little India Ink tattoos is that someday there will be an epic game of "Connect the Dots" played on my body. My friend, who had the Facebook status, told me I should tell people it is a constellation. I like that idea a lot.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spinal Chord Stimulation

Well, the facet joint injection procedure only gave marginal relief from my back pain and muscle spasms. So, in essence, I am still swallowing a whole bunch of pills that only alleviate the pain and spasms, but not get to the root what is causing my back problems. I went in for epidural cortisone injections today, and had a good chat with Dr. C. about what is happening.

I have had the epidural cortisone injections before (on three different occasions). I did get much needed relief from them in the past, and am hoping the injections today offer me respite as well. My back is really screaming at me today, after the injections. I do not remember being in this much pain after the other epidurals, but that may be due to the fact that for those injections I was under conscious sedation (Versed is a wonderful thing). Since K is now home from school, I was finally able to take something for the pain (I had to wait for four hours though). I am still in pain, but I don't really care.

Dr. C. is convinced that what is causing my problems is the scar tissue from my lumbar laminectomy. I only have one disc that is degenerated (the one that was operated on), and the other discs are within normal limits for my age as far as compression goes. On its face, that is really good news. My back is not as fucked up as it is acting. I asked Dr. C. if he thought an inversion table would help me at all. He told me that he thought it would be beneficial and gave me an anecdotal story about his brother in law using one and swearing by it. So now, I am putting out to the Universe that I would like to manifest an inversion table. We really do not have the funds to be able to buy one, and probably won't have the money in the foreseeable future. I just want to get to the point where I can start some sort of physical therapy to strengthen my back and core so I don't get to this point as often. Acute situations are so much easier to handle than chronic ones. And I am in a chronic stage right now.

I saw a clip two or three weeks ago on TV about Spinal Chord Stimulation, and am curious if I would be a good candidate for it. Essentially, the surgeon implants an electrode onto the spinal chord, and the patient has some sort of remote control device that can turn the stimulation on and off as needed for pain and spasms. They do a temporary one, as a trial and after a specified amount of time, the patient decides whether they want it on a permanent basis, and the surgeon implants a permanent device. Apparently, according to the news clip (http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/health/your_health&id=7395631) 85% of patients who have the temporary electrode implanted opt for the permanent one. It really looks attractive to me at this point.

The $64,000 question is: does anyone at the orthopaedic practice I go to DO this procedure, or am I going to have to go to Los Angeles to get this done? Los Angeles is not a deal breaker, but it makes things a little more complicated. Although, I love the UCLA campus, and would not be against going there for a same-day procedure, if necessary. Westwood is beautiful any time of the year.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

OK, A Little Better Today

I had myself a good, old fashioned wallow in my pity day yesterday. Still kind of dealing with the residual grief of losing R permanently last year. That, in combination with kind of an emotionally intense day on Sunday and yesterday's doctor appointment were more than enough to send me over the edge.

When I was at the doctor's office yesterday, he gave me a diagnosis that has a rather ugly and negative sound to it, Failed Back (Surgery) Syndrome. This is in addition to osteoarthritis. This condition also has a kind of grim prognosis, as evidenced by the doctor's statement as he was leaving the exam room, "Just let us know when you are running out of Vicodin and Soma, we'll call them in to your pharmacy."

I am scheduled for an epidural injection next week. At some point, if we can get my back out of the cascade of spasm, I will be going in for physical therapy to (hopefully) strengthen the muscles so they do not go into spasm in the first place. I can handle the back pain, it is the spasms that pretty much lay me flat out. And I am pretty much in back spasms for at least 1/2 of my waking hours. Needless to say, I have to really think about what I do and whether I can accomplish certain things. And even with all this lying around, I am still losing weight. I am seriously not exerting much energy (although the energy it takes to just exist with chronic pain could possibly be Herculean), my appetite is not as large as normal, but I don't think I am eating THAT much less. Weird. I have lost 15 pounds in the past couple of months. At this rate I should be ready for bikini season really soon. (HAHAHAHA - I know better than to wear a bikini).

I did cry for about 10 minutes total last night. Somehow I stopped myself before I totally lost control. I have become a master of distracting myself from my grief. I know there is a vast rushing river of tears within, but I dare not let very much of it out for fear that I will get lost in it. As afraid as I am of letting it out, I also really wish I could let it go and be done with it. Having it all there, so close to the surface, feels crazy to me. I cry about the stupidest things sometimes, just because it is all there and has to overflow sometimes. Then I feel really foolish.

Monday, April 26, 2010

OK, I have started to cry

I am not sure how I am going to stop. The floodgates are open and I am losing control. Not sure if I really ever had control, but the river of tears has started flowing, and does not look like it is going to stop any time soon.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

International Day


Our citywide Girl Scouts International Day was today. Troops can choose whether they wish to be a country, or tourists. Most troops choose to be countries, which is really fun. Our troop was Kenya this year. We served samosas and iced tea (as Kenyan food is very Indian inspired and tea is one of their main exports). Our girls' costumes consisted of 2 yards of one fabric as almost a sarong looking style and a contrasting fabric as a sash. The girls looked very cute.

The above photo is of our troop's banner. I cut out and sewed the letters on it, the girls made the animal faces, and I hot glued the animal faces and the "Troop 2065" on the bottom. I am very happy with how it turned out.

Without fail, no matter what the weather forecast is, International Day is always a hot day. This morning I was watching the news before we left, and the forecast was for a high temperature of 70° F. When we left after the event was over it was well into the 80's. So much for Live Mega Doppler 7000 in HD today. Garth Kemp totally let me down, man!

Upon arriving home, K went directly to her room. She is napping as I write this. What is it about being outside in the direct sunlight that saps everyone's energy? I have never been able to figure that out.

It is always nice to see K's friends who are in different troops and the countries they represent. K's friends represented Argentina, Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines. Going around and sampling the foods of the different countries is always fun. K's favorite was Switzerland, who was serving Swiss Cheese and Chocolate. My favorite was Korea, who was serving glass noodle salad. Yum. All of the girls from all the different troop looked fantastic.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Let's Try This Again

One year ago tomorrow (April 22). My friend R passed away suddenly. I am kind of sketchy on the details, but she was on vacation with her parents, and she was either on a cruise (and off the ship in one of the cruise ship tourist towns in Gulf Coastal Mexico) or she was in Fort Myers, FL. At any rate, she had gone into a gift shop, while her parents waited outside. They waited outside the gift shop for awhile, and then H (R's mom) decided to go in and find out what was taking so long. R had collapsed on the floor, and someone was trying to revive her when H went in. R had a brain aneurysm which had ruptured, and it is likely she was dead before she even hit the floor.

I met R probably about a year after I had completed my radiation treatments for Hodgkins Lymphoma. We met in the kitchen at Camp Vermilion which was the setting for a recovery retreat up in the iron range of northern Minnesota. She was new in recovery and appeared very overwhelmed by a few of the Type A personalities barking orders in the kitchen. We had an almost instant connection. There was definitely a kinship bond between us which seemed to predate both of us.

For whatever reason, as deeply as I loved (and still love) R, our friendship has not always traveled a smooth road. Rough, rocky, and intense are probably apt descriptors for our relationship. There was a fragility about R, and an a certain amount of unpredictability about what was going to trigger the fragility. From R, I learned much about tact, diplomacy, and gentleness in confrontation. I am very much a bull in a china shop, and R's fragile nature taught me how to be more gentle and thoughtful. I am actually amazed she was willing to be friends with me because I am not a very gentle person (even today I have more than my share of rough edges).

Even though she was fragile (and due to stuff from her past) a very broken person, there was a depth and a beauty to her spirit that I always admired and found myself very envious of. Here I was, a hardened biker bitch, and R was this very feminine (but not ruffly), very artistic, creatively gifted woman. I still wonder to this day what it was that attracted her to me, because I am very logical, linear, and mathematical, and outwardly not really warm and cuddly.

I, too, am a very broken and flawed person. I keep all of that very well hidden. Truth be told, sometimes I am afraid to start crying, because I fear I will never stop. Don't get me wrong. I do cry, I just don't allow myself to cry for very long. She was so fearless about accessing the sadness and grief of her life, feelings I really have difficulty allowing myself to really and truly experience. I envied her ability to let herself feel those feelings.

Her artistic ability and creativity were qualities that I loved. I can barely draw stick figures, and she was able to draw, paint, use pastels, and other media to create beautiful works of art. The only thing I can do is sing, and once I am done singing, there is nothing tangible left, but when she painted, her paintings remain, even long after she is gone. I long to be able to create like she did.

Her loyalty to her family, even though they did not deserve her loyalty, showed an inner strength that was profound, and belied how delicate she was inside. As much as they hurt her, she loved them without condition, and would move heaven and earth to be there for them when they needed her. Maybe now they realize what a treasure she was.

I know why she was put into my life. I needed (and still do need) to learn how to be gentle, how to appreciate beauty. As emotional and painful as our relationship was, I miss her. Not a day goes by that I do not think of her and wonder about what things would have been like if I had just swallowed my pride and reached out just one more time. I wish I could figure out why she was taken from my life. Not sure I will ever really know the answer to that.

RJH
April 8, 1960-April 22, 2009
Loved and Sorely Missed

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

To Those Who Have Gone Before Us.

On Thursday (April 22) it will have been one year since R passed away, and on Sunday it will be one year since I was told of her passing. I miss R. She left my life about a year and a half before she actually died, but I always thought there was time to try and reconcile. There was...the year and a half that we did not speak before she died.

We met in recovery, and I think because of that, I think there were things on both sides that were tolerated, that would not have been borne had we not been in recovery together. Funny how that is.

I am feeling a need to share some of the things that hurt me. Perhaps so I can let them go forever. One of the rifts in our friendship occurred in the months leading up to my wedding. I had asked my friend, J, to be my Matron of Honor. It was a difficult decision to chose between J and R for this role since they were both my best friends, and what it boiled down to for me, was I had known J longer than I had known R. I did ask R to be one of my attendants; I also asked my sister-in-law to stand up in our wedding. My mom made not only my gown, but she also made the bridesmaid dresses.

Behind the scenes, and apparently behind my back, R (at least from my limited viewpoint) harbored a resentment about my asking J. This all blew up in my face about a week before the wedding when she got really upset with me (about what, I can't remember). I remember quite clearly her saying, "You know, J, your wedding is not all about you!" Yep, I am still scratching my head about that one. At that point, right or wrong (probably wrong, in retrospect), I told her that if she could not be supportive of me getting married, that she need not come to the wedding at all. We did not speak to each other for about a year after that. And I never truly trusted her again.

Almost three years ago, my parents and my son were planning to come out here to visit. This visit was to coincide with K's (my daughter's) birthday. R invited herself along for the trip, I could see this was going to be a trainwreck, but other than tell her not to come, there was not a whole lot I could have done to avoid major derailment. I can handle the dysfunction of my own family. I can handle R's dysfunction, but I cannot handle the two of them simultaneously. And that is exactly what happened.

During that visit, R, my parents, my son, my daughter, and I went on a road trip for a few days to the Grand Canyon. I had never seen the Grand Canyon, and since it is a day's drive from OC, we decided to make the trip. No biggie, except for the fact that road trips with my parents can be a psychological adventure. My dad uses no courtesy when he drives, my mom gets angry with him, my dad gets defensive...etc. In other words, things get fiery.

In true F Family road trip form, things got fiery. And R totally wigged out about it. Wigged out to the point of screaming at me, in front of K, about how I am more evil than my dad, and that K is a brat. At that point (two days into the week) I was done. I shut down, and just pretended everything was fine until after they left. My mom knew something was up but knew me well enough to know that I would tell her what was up when I felt comfortable (which was over the phone after they got home).

Later in the week, we were getting ready for K's birthday party. We had planned to commandeer some picnic tables in the park, invited some of K's friends, and had ordered pizzas, a cake, and picked up a fruit plate for the party. We have a side by side refrigerator, so the refrigerator side is tall and a bit on the narrow side. R was going on and on about how we need to refrigerate the cake (when there was no room in the fridge to do so), and my mom, my husband, and I told her that the cake would be fine without being cold. After all, the bulk of the "audience" was 6 year old children, who quite frankly would not know a hot cake from a cold one.

Throughout the week, she tried to dominate the kitchen, which annoyed my husband greatly. Every time we were in there, she had to get in the middle of everything. "Oh, are you sure you want to do it THAT way?" etc. On K's actual birthday, we let K choose the menu. She chose macaroni and cheese, corn on the cob, and dinosaur (chicken) nuggets. Well, R decided that we had to have a salad, and she took the strainer I was planning on using to drain the noodles in, and put her salad greens in it and plopped it into the fridge. No big deal, really, I put her greens into a different bowl, and rinsed out the strainer, so I could strain the noodles. Well, you would have thought I had stomped a kitten to death. She got very passive aggressive about it.

The day before they were going to leave, she decided she wanted me to bring her to Costco so she could get her pictures developed. I told her that I was not sure whether Costco did the one hour processing (at the time I did not know). I did not tell her that, quite frankly, it is kind of a hassle (on a weekend day no less) to walk almost all the way through Costco just to get to the photo lab. I offered to take her to CVS to get the film developed, since I could be assured that the photos would be ready before they left the next day. She got really snippy and said, "Never mind, I will develop them at home." She had taken a lot of photos of S (my son), K, and I. Photos that no one else had taken. She had stated she wanted to get double prints so I could have a set. As far as I know, she never got that film developed. And there were photos I would have loved to see. And pardon the language, but it fucking hurts.

As flawed as I am as a human being, I never called her any names, either to her face, or behind her back. She not only called me names, she called my daughter names. And she did this during a period in which she was a guest in my home. And I let her. But yet I miss her. How fucked up is that?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

MPUSD

Just got a notice home from K's school today. Since the budgets here in CA are so messed up, the school district of MasterPlanistan, in its infinite and all knowing wisdom, has decided it is necessary to have four furlough days. Now I am not really super happy about that, but it gets worse. Instead of maybe just ending the school year four days early, they have decided that there will be no school on June 7-8 and 14-15. The last day of school was scheduled for June 17.

Now why the hell couldn't they have moved the last day to June 11 and just been done with it. As it is our school district is the latest in the area to start back, and consequently the latest to let out for summer break. This Monday and Tuesday furlough thing only makes things more complicated for the parents, who, by the way, pay the property taxes which pay for the schools in the first place. As it is, the kids are only in the classroom just a little over 25 hours per week. And anything that they cannot get to in such a short amount of time ends up falling to the parents to cover, by way of an excessive homework load. No kind of work/school/life balance for our darling snowflakes here in MasterPlanistan. And then the expectation is, that because we live in MasterPlanistan, that our children are better, brighter, and more athletic than children from, say, Santa Ana. The arrogance and level of competition here frustrates me.

I would prefer to have K get out the four days early than this crap. Another better alternative to the current furlough days, would be to have one furlough day in both April and May and then get out two days earlier in June. Makes a heck of a lot more sense to me than what they did. I am really angry about this. And the fact that they send home a notice in March regarding this, when they had to have known back at the beginning of the school year that things were this grim, kind of tells me that the powers that be are not really all that on the ball.

Things are run so differently here than in Minnesota. The PTA/PTOs in Minnesota do their share of fundraising, but the funds raised actually go to educational enrichment (which is where the money SHOULD be going), not facility upgrades that the school district should be paying for.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cookies

Our lives have been completely co-opted by the Girl Scout Cookies. We have canvassed the neighborhood, brought the order form to church, pestered and annoyed all of our friends and done three booth sales. We have one more booth sale to go. Final tally for K is 508 boxes of cookies. She has earned the temporary tattoos, four different patches, the rolling stamper, the friendship bracelet, the frog carabiner, the peace sign necklace, the stuffed plush frog, the sig bottle, the plaid hat, the t-shirt, the peace sign bracelet, the fleece blanket, the pullover hoodie, the eco journal, the messenger bag, and the girls night out (which consists of an overnight p.j. party including galaxy bowling, food, another patch, and prizes).

Her troop gets an initial $0.68 per box, plus council will mail a check for an additional $0.05 per box. K has earned $365.00 toward troop funds. We are really excited about that.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

And Life Isn't Fair

C died today. She had lung cancer. C was the mother of one of the girls in K's Brownie troop. I just told K and both of us have been crying together.

C went into the hospital right before Christmas, ended up in a nursing home for awhile and spent the last few days of her life at her brother's house, with Hospice and her family. I am really struggling to make any sense of why C had to pass so soon. I had not known her for very long, but she made an imprint on my life. And I cannot explain it to K in any kind of sufficient way. It is so not fair. It is not even in the same universe as fair.

Roller Coaster of Life

If I did not know any better, I would swear I have rapid cycling Bipolar Disorder. (I don't, I just have Major Depression, exacerbated by chronic pain).

Sunday, and today, someone in my life hurt my feelings pretty badly, in a really unfair way. I have been pretty upset and sad today as a result. Yes, I know, I am responsible for my own emotions. Yes I know, I let that person really get to me. Yes I know, I can choose not to let that person get to me, but the fact is, today, she did. And I hate that she is in my head.

A few minutes ago, I got off the phone with my mom. One of the things my parent do for my birthday is to buy me Twins tickets. My birthday is in April, and coincides closely with Opening Day. The past few years, they have bought me tickets to the Twins at Angels (since we are here).

Well, a new wrinkle has emerged. My mom has offered to fly the three of us to Minneapolis sometime this summer, to see a Twins game at the new stadium. WOOHOO. Happy Birthday To ME! And since this summer is an anniversary of sorts for M's football buddies, we can kill two birds with one stone, and hang out in the motherland to boot! Yay!

Still feel sad about the other thing, but the timing on my mom's call could not have been better. I have hope.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Halfway through February

Well, we are over halfway through February. My back pain is getting worse. I really need to get back to the doctor.

Last weekend was good. We took the Brownie troop (along with a Cub Scout den) to the OC Zoo at Irvine Regional Park. Most of the animals at the OC Zoo are "rescue" animals, which is kind of neat. We saw bald eagles, turkey vultures, an opossum, an ocelot, a mountain lion and a lot of other animals. A's dad also taught the kids how to use a compass and a map.

After the tour of the zoo, we had a picnic lunch in the park, the girls climbed trees and the adults relaxed. It was a really nice time.

I went to the knitting group at church after the trip to the zoo. It was really fun to hang out and knit with everyone (and get to know people better). I am working on a scarf. I have torn it out and started over three times now. It is so nice to feel part of the fellowship at church. I have belonged to churches in the past and never really felt like I belonged. I struggle with that feeling of belonging in almost all areas of my life. It is really a lonely feeling sometimes.

Some friends of ours had tickets to the UCI men's basketball game on Saturday night, so we went along with them. K got to hang out with P and L; she had a really good time. UCI beat UC Davis in the final seconds of the game. It was really exciting!

Because I did so much on Saturday, I feel like I have been paying dearly for it ever since. This gets really old.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Whale Missing

Yesterday, our Girl Scout troop went whale watching. Well maybe not so much whale watching as hoping to see whales.

M took the day off so he could join us, as this was a family event for the Irvine Girl Scouts. We boarded the boat from Balboa Island in the Newport Harbor. The boat was one of the high speed catamarans they use to shuttle back and forth from mainland southern California to Catalina Island. We started our trip out on the top deck, where it was windy but the sun (and our jackets) kept us warm. As we were leaving the harbor, we came by a buoy that had about a half dozen small sea lions on it! They were adorable. Some of the girls saw some jelly fish in the mouth of the harbor as well.

I have never, before yesterday, gotten seasick. I had bought some chewable Dramamine for K in case she got sick. I ended up taking one tablet of Dramamine, and just stayed queasy for the rest of the trip. The queasiness got a lot worse when we went downstairs to the second deck of the boat. Not sure why that was, but I spent a good portion of that part of the trip with my head between my knees.

There were no whales to be seen on our trip, but we did happen by a pod of dolphins, and they swam right up close to our boat. They are such majestic and playful creatures. I have yet to upload the photos, but M said he got some good shots of the dolphins swimming by us.

Thankfully, our trip was scheduled within the two day window between rainstorms. This is an El NiƱo year, so we have been having more rain than normal. Fires, mudslides, earthquakes...who would not want to live here? Oh yeah, that is right, it is the great weather, the beaches, and the mountains that draw people here.

By the time we got back to the landing, I was chilled to the bone. I am still kind of cold this morning, which is unusual for me. What is it about being outside for long periods of time that makes one so tired? Because I am exhausted today as well. Oh well. It was a good day.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Pleasant Surprises

This weekend has been filled with pleasant surprises. Yesterday, we took one of K's friends with us to the Home Depot Kids' Workshop. I love the Kids' Workshop, the projects are simple enough for the kids to get confident with using hand tools; and the projects, the apron, and the pins for finishing the projects are free. This month's project was a little shelf to store Hot Wheels type cars on it, apparently in honor of the upcoming Daytona 500. Both K and L really enjoyed building their shelves (but K owns no Hot Wheels cars, and I suspect L does not either). After we got done, we went to drop L back off at home, and were invited in for lunch. Very pleasant surprise. The girls played together while the three of us adult had a great conversation in the kitchen.

This morning at church is where the next pleasant surprise took place. We had invited our friends to join us at church a few weeks ago and they came today. They all seemed to enjoy the service (and the kids enjoyed Sunday School). It was a really busy day at church today. There were two baptisms, we welcomed four new members, and we also had communion. And we in the choir sung the challenging Haydn piece. This piece is particularly challenging for altos and basses, as both the alto and bass parts are often at higher pitches than the sopranos and tenors. That high E note? Nope, can't hit it, even when standing on my tiptoes. We got through the piece, but I think I would have liked a few more rehearsals of it to get more comfortable.

After church, K continued her sale of the Girl Scout cookies. We turn the pre-orders in tomorrow. There was also an all church potluck to welcome the new members. It was a nice relaxing early afternoon. After we got home, K wanted to watch the Puppy Bowl and the Kitty Halftime Show. Near fatal amounts of cuteness is the only way one can describe that show. It was fun watching it with her. Then we watched the Superbowl. Congratulations to the Saints and their fans. I wanted the Colts to win, mostly because I am heartbroken over the Vikings losing the NFC Championship again. But, oh well, obviously the Saints wanted it more than the Colts.

Tomorrow, we are going whale watching with the Girl Scout troop. I am excited, and so is K. I have to try and get some sleep tonight or I will be a hurting unit tomorrow. Goodnight.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Happy Cancer Anniversary to Me!

Today is the twenty third anniversary of one of three days that changed the course of my life forever.

Tears were streaming down his face when he said, "You have Hodgkins Disease." He did not say the c word, even when pressed. We asked what we were to do next and words like further testing, surgeries, and oncologist were uttered. I left Dr. Gozum's office in a fog. I called Dr. Salmi (my general practitioner) to try and get in later that afternoon to figure out what we were to do next. The receptionist told me there was nothing open. My mom took the phone from me, and rather bluntly told the receptionist to open something up because I had just been diagnosed with cancer and we needed to get some answers. Miraculously something just happened to be open at the end of the day.

Dr. Salmi DID say the c word. He also had recommendations for two different oncologists, both out of the same practice. One male, one female. He had a higher recommendation for the male, Dr. Sborov. So, because I had no issue with male doctors, I chose him. This turned out to be an excellent choice for a number of reasons that may be revealed in a later post.

It is really weird how I can remember the details of that day. Because I have always had kind of a muddy memory for stuff like this. The sun was shining that day when we went to both doctor's offices. Between appointments, we went to Applebee's for lunch (and for years, I could not set foot in an Applebee's because it was too emotionally painful, in retrospect we should have went to Bennigan's because they are all out of business now!) Sunny days in February are actually fairly infrequent in Minnesota. Sunny days in February that are not accompanied by subzero temperatures and windchills are exceedingly rare. It was sunny and warm (by Minnesota winter standards).

I remember going to visit some friends at the House of Too Many Rooms that evening and breaking the news to everyone and just crying in the living room of the house. I am grateful that I am still friends with a lot of the people that were there that evening. I am also exceedingly grateful that they were all there. I would have never made it through all that without their love and support. They loved me when my body was broken and dysfunctional. They loved me when my hair was falling out, and when my skin was burned so bad from the radiation that it had turned purple. They loved me when I was overcome by all the emotional shit one goes through when faced with catastrophic illness. They allowed me to just be where I was at, no judgment, just love. And they helped me fight. I have a special place in my heart, always, for one person in particular, who, by serendipity, was closest to me through this, and handled the intensity of it all with grace, sensitivity, and humor. My friends and family were strong when I could not be.

The next month was filled with doctor appointments, "minor" procedures (both the lymphangiogram and the bone marrow biopsy could be classified by the Geneva Convention as torture modalities), CT scans and ultimately the abdominal surgery, which removed my spleen, my appendix, and several lymph glands. The cancer had not advanced to my abdomen. I started my radiation therapy when I was still in the hospital recouperating from the abdominal surgery.

My life became daily trips to the hospital for my rads, daily fluoride treatments for my teeth because my saliva glands were knocked out by the radiation, and weird dietary considerations because most foods were too difficult to swallow. For months, I lived on mashed potatoes, gravy and Ensure "shakes". Note to anyone who may end up having to drink Ensure for their nutrition: avoid the strawberry flavor. I joined support groups, I took a leave of absence from work, I hung out with and clung to my friends, and I went to the doctor, a lot. I was thin even before the cancer, but because I was not able to eat a variety of foods, I lost weight and became rather anorexic looking. Real sexay....not! In those days, I looked like walking death. It was really frightening to look in the mirror.

I am still not really all that sure if the old adage, "what does not kill you makes you stronger" is true. I survived it, but still have a lot of lingering baggage from it, both physical and emotional. I am not sure one ever truly gets over cancer.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Weird Aniversaries (this gets a little graphic - avoid if you are squeamish)

It was 23 years ago today that I had the original biopsy. Today is very bittersweet. At the time, I already knew deep down inside that I had cancer, but had two more days to pretend I didn't. I still wonder what my life would have been like without the diagnosis and treatment of the Hodgkins Lymphoma. Would I have better lung function? Would my energy levels be more normal? Would I be more fearless in life? And more questions I will never have the answers for.

I am grateful that my surgeon had done some training in plastic surgery, so it lessened the visual impact of the big scars on my neck. This same surgeon later did my rhinoplasty after I had broken my nose in a construction mishap. Amazing doctor and an even better human being. When my mom and I (I was 22 years old and very single) met with him to get the awful diagnosis, he was crying right along with us. He said, "I was so sure it was benign when I was operating. It LOOKED benign." I am sure he is retired by now, but if he is not, I highly suggest Dr. Gozum in the Twin Cities area, if you ever need an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist).

I wish I had been writing in a journal back then, I think it would be interesting to read about where my head was at back in those difficult days. I do know there were moments that I thought of ending it all, but I talked to the right people and got the help I needed to get over it. To be honest, I could not bring myself to do it. I do remember people trying to make long range plans with me. I had to tell them that I was unable to make long range plans, and could they call me right before the activity and I would tell them whether I felt up to it. I am sure it was frustrating for my friends. I know it was frustrating for me.

I remember losing half of my hair (I had radiation therapy and lost all the hair in the radiation field). I lost the hair from just above the notch on the back of my skull and down from there. Thankfully I had long hair at the time so I was able to "cover it up" well. It was a weird sensation when a fan blew up under my hair, to the skin that was not used to being bare.

The nausea during the second phase of my radiation therapy was more than unpleasant. All of my life, I have had a phobia about vomiting, and here I was, vomiting all the time. I still have that phobia. I will move heaven and earth to avoid puking. As a result, I have not puked since the early 1990s.

I still have the low blood pressure that I got during those days. I have to be careful when I stand up, so I don't pass out from the blood pressure dip. Funny story about that - I was at a club with some friends during my treatment, and someone walked up to me and asked me about how long the doctors gave me to live. I stood up too fast (deliberately) and fainted. Freaked the nosy person out, then I told them that I had at least 50 or 60 years left. If I could not laugh about it all, I would have been crying all the time. I also played a prank on my boss. When I was losing my hair, one day, my boss walked by my cubicle and asked me how I was doing. I grabbed a chunk of my hair, pulled it out, and said, "this job is driving me crazy!" He turned whiter than a twice bleached bedsheet, and said, "please tell me that was going to come out of your head anyway!" We had a good laugh about that. I had to find things to laugh at, while going through all of the crap. It was the only way I could have survived.

Obviously, it was not all fun and games. One of my friends had a "skating party" around Lake Calhoun toward the end of the first phase of my radiation therapy. So we went and rented skates (or Rollerblades for those inclined) at Rolling Soles, and proceeded to skate around the lake. I got about halfway around the lake and I could not go any further. So I had to sit and wait until someone had gotten back to the skate rental place, and pick me up in the car and take me back. I was such a buzzkill. I felt awful that I felt so awful that I could not get around the stupid lake. It is only 3.2 miles around.

OK, enough trolling down memory lane for today. Perhaps in a later post we can go into the dietary weirdness that was my life in those days.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday Frustrations

A. (the leader of the Brownie Troop) and I met up today to go check out the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary to see if this was a facility where we could have our Bridging Ceremony in June. I Googlemapped the location and got driving directions from the Girl Scout Council office (which is across the street from A's office), since the preserve is closer to A's office than my house.

Got to the Council office and we were on our merry way. Until we got onto Modjeska Canyon Grade. Ho Lee Crap is that road ever treacherous. I understand it is a paved narrow canyon road, but there were places that there was not any distance between the road and the dropoff into the canyon (we are talking less than 6 inches of "shoulder"). These are the kinds of roads that if I am not driving, which I was, I would be hiding under the seats of the car. Beautiful country, crazy scary roads!

We get to Tucker and there is a big sign that says they are closed on Mondays. A. had called last week and spoke to someone there and told the person working there that we would be there on Monday to check it out and the person failed to tell her that they are closed Mondays. So we were rather frustrated. We got out of the car anyway and took a look around. It has some nice mellow hiking trails, so our girls could go on a hike while we visit. The elevation is not extremely high, so we would not have to worry about hypoxia. I get breathless at about 3000 feet elevation, and the elevation of the preserve is at about 1500 feet. The interpretive center looked really neat with microscopes and all sorts of things to look at with regards to the flora and fauna of the area. There were all sorts of signs hung up warning people to watch out for poison oak. "Leaves of three - let it be". All in all, it looks like a really cool place to hold an event. We are not sure whether we will do the Bridging Ceremony there, but we will probably do a hike there.

On the way out, we tried to follow the opposite of the directions we had on the way in, but somehow I missed a turn. We ended up on a road that I was at least somewhat familiar with, so we did not get totally lost. When we were on our way in, there is a section of the road that is only about 1 1/2 lanes wide, and of course we met a UPS delivery van at that part of the road (at least it was in the flats, so we did not have to drive into a ditch to avoid the UPS guy). I would hate to have that area as part of my route if I were a delivery driver. I felt like my little HHR was way too big for the canyon road, I would hate to try and navigate it in a delivery van.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Out of the Blue

It is amazing how latent insecurities can be triggered by seemingly insignificant situations.

I am a really tall woman (6'2" currently, used to be 6'3" but there has been some settling of contents during shipment). I have been comfortable being tall since I was in my mid-twenties. Before that I was really insecure, and felt very gangly and ugly. This morning before church, a woman walked by me and said to her husband (loud enough for me to hear), "Gee, maybe I should join a church of midgets!" She was probably about 5 feet tall. Now I know she meant it to be funny, but for some reason today, it totally hit me wrong. And I spent the better part of today feeling really insecure about my height. I know it's trivial, I know I am taking things way too personally, and I am having a difficult time letting this go today. UGH.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snow Day

We went to the Snow Day at the Irvine Great Park today. The lines for everything were really long, but later in the afternoon, the patches of snow were a lot of fun to play in. K built a mini snowman with R, P, and L. Other than being insanely crowded, it really was a good time.

We had a nice picnic with one of the families from church. And we ran into another family from our neighborhood and so all of us hung out for the afternoon, with the kids playing and we adults having very nice conversation. And I got my snow fix, yet again!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Snow - Real Snow Below 1000 Feet Altitude Even!

Back in March of 2009, our family started attending church at Irvine United Congregational Church. Everyone there has been so warm and welcoming, and we actually became full members in May. Amongst the recurring events in this church's life are the monthly "Bon Vivant" dinners. On the last Saturday of every month, there are sign ups for hosting and participating in these small intimate dinners. It is a great way to get to know people from church. There has been a big push to start up a family friendly "Bon Vivant", and tomorrow will be the first one.

The family who signed up to host it has decided to host it at the Irvine Great Park. Tomorrow, at the park, they are having a "Snow Day", complete with sledding, ice rink, skate rentals, and opportunities to ride the "Orange Balloon". I need to call the host to find out the particulars (what food to bring, etc.); I am excited about this because I get to satisfy my craving for snow! SQUEEEEEEE!!!

Here is a link to the event! http://www.ocgp.org/2010/01/great-park-snow-day/. Looks to be a lot of fun for all of us.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Bit of a Reprieve

Today I am having a better day with regards to the depression. I know it is still there, lurking under the surface. I know it will be back, and sooner rather than later. But today, I am feeling relatively good. The seemingly endless stream of tears is not at all close to the surface today. I am enjoying it.

The sun is out. K seems to be really cooperative regarding her homework today, and there is a little glimmer of hope. Not that that glimmer of hope ever really disappears... if it did, I probably would not still be here. But the glimmer seems a little stronger today. Not coincedentally, my pain level is at the lowest it has been in about a month. I am very grateful for this. I chalk my better mood up to the reduced pain level and the sunshine. I feel like the foul mood from last week's storms has now been washed away.

We are right in the middle of the annual Girl Scout Cookie Sale. K has been through two troop splits, so essentially she is in a third different troop for the sales season. K's troop is really small (7 girls) and our troop goal for the cookie sale is 1000 boxes. K sold 250 boxes last year, and she has upped her personal goal to 300. So far, K is doing rather well, close to 200 boxes, and we have not done booth sales yet. I am hoping, for K's and her troop's sake, that K blows the doors off her goal of 300 boxes. Her troop is planning on doing a "Roar and Snore" campout at the San Diego Wild Animal Park with the proceeds from the cookie sale.

I recently (right before Christmas) joined the choir at church. I am a second alto (which is the lower part of the alto range). Apparently, when I joined, the choir was seriously hurting for altos and I was welcomed in really enthusiastically. My sight reading ability for singing is not a strong point, but once I have heard and sung a piece several times, I am fine. All of the members of the choir are really super nice, and it is a pleasure to hang out and perform with them. I was really nervous, actually I still am, about being in the choir, but my enjoyment way outshadows any anxiety I feel about choir. I am still on my quest to be more fearless in my life, and choir is just another one of those things that helps me pretend that I AM fearless.

I will be able to ride February out, I will.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

February Funk

For whatever reason, the rhythms of my life have determined that I get really depressed during the month of February. If I could completely abolish the 28-29 days of February completely from the calendar I would. No offense to those born in this dark month, I just have never "felt" February.

Perhaps part of the reason for my negativity about it is the fact that the beginning of February, 1987 started with a real bang for me. I had the original biopsy on 2/3/1987, and got the cancer diagnosis on 2/5/1987. So I have an upcoming anniversary of sorts. I am grateful I survived, and on some days, I am even grateful I had cancer (I know that sounds strange). I am not yet grateful for the scars, or the long-term affects of having been treated for cancer. That stuff just plain stinks. But in some really tangible ways, cancer gave me many gifts. One of these gifts is the strength to face down my depressive episodes.

I have started to feel myself sinking into the February depression. It started yesterday. I know the feeling well, I know it is only temporary, and I know I will be OK at the other end. I just hate feeling like this. I hate that I cry for no reason, and that my already short temper is even shorter right now. I hate that when K had a real setback with the homework that I lost my patience with her yesterday. I hate that I have to pretend everything is okay when I am out and about in the world. I know the sun will shine on my psyche again, but right now I curse the darkness.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Overwhelmed

Sometimes it feels to me like I am in way over my head in life. I am having one of those days today. I definitely feel today like I am not good enough, I don't feel like I fit in, and that all I am is a big pretender.

Aren't I a little bit advanced in years to be feeling this? Don't most people grow out of these floating feelings of inadequacy by the time they are in their thirties? I am almost 46 years old and my insides feel like I am 14. Not fun.

Most of the time I can maintain with all this crap below the surface, but sometimes it bubbles over, like today, for example. I suppose it could be female hormonal stuff, intensifying it, but I have no idea if that is it, because I had the hysterectomy about a year ago, and so I no longer know what my hormonal cycle is.

My children deserve a better and more confident mother.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Storms of the Century

Being from the Midwest, where there are many rainstorms, I often have to laugh at the weather casts of "storms" here. In the 3 1/2 years I have lived here, the most rain we have gotten in a single storm has been about 1/2 inch. And when the storms are forecasted, the media here totally over hypes them. The storms of this past week actually lived up to the hype.

It is no secret that our climate is basically a coastal desert. Irvine averages just shy of 13 inches of rain per year. Contrast that with the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, where they average about 25-30 inches of precipitation (both rain and snow - 10 inches of snow is ~ 1 inch of rain).

Well, this past week we had several storms hit us in rapid succession, starting on Sunday and ending in the wee hours of today (Saturday). According to NOAA, John Wayne Airport (closest point of reference) got 6.03 inches. The amount of rain increased as the distance from the coast increased. If I had to guess (we don't have a rain gauge), I would estimate that we got between 6.5 and 7 inches of rain this week. We also had tornadoes in Orange County on Tuesday (the closest one hit in extreme south Irvine (about 5-6 miles from here). And for those that may not be aware, houses here are not built with basements. So one needs to go to a windowless interior room on the lowest floor to take cover. Or, in my case, be out to coffee with the leader of the Brownie troop, and be totally oblivious to such trifles as Tornado Warnings. Some of the people I know reacted to the Tornado Warning exactly the way I react to earthquakes. I guess it just comes down to what one is used to. Add to this, the fact that because it so rarely rains here, people here do not really know how to drive in it, especially when it REALLY rains. Yes, that big puddle of water pooling in the right hand lane of the freeway IS going to affect the motion of your car. We saw people on the 405 hit those pools going 65 mph, and totally lose control of their cars. It was scary. One eighth of an inch of rain and many people get confused. Much like in Minnesota during the first snowfall of the season.

I don't know about anyone else, but I was so ready to be done with these storms on Wednesday. All this damp and chilly air really affected my arthritis in a very bad way. The sun is out today and I am still hurting. I imagine those people up in the slide areas are also so done with this. They have lifted most of the mandatory evacuations. There were slides, but apparently, the measures they took to protect buildings worked and the damage from the mudslides appears to be minimal.

Thankfully the sun did come back out today, as it is the beginning of the annual Girl Scout Cookie Sale. K and her dad are out canvassing the neighborhood right now for potential customers. Last year K sold 250 boxes of cookies (her goal was 200). This year her goal is 300 boxes. Our troop this year will be participating in booth sales, so K's numbers should go up. The troop plans on using the funds to go to an overnight program at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

In other news, today is S's 19th birthday. Where did all the time go?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

APAAS, GATE or Status Quo - What to do?

Our daughter is a very intelligent girl. And yes there is considerable bias on my part in making that statement. However, I do have some empirical evidence of her intellectual capacity. Last year (second grade) was the first year that K took the STAR tests (California's standardized tests). She scored a 440 in English/Language Arts (402-600 is advanced) and a 491 in Mathematics (414-600 is advanced). In addition to the high test scores, she has some ADHD issues. I am convinced that a significant percentage of the ADHD issue is boredom.

APAAS would require that K switch to a different school because APAAS is a stand-alone program, and K's school is not an APAAS center. I actually think APAAS would be preferable, since it is stand-alone, in comparison to GATE which is an "addition to" program. Plus, from everything I have heard, both fourth grade teachers at K's current school would not be a good fit for K and her attention deficit/processing issues. Minimum criteria for K to get into APAAS is advanced on the STAR testing in both English/Language Arts and Mathematics, Bs or better on her second trimester report card, and the ability to handle higher expectations academically. I am pretty confident on two of the three criteria.

GATE would happen at K's current school, and K would be put at a table in her class with the other GATE kids, and would be taught with the regular class but have higher expectations than most of the rest of the kids in her class. I do not like this at all, since I think if she is going to be put into a program with high academic expectations, that she needs to be in a group with the same expectations, or else it will probably not work well for her. Oh the joys of dealing with ADHD and a particularly willful child. Yes, Mom, K is part of my penance for putting you and Dad through Hell.

I am going to get in touch with Mrs. A. (the special ed teacher at K's school) and try and set up an appointment with her to get her ideas about this whole dilemma. She has really been such a good resource for me, in navigating the ADHD issues and has given me some really great advice with regard to motivating K to do her best. I am grateful for her input.