Thursday, December 27, 2012
Sunday, December 23, 2012
For example, we cannot have a Christmas tree. Why? Because Intrepid, pictured below with a toy reindeer we bought for Nikolina eats anything with leaves, whether living or plastic. We found that out when we threw out all our denuded plants when he was a kitten and were given a plastic replacement, which he imbibed without our noticing, due to his swiftness, within just a few minutes. Later, with all that plastic inside him, he was in real pain. Thank goodness, we were living in Amman, Jordan at the time, and the vet, who knew us well, came immediately to our house and Intrepid's rescue. Since then, no plants and no trees, not even artificial Christmas ones.
So, we burn the yuletide logs and put up lights (ours are going up this year on Christmas eve, not according to the dictates of traditional Advent, but because it has been raining so much lately that we have not been able to get them up -- it is supposed to stop raining some time on Monday).
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Last night Donnie and I decided to play secret santa at the K-Mart store in the nearest city (his idea, and ultimately, his money). We drove there before going to dinner at the Foster's Freeze there. After waiting quite a long time in line at the layaway counter -- we wanted everyone to get through so we could have a little "secrecy" -- we finally had our turn. We explained to the sales clerk at the counter that we would like to pay off a couple of Christmas layaways, especially ones with toys for children. Not having done this before, we did not know how it should work, and neither did the clerk have any experience in this. She pulled four possibilities, one for Donnie and one for me and a couple of backups in case people could not be reached. (She wanted to make sure that whoever was "surprised" would be able to come to the store and pick up the layaway while she was there; otherwise, there was no way to guarantee that the connection would be properly made between owner and package.) She called the first family, and apparently the sister answered and promised to get the word to the layawayer, promising that she would make sure that the package would be picked up before the store closed. The other three did not answer; it was getting late, and we were getting hungry. So, having taken a lot of appreciated time from the clerk, we left as a couple young mothers came up to the layaway counter. As we were walking toward the store exit, we heard someone calling to us, "Excuse me, excuse me." We turned around to see one of the young women who had come up to the lawaway counter as we were leaving. Yep, it was the person's whose lawaway we had paid off -- clearly someone who probably needed the help. She hugged us and thanked us. So much for being a "secret" Santa!
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Today we received our first rain of the rainy season (cannot really call it winter when you get no snow -- at least, not in my book, a child of Maine). Although I was at work all day, Donnie was home when the rain stopped and got a great picture from our house of our sacred little San Antonio, embraced by a rainbow. I thought I might share a little of the beauty that we live with all the time, from our house to yours.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Once we realized our mistake, we understood why he had imprinted on our naughty male cat, Intrepid, rather than on Simone, the gentle lady for whom we had adopted Woopka as a companion. We brought Woopka back from the vet because she/he intrigued us with her/his brazenness. For example, one morning he/she deliberately grabbed the trash bag, carefully dumped all the trash on the floor, and pranced off, holding the plastic bag in his mouth and his head high. Audacious little thing!
So, seeing that we had a little boy, we changed his name to Wooper. For two months, he pranced, fisticuffed, and head butted with the other two boy cats, Intrepid and Murjan. Where Simone will hang back during feedings, he trots right up in line with the other boys.
The time came to have him neutered. That was yesterday. We took him in to be neutered. The vet called to say he could not neuter him but rather needed to spay him/her. Wooper (or Pooper, as the vet assistant accidentally wrote down on Wooper's ID card), it turned out, is, after all, a girl.
This is so confusing. I better go check my kids. I thought we had two boys and two girls. Now, I am not so sure!
Saturday, October 27, 2012
My daughter, Lizzie, recently posted the picture above of cats on her Facebook page. One of the comments made by her significant other on that photo was, "a lot like us, doncha think, babe?"
What do you think? Below is a picture of Lizzie with her significant other. See any parallel?
Monday, September 3, 2012
I have no idea how many widows, especially recent widows, are among the readers of this blog, but just in case there are a few I thought I would share information about a recently released book that can be of help to recently widowed women. The title is Widow: Surviving the First Year. It was written by Dr. Joanna Romer, an English professor and journalist who was widowed a couple of years ago and so has first-hand experience of that about which she writes. (Donnie, by the way, did the cover photography and design.) For those interested in the content, here is information about the topics covered in the book:
This book takes new widows on a journey from the first difficult days of widowhood through 12 months of self-discovery. Along the way, you will learn how to handle emotional challenges such as suddenly being alone; how to tackle painful tasks including cleaning out hubby's closet; and how to re-enter the world again in terms of work, personal development and socializing. Guidelines are provided for each new phase, making this book a practical self-help book you can use for re-creating your life.
Saturday, September 1, 2012
(1) I told you not to drink that last beer!
(2) Darling, wake me at 3:00.
(3) When I said I had cold ears, I had no idea you would take it so seriously.
(4) When I said I wanted a little brother, I meant a dog.
(5) I'm getting too old for this!
(6) I keep on telling you I am not a duck.
(7) So this is where you live?
(8) And -- big kiss!
Monday, August 20, 2012
For those who have been following the adventures of our cats, here is the status report:
1. Murjan (pictured above at the vet's office, waiting to get his sutures removed) is fine now. Clean surgical site with no infection. Hair will return with time. Stitches gone. Clown collar gone. Isolation past. He is almost a happy camper, except that he is now getting to know his new little sister, which is taking a little time. He is warming up to her, though, and she is starting to understand that he is the alpha cat.
2. Intrepid is fine now, too. Had I known that all we needed was a little Peptobismol mixed in with his food, I could have avoided a nearly $600 vet bill, x-rays, and a night of no sleep! He, too, is out of isolation and definitely a happy camper. He is even happy with the new kitten, Woopka.
3. Simone is fine, has been fine, but her turn is coming. Her long Himalayan hair has matted to the point that she has to go see the vet for some help with de-matting. At least, that won't be until September.
4. Little Woopka, the abandoned kitten we brought home from the vet's, has settled in and made our home her home. Just as fearless as Intrepid, she has imprinted on him and is starting to display most of his mannerisms. Good golly, did she have to imprint on the naughtiest cat?
And the cat tales go on...next chapter in September.
Saturday, August 11, 2012
(1) Before picture: Murjan goes to the vet. He has a boo-boo on his butt, and he is hurting. He wants to be comforted and quickly exits his carrier to be held while waiting for the vet.
THEN COMES THE SURGERY, STITCHES, DRAINS, AND CLOWN COLLAR -- FOLLOWED BY A TRIP BACK TO THE VET.
(2) After picture: This time no amount of coaxing is going to get Murjan out of his carrier. He knows exactly where he is now!
Saturday, August 4, 2012
Our vet has no evening or weekend hours, so we checked around to see what care was available in our remote location. Nothing in the evening, and one vet two cities away was open on Saturday morning. So, we put Murjan on bedwatch at home. He seemed to be doing okay, but clearly he was in pain.
This morning we put him our medium-size dog carrier. (Yep, he is too big for a small dog carrier. Not fat, just big.) Actually, he put himself into it. Now, we knew he was in pain!
Off we went to the doctor. It turns out that he had a really deep abscess, again no idea where it came from. The abscess required outpatient surgery. While we waited for the surgery, we went for brunch. We also spent time playing with a cute little highly curious lovable and loving tiny girl kitten brought in for adoption. Apparently, she had been adopted before but brought back because of incompatibility with the house dog.
After a few hours and the loss of a few hundred dollars, Murjan was ready to come home. He came home with sutures, two (!) drains, a clown collar -- and a new little sister, whom we have named Lyupka (the Russian word for curiosity, lyubopytstvo, being a rather long name for a tiny little kitten; lyupka is also connected with the word, lyubov, love).
Lyupka (Donnie has taken to calling her Loopy) is now bravely and curiously exploring the cat room, bonding with Simone, our other girl. Murjan is spending his time in our bedroom -- he has to have his own litter and be isolated from any kind of jumping and playing for ten days. (This will be fun!) Intrepid is moping around the living room, feeling unfairly isolated from his playmates.
One thing at a time...
Picture above is of Murjan, taken while waiting for care at the vet's: "Mommy, please help, I don't feel good." Pictures of Intrepid and Simone can be found in various, earlier posts. I will put one up of Lyupka soon.
Friday, July 13, 2012
As for my father's story, it happened so many years ago that one would think that it would be lost in the deluge of stories and memories that have followed, but some memories just remain. Period. My father's death is one of those.
After more than eight years, Linda Carswell finally has proof: According to photographs submitted as evidence at a recent court hearing, her husband's heart sits in a locker in the morgue of St. Joseph Medical Center in Houston, stored in two plastic tubs.
But the hospital still won't return it so that Carswell can bury it with his body.
ProPublica wrote in December about Carswell's battle for the heart, and for answers about her husband's unexpected death. Jerry Carswell, 61, went to a different Houston-area hospital for kidney stones in January 2004 and was found dead in his bed after receiving pain medication on the day he was supposed to be released.
The family's experience showed how problems with clinical autopsies — which are conducted on just 5 percent of patients who die in hospitals and rarely include toxicology tests — can thwart survivors’ ability to determine what happened to their loved ones.
The pathologist at St. Joseph Medical Center who conducted Jerry Carswell's autopsy never determined a cause of death. Linda Carswell sued Christus St. Catherine Hospital, the facility that treated her husband, in Harris County District Court, losing a claim for negligence, but winning a $2 million award for fraud based on the handling of the autopsy. Christus St. Catherine is appealing the verdict.
An opinion issued in June by the Texas Supreme Court says a deceased person's next of kin is entitled to possess his body and bury it. That's standard practice nationwide, said Dr. Victor Weedn, a lawyer and pathologist who is professor and chair of the George Washington University department of forensic sciences.
Weedn said he doesn't see why the hospital couldn't give Jerry Carswell’s heart back and warned that it could be incurring liability by keeping it.
Erin Lunceford, an attorney for St. Joseph, told ProPublica that the hospital realizes it could be sued for the organ, but is concerned that turning it over would violate a judge's order during the negligence case to preserve evidence.
The ongoing saga turned Carswell into an advocate for improved autopsy laws and other patient rights. She said her prolonged legal struggle illustrates obstacles encountered by those harmed in medical facilities — the type often cited by members of ProPublica's Patient Harm Facebook group. Patients and their loved ones can't get answers to basic questions, encounter roadblocks in obtaining medical records and are not treated with dignity, she said.
"They don't understand the human meaning of this at all," Carswell said.
My father was admitted to the hospital with walking pneumonia in the nearest city to our country Maine farm in January 1973, at the age of 58, with five of his eight children still living at home. I was the oldest, living in Montana, and not able to be there when this happened. I also did not think that there was a reason to be there because nothing seemed abnormal -- everyone in rural Maine during one winter or another got pneumonia in those days. I myself had pneumonia three times growing up. The doctors knew what to do to cure it. So, no one was concerned and probably did not need to be. My father spent a week in the hospital. Early Saturday morning, on the day he was to be discharged, completely healed, my sister Katrina, home for a visit, went to pick him up. In my sister's presence, the nurse, my long-term childhood friend, now grown and educated as a nurse, gave my friend his final shot of antibiotic. Only it was not an antibiotic!
Immediately, my father went into cardiac arrest and died in my sister's arms. The chief of staff of the hospital, our personal physician and family friend -- his oldest daughter and I were classmates and are friends to this day -- told my mother to get an autopsy and then do whatever she considered right. My sister Danielle was working as a nurse in Washington state at the time and looked at the autopsy results. As in the case above, the liquids, including blood, had been removed. There was no way to prove the error in medication, but wrong medication was the only reasonable explanation since the autopsy showed an otherwise healthy heart.
My mother decided to take no action, unlike Linda in the Huffington story. The hospital was the only one for dozens of miles around, and she still needed health care for the five kids. Moreover, my father's death threw her onto welfare because she had always been a housewife, had no job or job skills, and still needed to work the farm and be with the kids. So, not only did she need the hospital, but she was also now reliant upon the hospital to take the kids at welfare rates. (A lawsuit might have ended up with requiring free care, but she worried about the result being negative because there was no proof.) There was also the complication that the chief of staff had been immensely kind to our family over the years, coming to our farm after work hours to take care of sick kids in exchange for a bushel of corn or peas, which he picked himself. His children and my sisters and I were good friends. And then there was the case of one of my closest friends (and her parents were friends of my parents) having been the one to make the mistake that killed my father. My mother and the rest of us decided to move on and take what Life had dealt us.
I am still friends with the friend who killed my father. I know she feels horrible about the matter. In fact, moving on was just as hard for her as for us.
What should my mother have done? I don't know. I think she probably made the best decision possible under the circumstances. I would be interested in learning others' views. It is, after all, not a forgettable memory.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
|Beth does first reading.|
|Sr. Maria does second reading.|
|Fr. Rudy reads the Gospel.|
|Fr. Rudy blesses the water.|
|A tearful Doah is baptized by Fr. Rudy; godfather Benito is right there.|
|Doah, Benito, Beth, & Donnie listen to Fr. Rudy.|
|With altar-server Jeanmarie's help, Fr. Rudy annoints Doah.|
|Doah's pal, Deputy Rich, arrives just in time!|
|And then it's time to say goodbye!|
Saturday, June 9, 2012
Age Two: The pictures in the yellow dress are from her birthday party. Clearly, her little brain is working -- she loves electronic devices and knows how to use them, including how to find, download, and watch her favorite movies on netflix. Of course, her physical condition requires constant monitoring and medical followup. She will probably always have a colostomy, and with almost no short intestine, she needs special milk. Otherwise, she eats and loves food. Her missing body parts (rectum, large intestine, colon) are still missing, but she seems to do well without them. The pieces that were sewn back together seem to be holding although continence looks like it will be an issue. This is not a surprise since her bladder was in three pieces and had to be reconstructed. I don't believe the doctors have been able to locate her spleen yet, but tests show that it is functioning, so it is somewhere within her body. With most of her organs in the wrong places, it is no surprise that the spleen can so easily play hide-and-seek with the doctors. She is not walking yet because of the need for braces and physical therapy. At two, it was considered too early to move forward with that or to make decisions about it, so she has become quite a little crawler. She can pull herself to standing, but her ankles give way quickly. In spite of all those little impediments, her exterior appearance gives nothing less and nothing more than the impression of a very happy and bright little girl, which she is.
Age Three: She now has bright pink braces, ankle-high, and her physical therapist is trying to determine whether or not she will need crutches for walking or will be able ultimately to ambulate, albeit awkwardly, without them. Time will tell. She still spends most of her time crawling, but that little mind of hers is running. Her eyes tell the larger story. As the pictures below, taken at a photo shoot, show, time has been kind to her. Routine follow-ups are, well, routine, thank God. Shane recently posted the pictures below on his facebook page, so I am certain he won't mind my reposting them here.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
I have not been very actively blogging lately. Partly this is because I have been very busy, being home no more than three days so far in May (and right now, I am not at home, but in Prague). Partly this is because April was taken up -- well, those few days I was home in April -- with a strange health experience. I woke up on the morning of April 10 earlier than usual, felt a little strange, had some pain in my chest, and decided to take my blood pressure. (For some time, I have had trouble keeping my blood pressure under control.) The blood pressure, it turned out, was 208/116 -- a tad high, to say the least. However, it was an hour when my doctor was still in bed for certain and even the local clinics were closed. We have no nearby hospital, so a trip to the emergency room would take a good half-hour, and I was still a little sleepy to embark upon that journey even though Donnie thought I should. My blood pressure is always the highest when I am the calmest and really shoots up when I am asleep, which I know sounds very strange, but it is also very true. So, I laid back down and pretty readily fell asleep.
After I awoke, I felt somewhat better and took off for work although I still had some chest pain. At work, I mentioned the chest pains in passing to my deputy and admin assistant, who immediately locked my office on me (both have a spare key) and insisted that I go to the emergency room. I disagreed and called my doctor, who was not available, but his nurse gave me advice: go to the emergency room.
So, okay, I agreed to allow my deputy and admin assistant to take me to the emergency room. There, the doctor measured my blood pressure, and it was down: 202/100. In spite of my remonstrance that things were headed in the right direction, the doctor admitted me, treated me for a heart attack, and scheduled me for eons of tests, some of which he could not do because I have a couple of heart irregularities (innocuous -- did not prevent me from serving in the US Army).
Ultimately, I was released with several doctors scratching their heads and saying that they had no idea what had happened to me. The enzyme test showed no heart attack. The blood pressure took a nose dive with nitroglycerin but started returning to its erratic behavior afterward. A comment made by the doctor who released me from the hospital after concluding that there was nothing wrong with my heart, however, was very helpful. He said that the MRI pictures taken showed a thickening of the esophagus and thought I should be taking Prilosac, which I am now doing. He did not know, however, that I have had a hiatal hernia for years, ever since Doah was born some 30-odd years ago. It seems that Doah was the cause of it. In any event, the hernia has slowly grown over time so that it is now rather large. Once I realized that the hernia might have been the problem, it became clear that the chest pains were from the hernia, not from the heart. The complicating factor was the seriously high blood pressure, which is now also under control, thanks to a change in medications. So, I am healthier than anyone thought, it appears, thank God!
And that, along with an impossibly busy travel schedule, is what has kept me quiet for the past while.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
I picked up Doah at his group home yesterday evening for the Easter vigil at Old Mission Church here in San Ignatio. It is always a beautiful service with the lighting of the paschal candle from the fire pit by the garden and then the lighting of everyone's candles from the paschal candle. It is an evening of hope and expectation, a movement from dark into light. So much symbolism in one Mass!
Doah looked forward to it because his friend, Bennie, would be there. Bennie is one of my friends who has adopted a mentor/father attitude toward Doah, always ready to talk to him, taking him fishing, and hanging out with him at times. Doah adores Bennie and loves sitting with him at the mission. Doah could hardly wait for the evening to arrive.
So, decked out appropriate, Doah and I arrived promptly at the mission at the starting hour. The church was quite filled, but Doah easily found Bennie and slipped in beside him. Then we all exited for the beginning of the Mass around the fire pit. After our candles were lit, we paraded back inside and listened to the opening music and readings.
As I sat, listening and enjoying this once-a-year-only Mass, Doah slid into the pew beside me. His eyes were watery.
"Mom," he said, "I can't stay. I am allergic to the church."
We had experienced this before. The mission is 200+ years old, and Doah is allergic to mold. There are times that it seems that mold must be getting into the air. At the end of a week that had seen some rain in our normally near-drought, could-easily-become-desert area it was not surprising that perhaps more mold than usual was breaking out into the air.
"Shh," I told Doah. "Wait a few minutes and see if it the problem passes. Don't rub your eyes; just wait and see if they clear up." I did not have much hope that he would get better, but it was worth a little wait, anyway, or so I thought.
No sooner had Doah disappeared toward the front of the church -- I was farther back -- to rejoin Bennie than I heard that Voice I have come to trust and obey say, "Take him home."
When Doah popped up beside me just a few minutes later, still with red, watery eyes, and complained that he was not getting any better, I did as I had been told. I took him home.
Once we were in the outside cooler air, Doah's eyes cleared up. I could have called Donnie to pick us up, but the night was clear, cool (but not cold), and just the right place to spend some time walking together with Doah in the presence of God. (One immediately feels God's presence anywhere in San Ignatio.) And so Doah and I walked all the way home, about a mile or less (never have measured the distance from our home on the hill to the mission in the valley), mostly in silence, mostly in worship, our own little worship service.
How kind is God, I thought! He gave us an alternative way of spending Easter vigil and one in which we were as close to Him as we would have been had we stayed for the entire Mass. Clearly, worship is not about ritual, it is about relationship. And that was made clear in the words, "Take him home." Taking Doah home was not about walking away from God but rather about walking with God. It was a very good Easter vigil yesterday after all.
Monday, March 12, 2012
Unfortunately, this morning she called to say that Angel, barely a year old, had died. Of what we don't know. I don't even have a picture of Angel, but she looks somewhat like the kitten above. Apparently, Tiger is frantic -- does not understand why his twin is not moving.
Please pray for Noelle. It is hard to go through this kind of loss again so soon. She is taking it in stride, but except for the kittens (and, of course, family -- although not close by), she is pretty much alone.
Cats, at least, for my family, are an essential part of our lives. I realized this quite deeply this weekend. I have been sick in bed -- cannot remember when I have been this sick -- for four days (aftermath of a pertussis vaccination), and my cat Murjan has not left my side!