Friday, January 29, 2010

Dazzle Your Children

Y'know, once in a while, I would like things to go as I envision them. Just now and then. I bought nice letter paper, figuring I would write to Dad at the nursing home once a week, like I used to write home when I was in the Peace Corps. I'm a good letter writer (believe it or not), and he can't talk on the phone. I have been putting together photos and art from the kids to decorate his walls when I get there.

I have been mentally preparing myself to see him in this desperately ill condition. How to be...cheerful without being forced; encouraging without being unrealistic?

But Mom called tonight to tell me that he's going fast. Having a lot of trouble breathing, very seldom awake, heart meds aren't helping. The stroke affected the part of his brain that controls all of these functions, and the rest of him is shutting down. She has asked them to stop feeding him with the stomach tube. He's able to take a little water by mouth.

I'll be there a week from today. Probably a little too late. I'm trying not to let it bother me.

About ten years ago, I was in Wisconsin on Father's Day. It was a big get-together of the whole family (and Simon's parents from England), for Sara's baptism. Since all four of his kids were in attendance, Dad had offered to give the Message that day at church. He called it "DAZZLE Your Children!" This has always been one of his parenting themes. His actions have often been followed by a chorus of "DAAAAAAADDDD!!" You can read that with a tone of mortification (as when he managed to find a seersucker suit that was striped in my class colors to wear to my high school graduation). Sometimes it took the tone of mortal mortification (as when he surprised me at my college dorm one day and asked me if he could take me and my four best girl friends out to lunch, then gave us all a talk about AIDS and the dangers of unprotected sex). When we were younger, the tone would denote awe (like when he used to squeeze the honey over his toast, raising the bottle higher and higher the air until he was standing over the kitchen table).

I thought of this the other day. Sara and I took a walk to the supermarket, and I bought a new laundry basket. While walking home with it, I shocked Sara by wearing it over my head. "Oh, my God! Moooooooommmmm! [hissed] Just take it off before we walk past K's house, OK?" Pfffft. Yeah, right. I did pause in front of K's house to do a special, butt-shaking dance in front of her picture window, with the basket still on my head. "Don't worry. She won't know it's me. I have a basket on my head." "Mom, you're with me. Who ELSE would you be??"

Then I realized. I WAS BEING DAD! I called him up and told him all about it. He had his stroke the next day, so I guess I won't have the chance to talk to him again. I'm glad I called on the spur of that moment. It can be an OK ending, if it has to be. I'm still sad, though. I suppose I'll eat a half-box of Junior Mints and scrub some grout. I'd go dazzle the kids, but they're in bed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Some Things Never Change

So, recent family crises have brought about an unprecedented amount of communication with my mother and older siblings. Normally, we are not great at keeping in touch. I probably spent 45 minutes on the phone with my sister this afternoon. It is the longest conversation we have had in 5 years, easily. Not that we don't get along-we just never talk. Which may explain our relative harmony... It may seem strange to other people, but it seems to work for us.

I must tell you that my older brother and sister are a lot older than me; like seven and nine years older. It makes me laugh how we pick up where we left off. My older brother and I were on the phone a week or so ago:

Kate: I feel bad that I'm not there. You guys have told Dad that I'll be there as soon as I can, right? He doesn't think I don't care about him, right? All the rest of you have been able to see him and...

Charles: [after a short pause, in the high-pitched, breathy voice that he has used for taunting his siblings ALL HIS LIFE, which I have probably not heard for 15 years or so...] Oh, I'm sure he's noticed. All of the other children have been to see him. His older son and daughter...even his younger son has been at his bedside. But WHERE is his younger daughter? He-

Kate: (laughing) All right, all right! Enough!

I felt like saying, "It's so cute when you torment me like you did when I was a kid!"

Then today, convoluted discussions with my older sister about getting the house packed up and helping Mom move. It's difficult in a town as small as Markesan. There is no bulk trash pickup - it all has to be taken to a landfill some distance away. The estate sale people don't want to come and get our stuff. Too far off the beaten track. They WILL allow us to add our stuff to another estate sale in a larger town, if we bring it there ourselves. Can we coordinate a moving van to move Mom to her condo and the sale items to the estate sale on the same day? Kill two birds with one stone? Save $500? It has to be done on a certain day, as determined by the estate sale people.

This needs to be passed by Mom, then it has to be passed by my brother. What if that day doesn't work for him? I'm thinking, big deal. I'll be there. If he needs to work that day, it'll be all right. I can handle it, and if I need help, I will go to the minister at Mom's church and have him give me some phone numbers of people I can wrangle to help out. Like I said, it's a small town. My sister days she can't walk down the street without each persoin asking her how Dad is, and if there is anything they can do to help. I'm really good at mobilizing troops - I do it every day at work.

That's the funny thing to me. I am She Who Must Be Obeyed! Queen of the Pushy Broads. To all of us women who go through life with our hands on our hips, I guess there is a universal truth. The only people in the world who might fail to see us this way would be our older siblings. To mine, I will always be a pants-wetter who breaks their stuff. I have to admit that I find that comforting.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pissy. Stay Outta My Way.

I am not in a good mood. I realize that being grumpy in light of crises around the world is selfish. I realize that I am capable of feeding and sheltering many Haitians at this moment, and I should be grateful for the bounty of my life. But I don't give a rat's. So there. I am petulant, I know. I also realize that, based on the calendar, this is probably PMS. That just makes me pissier.I am sick and tired of Simon's righteous smirk when he checks my planner and sees that he can attribute my mood to hormones instead of to the fact that he is a schoob.

The list:

1. I'm sick of being on this diet. I want to eat chocolate-swirl banana bread until I'm tired of eating it. I want a Scotch on the rocks after work. One more week until it's over. I weighed in this morning. So, in the first week, I went from 129 to 126. Week Two, I went from 126 to 123. Yay me! Today, I again weighed 126. Furthermore, I am tried of people telling me that I shouldn't be bummed out about it, cuz I'm already slim. These people have (thankfully) never grabbed a handful of my butt, lifted up and dropped it. The jiggling goes on for two solid minutes.

2. I am sick of being cold. I can feel the goose flesh on my shins fighting against the stretchy knit of my socks as I write this. I have boiled the electric kettle simply so I can sit here with it cuddled in my lap. My thighs are burning in fact, and my hair is damp with steam; but the rest of me is frozen. The thermostat in here reads 68. I am wearing three sweaters. I want summer.

3. I am sick of Simon. His holey socks; the way he always tucks in his shirts and buttons them way up; the way he informs me that the coupon I used at the supermarket didn't register on the receipt. Can I trade him in for a cyborg? More emotional range...

4. I am sick of queries. The minute I walk in, three voices go, "Mooooom?????" Actually, two voices go, "Mooooooom?" and the other one goes, "Kaaaaaaate?????"

5. I am sick of work. Why not just lay me down in the middle of the office floor and entomb me in a massive burial mound of paperwork? Get it set up and tell me there is a cask of Amontillado in there. Starved for alcohol, I crawl in, then you pull the tiny scrap that brings it all own on my head.

5. I am sick of being here instead of in Wisconsin with my parents.

6. On the other hand, I am sick of responsibility. I have come to the realization that while I am gone, there will be a birthday/slumber party for Sara to go to, a Girl Scout event, both children's school Valentine's parties, Nathan's birthday.... So I need to be ready to go with a cake and a present for Nate the day after I get home..a special meal for Valentine's Day the next day...Sara's birthday party the next weekend. WHY did I have my kids five days apart? And believe me, Si will be prostrate with exhaustion when I get home, owing to the rigor of keeping up with meals and homework. Cry me a river.

I'm going to take a hot shower and go to bed, where it's warm.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

WOO-HOO! Or Something Like That

It's the beginning of Sunday Ski-Date season for Simon and me. The kids will be in ski-school for the next 6 Sundays, pretty much all day; Simon and I can ski alone together. Not alone, together; I mean together. Alone. For people as privacy-deprived as we are, that makes it a date.

We were off to a slow start today at 8:00 AM, joining the long line of traffic that stretched down from the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. It had been snowing all night, and the Canyon had been closed for avalanche control. Si got text after text from Snowbird. Opening was delayed until 9:00. 9:15. Further delay was caused by a slide that came down on the road. I read. Si had to pee and had just climbed out of the truck to go find a place to siphon the python, when the Canyon opened and the line of traffic started moving. He had to hold it quite a while longer. I keep telling him that some old empty drink bottles in the cab are a good idea on day like this. We putzed along until we were part way up the canyon, and the traffic stopped again. This time, an avalanche had come down in-bounds at Alta and knocked 4 ski patrollers down with it. Everyone was OK, but Alta closed and so did the Canyon road. Only the people who were already partway up the canyon, on the wrong side of the closure gate, got to continue to Snowbird.

We didn't arrive until about 10:30, pulling in next to truck after truck of guys that had needed to pee all the way up the Canyon and couldn't stand it. They were all lined up at the snowbanks in front of their cars, trying to look discreet about taking a piss. Guys! Old drink bottles! Try it!The skiing was SO worth the hassle. The few of us who made it up had the resort to ourselves for an hour or two. Not much was deemed safe enough to open, but the terrain that was open was fabulous. The best moment was riding along on Gadzoom and looking down just as a patroller opened Bassackwards. He took down the rope that restricted access to a pristine run with about 18" of fresh powder,and we all made a dive for it. Skiing Lower Bassackwards in thigh-deep powder was worth howling about. The shredder dudes were screaming YEEEE-HAH! WOO-HOO! I'm a prissy English-major, so I shouted, "MY GOODNESS THIS IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE!! Then came the first of several wipe-outs that went, "WHOOMPH!" and buried my skis so deep I had to dig down to free my feet. Epic!

My boobs held up really well, (thanks, boobs) even when I was poling. I pulled the incision a little once when my pole stuck and jerked my arm back. No big deal.

It was tiring, though. Si went on a last run without me; I went to his office, lay down on his floor with my head on the mitten-bag and took a nap.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

ET Phone Home

Well, Dad is not improving. The neurologists at University Hosp. say that the chances that he will rehabilitate from his stroke are slim. Because it occurred in his brain stem, a lot of involuntary function is shut down. Right-side paralysis is the least of his problems. He can't swallow, his circadian rhythms are shot. Even his heart rate is affected. He's been having incidents of tachycardia (some dangerously long) every day, just about. In the ICU, this sets the monitors beeping and people hurrying to try and solve the problem. Mom has decided to have his heart monitors taken off. These incidents don't hurt him. There's a good chance that one will go on long enough to make his blood pressure drop dangerously low. When that happens, the doctor says, he'll go to sleep and not wake up.

Well, all right. If it's a choice between that and keeping him in ICU so they can jump at him every time the monitor beeps...well, it's not going to get better and we can't keep him there forever. He hates the monitors. He's totally cognizant...when he's awake, which doesn't seem to be very often.

Mom told Dad the plan. She says that they will move him to a regular room for a couple more days until they are sure his feeding tube is working well; then she will have him transferred to the assisted living place they've picked out in Oshkosh. The condo is ready to be moved into. Mom will live there alone, I guess - Dad will need 24/7 nursing care. She told him all this, and he mustered the strength for one word: "home".

I sighed when she told me that. I feel bad for him. How would it be to go to church one morning, not knowing that you would never come back? But there's just no way. If he were even able to sit up in a car and a wheelchair, it might be managed, with a few strong guys. But he'll be transferred by ambulance. Anyway, the house is all taken apart.

Is it bad of me to say that I hope he doesn't hang on long? I hope he does have a spell of tachycardia that makes his blood pressure drop too low. Soon. Selfishly, I would love it if he hangs on long enough for me to see him (two more weeks). But. I used to work in a nursing home, and I took care of people who were just like Dad, but who hung on for years. Lying unaware and emaciated in bed all day long, unable to chew or swallow, unable communicate. Jenny Cupery was like that. I would spend ages feeding her a thickened liquid diet. Each spoonful would just sit there in her mouth as I massaged her throat and said, "Swallow, Jenny. Jenny, can you try to swallow?" Finally, a horrible gagging, and down it would go.

I can appreciate that, even when so badly stricken, people manage in their own ways to exemplify grace and patience; and in that way, they teach us gentleness and compassion. Would it be OK, though, to wish a different ending for Dad?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kate's Kitchen Kapers, Kontinued

I haven't done a cooking blog in a while, so here we go.
Today is just the right sort of day. There is a storm coming, and the wind is howling under the eaves. I get a "meal off" from my diet, and my soul craves comfort food. And cookies. I went and actually bought chocolate chip cookies, cuz I won't have time to do any baking until the weekend. For my meal off, I can have alcohol (yay), dessert (yay) and forbidden foods like CHEESE! BUTTER! FROZEN HASH BROWNS! EGG YOLKS! and (reverently) KETCHUP.

Let's make Rosti Casserole with baked eggs. I would put an umlaut over the "o", but I don't know how to do that in Blogger. There is one though, so I guess we have to pronounce this like "rusty". Rusty Casserole. Here's a not-very-good picture.
Simon wanted to know if this was breakfast-for-dinner, an American phenomenon that he finds slovenly, somehow. Nah, I told him. It has turnips in it! That mollified him - the British love all those musty root vegetables.
And the ingredients:

1 1/4 C low-fat Greek-style yoghurt
2 T flour (I used whole wheat)
1 1/2 C grated turnip (about 8 oz.)
1 1/4 C shredded Gruyere cheese (about 5 oz.) (mea culpa)
1/3 C butter, melted (mea culpa)
1/4 C chopped fresh chives
1/1/4 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4 t nutmeg
1 (30 oz.) package frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
cooking spray
8 lg. eggs
First of all, this recipe is a real grate-o-rama. Grate the cheese, grate the turnip. At least the potatoes are already grated. Check out my left-handed grating technique. This allows me to grate the turnip in one hand and the cheese in the other, simultaneously, balancing the graters against my wrists. Wouldn't you like to see me do that? Sorry! Too hard to photograph.
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine yoghurt and flour in a large bowl, stirring well.

Add turnip, Gruyere cheese, butter, chives, 1 1/4 t salt, pepper, nutmeg and potatoes to yoghurt mixture.

Spread potato mixture evenly into a 9x13 inch baking dish coated in cooking spray.
Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven. With the back of a spoon, make 8 indentations in the top of the potato mixture. Crack one egg into each indentation. Think to yourself that is looks sort of ...gross...viscous...

Return dish to the oven. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes or until the yolks are almost firm.
This was very popular with me and the kids. It is tasty on its own, or as a ketchup transportation device. Everyone likes turnips in my family, but if your family doesn't like turnips, don't worry. You can't taste them at all. Hidden nutrition! Simon was not so enthusiastic. He wouldn't eat the egg yolks, cause he's "watching his cholesterol" (addictions to commercial baked goods, shrimp, butter, cheese, etc..notwithstanding...), and he had a little trouble deciding whether to open a bottle of white or red.
I would say...7 out of 10. Bonus points for being vegetarian (though obviously not vegan). Additional bonus point for just being different. Serve with green salad.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Ear Lobes?

I can't figure out where the weight loss is coming from. My butt looks as big as ever, but the scale says I have lost 6 pounds on this diet so far. My fingers are looking extra bony. At least I know it won't be coming off my boobs.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Can't Wait to get Back to the Office

Dull? You know it's bad when all you have to say for a day is:

1. I cleaned behind the fridge.
2. I took the kids to see "The Spy Next Door". So awful.

I've convinced the kids that the theater offered to pay me $90 just to sit through it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

She Blinded Me With Science!

Well, no news is good news regarding my father, if you have been following that story. My brother called this morning to report that he had had a fairly peaceful night and that his infection was coming under control.


Therefore, I can focus on other things, like the science project Sara and some of her classmates are working on. This was one of those things where Sara told me, "So, I'm having a meeting for my science group. We're all getting together to make a working model of an avalanche." "Oh? When? Where?" "Here at our house. At 11:00." Details like materials needed, general plan, informing parents...forget about it.

Half an hour before the meeting, one of the kids' mothers called me up:

"Hi, Kate! It's Laurie S. Hey, is my girl supposed to be coming to your house today for something? She just got around to telling me about it now."
"Yeah. A group of kids are going to work on their avalanche model."
"Geeze. OK. Does she need to bring anything?"
"No, I don't think so. She had committed a fish tank to the project, but now another kid is going to bring that."
"That's good, 'cause we don't have a fish tank."

Sara and I had already talked about what substance would best imitate snow. Salt! Sugar! Styrofoam! 'Cause they're white!! It'll look so cute! We can make a little model of a ski resort with a little mini tram and...

No. Forget white. Forget cute. Use sand, I told her. I sent Simon out to get us a little sand. About five pounds ought to do it. Home Depot has sand in the winter, in 50 pound bags. That's what he brought home. Need sand, anyone?

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the kids behaved. I could ask them things like, "What's your hypothesis?", and they knew what I was talking about. One girl whipped out a notebook and starting making a record of our various successes and failures in recreating an avalanche. Only one kid (I'll call her Luna Lovegood, for all you Harry Potter fans out there) was not with the program. She just stood to one side, digging into the sand bucket, lifting hands full of sand high into the air and dropping it, crooning "It's snowing! It's snowing!" Sigh. So, here's our slope, as yet unsloped, with a snowboarder dude on top Quite a bit of discussion as to whether the avalanche should be triggered by a skier or a snowboarder. People in Utah have their loyalties.

A closeup. Ready for action. Luna is concerned that he'll have a hard time getting to the bottom with a Lego snapped to his feet.

And away we go. Sara's friend K. is holding a protractor to measure the angle of the slope. It's a Little funny doing this project with a bunch of Utah kids. They talk about things like "base", "wind-blown slabs" and "fracture lines" as if everybody knows about them. Lots of Utahns speak Avalanche, I guess. Probably little kids on Pacific islands know a lot of tsunami terminology that we don't know.

Aaaaaaaand... there he goes. Bummer! He wasn't buried! We really need him to get buried in order to make a point about avalanche safety.

Here's Sara holding the protractor. And a kind of sandy doughnut. This time, the thoughtless friend at the top of the slope is going to unleash death and destruction on his unwitting buddy below.
Does this look like a big mess to you? Actually, the kids helped me clean up and it was not too bad. Except for Luna, who made sand pies and soaked them with my water spray bottle, informing me that she liked sandboxes. She has one at home. Good for you Sweetheart. Would you like to go and play in it RIGHT NOW???

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hanging On

Dad's in ICU, now. Had some sort of cardiac incident; finally stabilized late this afternoon. He has a Do Not Resuscitate order. Actually, Mom gave the order. I asked her on the phone tonight if he had an advance directive.

"No. he never got around to signing his advance directive."
"Well, the only advance directive he ever gave me was that, if he keeled over in the wilderness somewhere, I should just cover him with rocks."

He lives to see another day, I guess.

I'm a little calmer about the fact that I may not be there if he dies. I've decided to stop worrying about it. My aunt pointed out that the loving family surrounding the dying patriarch was a fiction; and a loving family can also surround a dying patriarch who is comatose and doesn't know they are there.

We had a great visit in August, and I had a fun conversation with him on the phone the day before his stroke. I can let this go.

Friday, January 15, 2010

All Nailed Down

Well, my flight to Wisconsin is booked for February 5. Now all I have to do is wait that long. I wish I could go TODAY. There are practical reasons why Mom thinks it's better to wait. I can help her move into her new condo in February. Won't it be strange to see the same old furniture plopped down in a new setting? I'm interested to see what the house will look like, all taken apart. I should take pictures; maybe go on a couple of my favorite walks while I'm there, as I probably won't be back. There's a neighbor lady who was always nice to me when I was little: baking cookies and keeping plenty of toys for when I came to play. She didn't have children of her own. I'll need to go and see her. It's silly, but I might take some small thing to hide in the house, that will stay there. I'll put it somewhere that the new owners won't look.

I know what I plan to take with me when I go:

The maple bedstead
Dad's desk from when he was a boy
A bookcase from the basement
A mattress and box spring
An old trunk with pressed tin decorating the sides
A cedar chest full of old photos
There are some books, too...and my great-great grandmother's family Bible.

I'm trying to be careful about what I ask for; thinking whether we really need it, whether it will fit in. My SIL has agreed to take the pool table! Amazing! Paul will take Dad's animal skull collection. My niece was going to take the piano, but she's changed her mind. My older brother was on the phone today, asking if I wanted the piano. Ugh. I don't think so.

And the organ! What to do with it. It's a 19th Century reed organ. You know the kind where you pump the air with your feet... We used to pump it as hard as we could, so see how loud we could make it play. I can attest to its sturdiness. No one has a place for it. I just can't picture it in my house. But it belonged to my great-grandmother... Every item in the house represents a decision.

Weird that Dad went to church two Sundays ago, little knowing that he would never go home again. He'll go from the hospital right to the nursing home that is part of the same assisted living complex where they had purchased the condo.

He was supposed to be transferred today, but he has contracted pneumonia, they are having trouble with his feeding tube, etc... Mom sounded really discouraged on the pone. She wanted to get him out of the hospital and get the hell out of Madison. Maybe Monday or Tuesday. If it looks like he's going to die, she promised to send for me right away. Otherwise, I'll be here in Utah, twiddling my thumbs for a couple more weeks.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Little Road Trip

So, I have a plan now. I will fly to Wisconsin one-way and help my mom. I'll spend 5-6 days working on packing up the house, put some pieces of furniture that I want into a 10-foot U-Haul, then drive back to Utah. Anybody want to ride along? I called the house last night and my sister picked up. She was there with my older brother, sorting stuff out. Mom is at the hospital in Madison with Dad.

They are leaving the "archives" for me to deal with, piling it all up in the dining room. This would be interesting things like my grandpa's journals, my grandmother's dolls. Also less interesting things like a hundred years worth of correspondence and my dad's high school yearbooks.

My aunt said to me the other day that she is in search of a particular letter from my great-aunt to my grandmother that as written in the 30's. Good lord, am I going to have to look through all the letters to find the one she wants? My grandmother was a pack rat, and my father is no better. I excel at hucking and chucking.

Charles, my brother, was visiting Dad the other day at the hospital. He said that, as he was leaving, Dad mustered all of his wherewithal, every last drop of energy, to utter the only complete sentence he had managed all day. He pointed an admonishing finger at Charles and gasped, "Don't. Throw. Anything. Out!"

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

To Haul or Not to Haul

Actually, it's way past my bedtime, but I am trying to write daily. The question is whether it is a good idea for me to fly to Wisconsin, rent a little U-Haul, put some bits from my parents' house in it and drive back to Utah on my own?

Must ponder. In bed.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Game On!

So, my Game On Diet team is doing great! We are raking in the points! I lost three pounds last week. Trouble is, all the other teams are doing really well. In fact, even better. We are in second-to-the-last place in the standings. WAY too much good behaviour going on around here. Particularly the lead team. Maybe of one of the members met with a terrible accident..... Yes.....

Monday, January 11, 2010

Letting Off Steam

Poor Nate. I can always tell exactly what sort of day he has had by the way he walks across the playground toward me. I think, to some extent, this is done for my benefit. Today, it was all about stomping; folded arms; thundercloud brow.

"Hey, Pickle! How was your day?"
"Horrible. Is was a horrible goddamn day!!"
"Nate! Watch your mouth!"
"Well, it was! Why does everybody have to yell at me all the time!?"
"Did you get yelled at today?"
"OK, it wasn't yelling, it was teasing! When a person has gas that has to some out, what can he do about it!?"

Turns out that he got in some sort of altercation with another little boy and decided to give him a telling off. Right in the middle of it, with all eyes upon him and respectful silence 'round about, Nate let go a huge one. This could take a while to live down.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pooh Story?

As a sidebar:

When I got my MA in Linguistics, my intention was to teach English as a Second Language, and I have done this. However, I had a secret passion for the field of Sociolinguistics: regional variety; discourse analysis; language and gender; language change; all that stuff. The research shows that language change tends to originate in young girls, and after hearing some of the stuff my daughter and her friends say, I'm now convinced. From time to time, I'm going to post things I hear Sara and her BFFs say; then, I'd love to hear from anyone out there as to whether you hear girls in your area say the same things. Could be fun.

So, to start, my two for today are:

1. "Whatev's", which is a shortened version of "Whatever."

2. Many times, when Sara or her friends say something, especially, if (they think) it's funny or smart, they will repeat it, like this: "I cleaned my room! Yay me! I'm, like, 'I cleaned my room! Yay me!'" As a mother, I find this one a little annoying. I'm, like, "A little annoying."


I spent today near the phone, hoping to hear good news about my dad. After his initial recovery from his first stroke, he has had a couple of other "stroke-like episodes" that now have him paralyzed on the right side. He still has language, but is having trouble speaking because of the facial paralysis. He has been at the University Hospital in Madison for a a few days, now. The plan after that is to move him into residential treatment: a sort of stroke therapy boot-camp. Mom is under some stress, as they were packing up to move when Dad had the stroke. They need to be out of the house where I grew up by March 1, so she's also taking care of final arrangements for their condo in Oshkosh. My sister is getting there tomorrow; then Mom will call me and let me know when she wants me to come. February, she says. She doesn't think I should travel yet, because of my recent surgery. She's probably onto something there. There are still some things I can't do, but will be able to do in a few weeks.

Friday was a good day. He talked a lot and was in a good mood. Yesterday, he slept a lot. Mom said he was discouraged at not being able to read easily. His Louis L'Amour novel was in his lap, but he is too weak to hold it up (I'm thinkin' "book stand"...).

Mom says, "Do you want me to read to you?"

"I can read."

"Yes, but you can't hold the book, so I could read to you if you like."

"Read me a Pooh story."

Mom was at a loss, not having an A. A. Milne collection to hand, or even remembering the stories very well.

I laughed when she told me this. A couple of visits ago, Dad and I sat on the stairs in their house and took turns reading A. A. Milne poems out loud to each other. They are pretty fun, and I read them to the kids all the time. One of our favorite things to do on a "sleep late" day is to pile into my bed and read "The Knight Whose Armor Didn't Squeak" or "King John's Christmas". My Pooh collection gathers no dust, that's for sure.

Mom and I decided it would be fun for me to get on the phone with Dad today and read him a Pooh story or poems or whatever he likes. The plan was that I would call his room at noon and she would put the phone to his ear.

She called me at 11:30, though, and told me that we should wait until another day. He was barely conscious. He looked terrible, she told me. She was afraid he was dying. She promised to call me if he got any clearer-headed, and that we would carry out our plan; but he did not improve. When she called me tonight, she seemed a little bit encouraged, having talked to his neurologist. I guess the sort of brain damage he has can affect his circadian rhythms, meaning that, as part of therapy, he'll need to be retaught his sleep patterns. I suggested to Mom the possibility that he may be depressed as well. She says that Dad doesn't tend to get depressed, but that he may find sleep to be a pretty good way to avoid the constant harassment of the nursing staff, etc...

I promised her that I would carry my Pooh books around in my briefcase for a few days. If he wanted a Pooh story, she could just call me up, even at school, and I could take a break to be his A. A. Milne request line. Luckily, the entire set is no bigger than a lunch box. Thank goodness he didn't request Winston Churchill or J. K. Rowling.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


[WARNING! I'm going to talk about S-E-X in this entry. When I made up my mind to start blogging again, I promised myself that I would stop worrying about who my audience is and just write what I feel. So, if you happen to know me personally and don't want to think of me in certain situations, go read a nice, tasteful blog.]

We watched the film Australia last night, and I loved it! As a comedy. Was it meant to be a serious film? There were times at which I thought it was meant to be a parody of itself. Naming the beef company King Carnie? Driving cattle straight down a wharf and into the belly of a ship? The way the Drover kept herding the same herd of horses past the ranch house in scene after scene? It was funny!

There're lots of great make-out scenes as well, between Nicole Kidman (for whom Si has a lot of appreciation) and Hugh Jackman (whose corded forearms made me swoon). I felt unpleasantly jealous during the love scene, though. Not so much because I don't get to fall onto a bed with Hugh Jackman, but because I envy anyone's ability to abandon themselves to sex at the moment. I thought, "Well, when he touches her, she knows she's being touched at least. At least she knows she's all real, and doesn't have to wonder where the fake stops and the real starts." At my house right now, sex is a little more like, "Ummm... OK. Let's see... maybe if we hold on. That's not going to work. Sorry, my arm won't go there."

I do have a better memory than a codfish, and so I recall that I felt similarly after my last surgery. Pain, numbness, and just (and this is the worst, actually) unfamiliarity with what is supposed to be MY BODY. It's all strange. Again. Where the hell did these boobs come from!?!

Later, I was telling Si about it and he reminded me that we had covered this territory before, and that I would feel better about it soon. I told him that it bugged me to think of these movie characters just being able to flop down and have great sex with no problem.


"Well, that's the disconnect between movies and reality."
"No! I think the opposite! That is what normal people do. The movie is depicting reality." [Yeah, the torrid love scene is the most realistic moment in the whole film.]
"Do you really think so? I think most people are like us. Always trying to deal with some little problem that's getting in the way."

What do I know about other people's sex lives? I suppose he could be right. Or maybe the crux of the problem for me really is that I need to have it off with Hugh Jackman. Men, if you're out there, work on your forearms. The whole corded wrist thing is...veeeeeery nice.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Naturally Sweetened

Refined sugar is not allowed in the Game On Diet, and artificial sweetener is strongly discouraged. I can tell you unequivocally that coffee with maple syrup in it tastes like shit.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Maybe I Should Go Home

Dad had another of what my brother is calling "a stroke-like episode" at the hospital in Madison today. This one has left some paralysis on the right side. I'm trying to figure out how to plan a trip out there at a time that would be useful for Mom. I think my sister is going to go this weekend and spend a week or so. Maybe I should arrange to go as she's leaving, so as to have one of us there for as long as possible.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Perfect Panties

I FINALLY went to see Dr. Perfect today. His nurse pulled the adhesive tape off and I almost had an orgasm. I was so blissed out that I barely noticed when he started pulling stitches. Now I can shower! In fact, this will be a very quick blog entry so I can go do that very thing. The bummer is that I have to wear an underwire bra day and night for 6 weeks. The doctor was very sweet to tell me that I can take it off to bathe. He was in a rare mood, in fact. Complimented my boots, and told me that I was one of his favorite patients. His latte must have been extra foamy today or something.

He checked on my bruised bootie as well and snorted when he saw it, "It DOES look like Panama!" This was an issue for me this morning. My relationship with Doctor Perfect has up to now been all above the waist. It has been almost a year, now, and I realized that we haven't managed to get past second base. I woke to the realization that he was going to need to check out my less familiar half, and I had a hard time choosing the right underpants. A thong would definitely send the wrong message. Thong = wrong. On the other hand, one doesn't want to wear granny panties in this situation,wither. Something middle of the road. And without holes.

Gotta go take a hot shower! Shower! Shower! Gonna wash the purple marker spelling out "No BP, No IV" off my left arm. Gonna shave my pits. Gonna scrub all the black adhesive marks away! Bye!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Orange Corvette

So, I was awakened this morning by a colleague telling me that the streets around Guadalupe Schools where I work were closed, because the police were trying to apprehend a guy who had killed a cop during a traffic stop in Millard County. He had escaped and made his way to the neighborhood near our school, where he has family.

This caused problems for the school, both major and minor, and many phone calls were exchanged. I ended up having to deal with some of it while I was getting my hair cut; when I left, the stylist said, "The news says his getaway car was an orange Corvette. He shouldn't be hard to find in that, huh?" I laughed and promised that if I saw the car, I would let her know.

So, I made it to school, sneaking past the roadblock by using an alley connecting a couple of parking lots. Sure enough: as I came into the building, there was the car, parked on the street at the north end of our playground. Naturally, I called my hairdresser and left her a message: "I'm looking at the orange Corvette right now."

For the rest of the morning and into the afternoon, we fought to remain dignified professionals in the face of overwhelming curiosity. With each new development ("They're sending a robot over to the car!" "Why is that guy with the cell phone running away?" "I think the helicopter is landing.") we would stampede [trottrottrottrottrot] from one window to another. If the school had been a boat, we would have capsized it. At one point, I glanced toward my office window and saw a reporter hidden there, with a telephoto lens trained on the orange Corvette. He was oblivious to us, on the other side of the tinted window, but I could have opened it and handed him a sandwich. If I had wanted to. He had one.

At one point, my boss and a couple of other staff members and I went upstairs, thinking we could see more from the second floor. There is a fairly big window there, which faces out onto the playground and the Corvette. We could hear a couple of cops talking under the window, or maybe a cop talking on his radio. My boss cracked the window open, hoping to listen in. But the cop sneezed. "Bless you!" she said. Shit! We all slapped our hands over our mouths. Sure enough, footsteps under the window and a knock on the school door directly underneath us. Trottrottrot down the stairs to open the door. The police officer says, "We think you may have some schoolchildren near the upstairs window. We have snipers with high-powered rifles trained on this parking lot from every angle, so we need all the kids away from the windows." "Yes, sir, Officer, sir." "We'll take care of those kids right away." He seems to have forgotten that school had been cancelled. Or he was trying to be tactful.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Game On!

We're doing this at work, in teams of three; and I made it through Day One pretty well. Not a silly crash diet - this is a whole healthy lifestyle thing, but with the added incentive of competition and trash talk. I do love trash talk. So, yeah, I do have to watch what I eat, and there's an exercise element as well. Those things are actually not too difficult for me, although I am going to miss my heaping morning bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios.

BUT, there are rules about alcohol. Ah, shit.

And sleep. A 7-hour requirement! Every night! For me, that means in bed, lights out by midnight if I want my team to get points. I like sleep; but when am I supposed to read, bake, fix broken stuff, finish my Christmas cards (I know, I know...), clean the house or learn to use my new camera that Santa brought?

Simon likes the sleep rule. He has checked the small print carefully. It says, "In bed with the lights out." Nothing about sleeping, per se. [For Pete's sake, Si, my boobs are duct taped together and Panama is mapped in bruises on my butt and you want to WHAT?] Gosh, Si, I'd love to have sex, but I'm afraid I'm too busy peeing.

That's 'cuz of the water rule.

The water rule is the most oppressive. Three fucking liters of water a day. Lifting the water bottle to my mouth and drinking 3 liters of water is like hauling a ball and chain. It's torture. Is this really necessary? Proponents say stuff like, "Your body can burn fat more efficiently if it has plenty of water." or "Your skin will be luminous and you'll look younger." Yeah, well I drank water all day today and I do NOT look any more luminous than when I started. And I had to pee all day. I can't make it through my commute without needing to pee. I can't make it through a meeting. A phone call. A thought. The diet book dismisses this airily: "Oh, you'll get used to it." I think I was maintaining adequate hydration before, on coffee and Scotch.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Red Jello

That's what my father gasped to my older brother in the hospital today, when Charles asked, "Can you say anything? What do you need?"

Dad had a fairly major stroke this morning in church, keeling over in the choir loft. Luckily, there were four EMTs in the congregation, according to my mother. Who were mainly useful in extracting him from between/under the pews, as he was completely paralyzed at that point. Ambulance to the hospital in Berlin (Markesan is a small town - the nearest hospital is about 20 miles), then LifeFlight to Oshkosh.

[Dad's sister called me this evening; and when I told her of the day's events, she said, "Do you suppose they interrupted the service? Well, goodness, I suppose so. What a blessing he wasn't home alone, but in church, where he could pass front of...all those people..." I could tell she was thinking, "Please let me die alone at home! Please let me die alone at home!"]

Medical miracles never cease. I learned that the rush was because there is a clot-busting drug which, if administered promptly after a stroke, can mitigate the damage in one out of seven cases. Geeze, I thought, when Charles phoned from the hospital with the news, 14% of cases? Not impressive, really. However, Dad was one of the lucky ones. Within minutes of the drug being administered, his speech began to clear, paralysis abated, and he got very cranky. No, he wasn't going to raise his right arm or wriggle his toes any more. He wanted to be put in a real bed and he wanted to take a nap. He's in the ICU at this moment, napping in a real bed.

I am delighted that his number did not come up today. I do think, though, that if a man's last words were"red Jello"...wouldn't that reflect a life well lived? I suppose that depends on whether he actually got the Jello.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Stout, Defined

Well, we can start with the adjective, which is how I feel. I took my fat ass with its map of Panama (still purple and black - it'll look more like Panama when it turns green, which it surely will...) to the rec center, though, and did 20 minutes on the recumbent stationary bike, which is the only form of exercise I can handle at the moment. Imagined myself sweating out the last of the anesthetic.

Then there's the noun, a bottle of which I hoisted while cooking supper. Sam Smith's, imported from the rainy isle of Great Britain. Smooth. My reward for ditching the Lortab.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Sneaking Back

I am depressed, and I can't blog. I promised myself I would start again in the new year, in an attempt to do things that make me happy again. So there.

I'm waiting.....

I'm not getting any happier...

I have wasted 20 precious minutes that I can't get back, staring at the screen. I could have been doing data entry! Or scrubbing a cupboard front! Actually, since I just got out of another surgery, I can't scrub cupboard fronts for a few days, yet. Something to look forward to.

Dr. Perfect was running late for this surgery, as always. This time his car wouldn't start. How can a fancy-pants surgeon's car not start? I always picture him swanning around in an Escalade with heated leather seats. Now, I'm envisioning him in a '78 Gremlin.

This time, he took fat from my ass to pad my bony post-mastectomy chest. Don't get too excited, ladies. No, my butt is no smaller-looking It does have bruises on it that closely resemble satellite photos of Panama.