Monday, September 18, 2017

Forgotten Women

For some time, I've had Songs and Sweet Airs: Forgotten Women of Classical Music on my Amazon Wish List. Recently, I had the pleasure of borrowing it from the library, and I've been reading it over the last week. 

In premise, it may sound interesting to you--and it is. But there is one caveat. The author, Anna Beer, uses a lot of music theory-speak, which is fine by me, but may be confusing to anyone who doesn't know what strophic form means, or what a cantata is. 

That said, the main take-away I'm getting from this book is that I--feminist, musician, music teacher--am sorely lacking in knowledge of women in music history.

Sure, I learned about Hildegarde von Bingen, Fanny Mendelssohn, and Clara Schumann a little in college. But that's it. I've sung a few choral works by women composers here and there, but for the most part, my performing life has been filled with the works of men. 

I'm setting out to change that. I've been looking for reasons to blog more, and this is one way to do it: I will be searching out female composers and listening to their surviving works, documenting here what I learn of them. 

For a start, I leave this gem I've just found tonight on YouTube, by Germaine Tailleferre. I know nothing of her...yet.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Labor of Love

Today is Labor Day, so I enjoyed a nice lie-in while Popcorn repeatedly stepped on my breasts in an attempt to get breakfast at the usual time (Popcorn doesn't understand "weekends").


Eventually, I got up and gave the boys their wet food, and now I'm relaxing with a cup of tea.

As I perused Facebook, the story of Alex Wubbels, the Utah nurse who was unlawfully arrested for refusing to let a detective take blood from an unconscious patient, came across my feed again. I've been seeing it for several days now, and like everyone else, I was shocked and outraged at the treatment she received from the detective. She was doing her job, and not breaking any laws. The detective was, of course, completely in the wrong.

Her story has reminded many people of something that was driven home to me in a very personal way to me this summer. Nurses are amazing. Of course, you get the occasional Nurse Ratched...


...but as my mom lay in a hospital for nine days in July, prepping for and then recovering from surgery to remove a tumor from her colon, I learned anew why nurses are so important.

When Mom was moved out of the ICU to a regular room after her surgery, one of the nurses, upon seeing her, gave her a hug, a kiss on the cheek, and said, "I'm so happy to see you again!" She was always cheerful, always ready to help Mom with whatever she needed. Mom loved her, and it made a stressful situation more bearable to have someone who so obviously cares for her patients on hand during the recovery process.

The other nurses were just as fantastic--attentive, efficient, caring. When Mom was in the pre-op area, one of the surgical nurses came in to talk to her. He was inputting information on the computer and talking quickly, and I could tell Mom was unable to hear him well, without her hearing aids in. I (nicely) interrupted him and said, "Just FYI, Mom's hard of hearing..." He stopped, smiled, and said, "Well, then, I can do this over here." He pulled a chair up next to Mom and wrote information down on paper instead of inputting it at the computer.

The little things were nice, but I also found that the nurses were willing to do just about anything to ensure the well-being of their patients, and they are fierce advocates. When Mom was first admitted, we didn't have a set surgery date, so she was fasting well before she needed to. She was scared, confined to a hospital room, and uncertain of what was next, and meanwhile, her blood sugar was plummeting. Anxiety started to take hold. It was a nurse who called the doctor in charge over and over until she got through, and insisted to him that Mom be given something. Mom went on a liquid-only diet, but at least she got some needed calories.

Nurses work twelve-hour shifts, three days on, which, when you think about it, has to be exhausting. They are on their feet, they help lift patients in and out of bed, they clean up toilet messes, vomit, and goodness knows what else. They are yelled at by difficult patients, ordered around by tired families, and they take orders from busy doctors who bustle in and out. It is the nurses who truly know how their patients are faring, and it is nurses who are the first to advocate for those patients. To see Alex Wubbels quietly, firmly telling a police detective that she cannot and will not let him take blood from a patient because he did not have a warrant or patient consent should surprise no one.

Nurses work holidays, miss first days of kindergarten, comfort grieving families, patiently answer every question under the sun--or offer to get an answer from a doctor. They deal with bureaucratic red tape and doctors with superiority complexes. They are exhausted, frustrated, and yet they take a deep breath and walk into that patient's room with a smile and a calm demeanor, because they know that patients need reassurance and calm along with the pain meds and IV fluids.

I am, of course, in awe of Dr. P., Mom's surgeon, and Dr. D., her oncologist. Dr. P. did amazing work getting a grapefruit-sized tumor out of Mom's colon, and ensuring that everything went well. Dr. D. is an expert in oncology and every time Mom sees her, she leaves feeling reassured.

But it was the nurses who, every day, made Mom comfortable, helped her get to the bathroom, made sure her needs were met. So on this Labor Day, I'm thanking them, and all of the nurses who work so hard for their patients. Alex Wubbels is getting national attention, but I'm sure she'd be the first to agree that she is no different than any other nurse out there.


P.S. Mom is doing great. She's had two rounds of chemo, and the third is tomorrow. She's had a chemo rash that was pretty uncomfortable, and she naps every day because of the fatigue, but otherwise, she feels really good and her prognosis is good. She's still got her Fightin' Pants on, and she's still staying active in her social activities, as much as she can. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Fun With Cystitis

I woke up at 6:00 on Saturday morning to Popcorn peeing on my pillow.

Besides being an unpleasant way to wake up on a day you're supposed to be able to have a bit of a lie-in, it was also a problem because 1) Cat pee = stinky, and 2) Popcorn and Archie are both really, really good about using the litter box. Usually.

I gave it another day and nothing happened, but on Monday, he was leaking a bit of urine and straining to go potty when he didn't actually need to. So it was off to the emergency vet (because of course I don't notice that he needs a vet until all the main veterinary offices are closed) for a check, to rule out blockages.

Amazingly, I was not at all anxious, really, just ready to get him mended.

Fortunately, he has no blockages--which can be fatal in cats, and quickly. He does, however, have Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (crystals in the urine) and he needs a few days' worth of meds to help things along.

Popcorn is a sweet, adorable, loving cat who turns into a total hellion when you try to give him medicine.

Millie wasn't exactly a fan of taking meds, either, but at eight pounds, she was easy to subdue. Poppers is twelve pounds--a block of muscle. I've taken to mixing the more foul-tasting medicine into his tuna, which is working.

I've also sprayed my bed and my couch with anti-marking spray and so far, the bed has fared well. The couch got peed on today (sigh) while I was at work, but I managed to get it out and eliminate the smell.

Ain't pet ownership fun?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

39

Thirty-nine is the sum of consecutive primes (3 + 5 + 7 + 11 + 13).

It is the atomic number of yttrium.

There are three songs called "39," by The Cure, Tenacious D, and Queen.

There were thirty-nine signers to the United States Constitution.

Pier 39 is a famous tourist attraction in San Francisco. 





As of yesterday, I am 39 years old. Pushing forty, I suppose, but that doesn't really bother me. Age is a number, not a diagnosis. Besides, I've got a fantastic trip to The Netherlands planned as my 40th birthday present...though I'll be going closer to my "half birthday" than to my actual birthday!

I had a great birthday. I woke up to a text from my parents--a video of them singing Happy Birthday to me from their recliners over their morning coffee. I had a bit of a lie-in with Da Boyz (which was lovely after the fun-but-hectic first week back at school). Sarah texted me asking if she could take me to lunch, so we agreed on the Cheesecake Factory, where we ate...a lot. I had the salted caramel cheesecake, which was heavenly. And Sarah, of course, had notified the wait staff before I got there that it was her friend's birthday. 

Archie, bird-watching.

Popcorn, on my shoulder, makes me happy...

All that gooey salted caramel. YUM.

This is 39.

Sarah had a hot fudge sundae.

Thank you, Sarah!!

After lunch, I did a bit of shopping in the Galleria. I needed a few work items and found some slacks, a darling plaid skirt, and some great blouses. I also found the t-shirt below, so of course I bought it, and yes, I will wear it to work (on Casual Fridays).


After that, I went to Mom and Dad's, and they took me out for Thai food at a place I like in Lincoln. Though I wasn't overly hungry, I had some room by then, though I had plenty of leftovers for today and didn't eat another bite of anything once I got home!

Throughout the day, I followed the news from Charlottesville, Virginia, with a heavy heart. It's horrifying to me that in the year 2017, we still have people who believe that the white race is genetically superior (though looking at some of the pictures of people who believe this, carrying their Polynesian-origin tiki torches, one wonders just what their definition of "superior" is...). 

All in all, my birthday was quite satisfying on the home front, however, and I am blessed to have so many lovely friends who called and texted throughout the day. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Year in Casa Meg (and Thirteen Years of Blogging)

Thirteen years ago today, I started this Little Pink Blog, and it has seen me through many adventures...England, Washington, living in California, visiting Canada, The Epic Week, fostering the Peanuts Gang, going to Arizona, the lives and losses of Harley and Millie, and, of course, the addition of Da Boyz a few months ago.

I have revisited my beloved London (finally), donned my Fightin' Pants for Mom, and, one year ago today, I took possession of a 900 square-foot condo that had been home to ten guinea pigs, a chinchilla, and a dog...as well as three adult-sized humans.

A year ago today, I walked into an empty condo with my parents and said, "Mind you, it needs a lot of love, but...here it is!" I'm glad that at least their first time seeing it was when it was empty, because had they seen it with the tenants in, they'd have run screaming.

Believe me, I was questioning why I wasn't running screaming.

It took about six weeks to make the place livable--mostly because I had to work with the schedules of the guys I hired to paint and install the new floors. The cleaning took several days, and the moving was kind of done in chunks--one big move with a hired crew for all the large items, but the rest coming in small trips in Sylvie the 3 from my parents' house.

I lived about a month without a couch, and several months with a tiny TV on one of my night stands, but finally, things started coming together. From that first time I walked into what was officially my condo to now, the changes have been astounding. It feels so much lighter and roomier than it did those first two times I saw it. A year in, I can say with all honesty that I love my little home, with its quirks and improvements, my balcony garden, and the two ginger dudes who leave cat hair everywhere and overflow my life with love.

So there's nothing left to say, just pictures to share.

The sliding glass door was open, hence one billowing curtain.

Mom and Dad got a new TV and gave me their old one, which suits me just
fine. :) 

My office. 

Yes, that is a large inflatable donut. I use it to float in the complex pool on
hot days.


I bought inexpensive covers for the sofa cushions, in colors that match my decor.







Evening with Da Boyz.


Getting blinds made this place so much classier. 

I love my couch. I love my wall gallery. Love, love, love.

This is My Spot. 

Looking out through the window.


Inexpensive pitcher, silk flowers...shot of pretty color
in a black-and-gray living room.

My new dishwasher is so nice. So quiet. So lovely.

The view from the kitchen. 

My main bathroom. 




The top of my dresser, and two pieces of art by Yours Truly.

I have told the boys about their late sister. I'll never forget her.

The pillows are usually stacked like that, and yes, they are perfect for dozing.

So this is how you manage two litter boxes in a 900 square-foot condo. They're
in the tub of the second bathroom, given privacy by the curtain. I keep a six-inch
gap for the boys to get in and out. I scoop every day. This pic was taken after
I completely emptied, washed, and refilled both boxes.
My sweet little garden.


Archie

Popcorn

Monday, July 17, 2017

More Random Mumblings

Post-Surgery

Mom is now four days out from her surgery, in which two inches of colon, a tiny piece of small intestines, and a grapefruit-sized tumor were all removed from her body. Needless to say, her body is demanding some down time to recover.

Friday was fine; she was on heavy doses of pain medication and when I saw her she was all smiles, even with a respirator in. Saturday morning, she was still smiling, but Saturday afternoon and night were both harder. She had some anxiety set in in the afternoon, causing fear and a little bit of panic. Saturday night, she felt nauseous, even though there wasn't a whole lot she could actually vomit.

But by Sunday, she was getting stronger, and today, she was great. When I visited this afternoon, a lady from Physical Therapy came by and got Mom walking around--her second walk today. She did great! Dad and I followed behind. She's spent more time sitting in the chair next to her bed, and her pain is very, very manageable. The doctor hopes she'll be home on Thursday, so we are crossing our fingers. Their are certain functions that have to happen (if you're familiar with colo-rectal surgery, you know what those functions are) before she can be released; and those things will start happening as she starts eating food that isn't chicken broth and Jello.

The Coopers are feeling pretty good about things.

Da Boyz

Having Millie was always a huge comfort in the harder times, and it's been no different with Archie and Popcorn. They are absolute rays of sunshine in my life, from the moment I wake up to Popcorn patiently dozing next to me so he can be first in line for breakfast (Archie prefers to doze in the bedroom window, basking in the sunrise and watching the early birds doing their thing), to the times they greet me at the front door when I come home from a long outing. I can't sit on the couch for long without one or both of them wanting some attention, and they seem to understand that Mama has been anxious these last several days. They just pile on the love and follow me into the bathroom to make sure all is well.

I adore them.

RIP Buddy

My friends Summer and Ben had to have their 12-year-old pittie mix Buddy put down recently, and I am so sad for them. Buddy was proof that pit bulls are not bad dogs. The only danger I ever felt from Buddy was that I might get licked to death, or knocked over when he was feeling especially enthusiastic. He was not a jumper, just a good-sized dog with lots of love to give his friends.

My favorite thing to do with Buds was to wait until he got comfy on his dog bed, then say, "Heyyyy Buds." The tip of his tail would thunk against the bed. "Heyyyy Buddy-bud-buds!!" More thumping. We would increase in volume and thumping over a few minutes and then I'd be unable to resist going in for some ear scratches.


I took the above picture in April, just before playing our favorite little game. Those eyes!! Buddy was a Good Boy, and Summer and Ben are hugely grieving his loss, as are all of their friends who knew him.

Summer Vacation

I realized today that I only have about three full weeks before I go back to work; part of me is hoping they creep by, and part of me will be glad to go back. The thing is, I'm pretty much ready--I did a ton of unit planning at the end of the school year, and in two paid work days I got after the kids got out. All I have to do is make some photocopies and update the course syllabus that I give out for my middle school classes.

The rooms were cleaned over the summer, so there will be some minor unpacking and putting away to do, but I figure a couple of mornings of my own time will do it, just before we all report back on the 7th for our first paid day.

Last summer was All About Condo--first I spent six weeks in the escrow process, stressing myself out over money worries, and then I spent August trying to make the place livable. School started in a flurry of "I'm not ready!!" and my classroom wasn't ready for me, either--until October. This year, I'm starting off in a much better place, and I'm glad I've given myself time to relax and work on some of my other interests, like my Etsy shop. Having time has also given me the opportunity to be truly helpful to Mom and Dad while Mom has been in the hospital (a full week as of today, and that's not counting the three nights she spent there in June, when we discovered this whole mess).

The only condo worries I've had this year is keeping the place clean and cool--I'm already sick of the heat. I wouldn't say I love cleaning, but I do love the outcome of cleaning, so I've worked to keep the place looking its best and smelling nice...of course, I do that during the school year, too, I just have more time for it now. And of course, I've loved having time to read, to cuddle with my little dudes, and to run and hit the gym.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Ramblings of a Grateful Daughter

I will start with the most important part...

The Day After

Mom had her surgery last night. Dad and I saw her as far as the pre-op prep area, and we got to meet the anesthesiologist, two RNs, and the surgeon. Everyone was calm, matter-of-fact, and really awesome. One of the RNs was asking Mom a question while looking at his computer screen and I said, "Just FYI, Mom is hard of hearing."

"Oh! Thank you!" he replied. "Then I'll just move to make it easier!" He sat down on a chair right next to Mom's head and spoke clearly so she could get everything. She didn't have her hearing aids in by that time.

She was calm, but Dad and I were a coordinating pair of hot messes. Dad was twitchy and quiet. I was twitchy and--ugh--teary. I tried not to let tears come, but they couldn't be stopped. In between visits from the doctors and the RNs, I let them go, feeling foolish. That's anxiety for you. Mine manifests itself in tears.

The last person we met was Dr. P., the surgeon. When he was assigned as Mom's surgeon, she was told by her GI doctor, "I've worked with him many times. He's excellent." Later, her oncologist said the same thing. A friend of mine from work knows him because he operated on her mother, and she told me he's amazing. By the time I found myself shaking his hand, I was about six seconds away from bursting into fresh tears, throwing my arms around his neck, and yelling, "THIS IS MY MOMMY!! TAKE CARE OF HER!!!" I managed to contain myself.

Mom insisted that Dad and I not wait at the hospital. The surgery was to start at about 5:30, and would take about three hours. "You'll be more comfortable at home, and I don't want you driving later tonight." We respected those wishes and set off to our respective homes. I stopped to buy cat food (I needed a bag, and so did Mom for her cat, so I bought both), and then at OSH for some plants. I spent the next three hours not relaxing. When the phone rang at 8:30, I was scrubbing my shower.

The surgery went very well. The doctor was very positive about Mom's prognosis. The tumor was the size of a grapefruit (!!!). Mom would spend the night in the ICU for close monitoring and attention to her every need.

Well, of course I started crying again.

Dirty Hands

When I stopped at PetCo for cat food, I got the brilliant idea to run into the OSH next door to get some more petunias to plant. I had a couple of plants not survive being in pots in the harsh heat we've been having, but my petunias are thriving--apparently they love pots, love heat, and just need a good daily watering to be happy. I also bought a jasmine plant that smells heavenly.

I wandered up and down the aisles for a few minutes, stopping to admire the flowers and breathe in the smells.

It was nice to step outside and dig my hands in the dirt for a bit. I gave the new plants some water and breathed in the smell of soil and leaves (and jasmine!). When I finished, I plugged in the new outdoor lights I bought and sat for a few minutes--not really relaxing, but at least being still.

It may not be a huge garden, but it's beautiful, and it's mine.

(P.S. I had seen this a while back but found it again--turns out that digging in the soil can have anti-depressant effects.)

Snoopy

When I was a tiny girl, my Grandma Bean used to play a game with me, pretending that my Snoopy doll could talk to her. He'd whisper in her ear and she'd talk back to him, making him nod or shake his head to answer her questions. I ate it up, and Snoopy always went to Grandma and Grandpa's house.

Grandma died when I was 15, and I remember sitting in my bedroom, hugging that old doll and crying. I've never been able to pack him away, or leave him behind. He went to England with me. He's too dear, too precious, to go in a box and be forgotten.

So on Wednesday, when I knew Dad was taking a few things to the hospital for Mom, I had a thought of my own as I got ready to go. I grabbed a picture of her cat, Bella, and I grabbed Snoopy from the trunk at the foot of my bed.

"He has a lot of magic in him, you know," I told her as I handed him over. She laughed and hugged him, and we reminisced about Grandma. I left Snoopy with her that night, and took him home yesterday. He'll go back when she's put in a room tomorrow, and stay out her hospital time with her. When she goes home, he'll come back to his spot at the foot of my bed.




Amsterdam

In the middle of all of the anxiety and uncertainty of having my mom in the hospital, incubating an internally-bleeding grapefruit-sized tumor, I still managed to think about the adventure I want to have for my 40th birthday in 2018.

So for my February break, I will be spending six nights in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Round-trip airfare, hotel, and travel insurance added up to a very reasonable $960 on Expedia. I've never been to The Netherlands and understand that it's very easy and very quick to get anywhere by rail--like Harleem, Delft, and other cities for a couple of day trips.

And in Amsterdam itself is the Anne Frank House (a must-see), the van Gogh museum, the canal system, and many other museums.

When I told Mom a few days ago I was thinking about a trip she smiled and said, "You're going back?"

Oh, London is always tempting. But there's so many places I haven't been yet! Including The Netherlands.

Hands

This morning, I was going to get some stuff done here at home and then go see Mom in the afternoon. But Dad texted me at about 9:30 that Mom was awake, smiling, and in good spirits (even with a respirator in), so I had a quick shower, made a smoothie to go, and dashed off to the hospital to see her.

She was still in the ICU, so I had to call on a little phone to get in, and when I walked inside, a cluster of doctors and RNs were talking. I had no idea where I was going and they could see my confusion.

"I'm looking for Susan Cooper...I'm her daughter."

"She's right here!" Turns out, they were the pulmonary team that was going to suction a bit of fluid out of one of her lungs (common side effect of anesthesia) and remove the respirator. But as they weren't quite ready yet, I was able to go in with Mom, who had Dad next to her.

Her face lit up when she saw me, and she smiled around the respirator. I almost burst into tears (the happy kind), and just walked over and grabbed her hand. She had a good, strong grip, and we communicated the best we could with me having use of my voice and her just her hands and small head movements.


I took this picture because I was just so happy to be holding my mom's hand. For all that I'm almost 39 years old and a homeowner, a full-time teacher who is left in charge of classrooms full of kids on a regular basis...inside there's still a tiny girl who looks at this woman and thinks, "Mommy." When the diagnosis came down a few weeks ago, the gut-punch almost brought me to my knees.

I'm not a big believer in a higher power, but I do sort of think the universe works in certain ways. And I told it, "Look, you're going to have her eventually...but not just yet, okay?"

Speaking of Teaching...

If my mom has to be in the hospital having major surgery, then I'm going to selfishly say that I'm so glad it happened on my summer break.

I had volunteered to teach summer school, but numbers weren't high and I wasn't needed. Now I'm glad. The extra money would have been nice but the freedom to be at Mom and Dad's house, or at the hospital, whenever, is very welcome.

After seeing Mom off with her anesthesiologist yesterday, Dad and I got a quick bite to eat at the hospital cafeteria. As we waited for the elevator, Dad said, "I'm glad you don't have to be at school right now."

"Oh my God, Dad, I am too. There's no way I could teach during all this. I'm a wreck!" I have a very understanding boss, and plenty of sick days I could use, but I'm so glad that I don't have to worry about sub plans and how my kids would act, and catching up on grading. My sleep has been erratic the last few nights and my anxiety super-high.

Love

Starting with my blog and continuing on Facebook, I've become, I suppose, the unofficial spokesperson for the Cooper family. When I realized how many of Mom's friends were commenting on information I had shared last week, I decided to give updates from time to time, and I've had a lot of people thank me for it. Meanwhile, I have received so many lovely expressions from family friends and my own friends towards Mom and even me, which has helped all of us immensely.

Before Mom went into surgery, I read her some of the messages people wrote on my "today's the day" update. She was so touched, and it made her smile. This morning, I read the comments people had left on my post letting them know the surgery was finished, and successful. She couldn't talk, but her smile said it all. She definitely feels all of the love pouring her way from all corners.

Tomorrow, when she's in a regular, non-ICU room, she'll have her phone again and be able to access Facebook when she feels up to it. I know she will read every single message and comment, and I know it only contributes to her healing.

So thank you for reaching out. We love you all.