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.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Fightin' Pants Saga Continues

Today, Mom met her oncologist, and with all due respect to Dr. D., I hate associating that word--oncologist--with my parent. But, there you have it.

Mom being mom and Meg being Meg, we both later admitted to some anxiety as the appointment approached. What would Dr. D. say? Would she say it's a lost cause? What would she recommend?

Mom and Dad called me on the way home from the appointment, both in excellent spirits. Turns out Dr. D. is, in their words, "very, very knowledgeable, and also personable." Obviously, the "knowledgeable" part is the most important to all of us, but I'm enough like Mom to know that the "personable" bit goes a long way, too, especially in terms of keeping us calm.

Dr. D. believes, as does Mom's GI doc, that surgery first is best. She wants Mom in immediately, to get the mass and some surrounding lymph nodes removed. Then they'll start six months of chemo. Mom meets her surgeon tomorrow, whose reputation precedes him--he's excellent. A friend of mine from work knows of him--he operated on her mom, also for colon cancer, a few years ago. They think he's awesome (though, apparently, he's a bit more awkward in the people skills department).

So the ball is rolling now. I hope they will get Mom on the surgery schedule within the next week or so. We are all anxious to get the bad stuff out of there!

As for the chemo, Dr. D. told Mom that it won't make her lose her hair. In the grand scheme of things, Mom was willing to bear that, but she is, of course, happy that she won't. And knowing how good it makes Mom feel to have her hair and makeup looking nice, I'm glad she'll have that still, as she goes through chemo, which will be taxing on her. Sometimes the little things help keep our spirits up.

As Mom was signing in this morning, another patient came through the waiting room, and saw Mom filling out the paperwork.

"Are you new?" she asked Mom.

"Yes..." Mom replied.

"It's going to be just fine," the lady replied, as she walked into the exam area.

And so it will be.

Friday, July 07, 2017

I Made a Pretty

Watch out, Pinterest...I made something pretty.

(But I didn't pin it and I didn't make a tutorial because honestly, it was super-easy and anyone can figure this out.)

Mom and Dad have recently done some rearranging in their house, and took this opportunity to go through some things and get rid of them. There's a pattern to this process.

  1. "Meg, do you want...?"
  2. "Nah, I've got enough of my own stuff."
  3. "Can you sell it on eBay?"
  4. "This, maybe. That, probably not."
  5. "Are you sure you don't want...?"
  6. "Absolutely sure."
  7. "And you can't sell--"
  8. "Nope."
  9. "Okay, we'll take it to charity."
More or less.

Anyway, a recent find in the garage was a box containing a ton of seashells and sea glass that Mom has collected over many years, in many different places. I told her I'd take them (and also took a little wooden "Beach" sign for my bathroom, and a huge conch they bought in Hawaii when we were there many years ago, which now sits on my bathroom counter), and go through to see what I wanted. I ended up putting the jars of random shells out on my garden shelves. And I had an idea for the sea glass.

I have two $1 vases I picked up last Christmas at WalMart, and filled with colorful ornaments. They looked great on the mantel:


I figured I'd use one for the sea glass, so when I got home, I dug one out from my china hutch. While I was rustling around, I found a small candle holder, and inspiration struck.

Step 1: Fill most of the vase with sea glass.

Step 2: Stick the candle holder in  so the top is level with the top of the vase.

Step 3: Hold the candle holder in place and slip more sea glass in around it.

Step 4: Put a candle in.

Et voila! 




Sometimes I amaze myself.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Fightin' Pants

For a few months now, my mom has been having some health issues. I'll spare the many details, but it started with a dizzy/fainting spell that had Dad calling 911, and has ended up with two blood transfusions for extremely low hemoglobin levels, every possible test in the medical books, and the discovery of a mass in Mom's lower intestines and/or colon.

And yes, the mass is malignant.

It was a week-and-a-half ago we found out the mass was likely malignant. It was a Saturday, and Mom called from the hospital (she'd been admitted for a transfusion). She was crying. I started crying. She sent Dad home so he could process it in his own way and I visited her for a couple hours that afternoon. That was the gut-punch day.

But since then, no tears. The biopsy confirmed it a few days later and since then, we've been calm, collected, and ready to fight.

In a message to Mom on Facebook, I talked about putting our "fightin' pants" on--a sort of mix-up of "Put on your big girl panties and deal with it" and "fighting spirit," I guess. That Saturday was a very emotional day. Still, I've run with the term.

Yesterday was Mom's birthday.


Part of my gift to her was a banner I made. "These are your fightin' pants," I told her. Of course, she loves it. Even Dad loves it, and helped me put it up over the fireplace. "We'll keep it there," he said to me later. And they will take it to the hospital, too. Though Mom hasn't yet seen her oncologist (she will this coming Monday), we're fairly certain that surgery is in the near future.

She also got some Silly Putty (for times of anxiety) and Superwoman socks to keep her feet warm. When I visited her the last time, it was freezing in there. And I gave her a book by an author we both like. I bought another book by him, and when we each finish, we'll swap.

You might notice that I've avoided using the c-word. I have avoided it as much as possible since this whole saga began. Part of that is, perhaps, denial, and my own anxiety at play. But part of it is a stubborn refusal to let the c-word completely take over our lives. Of course, we are all going to be fighting this with Mom, and watching her battle it. But all of us refuse to let it be a 100% downer. We are choosing, instead, to face the challenge head-on, with dignity and our collective sense of humor intact. It's not going to be easy, and it's not going to be fun. But whatever Dad and I can do to lift Mom up when she's feeling her worst, we will do.

We still don't know what the exact course of treatment is going to be. We believe surgery, as soon as possible, because no one wants to leave a malignant mass in there to grow. We figure there might be some chemo, and we'll deal with that should it come. We are hopeful that it's as early as we think it is.

A few days ago, Mom was talking to one of her friends on the phone, and giving her the details of what is going on. Dad later told me, while laughing, that Mom said, "...and I'm pissed!" With that kind of attitude, we can pull up our fightin' pants and deal with what's ahead.

Monday, July 03, 2017

How to Be a Condo Owner, Part Five: Appliance Love

Last September, I wrote a post in which I bitched about how exhausting being a new home-owner was. Part of that post lamented about how much I hated my dishwasher--the one that came with Casa Meg.

Appliances only last maybe ten years--if you're lucky--and this thing had to have been way beyond that. It was in pitiful shape, but I got a few more months out of it after letting a chauvinistic old repairman spend an hour berating me for stuff the former tenants had done to it as he fished bits of plastic out of the drain.

But a few weeks ago, it stopped draining properly, and then I noticed a bit of water dripping on the floor when I ran it. So I bit the bullet and ordered a new one.

And I love it.

The old one was a Whirlpool, noisy as all get-out and, as mentioned, older than an appliance ought to be.


The new one is a Bosch, and it's so beautiful, I can't even.


Of course, there were two plastic toddler spoons and someone's old, unopened Geico bill under the old one when the installer pulled it out. I took my hand vacuum to the mess.


This being Casa Meg, formerly the Guinea Pig-Sty, there was, of course, a problem with the plumbing that I knew about thanks to Mr. Lecture from last fall. The air gap had been modified (read: broken) so that the water would drain out into the sink, instead of going through the pipes under the sink and directly to the drain. The pipe leading to the drain was too long, making it U-shaped, hence the stupid-ass-what-were-you-thinking "repair" of breaking the air gap.

Oh, and because apparently I am not the only one who didn't know what an air gap is until my dishwasher needed repairing and replacing, it's the bit that partially sticks out of your kitchen sink under a little cap.  Under the sink, it connects to two pipes--one that comes from the dishwasher, and pushes the water up, through the cap on top of the sink, and then drains it out through the second pipe into the drain. It sounds complicated, and probably is more complicated than these things out to be, but once you know what's what, it's easy enough.

Thing is, I had to replace the air gap myself.

I have a degree in music. I am not a plumber. I've never plumbed in my life, unless you count unclogging a toilet.

Still, I gamely went across the street to my helpful OSH (Orchard Supply Hardware) and bought the ten dollar component I needed. Then I climbed under my kitchen sink and bravely started taking things apart.


Aside from some truly rank-smelling water than leaked out because it hasn't been draining properly for probably at least five years, the job involved minimal mess, and minimal stress. The hardest part was working one part of the old air gap valve out of the pipe because it had been in there so long, but after some wrestling, I managed it.

I felt like Wonder Woman.

The new air gap installed, I was finally able to run my new Bosch. I had to actually lean down close to it and put a hand on it to make sure it was, indeed, running. It is SO QUIET!! The only noisy bit is when it's draining, and the water runs through the pipes.


I never thought I'd be that person who gets really excited over kitchen appliances, but between this and my oven, I've been on a high for months. And with my new-found plumbing skills, I'm realizing I'm actually kind of a home-owning badass.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

How Does Your Garden Grow?

The gardening bug has taken firm hold of me now.

My forget-me-not seeds. I'm so proud.

We had a massive week-long heat wave right after school got out. Several days of temps well over 100 degrees left my garden gasping for relief. I had to water twice a day just to keep everyone alive, but, aside from my cosmos and my marigolds, everyone made it to the other side. It's still been hot, but hovering between 95 and 99, for the most part, which is much more manageable.

I keep my fuchsias in the shade, and they are happy there. All of the blooms are gone, but I can see more coming up.  


I move things around to keep them happy--if they look sunburnt, I take them down a shelf to give them a break.



After a couple weeks of no blooms, my lantana went wild on me. I found the little Welcome flower in a box of stuff I was going through, and stuck that in. 


The heat would leave my daisies slumped over, but they always revive after being watered.



The geranium cuttings Mom gave me are finally starting to take hold in their new home.


Yesterday, I bought two new perennials and a succulent, and waited for the heat to die down before going out to plant them. I did some dead-heading and marvelled at new growth on one of the other geranium cuttings that hadn't been showing a lot of promise.



As the sun started to set, I finished up and settled down on my chair with my Kindle and some ice cream. It wasn't too hot, and it's actually quite peaceful.



One of my new additions--more lantana.

Apparently petunias love the heat. They've been going wild.

My other new addition--lavender. It smells heavenly.
There is something so soothing in digging my hands into the soil, and seeing my garden grow. I have struggled with it, learning to navigate the needs of my plants as we go along. Even when it is too hot to sit outside, I can see them from my living room, and enjoy them from the coolness of inside.