Such Good News

Yesterday I was at the hospital hugging my friend while she cried. I was at a loss as to what to say or do for her. Her son, Joe laid in a hospital bed. disoriented and not himself due to the head trauma he suffered last weekend. He was able to maintain consciousness for only small bits of time throughout the course of a day. During many of those waking moments Joe was angry and displayed aggression at being confined to a hospital bed.

Our poor friends could only sit and wait. The hospital staff advised that while Joe was resting they not touch him or talk to him. They were not to stimulate him in any way. I can’t even imagine the fear, anger, frustration and sadness of having to sit back and simply wait, not knowing whether my child will recover, not even able to convey love through a touch.

Today? Today came news that Joe had a great night. He slept well overnight and was able to get up and use the bathroom. When my friends arrived at the hospital this morning to see their son, he was speaking clearly with a nurse and answering her questions clearly. When the nurse asked Joe if there was anything she could get him, he responded, “A hundred dollars.”

The nurse asked him why and he told her, “Because I’m poor!”

What a miraculous improvement! I can’t even begin to describe how much joy this brings me!

This Ugly and Beautiful World

I remember one particular day long ago. I was sitting on the love seat in our living room with my firstborn baby in my arms. It was the first time I was left alone with him and I suddenly became overwhelmed with sadness and guilt. I looked at the perfect little person in my arms and cried. All I could think was that I had brought him into an imperfect, ugly world. I was responsible for bringing him into a place that would scare him and hurt him, a place that would make him doubt himself and feel sad. The fog of those painful emotions burned off quickly enough and I chalked it up to a bit of postpartum depression, but sometimes I wonder if I had more clarity at that time than I have most days since.

There’s been a black cloud over my head the past few days. The older I get, the more I tend to sometimes think that I have the world figured out. That is, only until something happens to make me realize I still have very naive expectations of the world. I think most of us venture into our adult lives with a somewhat idealized view of the future. Children come along and we picture them being happy, talented, intelligent and competent. And as for all those other people in our circle of family and friends? I don’t expect that life will be perfect every day for each and every one of them. But I do tend to hope that their pitfalls will be manageable. Jobs may be lost, but new ones found. Illnesses can be treated with surgery or medication and then it’s right back on to the normal path of life. Kids may not follow the dreams their parents envisioned for them, but they will still find some measure of success in life anyway. Death is inevitable, but hopefully it comes after a long and well-lived life, one in which the person was able live most of life’s best experiences.

Doubt crosses my mind when I learn things like a cancer diagnosis in a friend. Or when I hear that a coworker’s child is suffering from depression. It comes when I see deep unhappiness where contentment seems rightfully earned. It’s there when I receive news of a random attack that leaves the son of dear friends laying in a hospital with brain injuries, our friends sick with worry for a child’s future.

What an ugly, ugly world this can be.

I finished taming my corner garden this weekend. It was a good outlet; a good distraction. I sat on the deck last night, on a perfectly beautiful summer evening. The air was comfortable, the sky clear. All around was green grass and colorful flowers and the sounds of summer. I sat under the canopy with the Sunday evening sun just beginning to set and stared out at my little garden trying to reconcile the beauty of this world against the ugliness that surfaces day in and day out.

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I had an appointment this morning, a follow-up to the mammogram I had just over a week ago. I got the call last Friday informing me that they wanted to take a closer look. (“And, oh, by the way, try not to spend the weekend worrying.”) One mammogram, one ultrasound, one view of “the spot” and one explanation of the findings in which “non-cancerous” was the last bit of information revealed, I realized I’d been holding my breath. Afterwards, since Mark and I were already at the hospital, we went to find our friends whose son is just beginning to find his way back to normal. We wanted, if nothing more, to offer hugs and love and to let them know they could call us and ask for anything. Tears were shed. There wasn’t much we could do to lift their burden other than provide a shoulder to lean on.

I left the hospital today with a new perspective. This is an ugly world, just as much as it is a beautiful one. And sometimes my expectations are too high. I worry about a child who maybe hasn’t spread his wings as much as I think one of his age should. And so what? If he’s forty years old and still living with me, so be it. (Not that I really think he’d let that happen.) If my kids don’t grow up to be neurosurgeons or billionaires, so what? I hope that they can find what it is that makes them happy in life, in spite of what the world says should make them happy.

Maybe the ugly part of the world serves to remind me that I have it pretty good. My life is comfortable and without a lot of real difficulties. My family is safe, thriving and here with me. There’s no guarantee that tomorrow these things will still hold true. But for today, that’s a lot for which to be grateful.

A Very Important Phone Call

We used to spend hours talking on the phone, way back when our kids were little and we were stuck at home. That was before internet, email and Faceook were common in every household. Gina and I kept each other sane on those calls while we laid the foundation for a lifelong friendship. We compared parenting stories and shared recipes. We vented to each other about the frustrations of life and we got silly, making each other laugh until our stomach muscles hurt. No one can make me laugh like this girl!

Our kids started growing up. Our lives centered on the kids and their needs, their activities and sporting events. We went back to work and those marathon phone calls were fewer and fewer. Soon everyone in the world had a cell phone and we kept in touch through text messages. Our kids were soon old enough to take care of themselves and we made time for each other in the form of photography excursions, bowling and shopping. When her husband’s job took them to another state and fourteen hours away from me, a little piece of my heart broke. The distance may have changed how often we could see each other, but it couldn’t diminish our friendship.

I was shocked when I learned  just over a week ago that my best friend had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Just a few days earlier, she had shared with me that she was having a lump checked out. She told me she was certain it was merely an infection and nothing to be worried about. I know my best friend. She’s a tough chick. Nothing gets her down. I didn’t believe it could be cancer. But it was. A day after her diagnosis she had a double mastectomy.

She’s home now, tired, sore and frustrated. Gina is not one to sit still. Ever. And yet this damn cancer is forcing her to do just that. I was home yesterday, having taken a couple of days off from work. I sent a text to Gina to check on her and then went to an appointment. After the appointment, I gave her a call. Rarely these days do we have time for a nice leisurely phone chat, but yesterday provided that opportunity. My best friend was spending her day in a recliner and craving some company. I had a day off with no real plans, the real plans having fallen through.

And so we talked, for hours and hours. We talked about her health and recovery. We talked about our kids and families. We talked about her work and my work. We talked about how to make homemade laundry detergent and a million other things. She told me it was nice to just talk to someone who knew where she was at, to not have to take other calls and explain AGAIN how she’s feeling today and that she hasn’t yet gotten the pathology report. We put our phones on speaker and I folded some laundry and cleaned a bathroom. Sometimes I just sat in my own recliner and talked.

We talked about this scary disease and the not knowing what lies ahead. At times I’d feel a vice around my heart as I thought about talking with her at that very moment and yet considering the possibility that I don’t know how much or how little time we might have together in the future. Every day, there are people in this world suffering disease and tragedy. I am supposed to be able to compare my life to them and be reminded how fortunate I am. And yet, every day, petty things fill my head and my heart and I often forget to count my blessings. Why is it that something scary has to happen before I remember to focus my energy on what’s really important?

We talked for four or five hours. We didn’t tiptoe around the situation. We even laughed about some things, which felt a little strange, but if my best friend could laugh about it, I knew I could laugh with her. In the end, what I realized is that Gina doesn’t bury her head in the sand. The days ahead might be difficult and the future holds no guarantees. But one thing is for certain, she is going to fight for the future with every fiber of her being.

My hero!

Our time together yesterday was such a gift and I love this girl!

Kleiner Garten

No work for me today. I took a couple of days off, originally to have a long weekend at the cabin. That plan fell through when we realized it would be difficult to travel and be away from home with all of Lucy’s restrictions and needs right now. But I kept the vacation days. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had a mental health day.

I have few solid plans for these days off; a minor appointment this morning and dinner with friends tonight. In between, I’ll find ways to entertain myself. I’m hoping I can finish cleaning up my little garden. Right now the skies are looking as if they’re planning to rain.

I carved out my little garden in the back corner of the yard several years ago. I don’t have a naturally green thumb, but I thought I could do something with this thing. In reality, it’s been nothing but a thorn in my side. Originally, I planted a big variety of bulbs, hoping that all kinds of colorful flowers would show up in waves in the spring. A few came up. I waited for the rest. They never came. I can only guess the squirrels or some other animal dug up my bulbs over the winter and ate them.

One year I filled the garden with petunias. It was pretty at first. Then I got tired of trying to keep up with the weeds. I planted a few more perennials a couple of years ago – pregrown – not from bulb this time. Mark threw a bunch of wildflower seeds and more bulbs in. It’s been a mish-mash of flowers and weeds ever since. We try to ignore it as best we can.

This spring, I had an idea for the garden. Nothing earth-shattering. It’s just that with the quieter lifestyle that’s come with all the kids being out of high school now, I have time to think about and do more things like gardening. (Never thought I’d see the day when I’d become interested in such things! It’s official. I’m gettin’ old!)

Last weekend I went out and bought a roll of weed block and some bags of mulch. I approached the garden with a pair of gloves and a shovel. I pulled weeds and Mark helped dig out a gigantic plant that could have been legitimate, but it also could have just been a huge weed with some cute flowers on it. Either way, I decided it was taking up too much space, so it came out.

I got half done with my project last week. Before the weekend is over, I hope to have the other side done. What do you think?

Can you tell which half is done and which half isn’t?

Looks a little better this way!

Asiatic Lilies – not only thriving, but multiplying!

Just starting to bloom

Solar lantern. It’s cute!

Mark has an old 5-speed bike that’s doing nothing but gathering rust behind the shed. I have this idea to paint it and put it in the garden once it’s finished. Something like this…

Credit: Google Images

 I’m not so sure about the pink, but you get the idea!

Patient Updates

I checked in on my Chica via text message to see how she was feeling after the mastectomy and she said, Like a cement truck ran me over … then backed up and did a spin out on my chest … But other than that … I AM GREAT! :-)

I said that I was glad to see she hadn’t lost her sense of humor but was sorry she was feeling icky. And then I said that when she was feeling up to it, she should check my blog because I asked for prayers for her and there were lots of them offered and also a lot of really nice things said about her.

And she said she would definitely check but that it may be a while before she can because just reading a few text messages makes her konk out.

And I said there was no hurry. I just wanted her to know they were there . And then I said I had to go make some copies so she should feel free to konk out again. Except when I looked at the text after sending it, I saw that I had actually told her to feel free to KINK out again. So I had to send a retraction.  KONK. Not kink.

I don’t think I will be kinking any time soon, she said. And then she joked about getting separate beds but still needing a king size bed for gettin’ busy.

They took her boobies but her sense of humor is still fully intact! That’ll take her a long way, I’m sure.

This whole thing has scared me into inspired me to schedule a very necessary appointment of my own. Boob smashing commences this Thursday morning. I’m not even gonna tell you how many years overdue this appointment is. I have no excuse. I’m not scared, worried or otherwise impaired from having this done. Just lazy and dumb. No more, though. I’m on it.

In other patient news, Lucy seems to be feeling more herself again. She seems to get that something isn’t right, and she tries to abide by the rules, but sometimes she just gets so excited that she can’t help nearly wiggling out of her skin. Thankfully her energy doesn’t last too long and she crashes for yet another nap.

Getting comfy across Jake’s legs

I just hope she doesn’t get too used to being carried up and down stairs. My back muscles may not put up with this for long!

Fight Like a Girl

While getting ready to settle down for the evening last night, my cell phone rang.

Hello?

Yeah, so remember those bodacious ta tas of mine?

I was expecting this call. I just wasn’t expecting it to start this way.

Yeah…? I was reluctant to ask. Only one week ago, my best friend informed me that she’d found a lump in her breast. She played it off like she really didn’t believe it could be cancer. I didn’t believe it either. She’s my best friend. I knew that maybe it could be, but deep down, I couldn’t accept that it really would be.

So what did you find out?

They’re gonna have to come off. I had an appointment today to get the results of my biopsy. The doctor was like twenty minutes late. I had my phone out and was playing on Facebook. Jeff was making jokes about how gross my feet looked ’cause they’re all scaly. Then the doctor walks in and shuts the door. She didn’t waste any time. She sits down and says, “It’s cancer and it’s aggressive and we need you in for surgery tomorrow.”

Tomorrow? They needed her in the next day for surgery? My mind was racing. I know a few people who’ve had breast cancer. I don’t think any of them got their results and had to have surgery the following day. Gina was still talking and I was having trouble absorbing what she was telling me.

Cancer? My best friend? No……..

But it’s true. How can it be true?

You know those beanies that say “Fight Like a Girl?” 

Yeah?

I’m gonna want one of those.

I’ll start looking.

Jeff wants one too, so let me know if you find ‘em.

I didn’t know why we were talking about beanies, but if my best friend wants one, I’m gonna get her one. We didn’t talk much longer. She had a million other people to call and a bath to take because she wanted to shave her legs and other parts. She said she didn’t want the surgeons making fun of her hairy parts during surgery. That’s just like my best friend to find humor where you least expect it.

I don’t think they’re gonna be checking to see if you shaved.

You never know.

Okay. I love you. Let me know how things go as soon as you’re up to it.

Jeff will call you. And a million other people. He says he’s not going to make conversation, he’s just going to give the facts.

Have him send a mass text. It’ll be easier on him.

Good idea… Okay, Chica. I gotta go. I’ve got calls to make and things to shave.

We hung up and I felt tears stinging my eyes. You just never think it’s going to happen to someone you love. But it does. Every single day it happens to so many people. So if you’re the praying kind, please say some for Gina.

Only Days after the Dog’s Surgery…

I have realized something in the last couple of days. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we decided to have TPO surgery done for Lucy’s hip dysplasia. I started to come to this realization while reading through the after-care and physical therapy information on Saturday. I couldn’t keep it all straight, so I made calendars. Lucy’s physical therapy requirements take us well into August.

I thought we were doing okay over the weekend. Mark and I were both home all weekend (a rare occurrence.) We had plenty of time and little more to do than pamper Lucy and cater to her needs. But things started to get dicey when Monday rolled around and everyone had to go back to work.

Lucy’s activity restrictions include keeping her confined to a small area and using caution on bare floors for two weeks. That’s not all. For the next three months she’s not allowed to go up or down stairs, wander the yard freely, play, run or jump. She must be carried up and down stairs. When she needs to do her business, someone has to take her out in the yard on her leash and wait for it to happen.

Hangin’ out on her blankie

Normally, when I get up in the morning, I let Lucy outside and she hangs out in the backyard for up to an hour, watching birds, sniffing the yard, chewing on pine cones and what-not. She does her business when she feels like doing it. Now I get to hang out in the back yard until she feels like doing her business. And you just never know when that will happen. I’m juggling getting ready for work with multiple trips down the deck steps with a fifty pound dog in my arms for fear of her having an accident in the house.

Lucy showing Jake some love

This is a lot to ask of a young, energetic dog, and we’re doing our best to make this less difficult for her. But we’ve quickly come to see that what we’ve gotten ourselves into is no small undertaking. When we went to work yesterday, we closed Lucy into the lower level so she could lay in the family room. She likes it there. We closed all the doors to other rooms and blocked the stairs. We put laundry baskets on all the furniture so she couldn’t jump on or off it. We put her doggy bed and some blankets on the floor for her. We thought this worked pretty well and she did fine while we were away.

Mark stopped in at the vet’s office yesterday afternoon. I’m not sure why because I didn’t bother to ask once I’d heard all he had to tell me. He said he told our vet how things had gone the first few days and what we were doing. When she heard how we had confined Lucy while we went to work, she scolded Mark. She said Lucy should not be allowed that much room (one carpeted room and a small carpeted hallway) to roam while we are away and that she should be locked in her kennel. She should be locked in her kennel all day.And at night, she should also be locked in her kennel. That’s a lot of kennel time for a one year-old dog. And the 40-foot cable we hooked up to Lucy’s collar so she could be in the front yard with us? Also a no-no. No cables. She can only be outside if kept on a short leash. For three whole months.

I know this is all in the best interest of my dog, so that she can heal properly and get better. But I’m frustrated and upset. We talked to two vets before agreeing to this surgery. I specifically asked questions about the level of care required after surgery. I specifically stated that I had concerns about leaving her alone at home while we were at work all day and that we didn’t have the luxury of taking time off. I specifically asked what would be required of us afterwards. And do you know how our vet responded to those concerns? She said there would be some physical therapy requirements and that we could just do the exercises with Lucy when we got home from work. That was the extent of the conversation.

After Lucy had her surgery, we were given the extensive list of dos and don’ts. It is definitely not as simple as doing a few exercises after we get home from work. At times, there are as many as three different exercises a day and many of the exercises must be continued for weeks at a time. Again, I love my dog, and there’s no question that we’ll work her medical needs into our daily routines. I just don’t understand why I wasn’t provided this list in answer to my questions in the first place. Yes, I know I should have done more research on my own. I should have taken it upon myself to make sure I was more informed. But our vet played it off as no big deal. She’s been the vet to our pets forever and I trusted her. Now I feel as if our concerns were addressed in such a way as to steer us toward making the decision the vet wanted us to make. And I’m frustrated about that.

Actually, I wasn’t just frustrated. I was mad. Mark and I got into it over this. He said I was overreacting and I know I sort of am. I love my dog and I want her to be better. I just wish I had been more informed before we made our decision. Right now all I can see is my poor dog who is slightly depressed because I’m sure she thinks she’s being punished. No running. No chasing. No playing in her new pool. No more sleeping on whichever bed she chooses with whichever family member she feels like cuddling with. And just when she can start running and playing again? Just when I can start taking her out for walks again? We’re supposed to get the other hip done and start all over again. It will be December before we’re done with all of this.

I know, I know. In the big picture, what’s six months if it means my dog will be healthier and happier?

I was spouting off my mouth yesterday in frustration. I told Mark I was really unhappy with our vet and really didn’t want to go to the follow-up appointments, so he better plan on doing that. He told me not to be like that. He told me it would all be okay. I said no it wouldn’t. I know I was being unreasonable. When I get like this I need time to stew about it before I can face reality and move forward like a rational person.  But I didn’t feel like being rational last night. Lucy and I slept on a pile of blankets on the family room floor last night. (Yes, with all furniture and stairs and other rooms blocked off.) She never moved from my side, so I don’t feel too bad about breaking the kennel-at-night rule. I woke up feeling pretty stiff. I love ya, Lucy, but don’t be expecting anymore doggy slumber parties with me!

“No more slumber parties?”

I wanted Mark to understand my frustration. I didn’t want to be reminded that I was being dramatic, which I clearly was when I opened the patio door to hand him something for the grill and he tried to comfort me again, saying,  “It’ll all be okay,” and I said again, “NO it WON’T,” and slammed the door shut before he could say anything more. (God knows why that man puts up with me sometimes.)

Lucy and I slept on it. We feel a little better today. At least one of us knows that as much as I want to make sure she’s happy, right now it’s more important to focus on her health, even if she doesn’t understand why we’ve taken all her fun away.

And will I let her have the second surgery? Probably. I’m still not real happy with our vet though. But I’ll get over it.