Thursday, September 20, 2018

Mom-cat and kitty-cat

Mom was moved out of the ICU and into the cardiac care unit today. We weren't sure she would be -- her blood pressure has been dangerously low all the time she's been in the hospital and her nurses wanted that stabilized before anyone moved her -- but this afternoon she got transferred to a different bed and wheeled off to the East Tower of the hospital. She ordered and ate dinner, got to use the spirometer a lot more than she probably appreciated, and also got all drugged up on pain pills. Wheee.

Occasionally Mom says some funny things under the influence of pain medication. She told Julie the other day that a colt and a filly were prancing around her room. She also saw a VW Beetle in the room, and was worried about it getting a flat because someone had stuck a board with nails in it right next to one of the tires. Just after saying these things, she stopped and said, "Wait. I'm having a dream, aren't I?" Yes, Mom, yes you are.

Mom has been fortunate to have some great nurses and other medical professionals in charge of her. We're also glad they haven't taken our goofy comments too seriously. (Almost every time I run errands and ask, "Anybody want anything?" Julie's go-to response is "A big bag of cocaine.")

By the way, this hospital is undergoing major renovation and the trails to different sections of the facility currently resemble nothing more than a rabbit warren. The twists and turns are enough to give anyone vertigo. I feel like I need to lay down a trail of breadcrumbs if I want to find Mom's room again.

At home, I hear from CM that the Roxy-cat is sick. She won't eat, she's been barfing and she spent most of yesterday hiding -- all classic signs of a small predator with an illness. The vet noticed she had an elevated white blood count, dehydration, no signs of having swallowed a foreign object or anything, and no fever. So for now kitty is getting antibiotics, anti-nausea drugs and a whole lot of subcutaneous water to help fix her dehydration. If you're already praying for my mom and my in-laws, I'm sure you probably don't want to add my cat to the list, but if you feel inclined we'd certainly appreciate the blessing.

ETA (9/21 1:55 a.m.): Well, that didn't last long. Mom's blood pressure went low again and they transferred her back to the ICU. I'm confident that if anyone can get her BP stable, they can.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

In Utah, hanging with the fam and the Mom

I'm running on about two hours' sleep, not counting a couple of involuntary naps today, so I'm going to keep this short.

Mom is out of surgery and in the ICU. Her surgeon feels the surgery went very well. He mentioned that the valve he wanted to replace was in even worse shape than he'd imagined, so it's a good thing she chose to get this surgery done when she did. Tonight she's breathing on her own, able to talk -- and in a whole lot of pain. Mom has a very high pain threshold, but it can be exceeded. Her nurse is working with the surgeon to do what they can to manage her pain so she can get some rest tonight.

All my sibs were in and out of the hospital today. As is typical when we get together, we all regressed to teenhood and were making many goofy (and, in the surgery waiting room, probably highly inappropriate) comments. When I left the hospital -- yes, I did leave the hospital; if I don't get some sleep I'll be no good to anyone in the morning -- Julie and my sister Michele were with Mom. Julie may spend the night in the ICU. If so, I'll go in the morning and spell her off.

Meanwhile, at the south end of Utah County, the Pole Creek Fire is still threatening to burn a number of houses in Spanish Fork Canyon, including my in-laws' place. They have been going through the house trying to take inventory of everything irreplaceable and have packed both their cars in case they need to evacuate. Please keep them in your prayers.

I drove to my mom's place tonight with the road partly illuminated by the light of the waxing quarter moon. It was a gorgeous sight. Artists, astronomers and the like tend to focus on full moons or on crescents, but any visible phase of the moon is striking and magical. And there's something comforting about looking up at the moon and realizing that many other people are doing exactly the same thing at the same time, especially when one is far from home. That sense of shared experience calms me and makes me feel hopeful, especially about the immediate future.

Good night!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Heart surgery


While I was out running errands today, I got a call from my mom. She'd just had a long consult with her surgeon, and they've scheduled open heart surgery for her this coming Tuesday. They'd originally discussed a less invasive version of the procedure, but in addition to replacing a valve, her surgeon wants to perform an ablation to make sure all her heart's electrical impulses are firing in sync.

Intellectually, I know she's in good hands. She has an excellent, thorough cardiac surgeon who took the time to go over everything with her. She has six adult children, so between all of us I'm certain there will be someone with her at all times in the weeks after surgery. She's been through a lot of operations and procedures over the years, and survived them well. Her health, though not spectacular, is good enough for this surgery, and her attitude is almost unfailingly positive.

I know all that. But I'm still scared.

Open heart surgery isn't just a big deal. In medical terms, it feels like THE big deal. As Robin Williams once said about his own open heart surgery, "With heart surgery, they literally open you up, they crack the armor." It's a vivid reminder of one's own mortality.

Thing is, if Mom does nothing her doctors assure her she'll be dead within a year or two, so -- yeah, heart surgery it is.

If you've prayed for Mom or for our family, thank you. If you haven't, please consider doing so. I know Mom would appreciate it, and so would I.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Suzanne, NOT Susan

All right, before you start in on me, I KNOW what I did today was immature and petty. I'm pushing 50; I should probably be above this sort of passive-aggressive behavior by now.

And yet.

When I read the book and watched the movie Coraline, I empathized fiercely with the protagonist. Because much like Coraline Jones, throughout my life I have had to deal with nearly everyone calling me by the wrong first name. When I was younger and even more shy of strangers, I'd furtively tell them my name -- Suzanne -- and they wouldn't hear me properly and call me "Susan" instead. This happened so often to me that I just started answering to "Susan" without bothering to correct them.

When Mom first noticed me doing this, her displeasure was obvious. "Honey, that isn't your name!" she said.

"That's what they call me."

"Well, tell them your name is Suzanne, not Susan."

"They don't listen to me," I muttered.

"It's easy. You just say, 'My name is Suzanne,' loud enough that they can hear."

At the time, asserting myself this way sounded like torture. I didn't actually start standing up for my real name until some time late in high school, when I finally got thoroughly sick of being Susaned and started saying, "It's... it's Suzanne, actually," to teachers who got it wrong.

Don't misunderstand me -- Susan's not a bad name. It's just not my name. (It is, however, the name of my dear sister-in-law, which has caused all sorts of social media problems for both of us -- but that's a whole 'nother story set.)

From high school to now, some 30 years later, I continue to be Susaned on a regular basis. Even today, when I went into a local burger shop to pick up dinner for Captain Midnight. At the end of the order: "Could I get your name, please?"

"Suzanne," I said, as clearly as I could, not too loudly but loud enough to be understood, articulating the emphasis on the second syllable. I then handed the slightly weeded-up teenager behind the counter my debit card, which has the name "Suzanne" engraved right on it.

"OK, we'll call your name when it's ready," he drawled, handing me back my card and the charge slip, which clearly had printed across the center:

Now, I've been out of sorts all day, so I guess I could blame it on an already bad mood, but for some reason when I saw The Wrong Name being used on me YET AGAIN after I'd taken the time to articulate it clearly and had given Teen Wage Slave a card with the proper spelling of the name in question, I suddenly had no crap to give any more.

I took the card and the receipt, sat down in a chair and proceeded to wait -- and to ignore the numerous calls behind the counter: "Uh, Susan?" "Cheesesteak, Susan?" "Order to go for Susan, cheesesteak and bacon cheese fries?" Sorry, Buster, not my name. Not my circus, not my monkey.

Finally the kid who had taken my order got tired of hollering to no purpose, and trotted out from behind the counter to hand me the bag. I thanked him, did not bother to explain why I hadn't retrieved the order myself, and left to bring CM his delectably greasy goodies.

I'm not sure I'm prepared to go back there soon. First, I'll need to have a T-shirt printed up that says "MY NAME IS SUZANNE, NOT SUSAN." With my track record, however, I'm not sure even this obvious lampshading will get me any leverage.

Maybe that's why I stick to Soozcat.

Friday, August 31, 2018

The paper girl

[FYI for anyone who's interested: CM and I intend to keep making videos and posting them on the weekends, but I'm not going to announce each and every one -- that would get tedious quickly. So if you scroll down the page a bit, in the right column under the heading "Nifty Places" you should see a link called "Adventures in DS Surgery." This will contain the full playlist of all my DS-related videos on YouTube. (Or just click this link if you're too lazy to scroll.)

That's all. We now return you to your irregularly-scheduled shenanigans.]
Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad
And made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.

--Will Thompson
From the time we moved to Utah until I got into college, my siblings and I had part-time jobs. (It was the only way we could get reliable pocket money to spend or save; Mom, as a newly single parent, had no extra money to provide allowance, especially for six kids.) At one time or another, every one of us had a paper route or helped a sibling deliver papers. Most of the time we walked the route, delivering copies of the Daily Herald to addresses along Apple Avenue, a steeply-inclined road in the Tree Streets neighborhood of Provo.

My sister Julie was still in grade school when she started delivering on the route. At most of the houses she would simply drop the paper on the front porch, or leave it in a designated plastic cubbyhole next to the mailbox. But at one particular house she would stop, walk through the carport and up a few steps to the kitchen door, and knock. A voice from inside would call, "Come in!" At that house, Julie hand-delivered the paper to Mrs. Muhlestein, a housebound older woman whose health problems made it difficult for her to pick up the newspaper from her porch. I think they first became acquainted when Julie realized that Mrs. Muhlestein was distantly related to our cousins, who shared the same last name. Julie would spend a few minutes each day visiting with Mrs. Muhlestein -- usually talking about the news or what was going on at school -- before she headed out to deliver more papers. It got to be a regular thing.

And then Mrs. Muhlestein died. I can't remember how Julie found out, but I do remember that she attended the funeral. Members of Mrs. Muhlestein's family were clustered near the door of the meetinghouse, greeting friends and neighbors who had come to pay their respects. Since none of them recognized Julie, they asked her who she was.

Julie said something like, "Oh, I just delivered the newspaper."

This caused a minor sensation among the Muhlestein family members. Someone said, "Everybody! Come see! It's the paper girl!" And they gathered around her and told her about how much their mother had loved her visits, how she'd looked forward to the knock at the door from the girl who delivered her the news. "You were her window on the world," they told her.

This week I've been thinking a bit about influence -- not just the way other people influence us, but sometimes the way we influence others unawares. Julie didn't set out to be a bright spot in anyone's day. She was just doing her job. But she wanted to make sure she did her job well, and that meant doing something extra for a customer who needed help. It wasn't hard, and it didn't take much of her time, but unbeknownst to her that little daily act made a huge positive difference in another person's life.

Julie's story actually makes me feel a lot less stressed about helping others. I think we often feel like we have to perform huge, heroic acts to make a difference for good, but those grand opportunities to act don't come along very often. Every day, though, it's possible to exercise patience with the brand-new supermarket checker, to show sympathy and kindness to a lonely stranger who needs to talk, to give someone you pass a smile, to drop a friendly note or a sincere compliment as you run errands. There are too many times I’ve worried so much about doing something perfectly that I haven’t done it at all. I'd forgotten that it doesn't have to be perfect; it just has to be done. In the words of Oscar Wilde, "The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention."

So if you're thinking about some small kindness you could do, let me encourage you to do it. Now, before it leaves your mind and the opportunity passes. Go and do something today.

Friday, August 24, 2018

"I've just had an apostrophe!" "I think you mean an epiphany."

(I know I already posted this on social media, but I couldn't resist.)

So, Bill and Ted:
  • show up in a time machine
  • that looks like a phone booth
  • and they take historical English babes
  • (and others)
  • on excellent adventures through time and space
I've just realized they're essentially the derpy American version of Dr. Who.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Look, I made another video!

Actually, Captain Midnight made the video. I just sat out in front and rambled about Stuff and Things. Also, you may note I'm still not wearing any makeup or doing anything special with my hair, not so much because I'm about Keepin' it Real(TM), but because I hope you can see I'm starting to heal up and therefore in less pain.

"Don't you wish you had my awesome Never Forget T-shirt?
Well forget it, sucka, this one's mine!"

Because my surgeon won't let me pick up more than 5 pounds for some 6 weeks after surgery, I won't be able to move Miss V into her college apartment this year. This means she's getting on a plane to head back to school. Fortunately, most of her stuff went into a storage locker near the university at the end of last school year, and she has about a week or thereabouts to move it into her new apartment. With a little help from family and friends, she should be able to get it all taken care of before school starts.

CM is once again playing Minecraft today. And Roxy has decided the most comfortable place to take a nap is draped across his desk, with her head resting on CM's mouse arm. Every now and then she decides he needs a bath. It's endearing to see her showing him so much love, especially since she's such a skittish kitty.