MTM: The streak is over

How do you describe
the sound a raindrop makes
as it filters through the leaves
from the sky to thirsty ground
after 80 days without moisture?

The musical notes
of a babbling brook in the gutter
The percussion
on the roof (almost steady)
like the snare drums
of a 6th grade band

And the hollow emptiness
when those sounds slow to stillness
in the pre-dawn quiet
until all you hear
is the clock (tick, tock) calling
Autumn, Autumn

 

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Seeing Rainbows

Life isn’t sacred.

Life is precious and wonderful. It can be tedious or exciting. Life, as Glennon Melton Doyle says, is brutal and beautiful… brutiful. But life isn’t sacred. Sacred means holy, set aside, reverently dedicated to some person, purpose, or object.  I’m not saying that life can’t be those things, but general everyday life doesn’t qualify as sacred. However, there are moments in one’s life that are sacred. Birth, when a baby takes its first breath, causes those present to catch and hold their own breaths, waiting for that first cry as air fills the infant’s lungs. Death is also one of those sacred moments; being present as someone takes a final breath is a holy experience and a sacred honor – one which I count myself blessed to have witnessed.

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My husband and I discussed some of this a few weeks ago as he prepared to undergo an angiogram. We were filling out paperwork for his Advance Directive in the event things went horribly wrong. He didn’t want to have life indefinitely prolonged via medical support if there was no hope of recovery. We did the hard work of discussing how long I should wait for him to come out of a coma or allow him to be on life support, should those things be in our immediate future.

We experienced sacred moments yesterday. It was a beautiful morning: the smoke was finally clearing from our skies. I wanted to visit friends who were camping in a lovely Riverside spot before they left to journey home, so SuperDad and Moses and I drove the short distance to the state park. I walked the first half-mile with them, smiling at how happy our dog was to be sniffing everything. We parted on the bridge; man and beast continued on their favorite hike together while I returned to where my friends were camped. About 30 minutes later, when I was expecting their return to us, SD called to say the dog was having trouble breathing (this was not terribly uncommon and usually righted itself within minutes) so they were resting before moving on. Ten minutes later, a second call let me know that Moses wasn’t recovering well at all, and could I get a cart to meet them? My friend J and I asked the camp host if there was a cart available but she did not have one, so we drove to my house for our folding wagon, quickly returning to the park with it.  We met SD and the dog on the trail: Moses had slipped into a coma. We gently moved him to a blanket and lifted him into the cart. The trail back was rocky and uneven, and the decision was made for SD to go retrieve the car while J and I walked with the wagon along a smoother path until we could all meet up. At a stopping point in the shade, J reached down and pet the dog; she noted that his heart was beating quickly. By the time I reached down to feel his chest, Moses’ heart had stopped. There was no trauma, no misery – just a quiet ending. He was having a joy-filled morning, walking on one of his favorite paths in the woods until with a final wag of his tail, he laid down to rest. SuperDad was there to give him water and keep him company. When Moses took his final breath, he had a loving hand placed comfortingly on him.

Death is sacred, and in those important, holy moments of yesterday, there were people to bear witness to it. Aside from the fact that he was a 14-year-old Labrador retriever – that makes him the human equivalent of 98 years of age, so clearly his time had come – I think that is why I am so at peace with his passing: he was ushered out of this life with loving hands. Moses now at the proverbial Rainbow Bridge, where he is free to sniff whatever he wants to his heart’s content. We weren’t his first family, so if the legend is true Moses will have at least two joyous reunions in the future. There are some wonderful dogs I know of who went before him, and I imagine there is quite the dog party happening now.

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This is the air I breathe…

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SuperDad told me that he has hazy vision. Despite the knowledge that his vision is still a little wonky (hopefully from the pain medications he is taking), I knew that he was talking about looking out the window this morning. We cannot see far in this smoke-filled air. My drive to work includes a vista of downtown but today there were no buildings to be seen, only gray-white nothingness obscuring the horizon.  During the day there is a yellowish diffused light, more yellow than our 9.6% sunshine during the eclipse but fairly close to the strength of light we had at the height of it.

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Looking up at the sun through smoky skies

For an hour or two after sunrise and the hour or two before sunset, the lighting hue is pinkish-orange.

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“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” reddish-pink sunrise, compliments of the fires all over the Pacific Northwest

Our air quality index last night was a horrifying 303 = Hazardous. Today it was hovering at around 245 = Very Unhealthy.  Everyone who ventures outdoors has a sore throat, and disposable masks are seen on people behind steering wheels or walking; I saw the mailman wearing one when I looked out my window at work.

And yes, I went back to work today. SuperDad continues to improve (his hamstrings are the largest source of pain now, so we’re hopeful that he is nearing the end of needing pain medication) and while my brain is not fully functional, I’ve had 5 nights at home in my own bed and am making headway on those 10 nights of hospital-induced sleep deficit.

 

 

August

Charles Dickens could sum up the month of August in one phrase, but I owe you more than that.  For now, here is a summary of our most significant events…

Dh told me to cancel all commitments for a weekend and we escaped to the cool WA coast (high of 69 degrees) in the midst of a 100 degree week here at home. Cold ocean waters numb ankle pain and there is nothing quite like sitting in a beach chair, watching the waves and letting the wind whip your mind clear of stress and worries. Sometimes I wish I lived at the beach. There are photos to share in another post.
We paused to pick blueberries on the way home, and I regret that I did not pull out the camera. The bushes were laden with ripe berries and the hardest part was stopping when our bag was full, because there were so many more berries to be picked.

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Dh again told me to cancel all commitments on August 21st but not in so many words and not for an escape to the coast. That morning during the eclipse, he suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage. He never hit his head, never blacked out, but sudden intense pain was not a good thing and even though he didn’t present typical stroke signs like you would see with a brain aneurysm,  he knew where he needed to go. If you ever suddenly find yourself with the worst headache of your entire life, get thee to the ER immediately! In his case, SuperDad had been exercising with a CrossFit maneuver — jumping rope with “double-unders” — and apparently tore a vein in his brain.  The brain bleed was diagnosed by CT scan at the ER, and the staff began making arrangements to transfer him to a neurological ICU; however, there were no open beds in this specialty in our area. Instead, we found ourselves on a Life Flight to Seattle and ten nights at Swedish Medical Center, with 8 of those nights in the Neuro Critical Care Unit. (Fun times. NOT.)  Honestly, I lost count of the number of CT scans, although I’m sure our insurance will be getting a detailed account for billing purposes.  Two angiograms. One MRI. Daily Doppler ultrasounds to track blood flow changes while on vasospasm watch.
When the high danger of repeated incidents passed, we were sent upstairs to a neuro floor (not ICU) for our 2 final nights of the 10-night stay. While there his medications were adjusted so he could go home (no more IV rescue meds for pain control). We were able to return home on the last day of August.

How anyone goes through such an event without incredible support from others — support in really tangible ways, like deliveries of food and clothing, toiletries and prescription medications for the caregiver (me); support in less tangible ways, such as prayer; the downright drudgery support in making sure pets at home are fed and watered, garbage and recycling cans dragged to the curb — I will never be able to understand how anyone possibly do well in recovery and healing without that support on many levels.  I didn’t even consider work, aside from letting people know what was happening; others took care of getting the job done in my absence. Family and friends ensured that we had what we needed, including the 5+ hour ride home. There was no way I was in any shape to drive, not withstanding the fact that we’d ridden in a small plane to Seattle ten days before.

At this point, the headaches have lessened as the blood has been moved away from the hemorrhage site. Thanks to efficient cerebral spinal fluid, his lower back, hips, and hamstrings are tight and painful (blood anywhere it shouldn’t be causes nerves to freak out) but this also tells us we are nearing the end of needing pain medications.  Once he’s off the pain meds, we hope the brain processing and vision issues clear up. (I had this experience while on strong pain medications a few years ago.)  His prognosis is very, very good. If you have to have blood in your brain, this was the very best option: no aneurysm, no clots, no visible damage via scans.

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In other news, our PCT hiker is now in his final section of the trail (the penultimate section for those who have the time to go all the way to the end) and I expect to be able to pick him up next weekend. We saw H-J nearly every day while in the hospital; he is content with work while waiting for his final 2 classes to be offered in the spring. School started on Thursday when The Scout began his senior year (no first day photo because he was here and his parents were in Seattle at the hospital). His head still hurts after 14 months; he’s currently undergoing a series of acupuncture treatments.
Since it is fire season, our air is tinged (and sometimes filled) with smoke and the light is filtered through the haze.  I cannot see the hills in the distance this afternoon; we are enveloped in a white cloud of smoke.
I return to work tomorrow, although I may be splitting my time between the office and home (via my laptop). I’m grateful for that flexibility.

Manic Monday

Another Monday, another brief message from the barefoot backpacker — this one to tell me he’d made it to Crater Lake and “I have more that needs to be said than can be said in a voice mail so… I’ll call you back.” That his voicemail message two three hours ago… from a pay phone that doesn’t take incoming calls. My stomach is in knots.  I think I just sprouted a dozen new gray hairs.  This particular son is the cause of more than a few worries over the years.
It doesn’t help that I’ve been awake for the past 37 hours.
Did you know it gets light here at 4:30 AM?

So… how about some good news! Well, the heat wave has subsided and it’s been downright pleasant outside — a little too warm, because it is summer, but it’s cooling down at night again and that makes all the difference.  The Scout has assured me that his paperwork for Eagle rank has all been turned in.

Speaking of scouts, I spent 4 hours driving out to summer camp and back home again last night because SuperDad had inadvertently left several Very Important Items in the back of his car… in our garage. BFF rode out with me and got to see their campsite and the upper portion of the camp, and the scouts explained what they would be doing for the week. Possibly more importantly, we got to use the toilets at the beginning of the week instead of at the end of the week.*   And most impressive of all, we saw an adult female moose just before we reached the camp. Sadly, there is no photo proof because we didn’t have a camera with us.  And before you ask why I didn’t snap a picture on my cell phone, #1- I was driving, and #2- I accidentally left it charging on the table at home. We were supposed to be back at home being outdoorsy on the patio, but I was interrupted 5 sips into a nice cool lime-and-agave beverage.

To summarize: no moose picture, a rather different sort of outdoorsy experience for several of us, and no details on the barefoot PCT hiker (although we do have indication that he is alive and somehow ahead of schedule).  The northern lights were supposedly visible last night but it’s too light here in the city to see them, and I’m going to head to bed and pray for sleep — with the phone next to me, volume set to stun.

How is your summer going?

*I’m full of strange fun for her: as a birthday gift, I took her to an alpaca ranch — and now she’s had the experience of visiting a Boy Scout camp.

Your long-overdue update, or: “At least I’m not 241 years old.”

This evening marks exactly one year since my youngest son fell 23 feet out of a tree and landed on his back. He still suffers from post concussion syndrome, with an inability to focus and function for very long — or sometimes at all — and the same headache he’s had since he fell is still present.  The Scout turns 18 and therefore will age out of scouting before the end of the month.  His Eagle Scout project was completed last summer; however, he has limited ability to work and there is much “paperwork” (computer work) still to be done to achieve the rank of Eagle.  He has already had so many disappointments over the past twelve months, so many things he’s had to give up and no end in sight with his PCS, that I really want this honor for him to carry forward for the rest of his life.  It would be a bright spot in his craptastic year.  His senior year of high school is yet to come.

Humorous-Juniorous had landed his dream job at one of the university laboratories a few months ago, only to lose it due to immaturity. Showing up on time, asking questions and communicating are important skills to learn. He’s now working at a cafe, because understandably he was not hired by another lab boss — and food, rent, and utilities still need to be paid for on a regular basis.  H-J is coming home this weekend for a short visit and a large extended family get-together, so at least we will get to see him for the first time since Christmas.

In answer to our consistent pestering about applying for a job, The Barefooter announced to us less than 2 weeks ago that he had decided to go hike the Pacific Crest Trail north from southern Oregon. His original plan was to leave last Thursday but then I reminded him of the aforementioned family get-together (based upon a wedding) so he’s now leaving on Sunday.  True to form, The Barefooter is not yet prepared for this venture but committed to going because once he gets an idea, he is tenacious.  I shake my head and bite my tongue often. He tells us that he’s taking 2 months to hike as far north as possible before getting off the trail on September 10th (the day before his 25th birthday) and then switching his studies from horticulture to firefighting.

IMAG0529_1The Engineer and The Author continue with their jobs and the fine work of parenting Little Foot, who is now one-and-a-half years old. SuperDad and I visited them a few weeks ago (I had him playing in the sprinkler and his clothes were drying on the deck when I took this picture) and they will be coming here this weekend for the wedding/extended family extravaganza.  I’ve already told Little Foot‘s mama that if they want to stay and dance after dinner, I’ll take this sweet boy home with me. Grandmothers with bum ankles do not do much dancing but they do enjoy playing and cuddling with babies. No doubt his uncle The Scout will also be ready to go home early.

If you had heard, yet doubted, that Pokémon GO is an exercise app, I can assure you that is correct information. Not only do I see and talk with folks who would otherwise be holed up indoors out in front of the building at work (our site is a Pokémon gym), I am married to a level 35 trainer. SuperDad continues to need additional calories to ensure that he does not lose weight from all of the exercise he gets running, biking, rollerblading, and more. He also does the majority of our shopping and food preparation; basically, SuperDad has been the glue holding us together.  And I need someone to hold me together these days. There’s an unquantifiable toll on a mother’s heart as she can do nothing but watch as her (17yo) baby suffers or her adult children make mistakes. It doesn’t help when the prescription for antidepressants runs out prior to a holiday weekend and the regular pharmacy claims they cannot get it. (In truth, someone higher up has chosen to not obtain it; Rite-Aid pharmacy has come to my rescue with the very medication I need although it requires additional hoops and jumping through them without medication helping my chemically-challenged brain is… well, challenging.) As for the ankle, nothing has changed: it swells with use and weather patterns. I try to exercise in the pool several days a week for strength and balance, and I adjust my activities to match my capabilities.  Some days that translates to sitting on the sofa with my feet up.

As I look back over my writing tonight, I note that it lacks cheeriness and for that I apologize. It’s hard to be cheerful without my usual dosage of antidepressants, especially when anxious over a few of the circumstances described above. The biblical mandate to be anxious for nothing and pray about everything doesn’t always get me through. Tomorrow should be better thanks to the “emergency” dispensation of 3 days worth of pills from the nice pharmacy up the road — enough to tide me over until they can speak with my doctor and get the renewed prescription into their files. And baby snuggles, which always improve my mood and general outlook on life, are a planned part of my weekend.

Happy birthday to the United States of America. May the temper-tantrum toddler days soon be behind us all.

flag at the island house

A visit from Little Foot

It is still winter here where the snow falls like powdered sugar.

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Little Foot arrived at our house on Saturday evening. His mama and daddy both caught the stomach bug he’d just gotten over, and Oma and Opa were happy to have him here so his parents could rest.

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The resident uncles pretend it’s not a big deal to have Little Foot here for a visit but given the opportunity, they are happy to interact with their nephew.

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It’s hard to focus the lens on a moving toddler!

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This boy is amazingly mellow. This is the first time he has spent extended hours in our house without his parents here with him. He has asked, “Mama, where you? Dada?” a few times. However, most of the time he is content to play. Opa’s meatloaf, Oma’s pumpkin pie, bananas and peanut butter toast have been the favorite foods for the past day, along with muffins and breakfast breads at church on Sunday morning. Green beans were decidedly “meh.”

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Oma, why is there only a tiny bit of sparkles on this toenail? 

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I’ve been taking advantage of his nap times to get some rest myself, even if it’s just reading a book. And really, who could resist just watching him sleep?

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This nap, however, is coming to an end. Time to get back down on the floor and play!

We’ll be heading home to his mama and daddy this afternoon. They are feeling better and I have work tomorrow.