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.

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Let there be light!

at-least-it-is-sunny

The groundhog saw his shadow today. Frankly, I didn’t need Punxsutawney Phil to tell me anything — the flamingos have been doing a pretty good job of letting us know what’s up around here, and it isn’t the temperature!

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The Scout had his MRI last week and we’re still waiting for the results. (SuperDad has put a call in to the doctor.)  Honestly, I’ll be surprised if it tells us anything at all. I have to keep reminding myself that he had a really horrid fall and it’s going to take more time to recover. It was encouraging last week to hear his teachers tell of seeing “more of him” lately, that more often now when he is in class he is managing to have that light on behind his eyes instead of a glazed-over look.

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After a weekend of low stress and winter camping — where he felt relatively good and hardly needed extra rest time at all — he figured out that the anxiety over trying to accomplish all of his schoolwork is stressing his system. So on Monday when he went to school, The Scout met with his guidance counselor (the same one who helped us get the 504 Accommodation Plan set in place) and requested that he be allowed to drop two of his classes — Spanish 2 and Calculus. Bless her, she worked to make that happen. He has been able to attend school every day this week because he has some built-in “down time” where he can catch up on assignments or take a break in a quiet alcove or even take a nap in the nurse’s office.

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Having my teenager engage in conversation with us is a blessing that I cannot take for granted. When the pain in his head (which he describes as “a hot iron pressing against my skull”) subsides enough to let him be his normal cheerful self, with a sense of humor and light in his eyes, I know how lucky we are.

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The missing bike (and more Wii?W)

Last week on “What is it? Wednesday” I shared this photo:

DSCN2506  What is it Wednesday

For those that guessed a cut cable, you are correct.

Our resident teenager rode his bike 2 miles to the school on graduation Saturday, locked it up and walked the next mile to the event center where the band was playing for graduation. For some reason he didn’t think there were any places to lock up a bike at the opera house (there are — in the parking garage, where he didn’t think to look). Three hours later, he returned to a cut cable, no helmet, no bike.
He walked the three miles home and silently showed us the remains of his transportation.
DSCN2506  The remains of the locked up bike  WEBSIZED

It wasn’t a new bike — I had purchased it in 1989 and it had a busy life for the past 27 years — but it was solid, reliable transportation.

K on bike at Burnt Ridge farm

That’s me in the photo above, circa 1989, riding on the farm; in the photo below, I’m preparing to haul 100 pounds worth of offspring in Germany, circa 1997.  I miss that younger, stronger version of me and the fun of living on the outskirts of Heidelberg.

K with bike in HD-Wieblingen

It is frustrating be minus a bike, especially for a 16-year-old who merely wanted to save gas money and parking fees, which is why he didn’t drive his truck that day. Driving would have been easier — have you ever biked with a trumpet?  But we raised out kids in a frugal lifestyle and it has successfully passed down to the next generation. Of course, we reported it stolen, but in a city with a population of 200,000 people, we don’t expect to see it again.

Our kind next door neighbor has gifted us one of their bicycles: 10 years old, ridden once. It’s a little short for The Scout but it’s a thoughtful gift and the price was right.
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Here is this week’s photo clue:

DSCN9561 4x6 What is it Wednesday, cropped

What is it? 

Please leave your best detailed guess in the comments below.

 

 

Cold

DSCN7274 ..COLD.. cropped, websized

Photo taken by SuperDad who can walk around outside (unlike yours truly)

Although we’ve had snow on the ground for several weeks, it feels colder these days — or perhaps that is simply because there is no longer a baby here with whom to snuggle.  At our house, we’ve shrunk back to four humans (plus the dog and cat) from the eight of us who were living here for nearly two weeks.  Gone are the sounds of Little Foot as he protests having his diaper changed; gone are the voices of brothers playing games together; also gone is the need to text the college student to tell him to turn off the music and go to bed.

DSCN7267  my snuggle partner

I miss my sweet snuggler (and his parents).

The dinner conversations have devolved as well. What starts out as intelligent conversation, centered upon lab results in the genomics studies course taken by the teenager, ends abruptly on this sub-freezing evening by a simple statement from The Barefooter:

I saw some insects today — outside. I ate two of them.

I stop and stare… and hope desperately that no one observed this occurrence (for employment purposes if nothing else). In his defense, he claims that the bugs were quite small and he scooped them up with snow, which he also ate.  Whether or not this happened on his lunch break, I do not know.

I’ve been avoiding snow and ice, but not for the reasons one would think, given my injured ankle; I can’t walk, so going outside is a moot point. But I did discover last week that it is a Very Bad Idea to ice my ankle, regardless of swelling. Applying a cold pack to an ankle that has the equivalent of a K's left ankle x-ray, websharehardware store section attached inside causes the person who just had surgery 6 weeks prior to actually feel each piece of hardware in that ankle.  I thought I was imagining it, but my feeling (I was especially feeling that bowed plate on the left) was corroborated by a nurse and several friends with metal hardware in their limbs.
Lesson learned! I plan to keep my ankle away from extreme cold.

Later this week I will get to see an updated X-ray and hopefully it will show some positive progress toward healing.

September really does end

DSCN2155 cropped 4x6 A at Audubon

On Wednesdays and some weekends, you can find me at cross-country meets. I’m there to cheer on my boy and his teammates. XC parents do not sit in chairs or bleachers; we trot our slower selves all over the course from point A to point B to point C and back to point A, cheering on our runners as they go uphill, downhill, around the bend, and if the course is really challenging, through a creek.

This month seems to have been in race mode: powering through the tougher stretches and trying to make the most of the easier times. Some things for which I’ve been particularly grateful:

  • Time spent with friends
  • H-J getting happily settled into his second year of college, and calling me just to say hello
  • EB getting a week of work at a home renovation (via networking) and interviewing at yet another job this afternoon
  • baby shower for my DIL (and getting to see my son before heading back home again)
  • cool nights and sunny days
  • coffee — and my husband who wakes me up with a cup of black gold most mornings

Do dust storms have silver linings?

I had this post written on Thursday night but I was really tired and went to bed without publishing it. For some weird reason, I thought I’d proofread and post it on Friday. Ha! So here is Friday’s post, three days late. You’re welcome. 
  1.  Monday was the first day of school for SnakeMaster. He’s my only one still at home full-time (except, he’s not — read on) but he’s also kid #4, which means that his parents do not always get out of bed before he goes to school in the mornings… after all, school starts at 8:00 in the morning and I never claimed to be a morning person. SuperDad never had to be involved in parenting on school mornings, so he’s a little clueless on how it all works. He thought he’d heard the kid get up with his alarm clock. It wasn’t until 9am when SnakeMaster emerged from his bedroom that we discovered the 16yo was still at home an hour after the bell rang on campus. A whirlwind of activity got us out the door 15 minutes later. This is why there is no “first day of school” photo to share with you.
  2. We’ve got two more weeks with the H-J before he returns for his second year of college. He is moving to a house with 5 other guys, although he doesn’t seem to have any idea how it is being furnished or who is contributing what. I’m trying to not think about this (because it makes me a little crazy) but I also wonder who in their right mind would rent a house to 6 college guys?!
  3. Encyclopedia Blue had a job for two months, washing dishes at a restaurant about 7 miles away. It was a 35 minute commute via bicycle for him (because he is a fitness geek, he thought that was just fine) and we had been telling him he needed to find someplace closer before winter. Well, he doesn’t have a new job, but he rode into work on Wednesday only be to told he was being “let go.”  I’m one frustrated mama… first he drops out of college, then he spends 6 months unemployed, and now after 2 months, he’s jobless once more. He’s nearly 23 years old and living at home. He does pay rent because that has always been our rule: if you live at home after your high school years and are not in college, you pay rent. Tough love. *sigh*
  4. Last weekend we took a quick trip to visit the grandparents (SuperDad’s folks). The resident 16yo was behind the wheel, getting more experience, when we drove into an oncoming dust storm. I was in the backseat, texting my girlfriends about my rising anxiety and trying to keep quiet. When we stopped to change drivers, the 3 males went to McD’s for burgers; I went to *bucks for the biggest vanilla latte they would sell to me. (At that point, I would have willingly paid for Irish Coffee, if only they sold it.) Luckily, it turns out that a couple shots of sugar help to lower my blood pressure.
  5. SnakeMaster took his driver’s test last week but he did not pass the exam. While I agree that he needs more practice (I’m not yet comfortable with his driving ability), he was marked down for driving too slowly on residential streets, which I don’t think is fair. The person administering the test decided the boy was driving slowly because he was unsure of himself, but we taught SM to take it slow on residential streets, especially those with unmarked intersections, because we have seen too many near-accidents.  Apparently 15mph is too slow and he needs to speed it up to at least 20mph.  Honestly, I would rather he drive slowly and carefully. I see fools speeding on those streets every single day.  So now we are telling him, “Drive faster!” His schedule is really full now that school has begun, but we’ll try to get him tested again within the next few weeks. With that full schedule, we practically need him to drive himself places.
Reflecting blues

Reflecting blues

Friday Five: Catching up is hard to do

It’s now October, and I’m still not back to regular blogging (and let’s not discuss the status of my feed reader). Consider this my reaching out to keep in touch during a busy season of life by way of letting you know what I’ve been doing these past few weeks:

Fall earrings, Disco ball earrings, and Seahawks-theme key chains, charms, zipper pulls, and earrings -- all for sale

Fall earrings, Disco ball earrings, and Seahawks-theme key chains, charms, zipper pulls, and earrings — all for sale

  1. Keeping my farmer’s market booth stocked with new items — some of these are now up on my Etsy site as well.
  2. Working on a few special orders for lanyards and cards. Normally I only make note cards using my own photos, but a friend is now living in Guatemala and has asked me to make cards using her own photos and those of a mutual friend, highlighting scenes from her adopted country. This is the second time I’ve made a batch of cards for her to take back with her and I like to give credit where credit is due.
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    Cards going to Guatemala

    Cards going to Guatemala

  3. I took boy#3 to college on September 19th, had dinner with a few friends on Friday night and then attended my high school 30-year reunion the next night. Most of the people there looked terrific and I even remembered some of them. (I moved to a new city between my sophomore and junior year of high school, so I hope my lack of memory has more to do with so little time spent with them and not a sign of memory loss.)
    Move-in weekend is a stressful time to drive in a University District in a big city.  I must be old because the two late nights of little sleep and driving back and forth across the state wore me  out!
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  4. Hopefully all of that driving isn’t wearing out my minivan. She passed this little milestone on that trip:
    Betty turns over 100,000 miles
  5. On my days off, I try to accomplish a few errands and take care of appointments. I’m still going to PT for my foot which is really helping.  I can only hope that my insurance company will see the benefit of continuing those visits.

ANIMAL UPDATE: The dog has taken boy#4 for his very own and hardly raises an eyebrow at the cat. The cat was slowly realizing that the dog will not eat her up… until she looked out the window a few days ago and saw him running in the backyard chasing a squirrel. There went several weeks of progress… she is back to square one, walking around with ears pricked, jumping at the slightest noise. I moved suddenly a few nights ago and her tail fluffed out rather dramatically, the hair on her back raised at least an inch, and she is once again mistrustful of all of us.

Throw-Back Thursday: the Collegiate Edition

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8 month old MusicMan, who grew up to become a Cougar instead of a Husky

 

I married a Washington State Cougar and the two older boys have attended their father’s alma mater. H-J is breaking the mold. Tomorrow I will drive my third-born son to college. He is attending the same university that I went to thirty years ago.

For the rest of the weekend, I will be meeting up with old high school friends at the 30-year reunion. I was much younger then, too. 😉

 

Early September Friday Five

  1. DSCN4518 First Day of High School, resized for webIt’s a new school year and a new way of life here in my world at Spokalulu. SnakeMaster is a freshman in high school and Humorous-Juniorous is about to leave for his freshman year of college; Encyclopedia Blue is back at college for year 4 of 5 (or more… it’s hard to tell), and MusicMan and Rapunzel are enjoying a new phase of married life without the burden of college courses. It is hard to believe that in just a few weeks, H-J will be off to college and we’ll be at a 2:1 ratio of parents to kids for the first time in 22 years.
  2. Just for fun, SuperDad and I looked at some vehicles with towing capacity before poking our heads in some glampers on Labor Day. Nothing moves very quickly here so there’s no need for excitement, but in our slow-as-molasses style, we are beginning the path toward a gentler-on-the-aging-body kind of camping. Give us a few years (like maybe when the child over on the right there graduates) but I will be the proud owner of a smallish camping trailer before I am too old to enjoy it!
  3. Working in a church office continues to be a good fit for me. I grew up hanging around church offices (my dad is a retired pastor) and was familiar with much of the goings-on before I took it on as a job. I enjoy making the weekly bulletin (which doubles as a newsletter) and the little bit of worship service planning that I get to do with other volunteers. There is much I need to learn before being proficient in planning a service (what is really a Call to Worship, etc.) and dealing with money/Quickbooks, etc., still makes me anxious (I do not want to mess that up!) but it is both challenging and fulfilling — and really, isn’t that what makes a job worth going to each day?
  4. There are several older people in our congregation whom I have come to love. I see them aging, slowing down — and in the case of one, visibly becoming frailer each week/month — and it makes me sad. It brings brings them closer to heaven but it brings me closer to grief. I tear up just thinking about losing them. When they die, part of my job will be assisting with the planning and carrying out of the memorial services. It is going to be difficult. Last month was the memorial service for a friend’s husband. He had a long-term disease that slowly took his independence away but the ending was a little unexpected. It was actually an honor to find the right picture to go on the cover of the bulletin for the memorial service and make it all look as nice as possible. I hope I can feel the same way when the sweet older man who tells me “anecdotes” passes from this life to the next. His dear wife died 17 months ago and I think he is slowly dying from heartbreak, which in turn breaks my heart.
    *****Okay, time for a tissue break…

    Some of the photo note cards I make to sell, gift, and personally use

    Some of the photo note cards I make to sell, gift, and personally use

  5.  I continue to stay busy with work, family, household responsibilities, and the weekly farmer’s market on Fridays. Lately I have been averaging about $40 in sales each week, which isn’t stellar by any stretch of the imagination but it isn’t bad, either. I am selling my photo notecards (cropped photos on cardstock, blank inside, stamped and signed on the back) and beaded items such as earrings, eyeglass leashes, lanyards, and suncatchers. Since I enjoy making all of these, it is a pretty decent way to spend 5 hours each Friday. (The market actually runs from 3-7pm but I have to factor in the set-up and take-down time.)
Currently for sale

Currently for sale

I confess that my time spent on facebook probably needs an intervention. It is much too easy to park myself on the sofa in the evenings and get nothing of substance accomplished. Instead of doing many useful things that I would actually like to do (read a book, organize my crafting workspace, clean up my clutter that is strewn about the house in various places, decorate for fall, etc., etc.), I find myself engaging in the online equivalent of small-talk. Yes, it keeps me connected with people from all different parts of my life — and many of you that I know from blogging — but at the same time it has taken the place of reading blogs (which help me to form much deeper relationships). There are times when I have to agree with my husband that facebook is evil. (Not really.) (Yes, really.)  It’s true that sometimes after work I am too tired to do anything more than having to produce a “like” but I suspect it is both a cop-out (facebook rarely requires one to THINK) and addiction to easy social media. I feel guilty when I miss wishing people a happy birthday or special events in their lives; however, it is quite likely time for me to take a little facebook “vacation” in order to get back to meaningful blogging.

DSCN4468 Offering

That’s what I have to share today. What is happening in your world? 

Senior Spring

It’s that time of the month… the season of highs and lows, when high school seniors anxiously check their e-mail for messages from various universities.  At my house, there is an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of things because H-J applied to ten different universities, and that’s how he rolls. As of 3pm yesterday, he had heard back from 8 out of 10 schools. He’s received acceptances from two of them, and has been wait-listed at four universities. Two schools sent a letter of non-acceptance (you can call it denial — H-J did). Clearly, some of these universities were a huge stretch. Of the two acceptance letters, one comes from his desired “safety” school and there is certainly no shame in choosing to attend there.

He’s been a rather big fish in a small pond at his high school here, where he’s been enrolled in a fantastic program headed by Cambridge University (yes, that Cambridge). It’s a blessing that it’s never gone to his head. Of the remaining two schools he has yet to hear from, one was chosen to be included due to its promise of full coverage of all fees if  he was accepted and if he put it as his first choice on the National Merit Scholarship list.  (Yes, H-J is NMS-level smart.) We are assuming that one will come through but we don’t know if he’s going to choose it in the end.

UW-Seattle
Univ. Illinois Urbana-Champagne
Princeton
MIT
Carnegie-Mellon
Cornell
Stanford
Cal-Tech 

Cal-Berkley
Arizona State

H-J doesn’t seem bothered at all by the unknown.  Sure, he would have really enjoyed heading off to his #1 choice in September, but that’s not going to happen. His #2 choice might happen… or it might not (he’s been wait-listed). No matter what, he’s been accepted at a good school with the program he desires. Life is good.

This particular teenager has learned to stretch beyond his comfort zone: from building sets for the school play to actually trying out for a part; from being an academic in the classroom to participating on the track team (where he never advanced beyond JV but continued to try to improve even after the season officially ended); from being a self-focused introvert to paying attention to other people and caring about them.
Yes, I am a proud mama.

Today’s Reader Questions:

When faced with choices, do you reach for the stars, out of your comfort zone or do you choose to work with the familiar and known?
Do you go with the “safe” choice or do you wait on what might be a better option?