Sunday, July 31, 2011


I've finally caught up with the lengthy list of unread posts hanging out in my reader this morning. My but you're all such prolific writers!

The dust has finally settled here in metro Detroit and things should start getting back to normal. We have a huge job ahead of us going through my husband's childhood home, but we have time, and there is no sense of real urgency about getting those tasks done. One day at a time is how we'll tackle that particular task.

For the third time in six years, we hosted a no funeral-funeral. No funeral home. Direct cremation. A relaxing wake. No stress. The first time we elected to eschew tradition, tongues wagged. "What do you mean she won't be laid out?" Those were my mother in law's wishes. She couldn't bear the thought of people looking into her casket and remarking on how good she looked when she knew she would only look dead and waxy, or worse, commenting on what cancer had done to her body. We honored her wishes by having a mass, followed by a wake at her home. We passed out carnations, her favorite flower, to everyone who came to the mass. While it felt odd to host a send off in such a manner, we were acutely aware of how relaxed everyone seemed to be. At her wake, friends and family stayed for hours and hours sharing their thoughts, love and the stories of her life. If this had been a traditional funeral, perhaps they'd have stayed 30 minutes or so, or maybe for the rosary, but I can almost guarantee, they would not have stayed for hours on end.

The second time we had a no funeral-funeral was when my own mother died, and since that was the other side of the family, tongues were still wagging about the lack of a viewing at the funeral home, but my entire immediate family had enjoyed the stress free wake for my mother in law and wanted the same for my mom. We had a mass, then a luncheon and enjoyed the stress free community of friends and family back at my mom's house.

Funerals are not for the dead, but for the living, and for survivors, our family believes there should be no stress. By itself, loss is hard enough. Having a body laid out for two days, followed by a day of funeral services is emotionally exhausting and we choose not to go there anymore. Though tongues may still wag, many are coming around to our way of thinking. At the wakes we've hosted, there are still some tears and sadness, but if you stand back and survey, you see people sharing stories and memories with much more laughter and lightheartedness than you'd expect.

We held MLTL's wake on Friday afternoon and had the event catered at his home. We didn't expect a huge turnout since many of his peers have already left this earth, but about 100 people showed and most stayed for hours. The old folks gathered on the back porch or under shade trees sharing funny stories and the youngsters gathered in the family room playing games on my son's Xbox. No children were traumatized by viewing the deceased in a casket and to my knowledge, no tongues were wagging. The extended family must be getting used to the way we choose to send off our loved ones because from the looks of it, though it was a solemn occasion, they seemed to all be relaxed and enjoying one another's company. My sister in law's friend, fresh from the three day funeral of her own mother, mentioned she wished they'd done her mother's funeral our way.

Just because we choose to do things a little differently, doesn't make us wrong, though I'm quite certain that the traditional funeral home operators would likely disagree. I can't be swayed though...I'd really rather spare no expense on a wake that celebrates the life of the honoree, than spend the same money on a sad event.

It's really OK to literally think outside the box.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Farewell MLTL

"Let me square the yards, while we may, old man, and make a fair wind of it homeward."

~Herman Melville

July 15, 1927 - July 27, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Absentee Blogger

I'll be missing from your feeds for a bit.

My father in law entered hospice Tuesday night. Finally, he's comfortable, despite his perforated bowel. There is no satisfaction in having been correct that indeed, he is a dying man. I wish they'd done the CT scan sooner, but the powers that be had to come to that solution on their own schedule. For now, he's inpatient at the hospital, but wants to go home and I think that's the least we can do for him. As soon as the equipment is delivered, he'll be sent to his home to pass what little time is left with as much dignity as we can provide.

Thank you all for your words of encouragement. Y'all are pretty fierce people. I'll be seeing you all soon.

Speak to me of dyeing

Not as in leaving this earth, but dyeing. As in color and mordant and heat. I've never dyed fiber, unless it's by accident, like throwing the red towel in with the whites in a river of hot water. I've done that before.

I'd originally planned to have a true color artist dye my shawl, but I really want to do it myself. I've been discussing color with my daughter and she thinks trying to achieve OPI's nailpolish, Yodel Me on My Cell, is a perfect color.

I could have used a slightly wider table for blocking, but this was good enough

Some reading I've done indicates I may have some issue with the dye reaching the twisted parts of my stitches--of which there appear to be many thousands of such stitches--which will result in a more marbled instead of solid effect, but can this be ameliorated in some way? What if the color were applied with a sponge brush? Can I paint it this way and allow the sun to be the heat source? It's not like it's not hot enough around here.

My neighbor said, "wow, that's beautiful. It looks just like peacock feathers." It does, it does!

This is the one area of fiber arts I've never dabbled in and I'm completely lost and not a little nervous. The fiber is 100% superwash merino and my shawl weighs 700 grams, or 1.8 pounds. Incidentally, I'm willing to practice and have enough wool left over for several lace swatches to practice on first.

So please, if you know how to dye, won't you share your skill with me?

Sara and I are planning a trip to the Detroit Zoo for a photo shoot. Our goal is to hunt down some peacocks so we can try to get them into the pictures. They're usually pretty easy to find. We just need for the heat to die down a little.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Better left unsaid?

Over the past week, I've written 4 posts that I just can't bear to publish. Suffice it to say, with as hard a time as my father in law has given us over the past 25 years, I still wouldn't wish what he's going through on my worst enemy.

He's lost his dignity and apparently sometime today, he's entered into a delirious state, and now he's lost his mind, too. I've mentioned it to anyone who will listen, but apparently nobody cares. He's so clearly demonstrating what I know as a hypoactive delirium--just lying quietly in bed going silently mad--and because he's not ripping out lines, not a soul cares. He thinks he's at the "Clover Complex" and that my son has been taking him out in his wheelchair to see "the beautiful grounds on this estate." Neither is true. What is true is he's tucked away in a corner, pissing on himself and suffering pain. Today they took away the one vicodin a day the less than generous staff was allowing him to have for pain that's still present. They say his sodium is low--129--and while they're replacing this, they haven't removed the several glasses of water they stick under his nose to drink everyday. For my nursing friend's who'll get the significance of this, I can only say, WTH? No pain pills because it might make him more somnolent, but here, let us help you drown your sodium levels in water because there's no way in hell that will make him somnolent or confused, right?

Head, meet wall.

Progress is not being made and his physicians refuse to throw in the towel. In 16 days, he's been either without food, or on some variation of a liquid diet. Preoperatively, he was malnourished from the tumor. When he gets solids, he has abdominal problems. Friday they mentioned a feeding tube. The moment I said, "absolutely not," I became the enemy. But friends, these aren't my wishes, they're his. Shockingly, he has an advance directive and it states clearly, no artificial feeding. I'm stalwartly trying to abide by his wishes.

In the middle of all of this, I fear I've lost my objectivity. I'm not cut out to be a designated advocate. I'm really not. To me, I see a dying man and want desperately for him to have comfort and solace at the end of his life...just like it says in his directive.

Also in the middle of all of this, I've finished the shawl. I'm hoping it brings me pleasure some day, because right now, even this brings no satisfaction whatsoever.

Send vodka...I'm running low.

A note on the photo and the shawl: it's in an unfinished state in as much as it's not yet blocked. The photo is from my laptop's photobooth. I used the Nikon, but couldn't find transfer cords. Better photos are coming. I promise.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Winding things up

Nothing about this week has been particularly satisfying until today. In fact, it's been nothing but ups and downs all week long with MLTL, with yesterday being particularly down. We considered bringing him home and starting hospice, but then he got a good night's sleep, IV potassium & sodium and things were better today. I think, for him at least, only time will tell, buy today things appear wee bit better. Hopefully he'll get a little better with time.

Since he was improving today, I sent his son up to check on him and I stayed to watch what turned out to be the most amazing day of Le Tour de France. My favorite to win since the start, Aussie, Cadel Evans, who was losing by about a minute going into this stage, won the day by pulling ahead of the leader and takes the entire race. It was an incredible time trial and I'm more than satisfied with the outcome. Something tells me he'll be quite the hero back home,because to my knowledge, it's the first time an Australian has won the tour. For Cadel, this day has been many years in the making and he truly deserved this win.

There is no race for the yellow jersey on Sunday--that's for show only, and was decided today--but there will be the crazy sprinters going all out at the end of stage 21. While I kind of let the competition wool spinning peter out, I do have 99.99999% of that peacock shawl done. I'm hoping, like a sprinter, to finish it up by the end of tomorrow.

On a more somber note, I'm truly saddened by the news out of Norway. What a horrible event for the people of that nation and the parents who lost their children. This world can be heartbreaking at times.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hang on to your hopes, my friend

At this very moment, the outdoor thermometer is reading 101 degrees (F) with humidity of 53%. The most strenuous thing I've done today is meet a friend for breakfast and visit MLTL, who is now trying to do inpatient rehab. I'm trying hard to keep his spirits up and encourage him to move, but he's not really capable. He prefers to do nothing but sleep. This has me worried about not only his rehab potential, but also about the near future. If he doesn't do the work, he can't stay there.

There are certain places I just can't go in my head, and that last sentence? Definitely can't go there. With the above map, and my feelings, I can say with authority that I feel (overwhelmingly) like we're descending into hell.

So, to divert my squirrely little brain, I'll go here instead, and I'm taking all of you with me:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Break: A (transitive) verb for doing nothing

This seems to have been the longest week of the year. I blame the new MLTL cancer kerfuffle, a particularly dastardly full moon effect and my horrendous work schedule.

Something's gotta give, and it's been my blog. I just need a few days to gather my wits, well what's left of them, and I'll be back.

MLTL, who weathered a colectomy, should have things coming out of the usual places in the usual manner and will likely be coming home soon.

Lord, help us all.

I've taken to jotting down MLTLisms to keep us all amused. As soon as I can form a coherent sentence, I'll be sure to share them. Today he was speaking to his long deceased brother, which any hospice nurse can tell you, is sort of a freaky situation, or, it's the morphine talking. Time will tell.

See you soon, my friends, and hopefully with a new shawl to show off.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It's still raining

Though the sky is blue and it's fairly warm, it's still pouring in our neck of the woods. I'm convinced the upcoming full moon is likely to blame. Thank you all for your words of encouragement. Your comments, prayers and well wishes are greatly appreciated.

MLTL is doing as well as can be expected with the weight of the world on his shoulders. His coping skills, such as they are, are better than I had imagined they'd be. The belligerent drunk in the bed next to him was discharged today so it should be quiet for those of us who visit for awhile. Praise be. It didn't bother MLTL at all since he couldn't hear a bit of what that man put everyone else through. They were the roommate match made in heaven for the nurses. I really hope they don't put another drunk next to him tonight.

On Friday, if cleared by cardiology, he'll have surgery, then spend a few days in ICU. No roomies there. I looked into taking a family leave to help take care of him when he comes home. I was saved from my temporary insanity by policy. I guess in-laws don't count as parents and I'm not entitled to a leave to care for him. Who knew? We'll cross that bridge when we get to it and figure out how to juggle yet another ball in our already overwhelming schedules.

I leave you today with two things to contemplate: The first is a quote I read in a medical chart yesterday, written by a professional type person who actually graduated from a university, and a song that says pretty much what I'm feeling.

"The family has three cats and they're all heavy smokers."

Alrighty least I can still find humor when it smacks me up side my head.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I've seen the future

...and I think it's time to pack and run.

First, the news on Patient # 2, Leo, isn't as bad as I thought it would be. Ten days of antibiotics should take care of his infection. The vet doesn't think it's the worst case scenario & I won't question her expertise. Frankly, I don't have the energy, so we'll just wait and see what happens with his neck.

The news for Patient # 1, MLTL, is not as rosy. He has a malignant mass in his transverse colon and a polyp the size of two small eggs near the lower part of his colon that may be malignant. Coupled with blood work that indicates a lurking threat, overwhelming fatigue and significant weight loss, and truly significant comorbidities, I'm not so positive about his outcome. Well, I take that back...I am pretty sure what his outcome will be. How we get there is the big question and we'll meet with the surgeon Tuesday afternoon to start that journey.

Hell, it seems it never rains but pours around here.

Goddamned cancer.

Blue Monday

It's back to work for me today and I've only myself to blame as I forgot to buy lottery tickets last week.

Not for lack of trying, I simply could not finish the shawl on my vacation as I'd planned. There are only 29 rows remaining, not including the cast off row, and as far as I can tell, I have about 15,000 stitches left to knit, but don't hold me to it as I didn't double check my math. It's likely to be more. I'm trying hard not to look at my dwindling (final) cone of yarn and hoping what's left will take me through to the end (there is more where that came from so I'm not too worried). The border is a crochet cast off so I find myself spending as much time searching on ravelry, google and youtube for how to do this as I spend knitting. No lie.

The GI doctor called me yesterday regarding Mr. Larger Than Life. They have a plan to scope him top to bottom sometime this afternoon, but if they find anything, they won't be able to biopsy or remove anything because he's on coumadin and they can't risk a big bleed. I guess they didn't think much of my idea to stop the coumadin on Saturday and use lovenox to prevent clotting until they figured out the source of the bleeding. I often find that when ideas I offer are ignored, even when they're good ones, it's because the doctor didn't think of it first. He's still bleeding and his hemoglobin is still dropping despite the unit of packed cells they gave him Saturday. So if they find a polyp or ulcer, we'll know a little more than we knew Saturday, but he may still be bleeding until they can stop the coumadin and go back in 3 days from now.

I'm working on not beating my head against the wall.

Mr. Leo gets to see the vet this afternoon for his one big sore and the 4 little ones I found along his collar line. After one long day spent googling, I'm trying to avoid more until we see the vet. I have an idea what I think it may be, and I'm hoping what I've read does not match his diagnosis from the vet. It isn't good. Dobes are prone to this particular disease and it can be a lifelong problem for them. If it's what I think it may be, antibiotic therapy would have to continue for at least three weeks, but maybe as many as eight. Weeks. If he has this disease, he likely has something else going on making him prone to these infections. So much for chin acne, which is what we all thought he initially had happening on his chin, and the occasional sores between his toes are also expressions of this disease.

Poor Leotus.

The cyclists are enjoying a hard earned day off from the tour. It's been a horrific one for accidents, none more terrifying than the one involving Chris Horner on Team Radio Shack. How team officials and his coach allowed him to get back up on his bike and ride an additional 25 km with an obvious head injury is beyond me. In the video, he keeps saying, "I don't understand, I don't understand, what happened, where am I?" He had no recollection of the crash, and no recall of riding and finishing the last 25k of stage 7. In the end, he'd suffered a concussion and fractured nose and had to withdraw from the race. He's lucky to have withdrawn with a pulse. Although crashes and pileups are common on the tour, this year seems to be worse. Yesterday, a media car crashed into a group of cyclists who were leading the race, knocking one cyclist into a barbed wire fence. Yes, I think they all deserve a day of rest and the media car driver who caused that last crash ought to be sent back to Paris ASAP.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Three Guesses and the first 2 don't count

Guess who I spent the second to the last day of vacation with in the emergency room?

I swear, if it's not one thing with that man, it's another, and how in the world did I think I'd make it through a summer with him without a visit to the ER? He's been showing signs of decline recently, but because I don't see him as often as my husband and son, they didn't really notice the exaggerated weight loss and pallor. I noticed on Father's Day and again on the Fourth. This morning, the doctor called me with results of his labs drawn yesterday, and for some reason, he's losing blood. This afternoon, he had every orifice checked and one was positive for blood. Tomorrow he sees the GI doc, and Monday they'll do the colonoscopy. Now if he doesn't like the clear liquid diet, which he assured me loudly that he did not, how do you think he'll do with the prep? Oy! I refuse to be the one to explain it to him.

Still, though I joke about him a lot, and I wouldn't wish him on anyone else in the world, I still feel a duty to the father of my husband and could never bear the thought that he should face bad news or a health crisis alone. While I knit and kept him company, there was another man his age alone in the ER and most assuredly suffering a mental health breakdown. I felt so sorry for him and wondered why he was so alone in this world. I hope for my sake that I've paid it forward enough that when it's my turn, and even if it's my mind that's failed me, my family won't desert me.

And now, on to my second patient of the day...

After close to seven hours waiting for a bed (much shawl knitting accomplished) in the overcrowded hospital, I finally made it home to give the other beast in my life a bath. It was then I noticed that poor Leotus had a giant abscess under his collar. When I grabbed the scruff on the under side of his neck, the damned thing popped. Well, in the world of infectious disease, that's a good thing: better out, than in. This thing kept pouring pus and at the end, several hairs. I think they were all ingrown hairs hiding under the skin and irritated by his collar to the point he developed an infection.

So tonight, he's pus free, clean as a whistle, loaded with neosporin ointment and out for a blow dry (walk in the neighborhood). We'll call the vet Monday for antibiotics. Poor guy, I never even knew it was there. Do you think it's because I see him all of the time? That sore was enormous--at least the size of a walnut. It must have been a relief to him that I cleaned it out because he never squirmed, budged, yipped or cried. I imagine a sore that big had to hurt.

So once again, though I'm not working, technically I'm working. Do career nurses ever really get to look away when the sh*t, or pus, hits the fan? I don't think so.

News on the shawl? Only 32 rows to go and already I'm imagining the next project to knit. Lifelines first!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Yodel me on my cell...

While at the movies last weekend, I had the unfortunate experience of sitting next to an obnoxious blockhead who kept texting on his cell phone throughout the movie. True, he wasn't talking, and yes, his cell was on a silent setting, but the brightness of his smartphone was so annoying in the dark theater and the thickheaded man apparently didn't didn't get the message when I kept putting up my hand to block the light from his phone. I should have sent smoke signals, or better yet, a text.

He was definitely a twit, but not as much of one as the ignorant woman sitting next to me at the nail salon Wednesday, chattering non-stop on her cell about everything, anything and nothing at all. I was treated to her opinion on Casey Anthony (along with a long synopsis of the never-ending trial), new threats on how terrorists will now be smuggling medically implanted bombs and a general who's doing who in her life. She regaled everyone in the salon with her escapades for a solid hour and a half.

Like who cares?

For the life of me, I don't know why people just cannot shut off their cells, along with their mouths, for one or two hours of their lives. Will they miss that much? Really? Clearly, as in the case of the woman at the salon, she likely never shuts up long enough to listen to anything or anyone. She might go into withdrawal if she can't hear herself talk. What a boor.

Oy. Rant over. I promise.

The color on my toes? OPI's, Yodel Me on My Cell. The irony does not escape me.

The shawl continues to grow and is beginning to remind me of the M*A*S*H episode where Margaret started to knit a sweater for her husband one summer, but as her life changed during a long Korean winter, so did her knitting plans. In the end, she knit a huge afghan.

I believe I'll start calling this my Hot Lips Project.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Bargain

I've been trying to read an older David Baldacci book from years ago (Simple Genius) and while I ordinarily like reading this author, getting through this book has been painfully slow. Painfully. So I made myself a promise, conquer row 164 and then go visit Amazon to buy Tess Gerritsen's new book, The Silent Girl.

Even though I finished row 164 without incident, and I did buy the book, I thought better than to start reading it right away. I'd already dithered away a lot of time worrying unnecessarily about stupid row 164 and after I finished it (did I mention kerfuffle free?), I stepped back a moment to take stock. At about the same time I finished that row, I added the third and final cone of yarn, Louet Gem's, containing 512 yards per cone, and thought I should look at the beginning of the pattern to assess how much was truly remaining.

While I had the feeling that I only had two reasonably easy charts left to knit, and was therefore approaching THE END, as soon as I added that yarn, I realized that while it may feel I'm at the end of things, I'm not. Since the pattern calls for 1,500 yards of fiber, clearly the shawl is only 60% complete.

So I'm bargaining with myself today: if I can finish all of chart G and half of chart H, I can start the new book. If not, I'm stuck with Baldacci until I do. I keep hoping the book will get good, but as long as it isn't, I'm doing more knitting than reading.

On the hunt for 15 more markers that I know I own because I just bought a package of them, I found $40 laying at the bottom of a purse I haven't used since my last vacation in February. Whatever shall I do with such a windfall? I'm thinking another pedicure may be nice.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


No fig vodka? No worries...a little rum, club soda and muddled mint can more than make up for that little shortcoming.

There is an art to relaxation, and I'm trying hard to develop some skills for this. I figure I should have it all down pat by the time I have to go back to work. While I did not work at all in the house today, I did fiddle around in the garden. Flowers needed deadheading, poop had to be patrolled and there was a lot of watering to do.

While people south and east of us got torrential rain last night, we did not. We did get a bizarre looking sunset which the weatherman explained was more like a rainbow, one spectrum of light at a time. The sky went from yellow to a sickly green and right before darkness came upon us, the entire sky looked like a fireball. Red. Seriously spooky!

Most of you know I love watching men in spandex Le Tour de France and just in case you forgot, I'm here to remind you it started yesterday. Already, only day two, and my favorite cyclist, The God of Thunder, has pedaled himself into the Maillot Jaune. He looks good in yellow.

Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.

To provide entertainment while I watch cycling for the next three weeks, I've started my own unofficial Le Tour de Fleece team. Since yesterday, I've spun about three ounces of wool. We'll see how long I keep this up, but since it's too hot to exercise outdoors, I can kid myself into thinking that spinning is exercise, too. And hey, if I spin for as many hours as I'd like, I'll be flush with new yarn for the next little bit.

Just so you don't think I'm a complete knitting sloth, there are only 66 more rows of the shawl to knit, though I am approaching the dastardly row 164. Lifelines are flying all over the place. Three are in right now and I think I'm ready!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Kick off time

At 12:31 AM, about a minute after I clocked out last night, I opened the newest bottle of fig vodka, poured some into a shaker with some ice and orange juice and shook up a fig martini. About an hour later, I was sound asleep.

I am so lame.

This morning, having overslept, I made some coffee and got to work. Just about every square inch of this house saw a vacuum, a dust cloth or a mop and now it sparkles. My back hurts like hell, but the house is gleaming and awaiting a week of neglect right along with its resident slacker.

By 4 PM, I was starving, hot and had no more energy. My son picked me up to go out for a Tex-Mex dinner and a movie. We wanted to see the new Transformers movie on an IMAX screen, but the closest one was in Ann Arbor, so we settled for 3D viewing at the new Emagine theater complex in Royal Oak. The movie, while long, satisfied my need to watch things blow up. The special effects are incredible--well the whole movie is rather incredible-- but isn't that the point of seeing a summer blockbuster like this? To escape reality? I swear, I think it helped me blow off whatever remaining steam all that housecleaning couldn't. Not so for my son. As we were leaving the theater, he noticed that the original Die Hard movie was showing on a big screen at midnight at the Main Art Theater. He bought tickets for himself and a friend and will take in yet another movie tonight.

I plan on being sound asleep by then.

Shawl knitting tomorrow. We swears, Precious. We swears.

ETA: My son and I share a fondness for this series of movies and have watched all three together. He recalls all of the Transformers I bought for him as an indulgence when he was a youngster and Transformers were only toys. He repays my indulgence by being a good movie going buddy.