Western education 2013

Friday, August 31, 2012

......and on to a new life......

I am ending this blog on a really high note.....there is a new blog set aside for the next year of adventures as a middle-ager on a path to a new life now that the cancer journey is over.  Along with the departure of anything cancer, although I still do speaking engagements, I have set lofty goals for a healthier, happier life surrounded by those who I love and who reciprocate that love in return.  I have said my good byes to my toxic eldest sister and have severely cut short the visits with my chronically negative mother.  I do however adore my Dad and continue to spend a few nights a week enjoying his company while putting him to bed.  I have gained new friends and lost others in the lifespan of this blog.  Learned what I needed to shed, besides some weight and what I wanted to keep.

Keep up with me as I step forward and not look back....

Sunday, July 8, 2012

......comes in 3's....

....and feels like a call from the universe. I see the 333 everywhere and most notably when I am feeling out of sorts. The Internet search comes up with a number of different explanations but the one that grabs my attention puts me on notice to put myself back in balance. The mind, body and spirit kind of balance....and should one be more pronounced than the other, the triangle of 3 gets out of whack!! This is the year of great change and rude signifies a shift in attitudes and behaviors, making it my emotionally challenging year.

I have seen 333 again this morning and note my level of discomfort over the past week. My sister has come to town and judging by how miserable I was on Thursday morning last week, I should have known she was on her way. My stomach is twisted into knots and has been since she arrived by 'surprise'. I wondered as I went to bed that night why she chose not to visit our ill father knowing from my text messages that he was running a dangerously high temp but was persuaded to come to my house for a beer despite her pounding headache? The next morning, she was distracted by her ringing cell phone when we were speaking to the staff who care for our father. When she noted it was Mom's friend calling from Elgin, she had to immediately return the call and left me to finish the conversation? She spent a few minutes saying hi to Dad and then her and Mom were off to visit their friends 5 hours away leaving me to administer her holistic medicine.....

Little did I realize, she had made arrangements with my brother to get together on the holiday but when it became clear that she would not be returning until the day after, he decided to not take the trip down to visit us. She spent the time with her friends in Kingston. This after telling me she thought Dad was near the end......makes you just want to scream!!!

Throughout this whole adventure, I am being texted by her letting me know that her new cell phone is acting up and she is not receiving phone calls or barely getting her texts or it is running dangerously low on battery life....darn technology!!! In the meantime, I am caring for Dad and my Mother's cats. Mom had given me her house key a day or so before my sister arrived because she thought that I may need it....did she know my sister was coming?

I feel used and manipulated.... Max asks me why I am always surprised by this behavior from her and I have no other response but that I am deeply disappointed. He doesn't like confrontation and chooses to just be the all around great guy that he, I just want her to go away and to cease her constant bid to control everyone. She has spent my whole life tormenting and bullying me. She has, with this trip, finally crossed a line she cannot cross back over.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

.....a surprise visit....

.....on the heels of another of Dad's illnesses. I should say that after 4 rounds of antibiotics and the beginning of a fifth round, Dad is not doing so well. He is looking frail these days and the wracking coughs bring up thick mucous. I am heading to the home to put him to bed on Thursday evening and note that he is already laying down with his eyes closed and he is muttering with each breath. I touch his forehead as always and note that he is hot to the touch. I find the RPN Natalyia and she follows me down the hall. A quick temperature check and he is registering 38 degrees. I am deeply concerned when another check 20 minutes later lets us know that it is rising. She administers more Tylenol via spoon but he wants to sit up to take it and I move in to brace him as he swallows them down with some ice water. I cradle his head and whisper 'I love you's as I help to lay him down. My face is a few inches from his as he reaches over to tousle my hair. He pulls his blanket up and makes sure he covers me too. He reminds me of Will when he was a child and my heart aches for the child I miss with all my heart.....he is so much like my father. I cuddle with my Dad until I can hear his snores begin. I will miss you so much when you leave us to be with your maker and I am grateful for these times we have together. I love you so much. He is still so hot and Natalyia and I are putting cold cloths on his forehead. I re-read the text messages from my sister Gina from a few minutes before i arrived at the home and realize that she is in town - all the way from BC. As I leave the home, I call Mom up and yes, she is there at the retirement residence with Mom. They know from my texts that Dad is not well. The staff have received my request to the doctor to get a sample of sputum and will do so at the first opportunity. We need to determine what is causing him to be so ill. It is now 10 pm when I cross the parking lot to visit with my Mom and Gina and minutes later we head back to my house so the kids can go for a night swim on this hot and humid night. I wll be taking care of my Mom's cats while she goes back to visit her friends in Elgin and sees the new changes to the farm house she left in March. Perhaps that is closure to Mom..... I will be seeing Dad this morning before I head out to the lake. The red sunset and the cool breeze tells me that it will rain today some time. It is peaceful out here on the deck and listening to the birds waking up. I will see Mom and Gina on Sunday and hope that my brother comes down as well. I have a sense that we do not have much time with my Dad.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

.....moving forward...

....and keeping positive despite life's challenges. Max and I sit across from one another in bed - he has been there for me through so much over the years. He knows something is wrong and is clearly disappointed when I read him an email which has been sent from someone we both considered to be a good friend. He shakes his head in disbelief and offers an explanation that somehow her behavior is not in keeping with the gal we have both come to love and adore. It is hurtful and accusatory.....and of all an email. Max figures that she needed to pick her allegiance to the team I recently left. Either way, Max is right, we should just support her no matter what...perhaps one day....until then....I will miss her very much. Thursday morning I was up before the crack of dawn. I promised Sarah that I would help her with her hillside garden. We managed to remove 4 very overgrown juniper bushes to make way for a vegetable garden. We decorated it with petunias, marigolds and alyssum to border the garden perimeter. It was an incredibly hot day but we managed to get so much done and just in time before the heavy rains began to fall less than an hour after planting. Sarah is pleased that she will now be able to grow her own Roma tomatoes for salsa. Thursday evening I attended the Althouse orientation for teacher candidates. We learned about choosing our courses and when our timetable selections would be available. I am getting excited about this new chapter in my life. This summer will pass by so fast that I am just trying to enjoy each and every day as it comes. I am loving the time spent with family and friends as I prepare for a year of crazy balancing of home, school and work schedules. Ah to be busy again!!!! I dropped in to see Dad and to put him to bed. I checked him over for bruises but found little that would indicate the terrible fall he had on Tuesday. I read him National Geographic from my iPad. He was fascinated with Easter Island and enfpgaged in a very animated discussion of his theories. He was very lucid tonight. The staff are keeping a close eye on him and monitoring his urine output to ensure he does not dehydrate again. Today is Lydia's birthday party. She is officially 10, although you would swear she is older. I am just so relieved that I am here to celebrate it with her. I remember being diagnosed the day after her 7th birthday....I look around and see the changes we have made to our beautiful backyard and listen to the girls squeal with delight as they swim around in the warm water. The recent purchase of a roof mount solar panel has made the pool so inviting!! There are 4 girls enjoying a sleep-over in the family room downstairs and from our vantage point, we can hear them swapping their treat bag goodies. It's so hard to believe how fast the years have rolled by!! I look over at Max as I blog and he is playing with his iPad version of garage band. He is my soul and my love and I am blessed to have married my soul mate. He is my best friend and confidant....he is quick to point out my faults and just as quick to tell me why he loves me. He loves the changes in my life as much as I do. He would have preferred me to make some of these decisions a while back but knows that everything happens for a reason.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

.....when the phone rings....

....and wakes you out of a deep slumber, you know it can't be good. "Your Dad has fallen and has hit his head", the nurse tells me through the fog. I pull myself up and note the time is 7:44 am. She continues, "Your Dad struck his head after tripping on his feet. He was chatty and joking around and suddenly he was down". I am dumbfounded when she tells me that he is lethargic and that is vitals are dropping. She is calling to let me know that he will be taken to hospital by ambulance and would I like her to call me to let me know where he will be. Of course she can and I hang up the phone on my way to the shower. Max let's me know a few minutes later that he has gone to UH.

I drive Lydia and Amber to school and wave to Shelley as we pull into the parking lot. It is now work traffic and I try to pick the fastest route to the hospital that does not involve construction....but it still takes 40 minutes to get there and find parking. I glance at the wall clock after entering into Pod A in the Emergency department where Dad is in bed 4. In April, he was nestled in bed 2 with pneumonia. I bent down to kiss Dad and noted how cool he felt to the touch. Even his hands were cold??? They are always soft and warm to the touch. I sit down after speaking briefly with the intern. He wants to know some medical history and I oblige him. I look up at the clock again and it is now 9:25. I look over to Dad and watch as the color completely drains from his face and the distant clouded look of his eyes as they begin the roll upwards. "DAD, DAAAAAD, DAAAAAAADDDDDDY!!!! STAY WITH ME! SOMEONE HELP US!!!!". The monitor is flashing orange, a big 0 and a long beep tells us he has flatlined. The staff are moving in and I catch my breath....the tears are falling and I am wiping them away. Dad is moving in the bed now and the beeping has resumed. I am able to rejoin him within minutes and no sooner do I sit down but I can hear the monitor beep begin to slow, Dad's palor change and the eyes rolling back. "DAD!!!! DADDDY!!??". The staff have returned and the activity has me moving out of the way while the staff are busy trying to evaluate the second incident. The male nurse witnessed this second event as it was happening. An X-ray machine is moved bedside to rule out pneumonia which he has been treated twice for since April. The tears are coursing down my face for the second time in as many minutes. Again, his heart has restarted on its own and he is now sitting up in bed and cracking his first of many witty remarks of what would prove to be a very long day.

The staff just thinks he is so sweet. I am his buddy and I feel so helpless standing by. I call to him and he waves to me. Later he will ask me if his heart stopped. I tell him yes and then listen while he asks me if I can hear the voices speaking in a language he does not understand. He tells me that he almost touched the ceiling.....the ceilings are at least 9 feet tall...I believe Dad had experienced an out of body experience. I asked him if he had seen me holding his hand and he said no, because he could almost reach the ceiling. I noted the calm in his demeanor and the cloudy far off look. I checked Dad over as much as I could and I have not found any bumps or bruises, just a minor rub on his elbow from what could have been caused by sliding on the floor - the skin has rolled showing he slid on it. He did not complain about any pain?? I believe that his heart likely stopped prior to his fall at the residence. They thought the fluctuating and dropping vitals may have been the result of a head trauma but where was the bruising? Swelling? An intern from Cardiac came in to evaluate Dad where they had moved him to a cardiac triage unit. He gently squeezed Dad's Carotid artery in his neck and we watched as his blood pressure dropped and then went back up when he released the mild pressure. He called for an ECG using ultra sound. The technician arrived at 2:30 and spent the next 1/2 hour going through a full evaluation of the heart valves and chambers. It was fascinating watching the valves open with each beat from so many different angles. In one series of pictures you could see the Venus blood and arterial blood enter and leave the chambers of the heart. I had to help keep Dad in place while they completed their examination. By 3:15, the warmth was coming back into his external limbs and I no longer had to ask for warm sheets to cover him with. Poor Dad, so many holes poked into him to take blood and give IV fluids. Never mind the dozen or so sensor tabs and the two external defib pads that had to be removed....and all the hair!!! Sarah Brown dropped by earlier in the afternoon with a wonderful packed lunch which i shared with Dad after getting the OK around 5. Just as he was finishing up the last morsel, dinner arrived!! He Voraciously consumed the hospital offerings. By 7 pm when it was time for him to be loaded into the Voyageur patient transfer to go back home. The nurse had been on for 12 hours and the sharp tone in her voice bearing commands did not go over well when sundowners hit. I got his attention and placed my hand on his face while looking into those now crystal clear eyes. I love you so much Dad was all he needed to hear and quieted down. I helped to dress and stayed with him until the girls from transport arrived. I hugged the tired nurse, kissed Dad on his forehead and laughed as I walked down the hall when I heard him describe how rare the seat belts were that were used to buckle him in. I could hear the girls laughing with him as they rolled him down the hall. I met up with transport outside his residence and escorted him up to his room. After another snack and plenty of fluids, he was ready for bed. Gail helped me dress and ready him for bed. Night night Dad, sleep well!

It was a long day but I am ever so grateful to the staff at UH who were there for us, the ambulance attendant who wanted to hold my hand when the second incident started and especially to Sarah, whose kindness and help meant so much to my Dad, myself and our family in crisis - I love you so much. Xo

Friday, May 11, 2012

peace and quiet....

....rein in my life since I walked away from the drama of the past few months. My blood pressure is back to normal and I am really beginning to enjoy each day as it comes..... This is week one of putting Dad to bed at night in his long-term care home. He only needs gentle prompting to accomplish his daily cleaning ritual. If left alone on his own, he will not remember to brush his teeth or to wash himself properly, if at all. He is always up for some laughs and I love his sense of humor. Some days he is more lucid than others and I am now able to tell when he has been given his meds....he tends to have a faraway look in his crystal blue eyes so that they almost look hazy themselves. I am gentle and soft spoken with him at bedtime just as I was for my own children. I will ask Lydia tomorrow to see if she has a bigger stuffed animal that Dad can have to cuddle with at bedtime. He loves to hold hands and especially at bed time. He gently rubs my fingers between his as his eyelids droop, and just as a child, they pop open long enough for him to share another thought and then droop deeper as sleep takes him over. The foot and hand massage have worked their magic as his chest rises slower and deeper. I kiss his forehead and tell him that I love him. Good night Dad, sleep well. He is so tired after the birthday celebration earlier at my house. Mom has turned 79. Mom has had a whirlwind of a day on her special day. It started out at the chiropractor, then to the nail salon for a manicure/pedicure and finally a Chinese food dinner hosted at my house complete with a slice of ice-cream cake. I took out a few minutes in the evening to check out the new room she is moving into. It is a studio apartment with enough room we hope to accommodate most of her stuff. We will have to be creative when putting it together so that it does not look congested. I am making a scaled chart of her room and after measuring all the pieces of her furniture, should be able to come up with a gameplay for the movers tomorrow morning. Thank you to Sarah today for bringing a card and gift to celebrate Mom's and my birthdays. She is always so incredibly thoughtful and loving. Payton is her adorable daughter whose quick grin and curiosity are always a source of joy and entertainment. We are blessed to have such incredible people in our world. I love you so much!!! ....yes, life is back to it's casual easy flow without the drama. I am loving the new team with such an amazing coach!! He is respectful of all the members and has the patience of a saint. I would likely paddle to hell and back for this quietly confident but humble leader. His agenda is simple - enjoy the sport and each other. I respect a coach whose agenda is not self-serving or controlling. Speaking of controlling - there is something very liberating about un-friending someone who causes you so much grief and anxiety. I have taken back my power and will not be so careless about giving it away any time soon or ever at all. I am enjoying my family here without the interfering nonsense of someone who spends her life finding fault with everyone around her and justifying her behavior. The psychiatrists call it aggressive manipulation with a twist of narcissism. I call it annoying and unwelcome. Either way, my life is great and I am much happier without the constant harrassment. Max sold his bike and was completely miserable. He wanted to help pay off his loans but I could see what it meant to him to have the one toy he had always wanted. Yes Max, your wife loves you and despite the fact that I always worry about you, your happiness is so much more important. Yesterday evening when I came home, I couldn't wait to have you show off your new bike. It really is a beaut!! It is so great seeing you smile ear to ear again!!! Enjoy your toy!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

.....moving forward...

Max and I have waited anxiously for today to come. After being seen by an ears, nose and throat specialist, it appears that for the past 45 years, he has had a disfigured nasal passage which has caused endless infections, pain and of course since my own cancer diagnosis....a deep seated fear of cancer. We always fear what we do not know and often when we face our fears, they are usually not as bad as we imagine them to be. We are both thrilled at the outcome. His surgery will take place in the late fall.

Today I took Mom to our Chiropractic appointment. We went shopping and a quick lunch....where did the time go? I found a beautiful dress and almost cried when I put it on and caught my reflection in the mirror. Mom came to the fitting room and commented on how beautiful I looked in it. I will forever savor these moments spent with my Mom. I am truly grateful that she and my Dad are here close by. Life is totally amazing!!! I actually have decided that I love shopping and that we both have the same taste in clothing. There have been a number of times when Mom and I just find ourselves giggling like teenagers trying on rings. We find ourselves in the right place at the right time for chance meetings with my friends or fantastic sales. My friends all hug her when they meet her and share stories about why they like me.....usually the ones about my zaninessl!!! My daughter and I are developing a closer bond. She loves to have coffee with me and lately, we have been spending our time together coloring, reading, chatting or just hanging out. It doesn't get much better than this!!

This summer we are planning a train trip with the kids. Nothing is firm yet but we all need to just get away and play. I will be doing some scheduled care for my Dad in hopes that he wil fall into a predictable pattern. I have a care kit that I have at the ready for evening visits. We had to purchase a shaver for him and tomorrow we will find a hamper. Sending out the love.

Monday, April 30, 2012


.....what a whirlwind couple of months..... i am up before the crack of dawn because I cannot sleep. The head does not know when to shut down. I wake knowing what has been making me feel so out of sorts... I am a young girl, probably my daughter's age now and I can feel a tightness in my chest like someone is sitting on older sibling looks at me with mean eyes as her hands clench my hair in fist fulls. She is always angry at me for one thing or another. I can't remember why she is inches from my face but I do know that her temper warns me that she is to be feared. I have feared her my entire life and find myself guarded and defensive around her... only I am not 9 anymore. I am now 48, raising my own children and caring for two parents.... my chest feels that same heaviness, only she is not physically sitting on my chest anymore. Her tactics have not changed in 4 decades and my responses to the antagonism have not either... until now. Many things have changed over the years including how I feel about myself. My reactions were automatic from years of rehearsal....isn't that how we are when we are thrown back into a situation that creates stress in our lives? It has been 33 years since I have lived under the same roof and many things have changed in my life. I have grown to be respected in my field, raised children, fought cancer and now opened my life and my heart to the very parents who raised my siblings and I? What is it about the dynamics of our growing years that reduce us to children the moment that the first button is pressed? Why does all common sense get thrown out the window and emotions take over.... not an easy answer.... I just know that the tit-for-tat is wreaking havoc and I want it to simply cease. There are still those unresolved issues that will never see resolution. I understand that the issues I have had my entire life rest in those days of feeling no control.... the knee in the chest and unable to get up and away from that face contorted in anger screaming at me. I take in a deep breath and another one... that was then and this is now. i have control over my own life and I make the decisions that are in the best interest of my family. My husband is quick to point out all my good points before letting me know how disappointed he is in what has transpired over the past few weeks. I am sure my brother would be happy to discuss the finer points of being caught in the middle of two little girls just trying to have their sides heard.... only neither one goes away satisfied and the dance begins again with the next button pressed. I have had enough of this dance!! I do not need to prove myself or seek out acceptance from her anymore. I did not get it then, and I will not get it now....the little girl is no longer helpless and pinned to the floor... she gets up, brushes herself off and moves on with the grace of 33 years of personal growth. I know that I must always be mindful that I avoid button pushing by just being myself and not automatically reacting to someone who can no longer hurt me anymore unless I choose to let her.

Monday, February 20, 2012

....... about a dozen drafts later.....

.... and I finally sit down to write the final copy.  These past few months have been stressful and wonderful.  A time for reflection and a time to search the soul for a new direction.

I have been sorting out my Dad's stuff and making sure they get down to laundry to get marked.  I find a few things that belong to another resident jammed into the haphazardly arranged closet.  I check names and make sure the worker in the hallway receives the items, one of which is the clipboard belonging to the programs department.  I chuckle when I find the twisted hanger my father used for a belt the one day he needed to keep his pants up.  Some days he uses his ties or whatever seems to be at hand.  All in all though, he is starting to cozy in to his room where his belongings from home now reside.  I know I can find the TV remote in his dresser or tidied into a sock in the nightstand.  One day while putting his underwear back in the drawer, I tripped across a pair of ladies shoes tucked neatly under the baseboard heater.  I handed them to Dad to give him a mission of finding the owner while the maintenance worker helped to mount his new TV.  He came back in a few minutes later and announced that they actually fit... or at least would have, if,  he claimed - his toes weren't so uncooperative.  Looking down, I duly noted the sandals on his feet were a few sizes too small and his stocking toes did indeed exceed the ends of the shoes.  We both laughed like idiots!!!   A while later a disgruntled man promptly held out my Dad's sweater at arm's length and announced that the item was found on HIS wife's bed.  He didn't wait for the thank you as he stormed out with a disgusted look on his face..... I often catch him eying my father suspiciously and with distain.

I was always my Dad's buddy.  No matter what he was doing, when he was home, I was not far behind.  He slammed the hood on my fingers one day when I was 4 after we finished working on his 1970 Chevy Impala.  That day became the day my father introduced me to his secret stash of dark chocolate.  I realize now that this stash was like gold to a minor...  but keeping him out of the dog house with Mom seemed to be more important.  It would be our little secret.  I would receive the special treat a few more times before my teens came along.  Once for the head that opened up when a swing hit it - I believe my Dad had a whole lot more treats than me, and judging from the shock of the incident, he seemed to need it more than me.  It is me that now brings the treats and for no apparent reason other than I love my Dad.

I had my Dad at the coffee shop yesterday and I realized as I watched him wolf down a cookie the size of his plate, that the only thing that really mattered was how I really felt about him.  He always wanted recognition for the work he did and for the kind of person he was.  He was always fun and full of spunk and according to him - quite the chatterbox..... thanks for the flat ass and the constant chattering Dad... I digress...
I looked into his crystal blue eyes that often have that far away look and realized that he enjoyed his life's journey when he could laugh, chat and just be himself.  It is the journey in life and not the destination.  All his awards and diplomas hang on the wall - just paper reminders of the goals he set and achieved.  All things that helped shape who he had become and who is he quickly leaving in his memory.  He is a simple reflection now of a complicated and intelligent man.  He has no more friends, but makes friends easily.  He loves his privacy but is afraid to be alone.  He loves peace and quiet but the noise in the hall reminds him that he is still here. He never really seemed to belong anywhere but yet, everywhere and now that he has much in common with the other residents.... he is still apart and individual from them.

I am so much like my Dad.  Even our hands are identical in shape, look and size.  He doesn't chew his fingers and I don't have crooked tips... but you can tell I am his daughter.  He would often point out the wrongs in our world and in his mid-life, often fought to correct them.  He abhorred politics and the games people played on each other - he was always honest and candid.... again, thanks Dad.

Today is family day and we celebrated by spending time with each other.  Next weekend, I am driving out to my Mother's house and will spend about 4 or 5 days there while we complete packing her things.  My job is to bring back her pets - 2 cats and 1 dog.  She will be putting Titan down next week and Lady will come to live with us.  We pray that the dog fits into our household.  It would be good to bring her out to visit my Dad and my Mom.

The new training season is upon us.  I am looking forward to being back on the lake and competing once again... this time, it won't be just the gold in mind but the journey that takes us to that goal.  I am bringing on a different mindset this season after a few bumps last year.  I was too excited to be involved in such a dynamic environment that I forgot to breathe and just take it all in bit by bit.  Gratefully there were those that understood and loved me for it anyway.  I am blessed for the few friends that I can trust and confide in.  I just had to learn what I wanted and what I would like to have happen this year.  Last week I killed my back and sent it into spasm after the Wednesday work-out.  My blood pressure hit the roof and the pain was enough to send me off to the Doctor's office.  We are now just awaiting blood test results.  She remarked as to how pale I was and instructed me to take it easy for a bit.  After a few days on Aleve, I am feeling much better - hard to admit that I am not superwoman.  I am hoping that the Doctor will tell me that I am low on iron and that I need to be careful not to work out too hard.  I am taking a week off to see my Mom and to catch my breath!!!