Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It was a quiet weekend...

...which is exactly what I needed! Thankfully, we had a short class on Friday night (the only one all summer! Yay!) and no classes on Saturday. So I actually had a 4-day weekend.

I spent most of it kind of recovering from the prior week's crappiness. And then I kind of blew it Sunday. Oh well; that's what I get, I suppose!

Anyway, Hubby and I did get some errands done and we got the dogs' memorial garden done, and also  I got a "new" patio set. Sort of.

Let me explain. We're not really "patio" people; but Hubby made me this lovely patio out of paver bricks because we do plant a lot of things in pots and it was a pain in the rear to keep moving them out of the way of the lawnmower. And it also gives us a path to the vehicles, AND then makes it easier to shovel.

So. We have these cheap-o white plastic chairs which get stored every winter. They're what? Eight bucks each? And I've been kind of thinking about maybe new chairs. We looked at Target and found some nice mesh ones for about $25 each. That's $100 for 4 chairs. Instead, I suggested to Hubby that we paint our plastic ones.

Here's an idea of the patio set-up. Yes, those are maple trees in the pots. Long story, but my sister will be getting several of them for her very large yard, and we'll be creating a "maple grove" for her. In the pots with mesh are some fuschia which were going well till the squirrels got to the dirt and probably several of the bulbs! And behind all of that is our garden. That large clump of green in the middle is all of the peas we planted.

This is "before." The chairs were scrubbed. They just looked awful. I did buy cushions last year at the end of the year, and they're rusty orange - really pretty. So I suggested a bright blue paint. Don't laugh. Wait....

Here's the process. We got Rust-O-Leum spray paint. It was kind of a hoot because we went through the self-checker at Home Depot and before Hubby could finalize the transaction, he had to show an ID for the spray paint! He was a little befuddled and I assured the checker that he WAS over 21!  I guess it's proof that you don't have malicious intent for the spray paint if you have no idea that you need to be carded to purchase it!

So he got the painting done and because it was a lovely day, it all dried nicely.

The paint is just gorgeous. And while I haven't put the cushions out yet, I think it'll really perk up the back yard. We have very good luck with plants. And we have a 30-foot maple tree! So we have lots of shade to enjoy and if it's breezy, not too many bugs.

After he got done, we arranged the chairs. You can't see the bright yellow begonias we hung from the maple tree, but just let me assure you it's gorgeous. I can't wait for more time off to just sit there and listen to the birds. Next on our list is a bubbler for the small bird bath. Unfortunately, we tossed our wooden wishing well that our next door neighbor made for us. It fell apart and even our neighbor told us it was time to pitch it.

Here's a shot of the memorial garden. Of course, I got grief because I put my beleaguered and worn out Cubs gnome there (he's hiding behind St. Francis). Hubby wanted to know if the "memorial" was for the Cubs or for the dogs... Hmpfh.

We have 3 memorial stones, one for each of our girls, and a stone which says: "If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever." Also, note a goldleaf plant, also protected from the evil squirrels. The gazing ball is new; it's a gorgeous gradient of purple/blue/gold. And "Mortimer Moose-ter" is alongside the A/C but he may be moving somewhere else. Not sure yet. I might even put in some impatiens if I think it needs more color. I have time.

And here's the final view of the back yard. For about $11.00 we have a "new" patio set, and once Hubby finishes painting the two side tables, we'll be set. I figure it'll give us one more year - maybe two - with the current furniture, and I figure that it just makes sense to be a little cautious at this point.

Check out the "miniature" rose that somehow survived the winter behind the one chair! It's bigger than some of our floribundas in the front yard!

I suppose I should confess that, like an idiot, I went out on a bike ride Sunday, the hottest and most humid day of the holiday weekend...Yes, it was a shaded path; yes, we rode slowly.

And yes, I got home and was VERY dizzy - from the heat + humidty + new heart meds. Ok, feel free to call me stupid. And no, I did not tell my mother. My sister said it was just the heat. And yes, SHE told me I was stupid.  (sigh)

Our ultimate goal is to fence it all in so that the dogs have a spot to run and we can just sit there with them. It'll happen. Sometime soon, one step at a time. One day, maybe I'll be able to take my tea out there, sit in the morning or late afternoon, and knit or read. Can't wait!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cold Hard Look at Mortality...

This past week was --- horrible.

As you may remember, my friend Sonda has been dealing with Stage IV melanoma. We knew that it was just a matter of time. The last time I saw her was on Monday, May 14, and I knew I wouldn't be back there.

On this past Wednesday, I had a skin check. The first one since 2009 -- so as my Public Service Announcement to you: PLEASE GET AN ANNUAL SKIN CHECK, particularly if you've had at least 1 "bad sunburn" in your lifetime.

At that appointment I had a pre-cancerous spot frozen off. That certainly put things in perspective for me. I used to use sunscreen, but was "lax" about it. Not anymore. I'm going full-bore on the sunscreen. Period. Thanks to Sonda and that little freezing incident? I don't want to be the next one on our list with that cancer.

This past Thursday, I woke up feeling "something's not right." So I've been on this metabolism diet where the first eight weeks, you severely limit your carbs.

I've lost 10 lbs. and I feel better, though I'm bored with the limited stuff you get to eat, particularly since now, I'm missing the fruit.

Anway, I thought, "I wonder if this is related to this diet?" and then I just ate a light breakfast and went off to work. It got worse. I felt dizzy. I thought, "Hmmmmm, seizure??" Nope. I scared the bejeebies out of our cleaner, who thought I was having a heart attack.

And actually, at one point, I thought that might exactly be the case. So I called Hubby and said, "Come get me; there's something wrong." By this time I was having a little trouble thinking and if I lifted my head off the desk, the room spun.

I got down on the floor at one point and did "legs up the wall" just because I thought, well, if I faint, the legs up the wall will at least shove the blood back where it needs to be. But at that point, (and this gets weird) I felt my chest "waving." I seriously heard wooshing and felt my chest go in waves across from shoulder to shoulder. Got down off the wall pretty quickly and back up in my chair. I couldn't find my pulse, but I figured by that time, I was confused... I popped an aspirin while waiting for Hubby.

He comes in, HE looks for my pulse. In three places. Mind you, he's a former EMT. Even he couldn't find it, and he was worried because I wasn't making sense. So off we went to the closest hospital.

Giving them credit; it's not my first choice of facility, but when you're in that shape, you go for the closest place. My symptoms were: dizzy, couldn't talk straight, couldn't find a pulse, pale. I was not clammy, in pain or short of breath. In fact, I was doing quite a lot of deep breathing, which calmed me down, but confounded the medical folks.

They slapped a 12-lead EKG on me and everyone stood there, going, "Ohhhhhhh, ok...." Which, I may say, was NOT comforting! The only comforting thing was that I was in a hospital and I hoped to God that I was somewhere where they'd figure out what was going on.

I spent 8 hours in the ER. I apparently have a variety of atrial fibrillation. It took them six hours to get my heart under control (not out of a-fib, just not beating out of my chest), and that included an IV and watching to make sure I was not going to have a stroke -- apparently one of the biggest things you can have happen with untreated a-fib.

Hubby called my mom, who wisely did NOT come out to visit. I saw a cardiologist who said that if the IV didn't help resolve the heart into sinus rhythm, they'd do a "cardiac conversion" - which in my mind meant a "re-boot." Keep breathing. Keep breathing....

I finally got into a room, the heart rate was somewhere near 98 or so, and I felt "human" again; I was able to talk, I was thirsty as all heck, and tired. Hubby sat with me for a while and then left to go take care of everything at home. I was staying; that was it.

So, I spent Thursday night in the hospital *not* sleeping. I swear. Every 2 hours or so: check BP, check temp, draw blood... And even about 1:30 a.m. someone came into my room to unlock the supply closet and get what must've been the ONLY one of whatever they took on the entire Telemetry floor?!?  About 2 a.m. I actually felt my heart go back to sinus rhythm, which was pretty creepy.

About that time, the alarm went off on the IV, so they came to take it out. My sister said it probably was so loud that it "scared" my heart into behaving!

I now have a cardiologist, new meds and some follow-up work to do.

And on Friday, when I got home, I got the news that my friend Sonda had passed away. I'm sad because she's literally a year older than me. I'm sad because her death was, in many respects, preventable. She was a blonde, freckled sun-bunny...and we're both old enough to have lived through our teens in the "oil and bake" times. Baby oil + iodine = a REALLY cute tan. I'm serious.

No longer. Neutrogena SPF 50 is now my friend.

So. I  had promised Sonda to sing at her funeral. One of the side effects of the Rx they have me on is shortness of breath. I had Hubby sing with me, and I was actually happy it was just one song.

I'm having "I'm mortal" thoughts. I'm 54 years old. I'm told that a-fib or "flutters" can be part of menopause. (Really? It's not bad enough that I've had periods since age 11, have given birth 2x and have had 2 miscarriages, now have hot flashes PLUS cramps and am "overdue" to stop having periods? You gotta hand me HEART problems?)

My sister told me: (a) I have a "genius" cardio; and (b) that my grandma had this type of problem 'forever' and she never converted over - it was managed with medication. Well. That's nice to know. My dad had heart problems but whatever he had, required an internal defibrillator unit, which is *not* the treatment for a-fib.

And I'm the healthy one! I don't smoke or drink...heck, I don't even cuss! It's laughable. However, I was talking with my brother because my mom said "he looks like death" -- only to find out that he's been able to lose thirty pounds by adjusting his diet and swimming almost every day of the week. I'm so thrilled for him! And I'm on my way with my own 10-lb. loss.

I'm set for the Avon Walk, though I do have to have another cortisone shot in my heel. We'll rehab the foot AFTER the walk. Swear.

I want to put a picture of my friend here. It's one taken after the cancer was found; but just know that she was a joy to know. She was a talented knitter, designer, and just a person who could do anything she set her mind to. She was a diplomat of the first order, having the ability to get a very diverse group of people to all get along, at least while she was around. I'll miss her for many reasons. But I'll carry a bit of her with me wherever I go and whatever I do.

Rest in peace, my friend. I can't say anything more. I hope you heard our song and that it helped.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Weirdness is Getting Weirder...

Life has been very weird lately. The confluence of events is very odd and I'm beginning to wonder more and more.

Not about my own sanity. But about the fact that I may very well be the only sane person left in the room!

I have two friends who are suffering with melanoma. Two. One male, one female. The female is now in Hospice care, and we know how this is going to end. The male is "not doing well" - which is kind of what I expected because he found out very late in the game, after it had spread.

So the male, I'm in contact with via "How are you" and "I'm praying for you" notes because we work together. We're friends but in a professional capacity. He was my professor and now that I work at the university, he has classes in my facility, so we're "work friends" and he's one of my favorite instructors.

The female I'm closer to on the basis of "being a friend." We hold totally opposite political beliefs, she's a smoker and a "we love to camp in the summer" person, who is a total sun-bunny. I'm a vehement anti-smoker, a liberal-Birkenstock-wearing-tree-hugger, hates-to-camp kind of person. I'm pale. I go from pale to "burned" in about 20 minutes WITH sunscreen!

But we bonded in a true friendship where we honor our differences. And I cherish that. We are the same age. I'm sad that I'm losing a friend at my own age.

That being said, she owned the yarn shop where I used to hang out. I actually still hang out there, because the new owner is a nice woman keeping up the yarn community that my friend started. And she's running a small business...I'd rather buy my yarn and other knitting stuff there - giving a local business run by a woman my dollars, instead of a big-box (which also has crappy yarns, but I digress).

There are a group of knitters, who lately I've begun referring to as "The Knot-Heads" because at least one of them (maybe two) is displaying an enormous amount of immaturity. Yes, we all mourn differently. We all have that right, based upon what we've grown up with, our personalities and how we handle life's curveballs.

But this gal ("Audrey") is taking the "it's all about MEEEEEEEEEEE" thing so far that I'm ready to just scream. There's another person in the group who is very verbal and outgoing to the point of also kind of being a "me, me, me" person, but deep down, "Jessica" has a heart of gold and will do whatever she thinks will help you. My friend is in Hospice, for God's sake. She doesn't need a "friend" who is determined to out-mourn the rest of us. Nice phrase, huh? Well, it describes a person who is determined to be the one who cries the most, gets hysterical the most, inserts herself in the family's way the most....all the while actually doing nothing for anyone except creating chaos.

Which is the last thing this family needs. Do I always agree with what my friend's husband has done and the decisions they've made? Nope.

Is it my duty or right to say so? Nope. Nope. N-O-P-E. Absolutely frickin' not. I don't care if they brought in a witch doctor to do a rain dance and hang seaweed and entrails around her bed. Well, I care, but the point is, it's not my decision and not my place to tell them what to do.

So, "Audrey," one of the "Knot-Heads" has decided that she's in charge. And my friend's mom is so focused on what's in front of her -- her daughter dying -- that she can't see what's going on with this person. She's also a perennial "everyone is a nice person" kind of gal, till you cross her. My object is to make sure she doesn't have to be crossed, because let's face it -- your kid dying trumps just about anything else that happens to anyone else. In other words, "Audrey" has no right to impose herself in this situation with anyone. "Audrey" needs to grow up and get over herself. Fast.

"Audrey" got mad at me because I went over to visit. She won't, however, confront me. She'll leave others to do this - which I found out by phone calls (lots of them) from "Jessica." Which really doesn't bother me. Squeal away, kiddo. Knock your socks off. One thing I've learned is to "act like a duck" and let it roll off your back. If it won't materially hurt me, why do I waste my energy on this?

I was talking to my mom, though, because she's friends with the mom in this situation.... like a 30+ year friendship. My mom, even though she drives me insane sometimes, is a great anchor. She totally will handle your situation; talk you through it; hand you tissues.... and then after it's all over, will fall apart. I'm pretty much a carbon copy of that. I'll handle what you toss at me; I'll do everything except hold your head while you barf (because I'm a community barfer); give you advice if you want it, or just hold your hand if you need that; and then when it's over, I'm done and I fall apart.

So, I've been asked by "Jessica" to come with her when she visits our friend this coming Monday. "Audrey" is peeved (to put it mildly) and "may just run out there Friday." I felt compelled to talk to my mom because I'm at a loss; not that I don't know how to handle it, because I know how *I* want to handle it. But I wanted some advice from my mom on whether to do anything or how to do it without overstepping into the bounds of the family.

My mom is going to talk to her friend and just give her a head's up because she also believes that "Audrey" is a person who has no boundaries and that the family is the ultimate arbiter of how they handle this journey. Nobody else.

I've told my mom, "Please make your friend understand: I don't care if they all call me and vent on me. It's better to do it to me than to your friend!! She doesn't need this." But what I don't want is to have her friend think that I'm an instigator of the school-girl crap. I believe she knows me well enough, so I don't think that'll be an issue. I also think my mom's in a better position to let her friend know that there may be drama. I think "forewarned is forearmed" in this case.

I hate this crap. I'm devastated that I know two people who're suffering with this awful cancer. I've actually made a dermatologist appointment for myself - which may be a good thing, if I'm more aware...but it's scary. And I really don't want to have to be the only sane person in the room.

But I think that if you are that person, you just are. You just have to deal with it, I guess, and you have to realize that maybe this is your gift to the family. Your presence is calming, hopefully, and you are doing something useful. I've never been a "weeper and moaner" and I can't see myself doing that now.

I'll hold it together. I'll help do what I need to do. But I'll still want to smack "Audrey" (and really, "Jessica" too because please........ everyone grow up!). I'm telling' ya. If you're gonna be the only sane person in the room, you have to cultivate a great poker face. I'm still working on that!