Sunday, August 30, 2015


We have been home for five weeks and in that time started school and moved DS1 up to his campus.  It doesn't seem like enough time to establish a routine, but we getting there.  This last week was odd, not having him around, but we're getting used to it.

Mom seems fairly stable this week.  Issues that were plaguing her last week seem to have resolved. Specifically, she had huge bruises up and down her arms from scratching too hard, but the diligence of my siblings in keeping her from scratching and putting lotion on her have helped enormously.  I talk to her every day, and some days we even can have a conversation.  Yesterday was not one of those days.  She couldn't hear a word I said, even though I was literally shouting into the phone.  It's hard.  One of my brothers told me how, from week to week, he notices little things, like she's having a harder time finding the right word (like saying"red berries" instead of cherry tomatoes).  And one of my sisters told me how, for a very short time, Mom seemed like a completely different (and very aggressive) person.  It's all expected but that doesn't make it any easier.

I still don't know what I'm doing for my own diagnostics this fall.  Just yesterday and continuing today I have what I think is muscle pain under my right ear.  (I just put a heat pack on it and it felt good, but as soon as I took off the heat, the pain came back.)  I have been doing my physical therapy stretches religiously, but the tension in my right neck never seems to resolve.  This new pain is different from just the usual muscle tension, which only hurts when I turn my head the wrong way.  This hurts all the time, enough to distract me.

On Wednesday I left school to go pick up the kids, thinking that my grad class was starting that day. (It didn't, that's this week.)  I was texting DD to be please be ready when I felt what I can only describe as a little "pop!" and then felt drainage down the back of my throat.  It tasted a little salty, and I thought, is that mucus, or it it blood? Question answered when blood started dripping from my nose.  Fortunately there is a new ER literally two blocks away from my school, so I pulled in there. The waiting room was empty, so they took my right away.  The doctor gave me a nasal spray that has a vasal constrictor in it, and eventually the bleeding stopped.  He thinks a small blood vessel broke. (My blood pressure was slightly higher than it usually is, but nothing to be alarmed about.)   And he wants me to see my ENT, but my ENT was on vacation last week and the earliest I can get to see him is September 20. I did not book the appointment, mainly because I don't want to have to deal with this.

Still, every time I go out into the heat I worry about it happening again.  My car was super hot that day, and I wonder if that had anything to do with it.  So far it has been OK, I just want it to stay that way.

I'm mostly dug out from the huge amount of grading I had to do.  Now I just have to get my file system set up and all the papers I've collected (not that many, really), filed.  Of course both 7th and 8th grades are having another test this week, so just as I clear the deck of grading, a new pile will arrive!  Oh, and I have 25 pages of reading to do before Wednesday, but I think I should be able to manage that.

Had dinner with all the kids at a nice Italian place last night after mass.  It was great having everyone together again, but the time went way too quickly!

14, 16, 18. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

nuclear family

We're down to four, at least during the semester.

DS1's check-in time was 7:30-8AM, so we got up ungodly early, loaded up the van, and took him to Glendale.  The process was extremely well-organized and staffed by an abundance (perhaps an over-abundance) of enthusiastic young people, there to help with directions, advice, and general good will. I spent a great deal of time patching his backpack, which he has had since first or second grade and won't give up.  He may not have brought a stuffed animal, but he has his security backpack!

He didn't bring much past the necessities, since we're so close.  Thought he'd take the time to figure out what he really wants and then we'll (he'll) get it.  His roommate, a nice guy from San Diego, was the opposite, so their respective ends of the room could not look less alike.  DS1 doesn't even have a hanger in his closet because all the clothes he brought are the folded, in-the-drawer kind.  (DH was surprised by the idea that he would go to class in gym shorts.  "When did college students become slobs?"  He doesn't realize that high school students will go to school in pajamas if they're allowed.  Gym shorts are actually clothing meant to be worn outside the bedroom, so they're OK.)

It's very strange having my boy not here and not just out at a friend's, but really not-here, as in, I don't know when I'm going to see him again.  I'd like to talk to him but I don't want to be a pest.  Eventually I will get over that and send a text telling him I'd like to catch up on how things are going... that would probably be OK.

Mom's condition continues to deteriorate.  School, grad school, upcoming medical tests are all just background noise right now.  I'm managing.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

everything looks different from here

We arrived home from Massachusetts just three weeks ago.  It's the weirdest thing, this feeling that everything is completely different while at the same time feeling exactly the same.

Teaching is going spectacularly, unexpectedly well, although this week I have a huge amount of grading to do, and I'm behind in getting my file system set up.  I have nearly 200 students (!!!) this year, and consequently I'm not cutting anyone any slack.  Fortunately the 7th grade cohort is really outstanding -- they just completed their first lab and were very well behaved.  I do have to read their lab worksheets and grade them to know how well they did, but I have the feeling they did they well.

It's odd to have some energy left at the end of the day.  I'd be happier if I hadn't come down with a cold last weekend, but taking quercetin seems to be helping me recover faster than usual.  It's nearly gone and it hasn't even been a week a yet.

Back in Massachusetts, Mom's condition is deteriorating.  I call every day but we only talk for a few minutes.  I try to tell her about what's going on here, but I don't know how much she can hear.  She never tells me how she's really feeling.  Texts from my siblings tell (and show) the bruises she has from scratching herself and the breakdown of her systems, and I hear about the pain that started yesterday and took far too long to get under control.  There is literally nothing I can do.  I call, I text.  I talk on the phone.  I'm not there and I want to be, but that's the way it has to be for now.

DS1 is going to college in about 5 hours.  We'll load up the van and drive him up to the west campus and help him move in and, I suppose, leave.  I'm going to miss him so.  I don't know if I'm worried about him or not.  I think he'll be OK, but he is a bit absent-minded-professor-y.  He will find his own way, though, I know it.  In a last-ditch fit of nostalgia, I took the three kids to Barnes & Noble after school today. It felt right, all driving over together and getting a snack in the cafe.  It made for a nice low-key send-off, because neither sibling will be around when we leave early Saturday morning.

My shoulder has been giving me trouble on and off (using the mousepad on this laptop for any length of time is sure to trigger pain), but it is much better since I've been consistent with the physical therapy exercises, and it's not disturbing my sleep anymore.  So I'm more or less nonchalant about scheduling my followup testing (I did do the vision field test - all clear!).  Dr S, the surgeon at our local MD Anderson wants me to do a CT, but Dr. B my endo wants me to have a whole body scan.  I talked to Dr. S's assistant and asked her if the doctors could confer and she said no, it would have to be my call.  This did not sit well with me.  I even called and talked to the BC/BS nurse on-call about it, who told me I should talk to Dr B and see, because if the WBS is positive, wouldn't she order a CT anyway?   This situation was nagging at me until today when I had a chance to talk to Y at the hospital, and she looked at my chart and said they recommended PET/CT followup, not a whole body scan, but she would have the nuc med doctor review my chart and decide what I should have for followup, and then discuss it with Dr B.  I'm glad that conversation is taking place at the doctor level and not with me, because I really don't feel qualified to make this decision.

I'm in no hurry to get treatment anyway.  I need the Mom situation to resolve (lovely euphemism there) and I'm teaching and I'm working on my Master's degree.  I'm sort of flying by the seat of my pants on the non-thesis project, but that's OK because I'll spend next semester writing it up after it has actually been implemented. I had a phone meeting with my adviser at NAU and we tentatively planned for me to graduate at the end of next summer.  If all goes reasonably well, it should be doable.

I'm aware that this is an extraordinary time, kind of a bubble.  Many things that would have me fretting in the past are eliciting little more than a shrug and the acknowledgement that they'll get done eventually.  So far no one seems to even notice that anything is different, even though I feel about one-tenth as engaged in planning and preparation as I normally am.  Since it's my third year, I'm confident that I can do this job and I'm not (yet) having any problems moving the students through the curriculum.  I have about another week and a half before my NAU class starts up, and it is only one class, a literature review.  It's on Wednesday, which remains piano lesson night, so the schedule will be easier this semester since only one evening a week will be weird. Except I just remembered that I have staff meetings every other Wednesday so I will have to plan for that or else I'll be late for class every other week!  That's a perfect example of how my thinking is, these days.  Obvious problems are not so obvious to me.

I still need to plan my research/stewardship project to finish my summer course...

In these past few weeks I have seen how much having a drink or two helps me feel, not exactly better, just... less compressed at the end of the day.  I can see how it could become a habit, and then a problem.  Just the fact that I'm thinking about it in these terms helps reassure me that won't happen, but it's not something I can be complacent about, especially given how much I like a good bourbon.