Monday, November 30, 2009

Procrastination, Thy Name Is Suzanne

I can't sleep.

Why? Probably because my head is swimming with all sorts of stuff. Stuff like:

*Nonverbal communication strategies and Asperger's Syndrome (the paper I need to write for class tonight)
*Denial of Service Attacks (the group Wiki project for another class that is due Saturday, but I set the internal group deadline for today)
*The Powerpoint presentation I want to tweak for another class
*The chapter I really wanted to read before tonight's class
*The surgery that's in 9 days (AAAACCCCKKKK)
*The freezer that really doesn't have room for twelve frozen meals from the meal prep place
*The letter I need to write to one of Ed's mom's creditors
*The copy of last year's taxes I need for Game Teen's meds
*The scout project Game Teen signed up for that happens to be three days after surgery
*The house that needs to be cleaned prior to surgery
*The assisted living places we need to look at SOON because Jane needs to make a decision
*The physical therapy appointment that I would love to skip, but shouldn't
*The application for an on campus job I really need to submit NOW
*The textbooks for next semester that I want to track down to get a jump on reading
*The Spanish class that only has one slot left and I need a cross enrollment form to get it (so I don't take a foreign language online)
*The Psych lab that's due Wednesday, but I haven't even formulated what to do


I'm part way through most of the school stuff and figured I better get some sleep so the words would flow better. Besides, I write better under deadlines, anyway. The other stuff combined with that conspired against me instead and now it's 4am and I'll probably bang out the Asperger's paper before I take Game Teen to the bus stop.

Hey, at least I got one thing done prior to writing this post. Jessica and I have pretty much sewn up our A in the Counseling Skills class, but we made a kick butt show board, scrapbook and Powerpoint of our service project. I felt the scrapbook needed a summary of what we did and why-and that's done.

For the most part, the school stuff will be mostly done by Wednesday night. I will have to edit the group project and make sure all members do their 8 pages (2500 words, 24 paragraphs-whichever way seems less intimidating) and then read three chapters over and over until Monday night's Research final.

In the home stretch...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

Funny thing, earwigs. I'm trying to eradicate one right now, without much success.

You know what I am talking about-those songs that get stuck in your head. A friend and fellow blogger, Robin, decided to feature a song in her Salute the the 70's (her very own special feature I *usually* enjoy). Not just any song, a football team fight song.

The football team song is in a class by itself. It has to be simple, so that even the youngest fans can sing along. It has to be catchy, so the adults can sing it, too. Depending on the team, it might have to be extra simple, because those fans can get really snockered during the game. Wouldn't you, if your team typically had a season of 2-14?

I've lived in three major metro areas and had five, count them five NFL teams playing within an hour's drive. Only one got on my nerves, thankfully. But "Hail to the Redskins" isn't to blame for my current earwig dilemma.

No, it's a team that plays right here in the Sunshine state. Robin posted a link to the Miami Dolphins song and not only do I hear that, I hear the Looney Toons "An Itch In Time" sketch, too (for the "Food Around the Corner" song.

Thanks, Robin.

So, you are warned. This is an annoyance I suggest you don't listen to today. But if you want to annoy those who get on your nerves, go ahead and play this one for them:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Herd in My House

I'm in the kitchen, making pizza dough (yay). Both boys are in the living room, playing the Wii. All of a sudden, I hear mooing. First one then two bovines are making noise in my living room. For the record, they are not playing a game that has animals in it. (Mario Kart Wii)

"Who let the cows in?" Lots of giggling from the living room, then more mooing.

"Seriously, who let the cows in? There's enough mess around here with just you kids." More giggling, more mooing, then Chef pipes up with

"Hey, Mom, look on the bright side. You know you can have hamburgers for dinner tomorrow."

Nice to know those toy swords are good for something. I'm going to put Chef right to work on that...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Surgery Date

The past week and a half, I've been calling my doctor's office to find out when I'll be having surgery. It was an exercise in frustration. No amount of explaining why I wanted to know and get things in order seemed to help.

Ed needs two weeks notice to request a day off
I already had an appointment on the books for December 11th that my doctor said to keep as a 'post op appointment.'
My classes start back up on January 7th, and I wanted the all clear to drive before then.
I needed to know if I had to make arrangements to get to the hospital or home if Ed was stuck working.

If you haven't noticed, I thrive on planning what I can. Not knowing something that I need to know drives me batty. So, in an effort to plan, the doctor's office got a daily phone call. Well, the word finally came back. My surgery is scheduled for December 8th. Ed is off from work. (Minor miracle). I have an overnight stay, and I'm hoping they kick me out early on the 9th, because Ed does not have that day off.

At least I booked the session for the meal prep place before surgery and will have a freezer full of back and serve meals to feed us all.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ahhhh

This year's Thanksgiving was nice and low key. A split menu, because we were spending the afternoon at Bob and Maureen's. A bargain turkey and I was ready to brine. Stuffing and twice baked potatoes and we were ready to go. It seems like something is missing when you only make a few things.

It was nice to have a relaxing day with friends, but it would have been better to have Ed with us. He has a job, they expected him to work today, and well, you do what you have to. Besides, he's not a turkey fan, so it will be a nice ham meal sometime in the next couple of days.

I broke in the mixer by making whipped cream for chocolate cream pie (store bought crust, meet store bought pudding.) Alas, there was an unfortunate pie incident on the way to their house and we didn't enjoy the fruits of the Kitchen Aid.

Now, after a snack of leftovers, I'm ready for a nap...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Changing of the Guard

It's probably a toss up as to who has missed the mixer the most. For me, I lost the ability to make several favorite meals and treats. For Ed and the kids, pizza night was gone. For Jane, well, anything that sprung from the mixer was well received.

Months ago, she said she was going to save up and get us a new one. I didn't get my hopes up. If it happened, great. If not, there would be a tax refund someday.

Last week, we went to lunch together and Jane told me to go buy the one I wanted, it would be her Christmas present to me and Ed. It didn't matter which one I chose. Part of me wanted the top of the line 525 watt behemoth, but I'm still fiscally responsible with other people's money. I went for a more powerful 5 qt model, so I could still use the bowl from the old one.

It has been sitting in the box for almost a week, because I wanted an empty sink. Yesterday, Ed took on that chore (thank you, Honey!) and today, it has been unpacked and placed next to the old one.

I have to make the promised raspberry chocolate chip cookies for Jane. Add that raspberry extract to the grocery list.

Welcome, new gadget. We'll keep you busy in this house!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Roller Coaster Ride

It's been an interesting few days on the in law front. Since last Thursday, there have been ups, downs, loops, reversals and all sorts of interesting things.

On Wednesday, a phone call that Mom had fallen out of her wheelchair. She tried to stand up and get out of the chair, but shecan't and ends up on the floor. The same thing happened Thursday after I'd visited her briefly and brought a requested sub. Her blood pressure was 80 over 54. When the doctor was consulted, he didn't like the numbers. I was called and asked if we wanted them to observe her at the nursing home or send her to the hospital?

I asked the nurse her opinion. She didn't give one until I asked "what would you do if this was your mother?" She suggested we send her-so I did and she was transported Thursday night.

Friday was really hectic and we didn't get to check up on her. Saturday, I kept getting put on hold at the nursing home, so I called the hospital. She was still there. I spoke to a very nice nurse and was able to tell her Mom's likes and dislikes, that she enjoys coffee. No one had been able to get food or liquid into Mom except this one nurse. I offered to bring a cup of the Keurig coffee.

When I got there, Mom was sleeping, so the nurse and I talked for a while. They had a consult request from Palliative care. We talked about feeding tubes. I felt it prolonged the inevitable, Jane was on the fence and Ed wanted her to have one. The nurse told me the unpleasant side effects of getting one and that sealed the deal as far as I was concerned.

Next up was telling Jane and Ed what the doctor's opinion was. Jane asked the next day how my visit went and I was honest about it. They wanted to get palliative care and hospice involved.

Monday morning, my phone rang early. It was a nurse who'd seen Ed's mom and we had a good conversation. The lack of eating, the combatative nature, the refusal to take medications are all part of the dying process. She felt that things would progress quickly. The request was made, could I get Ed and Jane over to the hospital to meet with her?

Jane was called first, she was fine with doing so. Next, Ed was brought up to date. They ventured over to the hospital, where they spent a very ugly couple of hours. Mom was rude, nasty and attacked the two transport employees who came to bring her back to the nursing home. She was going HOME and they weren't going to make her go back there. She tried to bite one and scratched the other.

Ed and Jane then went to the nursing home and asked if they could handle IV sedation if that is what was needed to keep her comfortable and from being a risk to others and herself. Yes, that could be done-and Hospice was called.

We met with them today. It was weird going into the nursing home and avoiding Mom's room-but it is probably better not to agitate her right now. She is officially a Hospice patient. What exactly this will entail is not clear-but what is certain is that she will be kept comfortable.

The next step is to talk to the doctor to see what his plans are. After that, I have to get Jane to more Assisted Living facilities. It's already making her nuts to be in an empty house (she's lived with Mom for all but 5 years when she was married), so new surroundings where Mom has never been might be healthier for her mental state.

For the rest, we wait to see where this coaster is headed...

You Have To Start Somewhere


Those who follow in Alton Brown's footsteps don't need this (and have
a designated brining bucket).


For those who decide to enter the world of juicy turkeys, welcome! It is likely that once you've brined, you will never go back.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Teddy Bears

It started back in 1985.

My then boyfriend wanted a teddy bear to keep him company while I went out of town for Thanksgiving. I searched the entire mall for the 'perfect' teddy bear. Dad had picked me up from work one night and I commented that I needed to find the perfect bear.

He asked what qualities the perfect bear had to have. It had to be soft and huggable. It had to have a face that just cried out 'squeeze me'. It had to have a belly, too. I'd know it when I found it, but I hadn't-yet. Then, a week later, in my own department at work, the perfect bear showed up. Crisis averted, I bought the bear.

A year later, my sister was hit by a moped and broke her collarbones. She would be confined to bed for at least a month. I no longer lived at home, and once again, I was searching for the perfect bear. This time, it needed to be a bigger bear, so that Giggles could use the bear as a pillow. Once again, I found the right bear.

As was typical, Dad noticed. He always noticed that sort of thing. That Christmas, I got a bear. This bear met all the criteria I'd mentioned: cute, soft, cuddly, with a belly and an expressive face.

The following Christmas, I had moved to Maryland. I didn't get back to New York until New Year's, but there was a bear again. After everything else had been unwrapped and we were kibbitzing, Dad nonchalantly said "oh, I forgot something" and brought out the box with the bear.

In 1989, I got lucky, Dad and Giggles came down to Maryland for Christmas. When you work retail, leaving town for the holiday doesn't happen. We had opened presents, had a good day hanging out and then Dad asked if I had ice cream for the apple pie. He went out to Sheetz to get a half gallon of Breyers, and when he came back in, there was a bear in hand.

Once again, Dad and Giggles made the trip down for Christmas, 1990. At some point, he had an excuse to go out to the car (film? batteries? not sure which) and he got me again. He walked in with a big, grey bear with a bow tie. They told a tale of a very old man working the register at Macy's when they'd bought it who gave the bear a big hug and told it "I know you're going to a good home!" as he put it in the huge shopping bag.

At the time, I didn't know that it would be my last Christmas with my Dad. The last time I'd see him was in mid January, when my then husband and I traveled to New York during a blizzard. We had dinner at another sister's house and my toddler nephew had an adorable bear that Gramps had given him. I was quite taken with this bear, and commented to my sister that my nephew was probably going to have a HUGE bear collection.

Two weeks later, my Dad had a heart attack on the job. Those bears would get a lot of hugs in the following months.

Giggles and I had to go empty my Dad's room. He was renting a room from this nice couple, but they needed the income from renting it-so we girls went over and methodically went through things and decided what we'd keep, what would go to Salvation Army and what we could pass on to others (mainly the tons of hiking gear he'd accumulated).

When we got to the closet, there were two boxes on the floor. Gift boxes. I remember passing them out to Giggles and she stopped me, saying "No, those are yours." Confused, I asked what she meant. She told me to open the boxes.

In one, the same Land's End bear that I'd admired at my sister's a few weeks before (the box was postmarked before my visit). In the other, a Macy's box, a Paddington bear. It was January and my Dad already had the bears in place for the following Christmas.

Thank you, Daddy.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

Once a choir geek, always a choir geek.

What prompted that statement? Believe it or not, the assignment of a watching a movie for my Counseling Skills class. To tie in all the things we've learned about human interaction, we were asked to watch the movie "Ordinary People."

In it, the main character, Conrad, is a member of his high school choir. A couple of rehearsals are shown during the movie to set the scene for his interactions with another character, Jeanine. In the first, they are singing a hymn that is set to Pachelbel's Canon in D.

The second is the focus of my geekiness. It is a piece I performed several times, Handel's "Hallelujah, Amen", the final chorus from the oratorio Judas Maccabeus. It's one of those pieces that the first time our choir director had us perform it (in 9th grade), I sang it as a soprano. Then, two years later, thanks to our new prinicpal's decree that there be NO sacred music performed at all, a compromise of music celebrating Christmas and Hannukah was reached-and another performance for me, this time as a tenor.

Handel was masterful with his oratorios, but this one is not as familiar to the average person as the various choruses from The Messiah. Judas Maccabeus tells in song of the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire. Today, the 8 day celebration of Hannukah is in commemoration of that event, the discovery of a jar of oil that lasted far longer than it should have and the restoration of Jewish worship at the temple of Jerusalem.

What's geeky about that? Well, in the movie, Jeannine tells Conrad that he's an awesome tenor. That probably sits well with the average audience. It would have with me, too, for he IS singing the tenor part in the Pachelbel hymn. BUT, I'd performed this piece many times, singing that Tenor part.

He's singing bass.

You didn't notice, did you? Well, maybe if Joyce has seen this movie, she might have noticed it, too. All I can say about this is: if singing a certain vocal part is used as a plot device in your movie, make sure that the character really sings that part. Otherwise, you'll have geeks like me going to find their sheet music-or seeking it out on You Tube!

(and if you want to hear this for yourself, are a choir geek and have a copy of the movie, it's at 58:27 into the movie.)

As is typical, I've been listening to it off and on since this movie brought it to my attention again:

A little early, but enjoy this for Hannukah!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ponderings

Why, oh why did I let the physical therapist talk me into increasing weight to 30 pounds on the rowing machine Thursday, after the assistant and I agreed we should drop down to 25 after my neurologist appointment? I shouldn't be doing it at all, but I saw improvement.

Instead, I've got a two day headache that won't go away (all those headaches that didn't respond to Tylenol, Aleve or Excedrin? Chiari type.)and my neck and shoulders are really sore. I can take painkillers for that, but it doesn't do a darn thing for the headache.

Why is it that I can ask five times, and the can can overflow, and people put their trash on the counter and STILL no one empties the trash can?

Why is it that the dishes pile up (dishwasher is broken) and rather than pick up a sponge to wash dishes, the other inhabitants of the house feel the need to dig out rubbermaid containers to eat from instead?

Why is it that whenever someone is hungry, they tell me instead of doing something about it? I don't mind cooking IF I can have some help-especially when I HURT!

Why do I suspect that I'm not the only woman with these complaints?

Friday, November 20, 2009

This is Hole 8A

Not to be confused with hole 8C or hole 8B, which I have been to on the way here.

Golf courses are confusing!

Oh, it is better to yell "fore" before your golf ball hits my leg!

Then there were the golfers who gave my companion and I each a beer. We were representing the college, so we didn't think it was a good idea to drink them at the time (even though we wanted to!). We later found out it would have been just fine to do it. Now we know for next year's event.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Good Gravy!

There are many lessons my mom taught that I take for granted that everyone knows. It still surprises me when things I learned as a small child are not common knowledge. Especially the ones related to cooking.

If you asked me when I learned how to make pan gravy, I can't tell you. It's one of those things that I always watched my mom do and picked up like anything else a child would. drippings, flour, cold water, salt, pepper, boil and then voila, it's gravy. Simple, right?

Apparently not.

Donna, Joyce and other friends of long standing here can tell you I've always cooked, and that's just one of those things that was a given, if I was roasting a turkey, chicken or beef, there was a gravy boat of yummy stuff.

I think the first hint that it was not normal is when I traveled to New York in '94. My friend Joe had just lost his Mom a few months before, I was newly separated and headed to my high school reunion that Thanksgiving weekend. We decided I'd cook the turkey and the trimmings at his apartment.

It was a good way to spend the holiday - we both skipped the traditional festivities in favor of something that didn't make it so clear that things had changed. I think for both of us, it was a lot less painful.

When you cook a 15 pound bird, there are a lot of pan drippings with which to make gravy. As a result, I think I left Joe with about a quart and a half of the stuff-which to me, wasn't out of the ordinary. However, his roommate came home from her Thanksgiving with family and proceeded to enjoy the plentiful leftovers and kept raving about the gravy. For months afterwards, Joe would tell me that K LOVED that gravy.

We'll be spending Thanksgiving with Bob, Maureen and Coaster Kid. In planning the menu because we're splitting the cooking duties, Maureen asked about the gravy. I detected a little excitement when I said I'd make from scratch gravy and it reminded me all over again that hey, not everyone learned how to make it.

It also reminded me that it's one of those things that I haven't taught Chef Jr to make. We talked about it today, how I learned to make gravy from Granny, that it was something that I found easy to do because I'd been watching for years. It excites him to know we'll be doing it Granny's way, mainly because it means he will always know how to make some to cover his stuffing.

Thanks Mom.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What's For Dinner Wednesday

My butt is still being whipped by this cold. The worst is over, but a couple of days of running around and I was wiped out.

Good thing I had an easy dinner planned. A very easy dinner. I put a roast in the oven, just added water every hour and we ended up having Pernil with egg noodles. Other than using the crock pot, this is probably one of the best no effort meats that tastes like it took a lot of work. Zzzzz, then yum.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reality Sets In

Jane hasn't seen Mom for three weeks. In those three weeks, the dementia has progressed-A LOT.

This morning, I got a call from the nursing home. Once again, Mom was throwing things and disrupting things. As her blood pressure is below 100, they couldn't give her Ativan. The doctor called in a different prescription, but it wouldn't arrive until the afternoon pharmacy delivery. Could I come and sit with her for a while to get her to calm down?

Sure.

The reality is that I had a physical therapy appointment and I'd only be able to be there for twenty minutes. Realization struck-perhaps part of the problem is that she hasn't seen Jane. I called Jane and explained what was going on-would she visit with Mom while I was at PT for the hour?

Sure.

I brought her over there and when I walked in, I got a "Hey, Sweetie", but she told Jane she didn't know who she was. At the same time, she told her that she should have called to let her know she was out of the hospital. Mom complained that they were pinching her and abusing her. She's always bruised very easily, so she could have bumped something and bruised herself.

That was an opportunity excuse myself to go visit the charge nurse and talk about what's going on. Nurse Giggles had mentioned recently that nursing homes keep baby dolls to calm agitated patients, so I asked if they thought was a good idea for her. Strangely, she keeps telling us that they won't let her have THE BABY, but hasn't said a single word to them. The plan formed-hit Target before heading back there.

On my way out, I popped over to Jane and Mom, Jane looking extremely shell shocked. She knew things were getting bad, but not this bad.

When I returned, I dropped the doll off at the nurse's station and then brought Mom a Milky Way. She grabbed it out of my hand and flung it down the hall-I don't want that crap. More of the same ensued for the remainder of the time we were there, until she wore herself out and we left.

Jane and I had a rough conversation on the way home. She blames herself for this, but honestly, her health has suffered because she takes care of Mom's needs first. Even today, Mom would refuse the nurse giving her assistance in the bathroom because she felt Jane should do it. It's not an easy situation all around.

On the way out, we were approached about giving Mom a feeding tube because she refuses to eat. I let Jane make the decision, and she wants Mom to have it. The warning I gave her is that Mom might pull the thing out and if she does, to accept the fact that Mom was giving up.

I think we're in for a very bumpy ride. A month into a placement, she should be making friends and participating in the many activities they provide. The fact that she isn't is telling.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Another Day of Go, Go, Go

Today's travels with Jane-a visit to the wound care doctor. She and I disagree on treatment protocols and she doesn't like the way they've dealt with her wounds in the past. However, I figured she could tell them what she wanted and they could go from there.

It's hard sometimes, hearing some of the questions and her answers and having to endure the disapproving looks from the health care professionals-as if I had something to do with the lack of concern for her own care.

Hey, I'm not going to sit there and monitor everything that goes into her mouth. She's a big girl. If she's going to be hospitalized for renal failure and not change her ways, you think that I can talk sense into her? That would be a big, fat NO.

The upshot is that she's got more dietary restrictions on top of some restrictions that are due to medications she's taking. I can cook within those guidelines, but that's only one meal of the day.

After that, we picked up Ed and enjoyed a lunch. It was a gorgeous day today, and it was nice to get out and goof around a little without the kids.

Then I did a mystery shop. I do those from time to time for a little pocket money. Let's just say that it's a good company, but the opportunities aren't enough to pay the bills, even in busy months. It was supposed to take an hour, instead, I was there for over two. Oh well.

Oh, and then I got an email-tonight's class was canceled. It changed plans just a little, but I ran over to campus with Jessica to check out some of the Homecoming events, then scrambled home.

For the first time this school year, I was at a cub scout meeting. Wow, I forgot how LOUD things can be with sixty-something boys laughing and having a good time. When they get to Boy scouts, it's not quite as noisy! It was a good thing my memory was refreshed, because now I know better than to bring classwork to study during cub scout meetings next semester.

Yes, it was a busy day, but there's still homework to do...


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

Remember when you were a kid and your parents had control of the TV? Not the remote, because back then, the remote meant Mom or Dad nudge you and said "Go change the TV to channel 5." No, I mean when your parents chose what TV shows the family watched, because they were kid friendly until 10pm.

Back then, the shows had great theme songs. Real ones that lasted a full minute, ones that gave you enough time to come in from another room or finish washing that last dish before the good stuff started.

For me, there are shows like the Mary Tyler Moore show (who can turn the world on with her smile?), Archie Bunker (Boy, the way Glenn Miller played), Maude (Lady Godiva was a freedom rider) and MASH (did you know there are words to that theme? I learned how to play it and it. is. sad!)

A friend posted a link the other day and I was transformed to weeknights in my Mom's den, watching back to back episodes of this favorite. Jack Klugman reminds me of my dad, partly resemblance and partly personality. He definitely wasn't Oscar Madison!



Just hearing the theme song makes me wish I still had WPIX and the evening back to back episodes...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It Takes One Step To Make a Difference

That phrase was the inspiration. My classmate, Jessica, came up with it the one Wednesday that I missed the Counseling Skills class. She and I (and another student, who dropped the class) were inspired to have a walkathon for the local agency we wanted to help, Noah's Ark. We had met with one of the directors and could have listened to him speak all day about what they do.

We found a location and picked a date. She found walkers, I found local businesses to give us prizes for the walkers. It was a learning experience for both of us. Much of it was met with a "Now we know for next time."

Why were we thinking that way?
This was just a project for class, right?

Yes. And no, too. See, the grade is one thing-we want to do well. BUT this group inspires us that we want to do more. Each visit, each phone call to a member of their board and we became emotional with how much a few parents of special needs kids can do when they put their minds to it.

The past few days, I've been pounding the pavement in search of those donations. What I learned is that local businesses want to help the locals. Any corporate owned entity I went to (save one), told me I need to fill out a bunch of forms and they'd have an answer in four to six weeks. On the other hand, every local place I visited, as soon as I said what I was doing, they'd reach in the drawer for gift certificates.

I focused on businesses my family patronizes. My first stop was Rita's Italian Ices and the manager gave us ices AND coupons for all the walkers. Five Guys gave coupons for 2 free meals. Mt. Fuji gave a gift certificate. And so it went: Subs and Such, Buddy's BBQ, Harry's , Moe's Tex Mex and then Sweetbay gave us water.

This morning dawned perfect. My phone started ringing early-where are we meeting? Giving directions. Getting Game Teen situated at his water station and then getting two Noah's Ark members to his location.

A couple of classmates showed up. The professor and her daughter. A TON of Noah's Ark people. Jessica's mom and brother and a few of her neighbors and accountant's son. With a send off from our professor, the walkers headed down the path.

Then, the next hour or so, I spoke with three of the Noah's Ark parents and a couple of the residents who manned the table with me. They all were so appreciative (while I'd spent the past week thinking I hadn't done nearly enough). We were invited to join them for an early Thanksgiving feast, to Christmas caroling and to join them for various weekly activities.

We all talked about how as a parent of a special needs child, you tend to be isolated. Noah's Ark was formed out of a support group that was begun to combat that isolation. I'd mentioned that we drive 30 miles for scouts because the troop is so good with Neil-and found that their are two Eagles and a Star scout among their ranks.

One lap around the lake later, the group was back and we all had made new friends. Raising funds for them was the goal, but we got so much more from the event.

The executive director and his wife were talking last night and gave Jessica and I a great idea: why not challenge the other colleges in Lakeland to see who can raise the most money and/or get the most walkers? The idea is great-it gets more exposure for Noah's Ark, raises more money, gets some friendly rivalry going and now that we know what we're doing, it'll be even more successful.

So, who's sponsoring us next year?





Friday, November 13, 2009

The Very Productive Day

As I mentioned in Thursday's early morning post, the day was chock a block with stuff to do. Well, I got everything listed done and then some. It felt pretty good.

Headed over to Tampa early because USF was holding a Graduate School Recruitment Fair. When I got there, I found that my intended program was not present, but I got names and directions over to their building on campus.

Two visits to offices that weren't the right place, a simple tour by a really nice GA and then a even more comprehensive tour by the director of the Instructional Technology program. He brought me to one of the two program advisors and we spent nearly an hour talking about the Instructional Technology curriculum, the three tracks to the program and what software and hardware I will need to do course work. (Design Elements Pro, here we come).

The other day, I was told that no, I can't take graduate level courses as an undergraduate. If a course interests me, by all means, I should take it, according to Dr. D. The only stipulations they put on the 6000 level classes for me is that my advisor attests to the fact that I have a B or better average and can handle the work load. That shouldn't be a problem.

Oh, and yet again, another person at this school told me students have to work a lot harder to get a bachelor's than they do in the Graduate programs. Probably because you're only concentrating on one area of study.

While driving over there, I made the daily phone call to the Gyn's office, hoping for an afternoon cancellation. As soon as the receptionist asked my date of birth, I knew the efforts had paid off. Late afternoon, at the campus facility. That worked, because I needed to meet a student from my Literature class after the other two appointments.

Visit to the campus successful, I hightailed it to the other side of town and saw the neurologist. We discussed the results of that MRI and thankfully, he doesn't think it needs surgery BUT I absolutely, positively cannot lift weights ever and I should avoid yelling at all costs. Hmmm, now I know why I get a band headache along the back of my head when I do that!

I need to have an MRI every year to monitor for changes, and surprise, surprise, there's yet another body part with arthritis. For the upcoming surgery and any that might follow, no epidurals ever again. This also means that the RSD treatment that was proposed a few years ago is not an option.

After lunch at one of my old haunts in Hyde Park (Da Flats-for less than a Big Mac, too!), it was back to the hospital to get Dr. J's opinion on protocols pre and post op. I got to see Nurse A and she was impressed with how good the leg looks. Last time she saw My Stupid Leg (trademark pending), it was infected!

The surgery precautions are Lovenox the morning of any surgery, and an overnight stay to put the leg squeezers on for at least 12 hours. Dr. J tells Nurse A that he'll send a letter to Dr. P to tell him what is recommended. Bummer, I will never have truly outpatient surgery ever again. Wah.

Back to the campus, where the tractor beam of the college bookstore didn't pull me in (but the computer store did-probably safer, because I can't afford anything in there), and I used the bandwidth to work on the Children's Lit paper, then dropped off the book for Ty to pick up later.

And a month earlier than the scheduled appointment, I got in to see Dr. P. He was delayed by a bit-apparently, he'd been reviewing Dr. J's email about what is advised in my situation.

Soooo, I'm keeping the appointment for December 11th-because it will be a post-op visit. Phew!

Surgery is a go. Overnight hospital stay, liquid diet for 5 days prior, clear liquids for the 24 hours before surgery (good thing I am addicted to Vitamin Water, eh?). I'll have some testing done in a week or so.

The day was very long, very tiring (although that might have been the brewing cold), and extremely productive.

I couldn't ask for more.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Can't Sleep

Did you ever have to get up early to do something, but when you tried to get back to sleep, your mind was swimming so much that you couldn't?

That's me right now.

I drove Game Teen to the bus stop this morning, as I do each morning (I am not a fan of him standing out there on his own at that hour). Then I stopped at Jane's to empty out the fridge of items that are well over two weeks old because she's coming home from the hospital today (two weeks this time). I came back home and tried to sleep, but it isn't happening.

Some of the things weighing on my mind:

1. This weekend's walkathon. My job is to find donations from businesses to give to the walkers and refreshments to hand out during the walk. It's been a learning experience, because the corporate owned locations want notice months in advance. So, my head was racing with local businesses that I love that might want to recognize the efforts of our walkers.

2. I broke a pyrex bowl yesterday while washing dishes. Have you ever done that? As I was barefoot, Ed was kind enough to grab the broom and sweep up what could be seen. The nasty thing about Pyrex is that it breaks into thousands of tiny shards, some so small that a broom can't find them.

But my foot can.

Especially my foot on My Stupid Leg (trademark pending). I've picked out a half dozen of these suckers and currently have one that resists any efforts to remove it. The annoying part of it all is that because of the RSD, I know they're in there, but trying to get them out is hard because the nerves also indicate pain. A soak in the tub got one tough one, but not the other. The poking and prodding put the nerves on Defcon 3 alert. Ugh.

3. We've been doing the nursing home phone tag. Ed's mom has an infection and has had a few episodes of being unresponsive. They've taken her off her blood pressure meds and the anti anxiety medication, because both will lower blood pressure. Apparently, the tests they did the other day revealed that her heart is in pretty bad shape. It's probably going to be a bumpy ride for a while until things get figured out.

4. Jane is finally, two weeks later, coming home from the hospital (you don't want to know how many days this makes it for 2009). Her pacemaker battery has not been replaced, and they are fitting her with a vest that functions as a pacemaker and defibrillator until her infections go away.

Here's the bad part: her kidneys are already having a hard enough time fighting stuff off. Until she went in the hospital, she (despite our best efforts to not bring it into the house) consumed a ton of processed sugar. This makes the kidneys work overtime on THAT and ignore the infection. Couple this with the fact that she's on the strongest antibiotics they make and yeah, I'm worried.

Why? Because once she develops a resistance to the Vancomycin and the even stronger one they gave her this week, there is NOTHING else to treat any infection she has. She's allergic to one class of antibiotic. This, boys and girls, is why your doctor doesn't give you them for the slightest illness-because they don't want you to be in this situation down the road...

5. I've been calling my Gyn's office all week, hoping for a cancellation. I visit the Neurologist and Vascular Surgeon today for a follow up and a sign off on surgery. If I can get in to see him right after those two appointments, we can schedule this thing and get it over with early in the semester break.

6. In a good deed move that seems to have played out: A classmate sent out an urgent email Monday night. Seems he was sharing the textbook for Children's Lit with another student and she's been ignoring his calls and emails. There was a paper due that night and he hadn't read the chapter that corresponded to it. He was looking for someone near the Tampa campus to meet up and let him look at the book real quick to see what he was supposed to write about.

I sent an email to him that I wasn't in Tampa, but would be happy to answer the quesions when I got home from class. We talked, he figured out what he needed and all was good. Then I figured "hey, I only spent 8 bucks for this book and I only have two assignments to bang out-he can have mine."

A couple of emails back and forth, he was happy and I was motivated to finish these two papers in two days. Then I got an email from the Tampa campus, where I'm to meet up with him. It says that the Grad Schools are having an open house today on campus. So, I get to give someone my book and get the information that the staff on my campus can't quite answer (but they've done their best to get those answers.)

Gee, is it any wonder why I couldn't get back to sleep?

Where's the coffee?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What's For Dinner Wednesday

A few weeks ago, I made Bolognese Sauce and found out something I'd never known. It is hands down, Ed's favorite Italian sauce. Here I'd thought it was Alfredo sauce all these years.

Of course, this meant I had to make some again, especially since he was dropping hints about how much he loved the last batch I made. Alas, the kids won't eat it, but they'll eat everything else, so making a pot doesn't mean I really have to make two dinners.

The funny thing is that when I make it, I am reminded of a song from a high school. My sophomore year, we did the play Scapino, and in it, a singing waiter serenades a beautiful woman with the following:
Minestrone, Macaroni
Ravioli Aux Crevette
Caramella In Padella
Avocado Vinagrette

The bridge is why I've had it running through my head and singing it half the week

Scallopine Valdostana
Scampi, Fritti and Bordeaux,
Pasta Bolognese
Pate Mayonnaise
Cappuccino, Espresso

Some of those don't sound so appetizing, but the Pasta Bolognese certainly is - and Ed can enjoy a whole pot of it, too!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Winding Down, Gearing Up

There are three weeks left in the current semester. Two of my classes are definite A's, the other two are iffy, one due to group projects, and the other because I've whittled away 43 of the 65 point cushion that I need to keep an A.

That professor apparently still hasn't learned our names-she told me yesterday that she won't look at me during lectures, because I will supply the answers. When I lamented the two 80's on exams, she was stunned I was worried that I wouldn't get an A.

Meanwhile, the time has come to register for next semester's classes. I need eleven more for my degree, and I've got my list in the back of my notebook. For weeks, I've been scouring the class schedule to determine what I'll take. Two of my classmates expressed interest in carpooling to the Tampa campus to get a better selection of Psychology department electives. The down side? All those classes meet two days a week.

Ultimately, when it came down to it, the need to take a foreign language and Psychological Statistics limited the rest of my choices. Tampa was out, because the Spanish class meets twice a day, on my campus, in the MIDDLE of the day. I can only choose one night class, thanks to Ed's schedule.

Okay, so two web based courses to round out my schedule since my campus didn't have anything to mesh up with the days I'm already there. There are two psych courses, but one requires a permit for anyone who doesn't have that campus as their home campus. I applied for it, but I won't know until December 5th-and there are only a couple of slots left. I did get the other one (Score! That professor has a 4.8 on Rate My Professor with dozens of ratings)

What to take? Well, I've toyed with a Information Systems minor to give me a good foundation for the Master's program-but that means an extra semester of school. Even if I don't ultimately go the minor route, wouldn't one of those courses be helpful down the road? It made a lot of sense to me, and that's why I've got an IT course for the second semester in a row.

So four down, seven to go to the Bachelors. (and one of those will now be a CLEP exam)

All semester long, people will tell me I'm nuts to take on all the family stuff AND school, that I must be royally stressed by it all. I have to explain that school is my stress buster. Yes, it does cause some stress, but it takes away far more that it causes, because it is something positive. I am doing well and I enjoy it. What's crazy about that?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Fun With the Nursing Home

Saturday morning, my phone rang. "Suzanne? This is R at the nursing home. Your Mom is flipping out." He told me she was out of bed and throwing items, and even tried to throw the TV.

Mom?
Seriously?
The woman who needed to be picked up to get out of bed is walking around and yelling?

I high tailed it over there and sure enough, she was in a state. They'd given her a shot of Ativan to calm her down, but she was still angry. Apparently, the current delusional episode is that they WON'T! GIVE! HER! THE! BABY!. Confused, I thought she was talking about the cat, Jiminy. She told me not to screw around with her, that I knew what she meant.

In her mind, a miscarriage from long ago resulted in THE BABY, and she wanted it. (None of us is clear on what baby she's talking about). If that were the only issue, I would probably just chalk it up to the dementia, but she was positively horrid to the staffers, Chef (who was with me) and me.

She said she'd heard THE BABY, she knew it was there, and the staff was hiding it from her. Today, she told Ed that they brought her THE BABY yesterday, but they took it away.

Color me confused.

The only thing I could come up with is that the last few times where she got this belligerent seemed to be right before she had the mini strokes. I mentioned that to the nurses, that perhaps they should keep an eye on her for that. When Ed went back today, he also spoke to the staff.

Apparently, her blood pressure was really low all while she seemed to have an adrenaline charge and Tasmanian Deviled around her room. Combined with what we suspect might be going on, the staff doctor wanted to send her to the hospital for testing.

I turned on my Flip before I walked in the nursing home on Saturday, because I didn't know what I would walk into. It was a good idea, because I have a record of the twenty minutes of weirdness that we witnessed.

Too bad I can't bring myself to listen to it. It hurts too much to see her so nasty and vicious to people who are trying to help her.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

A friend mentioned on Facebook the other day that he'd gone to a Karaoke bar in NYC and sang Bill Wither's "Ain't No Sunshine" in front of the crowd. Amazing what a good song will compel a guy who doesn't sing in front of the crowds to do!

The mention of this jazz and blues singer brought back many pleasant memories, of late nights, AM radios and a voice dripping the blues. I've always loved his voice and that song in particular just brings the raw emotion to life.

I commented about another Bill Withers gem that the average person thinks is Grover Washington, Jr. However, Grover plays the sax and Bill sings the song on the song that is said to have inspired the Smooth Jazz genre "Just the Two of Us."

Once again, someone mentions a favorite from my past and I want to track down a greatest hits album, because he's a great song crafter AND singer.

Enjoy these two, as I have been listening to these oldies but goodies since Dennis mentioned them:


Saturday, November 07, 2009

First Friday

Bob and Maureen suggested we visit Lakeland's First Friday last night, and it sounded like a great plan. Off we went.

I'm glad we did. The night was a perfect fall in Florida evening, just around 70 degrees. Parking was a little bit of a challenge, but other than that, it was worth it to walk around downtown and see the sights. Then there were the dogs-LOTS of dogs. Though I have to wonder why someone would bring a muzzled Doberman and when people went to pet the animal, the owner said the dog is NOT friendly.

Several times here, I've professed my soft spot for neon and the love of the quantity this area maintains. There will be a neon tour of Lakeland on the blog someday, but for now, just three of the many signs in the downtown area that held First Friday.
This restaurant gets rave reviews from several friends. Eventually, we'll visit for some cajun food. Maureen warned that her experience netted some extremely slow service.
I wonder if Coaster Kid googled what this is. It's an empty alley nowadays, but there may have been something there before. He wanted to use my phone to search, but that's not such a wise idea when I keep telling Game Teen he can't use my phone to access the Internet!

This looked to be a very lively place. The area has a lot of little mom and pop restaurants and cafes, enough that you try a new one every day and eat for almost a month! Once we win the lottery, I'll get right on that.

Not seen: the car show of various vintage vehicles. My phone battery died as I went to take a picture of a really nice Beetle that was done up in Miami Dolphins colors. Later, we saw a Willys in creamsicle colors, and I explained to the boys that their PopPop had one, but Mema hated riding around in a truck and he got rid of it. Chef says he wants a Willys someday.

Dinner was at Palace Pizza, pizza slices in a very crowded place. The local family owned chain has five or six restaurants open, and I've now tried 4. If the place wasn't so crowded, I probably would have gone for their pasta special-it looked SO good.

Next month, I'll make sure the batteries are charged before I head out. If I can get my hands on some Kodachrome, I think I'll get out my trusty old SLR and the tripod and have some fun with the neon...

Friday, November 06, 2009

Like My New Glasses?

We're waiting to see Game Teen's psychiatrist. Chef is playing with
Mr Potato Head and the glasses fell into my handbag.

I took them out, saying that I didn't need them. He thought they
would make good replacements for my current pair.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

It Takes One Step To Make a Difference

So it stands to reason that a lot of steps can make a big difference, right?

The main goal of my Counseling Skills class is for the class to form groups and do some service learning in the community. We were all charged with finding a group with a need and helping them out.

These groups found varied agencies in need and the projects are equally varied, like a fund raising dinner at a local restaurant next week for a domestic violence shelter, a clothing drive for the homeless, tutoring at an at-risk program, doing activities at an after school program, and others.

One of my group mates found a local agency that really had an impact on me. Noah's Ark is an agency formed by parents of children with various developmental disabilities (autism, down syndrome, mental retardation, and others) who worried what would happen to their children when the parents passed on. Would they be able to support themselves? Find adequate housing? Have things to do, opportunities to socialize?

Rather than wonder, these parents did something. In 1997, they founded Noah's Ark and set about creating affordable group homes in the Lakeland area. In the twelve years since, there are now several homes and plenty of activities-but the leadership of Noah's Ark has bigger plans.

They've planned Noah's Landing, a larger scale community for approximately 200 adults with special needs and various caregivers. However, the laws in Florida say that this is segregating the population and is bad. What can be bad about providing a safe community, close to bus stops and amenities, that provides the opportunities for living independently in a supportive environment?

As a result, Jack Kosik, the Executive Director, has spent time speaking in Tallahassee about the benefits of such a community. Last year, things were going swimmingly until the 11th hour. Several legislators fillibustered and shot down the law that would allow a zoning variance for communities of this nature (and Noah's Landing might be the first, but certainly not the only one in the planning stages.)

Sometimes, I lay awake at night and wonder if Chef will be taking care of his brother when Ed and I are gone. The accomplishments the group has done in twelve years brought tears to my eyes, because these parents are paving the way for not only their children, but all children with special needs to have a safe haven.

Next Saturday, there will be a walkathon in Lakeland to raise money for this worthy group. Pledges and donations are tax deductible and help those in the community who have a harder time helping themselves.

Would you please support me in the efforts to help Noah's Ark ?

If you wish to make a contribution, email me at SuzanneCalling at gmaildotcom. Any help in making a difference is welcomed and appreciated.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What's For Dinner Wednesday

This week, I had plans for the marinated Flat Iron steaks I got from Land and Sea the other day. However, neither boy was interested in steak. They must not be our children, they don't like steak?

Instead, there have been some ham steaks waiting in the fridge in the garage for a fondue night. That said, there are three of those, but I really can make fondue with one, possibly two. So, there was a last minute substitution for dinner.

The kids liked the change to ham steak, hash browns and corn. I guess I'll make the Flat Iron steaks for me and Ed tomorrow night.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Kirby,Take Two

The other day, we got a letter in the mail that the Kirby people had decided to cancel Jane's contract for the purchase of that 1299.00 vacuum. If you look at that contract, however, Jane paid a 99.93 deposit for a vacuum she no longer owns. I called them today and asked if the money was coming back. The answer?

No.

What was interesting was the information that manager from Pivitol, Inc. shared with me. "We're out of the three day cancellation window and I've already lost 698 dollars on this sale, so no, the money's not coming back."

Did you see that amount? Six HUNDRED ninety eight dollars? Yeah, they paid that much commission to the salesperson. If you add that to the hundred that was already paid as a deposit, that's $797.00 paid out in commission. This means the net cost of a Kirby Vacuum cleaner is only five hundred dollars.

The same amount of money I told Jane I was willing to pay for a Dyson.

So, if you're thinking about getting a Kirby, know that the salesperson walks into your home with a $500 vacuum. What you're willing to pay is up to you.


I called Jane to tell her that she wasn't getting that deposit back and she was upset. She wasn't very happy about it, as she'd assumed it was coming back. I figured I would skip telling her how much the salesperson was paid for that 'bargain' down from $2399 "list price" down to $1299 "sale price" vacuum.

On the other hand, you all need to know. As my tenth grade Social Studies teacher, Mr. Kurth, would frequently say, Caveat Emptor.

Let the buyer beware.

Monday, November 02, 2009

What a Weekend!

Yes, it was a crazy week last week. Part of what made it crazy for me is knowing what Friday through Monday would include:

Friday-My IT Ethics group project had to be turned in. I did my portion, then planned to put the Editor's hat on and tweak what was done. I look at assignments as if I was the one grading it. I think it turned out fantastic, but won't know how we did until next Saturday-after the other nine groups review it.

Also due Friday-an individual chapter test and a group discussion assignment for the same class.

Saturday-three hours reviewing the study guide for my Literature mid term. It's funny how many of the terms overlap what I'd learned in the two summer classes, because now those definitions are indelibly etched on my brain. The, I got in about an hour and a half of studying before the Halloween festivities.

Sunday-As soon as I got up, I took the Literature midterm-and got 100. Yay! Another hour of studying, then off to a Scout troop budget meeting. I didn't want to go, because I knew it'd take most of my day away from studying. Six hours later-it sucks to be right-we headed home. My brain was fried from all that number crunching (and back spasms throughout) that I didn't study.

Monday-Get up and study some more, because I had an exam in tonight's class. Oh, and finish the lab project that was due tonight, too. (I observed Game Teen for two hours and recorded how much unsolicited sound comes out of the child's mouth. Can we say A LOT?)
At 4pm, I was stressing out, thinking that I hadn't done enough studying, and I still hadn't typed up the summary for the lab report.

Somehow, it all got done, I showed up 15 minutes late for class, and the test I thought I was going to bomb wasn't all that bad.

This was in addition to a mid term paper in my Counseling Skills class. There's still a big project due next weekend, but at least I won't have any more weeks where all four classes have major assignments. This semester, anyway.

I figure if I can have a week like last week and get all that stuff done, I can't be doing too bad!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

NaBloPoMo Once More

Two years ago today, I started on a journey of posting every day. Little did I know, the commitment to one month of blogging would result in twenty three more. Yes, it's been two years that at this time of day, if I haven't written something, I get very, very antsy-I have to post something.

Along the way, I've found some extremely talented writers to add to the daily (or weekly) reading. Even better, I've found some friends in the blogosphere. Someday, I will actually meet these wonderful people. Who knows? Maybe at BlogHer '10.

If you've got the blogging bug, it's not too late to join this year's event at www.nablopomo.com
. Or if you are one the many wonderful blog readers, check out their blogroll and you'll have a month of daily writings from the majority of those who signed up.

Or, maybe, just maybe, you'll see someone start this thing, thinking to themselves "Thirty days? Seriously? What am I going to write for thirty days?" and they'll be chugging along some seven hundred days later...