Monday, February 28, 2011

The Past Paving the Way for the Present

One of the assignments for my Interactive Media class was a group project conducting a Usability Study of a website, finding four to six subjects and observing as they used the site.

I lucked out with some great (and understanding teammates) and we all ended up playing to our strengths. T was good with identifying what we could test, M made some fantastic materials with which to conduct our observations and I wrote the report summarizing the data and providing interpretation.

It was rough to do, but only because it has been hell to concentrate on anything with all that's been going on. The report got finished at 3pm for a 5 o'clock class. I worried that my teammates would find it lacking.

Meanwhile, they both looked at the finished product and were pleased with it. As I had the professor's rubric close at hand while I wrote it up, I suspect we'll have minimal revisions to make next week.

All those Psychology papers definitely paid off, because the format was strangely similar to the nearly two dozen I wrote in four semesters.

It was work, but it was good to finally turn that sucker in.

Just like I'm about to do.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Warding off Evil Germs

I have no time to be sick. We're still moving Jane's crap, I have to drop off paperwork to the nursing home, I've got two big group projects this week, I have two other assignments to do as well. Between now and Friday, I'm supposed to be on the Lakeland campus for the four Provost candidate public interviews, on the Tampa campus for a Grad school session with one of the candidates to replace a retiring professor and probably a half dozen other things I am forgetting in the brain fry.

There is.NO.time. to be sick. Period.

Then, factor in that Ed had the flu, Chef started being sick late Thursday night and GameTeen started in with the cough last night and fever this morning, the deck is stacked against me. I had my flu shot, courtesy of USFP, but the menfolk did not.

Just in case that wasn't enough, today, I made a big pot of Chicken Basil noodle soup, which I consider an update to Jewish penicillin.

If you eat bowls of chicken noodle soup before you get sick, can it prevent the sickness from taking hold?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Something About "Doctor's Orders"?

Remember last year, when I was diagnosed with the Chiari I malformation. My neurologist kindly suggested not lifting anything greater than 15 pounds, nor should I yell, because both would exacerbate the bitch-kitty headaches that I always seem to have.

Right.

Since then, I've sorted through Jane's stuff three times now and moved it twice and will have to move some more of it a third time in the coming week. I can report that yelling is at a minimum, but the other restriction? I kind of ignored it because this crap has to be moved.

As the past two weeks have progressed, the various trouble spots in my body have announced their presence with authority. The neck and shoulder kind of hinted they were going to raise a ruckus, but they waited until today.

It's been craptacular.

I'll be honest, I'm trying to avoid medicating the Chiari headache and neck and shoulder because I've got too much work to do on two projects for Monday's class, but I hurt too much to get anything done. So, I'm going to bed at 9:30.

Let's hope I can get up early tomorrow and pick up where I left off.




Friday, February 25, 2011

Tangent, Anyone?

In the pursuit of degrees beyond the current one, I had a meeting on campus today. Afterwards, I mentioned to Ed that Dr. Smith and I spoke about my plans. He had a question for me "Did you ask him why he stowed away?"

Nope, he wasn't Zachary Smith.

However, I revealed to Ed something that I thought when I was very small. In watching "Lost in Space" with my siblings, then later watching "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood," I was confused. See if you might understand.

This is Lady Elaine Fairchilde:


And this is Doctor Zachary Smith:


Do you have any question why a preschooler might wonder how the guy was a puppet on one show and a real person on another?

You probably now have questions on whether I really am up for the challenge of a doctoral program, don't you!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Reality Not as Planned

Today's objective was to go spend 20 minutes dropping off paperwork for Jane's QIT account, then spend the rest of the time sorting the crap in her apartment. I would pack it in around 3, pick up Game Teen and then head home to study.

Instead:
Called the financial company and discovered that they required a certified check from Jane's account (oops, didn't get the PoA situation cleared up with them), proof of her pension and SSDI (okay, have those), Jane and my driver's licenses.

Crap.

For three days now, I've been trying to locate Jane's little plastic thingy with her cards in it and her phone. Nursing home said they didn't have it, I looked through her stuff quickly the other day. There's only one bag of belongings at the hospital and it's not in there. Visited both places, and this time, the nurse assigned to her found the property receipt from last Thursday. These items were taken away in the ER and locked up.

Forty five minutes later, I have the items and have had Jane telling me she's going home after all this is done, that she wanted a Whopper and a shake (thinking I was just going to drop everything and get it), found that her debridement was canceled because her blood is still way too thin and that her case of MDR-A bacterial infection is pretty scary to the infectious disease guy. She has Acinetobacter baumannii, and doesn't seem to think it's that big a deal. Jane also dropped trou (or rather, hospital gown) and was pulling down her undergarment to show me the ulceration, not understanding that I don't want to see it.

Oh, and as I left the unit, this couple leaves the room next door and the wife comments "oh, it's so nice that she FINALLY has someone visiting her." I mentioned that I've been, maybe not at the same time and have many Jane related obligations pressing on my time. Ends up their family member has VRE and they'd been told it was NOT good. Yeah, I can relate-but the comment peeved me a bit.

Sure, I'll stay and hold her hand while I'm in anti-contamination gear, but who's going to get everything packed and moved while Ed's at work? We don't have house elves to join in.

I forgot how much my body hates moving. More like, I've been ignoring the pain for the past week and today, it became very hard to ignore. Just a few more days of this crap and maybe I can track down a jacuzzi to live in for a month.

Now, I have her phone. She has not installed one single app on it except for the two I found the charges for on the AT&T bill. It's interesting to see what she has tried to text message people. One got axed the day I called about the bill and she got a text from them "UR now unsubscribed from Mobile Pimp Zone Mobile Quiz Club." Seriously, you though that getting something from the Pimp Zone was a good idea, Jane?

Tomorrow, more fun on the apartment awaits. Yay.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Highs and Lows

Yesterday, the nurses told us Jane appeared to be rallying, despite having a multi drug resistant bacterial infection (or MDRB) in her hip. Interestingly, the nurse I spoke to rattled off lab results as if I was a medical professional.

The things I did catch were the results of various liver functions. They weren't good. Her platelets on admission were 28, now they're 34, while the average person's is over 100. Her HDLs were scary high. Whereas the nursing home was of the mind that a DNR was needed, the conversation with the nurse gave me the idea that Jane would pull through.

Then, the call from the doctor arrived about a half hour later. Hematologists/Oncologists are merchants of hope. When a patient has merely 10% odds, they're the ones encouraging the patient that the treatments may work. So it was kind of interesting that this one asked me to tell him about Jane, as he hadn't gotten much information from her. After we discussed her medical history, he suggested that we enact a DNR.

In consulting with others in the field, I understood that signing it isn't saying that we want her to be left to die, rather that we don't think extraordinary measures should be employed.

Today, I spoke to her nurse after the doctor did his rounds and she was in Jane's room. We spoke about the situation with the MDRB in her hip and that the doctor would like to perform a debridement (one word: OWWWWWWWWW). She told me that Jane was awake and alert for her and Jane spoke of being excited. I wondered what happened to cause such a dramatic change.

A couple of hours later, I think I got an answer. The nurse called me to ask my permission to have two units of blood on hand to perform the debridement. Jane had been alert to give the okay to the doctor. It's likely that they talked about it and the doctor said "If this works, then we'll be able to send you home."

Home. The one thing she wants more than anything. The one place she can't be unless she is able to perform all her ADLs (when she's doing none right now).

I'm now worried about how far she will fall when she realizes that she isn't going home, that the doctor meant the nursing home. The plan is for the doctor to follow up with me after he does this procedure. I need to let him know that he's got to be careful with how he phrases things with her, lest she get it in her head that something that is unlikely to happen is definitely within reach.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Deflection is Good For the Soul

This is why we live in Florida, for February days like these.
This was on our way to conducting a secret shop.

Meanwhile, the rest of the day was full of sturm and drang, which I'll talk about later, but for now, we'll just look at the pretty vista, okay?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hell Week Ahead

Look into my planner and see that I'm just a little busy this week:

Tomorrow:
Teacher meeting for Chef at 8:15. Yay.
Mystery shop of yummy seafood restaurant
Class at 5pm


Wednesday:
Clean out Jane's apartment and prepare for upcoming sale of things that she's not going to need/won't fit into the already stuffed to the gills garage
Then a boatload of school work

Thursday:
More cleaning
More schoolwork

Friday:
Meet with academic adviser to sign my grad school contract
Have moving sale at Jane's place so that the people who work there can buy some of it
More schoolwork

Saturday:
Finish moving sale
More schoolwork

Sunday:
Hello? Three projects due in one class Monday (two are group assignments)
Try to read for one of the other classes
Write up summary report for one of those group assignments
Firm up the presentation graphics for the other one.

Monday:
Get Goodwill to take whatever we haven't moved out of her place/turn in keys
Print out the summary report
Class

That's not even factoring in that Jane's doctor has now ordered a third set of labs because they can't figure out what is causing the low platelets. When I spoke to a nurse tonight, she was in radiology, getting some CTs of her arm and hip, because she's complaining of extreme pain when anyone touches her.

Meanwhile, she no longer moves in the bed unless someone does it, nor does she eat more than a few bites fed to her.

I'm thinking the inevitable is coming very soon, even sooner than I expected.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Groovy

Ed has several guitars. Among them: an unbadged Martin six string acoustic(that sounds incredible), an Ibenez (a/k/a Ibeenhad), a Dean bass that has a minor blem on the back and this Fender Jazz bass.

He got it for a great price from the Sam Ash in Huntington because it was an odd color, Razzberry. His mom took one look at it and gave him grief. Meanwhile, he had a vision, and it included some Volkswagen flower decals. He made modifications.

The first time I saw this, I expressed delight at how freaking cool this thing looked.

I suspect the Daisy guitar people saw Ed at a random gig of one of his small town Long Island band gigs and were inspired.

It is still pretty darn cool.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

From Bad to Worse

Jane is in the hospital. Again.

This time, she was brought in for low platelets. They are conducting tests, but no results are back yet-except for a positive on the MRSA. So, once again, she's on a Vancomycin IV. How long she'll be there is anyone's guess.

I dropped off a copy of the PoA to the business office Thursday afternoon. When I left the office, she was in the hallway, at the nurse's station a few steps away from where I stood. When I walked over, she was asking me to find out the cat's names. "I beg your pardon?"

She told Ed the night before that they keep three cats in the supply closet just outside her room. She could hear them meowing. What she was telling me that day is that the cats were there to be loaned out. She wanted to 'borrow' one for a couple of hours. Add to this that she said she had TWO roommates, not one, and it's clear that things are not well.

There is one roommate. There are no cats.

But the bad part is that Betsy went over to visit her today-and discovered that she was not there. The nursing home would not release info, and they stated they had no record of the PoA. Apparently, it was still sitting in the business office. The information they had was that my mother in law was Jane's daughter-and the disconnected house phone number for here. I'd spoken to the social worker Thursday afternoon around 2pm (she called me, so she has my number), no one called to inform us they were transporting her.

A trip over to the hospital reveals that she's still really out of it. They now have a Medical proxy on file with my name on it. A brief conversation with the three nurses on that unit later, they had their questions answered and cautiously told me what was going on, until I started stating "terminal decline." It made it clear that I have an understanding of what probably lies ahead.

We're all on the same page.

Then a trip over to the nursing home, where I spoke to the nurse that I called to find out what was going on and got to release the information, once they tracked down the PoA. I gave them a second PoA to keep in her file, and they removed the contact info sheet that was clearly out of date.

Shell shocked from the visit with Jane and some things she said, I voiced my very real concern that she wouldn't be back there. The nurses that had seen her agreed, all saying things like "I can't believe she's only 58." Two had the conversation with me that, as PoA, I probably will be asked to sign the advance directive or DNR that they asked Jane to complete two weeks ago.

There was neither in her files. Once again, Jane chose to ignore a direct request and I'm left with a crappy decision. One that I hate having to do, but knowing in my heart that it's the right one. It doesn't make it any easier.

So now we wait. Days, weeks, months, I have no idea. We hesitate on moving anything into the nursing home, like the requested dresser, only to move it out when the inevitable occurs.

This sucks.




Friday, February 18, 2011

If Anyone Has Some Focus They're Not Using

Would you please send it my way?

I'm so stressed out by all the Jane crap that my intentions of reading for Psych fell by the wayside. I have an 8am meeting tomorrow, then I'll have another appointment and a lunch date. The plan was to work on Interactive Media tomorrow.

I guess the plans of going to the State Fair on Sunday are looking pretty dim. It's probably just as well, as Chef appears to have the same attentional issues right now.

And with that, I'm heading to bed. Perhaps I can get up earlier and bang out an hour of reading before that meeting...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oops

PSA for the day:

If you're getting a Power of Attorney with two named attorneys in fact, list them as person A OR person B. If you list them with AND between them, most banks will not take the paperwork. This means we have to do another PoA to switch over the bank accounts.

This is not too big a deal. I have complete access to the account already. The main concern was getting the bank statements for Medicaid, then verifying that the funds are redirected to the holding account for the nursing home. It does have to be done to make any changes, though.

There was a list of items that need to be provided by the 28th. The only two left are a copy of the deed to the house and the title to the car. I am pretty sure we took those for safekeeping back in October, but we put them in a place so safe, it'll take some digging tomorrow to find them.

That part was easy. The hard thing was seeing Jane and her insisting that they're keeping three cats in the closet outside her bedroom. I caught her as she was asking one of the charge nurses to go get a cat out of the closet for her to 'borrow.'


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Where Do We Go From Here?

As mentioned many times over the years, Jane did not take care of herself. Many of her issues would be minor annoyances for the average person, but for her, they were out of her control. Knowing what I know now, I chalk a lot of it up to her cognitive deficits that my mother in law hid from everyone, as well as the fact that Jane was babied to a great extent for most of her life.

In the 15 months since my Mother in law passed away, these deficits have come to a head on more than a few occasions. It got to the point that anything Jane told me, I'd go back and verify, because it didn't sound right.

Last week, she asked for her hospital bed, as the nursing home has her in a crank style bed that cannot be adjusted by the patient. A few weeks ago, a guy came to the door of our house looking for Jane. I'd told him she didn't live here, that she'd moved and gave him the address. His parting question "Does she still have the hospital bed?" confused me.

So I asked her about it-was she renting the bed? The response I got was that Medicare bought her the bed because she has congestive heart failure. I had my doubts. The other day, in trying to locate necessary paperwork for her Medicaid application, I found a statement. It listed 18 months of 'patient responsibility' that had not been paid. Yep, that bed was being subsidized by Medicare, but it WAS a rental.

Today, Ed and I spent the day in her apartment, sorting and pitching. Unlike the past two moves, this time, I really went through the paperwork and discovered that we moved a lot of crap that dated back to 1972. The sales receipt for her new 1973 Beetle. Pay stubs from her first job. Receipts and itineraries from every Disney trip she ever took.

I did find stuff we needed, but it was among a lot of stuff that wasn't. The thing that was irritating is that she spent so much money on Disney shit. Much of it is statuary, and to find dozens of collectibles that went for $50, $75 or even $100 when purchased reduced down to items that could not be repaired was just frustrating.

Then, there were a lot of puzzlers. Why keep an RF connector to a Sega Genesis when she never even owned one? What was up with the SEVEN blood glucose meters,especially when she didn't bother to check herself 95% of the time? Why does she own 7 of the same Pirates of the Carribean watch, all still in the original packaging? How is it that she had Ed's high school tassel?

Frustration isn't the only emotion Ed's feeling right how. I can understand his sense of helplessness at this situation, but only to an extent. Both of my parents died and I've moved through the stages. He's still going through the process of accepting the fact that his mom has died when he's faced with his sister in the final stages of her life. Pretty soon, he will be the only one left of a family of five.

It was all the more apparent when we got the call from the friends who would be notarizing and witnessing the Power of Attorney paperwork for us. They were just finishing up dinner and could meet with us at the nursing home. We hurried over to Jane's to make sure she was awake and alert and ready to go.

As is more and more common, she was asleep and barely coherent when we did get her up. I tried the Panera routine on her and Ed worked on getting her alert while I ran and got the requested soup. For some reason, she was insisting she needed to get dressed to go out, even after we told her that our friends were coming.

Then, once we got everyone in one place, she said to Ed 'is this man buying the van?' even after saying she understood that we were doing the PoA. She drifts in and out. Once done, she again expressed the desire to get dressed because she wanted to take them out to Red Lobster for dinner to thank them for helping us.

She can't move around in bed without assistance. She needs two nurses or CNAs to spend a half hour with her to get her situated to use the bathroom. Leaving the safety of the facility is NOT happening anytime soon. Really, it won't happen again, but she's still reeling from the fact that she's unable to go home. We gently tell her we can't take her out until she can get up and walk a few steps by herself.

She cried.

This is not the time to remind her of all the things the doctors told her she had to do, but didn't. Nor is it the time to give her false hope that everything is just fine and she'll be going home next week, either. So we walk a tightrope, telling her that when she can get herself into and out of the van herself, she can leave the building. Ed even told her he'd take her anywhere she wanted to go as long as she could do that.

She kept crying.

The bad part of it is that these are not tears of anger, the kind that signify that she's mad as hell and is going to do anything to prove us wrong. Instead, they are tears of defeat. Tears of "I can't, this is too hard" when we really wish they were "I'm going to beat this, no matter what the doctors are telling you."

My refrain for the past five years is that I can tell her what I see, but if she doesn't believe it herself, she won't succeed. She's pretty much bedridden and is accepting that fate instead of overcoming it.

When that's what you see every time you visit a loved one, the only thing you begin to wonder is how long until the inevitable?




Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Inspired

I don't consider myself an educator. Trainer, yes. Teacher? Maybe on a good day. However, the coursework I am studying is contained in the college of Education, so for all intents and purposes, my degree will indicate that I'm an educator when I am done.

It's a transformation that I'm slowly accepting.

Take tonight's class for instance. We were looking at common issues in the classroom and in groups, brainstorming on ways to avoid them. I come to the discussions as a parent and a special needs advocate. But as the semester progresses, I've noticed that I've started to apply the big picture mentality needed in my previous career to the discussions on teaching.

It was the same with the paper that was due today. While the topic was my choice, applying the educational perspective to it was a requirement. Two months ago, I may not have slipped into the educator shoes so easily, but now? It's making sense.

It's very exciting to recognize the changes, even as they are occurring.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Melancholy

The situation unfolding before us is a sad one. Despite seeing the writing on the wall for years and trying to offer help, it sucks when what you knew would eventually happen is staring you in the face.

Jane spends a lot of her day in a fog or sleeping. She knows it and mentioned it to the social worker. Today, the woman told me that she's asked Jane to make some end-of-life decisions.

Living Wills
Advanced Directives
Do Not Resuscitate orders

It's not something you really expect to encounter with a 58 year old woman who has health issues that (in anyone else) could be easily managed.

She has the window side of the room she's been assigned to. This means there is no room for the requested dresser, a table to put the requested television on and no place to put the various knick knacks she wanted from the apartment. Without these things, the terminal decline I've noticed will happen far more rapidly. Even the social worker agrees that Jane is not doing well.

As with all other hospitalizations, Jane's been told it is up to her to get her health back. She says she's depressed about the loss of independence, yet it's her lack of motivation to do anything about her health that caused it. No amount of begging and pleading can change that.

So we watch as the inevitable occurs and are sad at the complete and utter waste.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Before and After, the iPhoto Version

One of the things I enjoy seeing when a person is competent in Photoshop is an image like this:
has been transformed to something like this:


For a free program that comes with the Mac, the iPhoto application is pretty good. I'd really like to play with it in Photoshop and make the train sepia toned and leave the rest of the picture the natural colors.

One step at a time, though.



Saturday, February 12, 2011

Weebly

For my Internet in Education class, we're instructed to do a lot of little assignments that are designed to give students a good tour of what's out there in the big, wide, web. Tonight, I worked with one of the other blogging websites, Weebly.

If you've been reading blogs for ages, contemplated jumping in and writing your own, but haven't yet-don't use Weebly.

I've had this Blogger account for over five years, have a Live Journal blog, an account on MySpace and a couple of other sites that are now defunct. ALL of these sites are more user friendly than the Weebly site.

My main gripe is that with Blogger, I have so much flexibility with where I can place text and pictures. I can use HTML if I choose or a hybrid format (my preferred) of text and code. Adding pictures is a piece of cake, with one minor quirk (if posting five pictures, the one you want to display first is the last entered). While I've never posted pictures with either MySpace or LiveJournal, they also have straightforward publishing interfaces.

With Weebly, I posted a picture. All I could do was resize it or align it within a block the width of the window. I could not overlay a text block. If I chose to use a picture with paragraph block, the picture would come up as a dreaded red X unless I uploaded the picture first, then enter the text.

Unlike here, a comment box doesn't automatically populate with the post. Instead, users have to add one-but you can't put it immediately after the last line of text.

If it was my first effort into blogging, I doubt I would have lasted very long. Meanwhile, the few things I put up took twice as long as they should have (and about 5 times as long as putting the same material on this blog.

Sorry, Weebly, you've wobbled AND fallen down!


Friday, February 11, 2011

Shaking Things Out

I went over to Disney today with a friend, with the goal of taking pictures and getting used to the new camera. I ended up with a lot of great pictures, a lot of mediocre pictures and wore myself out.

Yesterday was the last day of Mickey's Toontown. Originally meant to last five years, the location survived more than fifteen. Heck, somewhere around here, I have pictures Ed and I took on our honeymoon, sitting in the chairs on Minnie's lanai. It was good to get some pictures for posterity.

These are the RAW images, I haven't had time to play with Bridge to crop anything yet.


The soon to be gone sign that announces Toontown.
Minnie's house.
I've always liked Edward Hopper's Nighthawks. This is a cute interpretation of the painting.
If there are flowers, I will shoot them.



When the conductor noticed my camera pointed at her, she kept waving until I gave a thumbs up.
A half hour later, when the next train arrived, I had to get this view, because it won't be seen for another year or so.
While this sign is above Goofy's Barnstormer, the same could be said about me.

In addition to tweaking my skills with a new camera, I also learned to tweak my amount of time in the park. My shelf life is apparently 3 hours, because things were manageable until then. We'll find out when I go next time.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How Many Times Does One Person Have to Call?

Apparently, if I don't answer my phone quick enough for someone's liking, I get five calls in about two hours.

Was someone dying? No. Was a house on fire? No. Was someone bleeding to death? No. Were bathroom ninjas about to attack? No. (but the cat does stand watch for those.)

Yeah, five calls. One that had 30 seconds of silence and a "Hi Sweetie, it's me". Three that had varying amounts of silence and the last one was a peeved "Nevermind. I'll talk to you tomorrow."

I was on campus, assisting at a graduate event that's kind of important to my future plans. A lesson was learned a while back with her-turn your ringer off if you're doing anything slightly important. Of course, as soon as I was done, I found the procession of messages and called back as I walked to the car.

She answered, I asked what was going on. She copped a bit of an attitude until I said I was at school. "Oh, Sorry." Seems she's been moved to her permanent room and her roommate is 'weird' and does strange stuff. And you're not weird to her with Barney purple hair and 7 teeth?

"My bed isn't a hospital bed. I need my hospital bed," in a tone that indicated she expected us to drop everything and take care of things. The response was that I'd see what Ed's schedule was like tomorrow to see if he could bring her the one she has (I later realized that she can ask them to change out the bed from their existing supplies). "I need my TV." "I want a refrigerator."

I guess this is what life will be like with us having the PoA.

Oh, and apparently, we said we'd take her to Walt Disney World. At least that's what she told Betsy. That's not happening if she can't get in and out of the van OR if she's going to fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Why waste $100 bucks on a ticket for someone who is going to sleep through the day.

One thing's for certain, she's going to keep us on our toes.

Lovely.



Wednesday, February 09, 2011

What's For Dinner Wednesday

Saturday morning, after I left my Spanish lesson, I made a quick trip to Lakeland's Curb Market. One of the bonuses of meeting downtown on Saturday morning is this little gem.

My favorite bread lady wasn't there, but I still enjoyed talking with a local photographer and visiting the vendors who had fresh veggies. That started the inspiration for today's meal, because I had some great pole beans and red bliss potatoes to pair with whatever we were to dine on tonight.

In his travels, Ed saw some Dungeness crab legs for what was really wholesale prices. A quick trip to pick some up today, and that was tonight's meal.

The thing is, I've used crab meat before, but never actually cooked crab legs or whole crabs. Half of them got steamed in a jury-rigged contraption over the boiling potatoes, while the rest were roasted in the oven. Ridiculously easy!

The best part? Chef (a/k/a Crustacean Kid) did his own crab picking and mom and dad are now off the hook when we dine out.

Yesterday, we had a nice lunch at our favorite spot, Romeo's. Ed and I enjoyed a nice lunch without the kids hogging the bread or the dessert. It IS our Cheers, and after we'd finished, the lure of the specialty pizzas called my camera. Guiseppe encouraged me to get some pictures of the sfogliatele, too. How can one resist a dessert that looks like this?

I know which dessert I'm getting on the next trip!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Affirmation

Last week's seminar I attended about doctoral programs was chock full of information about the process that lies ahead. One suggestion that came of it was to talk to everyone you encounter regularly for insights, as well as to find people to sit on your doctoral committee.

Tonight, I spoke to one of my current professors for an hour after class about the PhD. plans and what I already knew, felt comfortable with and where I needed to be. Yes, it's 18 months away, but hell, that's really not a lot of time. The time to get people in place is now.

The conversation was great. She feels that my topic is one that is not too narrow and does need exploration. We talked about how I feel about research, what it entails and what I think of USF as a whole. I love the school, but until last week, I'd thought that moving would better serve the goal of finding a mentor was an expert in either discipline.

Not exactly.

The seminar explained that you can have a mentor in your subject area and committee members who are experts in your specific interest who are from other schools. My professor confirmed that. She also suggested someone in Educational Psychology who if not a good fit would definitely have alternative faculty to help me.

Apparently, many doctoral candidates begin their programs with no idea of what they want to research! She also told me that the reason why most students at this level drop out is not lack of intelligence, but lack of passion for their topic. It stands to reason that if you're spending 3 to 5 years in research, you'd better love what you're doing, because you're going to be eating, sleeping and breathing it.

I got some good directions on where to go from here. It's almost as if I was told to follow the yellow brick road.



Monday, February 07, 2011

Almuerzo al Fresco

The stupid printer issues I mentioned the other day presented a huge problem for me. Tonight, I had to turn in a hard copy of that Photoshop project, printed in the .psd format. Despite all the efforts of troubleshooting, uninstalling and reinstalling the software, the printer has not recognized the network. (There is nothing anywhere on the HP site to correct a missing printer IP issue).

So, the document needed to be printed, what do I do? Drive over to the Poly campus, right? It was lunch time, and I decided that lunch should be from my favorite Taqueria truck. Quesadilla carnitas con salsa verde.


It sure softened the blow after I realized that the computer lab on that campus is not equipped to print .psd files.

(FedEx office came to the rescue.)

I'm going to have to find reasons to head over to that campus more often, because that Taqueria is sooooo good!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The First is Always the Most Difficult

When I was in 8th grade, my mother enrolled me in piano lessons at the urging of Mr. Thayer, my choir director. He felt that my musical talents would benefit from doing more than singing. I was given an inexpensive organ that Christmas and the lessons began a month later.

If you picture a petite Barbra Streisand with a short, dark brown perm, that would be Mindy. She gave lessons at a local guitar shop where my brother was taking lessons. While Mindy had studied piano for close to 15 years, she hated classical music, and instead taught popular music.

Along with learning the scales in each key, Mindy handed me my first song, Mozart's Minuet. It would be the only classical song I learned in my time with her. It took a month of daily practice, but the day that I was able to play it through with proper fingering and no mistakes, it sounded a lot like this:

It was rough, but even though the progress was slow, it was fun to see that I was getting closer to getting the whole thing right. The day that I did, the sense of accomplishment at finally finishing it was such a rush.

Fortunately, after that one, the songs seemed to get easier. However, they really weren't, it was just that I had conquered one, so it stood to reason that I'd master these, too. Even when I switched to a new teacher, Danny, because he'd teach me classical piano, that didn't change. Daily Hanon exercises strengthened my fingers and those tough Chopin preludes took time to get through, but they weren't nearly as intimidating as that first one.

Throughout my life, the memory of learning that minuet comes to mind when something new is vexing me. The soundtrack in my head must play it to remind me to keep plugging away, because, like that minuet, effort will be rewarded.

And so it's been for the past two weeks. One of my classes is very challenging, introducing several software packages that I've never used before. The first, Photoshop, is complex. Things can look incredible, and others show glaring mistakes. It would be the hardest program I've tackled, but the effort definitely would pay off.

Twenty or so hours reading different articles about Photoshop and listening to tutorials, I jumped in. It took a lot of time. The original vision I had for the project had to be scaled back, because I'm not an expert-yet.

After all the time that went into the project, it is done. It looks good, in fact, it looks professional, but I know that I can do better. The work that went into this one definitely will make the others better-and easier.

(once I edit out information about the recipient, I'll add it to this post)

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Why the HP Photosmart C4780 Printer Sucks

When I purchased the MacBookPro, it came with a free HP Photosmart C4780 printer. I know, I get what pay for. The thing has given me nothing but trouble since day one. First, even though the software was supposedly pre-installed on the laptop, it didn't work until I installed it manually. Then, it wouldn't see the proper install (I couldn't uninstall the one that came installed on the machine.)

As this one worked with the WiFi network, I donated our old HP all-in-one to the Boy Scout troop. Too bad the reason we kept this one, namely the WiFi capabilities, have been horrendously bad.

The scenario:

I kept getting 'printer offline' messages, even using the USB connection to the Mac. Troubleshooting nets me 'no printers are available,' but the diagnostic tells me that my network is fine.

The install printer dialog shows no printer options, until I select "I can't find my printer," then Photosmart C4780 magically appears. I go through the entire install process, then get a 'your printer is not supported' message.

WTF?

Tech support live chat nets me a person who immediately informs me that they don't support the Mac line via live mode. However, we're having the issue with the PC as well, the technician tries to walk me through things I've already done. He tells me to print out the Network Configuration checklist, and it tells me something I already know: there's no IP address for the printer.

That avenue exhausted with someone who didn't know what to do, I check the router to see what resources it has. Ed's iPhone, my iPhone, the Mac, GameTeen's DS and three unknowns (one that I know is Chef's iTouch).

I manually try entering in those unknown IPs, in the hopes of manually getting it to work, without success. Then a download of software, AFTER perusing the list on the HP support site that says my laptop came with the drivers already installed for the C4780.

Searching the Internet, this seems to be a common refrain. Many Mac users get this printer free from Apple with the purchase of their Mac computers, yet HP doesn't support Mac users in a way that is helpful.

Research has given me several answers, none of which have worked. More than a few reports out there are that people got HP to admit that there's a glitch with this model-but there is NO PATCH for the Mac users!

Guess I need to research a new printer, because I've spent half the day trying to print documents I need for a class or fiddling with this headache.

At one time, I was a huge fan of the HP product line. The last few products have really soured me on ever getting anything else with the HP badge.

Hello, Canon?



Friday, February 04, 2011

Decisions

Ed received a phone call this morning. Jane has decided that she will move to skilled care. He had a conversation with her, explaining how we've felt the past year and getting it off his chest.

The decision has been made, but how to make it happen? She didn't talk about that. I think she has assumed, once again, that we'll just take the ball and run with it. She probably expects us to deal with her apartment complex, while they will only deal with her.

We'll know more once A calls us on Monday. In the meantime, Ed called Jane back and left a message, asking her how she was handling things.

In the short run, this will be a royal pain in the ass. Once she's moved in, though, there won't be the worry that someone from the complex is going to call to tell us she's in the hospital again...

Thursday, February 03, 2011

No Denial

After yesterday's confusion, I took the bull by the horns and called the business office at Jane's rehab. I had a very pleasant conversation with the staffer that I've been playing phone tag with all week. Ultimately, we're very much on the same page that Jane should not go home, she couldn't live independently prior to the hip fracture and she certainly isn't capable of doing so now.

She asked if I could head up there and the two of us could talk with Jane about future plans, with her hope that my intervention might get Jane to agree to apply for Medicaid. As I was five minutes away, that request was quickly met. I warned her that anything I say, Jane takes as me being the mommy bossing her around and goes directly against it and also explained a little more of what happened back in October to change Jane's mind from the positive view of skilled care to her going to an even less restrictive environment.

Once there, I had a slightly interesting time with Jane. She was trying to change her clothes and having difficulty, but the goal is for her to see if she can do everything herself. In short order, A arrived at the room and the three of us talked about Jane's plans post discharge. She still insists she is going HOME, that the therapists feel she's made a lot of progress.

A burst her bubble a bit in asking what the doctor would say and what exactly she's accomplished in therapy. (I did not see her walk the entire time there, and based on an offhand comment from the nurse, she hasn't) The question of how would she do her daily things at home and Jane insisted she has a lot of help. Not quite. The conversation turned to Jane applying for Medicaid again and A was pretty gentle about what it means while being firm on the fact if she can't do it herself, she won't be discharged.

She was shaken, but this is Jane. In less than five minutes, she will take the good, ignore the bad, put them all together and lack the facts of life, the facts of life.

While this is going on, Jane's was excited to invite me to come to therapy with her to talk to P, her main therapist, to tell me how awesome she's doing. Next, "So what do you have planned for today?," which meant she was probably expecting me to be her errand girl. However, the excitement at me going to therapy and hearing them sing her praises to high heaven was written all over her face.

Alas, the bubble was burst. The reports she was giving that she had four hour sessions and they were working her really hard to the point that they're wearing her out led us to think she was having one to one sessions. I knew that was highly unlikely, given the quantity of patients they have. Six PTs, twelve patients and it was clear that while they definitely work their butts off getting patients back to good health quickly.

The therapist Jane wanted me to meet was not in the room when we arrived, so I watched for ten minutes. However, as soon as he came in, she called him away from the patient he'd gone to and introduced us. She asked him to speak with me about her progress and was quite chipper. I insisted he get his patient started and come back when he had some time.

A few minutes later, the time came. He started by asking her questions, asking where she planned to go post discharge, is she showering herself, dressing herself, walking up and down the hallways as they've asked? She dozed off through this conversation, much like the one with A earlier. (She wasn't wearing her oxygen and said "I don't need it anymore," which I doubt). He didn't mince words. "Jane, I don't think you should live alone OR in assisted living. You need the amount of care you are receiving here for the long term."

She cried. Once again, I was witness to Jane's world view being completely shattered because she wanted to prove to me that things were hunky dory the way they are. I'm the ogre for daring to question that mindset (in her eyes). Meanwhile, today I realized that as much as we wanted to get answers and schedule a sit-down with the staff, they wanted one of us to be there to witness the tough conversation. They knew she was going to deflect the news unless someone else was there asking the questions, too.

Jane told P and me that she had a bad dream the other night that she was trying to walk down a hallway alone and she couldn't move. P said that was her subconscious telling her what she refused to believe-she is no longer capable of living independently.

More crying.

Then she said she's scared of being in a nursing home because she wouldn't have her computer (they have WiFi for residents, and several do have them). She couldn't bring all her Disney stuff (I suggested choosing her favorites). She's got all her furniture (and she doesn't need it, it's a repository for junk and her clothes.) At this point, I took my leave and let her process her altered reality.

And now, it's clear that the one thing I was adamant about when she went into the hospital that we weren't doing, Ed and I will be stuck with. Once again, we're going to have to deal with Jane's apartment bullshit.

It wouldn't be so freaking annoying if she actually asked, expressed appreciation and didn't whine about the fact that we weren't doing it quick enough for her liking. Hell, she didn't unpack a bunch of boxes from moving in three months ago.



Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Clarity and Confusion

Today, I attended one of the seminars put on by the Graduate school for new students. The topic? Choosing a mentor and deciding on a thesis/dissertation topic. I had the second part, but not the first, so I went over to gain some insights.

The presenter was expert and personable. He must be really good with faces, because he mentioned where he'd seen most of the people in attendance in specific presentations he'd lead before. It was nice to get to ask questions throughout, thanks to the small group size.

My big concern was how the heck do I pick a mentor when my plans include study in two separate departments? Well, the answer is that a doctoral candidate should have several mentors. He also dispelled the myth that a mentor has to be the supreme authority in your research area. As long as the dissertation committee or mentor has an expert in that discipline, it should be good.

This was very relieving. As I begin looking at PhD. programs, the reality that there is very little research combining my two subject areas and I'd probably find an expert in one who didn't have depth of information in the other. This doesn't mean exploring other universities is off the 'to do' list, it just means that the pressure is off if I find people who will offer guidance where it is needed.

The clarity was refreshing.

On the other hand, confusion on the Jane front reigns supreme. She is still in rehab. Yes, Medicare said they'd cover SEVEN days, which ended, oh, about twenty days ago. She made an off hand comment to another family member about 750 dollars a day, but when probed, said something unintelligible.

This happens often with Jane, partly due to the painkillers, partly due to the fact that she's got about eight teeth left in her mouth. Then, add to this her habit of falling asleep at the drop of a hat and it makes things interesting.

We've agreed that the time for tough love has come. None of us here in Florida are going to drop everything for her: she decided that she can live independently, let her be independent. It was cemented by the fact that we called to get information from someone who doesn't change their story several times in a single phone call and were shut down. Jane only wanted the family informed that she was being released February 1st.

Yes, I know, that has passed. She is not home.

Yesterday, she called Ed and told him to thank me for paying her rent. Only problem is I did that on January 4th for January's rent. Was she thanking me for something I did a month ago, or was this her way of saying "You need to pay this month's rent for me." (Would you please? is an alien concept)

So, while I wanted to not say anything, I called today and got her voice mail. The message I left was "Hi. In regards to your message to Ed about paying rent, you're welcome. However, we're confused. Are you thanking me for paying the January rent, because I did that a month ago. If you're thanking me for paying this month's rent, well, I haven't done anything worth thanking.

"If you were thanking me for paying the February rent, there's the small problem of not having your checkbook to do so. Can you please clarify?"

She called back while I was in that seminar and left me a two minute message. I really wish I had a way to put that recording up here, because I still don't know what the hell she's said, and I listened to it eight or nine times!

It went like this:
5 second pause
"Hi, sweetie, it's Jane"
15 second pause, where it seems like she dozed off
"Hi sweetie, it's Jane" (as if this were a new phone call)
10 second pause
"Listen, they're keeping me here because they want me to do some garblegarblegarble to see if I'm going independent unintelligible. Can you believe they don't think garblegarblegarble?"
25 second pause where I think she fell asleep again, because she grunts as if jerked awake.
"So, that would fine if you did. Let me know what you think. garble garble garble. Okay, bye"
15 second pause before she hangs up the phone.

Somehow, I don't think a PhD. will help me to decipher that message.


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Phew!

Since yesterday, I spent an obscene amount of time reviewing Photoshop articles for class, attended a class in which an amazing photojournalist spent two hours netting down the important features of that program for us. Then I came home and wrote my first 'real' grad school paper. Oh, and I colored my hair.

This morning, up before the sun to get showered, dressed really nice, drove to Tampa and spent the day interviewing five more candidates for that committee I'm on. (Frankly, three of those people probably were unable to fly back home today). Then back on campus for another three hour class, the one which I submitted my prose at 11pm last night.

It was already graded. The professor who wrote in her syllabus that we'll get B's in her class gave me an A. That stupid syllabus gave me writer's block because if above average work gets a B, then how is my undergrad A writing going to measure up. I'm sure hoping this is a good sing.

And I am so very sore from sitting in chairs that push on the neurological hot spots for 12 hours.

At least tomorrow's Photoshop marathon can be spent on a couch, with my legs elevated.