Friday, July 30, 2010


Check it out:
*photo of Bumblebee sitting on the sofa:

Bumblebee is seven today.

I took the day off and am having a great day with her. Will post the details later.

Happy Birthday to my sweet Bumblebee!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Providing emotional support to a parent is HARD.

The rambling thoughts that make up this post aren't a particularly flattering depiction of my character. But they're honest, and something I'm struggling with. This summer will definitely go down as one of the most stressful times of my life.

Last night my aunt called me and asked me to give Dad an update on my Grandpa and Grandma. Grandpa had to have emergency surgery, and even though he made it through the surgery, he'll be in the ICU for a short time. Grandma is recovering from a painful ordeal with shingles and is very weak.

As you know, Dad has a lot on his plate right now. It stressed me out to add more to his burden, but I had no choice; he needs to know how things are back home.

Before I made the call, I sat on my porch swing for a while and focused on my breathing, mustering up the strength to make the call. I knew it would be rough. I needed to explain the situation delicately, taking care to strike a balance that would make him understand that Grandpa's situation is serious and not to be taken lightly but that he's stable and Dad shouldn't worry.

Many times talking with my Dad is like speaking to a child. He's so emotionally fragile that he often breaks down and cries over anything. He's been like this for as long as I can remember; it's not a character trait brought on by his struggle with MJ's cancer. I have a hard time when this happens because I just don't know what to do. My body tenses and I freeze up. I murmur words of comfort and encouragement like I would if a young child fell down and scraped her knee.

Except that this is so much worse than just a scraped knee. My dad is struggling with his wife dying, his parents are both aging and facing serious health concerns, his eyesight and hearing are declining so much that he feels cut off from the world, and he's 850 miles away from his home. His burden is heavy. But when he breaks down and cries to me, I feel so inadequate and uncomfortable. The self-centered child inside of me throws a tantrum and says Hey, I'm the kid here. I shouldn't have to be the strong one. Supporting a parent is weird.

I don't think of myself as an emotionally stunted person but giving comfort and helping my father with these issues is much more draining than I expected. I struggle because he is more fragile than I am. He becomes overwhelmed and distraught over something as trivial as not being able to figure out how to leave a comment on Facebook, and he obsesses over not receiving all of his mail. The things that reduce him to tears would either piss me off, or be nothing more than a blip on my emotional radar. I'm ashamed to admit that his inability to deal with even small things exasperates me sometimes; I feel smothered by his neediness.

My frustration horrifies me.

How can I be impatient with him when he is going through hell right now? I try with every ounce of my energy to make sure he doesn't see the frustration I feel. That would hurt him even more.

It's a delicate balance, because I have my own life to live and I need to preserve my sanity (assuming I'm still in possession of it) and make time for my family but I feel a responsibility to do everything I can to help Dad and MJ. I'm doing my best to be supportive.

I made the call and gave Dad the update on Grandpa and Grandma. I talked with him about MJ's health and how she's doing emotionally. It was tough and uncomfortable and there were tears. But it was also okay. He took the news better than I expected and we had a nice chat.

After I got done talking with Dad, I called my mother-in-law. We've both had busy summers and I haven't had a chance to visit with her in a while. We talked for over an hour. It was so nice to vent a little bit and chat about all sorts of topics. A light conversation with a dear friend is just what I needed after the stress of the phone call.

And, here it is, I'll admit it: A little sympathy and emotional support from her felt pretty good too. Sometimes we all need it, I guess.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A day on the water...

We were supposed to go on our summer vacation to Eastern Tennessee this week, but because sometimes God has different plans for us all, and we went to New York to help Dad and MJ instead, we aren't able to afford the trip. I'm a little bummed by it (I could use the time off work!) but we've been trying to do many daytime outings as possible with the kids.

We decided to take the boat out for a little joy ride yesterday. Hollywood had to work, so it was just The Boy, Bumblebee, The Husband, Reggie and me. I packed a picnic lunch and we piled into the rusty old pickup truck that carries the boat trailer.

At first it seemed that the universe didn't want us to go. The first lake we went to only has two open boat ramps because of flooding. When we got there, a park ranger told us that the ramps were full. There's another lake close by, a much smaller no-wake lake, so we decided to go there. The Husband drove by one boat ramp and there was nowhere to park, so he drove to another one. It was open, but someone had their boat and trailer parked at a weird angle, so it was interesting to say the least when TH backed the trailer down the boat ramp.

I get so nervous when we're backing into the water! What if he were to accidentally slam the gas and the truck would fly into the water? That didn't happen, thankfully, but once we got the boat in the water, and the truck parked in the parking lot, the motor (or is it called an 'engine' on a boat? I have no idea) wouldn't start. Turns out the battery was dead.

So we went home. The Husband worked on the boat and borrowed some kind of boating equipment of our neighbor's. TH called them earmuffs which confuses me because even though he tried to explain the purpose of this piece of equipment, I still have no idea what he's talking about. At any rate, he got the battery charged and we did take two of the boat trip.

Take two was much more successful:
*photo of The Boy and Bumblebee on the boat:

Bumblebee was more excited about getting to have a Mountain Dew than she was to take a boat ride. Reggie enjoyed the ride too:
*photo of Bumblebee, The Boy, and Reggie on the boat:
Boating 2010

At times, when the boat got going to fast, or when it seemed tippy when the weight wasn't distributed evenly (remember, it's only a small fishing boat) Bumblebee would get nervous. She was very skeptical that the boat wasn't going to flip:
*photo of Bumblebee with a skeptical look on her face:
Vali was skeptical about the safety of the boat when it got going faster.

She took cues from The Boy who was relaxed and having a great time. (Can you believe how big and handsome my little man is getting?)
*photo of The Boy on the boat:
Jake Boating 2010

A little more encouragement from Mom:
*photo of Bumblebee with me on the boat:

and some more from Dad:
*photo of Bumblebee with TH on the boat:

And before long, she was enjoying the ride without fear:
*photo of The Boy and Bumblebee on the boat; Bumblebee's hands are up in the air:
I love this one!

It was all a bit much for Reggie, who flopped down in the boat and took a nap:
*photo of Reggie sleeping in the boat:

It was a great day to be out on the water. Today is supposed to be perfect. 83 degrees, sunny, and low humidity. I can't decide if we should go hiking or to the beach. Or maybe a bike ride... So many options on a sunny summer day!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today's my mom's birthday.

She's a pretty cool chick, that mom of mine.

Here she is with my kiddos:
*photo of the kids - Bumblebee is hanging off of mom's waist:

And here she is with me:
*photo of mom and me:

She's getting pretty lazy in her old age. Which is why she spends her free time doing crazy things like traveling, making beer and wine, and biking. This weekend she will go on her first RAGBRAI (a seven day bicycle ride where crazy people cycle across the entire state of Iowa.)

My entire life, people have always told me how amazing my mother is. I agree with them. She's an awesome role model, and one of those happy success stories. She has never let being blind prevent her from doing anything that she wants to do. And I respect her for that.

But do you want to know why I think she's amazing?

Just because she's Mom.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A day at the beach

The beach at the lake. 90 degree heat. Sunshine. Puffy clouds. Water. A light breeze. People watching. My children playing together. Swimming in the murky water. Laughter. Serenity.
*photo collage of the kids at the lake:
Beach collage

Summer, will you marry me?

Friday, July 16, 2010

A smile for your Friday...

Can you look at this picture without smiling?

Go on. Give it a try. I dare you.
*photo of Bumblebee holding Grandma's dog Tiny:

Look at that big cheesy grin on Bumblebee's face.

The fluffball who weighs as much as a throw pillow is Tiny, my grandma's pup. She's a fierce attack dog. If you look closely, you can see her weapon. That tongue will lick you to death if you're not careful.

If you're not smiling, your heart is made of stone. Happy Friday!

We're taking the fam camping for the weekend. It'll be hot as heck out there, but I'm still looking forward to it!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I'm long overdue for a pupdate, wouldn't you say?

Remember Reggie, our sweet little puppy?
*picture of Reggie as a puppy:
Reggie loves snow 2

You know, the one we got just a few short months ago? The same pup who I lovingly refer to as "little dude" in the sidebar of my blog?

Well check him out now:
*picture of a much larger Reggie:

Not so little anymore, huh? In fact, he's sixty pounds. And he's only seven months old. We sure love the "little" guy.

Yesterday was a big day for him. He had a vet appointment where he was neutered, had a microchip inserted, and had several vaccinations.

My poor puppy. I thought he'd sleep all night. They said he'd be groggy. It's funny how medications affect creatures differently. He wasn't quite himself, and he certainly didn't have the normal spring in his step that he usually has. I expected him to lay next to me on the sofa like he usually does when I'm reading a book. Instead, he wandered aimlessly around the house, walking from room to room. Just walking. Restless. Spacey. Kind of like a dog zombie.

I sure hope he's back to normal soon. Zombies freak me out.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Cancer Chronicles, Part 8

I had a nice long visit with my Dad and Mary Jane this weekend.

Dad seems to be OK. His hearing isn't great, but he is able to talk on the cell phone and can follow the conversation reasonably well. This is an improvement over direct conversation, so it's good to actually get to hear his side of things. My aunt was visiting them last week and he was telling me that he taught her how to make one of the wooden pens that he loves to make in his free time.

He also told me about a visit from MJ's granddaughters, and he sounded happy that they were able to spend the day with the girls. He's handling the situation with a strength that I didn't know he had. He is concerned about what will happen after Mary Jane dies and he moves back to Iowa. Because he can't drive, he's afraid of becoming a burden on people. We will have to figure out what the best situation is for Dad, but there will be time to figure that out later.

Mary Jane was in a happy mood when I talked to her. She has such a big heart. She was all set for a hot air balloon ride last week. She has been wanting to take this ride since before she and Dad got married. On Thursday, the weather was really humid, and the balloon operator, who is aware of her health conditions, told her that he wouldn't take her up in that humidity. He explained that she wouldn't be able to breathe well, and he wanted her to enjoy the ride. Her sons were concerned that he was just putting off the ride that was already paid for, and they were worried that it would upset MJ to have the ride postponed. She explained in that matter of fact way, that she was glad the balloon ride man postponed the trip. She believes that he's a good person, and that he wants her to enjoy the ride.

She was telling me all about a conversation she had with someone from the Social Security Disability office. The woman was gathering her information, and the paperwork for her case was all messed up. The SSD office hadn't received any updated medical information, they only had the information from prior to the cancer diagnosis. MJ was calmly listing the scores of doctors she has seen since then, and providing the woman with telephone numbers. She told the woman that the hospice team answers one line, and was preparing to give her the telephone number, when the woman stopped her. "You're already in hospice care?" She asked MJ.

MJ explained that she was. The woman asked her to tell her the diagnosis, and when she explained that she has cancer in her kidneys, lungs, liver, bones, brain, etc., etc., the woman on the phone was horrified. She started to cry and told her that she was so sorry that Mary Jane had to tell her all of this. Apparently this information should have been provided to the case worker by the doctors, but for whatever reason, that hadn't happened.

Mary Jane was cheerful about it. "Don't feel bad. You're helping me, and it's worth explaining this to you for that."

I can only imagine what that poor case worker thought. I'm sure she deals with that on a regular basis, but she was choked up by MJ's case, probably because of the matter of fact way that she delivered the information.

MJ mentioned to me that if she hadn't seen the results of the X-rays, the CT Scans, etc, she would call all of the doctors crazy and tell them that she just has a bad case of asthma. She doesn't feel like she has cancer, she told me. Her arm is sore where she broke it, and her back bothers her where the large kidney tumor is located. But it feels to her like the normal aches and pains of a 57 year old.

The thought of that is interesting. And scary. I am working on The Husband to go in for a physical. He hasn't had one in 10 years, and is due for some routine tests. I have to work on him to get him to do these things, but I'm being pretty vigilant about it, so I hope he'll go soon, just to be safe.

If nothing else, this whole situation with MJ is reminding me how important yearly physicals are. I don't know that her cancer would have been caught earlier. Probably not, but I guess you never can tell.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Scenes from a Small Town Parade

We went to the Fourth of July parade today in my hometown. The rain held off just long enough for the hordes of children to collect their candy in relative dryness. Their feet were wet from jumping in puddles along the street to chase after tootsie rolls.

I used to work at the Maid-Rite here:

Check out the guy smoking on the tailgate of his truck:

Here is the crew, sans the photographer. Brother Z and his fiancee, Bumblebee, Hollywood, and my cousin Emma:

Here are the girls before the parade started. I love the mural on the wall behind them:

The parade started with the police and fire department:

This guy with the bagpipes led a procession of veterans. Everyone stood up to clap for them and the men removed their hats as a sign of respect. This kind of thing makes my throat tight:

The band was playing the Newton fight song. "We're loyal to you, Newton High... Loyal and true, Newton High..." Ah. The memories:

This old steam engine was a favorite of the kids:

Bumblebee was disappointed that the cheer squad wasn't doing cheers as they passed her:

She was happy to see Mario! And he came up to say hi to the girls:

These little kid cars were fun:

This float was for a hair salon. The bubbles were everywhere and the kids liked chasing after them as much as the candy!

My hometown is proud of their speedway, so race cars were a sight to see at the parade too:

The horses were beautiful! This one had glitter in her mane:

Here we are at the end of the parade:

Hope everyone had a wonderful and safe holiday weekend!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Music Rant

Oh Rob Thomas. I love you. I really do. Your sexy singing voice is rivaled only by 1989 Jon Bon Jovi. Seriously, the song "Bent" makes me swoon.

And I love your lyrics. They're typically well written, full of meaning, and they evoke emotions that I can identify with. Well, except for this one:

"She thinks that happiness is a mat that sits on her doorway"

I don't know what that means. But it's OK. I don't need to know. It's a good song and you are a great singer.

But I absolutely can't listen to your latest song. Which is a shame, because the melody is quite nice and catchy and the musical arrangement is on par with the rest of your repertoire.

But holy crap, Rob. Did you fail your fourth grade language arts class?

(Here's the song, for those of you who aren't familiar with it.)

The offending lyrics are in the chorus, and as such are repeated throughout the song. And as far as I can tell, the grammar infraction isn't done to create a rhyme or for any other purpose.

You and me tried everything
But still that mocking bird wont sing
Well man this life seems hard enough
Well maybe we ain't meant for this love

Really, Rob? "You and **ME** tried everything?"

Why must you make my ears bleed?

I feel that I must educate you on this point. When you have two subjects in a sentence, and you are confused about whether to use "you" or "I", you should ask yourself this question:

If this sentence was only about me, which word would I use?

I'll tell you, Rob. You should use the word "I" in this sentence!! Would you say "Me tried everything?"

Well, you might if you were a caveman capable of multi-syllabic word formation. But I don't think you're a caveman, Rob.

I'll be fair, though. Another one of my favorite singers makes a blunder like this too, though it's not in the chorus of his song, so I can just plug my ears and sing 'la la la' when the verse comes up instead of switching radio stations like I have to when "Mockingbird" comes on.

Keith Urban's "Tonight I Want to Cry" has the following verse:

Alone in this house again tonight
I got the TV on, the sound turned down and a bottle of wine
There's pictures of you and I on the walls around me
The way that it was and could have been surrounds me

"Pictures of you and I?" Ack! It makes me shudder.

Please, fellas. Stop. Didn't you ever have to read Strunk and White?