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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Must Stop Brain Mush!

I have decided to learn to speak Italian. Why? You may ask. Did she meet a tall, dark and handsome stranger from a far away land? Pissshhhh, I hardly even get to leave the house and when I do my dad is pretty much always with me. Is she planning an extended exotic trip to Italy? Sadly, no. Does she have a new career path in mind that speaking another language would help with? Again I say pissshhhh! For pretty much the same reason.

The simple answer is this, the last seven months have been mostly filled with washing soiled jeans and underwear, and doing dirty dishes. Most of my conversations are with my dad, who has a hard time remembering what he just told me, and tells me again. Our main conversations are about the weather and the squirrel who lives in our tree outside the window. Don't get me wrong, I am glad to have this time with Dad. I love him very much. I don't say these things out of contempt, they are just the plain truth of it. 

Which brings me to why. I need something to stimulate my brain to keep it from turning to mush! One day I was messing around on iTunes and found the "App of the Year." It is called DuoLingo. It is a free language learning app. Yup, free. I like free. I downloaded it to my phone and checked it out. It has a very limited number of languages. Again it is FREE! I looked them over and decided Italian would be my attempted language. Why not! I thought to myself. Yes, yes, Spanish probably would have been the wiser, more useful choice. Since, I don't get out much anyway, it really wouldn't do me all that much good either. I'm not sure why Italian appealed to me, it just did.

After I played around on it for a week or so, I texted my two best friends, Dawn and Kelley, and made a pact with them. I would learn Italian, one of them would learn French, the other would learn Spanish or German and one day we would go kidnap our other best friend from high school Kathy, and we would all go tour Europe together. It is happening, Kathy, deal with it! I just got Mary in on it, too, so you are going!!

Anyway, so far it has been fun. Sometimes frustrating, spelling in Italian is tricky, and I can't even spell in English. I'm sure that is no surprise to anyone, though. Thank goodness for spell check or my posts would probably be unreadable. One thing DuoLingo has definitely taught me is how to spell restaurant. See, I just spelled it! WITHOUT spellcheck. Before, I couldn't even come close enough for spell check to figure out what I was trying to spell. Drove me nuts! Now, I can spell it in English and Italian. Ristorante. See.

The hard part for me so far, which I think I'm starting to figure out, is that there are feminine and masculine words. For instance, zucchero, (sugar) is masculine. As a masculine word that begins with z, the proper way to say "the sugar" is "lo zucchero." Now, jacket, is "giacca." It is feminine. So, "the jacket" is "la giacca." See how "the" changed. Oh and it doesn't stop there. There are plurals. "The jackets" becomes "le giacche." "The woman," is "la donna," while "the women" is "le donne." Most feminine words end in the letters "a" or "e," but not always. For instance, elephant. In Italian it is elefante. Ends in an "e" but is masculine. So, the elephant, is "il elefante," plural is "i elefanti."

Verbs, are pretty confusing, too. The verb changes depending on who is doing the action. For instance, eat. "I eat" is "Io mangio," or just "mangio." "You eat" is, "tu mangia," or just "mangia." "We eat," "Noi mangiamo" or just "mangiamo."  "They eat," "loro mangiano," or just "mangiano." See how mangia, or "eat" changes. You don't really even need the the pronoun. It is just as correct to say, "Mangiamo i panini," (we eat the sandwiches) as it is to say "Noi mangiamo i panini."

Oh, and one of the fun things about DuoLingo are some of the sentences. There is a mouse in Italy who is surely dying of diabetes, but becomes quite a tasty snack for many animals. Il topo mangia lo zucchero, e la torta, e beve limonata. ( the mouse eats the sugar, and the cake and drinks lemonade.) Allora, un gatto, o un uccello, o un altro animale, mangia il topo, ogni tempo.  (then a cat, or a bird, or another animal eats the mouse, every time.) E lo zucchero e' importante a ricetti nella italia. (and sugar is important to recipes in Italy.) Every thing seems to need sugar.

Of course I have made sure to learn the most important words of all, gelato di cioccolata. If I ever get to go to Italy, I will for sure be able to ask for chocolate ice cream! I am good to go! Ok, yeah, maybe I should learn the word for bathroom, too.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Wee Bit of Spring

A couple of weeks ago when the evil, evil polar vortex hit, I was at the grocery store. As I walked in I saw some hyacinth bulbs in little glass vases filled part way with water. I looked at them and started to go past them. 

 I took four steps and backed back up to them. I looked again. They were $3.99. I started to walk away again. I didn't even get my foot on the ground from the first step and changed my mind. I looked the little bulbs and the leaves popping out of them. I decided I needed a little spring in the house.
 After careful scrutiny I picked one. It looked to be growing well and have a good thick root system. I set my sites on the future spark of spring that would be growing in my house.
 I walked around the store, with my precious bit of spring. Finished my shopping, and went home. I pulled my little flower to be out of its protective bag. The bag kept it warm while the temperatures outside were so "kill me now" cold.
 I put it on the counter. Willie looked at me like I was a wee bit crazy. A look I am so familiar with, it never phases me any more. I found the perfect spot where it would get a lot of sunshine, and not be too cold.
 I gave it water and turned it regularly, to help it grow straight. I took care of it, through all of the turmoil that has been going on lately.
 Now, It is blooming and making my house happily fragrant. It is the wee bit of Spring I needed. It makes me happy and feel just a bit warmer on this "are you kidding me" cold day.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Happy Birthday Valerie!!!!

Yesterday,was Valerie's first 29th birthday!! (I know, I'm late with another of my children's birthday posts. It was a really rough week, ok. Did you read my last post?)
Is it just me or does she look like she's
claiming victory over her birthday cake?
Anyway, this beautiful little baby of mine, my first, has grown up into a hard working, smart, determined woman who knows what she wants and makes it happen. She is still beautiful and more so everyday, inside and out. She makes me proud, and I love her so much!
 I guess she was bound to go to Iowa State from early on.
And I think graduating high school as a Bulldog, was also destined! 

 You are and will always be my baby, like it or not. I can't wait to see what you are going to do with your next 29 years!

Happy Birthday Val Val!!!!


The Stubborn Young Sailor

Dad is a World War II vet. He was a SeaBee in the Navy. He is very proud of that time of his life. He joined the Navy before he was eighteen. He went to Rhode Island to train, and eventually ended up in the Philippines. There he was part of a crew that built air strips. 

At times, the building crews had to share the airstrip they were working on with the aircraft they were building it for. There were safety rules. When the crews were working on one side of the strip, the planes were to go down the other. Pretty simple, in theory. As in all parts of life there are variables that can make theories dissolve, and when they do the consequences can be disastrous. 

Dad was on a piece of machinery working on an airstrip. A plane started down the runway. The pilot didn't see Dad or the bulldozer he was on. Dad didn't see or here the plane coming. The plane came down the middle of the strip, Dad was hit and his leg torn off. 

He was rushed to the hospital. They gave him blood in both arms. One doctor said they'd never get him off the table. Dad, the stubborn young sailor, loved proving doctors wrong. That stubborn young sailor refused to die. 

That stubborn young sailor has done well by Dad all of these years. He has gotten Dad thru all sorts of scary and life threatening situations. He got him through a triple coronary bypass in 1988. He got him thru placement of stents five years ago. He has gotten him thru years of blood thinners, for atrial fib. 

At the beginning of this year, Dad got a bad cold. He was miserable, coughing and coughing and coughing. It kept him up at night, it was awful. His abdomen and ribs were very, very sore from all of the coughing. 

One day he started doubling over from the pain in his abdomen. I thought he must have pulled a muscle  in his groin with all of the coughing. As the cough finally went away, the pain did not. I figured it needed a day or two to get back to normal. 

Then dad didn't have a bowel movement for two days. The pain seemed to be worsening. I figured he must be constipated and gave him some miralax. That day he had two bowel movements. Not his normal toilet buster bowel movements though. The pain was still there. Now I was getting worried. I was afraid he had a partial bowel obstruction. I decided to take him into the hospital. 

Dad is very comfortable at the Des Moines VA hospital. He has been a patient there probably sixty years. Since I thought it was either a partial bowel obstruction, or still maybe a pulled muscle I decided to give in to his request to drive all the way to Des Moines, instead of just going to Iowa City.

When we got there, they sent him down to Xray, and then back to a room to wait. And wait, oh, yeah, and wait. An hour or so later, they came in to draw some labs. More waiting. Soon the doctor came in to talk to him, and left. More waiting. Dad was getting tired and frustrated. He just wanted to go home. Suddenly all of the waiting changed. They came in and told us his INR, which measures how well his blood thinner was working, was at 8.9. Our jaws dropped. I looked at my sister and she looked at me. we were in shock. This is very high. The goal for him was between 2 and 3. His last INR which had just been a week before was 1.3 which was low. The doctors had raised his dose 2 mg on one day, only one day. We still don't know what made it rise so high so fast. 

The doctors started thinking Dad's abdominal aortic aneurysm  might be leaking. The last time it had been measured it was at 6 cm. Usually, it is recommended that surgery be performed to fix a AAA at 5 cm. Dad had decided against surgery at that time. Since then, he has decided against any surgeries or any invasive procedures. My sister and I support him on this. He has never gained his strength back after his gall bladder surgery last February. He doesn't come out of anesthesia well. Any more surgeries would just be more dangerous than helpful. He's done with being cut open. He's done with being poked or prodded. The doctor thought his AAA might be leaking. If that was the case, without surgery he would die. 

We talked to dad again. The doctor was in the room. Did Dad understand that with out the surgery that he would die? Was Dad ready for that possibility? I made him tell us and the doctor what would happen without surgery. "I'll have a peaceful death," was his answer. Even if the AAA was leaking, no surgery would be performed. 

It was a weekend, and they had to call a CT tech in to do the scan. It would be a little while before they could get it done. Stacey and I started making calls. I called my kids, to let them know what was going on with Grandpa. I told them I'd let them know as soon as I knew anything. 

Finally the CT scan was done and read. He had a bleed between the outer layer of a muscle and the muscle itself. They asked if he had fallen recently, he hadn't. The AAA was fine though, no leaking, it was a little larger, but stable. That was a huge relief. However he wasn't out of the woods. The bleed could still be dangerous enough to kill him. There was a fairly simple procedure that could be done, but it involved anesthesia and Dad didn't want that either, again my sister and I agreed and supported him. The decision was made to start an IV and give Dad fresh frozen plasma to bring down the INR, slow down the bleeding, and hope the pressure from the the hemotoma that formed might stop the bleeding. 

It worked. The stubborn young sailor that loves to prove doctors wrong was back. They kept Dad in the hospital until his blood count and INR were safe to go home. Thursday, his INR was 1.3, his hemoglobin was 9. It was decided to take him off of all blood thinners for at least a month. This meant a substantially increased risk for stroke. It was either that or risk another major bleed. It was all explained to him, and he seemed to understand. Dad was just happy to be going home. 

Right as we were leaving to make the hour and a half trip home, a freak, unexpected blizzard hit. The National Weather Service didn't even issue a blizzard warning until after it had started, that's how unexpected it was. We had stopped to drop off Kahlen's booster seat to Alyssa before we headed out of town. When I went in the house, the weather was fine, windy but fine. When I walked out five minutes later, it was snowing so hard you could barely see across the street. 

Dad and I got out of Des Moines and ahead of the blizzard.  By the time we got to Newton we had gotten out of the snow. We had to stop at a Casey's for dad to go to the bathroom. He had a large, unpleasant accident in Casey's bathroom, and I spent the next half hour cleaning him and the bathroom up. By the time we got back out the blizzard had caught up with us again. It was a long drive. It took us four hours to get home. Luckily, by the time we got to Bel Plaine we were out of the snow, and the interstate was dry, otherwise it may have been another hour or two.


Fast forward to Saturday night. About 8 pm Dad called me into his room. He was having chest pain. It was bad enough he couldn't lie down, and he was having trouble breathing. He is always short of breath, it is hard to tell when he is in distress. I could tell he was in distress. I gave him a nitro pill to put under his tongue. I set my phone timer for five minutes and waited. No relief. I repeated the process two more times. Still no relief. I called an ambulance. Willie went out to clear the walk and the ramp.

The ambulance arrived quickly and off to Iowa City we went. (I have decided that from now on when Dad has to go to the emergency room for anything, it will be the VA in Iowa City, so much nicer than the one in Des Moines!) We got there, the doctor had already read over Dad's history and knew a lot about him. They drew labs and started a nitro drip, which made him feel much better. It was probably angina. They admitted him for the night so they could watch his cardiac enzymes.

Without doing any procedures there were limits to what they could do for Dad. He couldn't go home on a nitro drip. He was already on a med, ranexa, that is basically a last ditch effort to stop angina pain. He was being told that this chest pain could be his new normal. It might be something he just has to live with. I didn't like that. I asked about stronger pain meds. Those, I was told, weren't very good at controlling angina pain, and could make him at greater risk for dizziness and falls. The last thing he needs is to fall and break a hip. Between his angina, and the arthritis in his neck, and his "good" leg always hurting and back pain, the man is in enough pain, he doesn't need to have a broken hip the rest of his life.

They decided to add one more med. Another nitrate, Isosorbide. This is it, if it doesn't work, he has to be in more pain. They gave him the first dose in the hospital to make sure that it didn't plunge his blood pressure. It seemed to help, and his BP stayed stable. He got to go home.

Today, Dad seems in good spirits, but didn't have the energy to get out of bed. He hasn't eaten much today. Just a banana and a few bites of scrambled eggs. I talked to him this morning. I told him that when he is ready, it is ok if he wants to let go. I told him my sister and I would miss him terribly, but we would be ok.

 He has been in so much pain for so long, he deserves a break. He is so tired. The stubborn young sailor is still hoping to stick around, but I think the very tired, old man, is ready to slap that kid around and tell him it is time to rest. The very tired old man, doesn't want to hurt anymore.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Rough Week

The end of 2013 and beginning of 2014 Has been a rough one for Dad. He caught a bad cold, I'm not sure how, neither Willie nor I have had one. Never the less, he has been miserable. I mean influenza miserable, but he hasn't had a fever at all. On top of it all, he ended up with pink eye in both eyes. Life has not been kind to him this last week.

His home health nurse came, his lungs were clear, his oxygen level was fine. With the weather being so cold, I didn't want to take him out unless it was necessary.
sound asleep
One day he tried to make himself feel better. He got up, got dressed and came out to the front room. He tried very hard to read the paper. However, sleep got the best of him and he was on the same page all afternoon. He didn't eat well, and went to bed early.

The next few days he stayed in bed. I noticed that his eyes were getting red and had a white discharge in them. I called the doctor and he called an eye drop into a local pharmacy. They didn't want us to bring him in if we didn't need to, either.

His cough got worse, and I was considering taking him into the ER. He insisted he didn't want to go, so I decided to wait one more day. Yesterday he woke up and was feeling better. Not good, but better. He ate his breakfast and got out of bed all day. Today he is a little better still. He stayed up all day and even watched the end of the Packers/49ers game with Willie.

I think my dad likes football. I think he likes it a lot. He hasn't watched it that I can ever remember, but I think that was because my mom convinced him he didn't like it. My brother and sister never liked it either, so Dad just never got to watch it, until now. When Willie is watching a game, my dad will stay up later and watch it with him. Now, he doesn't stay up for evening games, but he stayed up clear until 7:30 tonight to see the end of the 49ers game. He also watched the Army/Navy game, and was happy with how that turned out, and even watched Iowa's bowl game on New Years, even though he was in his room sick. Poor guy was sick on his birthday.

On a completely different subject, I think, maybe, just maybe, we need a humidifier. Poor Bazinga has been having some very bad hair days.
And.... he desperately needs a bath. I took this picture because he was using Mia as a pillow. When I looked at it, I realized just how desperately. He is a Maltese, after all. Which means he is supposed to be white. He's not getting that bath until the temperature gets into the 30's again. He is not arguing about that. He just thinks Mia is too white. He says  she needs to get dirty to match him and all will be just fine. It is HER issue, not his. He really doesn't see the problem.