Monday, December 28, 2009

Cat in Plastic Bin

Note paw hanging over edge.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Christmas was pleasant; everyone enjoyed their loot, I think, although Mom was having trouble identifying objects and didn't seem sure what to make either of the scarf Liz crocheted for her (at Mom's express request) or of my cat belt. Oh well. I hope that somewhere along the line, she'll understand what they are and what they mean.

I got lots of nice stuff: a great travel mug, a CD of old-time fiddle music, a book of British Isles fiddle tunes, a lovely necklace (from Mom, who made it for herself from turquoise beads several years ago), and a book of artwork from the Peter Jackson LotR adaptations. Oh, and when I got here, my mother had me go through footwear she can no longer use because her feet have gotten bigger, and that netted me three pairs of boots, two pairs of shoes and some sneakers. I'll have to ship a box home; there's no way all this is fitting in my suitcase.

So then, of course, today we shopped. I got yarn for my sister and nephew's socks (and some for myself), several 2010 calendars -- two for the house and one for my purse -- and a belt on sale at the Gap. Liz got some books of crochet sock patterns and assorted calendars, and bought me a nice hat from the Gap. My nephew got a lot of new clothing. We had a fun lunch and went to a pretty (although overcrowded) museum. So it was a great day, despite absolutely pouring rain.

I've been having fun practicing my fiddle here, although my repertoire's become severely limited now that Christmas carols are no longer appropriate. Relatives and cats have all been very patient with the noise. Felicity seems to have handled travel fine, and actually sounds better here, possibly because of the greater humidity.

Okay, I'm done blogging for today, I promise. I have to go upstairs and see if Mom wants to be put to bed.

Liz and Her Sock

My sister's crocheting a pair of socks while I knit another pair. Here she is holding up her first toe.

Philly Kitty

This kitty, Quinn, is one of six in my sister's household. Luckily, they get along pretty well!

Putting Mom to Bed

Last night Mom woke me up twice. Once she yelped, I think -- my memory's hazy -- and my nephew and I both woke up (we're in rooms next to each other, down a short hall from her room) and called in unison, "Are you all right?" I got up and went to investigate; she'd just gotten back from the bathroom and was cold, so I helped her find slippers and draped a sweater over her shoulders and sat with her for a while (she was sitting on the edge of her bed) before I went back to bed. That was about 3:30, I think. Around 6:00, I heard more yelping and got up. She was still sitting on the edge of her bed. She told me that she'd lain down, but the sweater wasn't mussed, so I was skeptical. She said she was having trouble breathing; when I saw her oxygen tube on the floor, I understood why. I got it in place again and asked if I should call 911, and Mom said tartly, "Oh, good heavens, no: if we did that, they'd be here all the time." I checked her oximeter -- below 90% -- and cranked her concentrator up from 3 liters to 3.5, which helped.

She said she was still cold. I helped her lie down and covered her with blankets, and she relaxed right away. (My sister said later that a lot of her breathing trouble seems to come from fear of not being able to breathe as much as actual difficulty breathing; her O2 levels are always best when she's lying down and relaxed, rather than sitting up and tense). We talked for a while, mostly about my father ("I think about him a lot," Mom said, "but not sadly"), and then I got into bed with her and put my arm over her. My mother's often disliked physical contact, especially when she isn't feeling well, but she held my hand and squeezed it. After a whlie she seemed safely asleep, so I went rather groggily back to my own bed.

My sister woke me up several hours later for a shopping trip we'd planned yesterday; more on that in the next post. We went into Mom's room and she told my sister how I'd "put her to bed" and how much she loved it when I got into bed with her. "I loved it," she said. "Loved it. I cherished it. I wish you could do it every night." Over dinner tonight, she called me her "night-time elf."

I was very moved that she was so happy to have me there, and was so articulate about it. One of my abiding regrets about my father is that I didn't spend a lot of time just sitting with him, not nearly as much as he'd have liked (although, in fairness, I couldn't, because I was running around trying to manage both his life and my own). So putting Mom to bed was a luxury for me as well as for her, and it was also a welcome break for my sister, who's usually the one to respond to all middle-of-the-night calls.

I must say, though, that I'd rather all this hadn't happened in the middle of the night!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

We've had a pleasant day. Mom actually got dressed and came downstairs, which is -- I gather -- very rare these days. It's been hard to watch her because she has so much trouble getting around. I was especially glad to get a good picture of her; she has a terrible dowager's hump, and while her right arm is very skinny, her left is horribly swollen. I thought that was from her congestive heart failure (and it freaked me out, because my father's left arm looked like that before he died; that, and the sound of Mom's oxygen concentrator, had me in flashback mode last night), but evidently the doctor says it's not from her heart. Instead, she may have partially dislocated that shoulder in one of her falls, although it doesn't seem painful and the doctor's not sure there's anything they can do about it at this point.

So, anyhow, Mom came downstairs. I played my fiddle for her and she fell asleep -- better than running screaming, for sure -- but her home health aide said kind things about my playing, and later on, my sister got out her recorder and we played some rough duets. That was a lot of fun.

My nephew arrived this afternoon. Over dinner, I grilled him about his new girlfriend, who's a veterinary tech and sounds very nice, and like a good match for him; from her picture, she's pretty, too. We'd originally planned to open gifts tonight, but Mom wants to wait until tomorrow, so instead, we gorged ourselves on Christmas cookies.

My sister and her family have a new wireless network to which I can connect very easily -- I was never able to get on the old one -- so that makes me very happy. When I'm done with this post, I'm going to go downstairs and continue knitting a pair of socks for my sister. We'll listen to some music and probably drink some tea. I'll sleep well, since I'm jet-lagged and barely managed to prvent myself from napping today.

I hope everyone's having a wonderful holiday!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Cat Belt

For the past few months, I've been working on a doubleknit belt for my mother. I always give her a cat-related item for Christmas, so I designed this Aztec-looking kitty cat for the belt. It's a little funky, but I think she'll like it.

From this first photo, I hope you can make out the reversible design. I sewed on two rings, one on each side of the belt, as a buckle, so that's reversible too.

Here's a slightly better view of light cat on dark background.

I'm so glad I got the belt done before my trip. I enjoy doubleknitting, but it's definitely not a travel project; as you knit each row, the two strands of yarn wind around each other, so as you begin each new row, you have to untangle the strands and switch the position of the skeins. This is either soothing or tedious, depending on your point of view. It's a great thing to do while listening to music or an audiobook, but it's not TV knitting, or anything to undertake in a cramped airplane seat.

And here's a closeup of dark cat on light background. I know this animal probably isn't automatically identifiable as a cat, but my mother will get the idea!

And now, back to socks, which are ideal travel projects: compact and portable, yet using a range of techniques. Yay, socks!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Late Dates With Mozart

Our friends Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio and Jim Winn have just recorded this brilliant album. (Stephanie's the one who's giving me the violin lesson tonight; am I lucky, or what? It's probably going to be wasted on me, but it's still incredibly generous of her!)

If you like Mozart, violin, piano, or classical music, this is a treasure. Gary and I have had the tremendous privilege of hearing these pieces live, but the CD's the next best thing!

Support the arts! Buy Late Dates With Mozart! Makes a great gift idea!

Oh, and have I mentioned that the musicians are two of the nicest people on the planet? They deserve your support. Please buy their album!

Bad Day for Moms

It's one year today since Gary's dad died. I called his mother, who was a little shaky but said it really hasn't been any worse than any other day. She was fretting that she hadn't done anything to commemorate the day, so I suggested that she write. She said she might write in her journal.

Meanwhile, my sister tells me that this morning, our mother didn't remember what clam chowder is, even though she eats it every day during many months of the year. When my sister brought her some, she remembered, but it's still a scary slippage. Several hours later, I spoke to Mom on the phone and she sounded quite good; she's very much looking forward to seeing me on Wednesday, as I'm looking forward to seeing her. So far, she's shown no sign of not recognizing family, thank God.

Now I just have to hope that the weather cooperates with my travel plans!

My shift at the hospital this morning went well. First of all, I woke up on time, no mean feat these days! Patient volume was low today, which meant that the staff were all in a good mood, and I had a high percentage of good, substantive visits with the patients I did see.

This afternoon I was sad and lethargic, though, probably because of the season and the day. I've often been blue right before Christmas, even without painful family stuff. I'd been planning to get a few hours of work done on my year-end annual-evaluation materials (a massive project that always comes at the worst time of the year), but that didn't happen, so tomorrow through Tuesday, I'll really have to cram.

Oh, speaking of sleep: the bloodwork came back normal, which I guess is a good thing but is also annoying, because we're no closer to an explanation. (And while grief and depression would explain ordinary fatigue, they don't explain exercise intolerance: that suggests something physical.) I spoke to my psychiatrist, who said my recent higher meds dosage could theoretically be the problem. I'm going to try going back down to the old dose in January, but we agreed that doing it before my trip back East would be unwise. And on January 4, I have an appointment to talk to my primary-care doc. So I'm working on fixing this!

In an hour, we're going to a dinner party given by our friend Stephanie the violinist. As her Christmas present to me, she's giving me a half-hour violin lesson: very generous! (And, I hope, not too painful for her or for the other people in the building.) I'll post separately about her new album with our friend Jim.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Honolulu Here We Come!

I just booked our Spring Break trip to Honolulu. We'll be staying for eight nights in an oceanview room at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa. The hotel's right across the street from a nice swimming beach. Oooh, la la! Even with the oceanview upgrade, the package came in siginifcantly under our flight-and-hotel budget for the trip, although of course food will be an extra expense. Eating in Hawai'i is a pricy proposition. We shouldn't need a car, though, since the hotel's in the middle of everything. If we do need a car, we can rent one for the day, since there's a rental desk right there.

Our basic plan, though, is to sleep in every morning, drink coffee for several hours on our lanai overlooking the water, and then amble down to the beach for a nice swim. I'm sure we'll get some snorkeling, hiking and shopping in while we're there, too, but those aren't the top priorities.

Ahhhhhh! I can feel that island air already!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mea Culpa

Gary's complaining that I haven't been blogging. Yeah, I know. My bad.

I either haven't had a lot to say or haven't felt like saying it. This weekend, though, we got two pieces of really excellent news. One is that Gary's mom took the initiative in having a difficult conversation with some other family members; I'm going to visit after Christmas and had offered to be there to lend moral support, but she did it on her own. We're really proud of her, especially since the anniversary of her husband's death is this coming Saturday, and she's having an understandably tough time.

I hope I'm as strong as she is when I'm eighty.

The other great news is that a friend with diabetes -- but currently without job or insurance, like so many other people right now -- e-mailed me to say that he went to one of the low-income clinics in town. Huge relief! He'd just been diagnosed when his previous doctor (who'd been seeing him for nothing) went out of business (one suspects, sadly, that there's a connection), so he hadn't been treated. This has been going on for months, or maybe even a year or two, and I've been very worried, so I'm really glad he's finally getting medical attention.

Speaking of which, I'm still sleeping a ton; I slept through church this morning, having handed off this morning's preaching gig last week because I had a hunch this might happen. My bloodwork isn't back from the lab yet. I'm going to call again tomorrow. I really hope the lab results show something, and that the something is fixable. (I don't think it's depression, since I'm pretty happy when I'm awake.) Meanwhile, I've committed to preaching dates in January and February, on the improbably optimistic assumption that this thing will be fixed by then.

In weather news, we got a lot of snow this weekend. I've stayed in the house to avoid slippery driving, which meant no hospital shift yesterday (and also means that I might have stayed home this morning even had I woken up in time for church).

Fiddle update: My first jig is still very rough. I know the notes, but my fingering and bowing are mega-messy. Practice will continue. Meanwhile, I'm doing lots of exercises to try to improve my tone (scales and variations thereof), and trying to polish my two polkas, and also sounding out various Christmas carols. I'm mostly happy with my rendition of "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," and Gary's said nice things about my version of "Simple Gifts." So, come to think of it, has Charlene, who told me it was good enough for me to play in church, which I do not plan to do! The strongest piece in my repertoire is still "Mary Had A Little Lamb." I expect this to be true for a long time.

Book update: I was making good progress until this evening, when I realized that to write the next bit, I need a library book that's somewhere in the house but that I can't find. Gotta clean my study before I leave town a week from Wednesday. Not looking forward to it.

Knitting update: I finished a new pair of socks for myself -- acrylic, but very comfy -- and am starting a pair for my sister from a lovely sock yarn Inez sent me. Also still working on a Secret Non-Sock Project for my mother, which I have to finish this week! I've made up a Sock Questionnaire so that I'll be able to knit belated Christmas gifts for friends and family. My post-Christmas projects already include a pair of socks for my friend Marin (a late birthday gift) and two Christmas stockings for my friend Ann's twin boys (her family's out of town for the holidays this year, so the boys don't need them until next Christmas). I expect all that, plus the questionnaire results, to keep me busy through 2011.

Work update: Tomorrow my freshmen give me their final revisions and portfolios; tomorrow we also have our final party for the writing workshop. Tuesday I attend the Mother of All Meetings to discuss search candidates. Grades are due Thursday; I hope to have them in Wednesday, but we'll see.

Oh, Tuesday we also have back-to-back dental cleanings. Saturday we're going to a dinner party given by some friends, which will be an especially pleasant diversion from memories of last year.

Somewhere in all this, I need to compile my annual-review materials.

Boring stuff, eh? See why I haven't been blogging?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Today's Rickety Contrivance

Today I stumbled across this New York Times article about a woman with MS who felt significantly better after twenty-nine days of giving someone else a small gift every day. The article talks about the health benefits of altruism and volunteerism. Yay!

Today I also got e-mail from a church friend, relocated to the Midwest, alerting friends about Xerox's Let's Say Thanks website, which allows you to send a free postcard to someone in the military stationed overseas. There's a wide range of artwork by kids, ranging from cute to hilarious (my favorite is the Statue of Liberty looking like the Bride of Frankenstein); you can choose your favorite image and then pick a prewritten message, or write one of your own.

Fast. Easy. Fun. Free. Makes you feel good. With luck, makes the recipient feel good too. And regardless of our individual politics, heaven knows our troops need all the cheering up they can get.

Oh, also, the vet called tonight. Harley doesn't have an infection, which means he probably has cystitis, which means we're supposed to make sure he gets a lot of water. She recommended flavoring the water with chicken broth or tuna juice to make it more appealing. Harley turned his nose up at the chicken broth, although Bali was very interested. We'll try another tactic tomorrow.

And now to bed. Yeah, I'm up too late. But tomorrow's not a teaching day, so I can afford to sleep in.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Meet Sydney the Cockatiel!

Charlene, my fiddle teacher, has a new pet: a cockatiel named Sydney. Sydney's a little shy and actually doesn't like Charlene that much (she's devoted to Charlene's husband Josh), but after I fed her a treat, she decided I was okay and fluttered onto my shoulder. I grew up with parakeets, so I'm comfortable around birds. I cooed at her and kissed her feathers while she played with my earrings and ran back and forth across my back, a game that became even more fun when Charlene tried to get her to come down so I could go home. Charlene would reach for her on one of my shoulders and Sydney would run merrily to the other. Back and forth, back and forth! Birdie exercise!

She was very good during the lesson itself; just sat on her cage and chirped occasionally. Charlene's teaching me tonalization exercises and jig bowing, though I've yet to learn any jigs to which to apply it. I'm having fun, though!

If you're wondering why I've been so bad about blogging, it's not because I've been having so much fun fiddling (although I did have a lot of fun shopping, for myself, on Black Friday: very decadent). It's because that sleep thing, whatever it is, has my schedule in a shambles. I slept through my hospital shift on Saturday, which is mortifying. I managed to get to church on time on Sunday, but today I slept until 12:30. Gahhhhh!

I stopped by the lab today for the bloodwork my primary-care doc ordered -- I couldn't do it last week because of the holiday -- so with any luck, we'll get some answers soon. In the meantime, I'm scrambling to stay on top of what I need to do.

That said, back to work!

Sam's Christmas Stocking

I knit a Christmas stocking for a friend's five-year-old son, so I thought I'd post a photo of it here. The dimensions are a little bizarre -- Gary says it looks like a Seuss stocking -- but I had fun making it, and the kid won't care if it looks a little funky.

A friend at work has asked me to make stockings for her twin boys (both much older than five), but they're traveling this year during the holidays, so I'll start that project in January.

The Triune Goddess in the ER

Browsing the web the other day, I discovered that my poem The Triune Goddess in the ER, accepted last spring by Hospital Drive, the literary journal of the University of Virginia Medical School, has already been published there.

I don't think this is my best work, but I'm happy to have it published anyway.

In other writing news, I've finished revising the first hundred pages of the new novel, although I'm sure they'll have to be revised again before publication (and I have no idea when that will be, for those of you who've asked).

I fiddled and wrote every day in November. I hope I can manage close to that in December, although travel will make it difficult.