Mind-Blowing Update on Mom


Okay, the update first, then the mind-blowing part.

Mom is improving. They’ve got her on antibiotics to help with both the pneumonia and the infection, and both are getting better. They’re talking about reducing her sedation a little later on today and perhaps even taking the tube out (so I now know for a fact that she’s been intubated). I haven’t spoken to the nurse on duty yet, when I called I got hung up in the Call Tree of Thorns and never got a live person except at the front desk. And that’s where the mind-blowing part comes in.

“[Hospital], this is David.”

“David, hi, my name is Steven [last name] and I’m trying to get information about my mother, she’s on the cardiac care unit. I’m not sure if I need to give you the password or the nurses or what.”

“Well, the first thing I need is the patient’s name.”

“Oh, right! Her name is [full first name – which she hates and never uses unless she has to – and last name] although she might be in your records as [Mom’s nickname].”


“[Nickname and last name]? Related to [Dad’s full name]?”

*my turn to pause*

“… yeah?”

“I used to work in [name of town Dad worked for] with your dad. I worked in 911 dispatch for [friend’s name I hadn’t heard in 20 years].”

“Yeah! I know [friend’s name] quite well. How about that?”

“Yep, I knew your dad.”

And then we trailed off because professionalism, but the whole thing both blew my mind and made my day.

I finally did get the hospital and they’re hoping to take out the breathing tube either today or tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll get to hear her voice (or what’s left of it, after intubation) tomorrow. Thanks for indulging me while I ramble about Mom and weird coincidences. I’m still pretty worried about her and wish I could be there. I’ll feel better when I get to actually talk with her.

Update on Mom


Last night I got a call from the family friend that looks after Mom while she’s stuck there in North Carolina and I’m stuck here in Austin. She was rushed to the hospital where they diagnosed her with double pneumonia and “put a breathing tube in her,” which I’m taking to mean she’s been intubated. To further complicate things they’re also looking at an infection that may have gone septic. We didn’t know much more than that as of last night, so I spent the rest of the evening worrying about Mom.

This morning, the only new news that I have is that she’s in the ICU and they’re aggressively treating the pneumonia. No word on what they’re doing about the infection yet. Our friend is going to go visit her tonight to get more information and to make sure they’ll release information to both of us. (Since he’s local, he’s her medical power of attorney.) I’ll know more tonight.

I’ve had a feeling this was coming, since Mom’s been fighting a case of bronchitis for a couple weeks now. She has COPD and has had it for most of her life thanks to being a chronic bronchitis sufferer, and maybe once a year it gets bad enough to evolve into pneumonia. It’s never been bad enough to have to intubate her, however, so I’m particularly worried this time around.

I got the prayer/thoughts/good energy/juju train going for Mom last night on Facebook, but ask that you keep it up while she’s still kind of touch and go. I’ll update you more tomorrow.

I’m a lot more worried and scared than I’m letting on.

Storms and Stormy


Last night we had a pretty bad storm come through. It woke me up at least once that I can recall, and it drenched half of the balcony, the half that the chairs and Stormy’s box are on.

Fortunately, we were able to bring him inside last night, so he was safe through the worst of it. He still went outside to a very uncomfortable situation, however.

Both chairs are drenched, so he’d just get wet if he went to lie down in one of them. This also means that until they dry it’s going to be problematic for us to sit in them to give him snuggles.

The top of his box is somewhat concave, and so when it rains hard enough to get in the balcony, the box holds water. Thing is, it’s not concave enough to very easily just remove the lid and walk it over to the side of the balcony by the stairs, where we can dump the water over the side and not get any on the downstairs neighbors’ porch.

Again fortunately, Stormy’s blanket soaked up a lot of the water, so I picked up the blanket and grabbed a spare pot of soil that we have on the porch to catch drips while I took the blanket over to the side to wring it out best that I could. That left only a little water in the lid, which I very carefully walked over to the side and dumped without spilling a drop on our balcony and potentially on the downstairs porch.

It’s been a few hours since I’ve done that, and the lid is now bone dry. The blanket still has some water in it, but it’s drying out nicely and should be completely dry by the morning. As for the chairs, they take some time to dry out, so if we’re going to go sit outside for cuddles later on this evening, we’re likely going to have to put a towel down to soak up the moisture before our pants do.

Stormy’s gone off walkabout for the afternoon, but he’ll be back by the evening, and we’ll be ready to go love on him when he comes home.

There Should Be Stickers


Today I had a friend come over to visit for a few hours. It’s the first in-person socialization that I’ve done in weeks.

There was a purpose to the visit, however. She came over to teach my wife and me a few embroidery stitches. In between we watched a couple videos on YouTube and sat and shot the bull for a while and generally had a really good visit.

The embroidery is a needed skill. The one tunic that I have for the SCA is currently unadorned, and the plan is to put a white and gold double herringbone along the edges of the sleeves and a running stitch along the neckline in one of those colors. I have some ideas for trimming the bottom hem, but I don’t think that I’ll be a speedy enough embroiderer to get anything done there; I think I’m going to have to trim it in strips of rough silk to approximate silk samite (for that matter, I might do the neckline in silk as well, now that I think about it.)

I really should get a sticker for the adulting that I do. “I was social today!” “I finished my to-do list!” “I made a phone call!” There are times that I think that I’m at that level of progress in my pathway back to a more-or-less normal life, and then there are times when I realize that I have made great strides to get to where I am. I hate days that I question that progress. Fortunately they’re not as frequent as they were even a year ago. I guess that really is progress.

The Courage to Be Vulnerable


Today’s blog post is going to be considerably more personal than usual, even in a blog that deals with my experiences with chronic physical and mental illnesses. Today I’m going to talk about a part of my past that I don’t like to bring up.

First, though, let me preface where this is coming from. I am in the last few pages of Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW and today’s section is called “The Courage to Be Vulnerable.” It’s the last section in a chapter entitled “Wholehearted Parenting: Daring to Be the Adults We Want Our Children to Be.” The second paragraph in the section is as follows:

As I travel across the country there seems to be growing concern on the part of parents and teachers that children are not learning how to handle adversity and disappointment because we’re always rescuing and protecting them. What’s interesting is that more often than not, I hear this concern from the same parents who are chronically intervening, rescuing, and protecting. It’s not that our children can’t stand the vulnerability of handling their own situations, it’s that we can’t stand the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure, even when we know it’s the right thing to do.

This struck me not as a parent, but as a former child that experienced this behavior from my own parent.

Before I continue, I want to be very clear: I love my mother to death. I enjoy her company, I want the best for her, I worry when I can’t be there for her. (She’s in a nursing facility half the country away and neither of us have the financial ability to move closer to one another.) I know she did the best that she could with me, and I don’t hold any grudge against her for the way she handled my upbringing – but my mother was very much one of those parents that rescued and protected her son.

It wasn’t always that way. She did a great job of letting me experience life on my own terms and I did a great job of handling that – up until I was 13. That was the year I was repeatedly raped over a period of several months by a guy on my paper route, and Mom went from being relatively hands-off to a helicopter parent. I understand why Mom’s parenting style changed – there was a situation that occurred that she wasn’t there to protect me and a Bad Thing happened because of it, and she was determined that something like that would never happen to me again. I get that. But it severely affected my development as an adult.

Anytime I was faced with adversity or potential disappointment, my mother was there to bail me out of the situation I’d gotten myself in. That behavior continued well into my thirties, and didn’t actually stop altogether until my early forties. When I started living on my own, and started changing the questions from “Mom, I’m in trouble, can you help?” to “Mom, I’ve gotten into a situation and need some advice trying to get myself out of it,” her response was to immediately bail me out. This was usually a financial bailout of some kind. I tried several times to refuse her help, but she worked quickly to make my learning opportunities disappear before they were ever much of a situation at all, and I eventually learned that was what Mom was going to do, and that I wouldn’t learn things like how to make a budget and stick to it from her. I’ve finally gotten to the point that I consider myself grown up, but that’s only after several years of having no actual assistance and very little advice from Mom and needing to come up with the answers on my own.

I try to live my life without regrets, because I never know what decision that I would choose to alter in the past that would radically change my life today, and I like my life too much to want to take a chance on changing that, but there are times that I wish I’d learned how to be an adult earlier than what I did. I feel like I needed to learn that adversity and disappointment that Dr. Brown talks about in her passage above earlier than what I did. I can’t go back and change any of that, unfortunately, but I can move forward knowing that I finally learned what I needed to do to be a functioning adult.

It’s interesting to note that I don’t mention my father much in this. The reason for that is that Dad was very often a hands-off kind of parent and basically left me alone to try and fend for myself. I imagine there being quite the arguments between their parenting styles in my teens, with Dad always giving in to Mom in the interest of matrimonial harmony. The other reason that I don’t mention my father in this post is that he passed away when I was 26, and his ability to alter Mom’s behavior ended in 1995. Keep in mind that Mom was still bending over backward trying to preemptively bail me out of situations through late 2009, so that’s 14 years of Mom receiving no opposition to her parenting style of throwing money at the situation, one that was exacerbated for years by the windfall that was my dad’s life insurance policy.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t fight Mom more than I did, but I really didn’t have the self-confidence to be able to figure out my own way out of a situation, and I certainly didn’t have the know-how. At this point, it’s a thing that just was, and I’m glad that period of my life has come to an end.

So what does that mean moving forward? It means that I’ve finally figured out how to handle adverse financial situations, but it also means that my wife and I are barely scraping by. That will hopefully change in a year or so when I start looking to return to work in my new field of study – having two full incomes coming in will be a huge help to us becoming more social and more active in our hobbies, as well as provide the opportunity to travel more often to visit Mom and perhaps even save up to bring her out to be near us. We’ll just have to see.

It took me far longer than I wanted it to, but I finally learned that adversity and disappointment that comes with being vulnerable. I wish it had happened sooner, but I’m glad it finally happened at all. I’m a stronger person for it.

Sunny With a Chance of Irrationality


Today’s been a good day – mostly. I woke up in a grumpy mood but it soon went away. Then a few times during the day my mood has tanked, but not far and not for long. The trick here is that my bad moods tended to trigger bad moods in my wife, since she felt like she couldn’t do anything to fix my bad moods. I finally had to remind her that the dips into irrationality for me have been quick and not very bad at all. I’ve mostly felt lost, without direction, during those periods today and not at all truly irrational, although I was flirting with it every time.

The weird thing is that I can’t identify what I did to reverse the mood swings today. There’s not been some overarcing thing that’s kept my mood elevated, there’s not been anything to give my mood a hit either. I didn’t do anything to specifically distract me from the mood I was in. It felt like the downswings came on and were resolved naturally.

I can’t complain about that, though, although as the evening progresses I’m going to be monitoring things closely, as my mood tends to naturally take a dive in the evenings.

It’s been a good weekend, and I’ve enjoyed the time that I’ve been able to spend with my wife, even though we haven’t done much at all. Sometimes that’s the best time of all.

A Matter of Fitness


I’ve been thinking long and hard for a while about my fitness level, which is to say, I don’t really have one. I’m five foot seven and weigh 293 pounds. My back is more often than not in some level of pain, and my knees wouldn’t be up to running long distances even if the rest of me were in shape to do so. My fitness routine up until recently has been to walk leisurely around the complex, which is about a half a kilometer or a third of a mile (or less, depending on how my back is doing that day). More recently, it’s consisted of three round trips down and up the staircase leading to the apartment, which winds me and makes me feel much more like I’ve been exercising than the walk ever did. The thing is, the reason I only do three is that my legs don’t feel like they can do a fourth round trip.

I know I get more exercise than that, but there’s nothing tracking my steps here in the apartment, since I don’t usually carry my phone with me, preferring instead to leave it on its stand on my office shelf. I’d love to get a Fitbit or some other wearable someday and see just how much exercise I am getting here at home. I’d also like to ramp what exercise I do get up a bit.

One of the books I’m currently reading, The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne, PhD, recommends thirty minutes of vigorous exercise a day, four days a week. The easiest way of getting that done is going to be by walking as briskly as I can around the complex. It’s also the safest for my knees and my back, and it’s something that I can trade out for trips up and down the stairs on days when my back isn’t feeling like much. I can do the stairs very slowly even on days that my back is really bothering me and still get a fairly decent workout out of it.

The timing of this decision is not ideal, however. I just opted to add a couple of new definitions to my daily checklist a week ago and I don’t want to take a chance on overloading myself with new things to have to do and then not doing any of them. So this push for more exercise will likely have to wait until the next round of upgrades at the end of this 60-day period, once the new stuff has become second nature. I know that it’s supposed to take 21 days for a new habit to form, but I’ve found that I’m apparently a slow learner when it comes to new habits, so I’m sticking to 60-day increments right now.

That’s two things that will be new at the end of this 60 days – between the upgrades to my learning and exercise, I think I’ll have my hands full, especially when it comes to time management.

I’m not giving up, just being realistic about my abilities and my limitations when it comes to forming new habits, and I really don’t want to lose forward momentum. I’m scared that will bring everything crashing down around me.

Friday Fiction: Monsters!


It’s Friday, and that means it’s time for another edition of Friday Fiction!

Today’s prompt from writing-prompt-s.tumblr.com is a fun one.

You are convinced there is a human living above your bed at night. Your monster parents don’t believe you.

Let’s see what I can do with this …

I decided to bring up the subject.

“Daddy?” I asked.

“Yes sweetheart?” he responded.

“Are there monsters in my room?”

Daddy chuckled a little bit and answered, “No, baby, there aren’t monsters here. I promise.”

I responded with an uncertain voice. “I keep seeing them move around at night.”

“It’s just shadows, honey. Now let me tuck you in and –“

I interrupted him. “Can you check?”

He looked around the room and saw nothing. “No, little one, there’s nothing here.”

“What about on top of my bed? You didn’t look there.”

He frowned a bit, then said “Well, it’s awfully high up there. I’d need a stepladder to check it.”

“Pleeeease?” I was begging him.

“Now Maria, listen to me. There is no such thing as monsters. It’s just something that your overactive imagination is making up. I promise you’re safe here in bed. There’s nothing here.”

“Do you promise?”

“I promise. Now roll over and go to sleep. I can wait here until you’re asleep if you want.”

“Can you read me a bedtime story?”

“If I read you a story, do you promise to go to sleep afterwards?”

“I promise, Daddy.”


~ ~ ~

Daddy sat down beside Maria and started to tell her a magnificent tale about princesses and heroes and before he could even get to the best part, she was out like a light. He kissed her softly on the cheek and went downstairs.

A few minutes later, had Maria been awake, she would have seen a large hand suddenly come into view from over her bed. It was pink and hairless and had four long digits and one short one. The young human it was attached to began to softly snore.

Fight! Fight! Fight!


Okay, not really, the fight was Sunday. Therapy was today, and that’s what we talked about the majority of the time.

I was honest that I couldn’t remember what started the fight. I couldn’t at the end of the day Sunday, and I’m even more clueless about it today. I think it was me reacting poorly to something that my wife said, and she got frustrated at me putting myself down, and I got defensive about that, and she got more frustrated, and then I started getting frustrated, and the next thing you know we were yelling at one another’s symptoms again.

Our fights tend to follow a pretty cut and dried format. Once we’re actually fighting, almost always following the pattern above, we will move rapidly from topic to topic. Topic A is directly relevant to topic B, which is directly relevant to topic C, and so on – but topic A hardly ever has a thing to do with topic C. This is why we think that we can’t ever remember the thing that started the fight – we get so distracted from the original argument that we never can remember how to get back to it to resolve it, and so we individually sit and seethe all day, knowing that we haven’t resolved anything and are very prone to getting right back into the thick of arguing and fighting.

It’s important to note that we hardly ever have a rational argument, much less a fight. I can count on one hand the number of rational, lucid fights that we’ve had in 17 years. It just doesn’t hardly ever happen. My therapist understood the issue about our symptoms fighting one another though, so that was a good thing.

We arrived at two realizations, that kind of go hand in hand. Generally when we fight, we’re each trying desperately to fix the complaint that the other person has, rather than trying to reflect their emotional state back to them. An example of this would be “It seems like you’re feeling really down on yourself, do you have any idea why?” The other part of this is that when we argue, we don’t need to be right, although we’ve erroneously thought that was the case for me most of the time. We need to understand what the other person is experiencing.

It was recommended that the next time we have a fight, we stop for a moment at the beginning and ask ourselves “What is it that I need to understand about you and what you’re experiencing right now?”

We also covered the progress I’m making on my checklists, and she’s really pleased with the progress that I’ve made so far. She wants me to keep it up, though, and she’s fine with me changing the goalposts to achieve a check mark, like I did yesterday with my back, rather than just blowing it off. It’s important to continue hitting full marks rather than allowing myself a cheat day, because one day off will lead to two, then three, then the next thing you know I’m off my checklists for another couple months again.

So that was therapy in a nutshell today. I went into the detail that I did this time because it’s important that I remember all this stuff for future reference, and it’s easier to put it here in the blog than write it down for me to try to remember another day.

Welp, Maybe Not


Today was therapy day. I say “was” because, well, the appointment started four minutes ago. You’ll note that I’m apparently not in my therapist’s office. There’s a reason for that.

Long story short, my back went out this morning trying to get out of bed. I’ve been on the heating pad ever since, and only moving around the apartment when absolutely necessary.

We’ve rescheduled for tomorrow afternoon, so I’ll have stuff to report then.

In the meantime, I’m going to write something kinda brief about how days like today (this has happened before and will almost certainly happen again) affect my daily activities.

The Four Agreements is a best-selling self-help book by Don Miguel Ruiz (has it really been 20 years since this book came out?), and it’s a good read. I recommend it if you haven’t read it before, it goes quickly and it has some gems in it. The fourth Agreement is to “always do your best.” This is further described as follows:

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to when you are sick.

So the bottom line is, I’m going to do my best, but that won’t be the same as what it would be if I wasn’t in a lot of pain.

It’s not a big change from what I normally do, but my exercise is radically altered. I’ve recently traded in laps of the apartment complex for trips down and back up the stairs outside. Three round trips of the stairs have me huffing and puffing far more than a leisurely stroll around the block, as it were, plus I feel it in my legs FAR more than I do while walking. One of these days, soon I hope, I’m going to shoot for five, but my legs are getting wobbly after just three trips and I always wonder if I can make four, so I stop there. On a day like today where I have persistent back pain, that gets reduced to two or even one trip up and down the stairs. It’s not much – it’s honestly barely anything at all – but it gets me out moving and doing something strenuous, for as long as my body will let me.

My to-do list is also cut down to size, and done in short bursts of activity in order to minimize the time I’m away from the heating pad. Where I’d normally be deep cleaning the kitchen, taking out the trash, cycling through our refrigerated water jugs as they need to be refilled, cycling the dishwasher from clean to dirty dishes, dusting, and straightening up the living room (as an example) today I’m likely going to just cycle the water jugs and clean the litter box and call it a day. (Fortunately much of that exemplar list has been done recently, so my list is thankfully pretty small today. If new things arise, however, I’ll likely delegate those things off to my wife or just hold off on them until tomorrow.)

Fortunately there are a lot of things on my checklist that can be done sitting right here on my heating pad, so there’s not a lot that needs to be altered. But things were bad enough this morning that I needed the heating pad for a good half hour before I felt okay enough to stand on my feet long enough to do my dental hygiene this morning.

The important thing is that a day like this, while a real nuisance and a very painful experience, isn’t enough to keep me from accomplishing full marks on my checklist. It would take me being bedridden at this point for me to break this streak, and fortunately I’m not quite to the point that I need to stay in bed. (Lying down actually exacerbates the problem, so I’m doing what’s best for my body by sitting on the couch with the heating pad on my back, waiting for the next round of Aleve to kick in.)

Tomorrow will be better. I have spoken.