#604 – Been a While, Hasn’t It?


So hey there, how are you doing? Been a while, hasn’t it? I have over two months to catch you up on, and that has been a hectic time. My apologies for disappearing, but there have been reasons.

The last time I wrote to you, I was just getting ready to start the spring semester with 14 credit hours and was preparing to move. There have been a lot of things going on, so I’m going to split this up into categories instead of trying to remember the last two months chronologically.

School: Fourteen credit hours is a lot to take on at once, and with two pre-requisites and two co-requisites on my schedule – and a target of applying to my program a year from now with at least a 3.5 GPA – performing well is very important. I’m taking anatomy and physiology I and applied physics (both pre-requisites) as well as English composition I and something called Effective Learning (both co-requisites), and none of these are really easy courses. I’ve been worried about my performance, especially since I’ve missed at least two class sessions in all four classes thanks to various illnesses, and my reading is falling further and further behind. However, here at roughly the halfway point of the semester I’ve got a high B, in A&P, and As everywhere else. That’s on target for my goal GPA – now if I can just maintain this for about eight more weeks, and hopefully bring that B up to an A, I’ll be very happy indeed.

Home: We’re moved! On moving day we’d not packed up even half the apartment when folks started coming around about 9:00 am, so we knew we were in for a long day. However, we had a lot of friends that came to help us, and by noon we had packed everything up and gotten the vast majority of our stuff down to the truck and assorted vehicles, ready to take it to our new apartment. By 4:00 pm everything we’d brought over in the first wave was either inside the apartment or on our patio. All the furniture was in place and my wonderful mother-in-law had almost completely unpacked our kitchen. That left only a few things to do on the second day we’d set aside for the move, and it seemed like in the blink of an eye our environment had transformed. We had moved from a 34-year-old 2/2 apartment in a less-than-ideal part of town to a ten-year-old gated community in one of the nicest places in town as well as a freshly renovated unit. We moved in about two months ago, and even though we’ve still got some stuff in boxes it still feels a little like us moving into a resort. And then the bills came in. We are estimating that our rent and water bills would be comparable between the two apartments – but our rent includes a surcharge for a reserved covered parking spot, something that wasn’t even offered at the old apartment, so, all in all, we’re paying less here than we would have been at the old place. Our water bill is half of what it was, as is our electric bill, and our internet bill is cheaper for service faster than we had by an order of magnitude. Even our car insurance has gone down. The only expense that’s gone up is our monthly fuel bill – my wife’s commute has doubled in length and four days out of five that trip is being taken twice to allow me to have the car for class.

Health: My anxiety has been doing very well given the added stress of a heavy course load, and only in recent weeks has my anxiety been really elevated. (More on that in a minute.) My blood sugar has been slowly rising, and this morning I recorded the highest glucose reading I’ve had since my diabetes has been controlled, so I’ll be going to the doctor soon to talk about that. Good thing too – my blood pressure has been on the rise as well, although part of that is likely due to school stress.

Family: I got a call from Mom one day a few weeks ago with her telling me that she was in Dallas strolling around the thousand acres that she’d just bought, and wanted to know what kind of cars we wanted her to buy for us, and took special care to point out that she had a private plane on call to whisk us from Austin to her property in about an hour and a half. Since that point, my dad has apparently taken over $2000 out of her account and changed her banking password and disappeared with her car. She figured he’s gone for good and is talking with a divorce lawyer about what she needs to do to file. Fortunately, her brother and sister-in-law have been visiting on the weekends and keeping her company. Here’s the problem: Mom is in a skilled nursing facility in North Carolina and has been unable to walk for well over a decade. My father passed away in 1995, and both her brother and sister-in-law are also deceased. There’s no property in Dallas, there’s no money for his and hers cars, there’s certainly no private plane. My thought is that she has a chronic infection that’s been causing hallucinations for weeks, and despite the facility supposedly treating it her symptoms have not abated. If she were living in the past, then I’d be more concerned about dementia setting in, but this is all new stuff that she’s telling us, so it seems to be more hallucinatory than memory loss. The good news is that the ball has finally started rolling to make me a secondary medical power of attorney for her, which means that the facility will now start calling me, her actual son, when they need to advise us of treatments and progress in her conditions, as well as the family friend who’s local to her and who has been taking care of her for years – and who is her primary medical power of attorney due to his proximity to Mom.

Community: This is where the elevated anxiety comes in. It is not internal. I live in Austin, which has until earlier this week been dealing with a domestic terrorist that planted seven bombs in town, six of which detonated with two fatalities and several more serious injuries. The suspect had started to change up his level of sophistication as well as his delivery method, with one bomb exploding in a FedEx facility south of town, which had the whole of Austin on edge. That fear was almost palpable in the 48 hours leading up to police catching up to their primary suspect, only to have him die in a self-triggered explosion early Wednesday morning. The whole thing hit home with me on several fronts. A friend of mine lives just a couple miles from the sites of multiple explosions and was seriously considering keeping her kids home from school until the perpetrator was caught. Another friend of mine was told by police to stay in her apartment while they investigated a suspicious package left at the high school next door to her. One of the explosions was just a few doors down from a fellow physics student and she was being told to stay indoors until the all-clear had been given – she’d gone so far as to write our professor and tell him she’d likely miss class that day.

So that’s pretty much been my last two months. My schedule has been hectic and a lot of things I used to do on a daily basis have fallen by the wayside since the semester started. I mentioned this to my therapist a couple days ago and she brought up the excellent point that the important things, the medical reasons that I started keeping a daily checklist in the first place, are all being done more or less without fail, so I shouldn’t worry so much about keeping up with everything. She’d also like me to write more often, so I’m going to try my best to get back to at least a couple times a week. On that note, I’ll be around again in a few days with a shorter post.


Mom Update 5/2/2017


It’s been a little while, so I thought I’d give you an update on how Mom’s doing.

Mom is slowly recovering from her stroke, pneumonia, and secondary infection. While I’m not sure what percentage of her motor skills have returned, there’s enough there to open a clamshell phone and dial my number, and I think she’s using her laptop again. She’s more and more centered in reality, though she’s still a little delusional about her long-term prognosis; to be fair, that was a condition that was very much active long before the stroke, so things are, for what they’re worth, back to normal. She’s talking about moving out to Texas to be with us, she’s talking about trying to sell most of her belongings to be able to make the move, but I don’t think she’s processing just how expensive it’s going to be to move out here with us and need to buy mostly all new furniture and furnishings. I know that she lost some things in a tornado that hit her old storage facility, but to the best of my knowledge she wasn’t able to participate in the inventory of what was left and hasn’t been able to compare it to what she had before, so she’s really at a loss to be able to tell me just how much of a complete residence she has in storage right now. She’s also wanting to go back to school to finish her accounting degree, and I’m not sure how much she remembers of what she’s already got under her belt, nor am I certain it will transfer from a North Carolina community college to a Texas bachelor’s program. She wants to get a car to get around in and she wants to be as completely independent as she can be. In her mind, that means having in-home nursing checking in on her a few times a week.

Except that she can’t walk at all under her own power, and hasn’t been able to for years. The best I understand it, she’s able to get a few steps in at physical therapy using handrails and with a spotter, but that’s about it. That’s not independence, that’s virtually complete immobility. She’s also still got periods where she’s very confused – trying to put on a sheet as pants, for instance – and not at all certain of what’s real and what isn’t. So long as she’s having these spells of confusion, I don’t want her on her own.

She does have it together enough to be able to realize that she dodged a bullet with this stroke, and that she finally needs to have me officially signed on as her financial power of attorney. Supposedly there are forms that I need to have signed before a notary and sent back to her, but I honestly couldn’t begin to tell you where those forms are. I hope they’re in my vital records storage – that’ll take a quick check in the file box to be sure – but if they’re not I’m going to assume that they’re lost somewhere along the way and that we’ll need to restart the process.

To be honest, I thought this was already done, but Mom is saying that it’s not, and that her facility doesn’t have a record of it. So we try again, this time making sure we dot our I’s and cross our T’s.

So that’s how Mom is doing. She wants me to be sure that I pass along her thanks for everyone’s well-wishes and prayers for her recovery – that meant a lot to her, and a lot to us. Keep the good thoughts coming, though, she’s not out of the woods yet.

Better, But Not One Hundred Percent


Well, the stomach bug I had yesterday seems to be gone, but I’m still pretty run down from it. I cut a lot of corners yesterday in getting my full marks on my checklists, but today I’m playing catchup and it’s wearing me out. I’ve had some naps during the day, and that helped, but generally I’m kinda pooped.

Got a call from Mom today asking if I wanted to have dinner tonight, and I had to remind her that we’re in Austin once more. She also wanted me to know that I shouldn’t be in an infomercial under any circumstances, because she was and that’s why her back is hurting her today. I played along with what she said, though, except for the part where we couldn’t be there for dinner. She said “maybe this weekend” and I told her we’ll have to see. That much I was able to leave open-ended for now.

I finished Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology today. Excellent read, makes the pantheon much more accessible to the masses than the Eddas do. Each story is its own chapter, and the stories are quite short, so it’s a very easy thing to read a chapter a day. Took me no time to go through it, it felt like, and I’m glad I stuck to a chapter a day.

Still have a lot of stuff left to do tonight so I’m cutting this short today. (It seems like I’ve been doing that a lot. I really need to get a meaty blog post out at some point soon.) Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have more to write about.

Quick and Dirty Mom Update 4/19/2017


My wife got a call from my mother earlier tonight, something that’s highly unusual for Mom to do. Mom asked my wife if she could be outside the front door to her facility in 20 minutes to pick her up. Mom says they’re recruiting an army from the residents in her skilled nursing facility and Mom doesn’t want to be recruited into their army. We had to let her down easy by telling her that we live in Austin, Texas, which is over a thousand miles from her in Raleigh, North Carolina, and that there was no way we could be there in twenty minutes. She said she’ll “have to figure out other arrangements.”

Apparently this is pretty par for the course when Mom has a UTI, but I’ve never seen things this bad with her.

I’m not sure how much of this is the UTI and how much is the stroke.

That’s about all I have energy for tonight. For some reason I am bone tired and really want to go lie down.

We Survived


Today was a pretty good day.

We started out at Mass with my wife, my mother-in-law and her husband, my brother-in-law and his wife and kids. Unbeknownst to any of us, the Mass that we’d chosen to attend was an African Mass. The service was partially, and the music was primarily, in Swahili. I was apprehensive about attending Mass since I’m not religious, but I really enjoyed the service. There were dancers whose energy was infectious. The music was absolutely lovely. The people were friendly and welcoming. It was a wonderful experience.

From there we went to my brother-in-law’s house for Easter dinner, and over the course of the evening added my father-in-law, his wife, her daughter and granddaughters, and a couple friends of my brother-in-law’s. Dinner was good and the company was enjoyable. My anxiety had me trying to stay in quiet areas most of the day, and my leg was overworked from Mass, so at one point before dinner I fell asleep on the couch. I had a good conversation with one of my brother-in-law’s friends.

I managed to work in calls to Mom, my daughter, and Kenneth, the family friend that’s looking out for my mother in North Carolina while I’m in Texas. She’s doing okay, not much change in her condition, but he was surprised to hear that I had spoken with her – we were worried that her motor skills after the stroke would have prevented her from operating her clamshell phone. I didn’t speak with her long, but I was able to wish her Happy Easter before she said that she needed to go.

Tomorrow is the flight home. I’m always a little worried about travel, especially now since I’m still going through airports in a wheelchair because of the knee, but I’ll be glad to finally be home for the foreseeable future.

Hunting Easter Eggs


Today was a little busier than yesterday. We had initially planned to have lunch with one of my wife’s relatives, but she called up and wasn’t feeling well, so we went to the café that we went to the day before yesterday for lunch. The owner is from Chicago and the walls are festooned with Chicago sports memorabilia of all sorts. I had a chicken salad Parmesan sandwich – chicken salad and provolone on Parmesan-crusted toast. It was very good. We went back to the condo and got things that we needed to carry to my brother-in-law’s in preparation for Easter dinner. On the way there, we needed to make an emergency trip to pick up some clothes that we forgot to pick up, and on the way to and from our destination, we drove past the spring training complex for the Cubs. I took as many photos as I could from the road but most of them came out blurry. I got a chance to say I saw the place, though, and that’s good enough for me.

The evening’s activities consisted of a barbecue and Easter egg hunt at a friend of my brother-in-law’s house. We had a good time and the kids seemed to have a blast. The highlight of my evening was the bubble machine and the dog. I have rarely seen a dog so happy. It was enjoying the bubbles far more than the kids were. I was also introduced to bacon mustard, and this is both a wonderful thing and a sad one, since it’s regional and nothing that I’ve seen back in Texas. Going to have to find that stuff though, because it was delicious.

Haven’t heard anything about Mom’s condition today – things were very hectic in the afternoon and I never got a chance to call Kenneth until nearly 11:00 pm Eastern time. I trust that if her condition had deteriorated any he would be on the phone telling me about it. Both of us are trying to keep a close eye on her since the stroke, and I wish I lived closer to her to be able to spend time actually with her. She seemed to improve greatly while I was in town and I’d like to be able to give her daily or near daily visits from me to be able to keep her spirits up. As it is, we can barely communicate over the phone.

Tomorrow is Easter mass at 11:00 am and Easter dinner back at my brother-in-law’s place. Once we finish with that, our social obligations will be complete for this trip, with the only socialization that we have being with my mother-in-law and her husband. Monday is the flight home.

I’ve had a surprisingly good trip, but it will be a good thing to get back home.

Low-Key Friday


Today there weren’t any big family plans, so we spent the morning taking it easy and trying to make plans with friends. We took a Lyft from Scottsdale, where we’re staying, to Chandler, to have lunch with one of our fellow DJs and his girlfriend, neither of whom we’ve ever met before. We had a fantastic lunch at a really good Italian restaurant before taking a Lyft back to the condo. I read for a while and did my learning before coming out to the living room to goof off on the computer before dinner. Dinner was a fabulous steak grilled by my mother-in-law’s husband and a lovely dinner conversation with the four of us. It’s been a very good day.

Mom continues to be up and down. Not much to update tonight, since she was sleeping whenever Kenneth would visit. He did manage to wake her up for a brief time, and she was in a decent enough mood at that point, apparently singing and dancing to music in her head. She’s not eating much, he was able to report that. Most everyone that’s caring for her thinks that her secondary infection is still persistent despite the course of broad-spectrum antibiotics that she received in the hospital, and that’s causing the confusion and disorientation and disconnection with reality. I personally think that it’s partly that and partly the stroke, but I’m three time zones away right now and don’t have any direct evidence to back that up.

Tomorrow there are plans in both the afternoon and evening, and it’s with the larger family. Sunday is, of course, going to be considerably busier, between Easter mass and Easter dinner. And then Monday will be the frenzy of traveling back home.

The trip has gone surprisingly well, despite being hectic at times. I hope it continues for the rest of the trip.

Hello from Arizona


My wife and I traveled today from Austin to Phoenix, Arizona to spend Easter weekend with her family. It’s rather pretty here. The landscape is dramatically different, but still lovely. Art is everywhere, on interstate barrier walls and underpasses, and it adds greatly to the feel of the city. Tonight we went to dinner at my brother-in-law’s house, with his wife and two kids, my mother-in-law, her husband, and my father-in-law. Tasty ribs made for a good meal. We were going to decorate Easter eggs tonight, but a tired two-year-old postponed those plans. Looking forward to that; it’s been decades since I’ve decorated Easter eggs and I imagine I’m going to have a good time doing so.

I called the hospital to get an update on Mom and was surprised to find that she’s been discharged. I called her cellphone and it went straight to voicemail, as I expected – her phone likely died and was on the charger. So I called Kenneth, our family friend that’s watching over her and left a message for him to call me. He did after a few hours. He was with Mom at her nursing facility. She was in bad shape. Moving her from the hospital to the facility disoriented her greatly, and she’s convinced that the staff is out to get her. She’s scared to death that they’re going to kill her and she spent great effort in trying to leave instructions for me “should something happen to her.” Kenneth and I did a video call, so I could see her and vice versa, and she was jumpy the whole time I was on the phone with her. Kenneth eventually stepped out of the room to give me a full report on what’s going on, and we hung up at that point, telling me that he would call me back when he got back into the room. I managed to completely eat dinner and settle for a while before he got back to me. It apparently took a while, but he and one of the staff managed to get her calmed down enough for him to leave. He said he’d be checking in on her tomorrow morning before work, and that we’d touch base sometime tomorrow to give me an update. Kenneth has a massive amount of things that he’s dealing with right now, and he’s an absolute saint to be spending so much time with Mom.

Updates from Arizona will likely be short, since we are going to have a busy schedule while we’re here and I’m not sure how much time I’ll have day to day.

More Medical Updates


I went to the doctor today to get my knee looked at, prior to the Phoenix trip on Thursday. She agrees with my assessment that there’s no real damage to it, that I just banged it up pretty hard, and that all will work itself out without issue. She’s cleared me to take off the knee immobilizer and do away with the crutches conditionally. If my knee starts to feel like it’s trying to give way, I’m to put the brace back on and use the crutches. As a result, both will be making the trip with me to Phoenix. She’s also cleared me to fly, but wants me to take advantage of wheelchair service in the airports to minimize the chances of overusing my knee. The good part of this is that it means priority boarding here in Austin, although it’s still a bit iffy whether we’ll be able to grab the bulkhead seats or not.

I spoke with Mom’s nurse today. She says they did the Doppler test of Mom’s carotid artery today but the results haven’t yet been read, so I’ll be waiting for that tomorrow. Mom’s had a tiring day – occupational therapy had her sitting in her chair for a while, and that wore her out, and as a result she had a spell where she was anxious and crying. The medication that they had been using at night to get her to sleep better has been re-prescribed to be taken as needed, so they gave her a dose of that a little while before I called. I asked to speak with Mom if she was awake, which she was, but she was barely so, so my conversation with her was short, and she fell asleep with me on the phone before I could wake her up to hang up with me. She wasn’t nearly as coherent today as she was last night, something that I chalk up to the medication and the activity of the day. (She was nice enough to wish me Merry Christmas, though, and it was all I could do not to reply “And a convivial Tuesday in April to you too, Pool!” I might have watched Deadpool one too many times.) I imagine there will continue to be a series of steps forward and back for Mom before all is said and done, but it was still a little discouraging to hear her regress from where she was last night.

Tomorrow’s going to be a busy day trying to pack for a flight once more. Not much looking forward to it, but it beats flying with the clothes on my back. Blog updates might be short from Thursday to Sunday, since I don’t know if we’re going to have room to set up the laptops in Phoenix and blogging from my phone is a little tedious, but we’ll see what happens.

Improvements in Two Generations


This morning I made an appointment to have my knee looked at post-ER visit to see if there’s a necessity for further testing. I’m inclined to say that there won’t be, although my doctor might decide to be safe and send me for an MRI anyway. My range of motion is diminished somewhat, but I can bend it to greater than 90 degrees and I went up and down a flight of steps – slowly, holding the handrail – without any trouble. So I think I’m going to be okay.

I was writing that paragraph when I got a call from North Carolina. More on that in a minute.

I called the hospital this afternoon to get an update on Mom. Her nurse says that she’s communicating well and responded appropriately about being teased about the taste of her medicine (Mom teased right back). This was the same nurse that watched over her on Friday, and she said that she sees an improvement in Mom. They’re planning to do a doppler test of her carotid artery – they told me it’s kind of like an ultrasound – to help pave the way to determine the severity of the stroke.

So you can understand my absolute shock and delight when my mother called me tonight.

Mom’s speaking in full sentences at a time, although there was one point that I was on the phone with her that she lost the word that she was trying to think of, but rather than resorting to the repetitive babbling that she was doing, she was all “uh” and “um” before working her way around the word with a summary of what she was trying to say. She’s still not entirely rooted in reality – she was speaking of a present that we are unaware of, and how not finding it meant that she didn’t have the money to do something or other, and she wanted to know about when we were changing stations, something that once again we have no idea about. But she was communicating, and that’s a good thing.

I’m still inclined to think that I’m going to have to step in and take over her finances at least temporarily to make sure that things get done while she’s still struggling with reality. But I’m not resigned to thinking that it’s going to be a permanent thing anymore.