Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Picture This

Photography has always been a hobby for me. When I was in high school, I bought a Canon AE-1 and carried it around with me everywhere. I photographed people, animals, flowers, buildings, hot air balloons, and just about anything else I saw.

I loved taking pictures. But film and developing were expensive and I didn't have a darkroom, so I was limited.

And then there was digital.   *cue choir*

Several years ago, we bought a digital camera for the family. The Kodak EasyShare - a simple point and shoot camera that was easy to use and took nice pictures.  Best of all, no film and no developing. I could take as many pictures as I wanted (until the memory card was full) and delete those that I didn't like. It was nice, but I wasn't completely satisfied.

I started looking at the high-end digital SLR cameras. This was what I really wanted, but I wasn't ready to spend that much money. So I waited.

My next camera purchase was a Pentax W90. This is my "activity" camera. We do a lot of camping and backpacking, so resistance to water, shock and dust are important.  The Pentax has a lot of great features and takes really good pictures. I found myself getting hooked on my old hobby again.

The siren song of the digital SLR's got louder. 

And then I got the most wonderful news... our company was paying Christmas bonuses this year. I could finally get my new camera.  I debated the features of the Canon (my old favorite) versus the Nikon.  I polled my friends for their recommendations. I talked to professional photographers.  And I made my decision.

My new Nikon D90 is on its way and should be here in time for Christmas.

And I can't wait!


The latest update on my 52 Organizing Missions:

#35 Set "Yes" Priorities - This will be ongoing. I know my priorities and I will consider each commitment (before I make it) to make sure it contributes to my priorities.

#34 Donate 50 Things - I have a garbage bag full of clothes and a box of miscellaneous items that are going to the thrift store this week.  :)

#33 Organize Your E-Mail Management - I deleted old e-mails (on all accounts) and unsubscribed from a bunch of newsletters that I have no interest in reading.

I'm more than half-way through this project, and I can see a definite improvement. This has really helped me get back to being a calm, organized person.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I Remember Christmas

I remember waiting for Christmas and feeling like it took forever to get here.

I remember decorating the tree on the day after Thanksgiving.

I remember baking enough cookies to fill a dozen gift tins with my family.

I remember driving around town to look at the lights. 

I remember singing Christmas carols in the neighborhood and at nursing homes.

I remember shopping for the perfect gift.

I remember making gingerbread houses.

I remember eggnog, spiced cider and mulled wine.

I remember visits to (and from) Santa Claus.

I remember Christmas concerts, as a performer and as a listener.

I remember spending time with my extended family during the holidays.

I remember Christmas.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Adventures in Medicine - Part 5 (The Neverending Story)

When we last left our heroine (back in August), we were still trying to get the PT/INR to settle at a steady 2.0.  An October reading of 2.0 got me a month-long reprieve from finger sticks, but the success was short-lived. In November, it was back down to 1.4. A week later, with increased dosage, it was up to 1.8. (Finally headed in the right direction.) 

The doctor decided I should stay at that dosage and then proceeded to explain to me that IF there had been no previous history of blood clots and IF we had an idea of what might have caused the clots he would take me off the medication after 6 months, but since that wasn't the case here... 


I patiently related my case history to him once again, reminding him that I did NOT have any history of blood clots and that we DID have a good idea of what had caused them, and concluded by saying that I was very excited about stopping the medication at the end of January. He had to count on his fingers (I'm not making this up!) before agreeing that the end of January would indeed be the six month mark.

I am SO looking forward to January and the end of this story.

On another note...

I really fell behind in my 52 Organizing Missions, but I have finally caught up.  I am happy to check off the following missions.

#13 Organize Your Emergency Contacts - Nicely typed and posted on the kitchen bulletin board.
#14 Organize Your Household Notebook - Actually, I use a Rolodex, but it works for me.
#15 Organize Your Kitchen Surfaces - Nice and tidy, everything in its place.
#16 Streamline Your Books, CDs and DVDs - With my huge book collection, this is a work in progress and will continue to be for some time, but I have made good progress.
#17 Create Your Bedroom Sanctuary - One of the rooms that I have not allowed to get cluttered.
#18 Organize Your Computer - My computer is my lifeline - and I keep it pretty organized, did get rid of some old unneeded files.
#19 Organize Your Office - Cleaned up my work office (in preparation for a move).  The home office still needs work.
#20 Create Your Organized Life Bedtime Routine - This one was easy - I already have a routine that works for me. Just added a little preparation for the next day and it was good to go.
#21 Create Your Organized Life Morning Routine - Finally got this one down... even to the point of starting a load of clothes or dishes before I head out the door.
#22 Organize Your Bathroom - Threw out all the old, unneeded products and found space in my drawers and cabinets!
#23 Declutter Your Friends - I've looked at this one, but don't see any need for changes yet.
#24 Create a Chore Chart - Have the weekly chores down, still working on the less frequent ones.
#25 Procrastination Demon Busting - What I'm doing right now... getting caught up!
#26 Reflect and Reward - Nice.
#27 Streamline Your Work Tasks - Done.
#28 Streamline Your Home Organization Tasks - Getting there.
#29 Make The Most of Your Personal Time - Another work in progress, but I'm getting better.
#30 Organize Your Personal Stress Management Plan - Working on this one too - need to really start saying "no" more often.
#31 Organize Your Living Area - This one is in good shape.
#32 Organize Your Laundry - Another easy one. We are limited to one wash load per day (due to being on a septic system) and I keep to a pretty strict schedule.  My son organized my laundry room cabinets a few years ago and we've done a pretty good job of keeping them neat.

While I may not have fully completed every assignment, I have done enough on each of them to let them go and remove them from my to do list. This is a huge step toward getting organized for me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Mailbox Fairy

We live on a two-lane, blacktop road in a somewhat rural area. The road curves in front of our house. Sometimes drivers don't see the curve because they are drunk distracted, and they run off the road, leaving tracks in the grass or landing in a shallow ditch (one woman even rolled her car over our driveway and landed in front of the neighbor's house).

Our mailbox sits right next to our driveway - directly in the path of these off-road drivers.  I have lost count of the number of times it has been hit.  Sometimes it's a simple matter of putting the post back in the ground; sometimes the box looks more like a pancake and has to be replaced.

A few months ago, we replaced our scarred, bent and faded mailbox with a new one. The pole was a little wobbly, but the new box looked good. Within weeks, the pole was leaning backward, probably due to a glancing blow from a passing truck's mirror. It was still functional, so we left it alone. Evidently this was a good decision. Tire tracks in front of the box show that it's Leaning Tower of Pisa impression allowed it to survive another near miss the following week.

Last weekend, the mailbox took a more direct hit which bent the door and left the pole leaning at a 45 degree angle. The mailman deemed it unusable (meaning he could no longer reach it from his car) and refused to deliver our mail.

I asked my son to fix it (knowing there was little chance of this happening while there were video games to be played) and was pleasantly surprised when I got home from work to find the mailbox standing straight, the door looking less bent, and filled with mail. I hugged my son and thanked him... and got a blank stare.  He didn't fix it. I asked my husband if he had fixed it. Nope.

It must have been the mailbox fairy. Thank you, mailbox fairy!

Monday, November 22, 2010


"If you want something done, ask a busy person." This is so true! Busy people are organized. Busy people have great resources. Busy people can juggle multiple priorities. Busy people rarely say no.

Busy people are exhausted.

I know. I am a busy person, and I frequently live in a state of chaos with my crowded schedule and ever-growing "to do" list. It's been like this most of my life. At my high school choir banquet, I was presented with the "workaholic" award. I wasn't there to accept the award... I was working that evening.

I work a full-time job to support my family. I cook, I clean (sort of) and I sew. I chaperon the high school band at football games and competitions. I hold several volunteer positions with Boy Scouts and regularly help at special events.

I sometimes find myself thinking that I can relax after I finish    (insert current project here)   . But when each project is finished, another one is waiting to fill the void.

My friends and family don't understand. Why do I take on these added responsibilities? Do I have a desire to feel needed? Am I searching for approval?


But for me, it's much more than that.

It's the smile on my family's faces as they model their new Renaissance costumes. It's all the kids calling me "mama" on the band bus. It's camping with my son and our Scouting friends. It's meeting new people and making new friends. It's congratulating 46 adults who just completed their Wood Badge training course and seeing the looks (and tears) of gratitude on their faces.

It's the best feeling in the world.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Water Woes

I woke up Saturday morning before the alarm went off. We had a busy day planned, so I fought the urge to roll over and go back to sleep, and got up instead. After saying good morning to my husband, who was already busy surfing the 'net, I went to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. But first, I had to deal with the pile of recyclables taking up space on my countertop. Cans were crushed, plastic smashed, and glass bottles gently placed in the bin.  Then, finally, the coffee was set to brew.  Time to deal with the hand-wash-only dishes. I turned on the water and reached for the sponge and... the water dropped to a bare trickle.  Uh-oh!

The water going out is never a good thing.  For most people, it means you call the water company to report an outage and then wait for them to get it fixed.  When you live in the country, like we do, you don't have a water company... you have a well.  When you have a well, you call the well repair company and wait for them to come fix it... and hope that it's something simple (cheap) to fix.  (There are not a lot of cheap parts on a water well.)

This is not the first time we've had our well repaired.  Not surprising.  We've lived in the house for 20 years, and things are bound to break if you hang around long enough.  We were fortunate enough to find a wonderful company in Conroe - McKnight's Water Well Service.  If you're in the area, and need this kind of service, give them a call.  They're fast, they do a good job for a fair price, and they don't recommend unnecessary repairs (if it can last six months, they'll tell you to wait). 

This time, it was the pump. It was an easy repair - took less than half an hour - but it wasn't cheap. As he was leaving, Mr. McKnight informed us that he has personally replaced every working part of our well, except for the float valve (replaced before we found McKnight's) and the cement storage tank (if that ever needs replacing we have serious problems indeed). We should be good for a while now (I hope) and, while we like Mr. McKnight, we hope we don't have to see him again any time soon.

After spending the rest of the day (11 hours) working at the school's fall festival, that hot shower felt so good!  The new pump?  Worth. Every. Penny.

 Disclaimer: McKnight's Water Well Service did not reimburse me for mentioning their business in my blog. (They don't even know about it.)  I am just a satisfied customer who highly recommends this company.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Half-Time Show

Most folks refer to this time of year as football season, but at our house, it's marching band season. The after school practices, the Friday night games, the weekend competitions... they have been a part of my son's life for four years now.  Aside from providing black socks, washing the band shirt and shorts, and attending a couple of games every season, I haven't really been involved with the marching band... until this year.

This is Jimmy's last year of high school, his last year of marching band, so I decided to become an active member of the band boosters.  Yes, I am officially a Band Mom.  I ride on the bus with the kids to games and competitions, help move equipment on and off the field, pass out water, take pictures or run the video camera, and answer to "mama" for 60+ teenagers. 

At first, I thought that I would be spending a lot of extra time with my son, but that isn't the case. We drive to and from the school together and see each other while moving equipment, but that's about all.  The rest of the time I am in the stands dancing and cheering with the other moms.  We try to pay attention to the game and cheer when our team scores, but we know we are all there for only one thing... half-time!  The team may win or lose, but the band always puts on a great show.

Last Saturday I attended my first band competition.  Working on very little sleep after the previous night's game, we arrived at the school at 6:00 AM.  After a quick review of video and a walk-through of their routine, we boarded the bus for the 1-1/2 ride to the host school. We arrived around 8:30 and started preparing for the 10:00 performance. After performing, the kids watched the other bands to see what their competition had to offer, and waited for the awards ceremony.

Evidently, the judges were impressed with our little band from Panther Land. They gave them a rating of 1, and awarded them with trophies for Outstanding Drum Line, Outstanding Drum Major, and Outstanding Overall Performance.  After three years of "almost, but not quite," the kids were thrilled to win three out of five categories for their division. 

I am so glad that I decided to be a part of this amazing group of individuals. I'd like to attend every single game and competition, unfortunately other committments will prevent this, but you can bet I will be there every time I can... with bells on.  Yes, I said bells.  Go Panthers!!

Due to my recent hospital stay and my new Band Mom duties, I've fallen behind on my 52 Organizing Missions. I plan to continue with the project and I have a few updates to add. 
  • #10 Clear out your closet. I pulled out a large bag full of clothes that I no longer wear. Still plenty of stuff that needs to be weeded out. I'd like to pull out everything and evaluate each item - something to plan for the future.  Done (for now).
  • #11 Create your wardrobe wish list.  I have more than enough clothes to meet my current needs. No need for a wish list.  Done.
  • #12 Organize your accounts and credit cards. Did this one several years ago. We have one checking account and a 529 savings for my son's college (next year!!!!). The credit cards have been whittled down to 4 - a gas card and 3 majors - and they are all paid in full every month. Done.
I'm expecting #25 tomorrow, so I have a lot of catching up to do.  Maybe when marching band season is over...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Will Work for Wheels

There comes a time when you begin to wonder if your vehicle is worth keeping. You know... when you spend more time at the repair shop than you do on the road, or when the repair bill is more than your paycheck.  This is where I am today. Once again, I'm waiting on a mechanic to finish working on my truck.

I've considered trading my '03 Explorer for a newer model, but now I feel like I have to keep it for a while longer to justify all the money that I've just put into it. Last week it was brakes and struts (and a few related things) - $2800. Then it was new tires - $550.  And now I am looking at the possibility of having to replace the rear end - another $2500. Ugh! I'm working just to keep my truck running!

I do have to tell you that I'm really fortunate to have found a great shop to handle all my repairs - Milstead Automotive. They do a great job, they don't try to sell you repairs that you don't need, and they stand by their work. And no, they did not pay me anything to mention their services - I am just so happy with them that I felt I had to share. If you are in The Woodlands or Conroe area, this is a great place to take your vehicle.  If you go there, you might see me... patiently working on my laptop as I wait for them to complete yet another repair.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I'm Proud of My Eagle Scout

In first grade, my son brought home a flyer about Cub Scouts. My husband took him to the after school meeting and signed him up for Tiger Cubs. He stuck with Cub Scouts for 4-1/2 years, learning important skills like:

     How to properly race a sailboat in a raingutter without swamping it,
     How to make silver turtles,
     How to build a prize-winning pinewood race car, and
     How to have fun on camp-outs (even when it rained).

We learned along with him.

He earned belt loops and pins, arrow points, badges, and enough patches to completely fill his little red "brag vest" - plus a few more. In 5th grade he earned the Arrow of Light and was ready to join Boy Scouts. The event was marked by a nighttime ceremony that included older Scouts in Indian regalia and a roaring bonfire.

After joining Boy Scouts, the learning continued and the adventures got more exciting. He went on monthly campouts - including canoe trips, climbing, and backpacking. He participated in service projects with his troop.  While earning merit badges, he learned more skills and investigated hobbies and possible careers.  He took leadership roles within the troop and began teaching younger Scouts. He quickly moved up through the rank requirements and by the age of 12 he was a Life Scout. 

Instead of trying to earn Eagle right away, James decided to "relax".

He planned and completed the restoration of a nature trail at the local Scout camp.  It took three years for him to complete the related paperwork, but he finally finished it and earned the Hornaday badge for his efforts.

He was elected by his fellow Scouts to the Order of the Arrow (Scouting's honor society).  He attended all the regular Lodge and Section events - as a participant at first, then as a staff member. He joined 500 fellow Arrowmen in reclaiming 134 acres of overgrown meadows in the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri. He attended the National Order of the Arrow Conference at Indiana University. Last year he received the Vigil Honor for his past and future participation. He currently holds the office of Order of the Arrow Chapter Chief.

In addition to leadership and merit badge requirements, James had to plan and complete a project to qualify for the Eagle award. He led a group of Scouts, Scouters, friends and family, in building four picnic tables – providing outdoor seating for the students of a local elementary school.  His project was completed in June.  And upon returning from summer camp in July, he completed his Eagle Board of Review and became an Eagle Scout.

Last Sunday, we held an Eagle Court of Honor to celebrate his achievement. I struggled to hold back tears as I listened to him tell of his experiences in Scouting and thank those people who had mentored him through the years.  Scouting has helped my little boy to grow into a strong, well-rounded, and compassionate man.

I am so very proud of my Eagle Scout.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Adventures in Medicine - Part 4 (The Home Version)

It has been a few weeks since I was released from the hospital, but the adventure is far from over. Let me catch you up.

I left the hospital on Wednesday (Aug. 4) with prescriptions for 3 days worth of Lovenox injections and 10 days worth of Coumadin, and an appointment with my new GP on Friday. My first day home included errands to the hospital to get copies of my records (check) and my bill (not ready yet), Hastings to rent movies, and WalMart for vitamins (without K). It was a lot of walking for someone who had been in bed for five days, and I was tired when we got home.

I managed my injections with no trouble at all. I'm glad I didn't need any help, because the guys disappeared when I brought out the syringes. A little squeamish, perhaps?

I was sure that I had lost weight with all those "two bites and I'm done" hospital dinners, so I dug the bathroom scales out of the closet. I think I last weighed myself was in April or May. Anyway, the results... I had lost 13 pounds! Now, the trick will be keeping it off without the hospital diet plan.

On Friday morning, I met my new GP. He is short, red-haired and had received no information about me from the hospital.  Good thing I brought the records with me.  My PT/INR was 1.9, so the doc decided we would stop the Lovenox after the remaining three injections. Yay!  He scheduled blood work for the following Wednesday and told me I could go back to work on Monday.

After my blood work appointment on Wednesday, I stopped by the doctor's office to see what the next step would be. The doc obviously didn't remember me. He asked me if I had a history of blood clots (no, just the one I was hospitalized for last week) and later commented that we did not know what caused the clots (actually, we're pretty sure that it was the injury to my leg muscles combined with the birth control pills I was taking). They checked my PT/INR - still 1.9. The doc modified my Coumadin dosage - added another 1/2 tablet every Wednesday. I thought this was a bit strange, but later learned that these tiny adjustments are pretty standard. He recommended that I get support stockings to help with the swelling in my ankle and calf. (Yeah, that's not happening.) I scheduled a two-week follow up appointment.

I've started getting the bills for my little adventure. The hospital bill was over $30,000 and I've only started getting the various lab and consultant bills - looks like that will be another thousand. I am so glad I have good insurance. Even so, it's going to take a bite out of the old bank account.

The two-week follow up appointment was yesterday morning, and I was reminded of why I stopped using this practice for my son many years ago. After my name was called, I sat in the exam room and waited for the doctor... for an hour. When he finally arrived, I had to repeat my history for him. (I now have a serious lack of confidence in this doctor.) My PT/INR was at 1.3, so the doctor changed my dosage again. First, he told me to take 1-1/2 tablets for the next three days (to give it a boost) and then he wanted me to take 1-1/2 tablets on Sundays and Wednesdays and 1 tablet on all the other days. He drew a little calendar on a prescription form to explain it.

I asked about my blood work and he was surprised that no one had called me with the results. (I wasn't.) As of two weeks ago, my hormones were all normal, I had iron deficiency anemia, my cholesterol was high (215 which is below average for me), I had a high platelet count (no big surprise), my C reactive protein count was above average, and I needed more vitamin D. None of this was surprising, but I will be interested to see what changes in 4 weeks when we run it all again.  In the meantime, we have added calcium supplements to my daily pill collection.

I have another appointment to check my PT/INR in 2 weeks. 

I can't wait.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Adventures in Medicine - Part 3

Tuesday, August 3
Last night, I slept! I remember waking at midnight when the tech came to take vitals, then again at 4:00 (more vitals), at 4:40 for the vampire, who collected four more vials (total - 37), and finally at 7:30 when breakfast arrived. Nine hours of sleep (more or less) does not make up for the previous 3 nights, but it helps.

Today's PT/INR is 1.22 - still just barely creeping up. The doctor doubles my dosage of Coumadin.

I have no morning visitors, so I spend time on Facebook. I am terribly amused by a friend's analogy comparing blood clots to loud drunks tubing down the Guadalupe river toward his favorite fishing spot.

I take another shower (a long one) and wait for the pulmonary specialist... who never shows. I visit with a dietitian who instructs me on which foods to avoid while taking Coumadin. Evidently all of those wonderful leafy green veggies that are so good for you, are now off my diet. They have vitamin K and that reduces the effectiveness of Coumadin. No more spinach salads or broccoli for a while.

I scare the staff when my telemetry monitor makes strange noises. They come running into my room to check on me and find me calmly writing in my planner. I wish I knew what I did to cause this... I could try it again later when I get bored. 

There is talk of sending me home, but I still need the twice daily shots of Lovenox. Patient services checks on the cost of the prescription.  It is almost $1100 for 7 days ($220 after insurance). At 4:00 I realize that I will not be going home today, and am disappointed.

Afternoon visitors arrive - family and a friend. It's a slightly smaller crowd this time, only 6 people at once. They stay until dinner time. Then it is just me and Mike - until he leaves for dinner. Jimmy stops by on his way home from a Scout meeting and stays until 9:00.

I have a male nurse tonight. Something new and different. 

I stay up late playing on Facebook. I realize that I have forgotten to order breakfast.  I hope they send something good. I am not worried, because I know that breakfast is the one meal that they do really well at this hospital. Even the eggs are good. Lunch is usually good as long as you stick to soups and salads. Dinner is tricky. If you order items from the grill (chicken strips or burgers) you are fine, but stay away from the dinner entrees.  They have three different choices each night, and so far they've all been disappointing. I can tell that I have lost weight during my stay here.

Wednesday, August 4
The vampire is late today. She arrives at 6:00 (better watch out for that sun!) - total vials collected now at 41. I watch TV until breakfast arrives.  I am pleased with the selection, but there is too much food and I don't eat everything.

My PT/INR is 1.52. It has jumped 0.3 in one day. I am encouraged.

The pulmonary specialist arrives to tell me my echo cardiogram was normal. He can do nothing more for me and is signing off my case. I am overjoyed. This improves my chances for going home today... and I am no longer stuck in bed!!

A financial services rep stops by to ask how I plan to pay my deductible and (estimated) co-pay. I dutifully hand over my credit card. I expect to be doing a lot more of this as the bills start rolling in. Now, I am sure that I will get to go home today.   

I take a long shower (bliss) and "forget" to have the tech reconnect the telemetry monitor.

My doctor stops by. She wants to send me home, but is concerned about the Lovenox. I assure her that I can administer the injections myself. I convince her to write a prescription for three days instead of seven, to reduce the cost. If my PT/INR is still below 2.0 after three days, my doctor can prescribe more. This solution works for her and she begins the discharge process.

I gather all my things and prepare to check out, then I wander down the hall to fill my water mug - feeling almost guilty for being out of bed.  A friend stops by with a gift of puzzle books. She is happy that I am going home and stays to keep me company while I wait.

The doctor moves my evening injection up to 6:00 (instead of 9:00), so I can leave. I receive instructions on how to administer the Lovenox and am surprised at how easy it is to stick myself with a needle.

I call Mike to come pick me up.  He has 30 minutes to get there before shift change. If he is late, we will have to wait another hour. He and Jimmy arrive with 10 minutes to spare.  The nurse has stashed a wheelchair in my room (smart woman), and we are loaded and out the door in less than five minutes. 

Our first stop is Pizza Shack, where I have some of the most delicious pizza I have ever tasted. My hospital diet has given me a new appreciation for good food. Our next stop is the drug store, where we fill my prescriptions for Coumadin and Lovenox. The bill is almost $100.  Yikes!

Finally, we head home. I am so happy to be back home. I unpack my bag and settle in.

The cats take a full day to recognize me. Darn cats.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Adventures in Medicine - Part 2

Saturday, July 31
The phlebotomist arrives at 4:45 AM to collect more blood samples. I have started referring to the phlebotomists as vampires. I am not the only one... the nurses do it too. 

I give up on trying to sleep, turn on the TV and wait for breakfast. Breakfast arrives at 7:30 and it is surprisingly good. My husband arrives with more stuff from home - things to keep me busy. A friend from work stops by for a visit. She was recently in the hospital, so we compare notes.

I am hooked up to a telemetry monitor, so they can keep tabs on me, and now the IV has to stay in. It's in the bend of my left arm - uncomfortable. I am not happy. Fortunately, the telemetry monitor is wireless, so I can still get out of bed without assistance.

After lunch (decent food), more visitors - family and friends all arrive at the same time.  My room is crowded with seven visitors. It's hard to keep up with what everyone is saying.

My doctor stops by and tells me it's okay to walk around a bit if I want to. Then the pulmonologist arrives and asks all the visitors to step outside. He tells me that they have found a clot in my lung and wants me to stay in bed for 5 days. He uses strong, scary language - tells me that I am lucky to be alive and if another clot goes to my lung I might not be so lucky. He schedules an echo cardiogram.

The vampire comes and collects 8 more vials of blood.  (Total vials - 25)

Interesting fact about hospital stays: Your nurse and tech team changes every 12 hours. Sometimes you get a different team each day.
Most nurses and techs are great, but some are not so great. Tonight I have one of those not so great teams. The nurse injects the Lovenox so quickly that it burns for half an hour afterwards. (Future shots will be preceded by instructions to inject the medicine slowly.) I ask the tech for more water at midnight. At 7:30 she remembers to bring the water.  I wish I was at home.

Sunday, August 1
No vampires this morning. Surprised, since they are supposed to check my PT/INR levels every day. PT/INR measures the length of time it takes for the blood to clot. Normal is 1, they want my number to be between 2 and 3.

I want a shower, and spent most of the night formulating a plan to convince the nurse and tech to let me have one. I am surprised when the tech arrives and asks me if I would like a shower. Just like that... no negotiations required.  It is amazing just how much better I feel after a shower.

My boss and her husband stop by for a visit in the morning and my family shows up in the afternoon. Having the visitors spaced out is much better than everyone showing up all at once.

The vampire shows up after dinner and collects four more samples. (Total vials - 29) Later I learn that my PT/INR is 1.0, yesterday it was less than 1.

I'm still not sleeping well.  I can't get used to all the noises, the people in and out of my room every hour, and the bed that is constantly adjusting. I am enjoying the novelty of having television, though.

Monday, August 2
Vampire's running a little late this morning, she showed up at 5:00, collected 4 more samples. (Total vials - 33)  At 6:00, the tech arrives with the echo cardiogram machine. Finally, we get to see if my heart is still functioning properly. The tech arranges my bed so that I can see the monitor. Very cool pictures and sounds. The tech keeps me laughing the whole time. What a great way to start the day.

Breakfast is good. This is the one meal that they consistently do well. I have learned that sandwiches and salads are a safe bet, and to stay away from the dinner entrees.

My PT/INR is 1.1 today. The number is just barely moving up. I want it to move faster so that the shots can stop... so that I can go home.

Not many visitors today - most everyone has to work.  Mike comes by for a few hours during the day, then he and Jimmy come back in the evening. I receive a lovely bouquet of flowers from work. They make me smile.
I watch TV until 10PM.  I am so tired that I can't hold my head up.  I shut off the lights and go to sleep.

Yes, sleep.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Adventures in Medicine - Part 1

Friday, July 30
While I was at summer camp, I strained a muscle in my leg. A month later, the muscle is still sore and swollen and I'm hurting, so I follow the advice of concerned family and friends, and make a 9:00 appointment with my orthopedic doctor.  The doctor tells me I've definitely strained and probably even torn the muscle. He schedules me for a venous doppler (ultrasound) to make sure that I don't have any blood clots in my leg, and tells me that he doesn't expect they will find anything.

I arrive at radiology half an hour early for my 1:30 appointment.  Good thing, since the nurse has sent me to the wrong place. I am directed to the cardio-pulmonary unit... at the other end of the hospital.  No problem - walking helps stretch that sore muscle. Cardio sends me to the registration desk, where I learn that the doctor's office has not yet sent any orders. A few phone calls takes care of the problem and I am registered as an out-patient. I arrive back at the cardio-pulmonary unit... exactly on time.

After only five minutes in the waiting room, I am led to the exam room.  The scan takes only a few minutes. The results take a bit longer. Fortunately this hospital firmly believes in a TV for every room, so I watch and wait. The tech returns with the news... "You are positive for DVT (deep vein thrombosis)." I am stunned.

I am no longer allowed to walk. The tech and her student assistant load me into a wheelchair and take me to the emergency room. (Next door to radiology, where I started). I wait while they try to contact my doctor - who has left for the weekend. I start making phone calls to notify family, friends and work. After an hour or so, a nurse tells me that they are going to admit me. A tech will take me to registration.

We arrive back at registration and, again, they do not have any orders. We learn that I should have been registered at the ER registration desk, not the outpatient desk. No worries - paperwork is faxed and the registration is completed. I am given an armband and taken to my room on the fourth floor. 

I am greeted by my day nurse, who has a list of questions for me, and my technician. The interview process is lengthy and peppered with amusing comments and laughter. I am instantly at ease with this fiesty lady from New York. After all the questions have been answered and my vitals have been checked, I call Mike (my husband) with my room number and a list of things to bring from home.

Mike and Jimmy (my son) arrive with my necessities (laptop) and we discuss all that has happened. They leave briefly for dinner. My own dinner is delivered - typical hospital food. Fortunately, I don't have much of an appetite. I get a chest x-ray while sitting in bed (didn't expect that!) and a new nurse and tech. I also get my meds - Coumadin and Lovenox, which is delivered by injection - in the abdomen - twice a day. Ouch!

Mike and Jimmy return quickly followed by the phlebotomist, who collects 13 blood samples - enough to allow for all the tests that might be ordered.

After my family leaves for the evening, I keep myself entertained with e-mail, Facebook and Twitter until I learn that I have been scheduled for a CT scan. I get an IV line and take a wheelchair ride to radiology. The radiology tech is handsome and gentle. He'd fit right in on Grey's Anatomy. (I am later berated by a single friend for not doing a wedding ring check.) I have never had a CT scan before, so he tells me what to expect and warns me of some of the strange sensations that I might experience. The scan only takes a few minutes and I am on my way back to my room.

At midnight, I turn off the light and try to sleep. My bed has an air mattress and is designed to aleviate pressure points. It is contantly adjusting - inflating and deflating - and it's noisy. At 3:00, my nurse unplugs the bed so I can sleep. She is certain that it will not fully deflate. I wake up an hour later on a flat mattress. She plugs the bed back in. Between hourly checks, I try to nap, without bending my left arm, until morning.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Summer camp with the Boy Scouts - what a great idea for a summer vacation! Who wouldn't enjoy swimming, hiking, canoeing, and sleeping under the stars? Sounds like great fun.

Okay, now let's add a hurricane in the Gulf, and point it towards the Texas coast, uncomfortably close to where you are camping. That changes things just a bit, doesn't it? 

Here's how it went.

The first two days of camp were pretty good.  It was a bit hot and humid, but a light breeze kept it bearable. We slept in A-frame tents with the flaps rolled up.  I was lucky enough to get a tent to myself... well, sort of.  Every tent had its own collection of bugs: assorted spiders, masses of daddy long-legs, cicadas, katydids, grasshoppers, and walking sticks.  I found this little guy in my tent.  He was about 6 inches long and as big around as my pinky!

On Wednesday morning, the weather turned rainy and it stayed that way for the rest of the week. All of the water classes were cancelled because the river's current was deemed too strong, so our boys were unable to complete those merit badges.  By Friday, the river had risen 2 feet and, after lunch, camp staff moved everyone to the dining hall at the top of the hill. We had a quick adult pow-wow and decided to leave early since the classes were done and the closing activities would be limited due to the rain.  The boys were packed up and ready to go in record time.  I think we were all anxious to go home.

So here I sit, almost a month later, still nursing a sore leg (strained muscles from too much climbing followed by too much driving?) and reliving my week at Scout camp. 

Did I have a good time? Yes. Even though I never got to take that canoe trip, it was still a fun week.

Will I go again next summer?  Mmmm, I think I'm gonna hold out for that cruise.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Lazy Days of Summer?

June has been a very busy month.  The first two weeks were kind of a blur of working then coming home and trying to feed my family without the use of a stove.  Then, there was the matter of installing the new stove. 

Installing a stove should be a very simple matter, but the word simple just doesn't seem to apply to our house.  Problem #1: We noticed right away that the new stove seemed to be shorter than the old one.  Evidently the standard size of drop-in stoves has changed over the years. (Am I the only one who thinks this is really stupid?)  So, we got some 2x4's and, with the help of a friend, created a frame to lift the stove to the correct height.  So far, so good.  Problem #2: When we tried to slide the stove in, we found that the opening in the counter top wasn't wide enough.  After several days of shaving and checking and shaving some more, my hubby got the opening wide enough to fit the stove. Finally!  We celebrated by baking cookies after dinner. 

Last Saturday, my son and ten of his friends (and a few adults) spent the day working on his Eagle project. It was hot and humid, but everyone worked really well together.  At the end of the day, there were four brand new picnic tables ready to be used by the students of a local elementary school.  The tables turned out so nice that I just might have to get them to build one for my backyard.

I've been keeping up with my 52 Organizing Missions, even though I haven't been keeping up with my blog. 
  • #6 Detox Your Car - This one was easy. I can't stand a messy vehicle, so I keep mine neat. I removed a couple of extra camp chairs from the back and threw away some expired insurance cards that were in the glove compartment. Done.
  • # 7 Be Happy - I've made my list of 10 things that make me happy, and I am working on incorporating those things into my life more often.
  • #8 De-clutter 50 Items - For this mission, I focused on my junk drawer and two utility drawers in my kitchen. I was able to get rid of over a hundred things. Most went straight to the trash. Now I can open and close my drawers without worrying about them getting stuck!
  • #9 Filing System Nirvana - I simplified my filing system several years ago and have been doing a pretty good job of shredding old paperwork regularly.  Just had to clean out a couple of folders to call this one done.
I just got my e-mail for Mission #10 and am really looking forward to that one.  I almost did this for #8, but figured that it would come up as a separate mission later.  I was right.  (See, it does happen sometimes.)  I'll have to wait a couple of weeks to do this one.

Next week I am going to summer camp with our Scout Troop.  It will be hot and humid, and I expect to see some of the typical problems that arise when you have 18 boys camping together for a week, and I will be spending part of my time teaching adult classes.  Somewhere in all that, I plan to have a little fun.. maybe take a hike or borrow a kayak and paddle down the river.   And that is how I will spend my summer vacation. 

Next year, I'm planning a cruise.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Fire! (or "How I Spent My Weekend")

It started out as a typical Saturday morning. I awoke to the sound of the coffee grinder.  My husband was up and he was making coffee.  Yes!  After lying in bed for a few more lazy I-don't-have-to-get-up-yet moments, I followed the lovely aroma of fresh coffee into the kitchen.

Coffee was poured, options were discussed, and we went about the business of making breakfast. I put the biscuits in the oven and started browning sausage while my husband mixed the orange juice.

Four minutes left on the biscuits and he noticed it... the strange glow on a small section of the oven's heating element. Then there were small sparks.  At first, we both thought it was a spill... perhaps a bit of grease from last night's roast chicken.  After a few minutes we realized that this was no spill.  The element itself was burning.  We removed the biscuits and turned off the oven, hoping that would solve the problem.  It didn't.

Time for more serious measures.  Hubby sprayed it with our handy kitchen fire extinguisher, which resulted in a cloud of chemical dust that quickly spread throughout the house and sent us running to open windows.  It did not, however, put out the fire. 

One final option before calling the fire department was to shut off the power at the breaker box.  That finally did the trick.  We breathed a sigh of relief (near the open window, of course) and then, after the dust settled, continued with our weekend breakfast. Amazingly enough, the food was undamaged and the biscuits were browned to perfection.

After breakfast, my husband and son disconnected the stove so we could safely turn the power back on, and moved it to the backyard. I actually smiled a little as I said good-bye to the last of our old 1980's harvest gold appliances. (Yuck!)

Anyone who has ever used a chemical fire extinguisher, know that the dust gets everywhere. It took over an hour to clean up the kitchen... and I haven't even started on the rest of the house. I am just thankful that most of the bedroom doors were closed. 

Our afternoon plans changed slightly.  We still went to the movies (because I really needed to relax), followed by appliance shopping.  Our new stove will be delivered in two weeks.  Yes, I said two weeks. Our stove is a drop-in model, which is not stocked in any store and has to be ordered. 

Things are going to be a bit different for the next two weeks, but we are not without options.  I can cook meals using the crock pot, microwave, toaster oven, electric wok, charcoal grill, and Coleman stove.  I think we're covered.  It does feel strange to walk into my kitchen and see the hole where my stove used to be, but in two weeks, we will have a brand new stove. 

Now, if I could just do something about that yellow laminate counter top...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Camping at Brazos Bend

I enjoyed camping when I was a kid, and didn't get to go often enough.  I can remember one overnighter with Camp Fire Girls where we held skills competitions.  I can light a fire and cook a pancake like nobody's business, y'all.  And I will never forget the weekend trips to Sulphur with my extended family. Sheltering from tornados in a car dealership basement with other campers - including a man who was wearing only a towel, and later watching my Nana try to burn her bra.  These are the memories of my childhood. 

Scary, isn't it?

When my son joined Cub Scouts in first grade, camping became a regular activity for our family. And, 10 years later, I still love it. 

Last weekend, we camped at Brazos Bend State Park with our Boy Scout Troop.  It was dark when we arrived, but the woods around us sparkled with thousands of fireflies and the moon lit the path to our campsite. 

Our campsite was deep in the woods, so it took a while to haul all of our gear in from the parking lot. Once we were settled, the other mom in our group suggested a quick shower to rinse off the sweat.  Have I mentioned the high humidity in this part of Texas?  The restrooms were about 1/4 mile from the parking area (great exercise opportunity) and, to our disappointment, were not equipped with showers.  It wasn't the first time I've had to settle for a sponge bath. 

It was still warm outside when we turned in for the night, but I was comfortable.  The "bath" had cooled me off and I left the rainfly off my tent to catch stray breezes.  The boys were excited, as they always are on the first night, and stayed up talking late into the night.  As their voices finally quieted, the chorus of snores began.  Sleep was a long time in coming.  One day I will learn to pitch my tent at the edge of the campsite, not in the middle.

On Saturday, the boys cooked, swung from vines, hiked, looked for alligators, learned about Texas snakes and did a simulated space mission.  It was a busy day.  After dinner, the boys put on a campfire program and performed a flag retirement ceremony.  Then we all went to the observatory to see the stars and planets through the big telescopes.  It was my first trip to the observatory and all I can say is... wow! 

The moon and the fireflies lit our way back to camp and we all went straight to bed.  If there was snoring, I fell asleep before it began.

Sunday morning in camp is bittersweet.  I find myself sad to be leaving such a beautiful place, but eager to get back home where I can enjoy a hot shower.

On Tuesday night, we'll be planning our next camping adventure. 

I can't wait!

Friday, May 21, 2010


Yesterday I received Mission #5: Become A Smart Verbal Communicator from Get Organized Wizard. The instructions were to (1) streamline my voicemail message, (2) write a script for leaving voicemails, and (3) write a script for delegating.

I've updated both my home and work voicemail messages to ask callers to tell me what they need from me and to leave contact information if they expect a reply. Rather than playing phone tag, we can actually use the voicemail system to communicate.  Wow, what a concept!

The tips for leaving voicemails for other people tells me to leave a detailed message that includes who I am, what I need, if a reply is needed or if there are deadlines, and my contact information.  I will try to follow these tips when leaving messages.  I wonder if the recipients will actually listen to the whole message or just hit delete and call me back.

I don't have anyone to delegate to, so I skipped this part.  Okay, that's not exactly true.  I sometimes ask my son to do things for me.  But, have you ever tried to give detailed instructions to a 16 year old boy?  Yeah.  Unless it's instructions for how to get to the next level of their favorite video game, you might as well forget it.

Another mission completed.  I wonder if it would be rude to forward this one to a few people who could really use it...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Commit for Life

My first donation was at a high school blood drive. I was eighteen. After graduating, I found that the donor coaches would sometimes come to my workplace, and I would happily roll up my sleeve. Boy Scout winter camp usually brings another opportunity to donate.

Without really trying at all, I've donated 22 pints of blood. That's 2 donations away from 3 gallons, people. But I have yet to live up to the Commit for Life promise I signed three years ago. The commitment says that I will donate once per quarter. My average... twice a year.

It's easy to donate when the coach comes to my office, but that only happens once or twice a year. Last year I couldn't donate at winter camp. I was still ineligible from my previous donation... by ONE DAY. I realized that meeting that once per quarter goal might actually take some effort on my part.

Two months ago, I had a day off and decided to stop by my neighborhood Blood Center to make a donation. I learned that they are open until 6:00 PM Monday - Thursday. I get off early enough to go after work. Great! So, I marked my calendar to donate again on May 17.

Yesterday, I drove straight to the Blood Center after work, ready to continue my renewed commitment of regular donations. But I hit another roadblock. My hemocrit (iron level) was 1 point too low. 24 hour deferral. Crap!

The technician gave me some helpful advice on getting more iron into my system and suggested I come back in a day or two. Since the technician was talkative, I asked her about platelet donations. I'd heard about it, but wanted details. I learned that it takes 6 whole blood donations to generate the same amount of platelets that can be collected from 1 automated platelet donation, and platelets only have a shelf life of 5 days so they always need donations. The process takes 2 hours and you can donate every week (max of 24 per year).

I'm not sure if I can sit still with a needle in my arm for 2 hours, but I'm thinking about giving it a try. My appointment is tomorrow.

How about you... would you do it? Have you done it?

Update (5/20/10)

I did it! I donated platelets and red cells yesterday. It was a lot like giving blood, just took a lot longer. I was on the machine for 1 hour, and they told me that it might be longer next time. The only side effect I experienced was a strange tingling in my mouth, and my hand did get a little tired of squeezing the ball after a while. I did not get light-headed at all (which sometimes happens when I donate whole blood).

The best part is that I don't have to wait 8 weeks to make my next donation. I can go back next week if I want. However, the Blood Center recommends waiting 2 weeks, which will work better with my schedule. And I get to watch TV - another big plus, since we still don't have it at home.

I've already marked my calendar to make another appointment on June 2. Anyone want to join me?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Time Flies

When I was a little girl, time moved so slowly. I was always waiting for things to happen: school to start, summer vacation, birthdays, Christmas. (It took FOREVER for Christmas to get here.)

Now-days, time just flies by.

What's up with that?

Did you know that there are only 3 weeks of school left? And Christmas will be here before you know it, y'all!

This time warp thing plays havoc with my attempts at getting organized. There's always something else that needs my attention. And then there's Facebook... but that's a topic for another post.

Fortunately, the last three missions from Get Organized Wizard turned out to be easy ones.

April 29, Misssion # 2 - Detox your briefcase/tote/bag
I removed the papers from my briefcase and filed them, then removed a few excess pens and paperclips. Done. I had cleaned my purse out the previous week, so I focused on my make-up case. Threw away a couple of old lipsticks and some band-aids that had lost their stickiness. Done.

May 6, Mission # 3 - Organize your bill payment
I set up on-line bill pay (not automatic) with my bank over a year ago, and I love it. When bills come in the mail, I go on-line and schedule the payment. I've set up some bills with on-line notifications. I get an e-mail whenever there is a new bill to be paid. So easy and I don't have to worry about things getting lost in the mail. Done.

May 13, Mission #4 - Forgo the freebies
Last year, I discarded all the old kids meal toys and free items that were taking up space. I no longer bring home any of those cute little advertisement freebies - unless it's something that I can really use. When they are offered I either decline, hand it to someone else, or toss. So nice to not have a bunch of plastic "thingies" lying about. Done.

Since these missions were so easy, I added a quick clean-out of my armoire. It was time. The shelves were overflowing with shorts, t-shirts, and sweats, and the doors did not want to stay closed any more. I took 15 minutes and removed everything that I did not like or that did not fit. It almost filled a garbage bag. I took the bag to a local thrift store, along with a box of kitchen items and a hamper full of my son's outgrown clothes. It felt so good to get all that out of the house. And now... I can close my armoire again!

After all my organizing efforts on Saturday morning, I went to my friend's house to sit in the hot tub and drink beer.

A girl's gotta take some time to relax! ;)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Taking Out The Trash

Last week I started the "52 Missions" program from Get Organized Wizard. The first 30-minute mission was to go around the house and fill a hu-u-uge trash bag with stuff to throw away. I managed to fill a medium sized bag with randoms items that I found in the kitchen, living room and master bedroom.

To keep the peace, I avoided my son's room and the office (where my husband spends most of his waking hours). I will tackle those later, when they're not looking I can enlist their help.

My craft room was also ignored, for now. It has only recently become my craft room and is still in a state of barely controlled chaos. I thought it would be best to wait and do a thorough job of sorting and discarding later.

I didn't do the whole house, so I'm not entirely pleased with my progress, but I did feel pretty good about throwing away that bag of junk.

Today, I received my second mission... detox your briefcase/tote/bag. Ugh! I think this one will take longer than 30 minutes.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Getting Organized - Again

I used to be one of those super organized people. You know the type... a clean desk, a tidy house, able to instantly locate anything, a to-do list that actually got done (mostly). Yes, that was me. Was. Lately, I've been slipping. Clutter seems to have taken over my house when I wasn't looking, and I have this huge to-do list that doesn't seem to be getting any shorter.

I was reading blogs today (which may be part of the reason I'm not getting much done), and I think I may have found a solution. Amanda at Tall Glass of Water recommended the free "52 Missions" program from Get Organized Wizard. Sounded good, so I said "sign me up!"

I'm committed!

So, I signed up and just received the e-mail with my first mission. The mission is to fill a hu-u-uge trash bag with "stuff" to throw away. This could be fun. Hmmm, I wonder if my husband and son will mind if I throw some of their stuff away, too.

I'm hoping this project will also give me an incentive to post more regularly. Hey, it could happen!

Wish me luck.