Friday, October 14, 2011

Moving On

Well, I haven’t posted anything in a LONG time, and it’s about time I wrote SOMETHING. I had a long post and a half about my boss Cary Casey, but then decided it probably wasn’t wise to post something so personal on a public forum, even though nobody reads this anyway. SO … I’m moving on, from a big big BIG part of my life. In case you didn’t know, Cary was my boss; I was his Executive Assistant for 17 years. He died June 24 at 65 years old. He was diagnosed with cancer (spindle cell sarcoma) in March, so it was fast and so sad. It’s still hard to imagine someone so full of life, so energetic and so passionate about everything, suddenly just gone.

I had been organizing a video for him, filming employees sending him messages (nothing negative--like I'm so sad you're sick--was allowed) and I even organized a flash mob dance scene made up of a lot of employees.  I intended to bully just the Finance Department to participate, but in the end it was not even just us. The General Manager and all the Deputy GMs were out there boogying (so to speak) with the rest of us, including most of the department heads. It was 107 degrees that day and we did it outside.  I was amazed by the turnout, and it ended up being a lot of fun, even though I had to be out front (that was the only bad part). A couple simple dance steps is all we used, and we danced it to “Can’t Help Myself” which happened to be the song that played on one of the little toys Cary had in his office. He used to say that he would push the button to make it play every time he felt he needed to hear that somebody loved him. (Yes, you do know the song. It’s by the Four Tops and starts, “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch. You know that I love you! Can’t help myself …”) It was funny. I got a lot of calls about it the day after we filmed that part. Half of the calls were people telling me how much fun it was. The other half of the calls was people who were mad that I hadn’t invited them to join us. And so it goes.

Sadly, Cary didn’t live long enough to see the video. It was all filmed and being edited when he died. But I believe that he has seen it now and appreciates my efforts. I know his family, his two children and his “widowed bride” (he married his long-time girlfriend just hours before he died) appreciated it. His children, a son Connor and a daughter Evan, are only 28 and 25 years old, so it was early to lose their dad. And I know how much he adored those kids. I’m also rather fond of them; they grew up with me, too! One thing will always stay with me. Cary had a bit of trouble with Connor when he was a teenager, so Cary was thrilled when Connor decided to join the marines right after graduating high school. Connor was at boot camp when 9/11/01 happened, so that kind of dampened Cary’s enthusiasm for his son being a marine! Connor was actually in the first tank regiment to cross into Iraq. We spent many days with Cary’s office TV tuned to Fox News as we watched continuous coverage of the war. We were afraid to watch and afraid NOT to watch! But Connor came back, safe and sound, and a man we could be even more proud of. Connor got married on the end of April, and Cary was able to be there. It’s the last time most people saw him alive. I saw him once more when I visited him at the hospital. Cary’s daughter, Evan, graduated Summa Cum Laude from UNLV over a year ago. Cary was very proud of her, too. But anyway, I know that Connor watched the video a lot, because at the funeral he made comments about it to some of the newer employees that he had never really met before. So it makes me happy that, even though Cary didn’t get to see the film while alive, it provides comfort for his family.

Anyway, I’ll say only a few things about Cary. The first is what I said to him on the video. The video opens with me sitting in HIS chair with my feet up on HIS desk, calmly filing my nails. I look up as if someone has just come in and I quickly put my feet down. I say, “Cary! I didn’t know you were here! Sorry about that! Oh, just wanted you to know that I never did that when you were still here.” Then I paused and said, “You know, Cary, we’ve been through a lot in the 17 years we have worked together. There are lot of memories, good times and bad times. There were times we sat in this room and yelled at each other! The times you yelled and I cried, the times I yelled and you cried – wait, THAT never happened! Anyway, there is one thing I have to say. It was never boring! Love ya! Bye bye.”

That was my contribution. We did have a lot of ups and downs, and a lot of it was very hard on me. I’ll post a few of his pictures. As you will see, he could be so crazy, he could be so fun, but he could also be very mean. But I survived. I have to tell one thing that proves to me that he did care about me. I can’t tell everyone the circumstances, but there was a day almost ten years ago that I got some very bad news. I had been house-sitting for my friend Julie, who was gone to Ohio for her grandfather’s funeral. I got the bad news before I left for work that day. When I got to the office, I told Cary what was going on. I also had a terrible migraine and I asked him if I could just go home for the day. He was shocked at my news and said yes, I could go. I gathered my things and walked to my car in the parking lot.

Right when I started up my car to leave the lot, my cell phone rang. It was Julie. In the few minutes it had taken me to walk to the car, Cary had rushed around the office, trying to find someone who had Julie’s cell phone number. He wanted to get hold of her right away because he knew I needed a friend. And he got her number, called her, and she called me within that short time frame. I was shocked, still am, at what he did. So he did care about me in some way.

In fact, something happened last week that I have to mention and then I won’t talk about Cary again (much). I was in my kitchen, mixing up my morning protein drink, and in my imaginings I heard Cary saying to me, “You sure have this new guy fooled, don’t you?” (He was referring to Bill, my new boss, who really likes and appreciates me.) Don’t take Cary’s statement wrong, it was exactly the kind of thing that Cary would say to me, in a fond, joking manner (as fond as he ever was). I agreed with him that yes, I do! Then I imagined that Cary said to me that he was sorry for all the things that happened. I told him, “I forgive you.” And I do. So that’s all the detail I’m going to go into about life with my boss. He has said he is sorry and I have forgiven him. The end.

And now for the pictures.

This one was taken at our first Employee Appreciation Day, a Hawaiian theme. My boss, the CFO, twirling a baton that's on fire. He did singe a few of his leg hairs when he passed it under his leg. Originally he was going to wear something shorter, but I said no no no ... I could see his underpants! (Not that he cared.)

My boss, dressed up as King Tut and lip-synching that old Steve Martin song. I think the theme that year was 70s.  And he mooned the General Manager (wearing his flesh-colored underpants) just before the dance started.  Proof that he didn't care about such things!

Dressed up as Carmen Miranda hanging onto the back of a decorated golf cart.  The theme that year was Mardi Gras.  I had to do his makeup!  That was weird.  Also, during the second lap around the building, his bikini top rode up and exposed his chest.  I was so horrified!  Couldn't he feel the breeze?!

I had a big halloween-themed party for his 60th birthday.  Here he is among his decorations. The skulls and bats hanging from the ceiling each had a signed message from someone from work.  He left all the decorations up almost until Thanksgiving (his birthday was October 17).


I took this picture of him for publication in the Bond Buyer and  it also ended up in a couple other Finance publicatons.

The enormous cabin he built with his own hands.  He lost a finger building it!

His last official portrait.  Sure glad I made him go to that appointment.
His family used it in the newspaper, funeral program, etc.

Friday, June 3, 2011

It's a weird, weird, weird, weird world -- Take TWO

Well, a while ago I found a program that let me create my blog post somewhere else and add the pictures and stuff where I want them and then post it here without much trouble.  Being totally OCD,  I can't stand it when there are too many spaces (or not enough spaces) in my blog, when the words don't divide right between lines, stuff like that.  I can't tell you how many times I've posted a blog, then viewed it, and then discovered messiness like that.  I go back to the post and try to fix it, only to find more problems when I re-post it.  Drives me crazy!  Well, I thought I had solved it.  NOT!  Now I can't remember what program I used!  So I sat down this morning to write my next post (hopefully less depressing than the last), telling myself I could get it out quickly and then get on with stuff I've got to get done today.  Then I wasted at least an hour trying to figure out what I used.  (I didn't use it for my last post because I didn't use any pictures.)  So much for getting something out quickly and easily!  If anybody knows what program or tool or whatever I might be thinking of, let me know!  It's driving me crazier!  And I will TRY to post this one and walking away so that I don't spend all day trying to fix it so it looks perfect.  UGH!  WHO CARES?!  (except me?)
OK THEN! When I last wrote (not counting the most recent one), Jill’s babies had been born and I had returned home from the joy and exhaustion of taking care of two newborns plus Jacob and Kadence and Jill and Jared. A few weeks later it was time to go back to Arizona for the babies’ blessings. I thought that there would be too many people wanting to stay at Jill and Jared’s place, so I was looking for a hotel room for us. Of course my dad (aka Grandpa) would be going, and of course Jimmy, and I hoped Jenny. Joanna and Shayler had already told me they were going. Joanna was flying down earlier in the week to help Jill with the kids, and Shayler was flying down a little later because he got a new job (YAY!) and had to work. My whole family was (hopefully) going to be there! And it might be the last time for a while because (as I may have mentioned before) Jill and family were moving to Virginia, like SOON. So, I had been looking around for a reasonable-but-decent hotel room for us to stay in without much success when I found out that Jared’s family were all getting hotel rooms, which freed up Jill and Jared’s place for us to squeeze into. I figured I could bring my aerobed for me to sleep on, and I’d round up the other air beds I have in the garage for other people to sleep on. Jimmy could take the couch, and Joanna and Shayler said they were getting a hotel room for the days Shayler would be there. I preferred to stay at Jill and Jared’s place, anyway. You get to spend a lot more time with them when you’re under foot every minute!

Jenny wanted to bring her newest boyfriend, Mike (not to be confused with M*ke, my ex husband #2), with her, so they were driving down in Jenny’s car. Besides, I wanted to drive down on Friday morning, and Jenny couldn’t leave town until mid- to late-afternoon on Friday because they had to wait until both Jenny and Mike got off work. Yes, we might have been able to squeeze all of us into my car, but I wanted to get to Arizona as early as possible so that we could spend every possible minute with Joanna and Jill and her family. So Jenny and Mike were coming in Jenny’s car. I had arranged for my friend from work, Lynn, to house sit and take care of our doggies and kitties. Toss in the fact that we had just had a new alarm system installed in the house. I’d had a sub-par system for a while and was basically just waiting until my contract with them expired before I got a new one. (This little fact might seem random, but it does factor in later on.) (And since when does the fact that something is RANDOM stop me from including it anyway?)

Of course all (my) plans fall apart soon after they are made. Jenny’s car started overheating, so she didn’t know if it could make it to Arizona. Of course she HOPED it would make it, they would just keep stopping to add water. I wasn’t too happy with the idea of them driving that far with those risks, especially, probably (knowing them) leaving late at night, so I decided that maybe I could get a cheap rental car and Jenny could drive down in my car. I consulted with Jimmy (the only person I currently have at home to consult with – the animals don’t contribute much), and he thought that I probably shouldn’t spend the money; I am sort of broke all the time. If Jenny’s car couldn’t make it, they didn’t have to go. The voice of reason. I had already reserved a rental car at a very good price, but I could always cancel. I mentioned it to Grandpa, and he said that maybe we could ride down in his car. That sounded fine, except I decided that Jenny and Mike could ride down in GRANDPA’s car and we would take mine. Let them use the older vehicle! Sounded good to me.

The plan was that Grandpa would arrive Thursday evening and we would leave for Arizona on Friday morning. He was already here when I got home from work that evening, and I could see immediately that my plans were already starting to fall apart. He had a meeting with a fellow land surveyor that afternoon, so part of his trip to Vegas was business related, so he brought his truck instead of his car. So much for my plan that Jenny would drive his car! I would have to let Jenny take my car, and just the cost of gas to drive that truck would probably be more than the rental car I had reserved (I did get a really good deal), so we were back to getting the rental car.

Of course none of this stuff could be SIMPLE. That would be someone else’s life.

It was too late to pick up the rental car that evening, so early the next morning, Jimmy and I drove to the rental car place near the airport to pick up the car. When we got back home, we loaded it up and took off for Arizona. I’m sure there were plenty of “adventures with grandpa” moments along the way, but those things have been crowded out of my mind with everything else that was going on.

We got there, and it was Jacob’s school carnival that evening, so OF COURSE we had to go. He was going to a charter school, and the carnival was their main fund raiser for the year, and I have to admit that the items they were selling by silent auction were pretty cool. Jill had already bought a bunch of tickets for us to use for food and games; they had a bunch of those jumping things for the kids (you know, those big inflatable little room things), and the place was utter chaos with the noise of all the kids screaming and music blaring. Add to that was the fact that the weather was unseasonably cold, so it was pretty chilly, too. We loaded the babies’ car seats onto Jill’s double stroller and we went to look at the TONS of stuff at the silent auction in the school gym, but it was so crowded in there and trying to maneuver that enormous stroller through the crowd was difficult (coupled with people stopping to look at the babies). By the time we were halfway through, I had completely lost interest in everything. I guess I am not good at dealing with chaos. I did it while growing up in a large family and again when my kids were small, and I just can’t tolerate it as much in my old age. I was anxious to get out of there, so I waited by the door until the others were ready to leave. We went outside, where it was quickly getting colder as it was growing dark, got the dinner Jill had already paid for (hot dogs and chips), and tried to find a picnic table to sit down and eat. The wind had started to blow and Jacob was kept busy chasing our chips and napkins. Again, it was so loud outside that you couldn’t talk. Jacob spotted some friends of theirs who were standing in line at one of the jumping things, so he asked if he could take Kadence over there with them. Jill said okay. About thirty seconds later, Jacob was back and he was in tears, saying he had somehow lost Kadence. I stayed with the babies while everybody else, including Grandpa, fanned out to search for her. Jimmy went back into the building, Grandpa went to check the food area, Joanna checked the game area, and Jill set off to look for their friends, who had quickly disappeared. The searchers would occasionally return for a report and then go off in another direction. I sat helplessly with the babies, who (of course) decided it was time to eat and started to whimper. I wanted to whimper myself.

Eventually Kadence was found (over by one of the jumping things) and we spent time rounding up all of the searchers. By then I’d had enough “fun” for one evening. I told Jill that Grandpa and I could take the babies back to the house, feed them, and get them ready for bed. We would take her vehicle because it had the car seat bases in it. I took her keys and planned to transfer her purse and other stuff to my rental car and then Jimmy would take the keys to my rental car back to her and stay with them. As we were exiting the school property, I noticed Jimmy answering his cell phone. Another crisis was brewing. While we were in the middle of the Kadence search, Jenny had arrived at my house. Although I had warned her that a new alarm system had been installed, she went inside anyway, causing it to go off. Lynn (the house sitter) had left to go gas up her car. I looked at my cell phone and there were, of course, many missed calls. The new alarm system is very LOUD, and there were increasingly frantic calls from Jenny with the alarm screaming in the background, calls from the alarm company, and calls from my friend Julie, who was unfortunate enough to be one of the backup people on my call list. Jimmy tried to call the alarm company back, but (of course) the cell signal at the school was really bad and the call kept dropping. The new alarm company had tried to impress upon me the fact that if the alarm went off and the person wasn’t on their approved list, that person would be arrested, no exceptions. Since it was new, I hadn’t taken the time to add who was permitted to be in the house (Lynn wasn’t on the list, either). So, while we were doing the Kadence crisis, Jenny had set off the alarm and the police were (apparently) on their way. It was so very loud at the carnival (and the cell signal was so poor) that we probably wouldn’t have heard it anyway if we hadn’t been leaving the school when we did.

Jimmy kept frantically trying to get through to the alarm company. I managed find a spot in the parking lot with a tiny little signal on my phone and called Julie. She had just had minor surgery that day, so she wasn’t in the best shape to deal with this problem, either, but she had confirmed with the alarm company that Jenny is my daughter. After Jimmy was able to talk to the alarm company, he was able to convince them that everything was okay, and the security patrol cancelled the call to Metro (the security patrol was already at the house). Of course by now the babies were screaming at the top of their little lungs, and Grandpa was trying to soothe them. He had taken the car seats out of the stroller and had one in each hand, swinging them back and forth. It worked for a few minutes! We put the babies in Jill’s vehicle and then had the fun of trying to maneuver the vehicle out of there. We had parked on the large unpaved lot next to the school, and of course other people parked three-deep, completely blocking some cars from being able to leave. We were only partially blocked, so Grandpa stood outside and motioned for me while I tried to inch back and forth out of there. The babies continued to cry and I was just about at my wit’s end, to say the least! We made it, though, with only a few scrapes and scratches (just kidding, Jill).

We finally made it back to Jill’s place and eventually everything calmed down. Jared and Shayler arrived together that night (they arranged to arrive at similar times so only one trip to the airport would be required). To make a long story short (and you didn’t think I could ever shorten a story), Jenny and Mike arrived so late that they just slept in the car.

Saturday was going to be a big day, and this brings us to another little factor that I haven’t mentioned before: Jill’s biological father, Ira. I hadn’t actually seen him for many (MANY) years, but I had written to him occasionally over the years, sending updates and pictures. When the Internet arrived, we started doing it by e-mail. As Jill got older, I gave her the option of meeting him, but she was never very interested. Also, over the years I have told him about various events that Jill was involved in that he could attend if he wanted to, such as Las Vegas Youth Orchestra concerts. In recent years, Jill has communicated with him by e-mail and she has allowed him access to her blog, but she was still not very interested in meeting him. She felt that her family is complete and she didn’t want to complicate matters.

Well, without going into too much detail (actually I don’t have all the details), Ira has been sending gifts to Jill and her family over the years, and more recently he has been sending money. He’s actually been quite generous, sending money to celebrate their new house when they got it and other events I can’t think of right now.

A year or so ago, Ira started thinking about religion. His parents are LDS, but they were basically inactive the whole time he was growing up. He was baptized as a youth and stuff like that, but their church participation was basically minimal. Long story short (ditto what I said earlier), when I married him, he said he wanted to return to church and we attended the temple preparation classes to get ready to get married in the temple after our first anniversary. It turned out that our marriage didn’t last that long. We got married in February of 1979; by October of that year, Ira had decided that he didn’t believe in the church after all and for that and other reasons, I decided that I didn’t want to be married to him anymore (even though I was pregnant with Jill by then). I moved out in October, we were divorced in January, and Jill was born in April.

Anyway, Ira’s current wife, Dee, is Catholic, and she is serious about her religion, but Ira wanted to return to his LDS roots. (His parents got reactivated in the church shortly after we got married and have been going strong ever since.) He started going back to church and got bit by the Holy Spirit bug, so to speak. He has reactivated himself and is hoping to go through the temple soon himself.  (Actually he just texted me that he's going later this month.)

When Ira found out that Jared lost his job last November, he wanted to send them money every month to help them get by. He asked for my opinion and I said that if they didn’t want the money they’d either send it back or just not cash the check. (They did wait a while before they cashed another check he had sent earlier, trying to decide whether or not to accept it.) They just didn’t want to feel obligated, even though Ira told them (and me) repeatedly that he just wanted to help, no obligation was required. Jill and Jared had some financial challenges between job loss and new job, so they gratefully (if hesitantly) accepted his help.

Ira holding Ben
His constant prayers, possibly combined with his financial help, led Jill and Jared to decide to invite him to the babies’ blessings. Since everybody was traveling pretty far for the blessings (my family and Jared’s family), Jill and Jared decided to have the traditional “post blessing Sunday luncheon” on Saturday so that everybody could head home after church. I had suggested that Jill might want to invite Ira to the blessings at church (I thought I could handle having him in the same church building), but I hadn’t thought about the luncheon thing. And now it was happening on Saturday!

Mary-Lou and Lee Gardner holding the babies
So here I was, planning to see him and his parents (who, of course, had hated me not only for leaving their son but cutting them all off from seeing Jill) after more than 25 years. I wasn’t really nervous, but it felt weird. Really weird. On that Saturday, of course Jared’s family was already there, which included his parents, maternal grandparents, and one of his brothers with his wife and two kids. I was there with all of my family. The doorbell rang and in walked this tall, kind of skinny, sort-of-older (sorry, Ira, it seems I always think people around my age look old) guy with his wife and parents. They all looked vaguely familiar. I hugged everyone.

I knew Dee years ago when we both worked at the City of Las Vegas, so I talked with her for a while. Eventually Ira, who had been holding and feeding one of the babies, joined us. All of us laughed and talked, and it was completely, totally surreal. That’s all I can do to describe it. S.U.R.R.E.A.L. And a half! Of course all my other kids were rather fascinated with the whole subject. They’d been hearing about him all their life and here he was.

I’ll wrap this up with more pictures and a few more comments. I’m all talked (typed) out.

First of all, in case you didn’t know, Grandpa’s latest new project is making violins. The violin in this picture is his first masterpiece. YES, HE MADE THAT VIOLIN!  Jill played the violin for us and Ira recorded it on his camera as a video, but I grabbed a few still shots from the videos.  (Grandpa played it for us, too, don't have a picture of that.)

The next day, after the babies were blessed, we took a few family photos outside the church.

Ira and family with Jill and family (plus Grandpa)

The kids with their daddy's support

My family (Kadence was sick of taking pictures by then!  Apparently Jacob was too!)
Jill and her family.  Yes, Jill has Sam and yes, Jared has Ben, you just can't see him very well from this angle.

Proof!  Another angle of the above shot.  I just liked the smiles in that other one better!

If I can muster up any more energy, I’ll later post another “weird weird world” post about my final visit to Arizona, just before they moved to Virginia.

One more thing I must mention was that Grandpa slept on a cot in the loft area of Jill and Jared's house, where the kids' toys were kept.  Every morning we were there, I woke up hearing Grandpa playing Princess Barbies with Kadence outside my door.  So so sweet!

Monday, May 30, 2011

It's a weird, weird, weird, weird world

WELL … Susie, my best friend in the whole wide world since high school, has been prodding me to write some more on this blog, but I haven’t been able to do it. I have a hard time writing about sad things, and I’ve felt a lot of that in the past few months. I seem to think that blogs are for fun and laughter, not sadness and tears, never that. Every time I’ve thought about writing more on here, I can only think of my pain and confusion, not the happy times. But now that I’m sitting here typing, I’m suddenly thinking of the many sunshine moments that I’ve had between the clouds, and I’m going to write (and think) about those. So here I go.

But first I’ll start with the things that have been pretty much consuming my life for the past months. Feel free to just skip this post if you want! I won’t blame you!

The problems with Cary, my boss, began the week before President’s Day in February. To back up a little, he had been having trouble with his knee. He had a minor surgery on it a couple years ago, but of course as soon as it felt slightly better, he was hauling a refrigerator up and down the steps at his cabin in Utah. Yes, a full-sized refrigerator. He bought it in Cedar and hauled it to his cabin. After he plugged it in, it didn’t work. He had to drag it back down the steps and back onto his truck and back to the store, where it was exchanged for another one that he subsequently pulled up the stairs again. A week or so later at work he was complaining to me that the dang surgery didn’t work and his knee was hurting again. I gently inquired whether or not carrying refrigerators up and down steps might be on the doctor’s approved activity list, but he gave me a cranky look so I dropped the subject. He soon started talking about knee replacement surgery, but that was forgotten when his back started hurting. He plays a lot of golf and the sore back was interfering with his game, so he had surgery to fix that. Then last fall he decided to get a full physical at Scripps in California. He got a clean bill of health, so he decided to go ahead with the knee replacement surgery. The knee replacement was done in December, and he returned to work in January. (Usually he tries to return to work way before anybody sane would consider, but that time his doctor refused to release him until he stayed home the full four weeks.)

Then in February, the Tuesday before the President’s Day weekend, he said his stomach felt a little upset and he was going home early. I thought he might be coming down with the flu. (This was before the twins were born, and Jill had been really sick with the flu about a week before that.) On Wednesday, Cary called and said that he still felt a bit nauseous and now he had a fever, so we agreed it was the flu and he should stay home. We had a conference call with our bond consultants scheduled for that afternoon, so he said he still wanted to participate. I planned to connect him to the call from home; everything was just business as usual. At about 11:00 that morning, Heather, his longtime girlfriend (been around almost as long as I have), called to tell me that he suddenly started having a lot of stomach pain so she had taken him to the Emergency Room. He’d called her at work to come get him, so I knew it had to be bad if he didn’t just drive himself. (He came close to driving himself from his cabin to the hospital in Cedar City when he cut off his finger a couple of years ago while working on his cabin. He was alone up there, and he called a friend in Vegas after he did it, and the friend insisted that Cary call 9-1-1. That’s my boss.) At first they thought it was a blockage of some sort, a twisted bowel kind of thing. Later they discovered it was a growth. They took him by ambulance to another hospital, and on Thursday around noon he had surgery.

To make a long story short (yes, I know, it’s already long), they removed over 30 tumors around his stomach and intestines. They couldn’t get them all because they were everywhere. At first the doctors thought it was Gastro Intestinal Stomal Tumors, or GIST, a type of cancer that has a fairly successful treatment history with medication. After initial treatment, it’s a pill you take every day to keep the tumors from growing and spreading, so it’s not a cure, but it can keep the cancer from progressing for a decent amount of time, years, even (they call it PFS or Progression Free Survival, which sounds kind of harsh, but it’s not that bad, when you think of the alternative). Hard to accept, but something we could (kind of) deal with for now and who knows, maybe a better treatment would come along by the time the pills stopped working.

It took weeks to get the results back from the biopsies that were done, and the end result was much worse. It’s something called spindle cell sarcoma; his specific type is very aggressive, and there is no approved treatment for it. In addition, he was in Stage Four. Cary’s only hope was a clinical trial being run by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota (actually a clinic in Texas is also doing a clinical trial on it, but Cary chose Mayo). In between bursts of total joy (the birth of the twins and visits with my family), I was dealing with travel arrangements for my boss and basically trying to keep the office running on a fairly normal path. Of course Cary returned to the office probably ten days after his surgery. He was supposed to be in the hospital for at least two weeks. He got out in one week and then dragged himself to the office the following Monday. He looked like death warmed over and didn’t stay long, but he did his best to be there nearly every day. At that time I took a week off to be in Arizona for the twins’ birth. I had asked one of the department secretaries to sit at my desk and take care of Cary while I was gone, but it turned out that she wasn’t needed, because Cary was out all week with pneumonia. He was back to work the next week, a few hours a day, but he was not feeling very well. The stomach pain and nausea never really went away after the surgery, and he was struggling. I went back down to Arizona for the babies’ blessings (much more about that weekend later). A couple weeks after that, Cary’s son got married. I went to the wedding. Cary had still been dragging himself to the office every day. I took the next week off to go back to Arizona to help (and be with) Jill and the kids for the last week before they moved. Again I arranged for someone to sit at my desk and again she wasn’t as desperately needed, because again Cary didn’t come to work all week. In fact, the Thursday before the wedding (we are off on Fridays) was the last time he was at the office. He was too sick to go to the office and believe me, knowing Cary, it had to be really miserable to stay home. He just ain’t the stay-home-just-because-I-feel-horrible kind of guy.

When I got back to town after my last trip to Arizona, I found out that Cary was back in the hospital. The Thursday I was gone, they had started chemotherapy in his clinical trial, and they had installed a port to make that treatment easier. He was in the hospital for tests to find out why he was so sick and in so much pain. I stopped to see him. They decided he also had an ulcer and he went back home the next day. Since then, the chemo made him so much sicker than he already was that he has barely been able to move from his bed to a chair. Coming to the office was completely out of the question, even for him.

After a couple weeks of total misery, Cary decided to stop the chemo. The doctor said it wouldn’t cure him, and now Cary is more interested in quality, rather than quantity, of life. After weighing the options of what would be best for his kids financially, he put in his retirement papers, effective June 1. Heather (his girlfriend) is hoping that he can make it to the office one more time, so last Thursday I cleaned up as best I could but left all of his mementos scattered about as he always had them. They are recruiting for his replacement, which will be difficult. He really is among the smartest people I have known, a financial genius.

I hate to even mention how all of this has been affecting me, because I don’t want to make this awful situation “all about me.” He is the one who is struggling. He is the one who has had to face these awful truths, and without the comfort of the Holy Spirit to help him through, but I guess you have to admit that these things affect a lot more people than the person himself. He has two kids who are really suffering, and his girlfriend, of course, and his father, who is still living (like I mentioned earlier, his son got married a few weeks ago; his daughter graduated from UNLV last year). But I have worked very (sometimes too) closely with him for 17 years, and it has hit me really hard. When he first had the surgery, I had his permission to tell everybody about what had happened and what was going on. When we had the initial GIST diagnosis, I was allowed to tell people about that. He never gave me permission to ask for prayers, but I did it anyway. In the group e-mails I sent, I said “he isn’t asking for your prayers, but I am.” But after we found out that it wasn’t GIST after all but something much worse, I was no longer allowed to share the information. Cary didn’t want people to know. So there I sat in my office, knowing the truth, with people constantly coming around to ask how he’s doing, and I have to put on a positive face and say that he’s doing good. Most people still think it’s GIST. I can’t just sit in my office crying all day, so I have to get control over my emotions, and I’ve done a pretty good job. Once in a while when someone is being especially sympathetic, a little leakage will occur, but pretty much I’ve kept it all inside except for the when I get home, which makes it really fun for those I live with. Jimmy tries his best to comfort me and then escapes to his room. The cats don’t care. Chica just cuddles up and throws in a lick here and there. Dobby does what comes natural to him – he will make a gesture at comforting me but worries deep inside that it’s somehow something he did wrong and goes to find a corner to pee in somewhere. It’s a guy thing. At least it takes my attention away from my sadness long enough to get mad at him. So he’s helping! (And both of the dogs are now confined to the kitchen or their kennels a lot more than before.)

All of this restraint at work is taking its toll, though. It’s sort of amazing to me that no matter how tiny the tear, the headache and general weariness that follow are the same (or worse) as a full outburst. People are always telling me I look tired (read: OLD), even those I rarely talk to. Actually, I’ve been taking headache, sometimes migraine medication nearly every day. I’ve broken out in acne, hives, and I even got a sty in my eye over the weekend. The emotions are coming out, whether I want to let them show or not! Instead of crying all day, I just get to look old and ugly. What fun. Added to that is the mixed reactions I get at work. Some people look at me and seem to think, you sure don't seem to care, where are your emotions? Others look at me like I'm too emotional and therefore unprofessional. I can't win.

Added to all of this, on May 5th, Joyce, a friend from work that I have known the entire time I’ve worked there, had a sudden, massive stroke. She was having a little Cinco de Mayo get-together with a few friends when it suddenly hit her. Her husband called 9-1-1 and she was rushed to the hospital, but vital parts of her brain had already died and she was paralyzed from the neck down. She couldn’t even swallow. A mutual friend, Linda, rushed to the hospital to see her that night, and she said that when Joyce opened her eyes, Linda could see that Joyce was already gone. When Joyce’s husband first started texting Linda, Linda thought he was checking on arrangements for the surprise 50th birthday party they were planning for Joyce in June.

The family knew that Joyce wouldn’t want to be kept alive in her condition, so they took her off life support and put her in a hospice (she was able to breathe on her own, and they didn’t put in a stomach tube). She died a week later. The week after that, they had her “Celebration of Life” at their Baptist church. They showed the slide show that was made for the surprise 50th birthday party that never was. It’s so strange, because I saw her for the first time in a while on the day she died. She was passing by my office and stopped to say hello. Since we hadn’t seen each other in a while, we asked each other where the other one had been hiding. As she walked away, she said one of her trademark favorite phrases, “S.H.I.T.” (Sure Happy It’s Thursday – again, we have Fridays off). And that was it.

If all this isn’t bad enough, Cary has now decided that he doesn’t want to talk to me anymore. He rarely calls, and when he does, he wants to talk to Rick, one of the department managers. Cary, who never bothered to learn anyone’s phone number but mine, calls him directly and, if Rick doesn’t answer, then Cary calls me to say, “put Rick on the phone.” If Rick is gone, it’s “put Randall on the phone” (another department manager). I don’t think Cary even knows about Joyce, because Rick didn’t think he should tell him. The only reason I know most of the details about Cary’s health is because I have asked Heather for the information. Maybe Cary doesn’t want to listen to another weepy female, but he should know that I can hold it together, I can be trusted, and I care.

And yes, I remember that it’s not all about me. But still, being shut out hurts even more. It really hurts.

So, on this Memorial Day 2011, I sit at home and feel sad. Tomorrow I’ll reaffix my mask, put on my big girl panties (Gs), and go back to work. I’m pretending to put together a retirement party, in case he's ever well enough to attend one, and working on a farewell video. I hope he’s here long enough to see it.

(Are you still sure you wanted me to write something, Susie?)

For anybody that's still reading and might be concerned about me posting this information on a public blog, I'm pretty comfortable that hardly anybody at work reads my blog. Plus the fact that Heather is friendly with someone else at work, and everything I have written here has already been spread around work by the other person. I've heard these things (and much more alarming stuff that I can't confirm that may be exaggerated) from other sources at work. I don't feel that I'm revealing anything confidential.

In a day or two I’ll post some of the sunshine moments of my past few months. I just can’t write any more right now. Something to look forward to?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Baby Baby (and two adorable kids)–TAKE TWO

OKAY, I got that last post out of my system! I’m tempted to just delete it. Oh well! We’ll see!

On Monday, February 28, I got the news that Jill was going into the hospital on March 5 (Cinco de Marcho, as I like to call it) to either have a C-Section or get induced. I was glad to have it scheduled so I wouldn’t have to jump in the car and floorboard it to Arizona, only to get there too late for the birth! I had a bunch of stuff (the basic travel necessities) packed just in case, but as a committed OCD person, I always like to have a plan.

In order to save time, Cindy (Jared's mom) and I made plans to meet at 7:00 AM at the Sam’s Club parking lot near my house on Friday, March 4. She could get a ride there with Court, Jared’s dad, while he was on his way to work. That way neither one of us would have to drive out of our way to meet and it would give us a firm deadline on when we were leaving. Knowing us, if either one of us was planning to meet at the other’s house, we would probably waste time yakking instead of doing our yakking ON THE ROAD. I’m sure you get my drift.

Everything worked as planned. We met, loaded up the car, and hit the road. In addition to our suitcases we had Cindy’s cot and bedroll (I planned to sleep on “my” aero bed that stays at Jill’s place), miscellaneous baby gifts from friends, two large bins of baby clothes from Jared’s brother, and, of course, the essentials, such as traveling snacks and a couple 12-packs of CF Diet Dr. Pepper.

Since Jill was going into the hospital the next morning, she suggested that we meet them somewhere for the traditional “last meal” and she just happened to have a coupon for Chevy’s, so that’s where we went. I hadn’t eaten there for years and it was great – and the food wasn’t bad, either. Then we went to Jill’s place and continued with our traditions, which meant the girls going for a pedicure, including Kadence. Jill was hoping that when she was going to be able to actually see her feet again, they would look pretty! We also went grocery shopping and watched “Unstoppable” on DVD. It was a full day!

101_0035bOn Saturday, Jill was supposed to be at the hospital at 10 AM to get an ultrasound to see what the babies had decided – move into position and be born the normal way, or speed up the process with a c-section. Jacob’s’ last soccer game of the season was that morning at 10:00. I kind of resisted going to the soccer game. I wanted to be at the hospital! But it was Jacob’s last game and nothing was going to happen THAT fast, so eventually I was persuaded to go to the game. Jacob was having an after-the-season pizza party that his soccer coach was taking him to, and a friend of Jill’s was going to babysit Kadence and (eventually) Jacob while we were at the hospital. I was glad that I went to the soccer game. Jacob played a really good game and it was fun watching him try so hard.


As you might notice in the pictures, both Jared and Jacob are sporting crew cuts. Their Relief Society had an Enrichment Night where someone showed the others how to cut hair, and Jared volunteered. I guess it’s nice and cool for the summer!

After the game, Cindy and I took Kadence out to lunch before heading for the hospital. While we were there, we got Jill’s text that the babies were going to be born C-Section. I began to shake. I realize the doctors know what they’re doing and all, but this is MY baby we’re talking about! We dropped Kadence at Jill’s friend’s place and started down the road, but there was one small problem … we didn’t know the name of the hospital or where it was! Jill had vaguely gestured in its direction when we were driving home from the Mexican restaurant the day before, but that didn’t help much. I had also looked it up online for Jill the night before, but in my agitated state, I couldn’t remember anything about it. We called Jill’s friend and she didn’t know what hospital Jill was using, either, but she named off a bunch of them and I picked one that sounded sort of familiar so we set the GPS and went there.

We hadn’t been there very long when we got the text and picture that the babies were born!


We found out later that right after Sam was born, Jill started to bleed. Ben was way up inside and turned the wrong way, so the doctor had to use one hand to try to control Jill’s bleeding and turn, grab, and pull him out with the other hand. The nurse said that when the doctor was trying to deliver Ben, he grabbed her finger. She said she will never forget how sweet it was. In all, Jill lost at least a liter of blood and they said she might need a blood transfusion, but she managed to make up the difference by the next day.

Jill was in recovery for several hours, so Cindy and I were just hanging out in the waiting room when we suddenly realized that we weren’t absolutely certain that we were at the right hospital. I hate to say it, but it would be really typical of me to be sitting for 101_0061-1hours at the wrong place. Cindy started texting Jared, trying to confirm the name of the hospital, but Jared didn’t seem to understand what we were asking and kept answering that we had to wait to see them until they were out of recovery. Eventually a nurse came to escort another patient to her car and she noticed our “Twins are twice as nice” balloon stuck to the little flower arrangement we picked up in the gift shop. She was able to confirm that we were at the right place because she was going to be Jill’s nurse for the rest of that day.

101_0040-1Eventually Jill and the babies were taken to their room and the frantic grandmas were allowed in. Here’s my first picture of the babies in their little beds and one of me with the babies!

Jill’s friend who was babysitting Jacob and babies n me[1]Kadence told us that they wanted to go to “game night” at the church that evening, so after a couple of hours, Cindy left to pick the kids up and take them home. I stayed longer. Jill has already posted a lot of the pictures I took, but I’m going to do a few more and include my favorites anyway, even if they’re repeats! 101_0043-1

Here is Jill with … Sam, I think. 101_0054

This picture is one I took of Sam while he was lying on my lap.

The third picture (below) is Sam on the left, Ben on the right. I took Sam’s clothes off in an effort to try to wake him up so Jill could try to nurse him, but he wasn’t cooperating very well! It also makes him look enormous next to Ben. Ben is smaller, but 101_0058you really notice the difference here!

They are easy to tell apart. Besides being different sizes, Sam has brown hair, and Ben’s is blonde. They also have different blood types. Definitely fraternal twins! I have no idea how Jeanette kept her girls apart. I still struggle to remember which is which when they have hats on!

jared nappingPoor Jared was totally exhausted from all his exertion and just passed out that afternoon! When I finally left the hospital (probably around 8 PM), of course I couldn’t drive home without incident. Cindy had taken my car to pick up Jacob and Kadence, so I was driving back to Jill and Jared’s place in their Honda Pilot. As I was merging onto the freeway near the hospital, I noticed police lights in my rear view mirror. Hoping that I was just in his way as he headed towards more important business, I pulled over. Unfortunately, he pulled over behind me! BUSTED! As it turned out, I had forgotten to turn on the headlights. They automatically come on in my car and the Pilot’s dashboard lights go on at night whether the headlights are on or not, so I completely forgot about them. I used the “my-daughter-just-had-twins” and “this-is-their-car” excuse, and after spending about half an eternity checking my license and registration, the policeman let me off with a warning. Whew!

When I got back to Jill and Jared’s place, Cindy was having trouble getting the kids to go to bed. “Nice Grandma” (her) had to retire to her room and “Mean Grandma” (me) had to take over. Sometimes you just have to bring it on.

101_0094The next day was Sunday, and Cindy and I took the kids to church (where we may have mentioned the babies’ arrival to a FEW people) and then to visit their new baby brothers at the hospital. The next few days were a blur of running back and forth between the hospital, Jill and Jared’s place, and Jacob’s school. Cindy flew home on Monday. The doctors considered letting Jill go home on Monday afternoon, but the pediatrician wanted them to regain some weight first. On Tuesday the babies were ready to go, but Jill’s headache became worse and they thought it was due to a leakage of some sort of her spinal fluid from the anesthesia she had, so they had to do another procedure (drew her blood and injected it several times into her spine) and reconnect her IV, which was painful and discouraging for her. Jared and a friend gave her a blessing, and her headache eventually faded away. I stayed at the hospital with her on Tuesday night, and she was finally able to go home on Wednesday. 101_4702

Here’s a picture of Ben, sleeping on their couch. When I showed him the picture, Jimmy suggested that Ben might be a bit young to be getting hooked on Wii. I didn’t even notice the controller until he mentioned it! Gotta watch that.

101_0140Well, as everyone knows, I can go on and on, but I’ll wrap this up with a final few pictures. Early Sunday morning I had just gotten the babies back to sleep when Jacob and Kadence decided it was time to get up. I let the kids play with my camera, and Jacob took a 101E0163picture of me and Kadence, then Kadence took a picture of me and Jacob. I thought they turned out pretty good, considering that we all just got out of bed! (Actually I had been up for hours, but that’s beside the point.)

101_0170Also, I got Jared to take my picture with the babies. No hair or makeup done, but I’ve got two adorable accessories!

The morning after I got home, the noises the dogs make in their sleep made me keep waking up and looking for babies. The strange thing, though, is that when I would open my eyes, I didn’t know where I was. It took me a while to realize that I was at home in my own bed. Then I would fall back asleep and do it again – hear the noise, startle awake, look for babies, and have no idea where I was. You’d think I’d be able to recognize my own bedroom! My heart and mind is obviously still in Arizona!

Baby Baby (and two adorable kids)

I’ve been trying to write this blog ever since I got back home early Monday morning, but I’ve been struggling. Probably everybody that knows me, knows that I can blab endlessly about minutiae, and there’s lots of it to tell. I had every intention of sitting down and going over every day and all the ups and downs of my sweet daughter having twins: the build-up of waiting, my fears, the delivery, my fears, the joy of meeting the babies, the disappointments as Jill had to stay in the hospital longer, my fears, and so on. But every time I’ve sat down to start writing, I can’t “bring it” like I usually do. My writing seems dull and empty, even to me, and I just can’t post anything, not yet. I think I’ve figured out why.

Hey, are we allowed to tell our real feelings on these things, or is it just endless prattle about sweetness and light? I know it’s not, it’s my blog and I can write whatever I want. I do try not to offend anyone (much); I try to leave out anything that would upset anybody who might read this. But I guess that’s why I’m struggling, and it’s not because of feared offenses. It’s because I’m heartbroken.

My daughter and her precious family are moving far, far away. I’ve tried to be upbeat and happy for them. I know they’ll do great wherever they go, and it’s going to be a wonderful adventure for them. But I am sad, so very sad. I won’t get to see them very often. My babies (all six of them – and yes, I’m counting Jill and Jared too) will grow up without me. I know I’ll see them at least a couple of times a year, and you know I’ll be watching those air fares to grab a reasonable flight whenever I can, but there will be no hopping in the car and driving off to see them for a weekend. And honestly, I haven’t even done that very often while they’ve been close enough.

OK, it’s only Virginia. Yes, that’s far, but it’s not Korea or Australia. I’ve been trying to soothe myself with those words, but it isn’t helping much. Jared left to drive there with his friend Peter this past Wednesday, and during the time I was in Arizona, we were in full preparation mode. Making plans, shopping for Jared’s new work clothes (subsequently stolen by someone who broke into his car in Texas), deciding what he should take, shopping for a GPS for him to take (in the end he borrowed mine), worrying about money. His new job is giving him a lump sum of cash to help with moving expenses (as well as paying for a moving company to actually pack them up and move them), but he has to work there a couple weeks before he’ll get the money, so they have to scrape by until that happens. But he has a great new job, something many others don’t have, they’re moving somewhere exciting and fun, and yes, we’re blessed, we’re blessed, we’re blessed.

But I am sad.

Added to this is the fact that my boss at work has been diagnosed with a terrible, rare, aggressive cancer for which there is no current treatment. His only hope is to get into a clinical trial at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, but our (insert foul language) insurance is resisting approval of the tests that will qualify him for it. Yes, I’ve had my ups and downs with him. He can be a great guy that’s really fun to work with. He’s also tortured me from time to time to the edge of (what’s left of) my sanity. But I’m his “work wife” (he doesn’t have any others) and we’ve been putting up with each other for 17 years. I don’t want him to die. I just want him to be nice to me 24/7! Is that too much to ask?

So there you have it.

I’m going to write a second blog after this one and put in all of the happiness and joy of two new babies. I’ll try to hold off posting this one until the other one is about ready so that anyone who reads this can wipe this from their minds, if it ever lingered there.

Right after I’ve dried my tears. Again.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Adventures with Grandpa - Christmas 2010

OK, before we get started, I must admit that some of these adventures don’t directly involve Grandpa, but he was here, so there you go. And as a prelude to this madness, I must admit that I was further behind on my Christmas stuff than I usually am. Yes, I’m always running around frantically trying to get everything finished up into the late hours on Christmas Eve, but this year was worse than usual because I was out of town for the first two weeks of December (I won’t say where I went, because I might lose my readers’ – maybe I should change that to reader’s – sympathy, if I ever had any). So the setup to this story is that I was gone for the first two weekends of December. The third weekend (the last weekend before Christmas) was spent dragging out the tree and a few other decorations and throwing them together, along with repacking the post-Christmas-decoration-piles and stacking them back in the garage, cleaning house and shopping. (Yes, I was tempted to skip the Christmas tree this year, but if I did that, where would we put the presents? Under the coffee table? Couldn’t do it.)

The week of Christmas I worked a full week (four ten-hour days). Couldn’t very well ask for more time off; all of my backup staff at the office had already taken it off, and some people called in sick. After work I was running to the mall (horror of horrors) and other stores to grab last-minute stuff. Because of that, I hadn’t been able to get much sleep all week, which doesn’t help anyone’s general coherence. Friday, Christmas Eve day found me closeted in my bedroom with piles of boxes, Christmas wrap, ribbons and bows, unwrapped gifts that must be stashed at any second should anyone need to enter the room, and a dwindling tape supply. Of course the scissors, tape, gift tags or marker disappeared in between every wrapping job, adding further steam to my approaching breakdown.

This brings us to Grandpa’s arrival. All my kids (except Jill and family, who weren’t here) were going out to dinner with their dad on Christmas Eve, so I had made plans for Grandpa and me to go out to dinner with my friends, Julie and Jeanne. Julie and Jeanne’s parents have been dead for a number years and they don’t have any children, so we often spend time with them on Christmas Eve or Morning, and this year we decided to go eat at a favorite buffet. It was Friday, which was crab night! Yay! We wanted to get there early, though, try to beat the crowd, so I called Dad on Christmas Eve morning and asked when he was coming. I mentioned that I would like him to be here by 3:00 so that we could go eat dinner with Julie and Jeanne. He said he would, then casually asked if I had any projects around the house that needed working on while he was here. I’m a big fan of projects, and at first I couldn’t think of anything, but then I remembered the ceiling fan in my bedroom. I bought several ceiling fans at the beginning of summer and I put the others up by myself (yay! So proud of myself), but I didn’t get the one in my bedroom done because I couldn’t get the existing light fixture off the ceiling. He agreed that we would give it a try. Yes, I wasn’t thinking straight. When would we do said repair? Christmas Day? Surely not on Sunday, the day after Christmas. Blame it on my total lack of sleep.

Of course Grandpa arrived around noon on Friday (Christmas Eve). The first thing he said after greeting everyone was “Where’s that ceiling fan?” I knew it was futile to try to stall him, so I showed him the box, but told him about the problems I had when I tried to put it up myself. First of all, there was insulation glued to the top of the ceiling fixture, underneath the light bulbs. When I pulled it loose before, trying to find a screw or something that would release the thing, insulation, meaning fiberglass, had rained down upon me, getting on my skin, clothes, hair, bed, and floor, causing extreme itching and tiny cuts, not to mention a mess. I had to shower and clean up the whole area afterwards, and even that didn’t relieve some of the discomfort from the tiny cuts on my hands and arms. I warned Dad about that, and he agreed that we should try to guard against that, so I ran downstairs to the garage to get a few tarps to throw in the bed, a couple garbage bags to cover our clothes, and some gloves to protect our hands. By the time I came back (and I swear, I was only gone a couple of minutes), Dad had already removed the glass cover on the fixture and was tugging at the insulation, resulting in a shower of fiberglass. I gave up, set aside my tarps and gloves, and started to help him. Of course the screw I had tried to remove was stripped, but he clipped it off with some wire cutters, and we soon had the fixture off the ceiling. I also must mention here that the ceiling fan was going above my bed, so we had to stand on the bed to do all of the installation, which is never very sturdy. I was worried that he might lose his balance and tumble off the bed any moment, so I was hovering next to him to try to catch him if that should happen. Then we had it mostly put up when I remembered that there should be another separate wire for the light kit, pre-wired by the builder who obviously tried to hide it from us, which meant we had to take the motor and everything else down again to dig for the wire in the ceiling, but eventually we found it and put everything back up. I won’t mention the constant searching for dropped screws and other bits and pieces; those are par for the course with any home improvement project. Sometimes, too, I suspected that Dad was deliberately weaving while standing on the bed so he could watch me leap into action and try to catch him when he wasn’t falling at all. Hey, he has to get his amusement somewhere! When it was time to connect the light kit (for the second time), Dad got a call from Uncle Frank, so he left the room to talk to his brother. I finished up the fan, removed all of the wrap, ribbons, gifts, boxes, gift bags, etc. from the bed and put the bedspread in the washing machine and put on a clean one. I vacuumed, and by then it was time to get ready to go out to eat.

When we were on our way to the buffet, Jeanne called to tell me that Sunset Station, home of my favorite crab legs, wasn’t serving them today. It was Friday, the usual day for them, but since it was Christmas Eve they changed the menu. There was no line there at all, but she suggested that we go to Green Valley Ranch, another casino owned by the same company, who had advertised that they have crab legs every day. I truly didn’t care that much about the crab legs, but since it was closer, I agreed to meet them there instead. When we got to GVR, the line was very long. The people ahead of us in line cheerily informed us that a line like that meant a two-hour wait. I didn’t really believe her, but was a bit nervous. Time was short, as you know! Lots to do at home! We waited for Julie and Jeanne to arrive. When they did, we discussed going back to Sunset Station, where there was no line, but you know how that goes. By the time we got there, the line might be twice as long as this one! So we stayed. Dad wasn’t happy about the long wait, and it was more than an hour (but not two!) before we were seated. And, surprise surprise, no crab! Just my luck!

Even though the wait was long, we had a nice dinner and headed home. I told Dad that unfortunately he was on his own until the rest of the family returned. I still had lots to do in my bedroom. I set him up with the TV and his favorite, the Hallmark Channel, and returned to my room. I reassembled all of the boxes, bags, gifts, wrap, and ribbon on the bed and commenced the wrapping process. I was also watching my current favorite (true crime) on the TV in my room. At one point I heard a funny sound. I thought, hmm, what was that? Maybe it was on the TV? I reversed the show for a minute or so and yes, I heard the sound again, so I thought it was one of those weird background sounds you sometimes get on this type of show. A few minutes later Chica, my ever-faithful doggie companion, whined because she wanted to sit by me and her way was blocked by all of the stuff stacked on my bed. (Dobby was hanging with Grandpa, as shown in the picture.) I cleared a path for her and she joined me. Soon after settling down next to me, she stood up and threw up all over my side of the bed, on my heated throw, bedspread, and floor. It’s kind of amazing how much stuff such a tiny stomach can hold. (Chica weighs under eight pounds.) I jumped up to go get something to clean it up and discovered what the sound was that I’d heard earlier. Yes, it was her throwing up on the other side of the bed, down the doggie steps, and on the carpet on that side. Chica has been seriously ill, but she’s been better lately. I didn’t know if this sudden illness was something she ate or a bad recurrence of her disease, but I carried her downstairs to the family room/kitchen area (all tile) and started the clean up. All of the boxes, bags, wrap (you get the picture) had to be moved from the bed again, all the bedding removed, including the cover from the doggie steps, sheets, blanket, and heated throw this time, and added to the growing pile by the washing machine. Dad was going to be sleeping in Jimmy’s bed, so all of his bedding had already been added. I had to find more blankets to put on the beds; I even had to bring in a big bag of bedding from the garage because the supply inside the house was totally depleted! (Seriously, if any of you have need for extra blankets and such, I have bags and bags of them in the garage that aren’t being used that I’d be glad to give you.) I penned Chica in the kitchen/downstairs family room with the rest of the family, who had all returned by then (tile only except for a few throw rugs), and returned to my labors upstairs. Every so often I would get another call that Chica had done it again, so I would have to come downstairs and clean up another mess and/or carry more rugs to the pile in the laundry room. When everybody else went to bed, Chica proceeded to whine and cry, alone in the kitchen/family room, disturbing everyone’s sleep. When I finally finished wrapping the last stocking stuffer (yes, we wrap those) and, with Jimmy’s help, got everything set up around the tree, I joined Chica in the family room and slept on the couch with her so that she would settle down and stop crying. Yes, I was worried that I might wake up in the morning to find her dead. The vet said that it was a good possibility. But I tried not to think of that.

Christmas morning (not very many hours later) there were a few more large puddles on the few remaining rugs, but she was still alive. We dragged ourselves out of bed and commenced with the Christmas festivities. We opened our presents, cooked a big breakfast, and cleaned it all up before opening the stockings. Chica seemed better but we held off letting her have anything to eat until later in the day. She was better. I continued washing all the bedding (some of the blankets and bedspreads are still spread over the furniture upstairs, even though they’ve been dry for quite a while). Later that day I remembered another project that I needed Dad’s help with. I hated to mention it, since I knew it wasn’t anybody’s favorite chore, but the toilet in my bathroom had been “plugged” for over a month. The trouble began before Thanksgiving, and I tried using the little plunger substitute I had, a gadget that blasts air into the pipes, many times to no avail. I had bought two more plungers and an auger (I usually borrow Julie’s but decided I needed one of my own) and still couldn’t get it to work. I guess you wouldn’t say that the toilet was plugged, it just wouldn’t go down the way it’s supposed to. My interpretation of that was plugged. I mentioned the toilet to Dad several times, and he was a bit reluctant to offer his services. Can you blame him? Finally on Christmas Day afternoon, I mentioned it again and he agreed to take a look. For this project, he didn’t mind being “suited up” with a full apron, rubber gloves, and a pair of goggles. (Actually I’m exaggerating about the goggles, but I thought it was a funny addition to the costume.) Armed with a plunger, he went into the bathroom. There was nothing in the toilet but water (it hadn’t been used for a while), so he tried flushing it and of course it didn’t go down. He removed the tank cover. I protested that the tank was fine, there’s something down the drain somewhere, but he ignored me and looked inside the tank while flushing. The little flapper thing in there that releases the water in the tank was coming up when flushing, but it was immediately slamming back down, not letting the water go from the tank into the bowl, so not giving sufficient water pressure to make anything go down the drain. If you just hold the handle down a little longer (but not too long so it gets stuck on the floater thing), the toilet was flushing perfectly. Thank goodness for Dad’s toilet expertise. I can fix what’s needed in there eventually and, miracle of miracles, I can use the toilet in my bathroom once again!

We removed Dad’s toilet repairing armor, I turned the Hallmark Channel back on, and the rest of the day was completely lovely. Later in the evening we all gathered and watched my new DVD, “Despicable Me.” I love that video! Yes, Dad liked it, too. And I had my Christmas wishes fulfilled. A ceiling fan in my bedroom and a fixed toilet! What can be better than that?

On Sunday, Joanna and Shayler left to go home, and Dad, Jenny and I went to church. Jimmy had to work (he thankfully got a seasonal job at Target). We had a pleasant evening. Our church begins at 2:00 PM, so by the time it’s over, the day’s about gone anyway. Later that night, though, the cause of Chica’s illness was revealed. It was something that broke all of our hearts. Under her bed, Jenny found a torn-open empty box of Bella Toffee. Dad had bought a number of boxes from Matti to hand out to his customers, and he brought two extra boxes for us, one for me and Jimmy, and one for Joanna and Shayler. He put the boxes under the tree with his other gifts. Apparently Chica discovered one of them, because only one was left. She normally doesn’t get into stuff like that, but since she’s been sick, she’s been on steroids, which make her very hungry and increase her desire to try to get into the trash and anything else that’s available. She found a gold mine under the tree sometime Friday afternoon. I was relieved to find out that she was sick from eating something, rather than her illness, but we were all very sad at the loss of that wonderful treat. We opened the second box and had a piece. It is so delicious that it’s pretty hard to stop eating once you start, so who can blame her? We still mourn its loss, though! That’s really good stuff! Bad dog! Bad, bad dog!

On Monday morning Dad left to go home before I got up, and I get up pretty early, since I leave the house to go to work around 6:20 AM. And once again, the Christmas holiday is over. I hope yours was as fun as mine!