Saturday, November 29, 2008

Help Us, Click and Clack!

It's a good thing I have the blog because I can read it and remember the happy part of yesterday. Jim and I had spent a nice afternoon at Starbucks in a shopping center. Later, when we went to the car to go to the Persian restaurant with the girls the car was gone. We kept thinking "Maybe we parked somewhere else, and we're just forgetting where." Or "Maybe we've been towed." (Even though we were at the shopping center, perhaps they thought we were hotel guests, parking illegally.) But soon it became painfully clear that the car was stolen. Honda Civics are stolen all the time in San Diego and taken across the border. I'm trying to see the good. Our computers were not in the car. Everyone's safe. No one died. It's just another aggravation added to my life. (I do not look forward to the many phone calls with the insurance company, the car rental agency and the police, among others.) A sad part was that Molly's notes and textbooks from her college classes were in the car, and she has finals in two weeks. Why couldn't the thieves have just left the notebook and books gently on the ground and then driven away? It wouldn't have looked suspicious at all, right? 

I just feel a sense of loss. Someone took something valuable from me, and my thoughts range from anger, to relief that it wasn't worse, to sad, to frustrated to wanting to look again in the parking lot...maybe we just overlooked it. Then I think "What else?" Against the backdrop of the life an death situations I've been facing all year, this is minor, but it still feels like one more papercut, one more insult, one more blow. 

We did enjoy a nice evening with the girls at the Persian restaurant. It is my favorite place to eat. I love everything about it. I love the waitress who is always there and good with a quip, the atmosphere, and the amazing food. I always have fun there and it's become a traditional part of all our SD trips. 

Friday, November 28, 2008

We're Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo

The girls went Black Friday shopping at O'Dark Thirty, and then we went to breakfast at Mystic Mocha, a neighborhood coffee shop full of ambience and great food that we have grown to love. My sister-in-law gave us tickets to the SD zoo, so we spent the rest of the morning there. Kelly has a season pass but even she got to see animal behavior she's never seen before. The tiger cubs came right up to the window to frolic. The Polar Bears put on an amazing water-wrestling session. One woman said "This makes the San Francisco Polar Bear exhibit look so sad." I liked the baby Panda, too, and thought of my friends in China. I love all the languages being spoken at a tourist place like this. My favorite "animals" were the little children, jabbering in French or Indian, excited about the fish or the bears . 

(You can click on a picture to see it larger) 
I want it known that it was NOT me who suggested we send this out as the Christmas photo of the three girls. 

My dad was not feeling well yesterday, and sounded terrible when I talked to him on the phone. The good times are tempered knowing that he would get better care if I were home. We are so close that I can "read" him like no one else. I understand him, and am able to meet his needs in a way outsiders can't. I'm so thankful for my dear friend, Jane, the home nurse who took care of Dad before, who went over to his house after I called her. She solved his whole problem, and encouraged me to stay in San Diego and not come home.  Without her I would be in Ventura right now, and my dad sounds better today. 

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! Jim and I are in San Diego to celebrate with Kelly and Molly. Originally my dad was going to drive up north to celebrate with his sister's family, so we made non-refundable hotel reservations in San Diego. (An inexpensive, yet luxurious room in the DoubleTree. Inexpensive because it's nonrefundable.) Now that my dad is out of the hospital, but still recovering I have mixed feelings about coming. On the one hand, it's really fun to be in one of my favorite cities to play in with my girls and Jim, but I feel guilty leaving my dad in the care of my brother and sister-in-law. Dad adamantly encouraged me to come, but I worry nontheless. It is good to be out of the stress for a little bit, and recover emotionally. Before I came I was unraveling at the edges a little. Now my happiness bank is being filled up with riding the trolley with Molly, and seeing Kelly's 450,000 pictures of baby Cole, and thick hotel towels that I can throw on the floor instead of hanging up. I have so much to be thankful for including my many treasured friends, and my good family. 

Waiting for dinner outside of Mimi's .

Everyone in my family does Sudoku except me. 

Skyping with Brenna. We really missed her, but she was the Project Manager of the Thanksgiving dinner in El Salvador. I think she had a fun time cooking a big dinner with her team and celebrating the holiday in a new way with new friends. 

Jim may need a lot more practice to be a  Guitar Hero, but he'll always be a hero in other ways to me. We all had fun playing with Kelly's Wii. I had heard of the Wii, but never seen it in real life.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hooray! They're Letting my Dad Leave!

Today has been a great day. I LOVE the Sabbath--to follow a religion that gives me an excuse (no, COMMANDS me) to lie around and rest is just TOO COOL! I also like how church gathers many of my amazing friends together each week to laugh, sing, share burdens, and encourage each other. I don't have to do any of the planning, cleaning, or cooking, yet I get to be with these wonderful people. Then I went out for coffee with my best friend (Jim). I feel that our marriage has a deep foundation that gets richer as the years pass. We may have surface issues, but the depth of our love is unquestionable. Then Jim and I went to one of our favorite date spots: Trader Joe's. We love that place! It's the great food and the dreams of good meals and snacks ahead, but also the fact that we always see so many of our good friends there. It's like the village well of the 21st Century. The rest of the day I slept, read, surfed the net, watched the last half of a movie, (Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2), and slept some more. I just got the word that Dad gets to leave the hospital. I am SOOOO happy. I hope he's home by Amazing Race! (You know how hospitals take two years with all their release procedures...)

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Tale of Two Heart Attacks

I took a time out from my own grief today and along with another friend,  played a good prank on our two newest teachers at school. (One teacher is going through chemotherapy, the other's mother survived being accidentally run over by a motor home. It's a tough time for both.) On the front door of both classrooms was a sign that said "Prepare for a heart attack." Then we covered their desks, drawers, floor and every flat surface with hearts. (I give Brenna credit for the idea.) We had heart chocolates and puns on hearts and even put hearts in ther attendance books and student folders. They will be finding hearts for a long time to come. My partner walked in and said "What now? Prepare for a heart attack!!!???" She sounded like "Don't I have enough on my plate without this too?" but when she saw the hearts she was so happy that she started crying. It was great! She didn't know it was me (and my accomplice) until she found the hearts in the refridgerator only on her food. Drats! I'm not an expert yet at all this covert stuff. The other teacher was thrilled, too, and it felt so good to get my mind off my problems and be able to make someone happy during this trying time.

And what about the REAL heart attack victim? He's in ICU. They were going to release him, but during some routine vitals check they discovered his blood pressure was REALLY low and he was immediately surrounded by ten people and they moved him to ICU. Since then he's had trouble graduating to a regular room--a prerequisite for going home. My head almost exploded the other night when a nurse told me my dad's heart was only functioning at 10% capacity...She had the wrong patient!!! Dad's actual heart is's the veins leading to the heart. So we were devastated by this new bad news for about 20 minutes before she realized her error and apologized profusely. Mistakes happen, and I don't hold it against this woman, but my heart hurts and this was one time that I just wanted to go home and cry. I don't know how people cope when the medical crisis goes on and on. Mine's only been a month-- October 20 to November 21. I feel like such a whiner. My dad is an easy patient, and most likely will make a full recovery. There's much to rejoice about, but I'm not always good at seeing the tapestry created from life's knots. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Am I Almost at the end of the Race? Because I'm Getting Really Worn Out

I am so tired and worn out that I'm trying to decide whether to go to bed at 6:35 p.m. or whether I should spend the evening crying, since I haven't had time to do so all day and have really wanted to. Dad's fine, but has a new, interesting scar to add to his huge collection. He had surgery to put a defibrilator under his collarbone. The defibrilator is not like the old pacemakers, which had only one wire, or the pacemakers of a few years ago that had two wires, but this new one has THREE wires, and it does everything except call 911. The doctor was so nice and informative, and thought Dad was the greatest patient he's had in a long time. I think this is about the tenth doctor (cardiologist, kidney specialist, endocrinologist, vein specialist, and who knows what else) and they all have been excellent. After the rough start that I last wrote about, I can say that the doctors have been informative, helpful and caring. The excellent nursing staff is eager to meet Dad's needs before he knows he needs something. I love a hospital with a good union! Dad has three library books overdue that he wanted me to take back to the library. It's not in a convenient location, and since I have so much on my plate I asked "What's the fine?" He said "Oh, there's no fine, but I have a moral obligation to return it as soon as possible in case someone else wants to read it." So he's in the hospital having had two heart attacks, and he's concerned for the people who might want to read the books that he hasn't been able to return. Guess I'll be going to the library tomorrow. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dad's better, but Still in the Hospital

When Mom was in the hospital, she wasn't the best patient. I wondered what was the fewest number of times I could visit and still be a "good daughter." Dad is so fun to be around that I find myself wondering what's the most visits I can make in a day. I can't remember most of his jokes, but the following is typical. A doctor came into Dad's room while I was there and asked a bunch of questions and listed to his heart. "Who was that?" I asked when he left. 
Dad: The kidney doctor. 
Me: I thought your kidney doctor was a woman.
Dad: I have two kidney doctors. But, I have two kidneys, too! 

A Night with Progressive People

My Sunday School class had a progressive dinner last Saturday night that started at my house for appetizers and then progressed to three more houses for salad, main course and dessert. It was great fun to have lots of good friends together eating and laughing. We developed new inside jokes and learned things like who's in love with Google Chrome and who doesn't have a shower in her home. I cleaned the house and bought sodas and Jim did the manly yard things. We found out at 2:35 that the party didn't start at 5:15 as I had thought, but rather at 4 pm. AAAGGGGHH! It was a little rushed there for awhile, but we made it in time. I love having the house full of good friends, and it was a respite from the stressful events in my life.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Not Quite Ready for Comedy Central

My dad is better today than yesterday. He's so fun to be with because he has a great sense of humor. My brother and my sister-in-law visited him last night. My heart goes out to them because he has a serious neck injury that causes him constant, severe pain, and she has lymphatic cancer. When I asked my dad how they were he said "GREAT!" "Really?!" "Yeah. They're vertical. That's better than me!" He wanted me to pay his cell phone bill, so I called, but they needed his verbal OK. So he took the phone, and when the guy asked "How are you, sir?" he said "Well, I just had a heart attack, but other than that I'm fine." All of us in the room burst out laughing. He tries to give people respect by calling them by name. Unfortunately, it's not usually the right name. Yesterday the nurse was in several times and dad would say "Thank you so much, Fred." or "You're a big help, Fred." Finally I asked the nurse "Is your name 'Ray'?", and he said "Yeah, but I love it when your dad calls me Fred." They sense his heart and know he means well. His sister, my dear aunt is here now, too, and it's fun to be all together. They have such a great sibling friendship. We're hanging in there today. 

They Will Know You by your Love

The other day I ordered coffee at the little stand in the hospital to take up to my dad. I got halfway to his room when I remembered it had to be decaf. So I went back to the stand and told the woman I needed to buy another cup. She dumped out the real and gave me the unleaded, and when I tried to pay her, she wouldn't accept it. I was so emotional at that moment that I burst into tears at her kindness. Today, when I returned she said "Oh, I remember you--the DECAF!" "Yes, and you were so kind to me when I really needed it," I said. "How's your dad doing?" "He's better." "Oh, good. What's his name? I want to remember him in my good wishes." "Frank." And I don't know why I asked, because I don't usually, and I don't believe only Christians have the ability to pray (and she didn't use the word "pray"), but I asked "Are you a Christian?" "Well, I believe in Jesus and I follow his teaching, but I don't like all the connotations connected with being called a Christian." Hmmm. Sad that Christians are regarded as close-minded, homophobic, hell-preaching, judgemental, hypocrites. I know we've earned the labels. We mess up IN THE NAME of Christianity (Like in the case of the hellfire preacher or the people who are mean to gays.) We mess up unapologetically, as if Christians have a RIGHT to be judgemental or mean-spirited. I'm frustrated that a label that should have good connotations,  (if we really lived the life he taught), makes people cringe. Christianity is radically different from other religions because instead of saying "Here's how to live a good life and find fulfillment and reach heaven," it says living a good life is impossible. We are self-centered people who are incapable of living in a kind, moral way. We all blow it. We need forgiveness. So, in a way, the kind woman at the coffee kiosk was right-Christians are often unkind. I feel bad about that, and try to follow his teachings, but I also realize it's impossible, and that's why he came. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Earth's Best Patient is Back in the Game

I wrote yesterday about the pastors praying with me last night. It was so comforting just to be touched, to feel God's amazing presence and peace as each person spoke. They each prayed something different, and yet they prayed things that really spoke to my heart. Obviously that my dad would be healed completely and have many more days with us, but also that I would have wisdom about whether the girls should come home, and that I would have good communication with the doctors, and for my brother and our family relationships at this time, and more. I hadn't shared many of the thoughts on my heart, but somehow God revealed them to  these people as they prayed. It was one of those truly remarkable times. If the only result of these prayers was gaining the comfort I felt from the act of praying, it would have been enough. The really cool part is that the prayers actually worked. My dad, who had five major organ systems not working right and was ready to give up last night, woke up in the night and started eating. His kidneys, digestive tract and liver started functioning, and he started to feel better. By the time I saw him in the hospital he was joking with the doctors again, and was cheerful. Prayer works!

I did face the language barrier again. The doctor came in and said "Your liver function is high." Dad said "That's great!" "No, that's bad." Well, it sounded great. They also ordered a scan of his gall bladder, and Dad cheerfully said "OK, that's great." But then when the doctor left he said "I don't actually have a gall bladder, so I wonder what they'll scan?" Dad didn't even complain that now that he finally had his appetite back, they wouldn't let him eat because of the scan. I would have been mad or unhappy, but he just said "That's the way it goes!" 

It's been a Difficult Journey

I have entered a new culture with a new language and customs I don't understand. This time, my ability to understand and be understood has life and death consequences. My dad had another heart attack last Saturday. (This follows the one he had three weeks ago). The doctors, nurses and staff at the hospital he's at are kind and caring, but I have a steep learning curve. Last night my dad was throwing up all night, and was very weak in the morning. I was very worried about how terrible he looked, and called Jane, the visiting nurse who took care of him last week. "Don't worry. It could be ileus.  Sometimes when the body has had a trauma, the digestive system shuts down. They'll do an Xray and figure it out."  So, when the doctor came in, he asked a million questions about Dad's nausea, and even though the medicine they were giving him wasn't working, the doctor didn't propose anything new. So I said "Could it be ileus?" (It's always good to try out the few words you know in a new language.) And the doctor said "Maybe. Let's do an abdominal Xray to see." If I hadn't said it, would he of thought of it? I don't have a medical degree, and yet I feel if I don't gain some medical knowledge, my dad won't get the care he needs. I don't know if this is the end, or something that he will recover from. I don't know whether to tell my daughter to come home from Central America. When I asked the cardiologist today "Is it possible to stabilize his heart so that he won't keep having heart attacks?" he said "I have to go look at his chart." We never saw him again. He didn't lay out a plan, but he didn't indicate that my dad's situation was insolvable. Maybe in this culture I'm not supposed to bother the physician with questions. I want answers. They want to ask questions. I love my dad so much. I want to make sure he's getting the best care possible, but I don't know how. I don't know the culture and feel I'm going to unintentionally insult the people of this culture and then they won't ever tell me what I want to know. There's lots to be thankful for in all this. I'm thankful for nurse Jane, who is a good friend and a wealth of information. She visited Dad in her off hours today and brushed his teeth for him. I'm thankful for  Kathy, who is willing to take my students so I can run to the hospital, even though the kids take full advantage of her when I'm gone. I have a handful of treasured friends who have been supportive and faithful. Last night all three pastors at church huddled with me and prayed for Dad and me, and that was a great comfort. I'm thankful for my dear dad who continues to laugh and be kind to others, even through his pain. I'm thankful he knows where he's going next and is looking forward to it. He said "I'd gladly trade places with Mom at this point." I've learned to survive cross-culturally many times before, and while this feels like the most dangerous trip I've taken, I know God's by my side, leading me through it.