Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Day

Christmas day found the whole family at the hospital to see mom. We went to church in the morning, and then went to the hospital. They served free Christmas dinner for whoever was at the hospital that day. It wasn't too bad. It was still cafeteria food, but not too bad for a christmas dinner.

Mom, however, was not doing so well. She had no idea who we were. I don't know if having all of us there was too much for her, or if it was a bad day, or what, but she was disoriented, she didn't want us in the room, she was totally distant from Emma, which is HIGHLY unusual. She just wasn't mom. When I mentioned it to dad, he totally blew me off, of COURSE she knew who we were. She didn't. There was one moment of clear lucidity, she smiled big and you knew that she knew what was going on, but then it was gone, and she was lost again. We didn't stay long that day. My brother almost has anxiety attacks whenever he has to go see mom. To see her in that state is just more than he can handle. It is hard to see her like that. To measure her existance and her well-being by the numbers that are flickering and flashing on moniters. It's hard to watch and make sure the foley catheter isn't irritating her and to clean her up and keep the yeast infections under control. It's hard to help clean her up after a bowel movement. My brother has no idea what to say or how to say it, and he covers up for it by trying to get any kind of reaction he can from mom, good or bad. He gets really antsy and nervous, ready to leave in just a few minutes. Absolutely useless. My SIL, though, is a rock. She is nice to mom, talks to her in a normal voice, brings Emma and as much as Emma will let her, lets Emma interact with mom. She is a support for dad, as much as she can be. She is a blessing to this family. I can't thank God enough for the gift of my brother's wife.

I must give my father his due. Everyday he is at the hospital. He is taking care of her, doing all of the personal necessary things for her. I'm worried about how small his world is becoming, but he is a comfort and help to my mom in this difficult time. And he is strong, in his own way. To be at the hospital all day, everyday, is a hard thing to do, it would be hard for me to do, because you can't really do anything. You can't give medicine, you can't speed up the recovery, you can't walk for her or talk for her or help her get out of bed. All you can do is be there, and hold her hand, and try to soothe and comfort as best as we can. And to do that day after day after day after day is hard, and my dad does it without a second thought or a doubt.

I'm finally able to say, without shame or hesitation or too much embarrassement, that someday I hope to find a man like my dad. I'd like to find someone who loves me the way my Dad loves my Mom. Someone who loves me beyond all doubt, in all conditions, and without any hesitation or second thoughts. This is truly what marriage is supposed to be, this is what God intended when he ordained marriage. Not the silly, floaty, lusty love of the early years, but the love grown over 40 years, love that enables you to take on the task of caring physically for your disabled spouse. A love that looks beyond the bald head, the pale sick palour, the tubes and machines, and still see the young woman of 20 in the white dress walking down the short aisle to be with her husband.

May God grant that I one day get to have a love like that.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

I got home yesterday afternoon, went to Brother/Sister-In-Law's house and started to help prepare for Christmas meal. We started by making sugar cookie dough, which niece Emma helped roll out dough and cut cookies. Emma is allergic to milk and eggs, so we used soy milk, but there isn't a substitute for eggs, so we had to try to keep the eating of raw dough to a minimum. Once done at Bro/SIL's house, I went home and helped dad make the dressing.

Christmas eve, I was up early and over at Bro/SIL house by 9AM, cooking and making and preparing for the meal. It's a hungarian tradition to have Lentils as a dish at christmas, so SIL made a delicious lentil salad. We had mashed potatoes, gravy, turkey, dressing, rolls, lentil salad, orange jello cottage cheese fluff salad, green bean casserole, and there was something else, I can't remember what. We cooked the turkey first, then everything else, so the turkey sat for about 1 hour before we ate it. It was SO GOOD, it was very moist and had a great flavor. My dad raved about the turkey for 3 days. Considering that it was the first time either SIL or myself had made a big meal like that, we did a good job and everything turned out very well.

My brother has a friend, Melvin, and Bro invited Melvin, his mother, his sister and her son, to have Christmas Dinner with us. Before we all managed to eat, another friend of my brother's called and dropped by with his son. Dad went to the hospital in the morning, came over at around 1PM for the meal, then left again around 2:30PM, then came back around 7PM for family gifts. After the meal, the kids did a small gift exchange, which went over very well and was a lot of fun.

The tradition in Hungary is that Santa comes to visit early in december, and leaves a few little toys in shoes left out in the house. Then Christmas eve is the family gift exchange, and Christmas day is for the church and family time. Because this tradition means a lot to
SIL, and I don't have kids, and no one else in the family has much of a preference, this is how we are doing it, and probably will continue to do it. It made a nice holiday. We merged Hungarian and American so that we do Christmas eve like SIL did it as a kid, and then Christmas morning, Santa will bring some small toys and leave them in the stockings to be opened before, or maybe after, church.

At any rate, it turned out to be a very nice day. SIL and I got along well and worked very well together in the kitchen, and Brother was in a pretty good mood, too. It was nice to see Melvin and his family again, I hadn't seen them in quite awhile.

As bad as this day could have been, it was actually a nice day. It was acceptable. Not exceptional, but given the circumstances, it was nice. Acceptable.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Saturday before Christmas

So, I was supposed to go home today. Last night, a friend called and asked me if I'd like to go to the Symphony with him. He had bought tickets a couple of months back when he had a girlfriend, but now no longer has the girlfriend and needs someone to go with. I readily agreed, as the concert was Handel's Messiah. I've never seen a live production, much less one from such a professional event as the Large City Symphony.

But there was a selfish reason, too. I wasn't ready to go home. I didn't want to go home yet, to sit at the house alone, or to go to Brother/SIL's house, and then come home, make dinner with dad, sit and watch tv without talking, then to bed, repeat for several days in a row. To put it off one more day was great for me.

That also means I can go to my own church, and not have to struggle with going to mom's church. I can only do that so many times in a given month. It's so hard to be there with dad, my mom's friend Vlasta, SIL and niece, but no mom.

I'm already ready for Christmas to be over.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I can't wait until my niece does stuff like this...

The Penis story

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I almost fell out of my chair laughing.


No Penis for YOU!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

connecting

In an attempt to clear the demon from my head, I called my Aunt Marsha, my mother's sister, last night and told her of my baking disaster. She laughed with me, and we talked for about 1/2 an hour. I told her at the end that as terrible as all of my mother's health issues are at the moment, it had to be a part of God's plan to bring this family closer together. I do not remember more than once or twice in my childhood and adulthood calling my Aunt just to talk, apart from the times when mom was already on the phone with her and we talked for a minute or two. We talked for about 40 minutes about baking, life, kids, family...just talking. It was nice. I want this to be an enduring legacy of my mom's period of sickness, that this family is closer together. The suffering and pain should not be in vain, and I will do my best to try to maintain the bonds that have been forged here. God grant our family peaceful times and continued closeness. Amen.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Baking disaster

I don't know how many of you are bakers, but I love to bake, and I've had my share of flops. Yesterday I made some orange-cranberry bread loaves to give to some people. It's a really good recipe, and it turns out very well. Except for last night. I got the bright idea that I could add some nutrition to this recipe by using whole wheat flour. Bad Idea. It made the bread a kind of orange-grey color, very unappetizing, and it destroyed the texture. It's crumbly and way too dry, it just falls apart around the cranberries. All in all, not the best idea I've ever had.

When this usually happens, I call mom. We usually laugh. Then it hit me that I couldn't call mom. I fell apart in the kitchen. I haven't thrown them out yet. I need to, but that somehow seems wrong to throw them away before I told mom my funny story. I

Someone today asked me how my weekend was, and i fell apart again.

This sucks.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

grad student aggravation

So, today I got some grief from my grad student, she thinks sometimes I work too fast. As in, if the animals need dosing with antibiotics, or sometimes when I'm dosing with Infectious Agent, I go too fast. This has never been a problem. I'm not fast, I'm efficient. I will always try to do things in the most efficient manner. I have never dumbed myself down before, and I'm not going to do it now. I refuse to take 30 minutes to do something that I know I can do in 10 minutes, and still be accurate. What's more, this has never bothered Dr.C, until now all of a sudden, Grad Student is worried, so it Dr.C.

RRRGGGGHHHHH

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Almost....There....

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

bad news...

bad news on the home front, mom went into the hospital on 11-24, went into respiratory arrest, and has been on a ventilator since then. She has MRSA in her lungs, but so far not in the blood or urine, and she's down to 30% oxygen on the respirator, so one or two small good things in a very large scale of bad things. I'll post more on this later, I've got pages to enter, just not the time yet. To flesh this story out, I'm back at work because at this point mom is heavily sedated and on the respirator, so there is nothing I can do to help her. Right now she is in God's hands, and I will probably need my sick leave and vacation in the not-t0-distant future.

This particular blog is about a prof. He is a collaborating PI, so we work closely with his lab. Yesterday afternoon, we were in a building where we house our infected animals, and I met him in the hallway. He asked me how I was doing. I kind of made an "eh" sound, half-smiled at him, and kept going. This man is in constant contact with my boss, so he should know what's going on. He then said, "I was just saying hello to you, you could at least answer me." So I said, "My mom is in the hospital with an MRSA infection in her lungs and she isn't responding very well to the antibiotics, so I'm actually just getting through the day today, I'm not really doing all that well, but thanks for asking." He looked startled and said, "Oh, I did hear something about that."

WTF? First, I did answer and if you didn't have your head so far into your blackberry you would have heard and seen my answer, but you didn't. Second, I really don't care if my lack of a good mood affects you. It didn't have anything to do with you, and thanks, that's one more time I have to tell that story. Thank you. As if the wound isn't sore enough, thanks, I get to rip it open ONE MORE TIME. Thank you. So, Dr.P Kiss my ass if my lack of a good mood upset you. Next time, don't assume it has something to do with you and just let me have my bad mood.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Finally, Good News!

Good news from the Home Front.

Mom's tumors are responding to treatment, and is showing 'significant reduction' in the tumors in her chest. Also, they took the feeding tube out. They said as long as she doesn't lose weight and keeps eating, they will not put it back in. YEAH!! Also, if the tumors in her throat continue to shrink, they might be able to take out the trach tube maybe January or February?. YEAH!!!
So, this is truly a thanksgiving time for our family.

Thanks be to God, and May He keep us strong in our faith.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Frontline on PBS

I watched Frontline on PBS last night. It was on Undertaking, as in the people who prepare the deceased for a final visitation and burial. It was good, but made me cry all the way through it. It was a family of undertakers, the Grandfather had been an Undertaker, and his son, and multiple relatives, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces. There were 3 story lines. An elderly man and his wife, a young couple with a terminally ill infant, and a single elderly woman in a Hospice center.

The last one had several nieces and a cousin who visited her, but no one that was there all the time. When she died, the cremated her in a simple cardboard box and buried the ashes. There wasn't a visitation, there wasn't a funeral service, just an short interment service at the graveside. This one touched me, I must admit. She was so at peace with her life and death. It just was what it was, and that was all.

But the one that tore me apart was the young couple. All through this hour-long show the Owner of the funeral home was reading from his father's diary. It was from when he started as an Undertaker, and the insights he had. How he never kept child and infant caskets on hand, he ordered them as the need arose, how he never charged for the funeral services for children and infants. The infant had a very rare and fatal genetic disorder. The boy was 18 months before they managed to identify what was wrong, and he died at around 30 months old. It was so hard to watch as the parents came to terms with this final event, that they had watched their son die over the last 30 months and it was finally at an end. The mother kept talking about the connection she had with all of the other mothers in that graveyard, there were many headstones for children that had died, from newborns to toddlers to young children, and how the families had suffered this, and still they went on, and how she knew that she and her husband would do the same thing.

I probably shouldn't have been watching it, what with mom having cancer and treatment and all, but it struck such a chord with me. This is coming. Maybe not this year or next year, but it is coming. I'm sure that in years ahead, it will be good that I will have confronted this demon and made peace with it, but right now, it's pretty hard. It makes me doubt my faith, doubt my sanity, doubt the power of the medicine that keeps me in the middle of the road.

God, please keep me sane during all of this help me to remember your word and keep my faith strong Amen

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

First round of chemo

This is a long post today. I'm trying to get this all out of my head, so it's just going to be a long post.

Today my mother is having a port-a-cath inserted. If the procedure goes well, they will also start a round of chemotherapy today as well. If not, they will begin chemo tomorrow. This is being done at the small regional hospital about 3o miles from my parent's house. The first time mom had cancer, it was ER positive, and they treated it successfully from this small regional hospital. It was a small oncology unit, she knew all the nurses quickly, and many of the patients. In fact, several patients were people she knew from surrounding communities, and she felt at home and comfortable there. So I understand her desire to stay there, where she still knows some of the nurses and she has her original oncologist and surgeon. But this is a much different cancer, harder to treat and fewer options in the treatment.

My dad had called MD Anderson to try to get mom in for an appointment. I love my dad, but he is a racist man. He was a homicide officer for more than 15 years in a large metropolitan area, and he saw the worst that humanity had to offer, and now, he is a racist man. I don't agree, but I guess I kind of understand. Unfortunately for us all, the woman appointed to oversee my mom's case at MD Anderson is a black woman, Leslie. My dad called and asked for an appointment for a "second opinion". My dad's definition of a "second opinion" was to have a second doctor confirm the diagnosis and begin a treatment protocol at MD Anderson. The breast cancer center defines the term "second opinion" differently: it is an appointment with a doctor to have him confirm a diagnosis, and then prescribe treatment at a remote location, i.e. at the small regional clinic mom is at now, and the Breast Cancer clinic doctors have decided not to do that. This is not what my parents wanted, but my dad asked for a "second opinion", Leslie said the Breast Cancer clinic doesn't do "second opinions", and it went downhill from there. By the time I got involved, my dad was furious and Leslie was defensive.

I called mom and dad Monday, and dad told me what was going on. I had him give me the numbers to call, and I called yesterday (Tuesday). It took about an hour, but I finally managed to convince the admitting nurse that the second opinion that my dad was asking for was not the second opinion that the she was talking about, and we managed to figure out exactly what else needed to be submitted to get things rolling. In the meantime, Mom didn't want to delay the chemo any longer.

MD Anderson won't take patients who are currently undergoing treatment from another hospital/doctor/clinic. But mom didn't want to wait, so she agreed to do a round of chemo at small regional hospital.

When I was done talking to MD Anderson, Leslie needed one more report, and then we could have an appointment the second week of November. That's not far off, maybe 3 weeks, which is actually pretty good. But the surgery and chemo were due to start today. What to do? I called home to dad, and we talked, and I told him what was going on, that we could wait for 2-3 weeks and get in at MD Anderson, or we could do the surgery and chemo today. Then I asked him what they wanted to do. For the first time in my life, my dad was flummoxed. He had no idea what to do. After talking for a couple of minutes, I made a decision.

I said to dad, "This is what we are going to do. Mom will go in on Wednesday, have the port-a-cath put in, and start the chemo. When the series is finished, the doctors will look at the results, and then her oncologist will call the breast cancer center and do a telephone consultation with one of the oncologists there, and then mom will move to MD Anderson for treatment."

I said this with an authority I didn't feel, with a conviction that I don't have. I don't know if this is the best idea or not. My dad was so glad to have the responsibility of that decision taken away from him. I made that decision, not him. And he was more than happy to let me make that decision. I have taken that burden from him, I have stepped under him and lifted this off of his shoulders. For the first time in our relationship, I was an adult, making an adult decision, and he was happy to let me do it.

So now I know. My part in this will be to make decisions. My part will be to liaise between my dad and the doctors and nurses, translate, and make my father and mother understand. My job will be to be able to buffer my parents, to remain as unemotional as possible and get the information to the people who need it.

Dear Lord, please be with me. Help me to be strong, and to listen past the words coming out of my father's mouth, to the emotions behind them. Help me to not be so angry, to be constructive, patient, coherent, and realistic in my expectations of my parents, the nurses, and administrators that will be involved in this. Help me to carry this burden, because I don't think I can carry it without your help. Amen

Hey, at least I'm praying, right?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

incurable

They've diagnosed mom with incurable breast cancer.

Mom and dad are working on getting to MD Anderson for a second opinion.

Incurable? What? It's breast cancer, not pancreatic cancer. You are supposed to be able to treat, and CURE breast cancer. Of all the cancers, this isn't supposed to be one of the incurable ones.

My mom is only 59. She's too young to die. Isn't she?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Medication

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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Y-e-e-h-a-w Yeehaw

Gabriel went to the Lord and said, "I have to talk to you. We have some
Texans up here who are causing problems...

They're swinging on the Pearly Gates, my horn is missing, and they are wearing T-shirts instead of their robes; There's barbecue sauce and picante sauce all over everything, especially their T-shirts; Their dogs are riding in the chariots and chasing the sheep; They are wearing baseball caps and cowboy hats instead of their halos. They refuse to keep the stairway to Heaven clean, and their boots are marking and scuffing up the halls of Wisdom. There are watermelon seeds and tortilla chip crumbs all over the place. Some of them are walking around with just one wing; and they insist on bringing their horses with them."

The Lord said, "Texans are Texans, Gabriel. Heaven is home to all of my children. If you want to know about real problems, call the Devil."

So Gabriel calls the Devil who answers the phone and says,"Hello---hold on a minute." When he returns to the phone the Devil says,"O.K., I'm back. What can I do for you? "

Gabriel replied, "I just want to know what kinds of problems you are having down there with the Texans."

The Devil said, "Hold on again. I need to check on something."After about 5 minutes the Devil returned to the phone and said, "I'm back. Now what was the question?"

Gabriel said, "What kind of problems are you having down there with the Texans?"

The Devil said, "Man, I don't believe this...hold on." This time the Devil was gone 15 minutes and when he returns he says, "I'm sorry Gabriel, I can't talk right now. Those Texans have put out the fire and are trying to install air conditioning."

Monday, October 1, 2007

more surgery

Mom was in surgery today, they put in a trach tube and a feeding tube. The trach is to protect her breathing, they are afraid that the chemo may cause her throat to close further, so as a precaution, they put the tube in. The feeding tube is so that if she isn't hungry, she can still get nutrition. It is such that it doesn't interfere with eating, so if she's hungry or something smells good she can eat it, but if not, then she still gets nutrition.

Dad called me, I wasn' t there for this one. He said she was out of surgery around 11AM and is doing fine, holding her own in ICU. Tomorrow she should be moved to a regular room.

No one has told them yet to what extent she has cancer. Stage 1? 2? God, not 4 please.

I'm telling all of this very matter-of-factly, but inside my heart is trembling.

Last night, I'm not sure how long I stood at the sink in the kitchen, saying, 'I don't want it to be true' every time I exhaled. I was supposed to be taking my pills, and I was trying to figure out why I was in such a bad mood. I had been in a very anti-social, bitchy mood most of the day. I was standing there, thinking of the things that had and hadn' t happened that day. I was looking for the trigger for the bad mood. Was it A? Was it B? Was it because C didn't happen? I finally pinned it. Mom's surgery was today, and I didn't want it to be true. It seems like a dream, or nightmare. I've been having more of those, since I brought that up. This is going to be a long fall.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Denial: A great place to live.

So, I didn't want to, but I went home this weekend (denial is a great place to be; nothing bad ever happens there). I had told the folks that I'd be home on saturday. I had to help M in the animal lab for about 3o min, we went and had lunch, and I really didn't want to go home. But, being the good daughter that I am, I called home to ask mom if it would hurt her feelings if I didn't go home. Not permision, exactly. more like...a positive acknowledgement-Like, "Oh, it's ok, Daughter, I understand that you're busy and are having a hard time making it home. We'll call if we need anything."
What I got was, "What? Well, what are you doing that you can't come home? Well, if you CAN'T, then we can probably get along without you (pause, for the guilt to kick in)". What could I possibly say to that? So I went home. My sister-in-law had cleaned the upstairs, swept, vacuumed, dusted, etc, and my dad was scrubbing the kitchen, so I mowed. They have a big yard. But, it was a riding mower. I have to say, while I didn't outwardly show it, I really didn't want to mow. I made like I was HAPPY to do it, HAPPY to contribute, but I wasn't really.
And then I accidently (welllllll) forgot to take clothes for church, so I left HomeTown at 7:30AM, with the pretext that I would go to church at My home. I came home, cleaned up, even got dressed, and then I sat down on my couch, and stayed there for awhile. So, I finally gave in and went in and put away my nice clothes, and proceeded to clean my house. I swiffered, vacuumed, and did laundry.
I think I'm angry at God right now. I'm having a hard time even praying. I know, I should pray. I'm a good Conservative Lutheran, and I know what the Bible says about prayer. But I'm still mad, and it will take me awhile before I'm ready to go back to church.
I understand that we aren't being picked on (as a family, I mean), but I'm having a very hard time not being bitter and angry right now. Normal grief, healing, blah blah blah. I know that, too. Eventually I'll reach acceptance. But in the meantime, keep praying for me and my family. I need the prayers, because I don't seem to be able to pray right now, about anything. And my family just needs the prayers.

Friday, September 21, 2007

strength

It's friday. around 8PM. I'm drunk. there are not enough people to call in my phone, but I don't want to talk to any of the people in my phone. I have too much to say, but nothing I can say outloud. I need to say too much, but no one to say it to. What can I say? I'm mad, sad, tired, frustrated, crazy, depressive, manic...I need to cry, but I can't. What can I cry about? Should I cry because my mom has cancer? I've done that. Should I cry because it's her and not me, or because it's not me, but it's her? Is this my future? Am I weak to fear it, when she stands so strong? Is she strong for herself, or for her family? Does she cry at night? Is she scared? Should I be scared for her, because she doesn't show that she is afraid? Can I be this strong? Is it easier, having done it once, or is it that much worse? Does knowing how much the chemotherapy hurts make it easier, or more difficult? My dad had a feeding tube. Does seeing it in him make it easier to bear when it's in yourself? How do you wake up each day, and know what the day brings, and still get out of bed? And if she, and my dad, can do it, how can I be any less strong? Can I go home and be this weak? How can I not stand up and face the day? How can I not see my mother, and not be her daughter? I am as strong as my mother, because she has shown me the way. I am as strong as my mother, because I am her daughter. She is in me, and I come from her. What she is, I am. I am as strong as my father, because he has shown me who I am. I am as weak as my father, and strong in his weakness. He is in me, and I come from him. What he is, I am. What he isn't, I will become. What my mother is, I will continue. I will be strong, because it is from my mother, and for my father. I will be strong, because there is no other way to be. I will be strong, because I am my mother's daughter, and I will be strong because I am my father's daughter. How can I be anything else?



I need more beer.

Breast Cancer

YEAH! It's breast cancer! If you can be excited about it, we are. The doctors are pretty sure it's....wait for it....CURABLE! not just treatable! This is the best possible news we could have gotten! If you call being told your mother has breast cancer Good news...isn't life a bitch sometimes?!
So. Here I am. Relieved that is a treatable-probably CURABLE form of breast cancer. I didn't realize I was this anxious and tense about the type of cancer this could be...it could have been horrendously bad. I feel like a weight has been taken off my shoulders. I'll probably be able to sleep tonight without a sleeping pill.

I'm certain that this will be a topic quite often in the coming months. I've always known that I am at a pretty high risk for breast cancer, but for mom to have had it twice makes my risk MUCH Higher. hhmmmmm

Dear Lord,
Thank you, that in all of the possible outcomes, this is the most likely to allow my mother to stay for a few more years. Be with us all, help us to stay strong for my mom, and for my dad. And THANK YOU that this wasn't lung cancer...my father would have had a breakdown if he thought he had given my mother lung cancer. Amen.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The C Word

My mom has cancer. They did a biopsy on Monday of the Mediastinal lymph nodes, and they found cancer. They don't know what the origin is, if it's breast cancer or lung cancer or what, and they don't know how much, or if, it has metastisized. We'll find that out on Wednesday.

This isn't the first time my mom has had cancer. She was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 1996. She was 48 then. She's 59 now. My dad survived lung cancer, diagnosed in 2002. He was53 then.

Please keep my family in your prayers.

Dear Lord,
Help.
Amen

Monday, September 17, 2007

Closed doors

When I first graduated college in 1997, I didn't know what I wanted to do. My dad got me an unofficial interview at the Department of the Interior Customs office in Houston. I spent one day with the office, and learned what all they did and didn't do, who they were and what they did, different jobs, just general stuff. I was very excited, and submitted my application that evening. Then I reread the fine print. My vision wasn't even CLOSE to the requirement. And given that this was on 1997, LASIK surgery wasn't an option. I was crushed. I really liked the idea and was very excited to do it, and to learn that I couldn't just because I wore glasses really upset me. However, life went on, and here I am, doing infectious disease research and loving it. But this morning, 2 US Customs and Border vehicles drove past me, and something in my heart constricted. I flashed back to that time, to my intense disappointment, and somewhere in my head or heart (hard to tell which), I wondered What Might Have Been.... I'd have been at that job for 9 years now. Where would I be? Would I be a field agent? Lab worker? Would I be in DC? my Local City? Married? Children? Divorced? I've always kind of thought of life like a series of doors. You stand in a room with a bunch of doors. You pick one and go through it. But there is almost never a way to go back to those other doors. The door to the US Customs offices was closed a LONG time ago, but sometimes I still wonder about all of those closed doors behind me. What did I miss? Was it good, or bad, or both? Would I have succeeded? Failed? Would I have still ended up in the same place, just via a different route?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair, A
nd having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I'm not sure I took a road less traveled, but I definitely feel the tone of this poem.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

too much, and not enogh

I've had a hard time getting the desire to put a blog here. There has been much happening, but much of it is hard to put into words.



My mom is in the hospital. They know it's not cancer, and it's not emphasema, but that's about all they know. She is short of breath, can get 4 or 5 words out and has to stop to breathe. They have her on a mask that forces warm moist air into her lungs, she isn't too thrilled with it because she can't read or crochet because she can't get her glasses on with the mask on. However, she can talk and carry on a conversation when it is on, so she wears it most of the time. They've done X-rays, CT scans, MRI's, more X-rays, more MRI's...yesterday they were going to get all of her doctors together and have a 'Discussion' to try to figure out what it is. It's making the whole family a little edgy.



What else?



The new grad student in our lab has had a slight personality change, and it isn't for the better. She's begun to act...condescending is the best word I can find, but that's not quite right, either. I hate to tell her, but I'm not going anywhere. We are getting thumbs up from NIH for the animal research from the last 2 years, and they are sending us some compounds to test...this is extra work, but it is a huge indication that the NIH likes and trusts our work...work that I've planned and executed and documented and reported. I'm good at my job.



In the last 2 1/2 years I have ordered, planned, executed, and documented 95% of the animal experiments that have been done in this lab. That is both Level 2 and Level 3, and sometimes crossover (start in Level 2 and finish in Level 3). I also am the primary animal technician for a separate lab. They don't have a lot of work for me, but I do whatever they need me to do. Now, in addition to these 3 labs, a tech in a collaborating lab is pregnant, so she is out of animal experiments for at least the 12 months, maybe longer (and it's possible that she isn't coming back), so I'm helping with the animal experiments in that lab, too; I'm the second, not the first, but I am still in the animal labs, so they count, too. Last year, we went through 3000 mice on 1 protocol, and another 600 on a second protocol. In addition to all of this, I am in charge of maintianing and ordering all of the consumables in the lab, as well as whatever equipment or extra purchases that DrC approves. Also, I am maintaining cell culture and will be restarting confocal experiments to show how our Toxin intereacts with some cell surface molecules. For awhile I was the primary person doing all of the cell culture, but I've passed that on to another lab member.



Now, to be fair, I don't prepare the bacterial inoculum, the grad student does, and when there are dissections and plating to be done, there are at least 2 of us, and we try to get 3 of us to make it go faster. She has to maintain the stocks and the stock paperwork. And I will admit, that it's been nice to have someone help in the 3 lab, so maybe I've been slacking off a little and letting Grad Student take some of the weight. But when she's gone next year, guess what? I'll once again be responsible for it. DrC has stated that perhaps we'd hire someone to help in the 3 animal lab, because if the NIH likes us and our work, they will be sending more our way. Yeah! and OMG! More work???

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Dear Arrogant Grad Student

I really like it when people speak for me, or around me, or over me. I really really like it. Especially when it is a grad student doing it for me. I'm not in charge of this experiment, but I am #2. You are not. You are closer to #4 or 5. I actually can do this without you. I can't kick you off of this experiment, because DrC won't allow it. But I'd like to. It might make my job harder, but I'd like to prove to you that, in fact, you are NOT a necessity. I can replace you. Easily. With nicer people. Or I can do it myself. That would be preferable at this point. Go away. No, really. Be gone...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The end, and beginning, of the year.

It is the end of our fiscal year. It seems right that the year should start and end at this time...new semester, new medical, nursing and graduate students. New projects are being funded. Our accounts are being reset, so we don't have access for a couple of days. It's kind of like driving, knowing you are almost out of gas, but not sure quite how many miles you have left before the car dies. Of course, this only lasts for a couple of days, but it's still a bit disconcerting. Money is almost never a problem, if we need or want something, we get it. Even sometimes kind of frivilous stuff, we get that, too...I have the BEST label maker.

I have tried to plan better this year, I've tried to keep our consumables in stock, we have all of the tissue culture stuff that we'd need, all of the chemicals that we use are stocked. Of course, I can't plan for all eventualities, so I'm certain that on Monday, someone is going to come to me and say, "But I need this tomorrow?!!?!!" And I will (want to) say, "Tough shit, you should have planned better than that. Remember this for next year!" In reality, we will go to other labs and see if we can mooch off someone for a couple of days. Because I'm a good lab manager like that.
I'll probably make a good mother some day, too.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Hard to get a prayer out of last week...

I was sick last week...stomach flu. Didn't do much of anything. I was out all day Tuesday, but Wednesday I had to go in to prepare for an Inspection from our Environmental Health and Safety department, we had to make sure our select agents were in good form so that when CDC comes to visit all of our I's are dotted and our T's are crossed. I was gone for 2 days, and still stuff managed to come undone. It's good and bad. Good, I have great job security. Bad, how does stuff fall apart in 2 days???

Saturday I cleaned my back room. It's used to be a computer room when I had a desktop computer. Now it's an extra bedroom/cat room. Mostly what I did was clean up my computer desk and file cabinet so that if I have to evacuate for a Hurricane, my documents are ready to go.

Sunday I worked in my back yard. There are some really pretty landscaping left over from someone who previously owned my house, but it's so overgrown that you can't see it. Today I uncovered another tile block in the back garden, it's about 1' square, this is the 3rd I've found in the flower beds. I was trying to dig through it before it dawned on me what I was trying to dig through. There was about 2" of fern leaf matter, dirt, roots, leaves...that sort of thing. I pulled away a sheet of leaf litter. I also cut down as much as I could of a small azalea...it's in a bad place. I can't get it completely down with my little clippers, it will take a small chain saw to get rid of it completely.

I'm always in a better mood after I work in the yard. Tomorrow my hamstrings will be very tight, but the rest of me will feel great.

Prayer?

How about...

Dear Lord, thank you for all of your blessings, for the sun and rain, for the grass and the clouds, for good food and good friends, for good health and doctors when you're sick, and sick leave at work. Amen.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

6 Iraq Casualities

This morning I received an email from a friend of mine (we dated a couple of years back. The romantic relationship didn't work, but we've remained in contact, and I consider him a friend). He is serving somewhere in Iraq, he can't disclose where. He pilots helicopters. 6 men of his unit were killed several days ago. All contact was halted until next of kin were notified. He wasn't hurt, but his fellow soldiers, friends, were. They left behind families, children, wives, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. While the war is often on my mind, and always at the back of my mind, this has brought it especially close to home. I knew W was in Iraq, but it was rather abstract until now. I've had a hard time working today, because all I can think about are the families of the fallen men. I'm not usually a crying person, but today the tears have been very close to the surface. May God grant us an end to the war soon.

Please, pray for all of our troops.

Lord, remind me of how good I really have it. I sleep in a comfortable bed, in a cool house with modern appliances and luxuries that many people can't even dream of. I have a job that pays for all of my needs, and most of my wants. I have a family that I can call at any time, and I don't have to worry that they will be killed by bombs, IED's, or enemy soldiers. Remind me that there are people who put their life on the line every day so that I can live this way. Give the friends and families of the fallen soldiers peace in this difficult time, and grant them the strength to overcome with their grief. Be with us all, Lord, and remind us that in ALL things, you work for good. Amen

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

Best Friends

For the longest time (and I mean years, here) I have believed that I'm not very good at making or keeping friends. I have said to myself and others that I'm very good at meeting people, but not very good at making friends. One night, maybe a month ago, I was sitting with a woman (VH) I considered a friend just talking over some wine and a small dinner. At one point she said something about me about being one of her best friends. I didn't pay it much attention at the time, but it must have been sitting and fermenting for awhile in the back of my head. This past Sunday I got to spend some time again with VH, and I remembered what she had said. I got to thinking about it, and I realized that I was gravely mistaken. Somehow, in the last few years, while I had convinced myself that I didn't have any friends, I have accumulated several. Somehow, in the process of life, I realized that God has graced me with many friends, several of which I consider very dear to me. In addition to my best friends from Grad school, whom I still talk to, though not as often as I'd like, I can count 7 people (including 2 married couples) that I would consider best friends, and a bunch more that I consider friends. Also in the mix are some friends that, while we aren't as close as we once were, I none-the-less still consider my friends. There have also been some people who I thought were friends, but are no more.

In the past few years I have learned that the word Friend has many meanings. It turns out that I'm not too bad at making friends at all. In fact, I'd say I've become pretty good at making friends, and I'm doing better at figuring out if someone new I meet would make a good friend. I'm learning to let the relationships develop at their own pace, in their own way, and quite often, I am surprised at the kind of friends I have.

Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of friends. Thank you for the ones that teach me, and for the ones I teach. Thank you for the long-standing friends, thank you for the new friends. Help me to be as good a friend to others as others have been to me. Amen.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Help, kind of

This post contains some explanation of part of an animal experiment. If you are sensitive to such things, you should stop now.



I believe in animals in research because they are the best model we have, at the moment. While their biological and immunological systems are not identical to ours, they are often very similar and can give us important information about how our human systems work and how our systems would respond to any given set of conditions.



That being said, they should also be treated as humanely as possible. There are some procedures that must be done to give us the information we need that are inevitably painful for the animal and probably cause some lingering pain or discomfort or reactions. My goal, as a researcher, is to minimize the side effects as much as it is in my power to do so.



One of the things we must often do is take blood from an animal. Larger animals are not such a problem, as it is easy to find a vein and draw blood. In the case of mice, however, we must be sensitive and frugal. We cannot take very much blood, because mice are small and they don' t HAVE very much blood, so we need to get it in a way that causes as little distress as possible. Also, often we need the mice to survive, so we must be careful that when we bleed the mice we do not do permanent damage. There are a couple of ways. AGAIN: IF YOU ARE SENSITIVE TO MEDICAL PROCEDURES, PLEASE STOP READING!



You can bleed the mouse by clipping off part of a toe or the end of the tail, this gives a small amount of blood, and each time you bleed the mouse, you must clip more toes, or further up the tail. I object to both of these methods. They don't yield much blood for the length of time it takes and the pain involved, and you permanently mutilate the mouse. The 3rd way is called a retro-orbital bleed. This looks like a painful procedure, but it is quick, the vein heals quickly, and it can be repeated without mutilating the mouse.



I had to bleed 40 mice this AM, and I asked a co-worker for help. She said sure, she'd be glad to help. She neglected to tell me she hadn't done a retro-orbital bleed in months. This is usually fine, it takes 1 or 2 mice to get 'back in the saddle' and off you go...except that she apparently wasn't very good to start with, or she only did it in an academic setting...you know, 1 or 2 times in a lab but not enough to be proficient. Anyway, about 1/4 of the way through, when it becomes VERY apparent that she does not know what she's doing, I suggested that she anesthetize, and I would bleed. NO, I can do it. 'No, you can't' is what I'm thinking, but I keep my mouth shut. Of a cage of 5, I do my five, then I move to help her do her 5, she does 3 and I do 2. That's 7 out of 10 mice...for that much help, it would have been easier to do it myself. As it was, I had to go back and rebleed 4 mice because she got such a small amount that I couldn't do what I needed to do with it. It was such a frustrating morning, and then it irritated me all over again in the PM.

Dear Lord, please help me remember that not everyone is good at everything. Not even me. Help me to realize that if I ask someone for help, it is not good form to then tell them that they are doing it wrong, and for them to stop helping me. Help me to be aware of myself, so that I may realize when I am being a hindrance, not a help, and help me to have the humility to step back and make sure they still WANT my help. Thank you for co-workers who like me enough to want to help. Amen.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

We have had a very large crate in our hallway for about 3 weeks. It is a large plastic dry box with glove ports. Since we are on the 3rd coast, we have very high humidity, and we need to do part of an experiment in a very dry environment, about 30% humidity. When we ordered the box we measured the place where it would go, got the necessary approval, and submitted the order. There was an 8 week turn around on the box. We finally got it 3 weeks ago. Now we need FINAL approval to move the box onto the counter we originally got approval for more than 3 months ago. For 3 weeks I have fielded questions. "What's in that crate?" "What do you need that for?" "How big is it?" "How long is it going to be in the hall?" "You haven't done anything with that YET?" "Are you ever going to open that crate?"

Finally, today we got our final approval. My co-worker, AJ, and I were trying to dig up some tools big and strong enough to break down this crate. Fortunatly, we were met in the hall by some of our campus Facilities men, and they had tools and dis-assembled the crate for us. AJ and I picked up the box (it's an empty plastic box...not heavy), put it on the cart and move it into the appointed room. It over hangs the edge of the counter by 3 or 4 inches. But it seems stable enough, since we won't be using it for anything big or bulky.

I had a lot of fun putting it all together, setting up the humidity sensor, setting up the air control lines and pump and humidity control system. It was a fun afternoon, especially when I just went in there, it was working PERFECTLY! Humidity was just right, the system was maintaining well, the box wasn't foggy or holding a vacuum or anything nasty like that. I'm excited to start this experiment now.

Dear Lord, thank you for new toys, especially for new toys at work. Thank you for my inquisitive nature, my insatiable search for the reason WHY, and for a job that satisfies ALL of those things! Amen.

New Friends

My new friend, MK, has had a summer intern, and this is her last week. I asked MK if they were doing a goodbye lunch, and they both looked at each other in confusion. It hadn't occured to either of them. But since I brought it up, sure, that sounded like fun. Ok. So now summer intern is picking the restaurant, and we're going to lunch on Thursday. I still don' t know if MK and I will be friends, or work friends...I guess I'll just have to wait and see what the days bring.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Yesterday, I took a chance to make a new friend and asked MK, another tech in our department, to lunch. We've talked several times in the past, and we got along OK. Together, we invited a third tech, PS, and the lab manager from our collaborating lab, KW. We went to a nearby local restaurant and had a great time. I've been, I guess, a little resistant to forming new friends. New friends mean a chance of getting hurt. They mean opening myself up to more people, letting more people into my comfort zone. In the not-to-distant past, I've been a poor judge of character, and I let people in that ended up hurting me deeply. They left scars that are still trying to heal. Then, redemption in a single phrase. We were discussing what we were doing for the weekend, and I mentioned that I was the president of my churches LWML group, and we had a meeting saturday morning. PS asked, "What's LWML"? "Lutheran Women's Missionary League, we are a service organization that works in the Lutheran church." , then a smile, "Wow, that's really cool!"

Something hard inside of me fell away. Part of a wall was broken with a single heartfelt phrase. Yeah, I think what I do with LWML is cool. I'm part of something larger than myself. We make an impact on the world, personally, locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. Whether by small gifts to a nursing home, or mites for the National convention, my small part is as necessary as anyones. I think that is really cool. And I like the idea of friends who think so, too.

Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of friends. Thank you for the discovery of new friends, and for the renewal of old friends. Amen

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Who is this person?

So, I have been in fairly bad mood for the last several days, and it is getting progressively worse. It is work related, because outside of work I seem to be OK, I laugh and talk and actually have a personality. At work, though, I am petty and snarly and mean, and in my mind I'm thinking bad evil mean thoughts. Yesterday I had a minor melt down...alright, I had a small temper tantrum, brought on by the increasing number of small normally inconsequential things going wrong, but all together are conspiring to drive me crazy. Shoes that rub blisters, 4 blisters, on each foot, autoclaves, all 3 of them, that won't charge (they won't get enough steam pressure to raise the temperature enough to sterilize) so the instruments aren't sterile for tomorrow's time point, I cannot do a cardiac puncture to SAVE MY LIFE, people leaving early and leaving me to deal with the last 2 tissue homogenates to dilute and plate, Car inspection is overdue, my oil change is overdue, I can't seem to get the time to go grocery shopping so I'm out of all of my staples...I'm whining, I know. I almost cried in the necropsy room this afternoon, I stopped my part of the experiment, closed my eyes, did a few deep calming breathes, stopped the crying, repeated several times in the next 2 hours. It seems like the tears are just below the surface, and the slightest frustration brings it up again. Who is this person? This is not me! I do NOT cry because my shoes put blisters on my feet! Do I?

Dear Lord, please help me. Help me figure out what brought this on, and what I need to do to make it go away. This is not who I am! I'm not usually this teary, whiny, crying, soggy person. I am usually solid, fairly stable, fairly evenly tempered...please bring her back! Thank you! Amen



Update: OH, PMS. That explains Everything! I haven't had PMS that bad in years. I kind of feel sorry for my co-workers that put up with me all week.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Temper Tantrums

Dear Lord, help me remember that my co-workers have lives of their own, and that sometimes they bring the bad things that are happening at home to work (but I've NEVER done that..yeah, right). And that sometimes when they throw temper tantrums at me, it really doesn't have anything to do with me.
Thank you for making me a good planner, and for making me organized and (generally) prompt at work. Help me to remember that, despite borderline obsessive planning, I don't always know exactly when things will happen. Help me to also remember that BECAUSE I'm such a good planner, co-workers expect the experiments that I plan and execute to run on specific time tables. Help them to realize that quite often my boss and his decisions throw my plans into disarray, and that when he does that, I cannot, with any confidence, predict what will happen, or when. Help me to help them by not snapping, being short, or taking my frustration on Boss out on Co-Worker, and if I do, remind me to initiate the apology.
Thank you for this job that drives me crazy. It allows me to afford my house, my car, dinner with my friends, and groceries for my shelves.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

This isn't so much a prayer...more a story, but I'll end it with a prayer.

My niece's birthday was last week, she's 2. Her mother decided that for her birthday we should go spend a day playing at a local boardwalk. There's an area where the kids can play in the water, several restaurants, a small aquarium, just a tourist-y kind of place. It ended up being my mother (mom), my sister-in-law (MF), my niece (EF), and MF's mother (SZ) (she's from an Eastern-European nation and doesn't speak English, but she understands a lot, and MF translates). We met up around 2pm. We started at the water, which normally EF would have LOVED, but she wasn't in a very good mood after a 1 hour car ride. We decided that we should have a meal, so we went to Chain Seafood restaurant. MF and I shared the shrimp plate, mom and SZ shared a fish and fries plate, and EF ate a little of all of it. The child ate almost as much as I did, and drank a HUGE glass of water. There was a lady who was making balloon animals, she made EF a NEMO ballon, it was very cute. After lunch, we all felt better, so we went back to the water, and EF had a BLAST. She would run into the sprinkles and water spouts, get soaked, then come back out laughing. She was so cute! We went to the small aquarium, oohed and ahhed at the fish, sharks, and eels, then went back out to the water to play. When we were done with that, MF took EF on the Merry-Go-Round, EF rode a flying pig. Then to a snack place for a funnel cake and some air conditioning. By then it was 6pm, and time to go home. Poor EF was almost asleep before they could get her to the car. I must admit that I was a little apprehensive about how it would work out, but we had soooo much fun together. Plus, with just the women, we had much more fun than if the men had been there. I don't know why this was, but it just was.

So, the prayer:
Dear Lord, thank you for the family. They drive me insane, I don't understand most of the decisions they make, they sometimes are a little judgemental, but thank you for them. Mom has a lung infection, and her breathing is sometimes a little difficult, but she has such a strong spirit. I know that one of these days I will lose my mother, but please don't let it be very soon. She is a very stable force in our family, and we need her.
Thank you for MF, she's so good for my brother, and such a good mom. Thanks for her mom, SZ. She's so great, and such a good 'Nanzi'. It must be hard for her to come here and be away from the rest of her family, but it is good for EF, and good for MF, so please give her peace in her time here. Thank you for the all of the children in my life, my niece and my many friends with children. I don' t know if it is your will for me to have children of my own, but if not, then give me peace with the children you put in my life. Thank you for a wonderful day on Saturday, for the memories we made and the pictures we took, so that one day we can tell EF all about her 2nd birthday on the boardwalk, with Just The Girls. Amen.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Thank you, Lord. My boss has finally gotten over his bad mood toward me, and this afternoon we had an actual civilized and productive conversation. We discussed graphs and data for the paper that Grad Student 1 is working on. We planned for experiments for the next 2-3 weeks, and even had a little bit of humor in there, too. Thank you. Help me remember to cover both his butt and my own next time. Amen

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thanks

Thank you, God, for days like today. Today, my most pressing thing to do is to email a grad student an already-completed graph so that SHE can run the statistics on it. Also, thank you for boring talks (they break up the day) that serve free pretty decent pizza and sodas. This is about the only time during the week that I drink soda, so it's nice to get a free Diet Dr. Pepper (which I discovered today that I really do like better than regular Dr. Pepper). Thank you for days like today, when I get here at 9:45, eat lunch at 11:45, sit in a talk for 1 hour, then leave early at 4:15. Thank you for days like today, because they refresh me, and help me to remember on hard days why I like my job. Thank you for this job, because as hard as some days are, days like today remind me that I really do, in fact, love my job. Amen.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Why, oh Why?

Dear Lord, why do you allow me to continually make myself look bad over and over again, and to the same people? Every time I think I'm going to redeem myself, I stuff my foot in my mouth AGAIN. How can a loving and caring God allow me to do this time and again? Aren't you supposed to protect fools (and small children...and ships called Enterprise...), even ...especially ... from themselves?? I realize that you cannot perform miracles all the time, but if you could just, I don't know, make me trip, or have someone interrupt me, or have me choke on something, give me a muscle spasm, ANYTHING, to make me stop and think about what I'm about to say or do BEFORE I stuff my foot or leg or hand or arm or any other body part in my mouth, I would be so VERY grateful.

Anyway, Thank you for this job, I really like it, and Thank you for the fact that my talent and capability overshadows the fact that I am occasionally an idiot. And thanks for friends and coworkers that can look through the occasional...ok routine...idiotic and inane things I do. Amen

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

First Try

I hope this is an excercise that will help to bring me peace in my world. That's rather a tall order, I know. I'm not going for World Peace, or national peace, or even regional peace, but rather, for me to be at peace in my chaotic world. So here's a first try, a first prayer from the lab.

Lord, Help me with the one about being a good employee. I know that I am to submit to my master (aka boss, Dr. C) as I would submit to you, but when I am taking the blame for something that wasn't my fault...well, maybe 10% my fault...it can be hard to suck it up and say, "Yes, I'm sorry Dr. C, it won't happen again." Help me to remember that by doing so I am a stronger employee, a more mature Lab Manager, and a more considerate boss of people I manage. In the meantime, Lord, please give me peace with the knowledge that my boss knows that he's being rather unfair in this, and that's what is making him such an @ss this week. Amen

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