The Details Are Key

I switched up my work schedule last week. My “weekend” is now Friday and Saturday, at least, for a little bit. I’m just trying a Thing at work. Anyway, this past Friday started my new weekend and I had Things to Do.

I started with a trip to the local Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram dealership for a recall service appointment that went fairly smoothly until they violated the privacy of the former owner of my truck. That’s a different story for another time, maybe. Next up was a trip to the pet store for cat food and litter. There were no violations of privacy here so it was on to the dump. My neighbor’s tree has been dropping limbs and I’d had them in the bed of my truck for some time. It cost me $2 to drop them off in the yard waste section of the landfill and, because of all the rain, I got to do a little mudding, too. The mudding made decide to stop at a self wash car wash place on the way home.

Between soaping up the truck and blasting it with high pressure water, I decided to text a friend for brunch. Yes, brunch on a Friday. My friend works four 10s so she has three day weekends every weekend and I’m a little jealous. Anyway, after blasting the truck, I went to her house and we all went to lunch (her hubby went with us). So far, I was on track to get lots of things done. I only had one more thing on my list of Must Dos, everything else was a Well, Maybe.

After brunch, we went back to her house for a bit, where she asked me to tag along with her to pick up her nephew. My last Must Do was a stop at the post office to check the box and it happened to be on the way, so I went. This is when things went sideways. As I was walking into the post office and pulling my keys out of my pocket, something about my keys seemed wrong. Closer inspection revealed that my house key was kind of broken and kind of missing. The key was one of those keys with a plastic case at the top that has a little light in it. I could press a little button in the center of the head of the key to shine a light on whatever I was trying to unlock, you know, my house. The plastic part was still on my key ring, but the light and key were gone.

Shit.

We went about collecting the nephew and headed back to my friends house. I immediately searched my truck to see if the key had dropped on a floor board or something. No joy. I thought about calling the dealership I had been at but there had been a small fiasco there that morning which lead to them not knowing who I was. My friend, who has been my In Case of Emergency since my Mom died was spouting off logical things like, “Why don’t I have a key to your house?” My only answer for this was, “Probably for the same reason that you don’t actually have a list of my family and their phone numbers should you actually need to be in charge of me in an emergency.” Yeah, I just haven’t done any of that stuff, yet.

There was actually someone that Mom had once given a key to for iCat sitting. I’ve never asked for the key back from that person so I text them and explained the situation. I got the okay to go to their house and collect the spare key. During that 20 mile drive, I thought of all the places I could have dropped that key: dealership, pet store, landfill, car wash. I didn’t think I’d actually ever find it and I was coming to terms with the fact that I’d have to replace all the locks on the house.

The House. hmmmm

I was almost to the Keeper of the Spare Key when it occurred to me that the key could very well be securely in the lock of the back door of my house. That would be the last place that I actually used the damn thing and the last clear memory I have of seeing it. Interesting thought. I kept driving, collected the spare key, had a nice chat, and drove another 20 miles home.

And when I got home...

Damn it.

Decluttering: Too Many Vehicles

I’ve kinda stalled on my decluttering process in recent weeks. My hours at work have increased so buy the time I get home I’m tired. I think I’m thinking too big and I might try tackling smaller projects in the future. Maybe a stack of papers here or a drawer there. A little progress is better than none, right?

I did do something big back in March. Something that caused a few of my friends to threaten to Baker Act me. I consolidated some vehicles. At one time, last year, I had three vehicles. Now, I have one. It wasn’t a quick process. Deciding to sell one of them took almost 5 years.

The quickest vehicle I sold was my mother’s truck. Having an older truck around the house would have been nice for hauling things to the dump but after about a month I decided I was being silly and I just simple didn’t like her truck. Within 2 months of her death, I had sold it to my neighbors oldest daughter dirt cheap.

This left me with a brand new Ford Exploder and The Jeep.

The Exploder (yes, I mean to use Exploder) had been purchased less than a week before Mom’s stroke. I hadn’t even made a payment on it when she died. We had purchased it to help with Mom’s new life. It was easier for her to get in and out of, there were various safety features that assisted in driving and braking, and there was more room for her various medical stuff while we traveled. It was a very nice truck and we had gotten a really good deal on it. I inherited enough to pay it off after making the request three payments. It was paid for, so it was easy to decide to keep this one.

The Jeep. I had bought my Jeep, brand new, in 2004. There wasn’t anything particularly special about my Jeep. I had built it up just enough for my needs, but it was still a rather simple Jeep. It had been a second vehicle since 2007, when I had bought a large Ford F150 STX 4x4 through Military Car Sales while I was deployed to Afghanistan. I used the Ford, mainly, to haul the Jeep around between duty stations. As most Jeep owners do, I loved my Jeep. It was an extension of me. I probably took better care of my Jeep then I did of myself. The first blip of selling it didn’t show on a radar until late 2011, after I moved back to Florida. I hate wheeling in Florida. It’s not fun. There are no mountains to climb over and nothing really of note to go look at. The feeling didn’t stick. I love my Jeep. We’d been trough a lot together.

The second radar blip showed in 2014. By then, the F150 had been replaced with a Toyota RAV4 that my mom and I shared for traveling. I drove the Jeep daily but did little off roading. I went to a couple off road Jeep events but I had never really felt comfortable hanging out with the Jeep or off roading crowd. I didn’t mention the thought to anyone. Instead, I got in my Jeep and went for a drive and let the thought pass.

In January 2016, I was standing in front of my carport staring at two large, gas guzzling, vehicles and I thought, “This is stupid.” It’s just me, a chihuahua, and two cats that I don’t really want. Why do I need two vehicles, one of which I rarely even drive? I was driving the Exploder almost exclusively. I’d take the Jeep out, maybe, once a week just to keep it operational. I had fallen into a job and didn’t have time for the off roading that I didn’t like anyway. Of course, I then drove the Jeep and thought, “Nope. Can’t do it.”

But then, I did.

Late in March I posted on Facebook that The Jeep was available for sale. My friends nearly broke Facebook. Mostly, they were concerned about my mental health. The thing about old Jeeps is that they still have a high resale value, but arranging for financing for an older vehicle isn’t easy. You basically need a cash buyer. This isn’t to say that it took a long time to sell The Jeep. Within a few days of posting about it, I traded it and the Exploder in for a Toyota Prius. I know, it was a radical change.

Because both The Jeep and Exploder were paid off, I ended up driving off the lot with Judas Prius and a nice check. The Prius suits my current driving needs, my insurance bill has drastically dropped, and I’ve only bought three tanks of gas since I bought it. Do I miss The Jeep? No. If I ever move out of Florida I might change my tune, but for now, I’m good.

Looking Back

2015.

Part of me wants to say that it was a really shitty year, but it wasn’t. At least not entirely.

The year rolled in with Mom at home. We were working through all her physical therapy and arranging the house so that she could get around when she was in her wheel chair. I took a couple of cycling trips with the WWP to Jacksonville. By the beginning of April, Mom was walking and had driven a few times. We were looking forward and planning some short trips to prep for bigger trips. We bought a big new SUV that could be customized with adaptive equipment and was more comfortable for Mom.

Then she had a massive stroke and didn’t recover.

 *sigh*

That made the year shitty.

But other stuff happened. In June, I went on a year long planned cycling trip with Trek Travel to the California wine country. I got a part time job in a Trek shop! My video and sound class was a lot of fun and I landed a second job in social media because of that class. I made a mini documentary that was shown on a big screen at our local drive-in as part of student film night. My professor took me to sit in on a graduate level class at UF. My nephew got married in November and because I went to that I got to see a good friend that I hadn't seen in far too long.

I learned tons of stuff this year. So many things that I'm not sure I could list them all here. Some of them are things that I never really wanted to learn. Things like, you don't always know that the AC has a leak until the bill goes through the roof. Freon is expensive. Yards are pretty when they belong to other people and I don't have to mow them. I hate shrubbery that grows quickly and wildly. Gravity works very well when I bring my bicycle to a complete stop but don't unclip. My mom kept a lot of weird things and I have no idea why. The makers of my favorite moisturizers, Lancôme, are cool with doing bad things to bunnies.

Okay, I kind of knew that last one but, for some reason, it has just struck me that I should do more to let them know that I'm not okay with having bad things done to bunnies.

So, yeah, one massive sucky thing happened. But lots of little good things happened to keep me going.

I suppose I'm ready for 2016.

The Watershed

I am not okay. 

And that, in itself is okay. 

Thinking it, somehow, makes me feel a little better.

I started taking digital media classes last year. I had been taking a bunch of business type classes and had even earn some Microsoft certificates. I was bored out of my mind. So, I signed up for the Introduction to Digital Media class. I haven’t taken another business class since. It was during the intro class that the professor mentioned stop motion. I bugged him for days for us to do a stop motion project in the intro class. We didn’t. It came up again in the next class, Digital Imaging and Fundamentals, but I was out voted. The rest of the class wanted nothing to do with stop motion. I even tried to talk him into it during a digital photograph course over the summer that was full of non digital media majors. Finally, this semester, there was a stop motion project in the mix of the Video and Sound course. I just finished it last week. I love it.

It was painful. 

Not in the way you might think. Stop motion is a lot of work. A one minute clip at 15 frames-per-second (fps) requires at least 900 photos. That is after the storyboarding, set building, and test photos. So, yes, the project itself was going to painfully rewarding.

And it was, but mostly, it was just painful. Like crying in the middle of the night painful. Procrastinating painful. I couldn’t figure out why. This is a project I had wanted to do for a year. I’d planned part of it out with my mom while she was staying at the rehab center recovering from her amputation.

Oh. Wait. 

Mom.

I inherited the house mom and I were living in when she died back in April. I guess you could say that it’s The Family House. We (my parents and me) moved in late in 1988 and this has been my legal residence ever since. Even during 20 years of military service, this house was home. Now, it is really mine. Sort of. Sometimes, I think that being forced to sell it because of a will would have been easier than continuing to live here. I don’t have to be in a rush to sort through things. So, I get hung up on what should go and what should stay. Much of the house feels like Mom should be wondering in at any minute. I haven’t taken enough of her things off the walls. I oscillate between This Junk Has To Go moments and No, I Can’t Get Rid of This, I Don’t Know What It Meant to Mom moments, with a smattering of This Ugly Thing Meant So Much To Her. *sigh*

I emptied her bedroom within days after she died and started to set it up as The Art Room. I moved a big table into the middle of the room and then all the art and craft related stuff followed. The extra computer I inherited is set up on a rolling cart so that I can google things as needed (or listen to iTunes). I built my stop motion set on the table in her room and proceeded to shoot in there. And then I didn’t want to go in. 

Her Room.

I still call it Her Room. It still feels like Her Room. This is one of the things I realized during this project. Because I inherited the house, and will be living in it, I’ve taken my time with making it mine. I need to repaint rooms. I need to taken down the things that aren’t my style. She’d be okay with it. I know she would. She told me so and, as her only child, I know she’d want me happy. 

The other thing I realized: I need to call the VA. I am not okay and I need help.

Not Like the Last Trip to the Hospital

Hospital day. I hate hospital days but this isn't supposed to be a long procedure. I'm not calling it a surgery. It's too short to be a surgery. Procedure. Just a couple of toes and clean up the stump.

Falling out of bed happened around 6 a.m. so, in typical me fashion, I'm running a little late. Feed, walk, and water the animals. Quick shower. No food for me. Out the door around 6:43. Okay, there was a little bit of facebook checking in there. Just a quick glance to make sure I didn't miss anything during the 4 hours I slept.

Mom calls just as I'm walking up to the front doors of the hospital. She's at the check in counter on the second floor. I meet her there just in time to hand over her ID and watch her sign some paperwork. I tell her that we didn't have to be here until 7:30. The hospital had called the house the day before to tell her that but I told them that they might not want to tell the rehab center. They aren't very good at getting her places on time and they have an earlier time.She tells me that they barely got there before 7 but one of the nurses at the rehab center bugged the shit out of everyone to make sure they were on time.

We get wheeled back for the appointment pretty quick. Mom gets weighed, temped, written on (I got to keep the skin markers), changed, and finally drugged. I got placed in charge of her belongings, including the rehab centers wheelchair. One thing about this hospital, you better know your name and date of birth because everyone is going to ask for it. I don't know what happens if one doesn't know their name. I'd be inclined to say that I don't know my name just to see what happens.

Eventually, Mom was pushed back to the OR and I headed to the waiting room. This waiting room is fairly nice. A little bright but the chairs are okay and it's large. There is a TV that they had on set on something daytime-y and crappy. I sat in Mom's wheelchair and watched until I realized that no one else was paying attention to the TV and the obnoxious Pink Lady wan't in the room. I changed the channel. Criminal Minds is much better waiting room TV viewing than Celebrity Name Game. Three other people seemed to agree because they wondered over to watch with me.

Speaking of the Pink Lady. She's not really pink, her jacket is (it's usually a her). I don't like them. I find them intrusive and nosy. Why do they need to know why I'm here? I get it, she can be in charge of answering the phone but why does she need to know what the OR told me once the do call? Just lemme alone and let me watch this creepy TV show in peace.

At some point The Leg Thief shows up to tell me that he has successfully stolen two of Mom's toes and cleaned up her stump. Everything went fine and she should be able to leave today. Recovery will call when they are ready to move her to a room.

Hospitals have sucky wifi and cell phone coverage is worse. I tried to do some facebooking and when that failed I played with a new typewriter app on my iPad. It's cool. It sounds like a real typewriter when you type. It even has a "sheet of paper" that moves across the screen as you type. It's cool if you're a typewriter geek. Eventually, Recovery called to tell me that Mom was awake and is on her way to room 449, they'll meet me there.

They lied.

I waited near room 449 for about 10 minutes before I went looking for a nurse who told me that they had told recovery "no" because Mom is scheduled to be discharged today and they can't see giving her a full room to someone that is not staying the night. The hospital has day rooms down on the surgical floor. Back to the waiting room. 

I finally got to Mom's room around 1:20 but I had to suit up before I could go in. Patients that come from rehab or nursing facilities are "isolated" as hospital prodicall. Something about them living in a place that can easily spread infection so the hospital takes extra procations. Whatever. I got a cool blue plastic gown to wear and gloves that make it difficult to type.

Mom was in some pain and not thrilled with the idea of going home.

Kayaking with WWP

It’s been a fairly stressful summer. I spent most of it at one of the local hospitals. Mom is out of the woods now and safely rehabbing at a rehab center on the other side of town. So, I escaped for a day of kayaking with the Wounded Warrior Project. I had a good time and hope to do some more kayaking soon. I’ve even bought a little life jacket for my dog so that she can go, too.

Listen

I don’t even know where to start. The days have kind of been a blur until July 12th hit. I think I need to go back further than that. May, I think. It started to unravel in May.

Mom was worried that she had dementia. She has a few family members that have been diagnosed with it, possibly even alzheimer’s before people really knew what alzheimer’s was all about. So, she went to see her doctor to talk about her memory issues and leg pain. I’m not sure how the leg pain got lumped into one complaint, and I now realize that it should have been addressed separately but it’s a little too late now. Anyway, a bunch of scans later a tumor was found in her left temporal lobe. Meningioma everyone called it. Not acting like cancer. Go see a neurologist. 

So, we did. Sort of. We saw the neurologist PA. We didn’t really like her. She made everything about her in that way that does nothing but make me want to scream, “THIS APPOINTMENT ISN’T ABOUT YOU.” She wanted to do a bunch of stuff that later got cancelled. Who the hell needs a sleep study in the middle of a brain tumor? The leg pain did come up and there was a conversation about how little Mom drinks water. As in, she never drinks water. Drink some. See if that helps. And for the brain tumor? A referral to see a neurosurgeon. 

The neurosurgeon appointment was over before it started. I think it is going to take me longer to type about it than time spent in the mans office. We arrived 15 minutes early and we were walking back to the car before the appointment time even arrived. That’s how quick it was. It was basically a This Is What I’m Going To Do appointment. At first, we were cool with that but later questions came up and Mom wasn’t happy. She went back to her doctor. Her doctor cancelled the sleep study and called the neurologist to complain about his PA. Then explained that the oncologist should answer her other questions.

Don’t let oncologist scare you. Radiation oncologist treat tumors, not just tumors that are cancerous. All tumors that are going to get blasted with radiation are done so by radiation oncologist. So, there was a trip to meet with the radiation oncologist. He answered all of Mom’s questions and made sure she understood that this was more important than her shoulder pain. See, Mom had wanted to put off the tumor thing until after she had a shoulder replacement surgery. Yeah. Not going to happen that way. 

The leg pain came up again during this appointment. She had drastically reduced her diet coke intake and increased her water consumption but her leg muscles still hurt. The radiation oncologist made sure she understood that the leg pain has nothing to do with the brain tumor. Nothing more was said about the leg pain.

Then July 13th rolled around. Mom asked me to take her to the hospital because she had accidentally kicked a crate, twice (the first time was on the 12th), and her toes hurt really bad. So, we went to the ER and they kinda freaked out about not being able to find a good pulse in either foot. They asked about circulation problems but no one had ever said anything about her circulation. They thought that she had fractured a couple of toes and sent us home with crutches, a splint, pain meds, and a referral to a podiatrist. 

It was a week before we could see the podiatrist, by that time Mom had purple toes on her left foot and bluish toes on the right. The podiatrist didn’t care about which toes might be broken. He wanted us to see a vascular guy as soon as possible or he was going to admit Mom to the hospital himself. We saw a vascular guy the next day at the hospital.

Blood clots.

Both legs.

Four-and-a-half to five-hour surgery to clear them.

It didn’t work for the left leg. Below the need amputation two days later.

Liver failure.

Kidney failure.

Words like “gravely ill” got used. 

Sister flew into town for about a week.

This is when days started to blur together and time has escaped me.

I can’t really say everything that happened from July 22nd (the day we had the appointment with the vascular guy) to now. It’s all kind of mashed up together. But, Mom is awake now but not entirely coherent. Her liver has come back and the kidneys are working on getting better. As of tonight, she’s still at the hospital but she could be moved to rehab any day now. She seems okay with the loss of her lower left leg and anxious to learn to walk again. She has also realized that she needs to listen to her body. 

Listen to your body.