Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Text R Us

Update on Husband: So far, he hasn't made it home yet. Every night Husband has developed a little fever, which means another 24 hours in the hospital and sometimes more blood cultures.

When I went up there yesterday, we had a lot of visitors from various departments come and speak to us. The guy who coordinates with the insurance companies was especially nice as he informed us that having a nurse come to our house to draw blood and administer the drug that promotes white blood cell growth is cheaper than coming all the way in to the clinic. He even said we have pretty good insurance, which is nice to know. At least our deductibles aren't so high that we would never have a prayer of paying them off. Each of those white blood cell promoting shots cost between $3000 and $6000. Cough, cough.

Husband managed to walk 12 laps around the floor he's on, which equals one mile. The nurses kept telling him that exercise is a great fatigue-buster and is much better than sitting around napping all day. Unfortunately, by the time I left last night, Husband felt pretty awful and had absolutely no appetite for his fish, onion rings, and apple pie he'd ordered. That's the chemo, which suppresses the appetite center in the brain.

It was thought I'd be taking Husband home today, but he developed yet another fever last night and he's feeling pretty awful today. I don't know if they'll keep him in or send him home.


I mentioned a while ago that I might be getting a better job in the company I freelance for. I did get it. I will now be given some website text to write, which I've had a lot of experience doing. The pay is much better and there are fewer words per page, so that's a bonus. Plus, no contact with clients, which takes a lot of time. I imagine I will still take on the articles I already write, as well, so I can bring in some real money. (Ha ha ha ha! Real money from writing. That's too funny.). I am, however, considering offering my services to the world at large as an editor. That might bring in something as people realize that good content is crucial for internet search marketing and the search engine algorithms that companies like Google use.

I don't have much time these days, what with shuttling between home and hospital and getting stuff done in the cracks. I stay up way too late catching up. I'll try to be more interesting very soon. It will help when Husband is home!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Silver Lining

Update on Husband: After I finished my last post, I ended up taking Husband to the hospital. His temperature spiked, so I dutifully called the oncologist physician on call (who happened to be the one who did his bone marrow core samples) expecting to be told to give him a couple Tylenol. Instead, she immediately ordered me to take Husband to the Huntsman center in The Big City. Fevers in a compromised immune system can be swiftly deadly. As I was packing a quick overnight bag, she called back and said she'd changed her mind and that I should take him to our town's hospital, where she had instructed the ER physician to administer antibiotics immediately and then ship him to the Huntsman.

Five minutes after getting into the car we arrived at the hospital (ah, the joys of living in a small town!), but the ER physician didn't immediately give Husband the antibiotics. Instead, he ordered a chest X-ray and a blood test. Three hours later, he started the antibiotics when it was clear that Husband no longer had any white blood cells. Ooooh, that made our other doctor so mad.

Husband got a ride into The Big City around 3am in an ambulance. Because I had been up all night and didn't trust myself to drive the hour to the hospital, Husband and I agreed I should go home and sleep before coming to see him.

Husband is still at the Huntsman. He did get his last dose of chemo late last night, so that's done, but he had another fever when it was finished. They want to keep a close eye on him and finish the blood cultures. I slept overnight in his room last night to make sure I was there if he started feeling as awful as he had done on Thursday. Today, although he is ghostly pale and feels pretty poorly, he is doing all right. They might let him out tomorrow.

The silver lining is that the chemo is very effective. The doctor was astounded by Husband's response, which was sooner than anyone else she's treated. Now we just have to wait for his white blood cells to start growing again and his bone marrow to replenish itself. That might take weeks, but now it's healing time.


First of all, let me welcome the new followers to my blog. Hi! Welcome. Please feel free to comment if you wish.

Secondly, my eyes are closing. I even have ice cream and the kids are all in bed. Dang.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Boy Joseph

Update on Husband: The chemo side effects are starting to kick in, and they are not all that fun so far. Husband went to bed as soon as we got home from his appointment today, and hasn't been out of the room since. He's feeling weak and as if he's coming down with the flu. We're watching his temperature closely because if he gets to 100.5 degrees F. the doctor instructed us to call her. I hate watching him go through this without being able to do anything about it.


I'm a little stressed, so coming up with anything to blog about that is remotely coherent or even interesting is an impossible task at the moment.

Here is a note that Joseph's Primary (Sunday School for children) teacher wrote just before she moved. I thought it was funny.

I have enjoyed getting to know Joseph in my class. I appreciate as a teacher that he shows up almost every week. Joseph is a very smart boy. At first I thought he wasn't listening or didn't know very many answers. Then I realized he is a SMART kid! He was answering everything backwards of the right answer. He knows a lot of the scripture stories. His favorite ones are the fighting ones. He loves to participate and talk about his family. We had a lesson on repentance and he really thinks his sisters need to repent more. It made me laugh! I am going to miss him and his happy smile! I hope you like your new teacher.

I do find the fact that he likes to talk about his family just a wee bit ominous, as I have been in classes of that age group and have learned far more about their families than their parents ever wanted me to know.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bean Soup is Not an Adhesive Product

Update on Husband: As I write this, I am sitting in one of the infusion rooms at the Huntsman center while Husband has his third dose of chemotherapy. I should be writing 1000 words on local search marketing, but I ran out of things to say after 500 words and I'm taking a break.

So far, Husband has not been feeling any side-effects, which is very nice. His hair is still sitting proudly on his head, and he's feeling tired but not nauseated or in any other way ill. Yay!


I have a lot of beans in my pantry. I must have around 30 bags of mostly white beans stacked on one of the shelves (on the right side). The other day, I figured I better make use of these little nutrient-packed power players, though my heart wasn't really in it. Two bags of beans went into the crock pot with water and a little baking soda to soak overnight. The next day, I drained and refreshed the water, threw in a ham bone and some seasonings, and set them to cook for 10 hours. That night, the scent of bean soup welcomed us as we walked through the door after spending many hours in The Big City. I can't say Husband was all that excited.

As an experiment, I pureed the beans in the blender and added the leftover, chopped ham I'd saved. Bean glue. With ham. But the kids LOVED it! My parents also loved it, as that is the kind of thing my mom cooked all the time I was growing up (I ate a very healthy diet until I went off to college and began enjoying the easy energy of sugary carbs. Protest and rebellion? Well, if it was, it was the worst act of rebellion I went through.) So this bean soup I was sure would sit quietly molding away in my fridge is almost gone. I made so much it's fed us for several nights. The baking soda in the soaking water cut down on the...um...embarrassing aspect associated with eating beans, and I sit in amazement as even the pickiest of my eaters chows it down.

I would feel like the absolute best cook in the world except Husband has taken a pass on it every time since he choked down the first bowl on the first night. He said (and I quote directly),"It's like taking baked beans, mashing them up into a mush, and leaving out all the good tasting parts of it." Since he bruises so easily these days, I have refrained from hitting him. Too hard. He got porridge with a little butter, brown sugar, milk, and raisins last night, and he liked that fine.

Monday, September 20, 2010

After You Read This, You Will Awaken Completely Refreshed

Update on Husband: We drove into The Big City for Husband's first day of chemo early this morning. Of course we got stuck in traffic, but because we'd given ourselves enough time, we still got to the Huntsman Center on time. After they drew blood, we met with the doctor. Then it was off to the Infusion Room for two hours of a cladribine drip. We grabbed some lunch afterward, ran a couple errands, and then headed home, again getting stuck in stop-and-go traffic (only this time for much longer). Before we went home, we stopped to pick up his prescriptions for Valtrex and Bactium to prevent shingles and pneumonia while his immune system is suppressed.

Meanwhile, at home, my Mom the Superstar (along with my Dad the Magnificent), took care of everything and even had the kids get their chores done before we arrived at the house. Bless her. I don't know how she does it, 'cause I can't even remember to get my kids to get their chores done every day. Since the house was clean in the evening, I was able to sit and help Joseph with his homework, which he loved.

Even if the circumstances are not ideal, it was great to spend the day with Husband. He's exhausted, and we do this all over again for five more days, but hopefully this will work and he can recover quickly. He'll start feeling the effects of the chemotherapy within a day or so. I wonder if his hair will fall out? and if it does, what will it look like when it grows back?


Here's a talent I didn't realize I had: I am very good at self-hypnosis. I can put myself into a trance very easily, and now that I better understand what that means (I've been reading, see), I understand that I've been doing it all my life. I wish I could claim that's unusual or something, but the truth is that most kids are very good at self-hypnosis. When you are transported into a world of your own creation, where everything external drops away and you are completely absorbed in your thoughts, that's self-hypnosis. Maybe I never grew up or something. When I was a teenager, I used to turn out all the lights in my room on a Sunday night and tune my radio to "Music From the Hearts of Space," followed by "Pipe Dreams." For the first hour, I was surrounded by ethereal, new age sounds. For the second hour, it was the organ (my dad has been the organ player in church for as long as I can remember, so it's an instrument with which I am very familiar and love).

During both those hours, with no other stimulus except for sound, I slipped away into a little fantasy world. Thoughts would come and go as they pleased. I just breathed and let my mind wander where it would. All my muscles were relaxed. Eventually, I would lose the music as well, going so deep that there was nothing outside of me. It wasn't sleep, exactly, and a lot of times I came out of it with interesting insights about myself and about life in general. Call it meditation. Call it self-hypnosis. Same thing. It was very refreshing.

I had forgotten to deliberately do this after I had kids. My trance sessions were more accidental than planned, as I grabbed a moment here or there to just space out in thought. Now I'm making time for it again, and when I put in my headphones and turn on my iPod to play the self-hypnosis tracks, I find I sleep really, really well. Whether it's relaxing music or the guy talking me into a trance, it doesn't matter. I am sorting things out in my head. I have a lot of things to sort out.

This is the most sloppy post ever. No matter. I must go to bed, so I'm not taking time to edit tonight. Tomorrow is another busy day. I did manage to get my exercise in today, although I had to wait until it was dark outside before I could take my 30 minute brisk walk. It feels good.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I'm Not a Stepford Wife, and I Think That's a Good Thing

Update on Husband: As he is in generally good spirits and feeling pretty well, Husband and I had a date last night -- probably the last date night out for a long time. We got the kids a pizza to eat at home in front of a movie, and then the two of us snuck off to our favorite Chinese buffet, where Husband made wiser eating choices than usual (I, on the other hand, couldn't resist the honey shrimp and those wonton wrapper things full of cream cheese, crab, and spring onion). At the end of the meal, my fortune cookie delivered a pearl of timely advice: "This is a time for caution, but not for fear."


I've decided to divide my blog posts this way, with an update on Husband's progress at the top so those who want to know how he's doing can do so easily without wading through the miasma of my own obscure observations on whatever pops into my head and tells me (however falsely) "THIS would make a good post!"

The last couple days have reminded me a lot of how I felt several years ago. I went through a depressing period of wanting to be a Stepford wife. Do you remember that movie? Sure, there's the more recent version with Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick (hello, pre-teen crush!), but the older one was more frightening. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, here's a brief synopsis: a couple move to the town of Stepford. They're somewhat in crisis, and the wife gets to know some of the other wives in town. She notices odd things after a while about the women. They all seem perfectly content, and from a male perspective, like model wives. It turns out the men of the town are getting rid of their pesky, individualized women and replacing them with robots, who are perfect in every way.

Now stop laughing so hard. Yes, that IS a movie.

So, anyway, I spent a while wishing that I could completely subsume my own desires and needs in order to feel no tension between what I wanted and what I needed to do for everyone else. If I could become a Stepford wife, I reasoned, conflict would vanish and I would be serenely content to see to everyone else's needs with no thought of my own. I set about to become this model woman.


Turns out, I can't turn myself into a robot. Who knew? But it was part of the path that led me to where I am, which is learning the art of balance and that I am just as important as everyone else.

The last few days, as I've pondered what it will take to be a caregiver and nurse to my husband as he undergoes chemotherapy and the subsequent recovery, mom to six children with somewhat hectic schedules, write the articles that bring extra and necessary income into the house, and keep our home as clean and sanitary as possible, I found myself wishing to become a robot again. The final straw landed on my back when I realized I'd now given over my blog, my precious little real estate of me, to updates about cancer. I don't resent keeping everyone informed, of course, but it occurred to me that I would end up resenting the idea that the only reason I could justify writing this was to have people read about Husband's cancer. I know, it's a horrifyingly selfish thought, but this time around, I am a little more wise. I examined the anger and guilt and identified the underlying cause. Then I set about again finding a balance between my needs and the needs of my family. I think I've come up with a schedule that will allow me to get my exercise (which I dearly love and which I've been missing) and accomplish just about everything else. There will definitely be days I don't get to make a check mark against everything on my list, but I'll try my best and forgive the rest.

My husband, bless his heart, doesn't want me to quit the choir I love so much, either. I look forward to those two hours every week with a passion I find surprising. I love the challenge of the music, the ability to blend my voice with others into a tapestry of sound. It's like getting eight hours of refreshing sleep to spend that time singing.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

UPDATE: Good News in the End

Husband just got a call from his doctor at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. The hematologists are finally ready to make a diagnosis of Atypical Hairy Cell Leukemia. That missing protein threw them for a while, but it wasn't looking like the hairy cell leukemia variant. Atypical hairy cell leukemia is even more rare than the variant, but the cases so far have responded as positively to treatment as classic hairy cell leukemia. Husband asked the doctor a couple times how sure they were about this diagnosis, and she said, considering doctors and hospitals from all over the world send blood samples to the Huntsman Institute for examination by the hematologists, she's pretty happy to back their diagnosis.

Imagine our relief!

Chemo starts Monday morning.

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Garlic?

Husband's breakfast: steel-cut Irish oatmeal with honey and dried cherries.
Husband's lunch: steamed cod fillet with parsley sauce; roasted yams with a little butter, salt, and pepper; and steamed, chopped collard greens with creamy Caesar dressing.

Thank you, thank you! Yes, I can still cook. I made all of it myself, except for the creamy Caesar dressing. I have also roasted extra yams and two heads of garlic. It may be a myth that vampires hate garlic, but cancer really does hate it. I hope to have Husband smelling of garlic through his very pores. To that end, I am making roasted garlic and red pepper hummus with whole wheat pita for his snack. This new mode of eating means I am going to have to get very organized about how I feed him, since it's so time consuming. You can't buy a lot of pre-made healthy stuff for reasonable prices, so it's up to me to make it. Totally worth it, of course, if it keeps him around longer.

The kids are fine. We have made sure they are not worried, but have given them information according to their ages and maturity levels. Sian and Gabrielle know the most, of course, and Little Gary has not a clue. It's nice to be three sometimes.

People keep asking me how I'm doing, and honestly if I didn't have a healthy sense of hope and faith, it would be a lot harder to deal with all of it. My parents have been here, helping us, and that also makes it easier for me. I have this underlying and constant feeling of peace. However it works out, I know without a doubt that a)Husband will not live on this earth one moment less than he is meant to, and b)I and the kids will be okay should the worst happen. ("Okay" is somewhat relative, I guess, but we would continue with life and still be able to find joy, despite our sorrow.) I only suffer emotional breakdowns once in a while, but usually my mindset is that if I can't solve a thing by worrying about it, then there's no point in worrying about it. I'll just do what I can.

Meanwhile, I sure am glad for my friends. So many people have kept us in their prayers, spoken heartfelt and kind words, and offered service in whatever it is we need. For days, the women in our ward have brought us dinners. I can't even tell you how much it means to me to know they are thinking of us.


I don't even know where to take this blog anymore. I am going to keep everyone updated on what's going on, of course, and beyond that, I think I'll just let things go where they will as far as this little speck of a site in the whole worldwide internet community. I enjoy writing this because it is relaxing for me to write words I am not paid for. I enjoy writing, and this blog reminds me why I keep doing it, even if I don't rewrite and edit my posts like I should. I know you can forgive my mistakes in that department, remembering that I am, after all, just a girl coping with life.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Patient UNO Player

Finally, I am posting the little video of my brother I wanted to show you. This is Aaron with Little Gary and Elannah, patiently playing UNO. Every time he comes over, he indulges my children by playing game after game, which is something I don't often do with them. They absolutely love it, of course. After a while, he'll pull out the guitar and, like last Sunday, play a blues riff while they sing the blues they spontaneously make up on the spot. The next video of him I post will hopefully be of his classical guitar-playing abilities.

Happy belated birthday, Aaron. You're a wonderful man, brother, son, and uncle. Now, when are you getting married? (sorry. that was from the kids. Ha ha ha)

In the news of cancer department, there really isn't any yet. No solid diagnosis, and they're not starting chemo now until possibly Monday. When Husband called to see if they had any answers for him, they admitted that they still are not sure what it is. They're thinking that it might be the hairy cell leukemia variant, which isn't quite as nice a leukemia to have as the classic hairy cell. We were quite depressed about that for a while today. However, we rallied as we talked about nutrition and how the body will cure itself if given the right tools. Starting from now, Husband will no longer be consuming sugar or refined flours, as those are cancer foods. It will take a bit of adjustment, but I'm determined to feed him the way I should have been feeding our whole family for all these years: lean proteins, whole grains, legumes, plenty of fresh and frozen vegetables and fruits (fruits in moderation, and with meals), along with probiotics and prebiotics, and good, clean water. He'll also need to be consuming all his vitamins and minerals, so somehow I need to get him quality supplements.

I took him to the thrift store today, where he bought a bunch of spiritually inspiring books. It wore him out to go, but he figures he's watched enough TV and he's done wasting so much time. It doesn't matter how much time he has left -- whatever he has left, he's going to put it to good use and learn quality stuff. When he got home, he played a long Monopoly game with Elannah, and afterwards, he hung out with Joseph in the family room.

I will post little updates on Husband's well-being, but I'm not going to dwell on cancer until we know what it is. At this point, it looks like we won't know until Monday.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back to Square Two

The doctors have reneged on their diagnosis, which I think is totally unfair; I had already called "no take backs!" They explained that there was a miscommunication between the doctor and the pathologist. Apparently, those hairy cells he was looking at are missing one of the protein markers that makes a definite diagnosis of hairy cell leukemia possible. From what I understand as a non-doctor-type person, this means we're back to figuring out exactly what type of leukemia Husband has. It could be hairy cell, it could be something else entirely. They promised to phone us with our fate within the next 24 to 48 hours.

Husband had to scramble when he found that out. Obviously, they won't start chemotherapy until they know exactly which type he needs, so the start date was put off until Thursday. Husband had already arranged for a substitute for his classroom, so he called the principal of his school and told him to hold off on the sub until Thursday, as he needed to go in to work and draw up some plans for the sub anyway. The doctor gave him permission to work for two days, provided he didn't take any heavy blows to the abdomen.

After we got home, I answered a call from Husband's parents, who gave me a very thorough and detailed chastisement for Husband even thinking about taking the 40 minute drive into work, not to mention the dangers of being in a room full of rambunctious and germy fifth graders. I was on their side, of course, but I felt it wasn't prudent to point out that he got his stubbornness from somewhere. Husband pointed out that he had been going to work for nearly two weeks already with an enlarged spleen before he was diagnosed. That was after I hung up the phone and he was chuckling that he was glad he hadn't answered.

He completely underestimated how tired he would be, though. He's not used to being anemic, and I think he thought a good nights' sleep would set him right by morning. I insisted on driving him in to work, and we put a double padding of foam between him and the seatbelt, just in case. Nothing happened during the drive, fortunately, but he's decided to get his sub plans together and have the sub start tomorrow instead of Thursday. It's a compromise.

Still, I'm not answering the phone for a while.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Worst Weekend Getaway Ever!

One day nearly two weeks ago, Husband came to me and said, "Does my left side feel firmer than the right?" I pushed on his abdomen for a while, and yes, there definitely was a firmness in his left upper abdomen. Several days later, he came to me again.

"It's bigger. There's something in there. I can feel it."
There was something in there. I could feel it, too. The next morning, I scheduled an appointment for him to see the doctor and get it checked out, but the soonest they could fit him in was nearly a week away.

It was a long week. As his side got firmer and more uncomfortable, Husband tried to do some research on the internet to explain what might be happening. Scary, scary things showed up.

One day, he started a sentence with, "If I die..." We had a long conversation about what I should do if he was no longer here. We have life insurance, and he wanted me to be able to pay off the mortgage and the student loan and take the kids on a vacation somewhere. He told me that one day I would find someone else who could take care of me and love me, and that would be okay. I hit him, but gently, on the right shoulder, because I didn't want him talking like that. I can't imagine not having him here, making me laugh, loving me, loving the children, my best friend.

I held it together pretty well, I thought. I didn't have long crying jags and become hysterical. Husband, impatient, managed to get an earlier appointment with another doctor, and she ordered blood work and a CT scan of his upper left abdomen. Husband took the day off work to have the scan done, and then we waited and waited for the results. The night he had the CT scan is when I broke down. All the waiting and wondering finally got to me. We were watching an episode of Doc Martin -- the last episode in the latest season on Netflix -- and when it ended, Husband turned and looked at me. He had his arm around me while we sat on the couch. He leaned his face against mine. And I just started bawling. Big, heaving sobs, tears everywhere. He held me and rubbed my back.

The blood work came back with some odd numbers, and the doctor wanted to repeat it. Husband went back in to give them some more blood, and the doc was in a telephone conference with some of the specialists at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. For an hour they talked, and then the doctor came out of the room and told Husband to get himself to the Institute that night (Friday, Sept. 10). His spleen was five times bigger than it should be, and they were so worried about it rupturing that they didn't feel he could wait until Monday to go to the hospital. Obviously, sending him to a cancer institute had other implications. While I drove him to The Big City and to the institute, perched high on the side of a foothill, with a commanding view of the entire valley, we tried to joke around that this wasn't the kind of date I was expecting to be taken on. I only teared up once, but because I was driving, I forced the tears back and drove carefully.

The Huntsman Cancer Institute is beautiful. The architecture and materials are breathtaking. It's almost like a hotel, with its dark, rich wood, marble and granite inlays, and two-story walls of soaring windows. Husband's room was also beautiful, for a hospital room. One wall was entirely glass, overlooking the valley; at night, all the lights of the city twinkled cheerfully, life going on below us. Even the food is excellent.

Friday night was mostly about answering detailed questions about Husband's medical history and the medical history of his family. The doctor, a lovely young girl from India via New York, obviously couldn't rationalize Husband's story of being born with a hole in his heart that spontaneously healed after being given a blessing by his father. He told the doctor how his mother watched Husband's tiny little fingers go from blue to pink in a few moments, and how the doctors who were set to perform surgery later that day could no longer find anything wrong. Our doctor was puzzled by that, and gave us some explanations as to why it might be possible. It was okay that she couldn't believe in a miracle. What endeared me to her the most was that her father called her twice while we were talking and I saw the respect that showed in her eyes when she saw the number. The first time, she answered in Hindi and obviously told him she was with a patient. The second time, she said, "I need to take this call. It's my dad." She was only gone for a couple minutes, but she needed to take his call. Good girl.

Saturday morning, everyone wanted a piece of Husband. The phlebotomist took so much blood, I told Husband he was much lighter on the right side than the left. The doctor for that day took a bone marrow biopsy, which was painful. She couldn't get any bone marrow, as the cells were too tightly packed, so she had to dig out three core samples. So many people wanted some sample of this or that, or to ask questions or perform some test, that by the time I had finally convinced Husband to eat some lunch (he hadn't wanted breakfast), it was nearly 2:00. I was reaching for the phone to order him food when the nurse came in and announced that two CT scans of the chest and lower abdomen had been ordered, and because of that, he would need to take the next two hours to drink a barium shake. No lunch.

He didn't get lunch until dinner time. He was exhausted and no one had been able to give us any answers. The phlebotomist (the doctors and nurses called him the vampire) had been back three times for blood. I was surprised Husband still had any left. We were worried. We sat there sort of watching cowboy movies on television.

It wasn't until Sunday that the answers came. The doctors were doing rounds in a large group, and they were standing outside Husband's room, conversing about Husband's symptoms. Our efforts to eavesdrop were severely hampered by the cleaning lady who showed up and made a racket tidying things up. Finally, the crowd came in. Husband said, "It's really hard to hear you guys." This first doctor who came in laughed and said, "That's why we're coming in here." They crowded around the bed, and the head doctor, a lean, blond woman with a kind face, told us that yes, it was cancer, but it was one of the most easily treated cancers there are. It's called hairy cell leukemia, and it has a 96% remission rate after treatment. The other 4% can be taken care of with other drugs.

After they left, I choked up. Relief, I imagine. The phone rang, and it was Husband's mum, calling at the perfect moment to hear the diagnosis. I handed the phone to Husband.

Husband will have chemotherapy for seven days. The doctors will closely monitor his blood levels and watch to see if his spleen is shrinking back to normal size. Once the cancer is in remission, it can stay in remission for years. People live a normal life span with hairy cell leukemia. There's every reason to believe that Husband will be just fine.

All the family is informed. I came home yesterday to see my children, who have had their uncle and my parents taking care of them so I could stay with Husband. Husband will be released tomorrow, and he'll take the week off work while he has the chemo. A classroom full of germ-riddled fifth graders is no place to be with a compromised immune system.

This is already severely long. I'll write more another time, and I will get that thing posted in honor of my brother. I'm going back to the hospital today to see how Husband reacts to the chemo. Cross your fingers.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Everyone should have a brother like mine

Happy birthday to my wonderful brother, Aaron. I had something planned that I was going to post, but Aaron is currently taking care of my children while I sit in the hospital with Husband, getting test after test done to figure out why his spleen is so enlarged and why his blood tests keep coming back all weird. I'll post it as soon as we get home.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Red House in Idaho

This is the house I lived in when we moved from Northern California to Southern Idaho. I was four years old when we arrived, and nearly ten when we left again (this time for Northern Minnesota). We had been on vacation and my parents were driving around this part of Idaho when they drove by this house that had a "For Sale" sign out front. They pulled over on the gravel road to have a look and the owner waved them in from the front yard. Even though my parents had not been considering a move at the time, they took a tour and decided to buy. Thus, I left a crowded San Bruno neighborhood near a railroad track to live in a house on seven acres of open land on a gravel road six miles outside of town. It didn't even have a house number. The mailman knew who we were.

This is the back yard, where we were beginning to build a greenhouse.

I loved living here. I had a best friend about a mile down the road (you definitely could not see into your neighbors' windows!), my elementary school teachers enthusiastically fostered and encouraged my abilities in reading and writing, and occasionally I would plan a day trip to the town library. Mom would help me pack a lunch and I would set out on my bike in the morning for the six mile trip in. There were only a few establishments along Main Street, and I liked to visit the library first. Then I would take my carefully saved quarters over to the General Store for some stick candy or to the little grocery store for a fruit pie. After I tucked my treat into my backpack to eat when I got home, I would ride the six miles back, stopping at my favorite horse pasture along the way to get a drink from the stream.

During the summers, when school was out, we ran wild in the foothills across the street. Past settlers and travelers had left a wealth of rubbish in certain places, but as it was dumped before the times of plastic containers and cardboard boxes, it was great stuff. Glass bottles, interesting wooden boxes, even the wires of an old mattress. We also collected spent shotgun shells of all colors, left by hunters past, and they sat in piles around our little fort. We slid down sand dunes that hid here and there amongst the hills. When I washed my hair on Saturdays, the shampoo suds were brown. I kept washing until they were white, and then I knew my hair was clean.

Good times. Happy times.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Brain Cramp

Little Gary does some amazing things with my computer. He can change the width of my screen, disappear the tool bar, and hide things from me. I have no idea what he's done, but I fear I may not be able to log out of blogger because of his changes. The "sign out" tab has gone so far to the right that I can no longer see it. Crazy kid.

Today's article topics have been a mixed bag: gold refiners, injection molding services, assisted living facilities, and perfume oil.

I still have to write the last one about perfume oil, which sounds interesting, at least. Tuesday nights are the nights I run around, dropping kids here, picking them up there, hitting the grocery store for milk and diapers. So, I'm running late. I am not eager, but it must be done. At least, AT LEAST, it's not real estate. Or vacuum pumps, fascinating as both those topics are after 3500 words or so. We must find the positive in whatever we do. :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Reflections on Life Before

I slept in today until about 7. That was very nice. My alarm clock, Little Gary, came in to my room and announced that it was morning because the sun was up and that his tummy was very hungry. I gave him cake. How bad is that? It was convenient and just sitting there on the counter, left over from Sunday night's family dinner.

Speaking of Sunday, it was my turn to teach the Relief Society lesson and I taught it on being kind to ourselves and others. It's a subject I like, so I had lots of stuff I wanted to say. Unfortunately, it's been so long since I taught that I got nervous and didn't say half the things I wanted to say and said the other half in a way I hadn't planned.

I have read a lot about near-death experiences. I happen to firmly believe that there is life after the death of our mortal bodies and that there was life before we came to Earth. One of the ideas that is repeated in many, many peoples' NDE's is that we chose our lives and our experiences for two reasons: to gain knowledge we knew we needed, and to serve others. In fact, our primary goal in everything we decided to go through in life (and yes, I absolutely believe we decided on our experiences, even if we didn't know for sure what it would feel like) was to help us help someone else. I love that idea. It allows me to look at others close around me and in the world and remember that this person or that person is fulfilling their own callings, traveling through their own experiences, and that we are all at different levels. Even the really annoying ones.

Another idea I savor is the idea of free agency. We were all given complete freedom to make our own choices, and God promised He would never intervene and take away anyone's free agency. Sometimes that means people do awful things to each other, of course. But what that also means is that I have absolute control over what I choose my life to be. I choose my attitude and my perception, and by doing that, I choose my experiences. It's a heady thought. Complete responsibility. Proactive instead of reactive. I get exactly what I really want. It therefore behooves me to know what I really want.

Anyway, it's late. The kids are in bed. Husband and I took them for a drive up a canyon, only to find the canyon was closed. Joseph and Little Gary were quite disappointed not to get to climb a mountain, but we offered Cold Stone ice-cream instead, which turned out to be a satisfactory trade. I would have chosen Leatherby's over Cold Stone any day, of course, but I had some chocolate peanut butter ice cream and it was pretty yummy. The girls got to choose what size and what add-in they wanted, which made them happy.

I'm feeling contemplative and relaxed. I filled my quota for article writing. I'm in my pajamas. I'm halfway through Mockingjay.

Good night. 10:00pm

Sunday, September 5, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different,

A Man With a Tape Recorder Up His Nose

I find that pretty funny. Actually, reading the scripts is sometimes funnier than seeing the shows. Just sayin'.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Blob Visits My Kitchen: A Metaphor for Life

It's been a long time since I made a colossal baking mistake, but I managed to pull off a doozy yesterday. I mis-read the recipe for Cinnabon cinnamon rolls and the results ended up all over. Gooey dough everywhere. My only excuse is that I was multi-tasking. Along with baking, I was doing laundry, playing with Little Gary (drawing exploding volcanoes for him, mostly), writing my articles, and all that division of focus assisted me in putting in three boxes of pudding mix instead of just one.

Pudding? In cinnamon rolls? Yes.

And the yeast loved it so much, the dough expanded beyond the boundaries of the bowl and slowly oozed itself onto the counter and nearly to the floor. It was like The Blob, if any of you remember watching that little gem of a movie (I have a dad with a penchant for B sci-fi movies and, therefore, I grew up educated in all the weirdest possible outcomes of humanity. It is a gift for which I can never repay him. Thanks, Dad!). Hey, good date movie, by the way.

My kids called me, alarmed at the kitchen being taken over by yeasty smelling dough, and eventually, I went down to survey the damage. Still thinking I must just not understand the recipe, I put the dough into an oiled bowl for a second rising. It rose, all right, but by that time it was also chuckling quietly to itself and eying the cats with a hungry gleam across its squishy surface.

When I finally read the recipe again, I realized my mistake. Today, I tried again and it worked out just fine. They got a little too brown in the oven (note to self: decrease cooking time), but they taste pretty darn good and I'm sure by the next time I try it, I'll have perfect cinnamon rolls. In any case, the house smells delicious.

I bring this up because I was thinking about how it's all a metaphor for life. As I scraped dough off counters, cupboards, bowls, and anything it had attempted to assimilate that had lain in its path (measuring spoons, 1/2 cup measure, butter dish), it came to me that we sometimes make colossal mistakes that start out innocently enough. One little error multiplies rapidly into a big mess, and then you're left to try to clean it up. The good thing is, you can avoid that particular mistake the next time it comes up and get things right.

Yeah, I know. A little too deep for the woman who just watched License to Wed voluntarily. I think it might be a reaction or something. I hate being smarter than the movie.

And now, for something completely different (oh, funny story: last week at choir practice, the director said "And now for something completely different," and I blurted out into the sudden and unexpected silence, "A man with a tape recorder up his nose!" and NO ONE laughed. Cue cricket chirp. Am I really the only one in there who ever watched Monty Python's Flying Circus and had the books with all the Flying Circus scripts? Am I?? Don't answer that.), the only topless picture of me available in any form in any media.

I was two and coming down with Rubella. I think I deserved to sit in the dirt in a diaper and cry.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Words Have Exploded My Feeble Brain

I have nothing left in me. No more words. I have used all of them in a series of articles from Cape Cod to vacuum pumps to weight loss in Atlanta, plus others. I'm pretty much done.

Otherwise, things are well. Joseph continues to be reluctant to go to school, but he will go into his classroom alone rather than have me hold his hand like a baby. Little Gary does not like that I work on the computer, which he considers his very own property to be utilized by him whenever the desire may strike, and when he is not using the computer, I should be paying strict attention to him. Fine. I get up early in the mornings and write late into the evenings because of that.'

The girls battle and work together and hate their chores in equal measure. But they are beautiful and they're my girls and I love them, even if I am nearly driven mad by their petty squabbles.

I had some good news today about my job. I'll let you know more as it develops, as it really still is in the development stages. Same company, slightly different job, better pay. Will I not have to research for three articles about the uses of vacuum pumps? Alas.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Sistine Chapel Story

Recognize this? Sort of? Maybe if it wasn't so blurry?

This is my one photo of Michelangelo's famous painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I took it while walking. I didn't even slow down to get the right aperture settings or anything, so I'm lucky it turned out as well as it did.

My kids were asking about this incident yesterday: the time I got lost in Rome at the age of 15. We were talking about the spirit and how you know when you feel promptings, and this is one of those experiences in my life that always reminds me that even a scared 15-year-old girl, lost in a foreign country can be guided.

If you already know this story, I apologize. Read no further. Just go get Pirates of the Caribbean and settle into your comfy couch. That's what I promised myself I would get to do later after I finish my quota of articles.

During a whirlwind group tour of parts of Italy and Greece in which I participated over the Easter season of my 15th year, I had a chance to visit the Sistine Chapel, among other remarkable places. It was Palm Sunday, and as you can imagine in a predominantly Catholic country near the Vatican, it was crowded. Our group was scheduled for the Sistine Chapel tour, but as we entered the waiting area, I got separated from them. I had been talking to one of the guys in our group, but quickly lost him in the crowd, also. It was elbow-to-elbow people, and I thought I was far behind my fellow tourists, so I hurried through the throng to find them. They later told me they saw me go by and called to me, but I didn't hear them over the noise.

The tour started and I was with a crowd I didn't know. I'm not even sure if the tour was in English. I wasn't paying much attention as I was thinking I was behind, so I kept trying to hurry through to the next place, looking for them. It soon became apparent that I was completely lost. Rather than just the one chapel, this tour takes a very long time and meanders through all kinds of rooms full of exhibits. Exits both small and large are scattered everywhere, and I was so confused I nearly started crying. That day I had forgotten to bring my hotel card with the address so I couldn't get someone to give me directions to where we were staying. I didn't know where I needed to go or where I was. It was very frightening. That's why I didn't even stop in the Sistine Chapel to take a decent picture.

Of course, I was praying with all my might for help. After 45 minutes, I felt suddenly prompted to go out a certain exit. It was just a nondescript little door, one of multitudes I had seen already. It fed into a tiny little courtyard -- more an alley than anything else -- and nothing to give me any indication of my location in relation to the Vatican or other landmarks I could recognize. Once outside, I just stood there. Again, I prayed and felt a calm assurance that I needed to stay right where I was. For ten minutes I stood there, waiting for...what? I didn't know. I just knew I should stay there.

Suddenly, the guy I had been talking to and become separated from earlier walked out the same door into my little alleyway. Of all the doors in all the tour, he walked out of mine, and I was so relieved I nearly pounced on him to hug him hard. After a brief discussion, he convinced me he knew the shorter way back to Vatican City (it turns out my chosen direction was shorter after all), and we walked and walked. As soon as we came back to the Vatican, he took off to go photograph the Basilica, and I was left standing there alone again. At least I knew where I was, even if I didn't know how to get back to my hotel. Suddenly, one of the other guys in my group bounded up, exclaiming in relief. He brought me back to the bus, and I climbed on to the cheers of my fellow tourists. I bet my teacher was greatly relieved not to have completely lost a young girl in Italy. As it was, I missed lunch.

I have always remembered that experience as a testimony of God's love for li'l ol' me, and that had I not been listening, I would not have heard the quiet whisper of the Spirit guiding me along. I'm so glad I was able to learn that.