Wednesday, August 22, 2007

And I throw like one too

The students are back, and thankfully this year I am much more prepared for Casey's busier schedule. I've even been able to get involved more than I thought I would! For instance, last night after dinner, a big group of us went outside to play some ultimate frisbee (one of our all-time favorites). Casey and I ended up on the same team, which I prefer, and we had so much fun. I got winded pretty early, but I was still able to jog around and make some catches and passes here and there. My favorite moment came after it was all over, and one of the freshman guys came up to me and said, "You play like a boy out there!"

Best compliment ever.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


We said goodbye to Brian today. So much sadness, and yet what a beautiful celebration of his life. There is rejoicing that he is in heaven...but we will miss him so much for the rest of our time here on earth.

Brian inspired so many people, and certainly made all of us laugh. I will never forget the sound of his laughter as several of us watched the Monk premiere together one month ago yesterday. He laughed loudest and hardest of all of us there that night.

Thanks for such great memories, Brian.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

1977 - 2007

We mourn the loss of our dear friend Brian, who passed away a few days ago. He truly lived life to its fullest, and it is so hard to see that life cut short and to watch his family ache at his passing. We can only mourn with them and pray that they be enveloped in God's comfort and peace.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Hearts, prepare to melt

You want pictures? You got 'em! These aren't vacation pics -- they're much better. I can't take credit for the wonderful photography work, but I did do a little after-tweaking. A big thanks to our friend Staci for taking so many pics of my sweet boy!

Is this where the water comes out?

Just getting ready for bedtime!

Miles and Daddy playing a duet

Sweetie-Pie Smile

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"Ding dong, the wound is dead!" OR

"Back with a vengeance...and a better scar!"

Hey everyone! I'm here, I'm baaaack! (Last word there meant to be said out loud in a sing-songy voice.) Anyway, have you been wondering where I was? No? That's probably because I've been a lazy blogger for the past year-plus-a-few-months. And I know none of you would call me that, so that is why I am doing it myself, ha!

The week of the Fourth of July, Casey and I took a much-needed belated anniversary vacation trip to what has become, since 2004, our yearly anniversary spot of choice: St. Louis, MO. The reason we went the first time was because Sting was playing there, and know me. Not going to miss a Sting concert that is nearby enough to make the drive! On a sidenote, Sting was also playing in Nashville just a few months later, and, well, we went to that concert also...I blogged about it! And as Casey is (and I've become, and Miles will most likely be someday) a Cardinals fan, it worked out perfectly! Plus, the zoo is free (yes, FREE -- and awesome) and there are just lots of fun things to do in St. Louis...and there are plenty of Starbucks nearby as well. Very important.

Anyway, the following year it just made sense to go again even though (woe is me) Sting wouldn't meet us halfway. Okay, he just wasn't touring there again a year later. How stingy is he? Wow, I just typed the word stingy before I realized that I was using it to describe Sting...weird. However, by the time you get to the end of this post, you will thoroughly understand why I sound so -- what's the word? -- crazy.

Last year, I think it was around June, Casey and I had a dream of still making our St. Louis trip. We thought we'd try the end of July or early August. We were trying to keep our hopes up, as I had already been admitted and re-admitted to the hospital several times. How many more times would I need to go back? Um, it would seem that a total of five times was closer to the correct answer, and my last day to spend in a hospital last year was July 19. As I was super-weak mentally, emotionally and physically -- besides the fact that it was almost August (beginning of the school year, Casey's busiest time) -- that mini-dream was unfortunately shattered.

This year, however, was different. We made our plans. They started back in early March, when I purchased two tickets to see The Police (actually, the way I'd been telling people about it, I should type it to look like this: THE POLICE!!!). Seriously, how can I be Sting's number one fan and then not see him go on a reunion tour with Andy and Stewart, not to mention that his own son Joe's band would be opening?!? Yes, we paid too much for the tickets, and I wrestled with the appropriate amount of guilt over that, but when it came down to it, this was our year. I couldn't help but think that Casey and I deserved (hard to say that without sounding self-centered, but oh well) this trip and the few indulgences we had mapped out for that week.

Miles stayed with Casey's parents (thanks Grandma and Pops!), and I lived in my own little world of anxiety for more than a month or so about leaving him. I really wish I could have had a glimpse into the future on that one, because the kid managed it waaaaay better than I did. In fact, the morning we left their house (we stayed overnight just so he would have a better chance at being accustomed to being there before we left), I was trying to hug Miles goodbye, and he actually pushed me away. It's a thing he does when Casey is holding him. It's okay. I deal. I still did get a good hug and kiss in before we drove off, but as we got to the end of the street I began to cry, which wasn't so good since I had chosen the first driving shift. I thought it would take my mind off the whole thing a little better -- I was wrong. We reached a gas station a few minutes later to fill up, and I traded my shift with Casey.

Long story even longer, we had an incredible time in St. Louis! Our first night there was the concert, so we really started things off in a huge way. I fixed a style which I call 'concert hair' (just very big, crazy hair) and had an awesome time. Casey is a trooper, because even though he enjoys quite a few Sting songs and even some Police songs, I know he could have done without the concert. He sat through lots of it, and I even sat down sometimes, but he allowed me to be my crazy concert self. And I got an awesome shirt and everything! I don't always get a shirt at concerts, but this was one time I knew I would for sure. They cost too much, by the way, so that's another area in which Case was a trooper.

I have lots of pics to share, which I had intended from the start when I imagined blogging about the trip, but please be patient with me on getting those up. We saw the fireworks with the Arch as the foreground, and you can't get much better than that. I was able to take several decent shots that evening, so I'm excited to share. We went to the zoo, as usual, and had a great time (the penguins are our fave). Our last evening in St. Louis was perfectly bookended (the concert being the first bookend, you understand) by a Cardinals game. They won in the ninth, already ahead by just one point, and it ended with a superb double-play. I guess I would rather see it end on, say, a homerun, but the double-play was pretty cool as well. Casey and I agreed that this trip beat out almost every other one we'd been on, coming second only to our honeymoon. I guess that means, since this was our fifth, that we will have our next near-perfect vacation in 2012, ha!

Just a few days after we got back from our trip -- thrilled to see Miles again, but going through a little vacation depression -- I saw my surgeon for the usual wound check-up. These appointments had been pretty much the same since last July or August: sit in the waiting room for about an hour, sit in the exam room for another half-hour or so. Doctor comes in, takes the dressing off the wound, looks at it for five seconds, then puts another piece of gauze on the wound and says he'll see me next time. This time was different. It had now been more than a year since I'd been living with an open wound on my abdomen. Yes, it had started out as a pretty decent-sized cavernous hole (the appropriate response here is ewww), but after so long, and some actual healing, it was skin-level and not much bigger than my pinky-print. But it still wasn't healing on its own, and the end of the road was looking less and less clear. This is the part where I sigh out of frustration. I was tired of the wound. Sure, Casey and I have come up with some really good jokes about the wound, but there's only so much you can laugh about for a year, am I right?

Like I said, this visit was different. My doctor, who is definitely the straight-shooter type, looked at me and said, "Well, this thing is not healing on its own. Here are some options." And he laid out about three different plans, one of them being surgery. He was very plain about how major the surgery would be, though. My abdomen would be cut open, maybe even more than it had been last year (and last year the incision was seven inches), there might be complications, and he might find things that he hadn't expected to find. The other two plans didn't stand out, in my mind, enough to even mention. But my doctor wanted to make sure I knew what a big deal this was, and that he wouldn't blame me if I didn't want to go through something like this again.

I went home and told Casey all the news, and after two days we had decided on the surgery. Not only that, but we also decided that we wanted to have it done as soon as possible. This decision was three-fold: 1) we just wanted this to be over...we wanted that wound gone! 2) the new school year is starting soon, which means Casey will be super-busy, which means I need to be as healthy as possible, and 3) my 18-month COBRA insurance would end on July 31 (yesterday!), and now that I'll be added to Casey's insurance, the deductible starts over -- those are not bills you want to deal with after major surgery and several days in the hospital!

As soon as we decided we wanted the surgery, I just wanted to get it done. I have had to sit and think and wait for surgeries in the past, and the longer I have to wait for something like that, the more my anxiety level rises. I'm sure other people can relate. So this was a Thursday, two days after my doctor's appointment. A doctor friend of ours came by on Friday, and he thought we were making a good decision, which sealed it that much more for me. The following Monday, I called my surgeon's nurse and told her I wanted to set up the fistulogram, which is a procedure I would need to have to help the doctor know more about what he'd be doing during the surgery. I also told her that Casey and I wanted to go ahead with the surgery as soon as possible (and I pretty much gave her our three-fold reasoning). Peggy, the nurse, is one of the sweetest nurses I have known, and as she has seen me for the past year and knows what has been going on, she did her best to help us out and get the ball rolling. She called me back several minutes later and told me that she had set up the procedure for Thursday, three days away. That meant that I probably wouldn't see the doctor until the next week, and then the surgery would probably be days after that! Peggy knew I wasn't happy with this news, and she immediately said, "Let me see what I can do. I'll call you right back." Just moments later, the phone rang and it was Peggy saying they could fit me in for the fistulogram the next day! That meant I would see the doctor on Friday and could be scheduled for surgery on Monday, just one week later. I was so thankful to Peggy for making it work for us.

Last Monday, July 23, we arrived at the hospital at 6:20 a.m. I might have been worked in for surgery pretty soon after that, but something else came up in his schedule and I ended up waiting until close to noon to go in. That's kind of tough to do when you haven't had anything to eat or drink for the past 12 hours. But I went in, knowing that the doctor didn't know exactly what he would find, not knowing if there would be complications. Best case scenario, there would be no complications and I would be out of the hospital in two or three days. Worst case, there might be infection and/or something else, and I could be in for five to seven days. Obviously I was hoping to be out by mid-week.

It sort of worked out in between, but I stayed a total of eight nights. Way longer than I had wanted, but I am thankful for what the doctor decided to do, the thing that made my stay so much longer. He was trying to avoid infection as best as possible (infection was the reason my incision had to be re-opened last year...hence the wound), so instead of closing up the incision, he put the wound-vac on it for three days and I went in again to the operating room under general anesthesia, where the seven- to eight-inch incision was closed with sutures. Needless to say, I woke up in a lot of pain, but I was so glad to be rid of the wound-vac. I had one on last year for a long time, and it is just not pleasant, but it is a newer sort of thing that closes wounds twice as fast as just regular sutures or staples.

If ever you have to be in the hospital for a number of days and you are able, getting up and walking around in the hallways (no matter how silly you look in that gown or how squeaky your IV pole is) is the best thing you can do to speed up your recovery. Because I had heard this over and over...and over last year, and I was more determined than ever to be healthy and home again, I got up and walked on Monday, just hours after my surgery. I walked each day, also on Thursday, the day my incision was sutured. This past Friday, I got up nine times to walk the hallways, then ten times on Saturday, seven times on Sunday (because I had to have phenergan which knocked me out for a few hours), then about seven or eight times on Monday. The nurses, and some of the other patients even, joked with me about what a speed demon I was, no matter how much I told them I am naturally a fast walker -- to me this was slow! Anyway, the whole point is that my walking, plus so many prayers that were said in so many places, contributed in a huge way to my leaving the hospital sooner than I would have. Casey and I told the doctor more than once that I not only wanted, but needed to be out by July 31 because of my health insurance. When I saw my doctor on Monday morning, he told me that I would be leaving the next day. I said, "Really? Tomorrow?" He gave me a definite yes, and he is the sort who means what he says. I really appreciate that in a doctor. Like, when you ask if it's going to hurt and they tell you no, and then you are screaming in pain -- that's not good. I guess I don't really like to hear, "This is going to be pretty painful" because then, you've got the pain to look forward to! Still, better to know ahead of time, I think. In some cases. Maybe.

Okay, so sometimes when a doctor says, "You're going home today!" that means that you will leave today...but maybe not for five, six, seven, or more hours from that point. Being discharged from the hospital doesn't mean now...I don't think it has ever meant that. There are so many things that have to be done. In my case, I had a central line (the IV is placed in the neck), so there was a whole ordeal about that being removed. But these people were wonderful! Once they got going on getting me discharged (and I know this had to do with Dr. Straight-Shooter), they got going fast. I was blown away at how quickly things moved -- paperwork, instructions, last-minute medicines, and then the line being removed (ouch, because there were three sutures in my neck, and when those things are in good they hurt coming out!). By noon, I was ready to go. To some this may sound a little late in the day, but believe me, it is early. There was a time last summer when we had to wait until nearly nine in the evening to finally be discharged.

Brandi (a.k.a. 'Brandi-Bear') was the one who came to pick me up at just the right time, since Miles was napping and Casey was at home with him. I really could not wait to get home, but I did want that pain medicine on hand, so we stopped by the pharmacy first. When I walked in the door, I went straight to the kitchen and saw Miles in his highchair with Casey right next to him, both of them eating their lunch. "There's my boys!" I said, and in a moment I was hugging and kissing them both. Oh, how good it felt to be home! Funny, but even though I spent so long in the hospital last year, this time around seemed to really drag on. I think a lot of that is because I have become much healthier, much more determined. I was more myself, and sitting in a bed in that gown, just waiting for time to tick by...that doesn't sit well with who I really am. That sort of got sucked out of me last time, so the motivation level wasn't where it needed to be, you know?

I have already been doing more than I should, and I'm really trying to hold back when I can and let others do for me, but I was already picking up and holding Miles the moment I got home. The nurse said I could pick him up, just nothing heavier than him. I've already been lightly scolded by very well-meaning people whom I love about this, but hey, you try not holding such a beautiful boy when he has his little arms wrapped around your neck! I'll bet anything you can't do it.

I've taken much too long writing this post, but I wanted to make up for some lost time. Plus, it was very cathartic for me. And I wanted to share with everyone just how joyful I am feeling (no, it's not always the pain meds). Last night I was trying to get to sleep after reading chapters from three different books, and I started a prayer of thanks to God and just broke down in tears. I took Casey's hand in mine, and although I felt bad for waking him, I just wanted to be nearer to him as I felt so much thankfulness for him and Miles. They are the two most precious gifts I have on this earth, and these past couple of weeks have brought that truth home to my heart in a very big way.
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