Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Just a little thing

So, ...

Well, called Mom, and she sounded ... wonderful. From her latest email, she has been super-busy, but I was so glad that she could talk, and I heard the smile in her voice and her laugh, and that was such a relief to hear.

So, we, that is, my cara spoza, myself and my little girls, went to Five Guys for lunch, and had lunch. And, after eating, I noticed just a little thing. Three 'tween or teen girls where enqueued; girlfriends, obviously. A blond, a brunette, and a I-don't-know-what, because the middle, olive-skinned, girl is Muslim, as she was wearing the حجاب (hijab), or head-scarf.

And they were chatting away, as easy as you please. Just friends, you know? Just friends. Not a Muslim and two 'Infidels': just friends. Three American girls, one of them who just happened to be Muslim.

Now, I'm not going to go into the screed of what people should or shouldn't be in their adoration of God (or their beliefs concerning the presence or absence of 'Big Juju'), but I am going to say this.

Seeing that, three friends at ease with each other, where things this last decade has been more strained between the Worlds of Believers (and Nonbelievers)?

Well, do you remember when Christians and Jews couldn't talk? And I'm not talking about the Exodus/Expulsion from Spain in 1492, I'm not even talking about the Pogroms and the Holocaust (השואה), I'm talking here, just decades ago. Driving Miss Daisy, anyone? And now we can, and it's not a big deal ... it is, for we are different, but we can talk and we can listen to and with each other, גוים (goyim) and Jews alike.

Those three girlfriends? Seeing them, smiling and laughing and easy?

They give me hope for the future.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Parting is such sorrowful sorrow

It was hard to leave Mom.

I mean, in the last chemo treatment, Mom mentioned that she was hit hard the day after and then the third day after, but this time, the day after, she seemed hardly affected at all, so I was just pleased as punch, thinking that two days later when I would fly out, things would be peachy keen.

They weren't, not for Mom, that day. The chemo hit her hard on the third day, and she put up a brave front, but she pretty much had to go back to bed, because that's what she did do. She asked if Sissy, her cousin, could take me to the airport instead of Mom going with us, and I countered that I was going to suggest that to her. This eased her worry a bit, but I hurt, leaving her in this state, and I think she hurt, having me leave.

Then the American Airlines debacle consumed the rest of the day.

It wasn't a pleasant travel experience for me, going home, and I gave a blow-by-blow on my tweets (late flight from Lake Charles AP (that had free internet? Wow!), two gate changes and a terminal change at Dallas/Ft Worth AP, at the last minute, and back to the terminal from whence I deplaned? So I spent the whole layover at a sub par terminal only to have to race to the terminal where I started?) but what I didn't cover in my tweets was that I was the lucky one: there were three American Airline gates of long lines of angry customers whose flights had been canceled for one reason or another. Looking at Mommies with strollers trying to get another flight? Ick. But then, on the other side of the counter? Remind me not to apply to be a flight attendant or ticketing/gate attendant. They took all this heat and anger from (justifiably) irate customers, customer after customer, with sympathy and a smile, where it wasn't even their fault. Our airline stewardess, Tricia, a lady of a certain age, had a very sweet smile that I complimented, and she admitted that it had been a very long day, for when I deplaned from that flight, there was a long line of people waiting to get on the plane, again, for we had landed late, again, so we were running to get off the plane as others were rushing to get on.

We say: "Say thanks to our service men and women," and, indeed, we should, but there's whole sectors of service people we take too much for granted, like Rachael, my waitress at TGI Fridays at Dallas AP trying to get the meals out to many, many people gulping down their meals before skyhopping, and I mentioned Tricia and the gate attendants getting all that heat.

But then there's a whole 'nother category that Mom and I talked about at length at McDo's as I ate my single (not double) fish fillet.

School teachers.

I mean, we homeschool, so you would think I have nothing to say on the matter, nor possibly nothing good, and perhaps, reading my following screed, well ...

Well, we get our school supplies from somewhere(s), and several of the 'somewheres' is that Diane has more than three close friends who are public and parochial school teachers, and I, myself, once looked at becoming a parochial school teachers, and I have to say the following.


I mean, do you know how much we pay our school teachers? I do, and it's a simple thing for you to look up and find out. But do you know this? 'Underpaid school teachers' is only one problem of the more than few problems that face educating our children today. But even that: what does it mean? It means, we, the people, pay our teachers so little because that is the value we place on education ... on our children's education ... on our children.

But the problem is endemic.

For not only are our teachers paid a pittance, but then, in the DC area, and I hear, too, in California, there's not enough in the budget to procure essential school supplies for our teachers to teach with (hand outs, posters, chalk/dry erase pens, erasers) or for our children to learn with (pencils, pens, crayons, paper, notebooks, ... books ... books as required by the curriculum). So what do teachers do? In Diane's friends' case, and I hear elsewhere, they take money from their salary, and go buy the supplies themselves.

And so Diane's friends own a lot of school supplies, including text books, which they have bought from their own lack.

And here's the thing, they, these school teachers and principals, are so generous. So, for example, Diane and I get more than a bit of our home schooling materials from teachers and principals that Diane has as friends, including text books, all for free and primarily due to the generosity of spirit that these teachers have (recall, that we, as homeschoolers, can very easily be viewed as 'the enemy' by traditional educators).

But it doesn't stop there. Be a foreigner here. Like from the Philippines. Try imparting your culture and its values to your children here. What happens? It gets drowned out by the message that every interaction here has, playing with playmates, (not) watching the TV, etc, etc, etc. So somebody decided to set of a school to do just that, taught on Sundays (if you are thinking 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' you are right on the money).

Who teaches these classes?


The public/parochial school teachers. On Sunday. After a very full work week doing exactly that.

And who creates these classes, right down to the pedagogy?

Yes, again. The school teachers, spending hours each week to impart their culture in novel and interesting ways.

And who buys the supplies, paper, pencils, handouts, and snacks like juice brix, cookies, and chips, nutribran bars? Every week?

But what do these teachers get in parent-teacher conferences? A hug? A 'good job'? A 'thank you'?

Maybe they should? If you know a school teacher ... and if you have kids, I think you may ... maybe you can do that? Go to school and set up a parent-teacher conference just to say 'thank you'? Where 'parent-teacher conference' is the real deal, or taking them out to lunch/supper, or something?

I do try to say please and thank you to the people who provide me service, and this day of travel yesterday, seeing these people put up with all this pressure, but keeping their cool?

Thank God! and ... thank them for doing jobs I'd really rather not do myself.

So, yes, I made it home, with my baggage, even through a rather difficult and trying travel day, and it's thanks to people who helped me to get where I was going.

And, so now I am home, and I could complain, I guess, how my entire Sunday was just shot with not even playing catch-up, but playing 'unpack'-church-hospital run, but I won't.

Nobody likes a complainer, not even the person complaining.

Besides, I got to give and to receive lovely hugs with my cara spoza and my darling daughers.

... AND I gave Diane back rubs that helped her relax into sleep (sorry, I just had to put that in there)

And I got to spend a little time with Dad and Jan and try to make him coffee and watch him play with the girls.

And I got to visit Mike and Malou and my just born god-son Michael David Wuerthele.

And I got to breathe, and to compose a summary of my day, that is I had the breath in me, and the cognitive and physical capacity to do these things, and the material available that allowed me to, and in that regard, I am so very blessed. And that is the case in many areas in my life: I am so very blessed.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Immunization Booster and Pop-tarts at the Hospital

Another good day, my last day, so as we wind it up, a bit of sadness for both me and Mom. We started out the day by going to the hospital for Mom to receive an immunization booster shot (?). By 'starting out' I mean Mom dragging me out of bed ("I'd like to leave in five minutes, here, huh, Doug?") So I persuaded the nice ladies there to give me a strawberry pop-tart for my missing breakfast. Which they were happy to do, and even toast for me, but Wendy didn't quite know toaster controls, so one burnt set later, Mom and I left the hospital with a fresh package of pop-tarts in hand.

But we didn't have pop-tarts right away ('we' being the royal we. Mom eat pop-tarts, no thank you). Because Mom treated me to fish fillet at McDo. It was supposed to be a DOUBLE fish fillet (I'm lovin' it), but at the counter Mom made a joke to the girl ringing up our order, "I'll have a hazelnut coffee, and for my boyfriend ..."

Mom and I got a lot of mileage out of that one, because I rejoined, "Now, gramma, why you call me your boyfriend all the time?" And then, to the girl: "She's not really my gramma, I'm really her boyfriend."

So both of us were giggling so hard with embarrassment at our foolishness that we messed up the order and only got the single fish fillet, not the double ... oh, the horror!

We stayed at McDo and chatted as I worked on my 'fresh catch of the day' (rectangular fish, it's amazing what the bounty of the seas produce these days). Talking about politics and education and the politics of education, and love, and (real) grandchildren (not silly me, who is, after all, not Mom's grandson).

We returned home and then it was Spring cleaning day. I started doing the dishes and started doing the laundry, but then I got too engaged in some online stuff that time passed and Mom took that over. Oops! I did do the vacuuming, which was a big choir for Mom to get done, including cleaning the vacuum pump/filter (icky job, so I was glad to do it for Mom). Then I had a pop-tart.

And shared some of my writing thoughts with Mom. See, I don't eat pop-tarts, but a certain (fictional) teenage girl, named Bella Swan, does, and I write about her in my stories, so I shared with Mom some of the thoughts eating (one, single) strawberry pop-tart brought to mind in me, and how those thoughts affect some of my readers. Mom was kind and listened. I then finished off the salmon salad Mom had made a couple of days ago (pop-tarts and salmon salad, a well-balanced meal, yes, I know).

Mom called Sissy, her cousin, to see if she'd like to walk with us. Sissy's a senior now, but she looks 35-ish to my eyes, very youthful and cheerful appearance, and she's taken a shine to our family when she visited with Mom a few years ago. Sissy was not available, but she will accompany us to the airport tomorrow afternoon and I think spend some time with Mom after I take wing.

So after chatting with Sissy, Mom and I went for a walk.

We walked around the part of Lake Charles near the boardwalk (which is made of brick, but, oh, well), and it was a rather sunny and warm 70° day, so we stayed mostly in the shade as we walked the streets (such as Pithon (pron: pee-toahn)) and byways.

Then back home, and lounging time. Received a nice call from Beki, and Mom's resting on the couch as I write this missive beside her.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Storm then Sunshiny Day

Mom took the chemo treatment really well. What helped, besides her, was the that staff was so friendly and funny, and her doctor really took a lot of time talking with her about her previous treatment and how she did in the weeks that followed.

I don't know if the doctor was younger than me, but he had a twinkle in his eye and he was kind and patient, a good listener.

I spent chemo with Mom, and she watched TV, the news. Not the best thing for her in my view, because the news was full of the death threats against law-makers in the House for passing health insurance reform, so she really cringed through those reports, but she wanted to watch that, so I didn't get all whatever ... but then she worked on her sudoku and she lent me a sudoku book, too, and we did that, which I think was very relaxing for her, as first one set and then another set went in.

After that, I took Mom home, and she cooked this turkey-leg spaghetti thing for supper and we had that (she had a little bit of that), and we sat and watched more news and did more sudoku.

Sigh! I messed up my puzzle but good: I needed a 4 in two places and that finally caused me to call it a night.

A thunderstorm swept through town, and it was thundering and raining so hard Mom worried that it would crash through the window, and the wind was so hard that the Cathedral bell went clank-clank all through the night. The only remnant of the storm this morning was a few puddles on the sidewalk to the trash bin, however.

Mom's not really up for talking with anybody today; she doesn't like talking about the treatment at all, so I'm trying to field phone calls. But there were some good news that brightened up her day. Malou just gave birth to Michael David Wuerthele at 9 lbs 13 oz, and Diane forwarded a very cute baby pic. AND my family forwarded a care package for Mom and me, including shortbread cookies (for Mom?) and nutty bars (definitely for me!) and letters and pictures from the girls.

Mom was just so happy to see those news(es?).

So she's nesting on the couch now, but I have word that we'll go for a walk today ... it's a bright, sunshiny day, so I hope it's a nice walk for us.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lunch at Chilis with Mom

Yesterday was a good day. Really. Mom and I went for a walk, we went to the thrift store to donate stuff, went to Chilis, where she's never been before ... she liked the grilled salmon lunch, but the virgin margarita that I ordered was just too sour to be drinkable ... she does like the Hazelnut coffees I make her when she (rarely) requests (I just had to add that).

After Chilis I was out. Fifteen hours straight, and got up this morning woozy. Ick.

Mom and I had a heart-to-heart talk this morning. She's more worried about me than she is for herself, and we talked about life. I told her how things were going with me and family and life and she listened. I also told her how proud I am of her, how she's facing these treatments and losing her hair and being just so brave, so cheerful and assured about it, even as she may be facing her mortality. After our talk she demanded one, no, two hugs from me.

I showed her the picture of our little Elena Marie in braces, smiling like all get-out, and Mom laughed and laughed and laughed, just so delighted for her granddaughter.

We're off to chemo in a bit. It takes two-plus hours, what with the set-up and breaks, and then home for her to recover, where I will wait on her hand and foot.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sunshine-y Day

My last report was rather grim, with mom pulling out handfuls of hair and trying to be strong about that, emotionally. This one, thank goodness, is chipper-er.

Mom is still pulling out handfuls of hair, as she did not get her hair cut off yesterday as planned (it was very cold in LC (Lake Charles) yesterday and this morning), but her disposition is much sunnier. It was sunny yesterday but kind of forced sunny. Today, because the temp went up to 70 deg and the sun, itself, came out as well, well: that also seemed to lift her spirits, too.

Diane sent a private clip of Isabel practicing for a dance, and Mom complained fiercely about the back-only view (sorry, Sweetie), but nearly cried with joy when Isabel flashed a smile at the camera. Good thing Diane archived the girls' "Do the Hokey-Pokey" dance, because that really made her morning and she was laughing with joy through the whole dance (particularly with Diane's instructions to the girls 'Other left leg, Elena').

We usually go out for a walk, then an outing to see friends. We didn't go on a walk yesterday (too cold for Mom), but we did see Sissy.

Today we went out on an extended walk (for Mom), but no outing. She 'threw' me out of the house so I could get some more exercise, and I had a lovely walk to myself on the boardwalk.

I made her some Hazelnut coffee which she enjoyed and we'll be having some gumbo that I cooked for her yesterday.

A business-like report, but that's actually good, because she wasn't very stormy emotionally today, and when she was, it was cheerful stormy. Like her pleased-angry reaction to the news (and please don't get political, my lovelies, with me or Mom ... I'm just passing on Mom's moods, not judging them, okay?) of the passage of the Health Ins Bill in the House.

Mom, complaining: "And not one darn republican voted in favor of it!"
Me: "Aw, poor Momma! Do you want a hug from a Republican?"
Mom, angrily: "No! I don't want a hunk of a republican, thank you!"
I looked at her quizzically.
Mom, confused: "Wait, did you say 'hug from a republican'? Well, then, sure!"

We hugged and she was happy.

She mentioned she loved the upscale Pujo St Café that I passed on my walk, so I was planning on taking her to that tonight, but she deferred that outing for tomorrow. And she like Chilis, so maybe we'll go there? She has an appt near a Lebanese place (Zeus' (?)) before her chemo, so we're sure to go to that. Just trying to let her nest on her couch when she needs to and get her out when she is able.

Her next chemo is 24 March (this week). I'll be with her for that and am staying until 27 March. Beki and Sof are coming in for a wedding in Texas 8 April, then vising Mom for her next chemo. Lynda? Still a go?

So, that's the news for today. "No news is good news" I suppose. We'll see how tomorrow goes. I'm so glad I decided to stay with her. I don't bug her (really, honest) but I can see she likes me here, and I offer company, food, drink, hugs occasionally and spoil her by letting her nest on the couch. Maybe not the best plan or care, but I think she's happy with the arrangement, and that's what I want her to be.

Pulling Out Handfuls of Hair

Mom had a not-good morning. She was still asleep maybe? And she was moaning as she was breathing. I asked how she was doing as she 'nested' on her couch doing soduko watching the news, and she said she felt nauseous a little bit.

Just a few minutes ago, after she noticed that she had some hair in her bonnet, she pulled out a handful, and she's been finger combing her hair to get out the loose hairs. She's being strong about it, but I think she's a bit scared, so she's angry at other stuff ("I don't wanna read this book, why did I suggest it to the book club?").

She's trying to be chipper, and she gave me a hug and told me how glad I was here now, and I'm so glad I am here during these 'in-between' days, but we'll see how things go.

She seriously freaked out when another woman told her the extreme measures someone else went through for her breast cancer, so sometimes she doesn't want to talk about things, fyi.

... update: the hair just keeps coming out. Mom: "I'm not crying." She's planning to have Sissy cut her hair, perhaps this morning, perhaps later today. It isn't helping that we've had a cold-snap this morning, because otherwise Mom would've gone outside to brush out her hair. She's annoyed that she's getting her hair all over her stuff.

All for now. I'll update later when I have something good or bad to share. Chemo is March 24, and I'll be headed back to D.C. March 27th.

Mom Has Breast Cancer

So, my mom has breast cancer, and she had surgery, and she's going through Chemo now and Radiation down the road. So, I'll be writing about that.

Mom's next chemo is next Wednesday, 24 March, and no family will be with her at home before, during and after that time, so I offered to stay. So I'm staying in Lake Charles another 10 days. I'll be there until the 28th of March at which time I'll be back in Washington D.C.

Mom is looking wonderful ('cause she's a fighter, you know) but she's not up for much, and is grateful for the day-to-day help. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

I am adjusting appointments/schedules as best I can, if there is something you need from me or something you wish for me to pass to Mom, please contact me: email here or my cell, which you all have.