Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Life Comes At You FAST...

I haven't posted in a while.  2016 was... not a good year for us. The Husbandly One's job took a really... stressful turn,  to the point where it started affecting his health.  By July, I knew something was wrong.  Convincing him to go to the doctor, though, was another thing.  I also started suggesting a job change, because I was convinced this job was going to kill him.  He was so angry, and he'd come home all tied up in knots, unable to eat, and he started losing weight.  Lots of weight.

Labor Day, we took a family trip to Rockport that we almost didn't go on, because the Impossible Son caught a stomach virus earlier in the week that sort of... stopped up the plumbing, if you get my drift. He got better, and the trip proceeded as planned.  However, right after we got there, it was quickly apparent THO had caught the virus and was miserable.  I suggested we go home, but he was determined to have a good time and not wasted the money he'd spent getting the hotel room, he was stressed out and he wanted some beach, dammit!

Yeah, it was a pretty miserable vacation for all of us, but most especially for THO.

By mid September, his boss just... did that one thing too far.  Normally, the metals company he worked for gave the employees two weeks off at Christmas, because that's a slow season for them. However, an announcement was made that they would only have Christmas Eve/Christmas Day off, and New Year's Eve/New Year's Day off.  Okay, well, as THO said, that was kind of disappointing, but standard for most retail businesses.  To cap it off, though, his boss also announced that, starting in the new year, they would be expected to work Saturdays.  And even some Sundays.  In other words, six to seven days a week.  Mandatory.


That was the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak, and the Husbandly One tendered his resignation right then and there.  

I was so happy, because the week previous, he'd been in so much physical pain that I was terrified he was dying.  And I saw he was losing even more weight.

After he quit, though, he started feeling a lot better.  Which sort of supported my suspicion that stress had a lot to do with his issues.  We had fun, went exploring, paid the house and cars off, hung out with the kids.  It was a good time.  He looked at it as a sabbatical.  "Think I'll just take this time to fix what needs to be fixed around the house and yard, take little day trips, putter around, and relax.  Maybe we'll go all out decorating for Halloween and Christmas," he said with a grin.  "Then come January, I'll look for a more local job.  No more hour and a half daily commutes to Lakeway!"

Yep, I was totally cool with that.

This lasted until mid October.  He started losing even more weight.  He started having pain again.  Lower abdominal pain and anal pain.  We thought, irritable bowel?  I started trying to convince him to go to the doctor, but we weren't insured at the time.  The insurance he would have gotten through his company was extremely expensive... and absolutely useless.  And what we found through the Affordable Care Act in 2015 was... not great.  He was reluctant to go see our gastroenterologist, because I think he knew, he knew something was terribly wrong.

Finally, though, in November, it got to be too much.  He was in so much pain, he couldn't handle it and got... angry.  I put up with it, knowing from long experience that the more I insisted he go to the doctor, the more he'd resist.  I just had to wait him out on this.  Until I couldn't put up with it and exploded, pretty much letting him have it, because I was just so done with all the shilly-shallying.

He exploded right back, and after much tears and noise, he finally admitted maybe he should see the doctor.

No, I didn't do a victory dance.  I just called the damn doctor and set the appointment.

His weight loss was accelerating and terrifying me.  He was also suffering from restless leg syndrome, to the point where he was practically kicking me out of bed, and so uncomfortable that we couldn't sleep together.  I blew up an air mattress and set it up in our bedroom so we could at least be in the same room.  And we both, as a result, got more and more depressed and unhappy.  He started saying things like, "I know I'm not going to survive this.  I'm going to die," and "I have to make sure you and the kids are taken care of, I won't impoverish us by draining our money just so I can get treatment that isn't gonna work," and other cheerful pronouncements of that ilk.

Me?  I completely fell apart.  Literally and figuratively.  I spent hours walking around and bursting into tears at the drop of a hat.  He'd make a pronouncement of doom, I'd start weeping (I am not proud of this, by the way) because the utter thought of losing this man that I love so much was terrifying.  We expected to grow old together.  I knew one of us would go first, but I thought we'd be in our eighties, not our fifties.  I couldn't face the thought of a future without the Husbandly One, and ... I really, really didn't handle it well.

Throughout this, my oldest child, the Impertinent Daughter, was a rock.  She held us together, she made sure we all ate, she cooked dinners, did laundry, washed dishes, made sure her brother did his chores and his homework... and I'm sure wept herself to sleep every night.  

The Impossible Son, already having difficulties in school because of the stress the Husbandly One's condition since summer was causing, started failing his classes, but remained outwardly calm and cautiously optimistic.

So, we got in to see our gastro, Dr. K, who did a brief exam and listened to THO's symptoms (supplemented by me) and suspected ulcerative colitis.  He put THO on a low residue diet and scheduled him for a colonoscopy just before Thanksgiving.

Let me tell you something, keeping THO on that low residue diet took the resources of myself, the Impertinent Daughter and the Impossible Son.  But we did it, despite the whining and complaining.

He lost more weight.  And then... the day of the colonoscopy came.

We did the full prep.  It was supposed to clean him out.  

It didn't.

When we got to the hospital, THO was still having to run to the bathroom.  And when the procedure started... well, they had to go get a pediatric probe, because they... couldn't get in.  And when they did, Dr. K was very concerned.  

They took biopsies.

The Husbandly One had a stricture at the top of his rectum.  Two days later, we found out it was a tumor.  And a CT scan later, we found out it had metastasized to his liver.

The Husbandly One had cancer.

Part of me was... devastated.  The other half of me was relieved because this?  This I know how to deal with.  The unknown?  I can't handle. 

 Then it became an issue of trying to find an oncologist who would treat him.  Without insurance.

I convinced THO, however, to give the Affordable Care Act exchange, otherwise known as Obamacare, another try.    The oncologist Dr. K. had recommended us to rejected us, because of lack of insurance, and said they would refer us to Shivers Cancer Center in Austin, but wanted us to be aware that they would put us on a waiting list and would give priority to Travis County residents.

We don't live in Travis County.  We live in Caldwell County, just south of Travis.  There's not a lot of options for us in Caldwell County, and we also found out we could spend six months or more waiting just to be seen at Shivers.

The Husbandly One decided we should physically drive to the oncologist's office in San Marcos and talk to them, to be a physical presence and show we are real people, not just an abstract test result. He also explained to them that he fully planned to go on the exchange and look for a health plan, and asked plainly what A.C. A plans they accepted.  

Next thing we know, we've got an appointment to see the oncologist on January 3rd, and a list of plans to choose from, and something concrete to do.

Never underestimate the power of a face to face conversation.  No confrontation, just let them see who you are, and talk to them.

Things moved rather quickly after that.

His bloodwork showed he was extremely anemic, and his weight had gotten dangerously low.  In April, he'd weighed 150 lbs.  By December, he weighed 128 lbs.

Like I said, terrifying.

The first thing the oncologist wanted to do was give THO an iron infusion, to build up his hemoglobin and help him gain weight for treatment.  The second was to send him to a surgeon to have a port put in his chest, so that treatment could be administered intravenously through the port, rather than through his arm.  The plan was to do the infusion BEFORE the port was installed, but the moment the surgeon saw him, he wanted to do it ASAP.  

In the meantime, the Husbandly One was experiencing pain moving through his abdomen, which truly puzzled us, because he was experiencing near constant diarrhea (which wasn't helping on the weight issue at all).  He had the surgery for the port.  And afterwards, I was helping clean him up before getting dressed to leave, and as I wiped his bottom, he jolted and nearly hit the ceiling.  

We blamed it on tumor sensitivity.

Three days later, he's sitting in the bathtub, screaming in pain.  Literally.  Once again, I was done.  I picked up my phone, called the oncology center's on-call doctor, who said loud enough for THO to hear, "Go.  To.  The.  Emergency.  Room.  Now."

So we did.  The Impertinent Daughter drove and we got to Seton Hays in record time.  We checked in, he barely had time to sit down when we were called to the triage nurse, who took one look at his inability to sit or stand (he sort of hunched over the back of a chair) and had him in a wheelchair going to one of the treatment bays lickety split.  They tried to draw blood, realized he was dehydrated, and next thing we know, he's got two bags of saline hanging over him.  They whisk him off to do a CT scan, the ER doc stops me to tell me he doesn't have a mass in his abdomen, but he is concerned about the way the pain is moving and the fact that the Dilaudid they'd given him wasn't working to help his pain at all.

The Dilaudid was NOT working.  At.  All.

It turned out, however, that the Husbandly One was an over-achiever.  He had an anal abcess AND a kidney stone!!

One surgery for the abcess and three days of being in the hospital to pass the stone later, the Husbandly One's pain was practically gone and his hemoglobin levels were much better.

Things started to level out after that.  He still has pain, but Tylenol and Tramadol seem to work pretty well.  He's had three treatments so far, and the cancer markers in his blood have gone from 1800 to 370.  He hasn't gained any weight... but he hasn't lost any, either.  And now that he has a goal to focus on, things are easier.

I have hope that things will continue to improve.  

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Yarn Elephant in the Room...

So, y'all know I crochet, right? And knit, yeah, I knit, too. Anyhow, I didn't always crochet. I didn't learn to crochet until I was pregnant with the Impertinent Daughter, despite my mom's best efforts to teach me when I was a kid. She just couldn't understand why I wouldn't do it, especially since I would see a pattern for something, like a bag, or an afghan, or a poncho, and I would beg her to make it for me. "Why don't I teach you to crochet and you can make it yourself," she said to entice me into learning.

But I refused. I just wasn't interested. I never got beyond learning to make a double chain cord, and even that was under protest.

Why? Well, aside from some of the cool things Mom made, like the blankets, or the super cool poncho she made for me in fifth grade that was SO WARM, and the awesome potholders that really protected your hands from the heat, Mom also made a lot of the kind of stuff that would have me looking at it and going, "Why? Why would someone make this??? WHY???"


There was a lot of stuff like that, and Mom would get all excited, "Oh, this will be so decorative, so cute, I can put this on the buffet/table/tv cabinet/piano, it'll look just like decorative candles/boxes/vases/flowers/whatever." She was seriously delighted by those things, and she would crochet them and be so happy about them. And I would do the typical pre-teen thing and roll my eyes and sigh dramatically, so put upon by my mother's horrible lack of taste (in my advanced eleven-year-old opinion, that is).

I would look at her crochet magazines and books and think, "Why would anyone think Hey, those talcum powder containers look naked. I must dress them up with CROCHET, and I will make them into... TALL POODLES. Because, yeah, that's what I think of every time I see talcum powder containers. TALL POODLES."

Then I would think that I should probably hide that particular magazine before Mom found it and decided our bathroom couldn't be without tall talcum powder container hiding poodles.

You have to realize, it was the seventies. Talcum powder for grownups was perfumed and came in these tall skinny cardboard round containers. Think Pringles can, but smaller. Now, in our house, those cans stayed in the cabinets, because we just didn't have a lot of surfaces for them to sit on in the bathroom. But my mom decided they had to be candles. Or something.

Anyhow, I had no interest in learning to crochet just to do something like that. Or to create big fluffy skirts for dolls to hide paper towel rolls. I preferred to reap the benefits of the warm and beautiful afghans she created over the years, or the hats she made for me.

I was 32 and heavily pregnant with my first child when I finally decided I wanted to learn how to crochet. I was having Braxton-Hicks contractions, and my ob-gyn gave me strict orders to get off my feet, drink plenty of water, and do nothing.

I don't "do nothing" very well. If you want me to sit down and rest, you better give me something to do with my hands or to keep my brain busy. A book only works if I'm not required to be social or pay attention to something. My mom, wisely remembering that sitting down with me for the initial lessons hadn't worked, gave me some yarn, a couple of hooks, and a book with basic instructions, along with a small booklet with simple patterns in it. I decided to make a baby blanket, and after a while, I would call her and ask for help. Or I would bring my project along when I went to wash clothes at her house, and sit down to ask questions, watching her hands move through the stitches and then try to emulate her movements.

I finished that blanket shortly before my daughter was born, and it is the most crooked, wonkiest, saddest excuse of a baby blanket, but both of my kids love it and have rescued it every time I try to make it disappear.

One blanket became two, then three, then I made a vest for my daughter, then a poncho, and the next thing I knew, I was crocheting. And I was finding some pretty cool patterns. And it was a great way to connect with my mom, as we commiserated over the occasional pattern that suffered from badly written instructions and required a lot of studying the pattern photos with a magnifying glass counting stitches.

She cheated and had my dad do it. When I asked him about it, he snorted and said, "It's an interesting challenge."

I discovered something, though, as I worked through learning stitches and how to put things together.

Crocheting calmed me.

Mom used to make all our clothes, so my sisters and I all learned the basics of sewing, many times under protest as well. I don't know about my sisters, but while Mom taught me how to embroider, and how to put seams together, and how to pin a pattern together, it was my DAD who taught me how to sew on buttons, and how to hem pants, and how to stay-stitch. Because he learned how from his grandmother, and from the Marine Corps.

The takeaway from that is... sewing does NOT calm me. I am really really good at embroidery, but I hate it. It makes me feel like my nerves are all crawling, like I could fly apart. It's frustrating and I get very, very snarly while I'm doing it. The same with machine sewing, sometimes.

But crocheting? It's so... zen. It relaxes me and calms me down. So does knitting. It's very peaceful and I think it's because it has enough repetitive motion to soothe me while engaging my brain because I have to think ahead about the stitches, but it's no big deal, because I can take my time. It's almost like meditation, in a way.

Where am I going with this?

Well, like many crafters, I have a Pinterest. And I pin both crochet patterns and knitting patterns, some that I intend to make, and others that intrigue me and I might try.

And, you know, there are a lot of great patterns out there. There really are. They're awesome, and you should check them out.

But in the last couple of years, it seems those... really awful patterns that I thought had died an undignified death in the seventies, buried under the weight of National Geographic magazines and Reader's Digest novels in the attics of elderly women... have been making a reappearance in online journals and sites. I'm ... kinda horrified. I actually came across a blog where virtues of the horrible fake candle talcum can cover were being enthusiastically extolled. I just... WHY????

There is a reason I tell younger friends, "You know how you like to call the seventies retro? I like to call it thank God I don't live there anymore."

Because, trust me, no one needs to crochet individual covers for each roll of toilet paper in their house. For reals.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

"To put it simply --- our brain span should match our life span." --- Meryl Comer

Mother's Day has come and gone, and as I prepare for bed after a lovely day out with my husband and children, my mind turns to a subject I've been subconsciously avoiding all day.

My mother.

And all at once, I'm overwhelmed.  I'm washing my face and suddenly, I'm in tears, completely unable to stop, because it's Mother's Day, and for the first time since I entered her life... I haven't called her to talk to her.

There is no phone in her room at the nursing home, because she no longer knows how to dial one.  One of my sisters, or my nieces, has to call me on their mobile and hand the phone to her, and I have to hope she knows who I am.

I miss... I miss my mom.

Yes, she's still alive, but... I miss my Mom.   I miss the woman I used to call for advice, her calm voice calming me, her laughter when I told her the latest funny thing the kids or the cats did, her excitement matching mine when I told her about a new rose in my garden blooming for the first time and promising her pictures.  I miss her humor, her intelligence when she'd challenge me about my opinions, making me back up my statements with facts.  I miss the stories she used to tell me.  I miss... asking her about recipes, and her rattling off the list of ingredients and how to make it, and then the pause before I said, "Okay, Mom, but... how did you make it?"  And then getting the real recipe.

I miss the woman she was before Alzheimer's stole her from me.  And I want her back.  I want her back, dammit.

But I know I won't get her.  I know she's gone, and what's left behind is this... shell that looks like her, and talks like her, and moves like her, and gives me occasional glimpses of the woman she used to be...

I'm terrified that I'll be just like her.  I'm terrified that I'll lose myself, that I'll forget my husband, and my children.  Just two days ago, my daughter stared at me with stricken eyes and said, "Mom.... don't forget me.  Don't ever forget me, please.  Please."

I smiled through my tears and said, "Like I could ever forget you!"  And prayed in my heart to whoever is listening that I can keep that promise.  "When they develop a vaccine for Alzheimer's, I'm first in line, I promise," I said.

Every time I forget something, every time I can't bring a word or a face to mind, every time I struggle for a word, every time I can't remember a name, or something that happened earlier in the day, a jolt goes through me and I want to scream.  It doesn't help that memory issues and fogginess are a hallmark of Hashimoto's.

A few months ago, when we went to the Ikea in Pflugerville, I had a moment.  A horrible, horrible moment.  Mike was driving, and we had just left 183 and turned onto I-35.  I was reading something on my phone, and I looked up when I was done and for a horrible, horrible moment that seemed to last an eternity, I thought, "Where are we?  I don't recognize this place!  Where... what is this?"

It was terrifying.  Nothing looked even remotely familiar, and this was a drive we'd made hundreds of times over the last ten years.

I didn't say anything, I just quietly stared around, trying to force my brain to recognize something, anything....

Then Mike, who was completely unaware of what was going through my mind, said, "Wow, things have changed so much since the last time I drove through here, I almost don't recognize anything!  Oh, look, the bowling alley is still right there."

I turned my head, and the bowling alley we took the Impertinent Daughter to for her fourth birthday, the birthday she found out she was going to have a sibling, was still there, looking just the same as it had nineteen years ago, and the world slipped back into place.

It wasn't me.  It was that it had been nearly two years since the last time we'd drove that way, and the rapid changes in Austin and the surrounding area meant many things had been torn down and new buildings gone up in their place.

But for that moment, that one terrifying moment...

I miss my mother more than I can say.  And at some point tomorrow, I will probably text one of my sisters and ask to arrange a time to talk to Mom over the phone.  And after I talk to Mom, I will go take a shower so I can cry my heart out without my family knowing.  I once said that watching my mom go through this was like standing on a shore while my mother stood in a boat that was slowly drifting away from the shore.  That we were holding hands as it drifted, and ever so slowly, she was slipping from my grasp, and that I knew one day, she would drift completely away.

Right now... the tips of our fingers are barely touching, barely connecting.

I hate that there is nothing I can do to change that.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.  I miss you, and I will remember you... for as long as I can...

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Almost, But Not Quite...

The day is coming, probably sooner than I would like, when my mother won’t know who I am.  

I’m braced for it.  I have promised myself that I won’t fall apart... at least, not in front of her.  I’ll wait until I’m out in the parking lot, and then I’ll probably cry until I’m calm again.

We stopped by the nursing home she’s in this evening on our way home to Central Texas, and when I greeted her, she sat up with a smile, happy to have visitors.  Even though at first, she had no idea who we were, just that we were family.

We all said hello, and I sat down next to her and took her hand after helping her get her glasses on, and I could see her staring at my face, trying to get some sense of recognition.  So I said, “Do you know who I am?”

She smiled and said, “Yes, I do.  You’re Carol... no, wait... you’re Jo.”

A lot of people who haven’t see us for a few years usually mistake me for my middle sister.  A few might mistake me for my oldest sister.  Carol and I share a lot of personality traits, and facial expressions, but she’s fair, blonde, and green-eyed, and I’m olive, auburn, and brown-eyed.  So it’s not that far out of the way that Mom would guess I’m Carol first.

Except she’s my mom, and in her normal state of mind, she’d never make that sort of mistake.

In her normal state of mind.

I hugged her and said, “Yes, I’m Jo!” and proceeded to chat with her, and have the kids sit with her and visit, but I could see that she had no real idea who I was.  Just... that I was family.  That I was one of her daughters.  But... she didn’t know me.

It wasn’t until we were leaving, and I had hugged her and said, “I love you, Mom.”

She said, “I love you, too.”  Then something seemed to spark in her mind and she stared at me intently.  “I love you,” she said as I stepped back to the curtain divider.  “I love you... like... a bush.. and ... and a.. pickle.  A peck.”

I felt tears sting my eyes, and I sang, “A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.”

She joined in.  “A hug around the neck, and a barrel in the heap.  A barrel in the heap and I’m talking in my sleep about you, about you...”

“Jo,” she said with a huge smile and recognition in her eyes.  “There you are.  There’s my baby.  That’s my girl, my little Jo.  My tomboy.”

I fought back tears and kept singing.  “I love you, a bushel and a peck, you bet your pretty neck I do.  Toodle oodle oodle, toodle oodle oodle, toodle oodle doodley doo!”

I hugged her again, and she whispered, “You’re my baby, and I’ll never forget my baby.”

“I know, Mom,” I whispered back.  “I love you.”

I left, and I had tears running down my face, but I held it together all the way home, until now.  

That day is coming, when even singing what my daughter used to call affectionately “The Grandma Song,” won’t fire off the right neurons in Mom’s mind.  I’m going to hate that day.  But... I think I’ll get through it.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Not Exactly One of the Maddening Crowd...

I have had to make rules for myself.

I don't go on forums or join Facebook/Twitter groups for Hashimoto's.  Why, you may ask?  Well... as much as I could use the support of fellow sufferers, I'm not exactly wild about the way they descend upon new members like... like... a pride of lions falling upon a tasty young morsel of a gazelle that just happens to wander into their territory.

No, seriously, it isn't pretty.  I've done my lurking in the background, and I'm Not Going There.

The diets they throw at you, the supplements you should try, the exercises, the regimens, treatments...  every single snake-oil miracle cure-all you can think of will be thrown at you, and gods help the person who says, "No, thanks, really, I'm not even remotely interested."

I also don't do more than look at new research from the CDC or NIH, or even the Mayo Clinic.  Why?  Because mostly, I'm just looking at new treatment options, or if they've figured out what causes it, etc.  But I'm not going to torture myself with looking at causes (except in regards to keeping my kids from getting this) or whatever new diet/supplement/vitamin/you name it they may suggest only to later say, "Sorry, our studies weren't as clear-cut as we'd thought, this doesn't really work."

I had to recently make another rule for myself.  I am not allowed to look at the list of secondary autoimmune diseases people who have Hashimoto's have a tendency to develop.

I ended up shaking for two hours and had to sternly remind myself that I was being quite ridiculous and not to torture myself like that.

I need to deal with what is in front of me now and not borrow trouble from the future, as my mother used to say.

Life goes on.  I roll with the punches, and I keep moving as best as I can.  I feel the wind on my face, I watch the roses bloom on the back porch, and the jasmine on the front porch, I listen to my son tease my daughter and make her laugh, and listen to my daughter fuss at my son and make him laugh, I watch the ducks waddle contentedly through the grass in the backyard, and try to keep Muta the Magnificent from crushing my legs as he purrs in my lap.  Life goes on, and I will have good days, and I will have bad days, and as long as I keep moving and keep remembering the good things in my life, I think I'll be okay.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Not All Artists Are Starving...

Since the Impertinent Daughter started her first semester at Texas State, something has been coming up almost every time someone spots her doodling in the margins of her notebooks, or sketching in her sketchbook.

People tend to gather around her when she sketches or doodles.  It's a phenomenon I've encountered time and time again.  Sit down quietly in an out of the way spot, open your sketchbook, pull out a pencil or pen and start drawing, then look up and there's always someone standing there, staring intently at your work.

My daughter is used to this.  What's new is, because she's on a college campus, the inevitable question comes up: "What's your major?"

At first, she said, "I'm an art major."  And she encountered yet another phenomenon that virtually every artist/art student will identify with.

The Interrogation.

"You're an art major?  Really?  But... that's not really practical, is it?  You should be majoring in something that will ensure you can get a job, something that will pay well so you can survive on your own.  Art major?  Really?  I mean, if you have to do it, at least major in art education, then you could become a teacher."

Even some fellow art students will pop out with the, "Are you at least taking commercial art?"

*insert eye roll here*

"Why do they do that, Mom?" she asked as we walked through the aisles of the hated Hobby Lobby (I really, really hate giving my money to Hobby Lobby), looking for the Copic markers she needed.

"Because they don't understand that art is everywhere," I replied.

And it is.  Those commercials you see on TV?  An artist came up with the logos for that business, and most likely did story-boarding for the commercial.  An artist did the lighting and set design for them.

The ads you see in magazines or on billboards?  An artist did the layout for those, the design and the lettering.

Like that pattern on your duvet?  A designer made that?  Yes, they did, but you know what?  They had to take art to get there.

Oh, you know that movie you liked last week?  Yeah, artists did concept art, story boards, lighting and set design, costume design, makeup...

Like the comics in the paper?  Done by artists.  That editorial cartoon that made you so mad or made you go, "Yeah, I know exactly how that feels!"


How about those cool characters in the latest XBox game you just can't stop playing?  Yeah, an artist had a lot to do with how they look.

I could go on and on, but I won't.

And yes, I know the argument of, "Not every artist makes it," or, "not everyone has the talent or the conviction to go the distance..."

Imagine if Bill Watterson had listened to that sort of nonsense?  We'd never have the awesomeness that is "Calvin and Hobbes."  Or Walt Disney?

Anyway, I asked the Impertinent One what she did when people said things like that to her.  She shrugged and said, "Meh, I just nod and say something like thanks, I'll take that under advisement, or thanks for shattering my hopes and dreams, or whatever."

Yeah, that made me laugh out loud.

"Sometimes," she said as she peered at the markers in their case, "people come up to me while I'm drawing and say, that's so amazing, are you an art major?  or what's your major, that is so cool! and I'll say oh, I'm going into game design, or computer science, and they'll be all horrified and say, No, you have to major in art, you're so talented and creative, that's so awesome, look at how cool it is, you HAVE to major in art!  And I'm like, make up your mind!!"

"Well," I said, after I stopped laughing, "the thing is, when you tell people you're going to major in art,  you know what they're seeing in their heads, right?"

"No," she said, turning to frown at me.  "What?"

"Most people, when they hear you're majoring in art, immediately think, Vincent Van Gogh!  Or Picasso,  or any other artist who started out poor and starving."  When she blinked, I nodded.  "No, seriously, they think, starving artist, living in a freezing attic in Paris, living on the generosity of friends and family, practically homeless.  They think you're either a painter or a sculptor, or something that to them is completely impractical, never mind that there are some very successful painters, sculptors, etc, out there."  I shook my head.  "It's ridiculous and has no basis in reality, but that's what's going on."

"That's... disturbing," Miss Impertinent said, slightly horrified.

"I know, but there it is.  That's why you keep hearing you should major in something practical, that can help you get a good job and set you for the future." I hugged her.  "Don't take it personally.  They don't know you, or what you can do.  And you're already learning so much, I can't wait to see what you do next!"

She blushed, but you know, I think the Impertinent Daughter is going to be awesome.  I know she will.

It's a Southern Thing, Yo...

There are times when I am confronted by the differences between my husband's family and mine.

Most of the time, we tick along quite nicely.  After all, we'll have been married for 25 years this month, so obviously, things are working and we get along.  The Husbandly One and I are really good friends and most excellent partners in crime, and there are times when I'm honestly surprised to realize we haven't known each other all our lives.

What a horror for our parents if we had!!  No, seriously, we would have made the Weasley twins in the Harry Potter books look like rank amateurs!!  I am fairly certain that between the two of us, we would have figured out how to legitimately order a flame-thrower  and have it delivered to one of our homes by the time we were ten.  I'm just not sure which of us would have been the instigator and which would have been the gleeful follower, because I'm pretty sure it would have been an even draw.

Still, there are times when something happens and the huge differences in our families and the way we were brought up are unavoidable and stun us both.

Like the time lightning struck our house when we were living out in the boonies and knocked our phone out.  This was back in the mid-nineties, before cellphones were ubiquitous.  We were living way out in the country in Central Texas and my family was back in Houston, and his in Texarkana.  I kept asking THO to call my family from work to let them know we were okay and what had happened, and he would reply that he wasn't allowed to make long distance calls from work not related to his job, and that my folks would be fine and not worry. In retrospect, I should have written a letter, but it would have taken at least four days to get to my folks, and remember, back at that time, if you didn't have a phone, you didn't have internet because DIAL-UP.

I worried, because at that time, I spoke to my mother on the phone at least every other day.  I was a young mother with no close neighbors, alone in a house with a toddler, a large dog, and three cats.  The phone was my lifeline to sanity and grownups.

We also didn't expect for it to take almost two fucking weeks for Southwestern Bell, our telephone company at the time, to come out and take a look at our phone.  And that is another story for another time.  So, what was the huge difference between our families?

I am the youngest of three daughters in a Southern family.  In a Southern family, you may grow up, you may move away, but you always call your mom or your dad, and you will always be their kid.  They will let you go, but they will never stop worrying about you.  And if you don't check in with them on a regular basis, whether it's once a day, once a week, or once a month, they will come check on you.

So, one week after the phone went out, at 1 o'clock in the morning, we were awakened by someone banging on the front door of our house while someone shouted my and my husband's name, demanding we answer.

Our dog went nuts, and later, we realized he was barking with joy, not aggression, and our daughter was terrified.  The Husbandly One went to the door and opened it to find my dad and my nephew-in-law standing outside, my dad staring at us with a half-terrified expression, half fury.  One tearful phone call (with my nephew-in-law's dying cell phone, no less) with my mom later, we got the story from my dad.  After two days of not hearing from me, Mom started getting nervous and tried calling me.  Of course, our phone being dead, she couldn't get through, and an automated message gave them an error message.  Mom waited for us to call, and waited, and waited, and soon, she became convinced that something terrible had happened to us.  Unable to bear it any longer, she finally got Dad agitated enough to decide to drive all the way out where we lived to check on us, and take along NIL for support.

They were afraid they were either going to find us dead, or gone.

Dramatic, but not unexpected, considering my mom's vivid imagination, and I couldn't blame her one bit.

THO explained about lightning having struck our house and showed them the blown up tree next to the house, and our dead phone (we ended up having to replace both the phone and the answering machine), and my dad frowned at him and said, "Why didn't you call us from work?"

THO said, "We're not allowed to make non-work related long distance phone calls."

My dad frowned and said, "You could have explained that your phone was out, and you have family who would be worried about your well-being that you needed to contact.  Or you could have gone to any payphone and made a collect call to us, we would have accepted it.  Or you could have made that collect call from work."

As my dad explained all the ways my husband could have made an effort to contact my family and let them know we were okay, up to and including calling my nephew who was going to UT at the time and having him pass on the message, I was trying not to smirk because my dad was confirming all the arguments I had been making over the previous week about contacting my parents ASAP.

"What was that all about?" THO asked after my dad and nephew had gone.

"I'm a daughter," I said, and nodded at our toddler.  "One day, when she's grown up and off doing her own thing, you will completely understand why my dad had that panicked tone in his voice when he was banging on the door."

And yeah, he gets it now.

This past week, though, the difference has reared its head in a completely different way, though it is again, family related.

Last Monday, THO got a call that his mother was in the ICU of a San Antonio hospital, sent there for a blood pressure reading that was through the roof and blood oxygen levels that were almost impossibly low.  We drove out to check on her right after THO got home, and she was in terrible shape.

It's been a rough week for all of us, but most especially Ma, as the doctors struggled to get her blood pressure down to more acceptable levels, to get her sodium levels up, and to get her lungs clear enough to breathe so her blood oxygen levels would rise from the forties up to a more acceptable 98%.  It's still not quite there, but I'm thinking 90% is pretty damn good.

What has blown my mind in all of this is... there has been no diagnosis.  Nobody knows any details, (and this includes Mike's brother who has the medical power of attorney) of what the doctors think is going on, or what could possibly be wrong, or even of what tests they are doing.  Nothing beyond the medications to bring her blood pressure down, something to calm her down, something to help her sleep, and breathing treatments twice a day to open her lungs up so she can breathe.

This absolutely floors me.

I am tempted to sic my sisters on this, because seriously, if this had been my mother?  All three of us would know every single detail, from who exactly the doctors were, to what they were thinking and the results of every single test they had run, and what tests they were thinking of doing in the future.  We would have gone through Ma's apartment to find out every detail of what she'd been eating, how much she'd been eating if at all, what medications and supplements she'd been taking, and how much candy or sweet things she'd been eating, just in case.  We'd be taking shifts staying with her at the hospital so we could be on hand when a doctor showed up to check on her, to ask questions, and find out what was on the agenda for the day.  We'd know her nurses, what they had planned, what she was allowed to eat outside what was being served in her meals so we could tempt her with something that might encourage her to eat.  We'd have a notebook where we'd be keeping track of her blood pressure readings to coincide with what the nurses were getting, and we'd also put our heads together to remember what meds she could take, which ones she'd had reactions to, and which ones we knew she could tolerate and what she couldn't.  Because we're Southern and that's what we do.

How do I know this?  Because that's what we're doing with our own mother, who broke her hip a few weeks ago, spent time in a rehab hospital, and is now in a nursing home, because she has Alzheimer's and my eldest sister was killing herself trying to be her live in caretaker.

I simply cannot comprehend not wanting to find out this information.  I can't understand having my mother in the hospital and not wanting to know what is going on, where are the doctor's going with this, what... it's driving my husband crazy that his siblings are just being so... complacent  about this, because apparently, my Southernness has infected him.  It's stressing him considerably, because he wants to know and they can tell him nothing.  I've held my peace about this all damn week, because I didn't want to make it worse, but last night, I think he was kind of relieved when I finally blew up about it.  At least he knew he wasn't alone in feeling that way any more.

For all that my husband was raised in Texas, his parents (and his older siblings) are from Connecticut and New York, and they still have that mentality, I guess. It's just... one of those differences that makes me throw up my hands and want to rip off their arms and beat them over the heads with it.  I just... don't get it.  I really, really don't.