My People

My People
My People - Cosette, Austin, Oliver, Cody, me & Ryan. Just think, had I not lived, these people wouldn't be on the planet. They are my whole heart!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Update on My Mom - What's Going ON?

I'm dusting off the old blog for the first time in nearly four months because I have a lot to say that I finally am at liberty to say and this is the easiest format for this large amount of information.

You may have seen me post here and there about my mom being in the hospital. I have been sort of the family public relations person and have had to disseminate so much information in so many different directions in addition to taking in tons of information related to her care. I quite honestly don't know what I've said to whom so I'm going to just put the whole story here so that I can refer folks to this post to fill in the blanks as needed.

My mom was diagnosed with a carcinoid tumor in her intestines back in 2010. If you've been around for a long time you may remember this episode. She had what they thought was diverticulitis and she was doing really poorly and in an awful lot of pain and spent several weeks in the hospital. I would link you to that post/those posts but if I start trying to link to all of this stuff it will take me forever to do this post. The gist of it was that she had a lot of stomach pain, they thought it was a blockage or diverticulitis and they did surgery and found this particular tumor. Carcinoid tumors are neuroendocrine tumors. My google medical degree limits my ability to explain this type of cancer but the main thing to know is that it's a hormone based cancer. They removed it and she began follow ups with an oncologist that have continued through now.

In late 2015 she began having a lot LOT of pain in her gut which turned out to be pancreatic cancer. One thing most people immediately know about pancreatic cancer is that it's usually not survivable... something like only 1% of people survive for a year or two years. Mom's pancreatic cancer, however, was a metastisis of the original carcinoid cancer from 2010. This was, they told us, as pancreatic cancer goes, the best kind to have. In early 2016 she had surgery to remove most of her pancreas and she recovered quickly and returned, for the most part, to her usual self... fishing, gardening, loving on grandbabies and great-grandbabies, spoiling that little dog and taking care of me because... you know, my crappy back. Losing most of her pancreas did cause diabetes and she had to be careful with her blood sugar but for the most part, she was ok.

Last August... around the time that we were getting through the worst of the drama with Cosy... mom started having pain again. She went back to the oncologist and unfortunately found that the pancreatic cancer had returned in the remaining portion of her pancreas with some additional areas of cancer. The oncologist began treatment that involved a verrrrrrry expensive injection once a month to slow the spread of the cancer. From August through maybe... March or April of this year... she did ok. I won't say that she was running marathons or anything but she was able to function for the most part. This spring she began to have more and more pain. Her pain meds were increased and increased again.

Around the end of May... beginning of June... I had a weekend where I was really sick with a stomach bug... upset stomach, feeling really icky... Cosy and Tasha had the same thing so when mom started getting sick to her stomach and feeling poorly, we first thought that it was related to the sickness we had all had but mom didn't get well. She developed increasing pain. Doctors were consulted and the ultimate diagnosis was kidney stones which were treated with a stent to help them pass. Most of you have at least known someone who has had kidney stones. Not pleasant for a healthy person, really debilitating for someone who is already sick.

The problem was... at the time of the placement of the kidney stent, mom all of a sudden turned very yellow. Oompa Loompa yellow/orange. Alarming yellow. Mom was still feeling really poorly and we had not quite understood at this point that she was no longer able to manage her own care as far as making doctors appointments and following up on things. About a week went by with us waiting for some kind of follow up to happen before I blew up at the urologist over the phone for not doing anything about what was clearly... to my Google trained eye... the result of toxins somehow related to the insertion of the stent for kidney stones. It wasn't kidney related. She had jaundice, obviously related to some sort of liver dysfunction. Well, obvious to medical personnel not from the Google School of Medicine.

At this point mom asked me to be her medical advocate. Not because Pop isn't capable or willing... but because I'm really good at being the bad cop... stomping my feet and making demands and making sure everyone stays on task. I'm bossy. I prefer to introvert so if I have to make a phone call to make someone else do their job, I'm really annoyed which means I'm going to do my darnedest to make sure I don't have to make another call. Also, as a chronic pain patient, I understand what it's like to suffer and know how important it is for someone to speak up for you and say, "THIS IS NOT OK!"

I'm going to end up messing up some of the details and timeline here because I can only explain the month of July as a complete blur. I'll do my best. On Wednesday the 28th of June mom went into the hospital for pain and illness related to the jaundice. It had been determined that there was a tumor blocking the biliary duct... bile couldn't drain, thus the Oompa Loompa Syndrome. (which really makes you wonder what kind of health care old Wonka was providing his workers... but I digress). On June the 29th mom had surgery to place a stent in her liver to allow the bile duct to drain, in hopes of allieviating the jaundice and discomfort in her liver. She was released from the hospital the next day, June 30th and honestly, has never been well since.

Pop has cared for Mom around the clock since all of this began. He has had to help her with the most basic of tasks, kept her blood sugars in check, administered medications (and tracked dosages with an elaborate spread sheet). On Sunday the 2nd of July, mom asked him to get me. I went upstairs and she said, "I need to go to the hospital." I called the surgeon who had inserted the biliary stent and explained the symptoms mom was experiencing. They said to bring her to the hospital... by ambulance... so we did. I rode in the ambulance, Pop followed behind in the car. In the ER they told us that she had a urinary tract infection and her ammonia level was really high. They admitted her.

The next day, Monday, July 3rd, mom was feeling better. She was able to sit up. She was chatty. She actually looked the best she had looked in a few weeks. Pop went home that night and when he came back on the morning of July 4th she was completely changed. She didn't know who he was. Well, she knew he was her husband but she thought he was Evil Knievel. She was hallucinating. She was completely confused. She was, what we might call here in the south, a hot mess. We were told that she had a rough night and so the night nurse gave her ativan - an anxiety drug. This particular drug, like many we've found over the years, has the opposite effect on mom. They followed that with ambien. It wound her up even more. All of this was to keep her calm and still ... because she could injure herself, maybe? Or maybe because it was a holiday and perhaps they were short staffed? We can't ever really know. I can only say that although we have had some good days with her since then she has never really returned to who she was before that night. We found out last Friday that it might not have been those meds that started shutting things down. We just don't know. At that point we determined not to leave mom in the hospital without a family member or friend with her... to have someone stay with her around the clock so that we can closely monitor what she is given and why.

The confusion got some better on Wednesday (the 5th) and the next day. The hospital doctor thought that perhaps if they could release her to home she would do better... familiar environment, that sort of thing. She came home still confused and still weak but no longer yellow... at least that had improved. Also during this time there was some concern about the effect of pain meds and some of the types of pain meds and dosages were changed. I don't want to go into too much detail about that sort of thing for safety reasons but I'll summarize it by saying we tried to increase her cognition by lowering her medication levels. It was also becoming clear to us that her liver was not going to be able to process some of the medicine they were giving her.

Over the next two days, (the 7th and 8th) mom became more and more confused, increasingly lethargic, unwilling to eat and drink, etc. Pop focused on carefully giving her the medicines they had sent us home with us although, unfortunately, we had conflicting and confusing information on medicines and their purpose. For instance, we had one particular medicine that was a laxative... but she was on several other laxatives and it wasn't apparent to us why she needed this extra one that she HATED. We later found out that this particular medicine was to help clear the toxins from her system and to prevent the build up of ammonia in her system, which was part of the reason - at least it was thought this was a reason - for the confusion. Home Health came out on the 8th  to do an initial assessment to begin seeing mom every couple of days in hopes of keeping her out of the hospital.

On the 9th mom had really been too confused and lethargic to eat or drink much. My middle brother, Michael, and his son were visiting from Chattanooga. It started to look like we needed to get mom back to the hospital but honestly, we were so very tired. I couldn't even imagine taking her back to the hospital. She had just left two days before. I called my older brother Jim to come over and help us assess the situation as a family. We all worked together to help mom get a little fluid in her and get settled in for the night and made the decision together that we would wait until morning to decide whether or not to go back to the hospital. The next morning, unfortunately, things had declined even more and once again I made the call to 911 to arrange transport to the hospital.

We live in a county without a hospital. There is a small hospital in the neighboring county where Cosette was born but the preferred hospital - and the hospital where mom's doctors practice - is in Gainesville, about a 45 minute drive away. This becomes a factor when you are spending long hours at the hospital because when you drag yourself across the hot, steamy parking lot at dark-thirty and walk the half a mile (exaggeration but it is a long walk) to the last handicapped parking place in the entire lot, you still have that 45 minute drive ahead of you. It's the trade off for better care... but also why we could not transport her when she was confused. You can't drive that far with a passenger who is that unwell.

The hospital visit of July 9th through the 14th was more of the same, to an increased degree. My brother came down from New York and stayed with us spending days with mom and nights here at the house. We held several family meetings to discuss mom's care and quite frankly, Pop's care because there is no way he could continue to provide care for mom around the clock, even with my help. Understand, also, that my ability to help is limited by my own health problems. My back, for one thing, has been a huge hindrance but the week of the ninth I battled a migraine headache for three days that really took me out of the game. We were so blessed to have the help of my aunt and uncle overnight and also the help of two ladies from the church who stayed with mom for us. Times like this give you an opportunity to realize how much good there is in the world and I am eternally grateful for the acts of kindness that continue to support us - sustain us, really.

On the 14th again, mom was released home. Still having lots of confusion, still requiring lots of care. She was released on a Friday and Home Health was supposed to come see her on Monday. We can't take her to a doctors appointment because she is not well enough for the trip in the heat or to sit in a car... or in a waiting room... so these home health visits were our only way to know that mom is doing as well as she can at the moment. Well... Monday came and we didn't hear from Home Health. I called and they said they didn't have orders to restart her visits. Long story short, someone had misplaced the paperwork. They confirmed to the hospital that they had the paperwork on Friday but by Monday morning it was nowhere to be seen. I was assured that someone would be out on Tuesday. Tuesday came and there was no phone call to let us know someone was coming... I called back to home health and ... oops... they were sorry... they didn't get they paperwork until late Monday so they couldn't get her on the calendar for Tuesday. I kindly but firmly reminded them that they had the paperwork on Friday and that it was their error that required new paperwork to be sent. They knew early Monday that she would need to be seen and I was not willing for mom to wait an additional day for this to happen. I got an extensive and sincere apology - which was fine - but I told them I didn't need an apology, I needed a nurse. Eventually one was located and she came to evaluate mom.

The problem with Home Health for us is that they really only assess vitals which we can do ourselves. We needed someone with decision making ability who could change medications, provide real guidance and explain to us what was happening. So despite the nurse visit on Tuesday afternoon... mom's condition, especially her cognitive condition, continued to decline. She was mentally unable to focus or understand what was going on. She went through a period of acting drunk - trust me, the woman has never had a drink and she was definitely not obtaining alcohol on her own. It was cute for a minute but then really tiring to provide constant supervision. By last Thursday (the 20th) she had cognitively declined to the point of being catatonic. Was it the liver issue? Was it related to a medication? Were we giving her too much of one thing and not enough of another? Had the cancer spread to her brain? There was no way to know so once again we were directed to bring her to the hospital by ambulance.

This hospital visit was like the previous ones... adjusting medications... giving her fluids... etc. except this time they brought in the Palliative Care Doctor to meet with us. This man will always be my hero because finally someone explained to us what was happening with mom cognitively. This cancer that started in 2010 with the neuroendocrine related carcinoid tumor, which spread to her pancreas and now liver, puts off hormones that affect the seratonin levels in the brain. Mom's confusion was not caused by something she was taking (although some of the medications she was given DO cause hallucinations, etc) it is caused by the drastic rise and fall of seratonin in her brain. Without relaying the entire meeting - 45 minutes plus with my older brother and sister-in-law, my dad, me and my brother in New York FaceTimed in - the ultimate decision was to no longer provide artificial fluids for mom. When she is unable to eat and drink it's because the cancer is making her too sick to handle it. Continuing to fill her with fluids only feeds the cancer, not her. Her body can't process them any longer. Withholding pain medicine to attempt to make her more lucid only increases her suffering. We want her final days with us to be more about quality than quantity. We can test her blood sugar and give the meds for that if she wants it... but we don't have to. We don't have to force her to take the awful meds for clearing the toxins out of her system because they really don't clear her enough for it to matter. We did tweak some medications that weren't working as well as others and she had a couple of days of clarity. The pain meds were adjusted to where she is more comfortable.

Mom was released from the hospital on Sunday (the 23rd) to hospice care at home. The hospice program is WONDERFUL and everything we needed but weren't able to get from home health. We have everything we need on hand to make mom's last days comfortable and peaceful, right here where she wants to be. It will be hard. I'm not under any delusions. Because as a family we have accepted the doctor's advice that providing IV fluids when she becomes dehydrated is just prolonging things and not helping her, I know there will come a time when we know that she is not taking in enough nutrition to sustain life. We have a nursing tech coming three times a week to keep mom and her environment clean (although Pop is pretty good at helping her shower so far). We have a nurse assigned to mom who is a member of our church and a dear, sweet lady. We have a social worker involved in helping us to process things. We have a sitter who stays with mom two days a week for Pop to get out of the house and we can increase that if needed. I stay with mom on Sunday and Monday for Pop to go to church and for him to go preach at the local nursing homes. We have our usual housekeeper coming to vacuum and do the heavy cleaning that I can't do. It really is a community effort. I've received wonderful, loving, supportive messages from dozens of cousins, facebook friends, blog readers, people I've known in my real life... and although I get a bit mushy, I'm so grateful to not be facing this alone. If you've messaged me and not gotten a response, know that I've read your message. For an introvert I'm having to do a lot of communicating and there are times that it's overwhelming... but your kindness is appreciated.

We don't know if she has days or weeks. It could be months but probably not. Our family primary care doctor always says to me, "your mama is one tough woman" and she is... but this has been a long fight and she is tired. I had held off on putting all of this information out there until we had explained the situation to close family members... so as it not to be something they discovered on the internet... but the internet is MY home and you are MY people and I wanted you to know what has been going on. And unfortunately, we are not insulated from other outside issues... cars break down and require repair... Austin's been through a bit of a rough patch (not related to Cosy, she and her mama are great... Cosy's other family has been very supportive) and there are things I have to deal with - with and for him - that I'd rather not do ever, especially now but life does go on and we must live it. We will live it. I'll keep you updated... thanks again for all your love and support! *hugs*

Thursday, April 6, 2017

All The Things

Almost three months. Longest blog silence for me ever. I told myself that when I could blog without crying,  I would blog again. It's still not happening. I can explain but I'm not sure I want to. I don't want to hurt anyone else. I don't want to throw a pity party. But unless I share what is keeping me from sharing, I don't know how I'll ever get back to blogging.

My aunt died last fall. The aunt who was most like me.... three sons, not as "tidy" as the other sisters... creative, always going from one project to another. I am more like her than my mom or any of my aunts. She was my mom's youngest sister, the youngest of seven children. She had several complicated health issues but the truth is... she died because she no longer had the will to live. Once her husband passed away in 2013 she felt - what I feel every day of my life - that when you don't have a "significant other" you are no longer significant to anyone. I've hesitated to say that because there are people who made a valiant effort on her behalf in the end. Her daughter-in-law quit her job to faithfully attend to her. Her son... her sister... in the end she was surrounded by people who loved her but in the end... it was the end.

I was just sort of stinging from her loss when Christmas rolled around. I worked hard at Christmas to make sure everyone got something special, personal, thoughtful... I did a great deal of my parents' shopping as mom was just not feeling well and dad was, as he always is, busy. I'm not a material girl. I shop bargains. I love Goodwill. I'm not into labels or anything. But I spent a lot of effort trying to make everyone else feel special and once all the gifts were opened... I didn't feel special at all. I felt, once again, insignificant. I spent a healthy sum on each of my kids and grandkids and I got ... from all of them in total... one gift. One small gift from one of my sons and that was it. My sister-in-law did get me a little extra something special because, as she said, I "do so much for people". And I do. I appreciated her noticing, she is one to always encourage me but she's a very busy lady and our paths don't cross often enough. So it wasn't ALL bad....but even now, three months later, I can't shake that feeling of being insignificant. When they say it's the thought that counts, that's so very true. And I just didn't feel that anyone put much thought into Christmas for me. Again. I say this not to make anyone feel bad or ... whatever... people had stuff going on in their lives. They were all busy. Or broke. Or... whatever they were. But the result was unavoidable. I sat in a room full of family watching people open lovely gifts specially chosen for them and I was so happy for them because I love them. But I felt very small and unimportant. There's no worse feeling in the world than being alone in a crowd.

It became sort of a tangent realization of what my life is and who I am to the world around me... insignificant. It's weird... because my whole life revolves around taking Austin to work and picking him up... getting Cosy on the days we have custody and also on the days when Tasha needs a break... dogsitting Oscar the dachshund when my mom is at the doctors or in the hospital. I've been trying for a year to string together a few days to go spend time with Oliver because there is so much that I have to do. I managed to squeeze out three days this week but then my pain levels became too high for me to drive that far alone. The weather has been awful and nothing affects arthritis more than changing weather. I found out yesterday that I can't get the prescriptions I need to be able to function until halfway through the visit because they're schedule... whatever. So I would be a hundred miles from home potentially withdrawing from three meds on top of the normal unpredictability of my pain which has been bad lately.

Migraines have become a huge problem for me. I've had them forever but they're more frequent and more severe. There are a lot of times that I have to be the one to pick Austin up from work so I have to wait to take meds to alleviate the migraine until after I pick him up. I've begged him and begged him to start driving but he isn't ready yet. I didn't drive until I was 28. I get it. Sometimes I'm not sure he really understands the toll it takes on me. But I know he appreciates me. And I appreciate how close we are, that he and I are a team, that I can talk to him about things I can't talk to anyone else about and vice versa. One night I picked him up when I was having such a severe migraine that I was crying hysterically. Usually I don't let anyone know I'm crying because I don't want them to worry... or think I'm having some kind of breakdown or whatever. Sometimes it just hurts so much. I've got a procedure scheduled in two weeks that is supposed to help... some medicine they put up into your sinus cavity with a catheter. I'm afraid I'll chicken out before then.

So all of those things that I just mentioned... they've been keeping me from blogging. From feeling like I have anything significant to say... from feeling like anyone really cares what I have to say... from feeling like I can't share my heart without hurting the heart of someone else that I love. There's all that and there's Trump. For an introvert like me who avoids conflict and controversy at all cost, it just reached a point where I fell like I was drowning in the hate... hate from others toward "people like me" who didn't elect Hillary... snide comments about Trump voters from every angle... and again, people I love who would be really hurt by my own comments or justification for the outcome of the election. There's so much bitterness still on both sides and I just don't have the emotional energy to wade into those waters. I don't watch the news any more. I can't.

What I didn't want to do is get on a soap box about all these things and use my blog as a weapon to strike out against the things that have hurt me. It's impossible to explain and not complain. I didn't want to be accusatory. I didn't want to leave on bad terms when this blog has been the only consistent thing in my life in the past twelve years. Being able to come here and open my heart has saved my sanity for so many years. It just lost it's joy for me. I have written dozens of blog posts in the past three months and deleted them without posting. Nobody wants to attend a pity party. Honestly. I don't. I would have clicked out of this blog two paragraphs in so if you're still reading, thank you.

Now... the good things you should know... I'm getting out more, doing more things, enjoying my grandchildren so much! I wish I could have more time with Oliver but I'm grateful that I get to see him at least once a month. They're both talking a lot and every time they say, "Nana" my heart just melts! My nieces are taller... more beautiful than ever... successful... just amazing creatures. I can't believe how incredible they are! My mom is doing well. She's still doing my laundry (LOL) and she has a lot of good days. She has a lot of pain too but ... she's hanging in there. One of my nephews who was a bit... let's just say, "distant" has become closer and I'm so grateful to build a relationship with him. Cosette's birthday is this month and I'm planning a "Tea for Two" tea party theme. We've had fun buying hats and accessories for our guests to use. When I Facetime with Oliver he always wants me to wear a hat and I go through them while he decides which one he wants me to wear. Austin is loving his new job and is training to be a shift manager. Ryan had a stressful start to the year but things are turning around and he's got some exciting things happening. Cody and Marquee are doing well. They're bummed that my trip to see them didn't work out this week and I'm really sad too. It's hard disappointing people but it's a reality of my physical limitations. My cousin and his wife got their pilots license and bought a plane! How fun is that? I slacked off on my Italian studies. I'm sure I'll pick it up again at some point, I just found myself needing to use my down time to rest more. I'm getting out more which means I hurt more but it's a good trade off for me. I've been watching a lot of Netflix, playing a lot of computer games, reading a lot of books about things that happened during the Renaissance. Walking is harder. Some mornings I really struggle but by the time I leave to take Austin to work I've usually worked the kinks out. I'm really ok so please don't worry. Is this an official return to blogging? I can't say for sure. I just knew until I explained the reason I had not been blogging, I would never be able to start blogging again. So that's it.

Hope you're all well. I miss your sweet comments and encouragement. Love and hugs, y'all. I'll be back... soon, I think.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

What's In Nana's Diaper Bag

Never would I ever have seen myself carrying a diaper bag as I was approaching *gasp* fifty years old. Yet... my precious granddaughter's parents split up and we went through a hard, expensive battle for custody winning the right to have her spend time with us 2 or 3 days a week. Building a good relationship with her mom has meant that we can, for the most part, have Cosy time whenever we want Cosy time. That means that I find myself packing a diaper bag a couple of times a week.

Truth be told, my diaper bag is a backpack and not just ANY backpack... it's the backpack that Cosy's Aunt Marquee carried to college. Hopefully that's carrying some higher education mojo along with the diapers and wipes. It's easier for me because it has very clearly divided pockets and I know exactly where things are held.  So if I'm driving and Austin says, "where's ______?" I can guide him directly to it.

By the way... there's a whole 'nother blog coming about driving with a toddler who is accustomed to having someone in the backseat with her... adventures in Nana-Life, for sure.

We very rarely carry the diaper bag in with us wherever we're going but usually just have it in the car or nearby so that her stuff is all gathered in one spot. I typically wear a hoodie or something with pockets and I tuck her paci - a must have at all times - in my pocket or purse so it's ready when she needs soothing. For an extended breastfed baby who is used to being soothed by the boob, the paci is a necessity.

So what's in Nana's Diaper Bag?

  • diapers, of course, usually 4 or 5 which is more than she would ever use in her time with us
  • wipes, used more often but still, I carry far more than we need
  • two pacifiers with their holder - the holder is very important, more like the TAG on the holder is important because she rubs that when she's nervous/upset/going to sleep
  • two complete outfits including socks, shoes - or slippers
  • a jacket or some sort of extra layer, sometimes a blanket
  • her school bus from Leapfrog with a couple of letters - another type of security for her
  • a bottle of water - in case it's needed for drinking, washing off a booboo or... anything
  • toasted coconut chips - she's addicted to coconut
  • Brother's freeze dried fruit - usually two bags
  • tissues
  • several pair of sunglasses
  • Nana's handicapped parking sticker


And... that's it, I think. We never go far (other than that time we went to see Grandma Leta which is still not a very long trip). Most of the time we are less than fifteen minutes from home so anything we're missing we can get to quickly and/or buy. We don't drop her off anywhere - such as daycare or the church nursery - so we always have the diaper bag in our possession. When she goes back to her mom's we have a smaller bag that we all call "the go bag" that goes in between dad's house and mom's to collect the items that belong in the other home or are shared. Typically that would be dirty clothes that she changed out of or maybe a toy that she's particularly interested in having with her. For the most part, if it's a toy she really loves we will buy two so that she has one at each house or we just let her take things to her mom's so that she gets to enjoy it more since she's there more.

Today I'm going to spend a few hours with her this morning and then take her home to nap. Then her dad will pick her up after work and take her to dinner with his friend. I'm sure I'll have photos to share on my other social media!

Have a great Thursday! Love and hugs, y'all!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Comments!

Thanks for the lovely comments on my last post, y'all! I appreciate all of you who keep "tuning in" to see what happens next. It's such a warm and cosy feeling to know you're out there.

My facebook link is www.facebook.com/hdarby - Or if you wanted to search for me I'm under Heather Nancine Gant.

My instagram is https://www.instagram.com/heathernancine/ If you wanted to search for me I'm under HeatherNancine.

On both my Facebook and Instagram you can view my page without having Facebook and Instagram. If you find that not to be the case, let me know and I'll jiggle some magic button and make it work.

My Snapchat is HGant5. I love posting there because the filters make  you look awesome even if you look like poo... which I do about 90% of the time.

If there's something you would like to know about my life, my blog and so forth, leave a comment here or on my Facebook and as long as I can share without compromising someone else's privacy, I'll be happy to. I have blog readers who message me to find out "the rest of the story" and I usually share waaaaaay more than I should. I think what has made my blog interesting to read over the years is my transparency... or tendency to "overshare". I'm an old dog, I don't think I'm going to be learning any new tricks but... I do think I've learned to be a bit more careful not to embarrass or aggravate my loved ones.

Today was a Cosy/Daddy day. We went to Huddle House, the pharmacy, WalMart and then came home and played/watched Frozen. She went home around 1pm. Austin has been working 6 days a week and he's exhausted. I am feeling TONS better than I was a week ago but I'm still not back to my normal level of energy - which is low anyways. We had a bit of snow over the weekend and it's been so cold that there is still a good bit of it left. The cold weather really aggravates my arthritis so I'm achy. It was a good visit and we look forward to seeing her again later in the week. HOPEFULLY on Saturday when Oliver comes to visit!

More later! Love and hugs, y'all!

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Nana Life

Hello friends! I'm sorta back. On the way back. At least pointing my toes in that direction. Christmas still remains a very difficult time for me (we'll get into that later or on another post) and I just didn't want to open my heart wide enough to share the bruised and broken parts just then. I wanted to be, as much as possible, "in the moment", as the say. Despite fighting two different cases of bronchitis in the past six week there were many happy moments over the holiday season for me. Yet I am one hundred percent glad it's over (despite the tree still lingering on my hearth) and embracing this brand new year for whatever it brings.

For the record, this is being written under the influence of NyQuil, percocet and tizanidine (a pretty strong muscle relaxer) so hopefully you will ignore any misspelled words, run on sentences and general lack of logic. This is to be expected in these circumstances and I believe my writing improves when I'm slightly distracted - ala Hemingway.

I've done a bit of "re-branding" for this new year, although I can't change the URL without paying money to purchase my own which... maybe, we'll see. But I did want the blog to focus more on what my life's focus truly is: being Nana to Oliver and Cosette. When I was growing up and I thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wanted to be a mom. That was truly my only career aspiration. Of course, in the course of events it turned out that being a mom meant needing money and health insurance and so forth so I was a working mom until I could no longer work. Now in my "autumn" of life, I have discovered that being a grandma - Nana- is an even better career than being a mom! Especially since being a Nana has fewer job requirements and costs less (at least in theory)

The point is... this is a season of my life that I want to remember... and I want to be remembered for. I remember lots and lots of little blinks in time with my grandmas but I don't remember much clearly. I want to make a record of the memories I make with Oliver and Cosette so that when I'm gone, they can look back fondly (I hope fondly) on the things we did together. Obviously, I have greater access to Cosette because of geography and my difficulty to get around but hopefully I will be needed around here a bit less and able to get out a lot more in this new year. That's my hope and prayer, anyways.

I've not been visiting here but I have been all over social media, as usual. I've posted lots of pictures on Facebook, lots of stuff on Instagram and I post regularly on Snapchat. Let me know if you have trouble accessing or finding me on any of these formats, if you're interested. I am going to try to be more intentional about recording events here, though so you can still catch up here if you're interested and this is your favorite corner of the internet.

Health wise - as I mentioned - I've had bronchitis twice in the past six week and strep throat once. What this means to my doctors is that I'm back in a cycle of my lungs being compromised  and will therefore suck up every stinking respiratory illness that comes within a mile of me. (exaggeration - but I am far more susceptible to things than most people). This is frustrating and discouraging and makes me all too aware of my limitations and I hate it. I hate having to take antibiotics but I just finished my third pack. I hate coughing. I've coughed hard enough to break a tooth, pee my pants and (I'm pretty sure) break a rib. Not all in the same cough but it could happen. I hate taking cough meds but I prefer the spaced out feeling of cough syrup to the problems I mentioned earlier. I go back to the dentist Thursday for more of the major renovation in my mouth. Then I go on the 16th to the rheumatologist who can hopefully help us sort out the auto-immune / lung connection so I can feel better / breathe better / do all the things that normal healthy people my age can do.

My mom had a series of unbelievably bloody noses right around Christmas and also broke her tailbone falling down the steps. She loved the whirlwind of guests and activities around Christmas but it exhausted her (and me!) Her cancer numbers are lower, which is good but they haven't gotten to the bottom of the nose bleeding. She's seeing her primary care doctor today and sees the surgeon (who did who pancreatic surgery last year) on Friday and there's an ENT visit in there somewhere. She's had some wild fluctuations in blood sugar and blood pressure so you just never know what her day is going to be like. She still does a lot of household chores that I can't do and that my dad doesn't do to her liking but we do have a housekeeper who comes periodically to help out.

Austin is working at a local pizza place and enjoying it quite a bit. A lot of things that were stressful in his life have become ... let's just call them "less stressful" and he's enjoying as much time with Cosette as possible. In the beginning when he would have a visit with Cosy I was micromanaging the whole process from packing her diaper bag to planning her outfit to what she would eat, etc. I still do quite a bit but the other day he decided he wanted to play in the snow with Cosy, packed her diaper bag, and made all the arrangements and he and his friend went to get her. They handled everything! I still did the Nana Nags like, "don't forget her mittens!" and "change her before you take her to dinner!" but honestly, he was full on parenting all on his own. It's hard for me to loosen the reigns, (#controlfreak) I'm so proud of him for being so involved with Cosy - seeing an opportunity to share something fun with her and making it happen. Nana was not about to step foot outside with the cold and snow and ice.

And that's the point and focus of my blog going forth... what it's like to be a Modern Nana, living in a three generation (sometimes four) household, living with disability but still finding meaning in life, living single and what that means for me (spoiler alert: Christmas sucked), being so deeply involved in the day to day life of my parents, children, grandchildren and pets while still keeping myself healthy enough to be of help to anyone, how I protect my "me time" without guilt. I always joke that the stuff I don't blog about is far more interesting (CRAZY) than the stuff I do blog but...I just try to tell my story, as situations impact me without harming or hurting or offending anyone else.

So... I hope you'll keep reading. I'm setting a goal of blogging twice a week, more or less depending on what is going on. Hope you're all well so far in this new year... please leave me a comment letting me know if you're still reading and whether or not you're a Nana - or whatever stage of life you're in. Love and Hugs!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth....

Before


 This is the look I've been sporting since the Friday before Thanksgiving. I call it my Hillbilly Chic style. Paired with a baggy t-shirt advertising beer and some overalls - or perhaps just an old bath robe... it's the look every woman in Appalachia is wearing to special events this Holiday season.

As much as I enjoyed learning to talk without moving my top lip so as not to reveal my imperfections... it's really nice to not have to be so self-conscious because am I an animated person. I've had to force myself to be very restrained lately and I've hated it! It didn't hurt but it was rough up against my lips.

The really great news is that by changing to this dentist I am saving over $7000 - seven THOUSAND dollars off the entire treatment plan. Now I know that my absurd reluctance / anxiety to return to the original dentist was God guiding me to a much more affordable situation. I practically skipped out of his office today. Both dentists were genuinely nice guys. Both offices are lovely and convenient to our house. But that huge price difference is something I can't ignore. I am now very excited about finishing up the rest of my dental work in the coming year. I'll be offering up lots of toothy smiles on all my social media next year!

Here's the after:

 In this picture I still had a bit of swelling from the numbing meds so I took another one to share with you. Please forgive my vanity but I am just so RELIEVED to have this tooth fixed!


So... enough about me... I wanted to share a few pictures from my niece Jamie's Beauty and the Beast - afterwards because, you know, flash photography in the show and all that. I snagged these off Facebook because I'm sneaky like that.

Jorjanne, Jamie and Sarabeth
These three girls are among the finest, most intelligent, most talented and more importantly - have the biggest heart for the Lord in our little neck of the woods. They are going to change lives, mark my words! While their physical beauty is impressive... the beauty of their spirits is even more attractive and charming. I'm so proud I can claim even a tiny role in their lives!











Sarabeth, Haili and Jamie.
Haili played Belle (if the yellow dress didn't give it away) and she is also a woman after God's heart. I've been blessed to watch her grow in wisdom and grace and am so inspired by her! What a great role model for my nieces!












Last photo... these folks are my people... my big brother, the wife he married 22 years ago this Friday... and the beautiful family they have created. Remember, there was not another girl born into our family from the time I was born until Sarabeth was born 34 years later. I treasure these ladies, both the young ones for giving me the opportunity to have little girls to love on and the older one for being the sister I always wanted. And my brother is pretty alright himself. Definitely in my top two favorite brothers of all time! *wink*

Also, in case you missed it yesterday... Austin got a job yesterday! He starts Orientation and Training this weekend. He will be working for a pizza chain - Marcos Pizza - that is the first of that brand that we've had up here. He will be working inside the store but they are hopeful that he will be licensed soon and able to also deliver. Praying for much success for him in this new job and that things will work out exactly in God's perfect timing as far as driving... etc.

It's been a great week so far! Happy Wednesday! Love and hugs, y'all!


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Behind the Scenes of Oliver and Cosette's Visit To Their Great-Great-Grandma

I wanted to share a few photos with you... some of these - almost all of them, actually - have been on my Facebook but I thought it would be fun to share the "behind the scenes" of some of them.

First off... this sassy miss... performing all over the place. This photo is when she was in a Christmas program at church... then she sang with the adult choir at the lighting of the big tree in Helen... then she performed in a community production of Beauty and the Beast... which I ended up not being able to see. Due to other commitments there were really only two performances that would have worked for me. Both days were higher than average pain levels and I've long since learned that if I am in pain that I might as well not be there because I am in such a fog of pain that nothing, no matter how wonderful, can break through.

I fell in the cat room last week while holding Cosy. I landed on a really rough homemade cat tree with lots of sharp angles, flat on my back while suspending Cosy in mid-air so that she didn't make contact with anything. She was fine. I screwed up a whole new part of my spine so that I'm having a painful numbness in my arms... all the way to my finger tips. I pushed through the pain to be able to take the babies to see my grandma on Saturday but that was the straw that broke this camel's back. By Sunday, my last chance to see Beauty and the Beast, I was miserable. Plus... and this is the bigger reason... my dad really wanted to see the show with my mom. He had already seen it once but really wanted to see it again so he could share the experience with my mom. Somebody needed to stay with the dog so I volunteered and I'm so glad they got to go together. I know every moment together is precious to them and I want them to have the opportunity to share as much life together as they can.

I am so proud of Jamie. At 11 years old (12 this month!) she is fearless. She follows her dreams. She loves performing and she's good at it. It was a huge commitment to perform in Beauty and the Beast but she did everything she needed to do to make it work (including suffering through Pop's lame jokes while he drove her from her school in Habersham County to the school in White County where they held rehearsal... ha!)  Sarabeth made the school basketball team this year after trying twice before and not making it. I remember the disappointment and frustration when I didn't make the cheerleading team at school for my 8th grade year but I wanted it so bad that I swallowed my pride and tried again for 9th grade and made it. I think when you have to work a little harder for something, it makes it more precious to you when it happens. Despite being really sick around Thanksgiving, she pushed through and played as soon as the doctor cleared her, even when I'm sure she still didn't feel great. . I love having a beautiful tiny miss in our lives now but these two were my first baby girls and I am LOVING watching them grow into two amazing young women. I am so blessed to share their lives! (Actually... my cousin Christie who was born the day before my 13th birthday was probably my first baby girl but you get the point).

I shared a lot of photos on Facebook from our visit to see my grandmother last Saturday but these are a few that have a back story that makes them more precious to me...

in this one Oliver is looking at some toys that Grandma has on her window sill. What you don't know is that Austin had fussed at Cosy earlier about touching the toys and Cosy is a RULE FOLLOWER! If her daddy says no... she minds him. She's got a bit of OCD going on and she really takes "no-no's" to heart. Austin is pointing at her because of the way she is holding her hands close to her and studying what Oliver is doing.

Then here... when Oliver's mommy got on to him and made him move away from the window... Cosy is still holding her hands close to her because she is NOT TOUCHING the toys. She's looking at her dad to see what he is going to say to Oliver since he touched the toys.

We joke that throughout their lives Cosy is going to be the voice of reason for Oliver... "you shouldn't do that..." "I don't think that's a good idea... " You can already see it starting with them!

Oliver has learned his body parts. He is checking out Cosy's hand...

and her hair....

she is looking at me. She's not irritated with him. She is pretty passive and tolerant and generally will let him do whatever as long as it doesn't involve touching a toy that she's particularly possessive of - mainly anything from Frozen.

While we were at lunch Oliver was feeding her broccoli. He calls her "baby" and she calls him "Ol".

This picture ... I love so much that I had it blown up to a large sized black and white.

She's not angry... angry with Cosy involves whining, tears, drama, sometimes laying on the floor face down in protest... she lets you know when she is unhappy with a situation. So even though she looks like, "make it stop"... she really wasn't bothered. She was just letting Ol be Ol.

And Oliver is looking at his mom to see if he is going to get in trouble. He's a curious little fella. They both are just amazed that there is another person around who is their size. I can't wait to add my brother's baby - Finn, who is going to be right around 10 months old while they're here - to the mix. Finn is bigger than my babies and just beginning to be mobile. Finn LOVES bigger kids. I think we have lots of adorable moments ahead this Christmas! Finn doesn't have a social media presence so I'm going to have to be careful about angles but I will share whatever pictures I can of the three musketeers.

I think these shots were before the all the other photos I've shared in this post. You can see that she is voluntarily in his space. It almost looks like she is holding his arm to keep him from touching the toys on the windowsill but I'm not entirely sure that was the case. But you can definitely tell that she doesn't mind him being near here, even if she looks a bit "over it" in the picture of his finger in her ear.

See her hands? She is in full on "Keep my hands to myself" mode. She isn't one hundred percent compliant in every little thing... and her dad isn't necessarily strict with her but there are a few things he doesn't allow. #1 rule is nothing goes in the mouth but food and the pacifier. That rule is so deeply ingrained in her little spirit that I can whisper to her, "what does daddy say" if she starts to put something in her mouth and she stops.

We are working on teaching her to share. The other day she got possessive with something and Austin took it away from her for a few minutes. When he gave it back she played a few minutes and then voluntarily gave it back to her dad without any prompting from him. We praised her and told her that was "good sharing". She's an only child and she's not around other kids much, other than in the church nursery and there aren't many kids there. She knows the word "mine" quite well!

This was also pretty cute. Austin changed Cosy out of her pretty party dress because it has a lot of crinoline and is not conducive to comfy napping in a car seat. We had an hour and a half drive back home so we were hoping that she would get some good napping time in. While she's getting changed on Grandma's bed Oliver is exploring the room. Nosy Cosy in the background is fascinated with what he's doing.

I have no idea why she's pointing to him. I probably said something like "where's Oliver" or... I don't know. I was in a good deal of pain as we had the long drive down and had gone to lunch which - I've been eating out a lot more than I did last year but it still stinking hurts every single time. I still end up taking most of my food home and having it later when I can be in my comfy nest. The pain from sitting makes me sick to my stomach and sometimes a little dizzy. We couldn't spend as much time as we would have all liked with Grandma because Pop was in a show that night at church and Cody and Marquee had other commitments too. But we had been trying ever since Oliver was born to get both babies together with Grandma and he's 16 months... so, seriously, I was just glad we were finally able to make it happen, even if it was a short visit. Also... my grandma is awesome but having two toddlers in her space has to be stressful!

This is Oliver pointing to Cosy which is why I think I must have asked something goofy like, "where is Cosy". Can't remember. Pain fog and all that.
I love this picture because... you know how usually if there are five generations living the oldest person is usually in a hospital bed or a wheelchair or looking like they're knocking on death's door. Not my grandma. She's standing there helping to restrain our spunky little Oliver! (Marquee was there just in case grandma needed a hand). Fun fact - Oliver has TWO great-great-grandmothers living! One on each side of the family!

This photo is precious to me for many reasons. I love that we ended up with Austin and Cosy matching and Cody and Oliver matching. I wanted the babies to both be in Christmas-y colors but the dad's matching with their babies was all them! Also... I have some good looking sons, don't I?

I posted two other pictures on Facebook of this little interaction between Cosette and her great-great-grandma... but this was also sweet because Cosy was genuinely interested in what Grandma was doing. Cosy loves to sit and look at pictures in photo albums. I prepared her for going to see "Our Leta" by showing her pictures of grandma. I used "Our Leta" with Cosy instead of "grandma" because Tasha's mom is Grandma to her and Cosy will rarely but sometimes want to see Mama/Grandma/Grandpa if we talk about them. It's only happened a few times but I didn't want to be in Woodstock - an hour and a half from home - and her decide she needed mama. Our practice has always been that if she wants her mama, we get her to her mama. We've done it that way so that Cosy doesn't worry about leaving mama because she knows that she can go back to mama whenever she wants. Cosy is always happy to go with us... and she is always happy to go back home. There are never tears during transition and it is important to me that she never has separation anxiety with any of us. I want her to be excited to be going wherever she is going. For that reason we didn't want to risk a "I want grandma" moment. I explained this all to my grandmother and she was fine with us calling her "Our Leta".

There are so many photos that I DIDN'T get... I didn't take any pictures at lunch - we went to O'Charleys. I just wanted to focus all my attention on visiting with everyone. I didn't take any pictures of Cosy interacting with the folks who live at grandma's Assisted Living place although there were many opportunities! Bring a toddler in a fancy dress into a nursing home and trust me... you will become the center of attention! Cosy is used to it and will smile and charm whomever is paying attention to her. She won't let anyone else hold her (and I'm ok with that!) but she will play up to a crowd. I also missed getting a picture when the babies kissed goodbye - melt my heart! Cosy has been warming up to Uncle Cody verrrrrrrrry slowly and finally - 19 months later - she voluntarily gave him a kiss. Still won't let him hold her... but that was a milestone moment for our family.

One last photo to share for those who aren't following the dozen other social media platforms I use (exaggerating... slightly)... this was Cosette's visit to Santa last Tuesday.

Hope you're all having a great week so far! Stay warm! Love and hugs, y'all!