Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Christmas of Memories and Love

I really didn’t know what to expect from this Christmas. I wanted it to be as normal as possible but of course, it wasn’t. An important part of our family, Walter, husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend, pun master, was not here to celebrate with us this year. He loved Christmas and his sense of humor and childlike excitement made it fun. How were we ever to recapture that which was now lost to us?

Despite the melancholy memories of Christmas past that crossed our minds from time to time, we were able to be surrounded by love for each other. This year there were more hugs of reassurance, to remind us “we are still a family”. This year we added to our circle some new friends and acquaintances that felt like a new family. Rather than isolate ourselves, we tried to be inclusive. We felt the love and caring for one another.

We enjoyed the childlike excitement of our grandkids, ages 2 and 4 that was contagious and charming. We played Candyland and Shutes and Ladders, as well as the adult strategic games we have enjoyed in the past.

When the day was over and the giftwrap discarded, we discovered that we still had one more present to give. The day after Christmas, there was a piano dedication for our church in memory of my late husband and his family, who were charter members of the church. It was filled with wonderful hymns, a very practical and encouraging message by the pastor, and a special music by our son and pianist that summed up all that we had experienced that weekend.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hanging of the Greens

And the pastor announced, “Next week, we will be decorating the church”. All of a sudden my mind flashes back 35 years ago to the Annual “Hanging of the Greens”. Same church, … some of the same people. Instead of the energetic youthful spirits of teenagers, there are energetic senior men climbing ladders to put up Christmas lights and a Christmas angel on top of the tree, and gentle senior women hanging handcrafted ornaments on the branches. There are garlands of green and red flowers wrapped around banisters and pillars near pews. The greenery may not necessarily have that fresh pine and douglas firs smell of old, but the effect was one of beauty and joy. As teens, we used to climb into the Red Van of one of our fellow youth and raid the Christmas tree lots for discarded greenery from trimmed trees. A nighttime Christmas scene was also being built by the Vietnamese church members who now share the church facilities.

I cannot recall when this tradition started, but I remember participating in it with my young friends. In fact, it may be one of the first fun events that drew me to return to this lovely church where I gave my life to follow Christ as my Savior and that gave me a special meaning to celebrate His birth. It was a lovely time and 35 years later was no different. There was much joy and laughter mixed in with some melancholy memories of church members laid to rest or those who have moved on. Of course, I could not help but think about my Walter and how he loved this time of year. 

 Isn’t it amazing?! It made me realize that life will go on and so will Christmas until every day will be celebrated of the Lord’s coming. Emmanuel, God is with US.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Catching Up with Crochet

I know I have been writing more about my family events and my coping in widowhood, but I do have some craft talk to share…..

I have a friend whom I reconnected with, staying in a convalescent care center for an uncertain amount of time. I was very thrilled to know she was crocheting a lot, making lap robes and blankets, to pass the time. I brought her a big bag of acrylic yarn from my stash. It was like watching a child open up presents on Christamas. She was so excited. What a joy!

How interesting to talk about crocheting with a fellow crafter! She shared with me the wish to relearn making granny squares and learn how to make a ripple crochet stitch. I looked among my many books and found one that had patterns for both.

Describing to her how to make the stitches was rather confusing, so I decided to make a swatch for her to follow. It all came back to me as I crocheted that granny square and then the ripple stitch swatch. I suppose I can make them into scarves or something small so that the sample will not be wasted.

Presently, I am forging ahead on my knit friendship shawl, which is almost long enough to cover the shoulders adequately. When it is done, I will crochet an edging and perhaps add some buttons to close it and block it. The feather and fan pattern will show better when blocked.

I am also knitting on some slippers for my grandkids that will be felted. I’m guessing at the size as they should be. They should be larger so as to shrink when felted.

I seem to be finding more time to knit again. I am beginning to settle in a routine. I can only take so much audio input of screaming little voices of my excited grandchildren, before I have to retreat to my quiet sanctuary, plug in a quiet Christmas CD, curl up in my comfy recliner and knit a few minutes before the grandkids discover my hiding place. Ah…..isn’t grandmotherhood glorious!

Friday, December 3, 2010

When Life Gives you Lemons, make lemonade!

I recall people saying “Live each day the fullest. You never know when you can be crossing the street and get hit by a car!” A few days ago this event became very real to me. I was hit by a car crossing the street….well perhaps bumped by a car backing up while parking is the reality and I was knocked down with a jolt. Perhaps I’m being a little overdramatic. There were no serious injuries, just a few bumps and bruises.

I was about to step up to the curb between two parked cars after crossing the street and suddenly I realized I had been hit and was on the ground. I was stunned and thankful to be able stand on my own after a few minutes. I don’t blame the driver. I suppose I was in her blindside. She was more upset than I was, and I was trying to comfort and reassure her.

Some people are beginning to think I am cursed with bad luck, but this is not so. After losing a husband to cancer, having to share my house with son and his family due to multiple difficulties and now this, it would seem that nothing could be worse. However, in fact, I feel more blessed than ever before.

My husband’s loss has allowed me to reconnect with friends that truly care and provide emotional support. I can never be lonely with such active grandchildren around in the house and the accident…..well… perhaps, it is God reminding me to get enough sleep, be alert and take care of myself. The accident could have been worse and wasn’t. As I was lying on the x-ray table, I couldn’t help but miss Walter and think, “Walter should be here”. However, I was comforted by the fact that my son, whom I work with, was there with me now, even braving coming into the exam room with me to give me the support and assistance. How comforting to know that my children are there for me when I need them.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Moving Day

Hitching a ride on the Moving truck with Dad
With Thanksgiving behind us, our focus turned to moving a son and his family in with me. The troops were called out-my 3 sons and sister-in-law, to help pack, tote and load up the moving truck, borrowed from our local storage place. I was assigned Grandma duty---watching the grandkids, ages 2 & 4 and keeping them out of everyone’s way.

I came to the realization that living with two very active grandchildren will have some challenges. Within the first 30 min of arrival at my house, there were spills and wet clothes, changing of clothes (twice), and facilitation of a peaceful solution to an altercation between the two sibs, that seems to happen with frequency to cause one’s head to spin. Nevertheless, this time, it resulted in a lesson on “forgiveness” and so was worth the effort. I have learned a lot about children over the last 20 years as a Head Start Nurse, having gone back to the workforce after my own 3 sons were passed this challenging age. I will get to put into practice a second time the things I learned.

The one thing that doesn’t quite mesh, is that I don’t seem to have the same amount of energy I did 25 years ago. Who would have thought? My heart goes out to all those lovely, brave grandparents of my age or older, trying to raise their grandchildren for whatever reasons. They are the true heros.

Just in the knick of time, the truck carrying the big furniture arrived and we managed to find places, although temporary, for it all. Everyone was exhausted including the kids!

What do we like about moving day?...........Bedtime!!!!!!

A Real Family Thanksgiving 2010

The decision to hostess the family Thanksgiving was not an easy one. No one expected me to do this, having lost my husband four months ago, but I felt I needed to get back to a normal holiday routine. I wondered if I didn't find some joy in this holiday, there was a good chance future Thanksgivings and Christmas may be permanently altered. Of course, I weep for the missing presence of Walter, but I know he would want me to go on with my life in the best way I could manage. Life goes on, and what better way to convince ourselves of this fact, than getting together with family. My sons have always considered holidays for family. and this year "Home for the Holidays" should take on a special meaning of "togetherness". So the invitations went out and everyone I invited accepted-----all 18 people!

I really wanted to make this Thanksgiving special and went all out to decorate and cook the main dishes of turkey and ham. Preparing for it, like preparing for Walter’s memorial, was very therapeutic for me. Holidays seem to be hard when you lose a loved one. Although there were times to shed tears, I kept very busy with preparations without much time to think and grieve. Working from dawn to bedtime helped me sleep well enough for each new day. I saw my goal and went to work completing it.

It all paid off in a lovely Thanksgiving potluck, warmly and deliciously contributed by all. We had more food than we could eat. We had good conversation, played some fun games and even had my 4 yr old granddaughter make some crafts with the help of my dear friend. There were lots of giggles and smiles as contestants exchanged socks, danced while humming a tune, held a silver spoon in their mouth (I bet you thought people were born with this---wink!) and had lively debate on whether you would give up kissing or saying “I love you”, and whether you would rather have “smart” children or “beautiful” children. It was the best family time I've had in a long time.  I love my family and our friends felt like family, as well. Everything seemed to click together.
How blessed we all felt. God is indeed good! In the words of Tiny Tim, “God Bless us, Everyone!”

Sunday, November 21, 2010

To store or not to store. That is the question!

The clock struck 4:00…then 4:30. “I really need to go home”, I thought to myself. Yet, with a whole week off for Thanksgiving I just had to wrap a few things up at work. Finally, 4:45 p.m. I’m done.

So….you know the thing about best laid plans are…..that they are likely to change, and yes, mine were disrupted and I had to go to a back up plan. All week I have been trying to clean out my house so my son and his family could move in. Both my son and I had to downsize our belongings and I decided to have a yarn (oops Freudian slip there) yard sale. On Wednesday prior, I go to the City Hall to get a permit for my Yard Sale and this is where I first hear that the forecast is for rain this weekend. I check the weather report every day and by Friday at 4:45 there is an 80% chance for rain starting that night.

RAIN!!!!.....Where am I going to put all this stuff for the Yard Sale? For weeks, I have been slowly boxing up stuff ready to sell and now my garage is full, my house is full, I can’t have a yard sale and I am planning to host Thanksgiving for 18 people. I decide to call out the troups…….my sister-in-law and sons. I decided to rent a storage space nearby and they help me load up the yard sale stuff.

One problem…….I still have a lot of stuff, the stuff I planned to keep still in the house and the garage is full. My sister-in-law has a heart-to-heart talk with me. “You are dreaming if you think you are going to find places for this stuff and have enough room for 18 people for Thanksgiving and your son’s family move in”. I guess I really needed a reality check.

Why is it so hard to let go of things? Believe it or not the things I was most protective of was my fiber stash! The wool fleeces, the lbs and lbs of roving, the hand-spun yarn patiently hand spun on my spinning wheel. There was no way I was going to do anything with it all in the next few weeks. I was so protective and feared moth and silverfish infestation, which is the anathema of fiberholics. I previously had a beautiful prize fleece disintegrate into crumbs while being stored in the garage for a few months. I could just imagine those silverfish feasting hungrily on the fleece with regret. So I gathered up a little faith and lots of courage, had the fiber double bagged in plastic, and waved goodbye with a tear in my eye, to the car loaded with my fiber, driving down the street to storage. Later that day, my family and I went to see the new Harry Potter movie and saw ads for a new cable show about Storage Auction. I think to myself, someone is going to be very disappointed if they ever auction my storage……I hope they like fiber!

I grieve that I hardly had time to get used to all the space and freedom I had, after moving all my sons out and then loosing Walter, and now I think I need to start all over again. I can kiss the 31-year accumulation good-bye. I’m back to living in a one-room bedroom. Some have said that the purging is  good for the soul. I’m not sure I see that yet. I feel this is the start of a very difficult series of events and changes I will need to go through. I’m missing my husband. However, I am glad to be having family and friends come together to celebrate Thanksgiving.

I count my blessings and Thank God for a wonderful church family. Today we had the annual Church Homecoming. I sent out an invite and several responded and came. It was so nice to see them again. I really want to stay in touch. Life and time is too precious to waste. I realize I need to make more time to develop friendships.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Falling leaves

I was driving around doing some shopping and I could not help but notice more leaves on the ground and trees in multiple colors. In California, we have a very short changing of the leaves season. I usually do not notice this much as it goes by quickly, but today the evidence of “fall” was all around. The wind was blowing, large piles of red, orange and brown leaves littered the highways and lawns. I was overtaken by all of the color of it. I felt a little pang of regret that I have never been to the east coast to experience their “Changing of the Colors” in fall. Perhaps, someday.

All of this inspired me to get some decorations for Thanksgiving, as I plan to hostess the family dinner at my home this year. So I venture over to Michael’s, my favorite local craft store and my senses explode with the joy of ………………Christmas! There are Christmas decorations everywhere. The first Christmas carols I hear are being played over their intercom. Did I miss Fall? I must have blinked and it passed right by me.

Fortunately, I was able to find some left over Fall decorations in the clearance section. The next store I went, I had a similar experience. Doesn’t anyone celebrate Thanksgiving and fall anymore? How sad for the times? This little holiday is probably the most important one where we should appreciate, and give thanks to the God that blessed us.

Fall is such a quiet reflective time. As the leaves turn and die, falling slowly to the ground, one cannot help but think about our losses. Of course, heavy on my mind is my husband of 33 years. I am missing his presence in my life. He was a quiet man that preferred anonymity and the self-reflective times of listening to audiobooks or watching movies. He never really had any personal desires to go to places but pleasantly accompanied me and was good company in my desired excursions. Of course, some of these excursions, I went solo, but I am glad that this has given me some confidence and independence as I go through my future without him.

I also reflect of the losses of friends and family over the past few years. Some were lost to sudden accidents and some to illnesses. I miss them too, and grieve for their absence in my life and what the future may have been like, if they were alive today. I grieve for friends and family going through tough times economically now. Never before have we Baby Boomers experienced such a “Depression” like era that our parents experienced. It really makes us think about what is important. It gives us something to tell our grandchildren about our struggles that will inspired them to be survivors, just as the stories our grandparents and parents shared with us did.

Nevertheless, when leaves die, seeds are shed to grow new life. Death always brings renewal. My loss has lead me to renew friendships that are becoming very dear to me. I am striving to renew a purpose of servanthood, wherever I am needed, be it calling a friend that needs encouragement, or baking pumpkin bread to share with workmates and family. My days and nights are filled with purpose leaving me very little time to feel sorry for myself. Thank you, God, for this blessing. Isn’t He so great to know what we need and put opportunities out there for us to take on?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Grief work

I have been staring at my blog for the past 15 minutes realizing that I should write something soon. Some may be wondering how I am doing and others may be more interested in knowing what kind of fibery insights I may have to share. I do not have much to tell except that I am doing well.

I feel the pain of my grieving is getting less as I have passed the 3-month mark. There are moments that I miss Walter and I encounter things that trigger tears and sadness of him not being here, but I am learning to accept my situation more and move on.

As I get through the widow’s work of figuring out the paperwork associated with insurance, and financial settlements, I am feeling more confident. I have learned so much in a short period of time about insurance and IRA’s than I care to, but it is necessary to my survival, especially in these low economic times.

My work continues to be all consuming, as I struggle to add more management responsibilities to my all already overwhelming work responsibilities. I suppose I should feel good that my boss feels I am capable of doing the work, regardless of my loss. However, I have had to force myself not to take work home, as I need this time for me and my grief work. It becomes a shaky balance.

In thinking about grief, I realize we ALL do some kind of grieving in our lives. Everytime we have a disappointment or a loss of some kind whether it be personal, physical, relational or an object, some part of us not only feels sad, but it can cause a little part of us to die with it. Some of it can be resurrected and healed and others cannot. This means it is all part of the cycle of life and we should not hide from it but face it head on. When we do this, it may help us get through it quicker.

So my overall objective is to find “Joy” in life. Even our trials can be considered joyful. How? You might ask? Last Sunday, our teacher/pastor mentioned a Bible scripture, “Consider it pure joy, my brother, whenever, you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4”. What a profound thought!

On the fibery front, I am getting ready to sort out my very large fiber collection and get rid of some of it. I must make room for my son and his family to move in, and I grieve the loss of my fiber storage places in our two spare bedroom. Nevertheless, it must happen and I will need to be selective as to what to keep for my projects. I am still working on my Friendship shawl from the fall issue of Spin-Off Magazine. My goal is to finish by Christmas.

With the holidays around the corner, I am looking forward to them. I love to have family around. Holidays are the times everyone comes home to rest and relax. I want to keep that tradition as long as possible and hope that it will continue to renew our peace and love for each other.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Finding Joy

I’m on a quest of finding “joy”and beauty in the world. I am trying hard to keep my spirits up without any medicinal aids. If I am going to get through this process called “grieving”, I cannot solely rely on medication that would give me artificial joy. I feel I must first explore things that surround me already that I can choose to find joy in.

One of the places I decided to start with is my bedroom. I needed a change. I have always loved patchwork quilts. I guess it’s the crafty/artsy part of me. It is also the pioneer woman spirit in me to marvel at the advanced thinking, planning and working out a pattern that is pleasing to one’s eye that one has the talent to do. So I decided to go on an Internet search for a patchwork quilt. Unfortunately, there was not many choices displayed. Most were very drab color combinations and I felt I needed some rich color to wake me up with joy!

I happened to be browsing through Walmart the other day, and decided to see what the Bedding section had to offer. Lo and behold, something caught my eye and held it. It was a beautiful Shooting star quilt in bright reds, blues, yellow and greens. The main color was red, which is my favorite color. Red represents love and passion and life. I spent all evening dismantling my heavy waterbed by myself to put on a new bed skirt and comforter set. It is absolutely beautiful. It was well worth the effort. Even though, initially, I thought about buying something feminine and “girly”, as I didn’t have a man to compromise with, I think this pattern can be very neutral. I know Walter loved red and would have been happy with this bed cover. Now, I am thinking…….perhaps a little new paint on the walls to bring out the color……..

Next week I will have my sons help me move my recliner in my bedroom, giving me a quiet place to read, knit and think when I want to. I am also working on a Thomas Kinkade puzzle called Make A Wish Cottage. I have always loved Thomas Kinkade paintings of cottages. This one also has lots of color and light. When I am finished with it, I will frame it and hang it by my recliner to gaze and dream at. I dream of having happy grandchildren around to love. I imagine myself sitting in this recliner with one of each side of me listening to me read them a book. I dream of smiling faces wanting to spend time in Grandma’s room to play and find secret hiding places to play “hide and seek”. I dream of having them nap in this room when they are tired from the day’s activities in a quiet place away from the TV.

Happiness is finding “joy”!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down (A Carpenter song)

The weather has changed to fall. Days are cooler, the sun sets earlier and rises later. I suppose some feelings of melancholy are inevitable. Soon it will be three months since Walter passed. I am missing him more each day. The rainy days seem so much more lonely and quiet. The thunder fills the house with empty echos. I curl up and cuddle up to a pillow instead of him. However, God has planned a change.

My son and his family with my two very active grandchildren will be moving in with me for awhile. There are a lot of reasons for this and it seems like this is the best solution for everyone concerned. Still, it will be an adjustment. I will be giving up my quiet and solitude. It will be harder to have privacy and quiet. I will need to find a place of sanctuary within my home. This is a place I can retreat to find my inner peace and listen to God and knit away my thoughts and dreams.

Much has to be done to get ready to have five more people living in the home. I will have to buckle down and get rid of the lifetime of accumulated things. I have saved them, hoping to have them useful someday. I’ve come to a point in my life that “someday” is now past. The things have outlived their usefulness and now these things are just in the way. With Walter’s death, it has become very enlightening to me that you can’t take these “things” with you when you die, so why am I keeping them? Yes, some things are still sentimental and I keep a few because they hold a special memory tied to them. So…..I will be passing some of those “things” around…..some to those who have their own memories to keep and remember, and to those who will make new memories of the “things”.

My new focus will be people and relationships, not “things”. God will provide what I need. He always has. This focus was not easy before, as Walter was somewhat anti-social, but God has given me a second chance to “serve mankind”. I find a lot of comfort in knowing that God isn’t finished with me yet and I must not give up hope. I still can do some service in this world, whether it be in my work, in my friendships or in any other encounter. I am sure God will lead me to the opportunities to minister to people and in this process, I will find a healing from my grief. I have always felt better to be needed and feel an increased self-esteem if I can fill a need.

So as I contemplate the “rainy days and Mondays”, I have hope that after the rain, there will always come the sunshine, and I will be on “the top of world” (a Carpenter song) looking, not down as a God would, but “over” as a helping partner. This is my dream. Is it too much to ask for?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Getting on with Life: Lambtown USA 2010

Several weeks ago, I made a trip to Oceanside with some friends. It was Walter and My Wedding Anniversary. I feel I survived this well enough to feel confident to attempt a trip a little further away from home.

Lambtown in Dixon, CA is an Annual Sheep and Fiber Festival. I asked a friend to go with me this year. This was also a festival that Walter and I enjoyed going to. He liked the animals and I liked the fiber competitions. One year, I had been bold enough to compete myself and came in a decent 3rd out of about a 10 contestants in the Spinning Contest the first year they had this contest. My friend C, is a widow, too, and I felt it would do us both some good to get away and do something enjoyable. Although she wasn’t as interested in fibercrafts as much as I, I think she enjoyed some of it. We were a little disappointed that some regular events such as Mutton Bustin’, Sheep Dog Herding Trials, and Sheep Shearing Competition were cancelled. However, there was still a lot going on and I hope you will bear with my commentary on some of the events.

Lovely Gentle Alpacas

Sheep Ready for Competition

Ungroomed sheep: Ready for Mischief
Jacob sheep
There were a Sheep Show and an Alpaca show. Several breeds of sheep were competing. I especially liked the Jacob sheep that had brown, black and white spots with horns. These are called Jacob sheep because of the Bible passage in Genesis 30, where Abraham agreed to only claim the spotted sheep from his father-in-law, Laban’s, flock to build his own wealth.

My friend liked the Alpacas. They were very cute and gentle. They make such gentle cooing sounds, nothing like the baa-ing of a sheep. There were two or three barns of the alpacas in various black, browns, tans and white colors. Their fur is one of the softest, warmest fiber and is used to make nice comfortable garments.

Weaving a Shawl in the Sheep to Shawl Competition

Judging the winning Shawl: I love the colors
The Sheep to Shawl competition had three groups competing. Only two groups finished on time in 4 ½ hours. The wool this year was CVM (California Varigated Mutant). They created a beautiful shawl. It was fun watch the seven team members, card the dyed fiber, spin it, ply it and weave it on a loom.

A Very Fine Orenburg Lace Shawl: Amazingly Fine
The Vendor hall was full with a variety of Fibers, yarns and accessories for sale. There wer e also some beautiful fleeces to buy and it was very hard to control myself from buying another fleece. I still have some fleeces I purchased a year ago that need to be processed. I may have to send them to get processed professionally. I ended up getting some beautiful BFL/silk blend roving and 2 ropes in the colors of reds and blues of merino/silk and merino/bamboo roving to spin. I was simply fascinated with the Carding demonstration of a Patrick Green production Supercard carding machine. If I ever wanted to process fiber in great qualities, this would be ideal. Alas, I will have to be content with my Patrick Green Deb’s Deluxe for small projects.

There was a Best Spinner Contest this year made up of 5 contestants. The prize this year was a Spinolution Spinning Wheel. We watched as the contestants were given different mystery fibers and demonstrated their spinning abilities. We didn’t stay for all the competition but enjoyed watching what we saw.

Handspinning Competition
The music on the Stage was very enjoyable. They had some Christian, Dixieland, Blues and Bluegrass groups, as well as demos from children’s Dance studio and Karate clubs. We spent a lot of time listening to them.

One of the best things this year was the Food. There were several vendors and a rule this year was that each one had to sell at least one lamb product. After watching a Lamb cooking demonstration, we dug in and bought a BBQ Lamb Sampler: loin, chop & ribs from Superior Farms Vendor. It was absolutely delicious.

A Very Creative Display of Dyed Skeins of Handspun Yarn
Lambtown was a nice weekend get away. We survived it and enjoyed each other’s company. I feel like another hurdle has been crossed. I am still alive and look forward to the next adventure.

Widow's Work

One doesn’t realize that being a widow has a very unique list of tasks associated with it. Using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs there is….

Basic Survival: When a loved one dies, a widow may not be aware of her own needs. She has been so focused on taking care of another, especially if the loved one was ill, that it may take some time to realize that she is still alive. Once this sets in, careful attention is paid by others or oneself to ensure that these basic needs are met, i.e food, shelter, keeping body well, enough sleep, etc. Yes, “life” goes on…..

Safety: A person takes for granted her safety needs while her spouse or loved one is alive, knowing that she can call upon them to help her feel secure and safe, even when not physically present. She knows that she has someone to come home to. She feels protected. Once, that spouse leaves or dies, she has to rethink her resources for safety. Never again will she look at her house and surroundings in the same way. She has to be more vigilant as she enters her residence or arrange to have backup friends, neighbors, pets, family on speed dial or quickly available to help her when her safety is compromised.

Psychological-Love & Belonging: Connecting with other people is vital. Established friendships need to be nurtured and new friendships established. If there are few resources available from family or acquaintances, this is where support groups are helpful. A widow has a lot to deal with psychologically. To get a handle on it, having a friend or family member she can share with, and support her emotionally is so important to moving through the phases of grief. I am trying to send thank you cards to all who took the time to send me a card, do something special for me, or gave me a gift. This is my affirmation that I am loved and cared for. It’s a small task of acknowledgment to send a thank you, but so important to moving through my grief and connecting with people.

Self-Actualization: Building confidence & Self-esteem—Now the hard work of widowhood begins. On the task list: making calls to family, friends, employers and businesses, making claims for life insurance and benefits, planning a budget, getting bills paid, making decisions about living arrangements, taking trips and celebrating holidays/special days without your loved one. As some of these get taken care of, one may also explore doing different and new things that was not done with the spouse. These are all things that build that confidence and work through the grief. I deliberately did not say “ease” the grief. Everyone has a different intensity of the grief they experience and one person’s grief does not fit all. However, building one’s confidence and self-esteem will make life much more worth the living.

Some people are saying that I am doing extremely well with my widowhood. I feel blessed that I have had the very best of resources to support me, a loving family, committed friends, a sense of security and a confidence in my abilities. I know, however, that there will be times of insecurity and emotional instability but, I am blessed with a God, who loves me and will take care of me. My faith in Him is very strong and unwavering.

My supports….

My Traveling friend

My family

My Bible Study friends

Friday, September 24, 2010

September 18, 1976

Thirty four years ago, a young couple, celebrated their wedding day. Yes, it’s that important day again. This time ½ of us is not here. It the first hurdle of difficult days I will have to cross. I have been trying to contain my emotion with busyness and going out with friends. When my friends offered to take me some weekend to their condo near the beach, I thought what better weekend to be distracted than this weekend. I can’t help feel a little melancholy thinking how Walter will be missing this. If he were here we would most likely be taking a weekend away or if we wanted a more low key time, out to dinner at a nice restaurant.

Sept 24, 2010

Well, I have survived the weekend. In fact, it was rather enjoyable and lovely. My friends were perfect hosts and they kept me adequately busy with walks on the beach, enjoying a visit from their daughter, son-in-law, and their three lovely, enjoyable grandkids, a Woody Car Show where we met up with other friends, and shopping at a nearby marina. The things I enjoyed most were the walks on the beach and the serenity it brought to my spirit. The evenings as I went to bed were somewhat teary-eyed as I thought about Walter and wrote a letter to him, feeling that although he could not share it with me in presence, he could in spirit. Had he been able and fit, he would have loved everything about that weekend.

The week following has been stressful at work and nothing seemed to go right. I am trying to just let God lead the way. I am blessed to have good friends available just to chat and debrief my difficult days. To keep my spirits up, I bought myself an anniversary present of the whole TV series of Ally McBeal. It was one of my favorite shows. They really make me laugh and makes me feel that there are times when it is OK to be a little qwerky and deranged, and to not take life too serious all the time.

The other day I was going through my rather large stash of Acrylic yarn to give a convalescing friend who makes lap robes for the elderly and bed / wheelchair bound, and I got that itch again to start something new. I just couldn’t help myself. I found some Knitpicks Superwash Wool and started to knit a shawl for a friend. I am trying to do a few rows a night and hopefully, by Christmas, it will be done. This calming activity does me so much good as I laugh and watch Ally McBeal. I feel I am productive, despite the failures and disappointments at work. This hard week has me thinking of reconsidering my job options.

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,

“You promised me Lord,

that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”

Mary Stevenson, 1936

Friday, September 3, 2010

Starting a New Life

Life does go on, as they say. There is no avoiding it. Either you can watch it go by or step up and get on the Carousel of Life. For me, I have chosen to get on and continue the merry go round of trying to survive in this world alone. Well, perhaps, not so alone.

I am finding the confidence to seek out renewing friendships and taking action to become involved in knowing my friends better and they me. It has been quite comforting and connecting. In fact, I am surprised to find it quite enjoyable. I almost feel like the real me has been lying dormant for a good portion of my life and now that there are no distractions I can actively participate in conversations that are interesting to me. I don’t know why this is such a surprise to me but it is.

My work continues to be a challenge, yet I still plug away and do the best I can there. My family and I support each other in so many ways. We have learned to help each other when needed. I’m just so glad we are all within 40 miles of each other. My home seems to be homebase for family gatherings, which keeps me from being lonely for too long. Family are always popping in to stay the night and it is wonderful. Neighbors are close-by with support as well.

As the holiday season starts, at least for my family, with Labor Day, it gives me a chance to think about knitting projects I will want to make as Christmas gifts. As my social life picks up, spending my time with friends, my knitting time is less, so I feel the need to get started early. I really want to try to do something with my handspun yarn. The start of fall brings thoughts of fiber festivals and wondering if I will attend this year. I am thinking I would love to go the Lambtown, USA in October. I will have to choose carefully who I can go with as I fear this will bring some pleasant and melancholy memories of the time Walter and I spent there together. It was our favorite fiber festival.

I feel God had given me an internship in managing all the aspects of a household for the last two years or so. My internship is over and now is when it really counts. Yet, I still have so much to learn about investing and growing money. It all seems so complicated. I am fortunate to have good tutors available in my parents and friends who can guide me in this. I am very blessed.

Isn’t God good? He has never let me down. I really love and trust him completely.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's the little things.....

This is a time of slow and careful reflection, as you can well imagine. Despite the busyness of work and family, I still have a lot of time to think. I think about the past year and a half and what we’ve been through. I think about the shock of Walter’s diagnosis and as this news sank in, the journey toward building faith, trust and acceptance that God is in control no matter what happens. Even beyond this, the realization that God chooses things to work perfectly and I have no doubt he will continue to do this in my life.

I think about the little things God has taught me through this experience, the little lessons in character building.


I always thought that when God was handing out gifts, he had given me an extra share of patience. Nevertheless, he made sure to give me an extra helping with Walter’s illness. There was so much waiting: waiting in doctor’s offices, waiting for lab and diagnostic results, waiting during chemo treatments, waiting to speak to the doctors during the eight hospitalizations Walter experienced, waiting for the morning to come to report a concern, waiting at home to care for him. Although these periods had the potential for causing extreme anxiety, God also gave me a means of calming my heart and hands and listening to him….my knitting. I made Walter arm warmers, hats and mittens to keep him warm. At other times I made socks and hats for others. It was very comforting and productive and each finished object rewarded me for my patience.


When one hears the diagnosis of cancer, there is a natural reaction to ask God, “Why? Why us? Why now?” When you can get through the shock and disbelief and accept it, one moves through to, “Ok, God. It is there, so will you help us get through this?” There is just no other alternative but to trust that He knows all, He will be in control, and He has a plan.

Compassion and kindness

This is very different from pity and sympathy. Compassion is having a deep heartfelt understanding of another’s plight and imagining what it is like for the other in pain and discomfort. Anyone can “ pity” and have sympathy for another, but compassion goes a step further and does something to make another feel better. I have had a measure of compassion for others, being a nurse as my profession. It’s not always easy to feel the same for a family member, or a person you live with day in and day out. I had to dig deep to show that compassion and caring when Walter was stubborn and I felt he wasn’t doing his part to get better and follow doctor’s recommendations. Despite my fatigue from my 8-9 hr job, I was able to come home to make him comfortable and respond to his needs at a very intimate level. I think he recognized that this was truly from a “Love” for him, no matter how difficult he was. He would frequently say, “How will I ever make it up to you?” His acknowledgement was all I needed.

Courage and inner strength

I suppose it could have been easier to fall apart and let others take over. However, this was never acceptable for me. I have always felt better to have a small measure of control in my life. Looking ahead at the realization of the impact that cancer can do to a person and their future was frequently frightening. There were several times I was so overwhelmed I struggled with depression myself. Yet, there was a realization that a lot of people were counting on me; my workmates and the families and children I serve, my family who looked to me as an anchor in keeping the family home going, and my dear husband who learned to be totally dependent on me, when he could not advocate for himself among the medical professionals caring for him. It took tremendous courage and strength to keep my emotions under control and not break down in a helpless heap of tears. When things seemed overwhelming, I turned it over to God and let him take care of us, which he did in everyway. He lead us to compassionate medical staff at the City of Hope, and he sent people to help us apply for benefits to keep our finances and bills taken care of. He brought generous friends and family who gave us respite and gifts of encouragement. This all helped me have strength and courage to keep functioning, making decisions to get through each day.

Even now, as Walter has passed and I miss him terribly, I keep that courage and strength going as I now have to find a new future without him and a new life. I feel I have become a better person from this experience and hope in some small way I can pass on some of this to those I come in contact with.

“I believe…..Help Thou my unbelief

I walk into the unknown trusting like a child….”

From a Bill Gaither Song

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Redefining My Purpose

It is hard to believe it is almost a month since Walter passed. I still feel like I’m living in a dream that I will wake up from and he will be coming home from the hospital soon.

The Memorial Service and reception was perfect in everyway. We had a beautiful California day in the 80s which is unusual for August. About 150 people attended and most stayed for the reception after. There was good food, good sharing all around and so many generous donations of deserts by the attendees. Everyone had wonderful things to say about Walter. I especially liked the funny things they said which were heartwarming and reflected the Walter I knew who made me laugh. I had a chance to greet most from different groups of people; family, friends, co-workers: mine and his, neighbors and church friends. I really felt we were one big family, which is what I hoped for in this gathering. It felt like a homecoming, meeting in the church Walter and I met, grew in the Lord and married.

As my family and I deal with our grief, we are blessed to have our work to distract us. My sons and I are back to work, trying to live our lives with a special memory of Walter kept in our hearts and with some peace that he is having some interesting conversations with the Lord in Heaven. This gives my heart a great sense of peace and comfort….one that surprised me. As our pastor put it “How can we live in this world without knowing the Lord?” For some reason I don’t have the gut-renching emptiness I had expected. I am at peace, assured where Walter is and that I will someday join him. I have no regrets or guilt to carry. Walter and I were at peace with whatever the outcome was to be. Of course, I will miss him greatly and wholeheartedly….but God is not done with me yet. I feel my purpose goes beyond serving my husband as a wife. I feel I still have a purpose to fulfill.

So as I try to piece my life back together and figure out what direction the Lord will guide me, I have slowly picked up my knitting again. I am working on simple baby socks. I need small projects right now as my attention span is short and there is much I have to figure out with paperwork and maintaining the house, which is now my sole responsibility. I am thankful for a home base my family can come to for respite and relaxation.

Friday, August 6, 2010

This year ---No Fireworks!

How does one account for the worst month in one’s life?

July 4th was W’s birthday! In the past, our family celebrated it together with a barbeque followed by fireworks in the front yard. This year- no fireworks! We didn’t have the heart to have them without “DAD”. W was still in the hospital and fortunately was moved from ICU to a room facing a west window on the 6th floor which was the Bone Marrow Floor. He was still having some breathing issues but not serous enough to stay in ICU.

After our family barbeque at home, we visited W, bringing him balloons and gifts. The nurses had earlier given him a small birthday cake but he was unable to eat it due to nausea. We spent an hour celebrating with him. He was getting concentrated oxygen but I think he enjoyed it. We were unable to stay to see fireworks with him but he told us the nurses turned his bed facing the window so he could see the aerial fireworks over Monrovia.

A week after, he had pneumonia and a virus in the blood which was treated aggressively with antibiotics. W tried hard to get better, wanting to do everything possible to return home. He tried to keep up his strength up with physical therapy but constantly battled drops in his blood pressure. He shared with me that on a good day, the nurses talked him into getting masked and covered to be allowed to walk outside his room in the hall. This was the first time he was able to leave his room in 3 months. It helped him feel like he was just a little closer to going home.

Over the next few weeks his condition worsened to the point of returning to ICU. After another bronchoscopy, the doctors informed us that the bacteria in his lungs was resistant to all the antibiotics and his new stem cells were not strong enough to fight the infection-there was nothing else that could be done. Walter passed into his heavenly home with his family surrounding him July 27, 2010 at sunset. I now have the memories of 33 years of a loving marriage to cherish. .

Friday, July 2, 2010

Hospital Transient

Just when one gets comfortable with the way things seem to be going, there is something that throws a kink in the chain of events.

I wish I could say that W’s recovery is going as expected but it hasn’t. It seems that God wants to keep us guessing what he wants for W. We knew going into this stem cell transplant that there might be a few issues, especially relating to W’s heart. Actually the stem cell transplant, after seeming to be sleeping is holding its own. There is definitely something happening, but W’s CHF (congestive heart failure) is testing the body reserves even more than usual. From the Bone Marrow Floor at City of Hope he developed a minor heart irregularity and was moved to ICU. Weeks later, his heart rate and blood pressure was under control and he was moved to a Telemetry unit to monitor his heart. Now, the fluid retention is still an ongoing problem. Fluid continues to collect in the lungs making it difficult to breathe and he is back on the Bone Marrow Floor. Soon we will be reaching Day 60+ in the hospital. The only daylight he has seen is through his hospital window and when they take him to the x-ray department. What a field trip!

I’m trying to stay calm. Do I have doubts? Yes! God, you are in control, aren’t you? You will make him comfortable, won’t you? He will have a nice birthday, right? I thought when he moved out of ICU, it was a signal that it wouldn’t be long to have him home. I shampooed my carpets today in anticipation. The house should be a dirt and germ free home while he is still immune compromised. I want him to come home.

I arrived today to share my ordeal shampooing carpets and find him moving to another floor and in respiratory distress. Every breath is an effort. My, how things can change in an instant, when you not looking! I feel helpless to see him suffering. I’m numb with confusion. All I can do is hold his hand and rub his head and let him feel my loving touch calming his pain and discomfort. Although, medication is the real relief, putting him into an amnesic stupor. Thank God for small blessings.

I try to remember the Serenity prayer….how does it go again? Stress must be setting in…..

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Thing about Setbacks is.......

W's  pneumonia was a setback that wasn’t expected. It was miraculous that in his immune-compromised state, he had not caught some infection until now. I am very gratified that he is in the perfect place to have it treated quickly. The doctors and staff of City of Hope do not wait for anything. They act quickly, for minutes of delay could cost a patient’s life.

As I followed W down to ICU, and after he was settled, I could see that he was discouraged and feeling bad. I shared with him something a co-worker told me about an email he received. It helped me feel hope, even with this set back. I want to share it with you to store away when you have set-backs.

The Little Things

- By Author Unknown

As you might know, the head of a company survived 9/11 because his son started kindergarten.

Another fellow was alive because it was his turn to bring donuts.

One woman was late because her alarm clock didn't go off in time.

One was late because of being stuck on the NJ Turnpike because of an auto accident.

One of them missed his bus.

One spilled food on her clothes and had to take time to change.

One's car wouldn't start.

One went back to answer the telephone .

One had a child that dawdled and didn't get ready as soon as he should have.

One couldn't get a taxi.

The one that struck me was the man who put on a new pair of shoes that morning, took the various means to get to work but before he got there, he developed a blister on his foot. He stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid. That is why he is alive today.

Now when I am stuck in traffic, miss an elevator, turn back to answer a ringing telephone ... all the little things that annoy me. I think to myself, this is exactly where God wants me to be at this very moment..

Next time your morning seems to be going wrong, the children are slow getting dressed, you can't seem to find the car keys, you hit every traffic light, don't get mad or frustrated; God is at work watching over you.

May God continue to bless you with all those annoying little things and may you remember their possible purpose.

Today Walter had a bronchoscopy (putting a tube with a camera in his lung). This revealed evidence of a fungal infection. As I write now, he is being treated and feeling better every hour, and miracle of miracles his white blood cells are increasing. Awesome! Praise the Lord!

Keep praying. Yesterday W's white blood count passed the magic number of 1000. God is working miracles.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Turning Point

This last week, we reached a turning point. After 30 something days, W’s doctor decided to a bone marrow biopsy to see if engraphment had taken place. The results were positive. Those little donor cells have been sleeping soundly slowly making blood cells. It is well known that cord blood cells take longer to engraph than regular bone marrow cells. This news was a great relief to me, and shortly thereafter, we have seen W’s blood count start to elevate. Although there is still some fluctuation, there is definite increases going on.

Just when I was ready to celebrate and get ready for possible homecoming in the near future, suddenly, there is a set back…….Fever, infection! W is now in ICU. Although things are uncertain right now, I have confidence that the City of Hope will do everything they can to abate and treat this infection. Everything is happening so fast. In the blink of an eye and within 10 minutes, he was moved with all his belongings to an ICU bed.

I should feel quite blessed and fortunate that W was infection free for the 40+ days he’s been in the hospital. This is a true testament of the good care he is receiving. I am also gratified that this infection happened when his cell counts were improving and not when his immune system was weaker.

Lately, I have been loosing my knitting mojo over the past few weeks. All I have been able to think about is getting the house ready for W. I cannot think about any projects that take too much of my concentration. Time and preservation of my energy has been precious to me. I’ve got to keep healthy and yet, get the house cleaned to reduce the chance of added infection when W does come home. Much is to be done….Drapes & blinds cleaned, a good scubbing of the kitchen and bathroom, carpets shampooed, bedrooms dusted & vacuumed.

I’ve been trying to keep some of my knitting mojo by small projects such as knit hats. I made an owls hat that came out nice. I sewed some buttons for eyes to make it really look like owls. I’m now working on a basketweave hat. These mindless projects will likely be donated to Hats for the Homeless.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Plumb flabbergasted.....!

Until now, I have felt I was handling everything fairly well. All the daily things are being done, bills paid, house in some order, work is plugging away, car taken for servicing, W is being cared for at he hospital. No worries… I thought. Then my peace was shattered…..

The other day, I sprug a leak in my refrigerator hose for the ice maker. Coming home to a counter filled with water was not great. Yet, no damage seemed to be evident. Also I noticed a lot of water around my lawn sprinklers that should not be there when sprinklers are off. So now I have two plumbing leaks to worry about. Plumbing was W’s job. I had no clue how to start to fix it. So I talked to W about it. He quickly tells me how to do it, but I try turning one of the valves and water shut-offs and it doesn’t budge. I ask one of my son’s to help me and he looks at me blankly. I realize my husband never taught the boys to fix plumbing problems. What do I do now without calling out an expensive plumber to fix a few minor looking leaks?

I pray…Lord, help me figure out how to fix this!. I get a “Plumbing” how to book. I get some tubing that I think might fix the refrigerator leak and I get the water shut off on my Kitchen cold water to keep the spray from ruining anything else. I am stressed and fretful. I cancel a dinner date with my brother’s family, who was going to take me out for my birthday, so I can work on this while I still have weekend left.

Lo and behold, God answers my prayers. Instead of showing me how to fix it, he sends two people to fix it. My brother brought me my dinner from the restaurant, and also brought his tools to fix the refrigerator leak. While waiting for my brother to show, God sent over my gardener who said he would fix the sprinklers for a reasonable price. I thought how good God is!

I never appreciated enough all the things my husband did. He was Mr. Fix It. Now that he is not able to Fix It, it leaves a big hole in our ability to keep the house fixed. Thank goodness, we have a God who can send us people to help us. He continues to provide for my needs. I am so grateful and very humbled by His provision.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Caregiving: When the going gets tough…..

This has been a hard week. Stress at work, working 8-9 hr days, under a new leadership style, stress with the ups and downs of dealing with W's nausea, lack of appetite and low blood counts, the stress of not knowing when “engraphment” will take place, or if it will ever take place. And then, when you have time for yourself, you keep giving… trying to support other family members with their health needs, and trying to cope with the stress of handling the house alone. It takes its toll on a person.

This week has left me weak and exhausted. In attempts to gain some control of my life, I have decided to take life slower and say no to over ambitious plans to clean my house. I was reading a pamphlet I was sent called “Caregiver Guide for Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant” by National Bone Marrow Transplant LINK. It says “Caregivers experience the same, if not more, distress than the survivors themselves and are usually less likely than survivors to get the help they need”. How true this is! I ask myself, “Who has the time?” It’s not like you can check out of everything.

Well,…maybe you can, but this is not an option for me. As one takes on all of this responsibility, including the superhuman emotional strength to try to keep W’s spirits up, no one realizes, including the caregiver, that this awful sick feeling deep inside making one weepy could be “depression”, which is difficult to control and climb out of. Any little thing can make the world so overwhelming to cope with. It’s like falling into a deep empty hole in the ground without a ladder. Perhaps it’s time to go back to the Prozac……..

Can it get any worse? Apparently, it can, but I’m not ready to share that yet. The worst of my nightmares is about to come true. It’s like an episode of the old TV series, West Wing, where President Bartlett, makes up a terrorist scenario to scare his daughter into taking her Secret Service protection seriously and it actually comes true a season later. I predicted a scenario for one of my sons, and I fear if things don’t change drastically, it is likely to come true. The results of making wrong choices. Is it dejavu or premonition?

So I reach into my coping bag, full of “detachment”, “denial”, “anger”, “hysterics”, “lethargy”, “heart-sickness”, “meet a friend”, “going to a movie”, “buy something”, “binge eating”, “prayer”, “isolation”, “courage”, “crying”, “helplessness”, “sleep”, “mutism”, “suffering in silence”, and what do I pull out…….?

Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with Him

Forever in the next.


--Reinhold Niebuhr

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Owl Sweater Progress

I'm on the home stretch for finishing the sweater.
First owl pattern is done. I've decided to make a second row before I end the neck.
I want to sew some pearls or beads for eyes. Which one look good to you?
Old Beady Eyes!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 16 Post Transplant: Waiting for “Engraph”….

After all this waiting, one might ask what are you waiting for? We are all waiting for “Engraphment”. This is when the donor stem cells migrate to the bone marrow and start to produce red, white and platelet cells in the body. This happens around 2 to 4 weeks.

I was talking to W’s nurse and she shared that in most transplants this happens from the 25 to 40 days after transplant. There is a great website explaining this at

Right now Ws blood and platelet cell count is very, very, low. This is the time where preventing infection is critical, since he has practically no immune system to combat it. He is given blood and platelet transfusion periodically. On the outward side he is doing well. He is still getting up to walk around his room and sitting up in a chair for several hours. His mind is sharp enough to joke around with the nurses and his family and doing Soduku puzzles. We have always called him Mr Pun Man. He is a master using word puns. The Recreation Therapist taught him a card game called Kings Corner. It’s a fun solitaire game with two people. He taught me today, and I got lucky winning both games we played. Tomorrow we are going to learn a game called Traps and Treasures.

The inside of W is another story. Lab results are starting to show some slight changes in his heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. Doctors are monitoring this very carefully, as getting them to work together, eliminating the fluid in his body, is becoming a challenge. The major culprit is his heart and history of heart failure (CHF). We knew, if anything, this might be the kink in the chain of risks coming into this process. We need to be praying for this right now. The heart needs to pump effectively to prevent the other vital organs from being affected.

The doctors are pleased at what they see on the outside, as they say, and if they can get the heart working well with medication, all should be OK. I have to say, it is a pleasure to discuss W.’s condition with the City of Hope doctors. They really listen to family members. They give a significant amount of time listening and answering questions. I have never seen such dedicated MDs and nurses in my experience. This is saying a lot as W has been hospitalized in several hospitals and I have worked in others, although be it many years ago.

Knitting: I am still plugging away on the Red Owl Sweater. The Owls are half done. I will be doing the second cable soon. This is an ingenious pattern. As the weather starts to get warmer, it may be too hot to knit wool, so I am trying my hardest to finish this sweater/cardigan.

We've had unusually mild Spring this year in Southern California. I cherish the mild sunny days in May. Flowers are still blooming and my front planter is looking marvelous, especially since I hired a gardener. It makes me wonder why I didn't do this sooner. For over a year I have valiantly tried to care the the yards myself, when W didn't have the strength or energy because of his cancer. The gardener is worth every penny. Seeing the flowers and lawns look so nice just lifts my spirits to no end and I thank God for such a gift of beauty.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Post Transplant- Day 13: Hair today….gone tomorrow.

After coasting along without any serious side effects other than the usual fatigue, we have hit a more than minor snag. W has been experiencing fluctuation in his blood counts needing transfusions of blood and platelets. He is feeling more nauseated and believe it or not he is losing his hair. After several courses of chemo over the last year, he has never lost his hair until now. The nurse noticed it on his pillow. He would reach up to smooth his hair and end up with a handful. Fortunately, he doesn’t have much to lose. I keep telling him I will bring him one of my knit hats to keep warm, and that now he fits in with the rest of the patients on the ward, who already have shiny pates. We tease each other about this to keep his spirits up. The hardest thing is the nausea. This means he is not eating and it is possible the doctors will put him on IV nutrition to keep his blood sugar under control. He had been eating so well over the last 13 days that I thought he was looking rounder around the middle, perhaps even gaining weight. We are told that it takes longer for a cord blood transplant to start working well. Does this mean that W. will be in the hospital longer? Time will tell.

I’ve been working full-time days lately. After work I go see W. and then come home to catch up on some chores and emails. I think all this is taking its toll on my energy level. The stress at work right now is not helping. This week is Staff Appreciation week, but I can hardly enjoy it.

One thing I will have to share from work is what happened yesterday. One of my coworkers found out that yesterday was our new boss’s birthday, so we planned a surprise potluck. Everyone was to bring something. There were no plans for a gift so I decided to buy some flowers for her from the entire staff. Before she arrived I put them in her office. Unknowing to me, there were four other staff members who did the same after my contribution. Someone came to me and said, “Have you seen the boss’s office? It looks like a garden!”. Apparently 5 other coworkers had brought flowers too. She was definitely surprised!

Status on the Knit Red Owl Sweater….I’ve joined the sleeves and body. Had a little difficulty getting the amount of stitches correct for the Owl pattern, but now have started in on the Owl pattern for the yoke. There going to be a lot of owls. I hope it will look right with the decreases.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 4 After Transplant---Coasting along….

Everything seems to be going very well. Day 1 was very uneventful. There was no unusual reactions, except for the normal fatigue. The nurses were declaring his response as “exceptional”. Compared to other patients going through the same procedure, most had been put on TPN, which is IV nutrition, by the second day.

Day 2 and Day 3, W started to feel a little queasy and had less appetite. He had to make a conscious effort to drink some soup and applesauce (one of his favorites). His white cell blood count continued to decrease. This means that the chemo and radiation was doing what it was intended to do and that was to kill the cancerous lymphocytes (white blood cells) and that his blood cell count was decreasing, as expected. However, this low count lowers his immune ability to fight any germ that takes hold. Therefore, he is confined to his room.

He has a very nice private room. It is about 15 x 15 room. It has a beautiful view of the valley and nearby freeway from the 6th floor. He has all the amenities of a hotel: TV, VCR and DVD, a private bathroom with shower and daily maid/PCA service. His nurses are very attentive. One night while using the bathroom he bumped his hand and scraped it on something, making it bleed, while trying to navigate the IV pole around. He wasn’t sure what to do for his bleeding hand so he pulled the emergency cord and all the nurses on the ward came running to help. Sheepishly he told them what he had done, but they were quick to call the doctor to get an antibiotic to prevent infection, knowing how a little infection could be deadly. I have a very high regard for the caring and diligence these nurses demonstrate in everything they do. I believe there is one nurse assigned to two patients.

To pass the time W has his laptop and I pod. He likes to watch movies on Netflix and listen to audiobooks and read the Entertainment and Popular Science magazines I bring him. I come to see him everyday and he appreciates the visits from his family. When he gets “ansy”, he likes to pace around the round and do his physical therapy exercises. He remembers all too vividly his last hospitalization and the debilitated condition he was in from being in ICU for two weeks. He is determined to prevent this from happening again if he can help it. I am so proud of how he is taking an active role in his care and recovery. It would have been easy to let others do it for him, but he has learned this will not get him home any sooner. When his blood count gets to a certain limit, he will be allowed to venture out of his room with the protective equipment on that all his visitors and staff have to wear in his room: gown, gloves and mask.

Another result of the chemo is a lowered red blood count. When the red blood cells, which carry oxygen, get too low, a blood transfusion is needed. W has needed blood transfusions on Day 2 and Day 3. On the second transfusion, I noticed a tag on the bag that said “designated donor”. This means that W is getting the blood from the generous friends and family who agreed to donate. Thank you so much for your love and gift.

It is with utmost certainty that W’s condition is a result of all of people praying for him. God has answered in a very clear and positive way. He is listening to all the prayers you have sent up for W. We both appreciate them so much.

Knitting things that comfort and calm me while W recovers:

1) Brown variegated pair of socks on dpns.

2) Red Owl Cardigan on circular needles

3) Pink lace scarf on circs.