Friday, August 27, 2010

By Special Request...

Years ago a dear friend taught me that if you half the amount of brown sugar in any cookie recipe and then add that same amount of flour extra to the dough it promises to make fluffier cookies without losing any of the sugary sweetness. Following that rule of thumb along with my own tweaking over the years has caused this recipe to be my personal favorite and what I feel to be..... the perfect creation.

Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies

Blend together:
1 cup melted butter
3/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs

Mix with:
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups flour

Then add:
1 12oz bag mini chocolate chips
1 12 oz bag toffee pieces or approx. 6 broken up toffee candy bars

Drop by small spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet (at home I use a flat stoneware) and bake 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes until the tops and edges begin to turn golden brown. Let them cool for just a few minutes before moving them to a cooking rack.

Enjoy and praise God for the joys of sweet gooey chocolate and buttery warm toffee.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Back Home...

Since my last entry much has happened. Daddy has been progressing in his PT and OT and has hopes of his release date to be September 1st. Along the way, there have been some hiccups.

The dementia came back strong with his fatigue from therapy causing a handful of nights where I have gotten a call from his nurse saying she found him on the floor after trying to walk on his own. Each time it was God that carried him across the floor because his hip was fine and he only carried a bruised ego. There were quite a few nights when I chose to spend the night in the chair next to his bed because I could tell he was too tired to remember his surroundings and current situation. Too many times to count I stopped him from getting out of bed without calling for assistance. There were also different situations where I found that he wasn't getting the correct medications and it caused a lot of frustration for me to try a talk with the doctor and staff. Our oncologist had warned us that there would come a time when we would know more about Daddy's daily care than the doctors assigned to him. I just never realized that would come at the price of battling....I'm sorry but the only thing I know to call it is arrogance.

Leaving to come back north was a hard thing to do and prepare for but I knew I couldn't protect him 24 hours a day. The day before I left I made him a batch of his favorite oatmeal cookies and gave him this as a birthday present.....

It is 2 pictures from yester-year. One has Daddy and I on the front porch of our South Dakota base housing and the other is my brother and I with Daddy. I made a scrapbook frame for these and added a poem I had found on the web titled "My Father...My Hero". When I gave it to Daddy it was a day for him to be more out of sorts than together so it got nothing but a blank stare. But I put it on the window sill next to his bed where I knew it would get his attention every time his eyes opened.

I also found him a power lift recliner off of Craig's List and boy am I excited about that. He lives in his recliner at home and doesn't like to lay in a regular bed. But watching him struggle out of his regular recliner these past few months has been torture to watch. This fall has given me the perfect excuse to bless him with a lift recliner without making him feel useless. I told him it was a birthday present and he is excited to try it out.

When it was time to fly home, I had previously thought I would be crying and worrying about leaving. It turned out though that I was too tired to be emotional. After sleeping in the hospital for several nights in a row, the dense cabin pressure of the airplane was a welcome relief and I quickly passed out for most of the flight. And then on the second part of my trip, God blessed me with a wonderful woman of encouragement. As we shared pleasantries while boarding the plane we quickly decided it would be nice to sit next to one another....and you have to know that is a big commitment with someone you've just met. We talked about God, family, Daddy, hope and futures.

When I landed Hubby and girls were there waiting for me with hugs and tears. Any amount of time away from home is hard but 3 months felt like an eternity.

After that the whirl of the weekend began. I was so anxious to see everyone but fatigue was battling a strong hand on me. Friday night was filled with rehearsal dinner and family. Grand kids ran circles around us and the familiarity of the sing song way they giggled "Grandma and Grandpa" tickled my smiles. It seemed everything made me cry that night.....our son and his wife are expecting another blessing in a few short months, a picture frame gift from our daughter the bride, knowing looks and well meaning questions from many times I found myself behind the closed door of the bathroom just so I could remember to breathe and clean the tears off my face.

Saturday was THE DAY, the day that lives forever in the memories of every bride...and her parents. It was absolutely beautiful. I was so taken in with the beauty of it all that it never occurred to me to take any pictures. Thank God for the photographer and other family members who had their senses about them. Here are a couple of shots that were sent to our cell phones the next day. I am sorry they are so small. I can't seem to figure out how to enlarge them at the moment.....

Hubby and daughter walking down the isle.

Hubby and I.

The wedding party in all their splendor.

The next day we were able to spend some time with our son and his family as we toured along the downtown river and amusement area. While the older children had fun eating corn dogs and smashing bumper cars, Pippin and I played with the youngest blessing now 9 months old. I know I was a horrible influence but we couldn't help but giggle at introducing her to the taste of soda pop. She smacked her lips together as she reached again and again for the bubbly refreshment and even let out gasps and sighs to let us know she really liked it. All in all she never really had much. I was careful not to give her more than a drop each time. Then quick as a wink she cuddled up in my arms and went to sleep. As if my heart couldn't melt anymore.....

Now we are home and I am trying to acclimate myself back to these surroundings. It is hard to jump back into a daily routine when we have all become accustomed to doing different roles and responsibilities.

I have been able to spend an afternoon with my mom which was all too short but I am grateful all the same and look forward to much more before I head back to Texas. I have spent many hours on the floor with my fuzzy boy dog that I love in the most ridiculous way. I have been able to see some friends and that was oh so very good and heart mending. When I dropped the girls off for camp the other day I was bombarded with hugs and screams of "Mama Julie is back!" That of course was followed by, "You are coming with us to camp aren't you?" Don't you just love it? I am so spoiled with the youth wanting me around all the time. Even young lil' Micah surprised me. At 6 months old he took one look at me and reached out with both hands like I had just cuddled with him yesterday instead of 3 months ago.

Tomorrow is another day for adventure. Hubby and Puddin' are running in the Hood 2 Coast relay. I am driving down to Cannon Beach for a long over due visit with my dear friend there and then we will cheer our team across the finish line on Saturday.

I am so grateful to be home. When I first got here Daddy had called me twice in a 3 hour window of time and he was so tired I couldn't make out a single word of his conversation. I only knew he missed me terribly and I could hardly stand it. But since then I have talked with Daddy every day and I can hear his progress in his voice and in his speech and it gives me hope. For the moment he is where he needs to be and I am where I need to be.

I am grateful for cooler skies and refreshing walks in the shade of evergreen trees.
I am grateful for the patience, encouragement and support of my family and friends.
I am grateful for God's smiles of encouragement in those close to me and in new friends.
I am grateful for the stopping of time when cuddling with the innocence of a child.
Thank you God for your presence that never leaves and never stops.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I am Breathing...

After my last entry Daddy made huge progress. When I got to the hospital that morning the nurses were meeting me as I walked down the hall with, "He is a totally different person! Wait till you see him!" He looked at me when I came around his privacy curtain with his smiling eyes that bubble over with affection and I couldn't help but tear up. I hugged him hard and we spent the day visiting in between his naps. He joked with his nurses and shared great gratitude at their patience and care of him over the weekend. The physical therapist got him out of bed for a while and though it was very painful for him, he really did great.

Wednesday he was released from BAMC for the rehabilitation center at a hospital closer to home. Yesterday morning I got a call from his nurse that began with, "Your dad is fine. I just want to let you know what happened." Good grief! As much as I want to know everything that goes on and it is the best way to prepare a conversation....I sure dislike that statement.

Apparently he had quite a vivid dream early in the morning that caused him to believe he was in another time and place and he got himself out of bed to go look for the person in his dream. I am a horrible judge of estimating distance but I'd imagine he hobbled around a good 14 feet before falling down at his bathroom door. I don't know how long he lay on the floor before his nurse found him. Despite walking full pressure on a broken hip and then falling, he is totally fine. He has a single abrasion on his arm but was able to do a full day of PT and OT without complications. Hallelujah how amazing God is!

Daddy was very embarrassed that his dreaming caused so much trouble and worried they would still think he had some dementia going on. We have opted to turn on the alarm on his bed that sounds with any big movements.....and boy does it work. It went off last night every time I leaned over to hug him. I told the nurses too that I will just stay there if I need to. He hasn't been alone in so long. I didn't get any phone calls last night though so the alarm must have worked. He has always been a huge and vivid dreamer. I should have stressed that to the staff but his dreams don't normally get him on his feet.

They have Daddy working so hard at rehab. His day starts at 5:30am with doctor rounds and morning preps. Physical therapy begins at 9am and alternates with occupational therapy throughout the day until 2:30pm. This is more exercise than he has had in months. He is so used to sleeping several times in a day. He was absolutely wiped out last night when I was there. Every few words he would check out to dream land. I think it will be good for him to have this to focus on but at the same time I hope they are sensitive to his situation of not having a lot of reserves with fighting back the chemo and cancer.

As If I Needed More Action

Wednesday morning I had gotten up and packed Daddy's bag for transfer. I got myself ready and then let the 5 fuzzies out for a few minutes of sun. When I went to call them in I did a head count and made eye contact with each one as I was rounding them up. Our "lil' woolly bear"
Tia decided to play Houdini on me though. Here is a picture of her so you can be overcome with the desire to squeeze all fluffy 7 pounds of her.

I paced the yard examining the fence line to make sure there were no holes to disappear into but I couldn't find her anywhere. I couldn't just call for her either because at 12 years old her hearing isn't the best anymore. Finally I brought out Conguito and Tia's sister Paloma because they have a nose for being overly curious about everything. They both beelined for the shed and commenced to digging and whining at one corner. Only when I laid on my belly in the dirt could I see her little eyes staring at me too scared to come out. She was under the shed for an hour before I was able to grab her by her hips and pull her out. Then she trembled and curled up in my arms with her signature "pigeon cooing" noises.

Much of BAMC is under construction so it took me a while to stalk someone for their parking space. As quick as I could, my intention was to grab purse, suitcase and coffees and head up to Daddy's room. I am normally smarter than this my desire to be efficient I ended up locking everything in the truck. The keys were in my the truck. My cell phone to call for help was in my the truck. Daddy's wallet with the spare key was in his the truck. My comfort mocha that I sip on for a mental hug....was in the truck. I tell you, given our continuous threatcon level, praise God I had clipped my military ID to my shirt before exiting the truck. I had to go to the hospital front desk, call for a lock smith and then call central security to get authorization for the locksmith to come on base. Fun fun all went quick and was over within the hour. It just didn't fit into my mental plans of the day and I sort of wanted to slap the private that suggested it was a "woman thing" to do when he had no idea what I have been through lately. But I kept my cool.

Yesterday I made a batch of my favorite recipe.....chocolate chip toffee cookies and took 2 plates full of them to the nurses on 3East. Along with those plates I added one of those huge traveler boxes of Starbucks coffee with all the fixings. (The whole time Daddy was in the hospital I was sucking down at least one grande mocha a day for my breakfast/lunch and many made comments about being jealous at my comfort cup.)

I plan on making another batch this weekend so that I can be sure to hit all shifts and different work schedules of everyone that was so caring and patient with us. Sure it's their job to tend to the sick but with all the stress and high level of maintenance it would have been easy for them to 'cast lots and draw straws' for who's turn it was to go in our room.

One Week

This time next week I will be on a plane in route to see my family. I am so excited. Here is a recent picture of my girls that they sent to me from a day on the river with friends. Tomorrow my wonderful Pippin will be an amazing 19 years old and Puddin' is quickly rounding out her 16th year with grace and ease.

Well, I am headed out to lunch with my cousin before we go see Daddy today so I had better get ready.
Thank you thank you thank you for your encouragement and prayers.
God bless your week with peace and destiny and purpose.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Waiting To Exhale....

It has been such a long weekend.
It turned out that Daddy had a bad reaction as the anesthesia began wearing off. Apparently there are times when the flood of anesthesia that is built up in a person's system can cause a temporary form of confusion and disorientation.

His doctors held back a little bit on his pain medication thinking that it would help him in his clarity and get passed the anesthetic hump. But in retrospect I think holding back the pain meds put him into a state of delirium. He was in so much pain that he became unable to communicate and babbled incoherently. Severe dementia set in quickly.

Daddy became severely agitated. He was combative and hostile and didn't know who I was. We took turns sitting vigil over him to try and bring comfort and safety. He was so panicked that he had to be restrained after pulling tubes out and then even with me right next to him he pulled out his feeding tube from his stomach.

While all of that was going on we couldn't get him out of bed and post operative pneumonia set in. His resting heart rate was 130 all weekend and he was without nutrition since he first fell and I had disconnected him last Tuesday night.

Through it all I tried desperately hard to focus on each moment and not think of anything else but last night was a breaking point for me.
Daddy had slowly calmed down throughout the day with round the clock morphine and 2 units of blood being administered to a more restful sleep and then about 8pm he open his eyes for a moment and I could tell he actually knew who I was. His chin trembled as he whispered "pain" and pointed to his j-tube site on his stomach. His nurse was right there with another dose of merciful medication and he drifted off to sleep.

As I held his hand other things transpired around us that still makes me sick to my stomach. The charge nurse and room nurse were working over Daddy's bedside and conversing with one another about life beyond work. One looked at the other and with a loud booming voice said, "Well you know my philosophy. You work hard, life is rough and then you die." Oh my goodness! I know and understand it is easy to get callous and forget to be professional at times but wow that was so inappropriate. Here they were leaning over a man diagnosed with stage 4b cancer and a broken hip and they are making sarcastic ignorant comments about life.

I was too horrified to even confront the situation. I just kept looking at Daddy's hand as I blinked back tears. Then later through a phone conversation I felt beat up and chastised after being told that I had held back incorrectly an important medication that I thought Daddy was allergic to.

I know it was wrong and lies were seeping in with the mounting fatigue but I couldn't fight back the thoughts that I made a mistake with the medication and it could mean the difference in the pneumonia winning, that he had pulled out his tube on my watch and was on day 4 of not having a drop of nutrition because I didn't catch him fast enough, that he fell in my care in the first place.

I couldn't fight anymore. The doctor had ordered an aid to sit with Daddy for the night, so I kissed his forehead and made my way to the car before breaking down. I cried, I hyperventilated, I screamed and beat on the steering wheel till I could no longer feel my hands, I cried until sound no longer came out anymore and I was spent before I was able to drive home. Then a fresh wave hit me in the driveway and I started all over again. After a fitful few hours of sleep I got myself ready for the day and headed back to the hospital.

Then the miracle happened. Daddy opened his eyes and smiled at me. Recognition and relief washed over him as clear as if I were reading the words tattooed on him in black and white. Then he started crying and whispering "I love you so much" over and over again. Throughout the day he carried on complete conversations with me and others who came by. I re-oriented his memory and hung pictures of family by his bedside. He participated in physical therapy, used his spectrometer, and even ate some applesauce.

His feeding tube was replaced today and we were able to start up his nutrition right away.
When I left tonight he was too weak to hold anything but he could speak clear and strong for anything he needed. He felt it very important to stress that I must not change my plans in going back for the wedding. He was adamant that the wedding is too important to miss and oh how I love him for that. Even in his pain and nightmare weekend he is still thinking of what is important to others.
I was able to pray with him tonight and he heard and agreed with every ounce of it before telling me to get a good night sleep.

I am very much looking forward to seeing him even better tomorrow after a night of sleep.....
and then maybe I can exhale.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Partial Hip Arthroplasty......

It ended up that surgery was performed yesterday and I am so grateful. It was a super long day with delays, tests and re-tests but once Daddy was in the operating room everything went well. I thought about putting a diagram here so you can see what was actually done but then decided to respect that not everyone has a visual tolerance for medical details. If you are interested in seeing diagram drawings of what hip arthroplasty is you can view this link. hip replacement

If even the suggestion of describing makes you queasy, skip this paragraph because I am going to describe what they basically did now. Once the doctor was able to really view Daddy's hip he found that at the compression fracture point the ball had rotated a good 180 degrees and wedged into the hip socket. That turned a 3 hour procedure into 5 hours. He replaced the femoral ball with a titanium ball, drilled down the length of his femur bone and then placed a rod down almost to his knee and cemented it into place for stability.

Because it was 2am when they wheeled Daddy out of OR, the recovery department was closed. He was placed in ICU for the rest of the night to let the anesthesia wear off and sometime this morning they ought to be able to remove the ventilator and he can go back to his regular room.

Once my cousin and I were able to hug and kiss him last night we both let out a huge sigh and then fell into each others arms crying and praising God.

The suggested plan now is for him to rest today, on his feet Saturday and then check out Sunday/Monday to a rehabilitation center for intense physical therapy.

That is the update for now.
Thank you for your prayers, support and encouragement. I am so grateful for you.
Have a fantastically blessed and destiny filled day.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Compression Fracture....

Tuesday at 11pm I ran through all of my normal bed time things: medications for the dogs and one last romp outside. (Conguito killed another cat that night. Goodness I wish those Ferrel cats would stay out of the yard. He turns into such a possessed animal when a cat is in his cross hairs. It's awful.) Then I did Daddy's night medication cocktail and set up his morning dose so I wouldn't have to use my brain first thing in the morning. I also set his feeding pump to run the night. Took out the trash and loaded the dish washer. Shut off the tv and flipped light switches. Then I stood in the kitchen so that lil' grandpa Jito could focus on my feet until he fell asleep. (Because he has Alzheimer's he gets disoriented and scared and that makes him pace and bark incessantly. You may think it is an awful thing to say but between that and his congestive heart condition I have been so tempted to slip 20 Benadryl into his medication plate. But it is so not my place to make a decision like that.)

1am my head hit the pillow. That is how my evenings typically go and I fall asleep without much effort at all.

3:15am I awoke to a crash and Daddy yelling for me. He had gotten tripped over his own feet while getting out of his recliner and couldn't move. After untangling the pump from around his body and moving furniture around we managed to get him standing up but he couldn't put any weight at all in his right leg. It took some firm suggestions on my part but he finally relented and let me call for an ambulance.

4 hours went by in ER and loads of doctors in and out of his room. We did x-rays and found he has a compression fracture in the neck of his femur. Then they sent in an orthopedic oncologist in. It never occurred to me that there would be a specialty like that but I think it is an amazing thing of God that even though it is a rare specialty they would have a doctor like that right at our hospital.

That doctor's concern was that the cancer had settled into the bone. A compression fracture in that area happening from a simple trip fall to the floor is a pretty difficult thing to accomplish and he said the bone in that joint looked like powdered chalk in the x-rays. So we set up for a detailed PET scan and MRI to figure if the cancer has spread beyond the 4 basic points we have been concentrating on. We spent all day processing that thought and wrapping our brains around it. The other thing we did was work feverishly on managing Daddy's pain level. He was beside himself until about 7pm before his body truly started obeying the narcotics.

9:30pm the doctor called Daddy's room with the test results from the PET scan. Praise God! It is not cancer in the hip bone! So it must be that these months of chemo treatment has caused stress and degredation in his bones. Other tests will tell us if there is anything else to worry about.

10pm I left the hospital, took my cousin home, played with the 5 dogs and dispensed evening meds and then hit my pillow at midnight. I woke at 7 this morning in the exact same position.

When I go in this morning I am hoping to have the rest of the results and more of a game plan in mind. The last I heard they were talking about a partial hip replacement tomorrow afternoon.

I have to confess that I was very nervous how things were going to play out yesterday. For Daddy, I knew the doctors would care well for him. My concern lay in being kept in the loop. Even though I am living here and being his care provider, I am not his point of contact nor do I have power of attorney. Daddy set things up months ago for my cousin and step brother both to have those in their names. It is logical. They are both nurses and they live here. Now that I am here I know Daddy doesn't want to hurt any one's feelings and push them away by changing things into my name.

Honestly I worried about being patronized and told to go home and rest. I worried that the doctors would tell me I am not privileged to be in counsel. I worried that big heavy fire security doors with the "authorized personal only" sign would close in my face with me on the wrong side. I could handle the trauma of the fall but I couldn't handle the thought of being shut out.

None of that nature happened though and I am so grateful.
Thank you God for Your grace and mercy.

It's interesting. On Tuesday during the day Daddy got a spurt of energy at home and was moving around like I haven't seen him move in months. He all of a sudden was determined to do some things in his office. He did a stack of birthday cards and bill paying and organizing. While I was watching him I was reminded for some reason of the nesting instinct that a pregnant woman gets before labor sets in. His was on a mission and nothing could stop him. Now I understand why. While I know it certainly wasn't God's will for Daddy to have a broken hip, He did make it so that he didn't lay in that hospital bed frustrated over things not tended to.

Time for me to get going to the hospital.
Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.
I am so grateful for you!
Be blessed immensely!