The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Friday, May 30, 2008

So Long Hedley...

We lost one of film's funniest actors yesterday. Harvey Korman died at the age of 81. In a career that spanned 40 years his best known role was probably that of Hedley "don't call me Hedy" Lamarr, the conniving politician, in Mel Brooks' 1974 classic Blazing Saddles. But as much as I love that silly movie my strongest memories of Harvey Korman are from the The Carol Burnett Show. He was a central player on the show for 10 of its 12 year run from 1967-1978. Harvey played the eternal straight man to the antics of Carol and the incomparable Tim Conway. Who can forget his portrayal of Rhett Butler to Carol's Scarlett O'Hara? Or Harvey and Carol trying desperately not to laugh at Tim's ad libbing? Along with Vicki Lawrence they were the original Dream Team. Thanks for the laughter, Harvey. Sweet dreams...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Music In The Family

If you've been reading my blog you've undoubtedly heard me refer to my cousin, Paul. His mother is my dad's younger sister. Paul lives in Haymarket, Va. with his wife, Genelle, and their boys Zach and Austin. Aside from his day job, Paul is a singer-songwriter and musician. His latest CD is called I Wish My Girl Was This Dirty and I've borrowed some of his lyrics for my Lyrics To Ponder on the sidebar. Paul calls his music "Rock for grownups". I think he has a little something for everyone on this CD. I especially like the last four songs. If you are looking for new music check out Paul's website.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Puerto Rico, Here I Come!

I've been promising Karen that I would come visit again ever since she moved there in 2002. She keeps saying that she'll believe it when she sees it. Well, I hope she's looking, 'cause I'm on my way! I land in San Juan on the 5th of August and will be there until the 19th. Karen has arranged for me to house sit while I'm there which will pay for most of my plane ticket. She manages 17 vacation homes on the island of Vieques and the owners of one want a house sitter for a couple of weeks. Vieques is about 20 miles long and 5 miles wide and is absolutely beautiful. Most of the tourists get no further than the main island so Vieques is very quiet and there really are no crowds on the beaches. Karen has even offered to put me to work while I'm there just in case I don't want to lay around on the beach every day. So I guess this will be sort of a working vacation. What a deal!! And a great way to end the summer!

If It's Tuesday It Must Be Belgium

I went to the doctor yesterday. Everything is healing as it should. I even got back into my jeans yesterday! I've been wearing comfy pants for the last couple of weeks since the surgery and it feels so good to put on my jeans again. I feel like I'm really dressed now.

I wanted to do some traveling this summer but I didn't want to make any plans til after the surgery and until I knew if there was going to be anything else to deal with in the coming months.

Now that I know everything is OK I can make my summer plans. Shauna is coming for a few days weekend after next. Hooray! Then the middle of June I'm going back to my cousin's house in Virginia. His son Zach is graduating from high school.

Next on the itinerary is a trip to see Nikki in Germany on the 18th of June! I'm using the flight voucher with USAir that I got last July when Michael and I let ourselves get bumped on our way back from Dublin. I'll be in Germany until July 4th. We're going to go to the Rodenbach pool! Talk about memory lane! I'm hoping to get back to Paris for a few days, too.

I'll have about 3 days after I get back from Germany until it's time to use another voucher and go to Seattle! This one is through Alaska Airlines and I got it last December when I volunteered to get bumped going from Seattle to Denver. The hitch is that Alaska Airlines doesn't fly out of Pittsburgh, but they do fly out of D.C., so I'll drive to Paul's on the 8th, stay over night, leave my car with them and Paul will drop me at Reagan National the next morning. Nikki arrives on the 10th so I get 12 days with all my chickens in Seattle! Amy has offered to take me kayaking! That sounds like a blast. I'm anxious to see Michael's new car, too. He has always been very conservative and driven only what he can afford. Since he got his job at Boeing he can finally afford a nice car so he bought a 2006 Accord. Everyone says it's really nice and I'm so proud of him for waiting until he could afford it.

Nik and I both leave Seattle on the 22nd. She is going to Green Bay to spend time with the other half of our family (Wade, Sarah and little sisters) before heading back to Germany at the end of the month. I'm going to Colorado from Seattle to spend a little over a week with Ruth and Bill. I'll fly back to Seattle on the 31st and and then back to D.C. from there on the 1st of August. Paul will pick me up at the airport and I'm going to hang out with him, Genelle and the boys for the weekend. They have a boat and Paul says they are out on the river almost every weekend during the summer so that will be fun.

The other trip I want to get in this summer is a couple of weeks in Puerto Rico visiting Karen. I haven't booked anything yet. I'm still looking for a cheap ticket for the first couple of weeks in August after I get back from everything else.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Musings on a Rainy Day

My recuperation is going well. Nikki left on Saturday and I miss her terribly. It's wonderful to see the kids when I get to but it's always hard for the first few days afterward. I'm kind of housebound at the present. I see the doctor on Monday and I'm sure he'll release me to drive next week but in the meantime.....
So I've sort of given my car keys to Steve while I'm out of commission. He's loving being able to drive to and from school and where ever else he needs(!) to go. The deal is, though, that he has to drive me when I need to go somewhere. I really don't mind him driving my car. I guess it's just one more thing that I can do to continue to build our relationship. He really is a great kid and pretty much has my heart wrapped around which ever finger he chooses!

Pittsburgh is quite the sports town. At the moment everyone is consumed with Penguin fever. The Pens are up 3 games to 0 over the Philadelphia Flyers in a best of 7 match up to see who goes to the NHL Stanley Cup finals against (probably) Detroit. Game 4 is in Phili tomorrow evening. I'm not an ice hockey fan but Steve has just insisted that I should have a Penguins shirt so he and I went to the sporting goods store today. We chose #58, a player named LeTang because he's a rookie this year and so am I. So I guess I'll be wearing my Pens shirt tomorrow night along with about 90% of the rest of Pittsburgh!

I'm really missing my long daily walks. I started walking around the block a couple of times a few days ago. I'll build back up to my 8 miles a little at a time, I guess. It's been raining off and on most of today but I got in a walk a little while ago.
When I got back to the house I just didn't want to go back inside so I decided to get my book and sit out on the porch. I brought Lucy out with me. She loves to come outside and explore. I followed her around the yard for a bit while she smelled everything and ate some grass and then finally convinced her to just settle down next to me on the wicker couch. So here we sit, Lucy and I, watching the misty rain as the evening deepens. It's starting to get a little chillier now so we'll probably go inside soon but for now we're content.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Beltane/May Day

May 1st was Beltane, a very important day in the ancient calendar. It was the day when the Celtic people of the Isles would celebrate the rebirth of Spring and the hope of fertility, as Samhain (sow-en), represented the celebration of the harvest in Autumn. As I was busy having my own little unfertility ritual on that day and I didn't get to blog about Beltane on the day of Beltane, I'll do it now.....

According to

The word Beltane literally means, "shining fire." This is one of the most exciting festivals of the year. It is also one of the only holidays that is usually celebrated in the light of day.

The collecting of spring flowers is one of the popular customs of Beltane. For thousands of years, people would go into the fields to collect the pretty flowers and exchange them. Townspeople would often proceed through the village streets putting flowers on all the houses and buildings. People inside the homes would offer them wonderful food and goodies to eat as sort of a spring version of "trick or treat."

Another benchmark tradition of this holiday is the Maypole. In tradition, a fir was used. The young, unwed men would go to the forest and return with the tree that would be fashioned into the pole. The pole was brought to the center of the village to be guarded through the night until the first day of May. On that day, the people would come and dance around the maypole clockwise to bring fertility and good luck. Later, brightly colored ribbons were woven around the pole by the dancers as they wove around eachother. This symbolizes the balance of masculine and feminine energies and the duality of life. The ribbons would then be removed and kept in a safe place to be burned in the Beltane fires of next year. This action represents the old dying to give birth to the new.

Fertility is a central theme of Beltane. The people lived in close connection with the Earth. To have food to eat, the crops and the beasts of the fields would have to be fertile. In the time of the ancients, this was a life and death matter. For this reason, we have a number of holidays and rituals that are connected with fertility.
When I was a child we would make small paper baskets the day before May Day. The next morning we would get up early, fill the baskets with wildflowers, leave them on the neighbors doorsteps, ring the bells and run. That way, when the neighbors came to the door they would just find the flowers and not know who left them. That was in the mid 1960's. Even then, the leaving of May Baskets was a dying tradition in this country. My grandmother told us to only leave them at the door steps of our older neighbors. It would bring a smile to their faces to see that there were still a few children who had been taught about the tradition of their own childhood. She explained to us that it was a way to celebrate the coming of Spring. Little did my grandmother know how far back this innocent little exchange reached into our pagan roots!

Baby Steps Back

Well, I'm feeling human today, but it has been a tough week. Healing from the actual surgery has been the easiest part of this whole ordeal! The worst part has been all the extra complications. First came the migraine on Friday, the day after surgery. Then the reaction to the anesthesia that created a viselike feeling in both shoulders on Sat and Sun, and the awful gas that about brought me to my knees on Sun (although this was expected and normal). To top it off I caught an intestinal infection right after I got home! I lost track of about 30 hours from early Mon til early Tues. The doctor told me to go to the ER to get checked out and he called in a script of antibiotics for me. Tues was still kind of a rough day but things have gotten so much better since that night. I'm not really in any pain anymore. The appetite is coming back a little at a time (I've lost 10 lbs!) and I know from past surgeries that it will be a good while before I get all of my strength back. But I'm on the road. Nikki changed her plane ticket so she's staying until Sat. Yay! I sent her out with Sherry this afternoon to do some shoe shopping. She has been so focused on me for the last week that we all figured she could use a few hours of distraction to clear her head. Well, that's about it. Just wanted to let you know how goes the war! Hopefully I'm on the way back to normalcy now. No more talk of cancer. Just healing and getting back to life!

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Price of Gas

Hi Everyone! It's me! It's a little after 6pm on Sunday and I've been home for almost 2 hours now. Leaving me tucked up in bed, Nikki and Steve have gone to get my prescriptions filled. Sherry is flying and will be home Tuesday evening. So Nik gets to play stand in mom to Steve for a few days as well as nurse to me.

Nikki has been an absolute angel. I can't imagine what I would have done without her during the past few days. She didn't even have time to deal with her jet lag before she jumped in with both feet. Sherry picked her up at the airport Thursday night and brought her to the hospital Friday morning. Just now is the first time she has left my side since she got here. She has fed me, washed me, massaged me, gotten me in and out of bed, and helped me to take baby steps up and down the hallway, all the while keeping the rest of the family in the know and even posting to my blog for me!

The last few days have been rough. It would have been so much easier if all we had to deal with was just the post-op recuperation but it was the added issues that complicated matters. Nikki wrote about the migraine on Friday. That was horrible enough but as soon as that was resolved I developed gas pockets in my shoulders, a normal and expected complication from the anesthesia, according to the nurse. It didn't hurt as long as I was laying down but as soon as I would get out of bed to go to the bathroom or try to walk a bit, it felt like both of my shoulders were caught in vices. It has made moving around very painful but movement is the only way to work it out. Then there was the little matter of needing to pass gas before I could be discharged. It's required of every post surgical patient and (believe me!) much easier said than done. Surgery messes with your bowel system and I blew up like the Hindenburg! Between that and the shoulder pain I spent several hours this morning in excruciating pain. Neither one of those problems has completely resolved themselves yet but they will in time.

As for being 4 days out of surgery, I'm actually doing well with the abdominal healing. The worst is definitely behind me. I can get in and out of bed myself now and it was easier than I thought it would be to get up the stairs to my room when we got home this afternoon. All in all, after a rough few days, I'd say I'm doing pretty good now. And the best news of all is that there is no cancer! The day nurse today told me that I was her only non-cancer patient. I simply cannot express the relief I'm feeling right now.

I want to say thank you to all of my friends and family who have been so supportive during the last 3 months. I love you all and look forward to pestering you for many years to come!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Open wide for the airplane, bbrbrrbb

Thank goodness, it seems the migraine has finally had enough cavorting around in Mom's skull! It's left some achy footprints behind, so she's still not entirely 100% (above the neck), but at least things are calmed down enough to focus on healing below the neck.

She's giggled, as much as her stitches allow, that it's payback time. I'm helping her to pee, to eat, to get in and out of bed, and to take little baby steps down the hallway. She was so weak last night that I was able to overpower her and force-feed some pudding. We almost dribbled all over ourselves as I tried not to make her laugh, guiding the "airplane into the hangar". She's done pretty well with the food and liquids today. We graduated from the IV and she's actually consumed -- gasp! -- a half-cup of yogurt! You know you're feeling like crap when you haven't eaten since Tuesday and don't really care.

Mom probably won't be discharged before tomorrow, but things are definitely comfier and she's much more alert and coherent. She'd like to thank everyone for their phone calls, emails, flowers, and other outpourings of support and love.

Meanwhile, I think I'll pick up this phone and order some coffee!

The Good, the Bad, and the Tasty

Well, good middle of the night, everyone!

Foreign correspondent Nik here, to report on the latest events from the Magee Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

First thing's first: there is not a sign of cancer!!! The doctor came in to confirm their original impressions (though the official pathology report will take a few days yet), and we went just about giddy. He said they opened her up and everything apart from the mass looked clean and healthy. They didn't even bother to remove the appendix, which they were planning on doing. Best news possible at this point!

What made today particularly difficult, though, and all but eclipsed the discomfort of post-surgery, was the migraine. It started quite early on -- around 8:30am -- but because they have to put in an order from the pharmacy every time a new medication is called for, the Imitrex didn't reach her in time to act as any sort of prophylactic. And anyone who knows Mom's migraines knows that once it reaches that point, there's no stopping it. Thank God they had already given her anti-nausea medication earlier, or she'd have been vomiting from the pain. But frustratingly, the staff didn't seem to realize that this wasn't some mildly uncomfortable "headache" as a result of the surgery: this was a separate, excruciating, urgent condition that was likely triggered, but not caused, by the surgery. They of course had no experience with Mom's notorious lack of response to narcotic pain medication, and so kept trying to tell us that the morphine drip she was already on for the surgery itself should "take the edge off". I realize they were just trying to follow procedure, and, not knowing the patient's background, wanted to start out step by step, experimenting with the smallest little half-measures instead of just slamming it down in one fell swoop. But they also wouldn't listen to us! We repeatedly reassured them that we knew exactly what had worked in the past and what hadn't, that we'd already done this whole series of trial & error at the VA hospital in Tucson, so just give her the damned Demerol and have done with it!

Well, to skip over the next *ten hours* of hemming and hawing on their parts, being first inactive and then indecisive -- Mom ended up swimming in half-effective narcotics, pupils the size of purely theoretical particles and remarking that now she was on drugs and suffering a migraine -- the staff finally changed. A brusque Valkyrien doctor came swooping in and declared first her name, then her intention to get Mom's head out of its vise. She was followed by a competent, businesslike, thoughtful young nurse who anticipated all of Mom's needs, checked back frequently just to give us updates, and who then decided to just go forward with the Delaudid (a Demerol counterpart) while we were still waiting for the order to be written, because Mom had "waited long enough for it." Huzzah! I think I must send both of these women chocolates.

So now she's finally getting the closest thing to peace she's had all day, and I'm settling in on my little trundle chair. She still hasn't eaten anything, but hopefully now that the migraine is on its way out, she can focus more on getting her belly to heal. I'm in suspense to see how she feels in the morning!

All inconsiderate, non-Demerol-dispensing, first-round doctors aside, the Magee Women's Hospital is awfully nice. It looks more like a fine hotel, with spacious, elegant, oak decor -- even the curtains covering the large windows of our room are done up in a sort of rose-and-gold, softly Klimt style. Mom has her own room, replete with bathroom. And get this: the food isn't automatically brought to patients on a sort of "here's lunch" schedule. Instead, each room comes with a truly gourmet menu -- seared ahi tuna, anyone? -- provided room-service style! You call down anytime between 8am and 11pm, order whatever and however much you'd like, and they bring it on up. This probably works so well because most patients wouldn't have much of an appetite between surgery and being discharged. But their guests do! Guests' trays cost an extra $6.50, but hey, for all you can eat off a restaurant-quality menu? Bring it up!

Well, I think I'm going to try to join Mom in the shuteye department. Things are only looking up from here, and she's being well looked-after now. I'll send any updates as they arise!

I hope everyone is having a happy, healthy day. Love to all!