Friday, December 31, 2010

in review













Wednesday, December 29, 2010

easing back in

Trying to wrap my head back around the routines of work, of making a living. We head back to town today for three days to do a small job and to see what else I can jump start. No one really is being too serious about working this week, sandwiched as it is between christmas and new year's. I meet with the art consultant tomorrow to see what we can do to help him promote our work better.

I'm not looking forward to being back in the city. The old house there is suffering from having the life stripped out of it. The ceiling fan in the living room no longer works, the kitchen sink is stopped up, the termites are inviting all their friends to the feast. It is cold and unwelcoming. What a dump. Sad to see it in this condition, abandoned after sheltering me, my family, providing us safe haven for so many years.

I want to stay home, snugged in my country house, gazing out the window at the fallow fields waiting for their spring planting. I want to stay home where, when I look out the window as I sit at my desk/drawing table, I can see the large shrub right outside and watch the birds that seem to find endless interest in it.


Fast forward a few days. I wrote the above while waiting, waiting, waiting for the cat to show up so we could load up and leave. She finally strolled in just before 9 PM Monday night so we had to get up early and get on the road yesterday getting here just in time for my morning appointment. Now that I'm here, it's not so bad. We got the little job done and the guy picked up the glass yesterday. We're heading back home today a day early because the other thing I wanted to do can't be done this week.

It's raining out there, badly needed rain. I just wish it wasn't raining right now. We had planned on getting more plaster and silica flour for the casting molds and the rain puts a big damper on that. hee hee


Thought I'd show you how the wren box is progressing.

the rough cast wren inlay piece

excess glass ground off

carving the depression for the cast wren piece

wren inlay in place

carving the texture on the box

finished texture with wren inlay in place

The casting mold has been made but not steamed out yet.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Thought I'd try my hand at a little haiku.

fold bereft of crop
winter sky hovers above
bare furrows exposed

bare furrow exposed
shivers under cold gray sky
a dream of green growth

to dream of green growth
sleep deep in winter's embrace
bare the fertile fold

Sunday, December 26, 2010

keeping my finger in the pie

I hope everyone had a joyful day yesterday. We went over to my sister's house for a late lunch/early dinner. It was cold and windy and overcast. Not very beckoning. Except for that one foray out, we spent the day on the couch snoozing and reading and watching movies.

I actually wrote two posts yesterday and deleted them both. The first one sounded too depressing so I tried again with the same results which was curious because I'm not feeling depressed and had had a fun week, if a bit tiring, with the g'kids. But the major event of this month put a damper on any christmas/holiday post I might have made, the holiday season was a non-event for us this year and the document where I keep my ideas and work on posts had me singularly uninspired.

In fact I'm still a bit uninspired, still drained I guess from the whole death experience. So why, you are probably wondering, am I writing at all? Good question. See the title above.

I like this day of the year a lot. The big run up to christmas is over, no more pressure for us to go out and single handedly save the economy, no more christmas carols twisted for marketing, no more christmas music in the stores. Hallelujah! Christmas is over and it's not Marcmas yet.

Now begins the week of reminiscing, the lists of best and worst, the tidying up of the events of the year. The firework stands are open and I believe I will joyfully see this one out. I haven't had time to work on my cast projects since before Thanksgiving and I am anxious to get back to them here at the tail end of the 'lost days'.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

the horde

two of the little darlin's

Three teenagers and one 10 year old leave little time for reading and writing therefore I am woefully behind in keeping up with blogland. Mostly what I have been doing is cooking and cleaning up and going to the grocery store. Even when I'm not doing the cooking, I'm still doing the cleaning up. Cooking and cleaning up for six people is way more work than doing it for just two people although I have been getting an occasional helping hand from one or two of the girls.

We have, so far, replaced more than half of the 580 gallons of water in the turtle pond in a failed attempt to clear it up some since the filter is not doing it's job, gone over to my sister's house and pestered her until she ordered us away, set up the tent outside the back door so they could camp out overnight, had a little fire in the pit and roasted marshmallows; played games...Clue, Scrabble, Rummikub, Monopoly among others; had the toilet in the little bathroom overflow. There's been bike riding and skateboarding and monopolizing my computer. Oh, and did I mention the cooking and cleaning and laundry? Lots of that.

And this is just the first two days.

I'm not getting much sleep. The cat comes in in the morning to eat and leaves again. She's not used to the noise and energy levels either. The nice part is that the weather is very warm. I think we hit a new high record yesterday, nearly 80˚ and today is shaping up to be very warm as well so a lot of that energy is being expended outside.

Today I am taking them all to the movie in an attempt to get a couple of hours of peace and quiet, if you call sitting in a theatre at full volume peace and quiet. At least it will be different than the constant chorus of 'granny, granny, granny!'

Not that I'm complaining mind you, I love that song.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

tis the season reprise

(also intended to post this much earlier)

Because of this over-abundance of holidays and celebrations in five short weeks, I am somewhat of a holiday scrooge. I don't adhere to any religious doctrines so the religious aspects of these holidays have no meaning to me. As the years progressed and the children grew up and my parents passed away, I let more and more of the trappings go. I am mostly non-observant. I buy gifts for my grandkids, kids and sister but that's about all. I don't decorate although I enjoy seeing others do so and I don't do any holiday cooking although I will happily consume anything anyone wants to share.

I wonder how much of what people do in this season is generated out of a real desire on their parts or a subliminal product of the carefully cultivated and programmed script created by capitalism of what we should be doing, should be feeling? We are inundated during this time of year with the image of the perfect family with the perfect tree in the perfectly decorated house opening the perfect gifts (that actually make your loved one cry with happiness) and eating the most perfectly prepared food. No wonder depression skyrockets this time of year. I'd be depressed too if I had to endure all that perfection. ba da boom (that's a joke, Ah say, a joke son.)

Not to mention the frenzy they whip up over the shopping and the bargains and the whole Black Friday thing with the news reports consisting of how full the parking lots are. It's a horrifying spectacle, like a train wreck, watching those masses of people streaming into the stores after standing in line all night as if they won't have another opportunity, fighting over merchandise (lady, it's just a TV!). One woman they interviewed on Black Friday started listing the stores she was going to after she left wherever it was she was. I don't know what kind of a job she has but I sure would like to know if they're hiring. hee hee (That's another joke.)


All four grandkids are going to descend on us on Sunday for three or four days so perhaps I will indulge in some holiday cooking. Maybe we'll try cream puffs with real vanilla pudding of the cooked variety and not that white whipped stuff you get now. I've never made them before but they were always a favorite when I was growing up.

Friday, December 17, 2010

tis the season

This was my intended post for the Monday after Thanksgiving, the day we took my brother-in-law to the emergency room, so it is a little out of date.

Thanksgiving usually marks the beginning of the Lost Days for me. Lost Days because if I haven't accomplished it by now, it's probably not gonna get done this year.

Usually the days between now and New Year's find me short of time and with too many obligations. Usually, we are struggling to finish a job before year's end which gives me little time to spend on preparing for all the holidays that are crammed into this short spate of time. And believe me I think everyone of them is celebrated amongst the family. Thanksgiving, Hannukah (which is stupid early this year, I will barely have digested my Thanksgiving meal), Christmas, Marcmas (as we refer to Marc's birthday and the three day celebration that accompanies it) and New Year's. I say usually because this year we are in-between jobs. Plenty of time to shop and prepare for the different holidays, for a change, but little cash with which to do it even if I was so inclined. Right about now we are questioning the wisdom of paying for the new AC/furnace we got last July in full instead of financing it. I'm not too worried though as it already looks like next year we will be back to work. In the meantime, we are being frugal.

One of the things that makes these the lost days is that the closer we get to christmas, the harder is it to get any kind of business done but most of what makes these days lost though, is all the socializing among the family and friends. Easily 7 events alone among the family starting with Thanksgiving and ending with New Year's Eve. Throw in the three days of the studio glass open house, start adding in parties (assuming of course that we get invited to some) and it's enough socializing to last me for a whole year.

In fact it sends me into near total isolation in January and February.

Obviously, some things referred to have come and gone while we were busy elsewhere. We are relieved that there will be no Marcmas this year. Usually his birthday is when family members come into town from Denver and Dallas to do all the holiday visiting and exchange gifts. In the past there has been a night out adults only pool tournament, a bowling party for all the kids and adults the next day and then the third day one of the brothers will have a gathering of the clan at their house. Fun but exhausting. The Denver contingent has a new wife and so they are going to Florida to be with her parents this year and what with the poor economy the Dallas contingent doesn't feel like doing the traveling.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

and now for something completely different...

L'chaim! To life!

I spent the last two days cleaning house and studio so neglected over the past two and a half weeks, reconnecting with the daily rituals of the living, picking up the strands of art and business, wandering the yard.

Would you believe I am still picking up pecans?

Next week my house will be filled with life. All four g'kids are coming for 3 or 4 days and we will be crafty and cook and play and laugh.

I can't wait.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

close encounter of the dying kind

This has been a sobering experience. It has been my first close encounter with death, the first time I have participated in a dying, the first time I have cared for a dying person. Certainly, I have had people die in my life...friends, family, but it was always at a distance. My grandmothers, my maternal and paternal aunts and uncles, a few friends, my parents and an occasional aunt or uncle through marriage. I have seen some of them in various stages of decline but it is the first time I have seen a dead body up close. I had never been present at an actual death and whenever I had been at a funeral with an open casket I would never purposefully look.

When my father died I did not go spend time with his body because I knew that he would not have wanted that and when my mother died, I couldn't bring myself to look at her dead body. I don't know what I expected or feared. My brother-in-law looked exactly the same and stayed warm for a long time. That surprised me. I have held dying and dead cats and they get cold quick.

I'm not afraid of death, haven't been for a long time, not since I gained a certain understanding. And my sorrow at Mike's passing is not that he passed but that my sister is bereaved. I mean, I have sorrow that he died so young but I don't think death in and of itself is a terrible thing. We are born to enter and we die to leave.

I think what upsets me the most about all this is that it is so close. It was my sister's husband. Not just my generation but my family. If it could have been my sister's husband that means if could just as well have been mine.

And that is something I don't care to contemplate.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

the end

I was standing at the sink running hot water into the side with the dirty dishes trying once again to get the kitchen cleaned up thinking I would be glad when all this was over, sad but glad. No sooner had that thought passed through my head when the phone rang.

He's...come now. Come now.”

I had been at my sister's most the day while their close friends came and went and had just returned an hour or so earlier. The pump on their well had stopped working and they had no water in the house. My niece's boyfriend was rummaging around in the barn looking for a volt meter to see if the pump was getting power. I dashed home to get ours when my sister called to say that Pete had found the problem, it was a loose wire. Earlier I had been indecisive about whether to stay or go, Mike's breathing had been very labored and shallow all day, but now that I was home, I decided to stay.

It only took five minutes to get there but he was already gone. He had skipped a breath, panted a few times, paused, panted a few more times and then nothing. He died with his wife and the two daughters he had raised as his own by his side.

It was two weeks. Two weeks from diagnosis to death.

I stayed with my sister and nieces. The hospice nurses came and called his death and called the funeral home but it would be two hours before they could come. My sister's friend Donna returned and stayed for a while but by the time they came for the body it was just the four of us. My sister couldn't watch them wrap and remove the body so I did it for her, finally standing on the edge of the drive watching until the hearse disappeared into the night.

Once home again, I couldn't sleep and slept poorly when I did finally close my eyes. Yesterday I was just so tired I did nothing but sit and read and nap. Our brother arrived yesterday evening as did Mike's son and I had meant to go over and greet them but in the end, did not. Plenty of time today for that. The memorial service, the celebration of his life, is tomorrow evening and then on Thursday everyone leaves for their respective homes leaving my sister alone in her house for the first time. I may spend the night with her. We'll see. Depends on what she wants.

So, I'm glad. Sad but relieved. The world does not stop, life does not stop. Things and people I have ignored for the last two weeks are clamoring for my attention but they can wait a few more days.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

the other side of birth

Michael Hugh Nash left the land of the living on Sunday, December 12, 2010. He opened his eyes for the last time at 12:40 AM, he drew his last breath at 6 PM.

He was not a perfect man but he was damn good.

and so ends the great chicken experiment

Yesterday morning the daughter and son-in-law of a friend of my sister came and fetched all fourteen of the chickens. They chased them all around the chicken yard with a big net until one by one they caught them and put them in a big dog kennel. Then they carted the chickens, the feeder and waterer, the nesting boxes and the hay bales away. My sister, who has spent a fair share of time chasing those chickens around, remarked when we laughed at the spectacle of the catching of the hens, that she often thought to herself “What the heck am I doing chasing chickens, I'm a city girl!”

So no more fresh yard eggs for us until we find a new source.

She's been wanting to get rid of them for a while now but her husband Mike liked having them. Chickens need daily attention and right now chickens are the last thing on her mind. Besides, they weren't paying for themselves. It cost her more in feed and scratch every month than she got back in eggs. You need to have either just a few chickens or a lot of chickens to make it worth it.

She spends a lot of time contemplating her future life while Mike sleeps, can't even begin to visualize what spring and summer are going to be like. She has never lived alone. Back when, a girl lived with her parents until she married. After her divorce her two girls were still young and then she remarried. Now, her husband lays dying in the living room.

It's not been as hard as I thought it would be, to help her, to sit vigil over him as he becomes less and less responsive, to hold his hands when he becomes agitated, to soothe him, praise him, to let him know it's OK to go. When he's not grimacing in pain he looks much younger. He's lost a lot of weight and the skin on his face has smoothed out, his 63 years of living slipping away. If you look just at his face...his forehead, eyes, nose, can see the handsome man he had been.

Yesterday his elder step-daughter and his best friend, the one who had sat with him in the hospital one day, arrived. He woke up for them, his eyes alert as he mumble/whispered. Speech is really beyond him now unless he is extremely agitated and then every curse word he ever knew comes out clear as a bell. Today his youngest step-daughter is coming over and tomorrow his son arrives. Earlier, my sister and I weren't sure if Mike would last til then but judging by his small rally yesterday we think he will.

Monday is also his and my sister's 30th wedding anniversary.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

metastatic carcinoma unspecified

That's the diagnosis on his discharge papers. What that means is that the cancer is rampant in his body, in every organ and bones and they haven't been able to determine where it originated from. They will eventually be able to determine that but it takes time consuming and difficult staining of the cells to examine the insides of the cells which is why the results from the bone biopsy were/are taking so long. Without the test results to back them up, they can't say it positively but they are as positive as they can be without those results that it originated in his lungs. Which stands to reason since he smoked two packs a day for 50 years, starting when he was 10 and only quitting about three years ago.

I left here Tuesday to head up to the hospital so my sister could go home to get a good night's sleep and start the arrangements for the hospice care. She came back to the hospital Wednesday morning to consult with the doctors for the final diagnosis and sign the necessary paperwork. They decided to go ahead and discharge him without the results of the bone biopsy which they still did not have conclusively. When we questioned the need for this final test result since there was no treatment that could save him, they told us they needed it for the death certificate. They gave him three days to three weeks.

I asked how the death process would go. The doctor told me that once home the calcium levels in his blood would start to go up again and he would start to exhibit the same confusion he was experiencing when we brought him in. He would probably go through a period of irritability and then as his organs started to shut down, he would go into a sleep from which he would not wake up. His breathing would gradually become slower until he finally just never breathed in again.

My sister left, while I stayed, to go home again so they could deliver the bed and the other equipment they would need. Unfortunately, they forgot to get her to sign the DNR-in-transit paper so as an 'authorized family member' (one of the options) I signed it. They ordered the ambulance, disconnected him from the monitors, took out his IV and dosed him up with morphine. The ambulance arrived about 6 PM and then I had a long two hour drive home. I was met by my husband with a glass of wine, a good dinner and a blanket on the couch while he did the dishes, a reception made all the more poignant by the knowledge that my sister is losing her partner.


Family members are coming in. Both my children visited him last Sunday in the hospital. His step-daughter (whom he fathered longer than their natural father) was with her mom and helped get the house ready. His other step daughter who lives in Albuquerque is coming in on Saturday. His son from a previous marriage is due in on Monday. There are other family members from whom he is estranged, all his blood relatives and his daughter (twin to his son), who are not coming and, in fact, have not even been notified. That can wait til it's done.

We are hoping Michael lasts and with some of his mental capacity intact until his son can get here. The hospice nurse who was there last night to receive him from the ambulance service thinks the process has already started. He is losing circulation in his feet and circulation to the extremities is the first thing to go so that the body can put it's energy and resources into protecting the torso and brain but even the brain will be sacrificed for the heart, lungs, kidneys. Hence the confusion of his mental faculties. My sister thinks he is waiting for his son whom he knows is coming. She thinks he won't last past that.

Monday, December 6, 2010

what did I come in here for?

Thought I would lighten the mood around here a little bit. I had several posts written before the floor shifted beneath us last week.

I heard recently that statins have been implicated in memory loss so it's a good thing I only take the lowest dose of my cholesterol drug otherwise those signs you see on the highways proclaiming 'missing elderly' might be about me.

I swear, my short term memory has gone missing. I put a pan of water on to boil for oatmeal, for tea and turn my back. Just like that, it is forgotten. I wander to my worktable and carve a bit on some wax. I wander outside drawn by the birdsong. I feed the turtle or check the ground for the last of the pecans or greet the day's blooms on the confederate rose. Any number of things vie for my attention. When I finally remember the pan of water on the stove it is half boiled away and I must start over. This time I linger in the kitchen.

I am easily distracted. Oh, I can focus. Intently. To the exclusion of all else. But unless I am zeroed in on a particular activity, I tend to flit from thing to thing. Like today. It's also the reason that it can take me three of four attempts to do or get the thing I set out to do or get. The minute I am in another room, poof. My purpose is forgotten and other things start clamoring for my attention. Finally I will make it back to my starting point only to realize that whatever errand I had set out on went undone. So I try again. And again.

I seem to have forgotten how to spell too, not that I was ever a great speller but I was, at least, adequate. Now, with these automatic spellcheckers, I am constantly having to make corrections. Some of that can be attributed to clumsy typing and I swear there are days when I can't seem to type worth a flip. But then there are those stubborn words that refuse to be corrected no matter how many times I replace the 'a' with an 'e' or take out that redundant consonant or add the extra one in or substitute the 's' with a 'z'. I seem to be consulting the dictionary more and more.

I don't know if these memory 'lapses' are due to the drug I am taking now or the copious amounts of different drugs I took in the past or just because I'm not dead yet. I don't think I'm in danger of wandering away. Well, obviously I will wander away, that's already been established, but I don't forget where I live so I think I'm safe. For now.

But regarding those highway signs? Keep your eye out for me anyway, just in case.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


I've been thinking about pain lately, physical pain, about how invisible it is. Unless you see someone grimace or hear them groan you have no indication that the pain is there. It is a completely internal experience and different people experience it differently. I have a fairly high level of tolerance to pain and my daughter has such a high tolerance to pain that her ectopic pregnancy nearly killed her before she finally hurt enough long enough to go to the hospital.

Those of us who have a high level of tolerance can't, I think, comprehend those that don't.

When my brother-in-law, Mike, first started complaining about the pain in his shoulder and right arm (which the doctors now think was simply arthritis and not damage to his vertebra), we expected he should work it off by being active, loosening and warming up the muscles. We all know the less you do, the less you are able to do. And at first he did. But as the pain spread and intensified, he did less and less until he nearly quit moving at all. And as he moved less and less, I'm afraid we weren't too kind in some of our thoughts judging his actions to be out of lack of effort. Our inability to feel his pain or relate to it caused us to be callous. Of course, we know now that something terrible was going on inside him and we had begun to suspect something dire in the last 6 – 4 weeks.

When we were moving Mike from the recliner to a wheel chair, from wheel chair to front car seat, totally inexperienced in doing this sort of thing (and just where was our advanced wilderness first aid, where we learned how to do stuff like that, when we actually had to do it?) the day we took him to the hospital. The three of us had to lift him up and out and turn him to get him seated. The minute we picked him up, from behind and sides, he started to slide down so that by the time we got him half turned, his seat was too low to get onto the seat and we were having a hard time keeping him from falling onto the floor. It was horrible but we did eventually get him in the chair and again into the car while he cried out and cursed with every small movement. I say horrible for us but we didn't feel a thing. I can't imagine how awful it had been for him.

Now that he is in the hospital and is on real pain management, he's come back to himself a little bit even if his decline has not been arrested. While I stayed with him last night, having slept really all day, he was awake all night. And so was I. Not only to keep an eye on him, to keep him from pulling at his IV or dismantling his heart monitor (which he did in the 30 minutes I was gone for breakfast) or even to help him eat but because these are the last days I will have with him. He's been a part of my family for a very long time and I'm going to miss him.

Friday, December 3, 2010

one day at a time

This is how the sky looked last Friday morning when I got up.

I'm afraid my postings are going to be a little narrow of focus for awhile. We are playing tag team over the next four days or so, my sister and her daughter and a friend today and I so that there is always someone there to help my BIL and be his advocate while he is in the hospital. He has been moved to a regular room and the nurses are very busy. He is eating again so that's good but he is still mostly supine and needs help eating and drinking and stopping him from fidgeting with his IV and oxygen.

He is still an invalid and his mental clarity did not return. He still gets confused, forgets things on the one hand. On the other, he knows who people are and you can have conversations with him as long as they aren't too long. Now and then his charm and humor show through. He knows now that he has cancer but he also thinks he has had a heart attack. I don't think he knows that he is dying. And he wants to come home. I don't even want to think about that part of it yet.

It's a sad sad situation as Elton John would sing.

a learning curve

This weekend is also the holiday glass art open house that we are participating in. Our friends the glassblowers host this at their studio every year. Marc is having to do it without me though I might drive to Houston after I leave the hospital on Saturday, spend a few hours at the open house to see my friends.

Since we just started making some new cast work what we are going to have at the open house is our learning curve. All the stuff left over from when we were first learning how to do pate de verre. A lot of it we gave away (holiday gifts from us were very predictable for a number of years), some of it we sold and the rest got put in boxes and stored. When we first spread it all out I thought we couldn't possibly sell this stuff, it's our history. The story of our learning. Each piece evoked a memory of where we were and what we were doing and what we were learning. I selected a few pieces to keep, looked the rest of it over for a few days and now feel no qualms about getting rid of it.