Monday, December 29, 2014

Fake Christmas Eve

So thankful Chris did not Miss- the plane in Detroit. The NH Vick-Jensens arrived on time ( a little early, in fact) and Fake Christmas Eve went off without a hitch. 

Cal repped his school (Illinois State), Grandpa rocked the Benji's, Magic Mike debuted a bunch of hysterical card tricks (he has the appropriate schtick), Susse Caramel all around, WATCH THE TOE. Chris made photo collages for each family of never before seen material including a picture of Mom and him as an infant (aka Aunt Joyce and Fletcher), Pat-stasche, Ethan drinking (holding) a beer at age 6 months. 

Played my game Linguistical Feud, no surprise Richard and Betsy's team won by a landslide with their consummate knowledge of Southern slang, French, British, New England, Aussie, and even Concrete slang. We learned some useful stuff (mun=man bun, Gesundheit=good health, not bless you, Monkey Dick=phallic shaped vibrator used to consolidate wet concrete, pop=lollipop, sucker or popsicle). 

Passed the torch to the next generation for strawberries this year. Mom was coughing, I had chipping nail polish I didn't care to remove and Betsy begged off for unknown reasons, so Eli, Adam, Ethan and Cal took over, not without some trepidation. By the end they were cracking themselves up as they made new and improved shapes for the traditional candies:

Fake Christmas Day, Cal is doing his own version of Name that Tune on his Ipad, Megan v. Michael. Lonely People, Let It Be, Eleanor Roosevelt?? I believe that's Eleanor RIGBY. 

I have to say December 28, 2014 was one of my best days ever. Started with paying some bills (my fave thing!), writing some Christmas cards, a crisp walk with Pat, and coffee. Went to a meeting where I heard what I needed to hear: I need to be more "spiritually fit" especially around my family. Went over to Mom and Dad's house. Connie the cleaning lady is still down, so Betsy helped me with the weekly chores. It was fun! I was spiritually fit (most of the time). The garbage and recycling were full to the rim. I downloaded Dad's pictures from Christmas (fake) and messed around with his Facebook page, finding just the right profile pic for him, after one I thought was quite hysterical (wearing a white theatrical wig which he instantly vetoed, however it had already gotten one "like"). Returned to find my house empty but the Buffalo Dip was still warm in the refrigerator, so I chowed on that (thank you Donnamarie). Betsy joined me, and then moved on. I made hamburgers on the grill for the hungry children, trying to get them some vegetables, as all they've eaten is white bread. I'm afraid they'll be as backed up as the Eisenhower Expressway at rush hour. I discovered as Michael was biting into his third burger on white bun, that some of them were dangerously pink inside, setting off a whiff of e-coli, eboli, maggot infested stomach jokes. When I told Ethan to microwave his, he said, "No, I don't want to be the only one left alive." 

We played a game of Golf (the card game) and then Michael had the brilliant idea to collect and count Pat's change $56 dollars and buy lottery tickets. $10 to Pat, $4 to Walmart for officially counting the change, and 3 different stores later they ended up $7 ahead!!  I honestly didn't think the lottery could net you any money. Pat ended the night with a huge funeral pyre in the backyard, in which he cremated a dead squirrel he had found in the yard earlier that day.

We have one more family day together, but I went to bed last night a happy and very grateful person.

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Thanks for the title lead, Ethan. This our 19th year in Macomb was an anomaly. Only the second time we didn't spend Christmas Eve at my parents house opening copious piles of presents and eating our traditional supper. Not following our usual convention left Cal commenting, "It doesn't feel like Christmas Eve" and indeed it did not. This whole Christmas thing got turned around because Chris and his family are arriving on Friday and we decided to delay our extended family time until then.

Our evening consisted of me getting off work early (4:00ish) *I can't remember the last time I had to work on Christmas Eve for starters* and everyone reading books for awhile (Cal included, which is totally not Cal- being that the YMCA closed early).  I cooked dinner of Spaghetti with Clam Sauce, Garlic Bread, salad, and chicken breasts for Adam and Cal. Next we sat around talking until Eli left to play his trumpet at church. Betsy stopped in for a moment before church, noting that all the atheists were staying home. I pointed out, I am not an atheist, but an agnostic and decided I couldn't be and be around hypocrits anymore even if it meant missing a Eli performing on his trumpet with the beautiful and talented Porter sisters singing and playing ukelele.

We topped off the evening by watching Hunger Games 2: Catching Fire; another thing we never do is watch movies together. Pat went to bed before Home Alone 2: Lost in New York screened. I wandered off to make Raspberry Coffee Cake for breakfast and then went to bed.

Growing up, we always opened presents on Christmas Eve, after supper of Potato Soup and Oyster Stew. We were told this was part of our Danish heritage and took that at face value. We never had extended family around so it was always just the five of us in our own home (minus a time or two we traveled out of state for the holidays). We had our stockings on Christmas morning. My kids are used to a similar scenario with Christmas Eve at grandma and grandpa's house, and our Denecke Christmas on Christmas morning. The only other time in 19 years this didn't happen was when I encouraged my parents to spend Christmas in Louisville with Betsy's family so I could see what it was like to just be with my husband and kids. It felt hollow. After church at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, we drove around looking at lights, and Cal commented, "It doesn't feel like Christmas Eve."

In trying different variations of Christmas for different reasons, I have realized that we have built meaningful customs that are uniquely ours. In looking ahead, when my kids establish their own families and careers, we will likely undergo another shift in our holiday celebrations. I have to look forward to, embrace change, and learn to go with he flow. Let the games begin, and may the odds always be in your favor.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sweet Dreams

Sleep is one of the most talked about topics in therapy, in my marriage and in life. No one ever seems to get enough, or it they do it's never good enough.

The older I get the less I sleep. I'm sure we have all noticed this pattern in older folk. This steady decline began with having babies and interruption of sleep inherent in that. As the children got older, it seemed one ear was always listening in case something was needed. Now in my fully acknowledged middle age, I couldn't sleep past 8:00 a.m. if I wanted to, which I don't. I also have bouts of not being able to fall asleep, and definitely not staying asleep. There are multiple trips to the water closet each night with varying success of returning to REM's. Last night I just knew at 3:00 a.m. it wasn't going to work and I got up and puttered around for an hour or so and fell right back to sleep. Some of my somniferous friends from least to most effective are melatonin, Sleepytime tea, two bowls of cereal, Benadryl, and as a last resort, Rx drugs.

Did you ever wonder where the term "falling" asleep came from? I recently discovered the answer. I have several techniques I use to go to sleep particularly during day naps, and they increase my awareness of the process my body goes through. One sensation I have as I am dozing off, is that of falling. As long as I am not jolted totally awake, it's very pleasant to experience, and MUST have been where someone long ago got the phrase 'falling asleep.'

Instead of complaining about insomnia, why not embrace it?  Here are some good points about not sleeping well or long:

  • it makes time slow down- if you are constantly waking during the night, it lasts longer. Haven't you noticed if you do sleep all night, it has just rushed by in an instant? Why not luxuriate in the feeling of time standing down?
  • you can look forward (schedule allowing) to a great nap the next day
  • you can get stuff done like wrapping presents, writing blogs, or catching up on Facebook although the pundits agree exposure to screens before bedtime will disturb your sleep quality
  • some of your best ideas will be hatched in the middle of the night- then again, you may look at them less adoringly in the morning

Friday, December 12, 2014


You can sing that to the tune of "Mercy Mercy Me" by Marvin Gaye. Listening on Spotify, I could burst out crying, love that song.

Turns out, though you never can tell with the sketchy, conflicting information you get from 3 different doctors, Dad's latest diagnosis is Staph infection, non-MRSA type, in the blood. Still don't know if the bone was infected after two CT scans and one MRI. The good news is, he went home Tuesday evening and is taking IV antibiotics twice a day at home for six weeks. Mom is having to learn how to run the antibiotics and clean the wound. The latter I just don't think is going to happen. No one ever nicknamed her Florence Nightingale. Me either, my nickname being Nurse Ratchett.

Betsy arrived Saturday afternoon and helped so much by keeping Dad company at the hospital. In the process, she discovered one of the best deals in Macomb, a coffee machine in the basement of the hospital that serves delicious coffee & Cafe Latte (among other delights) for 20 or 30 cents. The creamy froth is the perfect temperature and consistency, smooth and aromatic, but I digress...It was great having Betsy here, she's definitely a daddy's girl. She went home Tuesday, and the move home was one the smoother aspects of this whole experience.

Today is the first of weekly appointments with the surgeon. Mom thought they could handle it on their own, so I hope it is going well. I haven't been over to see them since Wednesday morning. I'm feeling pretty guilty about going shopping in Springfield today.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Trauma Mama Drama

Is it really Saturday already?  Where did Friday go? Oh, I remember. It started Wednesday night when my mom called to say she had called the ambulance for my dad as he spiked a temperature and she couldn't move him. She told me to get a good night's rest and she would take care of it.

Thursday morning before work, I get a call from Mom that the diagnosis is gangrene in Dad's big toe, and they would probably amputate his toe and/or foot. That was gruesome, but my busy week at work continued and since I work next to the hospital I spent my lunch hour with Dad. His toe was exposed and pretty much took away any thought of eating. I went back after work and the surgeon was trying IV antibiotics and possibly install a shunt in his foot/leg to deliver them with surgery as a last resort. My mom asked if she could "catch" his infection and he replied it was now MRSA, which I'm telling you, really set my mom off. My knowledge of MRSA is pretty limited but I feel like there's different kinds, and you don't 'catch' it unless you rub an open sore into it.  Regardless, I did agree my dad's room and stuff he had been touching his foot to, should be washed up pretty good.

Fridays I don't generally work at my regular job, but I had about two hours of paperwork to finish so I did that and then stopped in to see Dad. He was in good spirits and the toe was now covered which made visiting easier. Then I headed to Mom's house to begin cleaning with hot water, bleach, and any other disinfectants we could find. There was a lot of bedding and clothes to wash, vacuuming, bathroom cleaning and surfaces to disinfect, but I really get into cleaning. We moved and flipped the bed, and what the heck, let's get at the piles of papers and crap on the desks, even though they could hardly be harboring MRSA. About 2:00 dad called the surgeon had read the CT scan and said his veins were clear, the bone was NOT infected and he would probably be getting out of the hospital sooner than later.

Last night I went back to the hospital and read aloud a chapter from "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and Dad helped me understand the vocabulary (what a mortar is in war and some of the Spanish words), themes, and setting. I was familiar with the term "cojones"  and we had a laugh over that.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Taking Stock

Here's one of those things you read and pass along. It somehow seems a lot more interesting for the person writing it than the person reading it, but hey, if it entertains me for the evening, I'm game.

Making : mistakes
Cooking : very little
Drinking : coffee
Reading: Winter of the World, For Whom the Bell Tolls
Wanting: a day off
Looking: forward to Christmas
Playing: Sporcle missing words from literary works
Deciding: on diagnoses
Wishing: for peace
Enjoying: quietude
Waiting: for Guffman
Liking: myself
Wondering: who I'm praying to
Loving: my family, my me-time, my lunch hour
Pondering: if snowmen are Christian symbols
Considering: others who do not celebrate Christmas
Watching: what I say
Hoping: for everyone to get well, even though that is impossible
Marveling: at how the junior high boys behave in group
Needing: a good night's rest
Smelling: Simpler Thyme candle scent
Wearing: Eli's flannel shirt, jeggings and Uggs
Following: Kangaroo Spotting
Noticing: how gluttonous I am
Knowing: my husband is keen on me
Thinking: I am sweet on my husband
Feeling: exhausted and relieved
Admiring: nurses who have to look at and touch ishy stuff
Sorting: my mom's stuff
Buying: stocking stuffers
Getting: my dad's room, bedding, clothes cleaned up
Bookmarking: every few pages that I read
Disliking: gangrene and MRSA
Opening: the refrigerator
Giggling: when Betsy gets here I hope
Snacking: on frosted sugar cookies 
Coveting: is bad, sinful
Wishing: for definition in my arms
Helping: Jen get her license
Hearing: the furnace turn on and off

What a random bunch of ideas. I actually started this Wednesday, and then a bunch of stuff happened and it changed my focus a lot.