California…Last Day

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It’s a little sad that it has taken me almost three weeks to complete my blogging about my trip to California.  But, that’s what happens when you work 12 hour days.   For the most part, I don’t do anything but sleep, eat, and get ready for work on the days I work.  So, here is the end of my saga, better late than never!

Our final day in California was Thursday.  I still remember feeling a mix of emotions that day.  I couldn’t believe how FAST that week had gone.  It seemed like the plane had just touched down, and I was being surrounded in a big bear hug by Frank.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget that wonderful feeling.  And then all of the beautiful sights, the tasty meals, the blissful relaxation, the interesting conversations…everything was so great.  But yet I missed my babies, my cats…I missed my friends…I missed the comfortableness of my own apartment.  So even though I had a memorable time, I still was looking forward to being home again as well.  I guess I’ve always known this, but I really am a homebody.  I LOVE staying in and just relaxing in my own place, surrounded by the familiarity of my own stuff.  It’s always nice to visit, but it’s just so comforting to be home.

The really bummer of our last day in California was that Frank had to be at the hospital early in the day and our flight was a red-eye.  We had thought (based on information that Frank received from the hospital) that he would be going to the hospital at 10 am.  However, when we awoke, we found out, to our dismay, that he was asked to be there by 9 am.  So we basically got a quick hug before he had to leave.  It was not the goodbye I think either of us wanted.  It turned out to be frustrating as well because later in the day as we heard from Frank, it turns out that he didn’t even get into his room until later in the morning and there were no doctors orders written so he never even started his next round of chemo until late in the afternoon.

So we spent the day packing and enjoying our last afternoon on the front porch, reading and relaxing.  We had dinner and then Frank’s partner drove us to the airport.  Our flight was scheduled to leave at 10:30 pm, but actually took off an hour late.  It was very tiring.  We arrived in Hartford the next morning at 9:45 am.  By the time we got our luggage and the car and drove home it was close to 11 am.  The WORST part was dragging 50 pound suitcases up 4 flights of stairs!  Not fun!  Since I had to work that night, I immediately went to bed for a nap.

After that the vacation seemed like a dream.  I worked the next three days in a row, had one night off, then worked two more.  By then I was EXHAUSTED!  I think finally now, after three weeks, I’m finally not as tired.  I’m back in my old routine.

As of now, Frank has completed his first round of chemo (which was two separate cycles).  He’s had some complications as far as low blood counts and another hospitalization, but has had lots of support in the form of his family and additional friends staying with him.  I’m just incredibly glad that I was able, even with my crazy schedule, to see him after so long.  Now I can’t wait to go back!

Published in: on July 29, 2008 at 12:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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California–Day 2 (Pure relaxation…)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I find it kind of ironic that I am writing about my second day in California, which was a Saturday, exactly one week later, on a Saturday!  That’s procrastination for ya! (oh yeah, and having to work 12 hour shifts!)

So…after sleeping soundly my first night in California, Kimm and I received a “wake up” call from Frank on Saturday morning–and it was pretty early–8 am!  (yikes, I don’t EVER get up that early, unless I have to…granted with the time difference it would have been 11 am in MA, but, we were there, and it just felt wrong to get up so early).  Oliver had of course been up already, had his breakfast, and was entertaining himself and whoever would watch him.  He is such a HAPPY baby!  Kimm and I grabbed some breakfast–coffee made with the espresso machine and some WONDERFUL rhubarb bread that Pam had made (I never did get that recipe!).  We relaxed in the backyard until the sun started to really bear down and then we all moved to the front porch.  Frank says that generally it’s too hot to sit out in the backyard during the day.  It was cool and breezy on the front porch and it was so nice to just sit and relax and not think about going to work or doing anything.

It was fun taking a shower in the claw foot tub, although I do have to admit that I almost fell out of it since the edge was so high up.  I don’t know how Kimm managed to get in and out of it since she is shorter than I am.  Thankfully we didn’t injure ourselves!  Then for lunch, Frank made homemade quesadillas–with spicy black bean dip (whoa that had a kick!), sweet corn relish, chipolte salsa (another hot one), and cheese–very yummy.  Oliver had his own homemade food (go Frank!) and then crawled around on the porch.  Boy, can he move!  He was so darned cute!  He would do this crazy little hop-crawl, where he would push himself along with one of his feet and then kind of scoot ahead.  He was really fast!  In the afternoon we played Catch Phrase, the music edition.  Good thing you could describe the words in the song since my knowledge of music is pretty slim.  Some of the looks that Kimm gave the game while playing were priceless!

Oliver, post-meal–look at those curls!!

You want me to try to get someone to guess the title of this song HOW?

We all went for a walk before dinner.  It was interesting to see all the architecture of the houses–so different from around here.  Frank made us a treat in the afternoon–Watermelon Lime Aqua Fresca–a wonderful, refreshing drink flavored with, wouldn’t you know it, watermelon and lime.  Dinner was in the backyard–almost all of the meals are eaten outside–the weather is just so gorgeous!  We had rice with stir fried veggies (meat for the rest), rice/corn salad, cucumber salad–light and refreshing.  The meal came from one of Frank’s many wonderful friends who have pitched together and made a rotation of meals for him and his family.  It’s just so nice to see neighbors and friends work together to help out a neighbor in need.  Not to mention, it was DELICIOUS!

Pam, Kimm, and Oliver enjoying the walk

Kimm and Frank fooling around after dinner

I love this picture…

That night we watched The Kite Runner on DVD.  I have to say that the book was so much better than the movie.  The movie was drawn out and hard to follow if you didn’t know the background of the story.  Nevertheless, I’m glad I saw it.  I don’t like to judge something until I’ve seen it.  But now that I’ve seen it, I can definitely say that I’d recommend the book, but not the movie.

It was off to bed after that.  It was another purely relaxing day.  I LOVED it!

Published in: on July 19, 2008 at 3:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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California Dreamin’

Friday, July 18, 2008

It does seem like a dream that just one week ago, I returned from California.  I had made a fairly impromtu decision to visit my friend Frank, who was recently diagnosed with cancer.  I hadn’t seen him in over 5 years and really wanted to be there for him in whatever way I could.

I had known for quite a while that I had a good chunk of time off (Friday July 4 through Thursday July 10–I was scheduled to work Monday July 7, but was quite certain I could find someone to work for me) but was unsure if Frank’s chemo schedule at the hospital would coincide with this time off.  Well, at the last minute (Wednesday July 2) Frank informed me that he would not be in the hospital at this time, so I hopped online, purchased the tickets at Travelocity, and began to plan for a trip in two days, knowing that I would be working the two nights prior to leaving.  Let me just say, it was STRESSFUL!  But exciting as well.  I think both of us were in shock that we would finally see each other after so many years.

I worked on Wednesday night, and asked pretty much anyone who was not working on Monday to take my shift.  Turns out I had a harder time than I originally thought I would because almost everyone that was working that night with me was already scheduled to work that Monday as well.  It was only in the wee hours of the night that an LPN who is retired, but works extra hours, told me she would be more than willing to take the whole shift.  Yeah!  But of course I still had to get it approved by my nursing supervisor.  She was due in that morning at 7 am.  I waited for her…and waited for her…and waited for her.  When it got to be 7:30, and she still wasn’t there, I wrote her an email, explaining the situation and my request, emphasizing that I didn’t want to simply call in sick when that was not the case.  I told her to call me at home that day if there was any concerns.  Went home, crawled under the covers and awoke at 3 pm (an hour and a half earlier than what I am used to!) and began packing.  Never received a call from my supervisor, so I wasn’t sure if all was well, or what…extremely nerve-wracking.  I went to work that evening and in an email she approved the switch!  Whew!

I worked that night (and had to have SEVERAL cups of coffee, since I was so tired), and left work at 7:15 am.  Got home, grabbed a quick shower, hauled our luggage down the four flights of steps (after which I felt like I needed ANOTHER shower!) and left for the airport at 7:56, only 11 minutes after my goal time–not too bad.  We arrived at the airport  just a little after 8:30 am which was right on schedule since our plane was taking off at 10:30.

The first plane, from Hartford, CT to Atlanta, GA was 2 1/2 hours long.  I think I slept through the whole ride.  Then the second plane to LAX was four hours long.  I slept for part of this as well, but have to admit I was fascinated with the free TV and music (watched a little HGTV and Food Network).  Before I knew it, we had arrived.

Now Frank had told us that he would pick us up at the airport and the plan was for us to get our luggage, and then go outside and wait since he would be driving around the airport so he would not have to pay for parking.  That’s all fine and dandy.  But that is not what happened.  Instead, my friend Frank decides to almost give me a heart attack by tapping my on the back and surprising me with a great big bear hug!  IT WAS CRAZY!!  I think we hugged each other so hard that we couldn’t breath.  It was just SO good to see him again.

Here’s a picture of Frank, me and Kimm outside of the airport (just ignore the blurriness of the picture!)

What is it like to see someone that you haven’t seen in five years?  Well, he did look different.  I knew he had shaved his head due to the chemo, but it was still a shock.  But I got over it quickly.  Once I saw his smile and heard his laugh, it was the Frank I remembered.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  All I remember is feeling so incredibly happy and feeling like I was in a dream that I was seeing him again after such a long time.

After about a half hour ride to his house (during which I couldn’t help commenting over and over again about how strange it was to see palm trees blowing in the wind!) we arrived at his house.  He warned us that he lived in the ghetto, but I didn’t believe him.  The street he lived on was like a storybook street.  The houses were beautiful, with such interesting architecture, and the landscaping was immaculate, and the there was no trash on the streets.  It just looked so peaceful.  (However, later during the week when we ventured onto the two main streets flanking his street, I could understand when he said he lived in the ghetto…COMPLETELY different!)

I told you it was beautiful!

We met his partner, Laurent–an incredibly sweet man, his mother, Pam (whom Frank swears I met before, but if I did, I don’t remember), and his adorable son, Oliver!  What an armful of cuteness!!  Then a quick tour of the house (which I will describe in more detail later), placing our luggage in the guest bedroom, and then we were off to a BBQ (it was the fourth of July, you know.)

So we headed across the street, to one of Frank’s neighbors.  Such a nice couple (Troy and Louise).  Beautiful house (in fact it was for sale…only for 1.2 million…WOW!!!!!!!)  We met some other of Frank’s friends who I have only known through his blog–Roger, Marquerite, and their daughter Makende.   A few other couples rounded out the party.  We had a WONDERFUL meal–appetizers (guacamole to die for, salsa that was HOT!, artichoke dip), veggie burgers, corn on the cob, pasta salad (by Frank–superyum), romaine salad, tomato salad, fried potatoes, and for dessert, elegant, straight from the oven puff pastry with nectarines and ice cream (I’m drooling just remembering how superb it tasted).  It was such a nice evening.

Here’s Oliver, checking things out at the party!

I was EXHAUSTED by the time we got back home and I fell asleep with a smile on my face, anticipating the remainder of my time in California, with my dear friend.

Published in: on July 18, 2008 at 4:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Catching up…

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Well, the month of June is gone, and all too soon.  Now is time to do a quick update on everything and start fresh!  So here goes (in no particular order!)…

  • Finances for June–So the goal was to spend no more than $200 on food for the month.  That did not work out.  We actually spent $331.37.  But, to be fair, this was not always simply food–it included items such as toilet paper, vitamins, deoderant, paper towels, napkins, cat food, and more.  So if I had actually broken the list down even more, we may have spent closer to $200 on food.  I never did call Comcast to combine our phone, internet, and cable because we decided that we didn’t want to try Comcast for our phone service since we had heard several people say the service was not that great.  We’ll stick to what we know.  So the goals for this next month will be to hopefully spend less than what we spent in June and to pare down our cable bill by simply calling Comcast and asking for a cheaper plan.
  • The bungee-corded fridge–is NO LONGER bungee-corded!!  Yeah!!  After having to unclamp the door every day, multiple times per day, I have to say we are both extremely happy that the refrigerator repair man came and replaced the magnetic strips on the side of the fridge (he actually had to drill a new place for them since the fridge is so old that the parts are no longer available!).  Our fridge is doing much better now.  The temperature is within the normal range and things are actually cold!!
  • Charlie–After his ordeal at the animal hospital and a check-up with the new vet, and almost a month on the new food, we can finally say that Charlie is completely better!  The urinalysis at the last visit showed no crystals at all.  So, even though the food is much more expensive, and Charlie still likes to eat Madeline’s food, it does seem to be working.  And Charlie and Madeline are back to normal as far as their interactions–no more hissing, thank goodness.
  • School orientation–I made it through my week-long school orientation.  I can’t say I got much more sleep each night than the first night.  I really had a case of the nerves.  But by the end of the week, I felt much more comfortable with the expectations of the program and some of the people that will be my new online community.  I passed my health assessment leveling workshop (after several nights of practicing on my sweetie!).  The week was not much for a vacation, since I was pretty tired every night and didn’t really have a lot of downtime.  But at least this was only a one time thing.  I will have to register for classes on July 23rd–my first two online classes will be Principles of Epidemiology and Nursing Informatics (sounds exciting, huh? I’m being sarcastic of course!).  My expected date of graduation is Spring of 2013.  It’s a long way off and between now and then I’m sure I’ll have many, many days where I question myself as to WHY I am doing this to myself.  But I will TRY REALLY REALLY hard to remind myself of the bigger picture and the final result.  Dr. Kaye E. Van Straten, DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice, or Nurse Practitioner).  Boy, does that sound strange!
  • My dear friend, Frank, who was recently diagnosed with cancer (Burkitt’s lymphoma)–he has pretty much completed the first round of chemotherapy and with a wonderful support system of family and friends, is rallying and still possesses a positive, “Bring It On” philosophy.  Sure, he’s tired, and I’m sure often scared, but he’s taking it one day at a time, and pushing through.  The MOST EXCITING thing is that Kimm and I will be going to see him this week!!!!  WOW!!!  I never thought that would happen.  I was hoping to visit him soon, but with my work schedule, and the fact that I just took a week off of work, I wasn’t sure it would happen.  But I have a stretch of 7 days where I only work one day.  I booked the tickets after hearing that Frank will not have to go back in for his next chemo round until the 10th, and am hoping (praying!) that I will be able to find someone to work for me that one day.  If not, I will have to simply call in sick.  This is generally against everything I believe in, but I have NEVER called in sick my entire time at this hospital and it’s coming up on one year.  I don’t get any kind of bonus for not calling out sick and many other people make a habit of calling out.  So I don’t feel overly worried about it.  But I still will try to cover it because I don’t want other nurses to be short staffed–I know how that feels–crappy!
  • The house hunt–This last weekend Kimm and I decided to finally visit a few open houses on Sunday.  It was so much fun!  Of course it would be a lot more fun if we actually knew how much we were pre-approved for in regards to a mortgage!  But we saw three houses, each of them unique in their own way.  It was so fun to imagine what each room would be used for if we bought the house.  It is my goal for July to also make an appointment at the bank to find out what I would be pre-approved for if I was looking to get a mortgage right now.
  • My nephew is 7 years old–WHOA!!!  I can still remember when he was born.  I also just received pictures of him in the mail that were taken on Father’s Day and oh my gosh, he looks so old.  This is the first picture that I’ve seen where I can really imagine how he’ll look as he enters the teen years.  Happy Birthday Eric!

Well, I think that’s it for a catch up.  Whew!  Now I feel better about starting out the month of July with no loose ends.  You can look forward to blogs about my trip to California.  I haven’t seen Frank for over 5 years so I am so looking forward to seeing him and spending time with his family.  We’re leaving in two days!  Talk about last minute!  So between now and then I have to work two shifts, pack, and sleep!

Published in: on July 2, 2008 at 10:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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