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I haven’t fallen off the edge of the Earth! I swear!

14 Jan

I’m still here and I still actually continue to do things – I just haven’t been blogging about them.  This weekend is a long weekend, so perhaps I’ll make the time to catch up on here…

It’s been more than 6 months since I posted to this blog, but I haven’t given up on blogging, I’ve just been incredibly overwhelmed and busy!

Quick overview of my life since last June:

  • Chuck and I did our usual summer vacationing:
    • We went to Virginia Beach for a week with the dogs and visited our dear friend Mary, and met her friend Debbie.  We can always count on a fun and relaxing week when we visit Mary.
    • We went to Rehoboth Beach with Chuck’s friends and enjoyed the boardwalk and having fun with all of our friends’ dogs, bunnies, and children (I let a 12-year-old convince me I wanted to sling-shot myself into the air with nothing but bungee cords strapping me in…but, as they often are, the 12-year-old was right…it was fun)
    • I went to Ocean City for the first time ever.  It was like being on the longest boardwalk I’ve ever seen, with tons of eateries, shops, and arcades…that repeat every block…for blocks and blocks and blocks.
    • We traveled with my family to Edisto Island and enjoyed a week of sun, sand, and toddlers.  We rented bikes and a golf cart and enjoyed a nice, slow Southern vacation with family.
    • We visited with my mom in South Carolina and now I realize that will be my last trip to see her there because she’s moving back up here!!!!  (well, to Tennessee, which is closer than SC…so YAY!!!)
  • I got a full-time teaching job in a school I love, teaching students I love, alongside colleagues whom I both respect and enjoy.
    • Finally teaching.  Is. Awesome.
    • AND. INSANELY. TIRING.
    • Along with the teaching job came the added responsibility of being a class sponsor.  I am sponsoring a spunky class of 375 Sophomores.  I love being a class sponsor, but it definitely adds more to my already full plate…however, we kicked ass at Powder Puff, we won the Spirit Cup during our Fall Spirit Week, we had a fun and successful Breakfast with Santa fundraiser, and we’re preparing to host two more big events this Spring…we’ll see if I make it out alive!
  • We adopted a puppy for Chuck’s parents (but I not-so-secretly wish he was mine).  His mama was a black-and-tan coon hound and we think his papa was a Vizsla, or something like it.  He’s a farm dog, and he’s awesome.  He’s handsome and smart and very sweet.  Having a puppy around has been fun and has definitely kept us entertained.  I think Chuck’s parents are as in love with him as I am…
  • Chuck and I celebrated our 30th Birthdays by taking a trip to Orlando over Halloween weekend.
    • Hard Rock Hotel = AWESOME (this was new for both of us and it was totally worth the $$$)
    • Disney World = AWESOME (as usual…this is a place Chuck and I never tire of)
    • Universal Studios = AWESOME (this was new for me, but not Chuck…it was really fun!)
    • Universal Islands of Adventures = AWESOME (we’ve done this together before and loved it)
    • Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios = CRAZY AWESOME!  (SOOOOOOOO much fun!!!  For Halloween lovers like us, this was the ultimate Halloween celebration)
    • Wizarding World of Harry Potter = O.M.F.G.  This was seriously the best place I’ve ever been in my whole entire life.  We drank butterbeer.  We went to Zonk’s.  We bought wands.  We dorked it up like we’ve never done before and I think when I die and go to heaven, I will wake up at WWoHP.  For reals.
  • We lost Gus, our 17-year-old Pomeranian, right before Christmas.  I don’t want to talk about that.  But we love him and miss him terribly.
  • After a long pregnancy (well, it was actually the normal duration, but seemed long) with gestational diabetes, my best friend had the most beautiful baby girl right before Christmas…  I made her a quilt which I will share with you later…
  • I’ve only read a very few books since I last posted…
    • The first two in the Millennium Trilogy (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Girl Who Played with Fire)…I have the third on my Kindle App, but have been sidetracked by other books.
    • The Thirteenth Tale (LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this book!  So fun to read!!!)
    • Sarah’s Key (I’m reading this one now and I really like it so far…)
  • I’ve made a few crafty things…As I already said, I made my friend a baby quilt, I also made some scarflettes as Christmas presents and I’m finishing up some burp cloths for Chuck’s cousin (who is due in a couple of weeks) and my best friend.
  • OH!!!  And I bought a NEW SEWING MACHINE!!!!  I managed to royally jam mine, and although it could have been taken to the shop and fixed, I thought it was the universe telling me “Go buy that super cool, super affordable Singer at Costco!!!”  So, I did!  I love it.  It has 79 stitches and a digital readout.  I’m so fancy!
  • I’m still attending Weight Watchers meetings at work and still not actually following the program, so I’m still not actually losing weight.  I made no resolutions because I never keep those anyway, but I do think I’m ready to start making better decisions regarding my health.  We’ll see.  Continuing to attend WW is part of the plan.  They just started the new Points Plus program, so I think it’s a good time for me to “rededicate” myself.  Again…we’ll see.  I make no promises, so nobody can shake their finger at me later.
  • Another part of the “making better decisions” plan is playing with Chuck’s Kinect more.  That thing is crazy fun and I actually enjoy it…I just need to do it regularly.  Again…no promises, because promises mean accountability and who really likes being accountable, anyway?

Okay, so that’s it for the catching up.  When I’m more awake (maybe tomorrow) I will post some photos of the trips and crafty things so that everyone can see.  For now, I feel good about actually coming back to the blog and I’m excited about posting more crafty stuff for you to see!  (you = my mom, sister, and best friend…because nobody else actually reads this blog…a fact with which I am totally cool).

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Happy Belated New Year!

23 Jan

Wow, it has been two and a half months since my last post!  I’ve officially dropped the ball.  But I’m back on track and will start updating more often.  (yeah, yeah, I know – my promises usually fail in the follow-through department, but seriously, I’m going to make a concerted effort)

So what has kept me away for so long?  Let’s do a quick run-down of my past couple months:

  • Doom and Despair. Early November Chuck’s dad experienced health complications which kept him in the hospital for a month. (More about that later)
  • Welcome baby Benjamin Peter Caro!  Born in the same hospital where Chuck’s dad was admitted, at the same time Chuck’s dad was in, so we were all able to amble over to the labor and delivery unit and snuggle him and give our ohhhs, and ahhhs.
  • Happy Birthday Gus!  Our eldest child turned 15 (I’m referring to our two fluffy Pomeranian children), which in dog years is approximately 89 years old.  We love him and cuddle him every day and spoil him at every opportunity.  He’s a lucky dog, but we are so much luckier to have him in our lives and we never forget it.
  • Happy Birthday me! I turned 28…my ovaries haven’t dried up completely, but I can feel them withering and I know it won’t be long until I’m a barren spinster…Chuck and I are going to work on that.
  • Happy Birthday Matt!  My brother-in-law turned 19…so weird – he was a chubby little 13 year old when Chuck and I started dating and now he’s a college student who stands over us all at a muscular 6+ feet…insane! (but he’ll always be the “little” brother)
  • Surprise! My sister-in-law got engaged on Christmas Eve – in front of the WHOLE FAMILY (cousins, aunts, uncles, soon-to-be relatives, EVERYONE – very brave move on our soon-to-be-brother-in-law’s part)…which is wonderful and terrifying at the same time – wonderful because she’s quite smitten with her fiance and had been hoping and praying for a ring for a while now and terrifying because she wants me to be in the wedding…another reason to reacquaint myself with my elliptical machine during 2009.
  • Merry Christmas!  We actually got our shopping and wrapping done early and enjoyed a wonderful holiday! Everyone was happy (even my poorly sick little niece and nephew – who smiled and laughed through the snot, the crud, the coughing and hacking – and gave us all their colds to enjoy for the new year – yay!)
  • Happy Birthday Jonathan Adam Ault! My baby nephew turned 2!  We were able to spend his birthday with him and he had a lovely time with all his new toys, books, movies, and clothes.  Happy Birthday Little Man!
  • Happy New Year!  2009?  Really?  Weren’t we all just crowded around our TV’s and computers waiting for the Y2K end of the world event?  Wow. 2009.
  • Back to work after a fantastic 10-day vacation.  Thank GOD we work in education!  Glad to have the vacation but also happy to go back to work in the most amazing school with the most amazing coworkers (no, seriously…we work in the most amazing school ever).
  • Happy Birthday Chuck! Now you’re as ancient as me!  Hurray!  We’re getting old!  Ouch.  But Hurray!
  • Happy Birthday Rachel Natalie Elaine Ault!  My sweet, sweet niece turned 1!  She is what made this last year bearable for all of us.  We thank God for her every day.  Beautiful girl with her daddy’s beautiful eyes.
  • THANK GOD IN HEAVEN!  We have a new President!  One whom I support fully and for whom I have high hopes and reasonable expectations.  Let this be the beginning of many positive changes for our blessed country.
  • Congratulations!  I found out that two of my very closest friends are pregnant with their first babies and my boss (who is so awesomely cool and I will miss dearly when I leave TJ for student teaching in the Fall) has confirmed that in May she’ll be having a little girl and she’s even picked the sweetest name – “Olivia Suzanne”.  This means over the coming months I will be super busy making all sorts of adorable baby things – stuffed animals, booties, quilts, afghans…I’ll be sharing all of my creations with you here.  I’m so excited!

So, that brings us up to speed.

The one thing that has influenced my absence from the blogosphere the most was my father-in-law’s medical setback.  In early November he went into the hospital with severe gastrointestinal bleeding (he suffers from diverticulitis, which can cause GI bleeding, so it’s happened before and wasn’t totally a surprise).  But because he lost so much blood and then refused a transplant, his ticker had to work overtime to keep what tiny bit of blood he had left pumping through his body.  Eventually his overworked heart gave out and he was hospitalized again.  This is when our cardiovascular education began.  We learned more acronyms and medical terminology than we ever wanted to know.  He experienced a PE (pulmonary embolism – or blood clot in his lung) and two separate instances of MI (Myocardial Infarction – or basically a heart attack).  The second MI lasted for over a day (did you know a heart attack can last and last?  We know now).  The severe heart attack left his left ventricle useless – by the time they gave him a cardiac catheterization, the majority of the muscle in the left part of his heart had already died, so no bypass or surgery could revive that dead tissue.  This left us with two options – immediate heart transplant or implant a device to take over the functions of his left ventricle.  Since heart transplants can’t just be ordered up by the cardiac surgeon, my father-in-law had to have an LVAD implanted (Left Ventricular Assist Device).

heartmate-ii

This little machine lives in his body and is attached to his heart in two places (to the aorta and the left ventricle – it helps pump oxygenated blood back out to the body).  The surgery was necessary, but quite serious.  He had to stay in the hospital another three weeks for recovery.  Now he has a tube that comes out of his body that connects to a controller, which in turn connects to either a power base unit plugged into the wall or a set of batteries which he wears in a harness around his shoulders (imagine a gun holster you see cops wear on TV).

Here's what the LVAD looks like on a computerized model - it basically looks like this in real life.  Except Chuck's dad isn't quite as see-through.

Here's what the LVAD looks like on a computerized model - it basically looks like this in real life. Except Chuck's dad isn't quite as see-through.

We have to change the dressing around the tube every day and keep it clean and dry to prevent infection and he has to take a myriad of pills every day.  He already had diabetes before the surgery, but the surgery made it much worse, so now he is insulin dependent and has to monitor his glucose levels closely.

He was briefly re-hospitalized because his glucose levels got up to 578 and were still climbing (which is incredibly dangerous – can even cause coma or death)…  The doctors never discovered what caused the spike in his blood sugar and eventually let him come back home, but it was quite scary.

We have had multiple scares during this time – constant worry about his health and if we’re doing the right things and taking care of him properly. It’s been stressful for us all – when he was in the hospital we prepared for the worst, upon his return home we had to adjust to a new lifestyle and medical care, and now we have to constantly battle with him to get him to be compliant with his doctors’ orders – which means lots of shouting at the dela Cuesta house (because that’s how dela Cuestas do business, I’ve learned.).  I’ve, ashamedly, even been in on the shouting.  He is currently on a heart transplant waiting list and he his listed as 1B, which is one step down from the highest level of need (1A).  They’ve told us it will probably take a year for him to get a compatible heart.  In this time he’s basically puttering around at home, on temporary disability.  Which means a financial crunch during a recession.  More stress.  Chuck and I are living in the basement of his parents’ house and have promised to stay until after the transplant – we try to help out with medical care, driving my father-in-law around (because in Virginia you aren’t medically cleared to drive or even sit in the front seat of a vehicle for 90 days after any open-heart surgery) and with various responsibilities around the house.  Chuck and I even played landlord and maintenance crew for a rental property Chuck’s dad has – the day of the surgery the sump pump at the rental house broke down and the basement flooded with sewage – which meant dealing with difficult tenants, ripping up carpet ourselves, replacing the sump pump (with the help of my daddy), and replacing the carpet.  We decided we don’t ever want to manage rental property, no matter how lucrative it may be.

To say the least, we have been slightly stressed since November.  However, we have managed to have some wonderful moments, as I listed above.  We enjoyed lots of birthdays and holiday celebrations and Chuck and I have managed to even squeeze in some romance, cuddling, and quality time with our sweet, sweet pups.

Now, of course, for some gratuitous photos of my sister’s adorable children:

Dirty-faced Munchkin - How can you resist a smile like that?

Dirty-faced Munchkin - How can you resist a smile like that?

Uncle Chuck with his favorite niece

Uncle Chuck with his favorite niece

Blurry brothers having fun playing in the floor

Blurry brothers having fun playing in the floor

My hair is even longer now - it's about 2 inches below my ears...

My hair is even longer now - it's about 2 inches below my ears...

Curious little girl

Curious little girl

I just can't take enough pictures of her beautiful eyelashes and little rosebud mouth

I just can't take enough pictures of her beautiful eyelashes and little rosebud mouth

Here’s to a new year – a year full of hope.  Hope for less loss and sorrow and more joy and laughter.  Hope for better health for ourselves and everyone we love.  Hope for more time spent with family and less money spent on materialistic endeavors.  Hope for more books, more learning, more creating, more relaxing.  Hope for healthy babies for everyone expecting and those hoping to expect.  Hope for our nation and our world – may there be peace and understanding, charity and kindness, and blessings of freedom, financial relief, healthcare and food for all who are in need.  This year will be better than the last.  Welcome 2009.

Overwhelmed…

12 Sep

Between the start of the public school year, the start of my graduate classes, and jetting from one place to another to do things with family and friends, we’ve been some busy people and I just haven’t had time to post…

As I wrote before, my two classes at Marymount University are under way – neither are blowing my mind so much as blowing my budget.  I am forever annoyed at the great number of idiots who are taking graduate-level classes. How on God’s green Earth did they ever get out of a Bachelor’s program without any intellectual gain or even common sense?! Seriously, a chick in one of my classes had to raise her hand and ask what the word “compounded” meant…It was all I could do to not point and laugh.  Not to mention that during one of our prescribed “group discussions regarding Multicultural Education” the flaky chick behind me has a mini-diatribe about how the people of China eat aborted human babies, which they keep secret from the rest of the world because they know how wrong it is, but they have so many aborted female babies they have to do something with them so they eat them and consider it a delicacy – when I asked how she got this (obviously grossly incorrect) information she said “Oh I read it in a bunch of magazines”.  Ummm, yeah – solid.

Oh, and also, Chuck and I started our Gifted-Ed endorsement program through JMU – this is an online-only course and this was our first week of “class”.  For our first “assignment” we were instructed to post an introduction on BlackBoard – you know, a PROFESSIONAL introduction related to the course curriculum – who we are, what our background is, why we are taking the course.  Everyone posted fluffy paragraphs full of fake enthusiasm and personal information about their babies and children.  It’s so annoying to be paying wads of dough for professional development when in actuality I’m paying wads of dough to witness a bunch of flaky idiots wax retarded about cannibalizing human fetuses and what their 18 month old is doing while they type on BlackBoard.  Seriously, I have one semester left before I do my Student Teaching and it can not go by fast enough.

I haven’t had time to do anything lately, short of work and school, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking – this week a good friend of ours lost his brother in a tragic automobile accident…on his birthday.  This brought back some very raw emotions, as my own brother-in-law was killed on his father’s birthday.  Also, with September 11th came remembrance of the events that started this awful war – the war that took Jesse from us.  My heart has been heavy this past week, thinking of Jesse, of his family and my sister…of everyone that has lost loved ones.  And, of course, with friends’ and family members’ due dates coming up this month and next, I’ve been thinking a lot about the family Chuck and I thought we’d be having soon.  Calling ours a “failed pregnancy” is apropos, I suppose.  I did feel like I had failed…failed at giving Chuck a child, failed at becoming the mother I so desperately want to be, failed at “keeping up with the Joneses”.  I wanted a baby so bad it became a physical ache.  We planned for months, counting cycles, avoiding caffeine, talking baby names.  We found out we were pregnant the week of Jesse’s death – it was bittersweet news, so right and so wrong at the same time.  Having Jesse ripped from our lives, there were some people who felt this baby was an affirmation of life – some bright light in such a dark and awful tragedy.  But for me, it was all wrong.  This wasn’t the way I had dreamed it would be – I had pictured Chuck and I huddled in the privacy of our own home, waiting together for the pregnancy test to reveal what we already knew…nervous and excited, we would read “pregnant” on the digital readout and we would hug and cry with joy…quickly dialing the friends and family we couldn’t wait to tell.  Instead, I took the pregnancy test alone, in my mom’s hotel room, the day after burying my brother-in-law.  Since noboby knew why I was holed up in the bathroom, I couldn’t invite Chuck in with me to wait, so I waited alone…I read the result of the test alone – I had to tell Chuck in a hushed whisper, without celebration.  We couldn’t share the happy news with anyone because we were all deep in mourning – our hearts were still bleeding.  It didn’t feel right to be happy.  Nothing about it felt right.  Five weeks later, when we lost the baby, we were halfway around the world celebrating a friend’s marriage.  I couldn’t curl up in my own bed and cry myself to sleep, my mom wasn’t there to comfort me and hold me, I wasn’t able to get in touch with my OB-GYN…I spent a week cramping and bleeding while crammed in tight airplane bathrooms and strange hotels in sticky-hot Manila and bustling Tokyo…we had to put on a brave face because we were traveling with  friends and visiting family who didn’t know our situation.  Everything about the pregnancy was wrong – the beginning, the end. Without Chuck by my side throughout all of the losses we suffered, I would not have held it together.  He was my salvation, as usual.

Although losing Jesse and the baby left us in pain, we pulled through.  Months later, we are still looking forward to our future – we are still planning the start of our own family, but our timeline has changed.  I’m going to finish my Master’s degree first, we’re going to get our finances in order so we can buy a house, and Chuck is looking into beginning his graduate degree.  We are on our way, albeit slowly.  Together we’re doing it, but there are still days when it’s all too difficult, too overwhelming.  He’s pulling me through, though, and we work to keep each other encouraged as best we can.

I’ve been thinking, also, about home – missing it, actually.  Not really sure why, but it’s something that has been preoccupying my brain for the past few weeks (probably because my brain isn’t stimulated enough at school).  I tried to plan a weekend at home to visit some places I’ve been longing to see, but Chuck and I spent the weekend doing family things instead.  Since I moved to Northern Virginia, going home is now only about visiting with immediate family – there just isn’t enough time to visit everyone I want or go to the places I miss.  In the next month or so, before the leaves are gone, I’m going to make an effort to go to some places back home that are a part of my childhood and college years – just for the sake of nostalgia.  I want to take Chuck to several places that have special meaning to me, so we can make our own memories there.  I also finally have a good camera (It’s not professional-level “awesome”, but for two poor people, Chuck and I are quite in love with our Nikon D40 and our new lens) and want to get some nice photographs of these places for my own keeping.

I want to take Chuck on the Blue Ridge Parkway – he’s never been.  I used to go all the time with my parents, then in high school and college I would go with friends (when driving for the sake of driving was fun and still gave us a sense of freedom). Although we’re not wine drinkers (or anything drinkers, for that matter) I’d like to take Chuck to the local winery, Chateau Morrisette.  Often they have music there or sometimes craft vendors, and it’s just a beautiful place to catch a glimpse of the mountains and the parkway views.  I also want to take Chuck to Mabry Mill – I have fond memories of sitting by the pond with my dad, licking fast-melting Mikey-Mouse-shaped icecream bars.  I want to drive down toward North Carolina and take Chuck to several of the tiny, quaint little churches adorned with beautiful murals done in the traditional fresco style.

Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I also want to revisit Blacksburg and spend some time in that area, just doing what we used to do in college – I want to take our camera on campus while it’s still green and get some good shots of the beautiful architecture.  I’d like to take a walk at Pandapas Pond, hike up to the cascades in the Jefferson National Forest (shockingly, somewhere Chuck’s never been), and go out to Wind Rock. Also, the dear preacher that married us has moved back to the Christiansburg area and has his own church now – so Chuck and I want to pop in and surprise him one Sunday morning.

Cascades Falls in the Jefferson National Forest

Cascades Falls in the Jefferson National Forest

Most importantly, I want to persuade my dad to tear himself away from work for a morning and for him to escort Chuck and I on the 3-mile hike up to his homestead – a tiny little cabin at the top of a mountain in Catawba, Virginia, a place that I find beautiful and awe-inspiring.  Although he plays it down, my dad is waiting to find out if he has cancer.  This has made me realize I need some private time with him – something of a precious commodity nowadays.  With the possibility of his health failing in the coming months or years, it is important to me that he shares this with me one last time and that we share this with my husband.  That cabin means something to me and to my family – it is evidence that you can grow up with nothing and still succeed in building a world on dreams that becomes a reality.  I don’t think too many people would believe the way my father was raised unless they saw it themselves. I want Chuck to see this part of my heritage and I want to take photographs of the homestead before the wood gives way to rot and the cabin is gone forever.

View of Catawba Valley from McAfee Knob

View of Catawba Valley from McAfee Knob

I also have a couple of sewing projects underway – a little something for a new member of the family, a barely-begun quilt I’ve been ignoring for years, and my baby niece’s first hand-made stuffie.  I also have some watercolor and paper-cutting projects that are swimming in my head that I haven’t yet found time to begin.

There aren’t enough hours in a day to do everything, but hopefully with some careful planning, I will be able to get through work and school and be able to make time for some serious memory-making and craft-creating…I’ll keep everyone posted if we actually accomplish anything!

Couch Potatoes No More!

12 Aug

Okay, well, that’s an outright lie…Chuck and I are truly couch potatoes and there is hardly an antidote for that. HOWEVER – we have finally got the perfect setup – our (very nice, if I must say so myself) elliptical machine is angled directly in front of a large-screen TV in the basement living room, so now, while we watch TV we can take turns breathing heavy and making ourselves beyond sweaty without each other’s assistance. Instead of giving up television altogether (which would really be the healthy choice) our new lifestyle means NOT cutting TV out, but making it a teenie, tiny bit healthier. Granted, I can’t even finish 30 minutes at the moment without collapsing on the floor in a red-faced, panting, sweaty heap. But, stay tuned…I will periodically be sharing the results of our “healthier living”. (By the way, I’m counting WW points again, so be supportive when I’m crying shamelessly for cheesecake and sugary drinks.)

And as a testament to our couch-potato-ness turned exercise, this is the lineup of tv shows I’m excited to see again this season:

  • Monk
  • Psych
  • Heroes
  • LOST
  • Desperate Housewives
  • House
  • Supernatural (this is the current work-out show…we’re watching this series starting with Season I and working our way up to the present…not necessarily high quality thrills, but still pretty entertaining)
  • Pushing Daisies
  • Eureka
  • The Office
  • Family Guy
  • Bones
  • New Amsterdam (not quite sure if this one is returning, but we enjoyed its first season)

Ahhh…if television was a drug, we would have no good veins left. But, now that we are turning it into a healthier choice, hopefully, a couple hundred episodes into the future we will be, perhaps not quite svelte, but we hope a little less potato-ey.