Thursday, December 28, 2006

THE Gift

Once in a lifetime, if we're lucky, there may be a material gift given to us that takes our breath away, leaves us speechless, and brings everyone in the room to tears. I happened to be the most fortunate recipient of such a gift this past Saturday when I opened this book from Amy, my daughter. Later I found out that Donica had been in on it, as had Dennis.

When I first opened it, there was a mailing holder from Shutterfly and I immediately thought, "Oh, yes! Amy has given me a wonderfully framed photo of Nicholas or of her and Dennis." That's what Shutterfly does, of course--process our personal photos for us. But when I opened it and saw that it was this book on the castles of Scotland, with the Eilean Donan on the cover, I said, "OHHHHH! I've SEEN this castle! It's the most romantic and most photographed castle of Scotland!"

Amy just smiled and said, "I know!"

After reading her most lovely inscription on the inside front cover, I then started flipping through the 96-page book (12 x 12 inches), oohing and ahhing over all the castles I had seen with my own eyes. How special that Amy had found such a lovely book to remind me!

Finally Amy said, "NO, Mom! You need to go back to the first page!"

So I did. And when I saw that page, I finally got it! I lost my breath; I was speechless; I cried. We all cried. (If you can't see the words, please click on it to enlarge.)

Page after page, photo after photo (approximately 250 of them), I saw the castles of Scotland again for the first time. My photos, all of them, in a coffee table art-book format! I sure hope this doesn't sound like I'm tooting my own horn because that's definitely not my intention. But I STILL cannot believe Amy took the time and effort and had two willing cohorts in on the action.

I wonder if you have ever received such a gift that blew you away like this? If so, please share your story in a comment. I have a feeling we'd all like to hear it!


With that, I bid you adieu as we finish packing for our long New Year's weekend at the family cottage in Michigan. Amy, Mark, Donica and I, plus Dennis, who flew in from LA yesterday, fly tomorrow and return on the 1st (in time for the Rose Bowl game on TV!). We will NOT have Internet access (we don't think), so this will be my last post for a few days.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Family Snapshot

L to R: Mark (31), moi, Amy (34), Nicholas (6-1/2), and Donica

This doesn't happen very often so grab it while you have it! Someone on my photoblog site requested that I post a family pic after our mini-family Christmas celebration on Saturday. They'll get it tomorrow; you'll get it first today! :)

Anyway, most of you already know us by now (my 2 children, grandson and domestic partner). Oh yes, don't forget the camera, which took the pic and is very much a part of our family! I'll have to come up with a good name for her, I see.

We have 2 days now to get ready for our flight from Atlanta to Michigan for a few days at the Hart Family Cottage. All of us, including Dennis (Amy's beau) will fly together on Thursday (except for Nicholas, who will be with his dad). Dennis flies in today from LA.

But I'll say Good-Bye on Thursday before we leave.... :)

In the meantime, I hope you're all recuperating from the Christmas hubbub.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas

Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn king!"

Many of us are already in the Christmas weekend countdown, so I want to send out these greetings now and hope I'm not too late for you.

Tomorrow my kids, Mark and Amy, with Nicholas, come to our house for an all-day Christmas celebration. On Sunday, Christmas Eve, Donica and I will celebrate alone. Then on Christmas Day, we will join Donica's extended family in south Atlanta.

Donica, BTW, is gaining strength and energy with every passing day. She's now taking pain meds only twice a day, down from 6 times right after surgery. I do all the driving but we go out-n-about, catching up on the holiday movies. Yesterday we even took Nicholas to the Georgia Aquarium so as to make use of the annual pass that was expiring. Next Wednesday she'll get her stitches out and will get the once-over from the doctor, who will hopefully give her his thumbs up. More on that then.

[The above sculpture is from the Niki de Saint Phalle exhibition in our Atlanta Botanical Garden when we visited last May. It was the photo I used for our Christmas card this year.]

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wonder and Joy

I'm guessing there's not one thing I need to say about this other than this is the "rabbit hole" Nicholas found on Sunday when we were in the woods. He says he saw a bat inside, which he wanted me to see, but I just took his word for it. :) I was having too much fun taking his pics.

Let's all of us keep our Childlike wonder and joy this Christmas and throughout the new year!

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Strings That are Left

You're gonna get a kick outta this because it's Nicholas' reaction to Donica's surgery. But first of all, he and I had another gorgeous, balmy day in our woods this morning, after he and Mommy (Amy) spent an overnight with us last night. This time he decided having his "picnic" in the tree would be just splendid. And it was!

Back to Donica's surgery. Amy invited herself over specifically to take care of both of us by cooking a scumptuous dinner for us last evening. No arguments from either of us! Besides, we all wanted Nicholas to be around a convalescing "patient" after surgery, just for the education of it.

Donica showed him the big bandage covering her incision and explained that the doctor had to take out 2 nerves because they were making her hurt. He wanted to know what nerves were, of course, so she explained that they were like strings that helped make her feel things. But these particular "strings" weren't working right.

Nicholas immediately went into a response of "It's not good to take things out of us." No, of course not but we told him these 2 strings were okay to be gone.

Then he said, "Now that the 2 strings are gone, you'll have 3 left and that's good!"

We have no idea where he got the number 3 for what's left, but we all agreed that 3 left is very good. And with each added day (the magic number 3, since her surgery), what's left is getting better and better. She and I even went to a movie this afternoon! Getting in and out, up and down, is the worst part of the day, with lots of pain still, but other than that, she's getting around, and that's good.

We'll all eat to that!

Friday, December 15, 2006

It's DONE!

It was a total of 8 hours from beginning to end, from when we arrived at the hospital (10:15a) and then left (6:15p) yesterday.

First we waited for 2 hours before they even called her name. But Mom made it in time to see Donica beforehand, which was nice. The actual surgery DID happen at 1:30, after all. And at 3p, we had the doctor's consultation while Donica was in recovery (where this pic was taken later). Even though there was a lot of waiting, it all went like clockwork.

Besides all that we already knew (the 2 nerves would be cut out), the doctor said he DID find a small hernia about 3/4 inch in diameter, snuggled in next to the nerves. He definitely feels that was part of the culprit but said her symptoms were more nerve-related. The hernia would have grown over time, of course, so the good news is that it, too, is now gone. A plastic mesh is now there to support the muscle walls. So, all in all, we are very happy!

She's in lots of pain, as you'd imagine (the incision is like that for an appendectomy), BUT she was able to walk upstairs to bed last night and downstairs this morning. Don't worry. I will NOT let her overdo it. I want a clean bill of health for her checkup and removal of stitches on the 27th, the day before we all fly to Michigan. I thoroughly enjoy playing nursemaid and know how to keep her in line. HA! Lots of ice on the bandage for the first 24 hours; a pain pill every 4 hours.

This bouquet of flowers was sitting on our front porch when we arrived home last evening, a reminder that we have been cared for by everyone in the WWW! Do you know what that feels like??!! THANK YOU!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Down to the Wire

Yup, today was pre-op. All 2-1/2 hours of it! Besides the usual blood work and urinalysis, there was an EKG and a chest xray. Paperwork, of course. And waiting. We found out the surgery is at 12:50p tomorrow, not at 1:30 as we had been told. So we need to be there at 10:45a. Donica's mom will come join me at some point along the way (from 70 miles away).

Donica is expecting me to drive her home after recovery but she has the option to spend the night at the hospital. If so, I'll spend the night with her in her room. We'll both go prepared, just in case.

We both have felt your presence and prayers with us, which is why we both go into this with peace and calmness of spirit. Thank you, again and again! And yes, I'll catch you all up as soon as possible.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Strome Hetch

Some of you will remember this ginormous pyramid carousel from last year when we were at Hannover's Christmas market. We had hoped to see it again, now, but last year's photos and memories will have to do. It's the photo I plan to use on my photoblog tomorrow.

Knowing that Donica's surgery is this week, after which she'll be a bit out of commission for a few days, we've been talking about what we need to get done before Thursday!

The good news is that the Christmas cards are mailed and the 2 trees are trimmed. Even all the gifts are purchased. What remains is the wrapping! So, today through Wednesday is gift-wrapping, together and/or separately.

I plan to write more after pre-op on Wednesday and definitely again after the surgery. But for right now, we're in the home stretch "strome hetch" before our Christmas celebration with each other and the kids.

I sure hope you love this time of year as much as we do. Kids at heart!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Tell Them They Lie

A hundred thoughts swirl in my head right now that hopefully will end up related. Not too convoluted.

First of all, this is just a pic to show that Donica and I have both taken up walking on our new treadmill. I walk 3x per week, 20 minutes each time at 3.5 mph and a 6% incline. I work up a good sweat. But since my doctor says it'll only lower my cholesterol by 10-15% (and I'll have to take my meds the rest of my life), I'm doing it for my heart. And the euphoria.

Okay, that's the background. When I walk, I listen to my tiny shuffle iPod that holds only 100 songs. Donica got it for free somewhere. It's the only time I listen to it, those 20 minutes.

A couple days ago, a song from Walela, one of my favorite groups, was "Tell Them They Lie." You can listen to it here under the Unbearable Love album. Though the lyrics are specific to Cherokee indians, the sentiment is universal. "What kind of world is this we are living in...." Hold that thought.

Last night we went to see Blood Diamond, Leo DiCaprio's new movie. It's the story of how many Africans are violently killed in the process of mining diamonds for those of us who see/buy them as a rare commodity. There is a lot of buzz today because of this movie, about making sure we buy "conflict-free" diamonds. I asked Donica, how do we know for sure?

Whatever we listen to, whatever we're told, whatever we see, are we able to distinguish the truth from the lie? Does this apply to our wars, our governments, our religious righteousness? And if/when we sense a lie, are we able to tell "them" that they lie?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

St. Nicholas Day

Since this is St. Nicholas Day in Germany and other parts of Europe, I would be totally remiss to not have a pic of my own St. Nicholas! Not to be sacreligious, of course.

Donica and I had an errand at our bank on Saturday morning and took Nicholas with us. While he waited, he read from his Barnum & Bailey circus book. So cute to watch him actually read the words now and not just the pictures!

Later this afternoon or evening, after we return from the doctor's appointment (at 3:30p), I'll update you on The Plan for Donica's pain. Let's hope she's been a good girl and everything nice so that St. Nick can shower her with good gifts. :)


DONICA UPDATE: The doctor's appointment was short, sweet and to the point. Surgery is scheduled for a week from tomorrow, Thursday, December 14, at 1:30p. He will not only remove the ilioinguinal nerve but the nearby "cousin," the iliohypogastric nerve, as well. And if he sees anything remotely resembling something that doesn't belong (like a tiny hernia too small to palpate or be seen on the CT scan), he'll fix it or cut it out as well. We really like this guy and totally trust him. We feel good that he tried everything else before surgery.

So, on the way home, we celebrated for supper by eating out. We both feel relieved by the thought that this will soon be over. As the nurse says, the pain from surgery shouldn't be any worse than what Donica's experiencing now. Then it will be gone (barring anything we still don't know about!).

Thanks again to each and every one of you for living through this with us. You have been superbly supportive. We love your care!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Full-Moon Craziness

Taken just before 7 pm on 10/6/06 in Vancouver

Okay, are you ready??? We'll start slow and go uphill from there.

USC (Dennis' school, remember?) lost to its arch rival, UCLA, this past Saturday. So they went from #2 in the national rankings to #5. Also, Florida won their conference playoff game and went from #4 to #2 nationally. So THEY are the ones who'll play Ohio State (#1) on January 8th for the national title. (Are you with me?)

In the meantime, Michigan (my school, remember?) stayed put as #3 and will play USC in the Rosebowl on January 1st. Wanna know what Dennis says about that? "Whoa Nelly! I am in a no lose situation as my team squares off against my adopted team! So, Hail to the Victors, Fight On and may the best team prevail!" He also said previously that Amy is in a win-win position! She'll be genuinely happy regardless of who wins. :)

2. DONICA and Hannover
First of all, she's not seeing her doctor today but late Wednesday afternoon. (Actually, her doctor wasn't available till Wednesday all along but the receptionist scheduled her today with another doctor in the same group. When the nurse found that out, she said, No No No!) Since she's living on pain meds every 4 hours, we're really hoping and praying he will be able to squeeze her in for surgery ASAP. The sooner the better. Get that dang nerve out!

In the meantime, both of our flights to Hannover have been cancelled. A big disappointment for me, once again, but there's nothing we can do about it till Donica gets this thing behind her. Hopefully that will be soon!

So, how has the Full Moon been treating YOU today! :)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Force

Since we'll be in Hannover the next two weeks, we made sure to have Nicholas (6-1/2) over last night for an overnight. I always think no age could possibly be better than now, but we must be aging well together, because we just can't get enough of him at any age.

After our obligatory Waffle House breakfast, followed by several errands (one of which was to buy him new winter pj's for G'ma's house!), he asked if we could go into the woods. YES, of course! We had awakened to 30°F but, by noon, it was already 60°F (15°C).

We have so many favorite trees, our Friends. New ones seem to pop up all the time (like in the first photo), after rainstorms. This tree (second photo) is one that Nicholas has basically grown up with. I used to hold his hand as he'd walk up and down it's graceful slant. Now he carefully walks it by himself, up and down. "Down is easier," he says.

Today, after coming down, he said, "I felt the force in me!"

I started thinking of everyone I know that is facing some kind of hardship right now, especially at this holiday time: illness, loss of job, death, divorce, aloneness, the unknown. I know it's not easy for any of us to climb that tree, but I pray to God that we'll all do it...

...and feel the Force in us!