Friday, August 31, 2007

Second Honeymoon, (with Chemo...)

The past few weeks have been a very special time. Being able to be alone with Gerry - well, except for the doctors & nurses doing intimate things with G that I won't even go into... - has been a tremendous experience. We've had such a good time, which isn't how Cancer is supposed to be, right?

We've been sight seeing - taking odd drives to figure out exactly WHAT those smokestacks in the distance are - and I've been going on daily walks with Atticus around the church at St. Mary's Hospital. It's lovely.

We've enjoyed each other's company, and after 14 years of marriage we both feel pretty lucky that it's been such a great few weeks. We laugh all the time, at the stupidest things, and have a good time with just about everything we do. As Zero Day approaches we've been getting a bit more tense, but nothing we can't handle.

And now, tomorrow - er, today - is Zero Day. This is the day of the transplant, which is supposed to be anticlimactic after all of the odd things that have transpired to this point. Every day after this is numbered - Zero Day Plus One, Zero Day Plus Two, etc.

At Day Plus One Hundred we're supposed to come back to Mayo for follow up. The nurse practitioner told us Thursday that when someone lives as close as we do - 81 miles from Mayo to our house in St. Paul - they tend to let them head home sooner than someone who lives halfway around the world.

She actually used the words, "Day Plus Fifteen" when making an educated guess on when Gerry might be able to go home.

Because the transplant is today - the last day of August - counting the days for the first month will be quite easy. Day Plus 1 is Sept 1, Day Plus 15 is Sept 15.

And that's the day I'm returning from [gleam] France.

ZERO DAY
I can't sleep. I feel like I'm preparing for the D-Day invasion. My sister in law made me an adorable peaked cap, decorated with the stars and scrambled eggs of a General, with "Organization" emblazoned across the front. I am the Organizatio
nal General.

Everything, though, seems to be coming together beautifully;
  • Gerry had his second day of chemo yesterday and so far so good (he's not supposed to feel the effects for 5 days or so - when I'll be in [gleam] France.)
  • Gerry's mom and sister arrived Wednesday without a hitch
  • The kids arrived and they're beautiful, healthy, happy & lice free!
  • We have all of his meds sorted out for his mom in a compartmentalized container
  • We're getting the keeping the room practically sterile thing down
  • I spoke to the St. Paul City Electrical Inspector and she was a HUMAN BEING (yay!)
  • The bathroom floor is laid, it's lovely
  • The kitchen floor should be down on Friday
Oh, and I'm leaving on Sunday evening for [gleam] France. Bonjour! AND the Inn I'm staying at has Wifi. Booyah.

GERRY

Is doing really well. He's still basking in the 13,000,000 plus stem cell harvest (I'm going to have a T shirt made up for him touting this amazing feat) and he wanted to walk to the clinic for his second day of chemo - except we were running late. Darn.

Our [fabulous] nurses yesterday told us that every day that he's able to be active and move around means 5 less days of recovery down the road. YAY!

So as long as he feels like it, we'll walk.

Plus, it's been an amazingly beautiful few days here in Rochester - sunny and cool - perfect for walking a half a mile!

Gerry told me yesterday that the night before - the night when he couldn't get to sleep until 4:00 am - he seriously thought about death for the first time. We didn't talk about it in depth - but with all of our joking about "Hey, the service here is terrible! I don't have much time, you know!" this was the first time the hooded one entered the room for anything but a chuckle (or a game of Battleship...)


The 5:45 appointment with surgery for his central line went very smoothly. The line is in, I've changed the dressing once (very nicely - I wanted the video TWICE before I did it) and it seems to be healing beautifully. The chemo nurse yesterday said it didn't look like he'd just had the line put in the day before.

Our amazing Gerry - everything his body's been asked to do has been done magnificently. YAY!


After his chemo yesterday, which was a bit delayed, we strolled home and he felt really good. Before the chemo I forgot to pick up his drugs downstairs, then when we arrived at the chemo station we were generally gestured toward a room without a lot of guidance.

It was our luck of the draw that the next two folks we ran into were a tech from a different floor who couldn't really help us, and a nurses aid who told us in NO uncertain terms that NO, we DIDN'T have to wash our hands before we entered Gerry's room (all the signs said, WASH YOUR HANDS, so we did.)

The upshot was that when we finally arrived in the chemo room we felt tense, confused, and as if we'd been scolded.
That was when I realized I had forgotten to pick up the drugs, so I rushed down to the pharmacy only to realize I didn't have my wallet.

So back up to the room, then back down to the pharmacy, paid for the drugs (I was so stressed I wasn't nice to the pharmacist, I have to go apologize today...) and then back up to Gerry's room to have the nurse go over the drugs and chat with us long enough to calm us down.

After that it was a breeze. The chemo was put in through Gerry's central line, he felt great, the nurses were so wonderful (as usual here at Mayo) and we're getting so used to feeling lucky we don't know what we'll do when we have to go back to feeling like 'normal people.'

It's a crappy way to feel special, but better to embrace the positive aspect of this whole adventure, ne c'est pas? Hey, that's FRENCH!


KNITTING

So little to mention, I'm ashamed to say. I've missed several submission deadlines (oh, well!) I've done NO work on any book proposals (oh, well!) and I've barely been able to get any knitting done at ALL (damn!)

I'm planning on getting a lot done on the flights from MN to London, then from London to [gleam] France, but I need to double and triple check the needle allowances on international flights.

Since I'm working on a mitered project I can use dpn needles, so I may just bring them and pack EVERYTHING else in my luggage just to be safe. They're slower than my long metal needles, but I'd hate to LOSE my long, metal needles!


ME

Tired, but good. Lots of work yet to be done, much more behind me. When I stop and think about the work it overwhelms me, so instead I just make sure the next few days are planned out and put one foot in front of the other.


Today my sister in law and I drove up to St. Paul to clean the house and pick up the kids. The house is FAR from pristine, but it's light years better than it was! Our 10+ year old vacuum cleaner, which was a cheapo stopgap when we bought it and has never been great, was just too lightweight for the massive task.

So I stopped at Sears on the way home and finally got myself a halfway decent true HEPA vacuum.

I figure this is the time to try to get the house as clean as possible - for me, for Gerry, and for the kids and the kind folks who will be staying with them over the next two weeks! His immune system will require a better vacuum - so why put it off?

We arrived with our new vacuum and face masks and cleaned like there was no tomorrow. Gayle worked so hard - so did I - and at the end of 3 hours 90% of the dust was gone, things were in a better working order, and we felt quite pleased with ourselves. Saturday Gayle, the kids and I will drive up and I'll get them settled in before I leave Sunday afternoon for - oh, you know...

Gerry mentioned the other day I haven't been talking much about France - haven't really mentioned it at all except in organizational terms - so I bought a guidebook for Languedoc and I'm trying to drum up the enthusiasm that this trip deserves!

My heart is wrenched, though, with the thought that when Gerry's at his absolute worst, I'll be resting poolside in Southern France.

My heart is wrenched, but my soul is looking forward to this.


People have been VERY kind about writing to say to be sure to take care of myself , the caretaker, and that's lovely of them.
It's nice that caretakers get consideration, it means a lot.

I knew this would be a lot of work, but I hadn't realized how MUCH work.

Every single minute is devoted to either lifting, carrrying, arranging, cleaning, phoning, picking up, dropping off - it is very much like having a baby or toddler (a very large toddler) who has definite opinions about certain things, and also a certain amount of pride.


Gerry's been amazing - just wonderful - and I am very lucky. I can imagine how easily this could disintigrate into something very unpleasant if either caregiver or care-ee lacked respect for what the other was going through.

Gerry appreciates all that I'm doing, and that means so much. On my end, I never lose sight of how hard and odd this whole thing is for Gerry - who felt pretty darned good just 6 months ago.


But even as great as Gerry's been, because he IS an adult human, I can't just steamroller him and push him along. He has pride and an ego (as we all do) and he needs to be able to make as many decisions for himself as he can. This would be so easy if it were a dictatorship - as long as I were the dictator.

This means sometimes in addition to all the other stuff I find myself cajoling, wheedling, and pulling him toward a decision or choice. Not that he's being recalcitrant, just HUMAN. And I know - in my heart of hearts - that I'd be 1000% times more difficult.

Actually, I have been 1000% more difficult, so Gerry has a long way to go before I have anything to complain about!


DAWN
So here I sit at 4:01. The wake up call is scheduled for 4:45, so it's hardly worth going back to bed. I couldn't sleep - worry, tension, weight of planning - there's only so much room in the bed (and Atticus is taking up a great deal of it.)

Hannah grew inches, I swear! She's so beautiful - her hair was flat ironed (and lice-free!) and she looked so well loved! Max's hair is not as short as I feared and he looks oddly vulnerable. I thought he'd look tough, but you can't turn Opie Taylor into a skinhead, no matter HOW short you cut his hair!

We went down to Canadian Honkers for dinner last night, we all ate well and laughed. The kids went off to swim with Gerry, masked, looking on. Gayle and Elaine walked Atticus and I ran to the grocery store to stock up on necessities and some fun stuff for Gerry to entice him to eat when I'm gone.

The kids are sleeping down in Grandma / Aunt Gayle's room because we want to keep this room as person-free as possible. Also, there's no need for them to get up at 4:45 - and we can't really leave them alone in the hotel room - so it's easier for everyone if they sleep in the pull out bed.

Just another night without my kids. I miss them so much. They're one floor away and I just want to go wake them up and hug them. But I won't. I'll just sit up for another 40 minutes watching A History Of Britain - the best sedative I have.

Thanks to everyone who's written with good wishes for today - our wake up call just came through, so I guess it's time to wake up the man of the hour!

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Free Tix Anyone?

Here's the thing - I have 5 tickets to the Prairie Home Companion show at the state fair for this Friday, but we can't use them.

I got them LONG ago - I think in April - we thought it would be fun to have Gerry's mom come out to MN for the State Fair and take her to see the show. This was, of course, before the diagnosis of MM.

And definitely before Gerry's actual 9-hour transplant procedure was scheduled for this Friday.

Ironically, Gerry's mom IS coming out, but she'll be in Rochester with the rest of us. And NOT to see Prairie Home Companion - more's the pity.

So, long story short, we can't use the tickets. Anyone want them? Free?

I have 5, and I can divide them up however you want (you don't need to take all 5) The dig is that I'm in Rochester, MN. The show is up in St. Paul this Friday.

And you are - where?

So if you're not in the Rochester area and want to pay for overnight mailing so you'll have them in time, I'll be happy to send them to you tomorrow. If you're in the Rochester area we can arrange for you to get them from us in the next few days.

Email me back by noon tomorrow
and I'll pick the brief, non-attachment email message that makes Gerry laugh the hardest.
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Monday, August 27, 2007

Today Sucked. Yes, It did.

Tomorrow at 5:45 we have to be at the Mayo - he's having his central line put in, so from now on no more needle sticks for his blood draws and for his chemo. He's more upset about the early hour than he is scared about the procedure.

Tomorrow has GOT to be better than today.

In brief, today I:

  1. Moved us from one room to another in 1-1/2 hours (A thunderstorm knocked out the switchboard, so our wake up call didn't happen, thus we didn't have as much time as we needed for the move before we needed to be at Mayo for an appointment.

    The guy at the desk said we had to be moved into our bigger room by 12:30 [Gerry's mom coming = we need a bigger room] so I did the supermarket sweepstakes of room moves. Dang I'm tired.)


  2. Got talked down to in a condescending "little lady" manner by the resident handyman / I.T. guy here at the hotel ("You're on a Mac? Oh, well that's the problem..." Ooooh, I was so damned mad. Still am. Their router is down, so no wifi, obviously it was the storm. How about resetting the modem, genius?

    Did I mention that the handyman was SO condescending and arrogant.

    Have I also mentioned that EVERY woman at this hotel is amazingly kind, but some of the men aren't?

  3. Ran over an already dead deer.

    (I don't think it did any damage to the car as I was able to straddle it, but it was exciting. I couldn't avoid it, there was a car in the lane next to me and it just appeared as I came over a hill. Dang. I envisioned the handyman.)


  4. Was seated outside for dinner 1 table away from a bowl of sugar water filled with huge WASPS who were loaded for bear?

    (We didn't stay there long, no wonder we were the only folks on the patio...)


  5. Choked so badly on my dinner (to the amusement of the table next to us, who didn't realize I was choking and thought I was goofing) that I retched (no one laughed at THAT!) and it took me a good 30 minutes for my throat to 'calm down.' Scary.

    Or maybe just a pathetic bid for attention after the deer incident garnered little sympathy from Gerry? Can running over a deer cause dysphagia?

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

In the Right Place

I am so happy. I feel so lucky - fortunate - blessed - whatever the word you want to use - that we ended up here for this period in our lives.

So, whether my standing half-joke that my mother and brother were YELLING at me from the great beyond to MOVE YOUR FAMILY TO MINNESOTA is true; or whether we just got lucky enough to find a home a mere 81 miles from the pre-eminent research center for Multiple Myeloma, the Mayo Clinic, we're in a good place.

Last night as we were driving home from my book signing at the Textile Center, we took a little detour so we could scoot past downtown and just enjoy the skyline. It was good for both of us.

I could tell that Gerry felt calmer & happier than he has in a long time (well, we had the dog with us) We enjoyed our busy, busy day yesterday!

BTW, I didn't take this great photo, but it's what we saw last night. Catch some other cool images of the Twin Cities from this photographer here!

THIRTEEN MILLION
Gerry was getting a bit of a swelled head with his monumental collections of stem cells, so on Thursday the stem cell gods had to take him down a peg.

Mayo was only able to collect enough cells to bring him up to 10.8 million, so we had to go in again on Friday.

It was a bummer to him that he had to get back in that bed and lay for 5 hours, but at least he got to see the end of Stranger Than Fiction and now we're WAY over the hoped-for goal of 12 million cells.

We are the proud owners of 13,110,000 cells. Life is good. Now we have plenty for future stem cell transplants if/when that need arises.

MARATHON SPRINT
Yesterday was so busy - we were up a little after 5:00, to the hospital at 7:00 for cell collection, me off to mail a package & run some errands.

When Gerry was finished around 1:00 we hugged all the nurses, I passed out some books and signed them (so many of nurses knit!) and we hopped in the car and drove up to pick up Atticus

(WHAT a happy doggie he was - he was very happy and healthy and we feel more balanced to have him here!)


Then we continued up to St. Paul to drop the doggie off to be groomed, drop Gerry off at the house to check mail and look over some stuff, and I rushed over to get my hair cut (and I was only 5 minutes late!)

After the haircut - thank you Meghan! - I rushed back to pick up Gerry, then ran over to pick up Atticus (they were still working on him so I took 5 minutes to put on my makeup) and THEN I defeated the laws of physics by making it from Ford Parkway up to the Textile center in 18 minutes WITHOUT speeding. Touch me.

It was a blast to have Gerry AND Atticus with me for my book-signing talk. Gerry'd never heard me do my "thing" before - neither had Atticus - so it was a little nerve wracking (in a good way!)

Gerry got to see my private pre-teaching / lecturing ritual where I sit in a car with the air conditioner on FULL BLAST to lower my core body temp. No matter WHERE I am, when I'm up in front of people the room is hot, I'm hot and this somehow helps me not turn bright red within the first 5 minutes. Well, that and my green concealer...

It's always a delight to meet knitters, even more special to meet folks in person with whom I've been corresponding. The icing on the cake is meeting folks who are now part of my physical community - what a joy - and how great to have Gerry there, too!

OFF THE CUFF
Perhaps because it's been a few months since I've done a simple lecture, or perhaps because I was given very free rein last night (it was a fundraiser, so I was pretty much able to talk about whatever I wanted to!) I think I was a little ramblier than usual.

My talk was well received, folks laughed and I used the poor guy in the front row (husband of a knitter) as a foil for a lot of jokes. He took it very well, he was a mensch. He laughed a lot, which made me feel exceptionally happy because sometimes I'm afraid a lot of my humorous stuff may be too knitter-specific.

But, even though I scooted around my topic from 14 different directions, I came out at the right place. There's a formula, famously riduculed in Crimes & Misdemeanors; Tragedy + Time = Comedy.

I realized last night that the point of my whole teaching - my whole knitting - career is this formula: Mistakes + Grace = Wisdom.

It's nice when I get something from my lectures, too!

FIBER + WORK = TEXTILE
I cannot say enough nice things about the Textile Center.

First and foremost, when Jennie took me there on my tour of the Twin Cities last April, I realized, "I want to live in a place that has a center like this!" How great to have a location for the guilds to meet, for classes to happen, for exhibits and - best of all - for a LIBRARY of all those books you'd love to look at, but can never seem to find!

I love the Textile Center, and I was so proud to be able to do something for the library to help them raise funds!

But when we got back to Rochester we were TIRED. Just absolutely bushed! What a full day!

TODAY
Today we're taking it easy. We actually have to make it back up to the Twin Cities at some point this weekend to pick up books that I neglected to pack in the car yesterday, and to drop off copies of THE LETTER from the city of St. Paul to the previous home owners (I really hope we can just work this out between ourselves - that would be the best, cheapest, easiest and least anxiety filled way to do so!)

They live sort of near us, so we're hoping for an easy and intelligent resolution. It's a real shocker, though, to get a letter stating that our house may be 'red tagged' in 30 days - which, incidentally, would correspond with Gerry's homecoming!

I took Atticus out for a walk this morning, we finally went up into the park behind St. Mary's (it's as much of an oasis as I'd hoped it would be - and me without my camera!) He looks thin, but healthy. We'll fatten him up a bit! Now all we're missing is the kids...

MAYO
We got a funny email from the family that's watching Max right now - here's what it said;
After I put Max to bed last night with his head covered in mayonnaise, John pointed out that he and his Dad were both at the "Mayo" clinic!
Gerry and I laughed and laughed. I hope Max is laughing, too!

HERETIC
And here's something for the heretical amongst us.

While we were waiting for our What To Expect While You're Getting Chemo info session at Methodist / Eisenberg, we were put in a room where the chemo chair faces this framed print of Jesus. So, having Hebrew School for the kids on our minds, we gave Jesus a "Bar Mitzvah Boy" Makeover with the help of a little tape, yarn, paper & scissors;We removed all evidence before we left...

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wheat & Chaff

Harvesting in Minnesota - just in time for the Minnesota State Fair!

We had a bunch of news today. All of the health related news was good, and all of the other type of news not so good. But not so bad, just not great.

But news - good, bad or indifferent - can be overwhelming when it all comes at once! The hard part is separating the good from the bad - the wheat from the chaff. Good thing we have a separator.

FIRST THE GOOD
Gerry had his third day of cell harvesting today, and it's been a bumper crop!

So far they're obtaining a lot of cells from his collection - almost 9 million in 3 days (1.3M on day 1, 3.1M on day 2 & 4.4M on day 3!)

We're hopeful that Gerry'll have a relatively short time remaining with those awful long needles up his veins. If he does this well tomorrow (knock wood) then we'll have our full collection. Then we can dance the dance of the stem cell harvest!

My husband, some hotshot.

After all of this blood separating, though, he's absolutely WIPED OUT during and after this procedure, but he's looking better today than he has all week!

After the collections, Gerry slept most of Mon & Tues. Today he stayed awake, reading the paper and puttering around. I'm afraid that if he doesn't rest he'll not have the output he'd like tomorrow. I feel like a Jewish mama. Sleep, sleep!

Note: Gerry will have a central line for the chemo & infusion, but they prefer to harvest though an arm vein if possible due to less complication s from a central line. Gerry has "good veins" so this means that each day of harvest starts with some painful poking, but a complication would be more painful!

Second Note to Jan: Yes, Gerry's using his own stem cells, they're the best match for him. They'll treat them to get rid of as many plasma cells (the bad cancer cells) as they can. The chemo should take care of most of the plasma cells in his body. Then his cleaned stem cells will be infused back into his veins where they will go into his bone marrow and - hopefully - start making new stem cell babies.
The second best match would be with his brother or sister, which is not as good of a match as his own cells.


KNIT SOCIETY
I went out for coffee and knitting with friends tonight - what a wonderful group! I really feel at home with these women, they're so kind and so much fun! The nice woman who sent me an email was there this evening, and when she introduced herself I know I looked at her like she had two heads (it took a while for me to put 2 + 2 together!)

On the way I picked up a friend I met, a lovely woman and knitter named Cathy who is here with her husband - also undergoing a BMT for MM. It was fun to introduce her to my new knitting & coffee friends at Dunn Bros, I love seeing nice folks network and meet each other.

And, like me, I know she could use a break from hospitals and cancer related talk.

Gerry and I went to dinner the other night and the waitress told us it was Happy Hour. When she walked away Gerry said, sotto voce and in mock indignation, "Happy Hour? I'm not happy. I have cancer. When are they going to have CANCER hour?"

We chatted about how much we love our husbands but how frustrated we can get. I showed her the cliff I threaten to toss Gerry off of every now and then. The things that wives of cancer patients can only share with each other... Don't tell anyone, okay?

And now, the Bad (ish) news;

JOLT
The Electric Inspector looked at our house this week and approved of the work we've had done so far. But there's a problem with previous work done on the house, before we moved in. Apparently a new electrical breaker box was added (this was a selling point for the house) but no permit was ever pulled, and it's sitting too close to a water source in the basement. Two no-no's which may mean fines - we have to see what the official letter from St. Paul says.

One fix is to move the breaker box - but that would be expensive.

Another fix is to put a wall between the existing box and the water source. This actually wouldn't be all bad as we could configure it so that it gives us a closet-ish type area where we can store fans and A/C units, seasonal stuff. But, once again, we have to pay for this.

It's a bother - and it will cost.

Apparently there's a letter on it's way to us - may already be at our house - from the city of St. Paul telling us we have 30 days to resolve the situation. Our real estate agent emailed us the portion of the sellers disclosure where the previous owners claimed that the work was done by a licensed contractor, in which case a permit should have been pulled.

So either
  • The permit was pulled but went missing (lost, not in the system),
  • The contractor didn't pull a permit and thus is at fault or
  • The previous owners didn't use a contractor.
It's a headache, but that's what life is sometimes. A headache. And I've had a killer all week.

ONLY THE EARTH BELOW US
The floor that we ordered will be a few days late coming in. Not a huge deal. So instead of having the floor before Labor Day, we'll have it after. Eh.

I wish it weren't so, but sometimes things show up later than we'd hope.

I don't think it will be a big headache for my sister in law when she's up there with the kids - I hope not - they should be able to get the small area of floor down in one day (so says our contractor - who I trust!)

RHYMES WITH "NICE"
Apparently during one of Hannah's sleepover sessions with her friends back in NJ a whole bunch of little 'friends' decided to nest in her hair. Well, hers and everyone else's. If you don't have kids, you may be grossed out by this.

But if you do have kids you'll realize that it's become more common (at least more so than when I was a kid) to find outbreaks of lice every now and then. Ick.

So Hannah is staying with the kindest family in the world - folks who weren't even involved in any of this outbreak stuff - and they've agree to let her stay with them for another week so that she doesn't have to fly with this contagion or share it with her cousins up in Boston. My friend, Alison, is the absolute best person in the world. Ever.

Hannah's sad not to be seeing her cousin, but thrilled to be able to spend more time with J, one of her best friends.

It took me a LONG time on the phone with Continental to get all of this straightened out - basically she'll be skipping the NJ - Boston and Boston - NJ portion of her trip. So after (literally) an hour with two different folks, it's all squared away.

AND THEN
As soon as I hung up the hotel phone, our cell phone rang and - guess what? Yep, Maxie has the "L" word, too.
My gut feeling - shave his head.

Eh, maybe not. So now we have two kids far away from us who require heavy duty care above and beyond what any normal person should have to do. Maybe shaving his head ISN'T such a bad idea. He does need a haircut...
I'm spinning out of control and rambling - time to end this post. Too much news and too much re-working, re-organizing, re-scheduling for one day. I bought myself a bottle of Bailey's last night and tonight I'll have a glass. Headache? What headache?

PLUM
Here's a link to some pictures I took at the Plummer bldg yesterday - an amazingly beautiful place.

What a nice respite from the other stuff. Architecture is truly one of the most uplifting of the arts, it can touch my soul in places that nothing else can reach.

Gerry and I really want to get to Plummer House in the next few days, before he starts his chemo and may have a harder time getting around.

www.flickr.com




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Monday, August 20, 2007

Fourteen Years

Today is part one of the two day celebration that is our Wedding Anniversary.

Gerry and I were married by a judge on Friday, Aug 20, 1993. Then on Saturday we had a larger 'spiritual', non-religious, ceremony for family and friends.

Fourteen years today. The traditional gift for a 14th anniversary is ivory or an elephant related gift. I got Gerry a refurbished ipod. It's black, but it has white earbuds (almost ivory?)

He's been listening to it all morning - Confessions of an Economic Hitman - during his 5-hour stem cell harvesting session today. I can tell it's wearing him out, but so far he's not suffering the side effects they've mentioned; tingly fingers or nose, nausea.

Our big celebration today will be returning to the hotel and putting Gerry to bed. I'll run out and get him a nice grilled chicken breast or salmon (he's supposed to have protein, but not fatty stuff, during the harvest)

I'm going to see if it's okay if he has a little champagne.

Our nurse today, Ken, turned Gerry onto Duckman - here they are watching it on youtube.

Couple of nuts.

RAINCHESTER
You may have heard about the flooding in Southeast MN. We're a little west of there, but down the street from us a creek overflowed it's banks, so we stopped to take some photos. Gawkers. It was fascinating to see this water running so fast, so hard - fascinating and scary. It's very easy to see how someone could be swept away in an instant.

Today we're supposed to get another 3 inches here in Rochester.

It feels like it's happening on another planet, we're so engrossed in Gerry's own drama.

During a break in the rain we went out to pick up dinner last night, but as soon as we hit the highway the deluge started. So hard, so fast, this is NOT the kind of rain that's needed down here... It's not good for anything.

This is either a car ahead of us, or two VERY angry Mooses.

VICTORY GARDEN

I really love vegetables as landscaping.

I remember about 20 years ago when I first saw cabbages used in front of hotels in Philadelphia for decoration.

And I really loved the uncle in the movie, Withnail & I, who wore radishes on his lapel like a boutonniere.

So ladies and knitters, I bring you the Minnesota version of yard beautification, Veg-scaping.

Extra Musical Note:
As we were leaving the Gonda building, the music of choice today was "Seasons in the Sun" Seriously.

I walked all the way to the car and had the walker and our various bags half packed up before I realized what I was humming. Now we're back home and Gerry's been asleep for a few hours, he'll sleep all night and tomorrow at 8:00 we're back to the aphasis machine!

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Clever Little Cells

We heard this evening that Gerry's blood count is good enough to start the harvest tomorrow - hooray!

We'd heard it wasn't uncommon for the growth hormone shots to go on for a few more days - we're glad to be moving on to the next level of this adventure. I swear, it's like a video game.

This makes us oddly giddy - as if Gerry's done something very smart with his little cells (and he has!)

So tomorrow at 7:00 am we'll be at Gonda with bells on, and they'll start the harvesting (separating the stem cells from other blood cells.)

We'll have a threshing party and we'll hope for the best! Harvest is always such a fun time!

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Rainy Afternoon

The weather is working for us - albeit, not for everyone else in the county - but for us, this has been a good weather weekend. I can tell when the weather's nice, Gerry itches to get out and DO something. Rain is a respite!

It's raining - overcast, grey, sleep-all-afternoon while watching history documentary kind of weather. Gerry's feeling the effects from his growth hormone shots; achy joints, general malaise and tiredness, but NO fever so far. Yay!

Tonight at 5:00 we call the hospital to get the results from Gerry's blood test. If the numbers are good, we start the harvest tomorrow. If the numbers aren't where we'd like, we have another day of growth hormone shots.

LOOK ALIKE
The nurse who gave Gerry his growth injections on Fri & Sat looked like Vincent D'onofrio in scrubs, and had a nice sense of humor. I gave him a flip knit book and it made him laugh.

I got a nice email from someone who works in the BMT dept of Mayo. The nurse we met with on Thursday to go over the whole procedure once again (I've promised her if she gives me 30 minutes, I'll teach her to knit!) passed along the ad for my Textile Center fund raiser on Friday.

And so this nice person - who is a knitter - emailed me to welcome us to Rochester. We'll have EVERYONE on our BMT team knitting by the time I leave!

Gerry's editing some video that we shot on Friday - he's wanting to do some kind of video diary of his experience. I figured a way to attach his camera to the walker - the gimp-cam we call it.

He just told me that he looks old when he sees himself move on tape. He worries that he'll never be able to stand up straight again. We're wondering exactly how much of the bone damage to his back is irreversible.

We were able to get a board between the mattress & springs, which makes everything more comfortable for G, and we'll have ourselves cuddled in for an afternoon of rest. History of Britain, all 15 episodes, here we come!

DOLLED UP
Atticus has been boarded so far, but on Friday when I drive up to St. Paul for the aforementioned fund raiser at the Textile Center I'll stop by and pick up the puppy, take him to get a nice trim while I head over to get a trim, myself!

I may even get a pedicure, if I'm feeling peppy.

Then I'll pick up Atticus and head over to the center to talk, tell some jokes and sign books. I'm hoping it will be okay that I have the pup with me - I know he'll sit quietly at my feet while I talk, he'll just be so darned happy to SEE me (and vice versa!)

Then back to Rochester, where Atticus will FINALLY be with us for a week before Gerry's mom and sister come into town on 8/29.

If Gerry's up to it, when the kids get into town the next day we'll bring them to Rochester so they can see dad. If Gerry's risk of infection is too great, though, the kids will have to put off seeing him for another week or so.

Atticus, the kids, Gerry's sister and the cat will be back up in St. Paul where they'll hang out while I'm in France. Gerry and his mom will be here in Rochester. I'm hoping to swing a visit to the State Fair for the kids & Gayle on 8/31 , before I leave, and so we can use the Prairie Home Companion tickets I bought SO many weeks ago!

I swear, by the time this is over I should have earned my general's stars for organization!

INTERFAITH OUTSIDE-IN
I'm trying to put the finishing touches on an interfaith essay that's due tomorrow. I try to write from outside myself - disinterestedly? - when I write about interfaith issues. It's hard to look at yourself, your life decisions, from the inside out - but it's the way that makes the most sense to me. It's not that I don't get personal - I do - but not in the same vein as I do for the blog.

Here at my blog I can just rant and write - things don't have to make sense - but often they end up in some kind of nice resolution.

When I write about my own experiences with interfaith marriage, or conversion, or raising my kids as Jews I need to be aware that what I write may have a strong impact on any member of Gerry's family. I need to be careful - while at the same time try to explain my position as honestly as I can. The best way I've found to achieve this is to try to write as though I'm looking at my life from the outside in.

Sometimes writing about writing is the kiss of death - that whole brain-getting-in-the-way thing that I talk about in m classes. Our brains are so powerful - we are so brilliant - that we can stymie ourselves when we try to rein our brains into one specific direction. Especially when we're just at the point of a huge leap - but fearfully stop ourselves (and sometimes crash!)

I've come to believe that intuition is earned by a lifetime of experience, observation and reflection. It's the power to take the reins off the brain so that we're not trying to quantify every tiny thing as we process it. It's accepting our own natural brilliance and letting ourselves trust our brains to know where they're going. Easier said than done.

So my in-the-zone method of writing about something so personal as my own spiritual journey is my attempt to find an intuitive way to explain one woman's walk in the general direction of Judiasm.

Of course, I equate everything with knitting - which could be seen as a slap in the fact to Judiasm OR to knitting, but I see it as a compliment to both - and that route has limited appeal.

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All Systems GO!

(an oddly religious post...)

We've been waiting for the final approval from our insurance company for Gerry's transplant.

The way they do things is they give a pre-approval - a guarantee that they'll cover us being here for testing and all of the preliminary stuff.
After the testing is turned in and reviewed by the insurance company, then they either approve or reject the actual procedure.

It's a frustration - obviously Gerry needs this and we have felt like we're waiting for someone in a cubicle to give a thumbs up - but it's how the system works.
In our case, our insurance company seemed oddly concerned with certain samples.

When these were finally turned in there was a several day delay, hand wringing, and as of last night we still hadn't received approval.

Gerry's been scheduled to start TODAY, so it was with GREAT relief that we heard from insurance that we're good to go early this morning. Huzzah!


So today Gerry had his first Growth Hormone shot. These do several things; they make the body produce more stem cells (we're looking for a total harvest of 12 million, but we'll settle for 10) and they make the bones grow, causing pain in the joints.

The pain's been described to us as ranging from severe, "I thought I'd go NUTS!" to mild, "I hardly noticed, I just took a tylenol."


Every person is different. Gerry's already on Oxy & Hydrocodone for his many bone fractures, so what we may do is just up the hydrocodone for his breakthrough pain.


MOVING AHEAD

Wednesday we had a 'day off' so we drove up to St. Paul to check in with our contractor. Work is moving along very nicely - things are being framed, the sub-floor is ready to go and everything looks good.

When we saw how little room there was between the new bathroom and dining room wall, we decided to forego our 'pantry' cabinets to retain a more open feeling in the kitchen, but we're adding some overhead cabinetry to cover some of this lost storage.


There are two problems to deal with - not huge, but they have to be resolved.


#1 The plumber said that there is a problem on which the inspector is being very firm, so we're waiting to hear the solution to this (we need a 2" pipe where there's currently a 1-1/2" pipe - it's sort of Greek to me...) It involves cutting into a wall and replacing a portion of pipe.


#2 A window has to be resized or moved, not as big a deal as it sounds, but something that became clear when physically marking out the measurements for the appliances. It's not a huge deal, because getting a different sized window won't be hard.


BREATH

I visited the Mayo
myself on Tuesday, met with a pullmonary doctor, and had an excellent time trying to cough into a little cup for a few hours. Gerry has NOTHING on me. Well, maybe not...

So after the visit, and some blood tests, it seems that yes - I am having some breathing problems and as long as I'm going to be around they'd like me to have a pulmonary function test next Tuesday (after a week on the steroids I'm taking - something I usually do about twice a year depending on the weather when my breathing get bad) so we'll see what broncho-dialator I'll end up on this time.


To those of you who wrote me about my own small adventure, thanks for your concern!

This was instructional, though, and in a sense was kind of a cool thing to do as a caregiver here at Mayo. It gives me a much better sense of what it might be like - in a very small way - to be in Gerry's shoes.


TIME AWAY
After my doc visit Gerry and I drove up to Lake City and had dinner at a very nice place on the lake. Our waitress was wearing one of the Lance Armstrong bracelets and we began chatting. Her son is at the Mayo right now, in this third year of treatment for Lung Cancer, and we had the feeling that his outlook wasn't as bright as she'd like.

Cancer is odd. Or, rather, the way that cancer - any earth shaking, life shaking experience - can allow folks to open up to each other and understand what's REALLY important is odd.
Speaking of earth shaking, if you're in a house that isn't rocking right now - that's standing - and you're safe, think about visiting Save The Children to make a donation to help folks in the middle of a huge natural disaster.
As we chatted with this woman, we felt we'd been lightly adopted - she took extra pains with Gerry's meal (he ordered the Bison, and loved it!) and several times we all just escaped tears. She told us she has 10 kids. Now 12?

We've decided that - with our small appetites these days - the best thing we can do is have one nice meal a day around lunch then have the leftovers for dinner. It's nice - not a lot of waste, we're eating less, and we get to have a nice meal out!

She said she'd add Gerry to her prayer list, which was lovely of her (there was an off-duty priest sitting behind us, we felt very well covered) and it made me ponder something that's been rolling around in my head.


THE ODDLY RELIGIOUS PORTION
No matter how we view our own spirituality - whether we're born-again Fundamentalist, Agnostic, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, traditional Catholics or Wikkan - anything, really - we appreciate the
connection that prayer - or simple meditation - seems to give us to something great either inside or outside of us.

After all, Heaven is within us.


At first when folks were writing to us, telling us their church group was praying for Gerry, I wasn't sure how to respond.

We have a Jewish home, I was raised somewhere between Presbyterian & Free Methodist, and have developed (what else?) unorthodox ideas about the concept of god (I'm rather
Deist - yep, me and Tom Jefferson)

So usually I just write "Thank you!" and some version of, "Right back at ya!" I didn't want to get into a situation where I was fending off a witnessing - hurt feelings on either side don't help anyone, don't go making me revile you!

But I do want folks to know that no matter where their good thoughts are coming from, we're happy to have them. My personal belief is that they - the good wishes - all spring from the same place. Where this is, I don't really know for sure.

But I DO know they're there.

Maybe inside of this beautiful little glass bone bead, hand made for me by Judy (a local knitter who invited me to her knitting group at Dunn Bros coffee last night) and filled with Hope.

I just love this. Thank you, Judy! And thank you to EVERYONE last night who made Gerry and me feel so welcomed - we both really enjoyed our time together with you!

A good friend from back home wrote me the loveliest note a few weeks ago with this tidbit:
In Hinduism, there is a goddess called Durga. She is the goddess of strength and power and has ten hands (each with a special weapon from other gods) with which she single handedly kills the most powerful demon that had attacked our planet.

She is also a loving wife and caretaker of her family.

I wish you the strength of Durga as you chart your course through this difficult time in your lives. May she give you the strength to overcome your difficulties and may Kali protect you and remove the hurdles in your path.
Which is about the nicest thing anyone's ever wished for me - for us.

RED WING REDUX

After dinner in Lake City we drove on up to Red Wing so Gerry could see the house that I looked at - and loved - this past Fall.

We ultimately decided against the house for several reasons - being the only Jews in the county among them, think how long it would take to get the kids to Hebrew School!

But I was SO drawn by this house. At the time I thought, "A different time, different circumstances, and this would be the perfect house!" I wrote in my blog at the time that if I could run away with a house, this would be it.

We drove up to the house and were met buy the guy who DID buy it - he moved in 2 months ago - a very nice guy who lives there with his two dogs & wife.

We had the nicest chat about how beautiful the house is, how lucky they are to have it, and how lucky we were to find the right house for us in St. Paul.


We also talked about gardening - this fellow runs a website,
The Pallina, where interesting gardening apparel is sold. There is certainly ample space at the Red Wing house - or Morningside as we discovered it's been known in the past - for some wonderful English-type gardening.

CORN-A-BUNGA (Man!)
Driving back to Rochester on 58, south of Red Wing, we saw this amusing corn fields - so I stopped the car and shot a few pictures. I don't know if this was fun to plow and plant, but I hope so - it's fun to see! It's like a wave of corn!

We're trying to take time to stop along the side of the road when we feel like it.

I turned back to the car and was startled to see this. Amusing, no?

It looks like someone is getting a little full of himself. This is the Gerry I fell in love with - it's good to see him again!

Thank Durga!

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?
When we picked up our mail in St. Paul there was a box of yarn from Tilli Tomas - I was so swoo
n-inclined that I had to rest when I opened the box - I had the vapors!

It's as sumptuous in person as it seems in the photo. It's a new yarn, Plie, which is spun much more tightly than other yarns by TT that I've used. Fabulous!

But then I realized that my long-suffering swift, good ol' Swifty, has probably seen the end of the run. You've been a stalwart traveling
companion, my umbrella-armed friend, and I've been patching you with odd bits of wire for years now. But I'm afraid we've reached the end of our time together.

So what to do with all this yarn & no swift? Yes, I used Gerry - but that's only fun for one skein or so. Then I tried our office chair, but it was cumbersome and hard to get up to speed.

Finally I hit on the best solution - an inverted cone-shaped lampshade with it's finial loosened. Maybe this is one of the tools that Durga's been given?

Huzzah, huzzah!

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Weight Is Lifted

We have a new case worker with our insurance company, and we discovered something quite wonderful...

We get a [small] daily stipend for meals and room!

It's not huge, it doesn't cover everything, but it's more than we thought we'd be getting. This is amazing.

Apparently when we were looking into the program at the U of Mn this wasn't available because Gerry would be an in patient. When we moved our treatment to Mayo, Gerry became an outpatient and thus the stipend kicked in.

But we didn't know about it - not until the NEW case worker made us aware of it.

Yay, new, improved case worker! Here Gerry is celebrating with Gigi, who really couldn't care less as long as she has her Meow Mix. She's plotting escape routes.

So - in light of this amazing new news - I've removed the heart tugging photo of Gerry & Maxie from the sidebar of my blog, and have updated the Red Carpet Convertible page to reflect our good news.

We have no idea where we'll be a few months from now (why should we be any different than most of the world?), but we're assuming the best and at this point we're covered for our budgeted non-medical expenses between what the insurance will cough up and what folks have given in exchange for the Red Carpet Convertible.

Once again, thank you to EVERYONE who helped us by purchasing the pattern. THANK YOU!

I hadn't realized just what a weight this was on my mind until it was gone - and suddenly it's like I removed a pair of dark glasses - everything is lighter! Actually, today everything is overcast weather-wise, and we had some MAJOR hail last night lashing at the window, but in our internal world it's sunny and bright! Gerry slept better last night than he has in weeks.

KNIT MUCH?
I didn't think I'd be getting much knitting done for the first week - so many appointments to make, so much driving and rushing - but I'm making progress on three separate projects and sketching as much as I can when the inspiration strikes.

All of these unique clothing pieces and the beautiful art at the Mayo is very inspirational.

If I can finish the blue piece soon, I can send that off to VK and life will be good.

The more observant of you may notice that this is VERY different from my original swatch. That's how things work sometimes...

Adina at VK wanted something lacier, and less rectangular, and I'm loving how this new incarnation is working out.

The bonus is that I can use my earlier idea and create a new design. Woo!

WEATHER INDUCED
Speaking of weather, my COPD's been behaving badly - not terribly - just annoying with lots of middle of the night waking, coughing, and shortness of breath. I've been worse, but it's noticeable and I don't want to get kicked out of the chemo wing. So yesterday Gerry insisted I register myself at the Mayo and make an appt to see a pulmonary doc (luckily there was a cancellation, so I'll be seeing someone today!)

In our time in St. Paul I hadn't had the chance to find a new pulmonary doc (I really liked mine back in NJ) so I've let the COPD slide and I've been treating it like severe asthma. Not a great long-term plan. So hopefully today I'll get a new regime of things I must do to retain my good breathing health - and be here 100% for Gerry.

Every time I fill out one of those 15-page health background forms, I'm shocked by how healthy I really am! Except for the breathing, and a need to lose 10 (or 50) pounds, I'm in pretty good shape! So - pretty much just to get attention - now I'm being treated at the Mayo, too!

So there, Mr. Landy.

FUN STUFF
I've been wearing the same tired old pair of floral Birkenstocks for years now - I love them, but they're not the most elegant of footwear.

I saw these on sale last week near the Mayo - and yesterday I bought them. Good for Spring, Summer and part of Fall - and a nice bargain.

France, here I come! Perhaps Gigi would like to come with me?

HOLY COW!
The scooter is gone.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hold the Mayo

At the Mayo there are signs all over the place that if you're sneezing or coughing, STAY AWAY.

I appreciate these signs - it will be only a short time until Gerry's undergoing his high-dose chemo, and will be susceptible to all kinds of viruses.

But I woke up with a pretty strong sneezing, coughing, headachy cold this morning - I had a headache as I went to bed, I though it was the thunderstorms - but it's turned into a full flown chest cold. Lots of coughing.

Maybe I picked something up, or maybe it's the stress & smokey room (which is much better now!) but I'm going to take it easy for a day or so. Luckily, there's a 5 day break while we wait for final approval from Gerry's insurance company, so during this time I'll be entirely away from Mayo until Thursday, when Gerry begins getting his growth hormone to create more stem cells.

FREEDOM
Gerry's taking advantage of this by driving over to a grocery store - I think he's relishing just being out alone, something he's not done in weeks, and something everyone needs.

He's feeling better than he has in months, so if he wants to get out and enjoy himself on his own for a bit - all the better!

He walked in while I was writing this - yay - why I should be worried when he's out I don't know. I guess it's a learned behavior that I'll have to break myself of when we're back home and he's getting better and better.

Last night on one of the MM sites he visits a fellow announced that his wife just lost her MM battle after 3 years. It was a somber moment when Gerry told me - and, of course, we asked each other, "Was she taking the drugs I am?", "Did she have a BMT?" But this is, after all is said and done, a very individualistic disease.

So if he wants to run around buying staplers, laundry soap and small tripods (he's creating a video diary of his experience) then bless him. Any small autonomy is good.

WIND
We drove over to Otawanna yesterday to do some shopping, we needed to pick up some hardware stuff, look at ceiling fans (we still hadn't found the right one for our kitchen) and - let's face it - we were going a little stir crazy. We just needed to get out.

On the drive the weather was very odd - dark clouds in front of us with lightning flashing - but sunny where we were. The sun seemed to follow us - even when we headed into a brief shower, we were in the sun.

We drove past a wind farm - Gerry'd never seen one before, I'd seen the small one in Pennsylvania last year. When we were in Duluth we saw the huge fan blades and other parts for these - they're absolutely huge. To see so many at a time is a little breathtaking.

In Owatanna we also visited the outlet malls - why not? - and I found some linen pants and tops which I'd been looking for on super-duper no-one-wants-us reduction of $12.25 each.

Now I have a pair of linen pants and a top to wear to appointments so I don't look like a tourist at a theme park in shorts & a t shirt.

If Mayo's trying so hard to look nice for us, we should return the favor,
n'est ce pas?

I haven't bought summer clothes in a long time. With my teaching curtailed this summer there was no need. But I want to look good for Gerry, and I need to get some halfway decent looking stuff for France.

Until Gerry gets his central line put in for the chemo (a direct line into his chest so he won't need repeated needle sticks in his arm), he'll be able to get into the pool and I think it would be VERY good for to build some strength in his bones. Moving around in a more weightless environment. So we picked up a bathing suit that will actually FIT him at Cabela's ($8!) and explored the magic that is a venison cafeteria.

LEARNED BEHAVIOR?
I have always been a 'door holder' - we know who we are. We rush to open a door for someone who needs it, and end up holding it for many, many folks. I don't mind - it gives me something to do and, as I tell the folks who walk by thanking me, now I have a second career. Doormen (people?) can earn good money if they're in a good union.

Very rarely someone neglects to thank me - it's so unusual that it's notable. As we were leaving one shop at the outlet mall yesterday and I held the door open for Gerry, another guy walked through, then another guy, then a third youngish, physically healthy specimen strolled by.

The odd thing was that this guy had two daughters, around 5 or 6, and they followed him out. Perhaps I just seemed like part of the landscape at that point, but not only did he not nod, thank or even acknowledge me, he just assumed I'd hold the door open for his daughters (which, of course, I did!)

Such a small thing, but it made me wonder; what kind of dad just walks out of a building assuming that his kids will be okay? I usually position myself BEHIND Hannah and Max when we leave a building (something I never thought of until now, I guess to make sure we all get out okay.) Mom brings up the rear.

But even if I walked out first I'd turn to make sure non one got caught in a door, got interested in something else and wandered away, or worse.

Gerry noticed it and chalked it up to the "getting ahead" mentality you see around us on TV and in our culture. Be first, get out ahead, we are number one, he who dies with the most toys wins. A sad type of thinking.

We noticed this guy strolling into another store - once again, not even noticing if his daughters had a hard time with the door

Seriously, what kind of person doesn't turn around as they walk through a door to see if someone else is coming or to make sure it doesn't catch someone else?


The store was called Big Dog and Gerry and I couldn't believe the phrases plastered all over their Tshirts. Here are two shirts that were in the window - two of the least insulting that we saw.

What's the point of being so unnecessarily nasty? I just stay away from writing on T shirts unless it's a school I've attended or knitting related.

Gerry commented that it probably wasn't by accident that this guy went into this store. I wonder if his daughters will be door holders?

ACCOUNT-ABILITY
I felt it might be good to mention again where we are, why we're here, what we're doing, etc. As I said, Gerry's working on a video diary of this whole thing, I'm curious to see how it comes out. There may be a Gerry blog soon - or not. If there is I want it to be a release, not a chore.

When we knew we'd be coming to the Mayo, we drove down to Rochester and looked at several extended stay hotels and other options. Out of everything we saw, Staybridge Suites was by far the best value for the money. If we're here for 30 days it should run roughly $65/day, which is more than a place like Hope Lodge or Transplant House (free or $25/day.)

Folks have asked - in the nicest way - why we're not at the Hope Lodge. We're here at Staybridge Suites mostly for the pet policy - we can have Gigi and eventually Atticus here with us. Also, when the kids are back from NJ we'd like to have them down on weekends to see Dad as much as possible. Those are two things we can't do at Hope Lodge (no pets, no kids!)

On a side note, it was so nice - and a little surreal - to read about a Max sighting in Maplewood NJ!

Our current hotel also has a pool, an exercise room, free laundry and each room has a small kitchenette. We're about 3/4 of a mile from Mayo and twice now we've walked home instead of taking the shuttle. Walking is good - and as Gerry recovers from the transplant - when walking is encouraged - it will be even better to have that as an option.

It was a rough choice, but really - seeing Gerry petting Gigi, seeing Gigi loving Gerry, that's worth so much to both of us. Oh yeah, and the kids.

We're in the cheapest room right now, when Gerry's mom comes we'll move into a 1 BR so she can have her own space.

I mention this because so many folks have been so kind, purchasing the Red Carpet Convertible pattern and helping us out. I was chatting with another person in a similar situation to ours - someone with decent health insurance (for the US) but who needs help with the extra bits (airfare, etc.)

She'd mentioned that although she appreciates help from folks, sometimes it almost feels as though by helping someone becomes a stockholder, and has a say in the financial decisions they make during their family health crisis.

I don't feel this way - well, not entirely - but I do feel a certain accountability to folks who have been so good to us. Thank you!

I feel it's necessary for us to live as well and as frugally as we can, for Gerry to work hard to recover, and for us to do as much as we can to assist his recovery. Gigi is instrumental in that.

Gerry's definitely happier with a cat around.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Reflections From The Mayo Cruise

Last evening we noticed a convent looking building on the hill across from our hotel - what a lovely view. Tuscany in Minnesota.

We found out today it is a convent. Sisters of St. Francis. I wonder if there are tours - it's a lovely building, and there seems to be a great deal of art.

The Mayo buildings - whether by design or by function - seem journey-like. Many waiting rooms feel like retro train stations, the exam rooms have the feeling of a nice-sized 40's sleeper car, the atrium in the Mayo/Gonda building feels like the deck of a ship to me.

If life is a journey, today felt like a Mediterranean Cruise! I keep telling Gerry when I go to France everything will look like Minnesota to me. The first time I went to Belgium it looked so Ohio-esqe. We view new things through the eyes we have. Right now we have the unique opportunity to see only each other with the kids away and this time alone.

Before leaving today we set up a mini kitty apartment in the bathroom with food, litter box, cushions in the tub & toys because we had to lock little Gigi up.

The room needed to be thoroughly cleaned. It's a smoke free room, but when we return home at the end of the day it smells as if there's been a poker game going on, so evidently the last guests were secret smokers.

The hotel will move us if we want - we'll see how the deep clean went today...

Gigi was NOT happy about the arrangement - not even with the little catnip filled sock I made for her. Poor, angry kittty. She would be terrifying if she weren't so darned cute (and slightly demonic)

Our first appointment was pleasant, easy, very informative - we really enjoyed meeting the nurse - she put us at ease and explained the full procedure quite clearly.

Then we walked around, checking out the magnificent artwork - I kvelled at a Calder mobile, Fish.

I love Calder. Gigi loves fish.

There had been a Calder stabile in front of WTC 7 when I worked there and I had lunch near it as often as possible. When that building came down - empty - later in the day on 9/11 - I wept for the Calder on top of all the tears for the folks in WTC 1 & 2.

One of the pieces is of an ancient Roman mosaic - I love this, the lines and strength make me happy. It's a nice perspective-esque for an early Roman piece - abstract. Who knew how much I like abstract stuff?

A more realistic sculpture is this bush/tree thing - it looks more brain-like in this image than it does in person - with a groovy shot from inside the sculpture.

Everyone here is so friendly, SO clean cut with little name plates that are a little too close to the LDS name plates. Hmmmm.

There are folks from all over the world here - so many examples of interesting and beautiful cultural dress - I think I counted 5 different types of woman-wrapping garment yesterday.

There's a very large sculpture of a man with a fig leaf in an appropriate space, but NO revealing sculptures of women. The only realistic dimensional representations of women I've seen, actually, is a bas relief showing nuns in traditional habit - interesting...

A few Mennonites rode by on bikes as we walked home - just odd little touches all over the place - the sorts of things that make us feel that we're in a very unique place.

We stopped by Kristen's Knits on the way home this afternoon [a lovely shop, by the way, with very nice yarns - good selection - and INOX Express needles!!]

It was a relief to walk around the shop and just LOOK at yarn, not think, "How can I find a way to bring up this yarn in class so folks will give it a second look..?" - which is what I do quite often when I teach. However, I do have my eye on some King Tut Egyptian cotton - I may pick some up later..!

Kristen was so kind - she knew who I was (we stood in front of the shop for 20 minutes finishing up a call with Gerry's aunt - not very conspicuous, huh? Well, I thought it would have been rude to walk in chatting on the cell phone) Kristen walked out to help us inside, loaded down as we were with bags and walker.

I saw some women from a distance who appeared to be wearing 14th century Dutch headresses - I have to find them tomorrow and see exactly WHAT they have on!


Speaking of Holland, we went to Pannekoeken for lunch - excellent salads, and the ubiquitous PANNE-kochen! carried out by singing waitresses. Gerry and joked about the singing - it would have been interesting to hear the waitresses sing it to the tune of Pennsylvania 6500 - "Pannah-coke-en six-five-oh-oh-OH!"

After lunch we met with Dr. Costas again. He's here at the Mayo on a fellowship working in the Blood & Marrow transplant department and has become one of our favorite folks to chat with. He's Brazilian, a very nice guy, and has an easy-going way of explaining complicated procedures so we can understand them.

He has a slight accent - it seems ridiculous to even mention it since I can't imagine what kind of an accent I'd have if I tried to speak Portuguese - but at one point he told Gerry that by the time we went home at the end of this entire procedure he'd only be taking a 'cupful' of pills every day.
- A cup full? That sounds like a lot...
- No, a cup-pool.
A couple. Big difference. So that's our goal. Brand spanking new stem cells and a couple of pills a day in 8 easy weeks.

Of course, continuing in our search for inappropriate music / magazines in the waiting rooms, we found a Rochester magazine lying around with this interesting ad for a local casino.

Gerry thought the subtext was NOT by accident.


At one point today we rode the elevator with a mom and her teenage daughter who'd just finished her stem cell transplant experience and was heading home - bald but healthier than she'd been and with a brighter outlook than the mom had expected.

It was easy to see that the mom was just barely holding it together - the emotions and gratitude showing in every part of her face.

As we parted, she said to me, "He'll be okay, you'll see!"

Which was a very nice thing for her to say. And an even better thing to hear. Just the connection with another Mom - another woman about my age - was a nice thing. So many of the women I chat with here are in their 70's or older. I was supposed to go to a knitting group on Wednesday, but wasn't able to make it. I'm REALLY looking forward to making it there next week - new friends are good.

Speaking of new friends, one stopped by this evening - how lucky are we to already be making friends? Linda had emailed me weeks ago with advice about a local boarding kennel, and stopped by to drop off the BEST molasses cookies I've ever had. Note to Gerry: Hide the cookies or you'll have NONE of them!

Gerry and I (okay, I) talked nonstop to our poor guest this evening - I was a little overwhelming - and I realized that it's been a long time since I've just had a VISIT with a friend.

Most of my interactions have been teaching-related, bathroom reno-related or health related lately, and I'm ready to just chill with friends!

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Ladies & Gentlemen, LIVE from the Mayo!

Some of the music they play around here is pretty amusing. As we walked into our first appointment this morning, we heard the Longine Symphonette version of What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?

I'm not sure if anyone else caught it in the waiting room - it was a pretty florid arrangement and you had to listen carefully to understand it. How ironic, though...

Someone burning the cd's around here has a pretty good sense of humor.

A pianist plays in the lobby of the Mayo building during lunch hours. She obviously loves what she's doing, the pedestrians hurrying from one building to another converge in front of her piano and look as if they're doing a crazy waltz. This must be the Grand Central Station of health.

As Gerry and I turned a corner - me with the 'step-side step-hop' that I always seem to be doing these days to avoid tripping over his wheels - I almost ran into an older man who smiled at me and said, "With this music we could be dancing!"

He had a strong, kind face. I found myself hoping that he was here for himself, and not for a loved one. I think deep down it's easier to deal with our own illness rather than see someone we love become very sick.

FACES OF MAYO
Watching people's faces is interesting. Older folks - those in their 70's and above - are relatively non-plussed. Some seem to enjoy the activity and the very kind interactions with the Mayo staff.

This must be the point in life when all that much touted wisdom and experience kick in - thank heaven - and you realize that sometimes you're just along for the ride, so you may as well enjoy it!

Folks in their 40's - 70's are either accompanying a younger family member (in which case they look a lot better than I'd look - but still, they've got that 'must get through this' set to their jaws.) Or - like Gerry - they may be patients themselves.

The patients are obvious because their accompanying party consists of a worried looking spouse, furrow browed siblings or oblivious children.

Younger folks, in their 20's & 30's, seem to be the most upset - definitely the most irritated. If their time is cut short, then by god get OUT of their way! I guess this makes sense, as they are much too young to be seriously ill, or to lose someone to a serious illness.

There are a few kids - mostly children and grand children of patients. While we were waiting for Gerry's echocardiogram there were some siblings running amok - apparently waiting for grandma - whose father was a sort of 'hands off' type of parent.

It was the only time today a waiting room seemed loud. The Mayo staff member who addressed the dad was SO gracious and kind - I wish I had her diplomatic skills! I just kept knitting all day (even when the lights were turned out so the tech could do Gerry's echo - knitting in the dark!)

Here's proof that Gerry has a heart. The desk clerk told me I have, "The nicest husband!" She's right.


I haven't seen many worried looking children - thank god - plenty of time for all that later. What the artwork, kind (very kind) folks, music and magazines can't obliviate is the knowledge that we, every one of us, is here because we are or are involved with someone who is very sick.

Not just any sick, Mayo Sick. But there's a lot more hope here than worry on the faces I've seen.

This is not where folks come who have a simple urinary tract infection. Mayo Sick is having been to another facility and have been referred here for the excellent care. Folks who come here seem to have been through the system - some system - and are scarred in various ways.

Gerry and I - we're just giddy. We're usually pretty giddy together, even after almost 14 years, unless we're in pissy moods. Today we're scared, and that makes us laugh like nervous adolescents. Gerry's first test was a bone marrow biopsy, which had been - to date - his most painful experience up in St. Paul.

I delight in asking him, "Painful, yes - but how does it compare to childbirth?" (You got nothing on me, Landy...)

On the wall was an electronic billboard type of readout - how medical folks keep track of what patient is in which room. Gerry said it was really the Powerball numbers.

I thought it was a new form of Bingo - "MAYO!" It's only 4 letters, so it takes less time...

What are YOU doing the rest of your life?

MAYO!

Gerry was out cold for the test, he's not supposed to make any legal decisions for the rest of the day. The procedure was so quick, relatively pain-free, and he was up and coherent in 20 minutes, walking around like he'd just had a nap. Amazing.

They do more BMT's [Bone Marrow Transplants] here than anywhere else, if you do something a lot you get good at all of the pre-procedure testing stuff. Anything that saves Gerry a bit of pain is cool with me!

So while Gerry's getting his teeth and jaw checked, I'm waiting patiently (feels like forever - and now they're playing, Please Release Me...) Dang.

ACCOMMODATING GERRY
Our hotel room is very nice - a good size, comfy bed, wireless internet, excellent cable channels and a quiet vista of a residential street. We had a celebratory dinner last night at Canadian Honkers - amazing vegetable soup! - and spent the entire meal talking about how much we miss the kids.

I miss the kids.

KIDS!
When I got back from Detroit and saw how happy Hannah was - how confident and, I swear, taller - I knew that sending her to Girl Scout Camp this summer was the BEST thing we could have done. I feel like we've equipped her with extra abilities to deal with the time away from us, and to be a source of comfort and strength for Max. She makes an excellent - if bossy - older sister. Is there any other kind? I never had one, so I don't know!

Talking to the kids last night, Max was almost crying. Hannah was bubbling and happy to be going to see her friends. I tried not to cry. I wanted to drive up this afternoon, but we realized that we're exhausted, we have to catch the 6:30am shuttle tomorrow, and I think emotionally it would be too much for Gerry. Yeah, that's right - too much for Gerry - not me. Naaaah.

'Jersey, you'd better be good to my kids. I know where you live, and I know people.

SIDE ORDER OF KNITTING
As forecast, knitting is EXCELLENT here at the Mayo, and I spied 3 other knitters (as well as a woman at a desk) doing some interesting stuff with two needles and yarn.

Hmmm, makes me wonder if there's any regular knitting group at the Mayo... I wonder if I should start one...


I got Gerry to make three stitches today - it's progress - and maybe I can get him to finish a row tomorrow. I can hope.

Here's a project I'm doing right now, a lace shawl that's not specifically "lace" - it's a twisted drop stitch, which works really well with a variegated yarn. If they like it, it's for VK. If they don't, I'll post the pattern here!

A note to folks emailing for basic knit assistance: Usually I get about 10 - 30 emails per week asking basic knitting questions, and I try to answer each one as quickly and thoroughly as I can. Right now I'm not able to get to them as I'd like. I'll try, but if you don't hear from me, please understand!

Oh, yeah, and something else happened on 8/7 - the release of Romantic Hand Knits!! And briefly - perhaps not - it's at #8 on the Amazon List for knitting books. Woo!


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Monday, August 06, 2007

Bearing Threads

There's this wonderful feeling when things go well - the small things, the big things, all the in-between things.

Like when you make a shopping list and go to the store and get everything on the list (and maybe only one or two extra things,) drive home and make every light - that's how this weekend felt!

Even though the turnout was slim in Canada, the reception was warm (the turnout - AND the weather) and welcoming. Meeting Terri from Feather your Nest and all of her wonderful students was a blast. I must admit that my time in Canada is a bit of a blur - but after the last three days, what WOULDN'T be!?

Threadbear
Rob & Matt made me feel just like family - in so many ways - especially if you understand that my family has an addiction to Diet Coke (it's genetic.) That's pretty much what flows through the veins of the folks at Threadbear!

My first class on Friday night was exceptional - oh, heck, ALL the classes were exceptional!

It's amazing when - out of FIVE classes - there were really no rough patches, no parts when I wanted to kick myself for not explaining a concept better, no student who just couldn't 'get it.'

Everybody got it in these classes - they were an amazing group!

When I teach more than three classes at a venue I fear folks will get tired of my stock jokes, stories, the little songs I sing. If the students at Threabear were tired of me, they were kind (and gentle) enough not to let me know.

Heaven knows I told the same damned jokes over and over, but there always seemed to be at least ONE person who hadn't heard it, and that seemed to make everyone enjoy it all over again!


This speaks to the dynamic of the shop - which really is a yarn mecca, one of the most amazing shops I've been in.

Once you walk in the door, you adopt the sense of humor of a 14-year old boy. Luckily, I happen to enjoy that humor, some of the funniest people I know are 14-year old boys.

The weekend felt like a baseball game - I'd set up a joke, Rob would overhear me from across the store and knock it out of the park.

And speaking of ball games, on Saturday night while the guys had 'movie night' at the shop, I retired to their home to rest a bit and watch the fireworks at the ball field across the river. The Lansing Lugnuts know how to put on a good show!

The view from Rob & Matt's house is quite lovely - this is the view earlier in the afternoon - before the sun went down (note that I shot this through a screen...)

But so much laughter is wearying - so much teaching is rough. I think an hour of hardcore instruction is equivalent to 3 hours of design work. Teaching 4 days in a row (all but one a full days) is utterly exhausting.

In the last class today I thought one of the students was about to have an aneurysm during the cabling without a cable needle part of the class. She laughed so hard she almost didn't come up for air! Thank heavens we had an EMT in the class on 'standby'!

When I'm tired I become emotional - I was in tears when I said goodbye to Rob - so much sympathy, so much love from the students, it all takes it's toll - and drove to the airport, dropped off the car, caught my plane and was home by 10:30. Like clockwork. Here's an shot of one of the cops at the airport on his little Segue scooter.

Seeing Lynn & Jillian, getting to finally meet Carina (Gerry is NUTS over the cherries - THANK YOU!) receiving a six-pack of Blue Moon (YUM) from Sue (I couldn't take them on the plane - go back to the shop and have one, Sue!) and sitting here stuffing my face with delicious brownies from --- (oh, crap, I forget your name - dang - with the 3 & 8 year olds, the adorable redheads - help me!)

All of these loving gifts are both electrifying and calming - it's so odd that folks know me - read me - get me - in a wonderful & unexpected way.

I can't figure out why I deserve so much love, but I will gladly take it - and hope that I'm able to give it back with my full, whole heart soon!

We're pretty much squared away here for our adventure. The kids are packed, Gerry and I will pack up the car tomorrow after the kids are at camp, and after running a few errands we'll probably end up in Rochester late in the day.

Gerry just admitted to me that he's excited - he paused and I said, "In a weird way."

He said, "I was about to say the same thing!"

I told him, "We've been married too long!" Just one of those silly knee jerk things you say.

He said, "Not long enough."

These are the times when we know that we both get how serious it all is.

We don't talk about it much, the "bad" possibility, but the understanding is so complete between ourselves that we don't need to discuss it.

As I was falling asleep last night in an odd bed, alone, far from home, the implications of this whole thing socked me so hard it knocked the wind out of me - I couldn't even sob.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Spinning Out

I miss home.

I've only been gone a few days, and I miss it.

I'm back in Michigan - about as homey as I can get in these 50 states since I was raised in Toledo (just south of the Michigan border) and lived briefly in Temperance, MI (the perfect place for a Methodist)

But it's not home.

Home is where Gerry and the kids are.

Today Hannah gets back from Girl Scout camp in Wisconsin, Gerry, Max and Joel (Gerry's brother) will meet her at the bus and then they're all going to a Twins game. Max's camp was supposed to go to the game yesterday, but it had been postponed for obvious reasons.

And, also for obvious reasons, I can't get those missing folks out of my mind. Or their families. I so wish I were home.

Nothing since 9/11 has felt so MUCH like 9/11 to me - I'm sure because we live in the Twin Cities - and I'm choming at the bit to get home.

The whole bridge collapse thing - and being away from Gerry at the same time - has kind of unbalanced me - set me off my spin for a bit.

So I have to readjust, take some time to center myself, and get back into my usual rotation.

Maybe I should take up spinning...

And, since bridges - falling - water - all of my childhood fears were heavy on my mind, I was NOT happy to be sitting on the Blue Water Bridge for almost an hour yesterday as the traffic moved S L O W L Y over to the US side. The driving equivalent of the TSA lines at the airport.

In fact, traffic moved SO slowly I was able to put my car in park for minutes at a time and get some knitting done on the bridge. I was the envy of many folks as they noticed what I was doing - I was NOT bored

(And if I hadn't had to pee so badly, I would have been pretty content! Now I understand why everyone was pulling off after the currency exchange to use the facilities!)


I was able to take a few minutes to work on my French, too!

I may not make friends by saying this, but I firmly believe in my gut (where our prez & Chertoff do much of their thinking) that so much of this 'safety' stuff is for show. It's to condition us to stand behind the yellow line - to make us more managable.

I think real, useful funding to insure our safety is NOT being spent - not on policing, not on border partrols, but instead on wireless wiretaps and secret information gathering. Dossier gathering, if you ask me. And no one has asked me.

And, obviously, money is NOT being spent on infrastructure. Look at the steam pipe explosion in NYC, the fires in Dallas and now the bridge in Minneapolis. An INTERSTATE (Federal) bridge.

Infrastructure isn't sexy, but maintenance is very necessary (any home owner knows that) - without maintenance, we fall apart. Think of the money we're spending in Iraq, and imagine if we spent that on infrastructure, schools, and healthcare.

I'm babbling - dangerously close to a rant - flirting with getting on a list myself.

Perhaps this IS how I center myself?

I also center myself by Driving - I enjoy it, more than flying (that's for sure!) - and it calms me. I drove from Sarnia to Lansing last night, checked into a hotel to spend an evening with just myself, Keith Olberman and my knitting.

Today I head over to Threadbear for an evening class, then two classes each day on Sat & Sun - I keep forgetting WHAT day it is - and then home! Home to pack, home to get us ready to go to Rochester, home to move lots of leftover stuff to the basement.

Monday we have a few meetings (bank for the loan papers, ALL for the cabinet approval, Textile Center to drop off RHK garments and a few other choice tasks.) Jennie the potter will be watching the kids for us Mon & Tues nights - she's very centered, herself. Must be all those spinning plates...

We'll drive down to Rochester, dropping off the dog at Pine Island on the way at a vet/boarding facility, and then we'll start the preparation process to get Gerry ready for the BMT.

A whirl of work and nerves - that's what I feel I'm made of these days.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Safe & Well

The Twin Cities are like a small town. Obviously they're the biggest cities in MN, and have all of the benefits of living in a big city, but in the past 6 months of living here I've been so struck by how interconnected each person I meet is with so many others. It's a very connected - and loving - city, and I can only imagine the pain that everyone feels right now back home.

And this is how I know that the TC is our home - I feel terrible to be away now. I wish I were there and could do something.

Here's a link to the TC Red Cross. Please thing about making a donation - and if you live in MN think about giving blood because the reserves are getting low. 20 folks are still missing.

When I couldn't locate Gerry last night an online friend kindly sent me the hotline number - here's that info for anyone who may need it and not know where to get it:

Family Assistance Center

(612) 871-7676
Holiday-Inn Metrodome
1500 Washington Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55454

NOTE - Due to call volume, they are currently experiencing difficulties with our phone systems.

To register yourself as SAFE and WELL or to search for information on a loved one - please visit www.safeandwell.org.

Oddly, as I was getting dressed on Wed I thought, "I should give blood before we go to Rochester - this is the time when blood is really needed..." I used to donate blood a lot in NYC.
Listening to the TV last night, hearing the reporters conjecture on the folks who were trapped in cars - "The myth of the air bubble isn't true..." just turned me inside out.

When I heard that Gerry was okay, I was so grateful. And then kept thinking all night, "There are at least 20 other families that are sleepless, worried, imagining the worst..."


Folks, listen to this mom - CALL YOUR FAMILIES just to say "Hi" and "I love you!"

It is almost laughably cliche, but when Gerry dropped me off at the airport I didn't like the way he pulled up to the curb. I thought I was running late, I was stressed, and I snapped at him, "Oh, just pull up for god's sake!"

My last comments to him before I left were annoyed, and my goodbye kiss to him was grudging. I almost forgot to kiss poor Maxie, and it wasn't the 'loving mommy kiss' I would have liked it to be.


I'm so glad that's not the last physical connection we'll have.

I know as soon as I get to my class I'll be able to focus - right now I'm wondering HOW I'll focus, but I know it will come. Be really nice to everyone today.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Crazy Worried

12:45 Update

He's home. They went to see a movie, they got home and got my message and called the hotel I'm staying at, got the front desk, were put through to my room and apparently the PHONE DIDN'T RING. So I finally called home again at 12:30 - didn't get through - but I did get through on his cell phone.

My own cell is totally powerless now, but at least I know he's okay!

I am not a worrier - really - not usually. My deepest childhood fear is falling off of a bridge in a car and getting trapped. For that reason - until just a few years ago - I never owned a car with electric windows. So my mind was filled with horrible things, and now I'm going to try to get 5 hours sleep so I can teach tomorrow.

I think so much of my pent up worry found it's way into my active brain this evening.

As to why the phone in my room didn't ring? Who knows. The woman at the desk had no idea. Probably the same reason I have to go sit in the hall to get enough of a wireless signal to check my email or blog. I'm in the hall right now.

I think I'll be staying somewhere else tomorrow...

Today was messed up; bumped from flight, gate change, killer traffic from Detroit to Sarnia, Ontario and when I arrived at 7:05 (5 minutes late) there was one person to hear me speak. So we had a nice chat, Susan, Terri (the shop owner) and me.

Where the hell is Gerry?

I'll do a post mortem later to determine how attendance could have been improved, but a hot Wednesday night in the middle of Summer is probably reason #1!

When I arrived at my hotel and turned on the TV, this is what I saw:

I can't get a hold of Gerry. My cell phone battery is dying and I don't have a charger. I was FINALLY able to get through after almost 2 hours of dialing and left messages on his cell and our home (where the hell IS he? It's 10:00 out there!)

Where the hell is Gerry?

I keep telling myself, "There's NO good reason why he'd be over by 35W..." Except his brother is in town and they might have been doing some sight seeing. Max was with them today.

I left the hotel number for Gerry - forcing myself to speak slowly and repeat the number twice. Obviously I cannot sleep until I hear from him. I'm supposed to teach at 9:00 tomorrow - I've been told the class will be a good size (yay!)

Where the hell is Gerry?

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Alison's Scarf
Link to pdf file of cable/trellis lace scarf


Hannah's Poncho
Link to pdf file of multi-sized poncho



Chullo-licious


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