Monday, May 29, 2017

Hits and Misses (May 22-28)

Here's a look at the week that was.....

  • It was a joy to get to celebrate another birthday with Mom on Monday. Since I learned that I had been telling everyone she was older than she actually was (oops!), let me set the record straight.  Mom turned 78 years old on Monday. There wasn't a big celebration planned since she was still feeling less than perky, but I wanted to make sure that she had some sort of celebration. I knew she needed a cake, but I needed to find something yummy that didn't include chocolate -- her favorite treat, but a nightmare for her heart palpitations at the moment. I visited Nothing Bundt Cake and sampled the strawberries and cream mini-bundt.....and I knew I had found the cake! It was moist and simply scrumptious! Mom and I both enjoyed our small treats so much that we ordered ANOTHER cake for our upcoming family Memorial Day gathering. On a whim, Dad decided to treat the Geriatric Ward plus my older brother and his wife to dinner that evening. It was a great ending to a day devoted to honoring Mom.
  • On Tuesday morning, I accompanied Dad to the kidney specialist after the latest blood labs came back with less than favorable results.  The doctor we saw was Dr. Deogaygay -- I loved getting to say her name a few times! She was a delightfully charming doctor who immediately put our minds at ease. Why is this a hit? Basically, she said that she could find nothing in her examination that would suggest the cause of the lab results. Her suggestion was to hydrate vigorously for the next week before returning to the doctor for a new round of blood work. I was thrilled to have a doctor who actually listened to her patient and took into account the fact that things can simply be strange sometimes when dealing with older patients. She didn't sound the alarm of panic; instead, she wanted to make sure that we were doing a thorough investigation before doing something more drastic.
  • By the end of the week, I had developed a case of cabin fever and needed to get out of the house for a bit. I decided to give geocaching a try....and it was actually rather fun! I've been aware of geocaching for quite some time, but never took the step to give it a try. What is it? The easiest way to explain it is as an updated version of hide and seek. People hide "treasures" at various locations and mark the coordinates on a map. Seekers go to the marked site and try to find the treasure. My first adventure took me to a local bank on Sunday afternoon. I followed the coordinates to a light in the middle of the yard. I started looking around the concrete base and kept checking the location on my phone. I thought I was at the right spot, but I didn't see anything! That's when I put my hands on the cover at the base of the light to discover that it was I tried to move it up the pole and that was when I saw the little treasure! Like most geocaching treasures, it was a small 35 mm film canister that held a small trinket and a written log of the people and dates that the item was found. It was quite cool.....and I plan to experiment with the adventure a bit more while I'm in the safety of my home town in the coming weeks.
  • Somehow, I decided it would be a good idea to return to the gym this week. After all, I had some good results when I worked with Spencer a few years ago and felt better than I had in quite some time. I set up the appointment and made my way to the gym. When the session started, I thought I was going to die! I had forgotten what it felt like to move. Since I'm having problems with my hands right now (although that seems to be improving with each passing day!), I couldn't do any weight training. That meant 45 minutes of cardio. I HATE THE TREADMILL! As my time in the gym continued, I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't need to sit down as frequently as I had expected and I was actually pretty happy with the experience....until the very end. As I was getting off the treadmill to end the final circuit of the day, I guess I twisted just right and wrenched my back. I thought a massage and hot shower would take care of the problem, but my back decided to rebel a bit more than I had hoped since I put it through the torture of the gym. So I haven't been back in to do any of my "off day" cardio....instead, I've been nursing a bad back on the couch. That just means that I'll get to start all over again when I climb back on the treadmill this week.
  • As part of the process of allowing my hands to rest and heal, I have not been practicing or doing much of anything that requires repetitive movement of my hands. There are only so many hours one can fill with reading novels and watching television before boredom hits with a vengeance....and it's only May! I may be running for the hills before August returns.
  • It wouldn't be summer in eastern Arkansas without at least one round of powerful storms rolling through the region. On Saturday night, heavy rain and strong winds pounded the Geriatric Ward. Trees all over town were damaged, but we escaped. Just across the bridge in Memphis, thousands are without power at the moment; the current projection says it will take at least a week to restore service to the entire region. I'm really thankful that we didn't get hit that hard.....and hope that this is the only storm I have to weather this summer!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Hits and Misses (May 15-21)

Here's a look back at the week that was.....

  • Mom got a good report from the doctor early this week. It seems that the medication change was exactly what was needed to settle things down. She's still weaker than we would like and some additional issues have arisen, but we really think we're on the right track. At least it's a good report!
  • Perhaps the best part of the beginning of my summer vacation has been all of the home cooking! In typical fashion, Mom has pulled out most of my favorite recipes this week and I'm enjoying the comfort foods of home. I sometimes forget just how much I have missed them.
  • Much of the stress of my week had become evident to my friends near and far. That was when I received encouragement from multiple sources via email and phone. It's nice to know that I am cared for when I hit a low point. The words were simple and unobtrusive....but their messages were clear. They got me over a rather rough patch.
  • This week's misses all center around medical issues and doctor's visits. After Mom got her positive report, it was time for me to face my fears and meet with an orthopedic surgeon on Wednesday. As the last semester began to wind down, I began to experience numbness in the fingers of my right hand. It was not total numbness, but every pianist knows that this is a huge warning that something is wrong. Since the symptoms came on suddenly and during an extremely stressful season as Mom was racing to the emergency room on an almost daily basis, I convinced myself that the issue was a combination of physical and emotional problems. (Truthfully, I still haven't ruled this out.) My visit with the orthopedic surgeon confirmed my diagnosis of the early stages of carpal tunnel syndrome. I hope to share more about this entire experience in a post later this week, but I'll give the general overview for now. I am in the closing days of a steroid regiment that has made me quite ill for the past few days, but seems to be making a positive effect on my hands. Next week, I will visit a local chiropractor who specializes in the disorder and will continue to give my hands a break for the next few weeks. The doctor and I will re-evaluate the condition of my hands in mid-June to make a decision about the next step if necessary.
  • While I was dealing with my personal crisis, Mom and Dad received a call from their family doctor that he needed to see them in his office to discuss findings of Pop's recent lab work. That's never a call that gives you good feelings. There were some problematic results to the tests that are inconclusive at this time. Dad will be following up with several doctors in the coming weeks to figure out what's going on. Just when one Geriatric gets back on her's a never ending process, it seems.
  • Then on Friday, I got the horrifying news from Plainview that my 5-year-old friend, Hannah, would be undergoing emergency surgery on Saturday morning to remove a brain tumor. We began praying for her intensely and kept our prayer communities informed throughout the day. Hannah came through the surgery itself and is currently recovering in PICU in Lubbock. Now her parents and family face the stress of waiting for pathology reports, caring for a sick little girl, and preparing for the potentially long road ahead. Without a doubt, your prayers are coveted and desperately needed for this precious child. Yet we continue to trust her health and healing to the miracle-working Healer we serve.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Hits and Misses (May 8-14)

Here's a look back at the week that was....  

  • Now that I'm back in Arkansas, I've enjoyed some rest. Since arriving home, I think I've made 2 major trips off of the couch. It's not laziness as much as it is realizing that my mind, body, and spirit desperately needed some down time. So I took it....and will continue to do so a little while longer.
  • With the extended rest, I've been doing quite a bit of television watching...and I've gotten Mom involved in a few of my viewing habits. I've been catching up on Chicago Justice and returned to my obsession with White Collar. The new find of the summer has been NBC's hit This is Us. How did I miss out on this incredible show? I'm laughing through tears in almost every episode. It's therapeutic! So I didn't feel like a complete couch potato, I made sure that I included some culture in my television watching. The Met's 2017 production of Romeo et Juliette was amazing -- well sung and beautifully staged. 
  • It was good to celebrate Mother's Day with Mom again this year. Was it perfect? No. But getting to spend another day honoring her was good. I'll just continue to enjoy the days with her this summer and not focus on a single day.
  • Crawfordsville is in the middle of nowhere. That means we have spotty cell phone coverage. My AT&T is normally pretty stable, but Mom's heart monitor uses Sprint as its service provider. I've spent lots of time sitting on the front porch attempting to access another bar of coverage in order to transmit data from the monitor to the home office. It's been annoying.....with lots of beeping in the wee small hours of the morning when the rest of the world is fast asleep.
  • There has been no practicing happening this week. Some of this has been due to my need to rest. Much of it has been attributed to issues beyond my control that I couldn't ignore.  It's frustrating when I want to play but can't....or shouldn't. Here's hoping that things turn around soon so I can get back to making music for my own sanity.
  • Nothing is worse than realizing that you mind is far too full and you can't shut down. I've spent a few sleepless nights this week thinking about the future as well as the present -- the good and the bad -- and trying to make some decisions. Some issues bring fear. Others breed dread. Thankfully, most bring determination and direction.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Hits and Misses (May 1-7)

Here's a look back at the week that was....  

  • It appears that Mom continues to improve.  Although we still don't know exactly what caused the trips to the ER with her heart, I am happy to say that she is slowly getting her energy back and has had no further episodes. That was welcomed news as I went into the busy final week of the semester.
  • Few things bring a smile to the face of students and faculty like realizing that the end of the semester has finally arrived. Finals and juries went off without too many tears. A new class of graduates joined the ranks of WBU alumni. The faculty defeated the students AGAIN in our annual softball game. (I, of course, merely cheered my colleagues from the stands.) Now I am anxious to start my summer vacation!
  • On Thursday, I enjoyed lunch with some music alumni and current students. It was fun to sit with these incredible young people away from campus and hear their stories while laughing together. I don't get to do this very often -- this was very different from the weekly donut nights -- and definitely something I enjoyed. 
  • As the semester came to an end, the WBU School of Music was finally able to announce the appointment of our new Director of Bands. Dr. Ron Montgomery will be joining our team in the fall and we are excited about the possibility that the future holds.
  • I try to avoid hanging around campus too long after classes are done because I don't enjoy the lull of activity that follows. When there's nothing that I need to do, I get restless. Loneliness sets in and I get ready to be with my family. I enjoy the short breaks that come in the middle of the term -- those are opportunities to recharge before returning to the frantic pace of the semester. The end of the term finds me staring at the walls, looking for something to do as I wait to head back to Memphis. Thankfully, by the time many of you read this post, my car will be packed and I'll be hitting the roads and heading east before the sun goes down! If all goes as planned, I should arrive in east Arkansas on Tuesday afternoon.
  • To deal with the quiet Friday afternoon I was suddenly facing, I decided to catch a movie. Nothing was playing that I really wanted to see, so I decided to check out Tom Hank's The Circle since it had mildly caught my attention. What a horrible idea! The film's basic concept was completely presented in the first 20 minutes. The ending had me turning to another theater-goer and asking if I had fallen asleep and missed a critical plot twist. Sadly, I saw everything the film had to offer and left the theater feeling confused and let-down. Here's hoping that better cinematic experiences await in the summer months ahead.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Hits and Misses (April 24-30)

This week was completely colored by a single "miss" that I was dealing with, so for one week only (hopefully!), this post needs to take on a different format.  I think you'll see what I mean right away.  Without further ado, here's a look back at the week that was....


This week, I watched from afar as Mom dealt with a health crisis that was very frightening. As you read last week, Mom was rushed to the ER on Sunday afternoon with heart complications and was admitted to the hospital. EKGs, chest x-rays, and heart monitors revealed no complications with her heart; an x-ray of her kidneys, however, did reveal a problem. Due to a new diuretic medication, Mom had reached a critical level of dehydration. This explained the heart palpitations, dizziness, and headaches. After receiving some fluids and modifications to her medications, Mom was released and sent home on Monday afternoon.

On Wednesday, Mom returned to the hospital for a previously scheduled heart cath. The procedure went flawlessly and we were provided some answers....or so we thought. The heart cath revealed that there were no blockages and that the heart muscles themselves were in very good condition. The procedure was originally ordered when a echocardiogram indicated high pressure existed on the right side of her heart; while pressure was still slightly elevated, the cardiologist declared it was not at a level to cause concern. Mom remained in the hospital for a few hours to make sure there were no complications with the incision while the anesthesia wore off. (Here's an interesting side note for the medical types that read my posts -- I know you're out there! -- the heart cath was unable to access the left side of the heart due to a birth defect that we were already aware of. One of the valves into Mom's heart is actually on the wrong side of the heart, just slightly past center. This issue was not discovered until Mom was in her 70s, at which time the doctor determined that the trauma of correcting the placement would outweigh the benefits to her already strong heart.)

On Thursday afternoon, I received a text from my brother just after I exited stage for a student performance that informed me that Mom was on her way back to the ER with more complications. This time, the paramedics witnessed the fluctuations in Mom's heart rhythm and were able to report it to the doctors on call. Mom was treated for AFIB and placed on a medication to regulate her heartbeat and sent home.

Friday saw a return to the cardiologist for a follow-up. Dr. Kraus' intentions were to empower Mom with information and hopefully keep her from making an unnecessary trip to the ER if she could medicate and control the situation on her own. In essence, the cardiologist told Mom that she now knows what these heart palpitations feel like and how to confront them from home. He went on, however, to say that if she felt a "different" sensation in her chest, she should return to the ER for help. While that type of instruction would overwhelm me, it seems to have put Mom's mind at ease.

The entire week has been demanding on Mom's body, so she is incredibly weak and has required a lot of rest. I have spoken with her daily and have been encouraged to hear her improving and sounding more like herself with each passing day. What's ahead? Mom will be wearing a heart monitor for a month to see if we can determine just how often the irregularity occurs and if there are things that seem to cause the problem. I will finish my responsibilities for the year in west Texas next Monday and will hit the road to return home for the summer in order to put my own mind at ease and see for myself what's going on.
  • In spite of what has been going on at home, there have been some wonderful high points in the week as well. On Monday evening, the piano students presented a Chopin festival complete with great music, laughter, and pizza. This semester, Richard and I assigned most of our students a piece by Chopin to study. It's been a neat process as we have focused on a single composer's output as a studio, allowing students to learn more about his works while listening to the repertoire that their colleagues are playing. Personally, I got to revisit one of my favorite pieces from my undergraduate career -- Chopin's Polonaise in C Minor. It was great fun to dive into that boom bass melody and share the music with the WBU students. When I have a chance to return to the solo repertoire, I remember just how much I miss it sometimes. We are already getting ready for the Fall semester which will feature works by Haydn!
  • The final student performance of the semester for me was on Thursday afternoon. Caleb Barnett's lecture recital on Finzi's Let Us Garlands Bring was well done and a lot of fun to perform. While sitting on stage, I thought how differently my interpretation could have been if the situation with Mom had gone a different route; by letting myself think about this, I was able to visit some tough emotions that I think contributed to a emotionally driven performance. Immediately after finishing the performance, I heard that Mom's troubles were not yet over.....and I had to deal with those raw emotions. The performance had hit me a little harder than I thought.  Let's just say that Thursday night was interesting for a while.....
  • The end of the semester's classes could not have come at a better time for me. There are still tests to be given, but the daily routine is much less demanding for me at the moment.
  • While dealing with stress from home, I have been reminded just how blessed I am to be surrounded by my Wayland family. The care that I have received during a stressful week by colleagues, students, church members, and friends has been extremely comforting. Their gentle words and prayers have gone a long way to remind me that I am not alone while dealing with this family crisis. I am truly blessed.