Saturday, November 28, 2020

Miser Family update: Thanksgiving hospital edition

Well, life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household, although this week the word "rich" perhaps should be replaced with an expletive that rhymes with, but does not mean the same thing as, "rich".   We got some unwelcome news; summed up in six words:  we learned that N-son has diabetes.

There's a longer-than-six-word version, which was a bit scarier for us all to live through.  N-son had spent last week at L1's house, and she'd texted us to alert us that he was experiencing a bunch of health problems that were worrisome, and that we now know were symptoms of "Diabetic ketoacidosis":  lethargy, loss of appetite, thirstiness, and nausea.   He came home over the weekend and wasn't getting better; since he had his annual doctor's appointment scheduled for Monday, we spent much of Sunday wondering, "do we take him to urgent care today, or wait until his appointment tomorrow?".   It turns out that the correct answer was "yesterday, or even a few days ago".  

Obligatory dog photo whenever we mention "L1"'s name

Urgent care on Sunday sent him over to the Emergency room, where he was admitted to the hospital that has been his home for this whole last week.  It took a day or two to get the blood sugar levels back down to where he could safely eat, and another day or so longer to get the acidity back in a decent range.  N-son himself went from being confused (a typical symptom) to being very sleepy (a typical follow-up response) to being incredibly cheerful.  It's hard to know whether it's good or bad when several different of his care providers tell his dad, "He seems so much better than his lab results".  

We still don't know whether it's Type I or Type II diabetes, and the hospital is still working to help us set up doctors' visits, home nursing visits, equipment, education, etc.  So we've got a slog ahead of us.  Also, although he seems super cheerful, his blood sugar is still erratically high, and his potassium is still worryingly low, so he gets to spend another weekend palling around with his new friends and admirers in the hospital.  

Given all this, I want to say that I'm so incredibly glad that our very diverse family -- with all their different strengths and skills -- has come together around this in our very individually perfect ways.

  • L1 has always been fiercely loyal to and protective of N-son; she documented his symptoms so that we knew to watch him and eventually get him care when we hadn't seen him for a week.
  • J-son played the big brother role by being completely un-disgusted when N-son threw up during a FaceTime chat ("it's all good, bro").
  • My guy looks back fondly on his own most recent hospital stay (when he broke his arm in May), because in the hospital the various nurses and doctors can actually talk to you, so he had human contact mid-pandemic.  This week, he got to be the guy to take N-son to the hospital and talk with all the nurses and doctors and Diabetes Education specialists.
  • I-daughter, who has always played the role of confidant and communications go-between for people in our family, gave me advice on how to let N-son's brother and sisters know what was going on, and also delivered N-son a Calvin & Hobbes comic book.
  • K-daughter, who specializes in getting worried, managed to be not quite as worried but still on alert:  "Have we heard if he has his phone and if we are allowed to video chat him?"
  • Y, our doctor-in-training, provided context and reassurance:  "DKA patients usually feel miserable and exhausted from vomiting and the blood acidity so don't feel hurt if he doesn't want to talk much.
  • L2 jumped right into working with N-son (and his parents) on dealing with lifestyle and diet post-hospital, "since someone gave me a PhD in the study of chronic disease behavior change".  She does a bunch of phone and video chat meditation with him (as does L1)
  • And I . . . um, stayed home and wrote a lot of emails and texts.  Because that's apparently what I'm good at.  

With that description of how wonderful it is to have a family come together (albeit virtually), let's move onto the Family Foto Collage, which this week is themed "Thanksgiving Together Apart".  

Row 1 is dedicated to just how weird this year's celebrations are:  

  • the first two pictures are my SIL's contrast: "Getting ready to have dinner with friends pre-Covid vs the only acceptable dinner guest this year."
  • Then L2's pair of photos shows "The first one is the driveway of the dairy farm where I did thanksgiving with my friends family; The second is the speed I was driving in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin (Only very momentarily don't worry)".
  • And Y shows her thanksgiving venue appropriately annotated: "PPE storage corner", "residents slogging away with more than half our patients in for Covid pneumonia", and "hospital cafeteria pumpkin pie, not too shabby". As K-daughter says, "You're so amazing Y! Thank you for all you do!"

Row 2 shows that even though times are weird, we can be "together", at least a bit.  (See L1 and the dogs facetime-ing with N-son?).   And row 3 shows some of the yummy goodies we got to eat:  I-daughter and I made chocolate pecan pies, in honor of my mother-in-law who usually brings them; L1 says, "Well, I think we made too much... can we send anyone some leftovers?".  N-son (eating with his dad) chows down on his own healthy Thanksgiving feast.  

We all say, " Happy Thanksgiving 🍁🍽🦃 love you guys very very much ❤️"

Another random fact for the week, because I feel like this is funny enough that I have to mention it somewhere:  I-daughter had 83 active knitting projects in March, but she is down to only 59 now.  

With all that said, let's turn to this week's interviewee -- the only occupant of the household who is delighted by the changes the pandemic has wrought:  Prewash the dog. 

Prewash, what things were you doing a year ago that you're not doing now?
"All by myself"

"Spending my days alone"

What occupies your days, nowadays?  (Sometimes people ask, "what do you do?", meaning, "what's your job?", but many in our family don't have traditional jobs or paid employment at all, so this is a more general question).


Tell me a bit about your hobbies

When you treat yourself to a bit of "me" time or special indulgences, what does that involve for you?

Describe some of your favorite household gadgets or treasures. 

Are there any questions I should have asked you, but didn't? 
"Would all the people please step out of the room for a moment?"

Five years from now, what kinds of things do you hope you'll be doing that you haven't done yet or aren't doing now? 

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours stay safe. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Clothes on the ground

Some people rescue animals.  Some people rescue caved-in miners, or shipwrecked sailors, or wayward souls.  Some people rescue food that's about to go bad.

Apparently, I rescue clothes from the ground.  

Is this a thing other people do?  I keep finding abandoned clothes -- mostly jackets, but sometimes skirts, sometimes mittens or gloves, occasionally t-shirts.  Once I found a blanket.  I find them in the nearby park, along the street where I bike, on sidewalks as I run by.  And since I hate to see something perfectly good go to waste, I bring it home.  (And launder it first thing, but of course).

I try to only take clothes that have been left in the same place for a while, or clothes that otherwise look like they're abandoned.  That means, often, the clothes I rescue look superficially icky:  stuff trampled into the ground, rained on, run over by cars. But if I'm already sweaty from running, carrying something wet for a ways isn't all that much more disgusting than just being me.  And almost always, this stuff cleans up perfectly well.

Because I happen to have what I call a yard-sale body, it turns out that a bunch of these clothes fit me.  Some of them I keep: my very very very favorite t-shirt in the world -- the one I wore during the running segment of my IronMan -- was one I found wadded up along a sidewalk on our weekly running route.  My dog has since loved the shirt (chewing holes in it, alas), so I am keeping my eyes out along the sidewalks in hopes that I can strike pay-shirt pay-dirt again. 

But usually, I figure I've already got enough clothes, and so after laundering the whatever-it-is, I put it in our donation box to take to a local thrift shop.

Here's my latest rescue, the one that prompted this post.

This black jacket had been left by a tree in our local park, and it had gotten rained on and a bit caked with dirt.  I could totally understand why people would leave it there, all wet and muddy.  But those people aren't me.  

The jacket is really unusual in that it has no visible logos (I avoid wearing logos if I can).  It's incredibly cute and well made.  And it fits really well.  Even though I'm not a wears-black kind of person, and even though I already have a bunch of zip-up jackets (almost all street rescues), I'm kinda thinking of keeping this one.  

The price is right, I suppose.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Miser Family update: my baby grew up

 Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.   This week, we're particularly rich in happy memories and in celebration!

L1 and my Sister-in-law made cakes.  Since N-son was with L1, he got to eat the strawberry cake,
and my sister-in-law got to eat the chocolate one.

Why memories and celebration?  Because N-son turned 21 years old this week, that's why.  When he first came to live with the rest of us, he was tiny and adorable.  
"Yes!! Tiny baby N-son!" I-daughter was delighted.

It was fun to gush at these photos together; as we started sending photos back and forth, how many could we send?, one of us asked.  As the Matriarch of the family, I responded, "Rules? What Rules? No rules!", and I-daughter responded with "Pic spam incoming 😀"

As you can see, N-son has changed a lot since those early days, but he's still adorable, no matter what he's wearing.

And he's always ready to lend a hand (or a head) to people who need a lift, or a good book, or a raccoon from the fair, or just something yummy to sniff.

Most of all, though, we're just all so happy to celebrate the wonderful connections N-son has with our family and we with him.  We're glad to be his sisters, his godparents (top right, below), hosts-siblings . . . and for me and my guy, his parents. 

I-daughter says the third photo is "The first time N-son took a plane w/o his parents"

Happy birthday, N-son!

What else is going on in our lives right now?  Well, N-son has been hanging out this past week with L1.  K-daughter and D celebrated their one-year anniversary!  My guy has been riding his bike all the heck over the place.  And me, I taught my last class in this overload module we're teaching.  Phew

With all the celebrations, the week has had its challenging moments, too, I'll admit.  I ended the week with yet another round of plagiarism -- that makes 11 of my 26 on-line students who have used forbidden resources (including calculators, the internet, and mostly each other).  I wish so much I could figure out a way to give exams with proctors.  If I give an internet exam that lasts a full class session, they can Chegg it (that is, they buy solutions from an online source), but if I give shorter tests, the students panic about running out of time.   If I give questions similar to their homework problems, the answers are just a quick google search away, but if I give more conceptual questions, the students freak because it looks like nothing they've practiced.  This is just such a vile situation for us all; I wish we could be together at scary (exam) times, but we can't.  

And the reason we can't be together is getting more and more can't-er.  A month ago, my city was logging 30-40 new Covid-19 cases a day, but now we're up to 300 per day.  A month ago, my college had 0 cases on campus, but this past week we had to move all hybrid/in-person teaching entirely remote to end out the module, because we've had 44 cases of Covid-19.   We have more and more personal stories of friends who are in quarantine, of school counsellors who died of the disease, of yet another church member who got sick and is slowly recovering.  (Our church has both in-person and online services; I "go" online each week, myself).  

I still have to give final exams for my students (entirely remote exams), and by now you know how much I am dreading what that means.  So I am especially grateful that, after those exams,  I get to start a break from teaching that feels like it is of biblical proportions.  For forty days and forty nights, I can hunker down, sleep in on weekends, run with my tiny bubble of friends (outdoors! because Safer-that-way), and Not Spend My Days Grading.  

I have more family interviews coming in future weeks; this letter is long enough (and I'm wiped out enough), that I think I'll end here.  That's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours stay safe.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Miser Family Muscle Update

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  This week, we're full of muscles, from top to bottom!  

L2 takes it from the top, saying, "Post meditation, mental muscles main thing I have been working on recently 🧠 💪".   Y peeps at us with, "Eyelid muscles working overtime at this month-long audition but also learning SO much and loving Arizona! 5 days left.".  (Why Arizona?  Earlier, she'd written, "At U of Az Tucson for medicine audition. Working 12hr days so pretty much work, eat maybe, sleep, repeat. But It’s an awesome crazy bc this is what I want to do for my job.")  Next up, I-daughter shares, "I'll showcase a less gym-centric muscle: my tongue!"  This one totally deserves a close-up.  Behold!

B-child exercises her neck muscles (if your head was 1/4 the size of your body, you'd need strong muscles to pick it up, too!).  And D. shows his upper body strength by baby wearing while mowing the lawn...

In the next row, my Sister-in-law says, "I don’t feel to comfortable in the gym these days, so I got this Echelon Reflect and a few dumbbells.  I am trying to convince [my husband] to let me donate our guest bedroom set and turn the room into a home gym.  He’s not on board."   L1 is "working on the triceps"; J-son has muscles on his muscles; and my sisters and I are a trio of second-century powerhouses, if I do say so myself.  

K-daughter first worried that "Yaaaaaaaa.... I don't have time to do much of anything but chase the 5 yr old around and take walks. These count as exercise, right? Lol",  but I reminded her that she's been super active at making stuff with mussels (er, muscles).  Behold those awesome swimmers and mermaids, carved by her and painted by A-child.  Whoop!  And since we're heading into the deep, we can appreciate the well-developed calves displayed by my guy, by N-son, and by Amelia the dog. 

So what have we been up to lately, with all those muscles?  N-son is using his to help out his brother-in-laws.  Recently, they were working on a project just 10 miles from the White House, he wants me to tell you! I don't think he got to see either number 45 or number 46; mostly he just got to do a lot of work.  

Me, I'm likewise slogging through my heavy course load.   I thought I might actually get a chance to come up for air this weekend, but then . . . more cheating.  Man, I hate online exams.  So much.  So, so much.  This was four students (two of whom I really like a lot) collaborating via Facetime during the half-hour quiz.  Grump, grump, grump.  I spent hours writing letters, holding meetings, and documenting stuff.  The only good thing to say about this is that they all confessed and apologized, and I do think two of them are sincerely remorseful, and another one is going to get tested for ADHD and exam anxiety, which might be a long-term benefit to that particular student.  

That being said, my classes are generally going about as well as you could expect under the conditions.  There's a huge part of me looking forward to a week from now, when the classes are over (over!), and I don't have to get up at 5:30 every day and spend the next 6+ hours zooming through classes and the 4 hours after that grading like mad to be ready for the next day.  But there's also a part of me that tries to remind myself that "this is my life, too, right now; this module is a life experience that I'm never going to have again, and I ought to pay attention to the experience".  I keep telling my students that they get good at what they practice (like, if they practice doing homework with their friends via Facetime, it's not a huge surprise that stress pushes them into doing quizzes that way).   And I know that living my life waiting for the future doesn't help me when I get to the future and want to start living in the now.  

At any rate, I'm trying to enjoy the experience of zoom-teaching students who are simultaneously in Italy, Shanghai, Missouri, and the dorms just down the street from me.

The reason I chose the "muscle" theme is to complement this week's interview, with J-son.  We don't hear much from him lately, but he hasn't totally disappeared: just last weekend, in fact, my husband had taken both our sons to New York State to help a friend of his pack and move boxes.   N-son cornered J-son last weekend and got him to chat over the phone with me.  Here's what J-son has to say for himself.  

What things were you doing a year ago that you're not doing now?
Before the pandemic, I went to the gym a lot, and tried to get into boxing gyms.  The pandemic shut that down for a while; I'm starting that up again.  A year ago, I was living with a friend, but now I've moved in with my girlfriend; I'm truly blessed to be with her.  We have four cats.

What occupies your days, nowadays?  
  • Spending time with my girlfriend.
  • Running, hiking, sightseeing, and generally being outside as much as I can (with a mask on).  I've lost 20 pounds.
  • Working on my mindset:  I wake up and just focus on doing what I want to do: I work out and tire myself out.
  • No job, but I do wash cars at a car wash (3 days/week, 6 hrs/day) to pick up a bit of spending money.
  • I'm thinking about getting my license and growing up.  

Tell me a bit about your hobbies
Boxing, going to the gym, weightlifting, and spending time with the cats.  (Did I mention there are 4 of them?)

When you treat yourself to a bit of "me" time or special indulgences, what does that involve for you?
Bling (chains), shoes -- I love looking at expensive shoes.  Like, I really like Jordans.  Style (translation for mom:  "expensive shirts").  Morning runs.

Five years from now, what kinds of things do you hope you'll be doing that you haven't done yet or aren't doing now? 
I'd love to be a boxing coach, or at least be working toward learning how to do that.

Describe some of your favorite household gadgets or treasures. 
shoes, clothes, my PS4, and an air fryer.  We use that air fryer all the time.

Are there any questions I should have asked you, but didn't? 
"What kinds of things are you thinking a lot about these days?"

I'm spending a lot of time thinking about what life actually is, and about how being an adult is, the ways it's different than being a child.  

And on that contemplative note, I'll sign off.  That's the news from our family, which continues to be rich in our adventures.  My you and yours be similarly prosperous.  

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Miser family update; autumn, election, and N-son

Life continues to be rich and full of autumn in the Miser Family Household.

And what a beautiful, full autumn it is!   The first picture shows the autumn moon setting outside my command center window, as I teach my 6:30 a.m. class. Now that the clocks have changed, I'm not teaching in the dark any more (at least, not literally; my students, on the other side of the planet, may well be in the dark figuratively and literally).  My sister-in-law sends a picture of the fall leaves on trees with snow capping the mountains in the distance.  My husband loves fall colors along the Hudson Valley rail line.  

And for my kids, autumn is even more visceral: Y tells us, "Pomegranate trees in Arizona are bearing both flowers and fruits at this time of year.".   Watson-the-dog loves chasing those squirrels through the beautiful leaves.  L2 has pumpkin spice nails to match her pumpkin spice coffee, and I-daughter says, "The weather turns colder and I start drinking tea again".  B-child giggles in the leaves, and N-son enjoys the Prewash-colored foliage; she's almost camouflaged this time of year.  

For our family, as for much of the country, much of this week revolved around the elections.  I-daughter had prepared for weeks in advance, gradually adjusting her sleep hours away from "vampire" to "sunshine"; she woke early on Tuesday and spent a very long day volunteering at the polls, helping count those ballots as they came in.  (She was not one of the people later counting mail-in ballots . . . and counting, and counting).  

My guy took the train to Philly and marched and danced with people there, several days in a row.  He said the rallies were upbeat and quite peaceable; there was a large police presence (and a smaller pro-Trump presence), but there was no riot gear or other scary outfits.  The only police wearing helmets were the bike cops.  

And for me, I admit that I spent the days between Tuesday and today with my fingers in my ears, singing "LaLaLa, I can't hear you."  I really couldn't abide dealing with a play-by-play obsession over evolving counts and percentages, and instead I doubled down on teaching my calculus classes (which was easy to double down on, because I'm teaching a double load right now; convenient, that!).   The big concession I made to November 3 was to sew two more letters onto one of my masks, changing it from "VOTE" to "I VOTED".

Today, I attended a zoom-based math meeting.  As it happened, one of the two keynote talks was on the mathematics of ensuring election integrity.  The speaker did a new-to-me thing that I really liked:  after she introduced the topic, she started playing a recorded talk, and went into the chat.  While her recorded talk played, she fielded live chat questions; there was a really lively back-and-forth.   Because this was a local meeting, I am friends with lots of the people who were in the audience, and it was great to interact that way.  And then, in the midst of all this, the participants started letting us know that the AP had called the election for Biden . . . fortuitous timing, for us all to hear this "together".    What a memorable math talk!

N-son, like me, mostly followed the election news from a distance; he spent much of the week working with friends of his.  Which friends were those, you ask?  Why don't we find out by reading his interview, below.  

Interview with N-son

What things were you doing a year ago that you're not doing now?

I was living with Sissy (L1) and Peter, and with mom and dad, but now I'm living in my own apartment.

Signing the lease for his apartment

The view outside his apartment kitchen window

What occupies your days, nowadays? 

2.  Some days I work with my friends Gabe and Asher for their company AAG ("All About Gutters"), working on fixing gutters and repairing them.   Other days I work with my brothers-in-law Pete and John installing doors.  I'm also looking for a more permanent job now.  

Feet up, after hanging doors for a shipping transfer station

Tell me a bit about your hobbies

3.  I like to hang out with Gabe and Asher when we are not working, also love taking my bike out and going for bike rides.   I love playing basketball, and coming to see my family every once in a while.

When you treat yourself to a bit of "me" time or special indulgences, what does that involve for you?

4.  I like getting basketball shoes (size 10.5) and accessories.  Also like getting bling [translation for  mom:  chain] and snap backs [translation into mom-speak: hats]

Five years from now, what kinds of things do you hope you'll be doing that you haven't done yet or aren't doing now? 

5.  I hope in five years that I'm working a more permanent job, I can get my driver's license, and become a better drummer. 

Describe some of your favorite household gadgets or treasures. 

6.  Bed, charger, phone, bathroom, pots and pans, table . . . actually, everything.  

Bringing home kitchen chairs that we snagged for free!

(I love how happy and content N-son is with his life and simple pleasures.  It makes me feel like I did something right as a mom!)

Are there any questions I should have asked you, but didn't? 

7.  In recent years, I've been wondering what it would be like to meet my birth mom.

Follow-up:  For much of N-son's life, he's been largely incurious about his birth parents, so I asked what has changed. 

He's been having many conversations with J-son, who is in touch with all three of his mothers (birth, foster, adopted), and it has gotten N-son wondering more.  He knows that contact with her isn't likely to be a fairy tale ending, and yet, it would be nice to know.  

So my guy and I dug through our adoption paperwork, and did a bit of internet searching, and found a likely postal address.  I helped N-son compose a letter to her, addressed an envelope, put a stamp on it, and sent it out. The mail is slow these days, we know, so we'll be patient.  A new adventure lies ahead, perhaps!

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our autumnal adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.   

Thursday, November 5, 2020

My overload life in photos

For 6 weeks, I'm teaching my own classes plus a class of another faculty member who had to take a leave of absence.  One of the things I love about academia is that overwhelming business has an expiration date; I volunteered for this teaching overload knowing (a) it would eat up all my time and brain and (b) only until the end of November.  (And I figured, by about this time in November, I might appreciate mathematical distractions for my brain).

Here's is a bit about how I think of my life in pictures these days.  

My first alarm is at 5:30.  I set myself a second alarm at 5:45, because I live in constant dread of sleeping through my own class, but so far I've always woken up with the first alarm.  Sleep hygiene rules my life.  

The view from my command center window these days; my first class is at 6:00 a.m., teaching kids in Shanghai.  During the first part of this course, the class was at 6:00 p.m. for them and I taught them in the dark.  But now that clocks have changed, I have a bit of light as I teach them, and it's 7 p.m. their time. 

On the weekends, my chalkboard turns into a giant To-Do list.  This was last weekend.  I managed to cross off every single task but one!  It was an awesome feeling, even if did have to give up most of my sabbath.  

I'm so glad I splurged last fall and bought two very nice, large chalkboards for my home.   Splurging is not my M.O., clearly, but my chalkboards have definitely turned out to be one of those totally worth it expenditures in my life.  Between teaching, entertaining grandkids, Monster Task Lists, and just general aesthetics, these babies have made my life easier, more visual, and admittedly dustier. 

Aside from my chalkboards, my laptop is showing signs of nearly non-stop use.  My "S" and "N" keys have been rubbed into indecipherability.  Why those keys?  Not sure.  

Missing:  the actual outdoors.  That's because I'm almost never there, alas.    But by Thanksgiving, I'll be done with this, and I'll get togo outside and play again.