Ups and Downs of Pancreatic Cancer

 

The last time I posted it was late March. Ken was undergoing chemotherapy and managing it fairly well, even though some of the side effects were rather unpleasant.

We soon got into the rhythm of living with cancer. We had chemo weeks and "good" weeks. During chemo weeks, Ken was often fatigued and lacking any kind of appetite. He lost weight, as we expected he would but had hoped he would not. He kept most of his hair; it thinned a bit but still has not fully fallen out. The neuropathy worsened with each chemotherapy session, even affecting his feet. 

His good weeks were, well, good.  He would go visit friends and family he felt safe around - mostly those that took COVID seriously. After all, if they were taking COVID seriously, we figured it also meant they were more likely to be protected against the common cold and flu viruses. An immune-compromised system is susceptible to so many things. Keeping him healthy was our main concern, which meant some of the more careless or COVID-defiant people made us a bit nervous. Our desire to protect him is also the reason why Ken, Gage, and I all opted for the vaccine as soon as we could get it.  Of the three of us, only Ken was not able to get fully vaccinated. 

Yes, there's a story there. 

As I write this, Ken is at Ascension Genesys Hospital. He had first been admitted for acute pancreatitis on April 19, 2021. He spent nine days in the hospital. He came home on Wednesday, April 28th.  By Sunday, May 2, 20201, he was once again readmitted. Same diagnosis, only this time it was complicated by approximately twenty pounds of water weight. From his belly down, he was so swollen. You can see the water retention in his belly if you look at the picture up above. That is not a well-fed belly, it's an uncomfortably bloated belly with fluid you could hear moving every time he would rock or sway. 

When Ken is in pain, he sits on the edge of the recliner and sways from side to side or rocks to and fro.  There has been so much rocking and swaying in the last month. Too much. He has been miserable for almost a month and a half now. He dealt with the pain for nearly two weeks before going to the ER the first time. During those two weeks prior to getting admitted to the hospital, we attributed his pain to the cancer, to gas and constipation, to the blood clot in the vein leading into the spleen. We never suspected pancreatitis, mostly because we hadn't heard of it and had no idea what it entailed. It is agony is what it is.

Everyone keeps asking me how I'm doing and how are the boys. Not great, people, not great. It is emotionally and mentally draining to watch someone you love suffer.  Not being able to do anything to alleviate his pain, to help him get even an hour of sleep, is its own special kind of torture. We are crushed that he's in constant pain, that he has lost so much weight, that his laugh has been stolen. We want him to be better. We hope and pray for it constantly and it feels as if our heartfelt pleas and prayers are not being heard. That's how we are. 

In addition to being worried about my suddenly frail husband, I worry about the boys, too. I worry about their emotional and mental health right now. I don't think either of them is doing well, but I think they're both trying to be strong for me. I know I'm a big softie who cries a lot, but I don't want them to think of that as a weakness. My tears are a release valve. They help me cope. I want them to be able to have the same freedom to cry when they need to cry. I want to hold them and tell them it's going to be alright, even if we don't know that for sure. 

Right now, we cling to the silver linings.  Ken is getting the help he needs at the hospital. His pain is being managed and he's finally getting some rest. He is able to eat solids right away this time.  They are running tests in order to figure out a plan of attack. His cancer numbers were down to 7500 last we knew.   

Silver linings. They sustain us right now.

2021 Is Off to a Rough Start

 Even with COVID still plaguing the U.S., we had a lovely Christmas and New Year's Eve. While the large family gatherings were cancelled, we still got to spend time with a small number of people during the holidays. The gathering pictured below was the most important one and I was so relieved when everything worked out and we were able to have our Christmas Eve exchange with my oldest boy and his family. I would have been devastated if we had had to miss our grandbaby's first Christmas. Luckily, we were fully recovered from COVID and everyone felt healthy. 



Things didn't go sideways until after the holidays.  On New Year's Day, Ken woke up feeling terrible. We thought he was having a gall bladder attack. He was in so much pain I offered to take him to the Emergency Room. He refused and somehow managed to make it over to his mom and dad's for Christmas with them. 

The gallbladder attacks continued. Our doctor was on vacation and didn't return until the second week of January. Ken had a virtual appointment, describing his pain, and what he believed would trigger it. The doctor agreed.  It sounded like a gallbladder issue. An ultrasound was scheduled to check for gallstones. 

The results of that ultrasound changed our lives. 

In addition to some thickening of the gallbladder walls, the ultrasound picked up a couple of masses in the liver.  The doctor wanted bloodwork and a CT scan done right away. The CT scan confirmed the masses on the liver but nothing truly noteworthy in nearby organs. The bloodwork, though, told a different story. Cancer marker numbers were high for both colorectal and pancreatic cancers. This prompted a colonoscopy and a referral to an oncologist. Before we met with the oncologist, we got the colonoscopy results back; not a sign of cancer anywhere. The oncologist, while relieved by the colonoscopy results, still wanted Ken to have a liver biopsy and a PET scan done. 

The liver biopsy was so very painful. Ken was still dealing with a lingering COVID cough and every time he coughed, the biopsy site was aggravated. It got so bad the night after the procedure that we called for an ambulance. They assured us he was not bleeding internally, which was our fear. They were also able to help him get his breathing under control so that he didn't feel quite so desperate to get enough oxygen to keep himself from passing out. 

The results from the biopsy were not great. The PET scan, though, told the true story. Ken was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.  On February 9th, we sat through a phone call to discuss the chemo treatments and the possible side effects.  Then, on Febraury 15th, Ken started his first round of treatment. 

It was rough. He was so miserable that first week. It was torture for him going through it and torture for us watching him go through it and not being able to do much beyond making sure he took his meds, ate, and drank as much as his body would allow.  Pancreatic cancer interferes with the pancreas's ability to produce the enzymes necessary to break down fatty foods. This means he has to be very careful when it comes to his diet. Anything above 2.5 - 3.0 grams of saturated fat gives him stomach pain. He does have some pills that mimic the missing enzymes but they haven't been failproof, sometimes giving him stomach cramps, so he tries to avoid most fatty foods.

His second treatment, two weeks to the day after his first, had some new unexpected side effects. His tongue became partially paralyzed and the neuropathy in his hands worsened. Drinking room-temperature water caused his throat to spasm, resulting in a mild case of vomiting. So far, that's the only instance of vomiting he has had and it wasn't from nausea but from his esophagus freaking out. I won't lie, that was scary. 

He just finished his third round of chemo.  He has nine more rounds to go. 

Possibly. 

We don't really know if he will require all six months worth of treatment because after his second treatment we got some good news.  His pancreatic cancer marker numbers have already dropped from 500,000 to right around 100,000.  The chemo is working! Knowing that the chemo is working to shrink the tumors is such a blessing. It makes the misery more bearable for him and for us. We know we still have a long way to go before he's into remission. Yet, knowing the numbers are dropping, we feel as if remission is a real possibility. In the beginning, we weren't so sure. 

As I write this, he's just finished up his third chemo treatment.  





Our COVID Experience

 I have an admission.  Back in November 2020, our little household tested positive for COVID-19.

While we were definitely not the only people in America to test positive for it, it still feels shameful to admit we had it.  This may be because I figure if we had just stayed home for the holidays, we likely would have avoided contracting the illness.  We're not 100% certain where we got it and it really doesn't matter.  No one in our circle of friends and family would knowingly and willingly expose anyone else. Also, I did go shopping.  Maybe it was from being in stores that were fairly busy hours earlier...

Where we got it from really doesn't matter now, a month and a half later.  But you might be curious to know how it went because it seems COVID affects everyone differently. 

Here's what I can tell you about our experience.  We were lucky.  I feel very blessed because our experience was one of mild inconvenience. Ken and I both ran slight fevers for about twelve to twenty-four hours. I had full body aches for only a day but then had to contend with a persistent backache for about two weeks.  Near the end of my bout with COVID, I had some painful headaches that caused my neck to knot up. I had some phlegm and light coughing during the two weeks I felt less than stellar.  Ken ended up with a post-COVID cough he still hasn't managed to kick.

Gage had no symptoms that we are aware of because the kid is always coughing up phlegm thanks to year-round allergies. 

Hallie, Gage's girlfriend, had a few minor symptoms but she seemed to kick it fairly quickly.  

We found out much later that some of the people we had seen on Thanksgiving day also got sick. Like us, they had very mild cases.  

Luckily, KC, Allie, and baby Riley never developed any symptoms.  We hadn't seen them Thanksgiving day and, apparently, when we did see them the next night, we weren't yet carrying a high viral load.  Like I said, we were blessed. I would have been devastated had Riley gotten sick because of us.  For two weeks, I obsessively worried about their little family developing symptoms.  My prayers were almost manic. 

I am coming to realize I may have a slight catastrophizing anxiety disorder. That's a thing, right?  I'm sure it must be. 

Post-COVID quarantine testing came back negative, which was a relief.  I like Thanksgiving, but I love Christmas. Not getting to see my new grandbaby on his first Christmas would have been heartbreaking. Luckily we were good to go and sporting some antibodies. (You have to wonder where herd immunity is at now that so many people have gotten sick over the last nine months..). We celebrated Christmas and New Year, but we tried to keep our gatherings small and safe.  We canceled Christmas with my brothers, sisters, and their families; we're still considering an outside bonfire in the snow.  We didn't travel up north to see my mom or step-dad and their houseful of kids and grandkids. Instead, we invited my dad over on Christmas Eve so he could see his first great-grandchild's first Christmas at our house. 


We spent Christmas night with people who had already had COVID and recovered. Then, on New Year's Eve, we spent even more time with COVID-recovered patients.  Seriously, looking back on our New Year's Eve, there were only two people in the house who hadn't contracted COVID at some point in the fall.  

New Year's Day we spent with Ken's mom and dad.  Again, they were the only non-COVID recovered people in the house. Everyone else had had it and recovered already. Not that I'm not concerned about them. I am. Tomorrow will be one week since we've seen them. So far, they're fine.  I'll feel better, though, when it's been a full two weeks. 

With the holidays over, I think our exposure to people will go right back down to nothing. We're still working from home and Gage is still laid off.  Our only routine visitor is Gage's girlfriend, Hallie. We see KC, Allie, and the baby from time to time. They don't need a sitter like they did when both KC and Allie were working, so even my babysitting has been limited.  When Allie got laid off, babysitting requests died right down.  (This makes me sad because I love babysitting!)

So, we are recovered. Now I just pray we don't develop any of those ominous post-COVID ailments that plague some people.

2021 Reading Challenge




















This year I aim to complete the PopSugar Reading Challenge


I intend to use a mix of ebooks, hardcovers, and paperbacks to complete this challenge.  I'm not assigning anything in advance. I'm going to let my mood choose as I go. However, I am going to do my best to read books I already own and haven't yet read. Wish me luck! 


2021 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

  1. A book that's published in 2021
  2. An Afrofuturist book
  3. A book that has a heart, diamond, club, or spade on the cover
  4. A book by an author who shares your zodiac sign
  5. A dark academia book
  6. A book with a gem, mineral, or rock in the title
  7. A book where the main character works at your current or dream job
  8. A book that has won the Women's Prize For Fiction
  9. A book with a family tree
  10. A bestseller from the 1990s
  11. A book about forgetting
  12. A book you have seen on someone's bookshelf (in real life, on a Zoom call, in a TV show, etc.)
  13. A locked-room mystery
  14. A book set in a restaurant
  15. A book with a black-and-white cover
  16. A book by an Indigenous author
  17. A book that has the same title as a song
  18. A book about a subject you are passionate about
  19. A book that discusses body positivity
  20. A book found on a Black Lives Matter reading list
  21. A genre hybrid
  22. A book set mostly or entirely outdoors
  23. A book with something broken on the cover
  24. A book by a Muslim American author
  25. A book that was published anonymously
  26. A book with an oxymoron in the title
  27. A book about do-overs or fresh starts
  28. A magical realism book
  29. A book set in multiple countries
  30. A book set somewhere you'd like to visit in 2021
  31. A book by a blogger, vlogger, YouTube video creator, or other online personality
  32. A book whose title starts with "Q," "X," or "Z"
  33. A book featuring three generations (grandparent, parent, child)
  34. A book about a social justice issue
  35. A book in a different format than what you normally read (audiobooks, ebooks, graphic novels)
  36. A book that has fewer than 1,000 reviews on Amazon or Goodreads
  37. A book you think your best friend would like
  38. A book about art or an artist
  39. A book everyone seems to have read but you
  40. Your favorite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

Advanced

  1. The longest book (by pages) on your TBR list
  2. The shortest book (by pages) on your TBR list
  3. The book on your TBR list with the prettiest cover
  4. The book on your TBR list with the ugliest cover
  5. The book that's been on your TBR list for the longest amount of time
  6. A book from your TBR list you meant to read last year but didn't
  7. A book from your TBR list you associate with a favorite person, place, or thing
  8. A book from your TBR list chosen at random
  9. A DNF book from your TBR list
  10. A free book from your TBR list (gifted, borrowed, library)

2020 Reading Challenge Wrap-up


Back in late December of 2019, I wrote a blog post about my 2020 reading goals.  My main objective was to read some of the books I already owned at that time.  I own hundreds of unread books, so setting aside around 40-50 titles seemed the least I could do to tackle the overflowing TBR.   

I picked paperbacks and a hardcover. 

I picked ebooks from my Kindle Cloud. 

I did a fairly good job of reading from these pre-selections, but I definitely didn't read them all.  And I definitely strayed!  I read some newly purchased titles and some library loans. For a full accounting of my reading year, you can visit my 2020 Goodread's Reading Challenge page.  

One of the bigger challenges I set for myself this year was to finally read some of the trilogies or series I've been slowly collecting over the years.  This meant that I needed to not only read the one or two titles already sitting in my TBR, but that I needed to procure the other titles so that I could mark that trilogy or series finished. Also, if you've never read a fantasy or science fiction trilogy, they really cannot be read out of order. So, if I had book 1 & 3, I would have to find book 2 before moving on to book 3. This meant I had to purchase a number of books in order to get through a few series.

Take Hade's Daughter by Sara Douglass, for instance.  It's the first in a tetralogy (or quartet, if you prefer).  I only had the first book on my TBR shelf, but knowing the series was complete, I wanted to finish it. I'm glad I did, too.  It actually got better with each book. So much so that I went from thinking the characters were hopeless one-dimensional placeholders to being impressed by the amount of character growth each displayed by the end of the final book. They felt like actual people by the final book, complex like most humans are.  

I also had The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan sitting unread on my shelf.  It was not in my 2020 physical TBR picks, but for some reason I picked up that first book and then proceeded to read up through book #7. I'm not sure I'll finish this particular series in 2021, but it's something I'd like to try.  This is, after all, one of the most well-recognized series in the genre, second only to The Lord of the Rings. How I'm only now picking it up and experiencing it for myself isn't really a mystery, though.  I love fantasy, but this series with its fifteen books was a tad bit intimidating.  I knew a lot of time, energy, and money would have to be put into reading the entire series.  

So...in just these two series alone, I added a total of ten paperback books to my original picks.

Considering how thick those books were, I'm pleased that I was able to still get through so many of the other books I had put on the 2020 physical TBR.  Let's take a look at how I did. 


I read the three Mistborn books I already owned; I just learned there are more books in this series. However, Mistborn The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of the Ages work as a stand-alone trilogy. The next book, from what little I've read, is set 300 years later, so there's no rush to hurry up and buy it. 

I also read the Star Wars trilogy. That was an interesting experience. I've seen those movies so many times.  As you might imagine, I was a bit nervous about reading the books.  I am happy to report they were better than I had anticipated even if there were a few discrepancies that took me out of the story from time to time. 

The other three books pictured above were fun, light reads meant to serve as palate cleansers between my science fiction and fantasy binges.  They served their purpose.  I liked some more than others. You can read those reviews over on Goodreads if you wish. 




After several years of avoiding his stuff, I finally picked up some new Terry Goodkind. Yes, I'm aware of his love of Ayn Rand and that his ego was oversized. That doesn't change the fact that I really enjoyed the first four or five books in the Sword of Truth series and had high hopes for a new spin-off series. I won't go into detail here, but let's just say I didn't rush right over and pick up Shroud of Eternity as soon as I finished Death's Mistress.  Don't get me wrong, I still plan on reading the second book in the Nicci Chronicles, but I need some space first.  There's only so much heavy-handed moralizing I can handle at one time. 

A more pleasant read was Anne Bishop's The Invisible Ring. While set in the Dark Jewels world, this read very much like a stand-alone book. Dreams Made Flesh, by contrast, was a short story collection that I think is best read after the original trilogy as it features the main cast of those books.  

I also really liked Firefly: Magnificent Nine.  If I can't have new episodes to watch, I can at least visit these favorite characters in the books.  

The Moon is a Hard Mistress was first published in 1966 and it read like a science fiction tale created in 1966.  Once I got past the technology and focused instead on the characters and their plight, I was reasonably entertained. Not my favorite Heinlein book, but I'm glad I read it. 

The Best of All Possible Worlds was an interesting little book.  It wasn't perfect, but I think it was worth the time and effort I invested.

So...those were the physical books I hoped to read in 2020.  I think I did fairly well.  I mean, I only have two that I failed to complete and those will both be moved to my 2021 TBR.

Let's move over to my ebook collection and the TBRs I created there.  Yikes. 

On the bright side, I managed to complete two complete trilogies on my Kindle.  The first was The Bone Witch trilogy by Rin Chupeco, which was comprised of The Bone Witch, The Heart Forger, and The Shadow Glass.  I really enjoyed this story and will definitely pick up more of Chupeco's work. I enjoy her writing style and storytelling approach.


The next trilogy I completed was Penryn and the End of Days.  This trilogy had been sitting in my cloud for a crazy long time and I figured it was time to actually check it out. I was intrigued by the idea of angels massacring mankind and pushing humanity into a post-apocalyptic scenario where they struggle to survive against God's merciless winged warriors.  My only concern was that it was Young Adult, which can overuse certain tropes that drive me a little crazy.  Luckily, this trilogy was actually really entertaining and deserves more love than it gets.
 

Unfortunately, that means I did not finish these other trilogies or series from my Cloud. I think this means they should automatically be moved to the top of my 2021 list, don't you?



Since we're still talking about my Kindle books, I guess we should take a look at the stand-alone titles I had selected.  I did a fair job of reading through these books, but there were quite a few that will be moving to my 2021 TBR as well. Of the 20 titles I set aside, I managed to read twelve them. Reviews can be found on Goodreads.  



They Got Their Own Place

Ken used to joke that our boys would live with us forever, but I knew better. Even before there was a baby in the picture, I knew KC and Allie wanted their own place.  I also knew they were uncertain they could pull it off, so they stayed even when they would have rather had been anywhere but at our house or her parents' place.  

Then came Riley and things got crowded.  They suddenly had more of everything to store.  Clothes, boxes of diapers and wipes, stuffed animals, children's books, a crib, a changing table, and toys had to be integrated into their already cramped bedrooms. 

Add into the mix that they're new parents living with people who love them dearly but also haven't quite figured out to stop parenting them. I admit I'm struggling here. I'm trying to get better, but it's work. Sad, sometimes depressing work.  But that's another blog post.  Back to their situation.

Over time, it made for some stressful days, nights, and even weeks. I could see it wearing on them and, frankly, on us. I imagine her family found it stressful, too, when they stayed there for weeks at a time. I could see the stress it was putting on my boy. He's usually a pretty passive, laid-back individual. It takes a lot for him to get truly angry enough to lose his temper, but lose it he did. Not often, but enough to make it clear he was unhappy with their situation.  

When he finally made the decision to rent a little, two-bedroom apartment, he was so happy.  Joyous even. He had been steadily saving money for a down payment on a house. Yet, when this place became available for a price he felt he could manage on a monthly basis, it was too much of an opportunity for him to pass up. The need to get out and on their own was real.

It happened in a blur after that.  They looked at the apartment (townhouse? duplex?) and signed the contract shortly thereafter. The old farmhouse had been split into two residences.  The kids are in the smaller of the two, which also happened to be the cheaper of the two.  Luckily, it's the perfect size for a little family just starting out on their own. It has two bedrooms and one bathroom.  No bathtub, only a shower stall.  A "Michigan basement", which means it has a low roof and dirt floors. 


Ken and I thought we'd help them and ourselves out by offering them our basement furniture. It's only a couple of years old and in fairly good shape. Ken just didn't find it as comfortable as he had hoped he would when we had bought it for the basement's man cave. So, we gave that to the kids and went out to buy a new set for ourselves. I also got a new kitchen table; it only took 25 years for us to get to this point but it was worth the wait!

So, the kids had KC's bed from his bedroom, her dressers from her house, the crib from her house, our old living room furniture, and an entertainment center from her mom.  There's no room for a dining room table.  If there had been, they could have taken our old one. Instead, that's getting moved up to KC's old bedroom for me to work at in the upcoming months until we get his room remodeled. 

It's been strange watching them create their own little nest.  A good kind of strange. I'm super proud of them and think this will make their lives so much better, even if they will have bills and responsibilities they're not accustomed to having.  They get to be independent. They get to determine how their daily lives look and feel. I remember that feeling when Ken and I got our first place together.  It was glorious. So freeing.  I hope that's what they feel right now.  Free. Happy. Content. 

Michigan's Inland Waterway

After having to cancel a number of plans this spring and summer thanks to the pandemic, Ken and I were so relieved to be able to actually keep our cabin reservation on Mullet Lake.  We had been looking forward to spending the weekend on the boat with our good friends, Jeff and Laura.  We had had a great time last year and knew this year would be equally wonderful.  Given the stress of the last few months, it also felt like a very necessary break from our routine.

If you're not familiar with Michigan's inland waterway, it stretches from Lake Huron to Crooked Lake, which isn't too far distant from Lake Michigan.  I'm not sure if you can get to Round Lake from Crooked Lake because we've never made it past the sand bar area in Crooked Lake.  I don't believe you can navigate completely from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan, though.  

Inland Waterway US MI


The last time we rented a cabin on Mullet Lake it was back in 2006 when Phil and Beth introduced us to this trip.  That year, my cousin Jessica and her husband, Sean, joined us.  The next year we went with a completely different set of friends and opted to stay in our camper at Aloha State Park, which is located on the east side of Mullet Lake.  This went on for a few years and then, for some reason, we just stopped going until our 2019 trip with Jeff and Laura.

The cabin we rented this year was a  definite step up from our 2006 rentals.  No central air conditioning, but otherwise just about perfect for a weekend getaway. It sat right in front of a nice little dock and had a fire pit we could use in the evenings after enjoying a day on the water. 

  
I didn't take as many photos as I thought I had.  It seems I was more intent on putting together a video compilation. 




If that video doesn't display properly - I've noticed that Blogger seems to be having some issues properly displaying videos and images lately - you can always go directly to Youtube to view it

This weekend was exactly what we needed.  It felt so good to let go of some of the stress that COVID-19 has brought into our lives.  


The Results Are In: His Test Was Negative

What a blessed relief!  After waiting seven days, the doctor finally called to let us know that KC's COVID-19 test results were in and he was negative.  


Everyone was so excited, but perhaps no one more so than this little guy.  After not being touched, held, or kissed by his daddy for eleven days, he was finally able to get all the love and affection he had missed out on during those long days.  

Although, I do have to admit that his mommy was pretty excited, too.  She had, in effect, been a single mom from the moment she went into my dad's camper.  I think those may have been the longest four or five days of her young mom life.  You don't realize how much help you have until no one is allowed to so much as breathe on the baby. 

So, yes, the little man's mama was a happy camper, too.  

Ken and I were, of course, delighted to be done with quarantine protocol.  It was a stressful week and a half.  We tried our best to visit with him from a safe distance, and overall I think we did okay.  Not perfect, but okay.  



image of KC and Allie playing soccer


Exposed and Quarantined

Well, it's happened.  You'd probably think that given everything Ken and I have done over the last couple of months that we would be responsible for our current situation.  But you'd be wrong. 

On a Thursday afternoon, while Ken and I were home working, Allie was upstairs tending to the baby, and Gage was still in bed because he hadn't fallen asleep until around 6 a.m. that morning, we got a phone call from K.C.  He had been in training all day and, about halfway through, it got shut down because one of the attendees had just been notified they had tested positive for COVID.  KC is fairly convinced it was the young woman he had been working with on CPI holds because her phone kept going off and she had to excuse herself to answer it.  Her face fell and she immediately went to find the guy in charge of the training.  They spoke for a few minutes and then she left.  Minutes later, the training was shut down with an announcement that someone in the room had just tested positive for COVID-19 and everyone present would be tested the very next morning at 9 a.m.  KC went out into the parking lot and sent us Snapchat messages asking us to pack up Allie and the baby.  He wanted them gone before he got home.  

I started making a list of everything they would need for an extended visit to her mom's.  When in a panic, make a list!  

Then I remembered a conversation Ken and I had had when the Stay Home, Stay Safe orders had come out.  We had talked about using the camper to quarantine anyone in the family that needed to be quarantined.  We could hook it up to power, fill it with water, and the person could isolate in relative luxury.  

If KC stayed in the camper, Allie and the baby would be safe enough in the house.  So this is what we did.  We got the camper prepared, put food in it, medicine in case it was needed, and some clothes for the boy.  We deliver his dinner but let him fend for himself during breakfast and lunch.  

We also visit from a great distance, which gives him the opportunity to talk to us and to see his little boy. 


Because the camper is in the barn, which effectively stops his cell phone signal, we use Walkie Talkies to communicate with him in the evenings.  

The Walkie Talkie has caused an issue. 

Worried that he might become sick during the night and need assistance, I took it to bed with me.  He had complained earlier in the day that he had diarrhea and felt light-headed.  It should be noted that he had eaten four bacon/sausage/egg/cheese sandwiches for dinner the night before and that morning's upset stomach might have had more to do with his gluttony than with COVID; it's really all a guessing game right now while we wait for test results.  Still, given that he has passed out on me more than once while sick, I worry about him passing out and hurting himself.  Hitting his head on something.  Falling down the steps in the camper and breaking a bone.  

My imagination is not always my friend.  

So...I took the Walkie Talkie into the bedroom with me just in case the diarrhea and light-headedness returned and got worse.  I was reading on my Kindle with Ken sleeping next to me when the thing squawked twice.  I got out of bed and tried to see what KC wanted.  No answer.  I tried again. No answer.  Panic started to set in, so I grabbed a mask and went out to the barn.  I banged on the camper door and called his name.  No answer.  Worried, I decide I'm going in to make sure he's not injured.  He wasn't in the living room area or the tiny bathroom.  I opened the bedroom door and turned on the lights to find him sound asleep.  No idea why the Walkie Talkie had squawked like someone was trying to say something. 

I left the camper right away.  I threw away my mask.  Washed my hands.  Then I used hand sanitizer on my hands, arms, legs.  I changed into a fresh pair of jammies and then went to bed. 

The next morning I told Allie about what had happened.  As one might imagine, she got very alarmed, worried that I had brought COVID into the house.  Her worry doubled when Ken went to check on KC a little bit later.  Now three of us are potentially exposed and she has a three-month-old to worry about.  We all do.  He's so little and vulnerable.  Although Ken and I both felt that we were as safe as we could be, we can't deny the risk.  

In the end, we asked my dad to drop off his camper for her and the baby.  She didn't feel safe anywhere and we're hoping this will help ease her mind and make her feel a bit more protected.  

Now we wait on test results.  KC's first test was administered too soon according to our family doctor, so he's on his way to get a follow-up test that will hopefully be more accurate.  We don't know how long it will take to get his results from either test, but we hope its soon.  This is incredibly stressful and worrisome.

The Pandemic Continues


That's right.  Four months later and the world is still struggling to get the pandemic under control.  I thought I might highlight a few of the more notable things that have happened in those four months on both a national scale and on a much more personal level.  

Let's start with some national highlights. 
  • As of today, the New York Times is reporting the U.S. has had a total of 3.5 million cases and 137,319 deaths.  
  • As of today, The New York Times is reporting that Michigan has had a total of 79,081 cases and 6,333 deaths.  
  • No one really trusts the case counts or, as strange as this may seem, the death counts. 
    • Why are the case counts suspect?  Not all states are reporting lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases, some are reporting suspected cases as well, which is allowed by CDC guidelines.  Additionally, the numbers may be inflated by duplicate counts for individuals that are tested more than once. 
    • The death count should be a no brainer but I have family members that actually know of a couple that died from the injuries sustained in a car accident but their death certificates indicate the cause was COVID.   
  • In April, the Pentagon released some UFO pictures. Yes, you read that correctly.  
  • In May, headlines warned of "murder hornets".  (They are not expected in Michigan for decades, so not really high on the list of things to get anxious about..)
  • Murder hornets fade into obscurity because George Floyd's death sparks nationwide protests and riots. There are even calls for defunding the police, which doesn't actually mean disbanding the police just reallocating resources so that police aren't responding to situations that might be better suited to social workers, mental health professionals, or other first responders.   
  • In June, the Supreme Court makes a couple of landmark decisions. 
    • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is expanded to provide protection to LGBTQ individuals.
    • Upholds DACA.
  • In mid-July, a company announces it's ready to move on to the final stage of vaccine testing for COVID-19.
  • To wear a mask or not to wear a mask is a big point of contention. So much so that people have been murdered over a difference of opinion. 
And these are just the major news stories I remember hearing about.  I'm sure there is a lot I have missed or forgotten to mention.  It's been a crazy year.  There's a lot to track!

While all that was happening in the state and across the nation, things here at home were moving much slower.  The little man grew month by month.


KC and Allie both went back to work.  He went back to being a direct care worker in a residential home and she went back to Subway.  Subway lasted until the local Brewery asked her if she'd like to return to work in their event center - yes, people are throwing birthday parties and getting married even with the pandemic still making national headlines. 

In fact, we had a wedding to attend.  We planned to only attend the wedding and skip the reception because the reception was supposed to be held inside.  However, the day before the wedding, the bride and groom found out the entire event had to be held outside or canceled.  An outside reception seemed less problematic, so we stayed.  The picture I took below was from our vantage point at a distant picnic table. There were six of us at the table:  me, Ken, Jaime, Megan, Lee Ann, and Aunt Linda.  


We did have fun visiting with family and dancing under the pavilion.  I still don't understand why these young couples spend money on a DJ when they don't seem to be interested in dancing at all.  The bridal party did the traditional dances and maybe a line dance or two, but for the most part, it was really only three or four of us out there dancing most of the night.  This was fine given the fact that social distancing is still highly recommended.

Earlier this summer, after waiting impatiently for the governor to lift restrictions a bit, we were finally able to get the camper out and head off on some low-key adventures. We were even able to work from the camper on a couple of instances.


Oh, yeah.  Ken and I have been working from home since the pandemic started.  Now that campgrounds are open, we have been testing our cell phone signals to determine if our hotspots will work or not.  Most often, they do not.  However, we have identified a few places where we can work remotely from the comfort of our home on wheels.

I'd like to think this will be my last pandemic update, but I don't think it will be.  The numbers are rising in states where restrictions have been lifted and I suspect Michigan will reinstate some of the earlier restrictions that have been lifted in the last couple of months.  

I'm a Grammy!

He has arrived and he is perfect!





Our Stay Home, Stay Safe Experience


Despite the sun shining and the warming temperatures, there are days when I feel as if I've stepped out of the real world and into an alternate reality, a version of our world with a slightly more dystopian setting.  University and college courses have all gone online.  K-12 schools have been cancelled for the remainder of the school year.  Restaurants and bars have been shut down unless they can provide a walk-in/walk-out food service.  Small businesses have shut their doors, laying off employees until the world rights itself.  Social gatherings of any size and for any reason have been banned by handful of governors across the nation and its expected more will follow suit.

Birthday parties: cancelled. 
Retirement parties: cancelled. 
Bridal showers: cancelled.
Friday night card games with friends: cancelled
Bachelorette and bachelor parties: cancelled. 
Weddings: cancelled.
Baby showers: cancelled.

That last one hits close to home.  This coming Sunday we were supposed to be hosting a baby shower for Allie.  When Governor Whitmer announced the Stay Home, Stay Safe Executive Order, we made the difficult decision to cancel the shower.  Instead of gathering with friends and family to celebrate the anticipated arrival of this new addition to the family,  gifts have been arriving steadily from concerned friends and family members that want to make sure the new parents and their little bundle of joy have everything they need.  There were so many deliveries that I actually felt a bit guilty and decided to put together a little something for the USPS, UPS, and FedEx drivers; I included an explanation and thanked them for their service.  Maybe they won't think we're complete jerks that are simply passing our time at home by shopping online..






While none of this may be happening the way we envisioned, the most important thing is that the little man (yes, it's a boy!) arrives happy and healthy.  And stays that way.  That's the mantra that gets us through the disappointment that things aren't happening the way we had originally planned.

Healthy baby, healthy mama.

That's what's truly important. 



Given that we are expecting a little bundle of joy to enter our lives sometime in the next four weeks, we are doing our very best to honor the Stay Home, Stay Safe order.  Ken and I have been working from home for two and three weeks respectively.  Gage had just started working as a busboy at a nearby brewery and was laid off until normal business resumes.  Allie took a voluntary layoff from Subway.  The only one working outside the home is KC because he's considered an essential worker; he is an aide at a residential facility.

Trust me, as soon as he walks through the door, I'm on him to strip out of his scrubs.  While he goes to take a shower, I throw his clothes into the washer using hot water.  I don't bleach them, though, because they're black and I don't think he wants to wear gray scrubs because of his mom's neurotic need to disinfect.

Maybe I should use bleach anyway.   Is hot water and soap enough?

While KC is at work taking care of those that depend on him and his coworkers to keep their world as routine as possible under the circumstances, the rest of us are doing our part.  Ken and I work off our laptops.  Allie does homework.  And Gage sleeps away the daylight hours, saving up all his energy for late night gaming sessions with his friends.