Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Downtown Disney Proposal....Awesome

I try to be pretty choosy about which videos I repost on my blog, and this is definitely on of the best. This morning when my husband, Eric, called me on the phone (4 more days until we're together again!!) he told me about a video that he had seen that he wanted to share. I loved it. It is a fun and sweet marriage proposal that involves a lot of creativity.

It will put a smile on your face...I promise!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Xander at the Arboretum yesterday...

There have been so many ups and downs these past few weeks with Jonathan's illness, but why is it that when things like this happen we seem to focus on the "downs?'

As someone who is always doing little self-evaluations, I was thinking about that these last couple of days. I was down on the achingly slow progress that Jonathan was making, instead of acknowledging that progress was being made. I was down on my nephew being a little bit challenging instead of realizing that his life has been topsy-turvy not having his dad at home for nearly 3 weeks. And I've been down on other things that I won't mention here.

But the truth is, is that there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. The doctors seem to think that Jonathan will be able to go home in another week or so. He has been moved again (his 4th room in a week!) to the Transitional Care Unit at the hospital, which is for people who are doing better, but still need a place to heal under supervision. He's eating more than I've seen him eat in ages, and he's eating more high-calorie foods, which, at his weight, is a good thing.

I'm also seeing the end of my time here in CA. After 3 1/2 weeks here, I'll be flying back to my home on Monday, easing back into my routine of taking care of my husband, house and pets (I hope they all recognize me!)

Yesterday, after realizing that there was probably a lot going on with my little nephew that he just wasn't able to verbalize, I decided that I wanted to take him on a fun little adventure.

After picking him up from pre-school, we went and ate chicken and rice at Pollo Loco and then spent about 2 hours at the Arboretum, a place that Jonathan and I grew up visiting frequently. We fed the ducks and catfish, explored the trails off the beaten paths that led through shady areas of tropical trees, and drank apple juice and Snapple next to the big fountain. By the time we left, Xander was happy and tired, so tired that he fell asleep in the car before we could even get to the hospital to visit Jonathan. He woke up talking about our adventure and it was clear that we both needed that change of scenery.

Again and again I keep going back to all the things there are to be thankful for, not the least of which is the fact that my circumstances don't require me to work full-time anymore, affording me the flexibility to even come down here to CA for these 3 weeks. A year and a half ago this would've been out of the question. Isn't it amazing how sometimes Life knows things before you do?

I adore my nephew!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Jonathan...a New Phase

As my mom and I continually discuss what Jonathan and his little family are up against over these next few months, one thing we do agree on is that we have definitely entered a new phase when it comes to his recovery.

The worst is over, but there is still a long road ahead, and even Jonathan agrees that the way he processes information is not 100%. But the fact that he is conscious, has no IVs, is out of ICU and doesn't have a medical person standing by all the time shows that real progress has been made.

I kind of feel like 50% is what we have been dealing with these last 2 and a half weeks and the other 50% is what lies ahead. My ticket back home to WA and my husband and our house and pets is for 1 week from tomorrow. I didn't expect to stay this long (nearly 3 weeks,) but it was a good decision. I know my help here has been needed. I've helped babysit, change more diapers than I care to count, done a lot of laundry, walked my mom's dog, given her moral support and run many errands, on top of visiting Jonathan in the hospital almost daily.

There is a weird feeling in me as I think about returning home in a week. I will probably be leaving before Jonathan is released from the hospital. I'm hoping he will at least be transferred to the rehab floor before I go. That will show another step in his recovery.

The current question that has arisen is whether or not to do a spinal tap, or "lumbar test." The doctors want to use the results as a diagnostic tool, but Jonathan has concerns. It is his body, ultimately it is his decision.

We still have our concerns at this phase. We have concerns about what his state will be when he finally is released. There are things looming ahead that worry us that we try not to think about. If I knew 2 weeks ago what I know now about where he is in his recovery, maybe I would've waited to help during this next phase.

Again, we thank those who have visited, who have put his name on the temple prayer roles, who have sent cards and voiced their support. Thank you. Your support and prayers are still needed for a long time!

Update 4 hours later: After thinking about it for several days, Jonathan has agreed to the lumbar test. I'm really glad.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Jonathan, Part II

Time to do an update on my brother, Jonathan's, progress. I'm typing slowly and making a ton of mistakes because I'm on my mom's computer, which is almost harder than driving someone else's car...

Today is 2 weeks since he entered the hospital. This Saturday is the 2 week mark since his craniotomy. Since then we have seen some slow, but steady, progress.

After the surgery, it took another 5 full days before he even opened his eyes, Those first few days were very difficult, because the progress just seemed so incredibly slow. The first time I witnessed his eyes open was when he had a 15 second seizure--not a sight that was easy to see. 15 seconds lasted a long time.

He opened his eyes the Thursday after his surgery. Well, he opened one eye. The eye below the abscess was very swollen. His speech was very slow, and his left side was having difficulty moving. They put in a feeding tube in his nose and there was still an assortment of other tubes sticking out of him from every direction.

Despite the apparent success of the surgery, there were still many concerns...his heart rate was lingering between the high 30's and low 50's, sometimes even taking a quick trip into the 20's and a few times stopping altogether for up to 7 seconds. There was a heated debate over whether a temporary pacemaker was necessary. His blood pressure, which runs low anyway, as does mine, was lower than it should be, and we were always waiting for him to regain use of his left side--fortunately, that has recovered almost completely.

Nerves became frayed during these few days...between my mom, me, Jonathan's wife....each day was a challenge with 2 steps forward and 1 step back. The pluses and minuses could be gauged differently depending on which medical personnel we were talking to, our own moods, and individual filters of life experience.. Let's just say it isn't a time any of us care to revisit.

Then we began to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Suddenly Jonathan was able to eat real food. And not only was he eating real food, but he was eating food that he would normally never touch, like a bowl of spaghetti! Jonathan... eating spaghetti!

Two days ago they moved him out of the ICU at USC hospital. He spent about 8 hours in another room and was moved to the local community hospital late that night. He spent last night in the ICU there, not because he is in such bad shape, but because the doctors were still a little worried that he was trying to do too much and wanted to give him some extra supervision.

Last night when I went and visited him, his wife and my uncle were there. It makes me giddy to see him eating so well, even if it is hospital food. He has always been a slow eater, but he is eating everything...everything...on that tray they bring. I guess I would too if I had gone 9 days without real food.

This morning his wife took the kids for a visit, their 2nd to see their dad since this all began. Later we learned that he had been moved out of ICU at the local hospital and into another room.

This morning I went to see him on my own and was there from about 11:45 to around 4pm. It was very good and helpful to spend so much time alone with him. The speech therapist had been there earlier and the physical therapist came while I was there and walked him up and down the hall and did a few exercises in the room, like some deep knee bends. It was encouraging, again to see him eat a big meal. The doctor came in and gave us an update, although she is still waiting for the cultures from USC.

They have determined that the brain abscess was fungal, not bacterial. It could have been growing for months, which is kind of scary to think about. And he'll be on anti-fungal and anti-seizure meds for up to a year. That could mean a long, long time of not being allowed to drive, but we'll just handle one thing at a time.

The next step, which could happen as early as tomorrow, is to move him to the rehab floor, which is a place where he can continue to heal for another week or 2 and where physical therapy will be twice a day instead of once. His wife has returned to work for a few hours each day, which is good, because that she feels confident enough to not spend every day at the hospital like she did for 2 weeks.

My ticket back to WA is for October 3rd (leftover from my original plans) and it is very possible that I'll stay that long. I miss my sweet husband something awful, but it is comforting to know that he is managing things up there so well.

What a learning experience this has been. What a time of emotional highs and lows. Instead of seeing 2 steps forward, 1 step back, I see things as 1 slow step forward at a time. We are still just taking things 1 day at a time. And, although everyone is aware that some definite adjustments lie in wait for the future, we cannot bring ourselves to see that far ahead quite yet.

The prayers, emails, cards, flowers, phone calls, messages and good thoughts from friends and family have been abundant, and we are all so grateful. The news of Jonathan's illness has reached across the US to Mexico to Vietnam and we constantly feel the support of so many. Thank you, thank you.

Because the progress is slow and we are in for more transitions at the hospital, I will update again in a few days. I pray and look forward to having more good news to share as time goes on. Thank you again for those who have kept Jonathan and the rest of us in your prayers and we ask that you continue to do so. There is still a long road ahead.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Where to begin?

My family has had the most unexpected of challenges this week. Last Friday morning I got a call from my mom telling me that my brother, Jonathan, was in the hospital. He had been experiencing a bad headache for 3 days and, when he went to his nursing class on Thursday night, his classmates noticed that he was not well. The teacher actually ended class early and his classmates brought him home.

After some convincing, his wife was able to get him to the local hospital. By the time they got him there, he couldn't even hold a pen to write his name.

He stayed in emergency while a bed became available in ICU. After many tests and examinations, they determined that he had an abscess in his brain. My brother is 38 and a health nut, how could this happen?

When my sister in law called Jonathan's work to tell them that he would not be able to work, the head nurse that he works under asked if there was any way to get him transferred to USC medical center, because they have the best neurological department in the country. After a lot of paperwork and waiting, they were able to get him transferred on Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, I was still up at our house in WA, talking to my mom on the phone every few hours, and trying to get things in order to come down to CA. Jonathan had had a pretty violent seizure that morning and there was a time when we thought we were going to lose him. The more I heard what was going on , the more I realized that I needed to get down immediately. Not in 3-4 days, but the next day.

Saturday night Jonathan underwent a craniotomy. Meaning a small area of his brain had to be exposed to clean out the abscess, which, by then, had burst. Fortunately it did not leak into the spinal fluid. The surgeon was optimistic and said everything went well, but a long road to recovery lies ahead.

On Sunday morning I got on a plane and flew down to CA. My sweet husband, always supportive, just said to stay as long as I feel it is necessary. My mom and uncle picked me up and we went back to my mom's house where I unpacked and we ate some lunch. No visitors are allowed at the hospital for certain hours, but, as soon as they were, we returned.

Sometimes, even when you know something, it doesn't really sink in until you see it with your own eyes. That is how it was when I saw Jonathan in a hospital bed in ICU, with a bandage across the base of his forehead, a swollen right eye (the abscess was on the right side, so the right side of the face looks a little traumatized,) and different lines and IVs coming out from every direction.

We are trying to be patient as he recovers from his surgery, but it isn't easy. He still has not opened his eyes. His right eye, especially, looks very sealed shut because of the swelling. He had lost some function on his left side (because the abscess was on the right,) so his left hand (his dominant hand) is kind of curled, but the good news is that his color is looking better and last night he crossed his left leg over his right voluntarily...which is great.

He did have 2 little mini seizures yesterday, one of which happened when the physical therapist came and helped him sit up. Because of that, they hooked him up to an EEG machine, which means that now he has a turban of bandages to keep the 16 different sensors in place. There is a computer monitoring his brain activity with a camera on him, which the neurosurgeon can even see from home.

There is no doubt that the care he is getting is excellent. The nurses in ICU have only 2 patients per nurse, and they are right there for everything and great about answering our questions. They are also very diligent about turning him (as last night's night nurse said "The bed is not your friend,) to help avoid sores, phlegm build-up, and pneumonia, which are always concerns when someone is lying down for an extended amount of time.

As far as his response, he says a lot of "Mmm, mmm" like "yes" to things you tell him. The other day when the ophthalmologist came in and was trying to examine the eye that doesn't want to open, Jonathan said "I'm trying to cooperate." The night nurse that we have gotten to know sometimes asks him what the procedure is for certain things. On Sunday night, when Jonathan was running a fever of 101, the nurse asked him, "What should I do?" And Jonathan responded, "Blood cultures," which was correct.

At this point, it feels pointless to ask questions like, "How long will he be in ICU?" "How long will his recovery time be?" "Will be recover 100%?" We just have to take things on a day-to-day kind of basis.

The real question is, "How did this happen?" Jonathan is a very avid bike-rider, a vegetarian, and very thin. He bikes anywhere he can, 10 miles to work, 20 miles to school, 30 miles into the mountains. There is a possibility that the abscess originated in his sinuses from breathing in dirt and pollution during those very vigorous bike rides. When an abscess begins, it starts to travel to the heart or brain. His traveled to the brain.

It is ironic that when we think of spending so much time on the bike we worry about traffic and weather. There is no way we ever would've guessed that something like this could happen.

We are praying for a complete recovery. His wife needs him, his two little kids need their dad.

The hospital staff has told us that sometimes in cases like this, things seem to get worse before they get better. So, despite that fact that the swelling, fever, even the seizures seem very alarming, they are still within the normal range of things that can happen when someone has had a surgery for this condition.

The outpouring of support we have received has been amazing. We have gotten calls from friends and family in the US, Mexico and Vietnam. His name is on the temple prayer lists in CA, WA and UT. All of this is greatly appreciated.

Right now the only people allowed to visit are immediate family, but we feel the love and support from so many.

Please keep him in your prayers. I'll update in a few days.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rolling in the Deep...

Seems like there have been some great musical postings out there lately. This is a group out of St. George, UT called The Piano Guys. Using a piano and cello as their main instruments, they do awesome covers of popular songs.

This is Adele's Rolling in the Deep. Very cool. First you will need to scroll to the bottom of the blog and pause the song on the player.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Can Anybody Find Me....

Somebody to Love...

Everyone is going crazy with the Freddie Mercury tributes all over the net today because, if he was alive, FM would be 65 today. One of our favorite YouTube entertainers, a musician/comic who calls himself Nice Peter, did a great tribute using my favorite song by Queen.

It's pretty impressive and a lot of fun to watch, but you will need to scroll to the very bottom of my blog first and pause the music that plays so that it doesn't play over the video.

Enjoy! We love this guy.

P.S. Love the "fish tank" t-shirt. ;)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Thinking about church today...

As usual, church was pretty great today. I kept on *almost* getting up to bear my testimony, but everyone else beat me who actually did get up. At one point I even found myself getting emotional during one lady's testimony. I never do that.

Several people who got up are converts to the church. And a lady who is a very recent convert talked about how it feels like many people in her family are suddenly in the grips of darkness and challenges.

Her words got me thinking about when my mom, brother and I joined the church back in 1986. It seemed like everyone around us had an opinion about our decision. A neighbor came and tried to persuade my mom not to go through with joining the Mormon church. The mother of one of my classmates did the same thing. And one of my mom's best friends said her piece too. The biggest challenge was the hurt it caused my grandpa, who had raised his 4 kids Catholic. My grandparents lived around the corner from us and suddenly my grandpa barely said 2 words to my mom for 2-3 years. Thank goodness he finally came around.

But I started to think about the bad dude...Satan. For one so powerful, he sure goes into a tailspin when someone is trying to get closer to God. He panics, and starts injecting his dark influence in the most unlikely, but also the most personal of ways. Up until about an hour before we got baptized it seemed like my mom was having to defend her decision to a friend or family member.

But we did it. And I'm glad we did. As I get wiser in my old age, I realize that, although peopleare flawed, there are some things that are not. And every time we humble ourselves and remember where we come from and what lies in store for us after we die, we get a little closer to greatness.

Satan wouldn't react the way he does unless he feels threatened, and, despite all of the craziness that is happening in the world today, there are a lot of good people and great works happening too. The challenge is to stay focused on what is right and remember that there is a larger, eternal plan at work.

What a comfort to know that!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Recent Adventures...

As I wrote to my grandma yesterday, I explained that life is a lot quieter now that I'm living up in WA and not teaching. Southern CA is always full of hustle and bustle and teaching school always has drama and excitement. And, although I love my new life, it doesn't always make for the most blazing hot letters and blog entries.

But, sometimes you have to go and find the excitement.

On Friday, August 26th, Eric and I had tickets to go and see Josh Groban perform at the Rose Garden in Portland. It is the city's big indoor stadium, like the Staples Center in So. CA. We were in the 29th row on the floor. But we had a treat! There was a mini stage just a few feet away from us and he started the show there! I didn't take this video, because this is a New Orleans show, but this is about how close we were:

It was my 4th time seeing him in concert, but I've never been this close before. Security allowed those of us with floor seats to stand right at the edge of the mini stage and for a good 1/3 of the concert I was about 5 feet away from him. That was awesome!

The rest of the concert was a lot of fun. He sounded great, did his drum-playing bit,

answered questions from the audience, and even sang "Happy Birthday" with a girl from the audience (she sounded good!) He also brought an older couple up on stage for about half an hour and just really interacted well with the audience. It has been a few years since I've seen him live and he has really grown as a performer. Eric had a good time too. We drove home, made a midnight burger run, and got to sleep a little after 1am.

Since Eric took a couple of days off so we could go to the concert, we had some extra time for other adventures. On Wednesday we drove the 70-odd miles to Seaside, Oregon, which is the end of the Lewis & Clark trail. The drive was lovely and scenic through windy roads surrounded by huge fir trees. We also drove through Astoria, a cute coastal town with houses up on steep hills.

Seaside is your basic coastal tourist shops, restaurants, everything from seedy motels to upscale hotels, a little indoor mall with bumper cars and an arcade. One of the big attractions is the aquarium, which is really just the outer room with the sea lions and in the inner room with the tanks. You can see the whole thing in less than half an hour, but it is still fun. My brother and I went there back in 2004 when he lived in Oregon for a year. For $1 you can buy a little handful of fish to feed the sea lions. And there is always the smart one who learns that if he slaps the water and gets your attention, he'll get more fish:

(I didn't take this video either....YouTube is a wonderful thing! LOL)

And the last big news is that I'll be heading back to California at the end of the month to visit my family. Although it is kind of my mom's turn to travel up here, she wanted me to come down there. The upside of that is that I can check on my house and I get to see my cute nephew and niece. This time, though, we're doing something different. My mom hasn't had a vacation in a while (except to come and visit me,) so we're going to drive up to Carmel for 5 days. We are taking her dog, in the past we've always taken my dog, and we are driving in her car instead of mine. Hopefully everything goes smoothly. We were lucky to get one of the only remaining rooms available for those 4 nights at our favorite hotel, the Cypress Inn:

Last year Eric and I spent the day in Carmel while on our honeymoon. We stayed in Monterey, but I got to show him all of my favorite places to shop and eat and visit in Carmel.

Carmel is my favorite vacation place, so I'm really thrilled to be able to go there again. It is upscale, but everyone is so nice and most people bring their dogs. The shops and restaurants accommodate the dogs. There are mountains and trees and the ocean all in one place. You feel safe and you pretty much walk everywhere.

Recent adventures and upcoming adventures!