Wednesday, December 08, 2010

In Short

From John Scalzi - accurate but misleading synopses of various Fantasy Movies. A surprising number of which can be summarized as "young girl meets older man with skin condition. Complications ensue."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Creepy Crawlies!

We have acquired a new pet.

Meet Ao!

She arrived about three weeks ago (so she's hardly news to some of you), but I thought I should bring it up here.

Ao is a Northern blue-tongue skink. She's about 18" long, extremely omnivorous, and pretty friendly as reptiles go. She's Aaron's first reptile acquisition (he's been agitating for a snake for years). He's in love. The first couple of days he barely came out of his room, instead hauling everything he wanted to do up there, so he could watch her.

Working with Ao has been a process of discovery for all of us. Rob discovered that even toothless reptiles will bite when frightened (and can bite quite hard). Mommy has discovered that skinks like earthworms - and toes look like earthworms - shoes are now mandatory when the skink is roaming! Aaron has been enjoying feeding her various foods to see which she likes - so far everything but bok choy, but she has a strong preference for moving food. He has discovered that live crickets do not make good sleeping companions (even when appropriately contained), so the live cricket portions of Ao's diet may be limited in the future.

After a couple weeks of being shy and scared, Ao has definitely gotten used to me (I can now pick her up and put her on my forearm without her hissing or trying to escape at all), and is getting more used to Aaron. I think his smaller shakier hands are a little more scary to her, and since I have to pick her up to give her to him, she automatically gets contact with me every time she gets contact with him. Blue-tongues are supposed to be able to distinguish people, and Ao's behavior so far bears that out - she still gets alarmed fairly easily by Rob and Robbie.

All in all, having a reptile in the house has been a lot more fascinating than I had thought it would be. I'm getting fond of Ao pretty fast, and while I was expecting Aaron to love her, I wasn't expecting to be getting attached myself. I may be sad if he takes her with him when he goes off to college in another eight years or so (skink lifespan 20-30 years!).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tournament Photos!

I won't try to post them here - there are a lot! - but we have the photos from the Southern Indiana Open Tournament - they can be found here. Just click on the link to be taken to the whole set.

Monday, October 04, 2010

I Like Taxes

Why do I like taxes? Because with them I help buy civilization.

So we don't have this. Or this. Or this.

Does no one remember how London happened to burn down - while private fire companies fought in the street?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

That Went Well

And out the other side of the first Southern Indiana Open Karate Tournament. It went really well, and people seemed to have a lot of fun. We had good participation - I counted 36 kyu ranks and more than 20 black belts at bow in. The rings all ran smoothly - at least everything I saw did, and I haven't heard any rumors of other problems.

We owe a ton of thanks to Sensei Heidi Gauntner, who brought her own team of people, and organized this thing on the ground. From registration to ring assignments to sparring rules, they were all over it, and I don't know that we could have done it at all without them. It certainly wouldn't have run a tenth as smoothly.

I did my first stint as a judge. It was shockingly tiring. At the end of the day I was more beat than if I'd competed. On the other hand, I had fun doing it, and I'm much less nervous now about being asked to judge at another tournament. Our ring started with the 6-10 novice, then had the 10-12 novice, and finished up with the 12-16 advanced. Three of our students (one of them being Robbie) ended up in our ring. Robbie did better than I expected, but not very well, given that he hasn't actually practiced the kata he did more than twice in the last two weeks. He finished nowhere and was pretty upset about it (and it really sucks to have to give your own kid a low score). One of our brand new white belts was in the same division, and he also finished nowhere, but was much happier about it, given that he's only been in karate about six weeks, and only finished learning his kata last week. He was thrilled just to get through it solidly.

The last competitor from our dojo in my ring was our teenaged brown belt, T. He did fabulous - the best I've ever seen him do either his empty hand or his weapons kata. He very nearly took weapons, but was done in by his own legs when he clipped himself in the calf with his bo. He also needs to adjust for his sudden additional inches of height. He stands like he's 5'4", when he's a good 3-4" taller now and still growing. He finished second to one of Sensei Heidi's students in both weapons and kata, but took first in kumite, 3-2.

We had one other competitor (12-16 novice), but I haven't found out how he did yet - probably in Tuesday's class.

Anyway - I'm happy, Sensei's happy, the competitors seemed happy with the competition. A good day's work all around. Topped off with Robbie and Aaron going off to an overnight stay with their friend, leading to dinner, a movie, and a nice lengthy visit to a bookstore for their parents. First overnight without kids ever! Woohoo!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

One Week and Counting

Next Saturday is our dojo's first tournament. We have 19 competitors pre-registered (not counting our own students), and the estimate is for 30-40 total on the day. I probably won't be competing, but will be using the tournament for my first attempt at judging instead. I'm rather nervous about this, because I really don't want to screw something up and make someone's tournament an annoying experience (I've had a few tournaments marred by inexperienced, inattentive, or biased judges). Unfortunately, the only way to become an experienced judge is by being an inexperienced one, so onward we go!

How many competitors from our own dojo is very much an open question right now. There are two who are definite (our teen brown belt, and teen white belts), but we have a half-dozen new white belts, none with more than two months experience, who are excited about the idea of a tournament, but uncertain if they're ready to compete. They should all be there at least to observe, but I wouldn't blame them if they decided to sit it out just yet. Robbie hasn't made up his mind whether he wants to compete or not. Most likely he'll go for only kata, if he competes at all. He's having an awkward phase in his sparring right now, where he's finally starting to think about what to do instead of just flailing - but he's thinking too hard and freezing up.

The white belt kids are loving sparring, thus far. We have the usual white belt woes - control, hesitations and fear - but nothing that's scared any of them off yet.

In even better news, one of the kids has a mother who just started. It's an adult female student - Yay!!! She's hesitant, but liking it so far, and survived her first sparring night without incident. She's also a professional organizer, and she and I are now working together to put together Dad Wood's old room as my new sewing/knitting and karate room (yes, it's a sizeable room). I wouldn't have believed that everything could be fit into that room with enough space left over for kata practice, but it was. At this rate she may have a job with me for the next year or so, putting the rest of the house together, since my organizing skills are close to non-existent. I'll have to post some before/after pictures, but the difference in the room in incredible.

Tomorrow night is Sensei's meeting for the local black belts who are volunteering as judges. It'll be the first time I've seen a lot of these guys since we left KMA, so it should be a fun evening. Though I'll probably bring along a notepad, just to make sure I don't miss anything important.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Awesome. Axis of Awesome.

Everything you ever needed to know about hit pop songs.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Southern Indiana Open Karate Tournament

My dojo is hosting its first ever karate tournament! As the name implies, it's open to any style, though the majority of competitors will likely be Isshinryu. We just started getting our very first pre-registrations, and it's beginning to feel real. New Albany, IN is in south-central Indiana, just over the river from Louisville, KY. We're a touch over three hours north of Nashville, about 90 minutes south of Indianapolis or 2 hours west of Cincinnati. Anybody who can make it, please let me know - I'd love to meet you.

Information as follows:

Date: Saturday, Sept. 18, 2010

Location: Griffin Street Recreation Center
1140 Griffin St.
New Albany, IN 47150-4872

Tournament Fees:

Pre-registration: $25
Walk-in registration: $35
Specator fee at door: $5 (5 & under free)

Schedule of events:

Check-in/registration: 8:30-9:40 AM
Black Belt Meeting: 9:40 AM
Tournament Bow-In 10:00 AM

Pre-registrations must be received by Sept. 10, 2010

Hosted by TJ Rodeghier
Kentuckiana Isshinryu Karate
(502)554-8552 or (812)285-8951

This is an IWKA National Title tournament, meaning that IWKA members may earn title points - you must provide your IWKA# with your registration. You do not need to be a member of the IWKA to compete.

Divisions will be by rank and age with competition in Kata, Kumite, and Weapons. Team Kata diviions will be created the day of the tournament depending on the age, rank, & number of competitors.

Questions, call TJ Sensei, or email at

If you want some registration forms, let me know or e-mail Sensei, and we will get some out to you ASAP.

Monday, August 16, 2010

On Breathing (#3)

If you've read my first two posts on breathing, you've probably noticed something missing in the connection between martial arts and proper breathing. Relaxation gets mentioned repeatedly - yet total relaxation is not exactly helpful in the martial arts. Getting hit in the stomach with relaxed abs is not so much fun - as anyone who's had it happen to them can tell you.

So once you have some idea of what good, relaxed abdominal breathing feels like, the next thing to work on is appropriate tension.

Tension serves several purposes. Supportive tension helps us to move most efficiently - like the tension one uses to stay in good posture - without the support the skeleton slumps, and movement (and breathing) becomes more difficult. Supportive tension is described well here - and the Alexander Technique, as well as yoga, Pilates, or the Feldenkrais system can all help to teach good general body mechanics. My go to book for working on my own posture is an odd little book called The Vance Stance. There are plenty of other posture and body mechanics books out there, but this one seems to be particularly helpful from a self-help standpoint.

The other major tension, and the one more specific to the martial arts is protective tension. Protective tension is why you tense your abdomen before a blow to the belly. You're protecting the vulnerable organs underneath by hardening the surface above them.

The tricky part is allowing for functional tension without interfering with the proper flow of breath. This is where you want to go back to the wall. Take a front stance with your arms slightly bent, and really push into the wall. Push it like you want to push it down! Yes - this is the same drill to use for making sure you're not breathing with your chest muscles. This time you want to pay attention more precisely to what your abdominal muscles are doing. It's possible to push into the wall with just your chest muscles, but for a really hard push you're going to be engaging your abs too - what you're watching for is how it feels to tighten your abs and still breathe by moving your abdomen in and out. To me it feels like I'm holding the very front sheet of muscles taut while deeper muscles move that sheet in and out - but that's not how it feels for everyone. Play around with it and see how it feels for you.

In singing this abdominal tension is called breath support, and it allows for precise breath control both in and out. One place where singing support differs from what you want in a martial arts setting is that in singing using every last dreg of air is not particularly avoided. In fact deliberately getting rid of all your air so you can pull in an entirely fresh lungful is common. After all, you may have to stretch that lungful out over a very long phrase, so you want as much oxygen as possible. In martial arts - particularly in sparring - you never want to be completely out of air. Blow out to take air in, yes - that avoids breath holding - but only blow out about 60-80% of your air. Two reasons for this: 1) In sparring, you can't control your opponent, so you never want to be locked into having to breathe right now or else. That might be the very moment your opponent attacks. 2) When your air is blown completely out, your organs are maximally compressed and your abdominal wall is sitting right against them. There's no cushioning for a blow except the strength of the abdominal wall itself. Contrariwise, a slight blowing out of air (under tension) while being hit can function a little like a floor slap in a fall - it takes up some of the force of the blow.

The other major difference is that in singing, dropping belly tension entirely in order to suck in breath as quickly as possible is downright common. You may have only a split second in between phrases to get in a bellyfull, so you need to be quick about it. This is obviously a bad idea in a sparring situation. No abdominal tension is a big vulnerability in sparring, no matter how brief, nor does kumite have the kind of pre-planned breaks that you can build into even a rapid song. In kata it is possible to grab breath this way, but I think it's a bad idea to establish the habit of ever dropping protective tension. Better to build in the exhales and work on learning a rapid but controlled intake. Any situation where your abs are engaged is a good opportunity to play around with breath control - see what it feels like to inhale at various places in your push-ups (you are holding your core during push-ups, right?), or during crunches. The more you know about what good breath control feels like for you, the better you will be at maintaining it in sparring when a thousand other things are happening.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


Woof - that turned out to be a much longer hiatus than I intended! Since the last time I posted here we've finished redoing the family room, spent a couple of weeks in the vicinity of Boston, done a mad cleaning of the house top-to-bottom, for a visit of Rob's boss from the west coast, had Aaron's birthday party (a visit to the local amusement park), registered the kids for the new school year, and are now in the throws of buying school supplies, getting haircuts, and otherwise prepping for school to start in about ten days.

We have a whole passel of new students at the dojo, and it looks like several of them are likely to stay on. They're a fairly homogenous group - all between ten and thirteen years old, all but one boys, three are related, and three of them are in the same school (two of them are in the same school, grade, and section as Robbie - if they stay, the seventh grade of RVMS will be providing about a third of our students!). Robbie seems to like the idea of being senior to other kids his age, and Sensei and I are hoping that realizing they will be looking to him for how they should do things will keep him on his toes - so far so good on that score.

I've gotten quite obsessed with the show Criminal Minds over the last few weeks. We just got a DVR, and suddenly I can watch shows without having to fight for time on the TV. At the rate I'm going, I'll probably catch up with watching the episodes in another 3-4 weeks. The show analysis over at matociquala's livejournal is really addictive - the show does quite a lot of good character development and overarching narrative, without losing the episodic nature (I.e. it doesn't turn into a soap opera).

I've also decided that instead of Nanowrimo this year, I'm going to try Novel_in_90. I've done Nano for years, but this year there's just too much going on in November to make writing 50,000 words feasible. Spreading it out over three months in the fall, on the other hand, sounds like something I can do.

And last, but not least, I haven't forgotten the next post on breathing. I'll get that up in the next day or so.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Temporarily Off-line

We're redoing the floor and repainting the walls in the living room, which involves disconnecting the computers. So I'll be gone for the next couple of days. I'll have the next breathing post when I come back.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Just a little hint for those who go to other people's houses. When working in a client's home and trying to establish a friendly relationship, the proper reaction to seeing the client's wedding portrait is not to exclaim "Wow! You were pretty!" in tones of utter astonishment.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

On Breathing (#2)

Last post, we established that belly breathing is essential. It provides the most air movement for the least effort, and avoids using muscles needed for other aspects of your martial art. In this post, we're going to cover some refinements for that essential belly breathing.

The relaxation of your abdomen isn't the only relaxation that ought to be going on in proper breathing. Much like in strikes, the secret of efficiency is to only use the muscles required, and only for as long as necessary. When students are struggling to control their breathing, it's very common to see tension in the shoulders, chest and throat, even if they've gotten the hang of belly breathing. They're trying to control the flow of air, and haven't got the hang of using their abdominals for all aspects of the task.

For our students, I'll often have them face the wall and lean in as if doing a wall push-up, but maintaining tension, pushing against the wall for all they're worth - then have them sing an even note. (Yes, I make karate students sing, and yes, they protest.) With the chest and shoulders muscles fully engaged, you are forced to control the flow of air from your abdomen. The sung note makes it easier to tell if the air stream is well controlled. If raised shoulders are a problem, the same trick can be used by pulling up against a heavy object with both arms. My college voice teacher would use a pair of chairs with other students sitting in them.

Another useful exercise is to have students (this works well with a class as a whole, if they're receptive) lie on the floor on their backs. Dim the lights if possible. They should be in a classic yoga savasana position (corpse pose - see the picture at the top), legs apart about shoulder width, arms slightly away from the body, palms up, chin just barely tucked towards the chest to ensure the back of the neck isn't tight. Starting at the feet, talk them through tightening each part of their body on an inhale, drawing it tighter and tighter, and then releasing on the exhale. How slow or fast you do this can be varied depending on how much time you have, and how relaxed the students are at the beginning, but in general at least a breath each for feet & lower legs, thighs & butt, back & abdomen, arms & hands, chest & shoulders, and head & face. Then let them breathe for a little bit, imagining tension flowing out of their body and into the floor.

Once they seem well and truly relaxed, there are a number of different things you can start doing. Even simply lying there observing the breath without interference is helpful (and meditative). My first voice teacher would have us blow all the air out, imagining air coming up all the way from our toes, and blowing it out to the last dregs, and then filling up again, just as full as we had been empty, until our lungs couldn't possibly hold any more (do this very slowly to avoid hyperventilation).

My favorite is to start concentrating on the exhale. When someone has trouble getting enough air the impulse is always to worry about the inhale, which makes sense - too little air, so try to get more. Unfortunately it's exactly the wrong way around. Inhalation is pretty automatic - provided there's room in the lungs. Most people run out of breath because they haven't emptied their lungs sufficiently to bring in enough fresh air to meet their needs. A student will hold their breath, feel oxygen deprived, and try to suck in more air without ever having truly exhaled what was already in there. The result is a lot of shallow gasping. Contrariwise, if they concentrate on blowing out, the body will automatically suck in fresh air once they're done - problem solved.

Within the context of the savasana exercise, I have people start thinking of the breath as starting with the exhale. Counting each breath, starting with "one" on the exhale, "and" on the inhale, "two" on the next exhale, etc. can get the point across. Have them put all the effort of the breath into the exhale, the inhale should float into their lungs with no effort on their part at all. (It does take a while for most people to achieve. Thinking of the breath as starting with the inhale, and putting the effort on the inhale is fairly universal, at least around here.)

In general about 5-15 minutes (total, including the initial tensing and relaxing) is a good length for this exercise. Too long and you may find that people have fallen asleep.

Effort on the exhale can also be programmed into kata practice. With students who have problems holding their breath when doing kata under stress (I.e. those who forget to breathe, rather than those with structural breathing problems), I'll help them look for places to build in exhalation to their kata. If certain techniques are always accompanied by a pronounced exhale, the inhale will follow behind automatically. Most times I find that building in the exhales through the whole kata is unnecessary, a few strategically placed exhales will prompt the student and act as a vaccine against holding the breath throughout.

Pronounced exhaling can also be a stress-management technique during performance. In my brown belt test video, one of the things I noticed was how audible my exhales were in almost all the katas. Not ideal perhaps, but distinctly better than either hyperventilating or forgetting to breathe. Likewise, a pronounced exhale followed by a deep inhale has a distinct relaxing effect on the muscles, which is useful before things like board breaks, when you need the starting relaxation to get the necessary speed and power.

Belly breathing, relaxation, and effort on the exhale so far. Next time I'll get into appropriate, supportive tension.

Friday, June 18, 2010

On Breathing (#1)

This is funny. After commenting at Kick-ass Sue's blog about cross-training, and mentioning that singing had been surprisingly helpful in my journey with karate, I had decided to write a post on breathing. I had the title up, and hadn't really gotten going yet on it when I left for class. And this turned out to be a class that put me on notice that breathing is going to take on a whole new importance in my karate teaching. And then when I checked back in this morning, prior to starting to write, Sue had requested a breathing post! So I think a breathing post is definitely in order.

What I know about breathing comes primarily from voice training. While not everything from singing applies directly to martial arts (Shocker, I know!), good voice training will teach you tremendous amounts about the mechanics of breathing, how you do it, why you do it, when you should do it.

Breathing is foundational to any movement discipline. If you're not breathing correctly, you're not doing any of the rest of it right. Good breathing is as fundamental to a proper strike as a good stance. You can get a long ways, covering for poor breathing technique with power and endurance, but sooner or later a lack will trip you up. If you're breathing with the wrong muscles, then those muscles aren't available for the strike - or if you use them for the strike, then you can't breathe through it.

Unfortunately, vast numbers of people wander through their lives breathing all wrong. The majority of adults I've ever seen come into the dojo, and a substantial number of the kids, need to be retaught how to breathe. Some instructors are really good about this, some aren't - possibly because they may not know how to teach breathing. Most people will improve their technique through sheer necessity as they progress through the ranks; it's physically exhausting to breathe wrong in sparring! But actually teaching breathing technique could save a lot of time and windedness.

So - the fundamentals of a good breath.

First, and most important. A good breath comes from low in your body - down in the bottom of your abdomen. Chest muscles are not much involved. With every breath, your belly (and back!) should expand. For learning purposes, this means a loose belly (protective tension comes later). If you stand and put one hand flat on your belly, just below your navel, and the other flat in the small of your back, a good deep breath should push outwards against both hands. The hand in front should actually move out several good inches. Your shoulders, on the other hand, shouldn't budge. The fastest thing to look for in a student is the shoulders. If they go up and down with each breath, they're not belly breathing.

"But, but..." many people will protest, "my lungs are in my chest, not my abdomen. How can I even do that?"

It's all in the diaphragm. You breathe by creating extra space in your chest cavity, creating lower pressure, which air surges into your lungs to equalize. You can do this by raising your shoulders and expanding your ribs - but that's not really how it's designed to work. Instead there's this nifty muscle call the diaphragm that sits like a membrane between your chest cavity and your abdominal cavity. When at rest it arches upward like a shallow dome. When it tenses, it flattens, creating more space in the chest cavity above it. But the abdominal cavity isn't exactly empty. Intestines, the liver, the spleen - there's a lot of stuff in there. So unless you relax your belly to allow more wiggle room, the diaphragm has a hard time flattening so your lungs can expand. If you look at the image above, notice how even though it shows the chest expanding and contracting, there's a lot more volume change caused by the movement of the diaphragm - but to get that movement, everything below the diaphragm has to move out of the way.

So - why wouldn't you do both, to get the maximum air change? Because the rib cage is bone, and fairly rigid. Expanding and contracting your chest is a lot of work, as compared to relaxing your abs. You can maximally expand your chest to get in the last little bit of air when necessary. But that's usually not going to be in the middle of a kata or a match. It's the sort of thing a singer does in the break before a very long passage, or a swimmer does just before heading underwater for a while. For most exertions, even high level ones, it's simply not necessary. Your diaphragm is capable of pulling enough air into your lungs for dynamic purposes. You're far better off holding your chest in a fairly expanded position (however much is comfortable), and leaving it there while your diaphragm does the work of moving the air.

A second reason is because you use many of those same chest and rib muscles in tzuki waza (striking techniques). We had one brown belt (who ended up dropping out for other reasons), who absolutely could not make it through more than two kata back-to-back without pausing to gasp for breath, and the whole reason was that she was breathing with her rib cage so every time she would punch or block, her breath would pause until she was done with the move. She was never fully oxygenated, and she was having to rely almost entirely on her anaerobic fitness to get her through. This was a lady who ran for aerobic conditioning, and couldn't understand why she could run for miles, but be gasping and winded in minutes in a kata.

This is probably long enough for a first installment, but I'm seeing at least two more entries on this. Be warned, I can talk breathing for an entire two hour class. I don't want to think how many posts I can get out of it!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Two Tests

I had a workout with Sensei at his house yesterday. It was really nice to get a chance to just work on my own kata. These days, most of my time in the dojo is spent teaching, though Sensei has made a real effort to give me instruction time as well. I've just finished learning Urashi Bo, which means I've actually learned all the stuff I need to know for my 2nd dan. I can't test until August 2011, though, so I have the unbridled luxury of a year-plus to tease apart all my forms and really work on the details.

When I headed home after the workout, Sensei sent me off with a DVD of two promotion tests. The first is Sensei L's shodan test - Sensei L was Sensei's first promotion to black, and an awesome karateka. The second test was my own brown belt test. I remember both of these tests vividly, and seeing them on video was interesting.

Sensei L's test was from three years ago, back when I was still a 3rd kyu. I remember that at the time his kata just looked awesome and unapproachably perfect. I was quite intimidated, because I was certain I would never reach that level of awesome with my own kata.

That test looks really remarkably different, three years later, and nearly a year after my own black belt test. Sensei L's kata still look awesome, don't get me wrong. He has an intensity and focus that is just mesmerizing. But - he doesn't look unapproachably perfect any more. I can see where he's nervous and tight, where he's rushing too much and sometimes scanting on the technique because of it. All these things that I didn't see at the time. There are plenty of things in his kata that are marvelous, and I would be a happy woman if I could develop half of his kime. But at the same time, I can see places where my technique actually comes closer to that elusive ideal. It made me feel less like I'm not holding up the standard for Sensei's black belts.

My own brown belt test was similarly enlightening. Given that I was front and center in the audience at Sensei L's test (and participated at a couple points), between the two videos I had almost two hours worth of seeing myself on video, where I don't think I've ever seen myself for more than a couple of minutes before. I think I begin to understand why a lot of people seem to automatically assume competence from me. I remember being nervous enough for my test that I had to use every trick I have ever learned to keep from freezing up altogether, or possibly hyperventilating. My knees were shaking, my hands were sweating, the whole nine yards - but I didn't look it at all on the video, just focused. In both tests, I was always watching what was happening, responded immediately to anything said or done that involved me, and just generally looked a lot more clueful than I felt in either situation. I also looked more like a big, strong woman than the merely fat one I generally feel like.

That interesting observation aside, I do hope that my kata have improved significantly since brown (I think they have). My techniques were generally good, but I didn't have enough kime, and my speed and flow were lacking. Where Sensei L was rushing and skimping technique, I was getting in the technique properly, but the kata looked - chunky - for lack of a better term. My straight punches and side kicks were awkward looking enough for it to seem a little surprising when I went straight through the breaks with no trouble at all. The difference, for example, between how awkward I look punching vs. how I look with a hammer fist is striking (sorry!). It looked natural that I should hammer fist straight through the concrete, but surprising that I could punch through wood or put out a candle.

That video is going to give me a lot to chew on as I try to notch my karate up to a higher standard. I'm not sure if I'm disappointed or grateful that the video camera ate the file of my black belt test.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Back again


First, let me start by saying "Thank you" to everyone who has been so loving and supportive during Dad W's decline and death. I'm very glad I have wonderful friends, even if I've never met many of them IRL.

Second, yes I'm fine. I pretty much dropped off the internet because my computer caught a nasty virus and is defunct. I now have a shiny new computer, but it took a while to get it set up. We're still trying to see if we can recover my files from my old hard drive. We probably can, but nonetheless, if any of you have files of my writing on your computers (particularly the most recent renditions of Ghost Dancer and Riptide), I would be very relieved to have them.

Life is beginning to return to normal. We're still dealing with the estate lawyer and trying to convince Dad's various creditors that they need to deal with her, and not with us. They keep trying to convince us that we want to take responsibility for his debts, which is a big, fat "No!" This is somewhat complicated because when Dad bought his house from us (it's complicated) about eleven years ago, he apparently never bothered to change over the utilities - he and Rob had the same name, after all. But that means that his utilities are genuinely all in our name. Ack!

The boys have one week left of school. Aaron is pretty much done with school work, while Robbie is being inundated with make-up work as his teachers try to pull up his grades to levels to warrant all the advanced classes they recommended him for for next year. Robbie has been very willing to work, but his organizational skills are so abysmal, that he has a lot of zeros for simply failing to turn in work that he did do. He can lose things between packing his backpack at night and his locker the next morning. It's fortunate that he's both engaging and very bright, because his teachers like him, and are willing to work with him to get the grades up and keep him in the advanced classes (boredom only exacerbates the organizational problems, because then he's disorganized and he's not paying attention because he's bored). I wish organization were something I was any good at, but frankly I had exactly the same problems when I was his age, and never have really gotten better organized - I just got better at keeping track of a couple specific kinds of things, like school papers. It's the main reason I've never attempted to home school Robbie or Aaron. They both need significant help learning to organize, and I am not the person who can give it to them. Heck, I'd love to sit in on the sessions Aaron gets as part of Special Ed. I could use them.

Rob is on the grand European tour. Nine cities in fourteen days, all the best chemical plants and conference rooms. It means he'll be away for Robbie's birthday, which he hates, but Robbie seems to be taking it in stride.

And last, but not least - we're down to two dogs! It's absolute heaven. The barking has dropped enormously, and there's almost no peeing in the house any more. I feel safe walking around in my bare feet again. Without the dachshunds harassing him and peeing on things, Toby has calmed down even more, and stopped peeing on top of the things they've marked. It's definite that we're keeping him now. So have a look at our new permanent basset - Toby the very sweet doofus. That's him at the top of the post.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I've been avoiding this post

Those of you who know me IRL, or on Facebook already know most of this post, but it's taken me a while to get it up here. Partially lack of time and tiredness, partially not wanting to say all the same things one more time.

Dad W. died early Monday morning.

The last few days, he went down incredibly fast. We moved him into the nursing home around the corner from us Wed. night. Thursday we had the Hospice intake interview. Friday we had the lawyer in and Dad signed all the various necessary paperwork (Will, PoA, Living Will, etc.), and we had the intake interview with the Hospice chaplain. By Saturday, he could not have managed the signings, as his lucid intervals weren't long enough (I took his smallest dog by to see him, and in the 90 minutes we were there, he said two comprehensible sentences, one of which seemed hallucinatory.) Sunday he wasn't lucid at all, and was no longer interested in food or fluids at all. At that point we knew it wouldn't be long, but were still expecting that he would last another day or two. Instead we got a 2am call from the nursing home.

It's been a whirlwind since then. Monday was funeral homes and calling what felt like 90 million people to tell them the news, all while staggering around like zombies on about 2 hours of sleep. Tuesday I took Dad's eldest dog to the vet and had him put to sleep (this is the 15-year-old, blind, deaf, paralyzed, arthritic dachshund that probably has cancer of his own). It wasn't really what I needed to deal with that day, but since I felt that Rascal should have been put to sleep about three months ago, I couldn't see dragging him out until I had a "better" time. Wednesday I and the boys drove down to Tennessee, where we were going to hold the funeral. Also, Aaron got sent home from school sick (throwing up), which complicated things in a couple of directions - not least being that I wasn't entirely sure I'd be able to go until an hour or so before we left. Thursday was the funeral, followed by driving back up. Today was starting to deal with Dad's personal effects, collecting the death certificate, and generally trying to sort out what needs doing from here.

The actual funeral went pretty well. It was small (about nine people, including us), and fairly short, but nice, except for a somewhat gratuitous jab by the presiding minister. Pastor Bobby seems like a generally nice fellow, but he's Pentecostal, and by his lights neither Rob nor Doug are properly saved - so him making much of Dad having a "proper" baptism done by him about two years back didn't exactly go over well. Otherwise, he did all right, mainly sticking to Dad anecdotes and scripture. Doug spoke and read the Serenity Prayer, Rob opted not to speak (probably wise, as he was still seething over the baptism thing), and I opted to sing instead of speak - How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings - which came out somewhat wobbly, but in tune (the people who hadn't heard me sing before just thought I had a moderate vibrato). The service ended up with Robbie and Aaron tossing the first few shovelfulls of dirt into the grave.

This weekend I'm mainly planning on staying home and being comatose. I don't think I've been this tired since the time in college I stayed up for five days straight. I'm still debating whether to go to church Sunday and face the inundation of shocked sympathetic people (Based on sympathy card arrival, it looks like the news started spreading there right after I talked to my organ teacher Thursday morning), or to skip a week.

Oh - and in random silliness, it looks like somebody needs to talk to HR at Rob's workplace about the florist they use for these occasions. Because the giant calladium with big fake purple roses staked in it was a real WTF? moment.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Having just realized I haven't updated in a while...

First off - Bill, I know you're trying to get hold of me. I've been scrambling around like a madwoman this week. I should be mostly available Sunday, except for possibly needing to be at the airport from about 2-3:30pm EST.

Yikes! Checking back for the last entry, so much has happened it feels like a whole different life.

The big changes:

1) PET scan results came back. The primary tumor is bigger - much bigger (it was about the size of an orange to start with). Worse, it's metastasized into the lungs, and possibly the brain - though we have no proof of the latter.

2) His doctors universally agree that there's nothing left they can do for the cancer. The remaining prognosis is a few days to a few weeks.

3) Dad W. spent most of the last week in the hospital with aspiration pneumonia - he had a crash of his condition that had to be seen to be believed. He is now recovering from that, but nobody is sure where the improvement of the departing pneumonia will meet the decline from the progressing cancer. He's currently sleeping about 22 hours a day, and is only intermittently coherent when awake.

4) We did (finally!) manage to get the various useful end-of-life legal documents done, signed, and attested to. This was, in fact, almost two full days of work, due to the intermittent coherency. It takes an unbelievably long time to read twenty pages of legal documentation to someone, and make sure they understand it, when their coherent periods are about five minutes long.

5) Dad W. has been moved to a nursing facility around the corner from our house (literally less than 2 minutes away). We had to ditch his supplemental insurance to do it, but heck - it's not like he has other things to spend his retirement fund on, right? There was no way he could come back home - not without completely renovating our downstairs - and he didn't want to stay in the hospital until he died. Plus, the new place allows me to bring the dogs to visit (one at a time).

6) We've called in Hospice, and they sent their first evaluator today. It was a little surreal, but I did like the guy. I had to grind my teeth a couple of times - such as when he asked Dad if he'd discussed end-of-life issues with his family, and Dad replied "I've tried, but they don't listen!" As if he hasn't been dodging that subject with all the agility of a fencer for the last six months. Or likewise, when they asked about problematic issues, and he said he had a problem with how dependent he's become. This from the man who will ask me to push the nurses' call button for him, because it's too much trouble. (It's strapped to the bed about 2" from his left hand.) Dad finds it disturbing when he can't do something - but he sure as hell has no problem with me doing stuff for him if it's even a tiny bit difficult.

And now the dilemma of the week. As of this morning, I have legal authority to take Rascal to the vet and have him put down. I feel, very strongly, that I ought to do this. In my opinion Rascal should have been put down three months ago. The poor dog has no quality of life left. On the other hand, there's no doubt at all that Dad W. would disapprove of this decision wildly - and what the Power of Attorney is for is letting me make the decisions I believe Dad W. would want.

On the gripping hand - Dad W. is so turned inwards by this point that he doesn't talk about the dogs or ask about them at all - ever. If I bring Scooter by to visit, he enjoys the visit, but unless I bring up the dogs, he doesn't ask after them. Am I obligated to keep this poor, ancient, decrepit dog alive because Dad W. would want me to, even though he doesn't seem to care, wouldn't ever know, and chose freely to give me the legal power to do otherwise?

I guess that wasn't such a quickie after all. Posting will probably be uneven for the next little bit, for obvious reasons.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Cry of "Wolf"

I had a few thoughts last night about The Boy Who Cried "Wolf!" - ways in which I hadn't considered the story before. Not surprising, since I don't usually engage in deep analysis of fairy tales unless required to by a teacher.

The story is told from the point of view of the boy. Makes sense, since the moral and warning are intended for people who would yell alarms too soon. But that means that the other dilemma in the story isn't addressed. After all, the villagers in the story probably don't want their shepherd eaten, even if he is an idiot from time to time, and they definitely don't want to lose their sheep - that's the whole point of putting a shepherd out there in the first place!

So what are the poor villagers to do when wolves are a real danger, but their only warning system gives them way too many false positives. How do you tell when the wolf really is among the sheep?

This is part of the dilemma we've been having with Dad W. He does have cancer; it's definitely life-threatening; it can cause a lot of symptoms, many of which aren't obviously cancer-related. But he's also a man who has trouble distinguishing annoying things one can and should push through from the medically dangerous. Up until just recently most of his symptoms have been the result of his poor condition and debilitation, rather than from the cancer. I've spent months muttering under my breath about the idiots down in the hospital in TN (the same ones who were treating Mom W. - isn't that reassuring?), who let him stay in bed for five days right after his biopsy. He lost huge amounts of mobility and muscle tone in those five days, and he never got them back. But instead of realizing how his lack of activity was contributing to his debilitation and pushing to get it back, Dad attributed it to the cancer, and his response to getting fatigued doing simple things was to rest more: which led to a downhill spiral of doing less and less as he lost the ability to do the things he had stopped doing because they were tiring.

So how do Rob and I as his caregivers figure out when his fatigue and immobility is self-induced, and we should push him to do more, and when it's really a sign of cancer progression, and we should drag him back to the oncologist?

This last couple of weeks, I think I'm seeing a cancer decline. Dad is deeply fatigued - he can spend 18-20 hours a day sleeping, not just sitting or lying down as he used to, but actually asleep. His skin tone is awful - a yellow/gray shade that makes him look like a walking corpse. He's running low-grade fevers more nights than not, sometimes with accompanying vomiting - and he doesn't wake up when he starts throwing up. He's nearly choked to death in the middle of the night twice in the last week. He's started hiccuping several hours out of every day.

Rob still thinks most of this is a continuation of his inactivity decline (except the fevers, but he thinks the failure to wake up, and inability to roll over when he's woken up are inactivity). He and Dad are still optimistic about what yesterday's PET scan will show. (Dad doesn't remember the night-time vomiting, and is having serious trouble tracking time, so he's not aware of just how much time he's spending asleep.) I'm not. I think we've finally hit the point, where if we hadn't tripped over Dad W's cancer back in the fall; if he had never had those five days of bed rest, and had maintained his mobility - we would be looking for and finding the cancer.

I think this time, the cry of "wolf!" is real. And with cancer in the liver, it's not usually long from a genuine cry of "wolf!" until there's not much left to do.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Woot! And Stuff

Robbie is now an orange belt! He did great on his test, a couple of minor hesitations in his first kata, all successfully negotiated, and other than that did everything within his belt requirements, and several things that aren't. There've been a lot of times I thought he'd never get here - especially when he decided to drop karate a couple of months after getting his yellow belt, but since he came back this fall, he's been putting in the effort, and it really shows. Congratulations, Robbie!

In other news, I'm still planning on going to the Nashville Isshinryu black belt only tournament, but I'm going to observe, not compete. I haven't sparred in a couple of months, my weapon katas are a mess (learning Urashi Bo has screwed up Tokumine, and Urashi itself isn't secure enough yet to be reliable, Chatanyara no Sai is nowhere near tournament condition), and regular kata is usually my worst venue. So rather than put the extra pressure on, I'm just going to go and hope to run into some of the people I trained with way back when.

Dad W. had a fall Sunday night. No serious injury, but he bruised up his side fairly well. My big concern is that he's wanting/needing (it's hard to tell with him) a boost to sit up on the edge of his bed now, and I'm worried that by the time the bruises aren't hurting him, he'll have lost the necessary muscle tone to sit up on his own. Experience with Dad says that once a piece of functionality is lost, he doesn't get it back. Plus, if he needs that much extra boosting, we'll probably have to ask for a different aide. Barb is lovely, but she's also 70 and barely over five feet tall - she can give him an extra boost, but she can't support any significant percentage of his weight - and for him to get up today required some serious heft.

Mom has an appointment with a local oncologist on Friday. She should find out then about probable chemo/radiation plans. For the moment she's continuing to heal well from the mastectomy.

Finally, anybody whose visited our house in the past will be happy to hear that Rob managed to fix the leaky tub faucet. It's been leaky since we moved in five years ago, but after trying to fix it, our plumber declared that it was sealed too tightly, and that fixing it would take $800 and breaking into the wall behind it. So we just lived with it. But this last week it finally got too bad to be ignored, and it turns out that the 6'6" guy who figures that he's got nothing to lose and possibly $800 to save, when working with a really big honking wrench, could knock the faucet loose and get in to repair it. I kept waking up last night wondering what was wrong, and then realizing that the house was silent, and I wasn't hearing the continual drip. Ahhhhh.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Where We Stand

First off, thanks to everyone for the well wishes and support. They are all much appreciated. I'm down at my parents' house right now, but will be heading back home tomorrow.

In good news, Mom is recovering well from her mastectomy. She should be able to get the drain out in a couple of days, which I'm sure will be a relief. Also, Dad W. likes the aide we found to help him while I was gone (I like her too). She's an older woman, but very bubbly and active (and likes dogs - a must around our place). Having her available should give me significantly msore flexibility for when responsabilities conflict.

The bad news is that several of Mom's sentinel nodes (5 of 11) showed positive, so there's chemo and radiation in her future. The exact plan hasn't been decided upon yet (we're awaiting a call from the oncologist), but regardless, it's not the news we were hoping for.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bits and Pieces

Mom is scheduled for a mastectomy on Friday. It looks promising that she may not need chemo, but we won't find out until they dissect the sentinel nodes during the surgery. The current plans are somewhat fluid, but most likely I'm going to be driving up to pick her up and bring her back here initially, and then either I'll drive her back home (she's having surgery three states over from her home, but only one from me), or Dad will come up and get her. She and Dad are sounding much more like themselves now that there's a plan of action. My father does not like having a medical crisis that he can't do anything about, and I think that was a lot of why he sounded so anxious when I first spoke to him - they got the biopsy results late on a Friday, cancer is out of his expertise, and he couldn't really do anything until the following Monday - cue an anxious, out-of-sorts guy.

Dad W's oncologist has decided she's unhappy with how fast he's rebounding from his anemia (I.e. very slowly), and has decided to add an additional treatment to the Procrit injections he currently gets once a week. The new treatment will mean going to the hospital twice a week. I hope I can talk them into making one of the visits concurrent with his Procrit, or that's going to be an awful lot of time eaten up - getting Dad W ready to go out, out the door, to the hospital, treated, and then back home and settled takes about two hours, even though the hospital is ten minutes away.

I learned the end of Urashi Bo tonight. I'm liking this one quite a lot, but it's going to cause problems for the April 10 tournament I mentioned last time. Urashi Bo is too new for me to do a really good job with it - but I went back and practiced Tokumine no Kun today, and Urashi has also done a good job of making me hesitant with Tokumine - they're so similar in spots that it's confusing my muscle memory. So now I have to decide (and quickly!) whether to work hard on bringing Urashi up to snuff, go back to drilling Tokumine, or try to work up Chatanyara no Sai, which has languished the last month and is nowhere near ready. Great - fried brain is in no condition to make decisions! Don't make me make decisions!

In kidlet news, Robbie continues to do well with his flute, having put his sights on third chair (he started at sixth and is currently at fourth). If he gets up to second chair he's going to have a dilemma, because first chair is the girl he's had a crush on for the last three years. To celebrate his increased flute facility, I got him a book of flute and piano songs, with the promise (reinforced by my organ teacher) that if he learns one well, we can play it together for the offertory at church sometime.

Aaron is still running straight A's for the year (and is adoring having better grades than his brother). We should get the results back on his ISTEP tests in about a month, but everyone including his teacher and him thinks that he likely did very well.

Unfortunately, Aaron is very grumpy with lots of semi-meltdowns today because his shoulder started hurting him over the weekend and it's still bothering him. We took him to his pediatrician just as a precaution (mainly because he didn't do anything obvious to injure it, so we're a little mystified), and she gave us the expected advice - ibuprofen, heat, rest. Aaron is quite put-out. He expected the doctor to be able to fix his shoulder, isn't that what doctors are for?

And I decided a bad week and no husband deserved a small treat. So I bought myself a shawl pattern - Heere be Dragones. The same seller makes several other equally stunning shawls, including patterns of a Chinese Dragon of Happiness, a Pegasus, a Celtic Dragon, and a bird in a bamboo forest. However, I'm not a huge shawl knitter, so I restrained myself.

And that's the news down in Wood territory.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


March 30th is going to be Robbie's orange belt test. Both Sensei and I have been very impressed by the way he's buckled downa and worked lately, and he's more than ready.

April 3rd is Dad W's next set of scans (at least the first bit - there are several scans involved). We'll see how much the two rounds on chemo/radiation have done. These are the scans that determine how we're going forward.

April 10 is a black belt only Isshinryu tournament in Nashville. Both Sensei & I are planning on going - and because he's still active and in the area, there's a reasonable chance that my first sensei will be there, and a near certainty that some of the local black belts that I knew from back then will attend. It would be very cool to be able to introduce my two sensei.

March 15th - my mom's first appointment with a breast cancer specialist, as she just had a biopsy come back showing two kinds of cancer. Fortunately neither is very advanced, but really the odds of two in the same place at the same time have got to be long. Weird versions of Doublemint gum commercials keep floating through my brain.

Those are the biggies for right now. I'm using a bit of freeware called Chaos Manager to keep track of various appointments now. It's a very apt name.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Money, money, money

I've been earning money this month. Weird that it should happen just when I'm already running in three other directions, but that's the way life is. Suddenly all of my potential income streams started producing small amounts at once. I got a paycheck for playing the funeral (which I hadn't asked for, nor expected), I've been commissioned to do some knitting, and I've got my first paying editing job. I'm most excited about the editing job, as editing is something I've always done for friends and family for free, not for pay.

I've been hired by a grad student whose first language is not English to edit her papers from now until through her dissertation. The rate isn't high, as she doesn't have a lot of money and I don't feel right about charging full professional rates my first time out the gate, but it's not rock bottom either, and it should be a small but steady income stream. Judging by the first paper, it should be rather fun too. She's a good writer with interesting ideas, but some significant English grammar problems. As opposed to the last friend I helped with editing, who was perfectly fine with grammar, but unfortunately just wasn't a particularly good or interesting writer. It's a lot harder to make a blah idea sound interesting than to clean up tense agreement.

Dad W's problems with fatigue are continuing. The weekly Procrit injection check showed a low-grade fever, low blood pressure, and his lowest CBC yet. His temperature is back to normal today though, so we may be over the hump. Radiation is Thursday, and I have no idea if they're going to keep him overnight or not. Unfortunately there's no telling until we see how he reacts to the procedure on the day. I'm beginning to wonder how much the radiation specialist is paying attention to Dad's actual condition, though. According to Rob, the doctor told him Dad should be walking a mile a day, which just is not going to happen any time soon. I would consider getting him to go once around the block a miracle. Up three houses and back is a good day. Fortunately his oncologist and the chemo guy both seem to be paying a little more attention. The oncologist started him on the Procrit, and I'm going to see if she's willing to send Dad to a PT the next time we see her.

Robbie may be having his orange belt test here fairly soon. Sensei started pretesting him last week, and says that if he can do a good run-through the next time they're both in class, then he'll schedule in the test. One of our older boys is getting ready for his green belt test, and the two of them may well test on the same day. L will be thrilled if he gets to test soon, as this will leap him ahead of his older brother and mother - up until now they've all tested simultaneously, but L has been here at least once a week since the beginning of the year, while the rest of the family has been skipping more often than not. They have good reason, but good reasons don't make up for missed class time.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Round Two!

Yesterday started Dad W's second round of chemo/radiation. They put in the chemo beads yesterday morning. They'll sit around and do their job for about two weeks, whereupon we go back and toss in the radiation beads.

This round is looking like it's going to be rougher than round 1. First of all, Dad W's condition has slipped somewhat since the first round, primarily due to being snowed in a lot, and a subsequent lack of motion on his part. If the weather is nice, I can sometimes get him to go out to the Y, or to walk a few hundred yards up and down the street (It really doesn't take much to count as "exercise" for him right now. Taking a shower is downright aerobic.), but if the weather is bad, getting him to move inside the house is pretty much a write off. Secondly, he's reacting more badly to both the procedure (they kept him overnight this time as he was vomiting and nearly aspirated a couple of times), and then to the chemo itself - he's been on pain medication most of today, when last time he needed barely any.

In ways both funny and alarming, Dad is also showing signs of intermittent confusion. Most of the time he's perfectly well oriented, but sometimes not so much. For example, earlier in the week he woke me up at 5am, demanding to know when I was going to start cooking dinner. He had woken up, and thought it was 5pm. I got him oriented and back to sleep, only to have him repeat the scene almost exactly twice more in the next two hours. I'm not sure if this is a reaction to the treatment, to the cancer, or something else (I know the procrit he's on can cause TIA's for example).

Poor Rob is a wreck right now. He flew in from his month out of country (he worked 24 of the 28 days he was down there, averaging 12 hour days), and arrived Thursday afternoon, only to have to get up at 4:30am to get Dad off to the hospital. Now the plant here is having internecine wars over who gets first dibs on him to fix their stuff. The curse of competency strikes again. OTOH, unless the plant is threatening to blow up, they will leave him alone tomorrow, or I will have something to say about it (to them, not to him). They lived without him for 28 days, they can survive long enough for him to have a day off.

I have survived my six weeks of being acting organist at church. R is back now, which is good, since I've blown straight through my entire repertoire. Last week we had a short notice (though not exactly unexpected, the lady was triple digits old) funeral, and I had to figure out how to hack my way through Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring in four days. I am quite possibly prouder of making it through that piece acceptably, if not exactly in grand style, than I am of the other six weeks. I put in more than twenty hours of practice in four days, very nearly getting snowed in at church one night, when it started snowing just as I arrived to start practice - which would have been a rude shock to Dad and the kids when they woke up in the morning. When R gave me my assignments for my next lesson, he handed me a new piece with the following comment "Don't expect to have this down in a week, or even a month. This will be about a year-long project - it's about as hard as Jesu, Joy." Which just made my jaw hit the floor. Jesu, Joy is a year long project piece? And I just played it from scratch in four days? Holy crap!

In karate news, I'm finally getting back to practice regularly - between the snow and the family obligations, I didn't get in much in January. I've passed Chatanyara no Sai to Sensei's satisfaction (if not mine, it still feels very choppy to me), and he's started teaching me Urashi Bo. I have very mixed feelings about Urashi - on the one hand, it's a bo kata and I do love my bo. It's also got a lot of cat stance with a forward block, and that's one of my best stance/move combinations, making this an potentially excellent competition kata for me. On the other hand, it's an inherently choppy kata, without a smooth flow even when performed by the people who are acknowledged to be great at it, which I don't much care for. We'll have to see how I feel about it when I'm not stopping every other move to remember what comes next.

Also congratulations, Bill, on your orange belt in jiu-jitsu! I know I already told you on the phone, but thought it deserved reiterating here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Updating all around.

1. Due to annoying conflicts, illness, weather, etc. I have thus far only been to ONE!!! karate class in all of January. This is clearly not on. I need to hit things more. Also my Chatanyara no Sai desperately needs more practice to iron out those awkward "What am I supposed to do next? Oh, right." pauses in the middle. I really, really want to learn Urashi Bo, but can't (and shouldn't), until Chatanyara is well settled.

2. Dad W. results - extremely mixed. He's tolerating the chemo and radiation exceptionally well, with virtually no side effects - mild anemia (just started treatment), and some nausea immediately post-chemo and that's it. OTOH, his habit of staying well within his comfort zone physically is coming back to bite him big-time. He won't walk or exercise unless I both drill sergeant him into it and then stay right beside him the whole time (and even then not hard or far), and rarely bothers to eat unless I make it up and plonk it in front of him (for a man with a week's supply of convenience food in his bedroom, this strikes me as weird). As a consequence he's steadily losing both weight and muscle mass, and a lot of physical capability as well. I'm trying to be as patient about this as I can, but it makes me want to shake him. He knows that he needs to move more (every doctor he has has said so multiple times), he knows he needs to eat - but he keeps waiting for me to tell him what to do every time.

Aaargh!! I'm willing to fight this cancer with him every step of the way, but I can't fight it for him, and that's what he seems to want me to do.

3. We had a lovely bout of stomach virus run through the whole family last week. Kids and Rob over the weekend (that would be weekend before last), Dad W. mid-week, and then me right after Rob left the country - naturally. Then I caught something else intestinal again over the weekend. Had to cancel out on church (which I felt guilty as heck about, but I didn't think the service would be enhanced by having the organist sprint madly for the bathroom in mid-ceremony). By Sunday afternoon, I was feeling better, but had lost 4 and a half pounds from Saturday evening. So far nobody else seems to have caught my second whatsit. Cross your fingers.

As a side note - grocery shopping on Sunday certainly produced a healthier cart than usual. Snack foods and the like had absolutely no temptation for me - the bedding section on the other hand... Ah the joys of being the only able-bodied adult in the house.

4. Aaron is continuing his run of straight A report cards. He may be enjoying this a little bit too much, as it's the first time in his life he's had better grades than his brother. Robbie's grades are improving (he got his first middle school A, in band, this time around), but he's still having to work hard at remembering to do and turn in all the work middle school expects of him. His test grades remain straight A's, balanced out by intermittent zeroes for homework.

5. Dad W. is finally inching towards letting Rascal go. I suspect it will be a while yet, but he at least had me get information from the vet about cremation/burial services and costs. If he doesn't do something soon, though, he won't get the choice, as Rascal has dropped something like a third of his body weight in the last two months, even though he's eating like a pig. He's starvingly hungry all the time (he's bitten me twice snapping for treats I'm handing him), but losing weight steadily despite being fed. So there's likely something else wrong besides the known list. (Blind, deaf, arthritic, heart murmur, paralyzed) It just kills me to see this skeleton covered in black fur dragging around the house, knowing he needs to be put down, and I can't do it because I'm not his owner.

And that's the state of things since my last post. Rob is off on another continent for the next three weeks. He'll be back the day before Dad W. starts his next round of chemo.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


We've survived Dad W's first chemo procedure. Actually, he tolerated the procedure really, really well, without any of the pain and nausea we were told to expect. The side effects from the chemo itself have just started cropping up today (48 hours later), and thus far aren't too horrible - some abdominal pain, some nausea - both controllable with medication - and a lot of fatigue.

In another eight days we do the same thing again (1-day admit for a procedure, then home) only this time the microspheres will be radioactive instead of impregnated with chemotherapy drugs.

Yesterday, naturally, the hospital released Dad W at exactly the wrong moment for our schedules. I had Dad-sitting duties until 2, when I was supposed to leave to go to my annual gyne visit, and then pick up the boys. If he was released before 2, then I would take him home. If he was released after 2, then Rob would get off work early and come get him ASAP - which would be 3:30, approximately. Well, they told me at 1 that they were releasing Dad W. By the time they got the paperwork processed, walked us through the release orders, got him dressed and all his stuff together, and got the wheelchair transport, it was 2:05 - and instead of going straight to my appointment, I had to go home and get him settled first. I showed up 15 minutes late, and with an absolutely sky-high blood pressure - 185/110. My blood-pressure occasionally runs the high side of normal, but nothing like this. But half an hour later it had only dropped to 172/105, still waaay too high. So now I'm under instructions to take my BP daily for the next week and go see my PCP with the results (had an appointment with her before I left the building).

Why do I feel like my BP would have been better if I had been able to make karate class on Tuesday night? But that was the procedure day, and it just wasn't happening. And tonight class is cancelled because of snow. Only two classes missed so far, and I'm already feeling a bit bereft. And I'm likely to miss Thursday of next week because of that procedure. Glah - I need to go hit stuff! This no yoga, no karate thing that's been happening for the last month is just not on.

In good news, Sensei is supposed to be starting back at work in about 2 weeks. His knee is apparently healing well from his surgery. Missing this much work has been a big concern for him, so I'm glad he's getting back to it.