Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Get Your Brain In Gear Sharon

Oh Crap - think think think...I've got this great Bead Soup from Shannon and I haven't started the design yet. Yes, I've mulled over some ideas and even drawn out one or two - or two dozen is more like it but haven't really settled on what to do. And now I've narrowed my time down by telling myself it's not until May - you've got plenty of time. Uh, no it's not May - but, it's not exactly April much longer either. Grrrrrrrr, what was I waiting for, an epiphany?

Think, Think, Think!
You've only got until May 3rd.  That is the REVEAL date for gosh sakes.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Optivisor Fun

I always wear an Optivsior when I work - They are just great - I wear it for torch work and metalwork. Just love the thing. But, I never thought of using it this, now all I need is a lab coat.

April 14, 2014: A man dressed as a zombie participates in a zombie parade as part of the the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival in Brussels, Belgium, on April 12.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

On the Bench Today

I'm fresh out of ham and Easter eggs at this point.  I've been busy but not nearly enough and have no one to blame but myself for not getting more art completed or beads made.  There have been moments in which I could have squeezed that in but didn't.  Shame on me.  Ha, like laying on a guilt trip will help shake me out of's never worked before.  Isn't that the definition of insanity?  Doing the same thing and expecting different results...well, there it is!  What more can I say. 

This is what I have been working on.  Two rings.  One will be large enough to be considered a "statement ring" and will cover two knuckles.  The stone is beautiful - deep and moody like a nebula.  The other ring is smaller and the stone is a natural amber colored drusy.  It's not a flashy drusy but rather a calm one.  I bought it many years ago and loved it's nature.  Maybe it's because it reminds me that even the quiet people of the world can be lions - they just have to "be brave".  I stamped that and sweat soldered it to the back of the band.  Just a little reminder to the world of silent types - a private message that the wearer can run their thumb across.

And while I was working at the bench someone snuck onto my spot on the couch.  Good thing there are more chairs around the front room. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Garage Sale -

I've listed some lampwork goodies on Lampwork,etc. in the garage sale area.  So I thought I'd let my lampwork friends know incase they are interested in a new press or something.  I also posted my well-loved but packed away torch on Facebook. 

In the case of the beadroller - well, I usually would never sell any press but at some point I misplaced my beadroller and bought another one - since I have not developed octo arms I guess one is enough.  All the proceeds are going into Daisy's account.  So far we are a little less than half the way there so we've got to press on.  If anyone is interested please visit LE or Facebook and let me know.
The story of the torch.  It's a Major Bench burner.  I kind of progressed quickly form my hot head but I never much used the "major" part of the burner - just the minor torch at the top - so eventually I was going to retro fit it and talked to Jean from Nortel torches and we were going to retrofit the major into a midrange burner and Nortel sold me the fitting.  Unfortunately that was about the time I found a used Lynx on sale and I switched so I put everything away.  I'm selling the torch and retrofit together so if you purchase it - well, it will be getting like a brand new torch.
And here is my Daisy of the Day...she enjoys bringing logs onto the deck.  Good grief!  As if melting snow in the yard wasn't revealing the great "spring fling it into the woods" clean up.  Why oh why doesn't that stuff melt!
So much sun outside I might need sunglasses - this is Michigan - we are Vampires in the sun and all squinty!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

More Great Jewelry Making Tips

This is a repost from Jewelry Making Daily...what a great newsletter.  I like to keep track of these great tips so I transfer them to my blog where I can always find them.  I thought you'd enjoy them so here they are!

Top 10 Reader Tips for Jewelry Making: Smarter Metal Stamping, Sawing, Resin, Wire Wrapping, and More
After Monday's newsletter packed full of great tips, I'm on a roll and excited to share even more wonderful and oh-so-helpful jewelry-making tips with you today. A couple of weeks ago on JMD, I shared 10 of my favorite jewelry-making tips and asked readers to comment with their own favorite tip, offering a prize for one of them. You guys are so smart! I read every tip you shared and there were so many great ones--on metal stamping, sawing, forming metal, using resin, and wirework, and more--I had to share them with everyone. So here are 10 more useful jewelry making tips, courtesy of our clever readers, in their own words.

metal stamping tip: paint an arrow in the proper up directionSpacer 10x10 pixels
1. To keep metal stamps facing the right direction: I mark an upward pointing arrow on my lettering stamps with a thin Sharpie [or nail polish], that way I know how to position my stamps and not make those pesky upside down letters! As long as the arrow is pointing up (away from you), you're good to go. --angel63456

2. To start sawing easily: I always keep my small triangle file with my saw. Before sawing metal, notch a V-shaped groove--a nick is all it takes--at the spot you want to begin sawing. It will hold the blade in place for you. --Ivybinks, who also recommends using bits of an artist's kneaded eraser to level and support stones in bezels

3. To repeat good works: I keep a sample of the things I make most often (like different styles of ear wires) so I always have one to copy from. --BeadSwede

4. To organize and store solder without tarnish: A great way to repurpose old pill bottles and silica gel packs is to use them for storing wire solder. Simply drill a hole in the top of the pill bottle that will accommodate the wire solder. Label each bottle with the type, easy, medium, etc. Add a silica gel pack, reclaimed from new item packaging, to help prevent tarnish. --cbft

5. For finishing wire-wrapped ends: When making wrapped loops and you have that annoying little "tail" left sticking out at the end of the last loop, get out your crimping pliers. Use the rounding part in the front of the pliers to round out and wrap the tiny bit of wire with the rest of the loops. Your wrapped loops will look great and no more scratchy bits! --Rhonda Chase Design

Spacer 10x10 pixels tape covered cardboard under resin
 Beadlion's tip also works well for backless bezels and bezel-less resin pieces, like this found butterfly wing I've coated in resin to strengthen it.
6. For easy resin work: I cover a small piece of flat rigid cardboard with clear packing tape. Then I put double-sided tape on the top. When it's time to pour [resin], I place each bezel on one of the cardboard pieces. The double-sided tape holds the piece in place and the packing tape provides easy cleanup in case of overflow. After pouring, I can pick up each piece for close examination and repairs if needed, without touching it with my fingers. For pieces that don't have a flat bottom, I use a small amount of clay to adhere the piece to the cardboard. This keeps the piece level. --Beadlion

7. To keep handy toothpicks close at . . . hand: I've discovered that the "everything is a dollar" store sells toothpicks in a dispenser. I keep this dispenser on my workbench and use the toothpicks for mixing paints, applying adhesives, removing bubbles from resin, mixing epoxy clay, and a hundred more things. --Beadlion

8. For well-finished wire loops: My favorite tip for wire, when making a loop, is to flatten the tip of your wire to be looped with your flat-nose pliers before looping. This will give your loop a more finished appearance, allowing the looped wire to lie flat against the inside of the loop. --Kimatlsu

9. To preserve texture on metal during forming: Craft foam is your new best friend in the jewelry studio! Use craft foam in between your dapping block and your textured metal to preserve the texture while forming. If you are using wood dapping blocks, sandwich your piece of metal between two pieces of foam to protect the wood (it scratches pretty easily). If texturing both sides of a sheet of metal by hand: After doing the first side of the sheet, lay it texture side down on a piece of craft foam over the bench block, and then texture the second side. --Gisela K Andara

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Daisy Grows An Extended Family

I sat on our story for a very long time.   Suffered quietly while I tried to get a grip on our new life and what we were going to be capable of doing - or not.  I can not tell you how much lighter I feel for having gotten it all out.  It has been liberating to just say it out loud.  I guess holding on to it kind of made it the "dirty little secret" that haunted my thoughts.  It's so not a healthy way to live.

Then along came Daisy - - - - and out poured everything when she was diagnosed with that severe hip dysplasia.  I cried for everything - everything I thought, or felt, or stuffed and choked on for the past six years.  It took a precious face so helpless to control her own destiny to totally blow my cover. 

You can't know how frightened I was to put all of this out there.  I can be so painfully quiet in person.  This blog has been like a journal - I can tell you about my art and talk and pass things on without that moment of panic over whether whatever I say will be "bright enough, cleaver, conversational, blah blah blah."  It has been cathartic over these years while Brian worked at healing.  I would sit here with him and type.  Bring you all newsy art things I could pass along...and I like to do that.

To see what you are doing for Daisy - well, even writing this my eyes are moist.  I am humbled beyond belief.  To think that all of you kind and wonderful people I have met - and many I have not - would contribute your hard earned money to help her become whole for us...well, my heart is just bursting. 

Daisy may not know what is happening - but I do.  She is becoming 'everyone's' puppy.  I look at her and I see all of you.  She smiles at me and I see all of your facebook pictures and work.  And I get humble all over again.  To quote Martha - It's a good thing.  We appreciate your assistance.  It's beyond words how much we appreciate it.  I'm exploding with pride and I know we'll make it.

Here is a "daily Daisy" for us:

Really Mom, it wasn't much of a garden and there was a mole in there somewhere.

Thank You Everyone -

With Much Love,  Sharon, Brian, Trudy, and our Daisy.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Making of a Special Lost Wax Cast Pendant

What's the plan Stan?  I need money to be able to offer Daisy the help she needs...we don't have it.  But I'm able and some what talented so I'm going to do what I do best - create.  I've also decided to do something I've never done before - ask for help.   I'm doing both.  The Etsy site will bulk up, I will put unused/ slightly used lampworking tools in the garage sale of LE and in some other forums, I will open a Go Fund Me account for anyone interested in donating their coffee money, and I've created a special something people might be interesting in purchasing besides my beads.  If I have to finance her surgery I will find a way and deal with it.  I did go to the breeder and insisted she return my money - she did.  We are now $500. to the good side and $5000. left to go.

When I decided to write this series of blog posts concerning why I decided to make this special pendant (and explain what's gone on here on the home front) it occurred to me that I've shown you the sculpted wax pieces for my lost wax castings but not the entire process.  Occasionally I have even shown the finished pieces, when I remember.  But really, I don't think I've ever totally taken the whole ride in one post. And this post might not get us all the way there either (I haven't shown the melting/pouring the metal stuff) but I have taken some photos this time.   It was important to me to show you that, as always, I am the artist on these pieces and I've explained why this one is so important to me. 

Maybe this one incident, in a plethora of unfortunate circumstances is thee thing where I can do the most to determine a positive outcome.  

I know I appreciate purchasing something that I know a little of the back story about.  I would always prefer to know the artist or the story as to why they created the piece.  It means more to me when I feel a connection to the work.  Then, if someone compliments me on it and I share the information and it's like we have this secret, or a history.   Most of us like to do this as we engage with other women over a compliment, don't we?

This is the technique and my half decade history of posts are the documentation behind the creation of the "Daisy Pendant".  I feel the wearing of this spring and flowering symbol and the telling of it's story will fill it's owner with a great sense of the personal power and the peace that comes with having impacted the life of living being.  And boy oh boy do we need a village to pull this one off for Daisy.  I'm a big supporter of RAOK (random acts of kindness) but in this case I'm asking people to pitch in with money and to perpetuate this request for some help.   I not good at telling our story and I've never been good at asking for help from anyone but the almighty.  Are any "only" children good at that?  

Please feel free to repost this story - rewrite it - mention it on your blogs, Facebook pages, shout it from roof tops and your comments and so on.   She's a worthy puppy, a joy who didn't ask for this.  And her furbaby parents would really like to help and so we're putting our story and hers out there.

This is how I made Daisy her pendant -
I start with red wax - it is an injection wax, bagged sold in dollops.  I melt it into a tin for my convenience.  My tools are heated over an alcohol lamp or I use a wax pen. 
The Daisy drawings are sitting under a heat proof rubber counter saver used for hot glue guns.  It has enough tooth to hold the wax in position as I build up the design.  You can see through it too so it's easy to slip a design under it to give you some guidance.  I built a daisy and popped it loose from the backing and went about making a wax circle to attach under the dimensional daisy. 
After that the really tough work began.  I had to sculpt the pattern to make sure it showed up.  Lines in the petals and an indication of the center of the flower.  It's very time consuming as you clean up these areas - heat - polish - dig a little more.  Back and forth and back and forth, off and on for several days.   Think of picking wax on a candle - it rolls up - sticks to stuff - grrrrrrr.  When I finally arose at what I thought was the final design I let it sit a day and then went back to it to make sure. 
At that point I decided it would need a nice jump ring solidly attached so it would hang right on a bail for a necklace or keychain.  A bail on the back would have limited it's use but a bail on the top would extend it - decision made.   I used a blue wax wire for this - it bends easily so it's good for this step.  Bend it in a circle - wax the split and attach.  Sounds simple?  Not so simple, but necessary.
Following a final inspection I decided that I wanted everyone to know I hadn't just ordered this pendant somewhere on-line.  That it was a true original and once my goal is accomplished they will never be remade again.  I signed the back with my studio name and added a paw print in honor of Daisy.  The next step is to put wax sprues on the final piece - You will see them in the first photo where the piece is all in metal.
After it's sprued, it's invested with a plaster.  The plaster dries and the wax is burned out of the flask (the metal pipe that surrounds the plaster).  It now contains the voided image (it's why it's called lost wax casting).  In the void is where the molten metal is poured.  I use a vacuum caster.  Once that is complete and you have the object in the metal you begin all of the sawing, grinding, and polishing.  Voila' - a finished piece of work. 
This is a simplified version of the process but I think with the photos you get the idea and there are much better explanations for lost wax casting on U-tube or other places on-line. 
In honor of our Daisy - this is her pendant.  All proceeds from the sale of this pendant (on Etsy) and from her GoFundMe site will go for her surgery.  We have 4-5 months to raise enough to schedule her surgery. 
Please help if you can -
Lampwork, etc. (check in Garage Sale)
(it will take me a few days to get these photographed and posted but they'll be there by Wednesday)
Thanks for listening to my story and letting me express it all.  I had really thought this was all past and I had leapt over the chasm of emotions from that period of our lives.  At least I did - until Daisy's medical issue hit and I finally figured out I hadn't grieved for all those life altering events.  What was I thinking? All those years of counseling for a living and my big shot self thought I could skip a few steps.  Lesson learned!  Leave it to a loving animal to bring you full circle and cause an emotional healing - now I just have to heal her too.   
: - )  Sharon 


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Our Darling Daisy has joined the family circus.

So, you've read the previous posts about how "life" flows and ebbs around here.  But then everyone's life ebbs and flows - some more than others.  And to some who read this blog on a regular basis you've already been introduced to Daisy, our youngest retriever.

Daisy's been growing and she's a joyful happy girl - a sweet puppy in the true sense of what a golden retriever can be and extraordinarily loving.  Trudy likes petting but Daisy lives for it. 

We were trotting along just fine...getting the potty training done and enjoying the relief from the constant heaviness of the past half decade and I guess the universe wasn't done after all.  At about 3 months of age Daisy greeted my son-in-law at the door in the kitchen.  The usual puppy excitements got the best of her as she slipped and skidded on the linoleum floor.  We moved to rug and the "loving" commenced.  It was later that day we noticed a pronounced limp when she went outside.  I tried hard not to be "panicked" but with all that's happened my chest immediately tightened down while I waited for the other shoe to fall.

And fall it did. 

The limp did not resolve itself after a day and so I took her to our local vet.  They call her crazy Daisy because she's always so happy to see them and them her.  When our vet began to move her leg around I heard the clicking but he asked to keep her for the afternoon so he could x-ray her and asked for permission to medicate her if he needed to.  We left her in their able care.  When we returned I could tell by the looks on their faces we were getting back on the roller coaster...and all of a sudden I felt like I couldn't breathe. 

This is an X-ray of what normal Canine hips look like.  She how the ball of thigh bone is fully into the socket of the hip.  Just perfect.

This is Daisy's X-Ray.  On the left side of this x-ray is her right hip - It is 15% in the socket.  The other is 25%. 

By the time we were called in to talk to the vet I honestly could have used a glass of wine - maybe a bottle.  I knew we'd have a big bill but I was hoping it was something he could rectify on the spot.  How wrong I was.  The moment he popped in the x-ray I knew we were in big trouble.  I just didn't know how big.
I listened intently and tried to take it all in.   She has hereditary hip dysplasia - the most severe he's ever seen in a puppy (she was about five months old at that time).  There were, he said, "possibly" several options.  If it went untreated Daisy would eventually have debilitating arthritis and be lame and in gross pain from it.  A death sentence for an active animal.  At first the thrumming in my ears was so loud from my blood pressure I don't think I heard what he was saying for a good 2-3 minutes and had to ask him to repeat it.  He mentioned several surgical options (none of which could be accomplished at a family vets office) and told us that any of these options were going to cost several thousand dollars.  Say what?  
Okay, well - we paid nearly a thousand to have Nellie's leg tumor treated - so if it were two thousand maybe we could charge it and tight our belts more and figure it out.  He told us to go home and think about it.  At the very least we would have to go to one of several Orthopedic specialists and get a more exacting interpretation of the x-rays, an estimate, and more precise set of options.
Maybe not the closest orthopedic canine doctor but we figured probably the most practiced would be down in East Lansing at the Michigan State University Veterinarian School.  We did our thinking and decided as long as we didn't have a definitive diagnosis we couldn't make an informed decision.  It was my last grasp on the straw called "hope".
We made that appointment.  It's a wonderful school full of fresh faces wanting to help the animal kingdom (ever the optimist in a sinking ship!).  We met a nice surgeon - he was knowledgeable and broke down the possibilities which amounted to this: Option one - same as our family vet had said about lameness and pain.  Option two:  A total hip replacement (THR).  What?  Both hips could use it BUT we could get away with doing the worst hip (the 15%) and working on physical therapy to strength the muscle on the second one and using medication when necessary.  It would restore her to a near normal life.
The only drawback...and it's a doosey.   The cost of one hip: $5,000. - $6,000. dollars.   My jaw was on the floor, just as your is right now.  The alternative - not pretty. 
Many good friends asked of Daisy could use one of those wheeled carts to get along.  Sorry, that is not a possibility.  The pain involved in having her hip slip out of the socket and grind on the outside just won't allow that.  Most dogs who use carts are paralyzed or have issues that make a cart a good alternative - Daisy is not a good candidate.  When it does slip our vet gently rotates the leg until we hear what we need to hear and it slowly moves back into position (as well as it can).  We then hit it with anti-inflammatory and pain medication.  She currently is on near continuous doses of tramadol and rimadyl.   This is what they would prescribe to a much older dog in their late life stages as movement becomes a major problem due to age and arthritis.   Daisy is now a mere 7 months old.
We have some time - not much.  One thing that is on our side for the moment - time.  They can do absolutely nothing until she is full grown or there is a major emergency (i.e. she is dragging the leg around).  That means if we are  extremely careful with her play we can get her to 12 months without a major incident and then move forward.  She needs to be full size before they can do THR.
So there, here we are.....on the roller coaster....cranking up the hill again and taking those deep dives that take my breath away until I want to pass out.   Some days I think if I remind myself to put one foot in front of the other and smile I'll just puke...but I do it anyway. 
So what's the plan Sharon?  Let's talk about that.  Tomorrow.


Friday, April 4, 2014

And, As if THAT weren't enough....

Wow, did I really write all of that?  Yup - I can be verbose.  My favorite writing style is the run on sentence.  It's like a constant train of thought, babble, babble.  I wish at times like this that I was more profound but you'll have to get that in some other blog.  Right now - for this moment in time, I'm feeling old feelings that I thought I had been able to put up on the shelf.  I actually was beginning to relax, return to my old self, get a grip - so to speak.

Let's continue....I think I stopped my story someplace in 2011.  Maybe we can have an abbreviated version to run thru a couple of the next years.

During all of this healing for my dear hub's, my spine decided to take a vile turn in the same direction.  I mean, like holy shit (I was thinking at time) when will this end.  They did a spinal fusion on me two years later to the exact day of his.  Different hospital - excellent neurosurgeon - excellent result.  Still downtime - physically and mentally.  For the next 6 months we nursed each other and I kept blogging and I got to participate in Jeri Warhaftig's book, Creating Glass Beads.  What an enormous bright spot that was for me during all of this healing.

Also during the time that I was healing the State of Michigan, in its infinite wisdom, decided to save money by closing the facility that I worked in.  We had the best recidivism rates in our juvenile system.  But, politics being what they are with so many things "going private" and with sending our children out of state to cheaper facilities - away from their families - it seemed to make sense to them.   I loved that job - but luckily I had enough seniority to take a reduced retirement package.  I could have transferred to a different facility - I was the most senior person in my classification who wasn't planning on retiring but the hub's was still needing assistance and I decided I'd stay home and take the retirement as long as our medical insurance remained intact.  And in two years I could apply for early social security and did.  Not optimum but better than a kick in the butt.
What losses, huh?  Three spinal surgeries, DH's career and now mine.   We were so NOT prepared for all of this to happen at once.  And darned if we were done yet either.  Our oldest Golden Retriever at the time - Miss Whoa Nellie developed some issues.  I mean why not - everyone else was getting surgery.  She was 12 but developed this huge benign tumor on her leg that was interfering with her walking.  It grew to grapefruit size quickly.  We decided that she most certainly deserved to live out the rest of her life without discomfort (she had dealt with massive allergies all her life) so we scheduled surgery and had the tumor removed.  Whew -  she had about four good months (we had certainly expected more) and developed a severe bloating issue with her stomach and the only humane course was to put her to rest.  Broke our heart - she was our first Golden.  Her little sister Gertrude Jean (our second retriever we call Trudy) was emotionally were we.

Miss Whoa Nellie - Our prim and proper lady retriever.
Following all of that and some healing we took a trip to North Carolina to visit our children who live there.  In the midst of all of the past couple years - My son had worked with me also lost his job - so, to find new positions in their field they had to move out of state.  Chalk up another loss.  We miss them terribly.  My last bit of my Mom lived with us - her Chihuahua - named Che Che Rodriguez.  On the trip to North Carolina with her and Trudy when we opened the tail gate of the car she decided to do something that she had NEVER done before.....jump.   She hit the cement hard before my husband could get his hands under her - she rolled but had landed on her neck.  Thank goodness for cell phones with search engines.  We found an emergency vet in Dayton Ohio.  We spent the night there - lots of x-rays and so on ensued as she spent the night there too.  We picked her up the next afternoon.  The prognosis - lousy.  But, they said to watch her (she could not walk easily and we were to watch for progress as the inflammation reduced).  It was a drive either way - home or forward with a vet on either end.  We opted for NC and an appointment there and have her rechecked for improvement.  Our children were right on it and had the appointment all ready when we arrived. 
They were wonderful - the vet did more x-rays and so on (now that the swelling was subsiding) and explained that she had a subluxated disc in her neck and this was causing the semi-paralysis in her legs.  We could take her into Asheville for a second opinion to a neurosurgeon for canines but with her enlarged heart (something we had known nothing about) - and age - she was 13 - that they would not consider it a good risk and she would likely die in surgery.  It didn't seem fair to put her through that for nothing.   He was kind and reassuring and said it was best for her if we let her go.  And so we did.  Some vacation - my heart was broken and I felt like I had let my Mom down.  I was also beginning to wonder what it was the universe had against us.  And if it couldn't deter us personally why had it turned against our precious animals.

It felt like I wore a permanent weight tied to my shoulders that I couldn't shake.  You know how it is.  You are carrying this weight, it's hard to breathe, you withdraw, don't smile as much - you begin to go through life by rote because any change in routine seems to upset the apple cart.  I was so there.  One foot in front of the other - trying hard to fake it until I make it...not much joy.
Well, railing against the universe and the powers that be wasn't exactly getting me anywhere.  I figure they took the tactic, "We'll show her".  That was when the arthritic knees decided they'd had enough and damn if I wasn't back at the doctor - now that I've written about in the blog.  We all know I have fresh bionic knees.  I needed them - they work good - but it's another one of those emotional and physical drains.  Again - - - - - - back in PT - recovery time.  Although it was a great surgery the fog didn't seem to lift or my spirits improve to any great degree.  And in between the knee surgeries there were 6 months of eye appointments because I could not get glasses that seemed to sharpen my vision...and whammo, they decided that there were cataracts in both eyes and they had to come out.  Okay, add surgery number 4 and 5 to the mix.  Yikes!!  You just keep putting one foot in front of the other, right?
On the other end of that spectrum Trudy (the remaining last fur baby) was developing a case of the "sads" all her own.  Normally an independent girl she became sullen, wanted to sit by us all of the time.  Certainly not a problem for us but definitely a change in her usual independent happy behavior.  She didn't want to play or go to the post office.  She was the dog who had never been an only child before.  She has always had a "pal" and belonged to a pack.   Finally Brian and I decided that perhaps we ought to consider adding a puppy.  We considered it - and considered it - and thought about it some more - juggled some financial numbers.  Two dogs is expensive.  Vets are not cheap.  We are getting along okay on retirement and SS but it's not like there is oodles of $ sitting around.  Any chink in the armor like a crisis sends the budget on plunge.  We were not expecting an early retirement.  And without work how you recoup extra expenditures is "iffy".  We were still feeling like we were in a constant state of trying to recover from whatever was the newest crisis thrown into our arena.  Plumb tired out - tired of the challenges and emotionally raw from the losses and "new normal". 
Looking at Trudy for about a month changed our view point.  She didn't bargain for this either and it was showing on her as much as us.  It brought us back to thinking about when we brought Trudy home for Nellie.  Life changed dramatically for Nellie.  She had a friend and she was so happy. 
Happy Girls - Trudy and Nellie

After a lot of discussion we decided we could swing it (you know - do without this and buy that - eat more hamburger) and began looking for a new puppy.  It was Spring and we were hoping to lift not only Trudy's spirits but our own.  I mean "Hello, life doesn't stop even when you've had crap up to the overflowing point."  Maybe a new life in the house would reverse this spiral.  Looking back at the past 7 years I am knocked over as I write it out.  If bad luck were a bowler they'd of had a 300 game and we'd of barely broke a hundred - and it certainly wasn't for lack of trying and a good attitude.  We weren't sure if we could handle a puppy - neither of us were dripping with enthusiasm for anything (the weight I was carrying took care of that) and we wondered if we'd ever get any of the old mojo back.  Yes, we did okay at daily life but this surround sound kind of sadness was always hanging in the air and just permeating everything.  There are charts out there for the number of life stressors that anyone should consider taking on during any period in their life.  We were way past that and I ignored it.  No, it's not like we frowned all the time, absolutely not - but you know how it is, you are off kilter and something just doesn't seem right, you know?

All I could think about was what I used to tell the teens I worked with, "You fake it, till you make it." Get one foot in front of the other and keep moving - it's going to feel better soon you just have to keep moving.   That's what I did - live - and it's what I believe.  They (whoever they are) generally can't hit a moving target so just keep moving forward and eventually with doing that and the right thing are going to come those feelings of normal and happy.   Sometimes you have to hang on and do that a long time and I practice what I preach.  Is it easy?  NO  But, it works and you have to be prepared to go the distance.  For the teens we broke it down into manageable goals, palatable small pieces.   You want them to experience a win (get a reward) move on to the next step (whatever the step may be).

I thought we had.  I thought my feet were firmly moving again and we were over the hump.   Our reward for that - Daisy Mae.  You've all met Daisy - her photos have appeared here before but incase you missed them here is a reminder:

Daisy Mae - at about 10 weeks

 Daisy Mae - The joy in Trudy's pack and ours.  This is a long enough post and our overwhelming joy was short lived.  Let's continue tomorrow with Daisy's story because that is what these posts are about.  I just wanted to document all of this because for all of this time - these years - I have held much of this inside.  I wanted to present the world with a stoic, if not happy, face.  But when the last shoe dropped - I fell to pieces for weeks and my friends had to carry me around while I tied to cope with not only Daisy's plight but all the feelings surrounding what I've been conveying to you.  If you want to know why I didn't do that as it happened...well, DH was very despondent over what had happened.  He couldn't carry my emotions and needed someone to carry his and get him to this point where he could cope.  No time for falling apart when the world around you is.  I did everything I could just to establish some kind or normalcy.

See you tomorrow and tell you about our "girl".

Thursday, April 3, 2014

An overdue story and our "new normal"

It's been a rough week.  Well, maybe that is the understatement of all time here.  To do this I am going to have to back this story up almost seven years.  It will help to explain the anguish we are feeling here in this house at the moment over our puppy.  If you can not handle a sad tale you should probably stop here - right now, it's not too uplifting.  I do promise if it gets that way (happier) and I will post that too.  This part of the background is bad - but it could be worse and you thank the heavens for small favors - I have - I do - and I am grateful beyond belief.

Since I have never told this tale and only a few close friends know of the ordeal he (darling husband) went through I figured this post ought to have the background as to why what is happening to Daisy is so upsetting on so many levels.  Even friends don't have all the down and dirty details and it would take a book I'm not allowed to write to put them here.

So lets start in 2008/2009.  That was the year my husband had a debilitating pain down his right leg while participating in an art show near Grand Rapids.  My DH was a master toymaker - sold his toys all over the country at the finest of art fairs and wholesaled them to fine baby shops.  At the time, Little Seed - (Soleil Moon Frye's baby store in LA) and a beautiful upscale shop in Toronto.  Several others I can not remember.  He maintained a large studio facility behind our home - air conditioned and heated.   Not a factory by any means but not fly by night either.  An artist's wood working studio.  That's the background. 
Daisy, getting "Dad" out into the sun
This pain was so severe he called home.  He could barely rise from his chair and was not sure if he would make through the weekend.  Family (son's/ daughter/ myself) were all ready to run to his aid.  He asked us to delay this - what a prideful person he can be.  We were lucky as he had lots of friends (other artists) at the show who aided him all weekend and helped him to pack up following the show.

On Monday I phoned our physician and we ran to her office.  The pain was excruciating and they immediately put him on major pain modifiers while they ran tests.  The pain killers didn't do much to modify the pain (I understand medication - 23 years as a substance abuse counselor will do that - and he was on the "big" ones).  This particular man was used to wielding large amounts of hardwood and was quite physically fit.  Also no wimp and not a complainer.  He's a fellah without the grace of a grand education but gifted with talents for building with wood, creativity, and much much more.  I am a lucky girl.  My father called him, "a man's man".  He meant he is a great husband, father, and person.  I couldn't agree more.

After a great deal of testing (this saga started at the end of September 2008) we ended up at a neuro-surgeon.  There was a bone fragment that had calcified near a nerve and needed removal immediately.  That surgeon was to do that surgery.  Then, supposedly, he fell and dislocated his shoulder and could not do the surgery and we were referred to his partner.  The partner declared that the aforementioned surgery would do no long term good to relieve DH's chronic back pain and recommended a spinal fusion.  It was now nearing the end of November.  

Daisy, taking up permanent residence in Trudy's heart too.

After two full months of that kind of pain you'd give up your house to have it repaired.  Remember, all this time he is in a blur of medication.  He can barely walk or sit - clear thinking and relief              is no where in sight for him.  He just wants the agonizing pain to stop, by any means necessary. 

We schedule the surgery - It is in the first week of November.  It IS supposed to have nearly immediate results in the pain level.  That didn't worsened.  We told nurses at the hospital something was wrong - told the doctor.  Refused physical therapy more than one day.  No one much listened.   Upon release from the hospital we visited our family physician who was becoming alarmed.  Mid-stream of retesting and being "blown off" by the surgeon who did the operation DH developed a blood clot in the leg.  We had also gotten emergency CT scans and so on - these were sent to our physician as well as the neurosurgeon.   At an appointment in December she (family doc) literally took me by the lapels on my jacket and told me we needed a new neuro-physician and needed them NOW.  DH was still in the hospital with the clot. 

She began the process of searching for a physician who would take his case.  Luckily, my daughter-in-law works at one of the finest hospitals in Michigan...Henry Ford.  Literally, no one wanted to touch someone else's work (the surgery).  But, DIL knew people - who knew people and they were going to move DH from the hospital he was in to Henry Ford.  When the hospital he was in found out - well, voila - near immediate discharge.  And then an immediate (next morning) appointment at Ford's. 

The first surgeon at HF paled at the sight of the scans and info.  He asked us to hold on while he conferred with a colleague.  Turned out the colleague was the head of neuro-trauma surgery and asked to take the case.  He asked how my DH felt about being admitted to the hospital - immediately.  We were relieved to have someone who actually could see the urgency of the situation.  It's now December.  We've now three months worth of agony.  He was admitted right then and given a room.  Five days later, despite the clot (a filter was inserted to prevent a future clot) they opened up his back a second time.

Insurance, I think, is a heavenly gift if you are lucky enough to have a job that provides it.  I did and kept working.  Used up sick days and vacation as we progressed through this maze of appointments and hospitalizations but kept moving - - - you have to keep moving.

It's the second spinal surgery in just over one months time.  I am told to expect my husband to be in that operating room from 4 to 12 hours.  They would not know how bad the damage was until they were in there and would be altering their surgery as they went for the most optimum outcome.  They talk like that, don't they?  Surgery ran over five hours.  When they came out we found out some grim news.  DH had been within days of possibly being paralyzed.  To quote the doctor he felt as if he had just witnessed a miracle.  Two out of three pedicle screws were inserted wrong into the cage and one had traversed the spinal canal.  It creased the thecal sac on one side and trapped the nerve that runs through it on the other.   It was a miracle it had not severed that nerve or pierced the thecal sac.

They removed the "medical debris" and since there had been some healing and the spine could support itself he was to remain on a steady path to his "new" recovery.   They also reported some foreign substance had been used between the discs and had caused other bulging that they repaired.  It was stated to us they didn't know what it was and they thought they ought to since they are a teaching hospital. They thought they should of seen this material before...they were baffled.  From this point on we began a very arduous journey.

And how did that new recovery go?  We deal with what we call the "new normal".   The nerve is damaged - irrevocably to the end of time and the spinal column is forever damaged.  DH can not lift, walks bent over.  During this we cancelled art shows and contracts with those businesses.  We sold our remaining stock on Etsy.  It's been what - five years now.  He spent nearly three trying to recover.  Lots of time and PT -  moving from walker to cane to walking.  We are enormously grateful for that and to Henry Ford Hospital and it's wonderful Health System.  You thank God for the blessings you are given not the shortcomings you are left with - right? 

I should maybe explain the new normal a bit.   Our dream was for me to retire and us to take the business around the country to visit locales and have a wonderful time.  Plans change.  Even now he can not walk the length of a Walmart without the aid of a shopping cart.  The pain will overwhelm him if he tries - he walks slightly stooped.   There is no going back to work, recovery is over, pain is a fact of everyday life, there will be no new career (too many maintenance medications).  He sleeps in a hospital style bed that never sits flat.  An improvement over the old front room recliner he slept in for a long time.  So much continuing medication it can be mind boggling and at times, for him, it is.  Total per month with insurance - about $200.  Without it would be thousands.

But, again - we are lucky.  Our home is now free and clear and we have that insurance.  Comparatively, in this world, things could be worse.  We are grateful they are not.

Now, I know you are going to want to ask - did we sue - yes.  That took about five years.  A lot happens in that amount of time - we will talk about that.  Did we " make out like bandits" from that suit?  No, we did not.  It is less than I would have made working for two years (a whole different chapter) but it caught up outstanding bills, and so on.  You do what you have to do, right? 

So here we are with the "new normal" and we had begun the adjustment.   Sorry - legal issues preclude me from giving details beyond what I have said.  We live in a don't tell system and are bound by that.  I can't and won't.  Makes me think of the military during don't ask - don't tell.  You have to think to yourself - ah, just who was that set up to help?  Please, there are plenty of things to feel bad about in this world so do not grieve for this too.  We did the best we could under an awful set of circumstances and have spent a great deal of time moving forward.

And this bring us to 2011 - huh, I better get a move on with this story of mine...maybe tomorrow.