Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Take Heart

On Monday morning my mom told my younger sister Chandra and me that she'd been having some pains in her chest on and off for the past few days and she thought she should do the responsible thing and go and get it checked out. After consulting with one of her friends who is a nurse she decided to call 911 so that she could get right in to the ER instead of having to wait in the waiting room for who knows how long.

Mom knows how I always detail all of my hospital excursions on my blog, so she thought it would be fun to make a guest blog post. After thinking about it I agreed, so here it is…

This week I had a hospital adventure. No, nothing involving Heather. It was me. I’d been having pains in my left shoulder, down my left arm on and off for a few days. At first, I dismissed it, but since I’m no spring chicken, and knowing you shouldn't ignore such symptoms, I decided I really ought to get it checked out. I called the doctor’s office hoping they could do an EKG to discern if anything potentially serious was going on, and perhaps schedule more tests if necessary, or maybe discuss other possible causes for the pain. But no, they said I ought to go to the ER. I did. It was unarguably the worst hospital experience in my recent memory.

First off, they couldn’t get an IV started. I was unsuccessfully stuck FIVE painful times before getting the IV placed on the sixth try. Not only were my arms bruised from the attempts, but they throbbed all day. I had been asking if I could drink water, and they kept saying no. I was possibly slightly dehydrated which makes needle sticks more difficult.

The hospitalist in charge decided I should be admitted, and after languishing in the ER for several hours, thirsty and ravenous, I was taken to a room. I was allowed to drink, finally, and the sweet nurse took pity on me and microwaved a frozen dinner for me, since lunch was long over. It was pretty awful, but I ate it all.

Dinner finally arrived at about 6:15, and I was ravenous again. I lifted the cover to find lukewarm fish, macaroni and cheese, and creamed spinach. A Dole fruit cup containing pears was on the side. Knowing I would be NPO until after my tests were over the next day, I again cleaned my plate, even though I’ve never liked macaroni or cared much for fish.

I spent a pleasant evening with visits from my home teacher and my daughter, Laura. Laura did a wonderful job of keeping the family informed of my situation. Then it was bedtime. Though I'd had numerous EKGs and 4 blood draws (for a total of 10 needle sticks that day), nothing much has been accomplished that day.

Next morning I was awakened at 5:15 by a tech saying she needed to weigh me. Really? This couldn’t wait until daylight? She brought in a scale that looked big enough to weigh a truck. Obediently I stepped on it. I felt very tiny, not a bad thing.

My back ached badly from the hard, uncomfortable bed. I had to walk in the hall for about 20 minutes before most of the pain was gone.

Again, I languished in my room, waiting until mid morning for them to take me for my stress test and echocardiogram. I really did not see why I’d had to fast for these tests. Here I was running on a treadmill after having no food for nearly 18 hours and nothing to drink for 12, while they cranked my heart rate up to 160. I could have collapsed from hunger!  I’m proud to say I didn’t huff and puff too much and I told them I could easily keep going. The tests took about 3½ hours.

Of course by the time I got back to my room, I had missed lunch. The nurse kindly wrote an order for me to get a lunch tray. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and carrot coins were what was on the menu. Oh my gosh… that’s not lunch, that’s torture! I asked about other options and settled on vegetable soup (very good), a turkey sandwich and an apple.

By 2:15 the cardiologist came to my room and told me I passed all my tests with flying colors. Nothing was wrong with my heart and I could go home. No possible explanation for my pain. I didn’t care. My heart was OK and I wanted OUT!

Not so fast. The admitting hospitalist had to “lay eyes” on me before I could be discharged, and he didn't round in that area of the hospital until 4:00-6:00. Are you kidding me?! I didn't get on my way until 5:50. The nurse said something about calling for a wheelchair. I said, “Could I please just walk out of here with my friend?” She let me.

Wow, home never seemed so good! Heather, Chandra and I were back together again. Chandra had done a fabulous job of keeping the house running in my absence. There was food that tasted good, and a bed that didn't hurt my back.

Well, that’s my experience. I've got to say that the nurses were all so sweet and kind. The actual medical care was thorough. I am VERY grateful to be OK. I have some beautiful bruises on my arms that give me a ghoulish look for Halloween. I’m thankful for the outpouring of love and concern from friends and family. The whole experience could have been very frustrating, but I chose to look at the humorous side. So, take heart, Heather’s fans… Heather’s mother will be around to cause trouble for years to come!

I'm glad to have Mom back where she belongs, and I'm also especially grateful for Chandra. She took off work on Monday and Tuesday and took great care of me, nitty-gritty and all.

Happy Halloween! :)

Happy Halloween! I hope that everyone has a fun, safe holiday! Enjoy this picture from my Mary Engelbreit wall calendar; it's my treat for you!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

"The Selection"

Last night I finished a good book that I thought I'd write about. It's called The Selection and it's written by Kiera Cass. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself--and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

This book takes place in an urban, dystopian society and is very similar to books like The Hunger Games, Matched, Divergent and Legend. If you enjoy books like that, then you will probably like The Selection. As with the other books I mentioned, this book is part of a series, so be prepared for a bit of a cliffhanger at the end of the book. If you decide to read this book I hope you like it, especially if it's because of my recommendation! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Vote Early and Vote Often

It's hard to believe that the election is less than two weeks away. I'm ready for the election to be over because I've had about all of the political commercials I can take! The majority of them are sooo misleading, and I hope everyone takes them with a grain of salt.

I remember going to vote with my dad in the 1992 presidential election and how my dad let me punch some of the holes in the ballot (he told me where to punch, of course). That's probably illegal, but what's done is done! ;)

I did my civic duty this morning and voted. I love voting absentee… it's so much easier than voting at my polling place. I voted for a mix of Republicans, Democrats and I have to admit that I left some of the ballot blank. The issues can be difficult to understand and the wordage in the ballot explaining the issues doesn't make it anymore clear. You would think that someone would be able to come up with a more clear, concise explanation so that average people who don't have political science backgrounds can understand. Or maybe I'm just more dense than the average voter! ;-)

I do try to be at least relatively well informed when it came to voting for president. I love watching CNN and I watched all of the presidential debates. (Speaking of the debates, there was way too much arguing, interrupting and obvious disdain for the other candidate, and not nearly enough discussing/debating what is best for the good of our country and it's citizens.) There are certainly a lot of ways to interpret the issues and people look at things so differently depending on their moral views and personal circumstances. There's more than one way to get a job done and most people tend to think their way is best. But don't politicians realize that compromise is necessary so that we can all live peacefully even if we don't agree?!

There are so many issues to take into account… foreign relations, the war, taxes, healthcare, education, jobs, gun control, abortion, gay marriage, the deficit/balancing the budget, etc., but I think the biggest issue that needs to be worked on is the economy.

So what will the outcome of the election be? I predict that Obama will win, and I'll actually be really surprised if Romney is elected. (Not because I think Romney is the wrong man for the job, but because it seems like Obama has been more in the lead the entire election.) I don't think it will be a landslide victory for Obama, though, because I think Romney has put up a pretty good fight. In the end, I think we're in for four more years with President Obama.

Two more weeks…

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Last week my grandparents ("G&G" as we like to refer to them) came down from Minnesota to spend some time with Mom, Chandra and me. One of the major reasons for their trip was to come for my mom's birthday. Her birthday was earlier this month, but my she's been celebrating the entire month, which you're allowed to do when you turn in the big 6-0!! It was great to see Grandma and Grandpa again. They usually visit us twice a year, but now that they're getting older, I don't know how much longer these semi-annual visits will be able to continue, especially with them living so far away. SO, I tried to make the most of our time together.

We enjoyed watching the presidential debate and the Cardinals baseball playoff games together. Grandpa liked my TV and remarked how much better he could see things on my TV since it's a bigger screen than what he's used to (that, and the HD reception). :) 
On Thursday G&G, Mom, Chandra and I went out to lunch at Ruby Tuesday to celebrate my mom's birthday. It wasn't busy at all and there was plenty of room for me and my big caboose (a.k.a., my wheelchair!). The food was really good and we all had a nice time. Our waitress asked if we were celebrating anything special, and my mom said, "my birthday!!" Mom told our waitress that she'd been celebrating her birthday all month long. The waitress brought out a huge piece of cheesecake with a bunch of spoons. The cheesecake was amazing;! Sao creamy and smooth and very rich! We kept passing the plate around the table until it was gone.

Here are some pictures. (It was an extremely windy day, and we got mighty windblown going in and out of the restaurant, so excuse our messy hair!) 
I'm so grateful to be blessed with such wonderful grandparents. I'm especially close to my grandpa. He's a great man and I think the world of him. Every time my grandparents leave to go home I can't help but wonder if it'll be the last time I see Grandpa. He's 90 and still in excellent shape for someone his age, but he's started slowing down. He went grocery shopping with my mom when he was here and when he was helping my mom with the groceries he told her that he could no longer carry two gallons of milk in one shopping bag anymore, because it's too much for one arm to handle. That's a big decline from a man who was still doing 100 push-ups every day just a few years ago. (Here's a picture of Grandpa… isn't he cute?!)
Grandpa told my mom that he feels like he's slowed down since our family reunion celebrating his 90th birthday six months ago, and he asked her if she thinks he's declined since then. I've noticed that he sleeps more often these days. As my mom says, "if you live long enough, you get old." That's the unfortunate truth of the matter! Mom also said that even though she's old, she's still not ready to say goodbye to her dad. I know how she feels because I'll feel the exact same way about her in 32 years when I'm 60!

As I think about death/dying and losing loved ones, I'm so grateful for my knowledge that there's life after death and we'll see our loved ones again. It would be a much sadder without this knowledge.

This is an orchid that my grandpa bought at the grocery store while he was here. I absolutely LOVE orchids, so my mom said we could keep it in my room. My mom certainly has green thumbs, so I hope she can keep it alive!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

FAQs: My Diaphragm Pacer

When I was in my car accident, I broke my neck at the second cervical vertebrae, so the break was very close to the top of my spinal column. This meant that I lost control of all of the muscles from my neck down, including the diaphragm muscle in the abdomen that is used to breathe. So after my accident I was put on a ventilatora machine that is hooked up to a person's tracheostomy tube (trach) and pumps a breath of air into the person's lungs a certain number of times a minute (approximately 12 to 14).

I was on a ventilator for the first three years after my accident, and I actually never thought I would ever get off of the ventilator. After my accident I heard about Christopher Reeve getting a diaphragm pacer and I knew that I'd like to get one, although I didn't think it would ever be a real possibility for me since they seemed so few and far between. However, I decided to ask my doctor about it anyway to see what she knew about them. She didn't know much, but she did manage to track down the name of the doctor who performs the surgery to implant the diaphragm pacer electrodes on the diaphragm. She called him to inquire about the diaphragm pacer on my behalf.

[A little background history on the diaphragm pacer: The technology of diaphragm pacing has actually been around since the 1970's, but at that time electrodes were placed on the frenic nerve. In 2000, Dr. Raymond Onders developed a method of laparoscopically implanting the electrodes used for pacing on the diaphragm itself, instead placing them on the frenic nerve. Dr. Onders' laparoscopic method of implanting on the actual diaphragm was much less invasive, and had other benefits, too, but don't ask me to explain them, because I'm no doctor!]

When I first inquired about the diaphragm pacer back in 2006, Dr. Onders was the only doctor in the world who performed the surgery. He practices medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, so after finding out that he was so far away from me (near St. Louis, MO), I pretty much gave up any hope of ever having this procedure myself since I really wasn't in any position to travel hundreds of miles to Cleveland.

About a week or so after I asked my doctor about the diaphragm pacer, my mom got a phone call from Dr. Onders. I thought it was impressive that Dr. Onders took time out of his busy schedule to answer all of my mom's questionslike what the diaphragm pacer was, how it worked and if I might be a candidate for oneand talk to her for over an hour. Everything sounded so promising, so we didn't have to think about it too long before deciding that we were going to do it! I knew it would involve a long road trip to Cleveland (10 hours one way), which was daunting since at that time we'd never attempted taking a road trip since my accident. However, getting a diaphragm pacer was too good of an opportunity to pass up, so we started formulating a game plan of how to make all of the logistics of travel and staying in hotels work. Just two months later we set off on our way to Cleveland. (My mom went with me, of course, as well as my youngest sister, Chandra. We knew that we would need another adult to go with us, so we called my older sister, Annette. She didn't have any children at that time, so she was able to come with us without having to leave a bunch of young kids behind, like my other older sisters.) 

I had the surgery to implant the electrodes on my diaphragm on November 17, 2006the third anniversary of my accident. (I thought it was really cool that I was able to have the surgery done on the anniversary of my accidentwhat a wonderful way to celebrate my anniversary!) My mom, sisters and I were taught about the pacer and how I had to slowly condition my diaphragm muscle to be able to withstand pacing for long periods of time. (The diaphragm is a muscle, so it needed to be strengthened and gotten back into "shape" since I hadn't used it in three years.) The training process is kind of difficult to explain, so to make this long story shorter, I'll just say that everything was extremely successful, and I went from being 100% dependent on the ventilator, to transferring over to the diaphragm pacer 100% of the time in eight days. That was a record for the female patients at the time. I'm not sure if that record still stands, though.

People often ask if I have to go back on a ventilator at night, and the answer is no. I'm on the pacer 100% of the time and have been ever since I transitioned over to the pacer. (With the exception of one time when I was hospitalized due to complications that I experienced after having surgery to remove kidney stones, but that was just for a week while I regained my strength.) People have also asked if I can breathe without my diaphragm pacer (or ventilator) and the answer to that is also no. I am unable to breathe on my own, and am completely dependent on either a ventilator or the diaphragm pacer to breathe for me.

I've become much more adventurous since getting the diaphragm pacer. I wasn't very motivated to leave the house after my accident. I was happy and content to stay at home, since that was the place I felt the most comfortable. I didn't like going out in public unless it was absolutely necessary because I felt awkward out in public. I went to church every week and to doctor's appointments and occasionally to the store, but I really just preferred to stay at home.

After my accident I vowed that I would never go to Wal-Mart or the mall again. To me, that would've been the epitome of torture! I hated having all eyes on me, feeling like I was in the way of others as I tried to maneuver around tight, overcrowded aisles, all in addition to the thought that I might run into someone I knew before my accident. But over time I slowly started to venture out again and try new things. I was especially nervous the first few times I actually ate in restaurants or rolled through the mall and things like that. However, things got better as I went out more. I'm sure I would've gotten to the place of being more adventurous eventually, but getting off of the ventilator was definitely the catalyst. I just felt more normal-looking and confident, since there were no longer tubes going across my body that attached to the trach in the center of my throat, and no more ventilator to lug around, either. I know that I will obviously never look physically normal again, but ditching the noisy, conspicuous vent/tubes really did do wonders for my confidence, and it opened doors that I'd chosen to close.

I mentioned earlier that Christopher Reeve had a diaphragm pacer and that's where I first heard about it. Christopher was the third patient that Dr. Onders did this laparoscopic electrode implantation procedure on, and I was the 42nd. It was not FDA approved at the time I got it done, and I was actually part of the FDA study. Back in 2006, Dr. Onders was the only surgeon in the world who performed this surgery. After the diaphragm pacer became FDA approved more and more surgeons started doing this procedure, and now there are lots of surgeons that perform this procedure in dozens and dozens of hospitals/facilities all across the world. I'm happy that word of the diaphragm pacer is spreading so that more people like me can benefit from it and have a healthier, better quality of life.

The diaphragm pacer is made by Synapse Biomedical; visit their website to find out more information.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Making It Work

In one of my recent posts I wrote about home health services and who cares for me on a day-to-day basis. So in this post I thought I'd write about who's helped care for me over the years since several people have asked how I manage to get by since I don't have paid nursing care.

I'll start by saying that my main/head caregiver is my mom and that she's the only constant thing in my life when it comes to my caregivers. She's been here for me every step of the way and I know that she's not going anywhere barring some unforeseen dilemma, like her becoming ill, incapacitated or her becoming too frail to care for me. (I know there'll eventually come a day when she won't be able to care for me any longer and I don't know what I'll do at that time, but for now, it's us against the world.

I've had several wonderful friends and family members that have come and gone over the years and have been here to help for short periods of time to help shoulder the burden. My youngest sister Chandra has been here pretty much every step of the way along with our mom, although Chan didn't help with my care all that much at first.

After my accident I was in the hospital for seven weeks and then I went to rehab in Atlanta, Georgia, to learn how to live as a disabled person. It was my goal all along to get stable enough so that I could live at home and NOT be relegated to a nursing home. When I was finished with rehab, I returned home to Missouri to live in February of 2004. Taking care of me is much more than one person could handle on their own, so we had to make a plan of who would help my mom take care of me. Annette, one of my older sisters, agreed to move home to help Mom care for me (more about that in a minute), but she wasn't going to arrive until April, so that left a two month period when Mom and I would need help.

February 2004 – April 2004: During these months different ladies from my church would come over each weekday morning to help my mom bathe me and get me dressed and up for the day. This put me in a very awkward position having these women who'd known me as a normal, 19-year-old person just a few months previously now being responsible for helping with my intimate care. Although I was extremely grateful for their help, it bothered me having them see me in a such a vulnerable, helpless state.

In these two months I became close to two of my helpers; Linda, a lady from church that lives up the street, would come once or twice a week to help Mom get me dressed (she comes into play again later in my story), and Britney, another friend from church, who would come over a few days a week so that my mom could get out and run errands.

I met Britney at church a few months before my accident and we really hit it off. She was 10 years older than I was and we bonded over nursing (I was in nursing school at the time and she was a nurse). She'd recently moved to the St. Louis area with her husband who was here for a 2½ year orthodontic residency. It was so wonderful to have help from Linda and Britney since I really liked them and felt comfortable with them, instead of some of the other ladies from church who felt like strangers to me even though I'd known most of them for years. When my sister Annette moved home she took over for all of our other helpers and she and our mom took care of all of my care by themselves.

April 2004 – March 2005: Initially, it was my mom and older sister Annette who cared for me. Annette had graduated from college and was living on her own in Utah where she worked. After my accident she decided to move back home to help Mom care for me. I've never been in her position, but I imagine it was very difficult for her to move home after being out on her own for so many years. But after a lot of thought and prayer she decided to do what she felt was right, even though it was difficult.

The first year after my accident was the most challenging year of my life. Thankfully, I didn't realize how hard it was at the time, but now that I look back I realize just how difficult it was as I settled into my new life. I was extremely grateful for Mom and Annette, and as we settled into my new life we established a routine and things gradually got easier.

A few months after Annette moved home she met her future husband, Joseph. They became engaged and got married at the end of March in 2005. I was very happy for Annette and didn't begrudge her getting married one bit, but it did put Mom and me in a pickle again as we thought about who could help us.

Jan 2005 – June 2007: A few months after Annette got married and moved away our oldest sister Miriam and her family moved from Texas to St. Louis.  They say that the Lord moves in mysterious ways, which I know to be true because having Miriam's family not only move to St. Louis, but move to the same neighborhood that my mom and I lived in was a definite answer to prayer. Miriam was able to come down a few mornings a week to help our mom get me dressed and up for the day, and then Miriam would stay with me while Mom went out.

Linda (the friend from church that lives in the neighborhood that I mentioned earlier in this post) started helping again in 2005 after Annette moved. Linda would come down three mornings a week to help my mom get me dressed on the alternate days of the week when Miriam didn't come down. I'm so grateful for Linda because she's fun, she's helpful,… she's a saint!

June 2007 – January 2010: After living here for two years, Miriam's family moved away to Oregon in the summer of 2007 so that her husband could finish up his PhD. Mom and I were again faced with the predicament of needing assistance, so we had to find someone to help when Miriam had been coming over.

My youngest sister Chandra was still living at home and had just graduated from high school and would be starting college in the fall. She'd earned free tuition at a local community college, so her plan was to live at home and commute to school. Her classes were on Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays and she was off on Tuesdays/Thursdays, so I "hired" her to work for me to be one of my care attendants. This was a mutually beneficial situation for Chandra and our mom because Chan could earn money while going to school without having to get a job outside of the home, and help our mom with my care on Tuesdays and Thursday mornings.

January 2010 – August 2011: After Chandra finished her Associates Degree she decided to get a full-time job. Now that she was working she wasn't able to help on Tuesday and Thursday mornings anymore. But it wasn't long before someone else fell into place to fill the void… Lara, a young girl I knew from church that went to the same local community college that Chandra had been going to. For the next 18 months she'd come over two or three mornings a week and this worked out really well for Mom and me.

My older sister Kristin and her family lived with Mom and me for five months in the latter half of 2010 after her husband graduated from grad school while he was looking for a job. While Kristin was here she helped our mom with my care in the afternoons. It was so nice to have her help and I will always remember the grand times the three of us had while doing my bath in the afternoons. Although this was only a "temporary fix" since it was only for five months, but it was a blessed time!

August 2011 – present: When our helper Lara graduated with her two-year degree she decided to transfer to a university a few hours away. Mom and I again faced with the problem of needing help and we had to find someone that we could enlist to help with my care. It wasn't long before the Lord made a way for Mom and me to have the help that we needed. Kellie, one of our friends that we know from church offered to come over to help my mom get me dressed and up for the day three mornings a week when she found out that we needed help. Friend and neighbor Linda has also been consistently helping Mom since 2005, too, so Kellie and Linda are the ones that are currently helping Mom get me ready in the mornings.

Laura, one of my younger sisters, has also helped with my care over the years. I "hired" her shortly after she got married and she'd come down two or three afternoons a week to help Mom with my afternoon routine. She did this for about four years, but had to take a "leave of absence" from caring for me earlier this year because her life 's gotten a little too busy now that she has little two kids and has recently gone back to school. Laura's help was another temporary fix, but it was great while it lasted.

One of the major themes I hope you take away from reading the long rundown of the evolution of my care over the years is that God knows me and He knows of the trying times that my mom and I often find ourselves in, in regards to needing help and not having a permanent fix in place.

In this post I said that my mom's ideal solution to our situation would be to have all of my sisters live here locally so that they could all help Mom with my care. This hasn't happened, but at least most of my sisters have lived here at some time or another and have been able to help. Sharon is my only sister who's never been able to live here and help on a consistent basis, and she recently told me that she feels like it's her turn! She said she's sad that she's never had the opportunity to live here. I'm crossing my fingers that her husband will eventually get a job here, but that seems like a long shot since they seem firmly planted in Mississippi, but only the Lord knows for sure!

The next test of faith is going to be what Mom and I will do after Chandra gets married and moves away. Her plan is to get married next June and although I'm happy for her, I'm absolutely dreading that for myself! I'll miss her friendship and all of the service and help that she provides Mom and me with (especially since she's the one that does all of my beautifying!). I've just got to remember to have faith and know that something will work out!

I'm so grateful to belonged to a church where service is so important because all of the friends that have helped my mom and me over the years have them from church. I'm also thankful for my kind and loving family. I love this quote that says, "God notices us, and He watches over us. But it is usually through another person that He meets our needs." I often find it scary to press on in this trial since I'm not sure what will happen to my mom and me in the long run, but I know that God knows me and that He's not going to leave me hanging. I definitely wish I could see the "whole picture" to know what will become of us, but I take comfort in my confidence that the Lord will provide.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Annette's Birthday

My sister Annette celebrated her 33rd birthday while she was here visiting. It was fun to be able to celebrate her birthday with her since we live far apart and don't get to celebrate too many birthdays together in person.

Here's Annette in the new dress that Joseph got her for her birthday:
Above are pictures of the kids in the spider hats they made with Kellie while she watched them when Annette and Joseph were out with my mom and me that afternoon. Below are pictures of Annette opening presents and blowing out the candles on her chocolate truffle cake. So good!

New Quilt 'a la Annette

My sister Annette has a talent for making quilts, and she's made them for herself and her family, as well as for gifts for other people for special occasions, myself included. Earlier this year I asked her to make me a new quilt and she was sweet enough to oblige me and she's been working on it for the past few months. She surprised me with it when she came to visit a few days ago. Isn't it lovely?! I absolutely love it and it should help to make the chilly winter weather more bearable!

The pictures don't really show what the colors truly look like, but you get the gist of it.
A close-up look of two of nine patch squares:
Here you can see the back of the quilt and the flower-shaped pattern that my sister hand-quilted. (Yes, HAND-quilted… every stitch by hand!):
And finally a double-sided pillowcase to match:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Visit from the Coffeys

My sister Annette from Arkansas and her family came this past Monday to visit my mom and me and they left this morning. They are moving to Syracuse, New York, in two weeks for Joseph's new job, so this is going to be one of the last times we see them before they move. We had a really enjoyable visit and it was nice to be able to spend time with my sister and her family.

Annette had my mom take some family pictures for her. I wish I could've been the woman behind the camera, but Mom did a pretty good job. 
It was so hard to get the kids to cooperate! When Kimball was looking at the camera, Rebecah was looking away and vice-versa, but we'll forgive them since they're such cute kids!
Here's a picture of Annette and me and her family, and then Annette's family with our younger sister Laura's family, and finally a picture of Annette, Laura and Chandra. We should've gotten a picture of the four of us sisters together, but Channie was rushing to get to work. Fun times!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mom's Birthday Slideshow

One of my hobbies is making slideshows, and I think I'm pretty good at it. Not in a professional kind of way, or anything, since I've seen amazing professional work that I can only dream of replicating, but more in an amateur way.

Sometimes when my friends and family have seen some of the projects I've made they'll say something like, "I don't know how she does it…" (meaning how I'm able to do things on my computer, like make slideshows). I'm not gonna lie, it's a lot of work! It usually takes me about two months to complete a slideshow from start to finish because I always try to make everything as perfect as possible and that requires time. Time to piece everything together and time to watch the slideshow over and over to make sure everything is just so.

My latest project was a surprise slideshow for my mom's 60th birthday. I had to wait until Mom was out running errands or grocery shopping to work on the slideshow and I spent a lot of late nights working on it after she had gone to bed. It turned out really well, if I do say so myself. I always maintain that I know I've done a good job if someone's crying when the slideshow ends, and Mom's definitely has shed a few tears each time she's watched it. It was a lot of work, but I'm glad I could make a slideshow to honor my mom and best friend as she reached another milestone birthday.

If you have 12 spare minutes, take a look and let me know have you think I did!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Turning 30 (for the Second Time)

My mom turned the big 6-0 this past Tuesday, although she referred to it as turning 30 for the second time and we've been having a wonderful time celebrating. My sister Sharon drove up from Mississippi last Friday with her three youngest kids so that she could spend a few days with us and be here for the birthday festivities.
On Monday we went out to lunch at Pizza Hut for my mom's birthday lunch. Pizza Hut might not sound very glamorous, especially for a 60th birthday, but that was my mom's request. So my sisters Sharon, Laura Chandra and I (and Sharon's and Laura's kids) took our mom out to lunch. My mom's friend, Paul, came along, too. We had such such a nice time.
On Tuesday we had a birthday dinner for my mom. She requested one of her favorite meals – roast beef, mashed potatoes and cooked carrots. My sister Sharon also made mom her traditional birthday cake. For as long as I can remember my mom has always had carrot cake for her birthday. It's not my favorite, but that's what mom wanted.
I thought it would be fun for all of my sisters and me to go in on a joint gift for my mom instead of all doing separate, smaller gifts. I knew my mom would like a KitchenAid mixer, so that's what we decided on. My mom really wasn't expecting a big gift, so she was surprised. I love surprising people! I love the surprised look on my mom's face! [You'll have to excuse the poor lighting. I don't like what the inside lightning does to my pictures. The light above my kitchen table is especially harsh on people's skin, but I figure mediocre pictures are better than no pictures.]
What a fun day… I'm so grateful to all the people who helped make my mom's birthday a special one!
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