Archive for September, 2008

WEBMU Moistness: Part 1

WEBME = Whiney Expat Bloggers Meetup

I cannot take credit for the name – but it is accurate.

After living in Germany for just over 1 year, it’s hard not to feel a bit well, I guess a bit like you just don’t fit in anywhere.

There are so many things that are awesome about living here … and just as many that we all like to complain about.

But this posting isn’t about “those” differences. It’s about the meetup this past weekend … so here goes …

Friday late afternoon, we headed out after Bubba Joe’s nap and dropping off Mischka & Maggie at Oma & Opa’s. Typical grandparents they are, they spoil the crap out of ’em!

The drive went pretty smoothly and we found the hotel rather easily. At one point, as we were driving into Bremen there was a sign that showed downtown to the left. We took a right. Uh-oh I thought! But Alex reminded me that it didn’t mean anything – cities are designed in circles – going right doesn’t mean you’re driving away from downtown, it just means you’re coming in from a different direction!

Our hotel was very clean, nice and exactly what we wanted (thanks SO much to Danielle for getting us a reservation, even if we did end up taking your apartment and you got our room).

We spoke with J on the phone to catchup with the others that arrived on Friday. Not only did J start this whole WEBMU, not only does he simply ROCK, he left the restaurant to meet us!!! J-man – you really are an awesome guy! I’m so thankful to have met you!!!!!

Dinner – well, dinner was awesome!

Now, ya’ll might remember that I’m generally NOT impressed with German cuisine. That’s because it is generally not impressive. But both Adam and Cliff recommended the lamb cutlets and wow! They were fantastic!

And while we thought we had brought toys to entertain Bubba Joe, we didn’t realize they’d also be used by both Adam and Ian! Glad we could share the joy.

We didn’t get back to our hotel until almost midnight – where there was a BIG black MB van parked in front of the hotel. I said to BJD that it was probably our new friends (Danielle and G) in from Berlin. But we didn’t ask. Soon enough though, we heard kids moving in across the hall and next morning, we learned it was in fact our new friends.

Breakfast at the hotel (www.hotelresidence.com) was really good. We overtook a corner of the dining room and, like the rest of the weekend, tended to scare away others from sitting near us. Having 4 children, 3 of whom are 2-years old, I guess I’d want some distance too if I were them! But not our fellow expaters – nope.

As soon as I can figure out how to add links to their respective blogs I will … but until then I’ll be working on cleaning up a few pics to share.

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What a difference a day makes …

24 little hours.

Well, more like close to 72, but still.

We just got back home a few hours ago from a weekend trip to Bremen. We stayed in a hotel and ate some of the best food I’ve ever had in Germany (which isn’t necessarily saying much because I generally don’t like the food in Germany but this stuff was good!).

Oh, and most importantly, we met up with about 25 other American/Canadian expats living here in Germany for the 4th annual Whiny Expat Blog Meetup.

I’ll be posting WAY more later on Bremen itself, but just wanted to share with ya’ll that we’re back.

It was amazing to meet, talk and spend time with so many amazing individuals. You guys are amazing (especially Claire and J!)

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Today, 3 years ago

This Sunday, September 25, 2005, was different. You see, dad was back at the Clinic after about a week at the “bad place”. They thought he had C-Diff. Turns out he was dehydrated and I don’t know that we ever knew for sure the test results for C-Diff.

Alex and I went up to visit dad around 7:00 in the evening.

Before going up to the hospital, I actually prepared dinner AND cleaned up the kitchen.

When we arrived, we were told that dad did not sleep the previous night nor all day.

His breathing was somewhat shallow.

Alex and I sat on either side of dad. We spoke in German because I didn’t want to upset dad if I was just overreacting. I asked Alex if he thought dad’s breathing was due to exhaustion. He said yes and I agreed.

Dad was fortunately able to drink (nectar consistency) and kept asking for water. I moved the bed to a 90-degree angle for him to drink and noticed that some water would drip from the left-side of his mouth. That was new. Remember, I had been there every day (minus Labor Day weekend) and was very aware of dad’s condition.

We talked a little bit. I asked him the year. He said 2005. I asked the month, he first said October, then said August.

I asked him his birthday. He said 10/31/1938. I asked him how old he was. He said that was a lot of addition and subtraction.

He asked for more water. I sat him up again and again noticed that a little more was coming out.

I asked to speak with the nurse. They told me that they had just changed shifts and she would be in when she was done reviewing files.

Alex and I spoke again in German. I asked again if he thought it was because dad didn’t sleep. Alex said that he didn’t think so. He thought there was something else going on.

I asked dad how he was feeling. He said his stomach hurt and kept complaining about the back of neck. Alex massaged his neck and his back.

Alex went to the bathroom then came back.

I then went.

The nurse came in and I explained what I was seeing and how it was different from before. But I mostly told her that dad was complaining about his stomach. She took the wrap off his stomach, cleaned the feeding tube incision, placed a clean bandage over his incision (one was not there before) and adjusted his wrap. She was unsure if dad had a BM or how much he had urinated.

She felt around his stomach. He complained when she touched his lower left quadrant.

She said she was calling the doctor.

I left to go to the bathroom. I called Joe to find out if he was coming up. He said yes. I said good. You should be here.

When I came back from the bathroom, the nurse had taken his temperature. He had a slight fever and was beginning to sweat.

His breathing was becoming heavier and irregular.

But he was still able to talk. It was difficult to understand him. Sometimes it was because of how he spoke, but mostly it was because he began to make less and less sense.

I asked dad to tell me what time it was. He said it was 2:00. It was 8:40. He kept pointing to different things saying close the window, open the door. He began making less and less sense.

The doctor came in. We explained the history of dad’s stroke, what was done in the hospital. He asked about dad’s shunt. We said it was done about 2 ½ weeks prior.

He briefly examined dad, listened to his lungs and his heart. He asked dad if he was having any pains. Dad said no. He did not say that he had stomach pains or that the back of his neck hurt.

The doctor asked us to step out into the hallway to speak. He told us he didn’t know dad. He would need to make more tests to determine what was going on. But his first thoughts were that dad had one of two things going on: 1) he had another stroke, or 2) there was a blood clot in dad’s lung. The doctor explained that both of them are lethal. He then inquired about dad’s DNR status. He checked with the nurse exactly about the DNR. He wanted us to understand dad was very critical.

The doctor requested mom’s phone number to call her and let her know what was going on. I asked him if we should bring mom in. He said yes.

So Alex left to bring mom to the Clinic.

I talked to dad. He was becoming less and less coherent. At some point, I had asked dad what was going on. He said he wanted to live.

I explained to dad that in spite of his will to live, the doctor wasn’t sure if his body would make it. At this point, dad’s eyes were fully open, but he was staring off upwards and left. I tried to capture his attention, but couldn’t.

The doctor and nurse came back in, saying they were taking dad down for a CAT-scan, STAT. I asked how long he would be gone. The nurse began saying that since it was STAT it would be pretty fast. The doctor offered me to go down. I was honored. He said I could be with dad up to a point. I watched as the nurse and doctor finagled dad’s bed out of the room, into the hall.

Then they needed his chart.

Then the doctor briefly disappeared.

They tried to figure out who could be the extra one to go down, since the doctor wanted to speak with the technician after that CAT-scan and they would need someone to push the bed. They decided to take the sitter and another nurse said they would stay there until we returned.
I was standing in the hallway, unsure of what to do. I knew Joe was coming, but couldn’t leave my father. I decided that since my #1 priority was dad, Joe would understand. Thankfully, before we began, there was Joe. Walking down the hallway. Joe said that he saw me and then saw the bed. I then motioned for him to hurry up. The doctor said that we could both go.
Joe and I were “patient” (as patient as a Kulcsar is) watching a nurse, a doctor and an aide work their way down to the basement and find the CAT-scan.

They took dad into the room, moved him over and closed the door.

The aide asked if dad was on G-60. We said yes. She sat for him while he was on the regular floor. She didn’t recognize dad because of his weight loss, nor me, but immediately recognized Joe.

They finished the scan and the doctor came out. He explained that there was a lot of damage and he was unable to determine if any of it was new. I assured him that dad had numerous CAT-scans done during the previous 6 weeks and they should be in his file.

We walked with dad back up to his room.

His nurse came in to begin an IV. She found veins, but couldn’t get them to work. At the same time, a male nurse came in to check dad’s blood gas levels. Joe remained at dad’s right side (his good side) and I stepped away from the left side for the blood gas levels to be checked.

The male nurse said dad’s pulse was 53. Tears just fell from my face. I stood there, holding myself. He looked at me and said I should be there next to dad.

He didn’t do a blood gas.

She didn’t start a line.

Someone in the background said something about dad expiring.

The male nurse encouraged us to talk to dad. He said the hearing is the last to go.

We were in shock.

Joe just stood there, holding dad’s right hand.

I was on his left side, holding his left hand.

I began talking to dad about the dogs, about how Nikita and Max both tried playing with Mischka. Joe quickly started talking about his boys. I told dad how proud I am of him. How strong he has been and how much I love him. Joe told dad that he never told dad enough just how much he loves him.

We were watching the clock.

Every minute felt like fifteen. Every second lasted forever.

Dad’s breathing was becoming more forced and there were more pauses in between breaths.

Joe stepped out to call Alex to find out how far they were.

I moved over to dad’s right side. I took his hand. I told him again how I knew how much he wanted to live, but that his body wouldn’t let him. I cried. I told him again how much I love him. How proud I am of his strength. I asked him if he wanted to pray. He nodded yes. I prayed the Our Father with him. He didn’t verbalize the words. I then apologized because I know we’re not Catholic, but I told him how much I love the Hail Mary and prayed that. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. I realized this was the hour of my father’s death. I began to pray for him. For God to forgive all his sins, to accept my father into heaven, to ease all his pain. I told dad that I would tell mom how much he loves her and that he did his best to hold on.

Joe came back in and said they were just past West 117th. I looked right at Joe and said dad’s not gonna make it.

We just stood by his side, holding his hand, crying. At one point, I placed my ear to his chest and listened to his heart. Instead of a normal thump-thump, it was very squishy sounding. I told Joe to listen to dad’s chest. I told Joe it was an amazing sound.

The experience of watching your father die, of watching his life pass away, is very surreal. There are no words to possibly contain the different emotions, thoughts, etc. that you’re going through.

Joe and I told dad again how much we love him. We thanked him again and again for all he has done for us and for our family. We told him that we would be sure to tell mom how much he loved her and how he tried to wait.

A neurosurgeon came in. The doctor and nurse quickly followed. They were unable to catch him in the hall. He introduced himself and explained that he wanted to tap dad’s shunt to test the fluid. He asked us to leave the room. I explained that I had been there for so many things, I wanted to stay. Joe stepped out.

He cleaned dad’s incision. Put on his gloves and began to draw fluids. He inserted the needle and began to expand it. Nothing came out. He pulled the needle out and tried again.
I told the doctor thank you for trying, but it was enough. I told him that I knew my dad was dying and that I was okay with it. I told the doctor I didn’t want dad to have anymore physical pain.

He looked at me gratefully. He shook my hand and extended his sympathies.

I didn’t think dad would listen. He’s stubborn like that.

But he did.

I don’t know when, but I realized dad had not taken another breath. I don’t know when his last breath was. I just remember telling Joe, dad’s not breathing. I then said it again, a little louder, he’s not breathing.

There was nothing special about dad’s last breath. At least nothing I noticed. It was very peaceful. It wasn’t troubled, and it didn’t look any more painful than anything else he has been through in his life.

He wasn’t struggling to breathe. He was just trying to stay with us. At one point, I leaned in and told dad that I didn’t want him to die and that if he would hang in there, I would give him anything he wanted to eat or drink.

Dad died shortly. His life passed away.

It was about 10:15 pm.

Alex and mom showed up around 10:30. Mom walked in, with a smile on her face, asking how he was. Joe and I had agreed to not tell her over the phone that dad had died. We said dad passed.

She didn’t really comprehend. It took a moment. She said, what? We said dad passed.

I’ve never heard mom cry like that.

We told her that he tried to wait for her. We told her that it was peaceful. He wasn’t in pain. We told her that he loves her so much.

She just cried.

Joe and I agree. Neither one of us ever thought we could watch someone die, much less hold their hand.

I remember when my grandma died, my grandfather leaned over her casket and kissed her. I thought that was gross. How could you touch a human that was dead? I now understand.

You see, dad’s physical body was the only thing left I had of him. I couldn’t stop touching his arm, sitting next to him on the bed. I didn’t want to leave the room.

I find it difficult to believe he is gone. I know, believe me, I know he is better off.

For a brief moment, while he was dying, I heard someone say that mom said no intubation. And
I thought, why not? That would keep him alive. That would help him breathe.

But I knew that’s not right. Dad would be a vegetable.

And we couldn’t put him through anymore.

I know dad is in heaven, watching over us. The only pain he has is from our pain.

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It’s times like these I wish I could turn back the clock.

To tell you how much you mean to me just one more time.

I know I did everything I could.

But I miss you.

I thought the hole would have begun to heal by now.

But it hasn’t.

It feels almost as raw as it did that night you left.

I can still see your eyes, lifeless, staring, gone.

I can still hear your heartbeat, fading, muffled, slowing.

And I can’t believe it’s been 3 years. 3 damned years of hell and pain and anguish and hurt.

Right now, I just miss you.

You were my rock. But I didn’t know it.

You were my hope. But I didn’t know it.

You were my everything. But I didn’t know it.

And since I no longer have you … I don’t know.

I live. I have to.

But some days, like today, are harder than others.

Maybe it’s the wonderful hormones pumping through my body with this extra life growing inside of me.

Maybe it’s the miracle of life itself that makes it hurt.

Or maybe it’s just that the pain I have felt since you died is much deeper than I realized. And it will take so much more time to heal than I’ve given to it yet.

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For the love of Pyrex …

I broke my liquid measuring cup.

It shattered into thousands of tiny bits and pieces.

All over the kitchen floor.

And why did it break? Because I was playing daredevil – how many clean dishes that were just handwashed can be stacked before they fall … and the only piece that fell was my one and only liquid measuring cup.

It shouldn’t upset me so much. Excepting that they measure ingredients here by weight.

I purchased some great dry measuring cups – metal Kitchenaid brand at Kohl’s with my mom before leaving Ohio.

But I didn’t think I’d really need more than one liquid Pyrex.

It’s been indestructable up to now.

And now, I’ll have to wait until next summer, when my sis and her fam come to visit to bring another one – it isn’t exactly the type of thing you’d mail …

I’m still sad though. I miss my Pyrex.

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Bubba Joe has a new love.

It’s not yogurt.

It’s not chocolate.

It’s not even dancing.

(and all three of those are things he loves.)

He loves penguins.

Honest to goodness LOVES them.

It all started with the “Go, Diego, Go” dvd and has since morphed into a love of watching “Happy Feet”.

His dad and I both thought for sure that the scary part of the movie, you know, where the seal tries to eat Mumble, would scare little man. Nope. He loves it. (I don’t get it – quite frankly, it scares me!) He sits and makes this grrrr! sound when the bad guys show up.

And then he wants to dance like Mumble.

What an interesting little man …

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My niece, aka Bubba Joe’s Cousin, is bridging this weekend for girl scouts. She’s moving up from a junior to a cadet.

She’s also finishing up her bronze award this weekend too.

She rocks.

I’m so very proud of her.

Rock on little girl!!!

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It was a long day today. I knew it’d be on the longer side, I just didn’t realize how long it would actually be … it was a day of gestational diabetes testing (gd) and ultrasounds (u/s).

The gd test was the extended 3-hour. Unlike back in Ohio, they drew blood by an actual finger prick (yeah! that many fewer vials!!!). And unlike back in Ohio, I had my results immediately ~ I’m just over the border. Yup, I’ve got gd again.

Then on to the u/s. Baby was NOT cooperating. What should have taken 1 tech and 15 minutes turned into 2 docs and nearly an hour and a half!!!!! Don’t worry though, everything looks great!!! (and NO, we still don’t know what it is yet!)

After the u/s, we headed back down to my high-risk doc, then to the dietician … oh! that was fun!

The dietician was to be found, where else? but in the kitchen! Seriously. As in the kitchen of the cafeteria. We found our way to the cafeteria (after a wrong turn initially) then were asked to wear paper hats as we walked through the kitchen. I’ve kept them as souveniers! He didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know from the first time around with Bubba Joe – excepting that he doesn’t recommend lots of sugar-free stuff because of the higher calorie content.

Then back down to my doc again, then back up to the diebetes specialist – who was the quickest of them all! 15 minutes later and we’re back down in my docs office, scheduling my next appointment in 4 weeks and on our way back to sick ole Bubba Joe (he just can’t kick this cold ~ and he did NOT nap well at Oma & Opa’s – oh the fun we’ll have tonight!) with a bag full of papers to fill to weekly fax in and diabetes testing supplies.

I’m exhausted.

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We got up this morning, ate breakfast, got dressed and went to the city.

Today is the Potato Fest. Imagine that. A festival about potatoes. In Germany.

We must have gotten there WAY to early, because well, there were no stands and it just felt like a normal Saturday in the city.

We left, went to Lidl (just a notch up from Aldi) because water was on sale and also picked up some milk, wurst (lunch meat, but Bubba Joe only calls it wurst (with a “v” sound for the w)), and dish soap. Oh yeah, and some great puzzles for Bubba Joe, his cousin here, and some Christmas presents for his cousins back in Ohio. (Shhh, don’t tell them!)

We got home and I went upstairs.

Oh yeah, I also found peanut m&ms. They are one of my greatest weaknesses.

I think I just finished a half bag of them.

And now, as I sit here, I realize I don’t hear anyone. I have no clue where the boys are, much less the doggies.

Oh wait, they just got home. Hmmm … wonder where they went!

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Yup, he’s home sick. Either a cold or allergies, or both.

Poor guy.

He just got back from the doctor’s office.

She gave him a note – he’s not to work today nor tomorrow! (Isn’t that cool? Your doc can tell you NOT to work?!? And it’s accepted?!?)

Hope he feels better soon …

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