Pikes Peak

My first thunderstruck encounter with Colorado was when I laid eyes on Pikes Peak; my parents’ back deck had a breathtaking view of this extraordinary mountain cosseted in the Rocky Mountain Range (oft referred to as the Front Range; should you cross over the mountains and stand on the slopes, it would not be the back range.)

I’ve touched the top of Pikes Peak. I ventured up there when my Aunt Helen came out for a visit. We boarded the Cog Railway and ascended into the clouds. It was a lovely (and lengthy) trip filled with beautiful scenery. Once we passed the permafrost line (lichen or bust) we found ourselves gasping for oxygen and surveying a landscape of ice, brown granite rocks and solitude. There is a gift shop up there.

The City of Colorado Springs is ecstatic about its association with Pikes Peak. Their website has much to offer in the way of history.

Pikes Peak was named for Lt. Zebulon Pike, who first saw the mountain in 1806, but never reached the top…and predicted nobody ever would!

The earliest carriage road up the mountain was opened in 1889. The Pikes Peak Highway was built in 1915, at the then-staggering price of $350,000.

Katharine Lee Bates wrote the words to the classic American anthem "America The Beautiful" after her trip to the summit of Pikes Peak in 1893.The annual Pikes Peak International Hill climb hosts top race car drivers who challenge the Peak at speeds of over 100 miles per hour.

The first Race to the Clouds was run in 1916, making it the second-oldest race in America…second only to the Indianapolis 500!

Every year, hundreds of hardy souls take part in the Pikes Peak Marathon, running from Manitou Springs to the summit…and back again!

Each New Year's Eve, a local climbing group [The Pikes Peak AdAmAn Club: http://www.adaman.org/] hikes up the mountain and presents a spectacular fireworks display that is visible as far away as Denver.

Pikes Peak Timeline
1803- Mountain is acquired by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase

1806- "Discovered" and unsuccessfully climbed by Lt. Zebulon Pike

1820- Dr. Edwin James of the Long Expedition successfully climbed the mountain

1858- Mrs. Julia Archibald Holmes was the first woman to climb the mountain

1869- Gold rush lured prospectors and explorers to the Colorado Territory - "Pikes Peak or Bust"

1889- The first Carriage road was completed

1893- Katharine Lee Bates ascended the mountain in a prairie wagon, inspiring the words for "America the Beautiful"

1916- The Pikes Peak Auto Highway opened to the public

1963- Land above 14,000 feet declared a National Historic Landmark

Source: City of Colorado Springs - Topic Pages

I am captivated by the ecology and geology found here. My love of paleontology and the rock formations found in Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming grew with each passing year. I was avid in my exploration of these areas prior to meeting Better Half – the marine biologist. I do not know if he found anything alluring about a bunch of old ugly rocks in the Badlands.

Geological Data:

Pikes Peak is not a volcano and has never been one. The granite rock of which the mountain is made was once hot molten rock located as deep as 20 miles beneath the earth's surface. The molten rock hardened and cooled below the earth's surface as much as one billion years ago. Great forces within the earth's crust pushed the rocks upward through a process called uplifting which created a dome-shaped mountain covered with a thick layer of soil and softer rock. Erosion and weathering loosened the softer layers and carried them away.

After hundreds of thousands of years of erosion and weathering, a tall granite mountain lay exposed like a large piece of stone waiting for the sculptor to shape it. Anyone seeing this ancient mountain would not have recognized it as the mountain we know today as Pikes Peak. It took the movement of huge glaciers that once existed on the peak to sculpt the mountain. The glaciers lasted about one million years and that ice age ended around 11,000 years ago.

Acting like a giant cookie cutter, the powerful bodies of ice gouged out the rock and left deep, straight-walled basins like the Bottomless Pit with its sharp drop of 1700 feet. The u-shaped canyons that lead down Pikes Peak were carved by the following "rivers of ice". Other v-shaped valleys owe their existence to ordinary streams.

Source: City of Colorado Springs - Topic Pages

I wish that I could return to that period in my life. (I would bring Better Half with me, of course.) If there is anything that I do miss about this area, it surely is having dinosaurs in my back yard. Ohio, for all her green splendor, hasn't anything like that.

Pikes Peak has live-time cameras set up. These views are from this afternoon:

Northwest Camera

North Camera

These were taken this afternoon:

Front Range, as seen from Holy Apostles parking lot

Pikes Peak framed by trees, Holy Apostles parking lot

Holy Apostles view

Peterson AFB Commissary parking lot.



Colorado Springs, still the Little London

WARNING: This post is cynical.

There's a hole in the world like a great black pit
and the vermin of the world inhabit it
and its morals aren't worth what a pig could spit
and it goes by the name of London.
At the top of the hole sit the privileged few
Making mock of the vermin in the lonely zoo
turning beauty to filth and greed...
I too have sailed the world and seen its wonders,
for the cruelty of men is as wondrous as Peru
but there's no place like London!
~ Sweeney Todd, “No Place Like London”.

Colorado Springs is known as Little London for a reason. There once was a distinct separation of class. It was almost a parody of a Dickens novel. Times have changed but it will always have the Little London moniker.

This town seems intent to prove that it's a cesspool. It is currently embroiled in a ludicrous battle. Girls Gone Wild shot a video at a local club and the Opportunists (see Blizzard post below) flashed their titties with abandon; the club was promptly and temporarily shut down.

The Opportunists brazenly defend the right of Opportunist Bimbos to flash their titties. "It is free speech," they scream. "Our Opportunist Bimbos have the right to flash those teeny things!" Let's all flash our titties, shall we? It's PC! It's bold! It's our American right to show how White Trash we are!

I did write: White Trash. Loud, braying, puffed up, Opportunist White Trash. Classless and base, repugnant and puerile substandard knobs.

People wonder why I don't have any sympathy for the girls who end up gang raped after a night at the club. Oh poor little girls. Next time please forget your right to free speech and use your common sense.

Aut, you're a bitch!

No, I am a realist. Why should American rights equate to the right to make an ass of yourself and then cry "unfair!" when shit hits your fan? Why should society bail anyone out of their own mistakes?

"Ok Ms. Jones, tell me again how you were raped."

"I flashed my Opportunist titties, and let him fondle them. I did it for the video camera."

"Ms. Jones, video camera? Do you mean the group known for the porn series Girls Gone Wild?"

"Yes. I was standing on the chair and I bounced up and down so they would jiggle, and I let him put both hands on them. Then I left, and in the parking lot the guy grabbed me from behind and dragged me into his car."

"But Ms. Jones, you let him fondle your breasts and bottom in public..."

"Yes, but I didn't mean it!"

Aut hasn't any sympathy. Were it a man whipping out his penis in that night club, he would have been removed.

Colorado Springs passionately defends the club and the GGW group. Feminists, are you soft in the head? The girls were used as clueless tools to promote drink sales and porn (by a company that has found itself in trouble in the past due to using minors in its films.) We wouldn't tolerate that shit a decade ago. We would smack down the penis thinkers. Of course, this generation wouldn't know self-respect if it were branded on their... parts.

Aut, you're so angry. Are you a fundie conservative?

No. I'm not angry, either. I am disgusted and outspoken about it. I'm liberal on far too many things, but I have always stood against porn when it involves foolish girls who unwittingly debase their bodies for the sake of being naughty. Become a porn star and get paid, if you must copulate on film. Sign a contract that will protect you. I certainly won't respect you: you're a man-slave and a tool.

Finally, I need to add that the authorites were in the club because they are cracking down on underage drinking in that specific location. This would indicate that some of the girls in that club might be (probably were) minors. That isn't to say that the Opportunist titties belonged to minors. It does indicate that minors were exposed to porn, which is a crime that they, and the club and the adult Opportunists, can be prosecuted for. Teen Arrested for Posting Nude Pics

But really, it's all about free speech.

There's a hole in the world like a great black pit
and it's filled with people who are filled with shit!
And the vermin of the world inhabit it!
~ Sweeney Todd, "No Place Like London"


The Great Colorado Blizzard 2009

Colorado weather has never impressed me. The current “blizzard” is no exception. The only danger during a Colorado Blizzard is the Coloradoan itself. Granted, the homeless population suffers and the wind chill and wet wind are a danger to them. God bless each of them as they endure this bitter weather.

Coloradoans are an odd breed. This “blizzard” has crippled the town. The streets are an icy morass, prismatic if not captivatingly crystalline in places and threateningly obsidian in others. The dastardly Coloradoan will not lay salt – “Oh God! The Environment,” they shriek even as they power up their diesel trucks, crank up their wood-burning pellet stoves and throw out another plastic Aquafina water bottle.

My Dad called the house yesterday and asked how the roads were. They were clear when I went out earlier in the day. By the time that he ventured homeward, they were a snarled mess of SUV carcasses and tow trucks. Were the roads that bad? Yes (thanks to the lack of salt combined with the idiocy of the typical Colorado transplant from California.) Dad made it safely home by doing a steady 20 mph. Dad is a native New Yorker wizened by his time driving in New York City.

My sojourn began when I noticed a few grains of snow. Yes, grains. Colorado has a variety of Snow Types. I left the house and found myself jostled among the panicked human herd.

Kmart was fairly empty but the supermarket, Safeway, was a nightmare. People were packed like sardines, jockeying at the check stands. Two sagging granolas tangled with a granny; Ensure cans clanged against the shopping cart rails and Kashi Go-Lean spilled onto the floor. People were churlish as they surveyed the quickly falling snow. Gazelles at a water hole waiting for a lion’s pounce could not have done a better job at conveying the level of anxiety exuding from these foolish Coloradoans.

Excuse me, but who in the hell shops moments before a blizzard?

Had this been Back East instead of The Land of Zero Oxygen, things would have been more civil. People would have checked their pantries five days ago (when the potential blizzard threat was broadcast). Any shopping today would be for last minute essentials, such as a dozen eggs or perhaps some fresh bread. It would certainly be orderly.

I walked to the car and chanted my now-too-familiar mantra: God get me out of this shithole and into a civilized place. God get me back to culture.

It’s a good mantra. It’s a variation of my old Colorado mantra. The new one simply adds “back” to it. It’s not a very clever mantra, but it wouldn’t do to walk through a snow-infested parking lot chanting “F____ Colorado and F_____ the people and their fake lives.” Of course, that’s a back up mantra and I do sometimes chant it when I drive.

Road rage. I have not lost my temper while driving in major cities back east. I lost my temper driving here on the very first day. I felt it was justified that I cuss out the ugly diesel truck with it’s dangling plastic scrotum (it’s a Colorado thang) as the driver, bereft of oxygen, was too stupid to hang up his phone and stay in his own lane. He would have ploughed into me had I not honked. He chose to give me the finger instead. I held my tongue. The poor SOB would have to go home and tell his wife some bi-polar disabled chick beat the crap out of him with his own arm, otherwise.

There are two types of people in Colorado: native and transplant. The native Coloradoans are a decent sort, very down to earth. Their families have lived here for at least three generations. They can drive in snow. The transplants are either military, Opportunists, or “needs must”. Of those three, only the opportunists give Colorado Springs and Denver a bad name. They comprise the largest portion of asshole motorists on the road; they are responsible for the ersatz eclectic feel that permeates the area like the stench of a rotting cat carcass accidentally left under an ex-girlfriend’s bed. They are as intelligent as primordial paramecium turds (think about it.) They are from CA and TX and they’ve come here because they can’t hack it in CA and TX. They came here to “be somebody” and we, the visitors and soldiers and “needs must” people, are forced to put up with them. The nature is irrefutably dazzling; the Opportunists occlude it.

Poor Dick’s coffeeshop was once a cool place to hang out. Someone once scrawled, “where will you be when the bomb drops” on the restroom wall there. I scrawled underneath it, “In NORAD’s shadow.” I would like to recant my graffiti response. I meant to say, “Trapped on Powers during a snow flurry, neck to neck with shitheads.”

“Aut, what were you doing out? You’re harping on them doing last minute shopping!”

I ran a quick errand. These people were buying enough food to last them a month. They were grabbing anything they could get their hands on and chucking it into a cart. Surely one person does not need 10 packs of hamburger buns and five bottles of ketchup!

My errand, by the way, was for “must haves” on the off chance of an early arrival of the Evil Red Dragon. I added ginger ale to the mix simply because I was shopping anyway. I was not trying to clobber a Boy Scout with a baguette, shove the cashier, nor whine that I simply had to be at the front of the line because my toddler was still in the car.

That wasn’t an exaggeration. The Opportunists were in rare form – they were displaying their true behavioral patterns. God bless that wretched Boy Scout.

I walked out of the grocery store and visited Walgreens instead. Customers in the line ahead of me were already commenting on what they had seen at the grocery store. Madness. Utter madness.

The natives and other people have been delightful to be around.

Ox emailed this morning to tell me that a mutual friend and fellow Buckeye, Ian, was in Denver for a wedding. Honey, I hope that the Denverites are behaving in a more civilized manner (they usually do.) He had better snowfall than we.

Snow in the screen.

The wind packed snow between screen and door.

Alas, poor fountain…

Brrrrrr. Black ice on the street but not much powder accumulation.

The back door is now frosted. Rather pretty!



I just rejected five comments that I meant to publish. Damn blogger. If you do not see your comments here (they were beautiful, thank you dear Friends!) please forgive me.

Colorado - a Sunday

Mum might come home tomorrow. We’re pleased as well as apprehensive. To clarify: I am apprehensive; her body has not reset its gastric clock.

Dad cleaned up the yard while I scoured a bathroom. I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked. We needed to go shopping, and we had to make dinner. This cut a chunk out of my cleaning time. We then went to the hospital because the nurses and CNA’s would not “walk” Mum. They had taken her around the hall by the time that we arrived.

Tonight was a quick clean. I will scour the kitchen tomorrow. I intend to also do the television room, as it bears the scars of Mum’s nicotine habit. (I am a former smoker so I do know how difficult it is to quit. Mum spent fourteen days sans cigarettes without even so much as one withdrawal pang. She can make the effort to not smoke at home – we hope.)

Dad and I decided on steaks for dinner (with plenty left over for tomorrow.) He hasn’t grilled outdoors in two years. Wasps made themselves at home in his BBQ grill a season or two ago. The nest was abandoned and a good scouring took care of any dust. (I was secretly hoping to torch some bugs.)

It is almost 11 PM in Colorado. I’ve drained the last of my energy reserves. I’ll leave you with a few pictures from today.


Alas, poor Wasps, we knew you well.

Scrub, scrub, scrub.

The garden angel.
Her wings lay on the ground next to her.
She is a forlorn looking thing.

Colorado Blue Spruce

More Spruce

The fountain that we cobbled together today.

Another view.

Colorado Haunts

I traveled through time today. I drove down familiar streets with hazy names (I never bothered to memorize street names) and saw a few of the places that I called home.

I do not pull the “I remember when…” routine. I have eidetic memory as it concerns places and situations. I had total recall of my Aunt’s house, to include where she kept things in her cupboards, when I visited Ohio for my cousin’s wedding; my last Ohio trip was when I was 12, for my Nonna’s funeral.

My memory is a blessing and a curse. I can not recall what I ate this morning (because I did not really care) nor do events flow like chapters in a book unless I choose to look back on that memory. My medications have dampened some of my recall ability, however I do have periods where my mind visits upon a stressful moment in life and, once that memory returns, I relive it as if it were fresh.

I left Penrose Hospital around 2 PM. Mum was waiting to have her wound attended to (she would have gone home by now but for an infection along her suture line. The surgical site was not cleaned until days after the procedure and, much to my dismay, the infection traveled inward. She is on a “pump” and will remain in the hospital until at least Monday. Her PICC is out, she is on solid foods, she can clean her body after a BM or urination and she is back to her old self – feisty, amusing, intelligent and rather bored by her surroundings. She has not smoked a cigarette in over ten days. I’m so proud of her!)

I opted to head south on Weber St. in order to pass by one of my old haunts. My parents’ home sat on the corner of Weber and Caramillo. It’s a lovely four-square replete with porch and sunroom. The back yard was a beautiful marriage of flagstone and hundred-year-old trees. The new owners have painted the home a brighter shade of blue, put in a large rod-iron fence, and removed the dog run. It does look nice but it just isn’t the same.

I was married at that house. I drove by slowly, allowing only a few minutes of staring. In that instant, my mind stripped away the cheap plastic children’s play set. Better Half stood underneath the maple tree, so handsome. Dad and I left the front porch and made our way to the yard, my train (intended for a romantic chapel) bouncing over the flagstone and pebbles. We entertained our guests in that small yard. Mum’s cooking groaned on the buffet tables inside the house and our guests contentedly rubbed their bellies as they pushed back their chairs outside. Our wedding was very simple and very private.

I passed Weber and traveled my ancient path towards Royer. Here is where I spent my late teen and early twenties years. As I turned down the street, bittersweet memories poured forth. My hands gripped the steering wheel; I expected the ghosts of my past to rush out at me.

Monument St. has an old (crumbling!) house that Better Half and I rented shortly before our marriage. It was a dump but it was our first house together. I barely looked at it. The damn thing leaked, the landlord never fixed anything, our bed didn’t fit in the stairwell, and Better Half and I worked different shifts and never saw each other. There were funny memories attached to this place: Better Half’s first attempt to impress my parents (the chicken and shrimp were nearly raw!) and our picnic table fiasco.

I headed further down Royer and caught site of the house that shaped me. Someone divided the building into three apartments. I lived in all three over a period of time during my young adult years.

I am no longer in my late 30’s. I am nineteen and my hair is shaved on the sides. I wear dark sunglasses, a leather biker jacket and an attitude. I am driving an old Chevy Nova (V-8 and untouchable) and a LoA tape blares. I chew on my Marlboro filter as I park. The engine cuts off and Julie pokes her head out of the top window. “Coffee,” she says.

The moment passes. There is now cheap fencing partially surrounding the property. The house appears to be vacant. Rusty, my fellow paleontological junkie, has moved to WY and works at a museum as curator. Julie, my best friend for over a decade, is MIA and I don’t feel any loss – she tried to screw me over. Scott and Tomy are not there to share the front porch with us. Rhonda and Nancy moved on ages ago. You can’t go back in time. You can only relive a moment.

I chose to relive the moments that Jeff and I shared there: Sunday Morning Coffee, a bedroom window that flooded the basement when it rained, tearing up a waterbed simply because Waterman was on my last nerve, a beautiful gold claddagh that no longer fits my finger and a whale pendant with a dangling crystal. (I love cetaceans. Pity that they became a WT fad! I refuse to wear any of my jewelry unless it drops out of fashion. The same goes for any jewelry depicting dinosaurs, wolves or crows. I appreciated these creatures’ beauty long before Brittany, Jennifer, Kayla and Crissy came along and embraced them as the symbol of their post-virginal teenage feminine ilk. I’m sorry if that sounds a touch cynical but I really do not have respect for the average American “tee hee” teenager. I hated my own teenage peer group.)

T&L Market was holding strong. This neighborhood store has been a fixture since 1900. Lisa (the L in T&L) still manned the counter. We chatted briefly, reliving a few neighborhood memories. I felt a sad twinge: this is where I would walk with Julie’s kids, Meghan and Bobby. I’d buy them a candy bar. I helped raise those children, treating them as if they were my own. I was “dad” to them. We’d conduct science experiments in the kitchen, play football in the street, and read stories before bed. I build Bobby a bike after his was stolen. I spent hours watching Meghan play “Little Mermaid” in the living room. Julie cut me out of their lives when I became engaged to Better Half. She was jealous of our relationship.

I swept past our house on Parkridge. I did not recognize it but Better Half told me this evening that I should look for the Japanese cherry tree that we planted when we moved in. I think that I’ll swing by there again and try to take a picture (if the tree is still there.)

Colorado Springs has a very pretty veneer to it. It attempts to promote itself as sophisticated. It is still the same yokel town that I recall but now it hides behind its window dressing. I supposed that it believes the window dressing is an accurate reflection of what it is. Consider the dog and his bone. He crosses the bridge and sees a dog with a bone rippling in the water. He wants both bones and so he barks, dropping his bone. Colorado Springs wants what simply isn’t. It compares itself to other places and attempts to steal away their thunder. How sad that this city loses what is precious during its attempt to be what it can’t.

Happy Birthday Better Half!

Today is Better Half’s birthday. This is the first birthday that we have spent apart from each other.

I met Better Half at a birthday party years ago. It was a cold March and he had slipped on a tropical ensemble: shorts, an obnoxious whale shirt, and earth muffin sandals with short socks. He would have looked peculiar standing next to the average person. He was a hothouse tropical flower awash in a sea of bleakness: we were dressed in our customary leathers, or our horribly gothic gear, or suit jackets with thin ties, or Jamaican duds. We were an eclectic mixture of people and we simply did not have anyone to fill the Cheeseburger in Paradise opening. I don’t think we even wanted anyone to fill it. Better Half carved his own niche and we found ourselves welcoming him.

Better Half is conflict in motion. He was in the military (UDT in the Navy and Airborne in the Army); he has seen combat and has probably taken down his share of the enemy yet his nature is gentle. He watches Animal Planet and cries when the ASPCA picks up a starving dog. He once lamented the loss of his mountain bike, Mr. Twain, which (if I recall correctly) was painted fuchsia and purple. He was a marine biologist washed ashore in the high desert plains of Colorado. He was a morning person.

“Morning people”. Those are people who wake up happy without the need of coffee. Better Half would bolt out of bed as if he’d just down ten boxes of Frosted Chocolate-Coated Sugar Blasties. Add three pots of coffee on top of the cereal and you can get a picture of what living with Better Half was like back then.

It’s amazing that I didn’t smother his enthusiasm… with a pillow.

Better Half has matured over the years. His exuberant soul still behaves as if it was sixteen (or six) but his body counterbalances that (as if he were sixty.) His smile still warms my heart and his perfectly blue eyes remind me of the ocean. His hair (what is left of it) is a handsome shade of silver.

Fifteen years later it is the anniversary of when we first met, and we’re apart, but only physically. He is still that sweet, spastic knucklehead that I fell in love with. He’s a perfect counterpart to my own cynical and muted bearing.

Happy Birthday, lover. I’m sorry that I can’t be there with you. I think of you hourly (seriously, I do!) and I hope that I’ll return to you soon.

I have to throw in an "old man" picture!

Photographs From Colorado

These are a few pictures from Colorado. I really have not been able to sit down and compose the blog entries planned for these.

Dad's remote collection
It controls these
Your eyes do not deceive you - that's a Betamax!
Dad with Pikes Peak as a backdrop.
Dusty (freshly groomed)
The road to my last home in Colorado, the House on Chestnut.
Mum's Hand

Colorado Journal 3/10-3/17

March 10, 12:30 PM
St. Francis Hospital
Surgical Waiting Room
Mum arrived in anesthesiology bay around 10:15 AM. Her anesthesiologist is a smart fellow who worked around her various allergies. She did her best to confuse him (not her fault at all) by trying to relay what the last anesthesiologist told her regarding her trachea.

I have some concerns regarding the various invasive medication delivery options. She will have an epidural (semi-permanent implantation in the spinal column) as well as a main line.

Her anesthesiologist did explain the possibility of a pneumothorax, and chest tube during the main line insertion but I had the feeling that Mum didn’t really catch on. Her eyes were glazed from nervousness (or outright fear). I had some concerns (unspoken) regarding the potential for infection or spinal cord damage.

These are normal risks of course. I also had concern over secondary infection caused by her current roommate who, being diabetic had open wounds that would not heal. The daughter has been tending (worsening) her condition and this woman would handle the bandages and then touch the bathroom door handles, the faucet handles and the walls. The only thing that she did not touch was the soap dispenser.

Mum’s anesthesiologist and surgeon both feel that she needs to be away from anything that can complicate her recovery. I do not know if this means a new room or a private room. My hope is that she will have a private room.

Mum received communion this morning, a nibble of a crumb of the Eucharist. The same nurse told her it was ok. Perhaps she meant it was ok to pray? The anesthesiologist was indignant over the whole thing; that tiny crumb could cause her stomach to react (to the food stimulus) by producing acid. I trust him.

The nurse appeared miffed when Dad and I went up to the room to pack up Mum’s hoard, er… things. (Mum packed enough spiritual reading material to last her a month in the hospital.) I think that I’ll stay the night to help Mum have a better night.

1:00 PM
We are waiting for the surgeon to arrive. He predicted a two to two and a half hour surgery. I think we need to add a half hour or more to that in order to count the anesthesiologist’s procedures beforehand.

Dad and I had lunch downstairs (it’s Mexican Menu today.) He’s snoring and I need to keep an eye open for Dr. Fischer. The waiting room is very large and interspersed with electrical outlets, cushioned chairs and live plants. It reflects the decorating scheme found throughout the hospital complex. In ten years it will be as cheery as a bad 80’s waiting room.

Thursday, March 12
5:30 AM
St. Francis, patient room
I have not been able to update for a few days.

Mum’s surgery went well. Dr. Fischer, our miracle worker, evaluated as he worked and, much to everyone’s pleasure, he was able to resection the sigmoid portion of her bowel without needing an “ostomy” of any sort, colostomy or otherwise. She had sigmoid diverticulitis and that portion of her digestive track (containing the diverticular disease) was removed. There wasn’t any ulcerative colitis present (thank God.)

I have spent the past two nights functioning as Mum’s “whatever”. I’m technically not qualified to perform nursing duties and I refuse to perform any function that would place me or the hospital at liability risk, such as tending to IVs. I have been her O2 jockey switching her between her nasal cannula (her “nose guard”, as she calls it) and her CPAP mask. Her respiratory therapists are all outstanding; we enjoy visiting with the gentleman resembling Henry Winkler. I’ve been the verification buffer between Mum’s new med administration and her allergy list. I’ve relayed her pain and concerns in a concise way (as the pain medications cause her to rattle on – and on and on and on – leaving too short a window for them to treat more than one problem, and the problem may not even be addressed if the staff can not work out what needs to be done.) I’ve networked with the nurses and CNAs and they now understand that her deathly low diastolic reading is actually her norm, her norm body temperature is always below 98, and her cough comes from years of smoking (the lungs are now clearing out the sludge.)

For her part, Mum grumbles at me. That is an understatement. Let me try again:

Mum bitches at me, due to her high level of pain, and tends to take her frustrations out by not wanting to listen while I attempt to untangle her from her narcotics pump, her PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter), her bladder catheter, and all other things "tubed".

She is in a lot of pain so I shall overlook a lot of what she says. She is depressed.

Tuesday, March 17
Parents’ house
It has been a while since I’ve been able to sit down and journal. I have people emailing (and Better Half mentioning) that they are worried as I did say that I would update here. All is well, as well goes.

Mum moved over the hump. She shrugged off her pain, vomited twice (which helped ease the gas buildup in her stomach), stated that she wanted food, was pleased to see the bladder cath and leg cuffs removed, and has been in a much better temperament.

I have been staying each night. I do not sleep at night (I do cat nap) and I average four hours during the day. Tonight Mum wants to go it alone. YES! I’m looking forward to sleeping like the dead.

She has an infection. The locus is in the incision closure just above mons veneris which is not all that odd considering that it’s encased in a fold of skin when Mum sits. Ubi pus, ibi evacua, I say. “Where there is pus, there evacuate it.”

Dusty, her dog, has been pining. I placed her on a suicide watch and hid all the knives. (I took the dog to the vet today as Dad worried about her ears. She has a slight infection in her left ear. I still plan to hide the knives.)

I have a load of laundry in and Dad will pick up her freshly laundered robe this evening. I have some of my own laundry to do. I packed a pair of workout pants, a pair of sweats and my jeans. Add to those five white tee-shirts, two men’s dress shirts, my green shirt and Better Half’s Olympic Shooting Team shirt and really, when you stop to think about it, my wardrobe is painfully lacking.

I miss Better Half. I worry about Better Half. The family promised to check in on him. His blood pressure was very high last week and he called a cousin and asked if she could come over to keep an eye on him (translated: please make sure I don’t fall over, begin to slur my words or have a dynamic change in my coloration.) Said cousin bitched him out for not being there when her mother was sick. My peace of mind is gone. I fret over my husband’s well being. He relies on our neighbor for transport and support and that neighbor can not dedicate a lot of time to Better Half.

Perhaps people think that Better Half’s health problems are in his head. It might very well be likely that they assume that he needs to “learn to stay by himself.” Better Half is perfectly capable of staying by himself but he can not drive (thanks to his drop attacks/pulmonary hypertension) and will need a ride to the store for bread, milk and dog food. Better Half’s health problems manifested over twelve years ago and they are well-documented and certainly not in his head. Better Half has a diagnosis of Gulf War Syndrome. It is a myriad of symptoms and ailments common to troops who served during Desert Storm/Desert Shield. I do wish the family would get that through their heads.

My friend the Ox had ACL surgery. He’s in agony from it. The man is very muscular and heavy so this type of injury isn’t easy to deal with on his frame. He’s also pushing 50 and his age hinders quick healing. My mother is going through the same healing handicap. Ox’s wife sequestered him in their main floor sitting room and he is frustrated. He has an old laptop that refuses to work. I logged on to find three email and two IMs begging me to walk him through fixing his problem. Dude, your problem is that your laptop is a dinosaur and does not support anything older than AOL 3.0. His wife laughs over his predicament (he’s a chat junkie) and his brother refuses to let him borrow his work laptop. Awwwww, poor fellow.

Optical mouses do not work on glass tables. I felt the urge to point that out.

Colorado Journal 3/7-3/9

Saturday March 7
4:19 pm

I’m at O’Brian’s Pub at PITT, having bummed a ride from my cousins (whom I appreciate immensely!) My bags were checked at curbside and, per norm out here, I sailed through security.

The pub is my tradition. I enjoy the food and wait staff and I always manage to find myself tucked in the corner at my “regular” table. Today was a busy day for them but my waiter was prompt and took care of every need.

I feel apprehension, although none of it has to do with the flight. I’m worried about Monday and Tuesday, my mother’s health being the unknown factor. My muscles are tense and I’m nauseated (and have been so for several days.) I pent up lactic acid will eventually release, a giant purging on my system’s part, and I’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Sunday March 8
My plane arrived on time yesterday. It was very small; not only did we have to fight over an armrest, but we fought over oxygen molecules as well.

I slept fine and woke up to one of Dad’s good breakfasts: eggs, bacon and toast (half the portions, thank you.) We ran to the Commissary to pick up food for the week.

Peterson AFB reorganized itself into a confusing Mecca. NORAD is now spread between Cheyenne Mountain and a large facility building that is clearly visible from the Space Village Road (a public road just shy of the base which, God forbid, would play perfect host for a well-aimed rocket attack. Foolish on their part but money in the contractors’ pockets.) I did not have an opportunity to visit the flight line; Better Half will need to wait for his airplane pictures.

We had a lovely dinner. Dad and I prepared everything while Mum napped. We whipped up t-bone steaks, sweet potatoes and a salad. I watched “The Ant Bully” on the DVD/monitor in the office. My father has a grouping a toys, old and new, replete with a Betamax. I hope my pictures upload from his computer.

Monday March 9
St. Francis Hospital
I should leave this entry with only that: St. Francis Hospital. The beautiful new exterior and polished new interiors belie the chaotic hell that awaits the patient. The elevator opened its maul and digested us. We emerged into the belly of the beast and were led to room 920 like lambs awaiting the slaughter.

Come on, Autrice. It can’t be that bad.

Oh it is.

We (Mum, her friend and I) arrived and they promptly told us that Mum wasn’t on their schedule. They told us that Dr. Fischer would need to fax the work order (and that his office wasn’t open until 9 AM, which is incorrect.) Mum called Dr. Fischer’s office (at the wee hours of 8 AM) and they faxed the order, the hospital located a bed (not a private room, and the roommate has infected wounds and a nasty cough, as well as ten family members who all were speaking Spanish at the top of their lungs.)

We did a rosary. It was all that I could think of doing. I thought perhaps the family, being Hispanic, would respect the melodious timbre of a lithely recited Hail Mary. I opted to recite it stridently; years of theatrical training have taught me the meaning of “project”. Much to my pleasure, the roommate’s visitors slowly trickled out, leaving us in relative peace.

Mum’s nurses, Sue and Michelle, are wonderful and intelligent. Her CNA, Sarah, is also a peach. They settled her in, had an IV started, brought her laxative on board, and sent plenty of clear liquids to her.

I’m still a bit peeved at the head nurse on this floor. I have explained several times (and Mum’s doctor originally requested) that Mum should have either a private room or a room with a roommate that does not have an infection. I am absolutely worried that any post operative palliative treatments might not be as effective due to possible contamination from her roommate’s wounds.

The wound care (and colostomy) nurse came in and in record time Mum was in a panic. “Colostomy? Me? I can’t do this!” She did not realize what this procedure would entail. She thought that it would be simple. I am bitter because I was not here to question her surgeon and I had presumed that he explained everything fully. This is no slight on him. Mum and her friend did not know the correct questions to ask.

I can’t seem to get her to grasp the necessity of this surgery. Her doctor indicated that she has a small fistula in the vaginal wall which permits fecal matter to cross over. This would indicate that she also has a small fistula in the colon or intestine (which surely must have been leaking into the body cavity? No indication of peritonitis.)

It frustrates me. I have been at this hospital since the early morning and we still do not have any indication that the initial diagnosis is confirmed. That is to say that, sans a colonoscopy, we do not any certainty that there is a fistula in the colon or bowels.

Mum poked her nose in my direction and said, “What are you doing?”


“Not about me.”


“No, I don’t want evil eye.”

“Who reads my blog that would give you evil eye?”

Seriously, who would give her the evil eye? Not Roadchick, Annie or Ox.

Speaking of Ox – where in the hell is he? I have a suspicion that his cryptic “I’m getting things around here fixed” really translates into “I’m having surgery to fix something.” The asshole could have at least told me. I might call his wife to see if things are alright. I have tried to call Michael but my cell phone is giving me an “error message -5” for Canada. I had the same message for Colorado Springs (which is somewhere in Canada according to my cell provider.)

Dad’s on his way and I begged him to bring me food. Food is good. Food keeps Autrice functioning. I did have fish things (breaded, rather good, with horseradish) for lunch. I was impressed. The $9.00 price tag was steep (they piled on onion rings) and all the breading will probably keep my system flushed tonight.

Maybe Dad will bring tacos. I enjoy those.

Dr. Fischer arrived shortly after that last bit of food musing. He did explain that a colostomy bag would remain in place for a minimum of six weeks (with a maximum of four to six months.) Mum was beside herself. He said that there was a slight possibility that she would not need a colostomy. Her tissues would need to look healthy and the fistula would certainly need to be miniscule. We will wait and see. We will pray.

March 9

Dad brought subs. They were delicious. I had meant to type that earlier but I’m only now catching up with things. I’m wearing thin at the corners. It’s close to 11:30 here (making it 1:30 AM for my internal clock.) I can always tell when my mind is leaving the building – I will eventually break down into monosyllabic grunts.

Dad and I read today’s scripture study, Psalm 51. It’s part of his and Mum’s nightly routine. We also recited the Novena prayer to Our Lady of Good Remedy, per Mum’s request.

It’s bedtime for Autrice. I’m very worried about tomorrow (and ask that my Readers offer up a few positive prayers) and I miss my Better Half.
Awwww It's Better Half and Truffle.
Him loves his Pomeranian.

Listen Up!









Cherish every moment of it!


My Stress

I’m leaving for Colorado on Saturday. I think I’m still in a state of disbelief. It isn’t that I can’t wrap my mind around the trip itself, rather it is the impending surgery that is keeping my sense of reality at bay. Perhaps my fears will be unfounded once everything is said and done. I can tell you that I’m still on edge over all the other stressful events that have occurred recently.

Better Half’s TEE went without a hitch. The final diagnosis is mild pulmonary hypertension and that can be controlled through diet.

Pulmonary hypertension is the narrowing of the pulmonary arterioles within the lung. The narrowing of the arteries creates resistance and an increased work load for the heart. The heart becomes enlarged from pumping blood against the resistance. Some symptoms include chest pain, weakness, shortness of breath, and fatigue. The goal of treatment is control of the symptoms, although the disease may develop into congestive heart failure. This is why Better Half is going to focus on controlling the symptoms and correcting lifestyle imbalances in order to reduce the risk of future complications. Right, Better Half?

He did well under the anesthetic and bounced back to normal about an hour later. The doctor said he shouldn’t have any problems while I’m away. Stress #1 has been partially alleviated.

Stress #2 was the worry that family heirlooms would be sold off. My cousin reassured both my mother and me that this would not be the case. I fully comprehend that “stuff is stuff” but there are some things that take me back to a time when life was simple and my Nonna, my wonderful grandmother and confidant, would take care of me on weekends.

There are a few items that my aunt kept that immediately take me back in time. I can smell my Nonna’s apartment in Los Angeles; the aroma is a tomato Marinara replete with handmade meatballs. I can hear her in the kitchen and I can recall poking my nose past the stove and seeing her hands form those wonderful treats. She doesn’t just roll them. She tosses them between her palms with just enough force to compact the mixture into a shape that will not break down or crack in the frying pan. I have never been able to duplicate her recipe and skill (nor my mother’s recipe and skill.)

I took it for granted that my Nonna would, in my child’s mind, always be here. She moved to Misouri, and I knew that she would come back. She moved to Steubenville and, once again, I knew that she would be back. She came for a visit and a voice in my head said, “she won’t be back.” It was confirmed by my mother who, while standing in the driveway with me and watching the car pull away, said, “she won’t be back.” She knew, I knew. We somehow sensed it. Nonna did not come back. My Nonna passed away from an aneurism not long after.

It’s an odd feeling to have a fear confirmed. It adds to stress, I assure you. We all have petty fears such as a fear that a bill has been left unpaid or that niggling feeling one gets when one forgets to shut off the iron. In all seriousness I tell you that some of us can honestly say, “they are going to die soon” without any indications telling us otherwise. I knew that my aunt died at midnight (we knew that she was going to pass away soon as it was, given that she was in the last stages of cancer.) I knew because I felt the urge to do a rosary. There wasn’t any reason for me to be awake at that hour but for the fact that I somehow felt that I needed to be awake.

Bizarre, isn’t it?

I did not have that feeling yesterday (or in the days leading up to yesterday) thus I was able to relax while Better Half had his procedure. I knew it was pulmonary hypertension and so the diagnosis did not come as a shock. The fact that it was “mild” was simply reassurance.

This brings me to Stress #3 - my mother’s surgery next week. I’m a basket case. I can’t filter through my anxiety to be able to say, “things will be fine.” I don’t think anything will go wrong, but I do know that my Mum will be in pain. I refuse to say (or write) anything that would jinx that (and humbly beg my Dear Readers to please say some prayers for her on Monday and Tuesday.)

Stresses 1-3 have lead to Autrice’s tachycardia playing up in a fierce manner. I told God, “if I drop dead from all this, I’m coming up there and having words with you.” It’s not polite, but God and I have issues over plenty of things, my health being one of them. Bah, humbug.

I’ll try to keep my blog updated while I’m gone. I did so the last time. We shall see.


My week (in brief)

I wanted to jot down the fuzzy noise inside my head regarding the past seven days.

My aunt passed away (after a prolonged illness) and her funeral was on Saturday. Lovely affair, lots of good people and a funeral procession to envy. The mortuary did a fabulous job on her.

Better Half spent his Sunday in the hospital. We brought him to the ER on Thursday and they opted to keep him the weekend in order to get him in for a TEE today. The TEE did not happen today, ergo Better Half returns home (and my sanity returns); he’s on the schedule for this Wednesday. We’re hoping to rule out pulmonary hypertension.

It is a horrid photograph and makes him look worse off than he really is.

My mother will have “urgent” (should be “emergency”) surgery next Monday. This gives me what is left of this week to sort the house, sort the husband and sort the life. I was hoping to get my Nonna’s little white footstool/bench from my Aunt’s basement (it’s next to the dresser, if any of the family bothers to read this.) I was also hoping to be allowed to pick through the things no one wants (such as my Nonna’s old pictures and her bedroom set AND hope chest.) I wouldn’t turn down an old couch either as we really currently have a terrible one.

I won’t blog much in Colorado. (Perhaps I will if I have too much time on my hands.) I’m apprehensive about the future (static noise in my mind) and totally stressed out.

I shall survive. I haven’t any choice and I’ve reached the point where the stress is laughable.