Friday, March 30, 2007

The Deported

(from 2005 Formosa Arts Festival courtesy of the Deported)
Stationed in Taipei, Taiwan, this high energy 5 piece band consists of members from that beautiful green island as well as France, Canada and the US. With frank lyrics,incredibly catchy riffs and mad-as-hell classic punk rhythms, these guys will definitely get you off you feet and hopping up and down wildly with beer in hand. Seriously. These guys are fucking awesome.

Band members are:
Bass- "Tuco" Kad "Spider"
Guitar- Tony Deported
Guitar- "Damage" Jeff Deported
Drums- "The Almighty" Wayne Deported
Vocals- Andy O

Listen to:
"Turning 25"
"Pussy Frat Boys" (clip courtesy of the Deported)

The Deported's Official Website
Deported's Official Myspace
Island of Sound's Myspace

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Attack of the Ice Breakers

In case you missed it, my brother and I made a silly video using our stuffed animals. Yes, it's a stupid video too, but cracks me up every time. My mom thinks we're nuts in general. This is what we do when we're stressed out and yes, we are indeed in our late 20's if you can believe that. I shot this with my laptop cam. Have I already mentioned how much I love my MacBook?


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Whaaaaa! I want....sniffle

So as many of you know, my sweet cat Molly passed away (a day after my dad did). As you can guess this has simply added to the great empty hole in my heart. Moose the crazy gold fish terrorizing the guppies and flat out taking a huge chunk out of Mr. Algae Eater didn't really help things either, so you can imagine the added heartache when I realized I couldn't take home this beautiful kitty I feel in love with yesterday.

Soooo pretty. Darlin Hubby and I looked at cats yesterday and this fluffy white cat caught my eye immediately. She had a dainty face, tiny ears, a delicate frame, long silky white hair and sapphire blue eyes. She was cuddly and sweet. She even smelled good!

I just loved how regal looking she was, but sadly she's completely deaf. This is a tendency with pure white cats who happen to have blue eyes. That alone would not have been an issue, but for whatever reason her former owner got all four paws declawed. She tried climbing up onto Travis's lap and couldn't quite do it. sad. Hence, she's pretty much defenseless and has to be the only cat at home.

Whaaaaa! I know it's in her best interest, but I loved this kitty. We bonded. She really liked Travis too and all the other cats just seemed like cats to me. Even the kittens at the SPCA didn't really catch my fancy. She was all huggable and would actively snuggle back. During my short visit with her I already managed to find a sweet spot on her chest. Sigh...Oh well, I know with such a sweet personality and good looks she'll get adopted soon. It would be nice if someone I knew adopted her (*cough*cough*) so that I could visit often. :)


Happy 1st Birthday Contrast Podcast

Has it really been a year? Indeed it has. The bestest music podcast in the world turns one today.


If you don't know what I am talking it about, it's best to get educated asap... To celebrate, Tim Young has once again assembled a montage of MP3 bloggers for the birthday themed podcast. I happen to be on this episode as well (doing my Marilyn Monroe-esque intro...)Track listings and artist information can be found here in the link below.

Listen to:
Contrast Podcast 52: Birthday

I should note that this podcast is what inspired me to start my serie Adzuki Pods. Through Contrast Podcast I've discovered many amazing artists and found plenty of other music enthusiasts and mp3 bloggers. Why not think about contributing as well?

BTW, while you're at it, don't forget to also check out Tim's set from a recent charity concert.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Guy Marks Video: Loving You has Made me Bananas

This much beloved tune is one of the most searched for songs on this blog, (second only to leaked Nine Inch Nails songs off of Year Zero) Due to the kindness of other readers, we now have a video stream of Guy Marks performing "Loving You has Made me Bananas."


Many thanks to Mark Boyle for the .wma file. He also provided some additional information in the comments section:

Mark Boyle said...

Hi Folks - I'll fill in the blanks on this one. Guy Marks - known as the "Comedian's Comedian" to some, the Godfather of Alternative Comedy to others, wrote this parody of old Big Band era stuff in the 1960s, & subsequently found himself circa 1978 enjoying a hit single in Britain, including two appearences on the (then) prestigious "Top Of The Pops" show - no mean feat in those Punk era & "Grease" days! Dickie (as in "Dickie The Duckie", ie. someone who is gay) was just one of his personas on the record, he did indeed sing the whole thing. He was tickled that people would swear blind years later that it really an old Big Band number he had "covered", & that it became of the best known "Big Band" tunes around!
November 04, 2006 6:42 PM

You can view the original post here.

Listen to (clean high quality version provided by Murphstar):
"Loving You Has Made Me Bananas"

Wiki Entry on Guy Marks

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Thiaz Itch: El baile de los Fantasmas

Netherlands based net label WM Recordings has introduced me to many amazing experimental, digital and plain other types of artists over the years. That is to say they focus on music that's just different and France's Thiaz Itch is a prime example.

Self described as "cartoon-eclectic-breakcore (something like poum scrft pim irgch gnarf poin poin)" Thiaz Itch creates fun computeresque soundscapes that are surprisingly catchy and listenable. Although the programming is quite good, I'm most impressed with the complex rhythm and percussive elements to this album. It's not quite fast paced enough for dance music, but it's definitely something that would liven any party up and cause several of your invitees to go "Wow! Who is that???"

El baile de los Fantasmas is fantastic album showcasing haunting sounds, complex rhythms and tongue-in-cheek melodies. Usage of organ and xylophones are an interesting touch. The songs are atmospheric and would fit in perfectly with any sort of ghost/goblin or space-inspired play list.

Listen to:
"Heute Mplon"

Thiaz Itch's official Website
Thiaz Itch's Myspace
Download El baile de los fantasmas from WM Recordings

(photo from official website)

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Ashes to Ashes

We picked up my dad's remains today. Hmmm...somehow that sounded wrong. Let me start again: we picked up my dad's glorious cherry wood urn containing his ashes today. There. Much better.

This thing is pretty darn magnificent. It's carved on all sides with an art nouveau theme of birds, trees, leaves and a cross. Mom was thinking of using it as a flower vase stand except that unbeknownst to her (until we saw the thing in person) the urn bore my dad's names (Chinese and English), his date of birth and death date on one side in huge garish gold lettering. It like it screams: Look at me! Remains of dead person inside!

Apparently this was the most non-urn looking urn that was also "understated." Seeing how elaborate this one is makes me wonder what the other ones looked like.

"Did they put dad's skull in there?" I mused out loud while we walked back to the car. I was only half joking as I knew it was pretty typical for large bone fragments to remain after cremation (If you really want to know, the higher end crematoriums grind the bone fragments into dust, but not all of them do this...) My mom cracked up and then reprimanded herself while looking around making sure no one heard us. My husband thought this was a legitimate question. He then followed with "Does it open up?"

"What is wrong with my children?" My mom answered speaking in Taiwanese(while still chuckling).

Anyhow, if anyone is wondering, it doesn't open. We already got an earful from the funeral director, the hospice and those who recently lost family members that Texas law is a bit hairy when it comes to wanting to spread the ashes of a loved one out into nature. It's okay to dump it onto your own private property, but if some of that human dust somehow blows into a neighbors yard, they can sue your ass. Dumping ashes out at sea is frowned upon as well since cremation doesn't only consist of just the body; the entire coffin and its contents go in the crematorium, hence even if there's one tiny ounce of artificial fiber, rubber or plastic, the ashes can be pollutive. Therefore, all the urns sold at this funeral home are always sealed solidly shut.

We stuck Dad next the family pictures on a shelf. "I need to put this up high so that the grandkids don't think it's stool," my mom mumbled to herself. I have no idea if other families are so matter of fact about death by mine is. I definitely was amused by Mom's statement since I had the same exact thought. It mean, it looks like a really fancy stool and perfect for a toddler to sit on. I don't think Dad would mind either.

I captured Moose and released him into the lake by our house. The spotted mollies decided this afternoon to retaliate against his aggression and started attacking back. I swear these are all supposed to be communal fish. It was sad to see such an old and large fish go, but he'll be fine.

Tomorrow I head back to Austin. It feels like I've been gone forever and I miss the cats and seeing my friends. There's still a lot to be done here, but a good bulk of it can be handled by phone. Monday I'm adding Mom to my insurance plan. She seems okay--sad at times, understandably, but definitely stable.

I have a small album filled with pictures of my dad and I'll probably upload them on here in the near future. Heh...he's got so many pictures of him fishing or holding a prized catch.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Moose the Cannibal

This aquarium tribute to my dad is turning into a mild horror fest or a hilarious observation in natural selection depending on how you look at this.

I'm blaming it all on Moose. If you recall this is the 7 inch long gold fish who I affectionately named after a huge cat and as of two days ago, presumably ate guppy #5. I searched high and low inside the fish tank and could not even find guppy #5's remains. I don't think guppy #5 evolved enough to simply walk away although I did check around the fish tank for good measure. No guppy.

Prior to murdering guppy #5, Moose decided it would be a fine idea to chew up one of the beautiful live aquarium plants to shreds. After he had done that (at least I think it's a he), the slightly smaller (but not-too-small) fellow goldfish cohorts decided to join in. Those plants are expensive damnit! It's not like they eat the plants either. No, Moose just decided to shred it to pieces just to piss me off. I'm sure of it.

But today...let me tell you, TODAY MOOSE WENT TOO FAR!!!!
Mr. Algae eater has been quite shy lately and finally he came out of his shell yesterday. To my horror I discovered this morning that not only was he was nolonger sticking to the side of the tank feeding, but that he was floating sideways, unmoving and rock hard. I thought he simply passed away but when I took him out of the tank, I noticed his fins had bite marks and there was a huge chunk of fishie taken out of his side! Arrrgh... Fishie guts all over the place! Moose looked very satisfied. "I hope you're happy," grumbled moi as I counted to make sure the other fish were alive and well. I don't think I even managed to get a portrait of Mr. Algae Eater yet.

I think tomorrow we're dumping Moose into the lake by our house. I don't care that he's nearly 15 years old. This behavior will not be tolerated!


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

guppy...where art thou?

As I mentioned previously, I spent $200 this week completely redoing my parent's aquarium. It's sort of a tribute to my dad since he liked to fish so much and cleaning the tank was on my dad's to-do list before he left. Needless to say he had worse things to worry about but my God, that thing was a mess. There was a thick layer of algae growing over the surface of the filter, all the aquatic plants had been taken out, the 1970's era orange gravel was still there and the goldfish were ENORMOUS (Moose is like 7 inches long. He could feed a small family and that's just wrong) due to feeding them fish pond food.

Anyway, when I get back to Austin, I'll post lovely before and after pictures. Till then, I'm trying to figure out where the hell guppy #5 went. I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the goldfish ate him since the Petco dude said he couldn't definitively say whether or not Moose was a possible threat to the new comers. Mr. Algae eater also keeps hiding.

My brother and I made a hello video for my Aunt Sue-Chyn who currently resides in China to tell her that we're doing okay. While going through my parent's items we found her guitar in our coat closet and decided to get new strings. You can see the new aquarium in the background as well as some of the beautiful flowers people have sent to us in honor of my dad (just for reference pai-kee means "broken" in Taiwanese):

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

life goes on...

Good grief! Is today really only Tuesday? I swear the days are blurring together and chronology of past events are sort of muddled at this point.

I can say we did actually cremate Daddy today and pick up his death certificates. As an aside I should point out that there's a block of apartments next to Winford Funeral Home and one group of units overlooks the crematorium chamber. That should make for interesting after school viewing activities. Those guys at Windford are freaking fantastic, let me tell you. They got on VITAS's case for us and the final papers went through lickety split. We cremated dad at 3:00 today. The chamber itself is like a ceramic kiln (my dad joked about being barbecued a few weeks before he died) where the entire coffin gets slid in and slow baked for about 2 days (versus burning). One of the funeral workers explained all the details to my mom (who was sort of turning shades of green as they did so) but as he was speaking rapidly in Taiwanese some of the words escaped me. He was a really cool guy though and quite happy to talk about his profession and the details of funeral work.

I also learned today that death certificates sent various places all need to be original documents. It makes sense of course, but just didn't cross my mind. Another thing that didn't occur to me was how HIPAA might make acting as my mom's liaison when communicating with caseworkers a little more complicated. Again, it makes perfect since because I could very well be some evil con artist trying to steal someone's assets. We're all in the the wait-until-the-agency-contacts-you phase at the moment.

Flowers and cards still come to our home. I read the kind sentiments to Mom who is too tired to do so herself. I think she's touched but part of me suspects that she's a little jaded too. We're all a little worn out. The individual cards from my dad's colleagues are the most heartfelt and heartbreaking. From a fellow engineer named Quintillo:

"I was Michael's colleague and we rode the van pool every day...At work he did most the mechanical designs on my projects. He did not work just to finish. He always worked towards excellence....I admire him for whom he was; good person, a wonderful human being. It was an honor to work and share with him. You must be fill of pride for his legacy."

I forget that even though it feels like ages to us, to everyone else, my dad's death seemed kind of sudden. I'd like to think I'm coping okay, but I am fretting over my mother a bit. I'd like her to move in with my husband and I or at the very least, flip the house and move to Austin.

Anyhow, life goes on. I'm thinking about Monday Munchies again, pondering over Trent's new album, debating whether or not my mom should get a Pomeranian or Chihuahua as a pet, thinking about a new kitten to replace Molly, musing about work, trying to remember who all I still need to email for news and thankyous etc. etc.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

the suckage has to do with VITAS

I rant about US's crappy health care system fairly often and so do a lot of people, so I'll keep this one short and you can fill in my feelings of annoyances because I'm sure you, dear readers, can relate in some way shape or form.

VITAS (at least the branch in SW Houston), is not an automated health unit. Almost all of their paper work is done by hand and certainly, nurses notes are hand written (about 5-7 forms each vist. I still have them and they're kinda cool to read when the carbon paper doesn't smudge up the writitng). Scheduling is done by hand as well. Pharmeceuticals are handled the old fashioned way--phoned into a lab with a human on the other end. Then, everything is hand entered into some sort of medical database at night.

The funeral home can't creamate his body yet because....drumroll please....VITAS lost all his medical information when their database crashed last Friday (Dad's funeral was Saturday) and the doctor can't sign the death certificate until all the information has been reviewed. For God's sake, He's lying in a coffin right now. I doubt he's just sleeping.

Was there a proper backup plan? Sort of. They are all currently hand entering people's medical records right now. Granted, they only cater to about 15 patients at a time, but still, this is not cool. We're (as in the Funeral Home and my family) are waiting for the okay before we can creamate Daddy,

I'm sure my dad is rolling his eyes up in Heaven right now shaking his head. I should point out, Daddy, that I did clean the fish tank and totally redecorate it for Ma! It's purty.... :)

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Nine Inch Nails Live: Beside You In Time

"Beside You In Time" was released about a month ago on three different formats: DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray. Anyway, I'm happy with the plain old DVD version. Normally, I don't like live shows on video, but Nine Inch Nails somehow does this the right way. The DVD is a treat to the ears and eyes. Picture and sound - both impeccable. The controlled chaos of the concert is downright impressive, as one should expect from Nine Inch Nails. My favourite part of the DVD would probably be the rehersal footage though. I wish there could have been more of that, but I'm grateful for what I get.

Another feature that I really like about this DVD is that three tracks: "Eraser," "Right Where It Belongs," and "Beside You In Time" include an alternate angle, where you can focus on the profound visuals that were projected all over the stage during those songs. One of my favourite scenes (best viewed in alternate angle mode) is at the end of "Right Where It Belongs" where that baboon jumps across a river and catches a flamingo. That baboon is bad ass! You can check him out by watching the trailer here. If that doesn't make you want to buy this, then I don't know what else to say. By the way, on a National Geographic show, they said that baboons don't usually eat flamingos, but "a new food's now on the menu."

Visit (Hmm... nice acronym: BYIT reads "BuY IT!"):
Nine Inch Nails Website
Obligatory Nine Inch Nails myspace
buy BYIT on DVD at amazon
buy BYIT on HD DVD at amazon
buy BYIT on Blu-ray at amazon

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Thursday, March 15, 2007


Molly Potamus Reznor, my cat, passed away sometime between last night and this morning. :( Talk about shit hitting the fan. I guess she decided that my dad should have a feline companion in heaven. Or, perhaps my dad "picked" her up right after he passed. After all, she was a old kitty suffering from bowel issues and diabetes. She's crackle and creak as she walked.

My dear friend Summer was the one who discovered her. She had called from Austin last night after feeding the kitties that Molly seemed lethargic and depressed. We figured it was one of her phases especially since my husband and I have been gone for so long. She was old, diabetic and would get tired easily. As sad as I am about Molly, I suspect she was suffering too. She'd creak and click whenever she walked, twice a day she got poked with insulin shots and vomiting was a frequent occurrence. Anyhow, I'm sure she's happy and pain free in heaven spending time with my dad now.

I really feel for Summer. What an awful phone call to have to make.

Speaking of awful phone calls, this is what my mom and I have been doing all morning. My dad never told his brothers of his condition (he tends to suffer in silence) and towards the end when his health was really failing, he was too weak to do so himself. They all live far away in Taiwan. They cried of course, but I was also struck by how understanding they were of my dad's ways and wishes. They understood why he didn't tell them and they also knew not to come down for his funeral since my dad has always wanted a small intimate service only consisting of his wife and children. Getting my mom's church to understand this concept has been a little trying though. Ugh...they mean well, but I'm going to do my best to make sure there are no grandiose speeches, rituals and frou-frou hoo-haa getting added to the service.

The mood at home is somber but unfortunately, activity filled...I had no idea dying would generate so much paperwork. I don't really look forward to speaking to Haliburton's HR department, but it is necessary. At the moment, we're waiting for the hospice to pick up the hospital bed, oxygen concentrator, bedside commode, narcotics, etc. etc. I think the reality of my dad's death and the fact that she is now a widow at age 56 has really struck my mom hard. She's washing the sheets that were on the hospital bed right now, doing his laundry for the last time. She doesn't cry, but I know she feels sad.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007


My father passed away this morning at home at 8:50 am with my mom and I at his bedside. Bim, forever the sensitive and capable aid, noticed that his pulse was weak and that his demeanor seemed different. She called us in immediately and we spent our last moments with dad holding his hand.

As mom said a prayer and assured him that we'd keep his legacy alive and that's we'd meet in heaven soon, his breathing slowed down and then stopped.

It was a beautiful and peaceful death. I'm so glad he will no longer suffer.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dear readers,

This is Shawn and I just want to relay to you that Cindy Adzuki is extremely busy these days with significant emotionally-laden family issues, which she is writing about on her "blatherings" page. She will not have time to contibute to this or any other podcast-blog again until things either run their inevitable course, or if a serious miracle occurs. Please send thoughts of comfort to her and her family.

In the meantime, Sammi and I will try to keep this blog alive by updating it when we get the chance.

Thank you for your support.

Bim and Daddy

I should take a moment to mention how much we all adore our nurse assistant Bim...
She was a mathematics teacher in Nigeria and moved to the US a few years ago. She's married with 2 young children. She's tall and attractive and speaks Queen's English with her rich African accent. She laughs heartedly showing perfect white teeth whenever amused and has this calm and comfortable presence about her. I also like how polite she is. When she moved to the US, she taught math in grade school for a while and then quickly decided she wanted to change careers because she could not stand American students and their lack of respect to educators. She's studying to be a Licensed Nurse at the moment and is saving up money working as a nurse assistant (while raising 2 kids and working long shifts!)

With the merry go around of various hospice workers we see daily, it's nice to have some stability. It's strange--the schedule of what *type* of people is always
the same, but *who* shows up as the role constantly changes, if that makes
any sense. Here are the players: 12 hr daytime shift with a nurse aid
(CNA), 12 hr night time shift with the vocational nurse (LVN), a visit
from the hospice doctor every other day, a visit from a registered nurse
ever other day, and perhaps a social worker when my mom is up to
it...Anyhow, Bim'll be back tomorrow. I also can sense my dad relaxes around her. I love how she respects his privacy and dignity even
when he's in this condition and non responsive. She always drapes a
sheet over him during sponge baths, combs his hair and shuts the door
when his diaper is getting changed. One of the other nurses was all
business and would just change him out in the open. He may
very well not care, but I got the impression that she didn't think much
about the possibility of causing a patient or their loved ones
emotional discomfort.

Mom's out picking up an order for medicine to dry up my dad's larnyx. Due to the inability to swallow saliva has now dripped down into his breathing tube and lungs. His gurgling and coughing so difficult to have to hear. Since his brows furrow every time he does cough, we trying to dry up the secretions (although it will make everything dry) in case it is making him uncomfortable. Till then Bim is patting his arm and whenever she (or my mom or I) does so, it causes his spastic coughing to ebb a bit. He sounds like a wookie when he isn't coughing--that's the best description I could come up with. It freaks me out a bit, but Bim assured me that it's normal as his body continues to shut down. Gave me a few stories of how frightened she was the first time she heard this type of coughing and wheezing from a dying patient (it is surprising how loud they are). She gave me a hug and told me to go take a break (which is what I am doing now).

He's got stuffed animals on him which looks so ridiculous but works to make him feel as if there's always someone touching him. This was Kelly, the RN's idea, not Bim, but it definitely makes a difference. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I suspect my dad can already see himself from above at this point. His body seems like a shell. He's probably really confused as to why there are two stuffed bunnies on his arms. The important thing though is that he can see my mom and I massaging his feet and patting his hands and Bim is kindly rubbing his chest. Lots of caring people around him even if some of them have known him for more than 40 years and some have known him for just a few days...

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Monday, March 12, 2007

kind and gentle logic to the rescue

Before, I forget, Happy Birthday JBro. I hope you celebrate in some fashion tonight...I love you, little brother.

Lynn, the social worker from MD Anderson who we met with last week finally got back to me (she was on vacation). Fortunately, she's also an RN and I fielded my moral and ethical issues concerning withholding food. She took the time to explain a few things in clear, calm, logital terms that really put me at ease (and also noted the VITAS nurse's comminucation flaws). We do have to withhold food from him and this is why:

-at this point, because the cancer has taken over his body, nourishment would only feed the tumors. By stopping nourishment, the expanding tumors will also stop growing
-chocking is a hazard of course, but dying from choking to death is much more painful and traumatic for the patient and family
-a worse scenario would be if he aspirated and ended up with pnemonia, which again is a slow belaboured death
-if he cannot swallow, he's lost a lot of sensation and muscle control in his abdominal region. his need to eat is more a psychological instinct than a reaction to hunger pangs. Imposed anorexia actually causes any sensation of hunger to disappear
-after dehydration and starvation, ample doses of morphine, fentanyl, and ativan he'll eventually pass out or go into a comatose state from being so exhausted and should not feel any suffering (but she warned me that it may take a couple of weeks)

That last bit still upsets me a tiny bit (why can't we just put him down?) but I am very thankful that Lynn could explain this all to me. I just wish the VITAS people were more willing or had the capabilities to elaborate like that.

Last night I was in a completely different state of mind. I wasn't even able to finish my blog post, but it started like this:

I've been sitting in front of this laptop for the past hour or so with my chin in hand feeling numb and confused. The instant hazelnut coffee sitting next to me has long grown cold and yet I can't seem to peel myself off the chair to warm it up. I suppose I too am in a state of shock at what all has happened in the last week...the last two days.... It's almost too much to take in and I can't seem to find a way to describe my thoughts in a linear or any organized manner. Even the events themselves don't seem to make sense chronologically. I've been here for just barely a week and yet, it feels like months. The past 72 hours crawled along like 100 year old molasses despite all the action and emotional strife that has gone on.

"If he cannot swallow, he cannot eat. He'll choke to death. Do not feed him. Do not give him anything to drink." This is what last nurse told me in front of my dad and my mother a few hours ago. The absurdity of the first two sentences still brings hot tears to my eyes. When asked if he was hungry, my dad has nodded "yes." Why would anyone ever deny a dying person food if the only real risk was death itself? That question screamed in my head over and over again. I felt like passing out. It was a moral dilemma. What to do? I had to witness my mother looking so defeated and confused holding a cup of mashed watermelon, spoon in hand staring at the nurse in bewilderment. The image of my dad's pleading eyes and agitated brow is now burned into my mind forever. I can still hear his frightening coughs and wheezes after the last attempt to feed him. All in the name of comfort is what hospice chimes but at what cost? How is this ethical?
I am so utterly aware of the act of swallowing now. Every time I do it, I think of my dad. I try to reflect on the choir of muscles that have to work together to make it work--the throat, the soft palatte, the tongue. I turn myself mad thinking just how frustrating it has to be to feel hungry but unable to eat. ...

I have a calmer mindset now.

I already lost my dad on Monday and when I say my dad, I mean my dad as a whole: spirit intact, bad attitude and all. I'm sure of that now. Ever since then he just started splintering. He was whole enough to feel depressed on Wednesday. He was emotionally mistreated on Thursday. Friday he stopped speaking and couldn't walk or move without assistance. Saturday his breathing became belabored and he soiled himself for the first time. Today he lost the ability to swallow and stopped making eye contact with my mother. And tomorrow? What kills me is that he's still mentally sound. His mind is completely clear and his hearing is still sharp. You ask him what the derivative of natural log x is and he mouths the answer. His ability to communicate, although completely silent, is never subtle: a grimace, a nod, a shake... glassy eyes that suddenly become alert when one of his children walked into the room then fade away when he hears the words 'I love you' or roll in annoyance when a nurse he doesn't like walks into the room. Sometimes his brows become furrowed when he's agitated. As many times I've prayed to God to take him as soon as possibly, his failing body just does not want to hand over his mind.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

rapidly declining health...

The difference between last Friday and today is startling. I suppose it is the marked difference between a dying person with hope and a dying person who had given up.

Yesterday was an absolute nightmare. My dad was completely shutting down. That morning he could walk slowly to the breakfast table and eat--although it was difficult to watch, he was still able to bring the spoon to his mouth, perhaps missing a few times, but able to swallow. By noon he was unable to get up and my mom had to spoon feed him. We were supposed to discsuss different Hospice options, around Houston and let him get a feel of who he wanted to be handling to handle him. However by that afternoon he was completely not wanting to speak.

I went into a mild panic. All 3 of us were not really excited about crazy evangelist woman (CEW). We were going to sit on it...however, with everything happening so fast, and my mom really panicking, I had to think fast. Fortunately by that afternoon, my husband was by my side (the 9th was our official wedding anniversary). He too witnessed my dad's deteriorating heath and even helped carry him to the bathroom. I paged all the social workers at MD Anderson, blabbering about the situation, how we needed help *right now* but didn't know who to contact, what was ethical, wanted to follow my dad's wishes (he didn't want an ambulance or any more hospitals), wanted to make psycho woman wouldn't be involved, needed to know if he could change hospices if for whatever reason we didn't like them, insurance questions, etc. etc. I'm so thankful she was a genuinely good social worker and could rattle off everything I asked while calming me down. She noted my issues with the woman who had come by earlier and reminded me that the nurses could very well be different, but gave me the numbers of other hospices in case we needed to transfer services.

A kind lady named Yvette was sent out to us. She too was from VITAS, but was much calmer, did not bother my father and seemed quite swift with her cell phone. We got the hospice consent and do not resuscitate forms signed and witnessed (by her and Travis). Within hours oxygen came as well as a sweet nurse named Beverly. She stayed up all night watching my dad. A hospital bed, bedside commode, wheel chair and boxes of scary schedule II drugs came later. Swiftly quicky with no bullshit like a hospice is supposed to be like.

I called my brother. When CEW was blathering on and on about the history of her institution, my dad croaked at one point "I need to talk to my son." I relayed this to JBro warning him of my dad's condition, how much he deteriorated and that time was running short. "Come how and tell him you love him, while he can hear you." I said. He came flying home from Dallas--didn't pack, didn't eat, didn't even think. I didn't bother telling my mom knowing that she's put up an argument about it being dangerous to drive at night, blah blah blah. He got here just fine. :)

There's a different lady here now, a nurse aid named Sondra. Ugh, she's annoying, but she is an extra pair of arms. Despite the fact that he weighs barely anything, my dad is still hard to carry. My mom kept feeding this woman food to shut her up since she keeps yammering on the cell phone. I was gonna kick her booty out, but my mom said that as long she could do her job everything would be fine. My brother sternly told her we needed quiet time. She complied. So, it's okay. I miss Beverly already though.

Dad's turned into my child in some sense. I give him comfort and support him. Rub on benadryl for his cracking skin. Help him get fed and changed. Play music for him. Sometime I just sit next to him. For whatever reason he only responds to my brother, Travis and I. He refuses to talk to my mom. I'm not sure if it is hurt or sadness or anger. In some ways Mom is my kid too now. I scold her to eat, rest, quit fretting. When we had to put the controlled substances in the fridge, she started cleaning the shelves. "What is the nurses see how dirty the fridge is?" Goodness.

Of all the symptoms, the one I have the hardest time with is the fact that he can't swallow. He can't take in nourishment even though he'll nod that he's hungry when I ask him. Water is near impossible. Pain medication is delivers as suppositories and patches. The next hardest is his difficulty breathing. If you can't eat and can't breathe, you really can't leave. I'm starting to pray to God every night asking him to take my dad soon because to hang on like this is excruciating. I just don't understand why medical assisted suicide is illegal. How is that bad? How is it any worse than drawing things out as long as possible with a drug that merely clouds your mind up so much that you don't care that you're feeling pain?

Things are calmer now that my dad is on watch (sorta...I mean the nurse aid is yammering with her buddy) but I worry about my mom when I need to go back to work in a couple of weeks. My dad could very well hang on like this for months since he's so damn stubborn. I'd like him to go while JBro, T and I are here with Mom.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

scary evangelist woman

I feel like my family is a carcass lying in the middle of the dessert and the various hospices around here are the vultures.

The last rep to visit my home was so distasteful, disrespectful and irritating that it sent me into a mad crying fit after she left. My dad is barely cogent at this point. I don't know if it's the medication, his deteriorating health or plain depression but he is barely able to communicate. Hence, it takes him a long time to answer and the lady who visited today was completely incapable of waiting. The hospice rep (VITAS Houston) was supposed to be answering our questions, not shoving glossy brochures in my dad's face and presenting the history of her unit with her fucking power point printouts.

I was about ready to get up and slap her when she kept snapping her fingers at my dad and asking him to wake up. "Don't go to sleep on me," she's say in a cheerful voice.

Aren't these people supposed to be properly trained?

She prayed for my dad which I guess was comforting for him, but it all left a bad taste in my mouth. All the showiness and shit. Pseudo Christian concern. She went on about how she wanted to "save" one of her jewish patients. That did it for me. I decided I was gonna hate her, but when she almost got my heavily medicated dad to sign a consent form that sealed it for me. Get that woman the hell away from my dad!

I intervened stating that this was a lot to swallow and that I wanted him to think things through. "I'll call you guys tomorrow!" she said as she left.

Please don't fucking call us.

There is just too much going on. We got a torrent of phone calls from various hospice reps and palliative care units this morning. It's like we've got a sign hanging on our front door advertising that we've got a dying human being or something. My dad just wants to rest right now! Ugh.

The social worker, Lynn sure made hospice sound like fluffy bunny rabbits and rainbows. The last rep made it seem like hoards of nurses would be invading our privacy. She also mentioned that there was no such thing as a hospice house where my dad can be amongst others who are terminally ill---and I just don't believe that.


I have so much on my plate right now. Gah. Okay, here's my to do list:

-Call my boss and get the next two additional weeks off so I can get things in order
-Call Lynn the social worker and get a lot of the conflicting info straightened out
-Schedule out other hospice reps while I'm here
-Request a Mandarin speaking rep for my mom
-Ask the palliative physician if he can siphon off the fluid in my dad's abdomen and ankles on Monday
-Somewhere in there acknowledge Trav and I's 5 year wedding anniversary date
-Check up on my aunt who has breast cancer (she and my mom are unable to speak to each other due to their personal griefs...)
-Give my mom a massage
-Vacuum upstairs
-Catch up on email inquiries

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Hospice Care

Today was a good day. I'm not sure if it is the meds or just plain acceptance, but dad's mellowed out.

We met with the oncologist this afternoon and from the lab work my dad's too frail to even undergo chemotherapy. The doctor explained the situation to him very patiently and assured him he could always change his mind if he really wanted to put up the fight but was very frank about the risks involved. Dr. Glover then allowed him the time to quietly think this through without the input of my mom and I. He finally decided to allow the cancer to run its natural course.

Much to my relief he also agreed to allow a case worker to find hospice care placement. This takes a lot of pressure and fear off my mom's shoulders.

No more lab test, pin pricks, germ laden hospitals with snobby staff. No more nauseating car rides with mom's jerky driving technique in Houston traffic.

We then had a meeting with the hospice case worker, a bright bubbly lady in her 50's named Lynn. She really put us at ease explaining what kind of care was involved and emphasized that he'd still be in charge, everyone would be working for him, that he would still be making the decision, etc. etc. "Caring, not curing" she explained. The sole purpose would simply to make him as comfortable as possible so that he could "die with dignity." I could literally see my dad relax and some of his anger finally dissipating.

Instead of sulking as my mom wheeled him out of the office, he said he was hungry. We all ate together in the cafe on the first floor and he got some boxed sushi and ate all the contents. I think this is a good sign that he's finally letting go and trying to enjoy what he can.

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Voltaire Live!

Not since I was in high school have I been reduced to absolute gibbering bliss by a band. Back then it was The Beatles and Depeche Mode, neither of which I ever actually saw in concert of course, but they played live in my bedroom every night, loud, with me singing along, much to the eternal frustration of my family.

So what does it take to reduce a 30 year old woman to a pool of schoolgirl giggles and fantasies? One word - Voltaire. I went to his concert here in Austin back on the 8th of February with our own Adzuki Bean as my stunning date, and oh my, oh my. I'd heard some of Voltaire's work before, see, but never seen him live, I just knew he was really damn funny and bound to be a hoot in concert. To say I was right would be an understatement. Truth be told, if he'd been wearing a kilt like the fellows on stage before him (wooooo Brobdingnagian Bards!), my marriage might have been in trouble ...

See, what we have in Voltaire isn't just another Goth singer breaking out the incense making the whole place smell like High Mass while they writhe around in fishnet and leather. (wait, I wonder if we could get him into fishnet and leather... hmmm...) What we have is a brilliant musician who absolutely, hands down, OWNS THE HALL when he steps on that stage. He's clever, he's catty, he's gorgeous, he sings, he interacts - there is no fourth wall, he's there, with you, and he's taking everything you're giving him and leaving you wanting more. And it's not like smooth, pre-figured and tested patter - while I'm sure he's probably has some idea what he might say to go with his set list, once we're all out there doing the back and forth, all bets are off. For example, there was one point at our show that someone from the audience kept screaming for "Sexy Data Tango" and wouldn't let up, and he finally shouted back, "Why don't you come on up here and sing it with me, then?" ... and you know - he was seriously inviting the guy up there. Of course, the guy chickened out.

Now as an aside, I just want to say, if Voltaire ever makes that kind of offer at a concert I'm at again, he better not be surprised when my fat ass is trying to find some way to crawl up on stage to sing with him, maybe even if I'm not the one he directs it to. 'Course, it would have to be something more like "Ex-Lover's Lovers" or maybe that new duet he did with Amanda Palmer, "Stuck with You" (check it out on his MySpace, he's got a rough cut up on his player)... but oh man. Whoever that was shouting from the side of the audience, you missed out. I can't even imagine getting to be up there on stage with VOL-FREAKIN'-TAIRE. You'd have to peel me off the club ceiling, and then tie a rope around me to keep me from floating away when we got outside. Be warned, Austin, TX. When he comes back (ohpleaseohpleasesoonsoonsoon), I'll be ready for him. I'm collecting the CDs. I'm practicing. And when he comes back, I'll just have to see if I can shout enough to earn that same enticement for myself. Muahaaahahahahahaha!

But back to the point of this post. This was a month ago, and I'm still freakishly giddy. I picked up Voltaire Live! at the concert, got it signed and everything (even got to paw at the awesome sweater he was wearing, and got a smooch from The Man Himself, omg, died of joy! *swoon*) and popped it into the player almost as soon as I got home - the only thing it's missing for that at-the-concert-feel is Voltaire actually standing there, tangible, singing, and then coming out to a merch booth in my living room to chat afterwards. It's got him telling stories (Jesus is a Zombie!), ragging on the audience ("You're cheering for dead babies?! That is fucked up!"), singing (of course), all in great sound quality, especially for a live recording. Definitely a must-buy, and if my husband's opinion can be trusted, it's the best CD of his to date because it captures all that awesome stage presence and isn't Just Another Studio Album. Totally scores a 5 out of 5 Skulls for rockin' awesomeness.

Listen to:
"Ex-Lover's Lover"
"Sexy Data Tango"

(bear with the downloads if they don't work - I think the Nine Inch Nails love has put us over the limit... the Voltaire's Lair link and his MySpace page both have MP3s to listen to as well, though!)

Voltaire on MySpace
Voltaire's MerchDirect store
Voltaire's Lair site

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The anger phase

Of the 5 stages of grief, my dad's going through the angry phase. He's been in his room for the past 6 hours and hasn't emerged yet. I don't know if I should check up on him or just let him rest since yesterday was such a long and frustrating day.

We already knew my dad's prognosis would be terminal. We already knew there would be no treatment and no real options. It seemed like up until our visit with the oncologist, my dad accepted this, but now I know he hadn't.

He's so angry now. Angry that he's only got 3-6 months to live and that chemo would only increase his life span by a couple more months. He's angry at the battery of tests he needs to continue to go through (6 vials of blood yesterday alone) for a few more hours of a compromised life--most of these hours spent in downtown Houston traffic and hospital waiting rooms surrounded by sickness and impending death. He's angry that he's incapacitated and dependent on his wife and kids.

He chewed my mom out this morning about her driving ability telling her she was an awful driver and that all the accelerating and swerving caused his current nausea. He has tons of bruising on his left side caused by the cancerous mass popping the blood vessels against his ribcage. Somehow that was her fault too. He said he was hungry and she scurried to make him his breakfast, when she wasn't fast enough, he got up and shuffled back to his room. My mom offered to bring it to him and basically replied with "Just shut up."

Part of me wants to just spike everything he eats or drinks with massive doses of opiods and sedatives and put him out of his misery. We've got all them right here--morphine, fentanyl patches, hydromorphone, vicodin, versed, lortab...heck we might as well add the ambien to the mix just to make sure he does fall asleep. All of these were prescribed within the last 3 months. Shit, I'm surprised there aren't any anti-depressants in the cabinet.

Now, before everyone runs off and calls the feds, I assure you I'm not going to do that, but it is tempting. I almost told my dad during our 2 hour delay for his next appointment that if he chose to not even attempt chemo, he wouldn't have to go through all this-all the waiting and lab work, but I kept my mouth shut.

Before the definitive word that his condition was terminal, I was able to talk to him freely about how he felt. Now, he just shuts me out.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

what to do when there's nothing to do?

My dad looks like my cat Molly now: saggy skin hanging off of knobby bones, scruffy hair and huge eyes that display that unique combination of intelligence, annoyance and indifferent stoicism. Like Molly, he moves slowly but deliberately, taking shorts breaths (his swollen liver pushes against his diaphragm making it hard for him to breathe). He's irritated that he needs to be taken care of and every once in a while a distinct eye roll reminds me that this faded character before me is still my dad. That's when he cogent, of course.

To be honest he looks better than I expected although he looks far from good. He's also incredibly doped up. At the ER, he apparently pointed to the Iv bag and said to the doctor:

"Whatever the hell is in there, just give me more." So, they doctors complied and sent him home with Methamorhpone. It's basically morphine.

Later in they day he mentioned that he didn't care about dying as long as he wasn't in pain. He couldn't function prior to the morphine, so I'm fine with all the doping, although seeing him in the cloud of artifical euphoria really is disturbing at times.

My frustrations so far have very little to do with my dad or my family. I nearly lost it yesterday when I discovered that my dad's doctor had called my mom asking about my Family Leave paperwork saying he had been waiting for the past 2 days for them. Turns out his mornic secretary never gave him the form when my mom called back inquiring. If you recall, I had contacted her on Friday asking her to please give them to him and she reassured me she would, so you can imagine how pissed I was when I discovered she hadn't. I wasn't the doctor's patient she explained to my mom. Ugh. Fucking moron! Had she read the cover sheet she would have known the paper work was for him to describe my dad's situation.

"ARE YOU FUCKING STUPID????" I wanted to ask her.

If she had only gotten the paper work to him on time, I wouldn't be feeling so anxious. I am thankful the doctor called inquiring because we wouldn't have known his secretary still had the forms if he didn't.

We see the oncologist tomorrow, but what I've read so far is a bit grim. The proposed chemotherapy is most likely for his lung cancer only--liver cancers do not respond well to chemotherapy and of all the medicines only 1 kind has any sort of effect on the liver cancer, although negligable. Most liver cancer patients who wait for a liver transplant die before they can receive one from a donor. The survival rate for those with late stage tumors, based off of a 5 year gain, is only 10% I've been instructed by Mom not to ask about chance of survival--to only allow my dad to ask the doctor that question.

I don't know what to think or feel. I guess I have to wait tomorrow, but still I guess I'm the pragmatic one on the family. I get it from my dad.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Dad in the hospital

My dad is in the ER right now. They discovered his potassium levels are way too high and he's been so weak lately due to not being able to fall asleep because of the discomfort and the condition itself. He's on an IV getting high doses of pain killers and has been sleeping soundly. Thank God. According to my mom the hospital is so full that there are people in the hallways. He'll be under watch and then released because they don't think he's sick enough to need a hospital room for extended stay. I can't help but wonder if it is really due to a space and staffing issue. We're headed down tomorrow.
My boss has been so helpful. Without even asking he arranged for me to be able to leave at a moments notice. He brought me all the necessary paperwork this afternoon and explained in clear layman's terms what a lot of the HR mumbo jumbo was and how it would effect me, advantages and disadvantages of using sick leave versus vacation, etc...It was all very helpful. Anyway, I've got my family leave documents in hand and will fax them to my dad's doctor first thing tomorrow morning. When I spoke on the phone with the physician he promised to get them filled out and signed asap. I feel much better with how smoothly this end has been going. I am very concerned however with the docs last statement before we said bye: "You need to go home right now. Your dad needs you."
I hope the doctor faxes me soon....

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