Friday, July 29, 2011

My Mom - Peace at last.

My mom died last night about 9:45pm. She left this world peacefully and comfortably surrounded by family and the wonderful staff at Evergreen Hospital that cared for her over the last month or so. I was grateful to share time together with a close friend, my sister and my niece.

I would like to acknowledge a few people for their instrumental help over the last month or so:

Amy Edge-Salois - As a nurse and friend Amy helped me wade through the piles medical jargon and helped me ask the right questions of doctors, specialists and other nurses. This improved my mom's care directly and helped me get good information to my family members who are scattered throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Robert and Debra Scharer - I'm grateful to you both for getting information to the hundreds in the Lower Snoqualmie Valley that were asking about my mom's health. Your efforts helped free me to focus on organizing my mom's care without the burden of retelling day-to-day updates. You both meant a great deal to my mom, she told me so.

Many of you have helped me personally by providing quick diversions, notes and cards and well wishes. I plan to thank you all personally and privately in the coming weeks and months.

I was surprised by the hundreds of emails, texts, and comments I received thanking me for sharing this piece of my life as they quietly followed the details. I never dreamed that sharing this experience would have impacted so many personally.

More information will follow as I know many questions now are begging to be asked. I will answer them, that I do promise. Please allow me today to just catch my breath. I will not be taking phone calls today unless they are from my brother and sister.

I have some very interesting posts planned soon that will contain information about upcoming arrangements and some incredible stories about my mom.

Thank you once again and much love to all of you,


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Holy Bible and Conrad Hilton

I stayed at a Hilton recently in downtown Portland. I had some time to kill so I looked through the drawers and discovered two books in the nightstand. The Gideons left a hardback Bible. I'm always thankful for the Gideons and I find myself reading the Bible a fair amount while in a hotel.

It wasn't the Bible I grabbed this time but the book sitting next to it. No disrespect to the Scriptures at all, but I became fascinated by the other small paperback book entitled Be My Guest by Conrad Hilton.

I didn't finish it but I took the copy with me. If it's not complimentary and the Hilton company wants it back, I will gladly pay for it. I asked at the front desk but no one knew what I was talking about.

I got about 40 pages into it and read about how this God fearing, humble and devoted family man began his empire. He celebrated his Roman Catholic upbringing and praised the value of his parents. There was an attractive genuineness to his words in this book that I instantly admired him even though minutes before opening the book I knew nothing about him.

He provided for his family a life they would never know without the benefit of his hard work and the values to which he was so devoted. This life he gave to his family for generations has given them so much wealth that they likely don't give the virtues Conrad cherished so much a second thought. Paris Hilton is an obvious example.

Made me think a bit about the legacy I'm leaving my own kids. They obviously aren't going to inherit much wealth from me but I hope I can help them not be bankrupt of character, integrity and faith. I'm probably just an average parent, nothing special. But my stay at the Hilton made me want to be better than that...if only just above average.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My Mom (part 2)

Facebook updates have worked well to update the masses though not everyone reads through their newsfeed everyday (me included) so they miss updates here and there and then the requests for updates come rolling in.  Information changes on a daily basis so it might be a good idea to bring everyone up-to-speed on how she is.  Please help me out some with getting this information out.  I’m not answering phone calls about how she is doing except from a few people who are collecting information for those not connected to the Interweb tubes.  You’re welcome to call me to let me know that you’re ACTUALLY GOING TO DO SOMETHING to make my life easier.  I’ll gladly take that call.  (I’ve had a couple of people offer to do “anything” to help and then slowly back away when I took them up on their offer like they just wanted credit for offering.  Don’t do this unless your ultimate intuitive longing is to get punched in the face.)  Thankfully I’ve had a few important people helping me and my mom out that I don’t know what I’d do without.  They know who they are.

First some facts:

  1. She is at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland in their CCU.
  2. She is welcome to have visitors though understand as of the time of this post, she is not able to respond.
  3. If you want to send cards and letters email me at tracy (at) tracy green dot com.  (say it out loud and let common sense do the rest) and I’ll give you my address.

Back story:

My mom was moved from Evergreen Hospital on Monday of last week.  I joked with her that she had to be moved because she simply wasn’t sick enough to be pampered in the Critical Care Unit.  She pretended to be upset about it and we prepared to make the transition to her facility at Kindred Hospital in Northgate, just north of Seattle.

This hospital was going to be her next step in terms of getting stronger and weaning off of the ventilator which she is now connected to through her trachea. 
I waited with her for the ambulance to arrive and I signed for all of her belongings. 

 My mom at age 79

When the RN and EMT arrived to transfer her to the next hospital I waited until they transferred her to the gurney and then I gave her a kiss and told her I’d meet her at the new place.  I went home and had a quick bite to eat thinking that they’d beat me by a few minutes but I’d be there to help her get checked in.

After a stop at my house to eat something I headed on to Northgate and went into the building and told them I was here to see my mom.  They informed me she hadn’t arrived yet. That was okay, I took the opportunity to get a little sleep in my car.  You can imagine that any opportunity to sleep over the last few weeks is a good thing.  I slept for about an hour and she still wasn’t there.  Another hour went by and I called Evergreen who informed me she had been discharged and nothing more.  The 40 minute ride to the new hospital took about three hours due to the ambulance having a defective ventilator.  They waited for a new one to be brought and when it arrived (from several miles away) it didn’t have the right connection hardware with it.  Finally an entire new ambulance came and she finally arrived, still strapped to the same gurney she was moved to over three hours ago.  She was anxious and warm from all the time spent in the ambulance.

Over the next couple of days she progressed to sitting in a chair and doing both occupational therapy and physical therapy.  It was nice to finally see positive signs of improvement. The next day I arrived and she was in bed and hadn’t done any therapy.  She seemed slow to respond.  The next day she was even slower to respond and was just staring at the wall blankly.  I asked nurses to explain the change in her appearance and they did not have a clear answer except that she was given something for her anxiety.  The next day after that she was staring blankly and not responding at all.  I asked for a doctor but one wasn’t available.  They promised to have the doctor call me and the doctor never did.  The next day she looked most sickly and had a fever and tremors.  I expressed my concern.  They initially said she was fine and just resting but finally saw it my way to see that a doctor sees her.  I was promised another call from the doctor.

The next day a call from the doctor did come.  It wasn’t to address my concerns but instead to tell me that they suspect that my mom has had another bleed in her stomach and needed to be transferred back to Evergreen Hospital to be looked at by the same surgeons and doctors who treated her before.  This sounded like bad news.  A few hours later I met with the doctors at Evergreen.

They informed me that she was not bleeding but in fact she had an infection around her feeding tube which had been pulled out while at the other hospital.  She had not received any nutrition or hydration for about 4 days.  We were back to square one with an aggressive bacterial infection from the feed tube leaking into her under her skin and kidney failure from days without hydration.  Staff at Evergreen informed me that had she not arrived sooner she would have certainly died.

Which brings us to today.  She is trying to recover from this aggressive bacterial infection and is being stabilized in the Critical Care Unit.  Obviously I’m furious that this mistake has caused her to have a serious setback when she was on the road to recovery.  I’m furious that medical personnel were slow to recognize her in failing health while directly under their care.  I’m furious that my mom has fought valiantly through these challenges but may not be able to overcome…I’m not sure what to call it honestly.

I have nothing more to say about the care she received at the Northgate facility for obvious reasons.  There will likely be an update on this in the future.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Wisdom of Howard Cunningham

Happy Days was a pretty formational television program for me when I was a kid. In 2nd grade my friend Todd Light and I used to pretend to be Richie and Fonzy. I was Richie because Todd made a decent Fonzy. To this day I've not told him that.

I own the first three seasons on DVD because they were all of the shows that aired before they began filming in front of a live studio audience. The early episodes maintained the look and feel of the movie that inspired the series, American Graffiti.

In Season 2, Richie began to take an interest in politics when a cute blonde girl he liked was a huge Adlai Stevenson supporter. Richie began researching Stevenson to be able to spout off facts about him to impress this girl and he finds himself giving a big rally speech in favor of Stevenson. The typical 30 minute TV show conflict was that his father, Howard Cunningham, supported Eisenhower and routinely voted Republican.

This could be a pretty typical story line. Conservative father frustrated by his more liberal kids and the show closes with Bob Dylan singing "The Times they are a Changin'" but that's not at all how this episode went. In an argument with Richie their dialogue went like this:

Howard: What I'd like to know is how in your right mind could you even consider supporting Stevenson!

Richie: I did research!

Howard: You did research huh? Well, did your research tell you that the Democrats solve problems with war and that Republicans are the party of peace and prosperity?

I have to hand it to the writers of this show for this small tidbit of historical accuracy. For right or wrong the Republican Party of the 1950's had peaceful conservatives like Robert Taft who was known as Mr. Republican. Taft hated overseas meddling and resented the United Nations for dragging America into the Korean War.

Democrats hated taking the rap for wars and foreign intervention so they would always try to paint Republicans as eager to use the bomb. Anyone who remembers the 1964 race, even if just from a history book, remembers Goldwater portrayed as an extremist hothead who could not be trusted with atomic weapons. At the same time Goldwater was running ads condemning his nation's policy of intervention in a country nobody had heard of at the time, Vietnam. His commercials talked about not sending our boys to "fight in no-win wars."

Ultimately the episode ended the way you would expect. Richie didn't get the girl. Stevenson lost. Fonzy supported Ike. And we all learned an important lesson:

We should listen to Howard Cunningham and cute girls eventually ruin politics for everyone at some point.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Love Guitar

I'm a minimalist and known by many of my friends for not really owning much stuff. I try to live life simply and not be encumbered by junk. I collect three things in my life...wrist watches, Pepsi Memorabilia, and Guitars.

When it comes to guitars you won't find the usual stable of Gibsons and Fenders in my group. You will find a more obscure variety of brands and models that appeal primarily just to me.

I played in a band with a great guitarist named James. James was a great guy who, aside from a couple of stints in jail, I admired. James took some luthier classes at a technical college and had become pretty handy at making guitars. Being too poor to buy a guitar he found a broken body of a Strat copy at a garage sale and bought it for two dollars. He used it all as a template to make a new guitar. His primary hunk of material for the new body came from an old coffee table. I'm not entirely sure it was even 100% wood.

When James finished that guitar it played very well. He sounded great every time he plugged it in. When I played it however, it sounded like a monkey playing table. It was at that point I realized that the brand of guitar you're playing doesn't really mean that much. Hence my unusual collection.

My latest guitar is a rare reissue of the 1958 Stratotone Jupiter by Harmony. The Harmony company was one of the big three American guitar makers after World War 2 and specialized in many introductory models. They also made many models of guitar for Fender including an 40 year old spruce top acoustic guitar I own. See the Jupiter below.

Aside from their own guitars they made under the Harmony name, they also manufactured guitars for Sears and Roebuck and created a similar model under the name Silvertone. This is the guitar thousands of boys ran out and got after seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. Since that time girls have not been able to resist any adolescent, pimple-faced boy plunking away on a Jupiter. That's a scientific fact.**

The Jupiter is unusual (cupcake knobs, floating wood bridge and a large gaudy looking pickup switch) in that it is hollow but has no f-holes like you'd expect to see on hollow body electrics (and violins for example). The result is a very low fat jazz box kind of sound in a bluesy Les Paul kind of body style. Very cool.

Harmony was also known for their knobs. Lots of knobs. I'm still not even sure what all these knobs do but I enjoy trying to figure it out. The more I play this guitar the more I enjoy playing in general.

I'm not a great guitarist. I stopped playing for quite a long time while battling chronic wrist problems. Most of those problems have gone away and I can now play for 20 or 30 minutes in a row without pain. Since my Junior year in high school playing the guitar has been a major joy in my life. I'm excited to begin playing more.

The Harmony guitar company was revived once again in 2008. They bought up about every model of vintage Harmony guitars off of Ebay and reverse engineered the originals to recreate all of the frequencies and wood densities of the instruments of that time. Their respect for the history of these great instruments resulted in some very unusual guitars. Since the economy has tanked they've cut production almost completely and possibly made the reissues more rare than the originals. Thanks to my wife, I have mine and I couldn't be happier with it.

I know a lot of guitar players that shake their head immediately when I explain how much I love playing a Harmony guitar. When they do I know they're dismissing history and dismissing instruments that have an unmistakable character and sound that are rarely produced in mass-production guitar factories around the world. They can go ahead and enjoy their special edition whatchamacallits from the major factories. If that's what they enjoy, more power to them.

I need to go now. Ed Sullivan will be on soon.


**I'm unable to back up this at all but it's still a fact.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Living Libertarian

When this blog began back in 2005 (and my previous site before that) I focused a great deal of time based on looking at current events through a libertarian lense. When talking about politics it can get so simply boring talking again and again why both parties are basically wrong on the breadth of issues.  It’s even more tiresome explaining to people that on all the major issues that really impact the future of America, the two parties are in agreement.

I live in a blue state and I have many liberal and progressive friends.   They joined me enthusiastically in condemning the wars pre 2008, but I can’t seem to find any of them all that concerned about American deaths that happened even this week.  I remain anti-war without regrets.

Even when it comes to voting and political activism, libertarian action is rather still-born.  My state has now legally institutionalized the two-party system and libertarians no longer even appear on the ballot.  I can’t even throw away my vote the way I want to. 

Instead of these realities I’d just like to focus on the freedoms that do exist, and the new freedoms that our society gains.  I was inspired by a book written by Harry Browne entitled “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World.”

Harry Browne (who I cast a vote for in 1996 and 2000 presidential elections) focused on how we approach the notion of freedom incorrectly.  Harry focused on freedom as something that makes everyone happy and allows you to expect nothing of other people.  The book is now about 40 years old so some of the concepts are a bit outdated.  If he hadn’t tragically left this world early, I think we would’ve seen a new edition of this book.

I make a lot of choices in my life to live as free as possible and many of them simply make sure that no one else is having to pay my way.  It can be harder and trickier, but always comes with the satisfaction that I’ve done my part not to introduce coercion and violence into someone else’s life.

Politically my ideas may be outlawed from ballot access but I continue to trudge on seeking the opportunity to freely engage in whatever life brings my way.  I hope to see this blog reflect on many of the happy experiences I will have and less on what’s so wrong with things I have no control over.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Subliminal Waffles

I've always prided myself as someone who doesn't really respond to corporate branding or mass media advertising. Somehow in my own mind I had this mental filter that allowed me to have good sense no matter what my eyes were seeing. I no long have much confidence in this.
I mentioned briefly in my post a few days ago about my toaster that I've been hungry for frozen waffles. I'm not at all sure why but every morning I do one of two things. I've grabbed a frozen waffle from the freezer or I've gone to the shopping list and written down "frozen waffles" to replace the ones I've eaten. This has been a rather unexplainable phase. Unexplainable until this morning.

As I open the refrigerator I find myself viewing straight into some artwork that my son has made. Today I finally realized that his paint brush was likely a former frozen waffle. Any good sense that I thought I had is obviously weakened or only ever existed in my mind in the first place. It appears that every morning at the same time I open the refrigerator and glance idiotically at the door and then go looking for waffles. Just put a collar around my neck with a tag that reads: If found please return to Ivan Petrovich Pavlov.

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Mom [updated]

I shared a while ago on another post about my mom’s health and how Evergreen Hospital stumbled through their communication enough to give me what would seem like a death notification to any reasonable person. I have received a large number of questions about what happened. I’ll do my best to explain it here.

My mom had been complaining about back pain for awhile. It wasn’t severe at first but each day it seemed to increase. I took her to the doctor about 5 weeks ago and he ordered x-rays and nothing seemed to be wrong. She was given a mild pain killer and sent on her way.
About 5 days later I called her on the phone and she said the pain was too great. For her to admit any pain as being too much is significant. We measured her pain as 7 on the 1 to 10 scale and we both agreed that if she got to 8 we’d go to the ER. I called her later and she said the pain was bad. I asked her, “is it an 8?” She answered, “No.” I asked “Is it worse than before when it was 7?” She answered, “Yes.” I usually have to play this game when it comes to pain.

My happy mom before kids
My mom is a polio survivor. For my entire life she has walked with a limp and her mobility or physical capability has been an issue. She is also no stranger to hospitals as she spent not days, but months in them as a kid.
The ER ordered a C scan and they discovered a compression fracture in her back. They were concerned about some of her other levels, including kidney, blood pressure, and her breathing. They were also concerned that the contrast dye from the C scan would make her sick. I asked them to admit her so that she could be under observation and they refused, citing that if they did admit her she would pay for the whole thing out of pocket.*** Just the thing someone who lived through the Great Depression wants to hear. So she went home with me.

I took that week off of work to care for her. Nobody would do much for her until she saw her primary care doctor. I finally got her an appointment with a new primary care doctor near my house for Wednesday. Each day at my house she was in more pain, breathing became worse and she was largely uncomfortable. Finally when she saw the primary care doctor, the doctor looked at her for two minutes and called 911. Pretty much all of the things they were worried about in the ER (and refused to admit her) came true and she was headed back there in an ambulance.

It wasn’t long before they discovered that her stomach was bleeding and she was put on a respirator. After a move to the critical care unit of the hospital they discovered a large bleed in the back of her stomach that was life threatening. I authorized surgery for her and she was off to get it repaired. Turns out this was the source of her back pain.

After the surgery she got a little better. She was taken off the ventilator and breathing on her own. She was “alive and kicking” as she put it. After 30 hours off of the ventilator she was breathing heavily again and not feeling well. She was also in a great deal of pain. Then more bleeding showed that the surgery didn’t work. Several scopes revealed nothing as the bleeding always stopped when they looked. Very sneaky.

Once again they called me and informed me that she was free bleeding into her stomach.  The place of the bleeding was the same as the first surgery. She needed a second surgery to repair it. The surgeon told me he wasn’t exactly sure how he was going to fix it but would try everything. He did, and so far it has worked. No bleeding since the second surgery.

My mom though has stayed on the ventilator and is very weak. Turns out an 86 year old with post polio syndrome will take time to get strong again. She is now in a hospital which specializes in helping patients regain strength in their respiratory muscles so that they can vent Carbon Dioxide off on their own without the aid of a ventilator.

What’s most discouraging at this point is seeing how weak she is. My mom is a very sociable person who loves to talk and interact with others, but is unable to talk due to the ventilator. She is obviously frustrated too. I remind her and encourage her daily that this is temporary and that getting stronger is the way out.

She has struggled this far, I hope she has the will to keep going. If she does, I’ll be with her every step of the way.

*** – I filed a grievance with the hospital about this and the other issues I’ve had there and so far their investigation has shown not only a breech in their own policies but against best practices in general. I’ll have more on the outcome of this in the future.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I’m breaking up with my toaster

We’ve been together for about a year now and at first, like any new relationship things were hot and it was fun just learning what buttons to push.

Lately it hasn’t been the same.  The toaster just takes its time with my toast knowing full well that I have the same amount of time to get ready in the morning that I had months ago.  It seems later and later each morning and the toast eventually just flips up without conviction or concern.  “Here you go.” it seems to say as it casually flips my morning quick meal at me.

If the indifference were not enough, the buttons aren’t responding either.  Frozen.  Bagel.  Nothing works.  I end up getting it the way the toaster will put out and if I don’t like it then I can just pound sand for breakfast.  I’m getting pretty sick of it.

I want a toaster that can adapt with me.  Maybe handle some variety like a frozen waffle every once in awhile.  I don’t always have to have it quick, but I’d like it to care a little bit if I’m pressed for time.  I need a toaster that recognizes my needs.  Toast.

Tomorrow I’m insisting the toaster leaves the house.  I don’t even want to be friends anymore; the experiment is over.  Go deliver half-assed attempts at toasted bread for someone else.  I’m done with it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

In Defense of Dillholes

My good friend Dave Johnson wrote a rather scathing blog post about "dillholes" in small industries who have bad attitudes because they appear unable to work cooperatively in a collaborative environment. I hope to help Dave and many others understand the mindset of the "dillhole."

Dave presented a scenario where a person asks for a "huge favor" and then is ultimately unhappy with the results. Dave paints the person as an ungrateful Oliver Twist asking for more gruel then complains that it should taste like a steak dinner. The problem with this is that the person never asked for gruel in the first place.

People who are skilled often forget that they are asked for help because this is a recognition of their great talent. Dave conveniently describes this person as someone in a tight spot and ultimately responsible for their own work. But as Dave also pointed out, everyone in an industry brings their own talents, both green and skilled.

The person needing help may not know how much help they need. I've found myself in situations where I'm asking someone for help and what I think is just a favor is the equivalent of lifting a cinder block using only your testicles.

As a more experienced business analyst where I work, I'm asked for favors all that time. When asked for a favor I understand it for what it is: A recognition of my skills.

When I'm asked to lift a school bus, I can complain that the favor is too large and too much is expected of me, or I can assume that the person asking simply doesn't understand what would be required. Since I'm the one with the knowledge, I would be the "dillhole" if I didn't try to convey it at that point.

Setting proper expectations and explaining size and scope of a project is a fundamental part of anything you do for anyone, whether personal or professional. When an obviously talented person forgets this basic piece of communication they set themselves up to be the unappreciated victim and then write blog posts about it.

All of us at one time or another are the dillhole. We don't necessarily come upon this distinction deliberately but sometimes step into it like a flaming lunch sack on our front porch. If only the skilled person could've helped us understand the size and scope in the first place, the collaboration would have already begun.

Maybe if the skilled and talented could come out from behind the pulpit and communicate thoroughly and respectfully, the dillhole could be seen for what he truly is: Just a jerk asking you to do his work.

You didn't really think I'd defend the dillhole did you?


Monday, July 04, 2011

Hot Damn, I love Independence Day

There's almost nothing I don't like about this holiday. Period.

I was in 2nd grade during the Bicentennial so I had the great fortune of spending a great deal of time learning about the popular history of our country. I remember 1976 like it was just a few years ago, even though I was merely 7 years old.

My grandmother told me about a grandfather several greats back that fought in the Revolutionary War and showed me his name in an old family bible. I remember the parade that year in my little dumb town and how my 2nd grade class marched in it with our flag we made as an art project. I remember a girl I liked was at the parade with red, white and blue ribbons in her hair. I remember reciting "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" in class. I remember the weather being great. From that year on I have loved Independence Day like no other holiday. Sure Christmas has the lead, but the 4th isn't far behind.

I love the story of our independence. I love the idea of freedom and the promissory note (as Martin Luther King put it) written to future generations that we'll keep trying for freedom as our understanding of it matures.

You'll see no sappy tributes to those who allegedly "protect our freedoms" from me. This day is about the concept of liberty and the concept of self-ownership. Freedoms belong to all people, not just those who live inside our borders.

I'm going to go blow some stuff up now.

Have a great Independence Day!