Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Waiting Patiently

My brother and father were talking a walk through the upper floors of the hospital while I kept my mom company this past Saturday when through the windows off in the distance, they saw two large red tailed hawks sending on a fire escape railing outside a window. The adjusted course to try to find that window and eventually did... in someone's office. As they peaked into the doorway, the occupant of said office looked up, smiled and invited them inside telling them she knew why they were there. The snapped this photo and the office occupant told them that at least one of these hawks comes there often and hunts pigeons. They both look well fed to me.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Holding Pattern

Thank you all for the thoughts and prayers. It was nice to feel my cellphone vibrate with an email arriving letting me know that someone out there left a comment and was thinking about my mom at that moment.

I met my parents on the morning of the surgery along with my brother from Alabama and within about a half hour, my mom was being wheeled away to surgery. Of the entire process, this was the part she was dreading the most since last time she was in severe pain for nearly a day after surgery before they got it under control. This time despite assurances that it would be differently, it ended up the same way but at least that part is over with.

Mom came through surgery doing well and the surgeons said everything went smoothly. They cut around the tumor staying mostly in the healthy tissue so they never really saw the tumor and still can't say what it is until pathology reports back later this week. They did say that all the tissue left behind appeared healthy so they are optimistic that they got it "all." I use quotes because how can it be all when it keeps coming back.

By one o'clock the following day, my brother was taking both my parents home in one car and I drove home in my car. We followed everything up today with a get together along with my elderly grandparents and were just enjoying being a family. Everyone's nerves are raw and frayed so mostly we just had idle chitchat and listened to my eldest put on a music concert with her violin and piano.

My mom is still there and very much alive but coming out of surgery, she had no spatial reasoning abilities at all. If she left her room, she couldn't find her way back without our help. Everything else was there and just as sharp but that ability was just gone. It's bounced back a little in the two days since surgery and right now I am hoping it is mostly due to the pain medication and anything permanent will for the most part bounce back. If that was all that was compromised, I would trade it for what future we now have and I'm sure my mom would too.

Now we wait for the news.

Friday, February 16, 2018


I got the call almost a week ago. My mom's brain cancer had come back.

Although her MRI done in November had been clear, the one taken three months later (last week) showed a large tumor in the frontal lobe of her brain. The previous tumor site in the rear parietal lobe still is clear meaning that if this new one is malignant, it has metastasized. Because her previous tumor didn't "light" up on the MRI and this one shows up really bright and has grown really fast, doctors think it is probably a really aggressive form. Her previous tumor was already stage 3 out of 4 so that doesn't leave much room for optimism because when you get to stage 4, life is measured in weeks or months and not years.

There is good news.

The tumor is compact and doesn't show any signs of "fingers" spreading out into healthy tissue. This is unlike the previous tumor which had fingers that limited its complete removal since they really don't want to scoop away healthy tissue. The doctors estimated that they got about 90% of the last one. With no fingers and the location being much better, i.e. less things to screw up if they scoop out the wrong brain cells, they think they can get all of it out through surgery.

That is where my mom is right now and as you read this, I am probably in a waiting room with my father trying to keep my mind occupied on something other than what is going on in the surgery room down the hall.

I'm pretty heartbroken right now. I've done a lot of reading these last 18 months and when brain cancer comes back and is more malignant, it rarely looses. We had been told and were hoping for the five year average but now we might be lucky to complete two by the middle of this summer. I'm praying and hoping that the miracle occurs and perhaps my mom can still be one of those that pushes the envelope back. I will probably know more in a few days when the pathology reports come back.

Any good vibes or prayers sent today would be well received. For those that know me on other social media platforms, I ask that this remain private for the time being as we probably won't be telling others in the extended family until we know what we are dealing with.

Thank you my friends.

Monday, February 12, 2018

It's a Start

One warm day about a month back or so, I used the opportunity to take one of the big slabs into "boards" and got about ten or so knocked out. I used one of the edge slabs with lots of irregular shaped bark and some insect damage. I did so mostly just to see what it looked like in a smoother state and was impressed. I showed off one piece to my wife and she promptly said she wanted a cheeseboard made from it only I needed to make the cheeseboard bigger. So I went out to the garage again and found another board I thought my suit and brought it inside. As I was asking her if those would make it big enough I noticed that I had grabbed the matching board so when butted together they made a fairly symmetrical grain pattern across the joint. Perfect. I edge glued them together.

After that, we had another very cold snap and the glue on the left end popped loose a little bit but I think it won't really be noticeable with finish on it. The rest of it looked stunning. I knocked off the bark and rounded the edges a bit but didn't intentionally try to make it look like West Virginia or a guitar body. I sanded it smooth and then debated on what to do for a finish for a couple days. That is when I noticed some fresh sawdust on top one morning and knew that the insect damage was still occurring. So I ruled out just using linseed oil and wax. I also knew that I needed to fill the voids with something food safe. I ended up ordering some food grade epoxy online.

There were no directions with the epoxy for application temperatures but I knew that the colder it was the slower it cured. So I put a heater on my workbench and after heating up the cheeseboard applied a coat of epoxy. It went on very nicely but due to the voids on top connecting to voids on the bottom, it wouldn't fill the voids and just ran out the bottom side. So I let the first coat set up a couple days, taped the bottom and poured more epoxy in the voids successfully filling them up. I let that cure a couple days and went to sand things smooth except that there was one area that still remained tacky.

I let it set up a couple days and tried sanding it again but as soon as I broke through the dry top later, it remained tacky underneath. I repeated it a couple days later (the heater running full blast all this time) but met with similar results. I finally decided to take a putty knife and dig out the tacky spot thinking I didn't get the hardener mixed thoroughly in that area and would put better mixed epoxy in the divot I dug out. However I quickly learned that the entire first coat of epoxy that I applied is still only hard on the very outside and still tacky up next to the wood.

At this point I don't know if it is the temps or the epoxy just isn't fresh or something else altogether. The project just sits on my workbench as I think things through and decide on my next move. Right now I think I will just leave it be for the time being and see if the rest of the epoxy will go ahead and fully cure. If it doesn't, I think I will have to sand or plane it all off and try again but that would be a lot of work for what was supposed to be a simple cheeseboard. If I go that route, I think I will leave the epoxy in the voids (assuming it sets up) and just oil the board instead of applying the epoxy all over.

I still learning as a woodworker even after all these years.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Intrigue On the Farm

I first heard it on the local news station with a brief report about a body found in a burnt out car in the neighboring county. The following day the newspaper carried an article on it and gave the address where the burnt out car was found. I knew exactly where that was and it is just a few miles away from the farm where I grew up.

I called my mom to ask her about it and she was able to tell me a little more. My dad had stopped and was talking with his hired hand down the road about something when another fellow, I'll call Steve and whom also lives nearby, stopped by to ask my dad's hired hand if he knew whose burnt out car was parked on the dirt road nearby. Neither the hired hand nor my dad did and so Steve called the police and drove off.

From where they were, my dad could see the police show up followed by a wrecker truck. The police left and then the wrecker truck proceeded to hook up the vehicle to tow it away but stopped before completing the task. The police, much more of them this time came back and were swarming around the car when my dad left for home. I assume the wrecker truck operator was the one who actually discovered the body.

This morning I get a text from my mom saying the police have identified the body. The body was Steve's ex-wife from 20 years ago. Hmmm.