Monday, December 19, 2011

Sad Announcement

My father passed away peacefully in Mercy Hospice in Johnston  last December 7.  

He was diagnosed with Adenocarcinoma last June.  He undergone several chemotherapy and radiation therapy.  We were told in early November that his cancer was worst.  He was at home but for his final hours.  Although his passing was expected, his quiet presence is missed, especially this Holiday season...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Happy 2nd Birthday to the only baby who survived my "toxic womb."  I Love you Benji...  I still can't believe it... I could have just imagined you!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I Wish

I wish I could be a better mama for you...

You love your daddy.
You cry when he leaves...
You cry when you wake up and he's not at your side...
You look for him when you don't see him...
You cry for him even when I'm here, trying to console you...

I admit, my feeling is hurt...
My heart breaks when you stand by the door, your face against the glass  door with  fists banging  while  you scream "daddeee."  This happens each morning your daddy has to work.  You're never like that when I leave...

I admit I let you cry and don't give in to your demand for cookies and  skipping nap time...
I admit that there are times I just let you play by yourself when I'm busy with household chores...
I admit that I  force you to eat your veggies and fruits...

I admit, I've been so busy lately...
I admit to bringing my work home because my job can be demanding...and when you want my attention you would close my laptop and tell me "All done."  I think you're a very smart boy!  But then I would go back right away to work  and have your daddy distract you away from me because I have too much in my plate....
I am so sorry!  I promise tomorrow you will have my undivided attention...Did I say that before?  Oh, yeah...

They say this is  just a phase...
You'll grow out of it...
I hope they are right..
Because right now I feel pretty rotten...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pure Summer Joy

During a carousel ride at the Iowa State Fair.....

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Squash and other Happenings

Each year, since 2005, we 've been  planting zucchini because we heard that it is relatively easy crop to grow.  One of  T.V. cooks once said that her father brags about the abundance of his  zucchini crops.  She added that zucchini is so easy that it could grow on cement.  Not  in my experience.   Our  first year's crop was good but after that we did not have much luck.  Last year, we just harvested about 2 or 3 zucchinis.  Not good considering we planted 6 plants.   We suspect the soil in our backyard was spent.  We added compost, rotated crops but still....

This year, we, again, blessed by the squash god, or maybe it's the virgin pasture soil in our new property.  Anyhow,  I am officially overwhelmed by the amount of squash we have.  I am currently scouring for recipes and trying to share my crops to people who would have them.   And this is just the beginning!



My favorite recipe is Fried Zucchini Pasta.  You could use as much zucchinis you want in this recipe.  It just takes time to fry them.    I wonder if I could use the deep fryer or use the oven with  drizzle of oil.  I learned of this dish through Gwyneth Paltrow.  I already tried this recipe  twice.  I admit I did not totally follow it.  I added finely chopped garlic to give it a slight kick.  I did not have enough Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at one time, so I supplemented with Romano cheese that was in my refrigerator for months and it was delicious.   WARNING:  This is a vegetarian (not vegan) dish and would make omnivores not miss meat....

1 lb zucchini, very thinly sliced crosswise.  (You can add as much as you want)
1/4 cups all purpose flour (approximately, add more if you will use more zucchinis.  Whole wheat flour is okay)
Salt  (sea salt is preferable)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil  (approximately)
3/4 lb spaghetti (I use a low-carb variety)
1 cup shredded Parmigiano-Regiano cheese, plus more for serving
1/2 cup torn basil leaves.  (Can also be coarsely chopped)
Freshly ground pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving (If you want,  you can squeeze 1 lemon directly to the pasta while  tossing Just decrease the amount of pasta water.)

In a medium bowl, toss the zucchini with the flour and a pinch of salt.  In a very large skillet, heat half of the oil until shimmering.  Add half of the zucchini and fry over high heat, turning once or twice, until brown and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the zucchini to a paper towel-lined wire rack and season with salt ( you can omit this if you prefer low salt).  Repeat with the remaining oil and zucchini.


Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.  Return the pasta to the pot and toss with the 1 cup of cheese, the basil and a generous pinch of pepper.  Add the reserved pasta water a little at a time, tossing well to coat.  Transfer the pasta to a bowl and top with the crispy zucchini.  Serve right away with lemon wedges and additional cheese.


                                    ---------------------------------------------------

I just wat to show photos of the last week and a half.....

                                                          The So-called Perk,  or Stigma?  You choose...

                                             The Entertainment (while waiting for the doctor)

                                                  The Chemo (2nd to be exact)


Our town was one of the overnight stops of RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), a non-competitive bike ride across Iowa.  It doubled the population of our town.  There were about 15,000 riders who participated this year.   It's not Tour de France but town people were excited, none the less, if not irritated because it was more difficult to navigate around town with car.    The heat index that day was 103.   We braved to walk 6 miles or more to join  the festivities and see the riders.   Seldom you get to see this bedroom town comes alive....

                                           The town showing their hospitality...


                                           Outside a grocery store.
                                                    

                                           The park closed to our house became tent city!
                                            
                                           Recumbent bike.  I would like to have one someday...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

All About Carrots

An elderly lady who used to have a vegetable garden once told me that carrots are not worth the bother.  I admit that sowing carrots seeds which are very small and light,  almost like a grounded rice hull,  is not the easiest task.    Then there's that labor intensive thinning of the seedlings.  After that though, carrots are relatively easy.  I almost leave them alone.  Maybe pull some weeds around them once in a while.  Pests don't bother them as much.   Once the leaves flourished, they are beautiful.  Then mid-summer to early fall, you are rewarded with wonderful and nutritious harvest.  I know carrots in the grocery  are cheap but I think homegrown carrots are sweeter and more flavorful.  Definitely worth it!



            These are my first harvest for the season.  I planted two 3 feet  x 12 feet beds , so I have more to come.  Most of these will be used for Benji's food.  He loves carrots.                           

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pancreatic Cancer

It started as a nagging pain in the left upper abdomen. He thought he strained a muscle from helping my sister in landscaping project. It did not get better. After about a month of this intermittent but unrelenting pain, he finally went to his doctor. Due to his limited English and stoic personality, the doctor initially thought it was an upper gastrointestinal problem and ordered Upper GI scan. Blood test and the GI scan came out normal. He was relieved but the pain is still there. My sister who's a nurse called the doctor and demanded more tests. Reluctantly, my father agreed to undergo CT scan which suggested a metastatic cancer. After more tests (PET scan, more blood tests and biopsy), he was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer Stage 4.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Over-education for nothing?

When I first came here in the U.S., most Physical Therapists that I worked with just have their Bachelor's degree. Then, after few years, they required it to be Master's Degree. Now, it is a Doctoral Degree which means it requires to have 3 years of Graduate education to become a Physical Therapist. New grads call themselves doctors.

My husband and I think it is a ridiculous and unnecessary way to raise the cost of health care. The title holds so much promise but delivers so little. We cannot prescribed any medications nor diagnostic test. Medicare still requires physician's order before we can start P.T. treatments. RN's who only needs 2 years (4 years to have BSN) actually have more responsibilities than P.T.'s. The only draw is that insurance companies pay more for P.T. services compared to other allied health services, hence, pay is better. Average P.T. in the State of Iowa makes more than $70, 000 annually compared to RN which pay about $50, 000.

I admit to toying this idea of getting my Post-professional Doctor Of Physical Therapy Degree which many schools offer online. What stopped me going with it is that it will not really benefit me professionally. It will not raise my salary nor position. Nor my confidence which seems to be lacking. Nor make me several inches taller so many patients will be comfortable of me lifting them. Nor make me a better and happier therapist (I think).

Anyway, I am ranting about this because it's not just P.T.'s who are over-educated but also Pharmacists. I think they keep on raising the educational standard to keep the supply low and demand high. Purely capitalistic intention, in my opinion.

The other day, I called a pharmacist to clarify if my patient's new Fentanyl patch is a new dose prescription or an added dose to the existing patch he already has. The wife reports that she applied both patches which caused too much sleepiness. The wife refused for me to contact the primary physician who prescribed the patch because she is not very happy with that physician. So, to clarify the dosage, I called the pharmacist who filled the prescription. She (the pharmacist) told me that she doesn't know and that I should call the physician to clarify. I was disappointed by her response. I am a Physical Therapist( my medication knowledge is limited) and ,for Pete's sake, it's her responsibility to clarify the order, or, at least, know the answer to my simple question. Is she incompetent or just lazy? Maybe, she just doesn't care. Anyhow, this kind of mediocrity or indifference is not only annoying but downright dangerous. A non-professional person (pharmacy technicians) can dispense medications but what separates a professional from non-professional is the knowledge that they should impart to the clients, and their intermediary role between the prescriber and the client. The latter she clearly neglects. Anyway, I did the calling to the physician myself, going against the wife's request.

The same situation happens to me many times over working in home health. So many occasions, I found out that many pharmacists are not checking drug interactions despite the fact that they have the list of client's other medications. At one time, when I was working as a nurse in Dallas, a new pharmacist asked me what solution she's supposed to dilute the medication with. What in the world! Isn't she supposed to know this? She's the pharmacist. Or, at least, she should call the doctor or ask another pharmacist!

My point is people who are in charge in setting standards should evaluate their motives. I think the best education for healthcare professionals is the clinical experience. I don't deny the need for strong academic background but there are times you don't need to be in school for such a long time burdening students with astronomical loan when a bachelor's or master's degree sufficed.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Household of Part-timers

Because of inability to leave our child in daycare, we decided to cut back my husband's work time so we can take turns taking care of our baby. It happened just last month when my mother who usually baby sat for us 2 days a week (or more at times) went back to the Philippines.

Okay, my mother is only gone for 6 weeks but we did not like any alternative childcare options we currently have while waiting for her to come back. Everyone tried to assist us in finding solution. My boss. Co-workers. I even visited a daycare closed to our home. But we just cannot do it.

I could have quit my job and be a full-time mother. The reality is we make more money with our combine part-time incomes than with his lone full-time income. I make more money than my husband. He could have quit and be a full-time parent. But my work is demanding of time. For my sanity's sake (and every one's), I could only take part-time of my job for now.

So, we decided that we will take turns taking care of Benji. It is scary because this is out of the norm. We are far from rich. Our future chance to return to full-time employment is questionable as newer graduates are readily available to fill the void.

Many people don't understand why we're kind of over-protective. My husband and I have different but very significant reasons. His reason is that we'd been through hell and back to have this baby. That made it more difficult for him to let go. Mine is sadder than his -- child abuse. I was abused by a trusted caretaker. I am aware that day cares screen their staff and history of child abuse in daycare is probably nil or really small. But I am paranoid.

I know someday we have to let go. We're aware that we cannot sustain a comfortable lifestyle if we continue this path. We talked about waiting until the baby can talk or when he starts school. It will come eventually. For now, though, we are at peace with this set up.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"I'm tired!"

Benji imitating us saying "I'm tired!"

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a son about his father

This documentary has been sitting in my Netflix queue for couple of months now. Last night, I decided to watch it. Alone. It just grabbed my heart from the very beginning, and it did not let go way after it ended. I am a person who cannot wait what will happen. So, I googled the movie and found out how it ends while watching it. I was so heartbroken when I found out what happened that I did not finish it. I ran upstairs, in our bedroom, and cried my way to sleep.

This is the saddest and rawest movie I've ever seen. One of the reviews stated that it is not for the weak of heart. The writer was not kidding. I eventually finished the movie with my husband. It made him cry, too.

I have some tips before watching this movie:
1. Have a box, or 2, of Kleenex.
2. It is better not to know the end of this movie.
3. It is better to watch this with someone. So, someone can relate to your sadness afterwards.

Anyway, it is not all bad. (I mean "bad" emotion like non-stop crying, feeling heartbroken, etc. This is actually a very good documentary. There were many hours of research and editing here. Kurt Keunne will be in my short list to follow from now on) It is tragic but in every tragedy there is redemption. I think I found redemption at the end. Despite the evil things that happened, love and goodness prevail. No matter what, life goes on with a purpose. It also made me realized how lucky I am to have my baby. I promised to be more patient and more attentive to him. I will never take him for granted, ever...

I will give a short synopsis: This is a documentary made by Kurt Keunne in memory of his friend Dr. Andrew Bagby who was killed violently. The suspected killer was his ex-girlfriend Shirley Turner who went back home to Canada when police begun questioning her about the murder. What complicated things was Turner got pregnant with Andrew's son at that time. She named the son, Zachary. Originally, this documentary was for Zachary to know his father. Then, it turned out to cover the custody battle between Turner and Bagby's parents, David and Kate.

This is a big time heartbreaker but thumbs up...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Not all who wander are lost.

j.r.r. tolkien

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Year, New Adventure


It's a late posting. Everyone has been busy lately. My whole family, including myself, was sick for 2 whole weeks right before Christmas. It's not quite done yet. My mother will undergo an outpatient surgery tomorrow. It's another story.

Anyway, I am really thankful for the New Year. I am glad to be given another chance. And we planned so many things this year.

The big thing is to start a big vegetable garden and an orchard. Last summer, we bought an 11.5 acre land. It was a big financial risk for us. But we dream of this for several years since our brief Dallas stint where we found out how exhausting and unsatisfying our urban/suburban lives can be. Upon returning to Iowa in early 2004, we looked at few acreages for a home. Most of these acreages were way beyond our price point. Those few "affordable" ones were either requiring too much work/money to be livable or too far away from paved road which is very critical for us considering we live in a snow country and we plan to keep our city jobs to pay for the mortgage. Driving 10 miles of unpaved road during winter will be dangerous and just not practical. The dream of owning an acreage was set aside for a while but not forgotten.

In the fall of 2004, we decided to settle in a nice comfortable house in town with manicured lawn and small backyard. It was what we need. We decided that we can still do our gardening in the backyard. We built raised beds for vegetables. We planted grapevines, strawberries and a dwarf apple tree. We have some successes and failures in our suburban homesteading. We learned a lot.

Last summer, the land dream came true. We found the perfect parcel through Craig's list. We were both scared and excited. In the end, we decided to jumped in and realized this darn nagging desire. Here we are -- broke but happy land owners.

My wish this year is to continue with blogging, chronicling our small farming experience. Wish me luck!

P.S. Many people including family members think we are crazy but I agree with Howard Hughes when he said "Passion will make you crazy but is there any other way to live?"