Tag Archives: Rich

Detours

My appendix ruptured three hundred fifty miles from home. That was not the plan. The plan was to spend two nights with my dear friend Shelly. Catch up. Reminisce. Write her obituary. On the cusp of her fifty-ninth birthday, Shell’s receiving in-home hospice care for a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor.

Midnight before we said “goodnight,” we spent nine glorious hours looking at photo albums, talking, laughing, and crying. My pain started soon after. I searched “appendicitis”  and “acupressure abdominal pain” on my phone, grateful my pain was low and midline, not the right lower quadrant pain with rebound tenderness I remembered from my nursing school days and February of my boys’ eighth grade years—when appendicitis struck twice.

I worked the acupressure points on my shins and belly to no avail. The vomiting started at two-thirty. Shelly’s daughter Michelle drove me to an urgent care center that morning. “Food poisoning,” the doctor diagnosed. He said my pain wasn’t in the triangular area suspect for appendicitis, but if my symptoms got worse I could return for blood work and a scan. “How does that sound?” he asked.

“Sounds good,” I said.

My cousin Theresa picked me up. I waited in the car while she filled my prescription and bought ginger ale and sports drinks, then I took a dissolvable anti-nausea tablet en route to Shell’s to get my things. A hurried goodbye followed with a promise to return.

Seven hours later I was in the emergency room—at a different facility than that morning. Hours after Theresa delivered me to her home, her twenty-one-year-old son broke his pelvis in a motocross accident. He was in ER with his dad, awaiting admission. Theresa came home to pack an overnight bag and shuttle me to an ER. Made sense to go where she would be spending the night: between ICU, my room, and a waiting room as it turned out.

Ruptured appendix” was the diagnosis twenty-two hours after my pain began. I asked the surgeon if she thought it ruptured when I vomited in the ER waiting room and my pain shot from 7 to 10. To 15, had that been an option on the pain scale. She said appendixes often rupture at the onset in adults. Said too that adults’ pain can start midline and then migrate to the right. My pain was low, not around the navel like I’d read online. She said she’d try to remove my appendix laparoscopically but might have to open me up. I said I hoped she wouldn’t have to.

She didn’t. Rich bused over and drove me home thirty-seven hours after surgery. My drain came out two days later. That night I was again an ER admit, this time with vomiting, chills, and fever. “High-grade bowel obstruction and two pelvic abscesses” were my diagnoses: a ticket to a nasogastric tube, a laparotomy, and a weeklong hospital stay. Four times in five days I had to present my insurance card, grateful at each point for the Affordable Care Act and our insurance plan through Montana’s health insurance exchange.

Sunrise from St. Patrick Hospital room 513. May 2016
Sunrise from St. Patrick Hospital room 513
Mount Jumbo and Mount Sentinel from hospital window
Room with a view: Mount Jumbo and Mount Sentinel from 513

Would my outcome have been different had the urgent care doctor ordered blood work and a scan? Maybe. Had the first surgeon opened me up? Perhaps. “Probably” says my nurse friend Marj. In hindsight, both might have been better options but at the time, I was relieved by each assessment. Throughout my two hospitalizations and recovery periods, thoughts of Shelly—her courage, strength, and grace—put my journey into perspective. My surgeries were detours—the saddest part being I didn’t get to say “goodbye and good luck” to graduating seniors—but they paled compared to Shelly’s pancreatic cancer. To Matt’s broken pelvis. He’s recovering well from trauma surgery, but the abrupt ending to his motocross career was hard.

I know life is unpredictable. And every day’s a gift. So I changed my oil, filled my gas tank, and took another road trip. Shell and I had some writing to do.

Shelly & Karen. August 2016
Shelly & Karen. August 2016
US v Belgium: 2014 Round of 16

World Cup 2014

Brazilians love their futbol. O jogo bonito, they call it. The beautiful game. I had the good fortune of witnessing this love firsthand when, topping my husband’s bucket list, World Cup 2014 drew our family to Salvador, Brazil.

Truth be told, though I was looking forward to seeing some games, I was more excited about spending time with our sons, Eric and Colin. Living five hundred miles apart, our opportunities to get together are limited. Anticipating more than three weeks of family bonding had me over the moon.

What I hadn’t envisioned—something zealous soccer fans will have a hard time understanding—is just how electrifying it would be. To be. In Brazil. For the World Cup.

I’m no stranger to soccer. Rich and I began playing in our mid-twenties and, years later, I became a soccer mom. That status segued the summer of 2010 when our family played together on a co-rec team. Playing short one sweltering July evening, I was assigned to midfield. I still smile at the memory of Colin hollering, “MOM! GO TO THE BALL!”  O jogo bonito it was not.

Fast-forward to June, 2014. In the preparatory reading I did on the plane, I learned new—to me—soccer terms. Matches. Penalties. Pitch. Set plays. I read about the World Cup groups, teams, and star players. I learned that, after sixty-four years, Brazil’s devastating 1950 World Cup loss to Uruguay—coined el Maracanaço, the Maracanã blow—remained an open wound. A 2014 Brazil World Cup victory at Estádio do Maracanã could erase the lingering sorrow.

As we queued with hundreds of others to watch the opening match at Salvador’s FIFA Fan Fest, the excitement was palpable. Brahma flowed; drum beats, cheers, and vuvuzelas created a cacophony of noise; Brasil’s yellow and green ruled the night; and the home team won. It was magical.

FIFA Fan Fest™ -- Salvador

Throughout the ensuing days, the air sizzled as futbol reigned supreme. Soccer jerseys, flags and team colors led to conversations among strangers—filled with either pre-match anticipation and speculation, or post-match jubilation or angst. Whether watching a match at our pousada, in a restaurant, at the Fan Fest, or live at Arena Fonte Nova, it was a treat to gather with others—including more than fifty thousand in the Arena—and be a part of the ebb and flow of groans and cheers, high fives and stadium waves.

Before the France vs Switzerland match, I crafted a rudimentary sign, hoping to connect with our French student, Jordane, across the airwaves. Approaching the stadium, I was on a mission to score face paint to increase my odds. I spotted a young woman painting flowers on her cheeks—mirror in one hand, brush in the other. A young man, whose entire face was painted blue, white and red, supervised her handiwork. They were Brazilians, I learned, supporters of Esporte Clube Bahia, the local team which shares the French colors. As the woman interrupted her artistry to finger paint two flags for me, I told them our French friend was hoping to see us on TV. Her friend laughed and, carefully sandwiching his face between his hands, said, “I want to be on TV, too!”

I hope he was successful.

France v Switzerland. World Cup 2014.

Television cameras did not swing our way during the game. Outside the stadium, though, Colin and I hurried to a random camera to wave my sign and cheer France’s victory. Perhaps someone—somewhere—saw us, but we did not receive reports of a sighting from anyone we knew.

Added sweetness to our World Cup adventures included being joined by twenty-four other Missoulians three days before USA played Belgium in the Round of 16. In Salvador. On game day, Rich, Colin and several of the Missoula crew bused to the Pelourinho, the Historic Centre, where they found a dance-club-turned-game-watching-venue to watch Argentina beat Switzerland.

Joined by a group of boisterous Belgians, there was playful bantering regarding the anticipated outcome of the USA vs Belgium match. Many of the Missoula fans shared a confidence that the US would triumph.

US and Belgium fans share pre-game fun.

Dressed for victory, a faction of Missoulians was interviewed by Norwegian and Ukrainian television stations before the match, and by NBC and BeIN Sports after. ESPN captured them on camera, too; later replaying their enthusiasm on Sports Center.

USA!

But a victory was not to be had.

US v Belgium: 2014 Round of 16

Still, it was thrilling to see the US play. Watching them, and witnessing Tim Howard’s record-breaking sixteen saves in a World Cup match, was priceless. They played a hard-fought battle and, though they lost, USA deserves a thumbs up for making it to the Round of 16.

The Belgium team deserves a thumbs up as well. Their fans’ cheers permeated the stadium at the end of extra-time as they reveled in their team’s success. Not wanting to watch their post-game celebration, we scooted to the exit.

As we made our way through the Pelourinho, a Brazilian woman stopped Eric and me. “She wants to talk to you,” she said, gesturing to the school-aged girl beside her.

“I just want to say,” the girl said in a quiet voice, “that I’m mad that we lost, but I think we’ll win the next World Cup.” She lived in California, she told us, and the woman, her aunt, lived in Salvador. Her mom had watched the game with them, too, “but she’s over there.” She motioned across the square before adding, “She’s mad.” We ended our conversation with smiles and a shared hope for a 2018 USA victory.

Two blocks later, we were stopped again in the Praça da Sé. A reporter asked Eric if she could interview him for TeleSUR, a Venezuelan news station. Serendipitous, since Eric had worked in Venezuela a few years ago. The reporter asked him to add my USA scarf to his nondescript blue shirt, then the camera rolled.

Throughout our stay, I watched people from all around the world come together, and I witnessed how quickly a smile or a thumbs up transcended language barriers. A special thumbs up for Joseph Santini, proprietor extraordinaire, and his entire staff of the Pousada Manga Rosa, Portal do Mar Restaurante, and Dolce Vita Pizzaria. They love their futbol. And I feel their pain.

The International Choral Festival

The International Choral Festival marked its debut in 1987. That year was memorable on two accounts; it was also the year I became a mother. Following the success of the first Festival, a second followed three years later. So, too, did the arrival of our second son.

Though anticipating the birth of our first child during the inaugural Festival and being sleep deprived during the second, it was welcome respite to listen to choirs in various locations around Missoula. Since then, we have enjoyed the diversity of the choirs and their music in this triennial event.

The Ninth International Choral Festival was held July 17-20. For the first time, Rich and I served as hosts. We didn’t request a specific age group, sex, or country on our volunteer application. Instead, the thrill of the unknown we felt while awaiting the births of our children was magnified fourfold. Will our guests be males or females? Adults or youth? Where will they be from? Will they speak English?

We learned the answers to our first three questions days before the Festival began. We’d be hosting three young women from Taiwan’s Formosa Singers.

Formosa Singers at Southgate Mall
Formosa Singers at Southgate Mall

Our fourth question was answered when we met Lin Ying-Jyun, Fan Chih-Jung, and Li Szn Fang—AKA Amy, Tiffany, and Rainbow Amy—at Missoula Children’s Theater. Yes.

Hosting Tiffany, Amy, and Rainbow was a treat beyond measure. Sprinkled between rehearsals and concerts, we prepared and shared meals, sang, laughed, and enjoyed learning about their culture while sharing some of our own.

Rainbow, Karen, Amy and Tiffany at UM
Rainbow, Karen, Amy and Tiffany at UM

We reveled in seeing Missoula’s beauty through the eyes of our guests…

Tiffany, Amy and Rainbow at Greenough Park
Tiffany, Amy and Rainbow at Greenough Park
Amy, Susan, Rainbow and Tiffany at Farmer's Market
Amy, Susan, Rainbow and Tiffany at Farmer’s Market

…and at times we were guests, both at Festival events and at a fellow host family’s home for an evening filled with food and drink, laughter and song.

The sing-off winners! Cody, Bob, David, Tung Tung, Meko, Hsin-Hsin, Tiffany, Rainbow, Amy and Tyrone
The sing-off winners! Cody, Bob, David, Tung Tung, Meko, Hsin-Hsin, Tiffany, Rainbow, Amy and Tyron

In addition, the Formosa Singers prepared a luncheon for their host families, introducing us to some tasty Taiwanese dishes and affording us an opportunity to visit with other choir members and hosts.

Rainbow and Dai Rong serving spicy tofu and rice
Rainbow and Dai Rong serving spicy tofu and rice

The final day of the Festival fell on my birthday. There were so many moments of sweetness throughout the day, highlighted by the card the girls made for me with its inscription, Dear Mom.

A special birthday card
A special birthday card
Ju, Amy, Sunny, Alice, Tiffany and Rainbow at the After-Festival Party
Ju, Amy, Sunny, Alice, Tiffany and Rainbow at the After-Festival Party

“When are you coming to Taiwan?” our girls asked, more than once during our time together.

“Maybe in 2014.”

That hope lessened our sadness—somewhat—as we shared tearful goodbyes when our days together ended much too quickly.

The connectedness of our world was affirmed that day, though. As our girls left Missoula, our son Colin spent four hours in Taiwan enroute to Thailand. And according to a recent article in the Missoula Independent, Whistling Andy Distillery in Bigfork is going to be selling spirits in Taiwan.

If Rich and I are fortunate enough to visit our Taiwanese daughters someday, perhaps one of our toasts will be with a Made in Montana spirit. Full circle, indeed.

Powwows Throughout the Years

My introduction to powwows was North American Indian Days in Browning, Montana in the 1970’s. At the twenty-first annual event in 1972, my father, Dan Antonietti, was adopted into the Blackfeet tribe and named an honorary chief. That was, and still is, a big deal.

My Dad worked for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Manpower Administration. In his role as Project Officer for the Bureau of Work Training Programs, he was instrumental in securing monies and programs for the Blackfeet people. To honor and thank him for bringing Neighborhood Youth Corps and Operation Mainstream to Browning, Pete Stabs by Mistake named my father A-pi-na-ko Si-pis-to (“Morning Owl”) in a touching ceremony nearly forty-one years ago.

A Southern-Piegan Indian named Na-to-si (“Sun”) was awakened one morning at dawn by the hooting of an owl. After he fell back to sleep, the owl came to Na-to-si in his dreams and told him to give the name “Morning Owl” to someone he loved. When Na-to-si awoke, he remembered his dream. He called to his adopted son and said, “From now on, your name will be A-pi-na-ko Si-pis-to.”

My dad, Chief Morning Owl, in 1972
My dad, Chief Morning Owl, in 1972
Neighborhood Youth Corps float, North American Indian Days, 1972
Neighborhood Youth Corps float, North American Indian Days, 1972
Julie makes a new friend, North American Indian Days, 1972
Julie makes a new friend, North American Indian Days, 1972

I have attended other powwows since then. In 1991, Rich and I took our boys to their first powwow. Colin wasn’t walking yet, so he and Rich watched as Eric and I moved to the rhythm of the drums and joined the “All Dance.” We modeled traditional dance steps as best we could, foregoing any attempts at fancy dancing. Had Chief Morning Owl been in Missoula to watch us that day, I think he would’ve been proud.

Karen and Eric in the "All Dance"
Karen and Eric in the “All Dance”
Eric, Colin and Rich at the 1991 Fort Missoula Powwow
Eric, Colin and Rich at the 1991 Fort Missoula Powwow
Eric and the dancers
Eric and the dancers
1991 Fort Missoula Powwow
1991 Fort Missoula Powwow

On March 9th, I went to the 12th annual Honoring Our Youth Pow Wow at Big Sky High School.

Grand entry at Honoring Our Youth Pow Wow, 2013
Grand entry at Honoring Our Youth Pow Wow, 2013
Honoring Our Youth Pow Wow
A four-year-old dancer
Honoring Our Youth Pow Wow, 2013
Fancy and traditional dancers at Honoring Our Youth Pow Wow, 2013

I thought about Chief Morning Owl as I watched the dancers and listened to the drummers. In 1979, Dad’s work changed when he moved to the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. As I sat in the Big Sky gymnasium that afternoon, Mom and Dad were nearing the end of a trip to Washington D.C. The previous week, Dad had attended the National Legislative Service Committee meetings as Montana’s legislative chairman for the VFW. Eighty-five years old, he’s still championing for the rights of others.

Our Introduction to the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

The 10th Annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival was held February 15th-24th in Missoula, Montana. For the fourth year running, my husband, Rich, and I were fortunate to partake in many of the Festival’s films.

Our introduction to the BSDFF was in 2009. That year, our brother-in-law Lance’s friend, Kimberly Reed, directed and starred in one of the feature films, Prodigal Sons. Missoula Independent’s Nick Davis wrote, “In a story that would push the limits of even the most madly creative of fiction writers, this reality show just keeps getting better.”

He was right. In addition to Reed’s thought-provoking film—about identity, family, and relationships—we were treated to a lively Q & A with her following the movie.

Rich and I left the theater that evening asking each other how we had overlooked the Festival the previous five years. We left, too, wanting to see more. There were 143 films that year and though we did see more in the following days, we barely skimmed the surface.

Since 2010, we’ve purchased all-screening passes for the Festival. We have friends who’ve joined us as well, and collectively we’ve applauded, laughed, cried, and discussed a variety of the subjects and people we’ve watched on the big screen. We are better stewards of the earth because of the BSDFF.  We’re more conscientious about our use of water and electricity. We bought reusable produce bags and a composter which have decreased our use of plastics and reduced the amount of garbage we generate. And we recycle everything we can.

Seven people attended the first film of the inaugural BSDFF ten years ago. The numbers have multiplied since then.

This year, the winner of the Best Feature Documentary was Blood Brother, a poignant story about Rocky Braat and his journey to care for HIV-positive orphans in India. Our efforts to be more mindful of how we live pale compared to the difference Rocky Anna, as the children call him, is making in the lives of the children he serves.

The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, now heading into its eleventh year, is held each February in Missoula. Filmmakers from across the country and around the globe grace our city with their presence and their films. Keep an eye out for the 2014 dates and mark your calendars. The BSDFF is a treat beyond measure.