Friday, December 31, 2010

Farewell 2010

I'm a little stunned that today is the last day of 2010. I feel ready for 2011, but the past few months went by very fast for me and I'm trying to figure out if there's any dusting I need to do behind me before closing the door on this year. I suppose even if there is some cleaning up to do, it doesn't really matter after I shut the door on the year. Well, theoretically, anyway.

I've been wrapping my head around the number of things that have gone on in the last several months. Lots of ups and downs. I'm riding the waves pretty well, if I do say so myself, but the constant roller coaster is making me a little motion sick.

There's nothing new on the cancer front. Strangely enough, I have mixed feelings about it. I mean, it's not like I want the cancer to come back--gosh NO! I just know that I don't feel right, even now after finishing the antibiotics for the infection I had. The tests aren't showing anything new, nothing better, nothing worse. I just have a nagging, low-level feeling that something isn't right. I'm sure I'll feel better after my next procedure--the doc will either find something then, or he won't and maybe I can brush off this anxiety and convince myself that it's all in my head.

I'm wishing I had some plans for New Year's. I asked my husband last week if we could do something either New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. His version of "something" and my version of "something" are two very different things...he's inviting his friends over to play cards tomorrow and I'm cooking for them. Not quite what I had in mind to celebrate! But on the up side, I'm making a devil's food cheesecake with whipped cream frosting. Yay for dessert! I'm also making soup, chili and enchiladas. I do enjoy puttering around the kitchen, so something good is coming out of it. I guess once the guys start playing cards, I'll retreat and watch a movie. Good time for a chick flick!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Stay-cation

I'm off work for the next few days. Not going anywhere, just hanging out at home. Tonight, I've been busy making peanut-butter-truffle filling. The house smells yummy. Tomorrow, I'll get up and head to the pool for a short swim, then get home to take care of some cleaning; hopefully the kiddo will be feeling better and will be able to help with baking some cookies.

And...I have to finish Christmas shopping. I haven't been feeling great lately and I'm not motivated to battle the crowds. Most of the shopping is done, only a few more gifts to get, but I just don't feel like going. I'd much rather lay around and read one of the books I've got from the library. Maybe have a glass of wine, too.

I have some medical appointments coming up this week, lots of labs to have done, but by Friday, it'll all be out of the way and I can get down to the real business of Christmas...and that involves making baked potato soup and a red velvet cheesecake!

I was thinking earlier that we were supposed to be going to Disney World this year for Christmas--turns out that we can't quite swing that on one income! Maybe next year? I guess we'll see. For now, I have to go check on my peanut-butter-truffle filling. And try not to eat any yet!

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's True, I DO Want a Bladder Infection

About two weeks ago, something felt a little off. Nothing I could put my finger on. I woke up one morning and noticed the slightest change--barely noticeable, much like the carefully shifting cylinders in a lock. Something was clicking in my body. A sensation of things falling into some kind of predisposed pattern. I felt something going on.

I shook it off. I'd been sick for quite some time at that point with a case of bronchitis that was lingering. I'd been on several different meds and I brushed my concerns away, blaming it on my body being out of whack.

But the uneasiness persisted.

I know my own body and I knew something felt off.

Last Friday, I noticed an uncomfortable sensation in my bladder and my pants felt uncomfortably tight. There was a dull ache in my kidneys. And there was some swelling in my left leg. My blood started running cold. They were all the same symptoms I had a year and a half ago. I tried to quiet my nerves, telling myself maybe it was just a UTI, a bladder infection, maybe a bladder infection that was creeping into my kidneys.

I couldn't help it. I started to cry. Just an infection, I prayed. Please. I want to have a bladder infection, nothing more.

I made myself go to work, but I called my primary care doctor's office the minute they opened. My own doctor is on maternity leave, but the doctor who has coordinated all of my care, fought with the insurance company and provided all of my referrals--he was there that day. In a shaking voice, I asked for the nurse. I got her voicemail and left her a message about my symptoms. I found myself trying to reassure her on the voicemail, saying I was sure it was just some early symptoms of a bladder infection. Could the doctor send me for labs and call in an antibiotic? Or would I have to come in for an appointment?

She called back a short time later. No appointment needed, they didn't want to waste time. Go straight to the hospital for labs and they'd call me with results as soon as they were in.

I went to the lab, peed in the cup and then just waited. I wanted to make them analyze it right that second, but I knew I'd have to wait. It takes a few days to culture and stain it. I spent a lot of time shopping and spending money on Christmas gifts this past weekend, trying to distract myself from the anxiety of waiting.

Today, the nurse called me at work. There is an infection. A raging infection. She was faxing the order for an antibiotic to the pharmacy as she was giving me the results, telling me that I needed a double course and then I'd have to repeat the labs because... She didn't finish. I waited for a heartbeat before asking, "An infection. And?"

There was a pause. Silence. Then she asked me when my next appointment is with Hottie Doc (my term for the good doctor, not hers). I swallowed hard. "First week in February for my next scheduled procedure. Do I need to get in sooner?"

She was very kind. She said not yet, they don't want to make me needlessly worry. For now, I need the antibiotics to clear up the infection. My body is doing nothing to fight it. I don't actually feel sick, I'm not running a fever, nothing. She told me to prepare to feel worse before I feel better. Fair enough. I can handle that. But the repeat labs? Is it just to make sure the infection is gone? Or is there something more?

Some cells, she said. Unusual, a little abnormal. No clear cancer cells, but some things the doctor wants checked after the infection is gone. If the results come back the same, we'll get you into the specialist sooner.

The cells popping up are identical to the cells that were passed in 2009. The same cells, the same symptoms, the same blood in my urine that landed me in Hottie Doc's office. Hottie Doc monitors me very closely and during the last two procedures, he's looked even closer for something, anything unusual. The blood popping up in my urine had him worried, but he couldn't find anything. He's been hoping it's nothing. I've been hoping it's nothing. He commented that my body is sensitive, so there might be something going on--something on a cellular level that they can't see yet. If there is something, it'll make itself known.

Right now, I'm hoping nothing is making itself known. I'm hoping I have just a bladder infection. A bladder infection would make me very happy right now.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Weathering the Weather

I like living in the midwest. I appreciate the changes in seasons, but the weather can be extreme sometimes, can't it? A co-worker shared that on a busride to Minneapolis (with around 40 physically handicapped clients), they rode through an ice storm and then through tornado-like weather. I say tornado-like because they didn't actually see the tornado, but the sirens were blaring and they saw a cow that had been lifted off the ground by the wind. That's some midwest weather for you.

Right now, it's snowing like crazy and my neighborhood is blanketed in white. The commute to work tomorrow will be interesting. And dangerous. Dangerous because the streets were coated in ice before the snow started falling. Eeek.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

My plan for today was to buy a 2-carat diamond bracelet from Macy's. Do I have any need whatsoever for a 2-carat diamond bracelet? No, of course not. I was going to buy it because it was on super-sale for Black Friday for $99. And there's a small part of me that wanted to know what it was like to have 2-carats of anything on my person. And other than work clothes, I have not spent any money on myself since getting promoted. In all honesty, I just wanted to splurge. I actually went online last night and added one to my shopping cart. Second thoughts crept in, though, and I didn't actually buy it.

Today, after doing 3 loads of laundry, cleaning all the bathrooms and mopping the floors, vacuuming the stairs, cleaning the kiddo's bedroom and changing sheets, I thought, "What the hell?" And I went online to finish my purchase.

The bracelets were sold out.

It wasn't meant to be, I guess, but I was still pretty bummed.

In reality, $99 buys more than a week's worth of groceries and I do have to go grocery shopping tomorrow or Sunday. I'll feel pretty good about that. But I know I would have felt even better if I was grocery shopping with 2-carats of diamonds on my wrist.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving

I'm sitting here at the end of the day, quietly contemplating all that I'm grateful for this year.

  1. (23) My health. The cancer has stayed away and this past July marked one year of being cancer free. That by itself leaves me feeling overwhelmingly thankful.
  2. (24) Self-discipline. There are a lot of things that I don't feel like doing, but I do them anyway. If I skipped even five things a week that I didn't feel like doing, life as I know it would fall apart pretty quickly.
  3. (25) My job and health insurance. 'Nuf said.
  4. (26) Our military men and women who are busy at home and around the world to keep safe. And our local community service providers--firefighters, paramedics, police, etc.--who do so much for us.
  5. (27) God. Even when I'm mad at Him.
  6. (28) Family. I just wouldn't be at this same level of crazy if not for my crazy sisters.
  7. (29) Friends. One good friend in particular who gets me in a way that no other friends have since I was a kid.
  8. (30) Aflac. People say supplemental and disease-specific insurance is silly, but I was diagnosed with cancer at 31, so I say it's a good thing. And with what I've received from them after filing my cancer claims, my policy has paid for itself more than ten times over.
  9. (31) My amazing daughter who I love with my whole heart.
  10. (32) And my husband, who I still love, even when I feel like punching him. Like right now.

Many wishes for a safe, peaceful and blessed Thanksgiving to everyone.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Restless

I just randomly changed my blog design. I like it.

The pace I've been running at lately is getting out of hand and I've been left with a nagging feeling of restlessness and resentment. I'm good at multi-tasking, but honestly, things are starting to slip through the cracks. I'm forgetting small things, but some of them are important. That bothers me a lot, and people who know me well know that my memory is pretty sharp. It's disturbing that I find myself losing my train of thought or forgetting things that need to be done. I suspect that lack of restful sleep is a big part of it. I haven't been able to really rejuvenate in a while. I have a few days off this week for the Thanksgiving holiday, so I'm hopeful that I can get in a few nights of good rest.

There have been a lot of arguments in my household lately. I think that's where the tug of resentment is coming from. Personalities and priorities have been clashing quite a bit in recent weeks and part of me feels like a good fight would clear the air. I feel like if I could yell and scream a little (or a lot), maybe, just maybe I would feel heard. Maybe I would finally feel like what I say is important. Or even if not important, at least somewhat valuable.

I was thinking about my faith recently and how God tends to work in ways I don't understand. I remind myself to duck, to get out of the way and let Him come out swinging for me, but I haven't been so good at that lately. I drag myself up too soon and He ends up smacking me in the back of the head. I do kind of have a headache tonight. Just sayin'.

Right now, I have a kiddo who wants to snuggle with me and that seems like the perfect way to end this not-so-perfect day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Serving the Veterans Who Serve Us

As the daughter of a U.S. Army Veteran, I was raised with a keen awareness of the sacrifices our military men and women make for our country. Last week, on Veteran's Day, I was driving back to work after lunch when I went past the local funeral home that was conducting the services for a local fallen soldier. I drove past just in time to see the casket exiting the building. The gleaming hearse was open and waiting. Hundreds of people hovered nearby, including the dedicated motorcycle riders who stood as silent guard, giving the family privacy. News helicopters hovered in the air. Throngs of people lined the streets for miles, silently waving American flags. Children carried signs, thanking this young man for his ultimate sacrifice.

Tears were abundant...my own included.

The irony did not escape me when I remembered that I would be giving a presentation on a new project for work. The funding would go to serve U.S. Military veterans who are homeless and mentally ill. This is a general transcript of my presentation:


Good afternoon, my name is Martha and I’m the Director of Behavioral Health at [x] Services. I’d like to thank everyone here today for the opportunity to present our proposal for a new project.

Some of you are familiar with [x]’s Behavioral Health program, but for those of you who aren’t, our department serves individuals who are homeless and mentally ill. Many of these individuals also have substance abuse treatment needs. These individuals have long, often decades long struggles with their illnesses and have lived in shelters and on the streets, have gone un-medicated or under-medicated, with long histories of psychiatric hospitalizations. Some individuals go years without even being diagnosed, until perhaps some type of tragedy or near-tragedy occurs and they are hospitalized. Many have been institutionalized or have been served in nursing homes.

Part of this population that we serve includes U.S. Military Veterans. These veterans struggle with the same issues that I just mentioned, but their struggles are unique, in that they’re often accompanied and compounded by service-connected disabilities, as well as combat-related traumas. Historically, this has been an under-served population—lack of funding, lack of available local resources and services. Many of us have seen and worked with older veterans. It seems like there’s a stereotype of Vietnam veterans struggling with their illnesses, but the truth is that it goes far beyond a stereotype. Years go by and, we see the need for services continuing to increase, from veterans who fought during the Persian Gulf War, as well as now, as our veterans return from overseas assignments, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Individuals may not be getting mental health services for any number of reasons, including fear of stigma and lack of available services. Waiting lists for medical care, substance abuse treatment and mental health care are common.

For this new project, we are proposing to serve additional veterans in our program. We have a history of cooperative relationships with [y] Substance Abuse Treament Facility, the Veterans Assistance Commission and Hines VA Hospital. We receive referrals from these agencies, but we also get referrals from community outreach and shelters, as well as cold calls from individuals who desperately need services.

As part of this project, we will provide rental assistance, along with mental health and rehabilitation services. We have solid working relationships with over 70 landlords in the [z]County area, who provide us with safe and appropriate housing for the individuals served in our programs. The individuals we hope to serve in this project will have an opportunity to select a home—it may be an apartment, a duplex, townhome or house, depending on the needs and choice of the individual. Their choice may be related to wanting to be close to family, close to transportation, close to work, or any other number of factors. Once they select their home from what is available at that time, they’re provided with necessities upon moving in, including furniture, bedding, kitchen and bath items, toiletries and other items they may need to get started in their new home.

All of this is fantastic, but it’s not just about four walls and a roof. While we believe that having a home is an integral part of managing symptoms and recovering from the effects of long-term mental illness, we do recognize the actual value of housing stability and what it brings—a permanent address, in some cases reuniting families, and the comfort of actually having a place to call home. We also know that services are critical in ensuring the success of the individuals we serve. Veterans served in this project will have a case manager and case worker who provide case management services—assistance with benefits and entitlements, assistance in accessing medical and dental care, accessing educational and vocational resources, as well as any other resources the individual may need.

Additionally, veterans will also have access to an array of mental health services that are tailored to their individual mental health needs. There’s no cookie cutter treatment. We serve individuals, and as such, their treatment plans are individualized. We recognize that mental illness doesn’t occur exclusively in-office between 8am and 4:30pm. That’s why our staff provide community support and in-home services. We work with people on everything they may possibly need—independent living skills (budgeting, cooking, home care, personal hygiene, time management); we work on symptom management (recognizing triggers, identifying and coping with symptoms), managing psychotropic medications (understanding what they’re taking, what it’s for, how to self-administer, understanding dosages, storage and safeguarding of medications), socialization skills (communication, assertiveness, building relationships), adaptation and functional skills (problem-solving, stress management, anger management, self-esteem managing feelings), and also education and work-readiness. We will help them with transportation, making and keeping appointments and we will strive for them to be as stable, independent and self-sufficient as possible—and we provide the services to get them there.

In addition to those services provided by our staff, veterans will also have the option of therapy and psychiatric care. While some of our veterans choose to receive their services through Hines VA, they are aware of and always have the option to access our on-site therapists and consulting psychiatrist.

Another unique feature is that veterans may also choose to participate in our on-site PSR program (psychosocial rehabilitation, which is psychiatric day treatment). PSR staff will help these veterans with the same issues that our CH staff work on in their homes, but these services are more intensive and provided in a group setting by trained staff. The peer support is valuable, and for many individuals, including those we hope to serve with this new project, it helps in avoiding psychiatric hospitalizations, as they are receiving daily psychiatric treatment, but in an OPT setting.

Our agency also provides crisis intervention services and all individuals, including these veterans that we're hoping to serve, can access a crisis worker or our consulting psychiatrist after-hours through our department’s crisis line.

That’s a summary of we already do, and what we hope to continue to do with this new project. Our new project includes leasing and operational costs. Support services will be provided through DMH funding/MRO billing—so we are not asking for any administrative costs as part of this proposal.

We already serve a population of veterans and it would be an honor to serve additional veterans, especially considering all that they have done to serve us.


I'm proud to say that we're getting the funding. Here's to our veterans!

(I encourage you to scroll down on the left side of my blog to pause the music, and then watch this video. Many thanks to the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ummm...

Sorry, couldn't think of a title. It's been quite a week and I'm so glad tomorrow is Friday!

Saw Hottie Doc on Monday and was so glad that everything came back fine. He's funny--he walks in the room, all happy and perky, getting everything ready for the procedure, asking how I am. My response? "Look Doc. It's Monday morning. I'm wearing a black sweater, black knee socks and no pants. And you're about to violate my bladder with a video camera. The way I see it, my day can only get better from here."

Work has been crazy busy, but I'm not complaining. It certainly beats the alternative! The only problem I'm having right now is that I've been so sick! I can barely keep up during the day because I'm so exhausted. Even after a full round of antibiotics and prescription cough medicine every night, I just can't seem to shake this bronchitis. It's annoying, the cough keeps me awake when I should be sleeping and it wears me out during the day. Booooo.

I've got a post started about Veteran's Day...not done yet, but hopefully I can get that posted tomorrow. Should be a little more meaningful than this mindless rambling.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Up Close and Personal

Tomorrow morning, I get to see my *favorite!* doctor for my 3-month cancer check-up. Good old Hottie Doc will be poking around my bladder with a video camera to make sure I'm still all clear.

Have I mentioned how much I dislike these appointments? Uncomfortable, embarrassing and kind of painful. Awkward, to say the least. It ain't normal for someone to be all up on my insides like that. Way too close and way too personal.

But on the up-side...and there's always an up-side...I'll be done by around 8:45am and the way I see it, the worst part of the week will be done! AND I can totally trump anyone else at work who complains about not having a good Monday morning. Boo yeah!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Flu?

I haven't had to deal with a flu virus in 9 years. The last time I caught the flu, I was knocked on my behind for a week. I hadn't gotten a flu shot since then.

I am knowledgeable and practical. I am fully aware that I cannot get the flu from an injectable flu vaccine. The virus is dead and all it does is cause an immune response to then protect me if I'm exposed to the live flu, right?

Well, I got a flu shot this year. I did it in support of my little girl, who really needs a flu shot every year because of her breathing problems. I got my shot maybe 4 weeks ago.

Since last Friday night, I've been a big ball of pain and fever. It hurts to move. It hurts to talk. It hurts to breathe and blink. Can't eat. Keep coughing. Sore throat. No stuffy nose, which is good. All I want to do is sleep. I have not been to a doctor, but I'm pretty sure this is a flu bug. It's not a cold, that's for sure. And I need to get well by Monday, because I see Hottie Doc for my next bladder scope and I can't get it done if I'm sick!

I cancelled class tonight and I'm giving serious consideration to taking the day off work tomorrow so I can just rest. In fact, I think I might take a hot bath and then go to bed. A 7pm bedtime tonight sounds good.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Scent of a Man

I thought about my grandpa today.

I had no good reason to think about him. He has, after all, been dead for almost 25 years. But I thought about him just the same.

This past week has been difficult--my emotions are all over the place--and at times like these, for whatever reason, I think about him.

I don't think about his last years, when cancer ravaged his body. I barely remember how he looked at the end. "Sickly" comes to mind when I think about his final days, but those aren't the days I remember.

Today, and like other days when I think about him, I remember him as a giant of sorts, vibrant, healthy, with a robust and contagious laugh. I remember his hands, holding me tight and swinging me toward the sky, flinging me in the air...flying toward space, then hurtling toward the ground, and a moment before hitting, those same hands scooping me up, bringing me in and crushing me to his chest for a bear hug.

I remember him telling me I was pretty.

He was the first person to put me in touch with my imagination--we used to build towers and castles out of beer cans. He was also the first person to ever tell me that I was so full of shit that my eyes were brown!

I remember sitting on his lap, feeling safe. Never before and not since have I ever felt that secure in a man's arms.

I remember feeling like a co-conspirator when he would do something silly...like the time he was grilling chicken in the backyard and dropped a chicken leg into a pile of dirt. He looked around, bent down and picked it up, then motioned for me to follow him. He swept me into the kitchen laughing and said, "Watch this!" He rinsed the chicken leg under cold running water, then shook it off and put it on a plate. He winked at me, picked me up, and said, "Don't tell your grandma. She doesn't need to know." Then he proceeded to walk back into the yard and hand the plate to my grandma. She ate the chicken.

I thought about all of this today in the early morning quiet while I pushed my cart through the grocery store. I had a small smile on my face, reminiscing, when it hit me. It was like I had run full-force into a concrete wall.

I smelled him.

I don't remember my grandpa wearing cologne, but I remember what he smelled like. And that scent, the first scent I associated with a strong man, hit me from all sides. I wanted to look around, but forced myself not to, knowing full well that grandpa wasn't there. I don't know who or what it was, but his scent was there.

I yanked my cart and hurried away, tears welling in my eyes. I kept my head down, knowing if I looked up, the tears threatening to spill over would start flowing. I paid for my groceries and made my way across the parking lot, the sun bouncing off my tears, making me see strange, diamond-like prisms.

When I finally pulled myself together, I got myself home, put away the groceries and then sat down to write this and it occurred to me that while he taught me much about great love...he later taught me much more about great loss.

I miss him.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

My Life's Savings

I think when most people hear the phrase, “life’s savings”, they usually assume it refers to money or assets. For example, “I put my life’s savings towards a down payment on a house.”
For me, it’s a little different. It seems like I’m always saving something. I’ve been saving my entire life. If I was a bank, I’d be full of all kinds of assets. From the time I was a kid, I was always being told to save something.

• Save your money for a rainy day.
• Save this, someone might need it later.
• Save that, you might need it later.
• Save your breath, don’t argue with me.
• Save your energy, don’t waste my time.
• Save…
• Save…
• Save…

I’m always saving something, and as I get older, the messages I’ve always heard have been internalized. I now have my own messages about saving and sometimes, they go to the extreme.

• Save my money.
• Save my vacation time.
• Save the pink sweater—don’t wear it and I won’t ruin it.
• Save wedding dress.
• Save the red lipstick for a fun night out.
• Save my tears.
• Save my love for someone who wants it.
• Save the memory that hurts too much to remember, but would be agonizing to forget.
• Save the sweet memory that makes my heart flutter.
• Save the manicure for another day.
• Save the hateful letter that crushes my self-esteem every time I read it.
• Save the pretty blue underwear for a special occasion.
• Save the trip, the cruise, the WHATEVER for another time.
• Save my hopes and wishes.
• Save my prayers.
• Save someone.
• Save myself.
• Save a life.
• Save the world.
• Save more.
• Save…
• Save…
• Save…

And yet, when I think about it, what exactly am I saving for? Is life itself not a special enough occasion for pretty underwear, a pink sweater, red lipstick and a manicure?

Is my time not valuable enough for me to take and enjoy?

At what point exactly did I become a deposit box, unwilling to draw from my own assets?

Save the excuses. Save the lists and reasons for another day.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Random

I would really enjoy a vacation right about now. Autumn is here, the weather is cooler, leaves are changing colors, Halloween is coming...it's all good stuff that I'm enjoying, but a vacation would be so nice. If circumstances were a little different, I would take my kiddo to Maine next weekend, just the two of us. She has a long weekend (no school on Friday or Monday), airfare isn't too bad right now and we could spend a few days in a small town, enjoying the local culture. Unfortunately, my own work schedule doesn't allow for that at the moment, nor do finances. I remind myself that life won't always be like this--things will settle down and some sort of normalcy will return.

Everything else is about the same. I spent most of my weekend preparing for and cleaning up from the hubby's poker gathering. A lot of effort goes into those little parties, but everyone seems to have a good time. I usually do the cleaning and cooking, then do my own thing while the guys play. They were out in the garage last night, I worked on some sewing in the dining room after the kiddo went to bed, then went upstairs and read The Bridges of Madison County for probably the 458th time. (I adore that book.) In any case, it was nice overall. The hubs has a birthday on Monday (35!) and I thought it would be nice for him to celebrate with his friends. He enjoyed it.

Today I did some chasing, bought a few things from Kohl's--all things I currently need, no wasteful spending here! Actually, I bought a night shirt, an undergarment and two tops, and I paid ten cents. No kidding. I had some Kohl's cash and a gift card and after those were processed, I handed over a dime from my purse and was on my way. Nice!

I'm going to Trader Joe's in a little while and I'm hoping to keep that under $40. I don't get paid until Friday and I know I'll need gas for my car, so I just have to figure out how to balance that out.

I don't need to do any cooking tonight. There are leftovers from last night's gathering, so it'll be spinach salad, chili, enchiladas and apple crisp. And cupcakes for dessert.

It occurred to me that the holidays are just around the corner. Halloween is in a few weeks, followed by Thanksgiving, and then Christmas will come roaring up, too. I started thinking about Christmas shopping and I'm getting ideas for the kiddo. She doesn't ask for much and it's always fun coming up with ideas for what to get her. This year will be no different.

Let's see...anything else? Oh, my dog had surgery on her paw last weekend. That was an unplanned (and expensive) event. She was digging in the yard and got a claw hooked on something--split and fractured it deep into the skin. Tomorrow will hopefully be her last post-op visit.

I think I'm going to be Wonder Woman for Halloween this year. THAT should be fun. I'm also making an octopus costume for my kiddo. Hilarious!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

These Days

In spite of some hardships and regular complications, I have a simple little life. And that's okay. I would like it, however, if things stayed mostly simple and less complicated. This weekend, like most weekends, went by far too quickly and I can hardly wrap my mind around the fact that it's already Sunday night. I punked out on most of the household chores, but still had plenty to keep me busy. Lots of errands, swimming lessons for the kiddo, cooking a big dinner and making chocolate chip cookies, an emergency trip to the vet with a little surgery for the doggy's paw...little things that quickly add up, and then POOF! It's Sunday night.

As of right now, I technically have three jobs. (Gulp.) I've been with my company just about ten years. I've moved up through the ranks since my days as an intern, and this past Monday, I started a new position--thanks to a promotion--as a Director in our mental health program. Very exciting. But my previous position hasn't been filled yet, so I'm doing that job, too. I'm director of the outpatient, psychosocial rehab, 24-hour group homes and veterans programs...plus doing all my previous duties, i.e. managing all the clinical treatment for every client in the program and doing quality assurance stuff. AND I'm teaching on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

I'm looking forward to December. I plan on taking a week off to sleep.

I guess my point is that just like most folks, these days are busy. I miss blogging and I miss catching up on everyone else's blogs, too. Unfortunately, by the end of the day, I'm just tired and I see so much other stuff that needs to get done. I need to tell the dirty dishes and laundry to quit their hanky-panky and stop reproducing when I'm not looking. How is it that there's always dirty stuff, even if I've already taken care of all of it? Eeek.

Anyway, that's it for now. I have to get my notes ready for class this week and I need to dust in the living room and dining room. More nonsense later.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Small World

You know those moments that occur--moments where things suddenly fall into place, moments beyond any real explanation, other than that it's providence, and Providence with a capital P! Today, one of my coworkers was not feeling well and she mentioned, a little too casually for my liking, that she was having crushing pain in her chest. She's a young lady, a mere 27 years old, with no history of heart problems, but I was not playing around.

After all, I was a mere 27 years old when I had crushing chest pain and my kiddo was only 5 days old and I was seeing my short life flash in front of my eyes.

I had the receptionist call 911 while I took care of her, and when the paramedics showed up, I was giving them a quick history when I made eye contact with one of them (who appeared to be supervising two student paramedics) and had an immediate flash of recognition. Those eyes. Blue. So blue. Piercing, almost fake looking, and almost creepy if not for the merriment that dances in them.

It was the same paramedic who took care of me that scary night, a little more than five years ago, when I had crushing chest pain and an erratic heartbeat. The same paramedic who lifted me off the floor, held me up with one hand and changed my clothes with the other hand, and so gently got me up onto the gurney and out to the ambulance. The same paramedic who came back and checked on me every single time he came back to the hospital that night. The same paramedic who has, since 2005, inspired me every Thanksgiving to send cookies to the local fire departments, thanking them for their dedication and service to our community.

I felt so good knowing that my co-worker was in his very strong and very capable hands.

And if that's not a clear example of God (or Jesus, or Angels or Guardian Angels or however you want to define it) at work, then I don't know what is. Wow.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Blank

I've been sitting for about 10 minutes, staring at a blank screen and trying to remember what the heck I was going to write about. It's been a wacky week and I've been so scattered I can barely keep track of my own thoughts, let alone anything else.

I'm in the running for a promotion at work, which is both exciting and anxiety-provoking. There's some tough competition from within my own department. I'm doing what I can to prepare--my transfer application is in, along with my updated resume, and I've got three letters of recommendation in the works. I guess all I can do is wait and see what happens.

Things at home are pretty much the same. Kiddo is doing fairly well with adjusting to school. She likes her teacher, has made some new friends and really enjoys all the different classes and activities. However, she hates eating lunch at school. This week was better than last week, but she's still struggling. She lost a little over three pounds because she was so anxious during lunch that she just wasn't eating. We've been working hard to help her get over that hump and it looks like it's working.

Hubby is still not working. I never really thought that 14+ months after losing his job, he'd still be out of work, but he is. This is our last month of COBRA and we have yet to find insurance coverage. I know that if we go without insurance for six months, he and the kiddo will qualify for the new state transition insurance...I forget what it's actually called, but basically, it's kind of a hold-over for people like us, who aren't able to get affordable coverage anywhere else. The problem we run into over and over again is issues with pre-existing conditions. When we first started looking around, I thought the insurance companies couldn't do that because of HIPAA, but HIPAA only holds water when an individual is moving from one group policy to another group policy, not a group policy to an individual, private policy. Booooo.

Hmmm...anything else? Oh yeah. My hair. It's getting a little too gray for my liking. I think the stress of the past year has something to do with it. I was brushing my hair yesterday morning before work and was puzzled as to why a few sections were growing in so light--my hair is a medium brown with some hints of red and blonde, but this was a much, much lighter shade near the roots. Then I realized it wasn't light. It was gray. I bought some root touch up and used it last night. Thank you, Medium Golden Brown Root Touch Up for making my hair look normal again.

Tonight, I'm hanging out at home, irritated and in a bad mood overall. I really wanted to go swimming last night, but there was an outdoor concert at the stadium next to the park district pool and there was no parking. Tonight, there was a football game and again, no parking. Although tonight, there were a bunch of jerks tailgating and hogging anywhere from 2-4 parking space. So irritating. We're paid members for the aquatic center and couldn't even get in to use our memberships. I'm hoping to get to the pool tomorrow. I haven't gone since last Saturday--I swam 46 laps--and I miss it. It's honestly the best stress reliever for me. For that little while, it's just me and the water. No worrying about money or work or insurance or cleaning the house or anything. All I hear is the sound of my own breathing and the rush of the water. Best therapy in the world.

That's it, I guess. I'm glad it's a long weekend. I'm hoping to get some work done in the garden, taking the kiddo and myself for haircuts tomorrow, baking for a party the hubby is going to on Sunday and then getting ready for class next week. I suspect the weekend won't be nearly as relaxing as I'm hoping for, but I'll make the most of it. Maybe one night I can squeeze in a few hours of fun time and meet friends for a movie or drink or something.

Or maybe I'll just catch up on sleep. That would be good, too.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ghosts

Anyone who knows me, knows that I believe in ghosts. I'm not really convinced that all ghosts have evil intentions or that they're trapped and can't cross over. I do, however, believe that there is a spirit world that exists in harmony with ours, just sort of in a different dimension. I also believe that some people are more sensitive than others when it comes to seeing the goings-on of the spirt world.

I believe that we don't necessarily seek out spirits, but sometimes they seek out us, for whatever reason. And every now and then, I see something that reinforces that. Kiddo and her dad went to the Field of Dreams in Iowa yesterday. I would like to say that there is nothing wrong with my camera. All pictures taken before were normal and all pictures taken after were normal. So how do you explain the small haze in each of the following pictures? (You can click on any of the pictures to make them a little larger for a better look.)

Her left foot...



Her left foot again, going up toward her knee...


Center of her tummy...


Her upper left chest...



Center chest...

Center of this kid's back...


Moved off to the left...


Now, I'm sure there probably is some sort of semi-reasonable explanation, but I think I'm going to choose to believe a less-reasonable explanation.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hello?

It looks like I need to dust off this blog. It's been kinda desolate around here.

*crickets chirping*

I've been a terrible blogger...so many posts started, none of them finished, and even worse, no real motivation to even attempt finishing them. My lack of blogging has a lot to do with the fact that there hasn't been too much going on. Just hanging in there for the most part.

My baby girl started kindergarten last Friday. Her first day started with her dad cutting a tag out of the back of her shirt, resulting in two holes, and then hitting her in the head with the scissors. It was a rough morning, but she was able to relax and enjoyed the ride to school holding an ice pack on her head.


Overall, she's been enjoying kindergarten, other than the part of having to eat lunch in the cafeteria. She's a slow eater and having a lot of trouble adjusting to having only 30 minutes to eat. She had major meltdowns the last two nights at bedtime because she doesn't want to eat lunch at school. She loves the rest of it, just not the eating part. Tonight was better and she's sound asleep now. It's been a hard adjustment for me, too. I went back to work today after a few days off, and I just kept thinking about her, how her day was going and whether she was doing okay. I also kept daydreaming about the things I'd be doing if I was able to be a stay-at-home mom. Honestly, it brought a smile to my face to think about catching up on laundry, cleaning, planning dinner, etc. I like that domestic side of myself and would love it if I had more opportunity to let that side thrive.

So, if anyone would like to provide me with the financial backing to be a stay-at-home mom, I'd be all over it. Really. And I'd make cookies for you, too.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Maxed Out

The amount of cooking I do is a direct reflection of the amount of stressful events in my life. On this glorious Sunday, I'm making peach cobbler, apple crisp, ham and potato casserole, pork chops, chicken sausage, zucchini and eggplant, maybe some asparagus and...and...I don't know what else yet. What I do know is that there will be plenty of leftovers for lunches and dinners this week.

I think, at least for me, there's therapy in routine and keeping my hands busy. It's a good distraction and keeps my mind occupied with simple tasks, so I can't freak out over anything else.

There's really nothing new going on, I just think in the past few months, everything has been catching up with me. I also thought I was coping pretty well, rolling with things as much as I could and taking everything as it comes. This week, though, I just felt that beginning hysteria--you know what you've finally had enough and you start giggle maniacally because you don't know what else to do? Wait. Does anyone besides me do that? Maybe it is just me. But whatever.

I went to the doctor because my knee was bothering me. The whole joint was tender and there was a noticeable lump on the side of my kneecap. Golfball-sized. The doctor gave me some info while I've been waiting for the x-ray results and I made the mistake of doing some online research. Do you know that if you search for something like "cyst on knee", "lump on kneecap", "painful knee" or any other combination of words, there will be at least a dozen hits telling you that you have some terrible disease and you're going to die? Thank you, internet, for freaking me out. I'm over it now and just waiting to see what the doctor is going to say. Best case scenario is that it's a little arthritis and bursitis. Worst case scenario (aside from the whole terrible disease and death thing) is that I may have a small tear in the meniscus, which is leaking fluid and causing a cyst to form. Neither situation is great, but both are certainly manageable.

There is a little light in all of this wackiness--I got a letter in the mail last week from Aflac--the supplemental insurance company with the goofy duck on the commercials--reminding me that I have a yearly "bonus" of sorts in my cancer-care plan. They were reminding me that there was money waiting for me! All I had to do was fill out a form, have a doctor sign it, and they cut me a check that, for us, will cover our grocery expenses for five weeks. Not bad. In this current economic climate, lots of people I know are dropping their Aflac coverage, but I signed up five years ago for cancer care, short-term disability and hospitalization, not really thinking I needed any of it, but since I'd just had a baby, I thought it was a good investment. But after my bladder cancer episode last year, I sure am glad I have it. The cancer diagnosis came only days after my husband lost his job, and without that supplemental policy, well, I don't know where we would have ended up.

Let's see...anything else? Mmmm...not too much at home. No job leads for the husband yet. Boooo. Kiddo is starting kindergarten on Friday. Wow. I'm excited and anxious about that. Everything else is about the same.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to see what my husband is doing in the kitchen. I need my space and a lot of time for the cooking/baking I'm doing and I can't have him in my way!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why and Why Not

After the past few days, I was getting a little down. Started asking myself, "Why me? Why now?"

And then it came to me. Why not me? And why not now?

So what if my husband's been out of work for 14 months? So what if unemployment benefits have been cut by half and COBRA is more than doubling? So what if no health insurance company will insure my daughter, which leaves us in a bind with the COBRA costs? So what if I have a lump the size of a golf ball in my knee (that's new, just found out today...) and we have no idea what it is? So what if I had to go to work and be looking for a potential dead body at 9:30am?

God hand picked me for this, right? He's gotta have some kind of plan in mind for me. I don't know what it is, and I don't know if I'll understand why, but I suppose all I can do is be thankful in my circumstances and wait for the next events to unfold.

I heard two great quotes...don't know who came up with them, but I've been keeping them in mind...

1. When you reach your wit's end, you'll find that's where God lives.

2. When you're down to nothing, God is up to something.

Looks like I'll be knocking on God's front door soon (not literally, my health is good and I'm not planning on going out in a blaze of glory anytime soon) and finding out what He's got in store for me next!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Victory

In the past 48 hours, I've accomplished two things on my "Bucket List".

I jumped in the deep end of a pool. (For anyone who knows me, this is a BIG deal.) And I made someone (my kiddo) laugh until screaming, "Stop, I'm going to pee on myself!"

Yeah, life is pretty good, even when it's pretty bad.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

I made a yummy dinner tonight and it got me thinking about the rest of the week. We've been doing more penny-pinching lately and it's affecting the grocery budget. Other than shopping for necessities/fresh produce, there will be no grocery shopping until the end of the month. That being said, I've been scouring the fridge, freezer and pantry for meal ideas. We're going to be eating a lot of chicken this month. Even so, I've got this week's menu planned.

Monday~ Mini meatloaves and squash

Tuesday~ Chicken, mac and cheese, green beans

Wednesday~ Pork roast, rice, baked apples

Thursday~ Quesadillas (veggie and chicken)

Friday~ Pizza night


I'm also going to be using the next few weeks to figure out family-friendly, budget-friendly meals that will produce a fair amount of leftovers so that I'm able to pack my kiddo's lunches. I usually cook just what we need because I don't like having food go to waste, but since I'm going to be packing her lunch daily, leftovers will be important. Sandwiches are okay sometimes, but I like the idea of her getting nutritious, yummy food which will require some creativity on my part. I'm up for the challenge!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Money Talks

I can hardly believe that it's the end of July already. The past few weeks have been a strange combination of busy and relaxing...busy, because things are always busy, but relaxing because I've had a few weeks since summer school ended and I'm only working one job. Nice. The evenings are my own and I've been spending as much time as I can with my kiddo.

Ah, my kiddo. She starts kindergarten in three short weeks. I've taken her shopping for some school clothes, and for a change, I didn't worry about prices or clearance racks. I just let her pick out things that she liked. That was hard, because money has been super-extra-tight, but I really felt like my kiddo deserved some nice clothes for her first few days of school. We got her five new shirts and two new pairs of pants. Spent just under $80, which seemed okay to me.

Speaking of money, my hubby still has not found work. It's been thirteen long months of unemployment and his benefits were drastically reduced. His ongoing unemployment hasn't been for lack of trying, but that doesn't make it any easier. I was looking over our budget yesterday, attempting to figure out where else we can cut back, and I've come to the sad realization that there isn't anywhere else to cut back.

Truth be told, if we never used water and didn't have to eat--meaning no water bill and no grocery bills--we'd break even at the end of the month. Obviously, things like food and showers and flushing toilets are necessities, so I guess we'll have to figure out something else. Any ideas? I don't mean to paint such a bleak picture...I'm just not in a great place right now as far as that goes.

For the most part, I'm hanging in there. Blogging has been slow and sporadic, along with most other things in my life. My heart isn't in much of anything. Well, I take that back. My heart is most definitely in spending time with my sweet little girl and getting creative in the kitchen. We may not have much money for groceries, but I can come up with some pretty snazzy dishes with the food we have in the house. Tomorrow is barbecued chicken legs with grilled eggplant and zucchini, and a spinach, almond and mandarin orange salad. Good food doesn't have to be expensive--our whole meal will work out to about $11.00 for three people, and we'll have leftovers for lunch the next day. So, essentially, it's six meals for $11.00, which works out to what? Less than $2.00 per serving...not bad.

My goal for next week is to only go to the grocery store for milk, eggs and bread. I'm going to create my menu based entirely on what I have in the freezer and pantry. Looks like it's time to start doing my weekly menu plans again!

That's it for now. I'll get back to real blogging soon.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Clumsy

I've always been sort of clumsy. Ungraceful. Accident-prone. Whatever you want to call it, well, I'm it. Sometimes I'm amused at what a klutz I am, but other days...mmmm...not so much. I have a goose-egg on top of my head from a bad encounter with the freezer door earlier. (My kiddo asked if I was growing another head after she gingerly touched the bump.) I caught my finger in the bathroom drawer. I dropped a bowl of green beans on my foot. Five minutes ago, I cracked my elbow on the edge of the desk and already have an emerging bruise.

People, this is just today.

It's not that I'm rushing around and being careless. I'm just that un-coordinated. Perhaps I should start making my clothes out of bubble wrap.

Friday, July 09, 2010

365 Days

This is the doctor who first suspected that something was wrong.
She was diligent in testing and as soon as she had an inkling it was more than she should be handling, she sent me to a specialist.


This is HD--Hottie Doc.

He's the doctor who found the growth in my bladder. He was the one who realized it was some sort of tumor. He was the one who planned to take it out, despite protests that it was probably nothing (since I had no risk factors); and despite reservations from the insurance company, who felt it was an expensive and unnecessary procedure. He was the one who found cancer quietly lurking and growing in my bladder. He was the one who got it out and opened a can of whup-ass on it. I see him every few months for follow-up procedures and I am so pleased with his attitude--he's the right balance of cocky and compassionate, which is exactly what I want from someone who's routinely poking around my insides and slicing and dicing when necessary.


This is the doctor who took out the lump/lymph node from my groin.
She totally cheered me on and may have been even happier than me when the biopsy came back as NOT cancer.



This is the doctor who coordinates my care and makes sure referrals are completed and that my insurance manages office visits, tests, procedures, surgeries and treatment.

Without him, none of my treatment would have been paid for by my insurance company--probably thirty thousand dollars in the past year.


These doctors are all part of my treatment team, and without them, I wouldn’t be celebrating this, today, July 9, 2010…

I AM ONE YEAR CANCER-FREE and I am so thankful for the amazing doctors and surgeons who have helped and supported me (and cut me open several times--but it was all for the greater good)!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Un-Jolly


This is totally and completely random. I've had a peculiar pain in the center-left side of my chest for the past few weeks. It's not medical, I assure you. No heart attack, no panic attack, no tumor, nothing like that.
I didn't recognize it at first. It was a small spot and the first time I felt it, I remember thinking that it was small, about the size of a Jolly Rancher. The corners were sharp and I could feel them cutting into me. It took a little while for me to recognize the feeling for what it was.
I was angry.
I don't give into feelings of anger very often. I prefer to be the type of person who just sort of skates along and deals with issues as they arise. I can feel my feelings, but I get to choose what I do with them, and anger is something that I prefer not to express. More often than not, it results in hurt feelings and I don't know about anyone else, but for me, expressing anger usually backfires, in the sense that it results in more angry feelings.
I like comparing my angry feelings to Jolly Rancher for a few reasons...
  • Jolly Ranchers are bitter. I don't really like Jolly Ranchers--they're supposed to be sweet, but for me, I think they leave a bad aftertaste. So does anger.

  • Even though I don't like Jolly Ranchers, they have a strangely addictive quality--if you have one, you want more, and too many Jolly Ranchers aren't good for you. Once anger is expressed, it tends to come out more often in increasingly destructive ways, and that's not good for you...or for the people around you.

  • Jolly Ranchers are small and neatly packaged, but if you unwrap them and leave them sitting out, they either get hard and sharp and can cut you, or they melt into a sticky mess. Same with anger.

  • If you put too many Jolly Ranchers in your mouth at one time, you can't articulate or get your point across. Too much anger has the same effect

  • If you try to swallow a Jolly Rancher whole, it really hurts going down and there's a good chance you'll choke on it. Anger works that way, too.

Soooo...that's it. Just my completely random thoughts for today. I have a long weekend, thank goodness, and a lot I need to get done. I have to do some weeding in the yard, tend to the garden, go grocery shopping, clean the house, do laundry, etc. And that's after putting 60 hours in 4 days. Yikes. Looks like I better get moving. It's after 10am and I have a lot to cram into the next 12 hours.

Have a safe and happy holiday weekend.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I read this today while reviewing some info on bereavement counseling...I was touched by the words and thought I'd share it.

"Life is death
kept at an arm's length.
Love is grief
dressed in its Sunday best.
And sadness is the tax
assessed on any happiness."

St. James Park Epistle from Still Life in Milford by Thomas Lynch.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Today is Friday, June 18, 2010. Time right now is 8:48am.

I am NOT at work. Woo hoo!

The past few weeks have been busy, which is nothing new. I've been working about 60-70 hours a week between my full time job and teaching and spent 3 days at a conference in Minneapolis. My boss, nice lady that she is, told me to go ahead and take today off in place of having gone to the conference last weekend. Yay!

I was mentally planning out my day...at 4:30am when I woke up. I have a doctor's appointment this morning, I have to go grocery shopping, wanted to run out to Ulta for a few little things, and was wondering if I could somehow squeeze in a manicure. The manicure was a random thought because my husband threw a $20 bill at me last night and told me I should get a manicure. It occurs to me that if notices how ragged my hands are, they must be pretty bad. So, hopefully I can get that done. That's a big deal for me--I only get my nails done maybe twice a year.

I also have to go shopping for birthday presents, Father's Day gifts, need to balance the checkbook, catch up on laundry, make a Father's Day cake...um, it seems like this 3-day weekend may not be enough after all. Yikes.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole

Or some kind of hole. That's where my days have been going. The hours have been bleeding into each other and once again, I'm squeaking by on 2-3 hours of sleep per night. And I'm working 16 hour days (Monday through Thursday) between my two jobs, plus doing work at home in the evenings and on weekends. My spouse and I have never been wealthy, but economic times have made things much more difficult than what's comfortable and the two-job scenario for me right now is a necessity.

Mr. Economy, you suck ass. Sorry for saying "ass" on what I consider to be a pretty friendly blog, but I'm feeling decidedly UNfriendly today.

Two more houses on my block have gone into foreclosure. Not mine--we're good with our house payments. But anyway, there were already two in foreclosure before these two. It's just a holy mess. We literally cannot sell our house. Our property taxes have gone up, but the property value is tanking. And the foreclosures are likely going to be turned around into Section 8 housing. Just not what I want to deal with. Make no mistake, I know there are plenty of people who are decent and nice and maintain their Section 8 properties. I work with a lot of those people--both staff and clients! My concern is that the foreclosed homes that have been purchased by private buyers were, well, purchased by buyers who could afford them. Let's just say I'm not surprised by the fact that it suddenly seems like there are more police cars cruising through the neighborhood lately. Boooooo. This was a nice, perfectly reasonable, working-class family neighborhood five years ago. In some ways it still is, but you can tell that it's teetering on the brink of going one way or the other. I just keep hoping it lands on the good way.

In my next lifetime, I'm either going to be independently wealthy so I don't have to worry about finances, or...wait a minute. There is no "or". I'm just going to be independently wealthy. So there.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Random Photos

I haven't been doing much writing lately. I have, however, been having some fun with my camera...

17. Lots of ideas going on in the Idea Garden...



18. Plenty of flowers in bloom...

19. Pieces of history not too far from my own backyard...

20. Spring bursting forth in all its glory...

21. Rain to make the garden grow...


22. Roses blooming early and bringing color and life...




Random moments of peace and beauty, brought to you by me. :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Baby

My baby girl is five years old today...not sure where the time has gone, but it's been the best five years ever. So far.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

When Loving Your Job Hurts

I don't even know how to get started. Today was a really hard day at work. I knew going into this field that there would be bad days. Brutal days. Agonizing days. Days that would make me wonder just what exactly I was thinking when I decided to work in social services. Today was all of those things and more.

I said earlier this morning that after a while (and I'm in my 11th year in this line of work), it seems like I've heard it all, said it all, done it all, and seen it all. As soon as I start thinking like that, something bizarre and/or terrifying comes up. And it does. Today, I tapped into a new well of tears and emotion that I didn't even know existed.

All I know is that after leaving my work day behind, I could barely manage to have my daughter more than a foot away from me. I just needed to hold her and know she was safe from the horror that spins around in this world every single day. There was no explanation I could offer to her as we sat eating dinner and tears of mine that she couldn't understand soaked the top of her head. She couldn't understand why I was hugging her so hard and why I couldn't bring myself to let her go, even after she said, "That's enough squeezing, mommy. You're squishing my nose." There was no way to explain the tears that continued to fall, long after they should have dried up and gone away.

And then I think that maybe, just maybe, the tears aren't supposed to stop. As long as they're flowing, it's a reminder that I care, that I give a damn about children who aren't even mine and that I will fight for them even when they can't fight for themselves...when their little voices have been silenced with horror and humiliation that is beyond words or comprehension, when their bodies are broken and battered, when their innocence is shattered into a million pieces. I will cry with them and for them, and cry out to God for help and somehow, someway scoop up the fragile remains and put them back together, one painful, jagged piece at a time.

Considering what they've been through, it's the least I can do for them.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

I adore gardening. I wish I had more time to spend in my garden! Even so, I took these pics a few weeks ago before the tulips faded away. I keep going back to them because they turned out so vibrantly--no editing or anything, just zoomed in with the camera and shot 'em. They brightened my day. Hope they brighten yours, too. I'm looking forward to going to Cantigny, where I can stroll the gardens and get some shots there, too.




Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Long Day

Most days, I like my life, like my job, like most things in general.

Today is not one of those days.

I don't know why I get myself so worked up before my appointments with Hottie Doc. I'm so anxious about tomorrow and I think it's because I'm conditioned to expect bad news and that's part of it. The other part is that he's always telling me, "Relax." And my response is, "Says the person in the room who's wearing pants." He laughs. I raise my eyebrows at him because I'm being serious. Going to the doctor is bad enough. Going to a good looking doctor who I have to pay to look at me naked and poke around my insides is even worse. Especially when that doctor is poking around to see if new cancer has popped up.

That's funny. "New" cancer; as opposed to "old" cancer. I wonder if there is "new" cancer, if it'll be new and improved, sort of like Pepsi or Coke or whatever it was. Or if "new" cancer comes with a new fresh scent, a new low price, better taste, fewer calories or no trans fats.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Last First Kiss

My husband and I have been together for over ten years, married almost nine years. That being said, that means that my last "first kiss" was more than ten years ago. I won't forget it...we were walking down a quiet street, one of those walks where you're close together but not quite touching because both of you are too hesitant to reach out and touch the other's hand. I don't remember why we stopped walking, but we had paused and were standing in front of a fence--and then a car full of kids passed by and of the boys yelled out, "Kiss her!" So, he did.

I wonder, if I had known that it would be my last first kiss, if there's anything I would have done differently...turned my head? Not giggled? Made it a shorter or longer kiss?

I wonder if other people think about that...if they had known they were having their last first kiss, would they have done anything differently? Or maybe not. Maybe that last first kiss is perfect in its own way because it's with the person you're supposed to be with for the long haul.

Hmm. I think maybe my inner romantic is trying to peek out!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Life, Death and Who Gets to Make that Decision

I've really been struggling with my writing lately...having a busy life tends to do that, I guess. Even so, I've had something weighing heavily on my mind lately, and it's finally reached that boiling-over point where if I don't get some of it out, there's a chance that my brain may start leaking out of my ears. Okay, not really, but it's an interesting visual.

Now, to more serious matters.

I was recently working on an Advance Directive/Living Will/whatever you want to call it. In that document, I made my wishes clear as to whether or not I want life support (I don't) and who should be in charge of those types of decisions if the time comes that I can't make the decision for myself. Technically, I'm giving a directive as to whether or not my life is worth living. So...if I don't allow life support or if there's a certain type of debilitating condition that I would choose not to live with, does that mean it's equal to suicide? And who gets to make the judgement as to whether or not it is? If I don't want life support, am I guilty of committing suicide? Or if my doctor withholds life support, even at my advance request, does that make him/her guilty of homicide? If a doctor disagrees with that decision and the courts get involved, does my Health Care Agent (the person making decisions for me) or the judge who would allow termination of life support also be guilty of murder?

No. On all counts. But that's just my opinion.

Now for a more heated part of the topic. Abortion. Go ahead and have whatever reaction you have when you hear or read the word. I know I always react in the same way whenever I hear about it or read about it. But you know what? I don't react in a judgmental way. At least, I don't think so. I make an honest effort not to judge, though I would be a liar if I said I never judge people. Of course I do. But I try really hard not to judge any woman weighing the option of abortion. But for many people, it's a topic of life and death and a topic related to morality and religion. It's obviously hard for some people not to judge. I get that. Maybe I work so hard not to judge because I've worked with A LOT of women, women of all ages in various stages of pre-abortion consideration and post-abortion feelings and emotions.

Their stories break my heart. I'm pretty sure their stories break God's heart, too. A woman once asked me, "Since I'm an atheist, how can anyone tell me that it's a sin and I'm going to hell for having an abortion?" I had no answer for her, and even if I did, it wasn't what she needed. As a therapist, I did my job and helped her explore her feelings about that. Another woman told me that she would get physically ill when she drove past churches that display the white crosses in front representing the numbers of babies aborted...not because she'd ever had an abortion, but because her beliefs were so strong that she discouraged her daughter (who was in her late 20s) from having an abortion. Her daughter was considering abortion after finding out about a medical condition that was going to lead to certain death both for her and for her unborn baby. This woman told her daughter that miracles happen every single day (and they do!), that doctors can be wrong (they often are!) and that her case could be one of those that went down in the record books if she and her baby both survived.

She and her baby did not survive. And the mother/grandmother was riddled with guilt because she couldn't help but wonder if she hadn't pushed her daughter so hard, if maybe, just maybe, she would at least have had her daughter still with her. Certainly, there's no way to know. She struggled with seeing the crosses because of the loss it represented for her. Don't get me wrong...many women would have made the decision to go through the pregnancy anyway and hope for the best. I think I probably would. But...if I died as a result and my baby died as a result, does that equal suicide and homicide? Or does it not count because intent isn't a factor? As for those white crosses, some people make the argument that they're no different than roadside memorials to honor people who've been killed in car accidents. Mmmm...maybe. But I know plenty of people who are also upset by roadside memorials. I'm one of them. I know I wouldn't want to memorialized on the side of the road, but I never gave it much thought beyond that until a friend of mine lost her husband in a car accident and people kept putting up white crosses and flowers at the accident site. She kept taking them down. It was unbearably painful for her to have to drive by it daily on her way to and from work and she kept asking people not to put the stuff up, but they did anyway...because it made them feel better. They showed no respect for her feelings. Ultimately, she quit her job because she didn't want to face another day of that painful reminder that she had to live the rest of her life without her husband. I'm sure there are some women who see those white crosses in front of churches and the wounds they carry in their hearts are opened up all over again. Some people might argue that they deserve it for making that decision.

My response? Last I checked, the only One who ultimately gets to judge me is God, and even He saves it until I die. Why would somebody else (especially a self-proclaimed Christian who is supposedly trying to live a Christ-driven life) judge another human being? Does God judge us differently if our intention is somehow labeled as okay or good?

If I take a bullet for my child or husband or any of my sisters, and I would, without a thought in my head...technically, I'm taking my own life. If a firefighter rushes into a burning building to save someone inside and he dies as a result...technically, he's guilty of taking his own life. Police officers go to their jobs every single day knowing that they might not survive their shift. Is it different if they die serving the greater good? What about our U.S. military personnel? They've chosen a dangerous career. Granted, there are plenty of them who will never see combat, never have to make a life or death decision...but what about the ones who do? If a soldier gives his/her life for our great country, is that suicide? Is the general who sent them to war a murderer? If someone threatens the life of one of my loved ones and brandishes a weapon, could I see myself trying to wrestle that weapon away and end his/her life before he can take my life or the life of a loved one? Hell yes, I could...and technically, I'm guilty of taking another human being's life. Again, is it the intent that's considered the factor? Is it the level of risk involved? Is it different if the person who ends up dead is a "bad" person?

If the goal of taking a life is to preserve another human life, does that make it better or more okay in God's eyes? I don't know. I have no idea what God thinks about stuff like that. Why? Because we're talking about man-made laws and beliefs. But if preserving another life would make it somehow "okay", then consider this: How and why is abortion considered wrong in cases of selective reduction (reducing a multiple pregnancy to save the life or lives of other unborn babies) or when the life of the mother is in danger? I'm not saying it's right or wrong or that I have a certain belief either way, I'm just presenting the question.

You know that leads right into death penalty issues. If a serial killer is put to death, presumably because of the heinous crimes (for argument's sake, I'm going to make it a male) he committed, because he's a risk to the general population and because it's believed that in order to preserve the lives of the people around him, he must die...then is the person who flips the switch or administers the lethal injection absolved of the crime of murder? The person carrying out the sentence killed a man. Is he or she really any less guilty of murder than the serial killer? I don't know. And I'm thankful that it's really not up to me to know the answer to that or to any of the questions I've presented here.

I've discussed this with a few close friends and some of them were appalled...that somehow, by presenting the questions for discussion, it makes me a bad Christian. And my goodness, what would Jesus think? Well...people thought Jesus had pretty radical ideas and asked some pretty wild questions, too, so I guess we might be able to relate to each other a little. I think He might be open to hearing what people have to say about all of it. And He'd still love everyone and forgive everyone and not pass human judgement, the same way He expects all of us to do.

Now, I'm going to take a deep breath and post this...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

In Hiding

I've been neglecting my blog (duh, like it's not obvious). It's not intentional, more the result of being pressed for time with so much going on at work and with the semester winding down. By the time I have a few minutes, I don't feel like sitting in front of the computer to type. That's really too bad, because I've got close to a dozen posts started, but nothing complete.

The topics I'm working on?

  • Purgatory and what I think about it.
  • Extreme political and religious views and how both damage morale and personal relationships.
  • My feelings about abortion crosses in front of churches and memorials on road sides where people have been killed in accidents. (I'm bothered by both of them.)
  • My baby girl getting registered for kindergarten.
  • My husband's continued job search.
  • Cake. (Because my kiddo's birthday is coming up and I'm designing a 3-tiered ballerina themed cake.)
  • Moving to Maine.
  • Hottie Doc and the anxiety worry I have in the weeks leading up to my next appointment.
  • The evils of e-bay.
  • Insurance. All insurance--health, dental, car, life, homeowner's.
  • People who aren't nice and get some perverse satisfaction out of degrading others, being smug, acting all "holier than thou".

So, given the list, there's been some heavy stuff weighing on my mind. And some not-so-heavy-stuff, too. But for right now, I'm honestly too tired to even finish this post. So...that's all, folks.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Money and Sunshine

In spite of not great financial circumstances, I've been doing a pretty good job of managing the household budget. There's not much wiggle room, that's for sure, but even so, I've been frugal, so things are getting paid and paid on time...and we're even getting ahead in some areas! I mailed the last payment for the hubby's car today, so as soon as the check clears, we officially own it. That's a good feeling. We also had to buy a new computer in November when our laptop and desktop went kaput at the same time...we bought a package through Best Buy with 0% financing for a year, but we knew we'd only need a few months to take care of it. Our fourth payment will be the last payment, and that's in just a few days.

That's two pretty big bills out of the way. I put us on a debt reduction plan because I cannot stand owing money--and even worse, paying interest on the money that's owed. Other than a few unexpected medical bills, everything is right on target. We're still planning on selling the house, though the issue of when has become a big question. We were trying to get it ready for this month, but it looks like it's going to be postponed until May. There are so many homes in our neighborhood for sale and I worry about whether we'd even be able to get a buyer. Some of the homes have been for sale for over a year, and still several others are standing empty after being foreclosed upon. If the hubby finds a job in the next few months, our plan is to keep the house for probably another year, but I guess we'll have to wait and see. Although, I pointed out to my husband that if we stick to our debt reduction plan, we'll have our house paid off in 2021, which will only be 16 years into our 30 year mortgage. Of course, that's if things work out as planned, and honestly, it seems silly to me to try and make such long term financial plans when the economy is still such a mess. Job prospects continue to be grim for the hubby and I don't know what will happen in June when his unemployment benefits run out. We're hopeful he'll be able to get an extension, but his last statement showed that all benefits terminate on June 27th. All we can do is wait.

Other than that, we're coasting along. The weather has been beautiful and we actually got into the 70s today. Sunny, breezy AND the tulips and daffodils are getting ready to bloom. Hello to Spring, my how I've missed you!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

When It Rains...

Well, I'm pretty well out of my emotional funk. This is due to a terribly sick four-year-old who is requiring some serious cuddle time and a lot of loving. It was a long day at work, but rather than rush and take care of household chores or grading papers, I spent the evening snuggling on the couch with the munchkin, then laying in bed with her rubbing her back while she tried to sleep. Her little body is just being wracked with coughs, she's running a fever, and the antibiotics are doing bad things to her tummy. Poor kiddo is miserable, but it really made me slow down, and for that small part of it, I'm grateful. I would, however, trade places with her in a second if it meant she'd feel better.

I just glanced at the clock and realized that it is now late enough that I can't finish any work, even if I were to start it now. So, I'm leaving it all alone tonight and will be going to bed early instead. Maybe I'll get some good sleep and finally shake off the time-change-blues!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Missing Girl

I don't think people intentionally lose themselves. I believe it's a gradual undoing...maybe the result of something major, maybe the result of subtle issues and conflicts that occur over time, the occasional compromise of beliefs or values that at the time seems to be for the greater good. All of those things and probably many, many more lead to a shift, a transformation or transmutation. It's something that occurs, sometimes so slowly and with such trickery that it doesn't even occur to us that anything has changed at all, until one day, we look in the mirror and are startled by what's staring back at us.

I've been looking in the mirror a lot lately.

It's not just the physical changes I'm noticing, though they are the most noticeable. The increasingly dark circles under my eyes getting bigger, the sparkle in my eyes fading, the frown lines getting deeper, more gray hair. Gray hair and wrinkles come with the passage of time and I tell myself that each one is the result of life experience. But the dull eyes and dark circles are something else entirely. I know I'm tired. That's not a secret, certainly not anything new. I've suffered from random bouts of insomnia for as long as I can remember. This time, though, it's all stress related. And I don't like the type of person I become after long periods of stress. My patience is terribly thin and I become quick-tempered. My tolerance for frustration is nil.

I was driving to the dentist yesterday with a raging toothache, thinking about all of this. It was an interesting drive. The past year has been difficult, but I chide myself, because really, most years are difficult in their own ways and I've made it to where I am in spite of those difficulties. I suppose I'm tired of things being difficult. Just for a while, I'd like things to be a little easier--easier from my perspective at least. I'd like for my time to be my own. The weekdays blend into each other in a chaotic mess of work, chores and more work. The weekends are spent cleaning and doing laundry and grading papers.

I shed a lot of tears in the past 24 hours when I realized that my life has turned into the exact type of thing that I always swore to myself it wouldn't...living paycheck to paycheck, barely seeing my daughter and missing her so much as I'm running and running to take care of everything that needs taking care of, taking on more work to make ends meet, not feeling valued or appreciated or even just heard in most areas of my life. Or, more accurately on that last point, I feel like I'm often not heard, which then leads to those feelings of not feeling valued or appreciated.

I need and want to scale back so badly. I need to do it and do it soon. One of my dearest mentors told me last week that she's quitting her job in six months and I started to cry--not only because it makes me sad, but because I see her moving forward and living out part of the dream I had for myself. I'm not jealous--I'm happy for her. But I'm hurting for me. It's not her fault, obviously, that she's paid her dues and is now in a position to stay home and be with her children. That's beyond fantastic for her. It just comes at a time when I feel like an impostor in my own life.

I believe that this is all circumstantial, and in a few years, I'll look back on this time and remember that it was hard, but also just one more thing that I got through. I tell myself that it's all character-building and teaching me valuable things about love, life, living and work. But for now, just for a little while, I'll be wistful and sad...and hopefully, that can turn into something more productive and who knows? Maybe in six months, I'll have a new plan in place that will have room for letting me scale back a little.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

I'm a Bad Blogger

Yeesh...I haven't posted anything in quite a while. I'm still alive and kickin', but just slow on posting stuff. I suppose it's a good sign--there hasn't been much of anything going on and I'm sorely lacking in inspiration to post something worthwhile. The university was on break last week and I didn't have to go rushing off to teach. It was nice to have a few nights at home. Periodically I wonder what my life would be like if I only had to work one job. I think I'd like it. Especially if one job paid what I'm making at both. It would be nice to have a little less stress but still be able to make ends meet.

Hmmm...what else? We got our taxes done. That's always a painful experience. It's sort of disheartening to see what the feds and state get from us, and then add up what we pay out of pocket for medical and health expenses and it's no wonder money's always so tight. We are getting a refund, so I'm not complaining. Every penny counts, but even more so with the hubby still not working. Things are hard all over, I know.

That's really about it. I don't even have a menu for this week. I think the next two days will be leftovers, then maybe pork chops on Wednesday and chicken on Thursday. Friday will be some sort of meatless dish, but I don't know what yet.

I think I'm in a little bit of a funk and that's okay. Keeps me looking forward to feeling up and happy again!