Monday, February 28, 2011

Here and There

Let's see...random stuff today:

My kiddo lost her first tooth last Friday night! Actually, let me re-phrase. My kiddo pulled out her first loose tooth last Friday night! It was barely hanging on and she was anxious about letting me or her dad tug it out. We each tried, but she started to panic. I suggested she grab hold of it with a paper towel and pull it forward--she did and it popped right out! She's so proud of herself and that missing-tooth-grin is adorable.

Last Wednesday, I enjoyed a night out with my sister watching Pete Yorn. That man can sing. And his instrument work--wow. The night was almost (almost!) ruined by a scary envelope I pulled out of the mailbox that afternoon.

I got home from work, opened the mailbox and froze. Inside was an envelope and the first thing I saw was the green triangle in the upper left corner. Hottie Doc's office label. I'd had my scope on the 9th, no reason to think anything was wrong. Except for the fact that they send out samples every time I go in for a procedure. I tried to calm my nerves, telling myself that if it was really bad news, they would have called and told me to set up an appointment. My hands were shaking so hard I could barely open the envelope. There was a note inside letting me know to call the office.

First I giggled, thinking about what I would have given a decade ago to get a note from a doctor with his number, asking me to call him. Then I felt the dread rise up. Was the cancer back? Did the lab find something new? What was it?

I picked up the phone and started dialing, then hung up. I was getting ready to go out and if it was bad news, I didn't want it to ruin the evening. So I went out, had a drink with my sister, waited through one "okay" and one "barely mediocre" opening act, then got down to the business of enjoying the really good music. Thank you, Pete Yorn, for taking my mind off the cancer fears.

Thursday morning, I did call the office and was relieved to find out that they did not find cancer cells. They found some abnormalities, which at this point, is almost routine for me, but they had some concerns that things were more unusual than usual, if that makes sense.

Cancer is a strange thing. Even when it's not there, it's always present. The worry and concern, the fears and "what ifs"...they linger. And not like the sweet flavor of wine on your tongue. More like the stench of a nasty dog fart. Cancer sparks a negative reaction--every twinge, every time I feel something funny, any pain or burning in my bladder, pressure or swelling, any ache in my flank or kidneys, my first thought is no longer about a pulled muscle or a UTI. It's always, "Is the cancer back?" I'm comforted to know that my feelings are not strange and thankfully, my doctors take me seriously when I say something doesn't feel right.

What else? Oh, a plumber is coming out to the house tomorrow. A few weeks ago, there was a faint hint of water hammer, but it's now becoming a major nuisance What started out as a quiet, intermittent tap in the pipes in the master bath is now a whole-house clanging whenever a toilet flushes or the water runs. Even worse is the incessant knocking in the wall behind the toilet, about every 4 seconds, which kept me up most of the night. There's no obvious leak (thank goodness!), but I'm worried about what's going on. I bled the pipes twice and the knocking actually stopped while the water was shut off, but then started up again shortly after putting the water back on. The water level in the toilet tank keeps dropping, too, which seems to indicate that we need a new ballcock (um...yeah...who thought up that name??), but I'm afraid there's something more going on. So, we'll see what the plumber says tomorrow. Of course, it's an expense that we can't afford right now, but I figure I'd rather pay for the service call and get a minor problem fixed than risk it turning into a major super-expensive repair down the road.

So, that's it. And that's probably enough for now.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Old Dog, New Tricks

I've decided it's time for me to learn a foreign language!

I took Spanish for 2 or 3 years in high school. I don't remember...it was a long time ago. I also took a year of Spanish in college and a year of conversational Spanish at work. After all of that, I can ask a few basic questions and give some simple answers. Things like, "Where is the bus?" "Where is the beer?" And the most important, "Where is the bathroom?" I can also ask, "Where is George?" I can give my name and age and I can say, "I'm sorry, I don't speak Spanish."

So no, I'm not going to go back and learn more Spanish. Truth is, I don't use it often enough and I tend to forget what I've learned.

I thought about sign language. That would be very beneficial in my line of work. But I don't have money to take the classes to be a certified translator.

The foreign language I'm learning? Well, it consists of one word and one phrase.

Word: "No." This is a very foreign word to me and I have a hard time pronouncing it, let alone saying it with any real conviction. This will take a lot of practice.

Phrase: "I love you." The only time I don't choke on it is when I say it to my daughter. But I mean it when I say it. I need to practice saying it out loud more often.

This should be an interesting endeavor.

Any new languages you're learning?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Different Kind of Education

In general, I'm pleased with the fact that I have a graduate degree. I worked hard to get it. But there are some things that my education did not prepare me for. Not even close.

My education did not prepare me for coping with the things I see and deal with on a daily basis. I manage them, because that's my job, and of course because I'm in a helping profession and I WANT to help people. Most days are pretty good. Difficult, but fulfilling. Other days, not so much.

Education does not prepare people for the emotions that rise up at the sight of a toddler with a battered, broken body. There's no way to prepare for the sensation of her hot, damp forehead under your fingertips, as you brush her hair aside, wishing you could also brush away the fever burning as her brain swells and bleeds through multiple skull fractures. Education doesn't prepare anyone to see broken ribs gently rising and falling as a ventilator pushes life-saving air, circulating blood through her weak body. Hazel eyes swollen shut. A gash across a tiny nose. Small hands curled into smaller fists. The rhythmic beeping and pulsing of machines that are doing the work for her.

The machines beep prayers in perfect cadence with the people in the room. "Please. Please. Please." The whooshing of air whispers, "Breathe baby. Breathe baby. Breathe baby."

No amount of education prepares you to see a child, broken at the hands of the people who are supposed to love and care for her the most.

There is love in that room. Love from people who don't know that child. There are prayers for healing. Prayers spilling in as word travels about the horror that brought her to that hospital bed. Education doesn't prepare you for the kindness of strangers.

Education doesn't prepare you for the moment of fluttering eyes or the struggle of cracked lips tugging upward into a tiny smile when she hears your voice. Education doesn't prepare you for the moment her fingers curl around yours, hanging on so tightly that it takes you by surprise.

No textbook, no exam, no pop quiz or project or presentation ever taught me anything about the resiliency of the human spirit or the miracle of healing. And yet, those experiences have been and continue to be the most important education of all.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Re-Post: The Things We Carry

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Things We Carry

I read a book over the summer that was titled The Things They Carried. It was written by Tim O’Brien and it’s not like a regular novel—like with a clear beginning, middle and end, an obvious protagonist and antagonist. It’s a collection of mini-stories as part of a bigger story, and it’s all about a platoon of American soldiers in Vietnam. I was sitting at my desk this morning, mulling over something my husband said to me last night that hurt my feelings, and for whatever reason, I started thinking about that book. It occurred to me that we all have things that we carry with us…some good things, some not-so-good things, some things that keep us going when the roads we travel are fraught with darkness and misery. Some of the things we carry are physical in nature—maybe a St. Christopher medallion for a safe journey, a piece of jewelry or a lucky penny. Some of the things we carry are more emotional—a kind word from a stranger, a hurtful comment from a loved one, a glowing memory that we cling to, in the hopes that someday we’ll feel that good again. And all those things—the things we carry—make us who we are.

I carry a lot of things with me—memories, both good and bad, old hurts (see my earlier post on the trouble I have with forgiving people), hopes for the future. All of those things affect who I am and I really believe that I’m okay with that. And yet, every now and then, there’s something that sticks with me, something that just won’t let go.

It started with a comment from my husband—not the one from last night, but from a long while ago—and it was something on the order of, “Your knees are always bruised.” And they are. I swear, my knees are forever black and blue or that funny brownish-yellow color that bruises become when they’re healing. My knees are always bruised. At the time, I laughed it off, but the words did sting. Why? Because he had no idea why my knees were bruised. He had no way to understand how the bruises got there or what they meant to me. At that time, he was working a job with crazy hours, which meant I was the one who always got the short end of the stick when it came to daily chores and responsibilities. Simply put, I was the one on my knees giving baths, on my knees cleaning up the floor from dinner, on my knees scrubbing barf out of the carpet when the baby didn’t like dinner, on my knees pulling toys from under the refrigerator and the couch, on my knees, on my knees, on my knees.

And during that same time, I was on my knees in church, praying to God to help me find the strength that I knew I had somewhere deep inside of myself to keep managing an unfortunate series of events that tainted the joy of my baby’s birth and was ultimately a very sad, very dark time in my life. What kept me going was the time I spent in prayer—the hours on my knees brought me back from what was the closest I had ever been to the “edge” as it’s called when someone feels like if one more thing goes wrong, the only option is to run away screaming.

I spent a long time carrying a heavy heart and a mind full of things that I would rather have forgotten. I spent even more time carrying around the agony of wondering what might have been, what could have been, what should have been, what will never be the same ever again…

Fortunately, I spent the most time carrying the knowledge that God wasn’t going to give me more than I could handle—and even if my knees were bruised from the crushing pressure of my world when I was balanced on them in prayer, they were still supporting me. God was still supporting me.

Looking back on it, I tell myself that the bruises on my knees are nothing more than God’s fingerprints. Like “Footprints in the Sand” when the man looked down and saw only one set of footprints and realized that God had been carrying him, I see my bruises as proof that God was (and is) cradling my knees in His hands. The bruises are proof that He’s leaving His mark.

I saw a sign a few weeks ago that I’ve modified into a prayer. I think God appreciates a little humor every now and then.

Lord, I pray that I always remember when things are not going as I would like, I remember that while You may not get in touch with me through e-mail, You always hear me when I send up a message via knee-mail. Amen.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

My House is a Portal to Hell

Okay, not really. Just feels like it sometimes.
  • Water in the house right after we moved in.
  • Frozen sump pump line (over and over and over again).
  • The time the smoke detectors went berserk.
  • Ghosts under the bed (long story on that one).
  • Appliances that randomly go crazy then go back to normal.
  • Field mice.

The field mice are a new addition. In the middle of the blizzard on Tuesday night, there was a loud pop from the basement, that turned out to be a seal around (I think) the electric meter. There was snow in the basement.

It never occurred to me that field mice would find their way in through that crack. It occurs to me now that they're IN MY HOUSE. I bought a bunch of traps last night and I'm pretty sure the cashier thought I was preparing for armageddon.

These mice are something else. Just hanging out, making themselves at home. I strongly suspect there was a nest outside--the dog had been going crazy trying to dig under the fence and deck for over a week and I'm wondering now if she could smell it. Anyway, I clobbered one with a shoe last night. I squealed like a little girl and made my husband take it outside. Caught another one in a trap shortly after that. There are a few more lurking in the basement. They will soon be caught, too. Hubs is going to try to seal the crack--hello steel wool and cement. If it looks like something more than just the crack or if we find a nest, then I'm calling for professional reinforcement. I have never used an exterminator before, but I'm thinking a professional will know better where to look and exactly what to look for and seal any other cracks or gaps that might be along the foundation.

This is the first time I ever wanted a cat. I'm seriously considering borrowing a cat from a friend and letting it stay overnight in the basement. Pretty sure that would take care of the problem!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

It's Like Being a Kid Again!

Snow days. I remember having them on exceptionally rare occasions as a kid. At work, typically if the weather is severe, day programs will close so the clients don't come in, but staff are still expected to report to work.

I did not have to report to work yesterday. Or today. Not one, but TWO snow days! This is unprecedented, never done before in the history of my agency.

When I got the news last night that we would be closed again today, it was because even though the main roads are mostly clear, the side roads are still terrible and our parking lots are inaccessible. Every time I look out my window at the 6-foot snow drifts, I'm very glad that I didn't have to go out and navigate the roads to work. We didn't even get a plow down our street until dinnertime yesterday. I will say, however, that I don't mind, because ambulance/hospital routes were a priority. I don't know if it's true, but I heard that plows were dispatched with any 911 calls so emergency personnel could get to homes/businesses as needed. If that's true, I think it's awesome.

So, I'm using my snow days to relax, unwind and catch up on some stuff around the house. I also think I might be fighting off some sort of bug, because I've been weridly tired--no, not tired, more like fatigued and exhausted--for the past few days. The extra rest is nice.

That being said, I think I'm going to go lay down on the couch.