Saturday, December 29, 2007
Suzanne and I only get to see each other a few times a year. Moreso since our kids were born, as our daughters took to each other in much the same way we did, all those years ago. We get to use the excuse of "we have to get the girls together" as justification for the exquisite pleasure of sneaking off for a couple days of visiting time.
Today, we met for lunch, then ice cream at our favorite ice cream shoppe, followed by ice skating with the girls and post-holiday winter coat shopping. Suz bought two coats. I encouraged her to buy the second one because she looked adorable in it and, for heaven's sake; she eats too many chicken backs.
As I sit here, drinking hot wine because I'm still nursing a really nasty cold, I am amazed at what a comfort it is to have one person in my life who makes me feel unconditionally loved. Don't get me wrong; of course, my husband and daughter and parents love me. But each of these people wants something back from me. They all depend on me in some way, they all have their baggage and their agendas and to a certain extent, they all are obligated to love me in one way or another.
Not Suzanne. She and I have had the unique wonder of a relationship that has withstood boyfriends, family upheavals, 10th grade Biology, college, marriages, divorces, remarriages, children, jobs...and has emerged stronger and more beautiful each year. And it survives, not in small part, because we make no demands on each other. I accept all that is good and bad about her, without judgment and without explanation. Suzanne is always late. This I know. And it's OK. We just work on a different schedule. And she treats me with the same acceptance and accommodation. She just loves me for exactly the person I am. No matter how long we have been apart, it is like we just saw each other yesterday.
I always finish a day with her feeling better about the world than when it started.
I’m going to make a point of getting downstate to see her more often.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
In fact, I had a grand plan to prevent exactly this outcome. I built my arguments; I created a strategy and a timeline. I walked into the situation ready to create the result I knew I so desperately wanted.
And yet, here I am.
I’m driving an SUV.
How did this happen?
I wanted to buy a Mini Cooper. Or a Volvo. Perhaps a mini Volvo? Something with great gas mileage and low emissions. Something that people would look at and say “Now there’s a great combination of proletariat hippie-chick values and style.”
Alas. I was undone by an 8-year-old Ford Taurus with 155,000 miles on it. And a husband who gets a pretty good discount on cars. And the snow. And the ice. And…and…oh! The shame of it all!
I was going to make the Taurus last until April. The Taurus, with its new thermostat in August, and its new transmission lines in September and its new hoses in November. The Taurus that blew a fuel line on Sunday. The Taurus had other ideas. And the Mini had a lead time of 3 months. And the Volvo was too much money.
And then my husband said, “Drive the Escape”
“I can’t drive that. It’s an SUV! The devil’s handiwork with traction control!”
“Humor me. Drive the Escape. You don’t have to like it.”
I drove the Escape. The Escape with the ‘stow and go’ seats. The Escape with the antilock breaks. And the ginormous sun roof. And the side mirrors that you could use to park a semi. The Escape with the heated seats.
It handily dealt with the snow and ice. It accelerated like a dream. And I could see! I could see all the other vehicles around me! I could see in 360 degrees! I once was blind, but now! Wow, that lady’s back seat is full of McDonald’s bags…. I could see! I…I…my resistance was failing me.
I rallied and held strong. “It’s still an SUV. It gets crappy gas mileage. It pollutes the environment.”
“It gets 30 miles to the gallon and it has the lowest emissions of any non-hybrid engine in the line-up.”
“Yeah…well. I’ll bet it’s expensive.”
“It’s $1,000 less than you paid for the Taurus, 8 years ago.”
I guess it’s just barely an SUV. I mean, there are cars here that are a lot bigger than this, right? And...wow, is that a GPS?”
So I’m driving an SUV. But just a little one. Honest.
It’s blue. And I’m very cute in it, if I do say so myself.
Friday, December 14, 2007
I'm totally getting one.
Because the only thing more festive than being awakened at 5:00 am by a hungry cat is being awakened at 5:00 am by a hungry cat that that looks like a UFO with a nose.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
And I think I've mentioned that there are some issues with it that are probably deal-breakers.
The first, of course, is that I have this potentially uber-cool job with this grant that I've been working on for the last year. I'm really dedicated to this program.
But really, I have no delusions that they wouldn't be able to find someone else to fulfill my role there.
The second, and real, issue has been that there's a lot of travel with this job, and I'm just not sure I want to be away from home that much. My family needs me.
Twice, I've told them I don't think I can take the job because of that -- regardless of the amount of money they're offering me.
And twice, they've said, "We understand. Look; just come back in for another discussion. No obligation. We just want to talk."
Today, when I went in, they upped the ante. "What if we gave you access to the corporate jet for your travel? Not for the overseas stuff, of course, but it would probably make something like 75% of your domestic travel just day trips. You won't have to stay overnight. What do you think?"
And they added another $10K to the salary.
And another 5000 shares of stock.
Holy crap. I can't even wrap my head around that. Me + Private jets = Does. Not. Compute.
I'm supposed to know if the other program funded this coming Friday. If it doesn't, it's going to be pretty darned hard to walk away from this.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
bumpa bumpa bumpa bumpa Help me!
The Bug answers (without missing a beat) I broke apart my insides
S: Help me!
Bug: I've got no soul to sell
S: Help me!
Bug: The only thing that works for me,
Help me get away from myself
I wanna *Boink!* you like an animal
I wanna feel you from the inside
I wanna *weep-wah!* you like an animal
My whole existence is gone
You take me closer to God.
I screamed, audibly.
They laughed hysterically.
I'm off to confiscate my husband's "Weird Al" disc.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
That's a lot to say, really.
For the last year, I've been working with a team of 26 researchers and medical doctors from across the nation on a project that could critically impact thousands of lives over the next decade. These folks are the best of the best in treating patients who don't have a lot of options, and the technologies they're developing could fundamentally change medicine.
The stakes are high -- both because we're committed emotionally to these patients, and because the funding levels over the next five years are staggering. For the winning team, the award could approach $100 Million.
I have dedicated the better part of 1000 hours of my life to this since January. Several (too many) nights without sleep. Endless (dear God; endless) conference calls. Herding cats. Reconciling budgets. Again. (No, really. One more time. Did you include patient care costs in the indirect rate?) Writing. Re-writing. Scrapping. Re-writing. Time lines. Milestones. More re-writes.
And then, a few weeks ago, we got the call to tell us that we were one of two teams of finalists. We learned we had 16 days to prepare a two hour presentation for a team of judges and reviewers. Slides. Text. Revised slides. Rehersals. God, that sucked! Revised slides. Revised text. WTF does that mean???
And then, last Thursday, the rest of the leadership team told me. They told me they wanted ME to present this.
Me? Why me? I'm not a doctor. I'm just the gal who sells stuff.
We want you to do it.
You wanted to run with the big dogs, Sister.
Today, I was honored -- and terrified -- to represent this unbelievably distinguished and dedicated group of professionals. And for the first time in my life, I had a chance to represent something that could really change the world of medicine.
And I think I did OK. In fact, they told me I was "brilliant".
It's the proudest -- and most humbled -- I've ever felt in my life.
I am feeling beyond grateful for this opportunity. But I think I'd like to go home and bake some cookies now.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
These rooms are filled -- nearly 24/7 -- with worried, frightened people. Parents, holding each other, waiting to know if their precious child has survived a difficult operation. A husband, passing off bored and active children to siblings or parents, and hoping, praying, that his wife will sit beside him again soon. A old women, alone, sitting with incredible patience, staring at a memory only she can see and hoping that she won't go home a widow today.
Conversations are always strained, unnaturally cheerful. Football games are watched with glassy-eyed stares and comments that are not really meant to be heard, but spoken only to fill the silence. But the silence creeps back in, inexorably, as each person in the room is left to contemplate mortality and inevitable change. The waiting room is one of humanity's great equalizers.
Despite the tastefully invisible floral wallpaper and the warm colors of the upholstery, if these places had a color, it would be grey.
Today, I passed a large family gathering -- three generations, with Grandpa conspicuously absent. I mentally categorized them as a "death watch". You can spot them a mile away; each member waiting, in turn, for his or her 10 minutes with the patient. This family was a little different, however. The entire group was sitting in a circle of loveseats and chairs and staring at the floor with great intensity. They were smiling.
I followed their gaze to see a baby girl, perhaps 6 months old, laying on a pink fuzzy blanket. She was an absolute beauty: dark hair, blue eyes, porcelain skin. And she was playing well to her audience: kicking her feet and laughing the way only babies can -- starting with her toes, entire body convulsing with joy, and ending with a squeal most adults would struggle to produce. I couldn't help but smile.
"You have a big responsibility there, little one", I thought. There, embodied in her wiggling pinkness, were the collected hopes of an entire family. While she lay there, squealing, joyful, oblivious to the tension around her, the family could focus on life. They could pretend they were just there to see the newest family member, and not waiting to say goodbye to perhaps their oldest.
I went on to my destination. Papers delivered, explanations proffered, a joke shared, a task procured. As I passed back by the waiting room, the baby started to cry. Dad scooped her up to offer a bottle or a bit of comfort, and the spell was broken.
The light slowly faded and the room turned back to grey. And one by one, I watched the face of each family member close up as each retreated slowly back into personal solitude, where the sounds of crying babies, overhead pages, IV alarms and televisions are drowned out by the roaring din of reflection.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
"The act of applying lip gloss, lipstick or Vaseline to one's lips will immediately result in a localized gust of wind that will blow one's hair into the recently-applied maquillage.
This effect is magnified according to the color depth of the lip product applied."
Maxine's Oratory Corrollary:
"The number of minutes it will take to soothe a screaming child back to sleep at 3 am is equal to the remaining number of minutes in the anticipated sleeping period, divided by one-half the number of minutes one is expected to devote to public speaking the next day."
Monday, November 26, 2007
I fear I have overstepped my bounds with someone I care for very, very much and I am terrified I have driven this person away.
I hope I'm wrong. And I hope this person knows how very precious she is to me.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Kevin Brown/K: I always do the driving.
Agent J: Oh, no.
Kevin Brown/K: I remember that.
Agent J: No, what you remember is that you used to drive that old busted junk. See, I drive... the new hotness.
[pointing at Kay]
Agent J: Old and busted.
[pointing at himself]
Agent J: New hotness.
[Kay looks at Jay for a second, then Jay hands the keys over]
Agent J: Old, busted hotness.
I think I've found my new moniker. Old. Busted. Hotness.
I have bad ankles. Have I mentioned that? Well, I do. Had three surgeries before the age of 25 because I totally roached the ligaments playing volleyball. As a result, I have not been on a pair of ice skates since I was 12 years old. Bad ankles and ice skating are not a preferred combination.
Until this year. My daughter took up ice hockey and she frankly needs practice time to sharpen her skating skills. Ice time is at an enormous premium here -- hockey is as popular as soccer in these parts -- and so we have opted for the Family Skate night at the local rink to get her some much-needed practice.
Tonight, they shamed me into putting on a pair of skates.
42-12 = 30. That's how many years it's been since I was on the ice. You learn to fear falling over the course of 30 years.
Still, I think I did myself proud. I managed not to fall on my butt or any other part of me. Even remembered, albeit briefly, how to skate backwards.
You know, in your hip, there is this muscle. It's one of the adducter muscles. Its primary purpose is the pull your leg straight out to the side. It's rarely used. Unless, apparently, you are ice skating. Then, it appears to be your primary source of locomotion.
That little muscle is pretty wicked sore right now.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
This morning, researchers at Cornell University released findings that suggest taking time to feel grateful contributes to your overall health and well-being. Apparently, if you tell yourself that you have a good life you will, eventually, have a better life than the one you think you have now. This is not to say you should go and envision that Ferrari and think you'll actually get one, because I don't think it works that way. Oh, what the hell, give it a try; can't hurt and won't the guys at the office be surprised on Monday.
Thanksgiving went off without a hitch today...unless we count that little incident with the exploding marshmallows on the yams and the ensuing oven fire...but really, overlooking that, it was a great day.
For those who are curious: yes, my mother stayed for dinner. And yes, by all accounts she had a pretty good time. Talked and laughed with the other guests non-stop, figured out that the pickled peaches were, in her opinion, much improved by adding a healthy shot of Jack Daniels, had an exra helping of cheesecake for dessert. She toddled off to bed around 10:30, after I thanked her, sincerely, for being here, and after she thanked God that "all those goddamn peope are gone".
And today, I feel truly thankful. I had about 25 people here, between the first wave for dinner and the second wave for dessert (and I got to make my favorite joke Tuesday night: "No, I won't be here tomorrow. We're having 18 people for dinner Thursday and they take an awfully long time to cook"). All seemed to have a good time. It makes my heart glad to have a house full of people.
I found out, as well, on Tuesday that my aforementioned Death March Project was selected as one of two finalists. In a couple weeks I get to go to Washington and make a presentation that, if we are successfull, will allow my colleagues and me a chance to make a big difference to a group of young men and women who really need us.
I live in a warm safe house, with plenty of food and water, and we are lucky enough to afford a few luxuries. I am aware of how rare this level of comfort is in an uncertain world.
I have wonderful, supportive friends, both locally and across the country. What a blessing indeed it is to be able to silently speak your wishes and hopes and fears out into the world and have them heard and embraced.
I am healthy. Sure; I could stand to lose a few pounds and I get a lot of sniffles, but I am lucky to enjoy generally robust physical and mental health. Again, I am aware how rare a blessing this is.
I have a husband who loves and respects me, and I him. I have a healthy, sassy, beautiful girl who brightens every day of my life.
How wonderful to be able to count these as blessings. I feel healthier already.
How about you?
Sunday, November 18, 2007
For those of you who were here earlier, I wrote this in a time of anger and hurt. Sometimes those we love can damage us far more than those who are our real enemies. I expressed that pain here and in doing so, I was able to release it.
It's time is over now, however, so it's time to retire this post, so it doesn't cause hurt of its own in ways I don't intend. Thanks for reading.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
I thought about going back and changing my earlier posts, but then decided against it. Instead, I'm looking ahead and seeing how long I can go without starting a sentence with the forbidden "S" word.
I'm counting on my small but loyal cadre of readers to call me on it if I fail. If I start a sentence with "So" and you're first to spot it, I'll send you a prize from Beanie's Secret Cache of Wonders.
Oh, and don't you just wonder what's in there? I know I do!
Wow, and just so you know; I really *do* have better things to do than this -- but I'm obviously not doing them.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go straighten my propeller beanie.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
So I was thinking abut my slightly panicked post last night and the thoughtful comments I had from some of you about it, both here and at that other place I hang out. Love you guys. Really.
It occured to me around 2 am that I have completely abandoned my maintenance program. It's like 'Oh well, I'm too busy to take proper care of myself anymore and all those things I was doing before were just me being selfish'. Yeah. OK. And then I got on the scale this morning and I've re-gained 3 of the 15 pounds I lost over the summer.
'Ouch' is right.
So as of today, were hitting the reset button here at Camp Beanie. Here are the new rules, for anyone who cares. Maybe I'm just writing them down for me, but hey, it's my blog. Ninnyninny-boo-boo.
- No more eating after 8 pm. This was a pretty hard and fast rule for me for years and it kept my blood sugar in check for a long time. I haven't checked my sugar in awhile -- I was a chronic hypoglycemic as a teen and young adult, which puts me at risk for developing diabetes now -- but I'll bet it's been running high.
- No alcohol until Thanksgiving. At least. Yeah, it's only one drink, and yeah, it's only a couple times a week, but on top of the exhaustion and the stress of the last few months, it's that one drink that's making me overeat and not exercise. So off it goes.
- Back to exercising EVERY DAY. My pedometer misses me. And I think I miss it. I told Hubby I wanted to rake the leaves by hand this weekend, instead of using the leaf sucker.
He thinks I'm insane, but he also offered to help.
Beanie, 1; CouchPotato, 0.
- I'm going to bed at 10:30 until further notice. At least until I catch up from 4 months of sleep debt. Except for next Friday. We're seeing Lewis Black next Friday. Hey, a gal's gotta live.
I kinda don't want to cry anymore. We'll see how all this feels next week about this time.
Thanks for being here.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
I've had a headhunter (ahem...Executive Recruiter) chasing my tail for a job in the private sector that looks great, and would be great if it wasn't so travel intensive. I think I'm going to turn it down, but I'm interested to see how big a bag of money they intend to beat me with before all is said and done.
Mom is on the mend, albeit slowly. She's bored to tears in my house with no way to get around, which means that I cannot remove an article of clothing or dirty a dish without it being whisked from my sight and cleaned.
But I can live with that. In fact, I'm thinking about hiring her.
Seriously, though, I think in another month, she'll be back on her feet and back in her house, with a bit of help. So this is a good thing. And she and S haven't murdered each other, so I'm officially declaring victory. Yay!
My daughter is doing well in school. This is a big deal, given that she was expelled from school three times before her fifth birthday.
You think I'm kidding. I'm not.
But she's kicking booty and taking names this year, is making friends, flunking spelling (which proves that she's really my kid and I didn't buy her from a trafficker named Ahmed) and being a great, normal, 2nd grader. And she makes me laugh every day.
All things considered, my life could be a whole lot worse.
So why do I feel like bawling my eyes out 24/7? Why am I jumping on every little perceived slight? Seriously, I feel like I'm falling apart at the seams. I want to sleep -- constantly -- and when I am not comatose, I'm just not focusing.
Monday, November 05, 2007
This backdrop serves, as always, to remind me how completely blessed I am in this life.
Saturday morning, S and K and I went to the West Side Market. It's one of those places that makes you glad to live in this city (even though I live waaaaay out in the suburbs): wonderful ethnic foods, beautiful, mixed-up humanity, and a falafel sammich for breakfast. Life is good! Afterwards, we finally got a chance to head over to the glass-blowing place next door when it was actually OPEN. K loved seeing one of the students blow a vase while we were there. S and I are thinking about taking a few classes, just for fun.
Saturday night, I got together with about a dozen girlfriends to have snackies and drink wine and pot bulbs to force-bloom for Christmas. My friend S. dubbed it a bulb-forcing party. My hubby re-christened it our "Fall Pot Party". I think the name will stick. :)
Sunday, I got to spend a day just with my girl. We helped the neighbor mark sugar maples for next spring, worked in the garden together, played on the swings and baked a Texas Sheet Cake, just because. It was a great day.
In fact, it was a great weekend and I feel much refreshed for it.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
So I guess we're both a teensy bit smarter than the average bear when it comes to dealing with issues of family relations, custody, etc. I guess it's for this reason that "Julie" turned to us for help.
Julie is the mother of one of my daughter's little friends from school. Little friend (I'll call her Audrey) is a delight: clever, compassionate...perhaps a bit rough around the edges, but she comes by that honestly. Julie, you see, is a recovering addict with a felony record. Or at least I thought so until last night. Recovering, that is.
Julie and the kids were living with Julie's mom until Julie decided to get an apartment a few months back. Apparently Julie's mom didn't like this turn of events, (it seems Gramma is a control freak) and decided to sue Julie through local social services for custody of the kids. She claimed Julie was using again and neglecting the kids. Julie has sworn that she was clean and just trying hard to take good care of her babies. And she appeared to be sincere -- the kids were relatively clean and well-fed and she seemed to be giving them ample time. I've had a few suspicions -- addicts are notorious liars. But she spent a lot of time with me on the back porch while the kids played, and shared a lot that she didn't have to share. I really felt for her and sort of took her under wing. I really believe that every family should be given every opportunity to stay together if they can. Besides, I'm not convinced Gramma isn't a bit psycho.
Anyway, Julie has turned to S and me for some support through all this -- asking for advice about how to deal with the county people and whatnot. Our advice has been consistent: do what they ask you to do. Take your drug tests. Accept any and all assistance. Tell the truth. We even offered to have the kids live with us temporarily (we're state screened foster parents) so everyone involved can catch their breath and get their acts together. Julie was terrified about it all -- she's not used to any happy endings with local authorities, from the sounds of things, and trying to convince her to trust in these people was a struggle. I was really afraid she'd do something stupid, like bolt.
About three weeks ago, we found out from Audrey (through my daughter as part of a recess discussion) that she and Julie and little brother were reuniting with "Jim", the kids' dad...out of state. I was optimistic about the reunion; not so much about part 2. The county people are not too understanding about the whole "flee across state lines" thing. Still, two parents are better than one and so long as they're not both completely dysfunctional (and I know Dad is a citizen, of sorts) I was cautiously hopeful that this might have a happy ending. Julie, of course, was immediately impossible to contact, so I didn't have a good way of knowing if they did any of this "by the book" or not.
I've frankly been worried sick about these kids for the last three weeks. I would take Audrey as my own in a minute and I ache to see her in a bad situation.
Fast forward to last night, when I get a collect call from a county jail in another state.
Apparently, there was some domestic dispute that took place and Julie was in jail. She'd been in the pokey for some time, evidently. She wanted me to try to reach Jim with information about how to get her released, as the custody hearing with Gramma is soon. It was complicated and the story full of holes. Still, I promised to talk with Jim. I welcomed an opportunity to get more of this story and like I said, I've been worried sick about these kids.
Hubby (God I love that man!) made the phone call, and talked with Jim for some time. Long story short: Julie had been using the whole time she was up here. Jim made her clean up as a condition of them all getting together, and after a week she went into some DT-induced freak-out and tried to kill him. Literally. But the kids are fine; they haven't so much as inquired about Julie's whereabouts. They're in school and he's getting them counseling. Jim's parents are nearby and helping out with support and stability. It's not exactly Leave It To Beaver 2007, but they sound OK.
But he's leaving Julie in jail and I'm supportive of that. She'll get treatment there and hopefully they can get her sufficiently cleaned up that the family has fighting chance. It's tough love, but it's what she needs. I just hope and pray that those kids get to stay with Dad. He seems the only sane one of the bunch. If I get called to testify (and it seems I might...how do I get myself into these situations???), I will tell the authorities as much.
But I'm pissed. Julie lied to me and she put those kids in jeopardy. And I was prepared to help her battle for custody of them. I feel betrayed and angry with her -- and with myself too, for believing her.
Chalk it up to another learning experience. Maybe the bear is smarter than me after all.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Nah. It's Baseball. With the two genuine best teams in the league battling it out in seven. Someone had to lose.
Well, thanks for a fun ride, boys. Let's do it again next year, OK?
Thursday, October 18, 2007
So many things to say and so many updates to give y'all, but right now it is 5:15. I'm going home from work while the sun is still out, and tonight I'm going to eat Thai food, maybe drink a beer and hopefully watch Cleveland win the pennant. GO TRIBE!!!
Monday, October 15, 2007
It just goes on and on my friends.
Someone started singing it not knowing what it was,
and now they'll keep on singing it forever just because,
This is the song that never ends.
It just goes on and on my friends.
Someone started singing it not knowing what it was,
and now they'll keep on singing it forever just because,
Can't you just see Lambchop's cute little fuzzy white face dancing around on the screen?
Now, let's contrast that with Sigourney Weaver, in her underpants, getting ready to take a nice chilly nap on her ride back to Earth, just as that alien pops up out of nowhere and scares the pee out of us.
Which one is my day, we wonder?
So late Thursday, we reached what I thought was the end of Phase I of Beanie's Death March Project, a six month romp through the bowels of modern medicine and organizational management. The end result of this little exercise in stress was a 497-page document that basically asks for money. Late Thursday, the "powers that be" pushed the magic button to send our solicitation to DC in hopes of being able to change the world at some future date.
Fast forward to last night, when the phone rang during dinner and my boss popped out of it, like that pesky alien.
"Did you read Section 4.1?"
"No, I was busy with sections 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, the commercialization plan, the management plan and the introduction. I figured 4.1 and 4.5 were the domain of scary dragons and I ventured not into them."
"4.1 sucks. It's riddled with clinical innacuracies."
"Did you call the guy who wrote 4.1?"
"Of course not; he clearly has no clue. Do you think we can pull the submission back and fix it?"
"I don't know -- never tried it. And besides, I'm not the person in control of the magic button. You have to ask the people who control the magic button."
"I don't like the way you've labeled figure 9 in 4.3."
"I thought you were talking about 4.1?"
"I don't like 4.3 either."
"Sir, I'm tempted to hang up now, before I turn into a pillar of salt.
So today, the magic button people have pulled the submission back from DC, and I'm looking at another sleepless night fixing the mistakes of people who should have known better, at the behest of the guy who was begged to review this stuff LAST WEEK, but was too busy farking around with flow diagrams and other things that really didn't need his expert attention.
And I thought Halloween was still two weeks off.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Gentle readers, I will rejoin you as soon as this death march is over. Suffice it to say that coordinating a grant among 14 institutions, writing a clinical trial protocol, and moving a wheelchair-bound parent into my house, all in one weekend, might have been a little too much to take on.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
I know; those of you who know me know how much I love my sleep. In fact, I derive a lot of satisfaction from it.
But really, between work, school, and family, I was finding that obligating myself to sleep for a certain number of hours every day was just causing a lot of unnecessary stress. I wasn't able to devote the time to it that I needed to, but I felt like it was something I had to do, and then the anxiety around it all made the time I could spend sleeping so much less enjoyable.
And then it occurred to me that I was putting all this emotional pressure on myself. I mean, what is sleep if not something to enjoy? So I'm making it a hobby. Something I can choose to do. Just for me. And if there isn't time in the day for it, I'm not going to let it stress me out anymore.
I'm feeling free already.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Some years, the Wheel of Fortune is not so kind and you get really sick, or you fall off the ladder while trying to retrieve your daughter's screaming rocket balloon that got lodged in the maple tree out front, or you get knocked up and have a baby. So those years, maybe you take a bit more than you put in. I think it cost me about $12,000 to produce my current offspring, including all the pre-natal, the c-section, and the realization that I'd totally effed up my life and the resulting trip to the funny farm.
So that's what? Three years' worth? And it was seven years ago?
My point is that when you are young, you pour a ton of money into this system, and I'll venture to guess that most of us are polite enough to kick the can or go on Medicare before we use it all up. I'd say the insurance companies, between what we don't withdraw from the kitty and the investments they make with our money while they're holding it, make a pretty penny on the vast majority of us.
So why the hell do they insist on this nickel and dime, we-ain't-gonna-pay-last-year's-rent attitude toward paying out what we pay in???
First, you can't stay in a hospital to recuperate from major surgery anymore. Nope. You say your children are not trained Physical Therapists with stay-at-home lifestyles? Oh, too bad. You have to go to a skilled care facility (a/k/a a nursing home) to actualy heal. Strike one.
Then, they restrict the places you can go for said nursing care. Is there a skilled care facility adjacent to your hospital? Sorry; they're not on the list. but there's a great place in this shack 15 miles away. Don't mind the roaches. They don't eat much. Strike two.
So your child, as a responsible family member, visits several of the places on the approved list, and deems one of them to be populated by caring humans and not too ill-equipped for your needs. You think you're out of the woods? Guess again. Now you have to convince the insurance company that you actually NEED this care and that your well-meaning children really AREN'T PT specialists. You say it's just a broken leg? Why can't you go home with a broken leg? What are you, some kinda WIMP?
After 12 hours of fights with the insurance company and extensive tours of 4 skilled care facilities (don't use the "N-H" word, please), Mom is finally installed in the least objectionable of them for the next week or so until she's strong enough to go to the bathroom and make a sandwich unassisted.
I'm exhausted, I'm frustrated, and I'm on the guilt trip of the century that she's not here already.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
My husband spoke these words to me around 2 am today. We were driving home from the hospital, 30 miles from our home, where we had just left my mom resting in Dilaudid-enabled slumber.
Mom isn't "old" by today's standards -- early 60's and not quite old enough to retire. She has, however, what I lovingly refer to as "mileage issues". A life-long smoker, she revels in her disdain of broccoli and aerobic exercise. This lifestyle has come up squarely against her fierce independence, made all the more fervent since my parents divorced some 20 years ago.
She has steadfastly refused most help from us over the years, preferring to handle her own finances, home repairs, snow shoveling, etc. She has built her own fences, painted her own house, remodeled her own kitchen.
But the neglect of the years has taken its toll: Collapsed disks in her spine, chronic asthma from smoking, poor circulation and worse balance.
Against this backdrop we play out yesterday's drama. She was at a friend's house, where they had together designed a pergola for the friend's garden. I can't tell you what she was thinking, but she got up on a ladder. I don't know what happened, but at some point, she managed to kick the ladder out from under herself, and landed hard on her left leg. She sustained two compound fractures, with displacement of the bones measured in inches, not millimeters. Two hours of surgery later, she is equipped with enough hardware to set off metal detectors at a range of 10 feet.
And so here we are. Her spine is too fragile for crutches. Her house is a maze of narrow staircases. Sleeping rooms and bathrooms are on the second floor. It's just not possible.
Our home is wheelchair friendly, with a suite of sorts on the first floor. Which takes us back to that first sentence.
How can I talk her into this? How can I keep her and S from killing each other? And how well will my all-too-fragile life balance hold up under the stress of a special needs child, a special needs husand and a special needs parent all in the same house, and under the watchful eye of the woman who is both my greatest fan and biggest critic?
I'm not looking forward to the next few weeks.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
So what am I doing? Staring. Staring at a blank computer screen. I was up until 4 am fixing the clearly illiterate mess that one of my partners-in-crime had created. That was easy.
This? Not so much.
I know what I want to say. I have all the data. I have a fire in my belly to do it right.
And the Words. Just. Won't. Come.
Arrrrrgh. And I'm not just saying that because it's Talk Like Pirate Day
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
This particular tea was presented by a neighbor of mine, who has a son the same age as my daughter and whose company I appreciate greatly. I won’t say necessarily that I always enjoy it. She is well-intentioned, but completely overbearing, and she browbeats her husband to the point that I have started teasing her about it just so I don’t scream. (On a related note, my husband keeps a tiara in one of our coffee table drawers at home and when she starts ordering her husband around in our house, he whips it out and places it on her head. I love that man)
The table was lovely; finger sandwiches, tiny muffins, phyllo horns with coconut pudding and strawberries. I contributed my tarragon chicken salad and sugared grapes to garnish the other plates. The other women in attendance, six in all, were also lovely. I’d met three of them before; we all have kids roughly the same age and so we have that in common.
I came to realize during the conversation, however, that every one of these mothers was stay-at-home. And they all voiced a common complaint: “My husband gets to spend all day long with interesting people and take a 2-hour hot lunch if he wants to, and then he lolly-gags home at night. Like he doesn’t understand how tough my day has been chasing around a pre-schooler all day.”
I paused. 2-hour lunches? Lolly-gagging? I spoke aloud “Where do these guys work?? Because…dang. I’d love to have a 2-hour lunch! And I don’t know what they do for a living, but when I don’t get home until 7:00, it’s because I had work to do that kept me there. It’s not like you don’t want to come home.”
There it was. My second head. Poof! Just like that, it must have grown out of my left shoulder because there were five sets of eyes, staring at it.
One of the younger women, who bore a striking resemblance to Barbie (honestly; it frightened me) spoke up. “How does that work? Do you have a nanny?”
“Um…no. I have a husband.”
“No; I mean, who takes care of your daughter?”
“That would be guy who represents the other half of her parents. He finishes classes around 3 pm and picks her up from school. They hang out and do homework until I get home.”
She looked skeptical. “And that works out?”
I paused at this question. “They’re both still alive, so far, so I’d have to say Yes.”
En masse, they averted their eyes from my second head. We spoke no further about it and at some point it must have retreated back into my left shoulder. I’m thinking it was right about the time I mentioned that the football cake pan I bought in 1991 had thus far served quite adequately as both a fish and an armadillo for various parties.
But it left me feeling, not for the first time lately, like I was dreadfully out of place in this world.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
And this man has stood by my side through all, and has made me laugh every day.
And when we dance, it still feels like this:
Happy Anniversary, my love. Let's look forward to the next 15.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Thursday, September 06, 2007
So I'm puzzled and deeply worried by the results of last month's AP/CNN Poll that indicated 27% of Americans did not read any books last year.
Not. One. Book.
The article also states that even among the Americans who DO read, the average American only reads something like 4 books a year.
What the hell is wrong with people? I mean, I work something like a million hours a week, I have a family and a house to look after. But I still read 15 or 20 books a year and I wish I could read more.
So I have a question for my loyal cadre of 2.7 readers: What's on your night stand (or in your bathroom, or wherever you keep your reading material), and how many books do you think you have read in the last year?
And if you don't read books, what has taken the place of books in your life?
Because I'm having trouble wrapping my head around this.
Am I the only person in America who didn't know who the hell Fred Thompson is, until NPR started talking about him about six weeks ago?
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Monday, September 03, 2007
What do you get when you mix a good girlfriend in town for a wedding, 2 bottles of decent champagne, the realization, at 11 pm, that your grey hair has become too noticeable to ignore, and an all-night drug store?
Yep. It came out purple.
I had to color it two more times, with highlighting assistance from the almost-seven-year-old, to get it so I could go to the aforementioned wedding without pretending I was the clown hired to entertain the kids during the reception...
I am also a closet motorhead chick. Sorry. I get it from my father.
As a result, I get a real charge out of going to the Cleveland Air Show. I love the big jets. I love the rumble in my chest when the afterburners come on. I think the Harrier jet may be the most impressive freakin' thing on Earth. And I just love all those incredibly proud, polite young men who are there to guide overweight mommies from the suburbs through tours of C-130 transports and Chinook helicopters.
But this year, I was accompanied for the first time by my almost seven-year-old and her classmate from school. And for the first time, I was struck by something else. Not all those guides were young men. More and more of them are young women. And not that stereotypical butch soldier we sometimes see depicted in movies. These are young, pretty, feminine women. They are physically fit, to be certain. But they also are well spoken, soft spoken, and carry an air of remarkable confidence and competence. They wear make-up. And they're not just playing support roles. I was flabbergasted, after a truly impressive faux helicopter battle that featured six wicked-looking Army copters, to see a woman step out of one of the cockpits. Her name was Patty. She had red hair and wore yellow and black-patterned nail polish.
I made my daughter and her friend go up and ask her to sign their T-shirts. I don't know about you, but I haven't met many female helicopter pilots in my life. She was gracious, gathered all those little girls around her (I sense there were several other mothers in the crowd who were as struck as I was) and she looked them all in their eager faces, saying "If you want to fly, don't you dare let anyone tell you that you can't do it. Go back to school, study math, take good care of your bodies. I'll see you in flight school, ladies."
I had two other pilots (both men, one in the military and one on a commercial plane) tell my daughter the same thing, as she climbed into the pilot seats of their aircraft. "You can be a pilot. Girls are smart and capable and better at doing two or three things at once than any boy. Don't let them fool you."
I don't think I would ever like to see my daughter in the military, even knowing that the chances she'd ever be in combat are slim. I have too much distrust for our government to trust them with my baby's life. But I like this message of empowerment for our daughters. It's a step in the right direction.
Monday, August 13, 2007
What a weekend.
We cleaned out our garage on Saturday. Now, this may be a trivial activity in the eyes of many, but you have you understand two things:
1) My husband is a pack rat extra-ordinaire
2) Said husband hates to clean.
The end result of these two things is that our garage had about 4 years of crap in it. His M.O. is to take whatever is in his car, put it in a cardboard box, and shove it in the garage. If it doesn't fit in a box, just shove it in there anyway. Do this once or twice a month for 4 years. You get the picture.
It was frightening beyond one’s wildest nightmares.
But we cleaned it out. Took 9 hours. Two bon fires in the back yard. Many sore muscles. And we have a pile of crap to be thrown out in the driveway now that is the size of my car.
Now here’s the kicker: My car still won’t fit in the garage, near as I can tell. I’m not sure how that happened.
Anyway, at least I can open it without being embarrassed that the neighbors will see. And I have a sense of accomplishment that is close to that which I feel after I spend 8 or 9 hours on my garden.
Sunday was a better day.
We went to see The Lion King onstage.
If you haven’t seen this, stop right now, call your local Ticketmaster, find out when it’s coming to town and book yourself tickets.
I’m serious. Go on. I’ll wait.
This was, bar none, the best touring show I’ve ever seen. Ever. And it comes damn close to the best stage production I’ve ever seen ANYwhere. And you have to realize I’ve seen Cats at the Wintergarden and Les Mis in London.
It was that good.
The costumes! The staging! The wonderful casting of an enormous South African woman as Rafiki. The performance of the Elton John/Tim Rice music (as well as an African-themed score by Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin and Hans Zimmer) by a live orchestra. Birds flying over the audience! Incredibly gorgeous men dancing in loin clothes. People who are dressed as GRASS, and who seem essential to the production. Depth of character that you just can’t get in a cartoon. Honestly, I was in tears more than once from sheer awe.
Go see it. Tell them I sent you. You won't regret it.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Today is Wednesday. Halleluiah.
I work at one of the largest, wealthiest research hospitals in the United States. As I drive on campus each morning, I can see beautifully-manicured lawns, expensive cars, massive construction on building projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars. I see banners proclaiming US News rankings and advertising the new 4-star restaurant they’ve opened in the hotel across the street from my office. Everything about it speaks of success and money.
What I see in the ten minutes before I reach campus is a different story. The campus is situated in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Each morning, I see prostitutes in skin tight shorts and wobbly heels, wending their exhausted – or stoned - way home from a night of work in some other part of the city. I see drug deals made with a pat on the back and a hand slipped into a coat pocket. I see teenaged girls dragging weary toddlers to the convenience store – there are no true groceries in these parts of town. I see gangs of young boys in white t-shirts and baggy pants, who should be in school but aren’t. I see street people sleeping off the aftermath of last night’s struggle with personal demons. I see middle-aged men, sitting in doorways, staring at nothing, hoping for nothing. They'll still be there on my way home in the evening.
I also see churches, perhaps a dozen or more in the 20 blocks between the freeway and my parking lot. They proclaim messages from their front signs:
All are welcome here
Tithe if you love Jesus; anyone can honk
CH__CH. What’s missing?
Tent revival August 24-28. Seek your salvation here.
They also proclaim the following:
Free hot meals
Food and Shelter for the Body and Soul
Grocery distribution on Wednesdays
The last sign hangs on the church parking lot across the street from my parking lot. Each Wednesday morning, a truck pulls up from the local food bank and distributes meager bags of groceries to the local residents. The crowd forms early and throngs well into the lunch hour. Even if I couldn’t see the crowd, I would know they were there by the singing. As they patiently wait in line for stale Thomas’ English muffins, surplus granola bars, fruit roll-ups and brown-paper bags of rice, they sing hymns of thanks. Young, old, mothers with babes in arms, homeless men in outfits that are uniformly grey-brown from months of street dust, the strung-out, the insane. They sing thanks and praise under the leadership of the church pastor, as thousands of well-dressed employees hurry from their cars to their offices a mere 90 feet away.
On one side of the street, the haves; on the other, the have nots.
I find myself wondering how our country – how any country – can hope to achieve peace and democracy abroad when it so clearly has not put forth the effort to give its own people equity in society.
How do we set our own house to rights?
Stay tuned, all three of you who read this blog. I have some ideas. And I’d like to hear yours.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Watching TV and the ad for the Simpsons Movie comes on.
Marge looks at Homer: "I thought he was Spider Pig"
Homer: "Now he's Harry Plopper"
**Camera pans to a pig wearing a pair of round black glasses with unruly hair and a zig-zag scar on his head.**
Daughter: Mom! They made that pig look like Harry Potter! Aren't the Harry Potter people going to take them to court???
Me (choosing not to discuss parody as a protected form of speech at this moment): I'm sure they got permission from the Harry Potter people.
Daughter: Permission to make a pig look like Harry Potter? That had to be expensive.
Might be cheaper to go to court.
Me: That's my girl
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Of the People, By the People, For the People...so long as you don't plan on actually SEEING any of it...
Under normal circumstances, the opportunity to meet a sitting president of the United States would have left me (and I suspect, most other normal people) in a state of excited anticipation. I, however, found myself dreading this meeting, as I would be in the unenviable position of needing to spend time discussing the urgent need to fund research to help treat wounded warfighters who were wounded only because of his misguided excuse for a foreign policy…well, you get the picture.
So the good news is that I dropped off the “talkie” part of the schedule. I did get to be in the peanut gallery watching him watch one of my colleagues do miraculous stuff with electrodes that can cure Parkinson’s patients. (I’ll write about that some time if I get a chance – it’s wicked cool) I was close enough that with a bit of creative effort, I could have pulled off the aforementioned gratuitous left hook to the solar plexus, however, and I do wish to exercise full marks for having resisted that temptation.
As it always the case when I see presidents in person, I was struck by how small Dubya is. I mean, he’s like, 5’10 or something like that, and certainly not “short”. I actually have no strong opinions about how tall or broad-shouldered a man should be or anything. It’s just…well…there’s a part of me that I think still has this image that the leader of the free world should be physically capable of fending off an attack from the Mongol Horde. I mean, when I met Clinton, he was like 6’2, and coulda swung a hand and a half sword if push came to shove. Course, he would have had to put down his Big Mac to do it…but I digress.
Actually that whole height think was a digression…let’s move on to the real point of this discussion.
If your idea of a Presidential motorcade harkens back to those photos of Kennedy in the convertible, with the adoring crowds lining the street and cheering as he went by, you’d be awfully surprised at the reality that is today’s presidential transport. Even 10 years ago, when I saw Clinton, you could still stand on the street when the closed, darkened limo went by, and people did, in large numbers.
When the president comes to town these days, you might as well expect that there are aliens invading the premises and you should run for your life. They close the street to traffic, of course, but it goes so much farther than that.
No one may stand on the sidewalks when the motorcade goes by. You cannot stand in a window facing the street where the limousine will be going by. If the president will be exiting the vehicle on your street, you must close all curtains and blinds. In essence, from the president’s perspective, it must appear he’s governing a complete ghost country, populated only by men in black suits with radios in their ears.
No wonder he’s out of touch!! He never sees anyone!
This country used to be known for having the most accessible leadership in the free world. That is definitely a thing of the past. When the president’s motorcade rolled in, it could just as easily been populated by Idi Amin. Complete with the armed guards, the three identical jet-black limousines, and the men in suits who ensure that no one sees the president in person.
How very sad. And how very illustrative, in my opinion.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
I'm doing dishes and I hear my daughter sort of humming a song as she's coloring.
Until I realise that she's humming the "Enzyte" jingle.
I'm giving away the television tomorrow.
If this blog were a houseplant, it'd be wilted by now.
I'm not cut out for this sort of commitment, I think.
Anyway it's been a whirlwind week or so, punctuated by my having developed a renewed disdain for commercial air travel. It says something that last week's trip was among my worst travel experiences ever, when you consider that over the years I have:
1) Been detained by the DEA on suspicion of drug trafficking, because I had samples of agarose in my carry-on
2) Had one of New York's Finest pull a service revolver on my taxi driver, as I cringed in the back seat, wondering if the phrase "Ballistic Nylon" meant my luggage would stop a bullet.
3) Had a fellow passenger die of a heart attack while circling Chicago.
But here are some additional highlights for you to ponder while I think about how to tell the rest of the story...
-- My daughter got her training wheels off Sunday and can ride her "big girl bike" without assistance now
-- I have had breakfast with 2 senators in a week.
-- I fully resisted the urge to punch the president in the nads last week, even though I had the opportunity to do so. Please give me full points for etiquette.
-- I'm now an expert on Nitrogen Generators.
More later, gentle readers. I'm late for another meeting.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Beanie’s Horseradish Redskin Potato Salad
This will make your insides smile.
3-5 pounds of redskin potatoes, diced
1 big, beautiful, sweet Vidalia onion, chopped
5-6 slices of bacon, cut thick, fried super-crisp and crumbled
5-6 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons of brown horseradish mustard
2 Tablespoons of dill pickle relish
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
Cook the potatoes until just fork tender and then rinse them immediately in cold water to chill. If you let them sit out to cool they get mushy and nobody likes mushy potato salad.
While the potatoes are cooling, I would recommend making yourself a Bloody Mary. Why? Because they are just the thing to sip on while making potato salad. You say it’s too early in the day? Well, consider this: You’re about to sample a dish that has bacon, eggs and potatoes in it. With the tomato juice it’s a Full English breakfast. So dig in!
2 oz of tomato juice or V-8
½ teaspoon of Emeril’s Cajun Essence
2-3 drops of green Tabasco
2 oz of really tasty Vodka
1 large, thick, crisp, crunchy stalk of celery, ice-cold
Are the potatoes cool yet? Don't get so engaged in the bloody mary that you forget about the potato salad!
Great. Now toss the potatoes and everything else in a large bowl, stir it to mix, and season with black pepper. Viola!
 If you cannot find Vidalia, resist the temptation to use regular yellow onions. They just don’t do the job. Forget this and go make a batch of Nina Simons’ Thai Peanut Noodles instead. It’s probably healthier for you anyway.
 Yes; the bacon does take away from my normally vegetarian leanings. But you know, sometimes you need a little pork fat to make things taste good. Besides, doncha just love the way their little eyes liht up when they set down their beers and say "Cool! Hey Joe, she put BACON in it!"
 NOT Miracle Whip! What the hell is wrong with you??
 There are several on the market – adjust the seasoning by the horseradish-y-ness of the product. If need be, you can sub a tablespoon of decent brown mustard and a tablespoon of horseradish, but I don’t think it’s as good.
 Don’t be tempted to sub sweet pickle relish for this. Sweet pickles are the devil’s handiwork. Hey, you know that bottle of capers you bought for that dish you made last Christmas? Throw those in the potato salad. I bet they’d be good and it’s not like you’re going to use them for anything else, right?
 Yes, as a matter of fact, it IS a little heavy on the cholesterol. It's potato salad for chrissakes! It's not supposed to be good for you!
 If you don’t have any, you can make up a quick batch by combining 3 Tablespoons paprika, 2 Tablespoons each of salt and garlic powder, and 1 Tablespoon each of black pepper, onion powder, cayenne, dried oregano and dried thyme. Shake it up and put it in a zip-loc for later.
Friday, July 06, 2007
Last week's Horoscope from The Onion:
Aries You'll waste years of your life and your entire life savings on the mistaken assumption that people don't mind driving a few miles out of their way for a really top-notch handjob.
I take issue with this. I still believe they will.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
I have no idea where it came from.
But the guy at the stop light next to me was pretty freaked out when he looked over and I was licking my cell phone while waiting for the light to change.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Sunday, June 24, 2007
K's friend spent the night last night so we could get an early start. Unfrotunately, the girls didn't sleep like we hoped they would, so we all got up a lot later than we'd planned. But still, even with a late start, the day promised to be a great time.
Sandwiches, snacks, sunscreen, extra towels, changes of clothes, drinks....Looked like we all were ready for a day of fun. The girls were playing tag in the front yard and I called them over to get in the car. As K was running across the lawn toward the car she tripped and fell, throwing her arms out in front to catch herself. She just had too strong a head of steam and she really came down hard.
Two hours later, the emergency room doctor informed us she had broken her left radius, just above wrist.
I'm so discouraged for her. She really had made a lot of progress in her swimming this year (her game plan was to spend every waking minute down at the pool this year) and she was signed up for softball later in the summer. All that is off the table now.
Poor little thing. Summer casts are a bummer.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
But there’s a part of me that is still scared to death. I started, and abandoned, a medical school career and two Ph.D. programs twenty years ago. I am always tempted to brush these failures off and attribute them to commitment-phobia. But this program has made me start to take a hard look at my life and more importantly, my character flaws.
What if I dropped out of these programs because I was just too damned lazy to put the work in? I mean really: for all that I’ve achieve a lot in my career, it’s mostly been through having a gift for convincing people that I’m right. Any real measurable achievements have only come through winning incremental battles against my inner slacker.
Or what if I just wasn’t talented enough to finish and my inner safety cut-off pulled me out before I had a chance to fail?
Now, I’m going back to graduate school and doing it at a time when I have a VERY full-time job that is looking to expand, and …oh did I mention?...when I have a school-age child at home.
It’s going to be a lot of hard work, and I’m scared to death that I’m going to bail just because it’s too much. And I’ll never know if I could have done it.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
I’ve always had an objection to the word “Warrior”. In my mind, it always had this “larger than life” connotation, like by using it you were talking about some Russell Crowe-Clive Owen-Mel Gibson character wearing bronze armor. Because I have such disdain for war (and in particular for this misguided excuse for a war our administration has mired us in) I have had a particular objection to using it to describe the soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.In the last few weeks, however, I have had to re-think this.
As a part of a project I am working on for my job, I have been touring the hospitals of the armed forces medical center network, meeting with doctors and patients involved in the “worst case” injuries coming from the Middle East.
Before I go into what I’ve seen, I want to take a minute to put all of this in perspective for you.
Despite decades of technology advances, both in terms of weaponry and in terms of medical science, the basics of warfare haven’t changed that much. The object of the game has been to kill as many members of your opponent’s army as possible while keeping as many of your soldiers intact. So basically, every time the killing technology has become more sophisticated, the armor and medical technology has advanced to keep pace. As a result, the ratio of killed soldiers to wounded soldiers has remained relatively steady throughout the history of American warfare, with about 2.4 injured soldiers to each killed soldier.
That is, until this set of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two very important things have changed in this set of conflicts. First, we have made a quantum leap in body armor design at a time when we are fighting an enemy that, despite claims to the contrary, does NOT have weapons of mass destruction. Second, we are now encountering an enemy that is not so much concerned with killing soldiers as it is with inflicting as much damage as possible. IED’s are designed to spread damage across a wide area, with the hope of killing as many as possible, but with the knowledge that there’s a good chance of hurting a lot of people. The blast force of these weapons used on these soldiers is equivalent to having a cement mixer dropped on a limb for a split second. But if a soldier is sufficiently well protected, it normally isn't a force that will immediately kill. We have also become much better at training our young men and women on the front lines to provide "buddy care" where they can staunch bleeding, deliver initial pain meds, splint a broken limb or get a wound covered in minutes, saving lives.
The result? We do a much better job of keeping our people alive than we used to. We are now seeing approximately 9.8 – 11.5 injured soldiers for each killed soldier (depends on whose numbers we use). That’s four or five times as many as we’ve ever seen before. So, while we have only had about 3500 soldiers killed, we’ve seen between 32,000 and 40,000 injuries. That’s a significant number.But that’s not the tough part of this particular situation, from a healthcare standpoint.The tough part is this: Of those 9.8 – 11.5 wounded soldiers, 2.7 of them have a wound severity score that classifies them as “profoundly damaged”.
What does it take to be “profoundly” damaged? A simple missing hand or foot won’t get you in the club. No, these young men are missing multiple limbs. They’re missing eyes. Noses. Lower jaws. Whole faces. Large portions of their skulls. Their spines are a shattered wreck. They have acute compartment syndrome from the blast injuries, where the muscles swell so profoundly that the compression cuts off the arteries and nerves and the tissue dies from lack of blood flow. They have burns so unbelievable that the patients look like a prop from a Hollywood horror film.
I stand beside a hospital bed where a doctor has just uncovered a wound. Despite the fact that I know there is an arm attached to it, it takes a few minutes for me to realize that the blackened stump with the white bones sticking up used to be a young man’s hand. The fingers and most of the flesh were burned off, not blasted off. The next bed over has a patient who is missing so much of his face, I can scarcely recognize him as human. Later that day, I will be in a briefing where I see the progression of this young man's treatment. The photographs will make me faint.
The ones who are "just" missing arms or legs are easier. Many of them are awake and want to talk. Because I am more junior than most of the physicians, I am often the last to shake hands with these young men – if they still have hands. They call me 'Ma’am'. They have a tendency to try to keep contact with me while the docs are talking. It was unnerving at first. I have come to understand it is because nearly every one of them is young enough to be my own son. They hold onto the hand they have just shaken, or give me a look that silently asks that I leave it on an arm, and they and I take comfort from each other, because in this world of men and uniforms, I am a woman in a skirt who reminds them of their mother. They are brave; all of them. They want to get back to their units, to support their comrades. For many of them, this will never be possible. It isn’t easy. I find myself wanting to kiss those brows and make them a vain promise that "it’s all going to be OK". I can’t do that. But I try, with the touch of my hand, to project compassion, and calm, and hope.
The doctors are at a loss to treat many of these patients. They literally rummage through medical supply closets to find materials out of which they can fashion the prosthetics to build new cheekbones, ears and noses. Although they are very controlled during the meetings and patient visits, it's different later over lunch, when they change subjects rapid-fire and their voices often lapse into a half-panicked cadence that speaks of PTSD.
I leave at the end of these visits feeling numb. Over the following days, the numbness wears off and is replaced by…horror.
Not the movie-like horror that makes one sit bolt upright in the middle of the night, stifling a scream. This is a slow, quiet horror that unfolds like an unnamed grief. It is the kind of horror that wakes you in the middle of the night to crawl into the next bed and wrap your body around your sleeping child. It is the kind of horror that makes you drift off in the middle of a sentence, one that makes you miss freeway exits, or makes you ‘wake up’ in the middle of a load of laundry and realize you’ve been standing there for ten minutes and that a pool of slow, silent tears has gathered on the counter.
In the last few weeks, I have gained much knowledge.
I have gained a new definition of “Warrior”. It has little to do with this war. It is instead defined by the battle to be fought by men and women who will have to exhibit incredible bravery and nobility to regain their health and any semblance of their pre-war lives.
I have also gained a new respect for the medical professionals who serve these warriors. They battle daily against odds that I can only begin to fathom.
I’ve gained a new understanding of the word sacrifice.
I’ve gained a new sense of urgency to my own work.
And I’ve gained a new disdain for those who would use the debate over this war for personal or political gain, on either side.
I’m still trying to measure what I’ve lost.
Friday, June 15, 2007
I made the decision to drive up and back, a five-hour trip each way. Really, though, by the time I dealt with a flight, with international check-in and customs and whatnot each way, I probably only burned a hour in each direction by driving. And the cost was about 20% of the flight. So it was all good.
And I got to listen to one of my favorite commercial radio stations: 91.7 fm out of Niagara. Which I can pick up in Pennsylvania and listen to all the way to Toronto.
Hey, I'm not saying I'd make a steady diet of it or anything, but it's good to know what's out there occasionally.
Anyway, I got to hear music that I don't normally hear, including two songs that just cracked me up.
The first was Before He Cheats, by Carrie Underwood. Which was released in the US, but was wildly popular in Canadia.
Check out this snippet
right now, she's probably up singing
some white-trash version of Shania karaoke.
right now, she's probably saying "I'm drunk"
and he's thinking that he's gonna lucky,
right now, he's probably dabbing on
3 dollars worth of that bathroom polo.
and he don't know...
That I dug my key into the side
of his pretty little suped up 4 wheel drive,
carved my name into his leather seat...
I took a Louisville Slugger to both head lights,
slashed a hole in all 4 tires...
maybe next time he'll think before he cheats.
followed closely behind by Amanda Marshall, a Canadian artist
I was dancing with Jake
When I last saw my keys
That was my first mistake
'Cause what happened to me?
(oh..)I look down at my arm, baby
And something's lookin' back at me
And I cannot believe it
Oh my god!
I woke up with a snake tattoo
Oh my god!
And I think that my tongue's pierced too
Oh my god! Oh my god!
It's the Sunday morning after, and baby who the hell are you?(Ahh....woohoo!)
So my thought is that the Canadians A) Have a better sense of humor than Americans and B) Hold dear women who aren't afraid to grab a little gusto.
I like that.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Monday, June 11, 2007
Perhaps I'll get them put away in honor of the 4th of July.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
K's handling all this with as much grace as one can muster when you work full-time and parent four kids and barely have time to clip your own toenails, let alone grieve for a few days. She's going to need a lot of extra support for the next few weeks.
I guess we're reaching that age when we start losing our parents. I can't say I'm ready for it. When I look in the mirror, I don't see a woman squarely in her 40's and facing true middle age. But I guess she's there. I got my evidence when I was helping K sort pictures last night. There we all were, she and her husband, me and mine, all in a photo from a wedding we attended in 1995. We all were thirty. God! Did I really look that much younger then? And that much thinner??? (OK, I knew I was a lot thinner then, but still).
I look at our families, and I realize that I am that woman I used to see at the grocery store, who had a million cares and kids in tow and clearly was trying to get home to start dinner and proctor homework. And she looked so...old...to me then.
So now it's me who is trying to balance work and parenting, caring for a my own mother, (whose health is failing), looking after my beautiful handful of a child, supporting my husband through a career re-start. And I know why that woman in the grocery store looked as old as that.
But I still feel like, buried within me, is that skinny, young 30-year-old who didn't have any kids and could beat anyone in a dead run up the river bank at the metroparks. Who listened to loud music and would stand in line for two hours to get a Dr. Seuss t-shirt at WOMAD.
I need to spend a little more time with her. I think I might take K with me.
Turns out he's an even bigger spazz than I am, so I'm feeling rather gypped in this whole process. Nevertheless, I don't back out on friendships or sworn promises, so I'm stuck with this.
So here it is. Can't say if I'll be as constant and reliable as many of my fellow blogging friends are, but I'll stop in from time to time and jot down things that I think might be worth saying.