Sunday, September 30, 2007

Reflections upon a visit to the nursing home...


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.

--Dylan Thomas

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Freeing myself from obligations

I've decided to make sleep a hobby.

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

I Hate Insurance Companies

You know, it seems such a fair and equitable deal at first: You (0r preferably, your employer) pay something like $4000 a year into a pot of money, with the knowledge that at some point you're going to get sick and use that money to pay for your medical expenses. Most years, you only use a teensy bit of that to get some Keflex for that nasty sinus infection you insist on catching from your wheezing co-worker each November. One of these days, he'll learn to cover his mouth when he coughs.

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?

Strike three.

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

One of those sentences you never want to contemplate.

"I think it's time to think about having your Mom move in with us."

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

Put the cat out

Heh. It was sleep deprivation.

Who knew?

Apparently my husband (good God, Bean, WTF is wrong with you -- you're insane!) did. ;-p

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cat's Got Me Tongue

I have this enormous, looming deadline on a grant, upon which my job will probably depend for...oh...I, the next five years or so.

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

Happy Birthday, Bug!

My little girl is seven years old today.

How lucky am I? Pretty damned lucky.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Square peg, meet round hole.

I was invited to that most dangerous of all social events this weekend: The Ladies’ Tea.

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

15, going on 100...

Today, S and I celebrate 15 years together.

I can't believe it, in some ways. This road has not always been as smooth as one would ideally hope. I am not an easy woman to love. Shakespeare's Katherine and I could have kept good company together. We've endured career changes, crises of faith, miscarriages and post-partum depression. But we've also made a good life together, and we have a beautiful little girl to give us a purpose together.
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

Trying out Video Uploads.

This is what happens when your six year old discovers that your cheapo digital camera can take video.

This is also my first time editing video, which was a new experience.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pop Culture Refugee, Part II -- What's on your night stand?

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.

Pop Culture Refugee, Part I - I've Never Seen An Episode of Law and Order

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

Stuff that makes me cringe


Yeah, nothing like having your iTunes shuffle up Patty Griffin's Wiggley Fingers while your boss is in your office...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

States I've Visited

I shamelessly ripped this off from my newly-rediscovered friend Mark.

create your own personalized map of the USA

Monday, September 03, 2007

A riddle

Because I don't get a lot of time to blog, I have to strike while the iron is hot. So yeah, we have two posts in one day, after a three-week absence.

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...

Grrl Power

I think I've been pretty clear with everyone here and in meatspace that I have a true disdain for war and warmongers. But I do genuinely understand the need to have a military strong enough to protect us (I'm not naive enough to imagine that the lion and the lamb are going to lay down together any time soon) and I realize that we need to show the American public what we're spending all that money on.

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.