Saturday, December 25, 2010

@ and The Magic of Christmas Giving

It was getting close to Christmas. All of the houses in the neighborhood had bright colorful lights along the rooflines and pretty decorated trees in the front windows. @ and his friends decided it would be really neat to go visit the North Pole. They made sure they had their warmest jackets, gloves, boots, and hats and they all went to the train station.

When they got there, they found their friend Engineer Doggie, who told them he knew the secret to finding Santa. Then the boarded the train. Once they were on the train, Engineer Doggie told them all to get in a circle and hold hands. Some of them giggled about holding hands, but Engineer Doggie told them it was an important part of the secret.

Engineer Doggie told them to close their eyes and dream of their own special snowman.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Junk Mail Prevention

It's October. Don't ask me how that happened. I've decked the halls of my porch with spiderwebbing and orange squash things. @ was so excited to decorate the porch. Gotta love the dollar store for decorations -- he got to go hog wild and buy all sorts of nutty stuff for under ten bucks. At least I don't go broke

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tornado Maintenance 101

I have a picture of tornadoes on my refrigerator. Each is a different color and hovers precariously close to the ground, about to touch down. In the midst of all the swirling is a little stick figure with a small umbrella saying "Hey tornadoes, one at a time. Get in line!"

Sure, I can yell at a tornado and it will listen! Hmmm...

Last week was less than fun. Lots of different dramas emerged from various quadrants of my existence. I had some health stuff to handle;

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Moonlighting for Extremities

I have a titanium screw in my toe. There, I've said it. It's out in the world. Judge me for it if you must.

This toe is primary digit of my left foot. Not the film My Left Foot. Mine. My actual left foot. I seem to have picked up a habit of damaging said recalcitrant foot every now and then since the first "incident" almost exactly 11 years ago in August 1999.

What happens when you damage your foot?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Balancing on Two Wheels

Avoiding danger in the long run is no safer than outright exposure. 
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
- Helen Keller

I recently decided to do something for myself. Pedicures and massages are great and all that. I guess shopping does it for some girls. OK, lots of them. Maybe even legions of them, given stacks of evidence ranging from

Monday, May 31, 2010

I Got a Boo-Boo

I got a boo-boo on my knee.

A good friend invited me to go hiking yesterday. Yes, absolutely, ok, let's go. I didn't bother asking where, how far, and all of those details. It didn't really concern me. And who am I to turn down an excuse to be outside with trees and dirt and stuff?

So off we went to Sunol Regional Wilderness and hopped on the trail along Alameda Creek to Little Yosemite. It looked to be a pretty mellow ambling walk along a well-maintained

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Amoeba that Ate Pennsylvania

Somehow or other, I've been back at work for nearly a month. Time flies when you're trying to catch your breath and remember how to tie your shoes. Within a quick blink, it was as if I'd never been gone. Except now I have this weird eating schedule and people keep asking me if I'm better now. Well, yes, better than I was before. Cured, no. But that's just how it is.

In the scheme of things, I don't consider the health thing

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pot o' Gold & Wishes


@ had an art project at school for which he created a pot of gold. The pot was titled "I wish everyone in the world had..." and he had labeled each coin with a different thing.

His choices
  • a bed
  • peace
  • books
  • a dog
  • a tent to play in
  • a giant excavator
Practical, altruistic, while at the same time uniquely @. Sometimes he just makes me laugh out loud.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Daddy Is Getting Married

Chapter 1
About a week ago, @ was crying rather dramatically at bedtime. When I asked what was wrong, he said he was worried about me. I certainly didn't expect him to say that. I thought maybe it was because he knew I'd been sick. It wasn't.

"Mommy, you're not married. You're all by yourself. You need someone to marry you."

Wha huh? Bam, that was certainly out of the clear blue sky. Or maybe it was cloudy that day. I don't recall. Obviously the weather

Monday, April 26, 2010

Walking for N

This Saturday was one of @'s favorite days of the year, the annual March for Babies walk. He was six months old and still on oxygen the first time I did the walk, but he has been there every year since, making it his sixth walk and my seventh.

In @'s world, the first few years were about the balloons and the noise, then it was about being a surviving preemie, and now it's about helping babies and walking for his twin brother.

It's a tiring day for me, both physically and emotionally. It's a reminder of

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cat Herding, Doc Wrangling...

The first signs that maybe I had the wrong gastroenterologist were sitting in the waiting room when I arrived for my first appointment. The magazines. High-end car, travel, food, and wine magazines.

As far as I'm concerned, one of the primary reasons for the existence of magazines like People, Entertainment Weekly, Us, etc., is to entertain patients who are patiently waiting for their doctors. Especially doctors who set their watches according to

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Conflicting Philosophies

  • Zeek: Damien, I'm sure you're a nice guy, but you left your sock in my house and you took my grand-daughter's innocence. Here's your sock.
*** *** ***
  • Damien: Sir, I just want to let you know that I consider myself a student of philosophy. Live and let live. I mean no harm to anyone.
  • Zeek: I am an irrational hardass with rage issues. Don't piss me off.

*** *** ***

Being a word geek, I appreciate good writing when I actually do sit still and watch TV. A pretty new show called Parenthood has some good writers...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Instinct & the Intersection of Teachable and Moment

How to Explain Instinct to a Six-Year-Old
Me: If you saw a doughnut running across the yard, you would try to catch it and eat it, right?
@: Doughnuts don't run, mommy.
Me: But if doughnuts could run and you saw one in Barbara's yard?
@: I'd catch it and eat it! But mommy, you're still goofy.

Why to Explain Instinct to a Six-Year-Old

This morning, Luke followed his oh-so-doggy instinct and caught a squirrel. It was a baby squirrel. Probably a preteen in the world of squirrel years. Luke had chased the mama squirrel and lost. He turned around to find himself staring at the baby squirrel. The chase was short and fruitful.
See squirrel. See squirrel run. Chase squirrel. Catch squirrel.
Wait! What? I caught it? I've never caught anything.
What do I doooooo?

Uh oh, they're coming toward me. They look concerned.
She's yelling "house!"
Drop the squirrel!
OK, I'm going into the house. You don't have to ask me twice!
What just happened? I actually caught something other than kibble?
Whu huh?
Once I got Luke in the house, my neighbor J and I went to check on little guy. Meanwhile, mama was rightfully losing her squirrel-marbles in a tree across the street. Little guy was breathing, but not looking terribly comfortable. We went over to J's porch to give mama squirrel an opportunity to check on little guy. Mama squirrel maneuvered closer.

Neither of us could decide whether to put little guy out of his misery or give him a chance to recovery. Likewise, neither of us pictured ourselves doing squirrel resuscitation or a Kevorkian routine. After getting over the initial shock, little guy did some hopeful flopping. Or flipping. Maybe both. Mama squirrel maneuvered still closer.

We decided to give little guy time to recover, but were wary of neighborhood crows. I went back to my house, J to his. A bit later I heard a crow going bonkers. Interestingly enough, he was chasing my hawk. Both birds seemed oblivious to the unfolding squirrel drama.

Awhile later, I checked outside and saw mama squirrel near the baby, but a crow even closer. I chased off and cussed out the crow and went looking for a cardboard box. In the 3.217 minutes it took me to procure a box and towel from my garage, Barbara's cat appeared. I cussed out the cat, put the squirrel in the box with a towel and moved him to my porch.

For some reason, I decided liberal use of the f-bomb toward birds and cats would be helpful to little guy. I knew he wouldn't survive, but I didn't want to see him eviscerated on the lawn. Mama squirrel tracked my every move from directly above in the magnolia tree.

Welcome to the Intersection of Teachable and Moment
Shortly after I had set up little guy on the porch, X dropped off @. I told @ he could look in the box from a distance, but he needed to be quiet. He sat on my lap on the lawn while I explained that in the box was a baby squirrel and it would likely die.

@'s first instinct was to be simultaneously angry with Luke and sad for the squirrels. I completely understood. He was upset, but I had to explain the concept of instinct itself.
  • Luke's instinct was to chase.
  • @'s instinct was to be angry with Luke.
  • My instinct was to give mama squirrel a chance to see him before he died.
We were gone for most of the afternoon and when we came home, little guy was no longer moving. @ decided he was sleeping and I opted not to correct him. Once @ was safely snuggled into bed, I attended to the disposition of little guy.

I hope mama squirrel got her chance. I had a week that brought up several remembrances of grief and found myself revisiting feelings of losing N (@'s brother). And then this morning's squirrel escapades found their way into my day. To me, the hawk's visit was no coincidence. It all feels like some sort of closure on the week.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Wisdom of Six-Year-Olds

I heard an amazingly beautiful story today. I'll do my best to retell it here.

A grandmother was tucking her six-year-old grandson into bed.
The little boy, whose father had committed suicide a year prior,
asked her what death felt like.

Caught off guard, she first responded, "It probably doesn't feel like anything."

Then she explained that if you have a strong spirit,like his daddy did, she believed your spirit continued on and took another form.

The little boy thought for a moment.

"I think my dad's spirit is an apple tree. He had a really healthy body and he liked apples," he said. "But his mind wasn't healthy."

"I hope he's an apple tree and he can see the sky and feel the fresh air on his branches."

Gulp. Yeah, it brought tears to my eyes. Still does.

@ asked me yesterday what "represent" means. We talked about it and I used my hawk tattoo as an example, saying that for me it represents N, his twin.

We talked about how after he and N were born, a small hawk started spending time in the trees around my house -- showing up every once in awhile as if it were checking in, then flying away.

Always one with an answer, @ explained it to me.

The hawk comes to our house
to look for N
and
when he can't find him

he flies away because he's so sad.

Gulp.

The wisdom of six-year-olds: There's no pretense. There's no "I wonder if this sounds wrong" or "What will people think if I say this out loud?" There's just the pure, clear, truth as they see it.

(And yes, six years later, the hawk still visits.)

Friday, April 2, 2010

The ER and Wizard of Wonderland

I went to check out Alice in Wonderland and...
ended up a test subject for The Wizard of Oz.

After making it about 20 minutes into the movie, I started feeling relatively horrid, went home, and my fantabulous neighbor took me to the hospital. It is a bit amusing to go to the ER on April Fools' Day with your due-to-give-birth-in-two-days friend and identify yourself as the patient.

But we have good news!
  • A CAT scan proved I have a brain
  • An EKG proved I have a heart
  • Morphine subbed in for the field of poppies...
No answers -- ok, except that I can and I still feel icky, but I'm home chillin' on the couch. Oh, and despite the morphine, there were no flying monkeys.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Human Reply to Auto-Reply FAIL

A guy I work with, but whom I've never met in person, responded to my out-of-the-office auto-reply e-mail with "Are you having a baby?"

Wha? Huh? Who in the h**...?

My first thought was to respond, "Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. It's yours."

As an absolutely hilarious comedian* I saw last winter would say, "First thought wrong..."

I didn't go with the first thought. Nor did I opt for the...
  • 2nd: see above italics
  • 3rd: "Been there, done that. Please donate to the March of Dimes"
  • 4th: "Have we met?"
  • 5th: "Please be available to field calls from HR."
  • 6th: "Please see the attached photo from my endoscopy."
  • 7th...
*Mark Lundholm.

Pudding for a 25% Shot at Immortality

It's tax season. And as they say, in this country anyway, the only sure things are death and taxes. But according to some smart folks in Sweden, maybe not. Pudding might solve one of those little problems. No, no really!

I came across an interesting article. The all-too-generic headline, "Calcium Linked to Longer Life" is essentially the "Consumable of Some Sort Linked to Longer/Shorter Life" article du jour. In this case, my attention was suckered by the deck (that stuff under the headline designed to drag you into the rest of the article):
People who get the most calcium in their diet reduce their risk of death by 25 percent, according to new research on calcium and health.
Wha? Huh? Really? Bring it on! I clicked through to the article. It gets better. The editors provide immediately accessible advice under a nice little "what you can do" heading:
"Boost your calcium intake by eating healthy food sources like low-fat dairy, spinach, kale…and pudding!"
Pudding may be the secret to everlasting life! Or it could be kale. But... It could be pudding! I wonder:
  • Is butterscotch pudding more or less effective than chocolate pudding?
  • Is there a true hierarchy based on flavors? Brands?
  • IS BILL COSBY IMMORTAL?
  • Does adding bananas to pudding enhance or diminish the health benefits?
  • Can you make kale pudding?
I just gotta know!

Someone please explain why are we not dancing in the streets, stopping traffic, and plastering the screens of CNN, CBS, BBC, NBC, and anyone but Fox News with this? Where is Geraldo Rivera uncovering the long covered-up coverup? Hell, where is Oprah? Or that guy who always has very scary, extremely pale toothless people fighting in their way-too-small-and-even-tackier underwear? (I'm rather proud of myself that I can't remember his name, nor do I have any urge to Google it in the name of journalistic research.)

(And another note -- anyone else think they're marketing pudding to single women? Smooth, rich, and available?)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Polar Bear in Pursuit? Just Use a BSO!

Should you be chased by a polar bear down Mountain View's Castro Street while on foot, simply do a u-turn and a street fair will appear. Apparently, polar bears -- or people dressed in mangy polar bear costumes, yet still frightening when chasing you -- are easily distracted by jewelry at art & wine festivals.

But perhaps only the variety of art & wine festival that appears like a pond in the desert when you make an abrupt turnaround midstreet. I'm not sure. I've not experienced another polar bear chase -- costumed or otherwise -- nor encountered an apparition-type art & wine festival.

It was clear, however, that the jewelry (ooooh shiny, prett-ty shiny things) is what captured the attention of the bear. The BSO strategy works again.

Four more instances where Bright Shiny Objects (BSO) work well in tough situations:
  • Presentations that are not going well -- mention some new, obscure feature or technology and watch the eyes glitter as they quickly forget the facts you were trying to explain, -- oooh, that's neat too, what metrics, i want the bleeferblarb widget
  • Disagreements with romantic partners -- especially useful when it's measured by carats and you're a professional athlete who really f***ed up (literally or figuratively)
  • Gremlinized children who really, really, really want -- oooh, that's neat too, what candy, i want the race car
  • Blog posts in which you really can't explain the whole polar bear thing except to say those meds for the digestive thing seem to have some really funky side effects
I can hardly wait to see what will play out across my eyelids tonight.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hiatus for the Cape & Tights

I realized my invisible superwoman cape isn't working. I sent it to the wrong dry cleaners and they used some sort of solvent that neutralized my superpowers. That's what I get for trying to save a buck.

OK, honestly, I was never quite comfortable in the tights either. The stilettos gave me blisters. And the leotard always gave me a wedgie, which made the cape useful until I remembered it was invisible.

Why is it that superheroes always have such ridiculous wardrobes? If they're superheros, wouldn't they have the special powers to save the world in jeans, a t-shirt, and flip-flops?

Big decision. I'm taking time off to get back to healthy, feisty, and strong.

My ego tried to convince me that I could simultaneous climb Everest, juggle flaming chainsaws, work full time, keep up with @, and figure out how to live without snobbishly good dark chocolate as the fourth food group (the others were fruits & veggies, tofu, and whole grains).

Hmmm... There might be a wee bit of exaggeration there. But it sure sounds like a fairly realistic list of "mom" things at first glance.

So it's learning time. Learning to adjust to the new hobbies of my digestive system so I can get back to my normal frenetic kid-chasing, dog-walking, hill hiking, etc. self. (I think I leave the falling out of trees behind.) Or whatever the new version of my self happens to be.

And away we go -- in my comfy clothes.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tuna Glow, Tuna Know

Dead tuna do tell tales. As one friend describes it, "your stomach muscles just up and decided they didn't want to work for a living anymore." He continued on a short rant about the French and labor unions, but after 20+ years of hearing his redneck raving, I'm nearly immune.

His pre-rant phrasing pretty much covers it. The medical definition of such activity, or lack of activity, is gastroparesis. (And no, it's not caused by stress!)

Thanks to my lovely radioactive tuna sandwich experiment, not to be confused with Ken Kesey's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (which was waaaaaay more colorful, man), I discovered that although my brain spins quickly, my gut does not.

Whee! Having answers I don't like is better than having no answers at all. After a several months of mystery starting last fall, increasing discomfort, and entertaining tests, it's now onward into the breach of figuring out the next step.

OK now, this makes sense.  That makes sense.  That other thing makes sense.

The acid reflux, energy zonks, progressive lack of fun. (Should I mention random drops in blood sugar often characterized by a dangerous careening visit to the Beyatch Zone? Hmmm... Maybe not.)

It seems that not being able to digest food properly tends to be problematic. Who knew? Oh, everyone. Yes, well.

It's possible that gastroenterologists spend so much time learning to spell g-a-s-t-r-o-e-n-t-e-r-o-l-o-g-i-s-t that they lose their humor. Yes, the crack about taking my gastrointestinal muscles to the gym definitely fell flat. In fact, I'm fairly sure he's questioning my sanity and planning an award-winning medical research paper on the amazing number of gastroparesis patients who are also nuts.

Lose the ability to eat or sleep and you too will find yourself looking for those marbles you've lost. Or the nuts the neighbor squirrel buried three years ago.

Weak stomach muscles are not the same as abdominals, so crunches ain't gonna solve this thing. Googler that I am, I started sniffing around for ideas about changing my diet. Some gastroenterologists in Pennsylvania with a spiffy website provided a three-step diet supposedly designed to "to reduce symptoms and maintain adequate fluids and nutrition."

It sounds really inviting. They have this great grid with columns for "recommend" and "avoid" next to different food groups (milk products, vegetables, fruits, etc.). It would have been oh-so-much easier and less cruel to the web developers to simply list what you can eat: plain saltine crackers, Gatorade, soft drinks, fat-free consomme, boullion. Oh yeah, that's gonna work. You do that for three days and then move on to Step 2.

I'm convinced that the purpose of Step 1 is to make Step 2 look good. Much like when trying to get a six-year-old to eat vegetables you offer beets, brussels sprouts, and carrots as the options. Money has it you're going to hear carrots. But if you have my kid, you'd better have the beets and sprouts on hand. Not because he likes them, but because he will call your bluff on random occasions.

Yes, Step 2 did need the ugly first step to make it shine. Dinner from the sample menu looks downright deliciously decadent: A tablespoon of peanut butter, six saltines, a half-cup of vanilla pudding, and a half-cup of grape juice.

Bring out the candlelight and violins, because I'm ready to swoon over a meal like that. SWOON I tell you. Just friggin' swoon. Or wait, maybe it's pass out from dizzyness and HUNGER.

Step 3, the long-term maintenance diet, brings the promise of plain chicken, white rice, and cooked beets. No fresh fruit, no raw vegetables, no whole grains. Have we met? I have a loving relationship with fresh fruit, a strong preference for cold crunchy veggies, and dig my nice healthy whole grains. I have to give up my uber-healthy diet to stay healthy. Explain that one. (And before you jump on the potato chip easy-cheese bandwagon, my healthy diet also did not cause this!)

This definitely calls for more research. And a really freaking good sense of humor. And anything, yes anything, other than a future of cooked beets. Blech.

P.S. Good news: I don't have to pretend to like broccoli anymore. Apparently, eating it has the potential to hospitalize me. Who knew?!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rabid Dust Bunnies

I have a very big broom. I have often used it to sweep things under the rug in the interest of maintaining a relatively calm relationship with my mother. We've pretty much always had challenges getting along.

I'm told I'm too independent. And not just from Day 1. Stubborn from Day -2, that's me.

Apparently I have been a royal pain in the hindquarters since refusing to be born prior to her 30th birthday. Willful fetus that I was, I grabbed hold of her uterus and refused to come out for an additional two days -- not just one, two. Just to spite her. (The things you learn in a shared therapy session at the age of 18.)

There were more crimes in my list. I embarrassed her. People often mistook me for a boy. I was a quiet bookish soccer-addicted tomboy instead of a gregarious perky girl. I was shy to the point of dissolving in tearful terror when expected to order ice cream.

Oh yes, and willful. I willed my breasts to grow bigger than hers at an age far earlier than she thought appropriate. (Actually it wasn't will, it was Miracle-Gro. But don't tell anyone.) I didn't do much to try to fit in. Meanwhile, I was getting good grades, playing in the band (albeit badly), and selling my share of Girl Scout cookies in my little green uniform.

I recently went through an exercise about resentments. In total, I have very few. When it comes to my mother, I admit there is a list. And resentments are definitely on my to-do list. Interestingly, hers come from things over which I had no control. Mine have to do with her inability or refusal to acknowledge any of it. I've reached out, admitting that raising an unhappy kid couldn't have been easy, etc. I've given her free passes. She won't take them.

Two of the biggest examples are related, yet happened twenty years apart. When I was 18, I was working the summer near Donner Summit and was hospitalized twice after my blood pressure started dropping so low that I would lapse into shock. I spent a day in the ER, then was admitted for another four days. She didn't come to the hospital. She had plans to go to my grandparents' cabin in the area on the weekend, so she waited rather than modify her plans, by which time I had been released.

I delivered my twin boys -- her only grandchildren -- 14 weeks early. One of my sons died the day he was born, the other spent nearly four months in intensive care. Although she now lived in Seattle, she had a boatload of free airline tickets. Yet, she waited more than a month.

Even as an adult, but especially as a mother myself, it's hard to comprehend. I'm thankful that my brother has had a significantly better relationship with her. When it comes to me, any time anything has come up in conversation, it's quickly shut down in defense. Zero acknowledgment.

When I had my biopsy a few weeks ago, I sent a note to my mom, brother, and dad. My brother replied immediately, my dad called. A few days later, my mom wrote contending that I'd made myself sick via stress. The "you did it to yourself" is a pattern. In her medical omniscience, I contracted salmonella that kept me horizontal for nearly three weeks because I didn't wash my hands after using the restroom. (Wha? Huh? How dare...) The state health department on the other hand, traced it to a truck carrying lettuce, cantaloupe, and live chickens...

I considered getting out my big broom again, but found it jammed in the closet.

I wrote back explaining that I'm less stressed now than I can ever remember. She fired back about about me being rude and how messy my house was at her last visit. I'm facing a potential cancer diagnosis and her focus is on a messy desk.

Well, without big broom in hand, the rabid dust bunnies emerged.

I finally brought up an abbreviated list of "unacknowledged things." And that list, well -- I used to joke that I was raised by wolves. Someone who knew my history corrected me, "Oh no, wolves are far more nurturing."

I didn't expect an apology or some groundbreaking shift of tectonic plates. I accept that I can't change her. Any change must come from within her for her own reasons. But I can change how I interact with her. Saying it "out loud" to her took courage, but it also freed me because it gave the truth light and air.

After the second e-mail exchange, I got one more: "Have a nice life." I wasn't surprised.

The first words that came to mind for me? "I will."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

That Certain Glow

"Eat the whole thing, but be careful not to touch the filling," he said very seriously as he handed me a grayish tuna sandwich.

Huh? OK, don't touch the tuna, just consume it?
That's comforting.
As was the fact he was wearing bright blue gloves.
You don't want the stuff on your hands, just in your gut? Hmm...

My breakfast was in fact a standard-issue hospital cafeteria tuna sandwich augmented with a lovely condiment of radioactive isotopes. Mmmmmm? Or Hmmmmm...

Next task, remain absolutely still on a table for two full hours while nice people in lab coats use a screen to track the glow as makes its way through my digestive tract. I have an oddly convenient ability to fall asleep during medical tests. I actually slept through most of this one, until the last 30 minutes where I was fairly convinced my upper arms were going to catch fire from the position into which they'd been forced. (Good news, no actual scorching.)

Yesterday's little snack-and-glow was the third major attempt to figure out what is going on with my recalcitrant gut. These tests are like a series of midterms, without the studying. Is it reflux with a stubborn streak to match my Taurean birthdate? Is it something entirely different? Did one of the understudies from Sigourney Weaver's Alien series take residence in my abdomen?

Live the mystery! You have to be able to laugh when one of your four major food groups is oatmeal. Maybe you don't have to but me, I choose to laugh. A lot. It's always a matter of choice:
- Dwell on the discomfort or laugh through it.
- Stress about the lack of answers or work with what information you have.
- Worry about what comes next or be present now.
- Find medical pictures on WebMD or Alien pictures on IMDB.

I learned something important when @ was in the hospital. I could try to figure out all of the potential issues every time something came up, or I could deal what was in front of me from day to day. Given his initial health issues, the list of possible scenarios, challenges, and outcomes increased exponentially on a daily basis.

I don't do math.

Once upon a time I was a contingency planner -- I assessed things, identified potential outcomes, and had a plan for each one. (Effective when planning ski trips for 100+ people, but not universally applicable.) That little habit went out the window, quickly, when my sons were born.

As I applied that same perspective of "what is in front of me right now" to more aspects of my life, my stress level dropped. The less I try to figure out, control, predict, manipulate, etc. the more things work out on their own.

So, yes indeed, I ate a radioactive sandwich yesterday in what's called a gastric emptying study. And no, I have no idea what the results showed. I'll know when I know. And with that information, the next step will present itself. Until then, I'm looking out the door at a bright shiny day, putting on my shoes, and scraping up the energy to walk to the pharmacy. Because I can :-)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Reaching Out -- For the First Time

I've spent the first two months of 2010 growling at myself for picking the high-deductible medical plan, given how much time I've spent with the medical community thus far. I like rice and oatmeal as much as the next girl, but there's been precious little variety beyond that since November.

Two weeks ago my esophagus and I had a photo shoot (think internal vogue-ing on enough valium to make a horse levitate). I expected to awake to answers, not "We'll have biopsy results in ten days." The concept of biopsy threw me; it somehow wasn't a word I was expecting. But it was less the potential of what it might mean than the nebulousness of not knowing the next step.

Boy howdy the Serenity Prayer does come in handy when you're scratching for control you're just not going to get. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I knew I couldn't change the test result, but I could change how I approached it. For me, it wasn't a simple change. It was akin to bungee jumping for the first time.

I have a reputation for being "strong" through adversity. At one point after my sons were born very early, I would quietly and to myself get ticked off anytime someone told me how strong I was. Were they clueless?! I had zero interest in being strong. I crumpled when no one was looking. I cried in my car. Why did everyone think I was so strong? Why couldn't they give me a break and let me be less than strong?

I finally figured it out over tea with a friend last Friday. (Yeah, I'm 41 years old. Sometimes I'm just amazingly s-l-o-w to catch on.) People think I'm strong because I've been oh-so-careful to never show weakness. I was raised in an environment where if you had to cry, you did it alone and behind closed doors. You didn't ask for help. You never admitted you couldn't do it yourself. I got very good at masking and compartmentalizing my emotions. I've been called "cold" when in reality, I'm pretty damned emotional (on the inside...).

I always showed strong. I never asked for help. I never admitted anything other than strong.

Last week, I took a new step. I ditched the mask. It felt weird, but I used my Facebook status to ask for positive thoughts because I was getting biopsy results that day. And I was scared. I second-guessed myself about 42 times, but I left the post there. I was hoping a few people would read it and maybe toss a good thought my way before moving on to the next post. I got far more than I bargained for.

Between the original post and the follow-up that the biopsy was indeed clear (yay), I had nearly 50 messages of support. I was overwhelmed, amazed, comforted, and truly humbled. I still am. The test result itself is now a minor footnote to the day.

By reaching out and asking for help, letting down the mask of strong, and allowing my friends into the scarier part of my world, I got an amazing sense of the people in my life. And of peace. And it carried me through my day. It buoys me nearly a week later and will continue to do so for a long time.

Now I get it...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bark Park -- @'s Eye View (Video)

I gave my camera to @ at the dog park today. He took 142 pictures. We who were raised with film, have a hard time just clicking that button so freely. He has no fear of "wasting film" and takes some really cool pix.

Today he was a man on a mission -- he took a picture of every tennis ball in the big dog area. Sometimes there are only a few around, today they'd multiplied like so many mushrooms after a rainstorm. (Hmm... Kind of makes me wonder, given the recent rain, where tennis balls really come from...)

Herewith, a bit less than three minutes for your amusement. @ is especially fond of the way I did the end...



Canned music from Microsoft...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chuck E Cheese vs. the BMW

Admit it, the first image that comes to mind when you read "Chuck E Cheese vs. the BMW" has something to do with oversized rodent carnage and tire tracks. If you're over the age of eight, the BMW automatically wins in this scenario. Hands down.

As visually oriented as I am and as satisfying that image happens to be, this is a different story.

I recently described myself as a duck with one foot nailed to the floor, wearing a circular groove in the floor. I've often used the un-nailed foot to kick my own ass for making mistakes, saying the wrong thing, failing to meet my own expectations, not having the answers, losing my temper, blah blah blah.

For the last few months, I've been actively taking steps to loosen that nail.

It turns out, I've had the tool in my hands all along -- a hammer. I was just accustomed to using it to ensure that darn nail would keep my flappy foot firmly fastened. I looked more closely at that hammer, turned it around in my hands only to discover that hey, the other side of this metal thingie can be used to remove nails! Who knew?!

I realize that such a firmly fastened foot can't be removed all at once -- it's a gradual process, but I'm ok with that. On Sunday I found evidence that I have, in fact, had some success.

After meeting a friend for tea, I had to pick up @ at a birthday party. I got in my car, backed out, and cut the wheel too quickly, resulting in the sickening sound of expensive plastic against even more expensive plastic. I pulled back into my parking spot, got out and assessed my handiwork.

A year ago -- heck, even a few months ago -- back when I had to be perfect and mistakes were unacceptable, I would have unleashed a silent set of four-letter words at myself. I would have berated myself for being stupid, not paying attention, picking the expensive car to hit. I might have pretended to leave a note in case anyone was watching, but would have been too embarrassed to actually face up to the owner of the car. And then I'd beat myself up over the guilt of not leaving a note, and over the fears that prevented me from doing it. I'd stress out and hold onto that feeling for quite awhile.

Instead, I left a note with my contact info, carefully wrapped it in a plastic bag (it was raining), and went along to the evil noise/germ/chaosfarm that is Chuck E Cheese. The 45 minutes there were exponentially more painful than the 5 minutes with the scratched BMW in the parking lot.

Later that day the owner of the car called. I was prepared for an angry guy tirade, but I got an amazingly gracious woman. It was her birthday and she was out with friends. At first she thought the note was from another friend wishing her a happy birthday. Alas, not quite. Apparently, I picked the right car to hit... The insurance companies will deal with the damage -- which, thankfully, is minimal -- and life will go on.

But I'll never get those 45 minutes of my life back from Chuck E Cheese.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Watching @ Be @

@ and I took Lucas to the "bark park" today. I know of few better places to take a six-year-old kidlet and an 80-pound dog who have been surrounded by various sets of four walls during a week of downpour. We spent nearly two hours among the other sun-seeking dogs and their drivers.

When we first started going to the dog park, both @ and Luke would stay close to me, with Luke eventually giving in to curiosity and dogness to venture forth and join the ranks of random pooches enjoying the park.

Today, Luke never stopped moving. He wandered, sniffed, wrassled, chased, mounted, marked, marked, marked, sniffed, lather, rinse, repeat. He gently stopped by when another dog approached @, just to be nearby. He's fun to watch with his big slobbery dog grin as he jogs to and fro.

But watching @ today was even better. He followed Luke here and there, saw dogs he wanted to meet and talked to their people, and introduced Luke to potential pals. His favorite dogs of the day were two massive Great Danes. Meanwhile, a German Shepard puppy named Bear was quite fascinated with @ and kept venturing over to visit him. When a Springer Spaniel knocked him over, @ giggled and stood up with a grin -- much to the surprise those who expected him to cry.

Ever the "worker," he took a post at the water faucet as the concierge. He greeted the dogs and their owners, making it his responsibility to keep the bowls filled. He obliged the dogs who preferred to drink right out of the spigot. He was quite serious about his role.

He generally walked around with a comfort and confidence I never knew at that age, and not for a long time past it. More than anything else, I am grateful. I am grateful to know that he has no sense of the fears I had as a kid. And yes, to know that I have not shared those fears with him and that I am part of helping him become that confident, cheerful, creative little boy.

I learn from him as he learns from me. That makes me the lucky one.

Smashing Marshmallows

Sometimes I can do no more than quote the wee boy:

Smashing marshmallows together to make sandwiches feels like trying to make a snake barf.
-- @, 1/23/2010


'Nuf said.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mean Ol' Bully

Growing up, I was the smallest kid in class. Not cute, perky small. Just awkward -- definitely not one to fit in.

My mom used to take me and my brother to Elmer's Barber Shop so we could get haircuts at the same time. Striped barber pole out front and a guy with a waxed mustache. People always assumed I was a boy until the onset of puberty provided distinctions to the contrary. And at which time my hair went into a freakish Rosanne Rosannadanna phase that is truly best forgotten.

All of that ensured I got picked on a fair amount, but it wasn't life shattering. You're small, homely, and painfully shy. You get used to it. You also get used to fighting back or standing up to it. You do the cornered squirrel thing and show your teeth.

After the pediatrician announced that I wouldn't break five feet, three days of angry crying sparked some sort of growth spurt. My uncle helped find someone to cut my hair in a way that actually looked good. And my confidence on the soccer field helped kick my self-esteem into gear. Consequently, things mellowed.

I haven't been bullied in a long time. I ran into hyper-aggressive women on soccer fields in my twenties and have encountered random examples in my professional life.

I'd been asked to do something for an event and had prepared all week, checked in with other people, asked for advice, etc. Five minutes before we're set to go, a woman comes over to me, gets right up in my face to physically intimidate me, and quite aggressively tells me I am NOT going to do what I'd been asked to do. Zero attempt to waste time on kindness -- heck, even to introduce herself. Mind you, this was definitely not the an environment where you'd expect any such thing. But hey, challenges appear where they do!

I blinked as she stalked away -- it was a proclamation, not a conversation -- and had a nice little internal dialogue.

Huh? WTF?

I think I just got hit by a truck.
Did she just do that?
Is anyone watching? Did anyone just see that? 
I worked my butt off to get ready for this.

What is her problem?
That vest is really horrid. Maybe that's her problem.

I went to check with the person who had contacted me last week. Vest lady had already blazed through -- she looked way more beat up than I felt. I wasn't going to add to her stress. I let it go, shifted gears, and went on with my other responsibilities.

Five years ago I would have gotten right up in the bully's face and told her to kiss my lily white... big toe. (The one without the titanium.) Instead, I stopped and breathed. I let it go. I found the good in it -- the person who replaced me did a good job, I'll be even better prepared next time, I got kind words from "witnesses," and the rest of the event was uneventful.

I have no clue to her motivation, but I know it had nothing to do with me. She doesn't even know me. It's her deal, her issue. I don't have to know what it is. And I don't have to set her straight. It's not my job. She'll figure it out or she won't. For her sake, I hope she finds a more peaceful way to be.

I know I'm finding mine.