Saturday, January 20, 2007

Winter: Exhilarating and Serene

I hooked up the dogs this evening right at sunset. We only did about four miles, but the day was perfect: cold and exhilarating. The sky was blue with puffy clouds, and it was about 18 degrees. As dusk drew near, the sky turned orange, like a child-like God had wiped his hands clean on the sky after helping himself to some sherbet ice cream. My cheeks were flushed and I held on tight as we whipped around corners. At one point, we were going fast downhill and hit a bump and the whole cart was airborne for a second or two. I laughed out loud and the dogs smiled doggy smiles.

I stopped half way through to let them rest, and Mandy lie down in the snow while Jack ate some. Foxy pawed at me and I scratched her head. She looked at me with her brown eyes, content. Jack, however, lunged forward, tugging at the harness and yelping his monkey-sounding Husky yelp, saying loudly, "let's go!"

These animals are so equipped for harsh weather, and such amazing athletes. At not quite 10 months old, Jack is already an incredible wheel dog (although he wants to be up front), pulling the bulk of my 100 pound cart and me with relative ease.

How anyone could not like winter is unfathomable to me. Exhilarating, serene, beautiful winter. I love it!

Friday, January 19, 2007

"Caught between the longing for love and the struggle for the legal tender..."

"I'm gonna be a happy idiot and struggle for the legal tender ..., and believe in whatever may lie in those things that money can buy, though true love may have been a contender. Are you there? Say a prayer for the Pretender who started out so young and strong only to surrender."

Okay, so however hokey that is, I keep thinking about those lines from Jackson Browne. Because there's so many things I've "surrendered" for the legal tender, and maybe it's an early mid-life crisis, but I don't know if it's all worth it.

Of course, I couldn't feed my "pack" if I didn't have my job. But now that I'm back to working full-time, along with being a mom and working part-time grooming, those things I surrendered seem to get further and further away.

Like tonight. It's gorgeous out, 25 degrees, a light dusting of snow on the ground, which is actually FINALLY frozen. I wanted to come home and hook up dogs in the dark of night.

Instead, we went to Target to buy diaper wipes.

And, why did I spend eight years in school reading Shakespeare? I was going to go for a Master of Fine Arts in the creative writing program at the University of Montana in Missoula; I was going to be a "starving artist," throw caution to the wind, and make a living off my good looks.

Then I had a kid, then another, and those good looks started changing, fading, sagging in places that used to be perky and firm!

These lines also make me think of my dad. We all start out so "young and strong," holding fast to ideals that don't meet reality. Dad used to be the strong, stoic marine who nothing could topple. And now he's changed, different -- realized the tenuous grasp we have on life. He cries now. He hugs me now. He tells me he loves me now.

Life is short, and all those things we think are so important, they change. I'm struggling for the legal tender, and still longing for love.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Lucky Man Once Again

How many times can my dad escape death? Surely he's used up several of his nine lives.

The coughing up blood incident, once again, turned out to be nothing concerning. A CT scan and CXR revealed a clean bill of health for my dad; the blood-stained sputum nothing more than a busted blood vessel from a violent coughing spell.

I've been bracing myself for some horrible diagnosis for so long with him, I tend to go from 0-60 in like two seconds when I hear anything remotely negative about my dad's health. SO, I am happy to report, the issue is apparently mine, not his :0)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Coincidence or divine intervention?

co·in·ci·dence (kō-ĭn'sĭ-dəns, -děns'): a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance.

Over six months ago, as I began facilitating two large smoking cessation classes at Akron Children's, my dad was admitted to Akron General for what would end up being a series of surgeries for preventable, smoking-related illnesses.

June, 2006: A quintuple by-pass to repair heart disease (smoking causes vasoconstriction of blood vessels, limiting blood flow and hardening arteries);

October 2006: followed by a sternal rewire (emphysema, from 50+ years of smoking, caused my dad to cough so violently that he broke the internal wires holding his sternum, or breastbone, together after his heart surgery. Only one lone wire remained intact after a mere four months post-surgery);

November 2006: followed by a total sternal resection from nosecomial, or hospital-aquired staph infection (translation = his entire breast plate was eaten away by staph infection so badly that his suture line burst open one night a week after his release from the hospital. He soaked through a pillow and three T-shirts in an hour. Because of massive damage to bone and tissue, his entire breastbone was removed and replaced with part of his abdominis rectus or stomach muscle. He couldn't move his arms for three weeks, had to undergo physical therapy, and was slow to heal. Because of vasoconstriction, smoking reduces blood flow, thereby reducing the effectivness and speed with which tissue can heal. During post-op, he developed pneumothorax, or collapsed lung, and a tube had to be inserted into his side and deep into his lung to reinflate it. That tube didn't come out for over a week. Other tubes remained in his body for over a month. He remained connected to a wall vacuum on the 4th floor of Akron General for over six weeks, through his 67th birthday and Thanksgiving);

followed by November 2006 repairative surgery to patch the hole in his lung caused from the pneumothorax. Part of the abdominis rectus muscle was again resected to patch this hole. (Smoking connection? As an emphysema patient, his lungs were in poor condition, making him more susceptible to pneumothorax; and remember the word for the day: vasoconstriction. Reduced blood flow = slow wound healing = hole in lung won't heal.

I prayed for God to show me what I need in my life to reduce the stress and to show me what it is I am ultimately supposed to be doing in life.

November, 2006, I learned that I would not be refunded at Children's, but that funding would be picked up at Akron General to facilitate smoking cessation classes and work with docs in the Heart Group (my dad's providers!) and Westside Family Practice in helping them advocate for their patients to stop smoking.

Fast forward to the present. I started my new job at AGMC last week. Facilitated the first week of a new set of smoking cessation classes. And today, my mother called me to tell me my dad has been coughing up blood.

Plug in the words "cough" and "blood" in a Google search. I tell you the results right now, and it's nothing good. Hemoptysis: coughing up blood. The list of things that can cause this is many and includes simple things like bronchitis, irritation of the throat from violent coughing or pneumonia to more serious things like blood clot in the lung, bronchiectasis, esophageal cancer, lung cancer, Tuberculosis, and Wegener's granulomatosis.

First of all, my parents, scared shitless by the recent events, have set a quit date (one of many) for next week.

Second, as a prayer for all the world to see, God, please, please, please ease up on my poor dad! Because I don't think he can take much more. No, I know he can't take any more. This once strong, proud and stoic Marine is now thin, pale, and listless. He all but gave up after the last surgery. And, I know this is selfish, but I can't give him up yet. My kids deserve to remember their grandpa. I never got to know my grandpa because he died when I was very young from smoking and cancer. I can't explain to my kids the dynamic, strong, stubborn and fiercely loyal person my dad is. I want them to know that for themselves.

Third, I know I am doing exactly what I need to be doing with my life. I got the message, God. And I ain't goin' no where.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Homesick for Kids

I feel really homesick for Children's -- a.k.a "Kids." I miss Tiffany, the coffee girl at the Daily Brew's cappuccinos first thing when I come in in the morning. AGMC has plain Starbucks coffee. Blah. I miss the bright colors at Kids, and literally the sound of kids: running, playing, crying, laughing. I miss the sound of the ball sculpture in the Atrium lobby. I miss knowing where I am going, knowing who to talk to about something, knowing where to find simple things like staples or a pen. I'm living out of boxes in my office because I have no desk to even put things away in. I miss the comforts of being at Kids.

I had to wander the halls at General to find A/V to take a LCD projector out to the wellness center for my cessation class last night. I had that deer-in-headlights look I've seen so often in people's faces at Kids when they haven't got a clue where they're going. It's embarassing. I don't even know which door to go into in the cafeteria, and there's no yummy pizza or frozen yogurt.

And people -- the ones who work there and the ones who are visiting loved ones there -- just aren't as nice. They don't smile. They don't say hi. They don't stop to help you when you've got that deer-in-headlights look. I feel like an outcast in unfamiliar territory. It makes me miss where I came from.

But do I miss it enough to go back? No, I don't think so. Because....

The charge I get from facilitating these smoking cessation classes is just the sort of charge I got from teaching university, and it's just the sort of charge I need right now. A chance to inspire, a chance to help others believe in themselves. And I feed off of it. When they're inspired, I'm inspired; when I'm inspired, they're inspired.

I stopped teaching in 2003 after five years because the students just weren't the same. I didn't get the same energy from it -- or maybe I wasn't giving the same energy. I don't know. But turning in five students for plagiarism that last semester didn't help.

But if I can help just one person quit smoking, just one person at a time, it's all worth it. It's worth being away from my toddler in the evening. It's worth not coming home until almost 9 o'clock at night exhausted.

I wish I could help my dad. So maybe I'm living vicariously through other people. I can't help my dad because he's not there yet, so I help those I can.

I'm rambling and exhausted. Maybe tomorrow I'll actually have a desk in my office :0) But it doesn't matter, desk or no desk, if I can help just one person...

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Still haven't found what I'm looking for

So, after my wonderful seventeen day break, my bliss will be rudely interrupted tomorrow when I return to work, starting a new job at Akron General. And of course, I get my period. What lovely timing, ending my relaxing sleep-late-everyday-no-schedule bliss not only with the anxiety of starting a new job, but cramps as well. Lucky me.

As I went through boxes of stuff I'd haphazardly thrown together from my previous job tonight, I realized how much resentment I still harbor within myself about certain people and that organization that turned its back on me. It felt really good -- cathartic -- to throw so many things away from that old job. I don't want to look behind or go back.

Awhile back, I prayed for God to take from me anything that was hindering my growth and making me unhappy. Shortly after that, I learned my job was not refunded. God delivered. I know that I'm moving in the direction I need to.

I still continue to pray that those things that stand in the way of my own growth will step aside, though. Like U2, I still haven't found what I'm looking for. Will I ever?

With periods come the painful broding that goes along with hormonal shift. Ick. Time to hang it up, stop my mind from thinking too deeply tonight and shut down!

Good night.