Saturday, March 29, 2008

Gifts, gifts, gifts in the mail!

Yesterday there was a package by my front door. It was this wonderful Sally Dworsky CD entitled Boxes - a special little something won from a give-away over at Jen Lemen's blog.

With this gift my day was brighter and things just seemed to go my way. For example, my son tore a hole into a bag of popcorn. And as a prototypical tween he put the bag back in the pantry - a kernel time bomb which went off yesterday as I was unloading groceries. Clearly the popcorn needed a new container. I found a glass jar and transferred the remaining popcorn into it. And you know what? It fit perfectly - down to the last kernel. Then I vacuumed the spilled kernels and giggled to myself as I imagined them popping in the vacuum bag. All was well and the universe was on my side (corny I know and the pun is fully intended).

My point being that small acts of kindness from a relative stranger can really make the world a better brighter place. And what perfect timing - I needed a little light. Now I'm going back to my knitting with the hope that this scarf will be a bright spot in someone else's day.

Thank you Jen Lemen and thank you Sally Dworsky - you made my day!

Thursday, March 27, 2008


I’m at work and I’m angry. I’m not going to make enough money tonight to pay the babysitter. Where is my husband you ask? Why he is at work too, brewing beer, which is done 24/7. He’ll make enough to pay the babysitter. He’ll pay the babysitter and the federal government. That’s it. As for me I’m making diddly squat. Fifteen hours away from home, in the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT for diddly squat. The only people making money are the sitter and good ‘ol “W.” That’s working on commission for you.

I’ve had two patients so far. One very old golden retriever. The dad, the human dad, was too lazy (or simply too much of a chicken shit) to bring the dog in himself. Instead he sent the dog with his young adult children and a credit card. Then he refused any and all diagnostics or treatment (over the phone, of course) and told me to send the dog home - he was going to shoot it in the head; after all the dog was not a child. And here is how a human child should be treated: the veterinarian whom they’ve never before met gets to inform them their father has decided to kill the beloved family pet. I told them I was sorry. They cried. They said it wasn’t my fault. I euthanized the bastard’s dog for free.

The second patient was a young heeler with a cut on his pad. They had no money either. They couldn’t afford surgery. So the dog went home with a bandage, an e-collar and antibiotics. At least they were nice. They didn’t ask me to euthanize their dog (which I would have refused to do by the way). They didn’t try to blame me for their money troubles as most people do. ‘Cause, ya know, I’m getting rich here.


After spending a little time making mad faces into the photo booth in my computer I feel slightly better. ‘Cause, ya know, I look ridiculous.


Now I am going to take a nap, on this hard futon by the cold, cold window, with the hopes that tomorrow I'll get to spend some quality time with my children because they are the people who make me truly rich.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Today I am knitting. I’m knitting a scarf for a child in a mistake rib pattern. The yarn is Noro, made in Japan; it transitions from one hue to the next within a single skein, a kaleidoscope of wool. I’ve got two, skeins that is, and every other row I switch, one yarn ball to the other, stripes in mistake rib. The scarf started off in sage greens and velvety purples, deep and rich. Early on I erred - two additional rows of green. Ah well what’s another two rows of purply pink to create new balance? It was still rich and deep - fulfilling. But the green began to fade lighter and lighter then transitioned to an ashen peach. All the while the resonant pink melded into muddy brown and then to harsh black. It was ugly. It was hard to continue. Upon closer inspection, though, there were splashes of pink and yellow, specks of hope woven into lusterless wool. I kept knitting. Soon enough the yarn changed again - peach to yellow and black to green with traces of purple. Vibrancy was returned, hope was renewed and the dullness was countered. I knitted (knat?) faster, wanting to see what came next, forgetting to enjoy what was before me. I forced myself to stop, to savor.

As I knit I noticed the yarn itself had ebbs and flows even within one color. First it was thick and abundant - more yarn than necessary. Then suddenly it changed and became thin and I feared it would break causing me to back track and knit those rows again.

And it occurred to me this scarf was a metaphor for life - sometimes bountiful and ebullient, other times stagnant and meager. And, like life, this scarf was formed with the human touch - it contains mistakes throughout. But, no matter what the place, whether vibrant or dull, an area of mistakes or a perfectly knit row, it is important to stop and inspect, to appreciate and enjoy what is before you.

Today I am knitting - a scarf, for a child, in a mistake rib pattern; a touch of life in wool.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'm a knittin'

The lovely Bella is organizing an auction in support of Jen B. who is battling colon cancer. Jen B. is one of the reasons I started my blog. The least I could do is knit a scarf and hat for the auction. Another site I frequent, Shutter Sisters, has suggested we sell our photographs to support Jen. Well, I happen to have a couple of simple prints sitting in my closet (this and this). I might as well put these up for auction too. I'll keep you all updated as the auction progresses.


The hub is at work and I have the night off. I'm watching Dancing with the Stars (which I'd never be able to do if he were home). I'm loving Marissa - how cute is she?!!! I want to sign up for dance lessons and buy a sweet little dress that flips when you spin. Clearly I need to add this to my list of things to do before I die: travel the world, learn another language, write a novel, learn the piano, and do the Mamba. Oh yeah, and clean my house. Don't forget the house.


I've figured out this cardiac monitor. The key is to feel the palpitations (which is easy since they are nearly constant), stay still for 90 seconds, push the record button and stay still for an additional 30 seconds. Then I transmit the signal over the phone. If I listen carefully to the phone transmission I can hear the palpitations as they are sent. Although my heart is beating abnormally I feel normal, no dizziness and only occasional pain. I am very optimistic that these are premature atrial contractions (PACs) which, although annoying, are typically benign. Perhaps I'm just more in tune with my heart than your average joe.


I am making the baby clean up a mess she made in the living room. She is screaming and I am a mean mean Mommy. I just keep knitting and ignore the evil eye from the 4-year-old. Perhaps I'm heartless after all.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Voluntary Simplicity

I spent the morning tallying up debt and paid the first of what is likely to be a long stream of medical bills. Taking time off work, a slower winter work season and doctor bills have put a serious crunch on our budget. Couple that with travel fantasies (how much would it cost for five people to go to New Zealand?) and it is not a good thing. So, I spent some time perusing frugal living blogs.

We are doing some things right. We pay ourselves first with automatic withdrawals to our retirement account. We’ve already gone down to a single pre-paid cell phone for emergency use. We have basic cable (but will have to upgrade to digital by 2009 if we elect to keep it). I’m drinking my coffee at home which is not helping my declining Starbuck’s stock (it should be decaf but after a failed attempt to quit I’m back to one cup a day). I sell things on Ebay for “mad” money but these funds may temporarily be needed to pay bills.

But, there are also areas for improvement. We need to eat out less and use coupons more. As the weather warms I am very seriously considering riding my bike to work. Gas prices are simply outrageous and I am amazed how much gas we use even living in a small town with minimal commutes. We could even consider selling one of our cars.

I want to travel, to fix up our house, to reduce our debt, increase our savings and retire early. Obviously this is easier said than done. At the same time I’d like to figure out how to be frugal and financially fit without being miserly and wretched. As such I’m very attracted to the idea of voluntary simplicity. Voluntary simplicity is defined by Duane Elgin as “Living in a way that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich.” Now that sounds nice, doesn't it?


Yesterday I found a zip lock baggy full of sea glass from our last trip to the coast. These little treasures, discarded by the sea, cost absolutely nothing and I am reminded that some of the greatest pleasures in life are free.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Love Thursday

Last night middle daughter had a storyline culmination at school; the class created a Scottish castle set in the middle ages. Each child adopted a character and their character had a medieval job. There were many ladies-in-waiting, cooks, brewers, knights, tailors, masons and a sole midwife. Sissy was the midwife - seen above in her newly knighted state with her shield, job description and little sister.

I absolutely love that she picks what others won't. She decides how to dress, how to behave and how to live life irrespective of every one else. She's smart, beautiful, colorful and artistic. She is perfect in every way.


After dinner the baby asked if I wanted her to make me lunch. I said sure expecting a plastic concoction from the toy kitchen upstairs. Shortly thereafter she presented me with a real salad - leftovers from lunch - on a real plate.

"It took me many times." she said

"Many times for what?" I asked

"To get it hot."

The salad had been microwaved to perfection. It was delicious.


I was reading stories to the girls and getting them to bed. The boy popped his head into the room. "Mom?" he said.

"Yes," I replied.

"Will you come into my room when you're done and talk like we did last night? I really liked it when we talked last night."

And I did. And we talked. We talked about getting "folder checked" (i.e. pushed in the halls by big folders). He told me he stood up for himself and it worked. He told me about one of his friends who isn't acting like much of a friend. And, we talked about a girl he has a crush on.


Flashback to a two-year-old little boy, chubby checks, full of snuggles. We'd climb in bed and he would tell me about his day: riding in the huge stroller with five other kids, the big yellow school bus that drove past, his best-friend Stephen.

Although the context has changed, for those brief few moments before sleep, my little boy was back.


Happy Love Thursday!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Conversation with the cardiology nurse:

Me: "Um, hello, yes, I had a stress test on Tuesday and haven't yet gotten the results."

Nurse: "I have those in front of me. They are fine."

Me: "Great! I was assuming they were fine but it's still good to hear. And I have another question. I've been having multiple premature atrial contractions, at least I'm assuming they are premature atrial contractions, there were are few on my stress test ecg. And, it's my understanding that they, in and of themselves, are benign. But, the research also indicates that multiple PACs, especially greater than six in one minute, can lead to atrial flutter or fibrillation. So, do you think it is normal for me to be having these PAC's?"

Nurse: Silence

Me: "And, um, I've had a couple of episodes that may be flutter, only I don't know what flutter feels like but my heart can't quite decide how or when to beat."

(A side note here - the last time I had this type of episode I wanted to share it with someone - to prove I wasn't crazy. So, I had the hubbie feel my pulse while it was happening. He felt it then pulled his hand away like I was on fire. He started to cry. Aaaack. My intent wasn't to scare him but to share it with him. Clearly that didn't work out as planned.)

Nurse: "Flutter feels like a bird in your chest."

Me: "Okay. I don't know about a bird in my chest but it didn't feel normal to me."

Nurse: "Hold on a minute ..."

Nurse: "The doctor says that sounds like an entirely different problem. You can wear a monitor if you want."

Stupendous, an entirely different problem with the same vital organ. And if I want? Um hello! I'm not a cardiologist that's why I'm asking you!

Nurse: You wear it for several weeks. It's one where you are allowed to take a shower.

Excellent. I don't have to go an entire month without showering.

Me: "Um."

Nurse: "You don't have to decide now."

Flashback to husband crying.

Me: "Okay, I'll do it."


Today I was fit with my new monitor. This afternoon I took my son's violin to get a string replaced. After climbing the stairs to the music shop I noticed a cord dangling from my shirt. Good thing I'm not an undercover agent:

Sydney: You will set up a meeting with Sark and Allison. You'll explain to them that their travel plans have been compromised. You'll then offer them assistance in revising their arrangements.

Sloane: And pass the information along to you.

Sydney: That won't be necessary. You'll be wearing a wire.

Sloane: And if they discover that it's a setup?

Sydney: Then I get to hear them kill you.


This device only records "events" when I push a button. Then the box on my waist spends 45 seconds screaming like a fax machine on steroids. It documents the current tracing, as well as, the previous two minutes. The tracing is sent over the telephone for evaluation.

I'm afraid to make a tracing. I don't want to cry cardiac wolf. I don't want to record numerous insignificant events only to have a true problem ignored by a MedNet staff who is bored by my previously average tracings.

I came home and drank a beer at 2:30 pm hoping it would get my heart going. It did. I'm having the palpitations, the supposedly benign ones. I made one tracing. I've yet to send it in.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Here's to a grand tomorrow!

Today has been rather blah. I spent the morning working on schedules and reports and memos - blah. I'm getting sick; I can feel it in my ears, throat and lymph nodes - bleech. I stayed in my pajamas till 2:00 - ho hum. It's awful close to that time of month - dreadful. Today I am the epitome of Eeyore:

Eeyore was very glad to be able to stop thinking for a little, in order to say "How do you do" in a gloomy manner to Pooh.
"And how are you?" said Winnie-the-Pooh.
Eeyore shook his head from side to side.
"Not very how," he said. "I don't seem to felt at all how for a long time."

On this dreary day I had nothing to write about, no revelations, no inspiration. Then I looked over at my little potted plant - the forgotten bulbs sown in dubious soil and placed on a dusky shelf. And what did those quiescent nubs do? They sprouted. And more than that they thrived and are transforming into something grand.

Today I am the bulb: indolent and sequestered awaiting the kinesis of light, water and time; all of which will come whether bidden or not. And, the beauty of it is, today, in my abjection, I am quietly sowing the seeds for a grand tomorrow.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Plodding Along

We are in our late 30’s, early 40’s; the drudgery portion of life. When I was younger I assumed the 40’s would be great - the kids would be older, we’d be settled in our careers, established in our house, all would be good. Only now that we’re there, or nearly there, it doesn’t ring true. We’re tired of working so hard and having little to show for it. Yes, we have a house, two decent cars, retirement accounts. But, most of our monthly income disappears into mortgage, insurance (car, house, life, disability), student loan payments, preschool tuition, ballet lessons, lacrosse. . . at the end of the month there is little left. And when one realizes they just worked a grueling fifteen hours to pay the government, well, it leaves something to be desired.

So, we’ve been fantasizing. Let’s move to Canada. Things would definitely be better in Canada. How you ask? Simple, it’s not America. It’s different. It must be better. The latest suggestion was the African bush. Perhaps I could get a job tranquilizing and tagging lions. The hubbie would drive the Hummer full of tourists. My hubbie, however, wasn’t amused when I asked if there were cardiologists working in the bush, just in case. OK then, how about Norway. Why? Why not?

Yesterday, in the middle of the umpteenth load of laundry, cleaning the girls’ room (can you say Sara Cynthia Sylvia Stout?) and organizing the garage I’d had enough. I needed to get out of the house. We couldn’t go to a foreign land so we packed up the kids and headed to a local fish hatchery. First we stopped at a little bakery off the main strip then went to feed the fish. We wandered through the pine trees admiring their size and strength. Chatty red-winged black birds reminded us spring was near. And we sincerely admired the fish - rainbows of light playing hide and seek, splashes of silver as the pellets hit the water, huge sturgeon hugging the bottom. We had a great time on our simple outing - the kids did not want to leave. I was reminded that we live in a gorgeous place. Many people would give their right foot to live where we do. And we need to take advantage of what sits right before us; no transatlantic flight necessary.

Yesterday our fantasies changed too. We dreamed of buying a fishing cabin, something cute, rustic, close. A place to read, fish, relax and get away. Or how about an Airstream - we could pimp it out 40’s style and camp every weekend.

Truly, there is nothing wrong with fantasizing; imagining what could be. But these fantasies need to be countered with an appreciation of the every day. This house, this life, these kids - this is the stuff that dreams are truly made of, bills or not.

Today I’m continuing with my housework. I’ll bury my face in the towels fresh from the dryer, I’ll inhale the ginger scent thrown by the vacuum, I’ll grab the baby and squeeze her tight and I’ll dream about the curtains for the Airstream that I’ll never buy. I'll keep plodding along.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Join the Hope Revolution!

This is conference week at the elementary school; no lessons for Sissy. She'll get perhaps an admonishment here or there, a nudge about organization (or lack there of) but no official instruction.

But the boy and baby still have school giving Sissy and I some one-on-one time. Today we hit the local coffee shop ...

Then we joined the Hope Revolution by creating love notes to leave around town...

Sissy's note reads, "Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, Sugar is Sweet and So Are You! Pass on the love!"

We left these notes on a bench, in a potted plant, tucked into a book, in a baby stroller and in a newspaper box.

If one person's day was made a bit brighter then we accomplished our mission; to spread hope, joy and love.

And, don't forget to check out Love Thursday at Shutter Sisters!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How to save six dollars and ninety-five cents

1) Decide to have leftover meatloaf for dinner (gee I wonder why we had leftover meatloaf).

2) Realize you have nothing to go with meatloaf.

3) Examine your pajamas.

4) Visualize yourself catwalking down the grocery isle in your pajamas (yes you wore them all day).

5) Elect to stay home.

6) Go to this website and get recipe for homemade rolls.

7) Gather the ingredients from your kitchen (yes all the ingredients are right there).

8) Make bread; add rosemary while kneading and top rolls with sea salt.

9) Eat dinner; meatloaf sandwiches.

10) Revel in the fact that wardrobe inertia saved you $6.95 on bakery rolls.

Whoo hooo! Early retirement here we come; all pajamas all day!

(For those of you concerned that we're eating week-old meatloaf - not to worry. The baking and consuming of meatloaf occured last Friday, the day after our initial loaf purchase. Just say no to food poisoning!)

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Typical Sunday

At the Animal Emergency Center:

I’d been there for six hours. Nothing had died, nothing had been euthanized. The hospital was full; a manx with megacolon and rectal prolapse, a greyhound with hemorrhagic gastric enteritis, a cat that had been hit by a car and had a dislocated tail, a basset hound that was hit by a car and had skull and jaw fractures, a dachshund with intervertebral disc disease who was paralyzed and recovering from back surgery, an old german shepherd who had immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (low platelets), a border collie in kidney failure, a chihuahua who got into rat poison, another dachshund with gastroenteritis and severe dehydration, a stray miniature australian shepherd with a broken femur, our rescue pug puppy and an old cat with an upper respiratory infection.

* * *

Several other animals filtered through the hospital but didn’t have to stay; an australian shepherd puppy run over in the driveway, a karelian bear dog whos front legs were run over, a sheepdog with a laceration and an old schnauzer with liver cancer in need of pain management.

* * *

2:00 pm: The shepherd’s elderly owner came to visit. She had left her husband, who was hard of hearing and had just been diagnosed with bladder cancer, at home.

We discussed the shepherd’s test results; the dog had lived through the night (which was a miracle in and of itself) but had not improved as much as we would like. This elderly couple would not be able to care for the dog at home; he would need to be carried outside to go to the bathroom, had horrible diarrhea and was at risk for sudden death. This sweet old woman knew what she had to do. She chose to euthanize her dog.

We brought the dog into the room and with her kneeling by his head he passed quietly and quickly with an anesthetic overdose. The woman stood, visibly shaken; smacked in the face by mortality. She hugged me, a long hug, a need for human connection, a need to feel a part of something larger than oneself. Then she went home to care for her ill husband.

2:20 pm: A geriatric cat presented for euthanasia. He was not well and his owner wished to end his suffering. The owner did not want to be present. The cat was unceremoniously euthanized on the treatment table.

2:30 pm: A good samaritan brought in a baby robin with a broken wing and broken leg. An intentional overdose of anesthetic gas put the bird out of his misery.

4:00 pm: A fourteen-year-old border collie mix presented in respiratory distress; she had laryngeal paralysis. The dog’s owner wore dark sunglasses in the exam room; she already knew what she came in for. We sedated the dog and discussed treatment options; surgery to fix the paralyzed larynx, sedation and oxygen therapy to improve respiratory function (a temporary fix), or euthanasia. The owner was crying. She didn’t want to put her dog through anything else. She wanted to be present. The dog passed quietly in her arms. Her neighbor comforted her and took her home.

5:30 pm: Two large cats were brought into the clinic; 20 pounds each. They were siblings, sixteen-years-old and had never been apart. When separated they’d cry out until the other was in sight. One of the cats was injured, he couldn’t walk, he was in shock. The other cat huddled next to him gently grooming his head. The owners did not think one cat could live without the other. The cats’ health had been slowly deteriorating and the owners chose to euthanize both kitties. A technician came into the room with me. The cats were snuggled together. We euthanized them simultaneously so one wouldn’t have to watch the other. They passed in each other’s arms.

7:00 pm: A severely neurologic weimaraner was admitted for overnight hospitalization and monitoring.

7:30 pm: A visibly upset and crying client brought in a rabbit for euthanasia. The rabbit had cancer and spinal problems. He was fourteen-years-old. Bawling she held him for the injection. She chose a private cremation; she wanted her bunny’s ashes for her children.

7:45 pm: Called the crematorium, the freezer was full, we needed a pick-up.

8:00 pm: My family came, they brought me dinner. I spent 5 minutes with the kids playing with the clinic’s rescue puppy.

8:10 pm: While suturing a laceration I rounded the night doctor on our cases. The doctor was crabby, probably not yet fully awake. I told him I could not remember whether or not I told the dachshund’s owner about morning pick-up.

8:30 pm: Finished surgery. Night doctor asked me if I told the dachshund’s owner about pick-up. I told him I did not remember, I had talked with the owners briefly as I was going to euthanize the kitties but I did not remember if I told them to pick up.

He repeated back to me, “What?! Did you or did you not tell them about the morning?”

Perhaps I was not speaking English. Perhaps I had lapsed into tongue. I changed verbage, “I do not recall.”


“I ...DO...NOT...RECALL! I SPOKE TO THEM BUT I DON’T REMEMBER IF I TOLD THEM ABOUT THE MORNING!” (I wish on you a bloat. No double bloats and a bleeding spleen.)

I felt like a child who had just had her buttons pushed by a sibling. My chest was tightening and I had an overriding urge to sweep the charts off the counter and onto the floor like a petulant child losing at Monopoly. I'd follow that spectacular move by picking the charts up one-by-one and fling them full force at his face. Instead I turned and walked away. I took the charts and holed up in the office. Meanwhile he called the owners. I had not told them about morning pick-up. He gave them the needed information.

8:35 pm: Threw first completed chart rather aggressively on counter for faxing.

8:36 pm: Apologized to receptionist.

8:45 pm: Office chair yoga, a cup of tea and music; the nerves started to calm.

9:30 pm: Charts completed.

9:45 pm: Finished doctor rounds without any further altercations.

10:00 pm: Arrived home, kissed children, sent them to bed.

* * *

I am paid to fight death. Every time I go to work I put on my gloves and enter the ring with the reaper. Some rounds I win. Some rounds he wins. Some rounds I concede to him, my hands in the air; tired of the blows I give up. Why do I keep fighting? The cumulative score is in his favor; at best I slow his progress but in the end he will always prevail.

* * *

“Somedays won't end ever and somedays pass on by,
I'll be working here forever, at least until I die.
Dammed if you do, dammed if you don't
I'm supposed to get a raise week, you know damn well I won't.

Workin' for a livin' (workin')
Workin' for a livin' (workin')
Workin' for a livin', livin' and workin'
I'm taking what they giving 'cause I'm working for a livin'.”

- Huey Lewis and The News

* * *

Benjamin Franklin’s Epitaph:

The Body of B. Franklin, Printer
Like the Cover of an Old Book
Its Contents Torn Out And
Stripped of its Lettering and Gilding,
Lies Here
Food for Worms
But the Work Shall not be Lost,
For it Will as He Believed
Appear Once More
In a New and more Elegant Edition
Revised and Corrected
By the Author

* * *
Like today's photo? Check out Best Shot Monday at Mother May I.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Birth of a Day

The sun peaks over the Ochocos; rays of light stretch across the town caressing people in their wake, just enough warmth to counter the chill, a hint of the day to come. Perched on the gable a mourning dove gently coos to lost lovers and days gone by.

Steam fills the bathroom, soap bubbles float through the air, the room is infused with lavender and camomile. Coffee percolates in the kitchen. Camomile and java grab hands, whirl through the kitchen in an aromatic tango and drift upstairs; an invisible announcement to the lofty occupants, wake up, a new day has dawned.

The dog barks to be let out. Hello! Good morning! I wish to greet the sun! She bounds out the door, rolls in the dirt and shakes it off; every cell is invigorated, alive, alert.

The neighbor starts his car. The engine’s gentle hum melds with the sparrows’ twitter; music of man and nature in perfect harmony.

Sleepy-eyed children saunter down the stairs; innocent and pure, still too drowsy to contemplate homework or test scores instead recalling the magical fantasies of the night.

Good morning all! Here is the birth of a day!

* * *
The sun blasts annoyingly through the window disrupting sleep. It pretends warmth but fools no one; we all know it’s below freezing. Why aren't the damn mountains taller? A bird has accosted the roof and won’t stop moaning; go eat a worm already.

Someone is banging around in the shower and everything is steamy - fodder for mold and mildew; future chores in the making. And someone's using way too much soap - you can smell it in the hallway. Coffee pops and rattles in the kitchen; the coffee and soap mix together stinking up the house.

The damn dog won’t shut up. Once outside she rolls in the mud - just wonderful.

The neighbor's car is spewing pollution and why in the hell are those birds so flippin happy?

The kids meander down the stairs still half asleep, you’d think they didn’t have a care in the world. Don’t they know it’s a school day?

Come on everyone, get a move on, it’s morning!

* * *

What side of the bed did you get up on today?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

My Little Angel


The hubbie was at work, all three kids were at school. I had the house to myself. The weather was gorgeous and pushing 50 degrees. I lounged and read blogs including this post from Sweet|Salty. I giggled, I sympathized and I secretly relished in the fact that it was not me. The day was mine for the taking!

Then off to Target and the car wash. Things were going well. I found a pair of pants that actually fit! And I had the brilliant idea to buy shoe polish for my danskos which, prior to this flash of brilliance, I was going to replace because they were scuffed (sometimes I can be a total blockhead). The car wash took forever but that was okay. Someone else was scraping the mushy goldfish crackers off the back seat. I was sitting in the sun drinking a chai tea, no one was fussing or pulling on my leg, and I had my book Momma Zen, by Karen Maezen Miller.

Then the children came home. First the boy. He was no trouble - straight upstairs on this gorgeous day to play on the computer. Wonderful. I started writing and time passed quickly. I looked at the clock, 3:30 pm. Where was middle daughter? We had to be at ballet in a half hour. I called the neighbor who was supposed to pick her up. No answer. I walked to the neighbor’s house. They were frosting a cake. Sissy didn’t want to leave. She came begrudgingly home and proceeded to spend fifteen minutes in the bathroom. Um hello! We’re late! Then she couldn’t find a ballet suit or tights. I felt the need to sarcastically butt in:

"Could this be a lesson? In what? A lesson in organization? If your room was clean you’d know where to find stuff. And, besides, you should have gotten these things together last night."

While giving this lecture I was thinking, well, you were too busy writing to bother getting stuff ready either. And then that other part of my brain chimed in, yes but it is her responsibility you don’t want to coddle her. The front of my brain screamed out we’re late, we’re late! And the back of my brain said, chill momma, what does it matter.

Finally she was dressed. Her tights were over her ballet suit but I managed to let it be, shoo the boy outside to play and take sissy to ballet.

Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.

Ballet is at The Club; the athletic club. You know, the place all the ritzy, fancy schmancy people go to work-out, network and hob knob. We are not members of The Club but ballet gives us weekly voyeuristic views into this other world. When at The Club I do my best to go unnoticed. I waffle between pride and embarrassment. I don’t want people to think I am a member and at the same time I don’t want them to think I’m not a member. Can you say dork?

After I dropped off middle daughter I ran to the market. I picked up a meatloaf for dinner and raced home to put it in the fridge. I asked the boy if he wanted to go with me to pick up his sisters, i.e. why are you back on the damn computer?!!

“Are you going to The Club?” he asked.

“Yes.” I answered suspiciously.

“Yeah! They have the best sandwiches there, I’m going to get a sandwich.”

(The best sandwich being turkey, bacon and mayo, on bread. I could make the exact same thing at home and he wouldn’t eat it. But this sandwich is from The Club).

“Are you insane?” I asked, “I’m not about to buy you a sandwich when I just got stuff for dinner.”

“Then I’ll buy it myself.” he replied. Great. Now I’m making the eleven-year-old buy his own food.

He proceeded to spend the next ten minutes looking for money. Finally he emerged with eight dollars in quarters. Once again we were late.

We went to the preschool to pick up the baby. Her arms were crossed over her chest. She was pouting. Uh oh. We managed to get to the car with minimal fussing. Driving to the club I deluded myself into thinking all was well. I envisioned the baby and I skipping hand-in-hand to the ballet room while the boy got his sandwich. What the f*ck was I thinking?

We made it to the parking lot just as ballet was about to get out. Only ballet was on the other side of the building; think big square with center courtyard only the courtyard was closed due to falling ice so we had no choice but to go the long way around. We raced through the front door. I left the boy at the cafe in front. We made it past the treadmills and were about to pass the locker room. Suddenly, the baby had to go potty - NOW! I flashed back on our previous potty excursion; twenty-minutes of the baby refusing to poop until all people were gone from the bathroom. That wasn’t going to work. The boy wasn’t allowed in the locker room. Shit.

But, I remembered, there was a bathroom right next to the ballet room. I told her we were going to use the other potty. NO! She didn’t want to!

I could feel it coming, I knew what we were in for; I get ...middle... daughter...before... she... BLOWS!

She dragged her feet, she fussed. We made it past the pool and then the basketball court, past the racket ball court and to the ballet room. The ballerinas were just finishing up. And we were there -at the potty!


Deep breath. Count to ten.

“Okay, we’ll go back to the other potty but first we have to get your sister.” I said calmly.


“Well there’s a potty right there.” I replied through clenched teeth, “You have two choices (and its all about choice right?), you can go potty now in that perfectly good potty or you can wait.”


We went into the bathroom, which I was thanking my lucky stars was a single private room. She pulled down her pants and the band-aid on her life-threatening injury (i.e. skinned knee) started to fall off. She completely freaked out and started hopping around the bathroom crying about the band-aid. I, in my infinite wisdom, pulled it off. Bad, bad idea. She started to SCREAM!!!! She was going to die, she was going to bleed out from this small abrasion, and I just sped up the inevitable process.

Sissy amazingly found us via echolocation; it was quite obvious where we were. I left the girls in the bathroom, the baby still screaming at the top of her lungs, and went across the hall to procure a new band-aid from the ballet teacher. I was waiting for security to arrive. Surely they were going to kick us out and arrest me for child abuse. Jail would be okay though. Jail would be quiet.

The new band-aid temporarily placated the devil child and she went potty. Then we had the long trek back to the front door. Back past the racket ball and basketball courts, past the pool; Satan walked five feet in front of us grunting and hmphing her way along. She nearly walked into the man in front of her and I got the “what the f*ck is wrong with you, why can’t you control your child” look. We made it to the locker room. She stopped. She was done. She was going no further. Beelzebub was tired.

Sissy started whining. "It’s no fair brother gets a sandwich. I want something."

“Fine!” I said pulling money from my wallet, fully aware I now had to pay my son back, “Get something!” So much for meatloaf. She joined her brother and I remained in a stand-off with the baby.

The baby wouldn't let me get close. She made deep gutteral noises every time I approached. Clearly I was kidnapping this child. Finally, exasperated, I told her I was leaving, I was going home and I began to walk away. That was the final straw.

“NO!” she screamed barreling past me, past the treadmills and to the cafe. There she stopped and in her loudest primal piercing scream (think wounded hyena) she hollered, “I DON’T WANT TO GO HOME!”

F*uck it all to hell. If I ever had a chance to join this club it was gone. Not that I ever wanted to join in the first place but really. I shoved my purse into the boy’s chest and ignored my doctor’s orders to not pick up anything over ten pounds. I grabbed the writhing screaming 40 pound ogre and hauled her outside. We made it to the car with the only casualty being her new band-aid. But once at the car I could not buckle her flailing body into the car seat. I seriously considered smacking her across the face but settled for placing my nose an inch from hers and screaming, “YOU KNOCK THAT OFF RIGHT NOW!” This startled her just enough for me to buckle the belt. The entire way home she screamed stopping only to cough and gag.

Once home I was done. I put her on the couch and put on public television. Damn it all to hell, the kids programming was over. What the f*ck, I thought and put on Scooby Doo. She proceeded to fall asleep.

This same child is now dancing naked around the living room. She is balancing on my chair and showing me her moves. She is a little angel. And I am reminded that satan was, is, an angel too. They are one and the same; angels and the devil, separated by hunger and sleep. Now I am going to go play with my little angel until satan rears his ugly head. Then I will nap with the devil.

Don’t forget to check out Love Thursday at Shutter Sisters!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Good Times

I used to be a DJ, for a brief period, in college. For reasons unbeknownst to me I signed up for a class to get my FCC license. I had no previous aspirations to be a DJ and truth-be-told had very little musical knowledge. But, the school was offering the class and I took it. Then the college station, KUCI, gave me a reggae show. Reggae. What does a small town desert dweller know about reggae? Nothing. But I had a DJ partner, Gabe. This kind hearted guy took me by the hand and led me through the wonderful world of rastafarians. We’d sit in the booth and listen to record after record (yes they were actual records then) choosing songs for our show. Looking back I wonder if the universe knew this type A nerd needed a little rasta in her life. But I digress.

Gabe and I would play all kinds of artists; Bob Marley, Musical Youth, Eek a Mouse and Steel Pulse. One of my all time favorite songs was, is, Lyin in Bed by Ziggy Marley; the LP was old, it would pop and scratch and somehow those imperfections went perfectly with the song.

The station was filled with wonderful people; Todd the 20-year-old manager with his sleek suits and thin ties, his slicked back hair and congenial personality; Mike, quiet and reserved but with a wealth of musical knowledge and a taste for jazz; my dear friend Freddie, the punk in tight black pants and a white t-shirt, black eighties hair long on one side and short on the other, the only guy man enough to take ballet. And girls too; Daria who was Molly Ringwald incarnate only edgier and Shari the short spunky chain smoking piano player.

The only other person I distinctly remember was Francesca. Francesca had gorgeous long curly hair. And Francesca was different from the others. She was different because she hated me. She didn’t just hate me, she absolutely despised me. And to this day I do not know why. We never had that sit down heart-to-heart, that glorious moment where all is out on the table, all is understood and forgiven. No. As far as I know she is still out there jamming needles into my voodoo twin (now that would be one explanation for my chest pain...)

Well, one day Freddie and I were in the station elevator and there, on the wall, in her writing, was Shalet is a slut. Clearly this was meant for me. I’ve not met many other Shalets, have you? Freddie and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows. The hate had been taken to a whole new level. The hate was written on the wall. And, though not intended, the hate was funny. Suffice it to say I can count all of my sexual partners on one hand, one, two, three. That’s it. I’m not exactly in the slut category.

But, funny or not, this action, this writing on the wall, demanded reaction. Something had to be done. Finally, a plan was hatched. To quote the Grinch it was a wonderful awful idea.

And what did we do? We posted these notes to the station bulletin board - smack in the middle of the lobby for everyone to see.

(Forgive the picture of a picture)
The big note says:
Thanks so much for last night: I'm still not walking straight!
I had no idea you were so flexible! Keep up the good work!

(Actually he did know just how flexible I was - we took ballet together! But again, I digress.)

The notes stayed up for the better part of a week. Everyone but Francesca thought they were hilarious. After that, sadly, Francesca faded from my life. But I’ll always remember the lessons she taught me. First, do not subscribe to what others say; negative people can not knock you down unless you give them permission. And second, a great way to fight hate, to break it down, is with humor.

And now, though I’m not particularly religious, I must quote Ziggy Marley:

Praise god i say, praise god each day.
he helped me to overcome
i remember once i couldn’t get out of bed
so i sing and say..yeah.

Finally I’d like to thank NPR for playing reggae today and dragging me down this dusty memory lane. I hadn't thought about these events in years; then I heard the music.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I'm Working on my Inner Zen

As a child I adored Doris Day. I’d hole up in the living room, snuggle under a blanket and dedicate entire afternoons to Doris marathons. This hermetic behavior confounded my mother. Doris Day was from her generation and therefore old-fashioned and passe. On the contrary I found Doris to be sweet, stylish, innocent, humorous and wise; certainly not passe. Consider, for example, her signature song:

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

Does this advice not transfer to today? Is this not the essence of zen? To stop worrying about the future, tomorrow, the next minute or second? To accept, to live in the moment, to appreciate? Karen Maezen Miller put it best in her book Momma Zen; Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood, “Zen is the direct realization, the incomparable experience of what is.” And on that same line, whatever will be will be.


I’m working on my inner Zen. I have stacks of books on buddhism and meditation. I’ve listened to The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I do yoga. And yet, I am not zen. I’m far from it. I’m a multitasking blockhead who can’t seem to sit still.


Chest pain and palpitations sent me back to the cardiologist today for a follow-up ecg. My heartbeat was normal. He scheduled an echocardiographic stress test to rule out complications from my ablation but suggested self-induced stress may be causing the pain.

“It can’t be stress,” I told my husband, “I’m not a stressful person. Although my life is stressful I let it roll off of me. Plus, I have this week off work.” He muttered, “Uh huh” in that whatever kind of tone.


I unloaded the dishwasher, did a load of laundry and vacuumed the living room despite an increase in chest tightness. No one had a gun to my head.


I am sitting in my clean living room secretly pleased with my overachieving self. It’s nice. It smells good. It’s peaceful. But, it is not zen. Zen would be to sit, meditate and rest - in a messy room. I am not zen. At least not yet.

But part of being Zen is accepting ourselves just as we are; even if we are mutli-tasking blockheads with heart palpitations. So, I am sitting here, in my clean room and accepting that right now I’m doing what I need to do. Tonight I’m skipping the meeting at the elementary school. My husband is in charge of dinner (mmmm Thai). The baby will play at the neighbor’s house instead of the girls playing here.

And, I am accepting this crazy beating of my heart. Each time it jumps out of my chest, each time it reverberates up my neck, it is a little hello; a reminder that I am still here, my heart is still beating. And it is a reminder that this is what is really important. Que sera sera.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Happy Birthday Baby!

Dear Sissy,

Eight-years-ago today you entered this world. I felt those early labor pains, familiar after your brother, and knew you were coming. But we had time. We took your brother to preschool. We told him he’d be able to meet you when school got out. I called Grandma and Grandpa. We went to the mall; all of us - you, me, Daddy, Grandma, Grandpa and Great-Grandma. We bought a rug - the one that sits under the coffee table at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. We walked around the mall stopping only when the pain demanded. You were getting closer.

We needed to eat. Actually you and I didn’t eat but the rest of them did. We went to the Olive Garden. We sat at the big round table in the back. The waiter was concerned. He did not understand why everyone was eating and chatting when you were on your way. I didn’t want to get to the hospital too soon. I didn’t want to be chastised by the labor nurse. I cheated. I took one bite of ravioli - did you enjoy it? We left a big tip. Then we went to the hospital. It was time, you were coming.

The doctor broke my water (the sack of fluid that cushioned you from this world). There was no going back. The anesthesiologist was busy, someone was having surgery and required his assistance. You were coming despite the pain.

We were all there; you, me, Daddy, Grandma, Grandpa and Great-Grandma. The room was big and had south-facing windows filtering the afternoon light. I pushed and pushed. Suddenly you came, a full head of black hair, two inches long, an afternoon baby, bathed in gorgeous light. You were quiet. I was worried. I should have known you were merely taking it all in, observing. And then you cried, your lungs filled with oxygen, you had decided to join us after all. You, my smart, sweet, gorgeous little baby had arrived.

Papa went to get your brother. You looked up at me with those big blue questioning eyes, “Are you my mother?” The nurse bathed and swaddled you. Great-Grandma held you in her arms, 92 years between generations, the continuum of life. Your brother came. He looked at you and said “Hi baby!” He showed you how to turn a straw into a whistle. He watched you eat. He asked, “Mommy, is there chocolate milk in your boobies?” You would ask this same question in another four years.

And here we are, 2922 days later, leap years included. You are still my baby, my smart sweet sassy gorgeous little baby. I love you more than you’ll every know. Happy Birthday little baby! Happy Birthday!

All my love,

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I've Been Ablated!

(Technological wizard that I am I couldn't figure out how to get
this photo from my phone to the computer.
Bonus points to those who figure out how I did it.)

I have been ablated! All went well. I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers! Thank you, thank you! Before my procedure I searched the web for accounts of other people’s experience but didn’t find much. So, I thought I’d recount my experience here.

The night before I had a hard time sleeping and spent a good portion of it tossing and turning; dreaming about cardiac catheters, pace-makers and a sore groin. In retrospect I should have taken a sleep aid. Ah, what I didn’t know. Now I know better.

Anyway, my son had to leave for school early so I got up at 6:30 am to say goodbye. He gave me a big hug and I hassled him about the length of his hair. I didn’t want to worry the kids and was trying to keep things light. My husband took him to school. We got the girls up next and dropped middle daughter off with the promise she could visit me after school. Then off to the hospital for a 9:00 am check-in.

Mine was the second ablation of the day; the first person had to check in at 6:00 am. The hubbie took the four-year-old to the hospital coffee shop while I started paperwork. My insurance was approved at the last minute negating the need for a financial waiver (this is not an inexpensive procedure - I’m expecting the total bill to run around $20,000.00 pre-insurance). After checking in the nurse and I walked to the emergency department with a side trip through the lobby to retrieve the hubbie and daughter. Apparently the ER was close to the catheter lab and they had available gurneys. I got to strip down to nothing but socks and don a lovely hospital gown; and who doesn’t want to walk around the emergency department with no underwear and an open gown? All the better to gawk at you my dear. Fortunately the ER was quiet.

An IV catheter was placed in my arm and my pulses were located on my feet and marked with an ink pen- my daughter got to help with this. They let me keep on my wedding band. Then I answered a series of questions including whether or not I had an advanced directive and if I had a living will - questions which brought tears to my eyes but that I tried to hide for my daughter’s sake. And no, I didn’t have an advanced directive. Thanks to Terry Schiavo this is big hospital talk. But that’s not how I’d like to get my fifteen minutes - pull the plug already! Apparently I should have this in writing.

I also had the privilege of explaining when my last menses was, when the last time was that I had sex and no, I was not pregnant. They asked if I wanted a pregnancy test. No, I said, I was not pregnant. OK - will you sign a waiver? Yes, I’ll sign a waiver. So, you’ll sign this waiver stating you are not pregnant. Yes, I’ll sign the waiver. Okay.

We watched kid shows on public television until the doctor finished with his first procedure. Then it was my turn. At 10:30 am they wheeled me past the main lobby and into the catheter lab. Heeeellllooo every one in the lobby! Do you like my gown? Yes, yes it is quite fetching isn’t it? My family got to spend their remaining wait time with the others in the lobby discussing the fashion choices of the patients or something along those lines.

In the catheter lab I was transfered to another gurney. And who doesn’t want to sit in a room full of people adorned in an open threadbare gown? It’s something akin to dreams of being naked in public only this is real life. The room was cold, really cold. Thank God for the socks. Two large sticky pads (for defibrillation should it be necessary) were placed on my back. A lead mat was placed on the gurney under my abdomen since I was still of childbearing age. No, I was not pregnant. And yes, I did sign a waiver. My gown was pulled up and pulled down leaving a small strip over my belly. Did I mention it was cold? They also taped a small towel (think washcloth) folded into thirds between my legs to provide a modicum of privacy. Um yeah, I’m pretty much already humiliated here. I appreciate the effort but really, at this point who are we kidding? My groin was shaved and scrubbed (my legs are still stained blue). A third large rectangular sticky pad was placed on my chest between my breasts. As the nurse put it, “women have more bumps, this pad doesn’t want to stick.” Finally she managed to adhere it to my chest. Twelve ecg leads were stuck all over my front; on my shoulders, under my boobs, on my belly. Then they pulled out the restraints. My arms were tied at the wrists to the table, as they explained, for my own good. I was not to worry; the restraints were to be removed as soon as I was awake. Although naked and tied to a table in a room full of people I was glad for the restraints. I did not want to be responsible for my sedated self.

And, speaking of sedation, it was finally time for happy drugs. I was given fentanyl and another drug (the name of which I have already forgotten). The doctor came in and the crew started talking about New Belgium Brewing Company. My overnight bag was from New Belgium and had traveled with me to the catheter lab thus sparking the discussion (when your husband is a brewer you come with brewing paraphenalia - even to the hospital).

I became acutely aware of the ceiling. It was a dropped acoustic tile with metal bands. The metal bands were moving. Only there was a spot on one of the bands. Every time the movement got to the spot it stopped. Clearly the sedation was taking effect. I’m grateful I didn’t see babies crawling overhead (can anyone say Trainspotting?). The procedure took nearly three hours yet I only have flashes of memory. I remember the nurse giving me additional sedation. I remember staring at an x-ray picture of my heart with the catheters in it. I remember staring at my ecg. And, I remember the doctor asking, “is she awake?” Then saying, “I think we got it.” They pulled the catheters embedded in the right and left side of my groin which caused some mild discomfort. Then I piped in, “my favorite New Belgium Beer is their 1554 dark ale.” Brilliant. Did I ask about my heart? No. Did I ask about my family? No. I decided to discuss beer. All righty then. They took off the restraints because clearly I was lucent, transferred me to another gurney via a backboard and wheeled me off to the cardiac ward.

Apparently my hubbie and daughter met me in the lobby and walked me up to my room. This I do not remember. The sedation came with a healthy dose of amnesia (in case your could not tell from the account of my procedure). My job for the next four hours was to keep my legs perfectly still. My family went home to rest and I spent the first hour reading a book of which I will have to re-read; can you say amnesia? Then I slept. Once I turned my foot. Nothing catastrophic happened. Periodically people were in and out of the room to check to my groin and vitals. I was wearing a portable cardiac monitor which was feeding info to the nurse’s station. After I woke up I found it entertaining to push the button on my monitor and watch my ecg float past. My resting heart rate was in the 80’s; improved from the 90’s on admittance. The beats appeared to have a normal rate and rhythm. Now, as I write, I am having palpitations but have yet to have another bout of tachycardia (are your fingers crossed?). Palpitations can be normal as the cardiac tissue heals. I wish I still had the monitor on so I could see what my heart was doing.

After four hours I was permitted to get up and move about the room. And what a room I had. It was huge! They could have easily fit four beds in the space. There were floor to ceiling windows with mountain views. The room was painted a soothing light yellow and standard issue nature prints adorned the walls. It felt more like a hotel than hospital. And what does one expect for $20,000.00 a night?

My groin was sore but not nearly as painful as I anticipated. My chest felt fine. On a pain scale of 1 to 10 I’d give the procedure a 2.5; childbirth is an 8.5. I hope to never experience a 10. I was given a percocet for pain but could have easily had just tylenol.

The family came to visit - the hubbie and all three kids. They drew me pictures on the dry erase board in the room, ran about and started fighting over something silly. Ah, back to normal. Finally the hubbie took them home so as not to disturb the other cardiac patients.

After being sedated most of the day and sleeping it off in the afternoon I had trouble falling asleep that night. My doctor prescribed a dose of ambien. I’d never had ambien before. I did not know what to expect. Oh lawdy! Fifteen minutes after taking it I was out; sound sound asleep. I was, however, rousable for periodic checks of my vitals and groin. I haven’t slept that well in a long long time. Hmmmm - makes one think. But I’d also rather not get caught sleep driving...

The next morning, yesterday, I got to go home. No medication needed other than tylenol. There was, is, minimal bruising of my groin. I have some mild discomfort in my chest. I find it is best not to turn upside down. I discovered this while attempting to blow dry my hair yesterday. I think I will stay upright for a few days. Overall I feel great. Yesterday I even managed a slow shuffle around CostCo. I am not supposed to lift heavy objects for 48 hours. But, that’s what husbands are for, right?

On discharge the hospital’s policy is to wheel everyone out. My volunteer wheelchair driver must have been in his eighties. He was sweet and hard of hearing. It felt very strange to have him push me out when I was capable of walking on my own.

Oh, and I didn’t mention it yet because it is hardly worth mentioning. Hospital food is, well, hospital food. Stick with the basics - milkshake, waffle, coffee. (Yup - they let me drink coffee!)

So, that was my experience with cardiac ablation. Only time will tell if it was truly successful. I am happy to answer any questions should anyone be curious.
Happy weekend to you!