Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I Found My Words

Robin Williams' death turned the world on its ear.  We will see this again, but every time we do, we look at these people and wonder, "How?"

They have the perfect life, with more money than they can spend in a life time. The world caters to them.  How can they not be happy?  So many lost talents. So many lost lives. How can that possibly be?

Even though there are so many lost souls that the media spends no time discussing, what this should tell us is that there is so much more TO be discussed.  We need to discuss that these rich and famous idols, are still people, with the same failings and dreams and hopes and demons that we all harbor.  We need to discuss that mental illness, like cancer and so many other horrible diseases does not care who you are, what you Klout rating is or how much money you make?  Poverty or wealth, depression, mental illness and suicide hit all areas.  It rears its ugly head, without prejudice or bias.  Some times it runs in families and sometimes the atrocities of life bring it out in the happiest of worlds.  Mental illness knows no color or gender or social class.  Even those who have all the services and treatment options that money can buy, still succumb to its evil grip.  There are families that are destroyed and hearts that are broken and lives torn to pieces because of mental illness. 


And like the other million bloggers out there that are writing about this, we all have opinions.  Don't glorify suicide, others will emulate.  How can you mourn someone you have never truly known? White privilege.  What about the thousands of kids we are losing on streets?  But we all need to remember is that it all these lives that are lost are valuable, significant and our instructors.  We can learn from all of these losses.  THAT is what they all have in common.  We can all learn.

I know you are all tired of my soap boxes, but too fricking bad. I am okay being the squeaky wheel.

Mental health is significant.  I have had kids attend my classes and then take their lives as soon as they left.  I have seen my husband so close to that point, where I thought I would be certain to lose him if I didn't keep my guard up.  I have seen alcohol destroy families.  I have seen those people try to fight for their loved ones, only to lose them to the streets. I have seen the scars left in the minds of public servants who stay strong while others have their world falling down around them...only to realize that those images just don't go away. So many mentally ill walk among us.  And there is such a stigma and prejudice.  So many judgements to be made. So many suffering in silence, thinking they are alone.  Thinking that no one understands.

Some of those immediate responses are merely human, when we see someone suffering. Makes no difference if they are homeless or schizophrenic or manic or whatever.  We are unsure how to proceed or react or simply begin.  Fear from someone you don't know. Voices you can't hear are everywhere.  However, the path you take after that initial, "What am I supposed to do know?" reaction, is no longer a reaction, it is a choice.  Saying Hi and smiling.  Carrying happy meal cards.  Asking how they are.  All possible choices.  Just show the people of the world that someone cares.  That everyone is important, regardless of the socio-economic status or baggage.  

Think of how many people wanted something from Robin Williams - a picture, an autograph, his time at a benefit.  How many people truly asked, "How are you?  Are you doing okay?"  You never want to let your immediate family know you are in pain, because that brings unnecessary pain to them.  We just don't know what he might have needed, nor will we ever.  

We need to make sure that we reach out to our friends, co-workers, neighbors and even strangers.  Sitting and just chatting might be the most powerful medicine there is.  I might not be a cure all, but it might make a difference.  Something so simple. 

Take care of the firefighters in your world.  Know who to contact, who to call when you see that things are not quite right.  Don't be afraid to confront them.  Don't be a afraid to reach out, even if it is to a complete stranger.  People might just amaze you.  

I have written about suicide and depression before.  I watched one of my closest friends work through her father's suicide, to make the world less dreadful for those left behind working with S.O.S - Survivors of Suicide.  I tried to help my kids at work muddle through the heartache losing a classmate and friend. I have often talked about my fears with my FF and so many others on the job.  Please don't hesitate to reach out to any of these resources.

Some of the red flags to look for...


Please don't be afraid to reach out. If you are hurting, a loved one or someone you have never met in the real world.


Good-bye Genie, you're free.

Peace.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Thanks for the Laughs


If you watch no other clip, watch this one from Mork and Mindy.







My words will never do justice.  

I can only imagine the monsters that lived in your world.  I can only hope that you are now at peace from their torment.  I can work to make sure others know there is always someone who will listen, even if they cannot grasp the depths of your despair.

RIP - Mork, you gave me an excuse to sit on my head and wear the most amazing 'spenders ever. Peace.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Time to Bite Your Tongue

...and a time to not.

I tend to stay out political discussions on this blog, as well as theological debates.  I have found that my views don't always sit well.  It often comes to a point where it causes a rift and I am truly trying to make my life about building bridges, regardless of where others stand on the other side.  

The Easter before last, my opinions and focus on social justice were formally called into question and I began to question where I stood.  Was I standing in the right side? Was I just causing another rift?  What direction should I be heading?  Not always a bad thing.  Questioning where you stand on thing, that is.  It is a healthy reflection, even if it is a bit uncomfortable.  I was in physical pain and a bit of a spiritual crossroads.  A new pope had JUST been chosen, the year of faith was well underway, my purple cast was a visual sign of the Lenten reflection that I was silently going through.  And then I got to mass.

Fr. Alejandro, my favorite Cuban Franciscan (who sadly will be assigned to an Australian parish this fall) focused his homily on this very topic.  Talk about a spiritual neon billboard!  His message was, yes, this is a year of faith, but perhaps we are too busy talking and verbally evangelizing.  What if instead of talking about what it right,  we just do what is right.  What if instead of passing judgement based on the rules, we focus on the one rule that reminds us to love.  Unconditionally, even if it is not warranted.  Now, understand, he calls himself Fr. Feelgood and I smile every time he refers to himself with such a title.  He clearly has a tendency to such dogma.  But, every single time, it makes me feel as though he is indeed speaking to me. 

From that moment, Pope Francis has only reinforced that in my head.  To which I fail, miserably.  All the time.  Kids drive me crazy and I snipe.  I question parents' parenting values.  I think things in my head that are less than loving.  Realize, I am not saying that I have mastered this, by any stretch of the imagination.  I suck at, truthfully.  But, it is the direction that I am moving toward, even if I get lost because Droid Siri doesn't like monsoon-like storms and I lose my way. (Real life reference that  I will save for another day.)  Imagine what the world would be like if we could remind ourselves of that 5 times a day.

Instead of hating, judging, condemning, whatever, changes need to be made.  What if instead we asked, "How can I help?"  Instead of passing judgement because people aren't doing what we feel to be prudent or reasonable we sit and talk.  You might be amazed at what people will share with you.  Do I need to work on this, duh. Yah.  More than you know.  

Our city is seeing kids shot far too regularly.  Our news talks about it, but realize it occurs far more than the news reports. We have amazing Meds and ED staff.  They have become amazingly skilled at keeping GSWs from becoming fatalities.  How many gang members do you talk to about their gang affiliation and they talk about that is not their gang, it is their family you are referring to.  WHAT DOES THAT SCREAM TO YOU??  These kids that we are judging and condemning as gang bangers are looking for love and acceptance.  The unquestioning, unending kind of love that families should provide.  


One of my fave quotes of all time.
J is sleeping off a LLLOOOOONNNNGGG night.  Insanity, much of it drug related.  How many heroin and meth overdoses does he see?  Far too many.  We all know that.  BUT WHY?  Why do people turn to drugs?  How often is it because reality if far too painful to take?  Physically and emotionally.  It is easier to escape the pain through drugs, than it is to actually face it or to fight it another day.  So much is personal choice.  I am not debating that.  But, what if they knew that there was a whole WORLD standing in their corner.  How many people would choose to send a text for help or support knowing that someone would answer it?  How many parents feel their hands are tied because they can't reach their kids?  How many spouses see the loves of their lives vanish into an addiction, but for fear and shame don't reach out for help?  How many kids have built walls because alcohol has drown their parents and they can't do it another time, they can't excuse the hateful comments that come from the V.O. and not the parental unit?  How many lives are taken because the world has told them they should not feel the way they do, look the way they do? How much anger is the immigration debate bringing out - the HATEFUL spewings remind be of the images taught in my Civil Rights unit. All of this easier  It is easier than facing judgement another day or living in fear of what change might bring.  What if we looked at the world through the lens love and compassion instead of fear and hate?  What if instead of putting ourselves up on a pedestal, telling the world how our way is the right way, we just did what we would hope someone would do for us?

Sorry for such a serious Weekend post, I am sleep deprived and had way too much time to think. However, perhaps we need to spend more time thinking, of  how we can make this world a better place, without passing judgement.  Instead of focusing on what we that makes us different, focus on our humanity that brings us all together.  Instead of focusing on who someone might love, focus on just being loving.  Instead of talking about what we don't like, focus on what is amazing and build up from there. At some point we have to make a decision to make this a better place as opposed to what we think is right or fair.  Cycles are perpetuating hate and anger and hunger and fear.  We must find away to break this spiraling pathways to hate or things will only get worse. The pursuit of happiness will become more of a myth of a bygone era. 


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Some Enchanted Evening

Our second Muppet was born on our 4th anniversary.  I knew that was going to happen from the moment we got our EDD - Sept 13.  I knew he would be an anniversary present.  It was the worst delivery, scarred me forever, but he was so worth it.  But, it has meant that we gave up our day, for all these years.  Until this year.  
The day before our anniversary, he was acting weird.  I couldn't go pick up a Harley-Davidson jacket that I bought off of Craigslist and I could not run to school in the morning.  I knew something was up, but he really did good.

It started with roses being delivered...on our pre-anniversary.  The kids were outside and came along as a  squealing escort  to the door.  With my makeup just begun - so attractive.


Hmmm, reservations at 7?  He gave me too much of a clue and I guessed the first time.  But, oh, such an indulgent treat!!

From there we had to be somewhere downtown by 9pm.  He was very clear that it had to be 9pm.   We parked at the firehouse, of course. Hmmm,came up to the Pabst theater...but kept walking.  We were waiting by the PAC and Phantom is in town, but 9 is not a time for a show to begin.




A carriage ride through downtown, of course!! So wonderful.  Nick, the beautiful percheron steed of the evening was a wonderful tour guide and Carla, his owner was so much fun to talk to.  It was a lovely evening!!  And it ended all too soon, but I loved every minute of it.


From there, we went to my favorite dueling piano bar.  Again, so much fun.  


He could not have planned a perfect evening if he tried!  My Prince Charming planned the most ideal Enchanted evening.  It was the most romantic night.  Not too shabby for a silly fireman! ;)

Monday, August 4, 2014

48s Then and Now

At one point he was gone soo much,
they wanted to make him a welcome home sign!
My first 48 nearly killed me.  And for the next year or two they were a point of contention.  The kids were miserable, I was not confident enough in myself too handle everything by myself. And everything that could go wrong, did. And...I guess...it was just not what I had envisioned.  It was not what I had prepared myself for.

Now, totally different story.  Things will still go wrong, because it is a 48.  And I do find myself with a grumpy instant response when he asks about a 48,  even though there is no need for that.

But, I enjoy the time without him.  I am not sure if that is bad, but I enjoy my time and not feeling guilty about watching what I want or working on this blog or watching Doctor Who with the muppets.  I enjoy not having to be quiet when I wake up.  I have even learned to enjoy having the whole bed to myself.  
I was making the bed...emphasis on was...
If you would have asked me about that four years ago, I would have laughed...and then cried.  I would have gone into my room and cried because I felt like such a failure.  Like I had let the universe down because I was not adjusting to this new life with a seamless transition.  Instead, it is more like a learning experience.  I learned what I could handle - which is more than I thought possible.  I learned that I can say no, and if the world doesn't like it, they can either accept it or take the next exit.  I am still working on implementing this, but I am better at it than I was.  I learned that I can enjoy the candles in my bedroom and the calm that they bring, with my Nook and a drink, even when he is gone.  And that it is okay.  I have learned that laundry can wait until he is home to help and I can teach my girls how to through a football and baseball and skateboard, without feeling like I am stepping on his territory.  I have learned to embrace these 48s.  This is my time to be me. To me mom.  To enjoy the perks of being a firewife.

I did not marry and firefighter.  Many local firewives giggle at this blog and my FD t-shirts that I have accumulated through photography and social media...and firewife friendships.  But all of this has helped me to reach this place of contentment.  I have accepted that I may just be an introverted extrovert...that needs this time alone.  And that is okay.

Tomorrow he comes home from his 48.  Last night he was on the box and ran all day and all night.  Tonight he is actually at the engine he is assigned to, weird, really. My girls are at my in-laws and boys and I are bonding.  Life is good.

Friday, August 1, 2014

In Sickness and In Health

Apparently I took those vows a bit too seriously.  And I worry that I am pushing my limits.

My health appears to the rest of the world to be lovely and sunshiney.  But, my insides are so goofed up, I scare most doctors and hence the reason why I stay with my docs so long once they been vetted.

Blood pressure, brain damage, strokes, cancer scare after scare, pregnancies that nearly killed me, periods from hell that led me to anemia and Raynaud's Phenomenon that leaves my hands blue and my toes numb. He has been here with me through it all.  He has held my hair through the morning sickness and taken me on a city wide search for mittens and hand warmers in April because my hands were so bad.

This round of trials was no different.  He held done the homefront and took care of the laundry while I was in the hospital.  He has been amazing.  My FF took city owed trades, which threw him into 48s,  he kept the kids quiet so I could sleep the day away and he sat with me in the hospital, each and every time. 

I don't give him enough credit for how amazing he is.  I find myself being too worries about the day to day stuff that consumes us if we are not careful.  While he is definitely the man taking care of the big picture.  J was amazing with the muppets and wonderful about running interference when I needed to sleep.

He did all of these feats of valor and patience, without complaint and always with a smile.  There is nothing better that I could ask for.

Last month, you know the week after I was diagnosed with bilateral pulmonary emboli, we had a funeral to attend in his hometown.  I had every reason to say we couldn't go and he had every reason to talk me out of it. The funeral was for the phenomenal teacher I student taught under at the high school level.  He was an amazing gentle giant and the teacher I am continuing to strive to be.  J took me up there, tending to my needs as we waited in the winding line to see his amazing wife, Grace.  He was patient as I struggled to breathe from standing a loving when I asked to stop for some selfies at all of the places that took us in our early life to where we are now.  They were all on the way home and he obliged, while still monitoring my breathing. No lectures, no eye rolls, all with a smile. 

Our Romance in Four Pictures or Less... First comes love, then comes marriage...

    








Simply put, this is my moment to gush.  Our rule with the kids is that if we fight in front of them we need to make up in front of them.  This is along those same lines.  If I am going to fuss when he drives me looney, I have to brag when he proves, once again, what an amazing husband, father and friend he truly is.  

He is the love of my life, in times of plenty and in want, for better or for worse.  The last sixteen years have been an amazing journey.  I can't wait to see what the next 50 bring us.  Happy anniversary to the most amazing man, teacher, father, and friend.  



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Little Things

So, I am still here.  I have not been to the ER in a week.  I am not bleeding, although I am bruised from the hip down.  Bruises come from the dogs and the door closing on me and furniture jumping out in front of me and from the phantom things that go bump in the night.  I am one big hematoma, really.  However, that is truly the least of my concerns.  I can handle bruises.  I am still here.

I had to cancel an extraction that I had scheduled for next week.  The oral surgeon said it is him and his surgery or the Xarelto.  Darn.  Sorry.  I'll see you in February I guess, Dr. X-traction. 

My FF was really late coming home today.  It was one of those nights.  Something bad is running through the drug trade and making people do crazy things. There was a 10-54 call (since everyone's 10 code is different, let's just say another engine came roaring in with Haligans in hand, until the police came.)  Another night of run after run after run.  I think he got an hour's sleep.  There was a dual fatality a few blocks from their firehouse, but since they were dealing with the craziness of their calls, one of the other engines took it.  I saw one of the meds that was on that scene (while we were at the dentist, because there was apparently a meeting in the lobby - 2 other FFs there) and he did not see the dorm at all last night.  He looked tired. 

As I was sitting, blissfully blogging away here with the news in the background, while he was on nap #2, I heard about the LEO that was shot and killed at a routine traffic stop in a St. Paul suburb.  And all I can say is that it hurts my heart. I am so tired of sending cards.

That would be the big things.  Knowing that people went all kinds of crazy while he was really just trying to help gets to me, but it has to just get set to the side.  So instead of focusing on the crazy, I spent the day focusing on the little things.

Fireman is napping, no big kids here.
So, you're stuck with this sad attempt
at a selfie.
Little thing #1 - A shower.  While my FF napped before his DDS appointment, I got a shower in.  AMAZING!  No muppets knocked.  No polar bears whined.  I got to shave my legs and sing to my Pandora playlist.  I also started a no shampoo regiment.  I am not liking it, but everything I have read says I have to get through the next two weeks.  I got so annoyed I threw my relatively short hair up in braids.  It will get better and help with the friziness that comes with my crazy thick wavy hair.


Little thing #2 - A "date" with my hubby.  We spent it at the dentist, a home improvement store getting the wood for B's Tardis birthday present, lunch at one of my most favorite restaurants ever, and a trip to the high school to work out some SNAFU's with N's schedule.  So simple and yet so lovely.

Little thing #3 - O walking her Mickey and Minnie in the shopping cart that survived the purge.  Hearing her giggle and sing while she walked up and down.

Little thing #4 - Painting my nails.  Another FFW was snarky about my Chucks as a choice of footwear, so I am painting my nails in homage to Converse.  I am me.  Take me or leave me.  I'll post pics as soon as they are done.  At this point, they are only sparkly black.  
No hating on the Chucks.
You should have seen it before.
That shelf went to the top and I could
not close it properly. I might
be becoming  grown-up...ish.
Little thing #5 - My new 'Minimalist' wardrobe.  I cleared out my closet.  Aside from my dresses and jerseys, I was down to 28 pieces of clothing hanging in my closet.  I also cleared out many of my sweaters and 8 pairs of shoes.  I looked at what I had and decided to figure out what works with what.  If I could not wear it with three different outfits, I got rid of it.  To rebuild, I hit a local thrift store.  For $53 I got 2 blazers, 3 cardigans, 2 blouses, a scarf , 2 long sleeve casual shirts, a longer sweater and 2 necklaces.  From Craigslist I bought 13 lovely high end sweaters for $15.  And a pair of brown riding boots from Kohl's with my Kohl's cash. 

Along with that, I cleaned out the last two boxes that were in my closet from our move two years ago.  It was such a good feeling.  Also, not a bad way to spend a shift night.

So, moral of the story, instead of focusing on how horrible things were yesterday or the fact that you have been hospitalized or what ever the tragedy is that has found you, focus on the rays of sunshine that poke through the clouds.  Sometimes they shine down on you, other times you have to go chase those rainbows. Be a rainbow chaser, even if the only happiness comes from annoying the grumpy people with your rainbows and glitter.  

Hug those Muppets, laugh with (or at your FF) and make sure you look for those high point in life, even if they are lower than you expected them to be. There are always things to hold on to.  Find them.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

And now for...The Rest of the Story

I started writing about the surgery that I underwent one month ago today, shortly after I got home.  Life happened, I had other messages I wanted to get moving.  And so it waited.

Here is my surgery story.  

You would think that this was exciting enough, but I am totally an over achiever.  I mean it was a  totally mundane surgery that went haywire from the first cut.  That should be enough, right??

Instead, 2 weeks ago (16 days post-op), I noticed an odd pain in my back, on the right side.  I noticed and then forgot.  I noticed it later and became annoyed.  My guess was that I  had a kidney stone/ UTI/ kidney infection, because it was almost that low.  It was that kind of pain.  I am a teacher and was a waitress.  For a bit, my doc just called in a script for Cipro or Bactrim (until we found out I was allergic to sulfa) because I KNEW when I had a UTI and he was tired of telling me what I already knew.  It has been years, but that pain brought all that rushing back to my brain.  

As the day went on, I noticed it was only when I inhaled, but not always.  I was becoming increasingly impatient.  I told my FF that I would call the doc in the AM and get into see her.  Perfectly logical, right??

Until 1AM came.  We had only been asleep for an hour or so.  I guess I started wimpering in my sleep, waking up the fireman.  (AMAZINGLY, he is not a light sleeper when he is at home.)  And I finally woke up and was IN PAIN!  He wanted me to go in.  I of course fought it...for a bit.  Until my brain woke up.  It hurt to breathe, but I had no shortness of breath. 

 CRAP!

Surgery riddled with complications + Estrodial hormone replacement therapy + family history + difficulty taking a breath in = CRAP!

I did not say it out loud.  I got dressed without saying anything.  J took me to the hospital that is just around the corner from us. I wanted the kids to be able to walk up to come hang out with me, because I knew I was not coming home after an ED visit.  And I was not in the mood to talk to or deal with the residents of a teaching hospital, I still had the bad taste in my mouth from my last hospitalization. 

We went in and I said it.

I took my bag since I knew I would be there a bit.
I told the receptionist that I was 2 weeks post-op and I thought I had a pulmonary embolism.  They moved very quickly  At this point, I struggled with every breath I took while speaking.  I did not have shortness of breath, like trying to catch my breath that was not the sensation.  It was more like a screwdriver handle shoved in my mid back when I tried to take more than a shallow breath.  My chest did not hurt.  I was not coughing anything up.  I just was in pain when I tried to do something silly like breathe.  Details.  

The doc came in, clearly worn out from the faults of our medical system (I'll save that rant for another post).  After he took my basic history, he asked if I was a doctor.  Nope, just a high school teacher.  On his way out he made a side comment, something to the effect of "someone has been on WebMD, huh" .  Nope.  Never went looking.  Just an epiphany as I struggled to breathe.

I remember hearing the stories of the depression my mother was sent it to while they treated her for a PE.  I was very young and stayed with her parents.  I started to call my grandma "Mawma" and all my mother heard was "Momma".  It was a horrible recovery from that complication.  You hear about how you caused your mother that stress and the idea stays with you.  

I also am one of those weird people.  I actually LISTEN to the docs during my pre-op appointments.  I knew what the complications and risks might be.  Once I realized that it might be detrimental to my quest for old age to play the tough guy, there were no more complaints and I just put my concerns out there.  I know people come in after searching the web, but I just did the math.  (Not bad for a history teacher!)

Luckily, he took me seriously.  Instead of  starting with the labs, he ordered a CT.  The labs came as well, but he did not wait for the results to come back before deciding on imaging.  The results came back together.  I was right.  The doc was surprised and told me I was spot on with my diagnosis.  I clearly missed my calling.



I did it good - go big or go home, I guess.  

I ended up back in the hospital for a couple days.  Lovenox injections, even though there was not DVT were less than enjoyable.  The kids were able to walk up to come see me, so it was less of a stressor.    

So what did I learn from this??  I learned what a bleb was. I learned that my husband is so wonderfully compassionate and caring when tending to the sick.  I learned that a trip to Target CAN force to require a three hour nap.  I learned that I am not 10 foot tall and bullet-proof and this will probably take me a year to fully recover.  I learned that cuts from invisible ninjas that once required a Band-Aid®, will require medical attention when the Xarelto does not allow it to clot off after 7 hours. I have learned that I can do stairs, down is easier than up.  I learned that I have amazing friends.  I learned that I am competitive and too hard on myself, even with my stupid incentive spirometer.  I learned that I am happy to be here, even with all these annoying complications.

Recovery was amazingly seamless, J and I had planned on not being here, so he was off of work and able to hold down the fort while I was down for the count.  He has been amazing.  My kids have been wonderful.  And I am OH so grateful that I did not have to deal with this over the school year!

My FF is on shift.  We are five weeks away from school starting and I need to get my butt moving.  Enjoy the day, no matter what it brings and let your FF know you love him, even when he's being a brat.  ;)  Happy Hump Day!


Monday, July 21, 2014

Vacation?

I started writing this right after I was home from Hospitalization Part Deux.  I am working on the follow up, with the rest of the story. (Gotta love Paul Harvey references, wherever you can sneak them in!)

I should have taken one.  I could share my vacation photos with you, along with silly stories about my muppets and how lovely my FF was.

Instead of a lovely vacation, I opted for the end of the school year and a surgery full of complications took me away from any writing.

Men, if you are queasy around discussions of the lady parts, please feel free to go grab a beer and watch the game.  I have it on the background, but it is not pretty.  

Since December, we have been planning my complete hysterectomy and a salpingo-oopherectomy just to be different.  Part of it was prophylactic.  We are always looking for cancer.  I am always waiting for them to take a look at something else - my kidneys or adrenal glands - and tell me there is something on my ovaries.  Because that always happens.  And then I hold my breath while we decide whether or not it is cancer.  We check my CA-125 levels and do biopsies and worry....that this might be THE TIME.  

And so, this surgery, that is really consider radical given my age, was the option I went with just to take some control over my health.  When I first met with the surgeon, she checked over and over and over with me to make sure that this was indeed the route I wanted to take so early in life.  To be certain I knew what I was getting into.  I watched my mom go through it in her 20s, I was certain it would be better for me as I near 39.

The  other part of this decision was simply to get my life back.  My periods were horribly heavy...like as much as most women bleed over the course of a cycle, I would deal with in the course 3 or 4 hours  I would fill a tampon between the bathroom on the 3rd floor of the school and my class (directly above it) on the 4th floor.  I couldn't teach. My husband was bringing me clothes far too frequently.  I was going to the ER because I was hemorrhaging worse than after delivering any of the kids.  The Diva Cup became my new best friend.  It was a life altering half a year. I had to adjust. Aside from the heaviness, my periods were lasting 26, 27 days a month.  I could not live my life that way.  It was not healthy and it was not enjoyable.  

So, we planned it for the Monday after school let out.  My in-laws took the Muppets so I could recover.  They were going to come home Thursday.  I was expecting to come home Tuesday.  It was supposed to be a textbook, wham, bam, thank ya ma'am kinda surgery.


But, we allllll know that I don't play that way.  That would be far too boring and commonplace.  I mean, really. I never do things the way I am supposed.  It started in pre-op with the anesthesia team came in.  I warned them about my veins.  Ehh, we got this, they said.  No worries they said.  Ummm, I woke up in recovery (the only time the memories have stuck with me from the recovery room) to 4 members of that team looking for a vein. Apparently, I blew 4 IVs during surgery.  Uh huh, you got this.  They were wonderful about and I was a sassy face with them, which broke the ice a bit. But, I do look like a heroin user.  I mean, we're talking the back of both hands and the insides of both wrists...are still bruised.  Not to mention the botched Mid-line insertion site or the picc line or where they were sticking my every few hours for blood draws before the picc went it. I wish they would all take me seriously when I tell them to keep a vein viewer or ultra-sound on hand. Ah well.  With all the bruises, J said he would be worried when they started checking in-between my toes.  I really did look like an addict. 

So, you think that is bad.  Nah, just annoying.  That happens more than it doesn't.  Really.  It do expect it and find myself instead, pleasantly surprised when there is a smooth insertion of any needle. The fun part came when they told me there had been a complication.  My poor hubby, they called him out of the waiting room and into a conference room to tell him.  I can only imagine the wait in that little room.

They had cut the bowel.  

I had a laproscopic procedure and the first cut is blind.  It is the fine print of what might happen during surgery that you have to sign that you understand before you schedule your surgery.  It happens.  You'd think that would have been enough, but I am a total overachiever.

And, truly, I really was lucky.  We had surgical oncologist on hand, even though my ultrasounds looked clean, just because. I am never as I appear.  And I am oh so grateful she was.  She saved me from an additional 6" zipper across my belly. She got me closed up and away we went taking out the rest of my reproductive organs.  It was a good thing my surgery started really early, because I got out just about on time from my original start time.  

So, that meant another night in the hospital.  I was snuck some broth that night.  Allowed to eat lunch the following day and  sent home on Wednesday.  I felt great.  

Until I didn't.

I crawled into my bed early and the nausea kicked in.  And then it was like I was pregnant.  I got so desperate with the vomiting, that I called the on-call number and had some Zofran called in for me.  Puking from 8:30pm until 3am, with no baby in the end game, is NOT on my scope of okay things to do.

My newly incised ab muscles were burning up and so was my forehead...102.1.  UGH!!  

Went into the doc the next morning and did the lab work.  She said she would keep me home, unless my WBC was eeking up.  So, I made it to dinner time, and no news.  I thought all was well.  And I started feeling better...human almost.  And then the phone rang.  Back to the hospital I was going.  This is now Thursday.  You know, the night that my kids that I have not seen since Saturday were supposed to be coming home.

This was not good.  My dogs were acting out.  I missed my kids.  My bowel was cut.  If you saw me on the street, you would think I was a junkie - between the circles under my eyes and bruises up and down my arms.  I still had yet to sleep in my bed.  I missed my husband.  I was not happy.

But I did not fight being admitted and J knew I must still be feeling pretty crappy.  I mean I ALWAYS fight going to the hospital.  I did not even bargain or negotiate.  Logically, I must have known I needed to go.  And I just went.

So, saw the gaggle docs.  Had the nurses fight over me. (I think I was the only one under the age of 60 on the floor.  Who else were they going to discuss OITNB with, I mean, really?!)  I was supposed to be out after two days of round the clock IV antibiotics by Saturday night.  Life was good.  My hubby was in as
much as he could be.  My dad brought me custard shakes.  My FF bought me candy bars from the snack machine I walked by a million and three times and stared at longingly until I was removed from the NPO list.  My heartbroke with the older gentlemen next to me who waved to me as I walked by, but became a different man when the sun went down.  I was very grateful to have my headphones, it was a very loud couple of evenings. Saturday came and I was ready to go home.  J was going back on shift the next day.  His trades had run out, because I was supposed to go home on Tuesday, remember. 

And they said NO! 

Ummm, what??

We needed to get 2 more rounds of antibiotics in you...the earliest is 3am.  Now, I asked for my resident to come in around noon on Saturday.  I am a control freak. I was feeling better.  I needed to make a plan for how I was going to go home.  J was on shift the next day.  My dad was at the track.  I could not drive until I was sans narcotics for 72 hours.  My doc was on vacation at her cabin - no cell service. I could not get in touch with an MD.

My night nurse started paging at 9pm.  I sent J home with the soft plan, put together by my nurse that we would open up that last round of antibiotics and just get them in me.  J came back in at 3:30am, under the idea that he would be able to take me home.  The resident still had not been able to make her way to me...or send a minion to come speak with me...or call the nurses station.  Over the course of the last 16 hours. 

And I was not happy.  I had to send J home.  He had to get to work.  That was that.  I would figure a way home.  Because, we all know, NOTHING goes right on a shift day.

The resident came in...after I had paced the 4P floor in anger and tears...at about 6:30am.  She told me how unrealistic and foolish I was being.  She also told me that there was nothing she could do until the attending discharged me.  You know, the attending that has NEVER seen me.

REALLY?  

Rant that was never posted
And it was that much worse when I waited to see the attending (4 more hours) and he told me that was NOT the case and I could have gone right after she saw me.  I did not need to be seen by her. "She did not listen to my instructions."  Really?  A power struggle??  

I was PISSED.

But, I was free to go.  I had my d/c papers.  My picc line was out.  I laid flat on my back for 30 minutes after that.  I just needed to be home before my kids were.

My brother offered to come pick me up.  The nurses wanted me to wait inside until my ride came.  Nope.  I signed those papers and I was outta there.  Like it or not.  

It was a beautiful day.  I was happy to hear the birds and feel the sun and wind.  
I quietly enjoyed the 4th with my dad and my ever working FF (after he got done with an extra 8 hour shift at Summerfest as a bike med - and brought a PNB back in front of a crowd).  I saw my surgeon Tuesday of  the following week. She was amazed at how well I was doing.  Wednesday...there was a pain in my back...a kidney stone, perhaps?  

Nah, that would be far too pedestrian.  You all know better...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Stories

Everyone has one.  That is what makes up history.  Just a collection of the everyday lives of everyday day people woven into the greatest tale to tell.  

But, and everybody has one, you need to know people's story before you decide who or what they are. 

Far more philosophical that the surgery SNAFU post I started writing earlier today.  

How did I arrive at this deep place?  By going to the grocery store.  I mean, really.  Where else do you go to reach such enlightenment??

My FF and the kids are at a family picnic  I needed to sleep and just be, since J has been home a whole day since I got out of the hospital, I think.  Sounds great.  I got to sleep for a bit.  And then the doorbell rang, as did my phone. I just got up.  And realized I was hungry.

I was going to grab something to eat, but I did not want fast food and eating out without my people did not sound enjoyable.  So I decided on nachos.  But I was not going to cook up four or five pounds of beef for me.  And that is how I shop for ground meat.  I have a teenage boy, a pre-teen boy and an Obabiya.  We need to buy food in larger quantities.  So, I ran to the store.  

I never shop on a Sunday afternoon, so that was weird.  And I rarely shop without a cart.  I was stopped by a lady when I was looking for a smaller package of beef.  I was looking for a half pound or so.  A lady, clearly tired and frazzled, stopped me and loudly exclaimed, "What I wouldn't give to be in your shoes!? Single and kid free!"  I looked at my left hand to see what her issue was, and remembered I only had my claddagh ring on. I lost my diamond sometime this morning. :(  I also realized that she couldn't see the stretch marks around my scars and I don't have a diaper bag.  I also suppose mommies don't typically wear moustached Mickey t-shirts with moustached Chucks.  

I was about to be snarky and make a comment.  But it popped into my head that I have NO clue where she is coming from.  What might have happened this morning. What work is like, or perhaps the lack of work is the issue.  The point of the matter was that I just didn't know.

So we chatted for a few moments, she works 2 jobs and cleans on the side. She has 2 boys under 6.  She is tired.  

I choose not to one up her with twice as many kids or surgery horror stories or the fact that I am also a single mom a third of the time, without the 3 days off a week, with every other weekend as a bonus.  She was clearly tired and worn out.  Instead, I bought her a small bouquet of flowers.  Grocery store flowers, but  when was the last time she got flowers just because.  I simply said thank you for sharing your story.  And went home to make my nachos for one...and remember that my ring was still naked.  <sigh>

The point of the story, is that everyone has their own.  And because they cross your path, even for a moment, they become part of your story.  I think we would look at the world so much differently if we reminded ourselves of that.  

Yesterday, I took lunch to a homeless man who often sits on the curb next to one of the grocery stores.  I do whenever I see him.  Except this time, I sat on the curb with him and chatted.  I have been interacting with him for two years now and have never asked him what his story was.  I learned his name.  That is from half the country away and that he lost his wife and kids tragically.  He had such a hard time sharing it, but he did.  And I felt honored.  And we watched the cars go by and the battalion chief leave for his house visits for the shift. 

He has a name and story.  As does everyone we come across.  Whether it is because they are rushing through the store or cutting you off in traffic, they have a store.  Maybe they smile at you because they are walking on cloud nine because there is a new diamond on their hand or they got into the college of their dreams.  They have a story.  We just need to slow down and learn them!

Hopefully my FF and muppets will be home soon.  I will indeed be asking them to share their tales of the night, it is part of their history. Slow down and learn the histories of those around you.  You might just be amazed at what you discover.   

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Words Left Unsaid

Over the weekend, I was asked by my aunt to speak last night at my grandfather's funeral.  I speak for a living.  I tell tales of times gone by.  You would think that it is no big deal.  I do it everyday.  I can speak in front of a thousand kids and never bat an eyelash.  It is just what I do.  But you ask me to speak in front of my colleagues or other adults - my throat tightens, my voice quivers, my neck gets all splotchy red.  It is not a pretty sight to be seen.

So I started writing.  I mean really, how big of a deal is that??  I do that all the time, too.  Right??  (Well, not here lately...head hung in shame.)  And I just could not find the words.  I also started thinking that I would be married to the paper if I did that.  I would lose my place, stammer, stutter...I don't teach from notes or scripts or speeches or anything written.  Why would I do that this time?? I decided I would just speak from the top of my head.

The visitation was beautiful.  I was amazed at how many people did not recognize me.  One of my dad's cousins...the last time I saw her was at her wedding...when I was 12.  And here I was with my oldest about to enter high school.  The kids were great considering wakes are not the most exciting thing to attend. (Mine will be, mark my words!)

And then it was time for the service.

In true Doran fashion, none of the electronics worked properly.  My poor grandpa could not program a remote or go back and forth from the VCR to the cable box.  Or turn on the digital picture frame we bought my grandparents.  We all kinda snickered as the funeral director swore everything worked perfectly earlier in the day.

So, we were behind schedule.  It was getting late.  The memorial was beautiful.  My cousin read some things that my aunt had written and it was getting to be even later, so I passed on speaking.  It was a geriatric and a very young crowd.  Both groups were tired and hungry and ready to go home.

But here is what was in my head.
When I was asked by Debbie to speak tonight, I was at a loss for what to say.  I spoke with my dad and his response was, "You don't have to say anything.  He was a very ordinary man. He just worked hard.  I don't know what you would have to say."
 And my dad was right.  He was extraordinarily ordinary.  He worked.  All the time.  He worked for his dad's moving company...and we still have the moving straps and dollies to move us from us to house.  He drove a truck.  He delivered liquor.  He managed a movie theater. And was a manager for an early R&B group.  My dad remembers sitting on the basement stairs and watching them practice.  Most importantly, he was a bartender.  At the same bar for as long as I could remember.
I know it is funny for me to say most importantly, but it really was.   I spent many a Saturday morning/afternoon hanging out there.  Conning the old guys out of Hershey bars and "sodie waters". I grew up in that bar.  I learned how to count and count quickly in my head, because of that bar.  Math? Taught in an old Milwaukee corner bar, you ask.  Yup.  It is called Cribbage.    I learned how to subtract quickly in my head as well, from that same bar.  Remember darts...before they were electronic.  Yeah.  I was not going to be the one to bust.  I was also exposed to the basics of geometry through the pool table.  Sounds funny, but 'tis true.  I am a teacher, but also a firm believer that education is everywhere.  Even in Jim's Bar.
Now, that bar served another purpose in my education. Jim's always sponsored my dad and grandpa's Friday night bowling team.  I guess that would a lesson in community involvement and economics.  So many nights spent in houses that are no longer in existence.  Chris Corners, Court Lanes on FdL, All-Star Lanes, Crestview, Silverbird...  I think I came out of the womb with a bowling ball in my hand.  Up until I had so many horrible complications when I was pregnant with our youngest, I was still bowling 3 nights a week.  There's my Phy Ed.  I would probably classify that as Lifelong Sports (if that course code is still floating around).  By, like every good instructor, there was cross curricular integration.  More math.  Marking score.  Once I was old enough to stop begging for quarters for the arcade, they sat me down at the scoring table in the settee area.  Again, this was before technology took over.  This was when you had to use the tele-score overheads.  You know, the ones you fought to get the right side of so you didn't burn your arm marking score for the team on top. You learned the math.  I turn everything into some format of 10s, t o this day, because of bowling. My first love and heartbreak came out of the bowling world.  As did many trophies, scholarships and temper tantrums at tournaments when I couldn't keep up with the older girls.  As I became a grown up, many life long friends have come from that world.  
And that might not have ever happened without my grandfather.
If we could go back to the bar for a moment.  (Because that is what you do after bowling...go to the bar that sponsors you.) My grandfather was a bartender.  That is how I will always remember him.  As a bartender.  At Jim's and when it became Hampton House.  But, he also had a full bar in his basement.  That is where I learned another lifelong skill.  How to tap a proper beer and socialize.  Bar tending got me through college and paid for my wedding, and I am hopeful that it will be part of my retirement. When we spent the summers by my grandparents while my parents were working, we would wait for grandpa to come home.  Stealing his chair, the moment we heard his truck pull up.  Once he came in and got cleaned up, with my grandma in the kitchen, he would send me down for a beer.  You know the full BRICK bar in his basement, complete with tapper. (And boob mug with a Booze IV just for good measure.)  When his buddies came over, I was the bartender.  Whether it was from the tap or from the fridge with a few bottles of  Lite, I learned how to charm and serve.  Which if you know my snarky side, is a very necessary skill.  
What else there?  My love of Frank Sinatra and the rat pack from his reel to reel...which is still in my dad's living room.  Disney, I still covet his Mickey Mouse watch.  Stuffed animals.  He was amazingly talented at figuring out those claw machines...you'd be amazed at how many animals he got me from those things.  It was indeed a talent.  My husband still uses his "chemistry set" on our lawn...his was always immaculate.  
I guess my dad was right.  He lived an ordinary life.  He was married to one woman, had two kids - one boy and one girl.  He worked hard.  He was ordinary.  An ordinary father, husband, teacher, bartender, friend.  But, how many us long for that?  Simple time with our parents. Someone you can always talk to and have a drink.   Patient enough to deal with an 8 year-old on his "night out" and to have his friends accept me as well.
The dementia took him from us long ago.  Just a piece at a time.  Forgive me if my tears are limited.  At the surprise 80th birthday party for my grandma, that I helped  him plan...he forgot who I was when his brother-in-law (who has also forgotten me) asked who I was.  He forgot I had the girls.  He became confused and obsessed. Argumentative and combative.  And none of that was my grandfather.  I think I have been quietly mourning his passing for years.  Just, a little bit at a time.  He still enjoyed coming to the kids parties, but he was no longer the life of the party.  When we were in the hospital this past spring with him and refused to eat, I sat there and treated like my youngest.  "That's fine, but first take a bite of your grilled cheese."  He was no longer there. I got him to eat his sandwich, but that was not the man I will remember. I watched his mother waste away into near oblivion. For years.  And I am so very thankful that he did not have to endure this as long as she did.  
I will remember the man who was passing out various drinks with Baileys in it at Christmas. Asking me to bring my violin to play for everyone.   Taking my 3 year-old in before school and after school.  Letting her walk with him to get the mail and talk to the ladies downstairs. Complaining that Marv had no idea how to oil the lanes.  Telling me that it often helped if it actually put my fingers in the ball when I got lazy on lanes.  
I am not going to mourn his passing.  He is not gone.  Energy does not cease to exist, it merely changes form.  Instead, I will embrace those lessons and stories and pass them on. This is a celebration of a life, well lived, in the most ordinary fashion possible. 
He is no longer with us, but still among us.  He will be an important part our lives forever. We miss you already, Grandpa.
 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Finals

I love the sound of that.  

Finals.

Finals mean I FINALly get some time to be me.  Finals mean I FINALly get to see my kids for more than a quick minute.  Finals mean I get to FINALly address the fact that my womb is getting back at me for several traumatic pregnancies.  Finals mean I FINALly get to address my grief over losing my grandpa.  Finals mean I can FINALly find my house again under all the chaos that is left behind in the wake of life.  Finals mean I can FINALly get into a classroom that is mean for my class size and my discipline.  Finals mean my Seniors are FINALly on the path that is the first day of the rest of their life.

Finally.

I can breathe...well I will be able to breathe after tonight.  

No more fear of cancer in my belly.  No more anxiety for my grandma.  No more periods lasting 26 days out of a month - with all the inconvenience and lack of energy that comes with that.  No more papers (for a bit). No more staff meetings..well significantly less.  No more juggling schedules to accommodate two fire families with four FT parents.  

Life can just be!


I had a great finish to the school year.  My kids service learning project was a total SNAFU - nothing went right.  BUT, it was a night that 40 teenagers will talk about for years to come.  I mean how lucky am I that 40 teens came out to work a trust building party for a neighborhood they don't live in on a beautiful Friday night, the week before exams!!  My classes are in place for next year.  My girls room is clean.  My new van is being detailed as we speak.  

Life is good.  I will get back to writing.  I will get back to networking.  I will walk around and watch the world through the lens of my camera.  I will find my way out of the chaos that was the school year - wonderful, rewarding, stressful, exhausting and just my world.  I will take vacation so that I am strong enough to take it all on again in August. 

I'm back.  I'll see you in a week.  We have a 48 this weekend, after my FF spent all last weekend on the Fire/Safety Crew at the Mile.  And, teachers still have 2 more days of school left...

Hug the muppets, love on your fireman and enjoy each day for what it brings.  Rest in Peace, Grandpa.  We miss you already.


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