Monday, April 24, 2017

At the Bottom of the Box

My dear Boys and Girls knew my favorite flowers
How am I doing?

I've been asked that question dozens of times in the past two weeks, and it fills my heart every time someone looks at me with concern and checks my well-being. I always answer truthfully, and depending on how deeply you want me to answer I will tell you just the first few or all of the following--

I'm better every day. I'm figuring out my new physical boundaries. I'm sitting more, and moving slowly and pacing activities. I know now that if I try to do too much on one day that I will spend the next day feeling terrible.

What I probably won't tell you is that the hardest thing I've had to deal with hasn't been physical. In fact, I don't know exactly how to categorize this tough thing. Is it mental? Psychological? Spiritual?

What is fear?

My recovery from this episode has been a reverse Pandora's box, filled with wonderful people and encouragement. It has been love and hope and messages and cards, hugs and cookies baked with dark chocolate. It has been flowers whose scent follows me through the house and reminds me how very many people are pulling for me. But every once in a while at the bottom of the box I suddenly sense a cold tremor that all of that goodness can't quite squelch.

Sometimes it's mental, when I don't know how to respond to what my body is telling me. I know all the classic symptoms of a heart attack (chest pain, sweating, nausea, feeling of doom) but as I was told over and over again when I was having none of these symptoms but was by every clinical measure having a heart attack, women's heart attacks present differently. So when my heart unexpectedly beats hard and fast, and no amount of calm thoughts or steady breathing stops the disruption, should I be heading for the emergency room?

Sometimes it's psychological, when a chance remark by one of my medical caretakers that "Yeah, you really had a lot of embolisms" gives me information I didn't have before and even though nothing has changed, suddenly I'm aware of how close to the cliff I had been standing and fear washes over me.

Sometimes it's spiritual, when my deeply-held belief that God is in control of my life seems to be buried under appointments and prescriptions.

A dear friend was at her husband's side in the emergency room when, with no prior indication of heart problems, he was found to be having a heart attack. I had sat with her after his multiple-bypass surgery, and took a meal when they got home. So I asked her--am I crazy?

She looked at me sadly.

"We were in the emergency room several times after the surgery," she said. "You just don't know."

And that's where the fear originates, I think. You just don't know this body, this schedule, this life.

How am I doing? I'm doing very well, better every day, and I expect to be looking back years from now and marveling at how modern medicine (science!) helped a fearfully and wonderfully made body cope with a glitch in the works.

But it can be scary.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Surest Sign of Spring


A couple of weeks ago, when all things healthwise were topsy-turvy in my world, I got a text from Boy#4.

"Are you having surgery?" he asked my cell phone. "J. texted me saying that he'd heard that (and asking if you were OK), so I just wanted to see who has the better information."

To see why this is significant, you should know that my son lives out of state, as does his friend, J. I love living in a small town partly because everyone looks out for everyone else, but once in a while the news accuracy is just a hair off plumb.

I was able to reassure Four that he had the better information, that I was not having surgery, but was being treated with high doses of blood thinners and TLC.

"OK, I assumed that was the case. Learning your mom is having surgery via text from your friend would probably be worse than hearing about it from her blog."

Oops.

Well, Four, if you get a text from J. that I was seen hobbling down Main Street and that I didn't seem to be walking well--polio, maybe?--be assured that I was just welcoming spring.

You can keep your robins, your crocuses, even your groundhog. In my world, the surest sign that spring has sprung is the pedicure that ends winter toes. From October to April I am frugal and be-socked (or be-pantyhosed, as I confessed here recently). I shine up my own toes and rub in my own foot softeners because no one is seeing those bare feet except me. But when tax season ends, I skedaddle over to my favorite pedicurist and she pampers me with an orange-scented leg-and-foot massage that makes me practically drool into the hot whirlpool at my feet then finishes with nail polish in a color I would never buy for myself.

Yesterday, though, I hadn't planned ahead and didn't bring my own post-pedi footwear, so all of Small Town saw me shuffling down the block in the fashionable spa-issued slippers. My gait may have indicated a serious health setback, so I'm just clearing up any confusion here:

I'm fine, Four, and my toes are looking sharp.

It's spring.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

This Is What Happened: Part 4

I am thankful for the woman who brought me this chicken ceasar parmesan on pita. It was wonderful, and so was she.

(Feel free to backtrack and read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this story. Really. They're more exciting than today's entry, and do not lead with pictures of hospital food.)

Well, believe it or not, we are closing in on the final episode of this chapter in my life. I know! Who knew so many words could be used to say "Welcome to my new life!" (That, to summarize, is essentially what my New Best Friend the Hematologist told me when I met him this week. Blood thinners forever, and grapefruit no more than once a week, and while you're here, how about let's draw eight vials of blood? EIGHT!)

But this whole experience has been enormously educational. Here's what I have learned:

I have learned that I am surrounded by the very best, very finest, very dearest family and friends anyone could have. I realized in the 10 minutes that I thought I was going to die that I have not told these dear family and friends nearly often enough that I cherish them, and that I have lived the most blessed life because of them.

I have learned that being in the hospital is the next best thing to being an exotic dancer, because hoooo-boy, does everyone just have to go about their business while you are inadequately covered.

And I have learned so much about how to pray for a person who might find herself (or himself) in a similarly precarious situation.

I hope I have been clear in this space that I am a praying person, and I deeply believe in this spiritual practice. I know to the very marrow of my bones that dozens, maybe hundreds, of people (including many, many of you) have been praying for me in the past few weeks, and I am weeping as I consider the magnitude of this gift. Because I know these are the things you've been asking as you lifted me up to the Divine:

That the right people be put in my path. I cannot express completely how this played out, because it was inexpressible. Every single person I met, from the moment my initial EKG was read until this very minute, has been the right person at the right time, doing and saying the right things. There was the medical assistant who drove me to the hospital and asked me to tell her exactly what the Boys are doing these days. I saw you, Esther, and I saw what you were doing, and I loved you for it. There were the emergency room nurses who brought warmed blankets, and Dr. V., who diagnosed me. There were the firefighter/EMTs who went to school with the Boys and lifted me into the ambulance, then talked to me about Costa Rica and upcoming weddings. The nurses in the cardiac ICU--Jessica, Steve, Kensie, Kayla--who joked with me and told me enough but not too much. Even the food service aide who brought my lunch and was just so delighted that I was able to have a regular diet was magnificent. Every single person was encouraging and competent and cheerful.

That I would not be afraid. I knew I was in a perilous state for at least 10 hours, and I'm not even counting the days before when I was probably at risk of sudden death. Do you know how much of that time I was afraid? Ten minutes. I remember it vividly: I was on my back in the emergency room, my blood pressure had been going up for two hours and the doctor had just given me the news that a heart attack was confirmed. I looked at Husband, who was sitting in the chair next to the bed, and I thought "I don't think I'm going to make it out of this, and I am so very sad for the years I will not have with this man, and with my Boys and Lovely Girls." But then I thought of the woman who had that very morning brought me a refrigerator magnet her mother had made. "No Fear With God" the magnet says, and even though I had accepted the gift off-handedly, I remembered the fiery furnace and the witnesses who said "We know God can deliver us out of this, but even if He doesn't, He's still God." And from that moment there were times when I was concerned, times when I was shaky, times when I was confused, but no more times when I gut-wrenchingly afraid.

That I would know how much I am loved. Oh, people. Again with the tears over here, because you cannot imagine. You simply cannot imagine how I have been touched by the messages, the cards, the flowers, the concern. I know you have been praying that I would feel that support, because I do.

I'm only glad that I am here and can tell that you are the very best, the very dearest, the very finest. I love you, I cherish you, and I have lived the most blessed life because you are in it.


Monday, April 10, 2017

This Is What Happened: Part 3


(If you haven't read Part 1 and Part 2 of this Story That Never Ends, I encourage you to go back and do that first. There is a through-line that will help you make sense of the following flogged-beyond-recognition analogy.)

I certainly didn't set out to confuse and frighten you, my lovely peeps, especially the ones who made me cry with your hugs at church yesterday. But as I look back on the past two entries, I can see why some of you were waiting for the next installment to be picked up by Boy#1, who is my designated blog poster if I am ever too feeble to talk about my personal medical history on the internet. (Oops, One! Did I forget to tell you that?)

But I probably should have added a spoiler alert when I ended the last post by being pushed into the ambulance. The spoiler is this: Hi, everyone! Waving from over here! At home!

The truth is that an initial diagnosis of a heart attack that is changed to a diagnosis of pulmonary embolisms is a tire-screeching veer into a treatment path that is quite different from the original treatment path. Heart attacks require tremendous activity; blood clots in the lung require the exact opposite.

When they closed the doors on the ambulance I was expecting to arrive at Big City Hospital and be rushed to the heart cath lab, maybe to be followed up by a visit from a surgeon who would explain surgical options and lifestyle changes. Instead, I was met by a team of nurses who let me do my own antiseptic wipe-down then hooked me up to monitors. I already had been jabbed in the stomach with a dose of blood thinner before we left Small Town, and there was nothing more to be done.

Let me see if I can explain this using a tortured analogy, which is my favorite way to explain things:

Either a heart attack or a pulmonary embolism has the potential to kill a person. The typical heart attack, though, is like a bomb exploding. It hurts, it knocks you off your feet, it damages things that may or may not be able to be fixed later.

A pulmonary embolism, on the other hand, is like one of those unexploded World War II landmines you read about being found under beds in London. (And a side note: I'm a terrible housekeeper, but how terrible a housekeeper must the owner of that flat be? VE Day was in 1945--you haven't cleaned under the bed in SEVENTY-TWO YEARS? Seriously?)

Anyway, that unexploded mine might never explode. It might stay there undetected for decades more. But something--deterioration, humidity, the knowledge that we're living in Trump's America--might cause that bomb to re-activate, and when that happens it's best to scurry off to the air raid shelters, because a PE can take. you. down. It stretches, yawns, then enters the blood stream to cut off circulation to the brain (a stroke) or the heart (a heart attack).

I don't know how long blood clots had been forming in my lungs. I'm guessing they'd been there for a while. Looking back on the spring Husband and I realize how many times I said "Man, I am so tired," and I found I no longer could walk up the 77 steps of Small College without panting, but I thought those were just normal signs of aging. It wasn't until the strain of breathing overtaxed my heart and sent me to the emergency room that I realized I had a landmine under the bed.

So what does one do to defuse a landmine that is still dangerous? Very little, as it turns out. One checks for collateral damage (and a 2D echocardiogram showed that in spite of the heart attack symptoms, my ticker is strong and undamaged, thank You, God). The shots of blood thinner in the stomach transition to a lifelong regimen of oral medicine, and a referral is made to a hematologist. A night in the cardiac ICU and another night in a ward bed end with discharge orders to "take it easy."

And now we wait. We wait for the wonderful, astounding creation that is the human body to absorb the clots, or to isolate them up scars that are stable and cannot enter the blood stream. That waiting could take several months.

The cliffhanger stages of this story are over. I have a couple more chapters to write about things that happened along the way, and I'll be meeting my new best friend (the hematologist) tomorrow to see if we can flesh out the orders to "take it easy."

In the meantime, though, it's been kind of nice to have permission to take a nap any old time I feel like it.

"Gosh, I'd love to vacuum, but I really need to take it easy."

The landmine is still there, but I'm a terrible housekeeper--the odds are excellent it's going to stay undisturbed for another 72 years.

(Wait! Don't leave! I have a few more things to say, so please come back tomorrow.)




Friday, April 7, 2017

This Is What Happened: Part 2

No, this isn't the same photo as yesterday. 
(If you haven't read Part 1 of this saga, you might want to do that first. Otherwise today's installment might not make sense.)

I wasn't entirely sure I trusted the emergency room doctor when I met him. I mean, this was no Doug Ross. Dr. V. was rumpled, and needed a shave, and I wasn't sure his level of urgency was the same as my own. (He did not once bark out the word "Stat!," which was both concerning and disappointing.)

But that doesn't mean he wasn't paying attention. You may have noticed a clue to the theme of today's post yesterday in the paragraph wherein I talked about giving my medical history over and over. If you noticed it, bravo, and I want you for my doctor because I certainly wasn't paying attention while I was saying it.

Dr. V. was.

He heard me mention that I'd had a superficial blood clot in my leg several years ago. It was so insignificant in the grand scheme of the day (BLOOD PRESSURE EMERGENCY) that I glossed over it, but after Dr. V. had let me know that my symptoms had won me an ambulance ride to the Big City for a heart cath, he came back to it.

"The ambulance can't be here immediately so I want you to have a CAT scan to make sure you don't have any clots in your lungs."

"And that," I thought to myself, "is why insurance costs are so high. Unnecessary and expensive medical procedures."

I didn't say it, of course, because as the senior medical staff in the room he also could have ordered the removal of my left pinkie and I probably would have agreed. So the lovely radiology technician wheeled me down to the coldest room south of Siberia, injected iodine into the crook of my elbow, and scanned my lungs. (Side note: If I were Queen of the World I would not promise tax breaks or more vacation time as the best things that could happen to my subjects. No, I would hand out those heated hospital blankets to everyone in the queendom. They are...I have no words for the wonderfulness that they are. I have mentioned often that they make the pains of childbirth worthwhile, and I will now amend that to include the pains of a heart attack.)

And speaking of pain, I had none. No sharp pain in my chest, no dull radiating pain into my jaw, no lower back pain because women experience heart attack pains differently than men do. No pain, except maybe (and the quiet, genteel doctor was thrilled to hear this description) "you know, that kind of pressure when your bra is too tight? Like you want to take a deep breath but it's kind of difficult?"

Husband was still keeping track of the blood pressure numbers while I gave him a list of people to call to cancel obligations and appointments. At one point he looked up at me: "I think when this is over we probably need to talk about your schedule." Point taken.

Finally the ambulance arrived and they strapped me onto the transport gurney. Just as we moved toward the door Dr. V. came hurrying back from radiology. He lowered his voice to let the ambulance attendants know, but I overheard the diagnosis.

"She has bilateral pulmonary embolisms."

And that's when I said "Well, CRAP."

If you have just been told you have bilateral pulmonary embolisms, please do not Google bilateral pulmonary embolisms because the information will discourage you from buying green bananas. I knew this because my father had pulmonary embolisms following his heart bypass, and my brother had pulmonary embolisms following a long airplane trip. I had Googled the term many times in the past, and it's horrifying.

So there I was, being loaded into the ambulance for a trip to the Big City, having just heard that while I had thought I was not having a good day I was actually having a really bad day, and my ruined pantyhose were in the wastebasket of the emergency room so my bare feet were uncomfortably stuck into my leather shoes, and the ambulance driver told me they weren't going to use lights or siren so really, what was the fun of an ambulance ride?

Well, CRAP.

(To be continued.)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

This Is What Happened: Part 1


Here are two of the things I thought as I lay flat on my back in the emergency room Monday afternoon:

I really should have cleaned out the refrigerator. I'm going to be so embarrassed when my compassionate friends come in to do that for Husband.

This is the absolute worst time of the year to die. 

I'm not sure what this post is going to be like. Over the past couple of days I've written it in my head several times. A couple of times it was funny, although more often than that it was quivering and shell-shocked. I suspect that today's installment will be the latter, but because I can't seem to tell this tale with minimal words, I'm sure to take more than one post to tell this story and I'll get to the funny parts before I'm done. Just maybe not today.

It's a story that began Monday as I was walking the few hundred feet from the parking lot to Husband's office. It was my morning to be his intern (as the lawyer down the hall teases me) and I knew there would be a stack of tax returns waiting for me to sort. I'd had a cold a couple of weeks ago and ever since then I seemed to be uncharacteristically short of breath when I walked up a flight of stairs, but suddenly I realized I was not going to make it from the car to the elevator without leaning against the alley wall to catch my breath.

"Well, this is not normal," I thought, and when I reached the office I called my doctor before I separated and stamped and filed tax returns. That pesky cold must have given me pneumonia.

A few hours later, though, the doctor listened to my lungs, and they were clear. His technician came in to set up an EKG, and ten seconds later, the word was back: The doctor wants you to go immediately to the emergency room. You appear to be having a heart attack.

Well.

I'm sure there are other ways of getting one's attention than this. Maybe "Madam, a velociraptor seems to be gnawing on your foot." Or "Did you realize that you are giving birth to a giraffe?" In my case, though, "You appear to be having a heart attack" were by far the most attention-focusing eight words in the English language.

They were pounding through my head as the doctor's assistant drove me the ten blocks or so to the local hospital. They were ringing in my ears as I called Husband, in tears, to ask him to meet me there. They were pulsing in my mind as I encouraged the ER nurse to tear holes in my pantyhose to attach diodes to my ankles, and admitted to her that I am the final woman in the Western hemisphere to wear pantyhose "and I always wear tights in the winter and bare legs in the summer, but right now it's too hot for tights and too cold for bare legs and...." I could not stop babbling about my pantyhose, and still the babble could not drown out the reality of YOU APPEAR TO BE HAVING A HEART ATTACK.

By now Husband had arrived and was watching the monitors. In the doctor's office my blood pressure had been shockingly high for me, a person who has taken great pride in her historically low numbers. (I'm out of shape everywhere else, but by golly, my diastolic and systolic are always stellar.)

"What was it in Dr. D's office?" he asked. 168/88, I told him. "Okay, you're still under that."

On the left side an efficient and calm nurse was taking my history. On the right an aide was sliding a large-bore access point into the crook of my elbow. I unclipped my Fitbit and handed it to Husband to stash with my purse and clothes.

And over and over I told the same story. A cold a couple of weeks ago. Undeserved good health all my life. Knee surgery in 1984. Four mostly-uneventful childbirths. A superficial blood clot in my lower right leg in 2008. Worked in the yard for three hours two days before. Shortness of breath. Shortness of breath. Shortness of breath.

I told the nurse, the student nurse, the ER doctor, while blood was being drawn and Husband watched the monitor readings go more and more dangerously high. He did not tell me the numbers but I could read on his face that they were not good.

They hit their peak when the doctor came back with the blood test results: My troponin levels were elevated. I had just graduated from "You appear to be having a heart attack" to "You are having a heart attack." Alarms sounded as my blood pressure hit (Husband told me later) 198/110.

And that's the moment I thought about my refrigerator, but the troponin was lying.

My word counter is telling me I'm going on way too long. I'll pick it this up tomorrow.

Monday, March 27, 2017

I Write Because I'm Happy

This recipe has been used a bazillion times
My last post about books I've recently read was so much fun that I turned around and wrote another post immediately.

Ha! Ha! Ha!

No, of course I didn't. But I thought about writing another post immediately, which should count. The fun of my books post was that you lovely readers responded with titles of books you've been reading and suggestions for more books, and wheeeee! Now all I want to do is read.

But I didn't want to leave you hanging without letting you know some of the things that are making me happy at the start of this week.

1. Boy#1 emailed last night with a request for a bread recipe I used often while the Boys were growing up. (Check out the recipe card--that puppy has been dripped on, spattered, tattered, and burned.) It was my mom's recipe and I felt as if I was giving Boy and Lovely Girl a bequest straight from her when I sent it off this morning. Of course, I had to give auxiliary instructions, which included updating for KitchenAid kneading and "Keep the rye flour in the freezer--you'll only use it for this, and it's too expensive to let it get buggy."  Gah. I'm surprised I didn't remind him make sure all his buttons were in the right buttonholes before he left for work.

2. And speaking of grown-up Boys, numbers Two and Three (and Four, for just the weekend) were in and out of the House on the Corner last week, which is another of my happy things. Two was doing research that involved camping in my brother's pasture for three days because it's far enough from power lines to not interfere with the sensors he was using, and Three was on spring break so he went along so that he could lord it over his friends who were spending their breaks in Cancun that HE had spent break in a KANSAS PASTURE, and nanny-nanny-pooh-pooh.

3. Spring is making me happy, especially since it rained last night and now I can worry a little less about our trees and shrubs being thirsty. My women's group is selling bedding plants with proceeds to support educational projects for women, and I am afraid I am going to buy All The Plants by accident because they just look so yummy in the flyer. (Also, if you want to support educational projects for women, need some dandy hanging baskets or bedding plants at good prices, and can pick them up in Small Town on April 15, hit me up. But do it quickly, because I have to turn in my orders this week. It's a good cause. Really.)

4. And finally, I'm happy because this sit-com is hilarious and is restoring my faith in NBC sit-coms. Oh, people. I thought when Parks and Rec turned out the lights in Pawnee that I would never laugh at a half hour show again, but Trial and Error is restoring my faith in funny. And sure, I would have preferred that the show description that my link sends you to not say "Something's afoot when the team finds a 'sex-print' left in Larry's room," but take my word that most of this show is not that but is watchable with a grown-up son, as I did with Boy#3 this week.

What's making you happy today?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Also, I've Been Reading


The picture that opens this post has nothing to do with what I'm actually going to write about, but since the other images today are "borrowed" from Amazon (and I'm pretty sure that if you click through to buy a book they wouldn't mind, even though I have no financial stake in that decision) I thought I'd participate in the Pi Day frenzy.

When I visited a couple of weeks ago this was the daily specials board at the cafe in the small town near where I grew up. Pie! Pie! Pie! Also, carbs over carbs with a side of carbs. It was delicious, she said defiantly.

But back to what I'm really aiming toward talking about today, which is, what I've been reading. Yes, in addition to ACTING in the opera (maybe the most fun I've had since, oh, I can't remember when), my jam-packed schedule has included more reading than any time in the last decade or so. I'm always looking for recommendations of good books (and I assume you are as well) so here's a sampling of what I've read. I recommend them all.

A Man Called Ove. I know! I was the final person in the world to read this book, largely because I am perhaps the cheapest person in the world and my spot on the waiting list at the Kansas state library's e-book collection did not come up for months. The timing was perfect, though, because the day before January's Iceamageddon was to occur I was notified that it was in my queue. Since Iceamageddon did not actually happen at all but everything was cancelled I spent the entire day cuddled into an afghan getting to know Ove. He seems to be a type I am predisposed to love, since I also love Doc Martin, and I highly recommend this to anyone who believes there is redemption for the cranky.

The Underground RailroadAnother one for which I waited until all the buzz had died down and no one wanted to talk about any more. It has been out long enough that I don't think I'm spoiling anything by revealing that this underground railroad is actually a  railroad that is underground which, hmmmm. It's an intriguing premise, and I was rooting hard for Cora, but I was not as bowled over as the critics and Oprah were.



Rules of Civility. This one I had never heard of, but someone recommended it to me and I pass along that recommendation with no reservations. I loved the narrator and her aspirations to be more than a typist, I loved the descriptions of the Depression-era music, I loved the matter-of-fact way Kate lived her life in spite of her unpredictable friends. But even this book wasn't as much of a delight to me as...



I Capture the Castle. I paid 50 whole cents for this when I saw it on the Friends of the Library sale shelf. Oh, people, if I'd have known I'd have paid up to a thousand times that. Two thousand, because what a lovely book! Wikipedia informs me it was written in 1948, when Dodie Smith was living in California. It's set in England sometime between the two Great Wars, and the narrator is a 17-year-old girl who wants to be a writer. Her family is living in a crumbling castle, and...well, you just MUST read it. It's Downton Abbey without any money, pretensions, or missing Gutenberg Bibles.

So that's what I've been doing as I'm pretend I'm super-super-busy.

What have you been reading?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

They Told Me There Would Be No Acting*


One of the multitude of excuses perfectly rational and reasonable reasons I have for being absent from this space for so long is that a couple of months ago I totally and completely lost my everlovin' mind agreed to sing in an opera.

Yes. You read that right: I agreed to sing in an opera.

"But MomQueenBee," you are saying right now, "don't you have a really terrible voice? I have sat in front of you in church and only Christian charity has kept me from shushing you and tying a preventive Ace bandage over your mouth before the next hymn."

And you would not be wrong about that assessment. I have a truly terrible voice, but what I have are pretty-darned-good sight-reading skills and a Puritanical compulsion to show up for rehearsals. Apparently those two qualities are all that are needed to be recruited for the chorus of a Gilbert & Sullivan production on the campus of Small College, so when I got the invitation I agreed with one caveat:

"I will not act," I told the organizer. "I'll buy my own score, I'll show up at every rehearsal, I'll bring my pretty-darned-good sight-reading skills, but I won't emote."

To which the director replied, "Oh, no! No acting from the chorus, please. No, no, no. No acting."

Now, three days before the curtain goes up on The Sorcerer, I'm here to report that opera directors may have voices that shiver glassware but their truth-telling skills are abysmal. I realized that when the following sentence came from his mouth:

"What we're going to want the chorus to do is pretend to be ghosts."

Say what now? Doesn't pretend=acting?

Me: "But you said there would be no acting!"

Him: "This isn't acting. This is pretending to be ghosts. Acting means walking around the stage and involves blocking."

Pfffft. That po-tay-to is a po-tah-to. I will not actually BE a ghost, so I will be ACTING like a ghost.

ACTING. And I don't know how to act.

My friend Mary who stands next to me is an awesome ghost, though. She sways and waves her arms and darned if she doesn't almost scare me. And as I watched her, trying to emulate her spooky hand motions, I realized there was only one other set of people who look like this. It's just that they do their motions faster.

That's why when you come to see the opera this weekend, at the conclusion of the first act you will see one of the altos on the front row of the chorus umpiring baseball in slow motion.

YEEEEEEER OOOOUUUUUTTTTTT!  SSSAAAAAAAFFFEEEE! SSSSSLLLLLIIIIIIDDDEEE!

Okay, so it doesn't look precisely ghostly, but Mr. Opera Director, it's as close as I'm going to get.

You told me there would be no acting.


*Some day this will be the title of my autobiography.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

In the Arm, Please, Not the Face

Morning sky in Kansas. 

Back when the Boys were little, maybe when Boy#1 was five and Boy#4 was a newborn, or maybe when I was trying to help all four of them address valentines for their classes or perhaps when Husband and I were splitting up innings because we had baseball games every single night of the week on four different fields, someone a couple decades older than I would invariably look at our frantic activity and say "Enjoy this, because it goes really fast." And I would want to punch that person right in her empty nest because it wasn't going fast at all. It was a million sleepless details, punctuated by empty mouths to be filled and bedtimes that were never soon enough.

Back when I was working full time I heard it from newly-retired friends a couple times every week: "I don't even know how I had time to have a job." And again, my punching instinct would have to be curtailed, because DANG! Try putting eight or nine hours of clock-punching into that day and then tell me how busy you are.

But then the years passed and the Boys grew up, and it was so fast. One day they were sweet hugs and gap-toothed grins, and the next we were calling them for professional advice. And I found myself saying to a new mom at church "I know you don't want to hear this because the days are long, but the years go really fast." To her credit she did not punch me, but that probably was only because she was too groggy to make a fist.

Last week I realized that I had not blogged for weeks, the longest break I'd taken from this space since I started blathering here almost seven years ago. And the break was totally unintentional--I wasn't mad or stunned or any of the other emotions that have caused other shorter breaks. I was just...busy.

Being sorta-kinda-semi-retired has meant that I've had more time to do things I've wanted to do for years--having coffee with friends, trying new recipes, making a meal for a post-surgery acquaintance. Then I started working for The Other Boss (who is still delightful), and took on a freelance project that has been fun but time-consuming.

The spare hours I always thought I would have in sorta-kinda-semi-retirement have disappeared, along with the time I used to carve out for blogging. I've managed to keep up my exercise-every-day commitment (and am seeing some spectacular morning skies), but the and-also-clean-something-every-day resolution? It is to laugh.

So I'm just going to say it: I don't know how I had time to have a job.

Go ahead and punch me. I deserve it.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

My New Job

First day selfie
Between my jobs at newspapers and as a college administrator, I have worked in offices for the better part of four decades. I am (if I may say so) a whiz at word processing (do they still call it that?) and I know my way around a computer. Also, I know how to answer a phone, although the transfer function is not always my strong suit.

So it seemed perfectly natural to raise my hand when my CPA husband started to look for part-time tax season help at his office.

"Oh! Me! Pick me!" I waved my hand like a third-grader who knows the capital of Peru. "I can do it, and then you wouldn't have to pay someone else!"

It made perfect sense to me. My current "real" job is flexible and except for a few set hours, can be done at times I choose. I would just choose hours that weren't in the three afternoons each week Husband needs help, and put that income aside for the bathroom remodel I'm fantasizing about.

In my enthusiasm, I may not have noticed Husband turning a little pale at this offer. I mean, what husband doesn't want his wife invading his professional space, commandeering the thermostat and ruthlessly pruning the philodendrens? The fact that we can't write a Christmas letter together without me having a tantrum is completely irrelevant. But he agreed to a try-out, with the caveat that if it didn't work out we were still going to remain married.

Last week I had my first week on the job and thus far I have learned several things:

  1. The government requires a lot of forms. I mean, really a lot. 
  2. Printer settings matter. (An entire tax form printed out on a label maker is a fascinating artifact, though.)
  3. Transferring phone calls is haaaaaaard.
  4. Some people find beauty in leggy philodendrons, and do not appreciate the tidiness of a well-trimmed plant. 
  5. And finally, every person I tell about my employment situation will make a "joke" that includes a reference to sleeping with the boss. Every. Single. One. 
But also, I've found that my guy not only is a really good accountant, he's also a thoughtful and patient boss who laughs when I print a document on the label maker and has used the phrase "It's okay--they'll call back" without irritation. Thoughtful and patient are excellent qualities in a boss. Also, he's exceptionally cute. 

Maybe next year we can try another Christmas letter. 


Friday, January 20, 2017

It's a New Day

 
It is a new day in America.
 
Do you know how I know it's a new day in America? Because this morning, for the first time in 33 years, two months, and one day of marriage, Husband made breakfast.
 
I came to the kitchen ready to pour my customary bowl of bran flakes (Boy#3 says we have the most senior citizen selection of cereals ever assembled) only to find my beloved standing in front of the stove. And on the stove was a pan, and in the pan was the start of a ham-and-cheese omelet.
 
"I saw the ham in the refrigerator and decided an omelet sounded good," he said off-handedly.
 
What the what?
 
A couple minutes later we were sharing that omelet, along with a slice of whole-wheat toast, plus milk (for him) and a cappuccino (for me). It was delicious.
 
I'm choosing to take this as an omen.
 
As many of you know, I haven't been looking forward to this day. The animus that is swirling around us doesn't come just from one side, it comes from all sides. And the despair and heartbreak are not figments of our imagination, or we would not be at this point of division now.
 
But today started with an omelet, and it was so completely unexpected and lovely, that I'm feeling hopeful that I can find that same unexpected loveliness many places.
 
I'm declaring this my new day in America. If Husband can make an omelet, I can do something unexpected that might fix even a tiny bit of the unrest that has preceded this day.
 
It's an omelet day.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Sitting By the Door

Santa apparently thought Lovely Girl's feet were cold, as she received three pairs of socks in her stocking. 
Oh, Dear Reader(s)!

I can barely speak, I'm so excited, but I had to check in here to let you know that I'm going to miss you. Truly, I am. But after today you may not be seeing me much around these parts. After today, I'm going to be busy, busy, busy...

MAKING IT RAIN! (Here, I should be inserting a make-it-rain gif, like this one or this one, but coincidentally, in my class today I will be talking about the perils of using copyrighted material on your blog without permission, so please image your own make-it-rain gif. I do not want to go to jail.) And why do I suddenly have so much wherewithal that I can strew dollar bills around as if they're falling from heaven?

Allow me to back up. This story begins at 6:45 this morning, while I was still dreaming of the possibility of a snow day. That's when my phone rang, but it was not the automated calling-off-school notice I expected. Instead, it was a nice young man with this message:

"Congratulations! You have just won $2.5 million in the Publishers Clearinghouse sweepstakes!" he told me in a somewhat halting accent.

Well, I can tell you for sure, that sat me straight up in bed.

"WHAT?" I screamed. "What time is it?"

"Uh, I think it's maybe a little before 7?" he answered. "And you've just won $950,000 from Publishers Clearinghouse."

Now, I was just a little confused by that.

"You mean you're charging me $1.55 million for asking what time it is?" I mean, I didn't want to act ungrateful, but I did the math, in my head, so go me.

He ignored my question.

"Will you be around later today so that we can bring you your Mercedes-Benz?" he asked, and I could practically hear the keys jangling as he spoke, although the background of noise that seemed to be other Publishers Clearinghouse recipients of $2.5 million was making it difficult to hear him, and he seemed to have the same accent as the deposed King of Nigeria.

"I'll be here waiting for the doorbell to ring!"

And with that promise, I jumped out of bed and began waiting for my Major Prize to arrive. So far no big check is in sight, but I'm making plans for that money and I'm not sure I'll have time to keep things going here at the Nest. It does make me a little sad that I will no longer be contributing to the literary community--where will you get the pictures of Lovely Girl and Boy#1 in their whale and shark slippers on Christmas morning?
Or Boy#2 wearing a Yoda hat and Western-cut jacket and pointing to a sousaphone in my sewing room?
No judgment of the messy shelves, please.
Well, maybe I'll keep checking in until the Benz arrives. I know you'll all want to go for a ride so get your touring hat on! I'm sure that prize is arriving any minute!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

It's 2017!

How can he be 27? He was just born yesterday.

People! We made it!

We are done, done, done with 2016, and are now in 2017. If you are kind (and I am confident that you are) you will not point out that nearly half of the first month of 2017 is now over, and I have not even checked into this space to assure you that 2016 did not save a giant sinkhole to swallow me as a final act of mwahahahaha-ness.

No, the final week of the Year That Shall Not Be Named was filled with Boys!LovelyGirl!OtherRelatives! and all kinds of marvelous reminders that in spite of my complaining, life continues to treat me as if I'm a treasured jewel.

I didn't chronicle our Christmas in this space, though, because I was busy cooking. Apparently childbirth is not the only time that mothers are gifted with amnesia. I had totally and completely forgotten that family in the house expect to eat, and quite often this includes three meals a day. (I know! Outrageous!)

Apparently they do not, as I had assumed, live on good feelings because we ate a LOT during the two weeks that the House on the Corner was filled to the brim with love and laughter. And power cords. Oh, and size 12 shoes. We had soups (white bean chili, red chili, bread bowls, sweet potato and baked potato chowder, Italian vegetable), snacks (peanut brittle on demand, Muddy Buddies, Chex mix, peppernuts), TWO Christmas dinners (ham, four-cheese garlic lasagne), and more desserts than have been in the house for the past two years (peppermint pie, lemon cheesecake with blueberry sauce).

By the time we reached the final dessert, the carrot cake that celebrated Boy#3's birthday (can we all just agree that January 2 is the worst day of the calendar to have a birthday?), all of us were done with food. Finished. Over it.

I was afraid they were going to harvest my liver for foie gras.

So now we're living on salads and clear-broth soup, and I'm beginning to feel like a functioning human being again, enough to thoroughly appreciate how wonderful the end of The Stupid Year was. I'm marveling (and more than a little embarrassed) that I am so blessed that I can complain about TOO MUCH FOOD.

Welcome, 2017. You're just what we need.