Sunday, October 27, 2013

The New Normal

The new normal is not that fun.

Did you ever have to pivot around a point in time, as if you'd been thrown onto the merry-go-round and been thrown off in another direction?

There are five or six times I've been spun in a different direction in my life. Three of them were happy events, but surprising nevertheless - when I graduated college, when I got married and when I gave birth. The other things have not been as pleasant - death and illness.

My illness haven't usually done that, but three times, now that I think of it, I have flown off on a tangent. I remember how, when I spent the night alone on the floor of my bathroom, too weak to crawl into bed between bouts of vomiting, I knew I would die some day, most likely alone. I was twenty-five, living on my own in my own apartment with a bad case of stomach flu. I knew if I couldn't keep water down soon, I wouldn't make it through the next 72 hours.

I don't really want to go into the details of the other illnesses that changed me forever. I'm still living with them. Don't you hate when old people start telling you about their gout and how they had diarrhea last night? Well, there's a reason they're telling you about that shit. It hurts. It's frightening to feel your mortality. You, being the young punk that you are, may not want to feel your own mortality, but it's there, just waiting for that moment when your body starts failing you. By listening to grandpa's woes, you just might be teaching yourself something about life. Be patient with him. You, if you don't grind your skull into the asphalt in a motorcycle accident, will be there some day and it will be a balm if some young punk cares about you enough to hear you out as you talk about your aches.

It's the same with crying babies. I hate this trend people have of wanting crying babies off of airplanes and out of restaurants. I want to ask of the people who complain, 'Were you never a baby? Did you never cry for comfort as an infant? Did you never dirty a diaper?' Those people, the ones who want to eliminate children from restaurants, are infants themselves.

So, the next time your great aunt Elma tries to tell you about her sciatica, try to be patient with her. She knows you don't understand. She doesn't want you to feel her pain. She just wants someone to care about hers.

I'm still not going to tell you about my two other serious illnesses today. You can listen to grandma's aches another day.

The surprising thing is how my family's illnesses have spun me in circles and thrown me into a different trajectory. I get how having a kid with medical problems can put you into a different world, a world that most people don't understand or don't want to. How do I know? My kid, a kid who looks pretty normal most of the time, a kid who argues about doing his homework and his chores, is one of those kids who has medical issues. You've probably heard me go on about this - viral-induced asthma, anaphylaxis, pneumonia. Mike and I are experts about these diseases. For the most part, people don't understand how vulnerable that has left us. Nick, at the age of five, had to understand his own mortality. Most kids don't get that lesson until much later. Most kids don't have to have that lesson repeated over and over until it's their new normal. Nick knows what it's like not to be able to breathe. Most people take air for granted. Nick knows how to slow it down, how to exist in the crisis when anyone else would be begging to go to the emergency room.

And now Mike.

Mike had a heart attack. He's only fifty, but it's where we are now.

We have a new normal, a new sense of mortality. I've learned that I'm more afraid of losing Mike than I am of dying myself. Well, shit. Didn't I know that already?

A little, but not really. Now, I know it. It's seeping more deeply into my bones. I live with two people, people who drive me crazy, people who leave their shit lying around, people who want me to feed them and entertain them and clean up after them. Yet, when you pose the picture of what my life would be without those two people, I'd rather not go there.


Mortality is easy. Living without these two annoying and loving people is not.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Back and Forth

Sometimes it rains shit when you're stuck outside looking up.

The cat started the day puking chunks of chewed Nerf bullets in various places on the carpet. Always the carpet.

In solidarity, the dog puked on the rug twice. At least I could pick the rug up and throw it into the washer.

Nick got so sick I had to take him to the doctor. The doctor put him on prednisone, saying he wanted to keep him out of the ER for this round. No school for Nick. Probably no school tomorrow. The downside is that Nick's breathing is still rough, he's jittery from the steriods, and he's more emotional than usual. At least he's breathing a little easier.

I was making my second trip to buy stuff for the Boy Scout Awards night coming up when I got a call from Mike.

He's in the hospital with chest pain. Yes, chest pain. Plus, some enzymes have indicated that his heart is in distress. Tomorrow, he gets a cardiac catheterization. I learned how to spell 'catheterization,' didn't I? I'm not sure.

I haven't returned phone calls. I didn't show up for stuff I'd volunteered to do. I did drive back and forth between my sick boy at home and my sick man at the hospital.

Overnight, my life has changed. I loved the life I was living yesterday. It drove me crazy. I'd been foiled more than once while trying to shop for the awards night. I'd managed to get into the city for jury duty and been excused just as quickly. I was always running late because life ran too fast. Sometimes, I argued with one or the other of my two favorite guys. We didn't always agree. We loved each other though and sometimes our predicaments were funny. Life was a comedy.

Today, nothing is certain except that I expect the house and the hospital to still be standing when I pull into the driveway. I'm kind of stunned. I'm running on automatic, surprised that I still know how to breathe let alone drive. I've said 'I love you a dozen times today, cried, prayed, yelled as I drove my car as carefully as I could, and finally, just showed up at one place then at another then back then back again. Tomorrow, I'll get up and do the whole circuit again.

I'll do it as many times as I need to. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Thank you for listening, jules

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Still Jittery

I was the first on the scene of an accident today. I made a lot of mistakes.

I should know how to use a flare. I couldn't get the damn thing lit and the Asian man who was trying to help me kept fiddling around with the one I handed him too close to his daughter for me to feel comfortable. He didn't appear to be flustered after crunching his car, but I never should have handed the flare to him in the first place.  He didn't speak much English either. I should have realized that too. He probably didn't have any more experience using a flare than I did.

I should have gotten the woman whose chest hurt to lie down. I was pretty sure that she was bruised from the airbag, but I wasn't actually sure. Plus, she might have had a spinal cord injury. I had to help her out of the car because it was smoking, but I could have done a better job of keeping her still. I don't think I should have left her side since she seemed the most injured of the four of them.

I should have asked the Asian man to take his daughter to the car and get her to lie down. The girl was shivering and pale. She might have been going into shock.

I should have called 911 right away instead of assuming that the Asian man actually meant 'yes' when he said 'yes.' I didn't realize until much later that no one had actually called. If they'd gotten word of it at dispatch, the woman would have told me they were aware of the accident and it would have been a short call instead of the agonizingly long one that it was. The dispatch woman actually asked me if I was in the northbound lane or the southbound after I told her I was on I-90 near the Rainier exit. Had I said I-5 by accident? Oh, it's possible. It really is.

The blankets I used on two people were filthy. It's hard to keep the blankets in the car clean because of the dog being in there every day, but I should give it a shot. I could put one in a zippered plastic case that blankets come in so I have a clean blanket to hand people in an emergency. Still, I rationalized that a dirty blanket was better than nothing in that frigid wind, especially if someone was going into shock. No one was bleeding, so I didn't have to worry about introducing infection.

I should have given the police officer my phone number in case they needed more information. Oh, I didn't actually see how it all happened. Suddenly the woman's car had popped up in the air, had gone on two wheels, and had come crunching down, spewing debris and sparks behind it. I never even saw the other car make contact. I couldn't tell you who was at fault if I tried. I was just grateful I didn't have to slam on my brakes to avoid it, glad I didn't get hit myself. But I should have given the officer my phone number for the report he had to write. Ah hell, he didn't ask for it. He would have asked for more information if he'd needed it, right?

I should have stopped for a minute, got myself a cup of coffee or something to eat, or just sat for ten minutes on Rainier Avenue before I got back onto I-90 to drive home. I was so relieved to get into my own driveway safely because I was still really revved up. Hell, I stayed jittery from the adrenaline rush for a couple of hours after I got home. I got jittery again when Mike got home from his Boy Scout hike and I told him the story.

I need to sign up for First Aid training. I lived in New Jersey the last time I took it. That was over twenty-three years ago. It helps that I've been involved when Nick's Boy Scout troop worked on their First Aid merit badge, but I really need to take the training again. It's changed quite a bit in twenty-three years.

Hey, tomorrow will be fun. I'm going to have Mike show Nick and I how to use a flare. Then I'll have less of a chance of being hit by a passing car the next time I'm out of my car on a busy road.

I'm still jittery.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Piss-Me-Off Journal

Okay, I'm annoyed by so many things right now that I can't stop at just one thing.

1) My new mattress hasn't yet been delivered. We have to leave in an hour. They just texted me to tell me they're coming in about thirty minutes. I'm going to go crazy trying to get out of the house in time for Nick's karate lesson. It's hard enough getting out of the house without mattress guys downstairs wrestling with my old stinky guest bed mattress. God, that's going to be embarrassing even without the need to rush out of the house.

2) I don't have a dinner plan.

3) Nick has taken to yelling questions to me while I'm working in the kitchen. Aside from the sense it gives me of being a kitchen maid, I can't hear what he's saying much of the time because I'm running water or grinding something. My teeth, maybe? Both reasons are cause enough for me to ask him to come into the kitchen to ask his question. He was annoyed to have to get up. Okay, kid, pick your butt up off the floor and use those muscles to walk into the kitchen! Now! I didn't say that, but he got the idea. Then, he got offended when I copied the expression on his face, the surly expression. It was a good day for a new vocabulary word. How do you define 'surly?'

4) The website for the school photos is no longer available. I had a photo taken on picture retake day, Monday, and thought I'd order copies for my family. I had checked the website on Monday night, but it didn't display my picture. Was that another kid with my same name or was it a model? I wasn't sure. Today, when I tried again, it wouldn't let me in and I had a hell of a time getting a phone number so I could ask. The lady who finally answered the phone said that those photos aren't available forty-eight hours after the shot was taken. Really? She said she could take my order over the phone, but then, she got mad when I told her that I wanted to respect the rules the company had set up for the website. If they don't want to sell photos that they've bothered to take just three days after the shot was taken, then I can respect that. Vote with your wallet, people!

5) My cream of broccoli soup turned pale green. Who the hell wants to eat green soup?

6) The government is still shut down. Does Congress still get paid for those days?

7) The new HP printer we bought last spring was still under warranty when it failed. The company happily sent us a new printer, a refurbished printer. The 90 day warranty for the refurbished printer ends well before the year is up on our original HP printer. How is that fair? Now, the refurbished printer has to have its head cleaned every day when I need to print something. I want to get it fixed, but it's not under warranty even though it's been less than a year since we bought the damn thing! Never going to buy an HP printer again in my lifetime. Voting with my wallet again!

You know, years ago, Oprah had a segment on having a gratitude journal. She said it made her happier and guaranteed that it would make me happier too.  I don't know. I never tried it. Sorry, Oprah. Maybe I'm missing out on a great deal of happiness that I could have had over all these years, not to mention the physical remembrance left behind for Nick who would get a bookcase full of the lists of things I loved about him. Bummer. At this point, he'd probably give me an eye-roll over half that shit anyway. I've become an embarrassment. I get it. I did it that with my mother too.

What Oprah didn't tell me was just how satisfying it would be to rant the hell out of stuff that pisses me off.

Hey Oprah honey! Have you tried this new feel-good technique? It's called the 'piss me off' journal. Try it. It just might make a person happier. It might not, but I feel better now.

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, October 7, 2013

Petty Partisan Politics

What has happened to our government?

It's shut down, over petty partisan politics.

That pisses me off!

On April 15, will I be allowed to shut down my household until I have approved my budget? Will I be allowed to suspend payment of my taxes until such date as I've decided to drop my arguments against the opposition? Will I be allowed to sit on that cash until things are run my way?

I think not!

The government, the one that has closed its doors, will make sure of that. Heavy penalties would be assigned. So what the hell are they doing with my money right now? All you people out there who live in the United States should think about that. They're wasting our money with this stupid ploy.

Here's a question - are they going to get paid for this time they're wasting? Are they?

Now, be honest, don't you think the Republicans are taking it too far with this? Head Start kids can't have breakfast. Meals on Wheels funding is suspended. There are people out there who aren't eating! Is this really what the Tea Party wants, to starve Grandma and little Susie until they aren't a problem any more?

Now, you could say that National Parks aren't essential, but do we really want to close down Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, the Statue of fucking Liberty? There's a metaphor for you. 'I'm sorry. We've shut down liberty until we can repeal these laws that we passed.'

When I asked a friend of mine what she thought, she said, "It's bullying, plain and simple. We don't allow this kind of thing to go on in the schools, but the example we adults provide is right there in our own government. The Republicans are bullying our President."


Not to mention the entire country. I happen to be eating during this shut down, but I don't condone letting poor people starve. The Republicans don't like the laws that were passed? Then they should use the legal system the way it was designed, to repeal them.

I loved the quote by Jimmy Carter asking 'how is it family values to let people go hungry?" I tried to find it on the Internet, but I couldn't. Bummer. I hope you've seen it.

So, is this really about getting the insurance system under control or is this about hazing a black President?

I think my friend is right. We have some bullies in Congress and we need to send them a message to stop. How do we do that, furlough their salaries? Oh, right. We don't have any control over that. They have control of their own salaries. Funny.

If people from another country were in Congress, holding our government hostage, we'd send in the troops. When is it time to send in the troops?

As it is, we have to wait until November and try to vote them out of office. It's frustrating, but that's the only control we have, our votes. I tell you, if I could, I'd vote them into the very Head Start and Meals on Wheels programs they have suspended. Until those people eat, they should not eat either, not one bite.

Thank you for listening, jules

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Rotters

Mike's company has begun the great invasion into our private lives.

Last week, I had to submit to having my blood pressure taken. It was low. Then, they drew blood. My good cholesterol is probably high enough they'll bug me about my overall cholesterol. And then they made me get onto a scale.

The rotters.

They have no right to tell me how to live my life. Are they harassing people who go climbing in their spare time? It's a risky sport. Someone could get hurt. Are they challenging me to move to another house because I live in a slide zone? That hill could come down at any time. Are they giving people grief if they spend too much time on the road? Driving is also a dangerous sport. The average person gets into an accident every thirteen years. Are they testing me for drugs, overuse of alcohol? That certainly shortens a life.


They're bothering fat people.

The funny thing was that I hadn't thought of myself as fat before they got hold of me. Now, in order to get the benefits the company offers, significant benefits, I have to submit to their invasion by changing my lifestyle, lowering my 'numbers', and submitting to their questions. There are phone calls I don't want to answer. I shouldn't have to discuss my eating and exercising habits with my husband's company. No one should.

What is the price of independence? What control should a company have over its employees? Should they be able to say I have to lose weight or lose benefits?

Well, they just did, the rotters.

Thank you for listening, jules