Sunday, September 22, 2013

Turning Through the Years...

So yesterday I turned 40.  It seems hard to believe.  I said to my mother, on FaceTime, that it felt pretty much the same, and we laughed.

There are all kinds of stigmas attached with 40.  It's just the beginning of a new decade, after all.  But there are cards attached with old jokes, a new societal paradigm that "40 is the new 20" and, unfortunately, new tests the doctor orders for you when you reach this esteemed age.

I don't feel 20, and LORD am I glad that I don't.  20, in hindsight, may actually be worse than sophomore year of high school, and that is saying something. 

Soon, my doctor will insist on a mammogram.  I will go.  I will schedule that appointment the same day I receive my referral, and this is why:

When I was 8 and a half years old, we all woke up one morning, got into our uniforms, got on the bus, and went to school.  The night before, our father had been away.  It wasn't an abnormal thing for Dad to be gone.  He traveled a lot for work, and so a night away was pretty commonplace and we did what we always did.  We had dinner, we managed homework, we may have watched a little TV, and we went to bed.  So anyway, we were at school, and at the time, 4 of us were at school together at IHM.  Near the end of the day, the PA system switched on, and the closing announcements, prayers, and dismissal started.  One of the announcements requested that my siblings and I report to the office.  I was embarrassed.  It was the first time my name was on the PA system, and it usually meant you were in trouble.  I have never been a real troublemaker. 

I met my brother coming from his classroom, and we turned and walked down the main hall and to the office.  When we were all there, they seated us and said that they had bad news and good news for us.  The bad news was that our father had a heart attack that morning, but he was recovering in the hospital and would be fine after a time.  The good news was that Deacon Mike and Sister Mary Kelly were taking us home!

That was not the good news, really.  The good news was that he was going to recover.

When my dad was 39, he was at our doctor's office having some stitched checked out, and had a dizzy spell.  The doctor was worried, spoke with him about it, and referred him to a cardiologist to have a stress test performed.  According to my mother, my father was not always a follow the advice person when it came to the doctor, but this time be did, without hesitation.  He scheduled his test, and he went to the hospital to have it done.  They discovered during the preliminary testing that he had already had a small heart attack, and admitted him to observe overnight.  That was the night he was away.  Being in the hospital saved him.  It saved our family, too.

The most excellent news is that Dad recovered, and is amazingly healthy now, more than 30 years later.  He has been at every single event his children and his wife have had - performances, college graduations, graduate program graduations, weddings, grandchildren's births.  His cholesterol is better than mine.  Mine is good because starting at age 8 and a half, my family's diet changed to make us healthier.

The doctor will tell me that I need to go have this test.  I will go.  I have had too many amazing  friends fall victim to illness.  I won't have my children missing me because I was too busy to do what I needed to do to stay healthy.  My dad did, all those years ago, and it's his example I will follow.  Just another one of the many lessons I have learned, and keep learning, from him.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Worst Days

Today is one of the Worst Days.  We all know it and we all feel it in our own ways.  For me, today was 4 days before my wedding, and I woke up blissful.  I was headed to work, then off for 2 weeks to go get married, and go on my honeymoon to Aruba.  Everything happened while I was underground, between Ballston and Metro Center.  When I came up, I practically skipped into my office.  I passed an office with a law clerk in it.  He was a good guy and a prolific worker, and that morning he had pulled the TV on a cart into his office and had it on, facing his desk.  I thought to myself that I should get logged in and check out what's going on, and then speak with him about the wisdom of having a front-facing office with the TV in there.  Mental checklists about what I needed to accomplish before I skedaddled out compiled in my self-centered little head. 

Then an email went out.  Then my phone rang.  Then I called my mother, because in 1993 she had friends in the World Trade Center and I was worried for her.  Then I called my sister and left her a voicemail asking her to please work from home because her office was across from the FBI Building.  Then, in an all hands in my office, we were sent home.  I called Lee, who worked at Dulles and had been sent literally running from his office building to head away from there in case something bad happened, and told him I was headed out of the city from my office in carpools the office was arranging, and that my cell service was totally compromised and could he PLEASE call the caterer.

Yes, the caterer. 

He said, that doesn't matter.  I said, our guest count is due by noon.  If we don't try to call, we'll get screwed.  He relented, called, and left a voicemail there.  We didn't hear back until the next day, when they said to tell us what we knew when we could. 

I rode in a car down 9th Street, through the tunnel, past the Pentagon, and up Glebe Road.  I got out of the car at Route 50 and walked to my car in Ballston, because those 4 miles of driving had taken 3 hours.  I had to move. 

I went home, laid on the sofa watching the news and seeing the buildings falls in real time, cried, and Shadow leaped into the crook of my legs on the sofa and laid her sweet head on my knee, looking up at me in concern.  She hadn't seen me cry and didn't know what to do.  Of course, no one really knew what to do.  But it became the Worst Thing I have seen.

I've seen some terrible things.  In 2000, in Sarajevo, I stood in front of a building which had been bombed during the war.  It was a the headquarters of OsloboÄ‘enje, a newspaper, and it had been bombed during business hours, and is now a memorial to the war,  and a gravesite.  Civilians died there.  They wrote and printed the news in that building, and from underneath the rubble in the basement post-bombing, for all three years of the Siege of Sarajevo.  Until September 11, that was the Worst Thing I had seen.

In April, 2004, I saw my son hooked up to an IV and sedated so he could have an MRI.  He fell asleep.  It did not look as though he fell asleep.  It looked like he died.  To this day, it is the Worst Thing I have seen. 

Shadow would have snuggled into my knees at Childrens' Hospital if she'd been there. 

We are all so lucky to have each other this day.  There were so many victims - people who were just going to work, people who just happened to be flying somewhere to see another person they loved, or had to go somewhere for work to support the people they loved.  Then, with a horrible catastrophe, a new group of people had to get to work, and some of them died in their efforts.  On this day, we have a Worst Day memory that is so universally shared, we can each reach out to each other and hold hands and feel sad and safe and angry and confused and furious with the human condition that has pitted person against person for religious beliefs that are amazingly congruous and infuriatingly divisive. 

I don't believe for a moment that my God or my faith is any better than yours. 

Continuing Education

So I learned several new things on Tuesday.

1. Siva (pronounced Shee-va) - Siva the destroyer, Siva the creator.  I had my first yoga class in several years today, and sort of out of left field, about 2/3 of the way through class, the teacher paused in her instruction (a loose term applied to how she lead class - she kept using the Sanskrit words for the poses, assuming that everyone in the level 1 class knew them all.  Because I know things like Sethubandasana.  I didn't know the Sanskrit, but I know the English name for it - Bridge Pose.)  Anyway, what she told us was that Siva both created and destroyed, and that the ring around him represented the ego, and that yoga helps us work through all the ego points until one moves beyond ego.  She said they hold all the things in our mind that preoccupy us and keep us from being fully present in the meditative state of yoga.  That poses like Shavasana (corpse pose, my favorite, so of COURSE I learned the Sanskrit word for it) aid in the meditation to release those mindful things.  And as I was there in my Warrior 2 pose, I was reminded of being in that same studio several years ago and weeping at the end of every class during Shavasana, when I would lie still there, on my mat, and think about Connor and the life he should have had which was denied to him by something no one can explain.  No one knows why this has happened to him.  No one will ever know.  And that unfairness flowed out of me every yoga class back in 2009.

Now, in 2013, I lie in Shavasana, and I know why I am there, and I don't cry.  And it's awesome.

2. Eye dilation - So Connor had to go see his eye doctor yesterday for a check-up.  Besides all the new-job/new insurance rigamarole, they had to dilate his eyes, and when they did so, the doctor said, "It might be pretty quick.  Light colored eyes usually dilate faster."  Really?  Why?  The prevailing theory is that the darker pigments absorb the eye drops more, but I would think that they would then dilate faster?  I wonder if it's that the darker eye, which has more pigment according to the doctor who studied for years (as opposed to me, who did not) already looks dilated so it's harder to tell?  I don't know.  Maybe I should go back to college, earn the right credits to enter medical school, enter medical school, study hard, and blow open the doors of ophthalmology.

Or maybe not.  But it's an interesting thing to know.  Even if it's just a theory.

3. Bus update - This is not technically something I learned on what I now think of as "Learn Something Tuesday," but the bus situation has improved a little.  The transportation department has called and told me they fixed things by making his pick-up time 7:30.  I was able to voice my opinion that that wasn't really fixed because it was still 20 minutes before the original time they gave us.  The day after that was established, he was ready at 7:30, and the bus was late.  Well, I thought late.  Lee said that they had parked across the way and waited for us to bring them out.  I think I may like this bus driver and aide after all...

What have you learned today?

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

New Year, New School

Sorry it's been quiet for a bit.  I guess I ran out of things to say that contributed for a little while.  We went away for a vacation to the beach which everyone enjoyed, and then a week getting ready for the first day of school, in which we painted a room and moved two rooms around entirely.  Plus, in that week, we had a pet visit from our favorite puppy Hopper (who is technically no longer a puppy).  Oh, and Lee started a new job, and made his way back outside the beltway for the first time in 8 years.  Obviously, we don't know how to not overwhelm ourselves.

So first...Connor's room.  Connor seems to continue to grow, and the time came to move him downstairs into the main level bedroom.  He's handled the change really nicely.  I think Lee and I have as well, though it's harder to go upstairs to bed now.  But we do, and he sleeps pretty well downstairs. I only had to go down on the first night, and only once.  Otherwise, he's slept really nicely and comfortably.  We've gotten more accustomed to it as well, but I don't think I will ever like it very much.  I got a monitor (we of course had already gotten rid of the old one) but I have promised myself I won't use it unless he is sick.  I haven't even opened up the box because once I do, I know I'm compulsive enough to just keep going until it's all set up. 

In the interim, we painted his old room, and turned it into my office.  I have a new work station and I love it because it is made from a room that all my boys have called their own.  But after a quiet August, it's hard to find motivation to dive back into the deep end of marketing and prospecting.  Since today is the very first day of school, I will try to give myself until tomorrow to discover my motivation.  If I don't discover it, I shall introduce myself to getting-shit-done because that's what we all need. 

While we were away, we go the news that his bus pick-up will be at 7:48 am.  We'd been warned that his school started earlier, and were afraid that he would be picked up at 7:25, so this feels like a reprieve.  Then, the Friday before school, they changed his time to 7:37 am.  And this morning, the bus was at our driveway at 7:34.  But he was ready.  It will be a long year of this.  But I'm excited about his new school, so the alarm clock and I will become grudging friends in the next few weeks.
This goes completely in the face of my actual morning routine, which is to lie in bed for as long as I possibly can, then drag myself downstairs and drink a cup of coffee before trying to actually accomplish anything. 

I was able to go visit his new school, which is a little further away, but has the same teachers and aides that Connor already knows, so he will be comfortable (mostly) at school.  I have to pick him up early today because the bus drops him off pretty much as the exact same time as Drew needs to be picked up a mile away from the house, so since I have not yet managed to be two places at once, the only logical way is to get one, then the other.  Should be interesting.  At his old school, his class was right at the front.  In the new school, it's waaaaaaaaaay away from the front door.  I don't want to arrive there at the exact same time as the school buses, either, or I'll never get out of there.  I may park all the way around and hoof it in, dragging Tucker behind me.  I'm here with him today, and he's being so fantastic.  Of course, it's also lunchtime, so I should go make him and me some food, and get ready for our active afternoon. 

Stay cool out there, my peeps.  Hope your first day back was a good one!!