Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Marble

I love this time of day - waking up in a semi-daze in the late morning knowing the boys are at school and there is nothing urgent to do and nowhere to go. I lay in bed and let my mind drift. Most of the time I rehash things that are troubling me. Stress often takes over and I can't stay in a restful state for long, but every now and then my addled brain takes a detour down memory lane and I meander through well-worn territory.

Today my mind took me back to my grandmother's old Victorian in Hudson, NY. I've blogged about memories of her home before. Today I remembered a few things I don't think I've consciously thought about in decades. For one thing, her basement. I was too frightened to go into the basement, let me say first. So all my knowledge of the space is second hand. I remember my father telling me it had a very low ceiling and you had to stoop to walk around. The floor was packed earth and it always smelled like walking into an open grave. Yes. Creepy! It was very dark down there...the only light a bare bulb or two. I recall a coal chute opening outside the house and a double storm-cellar-door type opening in the rear of the house. I remember looking down the staircase that curved around a tight corner headed down into the dark from the kitchen. The unfinished walls in the stairway had open wood beams backed by raw plaster that had been converted into make-shift shelves. Jars, boxes, bulbs, tools...all sorts of odds and ends lined the staircase headed down into the gloom.

Why think about a space I was too frightened to enter? Well...I found myself thinking about the foundation of the house. Stacked stones with mortar added in decades later to try and block out wildlife and moisture. Great wood beams added to try and shore up what was slowly crumbling away. The house was leaning, you see. It was not really noticeable on the first floor, but on the second and third floors? Oh boy!

That thought about the sloping floor is what brought to mind the marble.

There was a whole bag of marbles in the beginning. They must have belonged to my Dad or his brother. Some were chipped and scratched, so they had obviously been well played with. They were beautiful! No one makes marbles like those anymore. You hear people talk about "cat's eye" marbles. There was one in the bag that was the actual semi-precious stone cat's eye. It was glossy with glowing layers of browns and golds. But that wasn't my favorite. Mine was a pale blue orb that seemed to glow with it's own light. It was completely crystal clear and fairly large.

My brother and I would have marble races in my aunt's old bedroom (the room we usually stayed in when visiting because of the two twin beds and day bed occupying the space.) We would set a couple marbles down by the door and watch them quickly roll away toward the front of the house. See? Sloped. It made us giggle! Kids making their own fun. What could be better?

I never used the pale blue marble for these races. I didn't want it to get scratched. That marble was the focus of a lot of daydreams. It became my crystal ball. I would stare into it and imagine it had magical properties. I could see the future! There were stories that ran through my mind...how did this magic crystal orb end up in a child's bag of marbles? I could sit here and write all day!

But let's skip ahead. My brother and I would often ask my grandmother if we could keep various things we'd found over the years. Sometimes she would say yes. Often she said no. I came away with a collection of old 45s that had belonged to my aunt, some books...however, she always said no when we asked if we could keep the marbles. I have no idea why.

So one visit, I pocketed the pale blue marble and took it home. I had to do it! It TOLD me to do it!

I know. It was a very naughty thing to do. I had that marble for years and years. I often kept it in my purse. Eventually it ended up in a keepsake box. I know I still have it. Somewhere.

So yes. I've been lying in bed thinking about a marble. My first crystal ball. I hope I find it one of these days.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

...when banging your head against the wall is all you can do.

There are several things I've struggled with in life that I feared would, one day, come back to bite me. One was my utter lack of organizational skills. I was a machine at work. Organized out the wazoo! I had to be, or I'd never get anything done. At home? I'm happy when I can find a top and pants that match and remember where I left my purse. Driving the boys to school? Yes, I have done it in bare feet because I couldn't locate my shoes. I'm not proud of that. Back in college, I never knew when exams were or where to go. Term paper? What paper?! And forget about note taking. I stunk.

Then there is the whole "remembering stuff" thing. Birthdays? Important dates? Appointments? Horrible. Simply horrible. If your birthday is the same as mine, or it falls on a beloved holiday (I never forget my friend Beth's birthday on Feb 14th or my Brother's on Christmas Eve) you might have a prayer of me wishing you a happy one. Thank jeebus for FaceBook. I love seeing those little "Today is Shoebeedo's Birthday!" I always pop over to wish people a happy one when I see those reminders. Y'all are the lucky ones. My mom and dad aren't on FB so I am likely to forget to send a card again this year. ;)

Making appointments? Oh no. That means I have to compose my thoughts and MAKE A PHONE CALL. [cue tense horror movie music]  Pretty much, anything involving talking on the phone is out. I just got off the phone with one of Tyler's teachers and I am pretty sure I had nothing coherent to say. Deer in the headlights moment.

Which brings me full circle. Tyler is having problems. He lacks organizational skills. He has no clue how to take notes, get his homework done in a timely fashion or tackle large projects. Notes his teachers send home get lost somewhere between their hand, his hand, his backpack and home. They vanish. Mysteriously. Homework? What homework? Yes, they try to keep him organized. We try. He has all the tools, folders, planners and notebooks any child could possibly need. He doesn't use them. They get "lost". He claims he never had them. On and on and on.

[checks ass for bite marks]

So I get phone calls from school. 2 weeks into school and Tyler is already nearly hopelessly behind. He can't find anything, he doesn't want to even try. He is done with school. It's all "stupid". Who does the school look to for help? Me. *sigh* I swear, if I were even SLIGHTLY organized, I would home-school my kids! But I am a hopeless case. I don't even know where to start with Tyler. Good study habits?! What the heck are those???

I think it's time for a family meeting. I need Tyler's buy in on some ground rules. If he doesn't agree to some changes, then I'll just be spinning my wheels and causing more fights. I don't want to fight. I hate fighting! I try to remember back to when I was his age. My mother would nag a bit for me to go get my homework done. Sure, I'd procrastinate. But eventually I'd do it. She didn't have to stand over me. They never checked what I did. None of my teachers ever called my parents. Never ever. I got through school. I'm sure there are things I could have done better. I know I could have gotten better grades if I were more organized and applied myself more. But I didn't. I did the minimum. I got by.

How do I get Tyler to at least do that?! The minimum. Just...get by! I'm not setting the bar very high here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

...to the ER! Stat!

The beginning of the week, I knew something nasty was brewing under my arm. I've had a small (lima bean sized) cyst there for years. It sometimes swells a tiny bit at "that time" of the month, but was otherwise painlessly unremarkable. I could feel it if I pushed down on my skin and had a doctor check it a few times over the years (worried about cancer and all that.) Monday? It was a golf ball. The swelling was NOT going down, even with ice packs. I called the doc. I guess I didn't communicate the urgency of the situation well enough because the friendly but ignorant fellow who schedules things didn't have anything sooner than the next Tuesday (another week and a day away.)

Could I make it a week with a painful golf ball under my arm? Hmm. Perhaps.

Perhaps not! By Thursday it was the size of an orange. I hadn't slept more than an hour at a time for days and couldn't lower my arm at all. I kept my physical therapy appointment Thursday and she very kindly checked my temp (because sepsis is bad) and didn't make me lift weights with my left arm. Thank goodness! But my heart rate was crazy high in half the time it normally takes. Not good. I'd noticed this on Wednesday at the gym too, so I slowed my walking a bit.

Yes, I get it. I'm crazy. I should have gone to the ER on Monday. I went today. They were slammed and short staffed, but did put me in a curtained stall fairly quickly after triage. I was left alone for long stretches waiting for an available doctor/nurse so I got to listen in to the goings on.

To my right was a little old Polish grandma who spoke no English. 87 years old, bless her heart. She'd fallen and hit her head. Luckily her devoted daughter found her pretty quickly and acted as an interpreter - never leaving her side. They conversed avidly in Polish each time the various hospital personnel visited. The blood guy - who couldn't find a good vein but managed to splash a fair quantity on the floor for me to stare at under the curtain. The nice sounding Italian fella who came to bring her for her x-rays (he apologized for only knowing English and Italian and not Polish.) The girl who brought her for a cat scan (and was the first to notice the blood puddle on the floor.) The second girl who came to try and draw more blood (and was successful.) Each visitor apologized for making her wait so long and acknowledged her agitation and strong desire to go home. I must have missed the agitated part. She sounded in good spirits and reasonable to me. But what do I know. I don't speak a word of Polish.

To my left was someone moaning in pain at regular intervals. Various people would come in to ask questions and each time she said something different about why she was there and where the pain was coming from. She was already wearing 2 pain patches (morphine, according to her) and was on other oral pain killers. Let's see, she mentioned an auto accident, two surgeries, a rod in her leg, being run over, a strange lump (hey! that was MY complaint), a torn rotator cuff from 2 years previously...good gracious I could go on and on. Her moans would get louder if hospital staff was within earshot. She wouldn't let them close her curtains either. Just from the tone staff took with her and the types of questions they were asking...I got the impression she was a "drug seeker". For someone in as much pain as she complained of, they sure left her in there a LONG LONG time.

Finally, a doctor and nurse came in loaded down with gear. I was told a "slight pinch" as he anesthetized the area under my arm. I was swabbed with lidocaine then he needle jabbed me 10 times or so with something else then poked at my alien growth. Hard. OUCH! Nope, I can still feel that. A lot. A whole lot! He jabbed me with more. Another cursory squeeze and poke. Oh bloody hell ouch! OUCH! Nope. More jabs. My gosh I felt close to 30 needle sticks and I guess they gave up trying to numb the area. That's when the cut and the crushing and squeezing began in earnest. I felt like I was delivering a bowling ball through a pin hole. With an extra side of pain. I was howling in pain. SCREAMING in agony. They kept apologizing but kept right on inflicting more pain. It just went on and on. At one point he asked for tongs because he could see the sac. Forceps delivery. The alien baby was born! Ugh. Just when I thought I couldn't take it anymore, he said he was packing the wound and hoped he'd cleaned it all out.

I was sobbing and shaking. I couldn't stop. Horrible. They left me to rest and compose myself for a bit. As my breathing calmed down I started to notice how quiet it was. Polish grandma was still away having her cat scan and drug seeker? I guess real screams of agony shut HER up. But good. I didn't hear a peep out of her for at least 30 minutes. Then she started up the moaning when a nurse came to check on me. I was chuckling on the inside.

Finally a nice fella with a cup full of drugs stopped in. Horse pills! But I was never happier to see a cup of pills ever before in my life. Thank you gods of chemistry! He brought me papers to sign, 3 prescriptions, some cursory instructions and a "rest for a bit, we'll discharge you shortly." Thank you Jeebus!

I was so happy when the nurse stuck her head in and said I could get dressed. I just wanted to be home and in my own bed. I was still really shaky and a little disoriented. They don't put you in a wheelchair and bring you to the door any more. When did they stop doing that? I wish they'd done that. It was a fairly long walk from the curtain area back to the waiting room. I weaved my way back, praying I'd see the hubby and kids waiting. It had been hours. I'd sent them away earlier (to get food and spend time away from the ER.) A scan of the waiting area and a motley assortment of shady looking characters that were NOT my family told me I needed a phone. My cell battery was dead. As usual. Luckily they have a courtesy phone hanging on the wall (WAY above wheel chair accessible height, I might add) and I called home. No answer. Rats.

I hung up on the brink of full blown panic when I spotted Max skipping his way through the ER entrance. Whew! I was so happy to see John and Max I nearly keeled over and burst into tears. I was glad they didn't come into the back with me - NOT an experience for kids - but, at the same time, I wished I'd had someone with me. Drug seeker and Polish Grandma's daughter were not very chatty. Thank goodness for my Kindle and Facebook! Although after the procedure, they'd put up the rails on my bed and I couldn't get up to get it. I knew I should have kept it in bed with me. Heh.

Now for some much needed rest. I vow not to even LOOK at these bandages until tomorrow. I don't want to see the aftermath. Nope. Really really don't. But thank you ER nurse who gave me an arm-load of padding, gauze pads, and tape. Maybe John will change my dressing. Eh...maybe I don't want him to see either. Ick.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Crunch!

That is the noise my neck makes when ever I move my head from side to side (see post title above.) It is also the name of the gym I joined last week. Yup. I joined a GYM! *checks to see if pigs are flying outside my window*

I am going to assume hell is still a very toasty temp too. Heh heh. You know what? I like it! I've had two gym memberships in the past. One at Lucille Roberts - I think I went 2 or 3 times then paid the membership fees for 2 years after that. One at Curves - there I was moderately more successful. I went for about 6 months and was doing well but came down with an upper respiratory infection and was in bed for a week and recovering for nearly 2 months after. I never went back. Continued to PAY for it for years after, but just couldn't bring myself to go. Then I had a bad slip and fall accident on ice in my driveway (I'm sure I blogged about it somewhere in here) and that was all she wrote.

The thought of going to a gym was terrifying after that. I was in so much pain daily I didn't think I'd ever recover. I couldn't move, I ate away my depression and the bigger I got the less I moved until I was an invalid. I couldn't even walk from my family room to the bathroom without feeling like I was going to pass out from the pain.

Yeah. Rough shape.

So now? I am 70 lbs lighter, I swam an average of 4 days a week all summer, I saw an exercise physiologist through my weight loss clinic two weeks ago and she designed a workout plan for me. Plan in hand, I waltzed (well, limped slightly since I still walk with a cane) into my local Crunch Fitness and signed up.

Their very nice personal trainer Marie got me up to speed on one of the treadmills. Nice equipment there too! It's great joining a brand new gym (they have been open less than a year here in town.) I had my second workout today and I feel really good.  Workouts in the past always left me feeling like I was about to DIE. Suellyn told me that kind of punishing workout is not the way to go. I need to gradually increase my intensity at a pace that works for me. If it's too hard, I won't stick with it. Makes total sense, right? Shocking.

So I am walking 3/4 of a mile at 1.8 mph. I slowly get up to that speed and monitor my heart-rate with a target of 130 bpm. Then I walk steadily for 20 minutes and then gradually cool down until my hear-rate is around 100. That way I don't faint on my way out of the gym. ;) So far, so good. I'm sure I'll go faster and further as my stamina and physical fitness level improves. I'll have to work a little harder to get to my target heart-rate. I look forward to playing with all the buttons on that treadmill. Imagine, me...looking forward to "hills". Oh the mountains I will climb. I hope.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

What are you eating?!

We are coming up on the one year mark since I embarked on some major lifestyle changes. 65 pounds gone and a ways to go yet, I find myself thinking about how far I've really come. It's not about the pounds anymore. It's about how I feel. Do I have the energy to get out of bed? How are my pain levels? Does the thought of leaving the house fill me with dread or excitement? Yep. I've come a long long way this year.

How, you ask? There is no easy answer to that question. I started with small changes. I stopped drinking soda. Then I gave up candy. Then I gave up sugar, period. Then came potatoes, rice, corn, grains, excessively starchy vegetables in general, overly sugary fruits, anything containing corn syrup or other sweeteners...and that brings me to today.

I read labels now. Yep. And it has been an eye-opener! My GOD this country has gone to hell, nutritionally speaking. They put sugar and/or corn syrup in nearly EVERYTHING we eat. If it comes in a box, bottle, jar or can chances are very good they added some of that sweet crap. No wonder grains make up the base of the government approved food pyramid. Who ever is producing the lion's share of the grain, beets or cane that give us these sweeteners must be freaking RICH. We are a nation of addicts. Yes. I said it. You are all addicted to that sickly sweet CRAP that passes as food in the average American diet. I know. I was THERE this time last year. It wasn't pretty.

Don't get me started on GMOs. What is a GMO, you ask? Google it. It's not enough that we keep all our farmers employed. No. We have to tamper with the genetics of our food so it grows faster, bigger, more drought and blight resistant... What's wrong with that? Isn't that a good thing? Well, no. Not when these genetically altered food sources haven't had any long term testing done. We feed this stuff to our children. Hello? Alarming rise in autism rates? Depression? Other forms of altered brain chemistry, cancers, auto-immune disorders, on and on. We can't blame it all on pesticides, pollution and other worldly ills.

OK! So we swear off GMOs, sweet crap and unhealthy starches. Now what? A nice juicy steak, some healthy green veggies like kale, some creamy Greek yogurt with fresh juicy strawberries...wait. That cow has been injected with hormones and antibiotics to make it fatter and more disease resistant. The meat and milk are tainted with it. That kale and those strawberries were sprayed with 13 different kinds of pesticides and no amount of washing will fix it.

Now what? Organic! Grass fed! No hormones or antibiotics! Free range! Yes! Crud. My supermarket carries hardly any of these kinds of products. The few organic things I can find are nearly twice as expensive.

Sure, I've found a few places I can order in bulk, online. CRAZY expensive sources. I could start raising my own cows, pigs, chickens, veggies and fruits... hahahaha! I may have been born in farm country, but I'm no farmer.

So that's it then. I'll just stop eating. It's the only solution. :p