Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Open Heart

Have you ever put yourself in someone else’s shoes and actually felt what they were going through?  I do this occasionally.  Sometimes it’s with the woman I see in the pasta aisle at Weis - ‘should I go with the penne or the fettuccini’?; other times it’s with a familiar face.  I feel their emotion.  It’s just the weirdest thing.  There’s a word for it…you’re almost switching your soul with someone else.  Can’t remember the word, but I’ve done it. 

Why?  I have no idea.  Maybe it’s a curiosity to experience another life’s battle or maybe it’s just out of sheer boredom. 

I started reading an amazing story about a young man named Brian Boyle: high school athlete, drug free, honor roll student gets in a traumatic auto crash post graduation.  He winds up losing sixty percent of his blood, breaking numerous bones (including his pelvis), punctures his lungs, loses his spleen and gallbladder and needs kidney dialysis.  His heart jumped three inches across his chest as a result of the impact from a speeding dump truck.  After surviving numerous surgeries, including open heart, a few cardiac arrests and being in a medically induced coma Brian made it out of the woods.  Brian walked again.  Brian swam again.  Brian finished an Iron Man Triathlon three years after his accident.  Miracles do happen.

I had another shit day.  So, the saying goes…(insert cliché here). When things don’t go as you’d like it’s difficult to find the positives.  I try to take a deep breath and do just this.  Sometimes I forget to breathe.  Yes, the yoga instructor forgot to breathe. 

Late start today…work…inhaled lunch…quick, gotta leave to pick up Ava for a sick appointment…wait 30 minutes for doctor (that’s another story for another time)…drive to hospital…drop off script, ‘that’ll be thirty minutes’…visit Grandpa…pick up script…head home…make quick dinner for Ava…

Whew!  As I’m settling down with a glass of wine, Ava decides to throw the rest of her dinner in a playful way.  The look on her face is pure enjoyment, but this just pisses me off.  It’s not appropriate and I take her plate away.  After a stand off she and I go upstairs to prepare the tubby. 

The big man gets ready for his hockey game and Ava gets in the tub.  I’m like a machine getting her bathed.  After the process part of the tubby I let her play.  I sit back on the toilet lid and take a deep breath.  I carefully observe Ava splashing water, rubbing her belly with the washcloth and just smiling while having a good time.  It melts my heart.


I think of Brian Boyle…and his parents.  My mind subconsciously puts me in his Mom’s shoes.  Tears instantly fall from my eyes.  I cannot imagine the pain that she endured after hearing the news of her son’s accident.  Her baby.  Her only baby.  Heartbreaking. 

Immediately my mind shifts to a friend.  Her daughter passed away April 2009 after a short, but painful battle with cancer.  I saw the pain in her eyes and I still couldn’t imagine what she was going through.  Each evening that I put Ava to bed I asked her to think of that strong girl who was fighting for her life and the family surrounding her, holding on to hope.  As I laid the blanket over my daughter’s tiny body I silently sobbed, hoping to never be in that situation.  I can’t ever imagine seeing my baby girl suffer all that pain with no remedy.  I see images of a broken mother holding the hand of her baby girl as her soul slips away. 

We take so much for granted; in an instant it can all be destroyed.  Or perhaps, put into perspective. 

It’s 10 pm…Ava’s been sleeping for about 1 1/2 hours.  I just want to hold her hand and give her a hug.  I want her to know that I will ALWAYS be there for her.  I am her rock.  And she is mine. 

Don’t have kids?  Put yourself in my shoes.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Afternoon

It’s a poor attempt at a title. There’s no zip, nothing snazzy. Guess this is me now.

The past few days have been less than enjoyable when it comes to being on-call. Most of my waking hours yesterday was spent on the phone working on issues. By 9 pm I was in bed barely awake reading the beginnings of what is going to be an inspiring book.

I woke up early to get some work done and felt a feeling of dread with each breath I took. I was fearful that my pager would alarm. I just wanted a few hours of peace. With the first sip of my delicious coffee I hear Ava stir and start the first verse of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’. Cute, but I just needed a few more minutes to myself. I grabbed my book and finished another chapter.

The rest of my morning spiraled into a yelling match with the dog while nearly landing on my back as I slid through his puddle of puke. This woke up the big man who was also less than thrilled with my boisterous bark.

My fear of being paged continued as I started to get ready for a friend’s bridal shower. What if I got paged? What if I couldn’t get there on time? What if I had to leave early? What if the same issue happens? What if? My entire morning was driven by ‘what if’s’. Not good for stress levels.

Well, I was going anyway. I made sure the on-call laptop was in the car and I headed out, alone.

As I started down my street I tried to recall the last time I was alone for a few hours – alone, with no husband or child. Alone. It felt nice. I hopped on the highway and as I got up to speed, played with the radio presets until I found something uplifting. I stopped on a local station playing jazz. Ahhhh…unwinding…

I quickly adjusted the rear view mirror and realized that there were some new grey hairs. I definitely got those yesterday. Definitely. I made a mental note to take a day off and schedule both a massage and a color. I desperately needed some pampering.

I sat back in my seat and focused on driving. Then something overwhelmed me…in a GOOD way. It was the jazz. The soulful bass beats, the crisp ride cymbal and the electric guitar filled my car and relaxed my muscles. I was instantly flooded with memories of my college dorm. I believe it went something like this:

It was September of 1997. A college friend came to my dorm room asking me to ‘entertain’ a friend from his home town while he attended a fraternity meeting. Okay. Weird. So, in walks Jen. The rest is history. We hit it off like a bunch of old friends.

My room always felt welcoming and warm. I tried to create a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere for both myself and my guests. If people weren’t comfortable or having a good time I wasn’t either. Lighting was always dim and accentuated by scented candles. Yes…I had two lava lamps. :) I had adorned a wall with a large tapestry that enhanced the warmness of the room with it’s rich colors and subtle flower pattern. I created a cozy sitting area with two bucket seats, a small round table and a soft glowing lamp.

Jen and I had our first of many discussions at this sitting area over numerous cups of tea with jazz in the background. We drank cups of regular flavored tea with sugar cubes and light cream. Jen introduced me to the sugar cubes. One afternoon, prior to Jen coming up to school (she lived in Jersey) she called to ask if I needed anything. I had just run out of sugar packets and wouldn’t make it to the dining hall to steal some. I requested a box of sugar. Jen shows up with sugar cubes. From that moment on sugar cubes were the way to go.

Day after day we went through cups of tea, boxes of sugar cubes, half pints of light cream and packs of cigarettes. Whether we were deeply discussing the complexity of her mother’s rich Italian cooking or we were gossiping about the boys in our lives it was always over tea and jazz.

Those days were spent in near seclusion. I didn’t go out often, but everyone came to my lair. Perhaps I was grossly depressed; I was undoubtedly hiding from something. The environment was my escape. At the time I think I thought I was pretty put together. Maybe it’s my sense of maturity, now, that makes me realize this was not the case. I was living in my own little world, but it felt good, both emotionally, spiritually and physically. It was welcoming and warm; accepting and therapeutic; familiar and enabling.

Things change. Jen and I eventually grew apart, my furniture moved, I finally graduated and the rest is another chapter in my history.

Today, over ten years later, I remembered those times. The jazz brought me back there, to a familiar time. I smiled. The radio lost reception and I was forced to change the station. The moment was again lost in my history. For a few more moments I saw me and Jen sitting across from each other, drinking tea, smoking cigarettes and discussing the bullshit of the day, while jazz hummed in the back ground.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Soft toes; gentle hands

Crazy day...
Day one of being on call. It's not a challenge to actually handle issues as they come in (whether day or night); it's most challenging to get to work by 8 am. Day care is a total of 10 miles away from work and I only live one mile away.
Most of these mornings are spent rushing, no matter how much I prepare the night before. I go without breakfast (never good) and always forget to take my vitamins, even when I put them in my purse. I don't bother packing my gym clothes because I can't get there during these days. Lunch is typically rushed, too. It just the most physically, mentally and emotionally unhealthy week. And they come once every few months.
I rush out of work at 5 pm to get Ava. After leisurely chatting with Ava's teachers I battle darkness and traffic through my drive home. By about 5:45 we're getting dinner on the table and I'm trying to unwind. Did I mention that I only live 1 mile from work?
So after the routine of cleaning up there's some play time, before we take a bath and settle into our night night routine. Usually about this time I'm stressing about having to do it all over again tomorrow. Shit.
But that only lasted for five minutes tonight.
I attentively watched Ava pull each of her books from the neat pile I made in a corner of the family room. She'd take a book and find a spot to sit down. She extended her legs, with her ankles naturally flexed and toes subconsciously wiggling, placed the book across her lap and began to read. She'd blabble some words, then smooth her hand over the page until she reached the top right hand corner of the book. She would then ruffle the pages until she felt just one and then turned the page. After finishing a book she got up and repeated the process all over again.
I was dazed. I think I could have watched this all night. I think I relaxed for that moment.
I wanted to grab her wiggly toes and hold her soft hand in mine. I wanted that time to never end.
I appreciated that quiet mental time.
But, that'll all be gone tomorrow. I'm on call ya know!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Well, I thought that was funny…

I celebrated the one year anniversary of my first 5K with a 5K!  Back in October I ran the Emmaus Halloween Parade 5K, in a French maid costume, of course.

The first year I was inspired by a famous tutu wearing runner; I wanted to wear a tutu.  Turns out that a close friend had a black tutu which was part of a bumble bee costume.  I was a bumble bee. 

It was a cold Saturday night and I wasn’t used to running at that time of day.  After a few brief stretches the group, mostly dressed in costume, gathered at the start line and took off.  I shed a tear.  This was a monumental event for me – my first 5K.  I was running for so many reasons, but that one moment was all for me.  The course was mostly flat, probably because the parade participants follow the same route.  About 3/4 of the way up Chestnut Street I was praying for the race to be over.  We looped around a corner and started heading back to the start line, parallel with Chestnut Street, so we could run up Chestnut ALL OVER AGAIN!  Ugh. 

Running up Chestnut again I saw a young girl, jumping up and down while holding a poster board with something scribbled on it.  As I got closer I could see that the sign said 1 MILE.  Wow!  One mile to go.  Great!  What a relief…until I realized that I had only run one mile.  There were 2.1 miles left to go.  Ugh.  Defeat again.

I sucked it up and got into a rhythm.  I started to enjoy the time I had with all these costumed crazies.    I wound up being passed by three men dressed as bananas.  Yes, they were life-sized, six foot bananas.  Very funny.  They settled into a groove just in front of me and there we stayed for almost the rest of the race.  Three bananas being trailed by a bumble bee.

With each block we passed people were yelling, ‘BANANAS!’ and ‘GO BANANAS!’  No one gave a hoot about the bumble bee, but it was so funny to hear people yell for bananas.  They were just as crazy as we.  And just like the snap of my fingers I hated the bananas.  WHAT ABOUT THE BEE?!?!?!?!  Yup, there are bananas running.  Yup, ‘go bananas’, pretty funny. 

As some point they kicked it into high gear (or more likely, I just lost some speed) and they were a distant memory.  I finished the race, eventually, at 34 minutes and change.  Not bad for my first race, in the cold, at night, while wearing a bee costume! 

Fast forward to December 31, 2009.

At the last moment I decided to run the Bethlehem First Night 5K.  It was a day race following a brief, but wicked dumping of snow.  I suited up and hopped in the car.  With some races, there were people dressed in costume.  I prefer to be with the majority, so I’m okay only wearing a silly outfit in a Halloween run. 

The group gathered at the start/finish line and took off.  It was a slow start – runners mixed with walkers, but we pulled away from the pack and got into our own.  The first road was completely snow covered, but with some prior experience I was able to safely navigate.  In the distance I could see a hill, an icy hill.  The group started to slow down, but I decided to speed up. 

I saw a banana in the distance.

I instantly thought of that first race – those damn bananas.  It’s kind of funny that I’m cursing bananas.  Whatever!  I was tired of being (or BEE-ing) behind the bananas…the crowd was rooting for them.  No one cared about the bee.  Yes, perhaps I’m a little bitter…unlike my ripe banana enemies. 

There’s a book out there called The Runner's Rule Book: Everything a Runner Needs to Know--And Then Some.  I don’t have it, but I skimmed the back cover.  It’s an honest (and sometimes funny) compilation of rules for running. 

So rule 2.32 came to mind…oddly enough, it’s probably one of the few rules I remember while peeling through the book.  Drum roll, please.

“Rule 2.32 Do whatever it takes to finish ahead of a costumed runner.”

This would be a difficult feat for an amateur runner during a costumed race, but not too difficult when the costumed are the minority.

As I approached the banana, remember…on the icy hill, I looked to the woman on my left and said, “I was beat by a banana last year, but not today.”  With that I pushed off from the base of the hill and swiftly passed the lone banana, all while chuckling to myself.

Guess you just had to be there.