Monday, January 30, 2012

Dad LIkes Things Just So

Dad subscribes to the daily and Sunday editions of the N.Y. Times. The newspapers arrive in a thin blue plastic bag. Dad doesn't read much of the paper but he always looks at the front page and has one of the caregivers give him the small font Exxon stock quote from the Business Section.

Dad saves the Sunday paper for me. He never opens the blue bag and has little interest its contents. He knows I love the Sunday paper with the Book Section and all the other extras. He is extremely particular about wanting the Sunday paper intact in the blue bag, resting on the side chair in his bedroom where he can keep an eye on it until I come by to visit and pick it up. Caregivers offer to take the paper out of its wrapping but Dad has a vehement "No" response.

Just why he is so particular about this small ritual interests me. He's not at all happy when there is any variation from what he feels is the way it should be. I smile inside. Let him be finicky, picky, an insistent on things being a certain way.

He'll be 95 in about ten days. He can be however he wants to be and we don't need to know why.

Near Northgate Mall

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Free Floating Anxiety

Today and tomorrow are my last days off before the week on call starts on Monday. Even though I've had a nice long break since my last week on the hospital service in December, I still dread jumping into the fray once again. Unpredictable, challenging, frustrating, exhausting on the one hand and, just to be fair, also (occasionally) exhilarating, enlivening, fulfilling, and (maybe) fun on the other hand. Right now I'm not feeling fair so the first four descriptors are the way I really feel about next week.

Coupled with thoughts of the future (why can't I live in the moment?), other free floating anxieties plague me.

Yesterday my colleague's two young children came by the office. Three and seven years old, they laughed and played with their Dad's I phone, the joyous giggles a reminder of how in-the-moment kids live and how innocently they move through time and space. Unencumbered by thoughts of the future or the past, I long to cultivate the child's mind. Whisked back to twenty years ago when my two were youngsters, a pang of bittersweet swept through me.

Everyone knows: parenting never ends. Parenting just changes face. It's not necessarily easier or more difficult; each phase is new, uncharted territory. How we respond as parents to whatever happens in our children's lives is individual but we still respond. Doing nothing or something counts as a response.

I am a worrier. I think about the effect of natural elements: snow, rain, ice, water, wind.  I ponder abduction, assaults, accidents, and alcohol.  Fire (I learned that from my Mom most surely) lingers in the background of everything. When my kids are on the road or out of town, my thoughts get pulled back to where they are and what they might be experiencing.

Is this internal wiring, learned behavior (I had the most powerful role model Mom) or both?

The physical feeling is a tightening in my shoulders and a I realize my breath is uneven and short. I need to open into utrasana pose  and breathe in and out with intention.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

So Sweet, Dad....

This week with our stormy, icy, snowy weather, my Dad has worried about me driving about in the elements. This was always my Mom's job. My Dad stood by, watching her torque up about all manner of disastrous things that might happen, no matter how unlikely. My impression was that he rarely, if ever, let himself get wound up in worry. Not so now.

It seems my Dad has taken over the role of  "elder worrier" although he has his own unique touch.

The other night we chatted on the phone and he, aware of the treacherous weather, said, "I'll pray for your safety tomorrow [driving to work]." Unlike my Mom who'd always finish her call with an admonishment to "call me when you get home", Dad's voice cracked with emotion. Hearing his concern made me feel at once sad and touched. So sweet, Dad.

When I called him yesterday to let him know that I was safe and sound, out of harm's way and inside for the rest of the day, the relief in his voice was palpable. "I'm so glad to hear you voice, sweetheart."
So sweet, Dad.

Round two today with more rugged weather and another phone call to  Dad. One of his caregivers answered his phone and shared with me that Dad had been asking about me, "about 5 times". So sweet Dad.

I'm home, Dad. We'll catch up again tomorrow.


Western Washington has been beaten up by snow, ice, freezing rain, and wind over the last 3 days. The storm isn't over yet. We've a good 6-8 inches of snow at our house and the temperature is only 29 degrees. In other areas, conditions are worse; icy and treacherous. Power is out for a lot of folks from fallen trees, laden with ice.

View from hotel window Wed. AM
Tuesday night before the storm hit, I drove down to Federal Way and checked into a hotel so that I could make it to clinic Wednesday and Thursday. The drive in good weather takes just under an hour each way. I didn't want to fight the snow and ice Wednesday morning and it turns out that was a good call. By Wednesday morning the entire Puget Sound region was blanketed in snow. The 3 mile drive from the hotel to clinic took me almost half an hour on hard pack snow and ice. Due to inclement weather conditions, the clinic closed early, around 1 PM and everyone headed home.

I retreated back to the hotel, put my feet up and read all afternoon. Nice.

Overnight, there was freezing rain in Federal Way coupled with a drop in temperature to 28. Everything turned to ICE. My car was encased in a quarter to half inch of solid, frozen ice when I walked out of the hotel this morning. 30 minutes later, after hacking away with my two dollar ice chipper (did a pretty good job considering), I was ready to roll. Slowly. My car did well considering the conditions.

I definitely got in my work-out today chipping away at recalcitrant ice caked on my windshield, windows, and side rear view mirrors. Chunks came off in sheets that hit the ground and shattered into smaller pieces. Check out these photos of my car during the process.

Hard to believe this is my windshield from inside the car

Had to muscle my way into the car; frozen shut.

The frozen back window
Looks like cracks in the mirror but it's all ICE!

The drive to clinic once my car was de-iced wasn't too bad. Half a dozen brave patients made it in for their appointments but again, by 1 PM, the clinic shut down for the day.

The harrowing part of the journey was the drive back up Interstate 5 into Seattle with blowing winds, chunks of ice flying off of passing vehicles and blocking visibility, and intermittently icy roads. By the time I got into my neighborhood the roads were laden with freshly fallen snow which was almost fun to drive through compared to the freezing rain and ice. All a matter of perspective I suppose....

I'm so glad to be home!  It's warm, the power is on, and tomorrow is another day.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Of Mammography Suites and Anxiety

The Breast Center (aka mammography suite) at the clinic where I work is a lovely, modern and thoughtfully designed facility. Just inside the door is a small waiting room for those accompanying their  wives, girlfriends, mothers or friends to the procedure. Next is the registration desk, offset from the waiting room to preserve privacy. From there, the woman is escorted back to the dressing room area, given friendly, well rehearsed instructions on how to don the gown after undressing from the waist up and where to put the valuables. There are doors with locks on the well designed adjacent wall. The key attaches to a flexible pink plastic wrist-let which is worn into the inner sanctum, as I like to call it. This tastefully adorned room just for women-in-waiting invites. Lovely, comfortable chairs, soft lighting, and lots of magazines welcome the weary if not the slightly anxious. There's barely a sound to be heard.

And then, the summons. My turn and I'm led back into one of the exam rooms. Today I read the name on the machine: "Mammo-mat"; the vice that flattens that breast into a pancake. Nice. I've never seen the same technician twice in all these years of repeated mammograms. This one was prompt and efficient, going about her work with intention and care but little humor. Of course, she may have been reacting to my vibe which was serious and stoic.

Four views, two on each side. The images populated the screen within seconds and the technician showed me the pictures. I haven't a clue what's OK and what's not OK. I don't ask what she thinks much as I'd like to. She'd say she couldn't comment, I'm sure. I'll have to wait for the formal reading.

And then, it's over. Reverse order: past the inner sanctuary with other women quietly reading magazines to the re-dressing area and around the corner to the reception desk and out the door. I'm done. Slowly the anxiety creeps in. I feel it in my upper arms and shoulders, a tightening refusing to relax. Try as I might to divert my attention, the physical sensation will persist and my mind will periodically be pulled from the present moment to the future, the what if? question.

Two points:

The mammography suite has become an art form over the years; moving from a meager extension of the existing department of radiology to a distinct entity. Privacy is respected. No longer do women sit out in an exposed waiting room where the world walks by and the sign above reads "Mammography Department". The inner sanctum resembles a spa. If I weren't so edgy, I'd want to stay there all day and read magazines and ponder life, maybe with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc at my side.

Secondly, I can't escape the escalating anxiety over the results. The waiting time is short, way shorter than most women wait to learn of their results but I'm a gal that wants most things NOW. Once I get the good news, all that tension is history and the mammography suite evaporates; until next year around the same time..

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Thoughts to Consider

"We cannot do great things on the Earth, only small things with great love."

"There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives--the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them."

--Quotes from Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

This is the second day I've focused on quotes. I'm going within. Thinking. Pondering. Some people say it so well.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Great Question: Great Answer

Always in search of a pithy, powerful quote on the meaning of life, I came across this fifteen word sentence that made me sit back and smile as I invited this thought into my mind. Yes; if this isn't "it", then it's close enough for me.

See what you think.....

"The central purpose of each life should be to dilute the misery of this world." 

Karl Menninger spoke these words, He was born in 1893 and went on to become a famous psychiatrist. He was a co-founder of the Menninger Clinic in the 1920's, a clinic with a revolutionary approach to the treatment of persons with mental illness.  The Menninger Clinic, opened in Topeka, Kansas but more recently relocated to Houston in affiliation with the Baylor College of Medicine.

This quote resonates with me. I've not read or heard a more succinct statement of why we are here on this earth.  There are endless ways to dilute misery. Every one of them counts. Life and love are verbs. Let's, all of us, get going.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Commitment (of sorts) to Healthier Eating

Does a week of "being good" constitute a commitment to healthy eating? I hope so. The fact that D and I are BOTH following Weight Watchers makes for mutual reinforcement . No, we aren't going to meetings; this foray into health is on line, consistent with the times, I suppose. We started on New Years Day.

Usually he's on Atkins which is all about meat, cheese and eggs. I've played around with South Beach which is in no way sustainable for a carb lover like myself. Weight Watchers is a reasonable way to get healthy; it's not about deprivation as much as it is about choices. I like that.

Yesterday we went shopping and spent most of our time in the produce aisle; I suspect that's the point.
D, ever the cook, made two  hearty soups yesterday and is making a duo of other dishes tonight. We'll  be well positioned for a healthy week of eating.

We've yet to dial in the exercise portion of the commitment; somehow it's just too cold and wet out there and there are too many temptations inside the house (surfing the net for me, on-line gaming for him). Both of us know the exercise part is key. Somehow I rather cut back on food and sit still rather than move my body and eat more. Choices. Choices.

Visiting Dad

I try to visit my Dad every day that I'm NOT working. That could be two times a week at my busiest times or 4 times a week on a less busy stretch of time. When my brother and sister are in town, I scarcely (if at all) visit. Once they leave for home, my visits begin again, shorter, maybe an hour but often a bit less. My sibs stay with Dad for hours at a clip and take him out in the car for a drive, to church or they sit together, pouring over old letters and photographs. I think the local offspring (me) paints the background and the far afield children spice up the canvas with color and interest. The marathon vs the sprint, or some such analogy.

All this is O.K.  This is a practical and effective use of time. Dad appreciates all of it. He says so.

He'll be 95 in a month. Celebrations are in order. He's looking forward to his birthday and has mentioned it several times.

Today he gave me the Sunday NY Times which is his custom. I sat in the chair opposite him and flipped through the Book Review. I gave him the front section as is his interest. He never pulls the blue plastic wrap off the Sunday paper; he waits for me to arrive, open the paper and then we sit together. Reading.

He's doing amazingly well. For that, I'm grateful.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Really? Who Wears These?

In the words of my daughter...."Who does that?" Or perhaps, "Who wears that?"
I found these treasures online today while researching shoe styles for an upcoming post on my other blog. The shoes have nothing to do with my post but I thought, Good God, who would wear these? On the other hand, who would wear these?

Better these black shoes than the backless, ankle strap men's shoes. I mean, really....who thinks of this stuff?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Trash, Yard Waste, Recycling and Swapapalooza

Monday, January 2nd and all is well. The trash, yard waste and recycling trucks all made a stop in front of our house today.

It's so wonderful to unload stuff.

I feel lighter already.

The good news is that most of that stuff was either biodegradable or recyclable; very little trash.

I'm starting in (slowly) on the closets, weeding out more stuff to give away or clothing to trade away at Swapapaloooza. This year I'll finally make to the big event in February. My niece, Jeanne is one of the founding members of what is now in its 4th year. Check out the web site and see what happens when women sort through their closets and trade away what is no longer worn but is still a great piece of clothing. Tremendous idea, Jeanne! I wonder what treasures I'll find this year.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

January the First

The New Year begins!

Just past midnight, the fireworks lit up the chilly night sky to welcome in the start of another year. D and I sipped on champagne and enjoyed the light show from the comfort of a warm living-room. One of these years we'll venture down to the Space Needle for an up-close look. Never have done that in 20 years of New Year's Eves.

The clock flips over to January 2nd soon but not without a tasty meal of black-eyed peas and split pea soup.

Let 2012 begin!