Sunday, November 28, 2010

Stand Up

I haven't posted in a couple of weeks, so I actually do have a few things to write about. Since all of them but one will require that I take a little time to organize my thoughts into coherent sentences, I'll do the easy one first, while it's timely.

Did any of you spend Thanksgiving night the way I did, feeling full from Thanksgiving dinner, happy from time spent laughing with people you love, then finally settling down in front of the TV to just bask in all those good feelings? If so, then maybe you, too, had your heart filled all the way up to the brim by watching "CNN Heroes."

I look forward to this show every year. The "heroes" inspire me deeply. They're everyday people who see a need and get busy filling it, regardless of personal sacrifices and obstacles they may encounter along the way.

When I typed the words "everyday people" above, I almost followed them by the phrase, "like you and me," but that would have been a lie. You might have their special kind of substance and character, but I know I don't have as much of the "right stuff" as they do. I wish I did.

Now, before you get the idea that I'm a total loser, let me defend myself. I think I'm capable of standing up for the underdog in scenarios such as those set up on ABC's "What Would You Do?" I probably have just enough gumption to take on one abusive boyfriend or binge-drinking airline pilot at a time.  But show me a problem like child slave trafficking or millions of African children with no light in their homes to study by, and I'm out of there. I'll feel very sad about it, but I'll go home and watch "American Idol" to get it off my mind.

Back to the "Heroes" show. After listening to the stories of all ten nominees, I was both shocked by the magnitude of the problems they have recognized and immensely inspired by the actions they've taken toward solving those problems. These are people who have seen for themselves how harsh the world can be, and when they smiled and even danced as they waved a "LOVE" flag during the final musical performance of the evening, I was moved to tears. I realized then that love is the key to the whole thing. Yes, these people have extraordinary amounts of courage and fortitude, but they do what they do because of their great love for humanity.

If you didn't see the special, watch the heroes wave the flag in the video below and listen to Sugarland sing "Stand Up." The song itself will make you want to be a better person.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Adventures in anatomy

On Wednesday I had my first ever colonoscopy. Light anesthesia left me with no memory of the procedure itself, though I will long remember the gallon of nasty-tasting liquid I had to consume the day before, and I haven't yet forgotten the gas cramps that were more troublesome than I'd expected.

All in all, it was no big deal, and I'm glad to check it off my to-do list.  I am left with a clean slate, colon-wise, and with four vividly colored, glossy photos of scenic spots along the way. You know how much I enjoy posting photos, but I'll spare you these.


My younger daughter, Kelli, had surgery this morning on her wrist (carpal tunnel syndrome) and her elbow (cubital tunnel syndrome). The doctors used some kind of nerve-blocking method instead of general anesthesia, so Kelli was able to call me while her husband drove her home. She said she's doing great "except for the dead weight" that is her arm at present.

I know she'll be fine, but the idea of her having elbow surgery gives me unpleasant flashbacks to a time in 1975, just weeks after her 11th birthday.

I arrived home from work late one afternoon, having stopped at the grocery store, to find my daughters and some friends playing in the front yard. As I popped the trunk lid to unload the groceries, Kelli approached and said, "We were playing a game where one kid stands on a broomstick while two other kids pick it up, and I fell off and hurt my elbow." I'm sure I must have made some attempt at a soothing, maternal reply, but I don't remember the specifics.

Kelli helped me carry in the groceries. Only when I noticed she was still hanging around the kitchen did I stop to take a look at her elbow, and I was shocked to find it swollen nearly twice its normal size. We sent our dinner guest home with nothing to gnaw on but  apologies, then drove immediately to the emergency room. That's where we learned that the tip of Kelli's "funny bone" had been broken off and would need to be surgically repaired the next morning.

In those days, at least in that place in New York, parents were not allowed to spend the night in the hospital with their children. In fact, parents' visitation was confined to regular visitation hours. The doctor did assure us we'd be able to see Kelli for a few minutes  before she went into surgery the next morning, and someone told us exactly what time we could come. Kelli was brave, but I was heartbroken to leave her there alone.

The following morning, because Kelli's accident had happened after I left work the day before, we left the house extra early, stopped by my office to leave file-cabinet keys for my boss, and arrived at the hospital half an hour before the time we'd been told we could see Kelli. We weren't early enough. They'd moved her surgery ahead by more than an hour, and she was already in surgery when we arrived. It still makes me tear up to think about her facing that experience alone.

After the surgery, the doctor told us that they had successfully screwed the broken bone fragment back in place and that Kelli was in recovery and doing well. We asked when we could see her. "Why, tonight, of course, during regular visiting hours."

Visiting hours arrived, and so did we. We walked in to see Kelli with a cast on one arm and a pot of flowers in the other one. She was up, walking around, moving the flowers for another little girl who'd been moved in to share her room. That's my girl.

I don't remember how many days Kelli stayed in the hospital, but I do remember that the doctor told us she'd be released as soon as he made his rounds on Friday. Friday happened to be a Good Friday. The doctor happened to have decided to get an early start on his Easter weekend trip to the Hamptons, and he didn't make rounds that Friday. When the three of us (including older sister, Kim) showed up to take Kelli home, we were advised that we couldn't do that, because the doctor hadn't released her. He'd be back on Monday, they said.

We stood there for about half a minute, grappling with the idea of leaving an 11-year-old girl in the hospital for two extra days unnecessarily, then my husband bent and scooped up Kelli in his arms. I followed his lead and grabbed her stuff, and the four of us headed to the exit.  We stopped once, in an attempt to pay the bill, but they told us they couldn't give us a total until after the doctor released her. My husband replied, "Well, then, I guess you'll have to bill us later. I'm taking her home now."

And he did. She was home for Kim's birthday sleepover that night and home for her Easter basket on Sunday morning.

The only other thing I remember about this episode occurred later, when I took Kelli to the doctor's office for a scheduled follow-up appointment. We showed up at the appointed date and time, only to discover that the doctor's office was locked up tight and had a sign on the door: "Closed for Duration of Strike." Yes, there was a doctors' strike in New York in 1975.

I don't remember how or when we got the cast off Kelli's arm, but I know we got it done.

Reheating my last post

The heater repairman returned on Monday. This time he had a new instrument in his toolbox, and, after a couple more hours of trial and error, got the warm air blowing again. It turned out to be an electrical problem.

Immediately after he left, I went to get something from my bedroom, switched on the light and got...nothing. I figured he had accidentally left a breaker switch turned off, so I went to the breaker box and found that the one labeled "master bedroom" was indeed switched off. Easy to fix, right? Well, no, it wasn't.

The repairman had removed the cover to the breaker panel, and when he screwed it back on, it slipped a little lower than it should have. Just low enough that it covered half of the master-bedroom breaker. And tight enough that I couldn't flip the breaker switch. My dining room and den lights were also affected.

He'd only been gone about five minutes when I called him to come back, but he was just pulling into another customer's driveway.  Fortunately, that job turned out to be an easy one, and he was back here in less than an hour to set things right again.

The weather warmed up enough on Tuesday that I haven't used the heater since early that morning.  Please cross your fingers for me that it works the next time I need it.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Please, Mr. Heater Man, come and turn it on again!

The air grew cold on Thursday night,
So Friday, when I rose,
My fingertips wore icicles,
And frost was on my nose.

The heater blasted out cold air.
I shivered in the chill
And knew I'd have to call for help,
No matter what the bill.

I called the AC/heater man,
And he arrived by ten.
He needed parts he didn't have,
So left and came again.

At two he came the second time
And climbed the attic stairs.
He tried this thing and then tried that
And maybe whispered prayers.

It seemed that nothing he tried worked.
The pilot light ignited
But cut itself back off again
Before the furnace lighted.

He called this job "the devil" but
Would not accept defeat.
He fiddled with a grounding wire
And finally got some heat.

He finished at four-thirty and,
As I was pleased to see,
He ate the hours he'd wasted
And did not charge them to me.

I settled on the sofa as
Warm air began to blow.
I felt all comfy, cozy,
Because then I didn't know

That four short hours later
It would all begin anew:
The heater fan was on full force,
But only cold air blew.

I'd wasted all day Friday with
The heater service man
And so decided not to have
Him come right out again.

Instead, I'd tough it out, I thought,
And get some errands run
And call him first thing Monday
After all my chores were done.

So extra blankets kept me warm
When weekend nights grew cold,
But frosty mornings let me know
My bones are getting old.

I turned the bathroom heater on,
The oven, then the dryer,
To try to raise the temperature
At least a little higher,

And here I stand on Sunday morn,
Ashamed of what I'm wearing,
But if you ever get this cold,
You'll thank me, then, for sharing.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Hello, Tech Support?

This is a picture of my keyboard and the two mice (mouses?) that I switch between using.

The mouse on the left came with the computer and works fine, but its short cord easily gets tangled on the corner of the mousepad. (In the interest of full disclosure, I removed the mousepad before taking this photo, after suddenly realizing it's dirty to the point of being disgusting.)

One day Kim heard me muttering under my breath at the mouse, and the next day she brought me a wireless mouse she wasn't using. That's the streamlined little "rodent" on the right in the photo. The wireless one aggravates me, too. I can't seem to remember to turn it off, so it eats batteries.

None of this has been a really big deal until one day last week when the corded mouse fell off the back of the keyboard tray and hung there for a minute, after which it didn't want to work anymore. (It has since miraculously recovered.) I did everything to it I could think to do in the course of about a minute, then switched to the wireless mouse.

The batteries were dead.

I changed the batteries and tried again. Kim had told me more than once that it takes a moment for the computer to recognize the wireless mouse, so I waited until the mouse pointer appeared on the screen, then I was ready to get back to business. Except I couldn't.

The mouse pointer was at the very top left of the screen, and when I pulled back on the mouse to try to put the pointer on my text, the pointer stayed at the top left of the screen.  I made repeated backward motions with the mouse, and the harder I pulled back, the more the pointer bounced and clung to its position. It was as if the little arrow-thingy was fighting me.

I was already frustrated, and then things got even crazier. As I set the mouse back on the pad, it slid slightly forward. The pointer fell to the center of the screen. Hm. Progress, I thought. I pushed again, and it fell lower. I moved the mouse to the right, and the pointer moved to the left. I zigzagged the mouse back and forth, and whichever way I moved it, up, down, right or left, the pointer moved in the opposite direction. It was bizarre!

A seed of an idea popped into my mind. No, I thought, it couldn't be that simple. I took my hand off the mouse and took a good, hard look at it. You see that little medium-grey apple near the bottom of the mouse? When I looked closely at the mouse that day, that little apple was upside down near the top of it.

Maybe I should stick with the corded one.

Someone told me once, "You're book smart, but you have no common sense."  I feel  highly indignant when I remember that remark, but I have to wonder if there isn't some truth to it.