Archive for the 'Love' Category

25
Jan
16

Putting things into perspective

At 3:40 in the morning on Tuesday, January 19, I was awoken by my husband calling to me from the floor. As I sat up and leaned over to respond, he got to his hands and knees and crawled over to the bed and put his head on the mattress, but seemed to be completely unable to come any further.

As he kept saying “I need to tell Sheri” (I’m Sheri) “that I fell on the floor,” over and over again, I worried that he had had a stroke.

Repeated attempts to get him to come up on to the bed failed, so I went out into the hall and called to some friends who had come in from out of town the night before to see if they could come help me. We managed to get him up on the bed, and he was able to look at me and talk and squeeze both of my hands, so I thought maybe it wasn’t a stroke after all. Then he told me that he needed to tell Sheri that he had had chest pains and while trying to take his pulse he had apparently fainted. There was blood on his lip and a split in the skin over his eyebrow, so it seemed clear that he had hit the floor pretty hard.

I called 911, gave him an aspirin per instructions, unlocked the door and turned on the porch light, and went back to sit with him and wait for the EMTs, during which time I made repeated calls (unanswered) to his cardiologist who is also a good friend.

Four people arrived — first, two firemen, who asked him some questions, had him smile and stick out his tongue (no stroke); then two EMTs with an ambulance who took a pulse, and ran a quick EKG which showed a mild arrhythmia but not enough to “require” a trip to the ER, although the EMT recommended it.

Our friends and I thought that would be a good idea, and he agreed, which kind of convinced me this was pretty serious, as he would generally resist such an idea, so off he went in the ambulance, and I followed with one of the friends in our car. The other stayed home with Second Son, StepSon, and Only Daughter.

We spent almost 6 hours in the ER while they monitored his heart rate, and took periodic blood tests for Troponin (sp?), the enzyme thrown off by the heart if there is a heart attack (all negative). He was then sent to the cardiac observation unit, so that they could do one more Troponin test and monitor things for the day.

He was allowed to move around, so we walked up and down the halls for a while, him walking his IV pole. His manner of speaking still seemed different from usual — not as different as in the first few minutes, when he didn’t seem to realize to whom he was talking, but still different — more monotone, at a slightly higher pitch. We observed people of many ages in beds, a young man in what seemed to be a 50% body cast walking (?) down the hall with crutches and family flanking him on all sides. We nodded to the resident who had come and asked him some questions already, heard rumors of the cardiologist’s impending arrival.

Six hours later (now 4:30 p.m.) the attending cardiologist, the resident, two students and nurse appeared in his room, where the doctor reported many lengthy conversations with Husband’s cardiologist friend and between the doctors at the (very excellent) hospital.

Many theories presented themselves, none with clearly obvious affirmative answers. Husband had an abnormal stress test in the fall, but only at the highest pulse rate they were willing to push him to. Perhaps a plaque had broken loose and blocked an artery, but there were no indications of heart attack and he had no physical symptoms of blockage — his pulse was good, his color was good, he wasn’t short of breath, the pain had been in his chest only, not radiating to chin, arms, shoulders, etc. Perhaps the pain had caused a vaso-vagal response, but there had been no moments of dizziness or nausea — he was conscious taking his pulse, then he was coming to on the floor. The attending’s theory was that there had been an arrhythmia, which might have caused fainting. The arrhythmia might be caused by some partial blockages, and the only way to know that for sure was to go to heart catheterization, so that was where we were going. Now.

So we went.

Thirty minutes later he’s in the cath lab, shaved and mildly sedated, and I’m in the waiting room.

For two hours.

And for one of them basically alone, as the routine procedures were over for the day, so the status board was shut off, then the woman at the desk went home. So I sat. And knitted. And texted people back who were checking in. And tried to decide if I had time to go get something to eat (had four bites of breakfast 8 hours earlier or so). And waited.

Granted, midway I did get a report from the nurse that they had placed one stent and were “trying” (?!?) to place another.

Finally he was on his way back. I went back into the pre-procedure room and waited; I could hear him talking to the nurse as they came down the hall, and he actually sounded much more like himself. When he saw me, though, there were a few tears in his eyes, and he reported on the surreal nature of undergoing a procedure on your heart while you can hear them talking about what they’re doing and what they’re going to do next and shouting orders to assistants and you can feel twinges deep within your chest as they run wires and place stents. Four were placed — one in one artery that had a 90% occlusion; three in a very complicated and zig-zaggy artery that had an 80% occlusion. There were pictures, of the before-and-after persuasion, which were fascinating; and a third artery with 70% occlusion that they left as is — he had already been in the procedure for two hours, and many doctors don’t seem to feel that stenting a 70% occlusion is a good idea.

Of course he was then admitted. As the procedure requires them to employ blood thinners, the cuts on his lip and eyebrow reopened and bled, and bled, and bled; the small contusion on his eyebrow swelled to golf-ball size proportions, and the lovely purple eye-shadow on his upper lid became a full-blown black eye. I sat by his bedside and dabbed blood from his lip for hours, and he tried valiantly to keep an ice pack on his very painfully swollen brow.

We slept, eventually, I on a marginally comfortable couch-like structure that “opens” up into a “bed.” By 6:45 a.m. the room was full of nurses changing over their shifts, and then the cardiologist and a couple different students appeared, with news that he would need a stress test, and if he “failed” they would have to go in and stent the one vessel they didn’t get to and if he passed he could go home.

And then the stress test was delayed until the next day because he had already taken his meds.

And then, a few hours later, the stress test was reinstated, because the meds don’t matter, but what? He’s eaten some of his lunch? Stop eating! Fine, a few bites don’t matter.

Stress test, wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait you can go home.

No, we don’t have results, but we have discharge orders.

So he’s home.

And then nobody sleeps. You think sleeping in a hospital is hard, but then you go home and realize that now nobody’s monitoring your heart, and there aren’t nurses a call-button away — just your wife, who slept through the whole thing in the first place until you called for her from the floor.

Not very reassuring.

And now for the point of this whole post.

Some questions.

Why do we get to live where access to this kind of medical care is available to us, just minutes from our house?

What happens to people who don’t live in such an area?

We were in the emergency room for 6 hours, and he was being treated the entire time. The friend who had come with me is from New York city, and pointed out that in NY we might not even have been seen yet.

He had state-of-the art care, within minutes of when it was needed. He needed a heart cath — there’s a doctor there ready to do the procedure within minutes. He needs a stress test, the woman with the wheel chair was in his room before I could even text his family. He needs blood thinners and a lifetime of anti-coagulants that cost $387 a month and will cost us $20 with our prescription insurance and THEY DID THIS PROCEDURE THROUGH HIS WRIST WITHOUT ANESTHESIA — he won’t even have a scar.

How can we maintain our normal work loads to continue to meet our financial obligations without losing sight of the fact that nobody gets out of this alive? That time is our most precious commodity and every single one of us might have a hell of a lot less of it than we think? That yes, life is full of frustrations and disappointments but joy and meaning and relationships are priceless so that we can should must try to overlook/let go of the former and treasure the latter?

Our friends were visiting at what might have been a most inopportune time — in the middle of a work week, while Husband suffers a cardiac “event.” But a snowstorm on the east coast meant that they were “stranded” here for a couple of days at the end of the visit as well, and we enjoyed delicious meals and great bottles of wine together, and laughed so hard last night that our stomachs hurt.

Yesterday I took our friends to a garden center with indoor greenhouses and sculptures and art installations. We walked around and took pictures of tulips and daffodils and cacti, with steamed-up windows and snow visible through them in an interesting seasonal juxtaposition. I watched a half-frozen waterfall through a window that flows to a Japanese garden and studied pieces by Rodin and Degas and Calder. I felt as I do when listening to Mozart — happiness and sadness at exactly the same time.

It all goes so much faster than most of us expect, maybe even than we would want. (I always say that the only way to slow time down is to just be really bored all the time; remember how long Sundays were when you were a child?)

We still don’t even know if the treatment resolved the cause of the problem. We might not ever know. So we live now with a lot of gratitude, and a little more apprehension, a little more care, a little more joy.

IMG_3499 IMG_3501 IMG_3504 IMG_3509 IMG_3511 IMG_3512 IMG_3513 IMG_3514 IMG_3515 IMG_3517 IMG_3518 IMG_3519 IMG_3520 IMG_3521 IMG_3523

 

Sorry the pictures aren’t better – I took them with my phone. Loved the colors though.

 

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25
May
15

parenting, marriage, and feminism

First, read this.

How American parenting is killing the American marriage.

And then go and join this page.

And think about these things:

1.  Your children won’t like to hear it (I know Only Daughter didn’t), but your marriage SHOULD be the most important relationship you have. Your children will (hopefully) go off someday and have one of their own. In which case, you are left with this person you have ignored for the previous 20-30 years, and shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t have anything to talk about.

2.  If your whole life revolves around them YOU’RE not getting any adult satisfaction

and your children are growing up thinking that the world revolves around them. And that’s not good for anybody.

For example, there is a lot of pressure on parents to go to EVERY sports event in which their child participates. If the parent has to work, the other parents may even make snarky comments such as “I don’t know what x’s father is thinking” or “I can’t believe y’s mother never comes to these things.” (I actually overheard this at one of the few of First Son’s soccer games I was able to attend.) But, in fact, it’s better for the children if the parents stay home. You can express your interest by asking about the game over THE DINNER THAT YOU EAT TOGETHER, but leave the coaching to the coach, and the cheering to the teammates, and let your child have ownership of something that doesn’t have anything to do with you.

They actually prefer it that way.

3. Children need to do things for themselves, fail, try again, maybe even fail again. They need to do their own homework and their own science projects and face the consequences if they don’t (staying in from recess to finish a homework assignment or getting a bad grade gets the message across a lot more loudly than mom standing over his shoulder at the dinner table yelling at him); and clean their own rooms (and live in their own filth if they don’t) and put their own cream cheese on their own bagels. Nobody gets better at putting their cream cheese on their bagel if somebody else is always doing it for them.  Yes, you could do it better, and neater, and faster. But that’s only because you got lots of practice. (Am I right?) If your child is washing dishes and they’re not clean, position yourself as rinser, and silently hand them back to her to wash again. Hire your child to clean the whole house (not his or her room; that should be automatically their responsibility); if it’s not very clean, don’t pay him very much. He’ll figure it out. (I did this with First Son; he actually sent me a text a few years ago thanking me for “teaching him how to clean.” I never really taught him anything, except that it wasn’t the act of cleaning that counted, but the result.) If they’re not very good at something, have them do it more; it’s clear they need lots of practice.

I teach at a summer arts/music camp, and there are always a few campers whose parents come and hoverhoverhoverhoverhoverhoverhover. These campers don’t usually do very well, and often leave before the end of camp. I don’t think it’s because the campers weren’t ready for camp, but because their parents weren’t.

helicopter-parents 4

This isn’t helping. Maybe there should be a camp for parents, called Hawaii. Or A Life.

If you don’t let children fail, they will learn that “failing” is too awful to contemplate, and probably something they can’t recover from. If you hover around them, you’re telling them that you don’t think they can succeed, and their failure is too awful to contemplate. If you let them fail, and give them encouragement to try again and maybe just a wee bit of guidance or advice to help them succeed (but only if they want it, and only a wee bit), they learn about tenacity and optimism and hope. It seems pretty obvious which of these two we want our children to be learning.

4. Most (not all, but most) of the women I know, myself included, made professional sacrifices in the name of “raising their own children.” Most of these same women are still working part-time, in less challenging/suitable/interesting jobs than they could do, and make significantly less money than their husbands do. And all of you women out there in your 20s and early 30s reading this, and nodding, and thinking, well, yes, of course, but that’s a) not going to happen to me, or b) I won’t mind. The thing is, you might mind. I mind. And the effects of those choices may actually impact your professional choices FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. And, in case you haven’t realized this already, YOU CAN’T GO BACK AND HAVE A REDO.

I used to think that feminism meant we all get to choose what we want to do (and be paid the same for it as men), and nobody gets to give us a hard time about it. It’s kind of that, still, I suppose; but I also think we have a responsibility, to ourselves, our spouses, our children, to

  • have work we love
  • make enough money that we could support ourselves if we have to
  • devote as much time cultivating the relationship we have with our spouse as we do cultivating all the others (children, friends)
  • not feel compelled to sacrifice any of the above without asking our (male) significant other to make them of the same magnitude, and
  • STOP FEELING GUILTY

But maybe it’s just me.

 

27
Nov
12

russian novella

russian novella.

 

That’s all.

22
Nov
12

cliché thanksgiving thanks

Oldest Son tells me that calling your mom on Mother’s Day to tell her thank you and that you love her is pathetic. That you should thank your mom and tell her you love her just because.

I agree, but I still like it when he calls me on Mother’s Day.

Giving thanks on Thanksgiving is also kind of pathetic — every day should be greeted with thankfulness. As I used to tell my dad when he would complain about getting old:  it beats the alternative.

So in yoga we thank our feet for carrying us through our days, and we thank our hamstrings (Hello, hamstrings!) and our aching backs and our hands for what they carry, and our hearts, for what they carry too.

And when we clean our floors we try to remember to thank the floors and the walls and the roof for keeping us from having to live in the dirt, in the rain.

And when we burn the pumpkin soup (just a little), we try to be thankful for all of the delicious ingredients in that pumpkin soup, and that we have good Calphalon pans so we know they’ll get clean again.

And when our children tease and spar and take 45 minutes to do the dishes we are thankful for their health and spirit, and that they are doing the dishes.

On the day after Thanksgiving 7 years ago I drove with my family to my brother’s for an extended family meal, not having yet told our children that their father and I were going to be divorcing.

Six years ago I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for my children and my almost-ex-husband in some kind of weird (pathetic?) attempt to manufacture for my children some weird version of family, which felt to me more like a completely phony and unsatisfying version of “family”; and a few hours after they left I was curled up on the bed in a fetal position, mourning all of the mistakes I had made and how, despite my best efforts, I did not have the relationship I wanted with my children, much less with myself.

So now what am I thankful for?

Well, that the dark days are over.

That we’ve crossed over to the other side.

That everyone’s fine.

That my back hurts, again, but seems to be getting better, and in a little more than a week we’ll have a new hot tub on our back deck (thanks, mom), and that will hopefully help my back problems, and Husband’s knee problems, besides being a wonderful addition to a life that’s being fully and gratefully lived.

For a life that’s being fully and gratefully lived.

For the physical, mental, intellectual, and emotional health of my friends and family.

For jobs that support us, working for and with people who respect our contributions, for food and shelter and kindness.

For a marriage with a man who is thoughtful, and sensitive, and supportive, and who likes, and loves, me as I do him.

He’s going to be embarrassed that I wrote this. But he is the thing I am most grateful for. And, for whatever weird (pathetic?) reason, I want you all to know.

I have it all.

I am the luckiest person I know.

Thank you.

 

21
Jun
12

We can all, actually, have it all (but who wants it?)

Kristin Howterton posted recently on the underlying tension of gender roles in the pursuit of an egalitarian marriage. You can read it here.

The underlying premise is that, despite our (meaning, mostly women’s) efforts to find equality in both the home and the workplace, many women still feel guilty getting home to see their husbands cooking dinner with a crying toddler on his hip or wonder whether it’s fair to expect that men should PROBABLY contribute to the household chores if their wives are working outside the home.

I know, right?

Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but this kind of thing does not make me feel guilty.

I responded at length, including replies to other commenters.

Most substantially:

I think we all learned the lessons of our childhood, and watching our parents, and have to struggle with these lessons, maybe just a little. But when I read these two sentences:

“When I walk though the door and see him cooking dinner with a crying toddler on this hip, I get a gut check that says, ‘Oh dear. I should be doing that.'”

and

“I think people our age have wised up to the idea that if a woman works, then the husband should probably step it up and help with some of the domestic duties as well.”

I just want to weep.

You think you should be doing that, but he shouldn’t? And the husband should PROBABLY step up? Ugh.

It’s his household as much as yours, his children as much as yours; and even if they’re not “his” children, but, say, maybe even “only” his stepchildren, his marriage to you makes him an equal partner in domestic needs if he wants to be an equal partner in domestic bliss.

I think there are ways people can balance things. I knew a couple once where the mom stayed at home, so the “housework” was her job, but when he was home, the childrearing was shared. That seemed fair. I guess you could do a proportional thing: he works 40 hours per week to her 30 so she does 60% of the housework. I guess you could even divide it proportionally to reflect the amount of money brought in, but I think that’s a terrible idea and think I shouldn’t even suggest it. (The jury will disregard the last statement.) My husband make 50% more money than I do, but my scheduled work time far exceeds his, so he does most of the cooking, laundry, and shopping. I clean when I can get to it. It works for us.

No shoulds, no probablys about it.

Fortuitously, Anne-Marie Slaughter writes in the issue of The Atlantic about “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”

It’s a very good article. It’s long, but worth it. Some of the best stuff is at the end.

Her arguments could be summarized thusly:

Women can have it all, but only if there is a radical paradigm shift, including if men start demanding the right to have it all, too. Meaning that it’s not a sign of unprofessionalism or a lack of commitment for ANYONE to want to take time to take care of their children, their aging/ailing parents, or even, GASP, themselves.

The idea that women who take a different track so as to raise their own children are NOT less ambitious; the realization that one of the biggest challenges is that the hours of a school day continue not to coincide with the hours of a work day (we won’t even talk about the havoc wreaked by snow days and 2-hour delays); the fact that women have to make trade-offs that men do not — these are realizations that can and should trigger real change, change that requires an effort by the majority of us out there, male AND female, or they won’t.

Ms. Slaughter ends with a goal, if not a challenge:

I continually push the young women in my classes to speak more. They must gain the confidence to value their own insights and questions, and to present them readily. My husband agrees, but he actually tries to get the young men in his classes to act more like the women–to speak less and listen more. If women are ever to achieve real equality as leaders, then we have to stop accepting male behavior and male choices as the default and the ideal. We must insist on changing social policies and bending career tracks to accommodate our choices, too. We have the power to do it if we decide to, and we have many men standing besides us.

We’ll create a better society in the process, for all women. We may need to put a woman in the White House before we are able to change the conditions of the women working at Walmart. But when we do, we will stop talking about whether women can have it all. We will properly focus on how we can help all Americans have healthy, happy, productive lives, valuing the people they love as much as the success they seek.

That’s the ticket.

Where do I sign?

18
Jun
12

alone vs. lonely

You can spend a lifetime surrounded by busy-ness and noise and people and feel completely alone.

Husband left yesterday (with the cappuccino machine, which just seems to me to be the Last Straw) and I won’t see him until Friday.

I have so much to do, and I’m busy busy busy doing it, but I know, every minute, that he is 160 miles and 5 days away. Some part of me knows.

Your absence goes through me
like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with is color.

(Merwin, not me. I wish.)

Second Son is in the basement playing his guitar, Only Daughter is at her father’s until tomorrow night, Dexter the Dancing dog is in his “house” for the evening.

I watched Juno and cried, in the usual spot. Can’t find a clip. You’ll have to watch it and see if you can figure out where.

Sigh.

 

09
May
12

Youth, by W. S. Merwin

He always just seems to get it, exactly.

******

Through all of youth I was looking for you
without knowing what I was looking for

or what to call you I think I did not
even know I was looking how would I

have known you when I saw you as I did
time after time when you appeared to me

as you did naked offering yourself
entirely at that moment and you let

me breathe you touch you taste you knowing
no more than I did and only when I

began to think of losing you did I
recognize you when you were already

part memory part distance remaining
mine in the ways that I learn to miss you

from what we cannot hold the stars are made




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