There is a row of five trees on one of the main streets in town, right in front of our local health department. They are large and provide a great deal of shade in the warm months, but they aren't that noticeable. Until fall. And then they put on quite a show. Those ginkgo trees turn a stunning shade of yellow that coats that whole side of the block. For a couple of weeks they shimmer and shine and light up that little section of downtown until they shed their lovely coat and get naked for the winter months. When in their prime, they beg to have their picture taken, and of course, I oblige.
But it occurred to me the other day how subtle and quiet they are for the other fifty weeks of the year. How funny that something so plain and simple the rest of the year could bring such joy and beauty to my life and the lives of others for just a handful of days. It made me think about the other things in my life that are that way and how perhaps, I take them for granted. Simple pleasures that beautify my days and lift me up.
For instance, Teen Angel's laughter from another room. I love it when I'm sitting on the couch, and I hear her chuckle in her bedroom over something on TV or the phone. How poor is the man who lives in a house so big he can't hear his peeps in the next room?
The warmth of my dog's body against me when he snuggles with me on the couch. The unconditional love of a dog is why I will never truly be a cat person.
The brightness of new grass in the spring. It's so green. Vivid even, and it's as if a big eraser has wiped winter from my front yard.
Taking pictures of other people. I think I've figured out why I enjoy taking pictures for people. Whether it's a bride dressed as a princess, a family celebrating a new baby or parents marking their child's birthday, people having portraits made are usually marking a special moment in their lives, and it's a privilege to be a part of that. I feel like an invited guest when I look at them through the lens. This Saturday, when I shoot a wedding, I will be the only extra person in the room when the groom gets his first look at his bride in her wedding dress. What a special honor to be entrusted with that moment. Maybe I've just been lucky and worked with only great people so far, but I have really had a lot of fun with each and every photo shoot I've done, and I've had several lately.
The touch of my husband's hand. It's not uncommon for him to grab my hand when we're walking across a parking lot or into a store. And sometimes when he crawls wearily into bed at night he lays his hand on top of mine as I drift off to sleep. That touch says so much. Likes those ginkgo leaves. Sparkly and warm and beautiful. Even if the moment is fleeting. It's memory is not.
I looked up and suddenly it was Monday morning. And I wasn't sure how I got there. Seriously. I had a three day weekend, but I ran the entire time, starting at 8am last Friday. I finally sat down last night around 9:30am and said, "Self, what was the name of that hurricane that just rolled over my fanny?" Just for fun I decided to name him Phillip 'cause that was the name of the ex-boyfriend that was the biggest pain in my backside way back before Hubby and marriage. He was about a category 4 and left my heart in quite a shambles. I stumbled across a picture of him on Facebook not too long ago, and he looked old and haggard, so I was pleased that the hex I put on him on 1986 must have worked. That noise you just heard was Jesus smacking me up the side of the head. He's probably starting to think I'm slow.
Try as I might, the feeling that the next month and a half is going to overwhelm me is starting to creep into the recesses of my feeble brain. I'm trying to pace myself but Lord have mercy, that train called the Holiday Express is picking up speed. I have several big projects at work involving multiple volunteers which will all culminate during the holidays, and when you combine that with the family Christmas festivities and a dose of what the heck do we do about Papa T. in the midst of everything, it is enough to make me want to curl up in the corner with a 2 liter of Coke Zero, a Pall Mall and reruns of Gene Simmons' Family Jewels. And I don't even smoke. Did I mention I have a droopy bra strap today, too? Somebody remind me to buy new underwear after Christmas.
As I type this I'm baking cornbread so I can dry it out in time to make dressing for our Thanksgiving meal. We have decided the time has come to relieve mama of having to do most of the work. We've been dividing up the dishes over the last several years, but she ends up being the one who does the most cleaning and baking so we told her this year to just show up at SuperCop's house with a ham, and we'd do the rest. I'm on dressing, cranberry relish and pie detail while Mrs. Scrubs, SuperCop, HandyMan and his girlfriend are doing the rest. SuperCop is frying a turkey breast in that new fryer of his, so y'all say a prayer that he doesn't burn down his garage in the process. Nothing puts a damper on a holiday meal like having to call State Farm. Mama tried to downplay the relief in her voice when I told her we were taking the reins this year, which told me we should have probably done it sooner. Oh, she pretended to be a little let down that she wouldn't have to clean up a kitchen, set the table, peel sixteen taters and roll out a gallon sized pot of chicken and dumplin's, but I could hear her humming the Hallelujah Chorus under her breath. We didn't let her completely off the hook, though 'cause it is not a holiday meal in our family without her ham. We cook a turkey at Thanksgiving but that's really just for looks. We nibble on it, but we're pork people through and through, and Mama is queen of the hams. I mean that in the best way possible.
We will gather with Mama and Daddy Wednesday night because of everyone's work schedules, and then we'll take Papa T. to my brother in law's house Thursday. That's two more pies to bake. Just call me Mrs. Smith. I actually love Thanksgiving. It's like Christmas without all the pressure and hoopla. You don't have to worry about gifts, you don't have to spend and arm and a leg (unless you're traveling) and you get to wear your stretchy pants without shame. Can I get an amen on the stretchy pants?
After Thursday, things will get really crazy for me at work, and somewhere in the next few weeks I'll have to do some Christmas shopping. Amazon here it come! I am not a Black Friday shop 'til you drop person. There is nothing at the mall I want that won't wait until 10am. Frankly, there's nothing at the mall I want, but my family does like a couple of presents under the tree, so I'll make an effort at some point. But it won't be on Friday morning. Teen Angel will be there at some ungodly hour with bells on while I will snooze in my bed until the dog wakes me up.
I'll put up the Christmas tree Friday and do my best to keep up with the crazy mishmash of events that will unfold in the next few weeks whether I'm ready for them or not. Somewhere in the midst of all the fanfare and busy- ness I will try to find some quiet time to reflect on the season and to look ahead to next year. I doubt things will slow down much after the first of the year as Papa T's care is still pretty intense, and I don't see that changing any time soon (another post for another day), but it should get a little better once January arrives. We have a little vacation planned then, and we're sure to need it. In the meantime, I'm battening down the hatches and hunkering down for this wave of craziness. My blogging may be a little erratic in the next few weeks, but if you miss me, check the cellar. I'm probably riding out the storm down there in my stretchy pants.
Used in a sentence:"Hula's attempts to do her Christmas shopping early this year were thwarted by the fact she can't remember where she hid the two lone gifts she bought on clearance immediately after the holidays last year and hid from her family." It appears she hid them from herself as well.
Well, I wanted to use a bridal picture I shot recently, but we are still hiding those from the groom, so I'll use my favorite little person instead. I still can't believe this little stinker is three years old.
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I got my mammogram last week, and while I don't mind doing it, I'm always a little amused by the whole process. I'm sure it's not remotely funny if you're dealing with a health scare, but on run of the mill mammogram days I can't help but smile when I do it. Some women claim that it hurts. I've never had that experience, but perhaps you need more boob for that. The office that does my mammograms is wonderful. They are very caring and professional, and I get to wear this spiffy robe throughout the whole thing. They don't make you wait around forever for your results either. Within a few hours of mine, I had a text message saying mine was A-okay. Of course, that text was from Mrs. Scrubs who works in that office, but they were always prompt and doting before she started working there.
I guess it's a lack of maturity on my part because in all honesty, every time I step up to that mammogram machine, that old saying about gettin' your tit hung in a wringer goes through my head. Over and over again. Throughout the whole lift this arm, move forward, don't breathe thing. It's all I can do not to laugh. Then there's all the tugging and pulling, the mashing and smashing. I started to make some smart aleck comment to the nurse the other day about pulling taffy and then I thought better of it. Believe it or not, I do manage to stop this mouth from running overtime on a rare occasion. (And that noise you just heard was my husband snorting.)
Among the other thoughts that went through my head the other day was God bless the flat chested woman who has to endure the nurse trying to stretch every inch of flesh she can in between those two plates. And where's the lattes? Every other professional office is trying to wow me with their customer service these days by offering me a milky coffee I'm probably paying too much for, so why can't they? Oh, right, it's supposed to be about the TEST. Which brings me (finally) to my point. If we can spend so much time on figuring out ways to make medical tests much more pleasant like robes, and potpourri and mood music, why can't we spend a little more time on improving the tests themselves? There is probably a lot of research like that going on now that I just don't know about it, but it sure seems to take a long time for us to find a better way to probe the human body. Take the rectal thermometer and babies. How long did we use that method before someone finally said, "Let's just use the temperature in the ear and adjust our scale accordingly." I remember a time when I was a kid and mama would holler at me to go get the thermometer, and she'd have to remind me to pick up the oral thermometer, NOT the rectal thermometer. Wouldn't that be a bad mistake?
And then there's the way we come up with the ideas to begin with. Who decided that the best way to determine body temperature was to shove a glass capsule full of mercury up your backside? It's an issue that plagues us in these modern times. I'd love to have been seated at the table when someone in the group of people studying the colon said, "Hey! I got it. Let's give someone explosive diarrhea, clean 'em out real good and then run a camera up their fanny! They're gonna fart like crazy when it's over with, but I think it'll work." I'm not even gonna' touch on the issue of pap smears except to say that those little brushes may LOOK like Q-tips, but they don't FEEL like Q-tips.
A man is credited with developing the mammogram, which does not surprise me. No woman would have ever volunteered for getting her tit caught in a wringer...I mean, mash her boob really hard between two plates. I suspect that if we developed a prostate test that involved mashing the genitalia of a man between two plates and telling him to stand on his tiptoes and hold his breath, we'd have a better test within months. Now, wipe that visual image out of your brain with some eye bleach.
No doubt about it, medical care is invasive. It's humbling to be poked and prodded in the name of staying healthy. Just ask Papa T.. And I will gladly line up for my mammogram each year. But barring any surprises, I am just two and a half years away from my first colonoscopy, so I'm hoping they've developed a better way of performing that little chore before I have to have one. Besides, contrary to what I tell my family, I do not fart rainbows.
Papa T. got to come home this afternoon. Yay! He had to come home with oxygen. Boo. And that could be permanent. Oh my. We're not sure yet. We'll just have to wait and see, but it's definitely a possibility, and if that's the case, Lord help us all 'cause that oxygen tube up his nose has been a thorn in his side since he got to the hospital. He hates it. But as Hubby says, it is what it is, so he may just have to get used to it. Easier said than done probably. We're hoping that now that he's home, he will actually improve. His progress at the hospital had plateaued, and the doctor was a little stumped by that, but we really think that he will improve now that he's back to his house, his bed, his surroundings and his routine. And UK basketball. Go wildcats. One thing's for sure, we will celebrate for the next few nights with some of his favorite dinners, which basically means any combination of home cooked vegetables with a side of any kind of bread.
It has been a long seventeen days, and some of those days were good, and some were downright depressing. Taking care of old folks is hard work, and it can be very stressful when there are issues like blindness and dementia involved. Daily, I spent the drive to work praying for patience and strength and healing and a sense of humor. Five mornings ago, when I was having a particularly stressful spurt and I was more than a little tired, I caught myself asking the good Lord to give me a good day. And when I realized what I was doing that old Don Williams song rolled through my head. Before you know it, I was singing Lord I Hope This Day is Good for about three miles. And I don't know all the words, so it was a lot of "Lord, I hope this day is good" and a fair amount of humming. I thought how appropriate that song was for this particular moment in my day to day life.
"Lord, I hope this day is good. I'm feeling lonely and misunderstood" and "Lord, have you forgotten me?"
How honest is that? And it's a real toe tapper, so that was kind of uplifting. I downloaded it from Hubby's CD collection, and I've been playing it since. It shall be my theme for the time being, and that leads me to the question of the day, my friends. What song would be the soundtrack for YOUR life right at this moment? Shout it out 'cause I'd like to know. And in the meantime, here's to home cooked vegetables and heartfelt music. Yay!
It's been a busy week at the Hula-gen ranch. Papa T. is still in the hospital. This was day sixteen, and he cannot get home fast enough. He is much, much better, but his pneumonia has been a bit slow to clear up. More worrisome than anything though, has been his thinking skills. This whole bout of sickness has done a bit of a number on his thinker. Most of the time it's been due to his low oxygen level, but sometimes he gets fuzzy when his oxygen is fine, and we're not sure why. He'll start a sentence with one thought and wander into another. As Winnie the Pooh once said, "“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.” Papa T. has always been a bear of very great brain, so it has been frustrating to see him so confused. Yesterday he was completely out of his head. Today he was clear as a bell. We're just not sure what to think about it. Nevertheless, his lungs are clearer, and we're hoping he might go home in the next day or two. Please, Lord, let him go home. We are all tired of the hospital. These past two weeks have certainly verified for me that I have no business working in the medical field.
Hubby is worn out. His patience is shot, and he needs some alone time that doesn't include napping in a hospital chair. He's a good man to take care of his parents so well, but it is hard. It really does take its toll after a while. One of these days, I'm going to write a book on taking care of the elderly. It will be an honest account of the stress, frustration and humor involved in nurturing another human being. I want people to know that they are not alone when they feel all of those mixed emotions. God bless people who make a career out of it. As far as I'm concerned, they get the Fast Pass into heaven.
I had one of those don't give a fig days. I suspect it's just welling up from a very tired place somewhere within my being, and it shall pass in a day or so, but right now, I just can't get too worked up about anyone else's problems. I'm too mired down in mine. I'm a bit snippy, too. I noticed it right off the bat this morning when, less than a half mile from my house, I glared in the rearview mirror at the SUV tailgating me and hollered at its driver, "Do you want to buy the arse of my car?!" I must have looked like I meant business because he backed off. Way off. And to be completely honest, I'm still not sorry about it. What's that line in the Rickie Lee Jones song, "A little lonely, a little sad, a little mean." Ha. That's me, minus the lonely and sad.
What makes us that way sometimes? Why is it so easy to resort to mean and ugly when we're feeling sorry for ourselves? Papa T. had a couple of days like that last week. In fact, we had a little come to Jesus meeting last Wednesday 'cause his attitude was all wonky, and it was making us and the hospital staff very cranky. But I get it. I get why he was taking it out on us because I'm guilty of doing the same thing. I just don't like it when someone does it to me. Will there ever be a day when I'm mature enough to get past that kind of behavior and just clamp my mouth shut when mean and snippy is at the back of my throat? And listen more than I speak? Probably not. If only I could be more like Pooh. “If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”
Papa T. is still in the hospital, and he has a way to go before he's truly well. The poor man has been through the wringer in the past week and a half. As the doctor explained it, we got Papa T. to the hospital just as his pneumonia was starting so it had to settle in and get worse before it got better. And it did get much worse. In fact, about last Thursday, we were starting to worry that he wasn't going to get better. His oxygen level was really low, causing him to be very confused and to talk out of his head. You never knew what he was going to say. At one point, he was trading two cows for a sitting hen and another time he was hiring teachers. His speech got somewhat slurred, and we got scared.
He has slowly gotten rid of a great deal of the pneumonia, but he's weak and will need some rehab before he can go home. Shhh. Don't tell him that just yet. He's going to have a fit when he finds out, and it's best not to upset him until we have to. The bottom line is that in a couple of days they will likely move him to the rehab floor of the hospital where he'll stay several days, and when he goes home he'll have to have some nursing care. We've already hired someone to sit with him at nights while he's in the hospital because one thing's for sure, Hubby can't hold out much longer at this pace. It's just too overwhelming, and it's time for more help. The doctor says it will be five or six weeks before he's back to normal, which prompts me to say to all people over sixty, GET YOUR PNEUMONIA SHOT. Sister mercy, it's crazy how fast pneumonia can overtake a senior citizen. It really scares me. My uncle who recently passed away developed pneumonia after a fall, and after several days he started looking and feeling good, sat up in the bed and laughed with us and then his family was told the next morning he had less than a day to live. He was dead within twelve hours. That s**t kills, so don't fool around with it brothers and sisters.
It looks like we have several more days of sitting by his bedside, trying to convince him to eat hospital food and getting acquainted with every nurse who works the third and/or sixth floors of the hospital. If we're lucky, they'll have that roast beef special in the cafeteria at least one more time. Ug. I took one look at that and swore I was back in college as it definitely looked like something good ol' Winslow (Winslop) Cafeteria served up back in the day.
We've already had plenty of time to experience just about every aspect of the hospital in the past week and in the doctor's offices in the adjacent building since I had my yearly physical there this week, and I have a couple of suggestions for the folks in charge.
1. Can we not get a better hospital gown? I know the patient has to be accessible, but those gowns reveal way too much way too easily. I've seen more of Papa T.'s lower half than I ever wanted to see. I love him, but there are just some things better left to the imagination.
2. Is there a reason patient doors aren't closed more often? Everybody else has on that same gown, and just going from the elevator to Papa T.'s room every day for the past eleven days I have seen more hoo hoo's and wee wee's than I can count. And they don't offer eye bleach for hospital visitors.
3. Is it really necessary to put someone on a cardiac diet if he's tip toeing toward death's door, and you want him to eat SOMETHING, anything? Really, how much does trans fat matter at a time like that? If you want someone to eat so he can get his strength back up, for the love of Mirtle, don't give him dry chicken and tuna salad every day. I'm thinking of sneaking in a little serving of green beans cooked in hog jowl with a biscuit for Papa T.
4. Don't they make some kind of seat warmer for those exam beds they make you lie on in the doctor's office? I was laying under my lovely paper gown at the gynecologist's office yesterday (and can I just say my jewelry accessorized very well with that gown), freezing my patookus off and wondering why on earth they can't heat those things. I mean, we heat car seats now. Why can't we apply that technology to those beds? You don't have to use them on people with a fever, just those of us with thin blood.
5. Also, doctor's office staff should probably quit trying to be so politically correct when handing you those crazy paper gowns to put on. The nurse gave me a "vest" and a "skirt" yesterday. I promptly ripped the vest which was certainly thinner than a Bounty paper towel, and then I had trouble covering up both cheeks with the so called skirt. I told the doctor that I had cocktail napkins at home bigger than that skirt and offered to bring them next time. She didn't think I was nearly as funny as I thought I was. Perhaps, I should have offered to trade her two cows for a sitting hen. Maybe that would have made her smile.
Here's a little video someone made about the trick or treating event I told you about yesterday. I thought you might enjoy seeing it. Keep in mind that this is all done by private home owners. Oh, and the guy in the red vest is our mayor. The gentleman standing next to him is a friend of mine who is more fun than a barrel of monkeys, even when he's not building mad scientist labs.