Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Best that We Can

It's Wednesday.  Day 3 of my "personal leave" which my employer was kind enough to grant me due to health concerns regarding Covid-19.  I can use vacation time, or take time off without pay.  I may be able to go back to work to perform tasks not related to direct patient care, if they are offered or available.  My employer as an organization, my supervisor, and my coworkers are all being so kind and supportive.  Most of my coworkers are still seeing patients.  I am so grateful to them.  I can't overstate that, how grateful I am to my team.

Here at home, the old ladies woke up the teenage boy at 10:45 a.m. by (heavens!) laughing loudly in the living room.  Oops.  This is one of those times when we should all just think "X, Y, or Z is just doing the best that they can."  (Thanks Brene Brown!)

Last night I watched Stop Making Sense on VUDU.  Then I watched clips from the SNL show a few weeks ago hosted by John Mulaney and with David Byrne as the musical guest.  Then I made my daughter watch the clips.  (Sorry kids, I'm just doing the best that I can.)

Every day Mr Main Squeeze and I meet up to walk the dog out at Rymer Park.  We get our daily dose of vitamin D, exercise, and each other that way.  Tomorrow weather permitting I'm hoping we can get out to Funks Grove for a longer walk. 

This morning I got out my "go book" and checked that all my documents, including my will, are up to date.  I know that sounds depressing, but I was relieved that for the most part it was in order.  And I was proud of myself for doing it instead of just thinking "oh I should go through my documents...." then falling asleep.    I have been thinking about death more lately for obvious reasons.  Some times it's with fear, or anger, and sometimes with peace.  I hope I'm ready when the time comes.  I have spent more time thinking about what happens after we die.  I'm in a stage of wishful thinking about that.  Trying to imagine it's the best it can be. 

This morning while meditating I listened to some music and watched beautiful video of trees, rivers, mountains, clouds, stars, the planet from space.  That's what my wishful thinking mind wants.  But there should also be music.  Not just spacey meditation music, but also my favorite songs on a long rotating schedule. Also the sound of red-wing blackbirds from Rymer Park.  And some quiet times. 

Speaking of music, after encouragement from friends I ordered some Air Pods.

 My son showed me how to use them so I didn't have to read the directions.  (I think in my perfect afterlife I won't have to read directions EVER.)   I can walk around the house listening to music and dancing a bit, and singing along at times, and for the most part not bother anyone.  So maybe I'm already in the Wishful Thinking Afterlife.  Yes, I think I may well be!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Tough Decisions

Yesterday while driving to my last patient's home, I heard the news on the radio of the first COVID-19 fatality in Illinois.  A woman in her 60s with an underlying health condition died in a Chicago hospital.

I'm in my 60s.

I have an underlying health condition.

I finally woke up and called human resources where I work to find out what would be required for me to take a leave of absence.  It's actually pretty simple.

Before that I reached out to my physicians.  Afterwards I reached out to my pastor.

I am really struggling with what to do here.  I don't like to admit that I might be vulnerable, more vulnerable than the average bear.  I don't like to drop the ball at work.  I also don't want to end up in ICU or a pine box soon.

This is not an easy decision.  For the next few days I will continue working in home health care.  We are much needed right now to get people who can be home out of the hospital, to clear beds for the wave of patients with the virus that we hope will never come.  Until there is a local case I think I will keep working.  Once it gets a little closer, I will probably opt to stay home.

Work is the only place I am going right now.  And that's what I'm going to do today.  Tomorrow is another matter.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

We Need the Funk

Things I think about to keep from worrying in the midst of this pandemic:

1.  Right now, at this moment, I am healthy.  '

2.  My house is warm.  

3. I have clean water to drink from the tap.  

4.  My kids are both home with me and they are healthy. 

5.  My sister lives here with me and she is healthy.

6.  We have some food.

7.  We have some toilet paper.

8.  The pets are happy and oblivious to the news.  They are my role models today.

9.  I have wine.  (These are definitely NOT in order).

10.  I'm pretty sure I still have a job.

11.  I know how to use hand sanitizer, soap and water,  surface wipes, and if necessary personal protective equipment (gloves, gowns, masks) to effectively to protect myself and my patients.

12. There is internet for news, movies, and even reruns of prior sporting events if I need a fix.

13.  There are online books from my library.  I'm rereading The Testaments right now.   I also have several books on the shelf that I've not read or that I would love to reread.

14.  I have time to meditate.

15.  There is hot water for showers.  (For all of us.  Including teens home from school.  Whew!)

16..  We have several musical instruments in the house and my daughter knows how to play most of them.  So more entertainment options.  

17.  My kids are old enough that I don't need to worry about childcare while schools are closed.

18.  I can go outside for walks.

Speaking of walks I made it to Funks Grove today.   It was BEAUTIFUL!


Monday, March 2, 2020

The Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer circa 2020

Yes, it looks like an ordinary Hyundai 2003 Elantra, with a 5 speed manual transmission and quite a bit of rust at this point.  And yes that is some weird silver tape behind the front passenger tire and indeed there is a big dent further back where some older fellow, who was taking pain medication after surgery, backed into her in the lot at Menards with his brand new huge truck, and the police said accidents in parking lots, sorry, no tickets, you're all on your own.  And of course the brand new huge truck was undamaged.  Of course.

But rust and dents and age aside, this car has been in my life one way or another for 17 years and that is most of the life I've shared with my kids.  I bought this car new in 2003 because it was getting to be really difficult to put 2 infants-toddlers in the back seat of my 2-door Toyota Tercel.  (I loved my Tercel, too, but that's another blog for another day).  So I went for a 4-door, and a new car, reliable (see above, 2 small people)  And boy has she been reliable.  I drove her for 10 years without major incident, except for the 2 times she overheated, both times while I was working in home health care, and both times in Lexington, Illinois.  

The first time she overheated I was in the middle of the country, and after I pulled over and called a tow truck to come pick her up, I was blessed to have a state police car pull up and offer me a ride to the mechanic.  I stood there and stewed, and finally asked, "If I'm not in trouble do I sit in the front or the back seat?'  I was relieved to get to sit up front.  And the other time I made it to the mechanic on our own terms but as a result had to have the head gasket replaced.  Oops lesson learned.

Then after 10 good years I passed her on to Mr. Main Squeeze who has driven her for another 7 years.  

The Silver Surfer didn't get her name until Mr Squeeze and my daughter, super-hero fans both, decided that is what she'd be called.  The Marvel Silver Surfer isn't female, but hey that's all fluid these days anyway. 

Today she has taken us safely over 212,000 miles.  And tomorrow she will be driven away by a friend of a friend who needs a car, and has little money but does have some serious handyman skills and we will be making a trade later this year.  Car in March for work on my falling down garage ceiling in June.  

The Silver Surfer carried Mr Squeeze or I back and forth between Illinois and Ohio many a time while we courted and later when he went to Ohio to visit family.  She's been a good reliable friend.   She will be missed.  On the other hand, she will just be across town in case I need a visit.  

Sunday, February 23, 2020

And justice for all...

"Ironic, sad, pathetic, and hypocritical."  These words were actually music to my ears as they flew out of Anderson Cooper's mouth (along with, possibly, a little spittle, as he was quite fired up) during his interview with Rod Blagojevich this week.  He was particularly angry that Blago has claimed he is going to work for criminal justice reform because he feels he was treated unfairly in the justice system.  Anderson Cooper pointed out that the former governor ignored clemency requests in record numbers, didn't review them, left them in record numbers for his successor when he went to prison for wire fraud, attempted extortion, and conspiracy to solicit bribes.  Then when he received clemency he suddenly wants to help reform the system to draw attention to, well let's be honest, to himself.

Here is a link to the interview on Youtube.

Cooper actually called B.S.  That's rare, and I'm glad it's rare, because when someone like Cooper gets that heated up and uses that kind of language, it means something.  I felt like someone spoke for me during that interview.  I feel angry that Blago was released early, and I feel disgusted to see and hear him again in the public view.  

I never voted for him.  Even as a lifelong Democrat, I could not bring myself to vote for him, even before we saw how corrupt and self-serving he would indeed be in office.  My spidey-sense wouldn't let me.  And it has been a relief not to see him contaminate Illinois politics the past several years he was behind bars.  All good things must come to an end, I suppose.  

The timing of these pardons/commutations by Trump this week coincided with my reading of the book Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson. This book was published in 2014 but has regained attention due to the very fine film released late 2019 based on it's primary narrative about the case of Walter McMillan.  I'm still overwhelmed by the book, which tells many heart-wrenching stories of African Americans wrongly convicted, unfairly sentenced, failed by society and the justice system, until a group like the Equal Justice Initiative takes on the challenge.

EJI is, in their own words

 committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the U.S., challenging racial and economic injustice, and protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society. 

Yes, for people who have been truly treated unfairly.  Not for the wealthy, powerful, politically-connected, for those with all the resources imaginable available to him.  Not for someone who had good lawyers every step of the way  Not for someone who, in spite of being in a position of power and in a position to do good, chose not to do more than try to pad his own bank account.

You can visit their website at where you can read more about their important work for true justice in the US. 

I admire and thank the people who work for fairness in the justice system.  And thank you Anderson Cooper for getting hot under the collar, on television, in the name of truth.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Part of the Plan

As a home health physical therapist I spend a lot of my work week in the car.  I usually keep my radio on NPR to keep up with news or enjoy the interviews on shows such as The 1A or Fresh Air.  But sometimes the topics of the current day feel like a weight so heavy on my heart that I need a reprieve, so I switch over to a music station.

There are three local music stations I like and one of them is usually playing something I enjoy.   Sometimes that's not the case and I turn the radio off and listen to the glorious quiet of a drive along a country road.  Yesterday that's exactly what I did, heading out west of town to a country home and not wishing to ruin the gorgeous view of fields and trees painted white with snow the day before, the snow glistening in the clear sunny sky.  The roads I took were fairly remote after I turned off Yuton Road and there were several turns, some areas not as well cleared of snow as others, and a few steep hills, at least by McLean County standards.  I had to watch my map app to make sure I didn't get lost, watch the road conditions, and couldn't help watching the scenery as well. The radio was off, it was quiet, and quite lovely. 

On my way home I took a different route, recommended by my patient's son, and was able to return via a 2-lane highway that had been well cleared and was a familiar route to me.  So I turned the radio back on and the song that came on just as I was heading back into town was one that was popular in my high school days.  I knew all the words by heart, having sung it many times during the 70s when it was popular.  The song was not one of the greatest hits of all time, or even a song I had thought much about all these years between.  But singing along with it made me nostalgic for my younger self, for that stage when I was just beginning to move toward adulthood and I believed anything was possible if I could just get out of high school and into the world at large.

I sang along at the top of my lungs until I got choked up and couldn't get some of the words out.  And I remembered (then came home and found) a quote in Lynda Barry's book The Good Times are Killing Me:

Do you ever wonder what is music?  Who invented it and what for and all that?  And why hearing a certain song can make a whole entire time of your life suddenly just rise up and stick in your brain?

The song was Part of the Plan by Dan Fogelberg.  The first stanza is "I have these moments all steady and strong, I'm feeling so holy and humble.  The next thing I know I'm all worried and weak, I feel myself starting to crumble."  You can google the lyrics or find the song online if it doesn't already come rising up into your brain and stick there.  But if you don't, the last lines are "There is no Eden or heavenly gates that you're gonna make it to one day.  But all of the answers you seek can be found in dreams that you dream along the way."

This made me recall my dreams from that time in my life.  I wanted to go to college. (I did, twice!)  I wanted to find meaningful work. (I did!)  I wanted friends. (I've been blessed!)  I wanted Jimmy Carter to be president for life. (Struck out there.)  In my late 20s I began to dream of having a family.  It took a long time for that dream to manifest, but it eventually did as well.    All these dreams have made my life meaningful.  I am grateful, I am grateful, I am grateful.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Type One

As a teen and young adult I expected that my adulthood would be short, or that it would be full of illness. Blindness, amputations, kidney failure were all held out to me as options I should anticipate, due to the "unfortunate" diagnosis of type 1 diabetes at age 10.  These are indeed sequelae of this condition, but not for all of us "type ones," and I am fortunate to find myself, 52 years down the road from diagnosis this very week, without any major complications.

People often say that I'm healthy because I have taken good care of myself.  And by that they mean that I take my medication, I eat well, I exercise.   They mean I take care of my physical body.  But I believe the truth is closer to what my financial advisor said after he conducted an in-depth interview in order to figure out what to do with IRAs a few years back.

I explained, during this interview (which was truly out-of-proportion to the meager amount of money I had to invest) how I had lived during my 20s and 30s, working for a few years, quitting my job to travel, moving, getting a new job for a few years, living in South America off my savings for a while, finally turning 40 and looking around and saying "Huh!  What do you know?  I'm healthy as any of my friends!" then finally settling down to working a job for more than 2 years (I'm celebrating 20 years at the same organization this year)  and starting a family.  The things I was hesitant to do when I was younger, lest I be too ill (or not around) to parent well.    I was explaining, well really trying to justify, why I hadn't saved very much money in my younger years.

My financial advisor said "you're probably healthy now because you lived those years fully and didn't worry much about your future."   It was lovely to be seen.

My emotional well being has been tied up in making the most of what time I have.  And for the past 20 years, I've enjoyed working, raising 2 great people toward adulthood.   But as they ease into that stage of life, I'm ready to take some risks again.   I believe I'm physically healthy because I have taken good care of my emotional self as much or more as my physical self, and because I haven't been afraid to take risks.

"Adulthood is made up of a prudent anticipation and a philosophical memory that make you navigate more slowly and steadily.  But fear of making mistakes can itself become a huge mistake, one that prevents you from living, for life is risky and anything less is already loss." (from A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit)

My relationship to my diagnosis, which I have tried not to let define me, is complicated.  It's not all roses and sugar-free chocolates.  But it's not "unfortunate" in my experience.  I know others have not been as lucky, and I know that much of my well-being is also due to good luck.  Luck with my parents and their attitude, luck with some probable genetic factor helping keep me complication-free, and luck that I haven't developed another major illness or been hit by a bus on my travels.

I do believe that having this diagnosis has made me appreciate each day in a way I might not have without it.  So happy 52nd anniversary Diabetes!  And may we celebrate many more together!!

The Best that We Can

It's Wednesday.  Day 3 of my "personal leave" which my employer was kind enough to grant me due to health concerns regarding ...