Tuesday, May 31, 2011

THE injury

This is going to be a long, boring post all about my back injury. Yep, the one from my accident in 2002.

Yes, there's a reason. But now, you just get the injury. Details as best I could do this many years later.

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My car got t-boned in April 2002. The lady that hit me was driving an estimated 50 mph, and accelerating, at the moment of impact. She admitted such.

I initially felt no pain. You know, adrenalin and all. So when I called 9-1-1 I told the dispatcher no ambulance was needed. First mistake.

As the police officer who responded was wrapping things up with the other driver, and I was waiting for him to dismiss me, I began to notice a slight burning sensation in my lower back.

Realizing this was not right, and considering there was a hospital about two blocks away, I decided I would drive myself to the emergency room after the officer told me I could go. And so I did. Second mistake.

In the emergency room, I was treated like a drug-seeker. By this time the pain was so bad I could not sit down. Still a burning sensation. I would later be told by my family doctor that this is the type of pain people describe when something is touching a nerve.

The doctor who saw me completely dismissed me. Did no Xrays or MRIs, even when I requested them. Did no range-of-motion test. Gave me a prescription for ibuprofen and told me I would be in more pain in the morning, but that was normal, so don't worry.

Unfortunately I was still in a bit of shock, and didn't realize till later that night how I was treated. Or else he would have heard it then. But alas, when you're in shock, it takes quite a bit longer to process things.

My mom drove me home (I lived with my parents at the time, and soon became glad that I did), I went to bed.

When I awoke the next morning, I couldn't stand up straight. I was all hunched over like I belonged at the top of Notre Dame or something.

Guess the doc was right, huh? I was definitely in more pain.

I called in to work, and then called my chiropractor, who fit me in.

Shocked when they saw me, they did Xrays there in the office. The Xrays didn't reveal too much, except that when my knee hit the dashboard it knocked my right hip seriously out of alignment, and my right hip was now about three inches higher than my left. The first clue that my injury was more serious than the joke of a doctor I saw in the ER.

I followed up with a visit to my family doctor. He convinced me to go on Tylenol 3. I didn't want to, scared to death I would be one of those people that got addicted. Besides, I could get around, right?

He looked me in the eye and said "You can't stand up straight. You're in serious pain. This is what pain meds are for. If you don't like the way it feels, stop taking them. Okay?"

I reluctantly agreed. But Tylenol 3 did little for the pain.

He prescribed physical therapy, sent me to an orthopedist, suggested I continue chiropractic care. At one point I was being seen by six different medical professionals on a regular basis. But which ones... escapes me.

I had PT at 6:30am, to try to get it in before work. I'd see another doctor during lunch. Then leave a few minutes early to go to the third. Just about every day, for months.

Two different doctors suggested that I seek disability, and offered to complete the forms.

I refused.

I could get around, I could work.

Was I in constant pain? Sure. But to me disability means that you can't, and I could. So I refused.

While seeing all those doctors, I kept hearing the same phrase:

"It sort of acts like a herniated disk, but not really."

And since my auto insurance decided to fight my claims, and my health insurance wouldn't pay because the injury was sustained in a car accident, I was paying everything out of pocket.

So my doctors, not seeing definitive symptoms of a herniated disk, decided not to do the scans that would diagnose such, because they are very costly.

Besides, physical therapy combined with chiropractic treatment did lessen my pain.

Although my chiropractor, whom I was seeing three times a week, was frustrated because my body would not "hold" the adjustments. Basically, although I felt better when I left, I'd be right back where we started just a day or so later. Apparently this is not normal.

And at the end of six weeks of physical therapy, when they did my evaluation and compared it to the one they did at my first visit, my pain had indeed lessened. But so had my mobility. I was in less pain, but I lost range-of-motion. Also, not normal.

So my doctor prescribed another six weeks of PT, and I continued chiropractic treatment, and somehere in there my pain meds were upped to Vicodin.

And then, one morning in November, seven months after my accident, I woke up and was unable to walk unsupported, due to the excruciating pain in my right calf.

Now, knowing I hadn't hurt my leg recently, and knowing how the nerves in the lower back network down your legs, I called in to work, and then called my family doctor.

It was then that he ordered the MRI, that would show that I did not indeed have a normal herniated disk. I had a herniated disk with extrusion.

But even that wasn't special enough to describe the joy that was my injury.

Let's explore the differences (in my basic, not very scientific or medical-ease way).

Herniated disk = disk is bulging out, often hitting a nerve, causing terrible pain at the affected area

Herniated disk w/ extrusion = the disk has actually ruptured, and the nucleus of the disk, a jelly-like substance, is oozing out. Symptoms are often the same, or very similar to a normal herniated disk, because the disk is often bulging at the sight of the rupture.

my injury (in my doctor's words) = "imagine someone stomping on a jelly donut. The donut is your disk. The jelly that should be inside the donut is the nucleus of the disk. Your disk exploded like someone stomped on it."

Aren't I special?

But that explains why my symptoms didn't fit. Understand?

So, from there I got sent to another specialist, a neurosurgeon. Who told me that while I wasn't the youngest patient he's ever seen, and it wasn't the worst injury he'd ever seen, it was the worst injury he'd ever seen on someone so young.

Yay me.

He also advised me to immediately stop all physical manipulation. This meant no more chiropractic treatment, no more physical therapy, no more at-home exercises. Basically, the more I did to my back, the greater the chance that I actually worsened my condition. Great.

I wasn't to sit for too long. Or stand for too long. Never do anything faster than a walk. But don't walk too much. No heels on my shoes, flat comfy shoes only. Don't lift anything over 5 lbs on a regular basis, and never anything over 10 lbs. Don't ride roller coasters. Don't bend over too much. Don't, don't don't...

Here I was, in my early 20s, and I was being given more restrictions than my 80-year-old grandma.

And... there was nothing they could do for me, except for surgery.

Except... the surgery was exceptionally invasive, and should be put off as long as possible. So I was put on some stronger pain meds, and told to come back if the pain became "intolerable".

But at least... no more doctors, right? I'd see my family doctor for pain med refills, the occasional follow-up to the orthopeadist, and then see the surgeon again if the pain became intolerable or if I lost feeling or function in any of my lower extremities.

I was told to do whatever I needed to do to make myself as comfortable as possible, because (basically) that was all we could do.

I was in pain every moment of every day for nearly four years.

No, that is not an exaggeration. It is a literal, truthful statement.

Yes, that is even on the medication. The state-maximum allowed dosage of my prescribed combination of narcotics made my pain tolerable. But only if I made sure to take it at the prescribed intervals. As in, if I was late on just one dose, I would be bedridden with pain for the next 10-12 hours.

And since one of those medications had a half-life of 4-6 hours, this meant that I had to set my alarm to wake up in the middle of the night so I could take it, just so I could function the next day.

Which meant that for four years I did not get a good night's rest.

No, I'm not kidding.

Because of the nature of my injury, one of the most painful things to do, early on, was to drive. Sitting while extending my right leg in that way, was excruciating. My co-workers never knew this (I don't think), but for months I screamed my way to work in the morning, tears rolling down my cheeks, then I'd sit in the parking lot to compose myself before walking in.

I don't remember when that changed, but somewhere along the way, driving became okay again. Well, more tolerable at least.

And then, as the muscles in my lower back atrophied because they were no longer getting the signals from my brain, lying down (aka. sleeping) became my most painful activity.

Do you know what it's like for it to be painful to sleep?

I slept many nights in my dad's recliner, or in my bed with 4 pillows stacked under my knees to raise them in a mock-sitting position.

Did you know atrophy can be painful? I didn't. But it is. Or can be, at least. No one ever told me that.

The numbness & tingling in my legs became so frequent I rarely noticed it anymore. Although there was one troublesome symptom though, that I never got used to.

Every once in a while, I would have the odd sensation of a drop of water running down my right leg. Always my right leg. The first few times I would run to the bathroom, terrified that I had somehow peed myself, and was feeling it run down my leg. But nope, I was dry. Always. Every time (thank goodness!). Yet the sensation was there.

As the months passed, and it became apparent that I could tolerate the pain, my prognosis changed a little. Instead of telling me I would need surgery when the pain became intolerable, it changed to being that I would need surgery when I lost function of my right leg.

My right leg, because that's where the focus of my nerve damage was.

I was told that most likely I would either wake up in the morning unable to move it, or I would be walking, and suddenly would be dragging my leg behind me.

Scary. At first.

Then you get used to it. Plan on what to do. And pray that it doesn't happen while you're driving. But practice driving with your left foot, just in case.

And so I persisted.

I was also told during this time, that my injury was considered a "lifetime injury". Meaning that, surgery or not, I would be facing the consequences of this injury for the rest of my life. For the rest of my life, I would have to be careful, not lift too heavy of things, not jar myself too much, just general awareness & carefulness.

Four years in pain. It still seems unreal to me. I didn't really think about it at the time. I was just trying to live my life as best I could. I think I did a pretty good job.

I worked full time. Sometimes two jobs. I volunteered. I travelled. I did stuff.

I just did it all in pain. And a lot of it hunched over like a frail old lady.

I got glared at by people when I waited for my mom, or my (somewhat) older co-workers to pick up heavy things for me. Because unless I was hunched over at that precise moment, I didn't look injured. So I suppose I looked like a spoiled princess or something.

If I were walking around hunched over - and I got around just fine, mind you, I was just crooked & hunched over - I got stared at, offered wheelchairs, etc.

I certainly didn't date a whole lot.

And then, nearly four years after my accident, it happened.

Well, not it. But I knew.

I was walking back to my desk at work, and my leg fell asleep - you know, that uncomfortable tingly, doesn't-want-to-move sensation? - while I was walking.

I got back to my desk and tried to rub it out, step it out, like you do when your leg falls asleep. But, of course, to no avail. So I called my family doctor.

He confirmed it, it was time for surgery.

Between consults & getting insurance approval (my case had by that time finally been settled, so my health insurance was left to cover the surgery & any subsequent treatment), it was two months before I actually got my surgery (have I mentioned that I'm convinced insurance companies are run by the devil?).

Unfortunately, I didn't read the fine print on my short-term disability insurance closely enough, and didn't get covered because I had my surgery two days too soon. (see devil comment above). Which means I went over 6 weeks without a paycheck of any sort. Nothing like adding the stress of financial woes to someone recovering from major surgery, right?

Anywho... my surgery was supposed to be 30-45 minutes, and I would be discharged that evening.

It ended up taking just over 90 minutes, and I was kept overnight.

Why, you ask? Well, because I was even more special than they originally thought!

When the surgeon opened me up, he discovered that the stuff that had exploded from my disc had, over the years, calcified on my nerves, cementing them to one another & to my spine. So, after repairing the disc, he had to "chisel" (his word) the calcifications from the nerves to free them.

And I was told that there was a significant chance (at this point I don't remember the percentage) that I would need an additional surgery in the future.

I was given several new narcotics, with the idea of these to be not only pain relief, but to keep me as immobile as possible. Meaning that one of them knocked me out about 20 minutes after I took it. Which is what it was supposed to do. Which means that I don't remember a whole lot of the following 6 weeks. Bits & pieces, but not much else.

I do know that the pain I'd been feeling for four years was gone, immediately. Oh sure, there was surgery pain, incision pain. But the pain of the injury was gone. Just... gone.

And I remember lying on my bed one day, just lying there, and I felt this twinge, and I started intentionally moving the muscles in my lower back. And I felt muscles that I hadn't felt in four years. The muscles that had atrophied were responding, and I could feel them again. It was such a surreal feeling.

I met FireMan 3 months after my surgery. I was still recovering. I had just gone off of all prescription medications, but still had a hard time getting around, walked a little funny, got sore easily, took a lot of ibuprofen & Tylenol.

We have a few funny stories from our first few weeks together, all as a result of my recovery. Funny to us, anyway.

So that's my story. Long as it was, it still barely touches on my experience. I feel like I left so much out.

I will say that hopefully now, when I post about stopping a workout because my back hurt, or not doing something around the house because my back hurt... well, that at least you, my readers, will understand a little bit better than the rest of the world.

Because it does get tiring sometimes, of mentioning something, and then getting comments about "pushing thru the pain" or how pushing on is the only way to strengthen those muscles, or just the looks you get. And quite frankly I don't usually feel like explaining the whole entire story.

I have to be very careful.

I know my body. I know the difference between what I can push thru, and what I can't.

My back will always be weak. Always. Not the muscles, but that particular disc will always be at risk for re-injury.

I could push thru more than I do. I have an incredible pain tolerance level, but it's not always about the pain. Sometimes it's about what the pain is a symptom of, what the pain is trying to tell you. And it's making a choice about what level of risk-taking is worth it.

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And just for fun, random interesting fact about me:

I'm approximately half an inch shorter post-accident than I was pre-accident. True story. Family doctor confirmed it with my records about a year after the accident.

Told ya I was special. Ha!

Thanks for checking in.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Fragments

Mommy's Idea


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All ya'll that have DISQUS for entering comments, I can't figure out how to comment on your blog without creating a DISQUS account. And I really don't want another blasted account out there, just so I can comment on stuff. So... yes, I'm still reading your blogs, I just can't comment any more. Unless I'm just missing something, in which case, please school me. But I really have no plans to get a DISQUS account. Just so ya know.

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It's been a really busy week. A great week, for sure, but busy.
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Tuesday was FireGirl's last day at her "old" preschool. I took the day off so I could drop her off & pick her up. And then Thursday we toured her new preschool & met her teachers.
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I went to a coupon class at our church Tuesday night. It was good. But until we're set up for stockpiling, and I have time to shop multiple stores, I'm not sure we can do much better on saving $$ than we are now. A little better maybe, but probably not much. We'll see.
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Oh, and I left a little confused on the difference between actual "coupon fraud" and just bending store coupon policies. And I'm not sure I'm comfortable knowingly doing either.

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But I did get some good ideas on how to organize my coupons better. That alone might help me to save a bit more $$.
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Oh, I didn't mean to imply that they suggested that we commit coupon fraud or bend store policies or anything. Just when people asked "can we do this?" or "can we do that?" it seemed kinda unclear what was okay versus what wasn't. So I left kinda confused.
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All in all, I've had a really good week. Busy. But really, really good.
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FireMan works most of this weekend. As in today, probably tomorrow (mandatory overtime if someone calls in), Monday (the holiday), and Tuesday (shift trade). Booo!
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I got my toesies done on Tuesday. Picked purple because it's FireGirl's favorite color. Now she wants purple toes too.
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Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dancing in the Grocery

Remember how I told you FireGirl loves to dance?

Here she is, dancing in our local grocery store. She danced thru every aisle. This pic was taken in the pet aisle.


She'll dance anywhere. I'm glad I happened to have my camera in my purse that day. But I wish I'd been able to catch some better pics of her. I snapped a bunch, but in most of them you can't really tell that she's doing anything. This was the "danciest" pic of the bunch.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Fragments

Mommy's Idea


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FireGirl ended up with her first ear infection. She's better now. I'm not.

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I caught her "cold". Except it's way more than a cold. And now I feel guilty for not just dropping everything last week and staying home and coddling her every day. 'Cause it sucked.

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But we have air conditioning. And air conditioning rocks. Except it got cold again for most of this week.

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But even when it's cold out popsicles still rock. Especially when you're sick.

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Work's been sucking lately. Which has led to some philosophical thoughts about the "burnout" phenomenon. Which I may blog about. If I can find the time.

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I've also had some rather deep thoughts about math. Yep, math. I really should write this stuff down.

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Now I want a popsicle. But I'm at work. And there are definitely no popsicles here.

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Yes, I usually do my blog at work. I've been told repeatedly that I am a "non-exempt" employee, therefore I must take my full 30 minute lunch, plus two 20-minute breaks (one in the morning, one in the afternoon). I choose to spend mine on the internet.

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I've been thinking a lot about sharing my post-partum struggles. Even though it's been nearly three years (holy crap! three years?!?). For several reasons, but one of the primary ones being that I don't think things like that are talked about nearly enough. There's a massive gap in education among the general public regarding post-partum issues.

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One of my friends is coming over tomorrow to teach me how to use a drill. It's something I've wanted to learn for a while. Unfortunately with FireGirl being sick, and then me, I've been exhausted, and our house is in worse shape than usual. Which is bad. So I was tempted to cancel. But I'm not. I'll just be embarrassed, I guess.

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Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Helping One Another

Sometimes, I read posts about people who need / seem to want help. Or are helping someone else. Or participating in an event to help another person.

I've thought about sharing others before, but have always hesitated, because, well, you know how I am about privacy. If they haven't specifically asked / told me it was okay to spread the word, then I don't feel comfortable putting their business out there.

(in other words, if you want help, don't be afraid to ask for it! and to say "spread the word"! people will!)

But in this case, they've made it very clear. Tell our story. Write a blurb. Take our button to post.

And after reading Jen's story, I'm at a loss as to what else to say. So here's their button. Click it to read their story.

Are You Listening

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Soooooo..... blogger / blog follower meetup idea

Prior to our Girls' Day in Indy, I actually had been thinking about seeing if any of my readers would be interested in a get-together of sorts.

I'd seen on other blogs that I follow where they meet up with some of their regular readers, usually while on vacation or what-not.

And I like the idea. As I was telling Steph & Candace on Saturday, there's something about my regular readers, a connection. Especially those that comment, and those that have their own blogs that I then follow.

I suppose it depends on what you blog about, how much you put into your blogs, but as you well know, other than leaving some things out for privacy's sake, I'm pretty open, it's pretty much just me, as me.

And I feel like my readers get me.

More than the people I chat with on message boards, even though I've been on those boards longer. I suppose maybe it's because here my posts are longer, more personal, more expressive of myself than a short quick note on a message board. As are yours.

And in a few cases, it seems like a few of you understand me better than a few people who know me in real life.

So why didn't I ask?

Because in my head, I couldn't think of how to ask without sounding egotistical. All who-wants-to-meet-me-ish.

But in a way I guess that's what it is, right? And... I guess I shouldn't really care if it comes off that way, because what I'm really saying, is that I want to meet you.

So... if you're interested in an in-person get-together, email me at kyfirewife@gmail.com with the following info:

name / blogger name
blog / website (if you have one - not all of my followers do)
your general location (be as specific or general as you feel comfortable)
ideas for what to do (lunch? shopping? what?)

Knowing that, at least as far as I can tell, most of my readers are not from Kentucky, I am not at all opposed to a roadtrip (the voice in my head just went "Roadtrip! Woo hoo!"), so I'll see where most of the interested readers are from and we'll pick a general destination from there, so hopefully the most people will be able to attend.

Whether I get two responses or twenty, we'll see where this leads. Hopefully it leads to meeting at least a couple of you in real life!

Thanks for checking in!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Girls' Day in Indy

This past Saturday was... terrific!

I met up with fellow bloggers Candace (from New Adventures of the Princess & the Peanut) & Steph (from Plan B) for a girls' day in Indianapolis.

Candace & I have known each other since childhood, and she remains one of my oldest & dearest friends.
Candace & Steph


Steph connected with me thru blogging, by way of Candace's blog. Since then we have become Facebook friends, shared a few emails, and basically just came to realize that we have a ton in common, and she's become a good friend, although until Saturday one I only knew online.

A month or so ago (maybe two months now?) the idea was thrown out for the three of us to get together, since we have this common friend-blog-friend thread. We all enthusiastically agreed, and despite the fact that we each live in separate states  from one another (three friends, three different states), we agreed on a destination and made plans.

Candace met me at a gas station off the highway, and we rode together to Circle Centre Mall, where we both met Steph in real person for the first time.
Me & Steph

Lunch at Hard Rock followed, where we ended up chatting it up for over three hours!

After Hard Rock we headed back to the Mall for some shopping. A few hours (and some new clothes) later, we made tentative plans for a future outing (in a different state, mind you, LOL), then Candace & I parted ways with Steph and headed for home.

And while that's the nuts & bolts of our girls' day, this post really doesn't do it justice. It was truly one of the most fun, relaxing, refueling days I've had in a long time.

Yes, refueling. I think that is the word I will use to describe that day. I came home refueled.

Thanks girls! It was truly a pleasure to spend the day with both of you!

And has me brainstorming other ideas for future meetups... more to come!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Fragments

Mommy's Idea

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It's been a long week.

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FireGirl has been sick most of the week.

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And I've gotten very little sleep.

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Nothing major. Just a bad cold. Which has now led to her very 1st ear infection.

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I feel like I should have more to say, but I'm drawing a blank.

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Probably due to exhaustion.

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I will say I have super-fun plans for tomorrow. Not sharing yet, but will probably share next week. Hopefully with pics.

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Either blogger is having some issues and has deleted my posts from yesterday, or I'm losing my mind.

Either one is a possibility.

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Because I very clearly remember pre-writing this Friday Fragments and saving it as a draft, yet when I logged in today, I couldn't find it.

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And... I also very clearly remember finally writing an update post on my other blog, and linking to it on my Friday Fragments post, but.... again, no post there either.

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Which is so weird, because not only to I very clearly remember writing both posts, not only to I preview posts before I post, I also post and then re-read to make sure they show up. So I am like 99.9% sure that I really did post on my other blog yesterday. Yet it's not showing up.

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But I am really super-tired, and it's very possible that I imagined or dreamt the entire thing. Ha!

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Have a great weekend!

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Monday, May 9, 2011

FireGirl is sick and It's Hot this week (yes, they're related. Sort of)

Last Friday FireGirl started coughing. A little. No biggie.

She's prone to coughing fits. Got it from her momma. Poor baby. But it really wasn't bad, and was her only symptom.

By Saturday night the coughs still weren't bad at all, and were fairly infrequent, but we decided to turn the thermostat up to 72 degrees (because that seems to be the magic temperature that eases her cough), and give her a cough suppressant before bed.

Last night her nose started running. A little. Cough still wasn't bad. But she didn't sleep well, even with the thermostat up, and came into our room just after midnight.

As I put her back into bed, I thought she felt pretty warm, and she actually refused the blanket for being hot, so I gave her some children's acetaminophen.

She slept the rest of the night, although fitfully.

This morning, her nose is running like a faucet, cough is still not bad. And by 8am, she felt warm again. I gave her another dose of acetaminophen and sent some along to the sitter's.

When I got there, all the other kids were coughing too. At least they're all sick at the same time, I guess. And it answers my question as to where she got a cold-type virus this time of year.

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Today it's supposed to be 75 degrees. Eighty tomorrow. 85 the following two days. Roughly. Hot. For me, anyway.

And I'm sensitive to the heat. Something I get from my daddy. Definitely not my mommy's Southern roots. I get some things from her, but not my heat tolerance. I absolutely melt in the heat.

As in, if I get too hot, especially if there is limited air flow, I get physically ill. Sick to my stomach.

And really whiny. Ask FireMan.

I'm an absolute wimp.

And... anyone guessing where I'm going with this?...

We don't have air conditioning yet.

As part of our home renovations, we knew we needed a new air conditioning unit. But since we started renovations in the Autumn, we decided that A/C could be postponed until Spring and paid for with our tax refund. Then our tax lady's husband ended up in the hospital for weeks on end, and we didn't get our taxes done until April. Then it was really cool for April in our area, we had bad storms, lost five trees in the bad storms, and... have I ever told you how FireMan & I are world class procrastinators?

So... it's finally getting hot, and we have no A/C. I've actually considered spending a night or two with my daddy, since my mom's out of town anyway.

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How are these related? At all?

Well, the nights are supposed to be cool. Like in the 50s. So, the relatively easy solution to the heat issue would be to do the old open-the-windows-at-night trick. Use a fan or two to suck in the cold air, close the windows before we leave in the morning, and... wa la! Cool air keeps the house tolerable thru the heat of the day.

But... with FireGirl's cough, I can't afford for it to get too cool at night. We've found 72 degrees to be the magic temperature with her cough - the minimum temperature for her cough to be tolerable for her at night.

So... momma will be hot. And probably sick. Because I would rather be sick 100 times over than for her to be sick.

But (hopefully) only until Thursday. When the A/C guy comes to install our new unit. Thank goodness.

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Random, related note - I'm calling the pediatrician this afternoon. Not for FireGirl's virus though. Pretty sure that'll just have to run it's course, and it's really not that bad. Yet anyway.

But she's had a diaper rash for over a month now. It'll flare up horribly, we get it calmed down, but it never goes away. Then she'll have a bad diaper, and it'll flare up again, horribly. Like painfully bad. And of the six different over-the-counter and prescription creams we have for her diaper rashes and skin conditions, we still can't get rid of it.

I thought it was a combination of eczema, plain old diaper rash, and one pimple of staph infection, and treated each area with the prescription creams for such, but still to no avail. So we decided it's finally time to take her in and get an official diagnosis. If I remember to I'm going to take all of the creams with me, and say, okay... which one? or do we get a new one now?

Poor baby.

The good news is her potty training has finally picked up. With bribes of toys and promises of Dora panties and Elmo training pants. She wants to be grown up so badly, and has told me several times this weekend that "I grown up now".

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Thanks for checking in.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Fragments

Mommy's Idea

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FireGirl starts her new "school" in June, going three full days per week.

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She is totally excited about starting her new school.

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I'm excited about not having to pack her lunch anymore.

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Did I mention I can't believe how big she's getting? Where did my baby go?

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Potty training is going slowly. Very slowly.

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I am in desperate need of a vacation.

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I can't find my camera.
I remember taking it out of my purse, and setting it down in a very specific spot so I would know where to find it....  and I have no idea where that was. Ugh.

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I'm seriously considering getting Lasik surgery. But it scares the beejesus out of me.

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FireMan cooked dinner this past Monday. And it was yummy.

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FireMan's a much better cook than I.

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I have no idea what we're doing this weekend. Nope, not even on Mothers' Day.

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Happy Mothers' Day to all the mommies out there!

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Because they're mourning too

This past week has been, understandably, difficult.

And I have been reflective.

And I have learned something about myself.

Apparently, I can get a little mean when I'm sad.

I didn't realize it at first. See, this friend, I worked with him. So I dealt with the loss every time I came into work.

The information flow was lacking, at best. Management did not manage. Work (including mine) did not get done. People were snarky for no apparent reason. People seemed selfish at times.

And for my people, well, I'm their person. I'm the one they can talk to without judgement. The one who understands. And yes, being one of only (now) two women in our division, I'm the softer side. I'm the one they trust to not have to be big tough men all the time, and be understood, and not judged.

Which means I have to be there for them.

And all of this led up to an enormous amount of stress.

But I digress...

The end of the day we got the news, I realized that I had been not very nice during the day. I had been uncharacterisically judgy of those around me, snarky even. More importantly, I realized why.

If I were mad, I wouldn't be sad.

It seemed the minute I let my wall down, I crumbled.

Somehow, being angry helped me to keep going, helped me to be there.

The (unfortunate?) thing was there wasn't anything to be angry at. Nothing big. So I found myself being angry & snarky & judgy about little stupid things. Definitely at work. Probably at home too (sorry FireMan & FireGirl).

After that realization, I tried to keep my anger to myself (except for the occasional vent to FireMan), because I realized I wasn't really angry. I was hurting.
And I kept reminding myself that they're mourning too.

The lack of information flow?
Well, some of that I think was an inability for people to face what happened. Even if they're a manager & it's their job to distribute that info. I also think there were huge gaps because people didn't know exactly how to handle the situation. Not even those in HR. Our company, huge as it is, deals with several deaths of employees each year. Illness, natural causes, and accidents. In my seven years here, this is the first suicide. And I think they struggled with how & what to tell who & when.
Grief counsellors were scheduled, moved, brought in, rescheduled, moved again, extended.
They just didn't know what to do.

People were snarky & selfish & didn't manage & didn't work...
for the same reasons I did all of those things. They were mourning too.

And so I let myself be angry. I honor my coping mechanisms. But I did my best not to show it. Because that's just not nice.

But I grew patience, and grew understanding.

And I was their person.

They came to my desk and talked. They asked me to come to their desk and talk. Co-workers who had left our division years ago,... they came to me, and they talked. And I listened. And I nodded knowingly, because I understood everything they said. And when they asked me, I talked to them too.

Even when I just wanted everyone to go away and stop talking about it.

I broke down last Thursday night in bed. FireMan rubbed my back as I sobbed for my friend. I really wanted to call in on Friday. And the reason I wanted to call in was the very reason I couldn't.

See, my people travel during the week. Most of them were gone when we got the news. But on Friday? Everyone would be back. And everyone would want to talk. And the sore would be new for me, again.

And when they asked me to go buy a card for the family for everyone to sign, I did so. And I came back in & threw the card on my managers desk, and loudly sucked in air as I tried to hold back the tears on my way to the bathroom. And I sobbed in the bathroom stall for a while.

Then I composed myself, stormed back into the office, stiffened my jaw, and went about my work in an angry-ish silence. I'm sure anyone who might have seen me who didn't know me might have thought I was the biggest bitch that ever lived.

But my people? They just let me be. Because they knew. How? Because they're mourning too.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My reaction to the news of Bin Laden's death

I cannot celebrate death. It just seems wrong to me.

I cringed at the sight of parties in the streets, but at the same time, I understood them.

I understand the psychological impact on Americans, and their allies, at his death.

But it's still death.

I did find some satisfaction in watching video of a fire truck in New York City pull up to a crowd of revellers. I watched as the firefighters climbed atop the truck, taking pictures of the crowds. They seemed happy, although definitely not in the same rambunctious manner as those below them. People gave them high-fives, they waved.

But mostly, it seemed, they just took it all in. Watched.

I think I get it.

See, they lost 343 brothers on 9/11.

Bin Laden was the self-proclaimed mastermind behind those deaths.

There is some reconciliation in knowing he is gone, but I imagine it is difficult to be rambunctiously joyous in the face of something that reminds them of the 343.

343.

I find that not many people know that number. Not the way the fire family does.

I was not a fire wife in 2001. Not only had I not met FireMan yet, he wasn't a firefighter yet. Not in 2001.

I can only imagine what I would have felt had the now "us" been around back then.

I read today that the news of Bin Laden's death is actually triggering PTSD-type flashbacks among survivors of 9/11.

I can only imagine.

And so I met the news in a kind of emotionless way. I took it in. I watched as others revelled.

And although I can rejoice in the delivering of an enemy into our hands, I cannot rejoice in a soul that has been lost forever.

There has been too much death. Yes, maybe I'm in a different frame of mind because of my friend. But reflecting on what started this to begin with... thousands of innocents killed. 343 firefighters never to return home. Soldiers dying overseas.

There has been too much death already. One more, whomever it may be... well, I just cannot celebrate death.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Focus on the amazing

I've been thinking a lot since last week. A lot.
Some might say my thoughts are morbid.
I suppose "morbid" is the word. Although I don't feel that it's so.

It makes me think of my own death mostly. What preparations maybe I should make now. What can I do to ease the burden for my family.

See, I came to terms with my mortality when I was a teenager. I began planning my funeral / memorial service when I was 15 (as if I have a say), and although some things have evolved, it's still basically the same.

While other people's deaths can shake me to the core, my own... I am at peace with.

No, not in a oh-my-goodness-call-the-suicide-watch kinda way. Not at all.

In the way of I've-accepted-that-as-part-of-life-I-will-die. Someday.

See, when I was 15, my grandma died. Ten days later my uncle died.

It was a difficult summer.

And that's when I began planning. I think in a way it's a coping mechanism for me. A way to take my mind off of the sad, off of the loss, and to focus on more practical things, things related to what happened, but that I have some control over. Or pretend that I do.

As a teenager, and even into my early 20's, I had my plans all mapped out, written down on notebook paper that had crinkled over the years.

Where I wanted the service to take place, what quotes I wanted read, what music I wanted played.

That all has changed, but one thing has remained.

I know it's not my decision, and as my mom has pointed out, memorials are for those left behind, not those who have passed - but... I hope the focus is on my life, and not my death.

I have led, by my own judgement, an amazing life. Trials? Sure. Heartache? Absolutely. But wonderful, awe-inspiring moments? You better freakin' believe it.

I hope amidst what sadness is there, there is greater joy in a life that was lived fully. I want happy music played, my favorite songs sung, trumpets must be blaring a rich melody somewhere.

No boring quiet service, please, full of folks in their Sunday best whispering condolences. I am not (in my opinion) leading a boring, quiet life.

Wear what you wear. Be who you are. I certainly will be being who I am, right?

Tell funny stories, laugh, and smile, and sing. Yes... a music-lover should have singing there, right?

I think I would prefer to be cremated, though this thought horrifies my mother. Just seems like a coffin buried in the ground is such a waste to hold a now empty shell.

But my mother is right, it's not for me, it's for those left behind to mourn, right?

Which leads to a greater (than me) idea:

What if, instead of all the tradition that encompasses our rites of mourning, what if we started mourning in ways that celebrated the person that has passed?

I don't know, but somehow I think this might just ease our mourning, make the passing a little easier on those left behind to know that they paid their final respects in a way that their loved one would have appreciated.

So much of what we do is decided by tradition, instead of being defined by who we are.

Yes, there is a place for tradition, I love tradition in its time & place, and have been called by some, very "traditional". And if tradition & rites are your thing, then by all means, have that be your thing.

I don't know. I guess in some ways it just seems like an injustice to those who have passed to ignore the amazing life they lived and fill it with plain flowers, and dressy clothes, and whispered words.

Because we all live amazing lives in some way, right?

This is kind of rambling, I know. Just some of my thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head.

Mostly, to stop focusing on that one moment, on that moment of death, and start focusing on the amazing life that preceded that one final moment.

Yes, focus on the amazing, on the good, awe-inspiring, beautiful life that was.

Focus on the amazing.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My friend? He killed himself.

It sounds so harsh, doesn't it?

But it is harsh. "committed suicide" just doesn't sound right in this case.

Perhaps because it was such a violent death.

I will not go into details, for privacy's sake, but the method he chose, is an excruciating, painful manner of death. Perhaps one of the worst ways to die I can think of.

And it was not quick.

His attempt occurred in the middle of the night last Sunday night. He died Wednesday afternoon. His last three days being spent in the ICU.

He did it at home. I do not know what, if anything, his family saw.

I do know the first responders who responded to the 9-1-1 call (I do not know who placed the call), witnessed the entire incident, and for reasons I will not go into here, were helpless to intervene. I don't know what happened to those first responders, but honestly, I could see this as one of those career-ending calls. The ones that haunt you the rest of your life. The one that could make them not return to the job.

The astounding thing to me? There were no warning signs. None.

I spoke with him about 10 days prior. He was his normal, happy, jovial self. He had posted new pics of his kids on his Facebook page just a couple of days prior to that. Through the network of loved ones that has evolved since this occurred, I have been in touch with friends, family, and co-workers. All proclaim that there were no warning signs.

In the days & weeks leading up to it, he appeared to be his normal self. We have all racked our brains trying to think of anything we might have missed. It just wasn't there. No indications that anything was amiss, that he was struggling with anything at all.

And what is so devestating to me, is that whatever it was, whatever pain or struggle he was having within himself, the idea that that distress was so great that he decided that ending his life, and ending it in what he certainly knew was a most painful manner, was better than continuing on.

That thought... it is that thought that haunts me.

I hurt for him. For the internal pain he was in that led up to his decision. It breaks my heart to think of my friend struggling so.

My mind swirls with thoughts. I have thought of little else for days. I could fill volumes with what my mind is speaking.

I might write more on the matter later. But for now, this is it.

My friend died this week. My friend killed himself his self.
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