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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The People in My Neighborhood

"When disappointment and discouragement strike--and they will--you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed go come to our protection.  They will always be there, these armies of heaven, in defense of Abraham's seed."   --Jeffrey R. Holland

I know angels.  I know more than I ever imagined. 

I never imagined the outpouring of love from the people who want to help.

Since the reality check of the extended ICU stay and (forced) decision to stop working and admitting disability, the generosities and opening of hearts have been astounding.  And even though I am not really surprised, I am both filled with gratitude and amazement that I know these kinds of people.

A sample of examples?  Sure.  From shelter to transportation, friends I call family have volunteered their home for me.  I still am getting offers of spare bedrooms.  When it was discovered I didn't have a vehicle, a friend handed the keys to his jeep over without thought and I used it for over six months.  Before I left Phoenix, my home was burglarized and amongst the things that were stolen, my laptop was one of them.  A used laptop was given to me as if it was no big deal.

There have been more than one instance that cash  or gift cards have found its way into my purse/wallet/pocket/mailbox, usually just in the nick of time when I am wondering how I will be paying for prescriptions or doctor's copays.  (I still haven't been approved for my disability, but that's another nightmare.)  Many times I know the giver, more often I do not, and every once in a while, I recognize handwriting even though they want no credit for their generosity.  I'm still trying to figure out who sent me one of those cool get well baskets when I was in the hospital.  It arrived and no one looked, they just opened it so we could enjoy all the goodies.

And that's just the material needs.

Only every once in a while do you get the opportunity to have one of those cool, straight out of the John Hughes/Cameron Crowe movie moments and mine happened in the hospital.  Except I didn't react so cooly.  I had to have a power port put in place, a usually minor procedure, but knowing I'm a terrible surgical candidate, there's always that slight fear of dying because of some complication.  Anyway, my mom couldn't be there but I was already an inpatient so it was just going to suck it up and pretend it didn't bother me that no one other than the nursing staff would be there when I woke up.  But then when they were wheeling me back, it was a Ferris Bueller moment when the bus moved and there he was waiting for Sloane, or like when Jake Ryan was waiting for Samantha after everyone else left for the wedding reception.  Not that I hadn't already survived the procedure, but it was just one of those cool moments in life.  And instead of playing it cool, I squealed my friend's name like the still stoned from anesthesia idiot, three octaves higher than I thought I could squeak. She knew I would be nervous.  She showed up. 
 One of those times I was going to have to check into the hospital, I was still waiting at my doctor's office as he called to make sure I had a bed waiting, I posted on Facebook something about having to check in again.  Before I was even fully registered and had my ID band, I had a visitor.  I hadn't even gotten to my room yet and she found me at registration.  She said she just happened to be in the neighborhood.

Then there are people who are inspired to show up right when I need them.  Its been a tough couple of months and the stories I could tell you of friends who have showed up to advocate for me and make things happen as far as my care goes.  And just in the nick of time.  Its been humbling to watch these people just step up and write letters, or fill out paperwork for me when I just can't do it anymore.  People who show up with deviled eggs because they know I love them or flowers, bringing me groceries or prepared meals, just waltzing in and doing my dishes or taking out the trash as its been hard just to stand on my feet .Or as simple and lovely as just showing up and seeing my swollen feet and giving me a foot rub.  That was a great day.  Service and compassion has not been skimped on when it comes to my neighborhood.  What's strange is that I haven't had to ask for hardly any help, these people have just thought of me and acted upon their instincts and inspiration.  I can think of more than once where I have had a thought of, "Homemade soup sounds really good" or "I wish someone would come give me a foot rub", and well, you already know two women showed up and did it.  Within minutes of wondering how I was going to make it to a doctor's appointment because my ankles were swollen and I knew I might have trouble driving my stick shift, a text was received and a ride was offered.  Within MINUTES.

I am truly blessed.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In Case of Emergency and Day to Day Life

I recently had my fifth right heart catheterization and this one was, emotionally, the toughest.

I had my mom or my best friend there the first two times, and those are the two people I can be 100% vulnerable around.  And I needed that.  The next two times, I was already checked into the hospital, so I was already set in case something bad happened.  But this time I forgot to plan who was going to drive me to the hospital.  I hate inconveniencing people, but there's the added burden of deciding who you would want there if things go bad.  And my mom and best friend have both moved out of state.  They'd be there for me as soon as they could, but it would take at least six hours.

I'm fortunate to have a plethora of great friends who would happily volunteer to be my emergency contact, but who do I choose to inconvenience?  Who could deal with my everything?  Who do I want to see me in my worst possible state should that happen?  Who could I trust to make decisions to follow through with what I would want to let me go?  Its gotten pretty ugly recently, especially when I think about some of the responses from my friends when they've visited, and their tears.  The last thing I want to do is scar someone.

But, all that said, I survived, and so I can put off the decision of who to list yet again.  If something were to happen, my best friend is still listed as my emergency contact, and if you were to ask me under pressure or anesthesia, his is the only number I could tell you; its the only number I've bothered to memorize thanks to speed dial and smart phones.

Which gets me thinking about things that single people have to think about.  Who would be your 'person when carefully planned out?  Married people of course have their built in answer.  Single people not so much.  I sit here thinking, hmm, who would be able to stomach the ugliness of what I might have to go through to get well, or who would I authorize to make the decisions necessary that I could trust would follow through with what I would want?  Of course there's that, and then there's the other end of the spectrum, the, who will be there every day if something were to go wrong.  The hold my hair back when I'm vomiting moments, help me do laundry when I can't get out of bed, the creature comforts that were a given from family when you were little and you didn't have to think about who was going to take care of you.  Who would I allow to see my vulnerability?

So what about you?  Who would be the person when, under pressure, you contact first?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

But, I'm an Alto...

Don't laugh, but I used to sing. I used to sing and loved to sing and harmonize. I sang voluntarily, and not just in the shower or car with the windows rolled up. Not as a soloist mind you, but in a choir. And I miss it. Well, I miss being able to breathe deeply, you know, the deep cleansing breaths that fill your belly...but being able to take that breath and turn it into notes that may or may not be right on key. Hey, I never said I was a pro.

At one point I could sing second soprano, which is a little bit higher on the scale but still not really in the headlining soprano range. I clearly wasn't caught up in the technicalities of singing, I just enjoyed being a part of something that created a nice end product. I used to claim first chair as a trumpeter, which often maintains the melody, but when listening to a band or orchestra or any kind of music, I would focus on hearing the other parts by supporting instruments. I mean, its not like a cello can't do a solo, its just not as common, just like oboes, clarinets, violas, and french horns are usually not featured. However, if they're not there, you might or might not know that they were the instruments missing but you might recognize that the overall sound is not complete.

So one of those times I was not exactly on key. Yeah. That was in front of people. With a microphone. I was doing a super short duet, the intro part to a song called, "Oh, that I were an angel". And the soprano was missing, so the director told me just to sing the part.

It had been ingrained in me to follow the tune of the main instrument, and so I always had. I knew my notes, I knew how to read them, but without a soprano to follow, I couldn't hit the right notes to save my life. I needed a soprano to sing the melody before I could harmonize with the alto part. I embarrassingly voice-fished for my part, bouncing between what I knew was the melody but was ever so slightly too high out of my range and what I should have been singing. It sounded more like yodeling.

Bad yodeling.

My point?

I can function on my own. I know enough to get by. But I'm an alto. I do so much better not taking the lead role, I'm way better at a supporting role. I don't want to take the spotlight. I'm not the flashy bright colors you see at first, I'm more of the undertones-type of person. Part of my problem is that even when there's just a melody, my brain automatically fishes for the harmony.

I'm somewhat of a closeted hopeless romantic. I'm still looking for that great love, my partner in crime in life, someone to share my miseries, accomplishments, and my baked treats. There was a time not that long ago when a man sang, "So you had a bad day" when I had a bad day. I have been serenaded on my answering machine, and still have the answering machine's microcassette to prove it. There was a time when I was bold enough to actually use my pointy finger at a hottie and tell him to introduce himself because I needed to know such good-lookingness. There was a time when I could to dig up a cute date the same day I had to be at a wedding (and he showed up in a flashy new red convertible and a new suit!). I love that a man once burned his finger while melting chocolate to make me homemade brownies from scratch. Once a gentleman answered his phone "Be still my beating heart!!" when I called. I once dated a man who wrote me a handwritten note at least three or four times a week and left them on my pillow or on my car's steering wheel the entire six months we were dating. One man baked tiny cookies and spelled out "I love you". One man I went out with didn't have much money so he would pick me wildflowers. No, I'm NOT making this up. When I was first sick with pulmonary hypertension, there was one who would carry me up the stairs, and give me piggy back rides on demand, and coached me while driving those handicapped carts at Target.

Being alone and being lonely are two different things, I certainly recognize that. And another truth I acknowledge and have ALWAYS proclaimed is that it is better to wish to married than wish to be single. But I have known what it is like to be loved, and miss it. I know what great love is, I know what its like to be treated well. Sometimes I wish I could be one of those women who can claim to be a whole person without a partner and it doesn't matter because they have their job/career/religion/family/friends/money/experiences/hobbies/DVD or DVR collection/pets/knitting needles/crochet hooks and yarn that make up the difference. But I have also experienced falling asleep in someone's arms during one of my favorite action movies not because of exhaustion or the movie was bad but simply because it was my most peaceful place to be and I always feel safe with him. And then waking up after the credits are rolling and just being so happy that having him as a pillow wasn't a dream; just being next to that 'him' made me smile. Not because neither he nor I were perfect, but because I know he was perfect for me. I've been that silly 'sentimental schmuck' that can't stop smiling just knowing there might be an upcoming possibility that I could see him. These glimpses of what I have had makes searching for what I want, well, it certainly sets the bar high. But when you've had a taste of the really REALLY good chocolate straight from Belgium, its hard to go back to the cheaper, drug-store variety. Factor in the, 'gee, when do I tell him I've got this rare terminal disease' part, on the first or second date? and its daunting to think of who's going to want me. Ugh. Don't get me wrong, I am so so SO grateful for the people already in my life, but you know how when a baby falls asleep on your chest and its the best peaceful feeling? Its intoxicating. There's nothing like being with your best friend who can morph to become that great love. I can't settle for less than what I've already experienced. Not that I am ever going to pull the 'you come here, I need to know you' move with my pointy finger again unless I'm uber compelled and feeling bold and just THAT confident again, but that knowledge of, "yes, he IS the love of your life" affirmation that many of you already know.
I'm still looking for my lead singer. (A classic.  Just for fun.)