Sunday, August 26, 2007

Code Words

When my daughters were young, we came up with code words for certain situations. There was one for “secure pickup at school”, which frankly, I don’t think any of us ever remembered. Another one to tell the alarm company when one of us accidentally set off the alarm code at home; although we had to finally ink it in a cabinet bottom because, again, no one ever remembered it and the police come out pretty quickly in our town.

But there was one code word that the kids took to like ducks to water. “Interesting”. The idea was to replace a jarring one-word description in sensitive situations with a more palatable one. Or at least that was the original idea. It started out well at first.

Great-Aunt (retired teacher): How do you like your teacher this year?
Daughter #1: She sucks.
Me (clearing throat): Ah_hem
Daughter #1: I mean, she’s interesting.

But the girls soon figured out that they could also use this word to their advantage, and have a good smirk at the same time.

My MoM: Did you enjoy reading that article I gave you on new ways to combat diarrhea?
Me: Uh, um, well I, I started to read it. . . .
Daughter #1 or #2: Yeah, mom, remember, you said it was interesting (and here she smirks).

Give the word some credit, “Interesting”, actually is a pretty versatile word, and is good for lots of wiggling room in delicate situations. It got me thinking about how we use lots of code words every day to mask the message or lessen the impact. Daughter #2 leaves early tomorrow for college Leaving On A Jet Plane and started to complain yesterday about a dry scratchy throat. She has a propensity for getting sick very quickly, and this past winter dealt with a lot of asthma attacks and bronchial illness—2,694 miles away at college. So, when she asked me to look at her throat yesterday, and I leaped off the couch in concern, she quickly said, “It’s probably not red, mom, it’s probably just allergies. "Allergies" and "red" being a code words for “don’t worry, mom, as soon as I get out of the dusty desert Monday, I’ll be fine and even if I’m probably getting sick, I don’t want you to worry about it.”

So both Husband and I responded with our own code words. “You’re probably right but why don’t we just plan on hitting the Urgent Care Center first thing Sunday morning since you’re leaving on a plane the next day? (Code for “Geeze, she’s gonna be sick and she’s getting on some germ and bacteria covered plane tomorrow–we are so going to the Urgent Care Center!”)

In the most serious situations, code words are even comforting, giving us a sense of security we can’t reach by ourselves. On Friday, Wonderful Father-in-law (really) called to tell us Wonderful Mother-in-law’s (really, her too) cancer is back. The last scan, which was only 5 weeks ago, was clean, but this one was not. Wonderful Mother-in-law was sleeping while we talked quietly with Wonderful-Father-in-law so we didn’t get to talk to her until later that night. The doctor thinks he can knock this latest bout of stage four lung cancer back down again, and he wouldn’t ask her to go through treatment again if he wasn’t confident she could tolerate it and get some benefit. When the phone rang later that night, it was Wonderful Mother-in-law. She talked to each of us in turn, asking about work, social life, and other little things. We all desperately wanted to hear from her directly that she was willing to restart the treatment regiment, but didn't want to ask her. It was a normal conversation except for the life preserver she threw us at the end in code, “I’ve got my boxing gloves on”.

Sometimes code words are just better than explicit words.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Leaving On A Jet Plane. . .

I dread this time of the year. The last few days before Daughter #2 returns to college. . .2,694 miles and another coast away. Everything speeds up as Daughter #2, Husband, and I discover more things we forgot to buy/return/resize/appear at/modify/fix or file before she leaves.

We’re running out of time, and I’m getting sad because in 2 & ½ days, I’ll be reduced to smelling her scent on her bedsheets after she’s left. I know, I know, this is what young adults are meant to do-- grow up and be independent. And Daughter #2 has done a great job. She was born, raised, and educated in the Southwest with 365 days of sunshine, yet she lives and goes to school in Boston competing against hordes of East Coast educated students from private schools, and trudging through Nor'easter storms. And she excels. It’s time for her to leave, but I’m really going to miss her.

The frequent visits to Walgreens, Daughter #2's favorite drug store, have been multiplying at a frightening rate as she keeps remembering “one more thing” she needs to get that apparently doesn’t exist in Boston. I should probably explain at this point that when she leaves, her car stays here. In Boston, it’s either hoof it by foot, take the “T” train, or call Boyfriend for a ride. So, I can’t blame her for stocking up. Until the Mastercard bill comes.

But back to being sad. This is the fourth end-of-summer-and-back-to-college time, and she’s never been done packing until the last minute. The various piles have been all over the house for a week, and it’s both comforting and depressing because it will all be gone Monday morning. . .along with her.

We’re going out for a Momma/Daughter breakfast this morning. Just the two of us. Husband’s turn is Saturday. On Sunday, Daughter #1 will join us in looking sad. And on Monday morning, after Daughter #2 has left, Daughter #1 will call from work to console me and tell me, “I’m still here and I only live 2 minutes away!” We’ll track Daughter #2's plane online until it lands, and come home from work to our once again empty nest. It’s going to be strange for a while.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Best-Laid Plans . . . .

Today was pretty much a typical Sandwich Generation Day, or put another way, it was a frickin’ disaster compared to how I INTENDED to spend my day.

I’ve behind at work thanks to my reduced visual ability last week from the Bell’s Palsy (which is healing exceptionally fast–hooray!) So I was counting on today to really catch up now that I once again have two big brown functioning eyes.


Daughter #1, the one with the impossible work schedule because she works in the TV news industry, called and needed someone to wait for the Cox Cable repair guy. Her new precious purchase, a large size flat-screen plasma TV, has been buzzing since she got a HD cable box. Since she isn’t home for any of the usual repair hours, she has to wait for weekend appts, and both Best Buy and Cox Cable have been on site previously blaming each other. (Sound familiar?) So, in typical mother fashion, since I do own my business, I offered to leave the office and wait for the return of the Cox Cable guy.

Daughter #1: Thank you, thank you, thank you, mom. I love you!
Me: Um, you’re welcome. He’ll be there between
12 & 2, right?
Daughter #1: Yes, thank you, thank you, thank you.
(She’s good at repetition)

So, I drive 30 minutes into work, go into a meeting that lasts twice as long as I hoped, and work through about a half inch of my overflowing IN box. Then it’s back to the other side of town to wait for Cable Guy.

While I wait, I clean her laptop of 58 spyware, defrag it, and run maintenance on it that she hadn’t run in over a year. I make her bed, empty the garbage, and re-arrange the pillows on her couch. Daughter #2 comes over to visit for a while before she has to leave for one of several last minute doctor visits she has to cram in before she returns to college Monday morning. We bond briefly.

Cable Guy finally arrives at 2. (Sigh)

And spends an hour trying to figure out the problem. He actually figures it out, but it’s not good news for Daughter #1. There’s a problem with the electrical line and/or circuit breaker tied to the socket the TV and cable box are plugged into. The new TVs and HD cable boxes are really sensitive to electrical current irregularities, and this will necessitate another home visit from an electrician.

Cable Guy and I leave. Early rush hour is now beginning as I drive back to work. I call MoM on the way to see how she’s feeling.

Bad idea.
MoM feels awful. What’s wrong, MoM? “I just feel awful”. Exactly WHERE do you feel awful, MoM? “All over”. Do you want me to come over? “No, I’m going to go lay down.” I’ll talk to you later, Mom.

Back at the office now, it’s late afternoon, and I’m starting to feel a little funny. I realize I have forgotten to take my morning pills, which includes meds for my lupus and leaky mitral valve. Luckily, in my morning rush to get to work, I had grabbed the pills and stashed them in my purse to take later. No problem, I thought, I’ll take them now.

A half hour after taking my pills, I notice that my office is blurring, and I’m feeling very relaxed and sleepy. I realize with horror that I must have accidentally packed up two oxycodones instead of two plaquenil pills that are eerily similiar. I need a ride home fast, and since Husband is my business partner, I totter down the hallway, and pull him out of a meeting.
Me: You need to drive me home. . .now. I accidentally took two
Me (Starting to hum and sway)
Husband: Ok, we’re leaving! I’ll bring you in the morning to get
your car.

On the way home, my muddled brain signals my vocal cords, and I manage to warn Husband not to let me fall asleep before I take my mega dose of Prednisone for the Bell’s Palsy. (You don’t want to skip a massive dose of Prednisone in the middle of a treatment). No problem says Husband.

Once home, I down the prednisone, and grateful for my bed, fall asleep.

I forget to check on MoM.

And six hours later when the oxycodone wears off, I am now wide awake from the mega dose of prednisone and can’t fall asleep until 4am.


Today, I wake up and find out that I didn’t win the lottery again. And my IN box is now overflowing.

I quit. For today.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Why Not Me?

This past weekend, Husband and I each bought Powerball Lottery tickets because the jackpot was an insane $200 million dollars. I even went ahead and bought an additional ticket for the relatively paltry Arizona Lottery jackpot of +$1 million–thinking maybe with everyone distracted by the g’normous Powerball Lottery jackpot, my ticket might sneak by and win the +$1 million dollar prize.

I had it all planned out in my mind. First, I’d call Daughter #1 and tell her not to worry about her condo mortgage payments anymore. Oh, and to get a larger, safer car immediately. Then Husband and I would call a staff meeting and announce that we were turning over the business to our employees. Next, I’d concentrate on setting up a non-profit foundation for grants and gifts, and work on snagging the beautiful place that Husband and I have been coveting on Mission Bay in San Diego (balanced, don’t you think?).

So, I was really bummed to wake up Sunday morning, and find out that Husband, Daughter #1, and I would all have to show up to work on Monday morning. The Powerball Lottery is now up to $245 million. Someone ELSE won the local Arizona Lottery so that prize is back to a measly million again.

I can’t help it–I’m going use my daily chocolate money on lottery tickets again this week. The drawings are Wednesday. Wish me luck.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Let Me Say Thank You

Remember when you were little and you skinned your knees? Remember all the loving attention you got? I felt like that again when friends, family, co-workers, and even some of my fellow bloggers deluged me with supportive phone calls, emails, cards, and visits in light of the Bell’s Palsy I’ve contracted.

At the tender age of 54, I haven’t really missed those bloody painful knees I got when I ditched my training wheels. (Remember how they hurt every time you bent your knees?) But until the Bell’s Palsy, I didn’t realize how much I missed that kind of attention and concern. For so many years now, it’s been my job to take care of Daughter #1, Daughter #2, Husband, Aging Parents and In-Laws, and even those young staffers that work for me. I was always the one handing out compassion and advice. Until now.

I won’t bore you with all the gory details; suffice it to say that Bell’s Palsy is pretty devastating both physically and emotionally until you start to get better. And I am getting better. I’m sure the heavy duty amounts of prednisone are partially responsible. But the genuine empathy and supportive inspirational contact from everyone filled an equally important prescription. You can’t beat human contact for good medicine.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hell's Bells

I can’t whistle. I can’t drink through a straw. And blotting my lips is impossible. Late last week, I thought I was coping with a bad eye infection that didn’t seem to be healing. In fact, it was the beginning of something else that is now in full effect. I’ve contracted Bell’s Palsy.

If you’ve also won the misfortune lottery, then you know what I’m talking about. For the rest of you, let me explain. Bell’s Palsy occurs when the 7th cranial nerve to your face is damaged, and as a result, all the facial muscles weaken, sag, and go into a semi-paralyzed state. I’m clueless as to how my now least favorite nerve got damaged. But according to a website I found, both the chicken pox virus and the cold sore virus that linger forever in your body can suddenly wake up and go hunting for a new home. . . .like the 7th cranial nerve. My Lupus probably isn’t to blame, but no one is ruling that out either.

In my case, the entire left side of my face is affected. It's easy to see my drooping left eye and eyebrow, and when I talk and smile, only the right side seems to work. The left side of my mouth is on sabbatical. Some syllables come out a little mangled because of the constricted lip movement.

Husband: How many should I make the dinner reservation for?
Me: Sis
Husband: Sis?
Me (2nd try): SIS!
Husband: Sis? You don’t have a sister!
Me: Six (holding up 5 fingers)

My biggest problem is that because my left eye doesn't blink automatically with the other eye, my eye is constantly tearing up and burning. So, I 'm either patching the eye closed, or putting in heavy duty eye drops. And always clutching a handful of kleenix.

The good news is that this condition usually is not permanent, but the bad news is that it can take anywhere from 2 weeks to many months for the nerve to regenerate and heal. In the meantime, reading or computing for long periods of time is challenging, so work is definitely going to be a challenge as I work with spreadsheets, numbers, and computers all day.

Yes, it sucks big time. Yes, I'm having a tough time dealing with the symptoms. Yes, I'm vain enough that it bothers me immensely. Yes, I'm worried about a complete recovery. And yes, I need to say it again, this sucks.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Do You Hear What I Hear?

I’ve been yelling at MoM for months. So have Brother #1, Brother #2, Doctor, Ex-Sister-in-Law and Kindly Neighbor. It’s the only way she could hear us. She might have gotten her hearing aids fixed sooner if it weren’t for back-to-back stints in the hospital and a prolonged seating assignment in a wheelchair.

The hearing aids didn’t die outright–first they started falling out of her ears and we would frantically call the restaurant, the doctor’s office, the ballpark, or wherever she had been to see if anyone found a used hearing aid (ewww). Then MoM started complaining that one of the hearing aids stopped working. She limped along with one working hearing aid as her TV blared across the patio home complex, and phone calls became increasing difficult. . . .until the other hearing aid waved the white flag and died.

I planned to take off work an hour and a half in order to take MoM to the Hearing Aid Dealer. Knowing she doesn’t move fast, I told her to be ready at 10am this morning to make an 11:00 appointment. She was ready at 10am–ready to begin eating breakfast. As she started eating S-L-O-W-L-Y and sipping her coffee, I stood in place glowering at her and muttering to myself. “Sit down and make yourself comfortable”, she said, oblivious to any time constraints. “I LIKE TO STAND”, I growled.

Breakfast finally over, I loaded her into my car, and hoping I wouldn’t throw out my back, hoisted her wheelchair into the trunk after several tries. Off we trooped to the Far West Side 25 miles away to see the Hearing Aid Dealer that abandoned the location twelve blocks from her house. I drove with the handicapped placard flying from the rear-view mirror despite law enforcement’s preference that you NOT obstruct your view while driving. MoM insists that we should drive with it proudly suspended right in front of my field of vision. . . because she does.

The Hearing Aid Dealer couldn’t have been nicer (maybe because I called him in advance pleading my mother’s case and asking him for help) and MoM couldn’t have been bitchier. I spent most of the time saying, “Thank you so much” hoping he wouldn’t turn on MoM although I wouldn’t have blamed him. Turns out the hearing aids were plugged with debris (don’t ask), the batteries were dead, and the reason they were falling out was because she wasn’t putting them in correctly. We spent a good hour just trying to teach her how to insert them completely, and she failed every time. EVERY TIME.

Hearing Aid Dealer capitulated before I did, and inserting them himself in MoM’s teeny little ears, we left to begin the drive home. It was quiet in the car as I drove and tried to calculate how far behind I was going to be at work. Suddenly MoM whipped out a Starbucks’ gift card and said, “Why don’t we stop for a treat?” Now I’m a regular at the hunter green logo’d drive-thru, but MoM? Then she explained, “Remember when I had you drop off my prescription at the new drug store after the last hospital visit? Yup, I remember. I remember driving out of my way past at least 5 drugstores because she insisted her prescription had to go to this particular store. Because she knew she’d get a Starbucks’ gift card.

I missed 4 hours of work. But I got a mocha frappacino out of it. I think she loves me.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Guilty Pleasures

I dropped Husband off at the airport at the crack of dawn this morning–he’ll be gone until Wed mid-day. And while I’ll miss him, there is something nice about occasionally having 100% of your personal time reserved for, well, Me. Let the dinner dishes soak overnight in the sink--no problem. Watch an old sappy chick-flick on TV instead of changing the air conditioning filters--why not? Curl up with the newspaper in the Living Room without someone calling out, “WHERE ARE YOU, AND WHY ARE YOU IN THERE?”--of course!

Why is it so hard to carve out Me time? Are we any busier than we were when we were teenagers and burning the candle at both ends so we didn’t miss a thing? Everything then was all about doing what we wanted to do, even when it wasn’t popular with the parents. Somewhere along the line, we started toeing the line more, paying attention to duty and responsibilities, until we got to the point where Me time was a guilty pleasure. Spouses, babies (not always in that order) and aging parents each vie for “just a few minutes”. And there’s the never ending maintenance call that comes with owning a house or an auto (why is it a leak in the house is always followed by a leak in your car, or vice-versa?). I love that my adult children still want to spend time with me and ask for my opinion, but I just sat down–do you really need me to come with you to pick out an earpiece for your cell phone?

So you’d think that when I finally have the chance to recapture some Me time, I’d do something grand and worthy like re-reading "Atlas Shrugged" while sipping a chocolate martini, or spending all day receiving spa treatments. Um, yeah . . .that’s what I should have done. But here’s what I did do. I frittered the day away. I couldn’t tell you about a single significant thing that I did today. Except to tell you that I’m soooooooooo relaxed.