Sunday, October 9, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

Life is full of "unexpecteds". I'm sure I've just stated the obvious for anyone out there who is a living, breathing human being.

My husband's stroke 9 months ago was definitely unexpected. There have been many unexpected situations since then; none quite as devastating as the stroke, and many have been pleasant and helpful unexpecteds.

Last Friday at about 7 AM, my neighbor knocked on the door and walked in with a rather large box full of goodies from Panera. She went out and returned with 2 garbage bags full of breads and bagels. Two other neighbors had gone to Panera the night before and asked for leftovers. Now, Panera leftovers have come to our neighborhood before, but they've all been split up between several families. This was the first time I was the sole recipient of the Panera loot. My freezer is stocked with bread and goodies for months to come.

That was a nice unexpected.

Today I went to the hospital to visit a friend who is on bed rest until her baby is born. She is 27 weeks and 5 days pregnant, and her water broke last week. Upon determining there was no infection, the doctors decided she should not have the baby yet, but stay in the hospital on complete bed rest until the little guy or girl makes his or her appearance. Kind of a scary situation, so if you could pray for my friend, I'm sure she would be ever so grateful. But she's in the best place possible for a complicated pregnancy, so I'm sure she's in great hands.

Here's the unexpected part. I've sort of been dragging my feet about getting over to see her. As soon as I stepped into the hospital and was greeted by the all-too-familiar smells and sounds, I started to feel sick, kind of sad. I went to the reception desk, where I had to check in every. single. time. that I went to visit my husband. There was no frequent visitor pass. The same ladies were working at the reception desk. I was almost surprised that they didn't say, "HI! How ARE you? Haven't seen you in a while!" I stepped on the elevator and was joined by a woman in a wheelchair pushed by her young daughter, or niece, maybe. They were heading to 6th floor. I told her my husband lived on 6th floor for 6 weeks, and I was his wheelchair driver. Small talk, I guess. She probably didn't care. I got off at 3rd floor. That's the Labor and Delivery and Mother-Baby Center floor - the "fun" floor. It's always fun to go and visit someone on 3rd floor because it means they've welcomed a precious new baby into the world. And even though my friend hasn't delivered her baby yet, my mood was lightened by the thought of tiny newborns, swaddled in pink and blue hospital-issue blankets, with pacifiers stuffed in their mouths.

When I got to her room, we talked for a few minutes. Then I started crying and told her I had been hesitant to visit her because of the memories of Al being in the hospital.

The unexpected here was the fact that I was so emotional about being in the hospital again. I kept telling myself, "Al is OK. Al is home. Al is getting better every day. Al is alive." But I guess the severity of his situation is still emphasized by hospital memories. I managed to wipe the tears away pretty quickly and move on, but I'm still surprised by my reaction.

A final unexpected: I was behind my husband in line to receive Communion at Mass today. As I watched him make his way with his limp and his cane, I succumbed to a brief wave of anger. That happens once in a while. I just get so damn angry at the stroke for doing what it did to Al, and in turn what it has done to our family. It has stretched us all beyond what we thought we were capable of, and it has taxed us in many ways. But I hope and pray that in the end, it will bring us closer and make us stronger.

Even with the unexpected, God knows our needs and knows how to meet them. The one thing I can always expect is that He is faithful.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Before Al was released from inpatient therapy, I asked his physical therapist to cover a very important practical matter: how would I help Al get up if he fell down? So we practiced the scenario a few times, until we were comfortable with the process. The PT also made sure to teach me how to assess whether anything was broken or dislocated, other than the obvious bone poking through the skin. I felt confident that I was ready for the potential situation.

Strangely enough, Al has not had any major falls. He has stumbled and lost his balance a number of times. Early on, he rolled over in bed and fell halfway out. But he has never fallen. Until today.

Evan was having a technology crisis in the basement that only his father could solve. I've learned to do a lot of things since Al's stroke, and I've taken over a lot of his former responsibilities. But when it comes to computer networking, I'm still pretty much an ignoramus. So, I'm very blessed that Al still has his computer networking abilities.

Al was summoned to the basement by our son, who was having trouble getting his computer page to load. Al made his way down the stairs, an exercise for which he no longer needs help. He made it to the bottom of the stairs, only to get his cane caught up in the ladder that was lying by the basement wall. I heard a *clang* and then shouts from the kids, "Daddy, are you OK???"
I went down to find Al lying, face-down, on the basement floor.

The kids were more alarmed than I was. I just had to figure out how to help him get up. After maneuvering him into a sitting position, he was able to get up by himself with little effort. I didn't think about it until after he was standing, but I finally asked, "Does anything hurt?" He said nothing hurt except that he hit the floor with the left side of his face. I guess it's somewhat of a blessing that the left side of his face is still numb.

Al has been getting more adventurous since his brace was minimized. He has been doing stairs more confidently and more regularly. He has been driving (shhh, don't tell the Secretary of State). I'm glad to see him becoming more mobile, but I was also reminded today that he still needs to be cautious and careful. Most movement still isn't as easy for him as it is for you and I. It's not second nature yet.

Sometimes my heart cries out to God for Al, as the psalmists did:

1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hibernation, Hi-i-berna-ay-tion, It's Making Me Fat!

In case you didn't start humming along, that was a play on Carly Simon's "Anticipation". Maybe you're too young to know who Carly Simon is. I'm technically too young to remember this song when it actually released - in the year 1971, I was a tender one year of age. However, I'm very good at remembering song lyrics, and this song was replayed many, many times throughout the 70's. To be honest, the reason I remember that song in particular is not because I was such a huge Carly Simon fan, it was because of a Heinz ketchup commercial released in 1979, where 2 little kids are waiting for Heinz to slide out of the bottle and grace their hamburgers. I was kind of a TV junkie, so I remember a lot of commercial jingles.

Now, I started a post about hibernation, but I actually want to stick with the 1970's song theme for a bit longer. As I was researching what year "Anticipation" was released, I came across this little factoid: She wrote the song about anticipating a date with Cat Stevens. Now I really do like Cat Stevens' music, even though the bulk of his music was released during my early childhood as well. And oddly enough, I love James Taylor, too, and Carly Simon was married to him. Makes me wonder if my parents were playing the music of these 3 greats during my toddlerhood.

Anyway, on to my current topic: Hibernation. If you have been reading my blog for more than a year, you probably know that I write an annual post on this topic. And that is because I get extremely frustrated with life and our society at this time of year. Since I am a mammal, I have the natural instinct to hibernate. Yes, I know that not every mammal hibernates in the winter, but this one does. Right around the end of September, I start to notice myself slowing down, getting more tired, and battling insatiable cravings for everything in the carb food group. When the weather gets colder, I want to turn up the heat in my den house. And I want to curl up in a blanket all day long. And did I mention that I want to eat. all. the. time? The early settlers would work hard all summer, harvest their produce in the fall, and then snug in for the winter. Even the work they did in winter, they did during daylight hours, which, depending on how far north you live, can be as little as 6 hours of daylight per day. Where I live in Michigan, the "shortest" days are around 8 hours long. But yet, I'm still working 16 hour days between a full-time job and being a full-time mom.

But do I get to hibernate? Noooooo! after toiling all summer in the blazing hot sun, I do not get to slow down. I have to work harder as the school year starts and life moves into an even busier season. And don't even get me started on the holidays that are just around the corner. . . .

So, this is my annual rant on the lack of hibernation opportunities for human beings. We all have lovely caves in which to ride out the coldest of seasons, but we still find it necessary to be outside of them, going grocery shopping, working at jobs to pay for our caves, etc. Silly, if you ask me, but I guess that's the way life is.

I love this little idea that some incredibly brilliant woman decided to put into words:

In this life I'm a woman. In my next life, I'd like to come back as a bear. When you're a bear, you get to hibernate. You do nothing but sleep for six months. I could deal with that.

Before you hibernate, you're supposed to eat yourself stupid. I could deal with that too.

When you're a girl bear, you birth your children (who are the size of walnuts) while you're sleeping and wake up to partially grown, cute, cuddly cubs. I could definitely deal with that.

If you're a mama bear, everyone knows you mean business. You swat away anyone who bothers your cubs. If your cubs get out of line, you swat them too. I could deal with that.

If you're a bear, your mate EXPECTS you to wake up growling. He EXPECTS that you will have hairy legs and excess body fat.


Happy Fall Everyone!