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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Commercial Confusion

I think that we all have our own little bad habits. One of mine, one that I have had for as long as I can remember, is trying to do two things at one time. I know that the modern, current term for this is multitasking. Call it whatever you will; I have been doing it for a long time and will probably continue to do so. For many years now, I have been the mistress of reading a book or paying bills (I like to call it performing financial wizardry) while watching television, or baking cookies while watching a movie. Heck, Trent might even be sitting next to me watching the telly as I write a blog post.

Of course, one of the downfalls of doing this is that sometimes you miss things. But it just seems that I often have to have more than one thing to do at a time. Does it mean that I am scatterbrained, or unable to focus? Not necessarily. If I am doing something really absorbing, I focus on only one thing at a time. Often my other task, like the telly or some music, is just background noise that keeps things from getting way too quiet. For some of us, too much quiet is just as distracting as too much noise. Or maybe it's just me, and I am a complete weirdo.

I freely admit to shifting my focus from one task to another. If I didn't, I wouldn't be able to finish anything at all. But I go on, watching a movie and looking it up on  IMDB because I just know that I've seen the third serving wench on the left in something else before. Oh, wait, wasn't the Elf King in an episode of Law and Order: SVU? Yes, I'm one of those people whose brain remembers faces. It's a curse that causes me much less suffering now that I am able to look up movies or people and cross-reference online. 

Anyway, as I was saying a few moments ago, one of the dangers of trying to do two things at once is that sometimes you miss a little thing here or there. You're making a move in a variation on Candy-Crush-Your-Soul, a game that you swore to yourself you'd never play again because it makes you lose your flipping mind, and you sense from the background music on the telly that you have just missed Something Important. What did he say? Wait a minute, what happened? Thank goodness for the DVR and the let's rewind a few seconds feature. Oh, okay, you've caught up now.

Sometimes this can end up being a really funny moment, as it was for me the other night. I was watching a program that I was quite interested in but decided to do something online during the commercial break. I believe it was actually something important, like catching up on some financial wizardry. There was yet another commercial running for yet another fancy new drug. It followed the usual formula. Do you have moderate-to-severe whatsis? Have you been unhappy with your medication? Try new bizzdeeboo. And on and on. 

The next time you see one of these commercials, take a listen to the scary part toward the end. This is where they tell you that while bizzdeeboo is a wonderful new drug, it can cause various side effects. These can range from dry mouth to uncontrollable flatulence and all sorts of things in between. Then they get into the really serious things like bleeding of various body parts and even organ failure. It was one of these side-effect speeches that stopped me in my tracks the other night.

As I was looking at Very Important Things online I heard the announcer, who may have had a slightly unusual way of pronouncing things, start in on the product warnings. And then my brain really went down the garden path. When he said "if you experience pain when urinating," my brain heard something completely different. "If you experience peeing while urinating..." My head snapped up to look at the tv. What?! Peeing while urinating?! That happens to me all of the time! It's a good thing I don't take bizzdeeboo because I'd have to go to the doctor tomorrow. And he'll hate it if I try to read a book during my office visit...

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fight, Not Flight

I sometimes wonder whether our responses to crisis situations are learned or if they are just part of our personalities. My formative years were spent with a variety of people, so I'm not entirely sure that I can claim to have learned my responses from them. The last two females in charge of my care had completely different ways of responding to a crisis. Alice would generally start screaming or hollering and generally run around like a chicken with its head cut off. For those unfamiliar with old-time American English slang, chickens who have been beheaded will still keep running, and without a brain to direct them, they run aimlessly. Gram, on the other hand, was the kind of person who would see smoke coming out from under the hood of the car in which she was riding, and calmly comment that she believed the car was on fire.

I think that for Alice, the age-old fight-or-flight response definitely tended to flight or panic. Gram obviously tended more toward the fight or calm response. I discovered, literally by accident, that I tend more to the fight end of the fight-or-flight spectrum. When I was almost eighteen, in fact just about one or two weeks before my eighteenth birthday, Alice finally gave me permission to get my driver's permit. I spent a few days poring over the state driving manual, and passed my written test like it was something I was born to do. I now had a permit. By this time, I had only one week to learn to drive since the permit would expire on my eighteenth birthday. No, I did not pass my driving test on my birthday, but I did soon after.

When I got my license, I was the one person who felt that I had no business driving. I had so little time to learn and become comfortable with operating a vehicle. Driving certainly didn't feel like a fun, freeing activity. It was more of a stress-filled chore than anything else. Shortly after I got my license, I went to spend an evening with some friends. While I was driving around their new neighborhood with them in my car, I had my first accident. Like I told you, I knew that I wasn't ready to drive, and I sure wasn't. But here's the funny thing. As I turned right around a corner and ran into a motorcycle in the left turn lane, it was almost as if time was spun out like delicate strands of melted sugar. I'm having an accident, I thought. I was incredibly aware. I saw the face of the motorcycle driver and recognized him as someone who had gone to our school. I was afraid that I might have hurt him or his passenger. And even though I was scared, I was incredibly calm.

When the police officers arrived, they didn't find a hysterically crying eighteen-year-old female. I was calm and answered their questions honestly, taking full responsibility for what had happened. I remained in control until after everything was over and done. Then I had my opportunity to cry and get scared that I was in trouble and follow that with several days of depression. 

Many years later I was in another car accident, not my fault this time, in which I was t-boned by a car running a red light. I had been first in line at the left turn light and didn't notice the arrow had turned green. The people behind me had, and honked. When I entered the intersection, I could hear the yells from driver of the truck that was about to run into me. "Get out of my way, you effing b!" I heard. I saw his face, and his motions for me to get out of the way, which I did try to do. Then, boom. The people in the car behind me were very upset, feeling that they had put me in harm's way. Actually, they probably did me a huge favor - if I had gone into the intersection a second later, the truck would have hit the rear of my car and spun me around, at the very least, or even pushed me into other cars.

I was calm enough that when the people behind me came to apologize and check on me, I had my plan in order. You see, I was on my way to work, and that was the first thing on my mind. By the time these lovely people got to my car, I had my purse in my lap, looking for coins to be used in a pay phone for them to call my bosses. I had their business card in my hand and everything. I was even fairly calm when I was taken to the hospital by the local fire rescue team. I tried to make sure that I gave the emergency doctors all of the right answers to their questions because I really wanted to go home. Yes, I knew that it was Saturday, and the date, including the year. The President was President X. (Yes, I knew who he was, but I didn't let them know that I couldn't remotely recall his first name.) After some x-rays and painkillers and muscle relaxers, I was ready to be taken home by my sister. No meltdown happened; I was far too drugged up for that! But once again, I managed to stay calm in a crisis. 

No, I am not the calmest person on the block, much less the calmest you could ever meet. I am emotional enough to have trouble getting through gushy commercials without crying. I have a temper and have been known to lose it. So I don't want you to think I am someone who is amazingly calm, cool, collected, and controlled. I'm far from it. I just seem to have an ability to turn on the rational, analytical part of me when the whatever hits the fan. So, for me, it appears to be fighting and not flight when it comes to emergencies. I can live with that!


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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Random Kisses

It's time for me to come clean. I need to tell the truth and hope that nobody will judge me too harshly. I love to be the recipient of random kisses. They are just as appreciated coming from total strangers as they are from those I already know. I have had them from males and females, in various parts of the USA, as well as in Budapest and Pornóapáti Hungary (my family's village), and even Paris, France. Yes, it's true. I have a weakness for sweet, random kisses. But before you start thinking unkind things about me, let me clarify. I have a weakness for random kisses from dogs.

I've written before about how there must be something about my face that encourages complete strangers to strike up conversations with me at the grocery or doctor's office, or wherever. But it isn't just that way with humans. Trent has often referred to me as Mother Nature because animals seem to instinctively know that I love them. And with dogs, it seems to get magnified several times. Two things happened today that reinforced that it isn't just something that I imagine. First, and most sad, was our chat with our neighbor Edna this afternoon. Edna is the human that belongs to a sweet little Shih-Tzu named Chata. But when we came home from errands today and saw Edna on her way to the mailbox, there was no Chata with her. She told us that her sweet companion died last month.

Edna had tried knocking on our door to let us know that Chata was gone because Chata really seemed to adore me. Chata was a very sweet and friendly dog, but with me, she took it a step further. If I happened to head to the mailbox when Chata was there, she would strain at her leash when she saw me coming. If Edna saw me first, she would say, "Chata, there's your friend!" Chata would start to choke herself trying to run over to see me. She would get rubs all over, and put her little front paws on my leg to make it more convenient to lift her and receive kisses. I will definitely miss her, and her kisses!

Later this afternoon, when I went to get something out of the car, I ran into our neighbor dog Roscoe. Roscoe is a Yorkie-Beagle-something else I can't remember mix. He looks like a dark blond version of Toto from The Wizard of Oz. I have only seen Roscoe once before, at our apartment complex Christmas party. He was polite, but a bit overwhelmed to be around so many people. Today when I stroked his head, he sat down and promptly offered me a chance to give him some tummy rubs, which we both enjoyed immensely. He got up so that I could pet his face and back, and hopped up on his hind legs to steal a kiss. Aw, Roscoe, I'd have given it freely!

It's happened to me more times than I can count, and even with dogs who have never heard a word of English. There was a sweet Pomeranian who spent hours sitting outside a cafe near the apartment we stayed in when we were in Budapest. She would leave her human's side and come sit next to my chair since I only had humans for company. Sometimes she sat under or next to my chair; once, she even sat in a chair next to me. She knew her place! When we were walking around my family's village, a pit bull was trying his hardest to wiggle through the wrought-iron t gate of his yard. One could almost hear him saying, "Kérem, jöjjön közelebb! Azt akarom csókolni a száját! (Please come closer! I want to kiss you on the lips!)"

It happened when we four women were in Paris as well. We stopped at a little grocery a short distance from our hotel, and a lady was leaving with her dog. Julie, Liz, and Marie all gave the dog loving pats on the head as they walked by. When I stopped to pet her for a moment, she got up on her hind legs and started to give me kisses. "Mon cher! Je ne vous connais pas, mais je dois vous saluer de baisers! (My dear! I do not know you, but I must greet you with kisses!)" Her human was a bit embarrassed, but I let her know with the universal language of smiles, along with my few words of French, that I didn't mind a bit. My sister and friends just smiled and shook their heads. They had seen it many times before. It was just another day, and another walk with Katrina, who was getting more random kisses!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Personal Space

It seems that we often have thought-provoking experiences that revolve around supermarkets. They are great places to see all types of people, from all types of places, behaving in all types of ways. Trent and I try to use our good manners everywhere we go, and I think a lot of people are that way as well. There are, of course, the exceptions to every rule. 

Even though we try to act like adults most of the time, every so often we cut loose and act silly in front of other people. Some times it's accidental and sometimes it's on purpose. On a recent shopping trip, Trent decided that we should have an impromptu dance in one of the aisles. I guess he didn't see the mom with her two kids at the other end of the aisle. We heard the older boy whisper something to his mom, and ended our little dancing interlude. Trent made an apology, which the kind mom said was unnecessary. We then scored big points when Trent mentioned that he only saw a shirt and face sitting in the cart, because the younger boy was wearing camouflage pants. We crossed paths with them several times during our shopping trip, and all of us ended up with smiles on our faces.

I am getting to a point where I wonder who I will encounter when I go shopping. The other day, we saw another mother who was shopping with a bloodthirsty pirate, all of two-and-a-half feet tall, equipped with two very scary swords. As mom was pushing her cart, her little swashbuckler was engaged in battle with an enemy that we were not able to see. I am confident that the unseen combatant was full of holes from the bloodthirsty pirate's sharp and trusty blades, and would soon give up the fight. We told mom that she sure had a scary pirate with her. She smiled and shook her head, saying that she just couldn't end up with a nice, quiet little girl. I know she loves her little pirate. It radiated from her face. The pirate knows it, too.

It's often when you get to the checkout line, the freeway system of the store, that people's true colors begin to show. You see the aggressive drivers, the people who will try and run you off the road in order to get in front of you in line. You shake your head, knowing that their sense of urgency has removed all reason from their actions. Then there are the quiet ones, the ones who won't even use their turn signals because they don't want to bother anyone or get into anyone's way. They will stand in line behind your cart full of items, holding their single jug of milk. We usually insist on them going ahead of us in line. Being polite feels good, and if it adds a pleasant moment to someone's day, I think that we have done something good. 

The ones that bother me a lot, though, are the tailgaters. No, I don't mean the people who drive down to the football stadium and set up their grill and tv and have tons of yummy food and drink while they enjoy the game. I mean the person who is behind you and is thisclose. The one that if you really were driving, you'd ask yourself if they wouldn't feel more comfortable just climbing in the back seat rather than driving into it. It was this situation that happened to me the other day. As our order was being rung up and bagged, Trent was putting the full (reusable) bags in the shopping cart. After reaching over to help, I turned back to my spot in line, in front of the payment terminal. And noticed a man standing pretty much in front of it. He was standing there with a half smile on his face, while the woman he was with (Wife? Mother? Girlfriend? Cousin? Buddy?) was struggling to unload her cart onto the counter.

When several of her items fell on the floor with a crash, he didn't respond at all. She retrieved them from the floor and continued unloading her cart. He stayed right where he was, half-smile in place. Nice glasses, I thought. Yes, I was close enough to get a very good look at them. I slowly slid into my spot, feeling a bit uncomfortable, and he didn't budge. My personal space apparently was a lot smaller than his. And my awareness of the situation was apparently a lot larger. I made a conscious decision to try to ignore the situation. Everyone's personal space is different. This young man's was quite small, I think. In my brief glance, I had noticed that he seemed to be either talking or singing silently to himself. I wasn't irked or threatened or irritated. I had a moment in which I realized that he was detached from the situation, and it wasn't bothering him a bit. So I decided to work hard at not letting it bother me. He wasn't trying to rush me. He wasn't being pushy or rude. He was just in his own world. Which could mean that his personal space is a wonderful place to be.

We are all different from one another in so many ways. Our brains and emotions are wired differently. Closeness that is okay in some places, like walking down the aisles of the market, can be fine, but closeness while we are conducting our personal business can feel very uncomfortable.  The person next in line, though, may have a personal space that is almost large enough to hold a flea. And the one behind them might have one that is Irish Wolfhound-sized. I'm always going to try and leave enough room for the other person's Wolfhound. And try to be understanding if there's only enough room left for me and a flea!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Princess Pea

As I write this post, I am sitting on the bed with my laptop on my outstretched legs, which are crossed at the ankles in a very ladylike fashion. During the time I spend typing away, I will undoubtedly shift the entire operation, bit by bit, through a series of movements large and small. I don't know that I am unusually fidgety; I don't think that I am, but I do have to move around a bit to remain comfortable. Some of this is due directly to things like the twinges associated with having lupus and fibromyalgia, with some chronic phlebitis in the lower legs to add some fun to the mix. Not mentioned as a complaint, just as a matter of fact. The biggest reason for me moving around, though, has to do with me being someone Trent refers to as Princess Pea.

I have admitted, more than once, to being weird. I admit it almost as often as I lay claim to the title of The Meanest Woman in the World. The weirdness, in this case, has to do with sensitivity. Not emotional sensitivity, which I have plenty of - I don't cry over books, movies, songs, (heck, even tv commercials), just for a lack of something better to do. I am talking about physical sensitivity.

Please don't get all judgemental on me without continuing to read what I am talking about. I am not a wimp. A wimp would not be able to fracture her right tibia just below the knee, and get up and drive herself home after the nausea lessened. And then climb the stairs to her third-floor apartment. When I walked into the doctor's office the next day, it never occurred to my doctor to x-ray my leg, because someone who has a broken leg can't walk on it, right? It actually took a couple of weeks for the discovery that it was a fracture rather than a torn ligament. Similarly, when I fractured my wrist in a fall, it took me a few weeks to ask for an x-ray because it was hurting and feeling weak at the weirdest and most inconvenient times. It would appear that I can, indeed, handle pain, perhaps almost too well.

What makes this weird? Well, I have a tendency to be very sensitive in other ways. For example, I can't wear nightgowns. The material will fold up under my side during the night and wake me up. And as far as that old saying that goes, "So-and-so can eat crackers in my bed any time?" Well, if they do, they had better plan on two things - Trent giving them the stink eye because they don't belong in my bed, and me waking up during the night and having to go over the sheets with one of those tape lint-rollers to remove the crumbs because they will irritate my skin and make me unable to sleep. 

Trent often says that I must be a Princess, because it reminds him of the story of the Princess and the Pea. If you aren't familiar with the story, a young woman who doesn't look wealthy or refined shows up at a castle and claims to be a Princess. The Prince's mother, the Queen, doesn't want her son to get married to a mere peasant, so she decides to test the young woman, whom she invites to be an overnight guest. The Queen has a dried pea put under a stack of mattresses and feather beds and waits until morning to see the results. The young woman is asked how she slept the following morning, and says that she couldn't sleep because there was something in the bed that irritated her delicate skin, and probably bruised her. The Queen says that only a true Princess would have felt the pea through all of those mattresses. Her son marries the young woman forthwith, even though she is a rude house guest who apparently complains about everything.

Even though Trent knows that I can handle a great deal of pain, he lovingly jokes that I am a delicate flower and his Princess Pea, since I can be kept awake by a wrinkled nightgown or stabby crumbs under the covers. I laugh hysterically when he says it, too. Even though it's me, I have to say there is just something weird about a person who can climb stairs with a broken leg (it wasn't remotely easy, but you do what you have to do), but can't bear the feeling of bunched-up fabric under her ribs. And don't even get me started about high-necked clothing, because it makes me feel like I am being strangled to death. But I am not a wimp or a complainer. I am delicate. I am a Princess. I am the delicate Princess Pea. Bwahahahaha!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mister Hello

A little over a year ago, I spent a few days in the hospital with a bad case of vertigo. If you're unfamiliar with vertigo, it's a dizziness and sometimes vomiting problem that happens when the balancing mechanisms in your ears go a bit kerflooey. Actually, there are other causes as well, but this was what happened in my case. Now, I know that sounds like something that's just an inconvenience or irritation, but that is not necessarily the case. I woke up one morning and tried to lift my head about an inch off of the pillow. Suddenly everything was whirling madly and I was ready to lose the breakfast I had not yet eaten. As the day went on, in spite of trying to take motion sickness pills, I was not improving, so I actually asked to be taken to the hospital. I am not a person who likes to stay in the hospital. Heck, I have to be incredibly sick just to go to the doctor for non-routine visits. So when I asked to be taken there, everyone knew I was in pretty bad shape.

Hospitals are a world unto themselves. Time seems to run differently when you're staying there. Of course, the fact that you are so ill that you can't take care of yourself changes your perceptions of things, but I still think that hospital time just seems different, more drawn-out. The first time I was hospitalized was when I was diagnosed with lupus. I was in a cardiac care unit and scared because I had never been that sick before. The next time I was in the hospital was just weeks later, and it was about a twenty-four hour visit. I was pretty scared that time too, because I was in for a chemotherapy treatment. The objective was to impair my immune system, which is a normally undesirable side-effect of chemotherapy. In my case, the idea was to stop my runaway immune system from completely destroying my kidneys. Incidentally, it did work.

These visits gave me a glimpse of what it is like to be in a hospital, surrounded by other people who are dealing with illnesses and pains and fears. I think that the fact that I was so scared the first two times made me a little less aware of what was going on around me, although it could be because I asked for sleeping pills every night during my first hospitalization. They helped me to blot out the lights and activity and cries of pain in the night, and get some much-needed rest. 

When I was in the hospital a year ago last December, though, I think I was a bit relieved to be in a place where people could do things to make me well. I had also put in some time visiting hospital rooms and pre-and post-surgery areas with Trent, so it was less intimidating for me. I was hooked up to an IV to fix my dehydration, and they were kind enough to try and dope me up with anti-nausea medications. For the first couple of nights, I was unable to get my body into a position where I could even see a television, so I asked for my door to be left partway open both day and night. There is activity at all hours in a hospital, and hearing it through my open door made the nights less lonely. And when the door was closed, the silence was almost deafening. It could make the nighttime hours seem to last forever.

I grew accustomed to the sounds and behaviors of my neighboring patients. Down the hall to the left of my room was a woman who experienced something that happens to almost everyone who is sick, whether with a cold or something hospital-worthy. The pain, fever, sickness, or whatever ails you, always seems to get worse at night. If you don't believe me, reread this when you have your next bad cold and cough a lot during the day, but almost uncontrollably at night. I rest my case. For this lady, it was pain. And her reaction was never to ring for a nurse and politely ask for more drugs, please. She just began moaning, and progressed to yelling louder and louder until someone came to find out whether she was being murdered in her hospital bed. If I could have shaken my head without vomiting, I would have done so. Pressing the call button is so simple. And you really don't want to get the people who take care of you irritated. They may just take their sweet time because they can't stand the sight of you. Just conjecture, mind you. All of the nurses and aides that took care of me were veritable angels of mercy.

The patient that I found most intriguing, and the one that made me feel the most sympathy for the nurses and aides, was the gentleman I thought of as Mister Hello. He was in the opposite direction from Hollering Hannah, and simply refused to use his call button. It would be a lovely, peaceful time on the floor, and Mister Hello would need something. He would call out, in his loudest voice, "Hello! Hello! Hello!" This would go on for several minutes, as nursing staff are very busy people. Someone would call out and ask him what he needed, and he would holler back that he needed to shave, for example. The aide would come in and explain to him how to use his call button, and then help him with shaving. A little bit later, there would be another chorus of hellos from his room because he needed to go to the bathroom. Invariably, he would wait until the need was immediately urgent, and then not use his call button. When the aide would finally have a chance to get to his room, they would find that because he waited so long to ask for help, he had urinated all over his bed. This happened more than once a day, mind you. I began to understand why the staff appreciated patients who thought more proactively.

I hope I am not coming across as judgemental. I don't know those other people, nor do I know what they were going through. Being sick enough to be in the hospital is a very unpleasant thing. But it's good to be a partner to the health care professionals that are working to make you better. Like everyone else, they can only be in one place at a time. I hope that I don't have to go to the hospital again for many, many years. And I hope that if I do, I remember not to be a Hollering Hannah or a Mister Hello. I'll try to just be Katrina. And get well as soon as possible!