Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Center of the Universe Syndrome

Otherwise known as COTUS. Humans are symptomatic of this disorder at all times of the year, but it seems to be particularly prevalent during the winter solstice; specifically what is known as the Yuletide Season. 

If you've ever:
  • Blocked the entire baking aisle of a crowded grocery store to have intense conversations with someone about your shopping list, how the buttons on your coat keep falling off - and then saying extended goodbyes, complete with kiss and hug - completely oblivious to the 10 people on each side of you who would like to slide by
  • Talked loudly on your cell phone, looking around all the while to see whose attention you're getting
  • Got waved on to merge into traffic, but couldn't be bothered to reciprocate the universal "thank you" wave
  • Gone through a door without holding it open for the person walking in right behind you - triple-COTUS points if it is an elderly person, a busy mom toting a toddler, a baby, and shopping bags, or a person of any age with their arms full of stuff
  • Left your car sitting in front of the pump after you've finished using it to make several trips into the convenience store
Or, as I had the pleasure of witnessing last night...
  • Leaning on your shopping cart in the dairy aisle opening that is literally 1 carts' width, on your cell phone, with your datebook open, having a lengthy conversation about the upcoming weeks' plans; only to turn around after several minutes and see several frustrated shoppers lined up behind you. 
You'd apologize profusely, right?
You turn around, look contemptuously at the gaggle of strangers, toss your hair, and get on with your oh-so-important life. 

COTUS presents commonly in children, in fact 100% of children display COTUS up to their early elementary school years. Failure to develop empathy during those years puts a child in danger of becoming permanently afflicted with COTUS and becoming an asshole for the rest of their life. 

COTUS is less common in mature adults, but most adults will display symptoms at least once during a lifetime. Severe cases of COTUS can only be cured by a combination of life-changing events, new-onset empathy, and/or a beating administered by a fed-up mob of formerly nice people. 

If you see the signs of severe COTUS developing in an adult in the 20-30 year old age range, now is the time to act. Administer a severe beating and withdraw all financial support immediately; otherwise the condition will become permanently disabling. 

Often recognizing that there is a problem is the most difficult step. Know the symptoms! 

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Focus is a funny thing.

Last holiday season (hell, from October to December 31), I gained about 20lbs. That might seem easy, but I worked at it like it was my job. Hitting drive-throughs almost nightly on my way home from work, many times after having had dinner while at work. Baking cookies "for everyone"; quality control mandates that one tests at least a dozen of each variety for consistency, taste and chip distribution, right? In general "treating myself" as often as the impulse hit. If you are an emotional overeater, the impulse hits about as often as your heart beats. I didn't limit myself on anything, really, but my overindulgence of holiday-specific sweets and fast food were most of my undoing last year. 

This year, for the most part, I've avoided those things like the plague. I have eaten from the drive-through on impulse exactly once this holiday season, and physically I felt like hammered shit the rest of the evening afterward. Thankfully we haven't been as inundated with holiday cookie trays and treats at our stations this year as we had in years past. I made the decision to mostly avoid cookie baking this year, with the exception of baking some Santa cookies with the little one before Christmas. So, what could I possibly be abusing?

Regular food. 

Stuff I bring to work to eat. Pizza ordered for game day. Bread. For some reason, when everything is gray and brown outside (when it should be white, snowy and sparkly), I crave all things bread like a junkie craves their fix. It has been months since I have craved salad. And I do crave salads and vegetables. I'm not one of *those* people who can't/won't prepare or consume them. All summer long my mouth waters at the mention of them. This time of year, though? You mention salad to me and I get about as excited as if you'd suggested eating cardboard. 

You see, I've been focusing so hard on the fact that I've been such a good girl regarding my prior favorite self-abusing foods... that I've lost focus on the fact that I am abusing just mundane, everyday stuff. And that is really something to keep an eye on. 

Friday, December 19, 2008

Need a Do-Over, Please.

You know your Friday OT shift is going to be fun when:
  • Your remote won't even let you into your car to go to work, and you stand out in the pouring cold rain for 10 minutes trying to make the damn thing work.
  • You arrive at work (2 minutes late when you were miraculously running 15 minutes early at one point) and realize you don't have your keys to the narcs
  • You grab your partner and rig, run home to get your keys before the shit hits the fan
  • The shit hits the fan
  • (On the way other side of town)
  • You get cancelled from the shit hitting the fan - so in theory, you could have had your damn keys in the first place if you were psychic.
  • Finally arrive home to pick up your keys, find a steaming hot pile of doggie love on the bedroom carpet
  • It is December in the NorthFreakinEast and it's going to precipitate an inch today. Rain. Not snow.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday's thoughts, deep and otherwise.

Ahhh, Thursday. The day before Friday (not that that means anything in my world - weekend? What's that??) Thursday, sometimes the day before payday; sometimes not.  Just a perfectly ordinary day.  Why not lighten things up and throw out some random thoughts?
  • One of these days it's going to stick. I'm going to get up early for work like I always do, but instead of drinking coffee and watching Morning Joe I'm going to: 1) pee 2) head directly back to my bedroom 3) put on my workout clothes that are draped on my treadmill (they're there for a reason, duh!) 4) work out before I do anything else. All it will take are 3 days in a row of this and I'll love it again. One of these days. 
  • One of my online friends pointed out this post on Tom Venuto's blog. It's about putting yourself first so that you can take care of others; a concept with which I've been struggling. It's a very blunt reminder that that is actually selfish to NOT put our own health first. Very good post. I plan to print several copies and post them all over the place where I can see them all the time. 
  • I love my iPod, but it's only 4G. Have you seen the prices on the 120G classic? *drool* That's more capacity than my external hard drive! This is going to be my after-Christmas gift to myself. Or my tax-time gift, depending on how finances end up. 
  • I am going to have to invent some visual representation of mud = winter if this weather continues. Remember the snowflake? The snowman? Jack Frost? How about the mud-turd: A big hunk of mud that falls off of your shoes because it's too warm for the ground to freeze and no damn snow covering the mud. You don't know if it's mud or dog poop you stepped in until you get down on all fours and smell it. Instead of snowmen we can make mud huts. Environmentally friendly and gets rid of a lot of that mud that we keep tracking into the house. Build one for your mother in law! Jack Frost?  I got nothin'. 
  • I lied. I am going to bake some cookies for Christmas. The little one wants to be sure Santa has cookies and if I don't intervene, her Dad will buy break n' bakes or those disgusting tubes of dough that have a picture imprinted on the middle of the tasteless cookie. If you're gonna have a cookie, have a real cookie dammit!
I'm off to get some shopping - Christmas and otherwise - done. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It was a couple of weeks before Christmas...

... several years ago. I don't even remember exactly how long ago - I know I wasn't quite the burned-out veteran I am today. Probably 10 years ago, at least. We got a call for somebody "stuck in a bathroom". We took our time getting out the door and laughed at the mental pictures this dispatch information conjured in our minds. A drunk? A child? Some vasovagal syncope while on the crapper? 

As we pulled up to the house, the middle-aged children met us at the door and explained that they were pretty sure their parents were stuck in the bathroom and unable to get out. They arrived at this conclusion because their elderly mother required total care from their elderly father - due to a prior stroke - and dad's car was in the garage. They could hear a garbled voice coming from the bathroom, probably mom. 

This quickly went from a laughable possibility to a very urgent rescue situation. Dan and the Fire Department arrived and began taking the trim off the door, as we were unable to push the door open. When they finally got the door apart, what we saw was one of the most heart-rending scenes that will ever be burned into my memory. 

While lovingly bathing his disabled wife, the elderly husband had apparently died suddenly. The wife, who had lost the use of her speech and one side of her body, could only crawl out of the bathtub (which was now ice-cold) and lie upon the body of her now-deceased husband and wait for help. His body was ice-cold as well. They must have been there for hours. Though her speech was unintelligible to even her children, you didn't need to know her to understand what her garbled keening meant. He was gone. Her love. Her caretaker. The one who bathed her and dressed her and put her in her wheelchair every day. The one who fathered their children. Grandpa. She lay upon his cold and mottled body on the floor, screaming in horror, grief, and fear. I wished at that moment that I could wipe her memory clean of the hours she spent in that bathroom, take away the realization that life as she knew it would never be the same from this moment forward. We had to pry her fingers off of her husband to get her out of there. She didn't want to leave him. 

She was severely hypothermic from being in the cold water for so long, then lying naked on her husband's cold body. So cold that she had actually stopped shivering, her heart rate was slow and her skin ashen. The rectal temperature they obtained at the ER was 94F. We rewarmed her as aggressively as we could, but I wonder if she could talk, if she'd have asked us to just let her go. Let her go with him. Don't save her to be in this world without him. 

I drive by that house often on my way home from work, and I think about that old couple every year around this time. Calls like this make me reflect on my own fears and my relationship. One of my greatest fears is that now that I have fallen and fallen hard for someone, the only thing that is sure in life is that I will lose him someday - or he will lose me. You read about perfectly healthy people who die within a week of losing their spouse; I think that is the greatest testimony to love that there is. I can appreciate that some would find that statement possibly morbid or cynical, but the ones that do aren't in healthcare

I frequently wonder what ultimately happened to that poor lady. I hope that she found peace, whatever peace meant to her. We all have a different definition of peace. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I guess I still have a little running mojo.

Just 20 minutes, but still. It's more than I've done running-wise at one time for months. It felt good to X that spot on the calendar.

Here's hoping it sticks.

Countdown to a less lazy me.

One of my therapist's suggestions in our last session was to hang a wall calendar, and mark each day exercised with a big ol' slash, or X, or smiley face, or whatever I prefer. The idea being, as I start to mark off consecutive days, this highly visible calendar will sort of prod me into exercising, because I wouldn't want to leave a day blank or unmarked. 

Well. Talk about serendipity. I got a free wall calendar in the mail today.

I would like to say I'm starting today, but I probably won't. I'm hanging that sucker up in a highly visible place though - with a Sharpie attached to it. All you other procrastinators out there know, if there's no Sharpie attached to it, that any procrastinator worth their weight (literally!) could waste half a day just looking for the right permanent marking device with which to mark the calendar. I'm thinking I'll hang it somewhere near the bathroom mirror, or on the fridge, so I can't ever miss it. Those are the 2 places in my house where I can reliably be found several times per day. 

One of my friends suggested training and then getting together for a Komen 5k for next spring. I think that is a fabulous idea, and just the thing I need to spark my interest in running again. All I really need is to get started and I will love it again, I know. 

Sunday, December 7, 2008

I wonder what they're thinking.

Every time I pull up to the designated ambulance parking bays in front of the ER, and I see the ubiquitous lone SUV or Beemer sitting there, occupying a clearly marked ambulance space. 

Honestly, I'm picturing some self-important idiot, proudly stepping out of their car/identity/penile substitute, thinking proudly to themselves: "This is the best space in the whole lot! I wonder why I was the only one smart enough to park here?"

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Another year ago today milestone.

So it started like this: I found a great airfare to Las Vegas, where my friend Nance in the Pants now lives and works. She had been after me to come visit, so I scheduled a trip for December 5-7. Not much of a vacation, but I had burned through all of my PTO already. She asked me via Myspace comments what I wanted to do or see when I was there. Half-joking/half-serious, I replied with 2 links: one was to an indoor "skydiving" experience in which they suit you up and you "free fall" in this huge wind tunnel. The other was to Skydive Las Vegas. I liked their motto: "Why gamble with money when you can gamble with your life?"

Much to my surprise, my afraid-of-heights friend said she'd rather go The Full Monty and jump out of an actual airplane, if she were to choose. The line in the sand was drawn, so to speak. I should have known. This was the same person who proclaimed her extreme fear of heights, yet bungee-jumped off of a crane on her first visit to Vegas. 

I don't claim to be afraid of heights at all. I made my brother ride the Skycoaster with me once, after which I was slack-jawed and could only utter "Awesome" the rest of the day. He, however, did not fare so well. He was a scary shade of greenish-gray from that point on. I never believed people could actually turn green from nausea like they do in the cartoons, until that day with my brother. Jumping out of a plane at approximately 3 miles off the ground, however, was going to be quite a different experience. How did I know this? Well, I took my cues from the fact that the words "die", "death", "paralysis", and "loss of life and limb" appeared no less than 100 times on the waiver we had to carefully read and sign before skydiving. The other interesting thing was that if we wanted to retain our right to sue for damages, it would cost a mere $500 to skip signing the waiver. Cheap when you're talking legal fees. Pretty expensive when you consider a tandem jump and picture cd ran about $300. I don't know about you, but I'd rather have pics of my grisly death than the right to sue after I'm dead. 

Anyway, we giggled over the wording on the waiver and I about peed my pants as we watched the required safety video. Not from fear, but due to the hilarity of it. I wish I had a copy of the safety video to share. The best part was the narrator: A skinny guy with a very long gray/white beard (think: ZZ Top). He looked like a cult leader or a guy who would live in a cabin in the woods and rant against society. However he was dressed in a very businesslike navy blue suit, with a tie. He would have looked much better in flowing robes or something similarly crazy. What's hilarious is, this guy must do the safety video for every jump school in the US, because if you try to search for the video, you get this: a million would-be skydivers who remember only the freaky-deaky bearded guy who narrates the safety video. 

We arrive. I am trying to get the "Skydive Las Vegas" sticker in the shot but we're both too short. 

So, we pick out our generic blue jumpsuits, so that we all look like errant auto mechanics, and we get these goofy soft helmets that look like someone bred a citrus fruit with a penis head. Goggles and gloves round out the sexy ensemble. I'm pretty sure *this* is when I realized that I was last on the plane, and therefore, going to the the first one off. 

We're crammed into the plane like sardines, our instructors harnessed to us so tightly that we are actually sitting in their laps while we ascend. That is the hatch door right beside me. 

They open the door. I hyperventilate a little. Ok. A lot. 

It is about this point where I am trying to put on a brave face, but I'm freaking the F out. It's not like they opened the hatch and BAM! We jump. No. They opened the hatch, and we swung around so that, still sitting in my instructor's lap, our legs are now swung outside the plane and we're sitting in the doorway, looking for the jump zone. So we're sitting there for several harrowing seconds. My instructor has to lean out to get a look outside, so every time he leans forward, yep, I lean forward too. Hanging halfway out of a plane at 12,000 feet. This is the part that is starting to really freak me out. Lean out. (steel myself to jump). Nope. Lean back in. Repeat X3 until the very last time, when the pilot told us it was time, we leaned out, and my instructor pulled back, yelling, "Not over the power plant!" At this point I think I said in a rather bitchy tone, "Next time you lean me halfway out of this plane we'd better be jumping!"

Next thing I knew, I heard my instructor yell, "Chicken wings!" (a very appropriately named term for how they wanted us to hold our arms until chute was deployed), and we were out. Free falling. Amazing. 

Bye-bye plane!

Not scared now. If I die, it'll only hurt for a second. 

After free-falling for about a minute, I learned that the chute works. This makes me insanely happy. Now is the time to enjoy the view. To say it was incredible is doing it a great injustice. Las Vegas is definitely the place to skydive. I saw Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. The strip. The mountains are breathtaking and the desert just goes on forever. 

We landed standing up, jogged a few steps and high-fived. Those little dots in the background? The other skydivers. 

I took this picture, after we were done, and sent it to Dan. "Guess what we just did?" He was not. amused. It took him a while to get over that, my jumping out of a plane without consulting him first. 

It was the experience of a lifetime. I would do it again in a heartbeat if:
1) I had $200 just lying around burning a hole in my pocket.
2) Dan wouldn't get really pissed and break of the engagement because I keep scaring him to death

If you ever had even a tiny bit of desire to do this, I'm telling you. Do it. You will not regret it. 

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A year ago today ...

... I knew the time had come to let you go.  It was the hardest thing I'd ever had to do. When I left for work that day, I knew that the time was coming; I just thought maybe we had just a little more time together. All day at work, listening to grown adults bicker like children, it was all I could do to hold back my tears, thinking of you there at home without me. 

I came to the realization that it was I who was holding on - not you - when I left work to come home and spend time with you. It seemed you couldn't find any position that gave you comfort, and you didn't even seem to realize I was there. I watched you struggle to even raise your head off of the floor, and I cried, remembering better times:

You were my 21st birthday gift, the best birthday present I ever got in my life. I remember walking by your run in that filthy animal shelter, the way you just sat there, staring at me. Our eyes met and I knew that I was yours from that day on. Walking out of the shelter to the car, Kate's new dog Titan grabbed your tail and played a one-sided game of tug o' war with it. We got you to your new home and unleashed you in the tiny, fenced-in yard. You ran a circle around the perimeter of that yard for what? 20 minutes straight? You were so happy to finally be home. 

You were by my side through good times and bad. You moved with me 8 times in your life. I remember coming home from work at our first apartment, only to find you had pushed the screen out of the window, and were sitting on the roof, right next to the power lines going into the house! You liked to sit out there and scare the crap out of people walking down the street, barking at them from above. Remember living by the Clydesdale farm? You'd take off and come back hours later, wild-eyed, grinning ear to ear, and covered in horse manure. We moved in temporarily with Grandma while waiting for our rental house to be ready. How she loved you! You must have gained 10lbs in those couple months; all you had to do was look at Grandma with those big soulful eyes and go to your bowl, and she was hooked. You were famous for your appetite. I'll never forget coming back from a storage unit run during one move. We had left more than half a large pepperoni pizza up on the counter; when we got back we found an empty pizza box on the floor and a guilty-looking, yet satiated, Gunner - lying there right next to the empty pizza box. You were my comfort and my confidante in the bad times. I remember having to coax you out of the bathtub, where you would cringe and try to make yourself invisible when my ex and I fought. You were there for me during the messy breakup, and the moving around before I bought the house. Wherever I ended up, you were with me, and that was all you ever seemed to want. 

You made the funniest noises! You would never lie down without a long, drawn-out groan or sigh. I loved the little oinks of joy you would utter when I would lie down on the floor with you and rub your fluffy belly. Anyone who met you, loved you. You captured peoples' hearts with your big bear-like head and your gentle nature. The fact that, at 85lbs, you could sit up and beg like a little dog, left people wide-eyed and laughing at your talent. There was nothing in the world like a Gunner-hug to lift up a person who was feeling down. You would stand there, your head burrowed into my chest or lap, and all of my tears and cares and hurt would melt away into that soft, thick fur of yours. 

For 16 years you stayed by my side, wherever I went. On your last day, I brought you your own little pepperoni pizza, and I finally saw a little spark of the Gunner I remembered, as you scarfed that sucker down in about 4 bites. Then I helped you into the car for your last ride. When we arrived at the animal hospital, you weren't scared. You were never scared of the vet, because a visit to the vet to you meant that you got to see your friend Dr. Kate  - the one who had been there on your adoption day and who became your vet the moment she graduated veterinary school. We lay on the floor together, and I fed you cookies from the jar on the exam room counter. You didn't even notice the needle being inserted into the vein in your back leg; Dr. Kate had done it so gently. I saw a flash of blood in the syringe, indicating it had hit its mark. 
"Are you ready?" she asked, tears in her eyes. I can't imagine having to put your best friend's dog to sleep. She was almost as heartbroken as I was, but she had helped me to see that it was time. 
"Yes", I said, barely audibly. 
And with that, she slowly pushed down the plunger on the syringe. And you were gone. 
You hadn't a clue what happened, because you were busily gobbling cookies from my hand until the very moment your breathing stopped. If there is a better way for an old friend to go, I don't know what that might be. 

I miss you, Gunner. Rest, old boy. 

?/?/1992 - 12/4/2007

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Because I am a Paramedic...

... I do things that may seem out of the ordinary to regular folks. Heck, even to those close to me who are also in EMS I seem to do some things that appear to be a little strange, if they pay close attention.

My expressions of love and appreciation may seem redundant or sometimes even excessive. Maybe it's a function of looking back on all of those close to me I've lost; those who may not have known just how much I loved and appreciated and needed them, combined with 15 years of seeing unexpected tragedies befall people in a split second - things that change their loved ones' lives forever. I made my best friend cry a couple of weeks ago, sending her a card with some heartfelt sentiments written inside. Is that stuff already understood between us? Sure it is. Did I still feel the need to express it all, yet again? You bet. No matter how dumb of an argument we may have, I will always, always tell Dan I love him at the end of it. I will always want to be kissed hello. Goodbye. Goodnight. For no reason at all. If I get T-boned turning on the divided highway going to work, or make an unfortunate turn on my bike in front of an 18-wheeler, or next time I jump out of a plane that parachute maybe doesn't work - I will die knowing those I loved knew it, every day.

I look at strangers with an extra vigilant eye. Watch people out of the corner of my eye. Let those walking behind me know that I know they're there. I pay attention to that little tug deep in my gut that some people set off; it's never been wrong. I stand sideways at the ATM and lock eyes with anyone who comes too close as if to say: I can identify you in a lineup. If you are under arrest and I am treating you, my nameplate comes off of my uniform and goes into my pocket.

I seem critical of others; too critical at times. Like many others in public safety and healthcare, I have zero tolerance for bullshit. Don't tell me you've only had 2 drinks. That you don't know how you wrecked; that you certainly weren't on your phone or trying to pick up that lit cigarette you dropped. That you haven't taken any mind-altering substances, or that you do expect me to provide them for you.

I believe that really bad things disproportionately happen to good people who don't deserve it. I have seen horrible twists of fate you wouldn't believe. A man drives down a highway and an 18-wheeler in front of him loses a wheel. The wheel strikes his vehicle, taking off half of the roof and half of his head with it. What happens if he takes a different road that day or leaves the house 5 minutes late? He lives. I hope he told his wife he loved her that morning.

I have little patience for the rest of those who have actually caused and played a large part in their injury, illness, and eventual demise. You didn't wear a seatbelt and now your jaw is busted in half, and now I have to cut off your $300 cashmere sweater to examine you, and you're pissed. I don't care. It's hard to feel bad for you when you could have walked away from this little fender-bender had you been smart enough to use the safety device provided for you in that $50,000 car. You drink and drive? I hope you die a painful death, but I'm realistic enough to know that you won't die or even get hurt; you will, however, probably hurt, maim or kill someone else. Drunks and babies: They bounce.

I have an overwhelming need to maintain a larger-than-normal personal space bubble when out amongst the public. Peoples' self-importance annoys me. One day you're cutting me off with your car or shopping cart because what you have to do and where you have to be obviously supercedes the needs of everyone else. The next day maybe you're trampling an innocent guy who makes less in a month than you made last week, so you can get a Garmin for $100.

You may, at this point, be counting your blessings that you live far, far away from my area and you'll never see me darken your doorway in your hour of need. However, know this: If you truly are in need, I'm in it with you 110%. I'll hunch over you on the floor and shield you from your enraged sugar-daddy who's trying to attack us. Then 6 months later I'll take 3 days off of work and stare him down court, and testify against him, even if you won't. I'll hold your Grandma's hand, and wipe her tears, and keep her warm and comfortable while I'm taking care of her. I'll even stop on the way out the door and raise the stretcher up just high enough for Grandpa to give her a kiss before he trusts us -total strangers - to take care of the woman who's been the center of his universe for 60 years. I'll medicate you onto Cloud 9 if you are really and truly in pain, even if it would be easier for me to turf you on my partner and avoid the paperwork and med replacement. I'll stand up to your kids and grandkids when they talk to you like you're a toddler or talk about you like you're not sitting right there. I'll listen, and honestly be interested, in your stories of growing up during the Great Depression, or how you flew a bomber in WWII. I'll make your sick or injured kid laugh at my expense and let you sit in the back of the ambulance with them. If you ask me how bad it is, I will tell you the truth. Good or bad.

However. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well, that never happens. But fool me twice, you're dead to me.

Other strange stuff I do, because I am a Paramedic:

  • Never turn my back to traffic. At home. At work. In the mall parking lot. Never.
  • Hand washing: Before I use the bathroom. After I use the bathroom. Once more on the way out the door probably, too. Especially if the bathroom I used is in a hospital. Before cooking. After. After sneezing, even if it's a 20-sneeze extravaganza. After coughing into my hand. Or after shaking your cough-sullied hand. No offense.
  • If I'm knocking on your door and I don't know you, I'm standing off to the side. Just in case.
  • When I enter a place, be it a house, or an aparment building, or a grocery store or a log cabin - I familiarize myself with the exits. It's become automatic after all these years to automatically start mapping the quickest, easiest exit out of a place, usually keeping in mind we'll probably be carrying someone.
  • I will tell you how much I love you or appreciate you, and how much you mean to me. Ad nauseum. Probably most every time I talk to you this will happen. Get used to it.
  • I will put off mundane things that need to be done in favor of fulfilling things that I want to do, because life is short. This means that sometimes my house or yard will suffer, however my dogs and I will be happy walking around the lake or napping together on a rainy afternoon. I've seen many people on their deathbeds; not one of them has said, "Damn. I wish I could live one more day so I could vacuum those carpets just once more."
  • You will never see me put my fingers or my pen in my mouth. You will also very rarely see me get sick, despite people coughing and puking and hacking in my face daily. Handwashing, my friends. Handwashing.
  • I check out your veins. All the time. I can't help it.
  • I try to guess your medical history when I'm standing in line with you at the store, based on what I can see. I'm surprisingly accurate.
  • We bet on blood alcohol levels, blood sugars, discharge diagnoses, addictive predilections, and mental health quirks of patients. We're surprisingly accurate.
  • We do notice what kind of underwear you're wearing, or the lack thereof. If you're wearing a banana-hammock and you think we are snickering with the nurses at your expense, we probably are. (Sorry).
  • I wear my seatbelt all the time. Even driving across parking lots. 
  • I appear to like dogs more than people, in general. It's mostly true, and people have earned a great deal of that second-rate treatment.
  • When on amusement park rides, I calculate just what trauma may befall me and everyone else should the ride fail. It's distracting.

So next time you see someone impervious to the common cold or flu, with hands red and raw from overwashing, standing sideways at the ATM, locking eyes on everyone within 4 feet of them and maintaining that sacred bubble of personal space, looking for the quickest route out of the area ... wave hi from a safe distance to your friendly neighborhood Paramedic.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


You all know who you are. You've made my life more than I ever thought it could be.

So different, you two are. But so important to me.

I love your growly kisses. I hope I have them for a long time to come.

You read my mind with those big brown eyes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What do you do when you're getting paid to sleep...

... and you can't?

You blog, of course.

It's the first night shift in 4 weeks, which almost always causes me a bit of insomnia. The 3:30am call for a vehicle fire (cancelled prior to arrival) and the 4:30am paranoid/delusional person (whom police were nice enough to transport) certainly don't help. I'm not one of those people who can just lay my head on a pillow and be asleep right away. That little quirk is magnified about 1000X at work. Hell, I'll lie there with my bladder so painfully full that I have to sleep on my back because any other position causes agony - rather than get up and pee, and deal with the additional half hour it takes to fall asleep.

Then there's the little mouse problem we have. I swear, when I laid my head on my pillow, I heard a scratching sound that seemed to be coming from within my bed. Now, I'm not the least bit scared of mice, I even tend to think they're cute. If they want to live out in the garage I'm willing to let bygones be bygones. However when I hear odd scratching chewing noises that seem to be coming from within my bunk? *shudder*


An hour and 15 minutes left. I wonder how much of a nap I can get in before someone breaks a hip on the way to their bathroom.

Monday, November 17, 2008

So, What's New?

I've been busy. 12-hour daylight shifts and 3 new trainees will do that. I'm going to try to update more often; it's just that my life has been somewhat repetetive and monotonous of late. Who wants to read monotony? So. A quick recap of the past couple of weeks:

  • Christmas shopping is nearly finished. All the big-ticket items are already purchased/paid for. In cash! I love cash Christmas. The New Year is stressful and hectic enough without credit card bills looming. 
  • I've been sort of status quo with my therapy and food issues. I have sessions every 2 weeks, and it's keeping me on a maintaining kind of plane, rather than the binge/rapid gain cycle I did last year. I still haven't gotten it through my head that exercise every day is what's going to pull me from maintaining to getting to my healthy weight. However, not gaining is a big victory, if I am comparing this time last year to this year. 
  • Speaking of getting things through my head, I'm reading a great book: Liberating Greatness, which was recommended by my therapist.  The simplest description is: This book describes how neural pathways in the brain affect how you do things, even the simplest "habits" on a daily basis. It gives you tools to form new neural pathways which will have a positive effect in changing habits you desire to change. This is accomplished by affirmations which create cognitive dissonance, which is necessary for real change; the book tells you step by step how to properly create affirmations which will help to form new neural pathways in the brain to change behavior subconsciously. I can't recommend it enough. Here is an article describing how the science behind it works. 
  • Old Girlie turned 14!!!!! on election day. We had a little party, complete with cake. Pictures to follow at a later date. She had no idea why she was getting cake and extra kisses and hugs, but she soaked it all up like a sponge. It was a great day for celebration all around. 
  • Water rescue class is 2/3 completed. We can't do moving water day yet because the water tables are still too low, and we want to finish the day with our collective coccyges intact. 
  • My best friend is engaged! I'm deleriously happy for her. It's so odd that the two of us, both pretty non-traditional and seemingly anti-marriage, would both get engaged within the same year. I've known her fiance for years and she picked a great one. They will take wonderful care of each other. SO happy!
  • I've joined the BlackBerry cult. I'm not totally submerged in the Kool-Aid yet; there are times I miss my old LG, especially since I can't quite text on the fly like I used to. But there is the Storm to look forward to... 
  • Work's been weird. In the past week I've taken care of 1) a kid who had a several hundred pound gravestone fall on him (broken pelvis, he's pretty lucky actually), 2) a brokenhearted 15 year old who would rather live in a shelter than with her mother, who apparently feels the same way 3) the coolest 92 year old ever, who had a lively political discussion with me while we transported him to the hospital, blood running out of his nose like a faucet when pressure was not being applied - He told me, ominously, that the Great Depression started much like the economic situation the country finds itself in currently. I find that I am a lot more sentimental than I used to be, and I let things, like the 15 year old girl's situation, affect me so much more than they used to. I'm trying to decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I know it makes me better at my job in some ways, but the personal toll it takes? What are all these, how you say? Feelings... all of a sudden. Where did those come from? 
  • PastaQueen recommended the reality show "Ruby" in a recent post. Ruby is a woman living in Savannah, Ga, embarking on an epic weight-loss journey. What I liked about the show is that Ruby is human and fallible. Though she is working with a trainer, a therapist and an obesity specialist, she is a regular person just like any of us. She has to figure out, just like any regular person trying to get to a healthy weight, and how to do so in the midst of everyday life, stressors, and celebrations. There's no big monetary prize awaiting Ruby when she achieves her goal, and to listen to her, that's not what she wants. She wants to sit on a guy's lap. She wants to be able to walk the beach and ride on the back of a Harley without being pointed out and ridiculed. To wear jeans. To ride a bike. To be able to get up and just go when she wants to. Little things that I know I take for granted daily. Ruby is so kind and engaging that you will find yourself crying for her, laughing with her, and cheering her on. Thanks to PastaQueen for recommending this show. I'm rooting for Ruby already. 
That's about it for the past couple of weeks. Mundane, no?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Do you feel it?

The world has just become a better place. 

My world has become a better place. 

No longer will the President use fear to motivate the people. 

No longer will I have to hear every day, the nasal g-dropping Yooper voice of Sarah Palin, speaking on issues about which she hasn't the first clue. 

No longer, when I have to ask a set of questions to assess a patient's mental status, will I be embarrassed to administer that last part of the mini-mental status test: "And who is the current President?"

For the first time in a long time, I can't wait for tomorrow. 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Huh. Where have I been?

It's been a busy month. Lots of trainees. Lots of classes. Lots of working daylights and coming home to feed the dog, collapse into a hot tub to fall asleep, then stumble to bed. What's new and improved?
  • Started going to my support group, which seems like it will work out pretty well and be a good source of ideas and support. I look around at all these people putting into words all the feelings *I* have had for years and thought unique and odd. And to some extent, I'm like: "Wow! Other people feel this way too?" On the other hand, I'm also like: "Crap. I feel bad for (person's name). I know how just much that hurts."
  • A new crop of n00bs is just about trained. Whew. Halfway through a hellish 4 weeks of daylights. Ugh.
  • Water rescue class was a freaking BLAST! What was funny, or scary maybe... was watching how out of shape people were, having to stop many times to complete 100 yards swimming. But we did swim fully clothed, shoes and all, and in PFDs. Moving water training coming soon. I can't wait!
  • Water rescue class, the pool session we did last night, made me realize I miss swimming. I miss it hard. It was like finding an old friend I thought I'd lost. I need to figure out when I can go to family swim nights at the high school and swim some laps.
  • Tonight is a seminar my therapist is giving at a local hospital on handling holiday food and eating. I've been looking forward to this because I'm at a crossroads. I love, love, love to do holiday baking. I love to make pumpkin rolls, and pumpkin and blueberry pies... Several different varieties of Christmas cookies. Share them and mail them to people. Now I'm wondering if this is the best thing for me.. or for the recipients. What if I send sweets to someone who secretly struggles with the stuff, like I did? Do I really want that stuff in my house, calling to me? I can't wait to see what I learn tonight. Well.. what we learn. Dan is coming with me, and I'm happy about that too. He's been so supportive through this whole journey, but he's not getting quite the education on in that I am, what with my bi-montly sessions and group meetings and books I read. I'm relieved that he may learn some things tonight that will help him to help me. I love him for making the time for this, knowing it's important to me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dood. Heavy stuff.

Had something of a *lightbulb* moment today in my session. I was lamenting the fact that though I have corrected a lot - and I mean a lot - of my destructive eating patterns, I still seem to be hanging on by my fingernails. Just waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak.

Fighting with myself.

Let me repeat that, because it's important.

Fighting with myself.

That is exactly what it's been like since I started this journey in January '08. For the most part, I've been winning the fight, but it's still been a fight. Fighting every meal to consume only the portion I need, not the portion I want. Fighting to be mindful about what I eat, when I eat, where I eat, how I eat, how long it takes me to eat. Fighting to get myself to exercise on a regular basis. Fighting constant brain noise and thoughts of things my body has no use for, but some primal part of my brain wants - the fight any addict fights.

Truth is, all this time, I haven't been fighting with myself metaphorically. I've been fighting with myself literally. My child self.

Every time I struggle with myself, there's this dialogue going on in my head. It's constant and all-consuming. I just realized today, with lots of help, that the dialogue is between my higher self - the adult self that wants things done right - and the child self - who wants what she wants when she wants it and that's all she knows.
What the hell are you doing? How are you going to lose weight, eating right before you go to bed? For Chrissakes, it's 11:30! Don't you remember, we don't eat after 8pm?
Look. I'm a little hungry. And cereal sounds really good right now.
Seriously. You're going to eat. Then go to sleep? What is the purpose of that? How about just go to bed and before you know it you'll be asleep and a couple of hundred calories lighter.
Cereal. With banana. Yep. Mmmmmmm.
*irritated* Just go to bed.
*munch* *munch*
Ok. Great. You got your cereal snack. Not too damaging. Go to bed now.
*pours another bowl of cereal*
What are you doing?!
That was good. I want more. *munch* *munch*
*exasperated sigh* You realize we're losing control here, right?
Is there any chocolate around here? I want chocolate. *looks around for chocolate*
*extreme frustration* YOU DON'T NEED CHOCOLATE!
*fingers in ears* la la la la la la la la
And this is the struggle every day. Every hour. On really rough days, I count the minutes.

Now, however, I have the tools to talk to this little girl who wants. I've been talking to her all this time, however now, I've learned the correct way to interact with her.

Some things I learned today:
  • Give names to the higher self and child self to identify them
  • Let the child self speak first
  • The adult self should be understanding, and show support and compassion, be forgiving, and know and acknowledge the power the child self holds
  • Stop fighting! My therapist described it as "trying to talk down a five year old with a gun" - let the child self know you're on her side, wanting only to support and help, not to control.

As I rolled this information around in my head, I realized suddenly that I already know how to talk to my child self. I already know. I would never speak to my fiance's 7 year old daughter the way I talk down to myself. Even when she tests me. Even when she frustrates me. Even when she's outright defiant (which is blessedly rare, she's such a good kid) - I would never be so negative and disrespectful as I am with my own child self.

We've got a lot of talking to do.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Random list of complaints

  • I have not been able to get my chit together since getting back from Louisiana. Several good meals in a row, then a binge on crap. A nice hike, then days of lazy apathy. I don't know. I just don't know.
  • Sarah Palin? Really? That's supposed to be a joke, right? PLEASE tell me that's a joke.
  • p.s. Tina Fey, I love you. You're a genius. An evil genius.
  • Windows - the kind you put in your house, not the kind in the computer - are heavy. Really heavy. Their heaviness seems to increase in direct proportion to your height above the driveway and your inability to afford to buy a new window, should you drop the one you're trying to install.
  • There are dogs that can find lost people. Sniff out cadavers. Cocaine. Meth. Even cancer. Why the hell hasn't anyone bred a dog yet that bathes itself once a week?
  • While they're at it, why not teach the dog to use a steam-cleaner for the carpet? I'm just sayin'.
  • That is the last time you will ever see me drop a g off of one of my words. Sarah Palin ruined it for all of us.
  • Obama's ahead in Ohio. Holy smokes.
  • Don't ever walk right into a jetski trailer hitch that's sitting there on the ground (and has been sitting in that exact same spot for weeks). Especially don't do it wearing flip-flops. It'll hurt! I'm warning you. Your foot will turn all sorts of colors and your language will actually be quite colorful too. Don't ask how I know.
  • Is there anything better than a nice cut and color? Probably not, but I will investigate tomorrow.
  • Elisabeth Hasselbeck: Shut UP! p.s. Fox News called, they want their talking points back.
  • Soup sounds good, doesn't it? Who doesn't like soup?

Ooops. Mixed a few observations in with the complaints. I'm off my game. Must be time to go to bed.

Friday, September 26, 2008

In a little funk

Thank goodness I started back to every 2 week appointments and will be doing a group once a month. I feel sort of apathetic about this whole process lately. I've not been making a point of exercise. If I get it, hey, great! If I don't, well, we just won't talk about that, huh? 

My eating has been hit and miss. I've let myself binge a couple of times, the past week, and I have been eating more than I need for regular meals. I don't know if this is post-deployment slump, or what it is. 

Whatever it is, I'm not likin' it. 

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What a difference a week makes

This time, a week ago, we were on the road to Louisiana with the hopes of savin' lives and kissin' babies. We got moved around a lot, but that's about all we did. Pics and story of that to follow another day, as I'm still to busy to get them posted.

We got home very late Monday night. We dropped our gear, I put fuel in the truck (one last tankful on PEMA's dime), and I finally got in my car to go home at 12:30 Tuesday morning. I pull up to the familiar tan mailbox, red porch. Unlock the door and drag all my gear and garbage bag of dirty clothes into the house. It's quiet. Too quiet. That's the thing about your dog getting old. They don't greet you at the door any more because they can't hear too well any more. It's good on those days when you really have to pee and you're running straight to the bathroom; no wiggly-waggly canine to trip you up on your single-minded quest. Also works well when your dog has a condition that makes her sick when she's stressed and doesn't like fireworks.

However, when coming home from a trip, it's kind of sad. Reminds me of when I used to kennel the dogs and I'd come home, expecting yelps and kisses and wagging tails, opening the door to... nothing. And that's what I saw this night. Peeked around the corner to the office where Old Girlie likes to nap. No dog. In the bedroom, an empty orthopedic dog bed. No dog snoring on the chair in the sunroom. I crept downstairs, half-afraid of what I might find. I mean, when you suddenly have to leave a 13 year old dog that has Addison's Disease with a patchwork schedule of pet sitters for nearly a week, you worry about... well, you know.

As I tiptoed down the stairs, I saw her. Lying on her side on the living room floor, tongue hanging out. For a second my breath caught in my throat, until I saw hers. Her sides were moving with each breath, thank goodness. Of course they were. She's always fine when I go away, I just jump to horrible conclusions in my head.

I quietly lay on the floor in front of her, remembering what the homecoming greetings used to be like. The jumping kiss assaults that often resulted in a fat lip or a nasty head lumps for both of us. The yelps of joy and excited pacing. Pondered whether or not it's better this way - me getting to actually set my stuff down and take a breath before the onslaught of doggy love.

I tap the floor gently and her eyes slowly open. I can actually see the fog lifting from her eyes and mind and her eyes widen with excitement. She jumps up - these days jumping up has become a slow process with many steps. She has to get her back legs under herself and haul herself up. Then she's off. Just like the old days. Running around the living room, though these days if she runs too fast she trips herself up. So she's running, stumbling, tripping (sounds like a Fergie song or something?), yelping, throwing herself on the floor beside me and kicking me with her back legs, and expressing her joy in my most favorite way: rolling around on her back, kicking her back legs up like she's doing bicycle crunches, and yapping happily.

It brought tears to my eyes. I wonder how much longer I will get to have this friend, this precious gift, in my life. Election day she'll turn 14.

It's good to be home.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

We're doing important stuff here.

Actually, we're waiting on final word that we're going home. We've done nothing but brief, eat, move, sleep, repeat - with an occasional opportunity for a shower thrown in there to keep us from rioting. It's not our IC's fault; the state of Louisiana just got carried away in their requests for assistance.

On the bright side, we found a fabulous restaurant, recommended by a local guy we ran into and confirmed by the Louisiana state guys that had eaten there the night before. If you're ever in Lafayette, La, you've got to go to Lafayette's. We had fried gator. Gumbo. Fried crawfish and crawfish etouffee. And the chocolate torte at the end.. we passed it around like a crack pipe. I felt tingling - in places I haven't felt tingling in since last Tuesday night - with each bite of that torte.

We had that semi expensive meal because we were told, first thing this am we'd be busting our asses on missions. Turns out, it's a good thing we went, 'cause we're outta here today. The guy running the shelter where we were housed turned out to be a complete ass, so whether we were moving to go on another mission, or moving to go home, we're ok with it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Headed to LaFayette

... around 8am for a search and rescue mission. Gotta admit, I'm stoked. This seems much cooler than, "Hey. Can you take this unresponsive guy on a vent back to the hospital? (x 1000)" We'll see what it ends up actually being when we get there. We may be running a shelter, we may sit around like we did here. We may evacuate hospitals and nursing homes. They just sent teams literally 15 minutes ago toward NOLA too, because there is reportedly a levee breach.

So.. probably no phone or internet where we're going. Will try to update as is possible, but I think it's going to be a very hectic 3 days.

You know what we all have in common? We're all pretty happy about having what seems like a cool mission coming up, but we're also all really, really, disproportionately and overly bummed about missing the homemade church-lady gumbo.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Well, here we are.

Zachary, Louisiana. Our Ambulance Strike Team was deployed for a hurricane relief mission. What we are being told thus far, is that our mission will mainly be to repatriate the hospitals and facilities of patients that were evacuated. That could, of course, change.. depending on what Ike does.

This is a cute little town. Nondescript. What is incredible are the people here. Our incident commanders told us the residents were very nice, but that was the understatement of the year. Everywhere we go, complete strangers approach us and ask us where we're from, how do we like it here, how long will we need to be here, do we need anything? One gentleman tried to pick up the tab for our breakfast, which for some reason almost brought tears to my eyes.

We met up at a park n' ride lot about 30 minutes from our ambulance base and drove for 2 days to get here, in a convoy of 4 other ambulances and 2 support vehicles. Of course once we got here last night, we had to sit around for an hour and wait until we could drag our gear in, set up sleeping arrangements, and bunk down for the night. We kept hearing rumors that there was 1 shower in the entire building for a hundred or so personnel. Exhausted and covered in the slime layer that one accumulates over 12 hours on a drive, all I wanted was to wash up, brush my teeth, and go to bed so that I could make the 5:45am roll call. Of course, the only bathroom I knew of for some reason had no power. So there I was, doing the whore's bath (or Polish bath, if you're more into ethnic stereotyping - being Polish myself, I'm allowed to say it) by the light of my little mini-mag. That cot felt incredibly good; it was the best 4 hours sleep I've gotten in a long time.

5:30 rolls around and we're ready. Not quite bright eyed or bushy tailed, but awake. There is no roll call. We are not going anywhere. The incident commanders need to make fuel arrangements for our vehicles and the state needs to come inspect/credential our crews and units. So my partner and I signed out, and hit the Wal-Mart for some necessities. We picked up breakfast, after politely declining the kind gentleman's offer to buy for us.

I'm being told we are beginning to get our paperwork and credentials together for the feds, so off I go.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

All packed up and ready to go!

Yep, there's Ol' Red, my trusty (and rusty) mountain bike. We've been together for *thinks* geez, at least 10 years. Red harkens back to a time when they didn't think of making titanium-frame bikes for regular non bike racing folks. Times when they made the frames out of lead, or mercury, or something similarly and unnecessarily heavy. I figure between my ass, and Ol' Red's weight, and those packed up panniers, I'm getting a hell of a resistance workout when I ride to work.

Now that I've got a bike computer, I can stop deluding myself about how long the ride is to the station that's farther from my house. Of course I mapped it out on my car's trip meter, and then pretty much rounded it up in my head to 6 miles. Which at some point, like any good story, got exaggerated to 7-somethingish miles each way.

No. It's 5.8 miles. Not that that is anything to turn up one's nose at, especially considering it was done at 7am, and a good bit of it is uphill. And the fact that I'll be doing the same 5.8 on the way home tonight. Hopefully I'll get myself a little mo' goin' and get up early tomorrow morning and the next day to ride back and forth to work too. There's a sense of finality and inevitability once I make the right turn off my street and go down that first hill. This is it. There is no other way to get to work but under my own power, so get movin'. I need that sometimes. Hell, who am I kidding? I need that just about all the time.

One drawback to this whole process - heck this whole way of living - is the sheer amount of planning involved in all of this. Just like I have to cook healthful meals out of good, non-processed, non-adulterated ingredients, chop up a big salad each day and plan a good breakfast -instead of grabbing lunch money like many people do - I now have to make these meals bike-friendly, and make sure that I have all of my uniform stuff packed and ready. And a hair brush. Oh, and Naproxen, in case I start feeling decrepit. A claw clip for my hair. Contact lens solution, in case a rogue June Beetle who doesn't know what month it is flies into my eye. And of course, my travel mug of coffee for the road, safely housed in a ziploc. I mean, where does it end? Next thing you know I'll be strapping Queez, coffee beans, filters, and my coffee grinder on top of all that gear so I can have *reallyfresh* coffee when I get to work. Ol' Red'll look like the Beverly Hillbillies' truck when it's all said and done.

Yesterday's session:
I feel I have made a good bit of progress from my session 2 weeks ago to the one yesterday. I'm very happy with my new sense of what a portion is. I can tell I'm back on the losing weight and not maintaining track, though I try not to weigh too often because I start getting obsessed. I tried on a pair of jeans that hasn't fit for 3 years and they were tight, but they fit! Exercise isn't quite where I want it to be, as I know I can do more; more frequently, more intensely. I'm still getting more exercise than the Average American, so I just have to realize that it will come, and keep plugging away. I have the opportunity now to go to a support group instead of/in addition to my sessions. I'm kind of excited about this, as these are all people who are right now struggling every day with this stuff, just like me.

  • Walk/jog around lake with little Girlie Monday
  • Cut grass yesterday, then went road/trail biking with Dan. Trail biking is a horse of a different color. Never have I felt so timid and uncomfortable on a bike. Trails sometimes only marginally wider than the bike. Creeks to cross with big honkin' rocks in the mix to stop me dead in the middle because I couldn't steer around 'em. Deliberately placed tree obstacles everywhere. And downhills that, if made out of cement, wouldn't faze me - but made of hard-packed dirt with roots and rocks, terrify me. It was definitely out of my comfort zone. Something I would have loved when I was 12 (before I knew what a broken bone felt like - white hot unbelievable pain, in case you're wondering) but now just brings out the medic in me. I sit there at the top of this narrow-ass rutty dirt hill and imagine all the trauma that will befall me when I, well.. befall on myself. But I did it, and I'm looking forward to more. It was a really good workout.
  • Today: ride back/forth to work. 11.6 miles round trip.
  • Tomorrow, Friday - hopefully more of the same.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Our secrets keep us sick.

Truer words have never been spoken. It's a simple sentence with just enough alliteration to make it easy to remember and repeat. It's one you often hear if you, like me, are a fan of the show Intervention.

So, in the interests of disclosure and of staying healthy:

  • I still haven't exercised much in the past 2 weeks
  • I ate mindlessly at the cookout yesterday and had a mini-binge on 2 lemon bars and strawberry jello-pretzel stuff

It could have been worse. That - compared to one of my binges of say, a year ago - is like comparing a flea to a sperm whale. And I have gotten little bits and pieces of exercise; walking/jogging the dog around the lake, mowing the grass, running up and down the steps at work, lifting sick and injured people hither and yon. I just know I can be doing better. I'm hopefully getting my bike tuned up a little today, and getting the bike computer installed. The next 3 work days looked nice weather wise. I'm going to make every effort to ride back and forth to work on those days.

And if I don't.. well, I guess I have to come and confess.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Let's start the day off with a funny!

John McCain chooses a running mate.

Ok. Now that that's out of the way, on to the important stuff. Me!

Something has clicked. I'm not sure how, except to say I know it's not by force of willpower. The lady I give my $10 copay to every couple weeks keeps telling me willpower doesn't work, at least not for long, and I think that's finally sunk in. It doesn't sound like a big deal to someone who doesn't have food issues, but I'm eating only when I'm hungry, eating only enough to satisfy the physical hunger, and not snacking mindlessly.

Oh, I'm still tempted. Don't saint me yet. I got out of work last night late, and not having had dinner yet, a million destructive thoughts raced through my mind. All the while, in the back of my mind, the Voice of Reason keeps telling me that I have dinner. It's in the bag of stuff I brought to work with me. Why not just eat the turkey meatloaf and veggies and be done with it?

The Voice of Reason is no fun, as you can plainly see. I allowed myself to entertain thoughts of Chinese pickup, any number of nasty drive-through options, and even a couple options that could be semi-healthful if I ordered mindfully (sushi, Mad Mex). Still hungry (and still toting my originally intended dinner around with me), I headed up to my best friend's house. We had plans to meet up when I was done at work. She had meds for my dog, I had a camera for her to use on her NH trip. Lucky for me, she always feeds me, and she's just as obsessed with healthy eating as I am. Eggplant parm, fresh out of the oven, made with veggies just picked from the garden that day. Does it get better than that? I think not. Especially when paired with best friend chat and a good beer.

This was all accomplished without willpower. It's all about trusting myself, and I think that is what is finally clicking. For the longest time, I felt I was walking on eggshells and at any moment would fall back into my old routines. However, of late I have found some inner peace and trust. Maybe it's the comfort of routine. I have no idea where it's come from but I'm glad it's here.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I'm not pleased with myself.

I essentially talked myself out of exercising today, then procrastinated to the point that it was not possible to do so at all before I started a double shift at noon.

Want a look into the thought process of a sick brain? Here it is:

9:40am Leave Dan's house, drive home. While driving home thing about doing one of the variable hill settings on the treadmill for 30 minutes

10:00am Arrive home. Love on/pet/brush Old Girlie. Wonder to self if 20 minutes will do the trick

10:10am Feed Old Girlie, wait for her to need to poop (She often doesn't realize she has to until it's just about to happen. You have to sit there - yes sit - because if she thinks you're in a hurry to do something she won't go outside. Anyway, you have to watch for her tail to go up and her pooper to start contracting.) No. I am not joking. I wish I were.

10:15am Pass time getting healthy, balanced meals ready for double shift. Wonder to self if I should eat before or after working out, knowing that workouts don't go too well with food in the belly.

10:30am Decide to make breakfast now so that I can just work out and not be interuppted by needing breakfast. Wonder to self about the merits of straight cardio (running I had planned) vs. cardio + strength (10 Minute Trainer dvds). Think to self that strength + cardio = always better than straight cardio. Wonder to self if that will help me on the Vo2 max test or not.

10:35am Eat breakfast, turn on dvr'ed episode of - wait for it - "I Lost It!" while contemplating if I should give my knee (not currently hurting) "one more day of rest". The irony of sitting on my ass, watching a show about weight loss and healthy lifestyles, while I should be exercising, does not escape me. See out of corner of eye, Old Girlie's tail going up as if hoisted by that stage twine that helps people fly onstage, and the telltale pooper contractions. Jump up in time to let her outside to Robopoop.

10:40am At this point, I now have time to do either a 20 minute treadmill program or (2) TMT dvds.

10:45am Here is where the critical failure occurs. I make my way upstairs. I've already lost 5 minutes somehow and I'm not even changed into workout clothes. Now I have "only 15 minutes - only 15 minutes - only 15 minutes" running through my addled brain and it is at this point I decide I "need" to give my non-painful knee another day of rest, and decide to go pay a bill online that I could pay an hour from now online, once I get to work.

11:00am Still surfing online, bill's been paid for 14 minutes now.

11:05am Get in shower and get ready for work, relieved that God Forbid, I didn't have to exert myself or break a sweat yet today

11:35am Leave for work, pissed off at self

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My knee hurts.

And I'm pretty sure I know why.

My employer started assigning us to trucks this week, as opposed to the crews just choosing the truck they wanted to use for the shift. My assigned truck is brand spankin' new, and it's beautiful! I guess there's something to be said for extreme seniority (or dinosaurity).

I don't want a different truck assignment, so I'm not complaining too much. But after the first shift I used it, my legs were sore like I had done leg day at the gym. "Inadvertent workout", I thought to myself, "Sweet!"

I started noticing as time went on, though, that my first day off after a block of shifts I'd have significant anterior knee pain. Today was the first time it's actually affected how I walk.
I think you can probably see why my knee is bothering me so much now.

Yep. That step is waist-high on me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


That's the day I scheduled my immersion body fat analysis and VO2 Max test (which is on a bike, not a treadmill as I originally thought). I am a little claustrophobic already at the thought of having my nose plugged up, but I'm hoping I can bring my tunes and zone out while taking the test.

So now that the date is growing ever closer, I'm getting more antsy to make sure I'm in great condition for the test. I went for a short bike ride after work last night; just around the block, but there were 3 significant hills involved, so that 15 minutes counted for something in my book.
Tonight, if I'm coherent and able to ambulate adequately after 14 hours here at work, I'd like to hit the treadmill for a run.

Right now, on only my 2nd daylight shift after 4 weeks of nights, I'm struggling just to keep my eyes open. The coffee isn't doing much to counteract the 4 hours of sleep I got last night, and the name beside mine on the schedule isn't doing much for my general mood either.

Hey. Here's a tidbit of good, though. Since I started this whole process in January, I've lost 31lbs. I try not to weigh a lot, as I tend to obsess over the scale, but it was good to see that it is still moving downward, albeit slowly.

It's working!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Week in Review

Overall, it's been a good week for a wake-up call. The hormonal fog and fatigue gradually lifted, and the kick in the pants I got about my portion sizes was just what I needed.
Even with portions drastically reduced, I've been more than satisfied with what I've been eating. Exercise? I got a few good sessions in; woods/trail walks with the little girlie, helping my friend train her search dog (which consisted of me running through the woods), and a nice lake walk/jog with the little girlie. Though she got the real workout with the half-hour of swimming she did.

Tomorrow - hold the phone, folks - I may even use my bike to get out and back from Dan's house. It's about 11 miles one way with plenty of hills, none of them being Hills of Death, so I can't wait to see how it goes.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Does she have to be right ALL the time?

I mean, I go to my appointments for the most part religiously. I respect her advice, having overcome an overeating disorder herself. But dammit, could she be wrong at least once?

The past couple of appointments, she would ask me about my portions. "They're good!" I'd say, then maybe admit to a little bit of portion creep. She'd just look at me enigmatically, and say levelly, "Well, you almost have to be eating more than you need. Otherwise more weight would be coming off."

Determined to prove that I had been eating only what I needed, I plugged the last couple of days into Fitday, hoping to see that I was starving myself and trying to sustain life on a mere 450 calories per day. (Remember, for the last couple of days I've cut my portions basically in half).

Yesterday. 1200-some calories. Today. 1400-ish.

Busted again. If my calories before the last several days have been, say, 75%-100% more than what I'm doing now? 2100-2800 calories. Damn. Now, I'm not one of those calorie-obsessed people who will substitute low-cal this and fat-free that and fake the other in order to achieve my caloric goals. If I want butter, it's gonna be butter. Not that plastic stuff that comes in tubs an unnatural shade of bright yellow. If I want oil on my salad, it's going to be a nice, fruity extra virgin olive oil, tricked out with some basil and garlic from the farmer's market - not some low-cal high fructose corn syrup sweetened spray crap that claims it's "healthy". Full fat yogurt and cheese products, because low fat dairy is full of nasty filler. So I will have to give up some volume in order to achieve this.

The good news is, I've been perfectly satisfied on the portions of real, unprocessed stuff that I have been eating. Who knew?

Oh. She did.

Damn her!

I'm not all that charming at 3am.

I'll be the first to tell you that. However, I get downright nasty when I've spent my time showing you where to find any and every thing on our units. Showing you the area. Going over procedural stuff with you. And I have to stand there waiting, while you blindly tear apart the drug bag looking for the glucometer I asked for several minutes ago, while the blind diabetic guy sits there, holding out his finger to give me a sample - sometime today, I hope. Hint: the glucometer's in the same place it always is.

Here are a few tips from my soggy 4am brain to yours:
  • Once I've shown you everything, it is now YOUR responsibility to keep going over this information, on your own, until you know it. You don't know where something is? Sit your ass in the truck with a checklist until you know every response bag, every cabinet. That's what I did 15 years ago, and I was just a volunteer, buddy. I wanted to know my job inside and out. You're getting paid. You'd better know it.
  • I have never once seen you come in for your shift and check your truck. Perhaps if you spent a little time doing that, and less time talking on your phone, you'd know where common items are when I ask for them.
  • Tuck your goddamned shirt in!
  • If you see someone who is bleeding, for God's sake bandage them. Don't, for example, take all the equipment back out to the truck and b.s. with the cop at roadside, forcing me to yell out the front door for you to come back. Don't wait for someone to have to point out the obvious to you.
  • Don't consistently show up late. The people who are waiting for you to get here, so they can go home to their families, are getting tired of it. I don't care if you had a late call at your other job. Schedule more time between shifts to allow for that.

I understand people get tired. I understand people have 'off' days. However, consistent, pervasive, persistent laziness.. I can't really understand that.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Small portions are scary.

Do small portions scare anyone else, or is it just me?

I looked sadly at my sorry little one egg on my buttered half of an english muffin this morning - half of what I'd normally make for my breakfast - and all I could think was: "This will never be enough."

Guess what? It was enough.

I paid very close attention and waited until my stomach was growling for lunch. Sushi, 6 pieces left over from the dozen I bought yesterday. Again, the familiar sad feeling: "It's not enough."

But it was.

I walked 3.5 miles out and back from my house, a route that includes what I affectionately call the Hill of Death. I didn't get fatigued. I didn't waste away while I was out walking (dammit!). I didn't die of starvation. I have plenty of calories and energy to sustain an active day.

I wonder what life is like for people who don't have to obsess over this stuff. I almost hope they have some sort of other issue that consumes their life similarly, 'cause otherwise that just wouldn't be fair. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to enjoy my snack of a small chef salad.

Friends I made on my walk.

Old Girlie was not amused when she caught a whiff of them.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Today's Session

You know how people dread root canals and colonoscopies? That's how I was dreading my session today. Why was I dreading it? Because I really didn't have anything good to report. I was going to have to go in there and honestly face that I have really slacked for the past month on exercise and watching portions and reviewing my 12 steps.

And that, precisely, is why I didn't cancel.

Today's points of interest:
  • I decided to go back to every 2 week sessions for now, rather than once a month. This is the time last year I pretty much unraveled and went on a 6 month bender, gaining 30lbs during the couch and cookie dough olympics
  • I really need to review my 12 steps. Like from the beginning.
  • I haven't really done any relevant reading. I am going to pick up something today. Maybe the hated Dr. Phil's diet solution or whatever it is. My therapist claims the exercises in the book are actually useful. I trust her so I will take her word for it and try to get past the Dr. Phil part.
  • I have realized that I really love exercise. When it's my idea. When I get it in my head that I have to do x number of miles or minutes on a treadmill or x number of dvds a day, I rebel immediately. However if I take the dog for a walk uphill through the woods and break a nice sweat, or help my friend train her search dog by running away from him in the woods, I'm fine with that. So I need to build a lot of incidental exercise into my days.
  • Speaking of incidental exercise. I am so. busted. I have always taken the elevator to my therapist's office rather than the stairs. Usually it's because I'm running late and need to get up there. Trust me. I'm not *that person* who drives around the Wal-Mart parking lot for 25 minutes so I can get the closest space. When I have time, I will intentionally park far away, or take the stairs rather than the elevator. I always had in the back of my mind that one day I might actually run into her on my way off the elevator and have to explain myself. I've been waiting for the longest time for her to ask if I take the steps or elevator. Well, today she asked. And I am busted.
  • At some point, my therapist will be running an additional support group and I will have the opportunity to take advantage of that support. A group already exists, however there's no space, so she's creating a second group. This will be interesting.

So I didn't really exercise yesterday. Unless you count trying to walk off my corn dog and ice cream at the amusement park. However, I did take the dog for a nice hilly woods hike on Sunday, followed by several short runs through the woods helping my friend train her search and rescue dog. And I didn't even resent it.

*files this information in brain for later use*

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Status quo

I haven't felt like doing much of anything this week, including sitting here typing this post. There's really nothing new to report. I'm feeling unmotivated, tired, and headachey. Eating has been good and portions have been good. Exercise? What's that?

I'm giving myself one more day to slack and then I'm going to be back to doing something on Monday. Though on Monday it may only be one TMT dvd, because I have a class then possibly an amusement park trip.

Things I have been thinking:
  • There's a route I've walked that is 3.5 miles out and back from my house. It includes a significantly long and steep hill, so even if it's only walked, it's a workout. I've been toying with the idea of walk/jogging it and seeing if I could eventually get to the point where I jog the whole thing. 3.5 miles is totally do-able to me on a treadmill. Outdoors, though? *shudder* Say it with me: Mental block.
  • These fatigue/headache symptoms every month are definitely increased than when I was younger. I really hope this isn't some peri-menopausal hormonal shift. Geez - let me get married first!
  • I bet I'd be feeling better physically if I were doing something that made me sweat instead of sitting here typing a bitchfest about it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Here to report..

.. That there is nothing to report.

Just a leisurely lake walk with Little Girlie yesterday for exercise. At least it was something. I'm exhausted, feeling like a wrung-out dishrag this week.

OT today, off my regular night shifts, adding to my bleary-eyed apathy. I don't forsee any intensive exercise taking place after work tonight.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Has anyone seen my motivation?

Bueller? Bueller?

I did ONE. Just one, TMT dvd yesterday (abs) and haven't/can't seem to muster the energy, motivation, chutzpah, balls - whatever - to do anything today. I know it's *that week* again. That week where I get a tension head and neck ache every day. I bloat up and crave Big Macs and ice cream. That week during which I'm so physically exhausted that even going upstairs seems a herculean task. This is the week I need to be exercising the most. Not the most as in quantity. The most, as in, this is when it would most benefit me. On the one hand I can't beat myself up over this too much and make exercise this punitive "you HAVE TO" thing. On the other hand I can't let myself make excuses. I will let it go for today. I got almost no sleep last night and didn't really get to nap today. Tomorrow I have to hang over for 2 hours in the morning after my night shift; this is getting to be a common and annoying thing. It seems to set my day back quite a bit when I do this. I can't make any promises for tomorrow either, not knowing how my night is going to be tonight, except that I am going to make the effort to get at least one dvd done as soon as I get home, and hope that one leads to two, leads to maybe three and maybe a run or a nice walk later in the day. I recognize my mad procratinational skillz (I'm using them right now, matter of fact), and I know the longer I go without doing something, the longer I will tend to keep going, if that makes sense.

Thank goodness at least I've gotten straight back into my routine with what I'm eating. Back to eating quality foods and small portions, and waiting until I am truly hungry to eat. Sounds like that would be easy to do, wait until you're hungry to eat, huh? For lots of people it is. Dan amazes me. Lots of his eating habits aren't healthy (a Coke for breakfast and "lunch" at 7:30pm, little snack of some processed food before bed). Some of his habits, though, astound me, in how foreign they are to the way that I'm used to handling meals. He can, and often does, wait until he is extremely hungry to eat. It just doesn't cross his mind until his stomach begins to digest itself. Sometimes it's evening before he thinks of grabbing something. I cannot fathom that. I can finish an enormous steak dinner with a baked potato and veggies, have a brownie topped with ice cream, and I still catch myself thinking, "Ok, what's next?" Then, when he finally does eat, he often leaves 1/3 of his meal sitting there, uneaten. He has such strong internal cues as to when he's done. On the other hand, that is something I have to work very hard at. "Am I satisfied? Am I past satisfied and just eating because it's there?" These are questions he doesn't have to ask himself. Recognizing my internal cues, as opposed using external cues, is something I need to work harder on. One technique I had been using is cooking or serving myself a much smaller portion than I would normally eat, and not having seconds, unless the seconds consist only of a second helping of salad. This works, until the portion creep begins. Next food-related goal is going to be to really, really pay attention to internal cues telling me "I'm satisfied" and to be ok with leaving food on my plate.

For me, that is akin to learning to walk on a tightrope or something similarly foreign and scary. Weird, huh?