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