Thursday, August 31, 2006

Vacation House

My 19-year-old sister appeared on my doorstep Monday evening with a bag of groceries and a basket full of clothes. Her blonde hair was pulled back in its usual ponytail, and her Covergirl eyeliner was pristine. She did her best to smile but I could tell she was about to burst into tears at any moment, so I held the door open while she walked passed me into the kitchen. "What's going on?" I asked in my best sincerely worried, big sister voice. "Oh Katie!" she said, and that was all it took before she crossed the distance of the kitchen to hug me, started sobbing uncontrollably, and mumbled a lot of unintelligible things into my shoulder. I tried really hard to understand her but I only caught a few things; "I don't know..", "uncomfortable in my own skin..", "don't know who I am."

She made me feel old. Even now I go through most of my days feeling like a teenager, like I never really grew up, but she proved to me that I had. I could listen to her slobbery cries and understand that she is freaked out right now. She's tense about where her life is heading and what her future holds. She's trying to "find" herself and map out the rest of her life all while her friends move away to college, proving that high school really has ended. It didn't happen quite the same way for me but I understood it all the same. I hugged her back and smiled over her shoulder, "It's going to be okay."

It turns out the groceries and clothes were all part of her master plan. She decided she was abandoning her on-campus apartment and inept roommates to vacation at my house. She needed a week of solitude and our place was the closest and most affordable thing she could think of. Only our parents, Jon, and I know her whereabouts, but her roommates do know that she is alive and well (except for their speculations that she is in the hospital psych ward.) She has turned her cell phone off, and barricaded herself into my spare bedroom, washed all of her laundry, and somehow convinced Jack that she is the best thing since bread and butter. And I don't mind as long as she is happy; all though I have seen her almost finish an entire tub of peanut butter ice cream and a very large bag of animal crackers.

It has been a lot like a slumber party having her around. I think I was in need of a little more estrogen and female conversation than Jon is able to provide. I haven't been asleep before midnight so far this week. Last night we played rummy, ordered pizza and watched Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro. And we still have plans to play a little Man Bites Dog, watch Resident Evil: Apocalypse, and have everyone over for Labor Day this weekend.

Right now, I feel like she could stay forever, but I know that eventually I'll want to charge her rent.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Hearty Update

I had an insanely early appointment with the cardiologist this morning. It was my first visit to his office and I was extremely anxious, not only slightly afraid of what he had to tell me, but also being able to find the office building amidst downtown's hectic rush hour traffic. Luckily it didn't take much coaxing from me for Jon to wake up at dawn and come along for the ride. And I'm extremely glad he did as I may have ended up in Columbus without him. I don't have my best sense of direction when unfamiliar territory is mixed with one-way streets, construction cones galore, and bumper-to-bumper vehicles.

The waiting room was uninhabited when we first arrived, only proving that I did, in fact, have the first appointment of the day. The good thing about all of this was how quickly I was checked in and taken back to see the doctor. I was weighed, placed on a table while my blood pressure and pulse were taken, and then Jon and I were left facing each other in a small 9x9 room to yawn at one another. We passed the time by discussing the very "doctor's office" paintings and ignoring my unnecessary nervous twitches. (I credited most of my nervousness to never having been to this office and not knowing the staff but mostly I was nervous because I didn't know why I was nervous. It was weird and I think I was very tired.)

The cardiologist entered, armed with a thick folder full of my test results from the hospital, obviously analyzed, labeled and filed. He introduced himself as Dr. Smith and pulled out the stethoscope. After some deep breathing on my part, he rested on his doctor's stool and pulled a pen from the pocket of his white coat. "Describe what you are feeling to me."

"Well, first it feels like my heart is skipping a beat, and then as if to compensate, I feel one extra large beat afterward."

I don't know anything about the heart aside from the fact that I take it for granted. I go through my day expecting it to do its whole ba-bump, ba-bump and keep the blood flowing. While I understand what they are, chambers and valves are mostly alien to me. I felt like an idiot trying to describe the feelings to him but he looked back at me with perfect understanding. "It's interesting that you would describe it like that because that is almost exactly what is happening."

He proceeded to show me a printout of my EKG test and exactly where the abnormalities were while he explained it all. "Do you see how all of these beats are uniform except for the ones at the end? Well, what's happening is your electrical system is prematurely filling your heart with blood all through the long pause that you feel, and because there is more blood than in a regular heartbeat you feel that extra large beat."

Ah, now it makes sense. He agrees with the hospital that this is nothing serious pending an ultrasound of my heart to verify that the heart and all components are working correctly. He did not have a reason for them to begin at such a young age without previous heart or blood pressure complications but he said it was fairly common and nothing to be too concerned about. I am supposed to avoid caffeine and stress of all kinds (which should be interesting) and continue with my new, healthy life style. Surprisingly, there are medications that will help make the PVC's less frequent but he wanted to use them as a last resort; I guess the side effects of the blood thinning medicines are often worse than the original discomforts of a skipped heartbeat.

"Is this something that will begin to heal itself with time?"

"No. It is one of those things you will learn to live with. If the pain or discomfort becomes too much we will try the medications. You'll be fine."

Okay. If you say so.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I Heart Charity

Well, it took a couple of days to sort through everything but I have officially donated 12 men's polo shirts, 7 pairs of jeans, 4 pairs of slacks, 16 knit tops, 7 skirts, 5 tank tops, 8 sweaters, and 2 men's dress shirts to Goodwill. They made it so easy too. All I had to do was sort it, bag it, and leave it on the doorstep! The Salvation Army collected it this morning.

While always rewarding, charity never felt so easy!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Heart Attack at 24

I knew it was coming but I had been trying to avoid emergency rooms and doctors at all costs. Most nights I went to bed thinking "Well, I made it through last night, why should tonight be any different?" I had been experiencing some very odd and irregular heartbeats. I attributed it to a lot of unnecessary stress I'd been putting on myself. Though it seemed as good a reason as any, one can only take so many nights of needlessly fretting a heart attack at the young age of 24 before breaking down and calling the doctor, and it would be just my luck that my doctor couldn't see me for three weeks. Oh well, I've made it three months, what's another one?

All I wanted was someone to hold a stethoscope to my chest and tell me I was perfectly fine. I was entirely ready to be told I had gone crazy and all I was feeling was my heart beating, haven't you ever felt your heart beat before, girl? No big deal. I could wait another month for that to happen.

I made it 48 hours before telling Jon, only half serious, that the reason the dog was clinging to me was because he knew I was going to die tonight. He grabbed my purse and sandals and whisked me and my beat-skipping heart off to the emergency room.

They admitted me immediately and wasted no time ordering me out of my clothes and into one of those one-sided tablecloths with arm holes and two strings to tie it closed in the back. They rigged my body with enough stickers and wires that I must have resembled a bomb and they finished me off with a band to take my blood pressure and a finger contraption that I dubbed Robofinger. They left me in a bed with a warm blanket and turned off the light. I took advantage of the time by ceaselessly watching the machine as it advertised my heartbeat and I was happily surprised when every six or so beats the line would go flat before picking up again, as if my heart really was skipping a beat. I would have jumped up and down, announcing to the entire hospital how relieved I was that I wasn't making it up if so many wires hadn't tied me down. Instead I nodded my head and wiggled my feet with a "Yep! I knew it!" and continued my stare down with the machine.

Doctors and nurses came and went taking blood from my hand and adhering more stickers to my back, chest, hips, and ankles for an EKG. They took my blood pressure while I was lying down, sitting up, and standing on my head and kept asking me if I felt lightheaded or dizzy. "No. I feel fine except for this annoying flutter in my chest," I told them. I heard whispers of "Isn't she too young for this?" "What do you think the problem is?" coming from the nurses. I couldn't decide if it was a good or bad thing that I had come in here and baffled them.

I spent the next two hours listening to the man in the next room as he sobbed after he was told he couldn't smoke in the hospital and cursed the police for bringing him in. He and the female nurses were having a standoff and he threatened to kick them in the balls if they came any closer.

After a while the doctors allowed a red-eyed Jon to come back and sit with me while we waited on test results. "Were you sleeping out there?" I asked him.

"Almost." He said. "I watched Leno and then Conan. Last Call just started and I was drifting off when they came to get me. How are you?"

"I'm okay. Watch that machine to see what I've been feeling!"

The results surfaced around 3:00 in the morning on Thursday and a very fatigued looking doctor reported to us. "Your test results show that you are a very healthy 24 year old and nothing is wrong except for the PVC's or Premature Ventricular Contractions we found in the EKG. We don't have any reasons why someone as young as you would get them but I can assure you that they are harmless." She went on to explain how this has to do with the electrical system of the heart and though it feels as though it is a skipped beat it is actually a premature beat. She instructed me to follow up with the cardiologist within the week for further analysis. After asking all of the questions that Jon and I could think of that early in the morning, I was told I could get dressed and I was handed my release papers. I was a little upset that I was told I could experience these chest flutters for the rest of my life and I think it showed.

"Do you want me to stand outside while you get dressed?" Jon asked.

"Umm.. yes, I don't want anyone to get any ideas, but I think I'm going to need your help locating all of these freaking stickers."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Per the 2007 World Almanac for Kids

"It is estimated at least half of the people in the world include insects in their diet. Shoppers in Thailand can buy water bugs and grasshoppers at the market. Moviegoers in some parts of South America can snack on roasted ants instead of popcorn at the theater. In the U.S., each person unintentionally eats up to one pound of insects per year. Common foods such as tomato sauce, hot dogs, and chocolate all may contain insect eggs and parts. But don't worry: health codes allow only very low levels of these ingredients."

Not even my tomato sauce is safe?!

Excuse me while I puke..

Friday, August 18, 2006

My Job as the Only Female

Father-in-law: "Okay Katie, I need a woman's opinion. Does this look okay? Are my slacks too short?"

Katie: "You look great. The slacks touch your shoes so I don't think they're too short."

Husband: "Kate, does this look okay? Is my tie straight? Did I forget my sport coat?"

Katie: "You look great. Your tie looks perfect. You must have forgotten the sport coat because it is not in the car. You look fine without it."

Brother-in-law: "How do I look Katie? Jon says I look emo because of the purple tie."
Katie: "You look great. Ignore Jon, I think that is a very pretty tie."

Okay, now that all of the egos have been tended to, can we go?

By the way, that was the prettiest lilac tie I have ever seen.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What Do Normal People Do at Funerals?

One of the more morbid memories of my childhood involves my mother, the selfless, spiritual, and thoughtful woman that she is, bringing a five year old me to the funerals she attended. I can recall many funerals, mostly members of our parish or dear friends of my grandparents, and sometimes a few distant family members that I hadn't gotten the chance to know. More often than not, I didn't know who they were, only that I was supposed to behave as I would in mass--stay quiet and sit still. I realized very quickly that funerals were a bit different than mass. For one, we didn't sing the same songs, and two, people were crying. Even then my five year old self was so desperate to fit in that I would look at my mother to see if she was crying, and if so, I would force myself to tear up and begin weeping. I have always been quick with the waterworks so it only took a few unhappy thoughts like my dog getting hit by a car or my brother pulling my hair and I would begin sobbing and curling up into my mother's arms. Eventually I began shoving one of my father's handkerchiefs in my pocket before a ceremony so that I could dab at my tears and pretend to have control over my emotions. Some days I couldn't force the melancholy so I would quietly sniffle in our pew. I usually left the church with the same puffy, red eyes and tear stained cheeks as everyone else, gripping my mother's hand as we walked back home. It wasn't until much later in life that I realized there was something terribly wrong with this situation.

I'm thinking of this now as I prep myself for a relatives funeral. Jon's great-aunt passed away recently and the funeral is being held tomorrow morning. Unfortunately I did not know her well, only meeting a few times in the many years that I've known his family, but I'm taking Jon's word for it that she lived a long, abundant and blissful life. Unlike the old days I do not aspire to cry at her ceremony, but I will if I feel so moved, which I probably will. Though from what I have known of her and been told she was the vivacious type that did not want us all to be sad at her death. Mostly I plan to attend the mass and pray a lot, sing beautiful songs in memory of her, and proceed to the luncheon afterward where family and friends will congregate and share great stories and memories of her. She was 85 years old so I'm sure there are many.

I've been fortunate to not have many friends or family members pass away. Part of me is well aware that it will happen one day but a much larger part of me remains blissfully ignorant with a "no, not me" approach. Sadly, Jon has been losing many relatives in the last few years, beginning with his grandmother, whom we both adored, only months after our wedding. Only days before his aunt passed away of a heart-attack, he was told another great-aunt has been diagnosed with cancer. I find myself wishing I knew the magic words to make it all better, to keep him from having to lose yet another family member to cancer, but I don't. The best that I can do is be there for him and the rest of the family, and become a health activist, to ensure that we are here for as long as we can be. I haven't told anyone yet but I signed myself up for my office's team in Race for the Cure. Jon has had two (very young) aunt's diagnosed and successfully treated for breast cancer and I hope my signing up will be an example of how much I have grown to love them all.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

As Strange As Strange Can Get

I had a dream about Al Pacino, except I knew him as Don Corleone, and I couldn't get his name right. I wanted to call him Don Quixote.

Monday, August 14, 2006

I Should Be Worried

I'm beginning to worry about my husband. I don't know that I've mentioned this before but he is and probably always will be a bit of a geek. You see, he's a proud and true player of video games and his latest addiction has been Final Fantasy XI which he has been playing on and off for about a year now. My philosophy has always been that video games are his vice, as reading is mine, and it is something that enables him to escape his thoughts or stresses of life and relax, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that until his thoughts and stresses of life become Final Fantasy.

We were standing in line at the grocery store this evening after a very hectic jaunt through an insanely busy market, and as always, were sharing our horror stories of splitting up so one of us could find the laundry detergent while the other took off for milk. Today it was a matter of the store being too small for the amount of people and their carts inhabiting the place. Every time we attempted to walk down an aisle we had to turn around because there wasn't a chance in hell we were going to get through. Every time I found what I was looking for I couldn't reach it because someone had abandoned their cart right where I needed to be. So today's check-out line complaining could have been pretty meaty if he hadn't said to me in all seriousness, "All I did was put the box back and then I turned around and there was a cart sitting right in front of me. It was like the person who was pushing it must have cast invisibility on themselves!"

Invisibility? Did he seriously just say that? In public? I had to look around to see if someone had overheard him and if they were now smirking at the freak and his wife. I laughed it off but not after letting him see that I was totally shocked. "Umm.. I love you but you're really weird."

EDIT: I'm pretty sure I was going somewhere with this entry before Jon walked into the room and started talking to me about something that happened in his game as if I just wouldn't believe it. The good news is I was able to stop him with a glance. The bad news is he started up again with an "I can't help it! It's my passion!"

"Oh man. Don't give me anything more to write about!"

"Are you writing about me? Are you telling them what a dork I am?"

"Yeah, but I called you a geek."

"Oh. Well, my party is waiting for me. I love you."

"Ha. I love you too, dork."

Friday, August 11, 2006

Still a Little Miffed

March elections have come and gone but while talking to Jon's aunt yesterday I thought to myself.. why would anyone ever turn down a school levy? Our local school system is running out of money and the levy that could have solved their problem was vetoed by the March ballot. Now, debate has never been my strong suit but wouldn't you want to make sure that your children, grandchildren, and future leaders of the country get the best education possible? It kills me to think that teachers are losing their positions, or are being transferred through out the school system because the general public couldn't stomach a small raise in taxes to ensure a better overall life for the children. His aunt was a Japanese foreign language teacher for as long as I have known his family, but because the levy failed, the school system eliminated her position, and come September, she will be a third grade teacher at a new elementary school. Many sports and art programs were also done away with in an attempt to save money. The middle school that I attended has all ready been closed and there is now talk of my high school closing also. And what really gets me is how obvious it is that the schools need more money. Jon and I were talking to my sister, who just graduated from high school in June, over dinner last night about his aunt and her family:

Me: "What's so cool about it is that their three year old son is bilingual!"

Her: "What's bilingual?"

Me: "Umm.. it means he can speak two languages. He knows English and Japanese."

Unless you have an extremely viable reason, please do not vote against a school levy. Don't let your children graduate from high school without knowing what "bilingual" means.

Baby Cravings and Other Tales

The updates have been sparse but this vacation has been exactly what I needed. I was asked countless times why I would take a week long vacation but not travel anywhere and my response is because I needed to veg. I needed to be lazy and sleep whenever I wanted. I needed to lie down with a book and not care for how long I had been inactive or about the more important things I should have been doing. I liked the freedom of staying up until 5:00 in the morning on Thursday and sleeping in until 11:00am. It was freedom that I haven't experienced in a very long time and it was much appreciated. Not to mention Jon and I all ready took a trip to Maryland and D.C. in April so I didn't feel any strong pulls to get out of Ohio.

While most of our time was spent simply relaxing, we also took the opportunity to extend our evening walks, go exploring through the woods and get eaten by mosquitoes, and spend a few afternoons pool-side at Jon's aunt's house.

On Wednesday I visited my cousin and met her new son. He's her first child and seeing her facial expressions and mannerisms in him took me back to memories of Skip-its and Slip and Slides and all of the other cool things she and I did twenty years ago. I also felt a twinge of regret that we had managed to grow so far apart in those twenty years. As I was leaving she made fierce eye contact with me and said, "You're next. Make sure you're ready before you have kids. I thought this would be a lot easier." And yet I left with a renewed desire to be pregnant. I was so inspired, in fact, that while at the library today, as Jon was looking through the new CD's, I scanned the nonfiction shelves and walked away with What to Expect When You're Expecting. I think I'm more curious than anything but for some odd reason, at the young age of 24, I can feel my so-called "clock" ticking. Perhaps I'll never learn.

Today I begin preparing myself for Go Back To Work Mode. Yes, it is only Friday but I do not want to be blind-sided by Sunday evening. I get to start meal planning, grocery shopping, laundry washing, and otherwise getting on with my real life, all while learning what I can expect if I can ever manage to become pregnant, or at least, learn everything that a book can tell me.

Sadly, that doesn't sound like a half bad weekend to me.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Look Out World!

I recently found out that my 15 year old niece has been diagnosed with some sort of aggressive behavior disorder. It was described to me as "She can never admit that she is wrong. She will argue with you until she is blue in the face rather than admitting that you are right." As much as I love her and admire her for being able to stand her ground better than her aunt ever will, I can see her in all of the descriptions. And it made me wonder what is it with teenagers and disorders in my family? Is it just us that can not seem to get it together?

As if that was not bad enough, Jon was diagnosed with ADD/ADHD in his early childhood. Our children are going to be something else.

Saturday, August 5, 2006

I Feel Good

Though it officially begins Monday, I'm viewing today as the start of my week long vacation. I do not have to return to work until August 14th and I am elated. In fact, I was so excited this morning that I received a sudden burst of energy and at 10:30am I stuck a leash on Jack and set out for the park with every intention of exploring the 1.8 mile hiking trail that had been eluding me. I'd seen park maps for the trail but they appeared very convoluted and I couldn't tell where it would lead or where I could possibly end up. For a reason unknown to me, I decided to find out today.

Jack and I reached the park in no time to find a few people already there. A bulky man watched us from his massive, white 1988 Cutlass Supreme. We both kept our heads up and went on. We encountered an older woman walking her two dogs. Jack noticed the dogs first and began cowering at their size and I noticed the camera that hung from her neck and thought one day I would like to spend my days in retirement, walking the dogs and taking pictures of butterflies. She spoke with a European accent when she greeted me and her dogs began to wrap their leashes around my legs as they sniffed after a very frightened Jack. We chatted briefly about the weather, untangled my legs, and she walked in the direction of the park exit as Jack and I set out across the soccer field to find a beginning to the trail.

It turned out to be a bit more intimidating than I had expected. While the map did show the approximate area we'd be hiking across, it did not show the first half mile being down hill, and after reaching the bottom of the obnoxiously steep hill, all I could think to myself was "Do I have to climb back up that thing?" The trail smoothed out and I found us in the valley near a wooded park road that I drive every day to and from work. It was actually very pretty with numerous creeks running by and surrounded by so many immensely tall trees. We were only a mile or so from a road that was once considered the western boundary of the United States. We encountered more people out walking their dogs and they all pleasantly greeted me and my vigorous pup. And while I wish I could tell you that I enjoyed every wondrous minute of our now flat hike, I can't, because I was freaking out about where this trail was going to take us. Was I really going to have to climb back up that hill? I even began wishing that I brought my cell phone, because if that was the case, I might just call someone to pick us up instead.

The trail eventually lead us to an equally long and steep hill to get back up to the park and I climbed it without complaining though I can't explain the emotions that came over me as we emerged onto the familiar and grassy soccer field. They were a jumble of exhaustion, relief, and triumph all in one. I began to wonder why I stressed so much as we walked passed bushes covered in butterflies and I thought of the nice woman with her camera. The man in the Cutlass was still in the parking lot but this time he was ogling a girl at the picnic tables, wearing a revealing tank top and sunbathing. Creepy.

When we got home Jack lapped up an entire bowl of water and I downed a bottle of my own. I stretched, showered, and entered into a house cleaning frenzy. I rigorously scrubbed every surface in my kitchen and washed a couple loads of laundry. When I couldn't think of anything else to do I went to the grocery store. Because I thought I deserved it, I stretched out on the couch with DVR remote in hand, and watched a weeks worth of Dinner Takes All. I couldn't think of a better day to kick off a much needed vacation.

I will definitely sleep well tonight.

Friday, August 4, 2006

Turn Forever You and Me

"You have Feel Good Inc. as a ring tone?"

"Uh huh. Can you guess who I have it set for?"

"Umm. Your brother?"

"No, it's for you, because you make me Feel Good!"

Believe it or not, this is incredibly sweet coming from him.