Thursday, December 21, 2006

Running low...

well, the last few days' rants have taken it out of me. Not entirely true, but close enough. Actually, the last few months have taken it out of me, whatever it was. Today my mind rested, while my body rearranged the furniture in my bedroom and threw a bunch of stuff out all over the house. I also began a nice large stack for the Salvation Army.

I think that today has been something of a funk. Certainly not how my days usually wind up. But this morning I woke differently than usual.

I was dreaming about my dad, and I was dreaming that he had died. I was sitting on a curb, crying and confused, trying to figure out what to do next, from getting funeral arrangements ready to retrieving my kids from their other grandparents, to simply standing up. The whole thing was as real as any dream I've ever had. When I was jolted out of it by my son's small voice calling "Mommy!", I didn't know where I was. I turned to tell my husband about my strange dream and he wasn't here. I had to take a few moments to figure out where "here" was, remember that my husband is eight thousand miles away, and then I actually had to think back to July to decide whether my dad really had died or not.

It was the most disconcerting dream I've ever had, combined with the most confusing awakening I've ever had. I did eventually get my mind back on track, but the emotions surrounding the death of my dad (the real death as well as the dream), the absence of my husband, and the stress of this past year have had me in a funk all day. Ok, let's just call a spade a spade: I've been depressed today.

So I do what I always do when I get depressed. I went on a cleaning spree around the house. Now my bedroom is completely redesigned, my living room and kitchen are free of quite a few unnecessary items, and the place is starting to look tidy. It's a hard look to go for with a 2 year old constantly bringing out all the toys that I just put away, and toting them all over the house. But it keeps me busy trying!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Shopping Days are Running Out...

If you're a man who hasn't bought gifts for Christmas yet, you could be in a heap 'o trouble. First of all, you're running out of time, man! That Black and Decker cordless drill you've been meaning to buy your girl may be all sold out and you may be forced to buy her jewelry instead! Hurry, man, hurry!

Christmas is my least favorite holiday, next to Valentine's Day. Oh, no, not because I can't get into the romance of mistletoe and twinkling lights, or hot cocoa and a warm fire. No, I get into that just fine. I even enjoy the romance of Valentine's Day, if such a thing still exists.

What I hate is the commercialism of both. At least some people or groups of people still pretend to uphold the Spirit of Christmas with their giving back to the community, and nativities can still be seen for those who still remember that this pagan holiday was adopted by the Christians so that they could celebrate the birth of Jesus without detection.

Valentine's Day doesn't bother to mention the saint it's named for, nor why, but I'm not Catholic, so I don't really care about that. What does bug me, however, is how the 364 other days of the year when people can (and should) be romantic and loving towards each other get ignored and pushed aside in the rush to buy the most expensive chocolates, bouquets of roses, sparkling jewelry, or other tokens of appreciation. And it's so ingrained in our society that women everywhere spend the next week at watercoolers and over lunches bragging about how "over the top" their man went this year. Now I have heard some pretty incredible and romantic stories about how Valentine's was spent, but what's wrong with an ordinary Friday -- or Tuesday! -- night in the middle of August?

So while people are teaching their kids that the spirit of Christmas is who can get the best gifts, or the most expensive new toys, therefore validifying "parental coolness" amongst preadolescent and adolescent peers, and while couples are buying into the notion that romance can only really occur on Feb. 14th with any credibility for exemplifying "true love" to each other, I sit back and unenthusiastically watch it all happen with sadistic glee.

My tree is up, but the skirt is empty. There are lights on my house, but there are not piles of toys for the kids to unwrap on Christmas Day. I prefer moderation at this time of year, blowing all out for birthday's instead. Why? Because on top of being frugal -- or at least logical, and refusing to go into debt to buy Christmas gifts -- I have a problem with material gluttony.

Little gifts are given all year round around here. Sometimes they're given as rewards, sometimes for no reason whatsoever. But we don't do a countdown to Christmas starting on Thanksgiving or in July or on December 26th of the previous year, because it just doesn't matter to us.

I'm not saying change your traditions to match mine. I'm just saying that there are certain ideas promoted by Kay Jewelers and Macy's and Wal-Mart and others that this is the time to take out a second mortgage to impress people (kids, co-workers, relatives, neighbors and the like) with how much you probably shouldn't afford and possibly can't afford. This is the time when giving gifts tied with ribbon should come second to giving time and giving to those in need -- like the hungry, the unexpectedly jobless, those that just found out they have cancer and no insurance... people who need healing of the heart, not a new sweater. There is plenty to do to spread Christmas cheer other than stuff your kids' rooms with more stuff.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ain't it grand to be a woman and abuse the system?

I am sick of efforts to equalize race, gender, sex, political slant, religious bias, hair color, length of nails, and such ending in a mandated regulation that ends up with reverse age/sex/gender/blah, blah, blah discrimination.

Here is one brief example:

You men out there. You go sign a contract swearing your oath to protect the U.S. from foreign and domestic enemies so help you God, and you give 4, 6 years of your life to the Armed Forces. Good for you. Shy of a nervous breakdown resulting in some mental disorder, or breaking yourself, you're gonna spend those years serving your country. And thank you to all who do.

Now you women. You sign the same contract, state your oath, and ship out to BCT (that's "Basic", for all you old-schooler's). You get through it, go on to AIT, and fall in love with another soldier. (You fall in love with another soldier, because all you've seen for the last 9, 12, 26 weeks are men in green uniforms; blue if you're Navy, etc...)

Over some various leave, it doesn't matter which one, you and your new beau run off to the courthouse and get hitched, have lots of sex in a cheap hotel for 3, maybe 4 days, and then you return to the barracks and your military way of life. Good for you. You PCS (that means you go to a new duty station), and find out you're knocked up!!

(stay with me, folks....)

Your hubby is excited; he's gonna be a daddy!! Yay!!! You're thrilled, you're a mommy-to-be!!!

Now what to do! You're on the Pacific Coast and he's in Germany. How are you gonna do this?! You're still trying to get Ops to fix paperwork so that the two of you can get stationed in the same place!!

Not to worry, oh newly pregnant one! Your husband may have to serve his country to the letter of his enlistment, but *You* are entitled to a "Get out of Jail Free!" card!!

Yes, you, young and irresponsible girl, can be chaptered out of the military!! Hell, we're talking Stay-at-home-mom-Army-wife stuff here!! You can be a hero and an inspiration for simply getting pregnant!!

The U.S. Taxpayers -- John Q. Public -- just spent $35,000 to get you through BCT, let alone your specialized school (AIT), and you went off and got pregnant before being in the military for one little year, and now you can go home like it was all summer camp with grenades and live fire.

Oh, and you don't even have to repay John Q. Public for the free job training, either.

Now, I am a woman, so I can be embittered without anyone screaming sexism. HA! But I take oaths seriously, and find that women who follow the example mentioned above (and I know a couple personally...) to be irresponsible and dishonorable beyond words that can accurately convey my current emotions.

Being a soldier is something I thank every current, former, retired, and veteran member of the armed forces for. Being a woman, a wife, and a mom is a great honor as well -- individually and cooperatively. But using one to back out of the other is despicable in my opinion.

Take both seriously, and honor your word. You sign up to serve 4 years? Then bloody well serve them.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Offspring

Ever wonder what happens to the kids of various infamous people? For example, what will Michael Jackson's kids grow up to be like? Or how about Madonna's, Britney Spears', or Brangelina's? What will Prince Harry grow up to be?

I've pondered this a bit over the course of my life, occasionally enjoying the answers as time has passed. For example, Stella McCartney became a famous fashion designer while Julian Lennon had one hit and faded out of the tabloids quietly. Paris Hilton, well... who thought being the daughter of a Hotel owner could result in more tabloids, influence a character in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody (the character "London), and be enough to get a record contract with little talent and no prior dues to the industry. Oh, and the "Simple Life" show. Wow. In my opinion, it's a complete waste of energy of all those involved to promote her, but it does show that America is still full of opportunity for the ambitious.

But what about the lesser known infamous people? Those that had their fifteen minutes of fame for one tabloid reason or another? The lesser scam artists, murders, rapists of the 5 o'clock news? What about their kids? Anyone got any stories on the children of the modern day Jesse James' and Bonnie and Clyde's?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

November in a nutshell

I'm back after a nice hiatus. Okay, not at all a "nice" hiatus, but a necessary one nonetheless.

I noticed that the last time I blogged was November 7th. Well let me describe life as of the 10th of November:

It was a balmy and warm day on the 10th, and I took homemade pink (strawberry-flavored) and white (vanilla-flavored) cupcakes to my daughter's school at lunch so we could celebrate her birthday. We were celebrating early because on the 11th she went into the hospital to have surgery. The 11th was the last day she walked, by the way.

Now let me skip to the ending for a minute and mention that she is not paralyzed. Atrophied, but not paralyzed. Let us return to the story.

On the 11th of November my 6 year old daughter was admitted into the hospital for a 5-in-1 surgery that would completely rework her bladder and bowels to theoretically improve her continence and allow her a more "normal" life. It would also save her kidneys; her left kidney was scarred and functioning at only 23%. And it would minimize her bladder/kidney infections, of which she has always suffered chronically. Oh, and it would allow her bowel maintenance, something she has never had. Some neat side effects would be decreased pain and discomfort, increased health... little things like that.

So on the 13th she went under the knife after two horrible (unimaginably horrible) days of bowel prep. She also went in just under the wire as her previous two days came within one hour of being unsuccessful for surgery. But she made it and then I spent 17 hours waiting.

Yes, seventeen hours, she spent in surgery. It was 1:30 in the morning the following day when the surgeon called and said she was in recovery and headed for the PICU.

She quietly entered the PICU where she slept peacefully. They kept her under for all of that day (the 14th) so she could rest after such a long surgery. On the 15th, all hell broke loose.

She had been interred (on a ventilator) until the morning of the 15th, and at that time they took her tube out of her throat so she could breathe on her own. Her lungs collapsed later that afternoon. I stood at the foot of my daughter's bed in the pediatric ICU and watched her drowing on the fluids in her lungs. I watched her pulse-ox (amount of oxygen in her blood) drop to 40% before they got the tube back in her throat. I was watching her die, and I could do nothing but stay out of the doctor's way. She was re-interred, stabilized, and put in a medicinal coma for the next 60 hours.

On Saturday the 18th she was allowed to come to a bit and eventually had the tube removed again. This time she did fine. By this I mean that she was able to breathe on her own, not that she was fine.

Somehow, that little girl came home on Thanksgiving Day. You call it what you will; I call it a miracle.

Her weakness was a trial, and carrying her everywhere with three tubes extending from her abdomen, two with foley bags attached, was a trick. Tending all her medical needs -- her new ones as well as her old ones -- was time-consuming, mentally exhausting, and emotionally draining. Tears were no absolution, so there was no point in crying.

But looking at her was like looking upon a wise sage. She had aged so much in such a short time. Not because she turned 7, although she did, somewhere in the middle of all of this, but because her understanding of her own body, how medicine works (doctors, nurses, hospitals...), and the extent to which hurt can happen in the name of progress was now more deeply ingrained in her than ever before.

I've always promised my daughter that I'd never let anyone hurt her. I ask her if she believes me, and she assures me that she does. Hugs and kisses follow and much comforting cuddling.

Then I let "them" carve into her abdomen and change her entire world. Explaining that I did not let them hurt her, as it was necessary for her to get better, to a little girl that was hurting was absolutely a lie and unacceptable as an answer.

She no longer believes me; not like innocent children blindly believe their parents with unwavering love. She just knows that they did, in fact, cause her to hurt. It has been the most sobering realization of both of our lives.

November rolled into December unnoticed. The tears are still no absolution, but at least I'm more willing to let them fall now. My daughter struggles to regain her strength, and her sanity - to some extent- and I struggle to regain her trust. Every day she sees her belly with it's incision scars and is reminded that I let them do this to her. It will be years before she understands why, if she ever does.