Saturday, September 30, 2006
Ack! What is going on? My precious Pirate Boy looks like he's been beaten in the face repeatedly and is having a really hard time breathing. What the ----?! Poor little guy croaks out that he is probably allergic to cats and wonders aloud if we have any medicine. Poor little sweetie. Fortunately, we did have a couple of doses of children's Benadryl left, and I soaked a washcloth in cold water for him to put on his poor puffy purple eyes. He tells me that's what "the lady" did, too.
Oh yes, the lady friend of Daddy's that you guys spent 2-3 hours with this afternoon instead of coming home after your errand, or at least after you started getting sick. I'm not even going to mention "without calling home." I'm not. She's an old professional contact of Daddy's, after all. Shut up, I know it's Saturday and he's not working.
Anyway, Punkin Boy was also feeling a little needy today; he was up last night until nearly 11 and then up again by 7 a.m. with his brother. Dang, what do you eat, spark plugs? And he was up until after 9 again tonight, with no nap. But fussy and whiny and wanting Daddy when he wasn't home and wanting to be read the same book 100 times. Well, that's pretty standard, really.
But my thoughts keep straying to my good friend Kory O, who was supposed to have her baby this week, or that was the intent of scheduling labor induction on Thursday afternoon. She's my age, having her first baby, and he's a whopper (not unlike my Punkin Boy, whom I had by c-section thank-you-very-much). Now, I've had a couple of inductions myself, so I know that they take a good long time, even when they go well. But dangit, it's Saturday night, and I still haven't heard anything. I'm worried.
OK, let's think about what we know about having labor induced. First, when you show up at the hospital at the time they scheduled you for, they inevitably send you home because somebody else is already in labor and after all, you can wait. Even if you can't, you can. Go home and wait another day or two. (With my first, I had to wait from Friday until Monday. Those punks.) Eventually, though, they will let you in and the real fun begins.
So let's see, maybe she didn't get in until Friday afternoon... OK, then they take a year putting in all the IV needles because at 9 months along, you're swollen like a beach ball and you have no veins near the surface. The ones they do find either roll over or burst, turning you a lovely shade of black in no time. That kills a couple hours. Then they start the pitocin drip.
For a while it seems nothing is happening, but you start to get a little irritable. More irritable. If you're me, your husband develops a nasty case of the hiccups that nothing-- including a trip to the emergency room-- will cure. This will make you homicidal within another two hours. You will banish him for a while, then get lonely and scared and call him back. Then the cycle will repeat. Occasionally, a nurse will appear to check your vital signs. This will irritate you more.
You may try to listen to music, do crosswords, or read. Everything will irritate you in short order, and you will fling it aside and pace around the room, if there's space. You will start feeling like you're having menstrual cramps and think "Now we're getting somewhere." But you're not. Trust me; you'll be able to sleep through these, no problem. And you do.
No, it's not until about 1 p.m. of the second day that things get interesting-- again, if you're me, but I hear this isn't uncommon. At some point, you enter what my childbirth-class teacher called "the speeding car." Suddenly, there it is, full-blown labor, and it takes your breath away. Things after that get a little blurry, but you will start crying out for the drugs. If you're me, you do the tame stuff, the analgesics that last for a couple hours maybe. They might even knock you out. If you're Kory, you're wily enough to have asked for an epidural right up front. No messing around, just make the pain stop. I am a little leery about epidurals, but I won't tell the horror stories here.
The rest depends a lot on mother and baby and a little on the doctor and hospital. I never did dilate enough to deliver a full-size baby, and finally, about 28 hours into the process, the doc suggested maybe I might consider a c-section. Yay. That would be about... now, if Kory had to start a day later than she was scheduled. So I guess I don't have to worry too much unless I don't hear from them tomorrow. I'm sure they'll call. Or email. Or something.
I worry. They have no relatives in the area, and nobody will be arriving to help, even if things go awry-- his family lives half a world away, her parents are in the next world. Her brother and his wife just had a baby a week or two ago-- with Downs Syndrome and a heart defect. They have enough to deal with. So I worry. Ten years ago, I'd have been there for her, with her. But now all I can do is worry and pray and write about it. Did I mention worry? Aye.
On the up side, Pirate Boy is feeling better and can actually breathe enough to sleep tonight. Well, that's a relief.
But then there was my latest adventure, and I'm ready to commit bodily damage on the dimwits who work at that clinic. It started when I noticed that I was getting a little low on my pain meds and decided to call for a new prescription. (Percocet requires a new paper prescription written every time you get a new supply, it being a mind-altering drug and all.) This was last week-- i.e., the third week of September-- remember that.
I guess the trouble started because I needed the new script to be the same strength as I'd been using for a long time instead of the new one the doc had given me the last time I was in. (My discount plan doesn't cover it, so it costs an arm, a leg, and most of the small intestine.) I called and explained the situation and specified the strength and dosage that I needed. The doc's assistant (Idiot Girl) called back and said I could pick up the paper. Great, I said. The Man (TM) picked it up and fortunately brought it home before stopping at the pharmacy. "Um, this is only for half the amount I need," I muttered. It being Friday evening, I had to wait until Monday to call back and ask them to correct the mistake.
So Monday morning I called, thankful that I still had a couple days' worth of pills left. The person who took my call apologized, but the doc wouldn't be in again until Tuesday. OK, fine. Except of course that TM doesn't have a free minute on Tuesdays (or Thursdays) while the clinic is open and will be unable to get it until Wednesday. Well, fortunately, I had enough meds left to survive that long.
On Wednesday, TM being worried about me, he took the script directly to the pharmacy and had it filled. When he brought it home, I took one look and screamed. It was twice the dose it should have been, so it cost well over $150. Money, I need not add, that we couldn't spare. Dear heavens, how hard is this? How many times did I specify what strength and dosage I needed? (Yes, I was in full "critical Mom" mode.) OK, the clinic's still open, let's see if we can get this fixed today. I called and left yet another message but again had to wait for Idiot Girl to call back and tell me it was ready.
Well, she didn't call on Wednesday. Thursday morning, her bright but dim voice came over the line, "We've got it right this time. Sorry for the inconvenience." Inconvenience? Really? I have exactly one more pill left-- that's 6 hours' worth-- no car, and no way to get this thing filled today. And in fact, no way to get it filled tomorrow until late afternoon. So, in fact, I faced nearly 24 hours of not just unmitigated pain but (what I didn't know) the excruciating torment of opiate withdrawal. Oooh, inconvenient, that.
By 7:30 p.m. Thursday, the Percocet had worn off and my muscles were seizing up. I took a large dose of ibuprofen, but it had no effect. By midnight, my every nerve felt as if it were on fire. I couldn't sleep, but at some point, the pain overwhelmed me and I passed out. It also woke me a bit later. I repeated this cycle several times before morning. When TM and the older kids left for school, I was having a hard time breathing because it hurt too much to move even that little bit. I couldn't even croak out, "Only 9 more hours." I wanted to blog about it; my brain was still alert enough to find the situation interesting, but I physically couldn't do even that much.
Punkin Boy was pretty good, and didn't jump on me or head-butt me or anything, and that helped a lot. Still, it was a marathon. And I was just wondering whether I could make it through that last 2 hours, when miracle of miracles, the garage door opened and in rushed TM with a pharmacy bag in his hand. He looked like nothing less than an angel of mercy bringing deliverance to a tormented soul. It took a while for the effects of the withdrawal to leave me, but much of the pain took a most welcome powder and I was able to smile again.
I'm feeling better, but I'm still looking for a new doc.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
When The Man (TM) handed me the envelope and said, "Social Security sends their love," I had the sinking feeling that they had rejected my claim. I didn't want to open it. But I didn't want anyone else to open it, either. So I waited until after dinner (like my appetite wasn't already ruined), popped it open, and scanned down through the bureaucratese to the good stuff. Yep, they rejected me, all right.
Now, I wasn't really surprised and I wasn't really being negative about the situation. TM had thought I was, but then he talked to a bunch of people at school and around town about it, and they all agreed that everyone gets rejected the first time; some even said it takes an average of three tries before you get accepted-- unless you hire a lawyer for your appeal. Then it's almost automatic.
I think it's important to note that in general my esteem for various government agencies is a lot higher on average than most people's simply because I've worked for and with them. (This will come up again later.) But boy, my respect for the SS people just sank.
I remember part of my rant (and believe me, it was going to be a rant-- and probably still is) involved my first reaction to their pronouncement-- specifically, the words "Are you stupid, or just evil?"
Well, my first reaction, after I stopped laughing enough to breathe. Because although they did accept my statement that I can no longer do the job I worked at most recently (i.e., magazine editor), I should easily be able to return to my previous career as an intelligence analyst! Oh, of course! Without the ability to sit or stand very long and with my mind constantly clouded by the pain medicine... sure, involve me in our country's security, have me writing reports that our president will use to determine whether to choose peace or war... sure.
OK, some of you out there are cynically nodding to yourselves and going, yeah, I always knew that was what went on there... except it doesn't. If I even applied to get my old job back, even provided that I had a chance of moving back to the suburban D.C. area, they'd take one look at my test scores and laugh me out of town. Seriously. I'm still laughing, and it's not even funny. (But that link is. Click it and weep.)
OK, so here's the deal. They tell me I have 60 days from receipt of this letter (and they know when I got it, of course) to ask in writing for a hearing in court. Then I have to sign form xyz-590/3 etcetera, etcetera. Then I have to complete an appeal form telling more about my medical condition since I filed my claim. THEN, a judge will inform me (by the ever-trusty US Postal Service) when my appeal hearing will be. It is bound to be impossible to make. They feel the need to tell me, however, in BIG BOLD PRINT that it is important to go to the hearing. 'Cause I'm stupid or something.
Only, apparently, I'm not. This was their reasoning behind denying my claim. And I quote:
"Although these conditions may cause you concern, a recent exam showed that you are able to think, reason, communicate, remember and follow instructions, and act in your own best interest."Because any condition short of Terri Schiavo's is not the same as, or anywhere near as bad as, being disabled. I begin to sense a plan here. A plan to save Social Security. The means are simple: Never pay out any claims again! Mwahahahahaha!
No, seriously. I'm starting to get the feeling that the answer to my earlier question is the second option. But then TM picks up the letter from where I've dropped it in my gales and convulsions of laughter. He starts reading about the hearing stuff. "You have the right to an attorney... if you cannot afford an attorney... groups who can help... Wait. If you hire an attorney, we will withhold 25 percent of your benefits." Uh huh. And this is because what? Oh yes, because if you hire a lawyer, you're almost certain to win the appeal, and therefore....
I think we have our answer to the earlier question: evil.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
After that, I turned to the most appropriate entertainment I could think of, and fired up the Pirates! game. It's got great atmosphere any old time. But do you know what it does on September 19?
It talks like a pirate, of course.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
This week (in fact, today) marks another disconcerting anniversary: I've officially been out of work for 1 year. For a whole year now, my family has been living on donations, student loans, temp jobs, and whatever else we can scrounge. I don't like it. I especially don't like it now that the disability determination people are looking askance at my claim that I can't work enough to support our family, and our bank is sending notices that gee, a few days ago we didn't have any money at all in our account (wouldn't it have been nice to know at the time-- no, they slam us with half a dozen fees and then send the "please deposit..." note).
Sorry. I know it's my fault for not having enough money in the account in the first place. It's supposed to be there, and it would have been there but somehow that phone call to the VA didn't get made this month and gee, there goes a thousand dollars we really needed. Aaauugh! Waaaah...
OK, stop. I'm moaning and complaining again. It's back to the desperate scrabble for us, but it's really amazing that we're still living indoors and keeping our children fed and clothed. In fact, it's a miracle. And for that miracle and all the others, I am grateful.
And... tomorrow is another anniversary-- this one of a much different type. Tomorrow is the birthday of my sweetheart husband. We're growing old together, and it feels pretty good.
And hey, on Tuesday, I get to talk like a pirate. Heh.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Jeffrey Earle LeVeen, killed at age 55 on September 11, 2001. This is what I started from: a name and a photo. Well, just a name first. And I wondered what else I could learn about him by searching the Web. Quite a bit, it turns out. This was a man who truly lived.
Jeff LeVeen, a partner and senior vice president at Cantor Fitzgerald, enjoyed his financial and career success, reporting for work at the WTC by 7:30 most mornings. He loved to play golf and had won many trophies in various tournaments. But most of all, he reveled in his roles as a husband, father, friend, brother, and colleague. He was full of life and love and shared those abundantly with others in his life. You can find some tributes here. (I hope. The link wasn't working when I tried it tonight.)
Here's a quote from my favorite article about this energetic man who thoroughly enjoyed life:
His wife Christine called him "the most positive person I ever met." When the time came to find individual pictures of him for the memorial Mass at St. Mary's in Manhasset, Christine faced a difficulty that typified her husband's life: He was almost never photographed alone.
By day, Jeff LeVeen of Plandome, N.Y., was a chieftain in the financial world, a partner at Cantor Fitzgerald, an Ivy Leaguer and the owner of two well-appointed homes and a golf handicap of 3. By night, he was a rock groupie who attended nearly a dozen Dave Matthews concerts a year.
This beautiful couple had five children, Jeff Jr., Betsy, Andrew, Katie, and Meg, who were their father's proudest achievement.
"All our photos showed him with his arm around the kids or they had their arms around him. He was never alone," she said. "That's the kind of man he was."
Jeff LeVeen, it's a privilege to have met you. See you after the show.
Friday, September 08, 2006
You see, I heard a cough.
#1 Son has insomnia these days. He says it's been going on for a while. He came out of his room at 10:30 last night complaining of being unable to sleep, and I pointed out that perhaps if he changed from his school uniform into some pajamas and laid down in a reasonably made bed, he might feel differently. He just blinked at me. And twitched.
He does that a lot. Just looks at you, blinking uncomprehendingly. Sometimes it's almost a R.E.M. sort of movement, quick, jerky, back and forth. I think sometimes it's an effect of the redirection therapy he had a couple years back to deal with the trauma of being molested. This is a kid with a lot of repressed issues, I totally know that. I just worry that he doesn't have the coping strategies to deal with the onset of puberty and the realization of what really happened to him that will probably accompany those changes. I worry a lot.
I want to be able to just trust that everything will be OK, but there's no telling, there's just none. I want to bury my head under a pillow and hope it all goes away. I want to call up RAINN and spill my guts: "Help, I'm an adult survivor of multiple sexual assaults, two of them in the same fricking WEEK so my mom thought I was just reacting to the date rape and didn't believe me about my brother, so she didn't tell my dad so he couldn't tell HER he'd caught the little bastard at it before with my sisters and we could have gotten HELP and he could have been STOPPED before he went on to victimize kids in other states and even other countries and maybe I wouldn't have quite so many nightmares now that my stepson has been molested at his own mother's house by a kid who shouldn't even be his stepbrother except that people are so STUPID and now he's having to deal with this stupid stupid STUPID family-solidarity thing where the criminal is accepted and idolized and is his main role model of how to be a teenage boy so now he bashes his head against walls and screams that he doesn't want to be a teenager and he sleeps only 15 feet from my precious little angels and I can't just lock him in his room and I can't stay up forever, I have to sleep sometime and I want to trust him but the only way to really know whether I can is to catch him in the act of violating that trust and my little babies and at that point it will be too late for us all and what if I did catch him and go berserk and rip his throat out or smash his head in or throw him down the stairs, it's not his fault, it's HERS and it's the OTHER one's and oh just please please HELP....." I want to vomit.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Geoffrey Chaucer meets the Dread Pirate Roberts
Star Trek Inspirational Posters
(That last one's for you, Julia. Especially page 2.)
Now aside from not wanting to deal with what to do with a live mouse (where on earth do you release the little boogers, and won't they just come back into a house, although possibly not yours?), I also don't want the guilt triggered by their anguished little squeaks from under my sink. Among other things.
It turns that these traps aren't as humane as all that. I'm not sure how it happened, but when we checked our trap a couple nights ago (upon hearing scritching and squeaking in the kitchen), we discovered three mice in it: two live and one dead. So very dead as to render it nearly a plurality. At least one of the other mice in the trap seemed terribly distraught about this turn of events. I think the other one might have given up or possibly had a heart attack. Maybe it was playing possum.
In any case, being buried alive doesn't strike me as a very humane fate. I think I'll skip it from now on.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
There, I warned you. For anyone who's still reading, here's my rant.
When The Man came home on Friday with (finally!) the school's list of parents who want to carpool, I was overjoyed because it was about 11 pages long. Surely, someone on that list must live within 10 minutes of our house and have fewer than 3 children. Surely. Someone must.
It turned out that 3 families had listed the same neighborhood school we did. (If you'll recall, this is the ultra super-duper classical/Core Knowledge charter school in the next town; it has a waiting list a mile long and then you only get in by lottery.) Well, 3 wasn't many, but it was something, so we called. The first number had been disconnected. The second turned out to belong to a business. The third, we got an answering machine, and I don't think the people ever called back.
So we branched out a little. We had already talked to some families we knew in town, but they already had carpools worked out. We started calling families from other areas of town, randomly-- somehow there just weren't that many. Saturday morning, we managed to get hold of one (yes, exactly one) family with 2 kids who didn't already have a carpool arranged. We set up a meeting with them for Monday, and everything seemed to be working out fine. Yes, they lived on the other side of town and their older kid had to be at school earlier than everyone else, but it was worth it to know that our boys would be able to get home from school.
This morning, The Man drove over to their place, picked up their kids, and got everyone to school on time (I think). The other kids' mom was scheduled to collect the kids after school and bring them home. Our place is on their way back to their house, so it shouldn't be a problem, and I was anxiously looking forward to seeing the boys after their big "first day of school" this afternoon.
Well, I waited. And I waited. And the longer I waited, the more anxious I got. School ended at 2:45; I figured they might not get away until 3:00. So 3:30 would be a reasonable time to see them home. But 3:45 came and went. And 4:00 came... Nobody had called, so I was sure everything was fine. I mean, this isn't your standard kidnapping method, certainly. It was just... odd.
When the boys finally walked in the door, I was so relieved I almost didn't notice the two plastic bags in Pirate Boy's hand. The car that had dropped them off had already left, and I didn't ask any question about the ride. We spent several minutes going over the excitements of the day, including not making too big a deal about the fact that my shy little boy had apparently had trouble getting permission to go to the bathroom (twice-- sigh) during class. First day of school is so overwhelming.
Well, we were all sorted and I managed to keep everything under control and even fix dinner before The Man got home. (I haven't even mentioned how cranky Punkin Boy was after getting up at 6 a.m. and having no nap-- or how cranky I was about it either.) Just as we were sitting down to dinner, the phone rang. It was our carpool people saying that they just couldn't take the stress of driving our boys around or the inconvenience of having to drive the extra, what, 5 minutes total out of their way, and did we know that our Pirate Boy had peed his pants? They hated to be a bother, but they thought we should start looking for a new carpool. I wanted to reach through the phone and strangle someone.
The Man, ever calm, took it in stride and after dinner took up the carpool list again. There was one number we hadn't tried yet, so he called it. The number had been disconnected, so he tried the new one. Had to leave a message, then he had to leave. (On Tuesday/Thursday, he gets to come home long enough to eat dinner with the family for about a half hour during his 14-hour school day.) On his way out, he mentioned that he will be home late (as compared to the usual 9:30 p.m.) because he has to go get some help from the study group at the dorm. Absolutely must. Tonight. I wouldn't want to be here, either.
Fortunately, I'm not a suspicious or jealous wife. Just desperately upset and hormonal. So I shuffled the boys through baths and jammies and "what-did-you-think-you-were-doing-soaking-the-entire-bathroom?!" and so on. During this process, our last best hope for transportation returned TM's call and said, "No, sorry, we live in YZ Town now." Sigh.
I had managed to get the little punkins into bed and we were just doing our nightly ritual of prayers and songs when the phone rang again. It was the Carpool Poopers. The husband said his wife would kill him if he didn't just come out and say they wouldn't be driving with us again, ever. Sorry for the inconvenience and all. Sure.
So I end up sitting on the end of the boys' bed just sobbing for all I'm worth. After all we've gone through to get these kids into the best school possible, after the fights with Satan, after all these years of juggling schooling for The Man, after the confusion that almost left Pirate Boy without a school to go to this year... (I didn't mention that, did I? I thought "all's well that end's well"; ha!) After all the sacrifices for our family's well-being, we're being beaten down yet again. I hate that.
Sniffle. Thanks for listening. I feel better now. Carpool-less, but better.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Saturday, September 02, 2006
[TM reads a passage from the explorer's narrative, which mentions sending a letter on a merchantman headed the right way.]
#1 Son looks bored.
I ask: "So, what's a merchantman?"
#1 Son: "Umm... a man who's a merchant?"
Me: "Hmmm, no." But I have to admit it's a reasonably logical deduction. Turning to Pirate Boy, we pose the question again: "What's a merchantman"?
Pirate Boy: "It's a type of ship!" Of course.
So the conversation went on like this and we determined that yes, #1 Son was having some comprehension issues that could probably be resolved by the judicious use of a dictionary. Or they could if he realized that he doesn't understand the words. School is starting up none too soon, I'm afraid. In another recent episode, #1 Son kept insisting that 6 + 6 = 14 and got irate when I suggested he might want a slight review before classes begin.
On a similar topic, Pirate Boy informed #1 Son and me the other day that "in the War of 1812, the British were trying to gain control of the Mississippi River, so Jean Lafitte and I helped the Americans defeat them." There was something about the comparative casualty rate and a letter he'd sent to the British commander. He ended with a knowing nod: "Then the British retreated."
Dear heavens, school is starting none too soon... I wonder if they cover the War of 1812 in 1st grade?
However... this evening I got a notice that someone from my past was interested in getting in touch with me. This is a girl I hung out with in my old neighborhood (4th-8th grade), which I have to tell you, wasn't a very nice one. The neighborhood, I meant, but it's true of the girl too. There are those who would have called her family "white trash"; I didn't know what the term meant.
I could mention that she's now a single mom of teenagers and living in North Carolina, cleaning stuff for a living. So probably she hasn't really changed much, although I'm admittedly biased. I remember her laughing uproariously at her older brother's fart jokes. I remember the plaid shirts she used to wear before grunge had made them cool. I remember her stringy red hair and freckles, sometimes under a cowboy hat. Her wide grin, her brassy voice-- usually making a rude comment disguised as humor.
My mixed feelings about whether to reply to her note are curious to me. The years I spent in that place were not mostly happy ones, and the fact that I hung out with people I didn't like or respect embarrasses me. The fact that they feel good about having had me for a friend is nice, and I really want to be a friend to people... love thy neighbor and all that. So I guess I'm having a hard time accepting that I don't love my neighbor when she makes my skin crawl. Must work on that.