Monday, December 25, 2006

The Aftermath

This is a duplicate of our CB site:

It is Christmas day and I just finished laughing so hard, I had tears falling out of my eyes. We are listening to public radio as they play a series of readings that are Christmas related. There was David Sedares who is a comic genius, but it was Kevin Kling who had me crying with his story about Christmas dinner at the kid’s card table.

I awoke this morning to the face of an elf looming over mine. It was J, who announced that it was time to get up and start the carnage. He complained that his sister refused to rise, thereby holding his Christmas unwrapping hostage. I suggested calm as I rose to don my ceremonial green Christmas nightshirt which sees the light of day only once a year, thereby saving on laundry wear and tear.

By the time the coffee was made, the dog walked and fed, and the paper retrieved, both children were present and planted in front of the tree. J had spent his solo time by sorting the packages into two huge piles and one thankfully small one. The next hour was spent converting hours of careful wrapping, taping, and ribboning into a single mound of shredded paper, ribbon, and bows.

You will have to imagine how it looked because I was too busy enjoying the process and writing down names and gifts for the later, tortuous “thank you card” sentencing to take pictures. Somehow, Santa managed to get the right things in the right sizes, the requested books and movies, and even a couple of unexpected things that will hopefully provide many years of pleasure and service.

Now, it is time to pack our bags for our early morning departure tomorrow. We also have to put all the ornaments and tree lights away and escort the tree outside to shed the rest of its needles in places that don’t need vacuuming. (stuff happens now)

I am exhausted already and the day is not yet half over. The tree is down and outside. The family sitting area off the kitchen is now back to its “normal” appearance. The turtle tank in J’s room is cleaned with new water. The various presents have been secreted away wherever new treasures go to live. There are open and partially filled suitcases in every bedroom. I am in a mild panic knowing that we three set off tomorrow on a cross country journey for the first time without our chief project manager. I feel unqualified as a replacement.

In part, I put this on myself, knowing that we have to leave at an obscenely early hour tomorrow when none of our brains will be functioning at peak capacity (what is that like? I can’t remember). So, I mentally make lists, promising myself to write them down before promptly forgetting them. I wind up in some other part of the house with a vague feeling of having forgotten something, but that is such a common occurrence that some of the urgency is lessened. My mantra is “credit card, contact case, glasses; credit card, contact case, glasses; credit……” You get the picture.

I don’t think I have been to northern California at this time of year before. It looks like we will be seeing rain and pretty cool temps over all. We had thought that we would go up to Lake Tahoe to do some skiing, but it sounds like they have had more rain than snow up there, so K will have to wait a bit to try out her new skis and boots.

I am looking forward to this break, a chance to visit with west coast family and take a break from being the single adult in charge. I look forward to good food, good wine, good conversation, and a chance to introduce my kids to some great places. San Francisco is now definitely on the agenda as we revise our itinerary to make better use of the weather out there. Both K and J have expressed a strong desire to do this and I am only too happy to oblige. SF is one of my favorite cities and it will be fun (and emotional) to share with my children some of the favorite places that C and I enjoyed.

So, it will be a bit before we put up a new update. If anything unusual occurs, we will drop a comment off in the guest book. I hope this comes to you as you sit back and enjoy your holiday. Best to all of you from the three of us (oh, and Sophie the Wonder Dawg too).


Friday, December 15, 2006

The Ghost of Christmas Past

This is a duplication of the post on my CB site:

Yesterday was a ghostly day. The ghosts of Christmas past? Definitely.

Yesterday I attempted to reconcile all of our checks for ’06 for the third time using a popular software accounting system. My previous attempts had resulted in strange “balance adjustments” and “opening balances” being sprinkled about throughout the year in some arcane logic that escaped me. The results were that the numbers balanced at the end of the year, but the cash flow statements were all over the place.

Well, as they say, the third time was the charm and after giving the computer a stern talking to and nailing it’s “foot to the floor” with a firmly placed opening value, I was able to magically reconcile each months checks with no bogies showing up. But what I noticed this time around, now that I didn’t have accounting glitches popping up every other entry, was that I was tracing the last moments of someone’s life.

C handled the bulk of our financial business as I am sure I have pointed out in the past. This meant that she wrote most of the checks up until near the end when I undertook my much delayed apprentice role. So as I handled each of the checks written over the past 360 odd days, I watched her handwriting change as the combination of disease and drugs slowly affected her mind and motor skills. It was both touching and terrifying to relive the past year through such a seemingly innocent and common device.

Looking at the stream of checks that were written also tells a story of a family – who they were, what they did, when they did it. It reminded me of times and places, and mostly of a mother’s love for her family. These visits with the past are inevitable, especially at this time of year when we prepare to celebrate a major holiday and a calendar year’s passing. Aside from the social focal points that include family gatherings and annual parties between friends, there is the accounting wrap up which is much more involved for me this year. Aside from not having my VP of Finance with me anymore, there are elements that we have never had to address before – the closing of the books on a member of our immediate family.

For me, this is a difficult time. It is hard to enter into a time of year that is traditionally focused on “good cheer” and “family bonds.” Both sides of my family are struggling with losses this year. Some of those losses involve the passing of loved ones from this plane to another where we cannot touch them anymore. Some involve a more subtle passing and metamorphosis, but the results can be much the same in that the family member cannot be reached as before and communication is pinched off. Which kind of passing is harder? I don’t know. All I know is that it is hard for those of us who are left.

This year is hard for me for another reason. The stresses and strains of the losses we have suffered have affected us all. In my case, I have said and done things that have offended some near and dear to me. Attempts to reconcile those wounds have not been successful. As a result, I will not participate in some of the family gatherings that are scheduled to take place, though my children will. I am saddened by this and can only hope that those of us who hold responsibility will continue to work at healing as we begin the coming new year.

I was to have taken a step on that path today when I would have had my first appointment with a family therapist who specializes in death and grief associated with cancer. This was something that I had been looking forward to for some weeks, but yesterday, the therapist called saying she had to cancel due to a sick child. How well I know what that is like and wish her and her child well, but all the same, I was very disappointed. Due to both of our schedules, I cannot get in to see her until early January. The thought of continuing on in this broken fashion is very tiresome.

I hope that I am not painting a misleading picture by sharing these things. All is not gloom and doom by any means. I think that all-in-all, we are doing pretty well given the circumstances. K and J continue to do well in school and to have a rich life socially. The Christmas tree and decorations are up and I haven’t yet managed to soak the brightly wrapped presents under the tree with my clumsy watering techniques. We have a little vacation planned between Christmas and New Years that we are looking forward to. So, life goes on. Who knows, I may even get around to writing the dreaded Christmas letter sometime in February.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

More Things You Couldn't Make Up

From today's northern suburb police report:

from the "who would want it" file:

Theft. A 1990 Volvo was stolen in the 2100 block of NW. 111th Lane after it was left unlocked with the ignition key on the front seat.

from "the dog did it" file:

Drunken driving. A caller reported that a drunken man was getting in and out of his vehicle, staggering around and urinating in the parking lot of Old Country Buffet, 3580 NW. Main St. An officer arrived and the man said he'd had some drinks about an hour before. The officer saw that his vehicle was badly damaged, but the man did not know how it had happened. A test found a .23 percent blood-alcohol concentration. He was arrested, his car was impounded, and a dog in his vehicle was taken to an animal shelter.

from the "who me?" file:

Cruelty to animals. A cat was injured by a blow dart in the 2800 block of 115th Avenue NW. The cat was taken to a veterinarian for emergency surgery. A neighbor who had been previously seen shooting a blow gun in his back yard denied any involvement.

from the "put this guy in the jerry can relay" file:

Theft. A man saw somebody siphoning gas out of one of his vehicles in the 2100 block of NE. 158th Lane. He confronted the thief, who ran off with a 5-gallon gas can and the gas cap to the vehicle.

from the "it must have been my brother" file:

Theft. Somebody broke a vehicle window and stole tools in the 1400 block of E. County Road B. A witness got a license plate number of a suspect vehicle, and it turned out that the owner of that plate was in prison. Police did not know who was driving the vehicle or whether the witness read the plate accurately.

from the "oops, wrong house" file:

Burglary. Somebody broke into a home in the 1300 block of Ripley Avenue and ransacked the house. Nothing was believed to be missing.

from the "pass me some more of that" file:

Theft. While taking inventory, employees of Maplewood Cancer Center, 1580 Beam Av., noticed that prescription narcotics were missing. They were taken sometime after May 1.

from the "I've been stiffed" file:

Theft. An 81-year-old woman reported that her purse was stolen from her vehicle while she was placing a wreath on a cemetery plot at Sunset Cemetery, 2250 St. Anthony Blvd. It contained $180, a checkbook and credit cards.

another "Who would want it candidate:"

Theft. A 1992 Ford Explorer valued at $2,000 was stolen at Citgo, 2400 37th Avenue, after its owner left the keys in the ignition while he went inside for coffee.

These are all actual police report items. I did not make them up and no animals (other than the cat) were injured in the making of this post.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Me Bad

You know, time gets away on me sometimes. I just looked at the date on my last post and said "Ooops." Sorry for not being a more dedicated blogger.

I personally blame it on the season. This time of the year has never been my highpoint and this year is more challenging than ever before. I have an endless, and yet ever growing, list of things I have to buy, wrap, ship, do, make, and otherwise spend my time on. And this year, I am doing it for some people that I would just as soon never see again.

We have a tree for the first time in three years. I caved to the pressure exerted by my son, but made him agree to a compromise that said it has to come down on Christmas day (not because I am that big of a bastard, but because we will be out of town for a few days and I don't want it hanging around turning into a potential candle). It is nicely decorated and I dutifully crawl under it every morning and pour water into the receptacle. So far, I have not over-poured, but this is only because there are not sufficient amounts of presents stacked there yet. It is inevitable that I will spill water, but "bozo's rule" states that that won't happen until christmas eve day when there is the maximum chance of fucking up someones carefully wrapped gift. One year, I wiped out about a third of the presents. That was probably my most popular christmas ever.

My children have been busy little elves, hauling boxes of decorations out and festooning the house with lights, candles, and other holiday do-dads. Whenever they do this, I am amazed at their enthusiasm and energy. It's marvelous, but finite. Exactly how finite becomes evident when it comes time to reverse the process and put everything back in the boxes and return the boxes to their little storage places. All of a sudden, they are no where to be found, or inexplicably, their teachers dropped a quarter's worth of homework on them from out of the blue, or "work called - I gotta go in" is heard as the garage door slams and the sounds of an escaping vehicle fades into the distance. This is why I have a reputation as a grinch. I know this is going to happen, so I morosely watch as my children create hours of future work for me. Shaddap, I know it's cute and I do like the way they get excited, but I have a image to protect.

Speaking of work, I have several loads of laundry in my immediate future, so this will be a short entry. I just wanted to say that I had a CT scan to see if any other "things" were growing inside of me (see "lumps" in previous post). The scan was the same as the previous one which was good news. My onc suggested that the nodes on my upper thighs might be enlarged due to the two recent gout attacks that I experienced in the last couple of months. Sounds good to me as long as we can pull it off. So we will watch and wait.

My SIL's (C's two sisters) still won't talk to me (see Love Letters blog for more swill) which doesn't do anything to make this holiday season any more festive. Sigh.

So, again, sorry for being tardy. I would promise that it would never happen again but my nose would grow. TTFN.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

High Anxiety

(this is the same post that I put up on my CB site)

It is Sunday morning. K has already left for an all day babysitting job. J is still sleeping. The dog is snoring at my feet.

I had an anxiety dream this morning. You know the one’s I mean. You hit a panic spot because you realize that the big test is coming up and you forgot to study, or you have to be at a job interview for a new and very important position and you arrive at the wrong building and don’t know where the right one is.

My dream was about a play. I had a major role and had arrived for makeup on opening night. As I sat down in my chair, I realized I had not memorized my lines – I knew none of them. As I scrambled to find someone else’s copy of the script, I knew that I had no chance of memorizing my part in the time left. I panicked…..and woke up.

Ever since, I have been trying to figure out just what I am so anxious about. There is more than enough material to choose from.

Christmas is coming, meaning that lists have to be made or added on to. Things have to be done and crossed off those lists. Expectations are high and the rope that needs to be walked is very thin and stretched over an emotional pit of darkness. Missteps could cause so much pain.

Changes in our social/familial landscape add to the sense of unease. I feel like a Tolkienian character moving through that endless dead swamp toward a goal that looms both too close and too far away. A carelessly placed foot could mean a plunge into some haunted and surreal depth.

Then there are the two lumps at the top of my thighs. I saw my oncologist on Friday for a regularly scheduled checkup and my blood pressure was pretty high. The nurse asked me if this was normal and I just told her that I was very anxious about the appointment.

My oncologist, now an old and trusted friend, listened to me, examined me, and then said that lymph nodes swell for many reasons. These may be enlarged because of my recent issues with gout (see the journal history for more on that) which has affected both of my lower extremities over that last two months. They could be swollen due to exposure to a virus. Or, my lymphoma could be back.

The first step will be to do another CT scan next week. Depending on what that shows, a biopsy may be necessary.

Strangely, I left the doctor’s office feeling better. I hadn’t thought of the gout. Still, these little telltales make for disturbing thoughts and I spent the last three days of last week gripped by a level of anxiety that is unusual for me. I am sure that I radiated weird rays to those who came near to me. Perhaps my children are immune from my weirdness by now, for they seem to be doing pretty well, but others close to me knew something was up even though I did not want to share until I knew more.

So, today, maybe J and I can cross a few more things off our lists. I hope so, but I know that even if we do, there will be more items to put down. This is especially true of J, who has taken to “beaming” his wish lists to me using the Palm that belonged to his mother. He is completely taken with it, as he is will all technological gadgets. Upon receiving it a couple of weeks ago, he quickly surpassed me in knowledge of its workings.

Now, every time I turn mine on, I am likely to find a refreshed list of all the things my son wishes for, neatly organized by category, and in appropriate fonts. He is trying to make my life easier (and perhaps he is succeeding).

I will add more as I know it.