30 August 2008

Rainbow Roses, Fishing and Lunch With The Ladies...

It has been a nice, funny, fishy, festive, fortuitous, frisky week.

My daughter turned 25 this past Tuesday (26 August). I keep telling her she doesn't look her age but you know how some women are about stuff like that. Seriously, she's been a joy to me since I first laid eyes on her back in 1983. Happy Birthday Katie Jane Parker! You are so very loved. Here's to many many more.

When I got home on Tuesday, my Dad asked me who I received flowers from. I had no idea what he was talking about and figured he was just pulling my chain. Sure enough, there was a long rectangular box waiting for me and it had the unmistakable shape a container that might be harboring long stems. I love those boxes!

They were gorgeous and so welcome, so cheery! Now, I'm typically a daisy kind of girl, but I have to say that these roses were just stunning and they came in such festive colors. They were sent by a dear person who lives across the pond in Northern England. The guy who surprises me now and again with packages of sumptuous jasmine tea, weather stations, books and several Greer Garson movies. Thank you kind person. You truly made my evening. It was completely unexpected - I mean, I haven't chatted with him in MONTHS! I think he has this internal radar that seems to know when I need a boost or something.

Sunday evening, I joined a friend for some surf fishing and had a blast. I even found a very cool chunk of coral in the waves and it's now sitting in one of my aquariums. We stood on the jetty Sunday Night, right around low tide, and it was a stunning evening. The water was warm, the breeze was light and the ocean was just as it always is - glorious. I didn't catch a fish, but I did catch a funny crustacean (he put up a good fight, but I let him go.). My friend caught a small flounder - too small to keep - and after he detached the hook he handed the fish to me and I threw him back in and suggested he go out and grow a bit and stay away from hooks.

The weather has been so tropical this past week. We've had some of the hardest rainshowers mixed in with periods of intense sunshine and high humidity. The tropics are popping right now and just about everywhere you go in this town, you hear people discussing the systems making their way from Africa toward our shores. As I type this, Louisiana is on high alert and we're hoping they aren't facing a repeat of three years ago when Katrina made an unwelcome, devastating visit.

Thursday Afternoon, my best buddy Sharon called and said it was time for lunch with the girls. I immediately accepted and she told me that our friend Ann was up for a good time, too. Today, we lunched at Airlie Seafood Restaurant and we had the BEST time! I was a few minutes (several) late because my Mom and I were checking out the bargains at Vintage Values and I snagged some steals! Of course, I took my loot to lunch and my friends couldn't believe what I managed to find. I couldn't either. I'm not generally gifted at bargain hunting but this must have been my lucky day.

OK, yesterday was my lucky day, too. My sweet boss closed up shop and set me free at noon, and I headed for another store and made out like a bandit. I basically managed to capture about 12 outfits for under $40. Most of them still had the tags, designer names I could never have afforded at retail and fit as if they were made for me. Incredible!

My bargain hunting wasn't simply confined to frilly dresses and suits. I went on Craig's List last night looking for an iPod (I miss mine so much!) and while I didn't find a great deal on those, I did discover a Marine Elipse System 12 Aquarium which generally retails for around $160, that was going for the amazing low price of $25. I went over to pick it up first thing this morning and met the sweetest young couple who are preparing to move to Sweden. Not only was this aquarium in good as new shape, but they tossed in another smaller one, rocks, plants, filters, a net,, a heater a gravel vacuum much nicer than the one I have, food, water conditioner, an expensive pH testing kit and an algae scraper. I hit pay dirt!

This has truly been a lucky weekend for me in terms of purchases. I'm still keeping a keen eye out for the iPod, but I'm so pleased with my fish tanks and not a minute too soon - my African cichlids have went forth and multiplied so I was in serious need of a tank for them to grow without fear of being consumed by their relatives.

But back to lunch. Lunch was sooooo much fun. It went on for almost two hours and we laughed, ate great food, giggled, gossiped and ate some more. We all had shrimp and then Sharon declared we would have a large, chocolate dessert - three spoons please - and is anything better than good friends and a shared high calorie confection and great iced tea? I can't think of too many things that top it.

What an amazing gift these friends of mine are. Sharon is one of the first friends I made when I moved to Wilmington and she's been so steadfast, loyal, lovely and God must have used his finest "friend" template in creating her. I loved her the first time I met her almost seven years ago. I adore her even more now. She also brought me the gift of Ann - as she introduced me to this wonderful woman over a year ago and my goodness - the three of us are like three peas in a bucket. My spirit soars after time spent with these ladies. We're all three blond and so we speak the very same language. We can even finish each others sentences.

Next Saturday, Sharon has decreed, (because Gerald has a golf tournament), that we shall lunch again and THEN, the three of us will go have pedicures because Sharon said so. No discussion. No excuses. That's the deal and that's that. Sharon is slightly more mature than Ann or myself so she made it clear that no cancellations would be honored. Hey, who would want to get out of that? We all thought it was a fantastic idea. No arguments from Ann or me. We're blond, yes, but not completely stupid.

The three of us had our cameras on the table. We took pictures. And of course, every pose had to be snapped by three different cameras. And then, our very kind and patient waitress took over when it was time to snap a group photo. Three times. We definitely gave her a great tip because she did a great deal of photography work. Plus, tomorrow is her birthday. She didn't even charge us for dessert because she said we were "fun". All I know is that I left with a huge smile on my face, chocolate in my tummy and an iced tea to go. Thank you Sharon, Ann and God for arranging my life that I have these angels in them.

I did make time this past week to get a much-needed haircut! Actually, very little hair was trimmed, but it definitely needed some reshaping and so I visited Joseph Zell & Company and had a wonderful reunion with two young ladies I used to work with when I managed the spa downtown. It was so cool to see Chelsea and Brandy and we had a lot of catching up to do! Joseph Zell is kind of pricey, but they provide a spa-like service - they SPOIL you from the moment you walk into the salon. The shampoo includes a massage and you never want it to stop. The ambiance is elegant and everyone in there is at the top of their game. I've received a lot of compliments on the trim and my hair is so smooth, so lush. I'm not certain what they put in the shampoo or maybe it's the conditioner, but my gosh, I think my hair is addicted to it. It was a glorious way to spend my lunch hour on Thursday. I highly recommend it.

I am so thrilled to have a three and one half day weekend (and get paid for it!). Sharon was laughing at lunch and asked Ann to guess what I loved most about my new job...Ann tried to come up with stuff but never quite hit it. Then I showed it to her - MY INSURANCE CARD!!!! Man, that is priceless to me. I "heart" my insurance card. Having gone without any for a few months, it is even more precious to me. It's unnerving, mentally, to deal with not having health insurance. You imagine the worst possible scenarios any one of which could lead you to financial destitution if you survived whatever it was that was sending you to fiscal ruin.

Let me tell you - it's one less thing to worry about. I'm grateful. I am extremely, overwhelmingly grateful. Now of course, I hope I never truly have to use it, but I have to tell you it is a huge comfort to know it's in place.

Tomorrow I'm having brunch at The Oceanic, heading over to the 11:00 AM Wrightsville Beach Meeting and then walking on the beach and looking at it, wondering how much it's mood is likely to change in the next few days should T.S. Hanna decide to make a visit on our coast. I will think of Justin - how much I miss him but how pleased I am that he's working with his Dad. I will think of Katie and hope she's having a wonderful first week of being 25. I will smile as I replay today's lunch. I will feel grateful that I had the opportunity to go shopping with my Mom. I will smile as I remember the crazy things my Daddy says to me on any given day. I will then conclude that I am absolutely one extremely blessed woman and though I'm never eager to bid summer so long, it's been a good one - filled with gifts, great company, unexpected presents and lots of smiles and opportunities to say thanks. And then, I'll probably come home, dive in the pool to get the sand off of me, turn a few flips in the pool, look up at the stars and the odds are great that I will be smiling.

19 August 2008

Playing For Keeps

For several months, I have been getting "Hallmark Magazine" in the mail and I have no idea why. I've never subscribed to it, and don't know how I managed to get on their subscription list because, well, I'm just not really a "Hallmark" girl. I guess in my mind I equated it with a brand of domesticity I've never really had a yen for.

Leave it to my mother. She called me over to look at something and when I saw what she was holding, that silly magazine, I thought..."what in the world would be of interest for me in there?". I mean, I'm much more likely to have my nose stuck in "Cruising World" or "Latitudes and Attitudes" but that "homemaker magazine" has something I might find interesting?

She knows her daughter well. Here's what she shared with me...

I have tons of Lincoln Logs. Pieces left over from many sets of "Monopoly", "Sorry", checkers and backgammon stones and even an old backgammon board that's beautiful, one that Justin used to carry around as a brief case - the one his Dad bought me when we were dating. Now I discover that I can make art of these "treasures". Yes! Oh what I'd give for an old tin Chinese Checker board. Oh well, my imagination is running full-throttle. How cool to have a few of the things my kids' toys hanging on the wall in a rather eye-catching way. What fun!

This should keep me out of trouble until my ship comes in, right? :-)

They Grow Up Fast...

Justin and Stephanie came in for a fast weekend visit. Justin came in to visit with his friends, but we managed to sneak a little time in with him.

His Dad reports he's doing very well. Justin has memorized the script and has closed on three sales in one week. Not bad for a former cook!

I talked Justin into pretending that I was a prospect and show me how he handles it. I was amazed. If I'd had the hefty membership fee, I would have written a check on the spot.

What I loved most, was that Justin told me that his father had pulled him aside more than once and told him how proud he was of him - of his ability, his work and his dedication to learning his new role in a totally foreign (to him) industry. The light that flashed in Justin's eyes as he relayed his father's pride in him obviously meant a great deal to our son. He spoke warmly of it. I'm so happy he's spending time learning from his Dad. This is a very good opportunity for both of them on so many levels.

In fact, Tim called me late the other evening to share with me his impressions of Justin's work and I detected the very same brand of pride. They're working together as men, who happen to be father and son, and I am so pleased for both of them.

Of course, we miss him like crazy, but this is such a good time for him to spread his wings beyond Wilmington. My friends have been at the ready with lots of phone calls, lunches, coffee, meetings, dinners and my parents have been extra funny and attentive because they know this a challenging transition. I appreciate all of it. I'm blessed to have the loving support. I'm a lucky Mom.

Katie is doing well, too. She's about to launch a new website on a topic she is passionate about and loves. In fact, one of her photos got picked up this morning by "Gothamist". (Way to go, Katie!!).

John and Katie spent last weekend in Litchfield, CT at John's Aunt Daria's country home. Next week, Katie will experience a big transition - she be busy turning 25 on August 26th! That's a significant birthday - a quarter of a century. I love teasing her about it. On 5 September, Katie and John will fly to Paris, France for seven days and then onto London for three. She's so excited and I'm certain John is, too. What a great time to be in Paris and to be there with someone you love. Magic.

Things have fallen into a bit of a manageable routine. The house is quiet, but it's OK. It's a time to reflect on how much fun it's been to raise these two kids and consider the next phase. But for now, I like remembering all kinds of warm memories and Justin and I made a new one this past Monday Evening - we shared a platter of snow crab legs on the pier at The Oceanic, went for a walk on the beach and yes, my dress got wet and I couldn't have cared less. Justin laughed and grabbed my purse before it got knocked over by an incoming wave. He wasn't quite fast enough to save my iced tea. After that, we went to Barnes & Noble and then took in a movie. Just the two of us. It was wonderful to share his company for the evening, walking around Wrightsville Beach with a young man who's taller than me, who opened the doors, made me laugh and behaved like a gentleman.

Can you tell I'm kind of crazy about these two kids?

Today at work, I spent about 45 minutes holding the two week old son of one of our newest employees. He was so precious. My eyes actually welled up when I thought of my own "babies", and then realized how fast these tiny packages grow up and all of the adventure packed inside of such innocent forms. Whew! I smiled as I handed little Christian back to his father, thinking to myself...you have no idea what you're in for.

Don't blink and hold on tight.

10 August 2008

Cruising to Calm...

I'm happy to report that the Inderal or, as my Dad refers to it "Enditall", has resulted in a much more reasonable heart rate. I've dutifully kept a record of the past three days and my beats have returned to well within normal levels. In fact, I'm positively Zen! It's so strange, really, but my body feels like it's made a pretty positive readjustment. I'm actually sleepy at night. Strange for me.

I've also stayed out of the pool this weekend to give my ears a rest. Fortunately, there have been some really good movies on TCM, and I've taken a little extra time to tend to my cichlids, angels, mollies and other assorted tropicals. Friday, on the way home from work, I stopped and purchased the requisite feeder guppies, goldfish and brine shrimp as well as a couple of gourami's and a pink convict cichlid and the fish are doing well. In fact, my tanks have never looked better.

One year ago today, I had a car wreck and my PT Cruiser was effectively totaled. My gosh, so much has changed since then and most of those changes have been positive and healthy. I promptly ended an ill-advised engagement in the days following the accident - an engagement that should never have happened in the first place, no question, but thankfully I finally got wise and took care of business.

In fact, I haven't truly dated anyone in the past year. I've been out with friends, gone out to dinner, movies and even concerts, but not in a romantic sense at all and that, too, has been a good move. For one thing, I've had a lot of things going on and I just haven't met anyone in the past year that I would want to cultivate that sort of relationship with and I'm glad that I didn't because if I had, it would have taken time away from my family and this year was a pretty big year for family. I'm glad I was able to hang with my son during his last year here at home and also, not seeing anyone allowed for uninterrupted time with Katie during her visits home and my visit to NYC. I adore my family and I unapologetically covet the time I spend with them.

Not seeing anyone also allowed me to make a lot of cosmetic changes in my home. I painted several rooms, moved some things around, and definitely put some more "personal" touches into it. It's certainly not as noisy and busy as it once was when the kids lived here, and I miss the noise and activity, but that couldn't last because they had to grow up and move into their own spaces - continue their own adventures and journeys into who they are destined to become.

I've grown much more interested in aquarium-related activities and I enjoy fiddling with my fish. I now have five aquariums up and running. It's fun learning their behaviors and watching them grow and stake out their territory in their watery homes. They're much more interactive than one might imagine. They eat from hands and flock to the front of the tank if they believe I'm harboring food. The cichlid tank in particular is a fascinating place to gaze.

And could someone please tell me what John and Elizabeth Edwards were thinking this past year and a half? Have you been following his political disintegration? Can you possibly imagine if he had been the Democratic nominee and this had come out? And for as much as I have marginally admired Elizabeth Edwards in the past, I can't help but wonder where her brain was in all of this? Like his dalliance was never going to see the light of day? How in the world could she stand by and allow him to toss his hat in the ring knowing that he had tossed his pants somewhere else? That strikes me as a bizarre brand of dangerous and blind ambition and it makes me wonder if she wanted the power, the office and the attendant trappings as much as he did. How in the world could she tell the rest of us he was fit to lead us, after the risks he took on a very personal level with their family? I really think Maureen Dowd nailed it in her NY Times Column yesterday. Check out her column, so appropriately entitled, "Keeping it Reille".

I imagine it feels VERY real at the Edwards house these past few painful weeks. Just goes to show, you never meet anyone worth very much in a bar. What a cautionary tell-all that turned out to be?

I try to avoid making across the board, generalized pronouncements, but doesn't it seem as if attorneys are particularly predisposed to a virulent form of narcissism? Do the classes attorneys are required to take in law school sort of propagate such behavior and are the ones who don't make the cut, people incapable of becoming pond scum? Could it be said that if you failed to make the grade toward a legal education it's only because you have too firm of a grasp on reality? I can't help but wonder. Makes me curious as to what kind of plumbing system they use to service the water coolers in America's Law Schools - and at what point do so many of them truly lose their souls? I know that's not very nice to say, but it nearly feels valid.

I know that many attorneys have told me that law school is a grueling, difficult experience and demands a lot and, for a few I guess, it requires that they make the ultimate transaction - they appear to sell their soul and deteriorate even further into politicians. How sad for them.

Oh well, from having tended several tanks in the past year, lest we forget that even the most beautiful of tanks function better with a bottom-dwelling plecostomus or two to keep things clean and eat matter that the community fish wouldn't touch. I guess it's kind of the same with many lawyers. They serve a purpose and are sadly essential, but they do the kind of work that many of us wouldn't have the heart, or stomach, to take care of and attend. Although, well, now I feel guilty. I'm not so sure it's fair to compare my beloved plecos to lawyers. I really like those fish. Perhaps a better comparison would be carp. Yes, much better.

Anyway, it's been a peaceful, calm weekend here at the ranch. The ear is on the mend, the heart rate is behaving and it's still summer. All I need is a sailor and a sailboat. I think I'm ready for a little adventure.

09 August 2008

Let Me Get This Straight...

...you're telling me that three pots of coffee and several large iced teas a day might result in too much caffeine?

I found this nugget of wisdom courtesy of a stubborn case of swimmer's ear. Yes, I've been turning too many flips in the pool to make up for lost time. My pool officially became swim-worthy last Friday so I had a lot of time to make up for and, well, I worked hard to get in as much swimming and flipping as I could. Any reasonable person would do the same right?

I noticed Monday that the hearing in my right ear was fading in and out and noises started sounding more like gurgles. I tossed it off as a fluke and tossed my business clothes off right along with it and ignored the percolating annoyance as something that would go away in a day or two. I spent a couple of hours Monday evening in the water and by Tuesday Morning, as I was driving to work, discovered that I couldn't even listen to Sting on my cd player. Clearly, this was getting serious.

Wednesday, I spent my lunch hour at the CVS on Wrightsville Beach, perusing the aisle featuring over-the-counter remedies that promised to dry up my ear and restore my hearing. When I got back to the office, I administered the drops and waited for everything to clear up only, well, everything didn't clear up. The gurgling became more intense, so much so that I even cut my swim time down from 2 hours to one and applied the drops both before and after my swim. They didn't work. Someone mentioned that perhaps if I stayed out of the pool for a few days and gave my ears a chance to dry out, it might resolve, but I thought that sounded rather radical and I dismissed it instantly.

By Thursday Morning, I realized the time had come to seek professional help. I had googled the daylights out of "swimmer's ear". I thought google was good for everything. I guess nothing is perfect, not even Google.

I called and requested an appointment with my physician's office. As it turns out, my doc was out Thursday Afternoon (probably swimming), but I could see the PA. Of course that would be fine - it was just a simple case of swimmer's ear and I had no doubt that a PA could easily take care of it. Besides, I had my shiny new insurance card and it's always less painful going to the doctor when you know it won't break the bank. I had researched my benefit package and without a doubt it's the best health plan I have ever seen. I'm impressed with it and I hope it gets very little use but, well, let's face it - it's a huge comfort to know I am covered.

I made the appointment for 3:15 and skipped lunch, thinking I would pick something up after the visit. In the meantime, I tossed back a few cups of coffee, an iced tea and some nuts. I was so preoccupied with trying to hear, that hunger took a back seat.

However, as I was sitting in the waiting room, after checking in with my favorite ladies at the front desk who are always smiling and truly can make you forget you're in a doctor's office, I was directed to the "PA" side of the office and met another very kind staff member who took my information, updated my new insurance info and even complimented me on what great insurance it was - only $10 an office visit, she commented in admiration. "Yeah, pretty cool, huh?". I never thought I would arrive at the place where health insurance benefits would be on my top ten list of things to shoot for but, given the cost of healthcare today, it's a pretty big deal.

After a few minutes, I was called back for the obligatory weight and vitals check. We sailed through the weighing in and I was directed to a seat for my least favorite part of any exam - pulse and blood pressure. I tried to prepare them that the values would probably be higher than what they were accustomed to seeing and not to be too excited if my pulse was 100 and my bp was a tiny bit elevated. It's just how I'm wired and I get high-wired when I'm surrounded by white coat types. She smiled and started pumping up the dreaded cuff.

I was watching her face as she pumped and when she released a little air and pumped again, I knew I was in trouble. Again, I reminded her that my vitals "show off" when in the presence of medical professionals. She excused herself and within a couple of minutes returned with another more serious looking nurse who commandeered the cuff and resumed the pumping. The other nurse was busy on the computer looking up my chart and medical history. I was now flirting with full-borne panic and wondering how weird it would look if I told them my ear had miraculously recovered and apologized for taking up their valuable time. It was a very small room and when the third member of the staff entered, it was becoming a little too crowded for me.

"OK, what's the problem?", I reluctantly asked the really tall nurse with the officious manner.

"Honey, your blood pressure is 160/100 and according to your chart, it's never been that elevated. Let's see what your pulse is."

Oh boy, I knew I was in trouble now and they didn't seem at all concerned with my ear which was probably just as well because by now, I could hear my heart beating in there, amidst the gurgling. I was starting to feel trapped.

The tall nurse was now shaking her head, walked out as if she was on a mission and returned with a pulse-ox meter and placed it on my shaky finger. Great, just great. My pulse was 170 and they were not at all pleased with it. I told them I had a history of panic disorder, was on medication for it, (though I had not taken it yet that day), and that honestly, as soon as I left the premises things would slow way down.

The three of them eyed me suspicously as that stupid meter started tapping too fast and too loudly for my taste. So much so that I took it off and handed it right back to them and told them I would take my meds right then and there and they would see that if they just calmed down, so would I and we could all be pals again.

They seemed kind of stunned that I removed their medical equipment and, quite frankly, so was I. But I felt secure in doing so because I know me and I know how my resting pulse can reach most people's targeted heart rate in less than 60 seconds and besides, I hadn't eaten anything (stupid move) and my plummeting blood sugar and all of the caffeine swirling in me wasn't helping anything at all.

The tall nurse walked out and came back in bearing a can of orange juice and peanut butter crackers, while the other one was perusing my 8 year medical history and notes penned by my primary care physician who insensibly picked THIS AFTERNOON to be out of the office, leaving me to scare these fine people who were in a dither and hadn't even gotten to the original point of my visit.

Finally, blessedly, the PA walked in and sized up the situation and my growing panic. I'm sure I had already flashed the obligatory "deer in the headlights" visage and if I hadn't been so hungry and shaky, I would have bolted straight away.

She smiled, introduced herself and a calm fell over the room. I finshed up the OJ and crackers and again, repeated my spiel on how I just naturally have a rapid resting pulse and that the blood pressure numbers were probably tainted by hypoglycemia and caffeine saturation. She listened intently, and let me finish my tired tale - the only thing I didn't offer in my defense was "and the dog ate my homework", but if it would have worked, I would have blamed Cassie in a NY, hyper-heartrate minute. Cassie would have understood - she's loyal like that.

As a welcome change of pace, she moved from the cardiac craze and actually started quizzing me about my water-logged ears. Finally we were getting down to business. She first peered into the one that was only marginally impaired and when she got to the problem ear, she nodded in compassionate understanding. "I bet that's pretty painful. There's even some blood in there. How's it feel?".

Well, it felt clogged up, but it wasn't really so much painful as it was annoying. Everything sounded muffled and distant. I missed my hearing. I missed shaking my head without feeling half the pool was trapped in there.

My new best friend the PA returned to her computer and in a matter of a couple of minutes faxed a couple of prescriptions to my neighborhood CVS. Relief was on the way!!!! Yippee - I could blow this joint.

Not so fast. As she was typing longer than the epistle of my episodic ear inflammation would have required, I asked her if she was writing a book? Did a case of "swimmer's ear" really merit so much typing?

"No, this is about that other issue - I have to document your bp and heart rate and add it to your chart.". Then she stopped typing and looked at me and very kindly, non-threateningly turned to the topic of tachycardia. Tachycardia is defined as a rapid heartbeat of more than 100 beats per minute. At my current rate of 170 bpm, I more than meet the criteria.

"Listen, I realize that folks get tense in a doctor's office and there's no question that when you are presenting with a pair of swollen, infected ears - that, too, will elevate one's vitals. But 170 is extremely high. You didn't come in here with a severed limb or raging infection. You came in with swimmer's ear and there is no rationalization for those vitals.".

Of course, I knew she was right. And now that the OJ and protein had kicked in, I found I was able to listen more intently about this tacky tachycardia. And, to be honest, my heart had been beating faster, at increasing intervals, in the last few months. It had been an eventful spring and summer - new job, new routines, offspring relocation, nocturnal parental falls, one failing feature after another on my car and a $540 bill to get it repaired this past Monday, and trying to find a new routine in this suddenly quiet, empty nest.

This kind PA listened to it all and she appeared to be around my age and could relate to my rationalization, and I completely admitted that I consume way too much caffeine. I owned my caffeine consumption.

She said she wouldn't be able to sleep that night unless she offered a possible solution. As long as it didn't involve more tests and I could get out of there, I was all ears - even if they were waterlogged. Besides, I trusted her and she had cleared the room out and got rid of that pulse-ox meter. I told her I was open to suggestions.

She offered that she didn't think there was anything "organically" amiss with my ticker, but she said even the most healthy heart muscle gets tired of sprinting for no good reason and mine needed a rest. I could buy that. She asked me if I would be willing to cut the caffeine intake and mix the caff with decaf, keep a two week, 3 times a day record of my pulse, and try a very low dose of a beta blocker.

And before I knew it, I found myself promising that I would cut the caffeine in half, measure my pulse and yes, I would even be willing to swallow the medicine. She made a very thoughtful, reasonable pitch for it and she empathetically made a great deal of sense. Besides, I did have great health insurance now so, well, sure. No excuse not to. She even gave me her personal number in case I had questions or concerns which I thought was very kind. This visit was beginning to look up after all.

She promised me I would feel better and my heart would thank me and she said I could still get in the pool, but to keep my head out of the water for a couple of days. I knew that was pointless. I can't get in the pool without being underwater. I didn't even walk near it yesterday - too much temptation. Today, however, will be 48 hours and I will be back in business. I can hear again! Well, sort of. OK, it's much, much better.

Which brings us to the medication. On the way home Thursday evening, I picked up my scripts and again, thanked God for my health insurance, and brought the meds home. I immediately administered the ear meds hoping for a fast resolution but, I will admit, I couldn't bring myself to take the beta blocker Thursday Night. I had to google it first. I googled the heck out of it.

Inderal LA 60 mg
. Overall reviews were positive and impressive. Hardly any negative press to be found and I tried to avoid focusing on those as to do so could become a self-fulfilling prophecy and I know how powerful the mind can be. However, I still wasn't ready.

Last night, my Mom asked me if I could tell any difference yet from taking the Inderal. I told her I couldn't detect any difference at all and then I mumbled, "probably because I haven't taken it yet...". My Mom's hearing is just fine and she caught my mumble.

"Susan - take the medicine! You're so silly. Take it right now. It's safe!".

I wanted to believe her and she's got a great track record for being right. I went upstairs, took the capsule from the bottle and slowly walked downstairs for a glass of water. My Dad was sitting at the table and of course, I love my Dad, but his hearing isn't quite perfect.

My Dad asked my Mom what the name of the medicine was and she told him it was called Inderal.

"End it all? Suz, did you take that "end_it_all" yet?".

I was in mid-swallow and I almost choked - giggling - which was probably his primary purpose. My Mom was just shaking her head, having reaffirmed yet again that she lived in a house with crazy people. Funny...but crazy.

So after I took my "end it all", I went back upstairs and waited. For what, I'm not sure, but I'm pleased to report that the pretty purple and pink capsule didn't "end it all" and I woke up after a really good sleep. My pulse is a healthy (for me) 88 and my ear feels much better.

In other news, the newly-relocated WV couple, known as Justin and Stephanie, seem to be settling in quite well and apparently they both report that West Virginia isn't as bad as they feared it might be! Justin shared with us that it's cool enough at night in them thar mountains that they have found it necessary to don a sweater and jacket. I assured them that if there had been in Wilmington this past week, they would have found no need for either. It's been oppressively hot and humid and even my 33,000 gallon sparkling clean pool has felt like warm bathwater. It's still water though, and I love it. It centers me.

Justin has been busy learning the ropes of his new position and will be heading to Roanoke on Monday with his Dad to get some realtime experience in opening up a huge Direct Buy store. It's interesting and fun hearing his stories when we connect on the phone now.

My other offspring, Ms. Katie Parker and her tall boyfriend John, are flying to attend a wedding in Virginia this evening. It will be a quick trip and they will return to Manhattan tomorrow afternoon. On 4 September (less than a month), she and John will take off, first class, for a ten day vacation that will find them in Paris for 7 days and London for three. She's been looking forward to revisiting Paris for a long time and to do so with John will be extra special for her, I'm sure. She can't wait to show him one of her favorite cities and, I do believe, she's going to try and get up with our beloved friend Michel, who lives in Nantes, but frequents Paris quite often. I hope they have a great time. I can't wait to hear all about it.

I'm now six weeks into my new position as Operations Manager at Senior Solutions NorthStar and I'm still learning new things everyday, but I just have to say I work with some of the kindest, sweetest and comical people I've ever been associated with. From George, the enigmatic president of the company in Greenville; Rich, our VP here in Wilmington, who hails from DC and LOVES to surf, adores his wife and is patient, affable and always smiling,; Bobby, our 30 year old manager who is originally from Philly and has the most enthusiastic, compassionate personality and Ryan, the talented, knowledgeable young man who trained me in Greenville, who shares my love of cichlids, gadgets and kindly reminds me he is always as close as a phone call away when I have questions and need guidance.

I have managed to land in a business that not only challenges me, but provides a very essential and vital service to those who are senior citizens, and those of us who hope to be. In a short amount of time, our little office has grown into more than a collection of co-workers; these people are so much more than that and it feels as if we're growing into a sturdy team, a family, and by doing so, work feels less like work and more closely resembles a mission. It's a blessing when one finds oneself in such a situation and I enjoy the people that I work with, respect their talents and knowledge and I manage to learn new things every single day. I feel deeply blessed to be there and I must thank my friend David for alerting me to the opening back in early June. David has done many kind things for me in the almost five years I've known him, but exposing me to this position and company has to be one of the best. I'm deeply grateful. Thank you, David C.

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, the car has been repaired. I no longer have to fear oncoming rainstorms because the windows are finally functional again and the door handle has been replaced. The "status window" still says, "check traction control", but after the $540 price tag of repairing those issues, and being assured by the mechanic that the traction control is really OK and that it's a faulty sensor, I can live with the message window, which would have tacked an addtional $140 to the repair bill. It's a great treat to have the windows go up and down again and be able to open the car door without having to roll the window down first. Hey, it's the little things, right?

Where has the summer gone? On one hand, it feels like it's been a long one. This summer has certainly been filled with changes, challenges and twists and turns and at the same time, it seems to be flying by and how can it be mid-August? I have no idea how we got here, but we're here, we're hanging and at the end of each day there's a long, unending list of things to be grateful for and smile when recalled.

I need to send a "shout out" to my friends who have called, left voice mails, text-messaged and e-mailed me to let me know they were thinking of me this first week with Justin now living in West Virginia. I have a great family and an incredible and growing posse of friends and my gosh - more blessings than I can count. I'm happy to say I haven't had too much time this past week to feel sad and I haven't been lonely at all. I can't imagine where I would be without the special people in my life. Each one of them display love, compassion and kindness that many times just blow me away and are stellar examples of the truest epitome of what friendship is all about. Thanks to each one for this exceptional gift.

Everyone of us will come across times in our lives where we need hands to hold, warm hugs, the heartfelt kind, the sense of knowing that we're not walking alone, no matter where it is we're being directed to walk. Now of course, my recent experiences haven't required very much of me in terms of being serious or even terribly frightening, but if we're alive, those times will visit each of us now and again. Not only have I been comforted and felt loved through the rough patches, in my life, but I've learned something more - by sheer example of those close to me - and hopefully I've gathered knowledge on how to be there for these same people when they travel through their own unavoidable valleys. I've not been at all disappointed and, by the same token, I hope not to disappoint my angels by sending them to voice mail, not returning calls or ignoring them at a time when they might need me.

Every single day reminds me that maybe some of the most important lessons my teachers and parents taught me pertained to the essential magic and inestimable values of friendship and I swear, it seems that every single day there is an instance in my own life or someone's life close to me, that sort of validates that - sometimes in small ways, many times in profound ones. The code of the "playground" kind of follows us all through life. Play fair, take turns, be kind and always share. Always share with a glad heart. You can't go wrong remembering those things but you will wind up in a miserable place if you don't practice them. Thanks to my parents for teaching me that lesson- it's timeless.

03 August 2008

Sun On The Moon...

Friday around noon found Justin, driving his black Mustang Cobra; Stephanie behind the wheel of her Ford Escape; Jennifer steering the Sebring and Tim, riding high in the Budget rental moving truck, pulling out of our driveway bound for Hurricane, West Virginia. I'm relieved to report that they safely made it to their destination at around 10:00 PM later that night and I'm sure each one of them were worn completely out.

I got a call from Tim at around 9:00 AM Thursday Morning asking for directions to the rental truck office and also for Stephanie's cell phone number because Justin's cell phone wasn't picking up. At 9:00 AM, I wasn't surprised so I gave him Steph's number and thought to myself, "Uh-oh, Justin isn't even halfway packed up!". I finally got Justin on the phone about an hour later and he was scrambling. It was showtime! This was happening NOW! I have to tell you, I was glad to be at my office because I knew Tim and Jennifer were in for a LONG day.

They made it to Justin's apartment with the truck and waded right into sorting, packing and organizing things to be moved. I dropped by Justin's apartment after I got off work and I spotted Tim in the truck arranging Justin and Stephanie's possessions, Justin making trips back and forth with lamps, paintings, cd's, cushions, you name it, he was carrying it. Shortly after getting a sweaty hug from my son, I spotted Jennifer coming downstairs carrying her adorable white dog, Charlie, because he needed a potty break. It was obvious she had been working diligently as well and, though she had to be exhausted, she looked pretty good for a woman who had hit the road very very early and hadn't stopped, not to mention she had to keep up a level of benadryl in her system because she is severely allergic to cats and Justin and Stephanie's "baby", Soprano, was in the middle of the madness.

I followed Jennifer up the stairs to the apartment and she and Justin began packing things up in the refrigerator and freezer for me to take home. My favorite flavors of ice cream! Vegetables! More ice cream! All kinds of juices and even MORE ice cream. I hit the creamery jackpot!

Now, I have to tell you, Justin didn't seem too keen on having "two mothers" giving him directions...I don't think he found it nearly as funny as Jennifer and me. We were both laughing, but he wasn't laughing so much and I could swear his jaw was clenched. He had just about reached his limit of his usual civility. We finished bagging things up and Jennifer helped me carry my cache to the car. More than that, she reassured me that everything would be fine and I can't tell you how much that meant to me. She had been through telling both of her daughters "goodbye" - Melissa is in college in Colorado and her oldest, Faye, is in school in Canada, so Jennifer could easily appreciate how tough this whole "youngest child leaving home" stuff is.

I can tell you one thing, Justin is blessed to have a stepmother who cares enough to swoop in and help pack his things up and assist in moving him to another state. She was in the middle of it, allergies and all, and someday I hope he can look back on her investment in his future and truly appreciate just how much she has contributed. I've never been anyone's stepmother, but I can't imagine taking on that role nearly as well. My kids are unquestionably blessed to have her love.

About an hour later, Justin, Jennifer & Tim stopped by (Stephanie was spending her last hours in town visiting with her Mom and Grandma), and the three of them were dragging. Justin was heading for the shower and I had a Bunn commercial coffeemaker that was in perfect working order, but just gathering dust in the garage (we drink a lot of coffee around here but not THAT much), and my Mom had called me at work and suggested that I see if Tim and Jennifer might want it for their new store. I took them in the garage to look at it and Jennifer said it would be great for the breakroom so we were happy to make a small contribution to their new venture.

My Mom had just pulled a homemade peach cobbler out of the oven and, although they were going to have dinner at Kiva Grill (Justin's former employer), we gave them a "to go" dish so they could have dessert when they got back to their hotel later that night. It smelled heavenly and goodness knows they earned dessert after all their hard work. I had told my parents that watching Jennifer arrange things and direct Tim and Justin around the apartment as they were gathering things up, it made me wonder if SHE was related to my Mom. I mean, no one could ever confuse me for organized and I'm much more accustomed to being ordered around than doing the "ordering", but Jennifer was a carbon copy of how I remember my Mom during countless moves. She was on the ball, energetic, rolling her sleeves up and digging right into it all. I was impressed but, well, when I see things like that, it brings up the nagging, niggling question, "Am I adopted and they just haven't gotten around to telling me yet??".

After visiting for a bit around the kitchen table with us, Jennifer and Tim headed for their hotel and a shower before dinner. I knew this would probably be the last time I'd see them before they pulled out because I'd be at work the next morning by 8:30. Tim kindly reassured me that everything would be fine, he and Justin had a lot of work ahead of them getting the store ready, and that I didn't have anything to worry about. I hugged Jennifer and thanked her again for working so hard and she promised me she would remind him to call his mother often, and I know she'll look out for both Stephanie and Justin. It is an immeasurable comfort for us to know they are being well cared for and loved by family. That's such a gift and eases a great deal of anxiety.

After everyone left, and before Justin took off for dinner with Tim, Jennifer, Stephanie, her Mom and Grandma, I hugged my son and told him how much I loved him. I also told him what a golden opportunity this was for both him and Stephanie. Yes, it's going to be an adjustment and he's going to have to learn and PRACTICE the art of compromise and accommodation, because he and Stephanie will be living with Tim and Jennifer for a few months until they can get their own place and, let's face it, little annoyances can get blown out of proportion when you're living in someone else's home and I say this because I know it's happened here before Justin and Steph got their own place. We had our moments! But the love within a family can smooth just about anything out and I know that Tim and Jennifer want our son to succeed just as much as he does. If they can keep that in mind, the inevitable skirmishes will fade out quickly. Plus, there is a LOT of work to be done. Tim's "Direct Buy" will be opening in mid-September and he and Justin will be heading to Roanoke in a week to assist with the opening of that store to help out the owner who is heading to China for the Olympics. It will be a great "dress rehearsal" for them and a lot of invaluable "on the job training" for Justin, not to mention, he will be spending a great deal of time around his father, learning from him, finding out what makes him tick, and vice versa.

It's a unique opportunity - a chance to grow a business and, even more importantly, an exquisite time to strengthen the ties between a father and son. I have great faith that they'll be successful on both fronts and we wish them as much success as possible.

Friday Morning finally arrived, no matter how much I was hoping it wouldn't. Justin had spent the night on the sofa bed in the living room, and as I made my way downstairs after getting ready for work, I first slipped into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. My dad was at the kitchen table and he invited me to step out into the back yard for a minute. He wanted to show me something. I grabbed my coffee and followed him outside and there, gleaming before me in the morning sunshine, for the first time this summer, was the cleanest, clearest my swimming pool had looked in a year. For the first time this season, it looked swimmable! I looked back at my dad and said, "God really knew the exact moment I would need this pool, didn't he?". My Dad totally agreed. I could barely believe it and you have to admit, the timing was incredible.

I walked back in the house, noticed it was just about time for me to leave and I walked into the living room and just then Justin turned over and raised up. I bent down, took his face in my hands and told him that I loved him, I was proud of him and that I knew he would do well. I told him I would miss him terribly, but he would be insane not to make this move and take on this challenge. He hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. No tears from either of us. We both had work to do and it was time to get on with it. (Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to tell Stephanie goodbye - she spent the night with her sweet grandma, but I hope she knows she left with my best thoughts and heartfelt wishes. I believe she does.)

I walked outside and got in my car, so proud of the fact I had gotten through that without a teardrop, and low and behold, my car window refused to budge. I kept pushing the button but no response. And then, after I stopped pushing, the window just fell down into the slot. Like the rear window behind it, apparently this window's regulator had burned out as well. I just sat there and shook my head and I had to laugh. Now I had two windows that needed new regulators, a front end that was held up by a bungee cord and that damn "check traction control" light that refused to go off, not to mention that the driver's side passenger door can only be opened from the outside. Ha! It was way beyond time to call the repair shop. Oh well, at least the swimming pool was clear, right? Thank God for that.

I held out hope that it wouldn't rain before I got home Friday Evening because if it did, my car was going to get rinsed on the inside and me, right along with it. Friday was interrupted now and then with booms of distant thunder, but rain never materialized and by 5:00 PM, I breathed a huge sigh of relief - no rain, no wet seat, I was home free!

I pulled out of my parking spot at work, drove about a mile down Oleander, headed to Pet Supermarket for a few live brine shrimp and feeder goldfish for my cichlids, and as soon as I crossed over the intersection between College Road and Oleander, I saw this mammoth sheet of rain headed straight for me and my hopelessly inoperable window. I knew I was about to get wet but I was wrong. I got soaked. Of course, I had worn a silk suit on friday which doesn't lend itself well to raindrops. I maintained my course, pulled into the pet store and walked in dripping from head to toe. I was already wet, might as well get some fresh food for my fish. I got a lot of stares in the freezing pet store and a few curious looks. I smiled and said, nonchalantly, "my car windows are on strike." and just shrugged and ordered 50 brine shrimp, 50 feeder guppies and 2 dozen feeder goldfish. I walked back outside, slid into the seat of the car and continued to get soaked all the way home. The "sun shower" stopped just as I pulled into my driveway. Perfect.

I went inside and my dad followed me out with scissors, plastic and packing tape to cover the window until my appointment with the mechanic on Monday Morning at 8:00 AM. As my neighbors, Kathleen and Richard, were pulling out of their garage, they graciously offered to let me park the car in their garage, but since the skies were clearing up, I just decided to take my chances and leave it where it was in my driveway. I appreciated the offer but held out hope that maybe it would stay dry over the weekend. So far, so good.

Justin called me around noon on Friday, telling me the caravan was on I-40, WV bound. Tim called me a short while later, telling me everyone was in line on the road and halfway to Raleigh. I smiled...remembering the James Taylor song my kids sang to at the top of their lungs about a thousand times growing up, whenever we took to the car. A song they swear they will never be able to forget, not that they want to. It was their childhood anthem...

"In line, in line they're all in a line.
My ducks are all in a row.
They do not shift,
They do not move.
They have nowhere to go..."

But these ducks had somewhere to go - West Virginia to be specific. These ducks are headed into their future and I hope with all my heart it's as sunny and bright as it portends to be from here...

After Dad and I finally got the hole covered up where a window was supposed to be, I headed outside to the backyard to make sure that the clear swimming pool I had seen earlier in the day was not simply an apperition. There it was - sparkling, crystal clear. My parents had followed me outside to stare at it with me.

I noticed the skimmer needed a couple of chlorine tablets and I headed into the pool shed, still in my sopping wet, silk pantsuit and as I stepped on the platform of the shed, in my sandals, my feet flew out from under me because the surface was slippery thanks to the recent rainshower and I fell flat on my face. My parents ran over and I looked up, sunglasses askew on my head, silk pantsuit now not only wet, but covered in dirt, and I said, "Good grief! This has been a heckuva day!". We quickly assessed the damage - my right hand has an ugly broken blood vessel and is bruised where I caught myself, so is my elbow which also made impact, but the rest of me seems to be fine...a little sore, but none the worse for wear. When I finally stood up, I laughed and said, "Well, today is the first day that my health insurance kicked in. Good to know!". Fortunately, I didn't need it for that spill and, even more fortunately, I must have inherited my Mom's strong bones. I hit that platform HARD and it's good to know my bones can handle my occasionally clumsy ways.

I made my way upstairs, after replacing the chlorine tablets, peeled off my messy, soppy outfit, took a quick shower, grabbed some iced tea and fed my hungry cichlids and particularly my ravenous pair of Oscars, several live shrimp, goldfish and feeder guppies. It got my mind off the pain.

Later that evening, I received a text message from Justin. "I'm 300 miles from home.", it read. I thought, no, you're about 175 miles from your new home but no, that's not quite right. This will always be home for him, I realized. This is where he grew up - at least the last 8 years of it.

After a blown window, a backyard tumble and a cichlid feeding frenzy, not to mention a night of watching "Shark Week" on Discovery, I fell asleep before midnight. My Dad woke me up after 11:00 PM to inform me that Justin had tried to call me - they had made it. My ducks had made it safely to WV. In a row, no less. Thank God. I went downstairs, grabbed a fresh peach, a glass of tea and said a prayer of thanks to God. And then, I went right back to sleep.

Saturday Morning, I spoke with Justin and Stephanie and they sounded tired, but fine. Stephanie gave me a comical recap of her first driving experience in tunnels and real mountain roads. She had me laughing hard as she told me about her fear in driving through Walker Mountain Tunnel, flashes of Princess Diane which immediately increased her anxiety in the middle of driving through that long tunnel at night. Then, she told me that her Ford Escape was really struggling because she had it in overdrive. She reported that after she disengaged it from overdrive, it ran like a charm. She's a great story-teller and I'm begging her to blog all of these things so that she can smile and laugh at what all of this felt like in the beginning. [Note to Stephanie - if you're reading this (and I know you are), BLOG already! I want to know what this new adventure looks and feels like from your perspective and that's a great way to share it.]

Yesterday, rather than mope around and nurse maudlin thoughts, I grabbed a book, a large tea, a couple of peaches and my sunglasses and I went outside to the patio, threw my stuff in the chaise and walked to the edge of my pool, at the deep end, and I swear I felt like giggling. It was still clear and sparkling. Seconds later, I dove into the crystal sunlight dappled water and had a glorious session of swimming and turning flips. Heaven! Sheer watery chlorinated heaven! My muscles loved it, my bones enjoyed it and my mental state soared. I stayed out there most of the afternoon and I have the tan lines to prove it. I plan on doing some more of it later this afternoon.

We miss Justin and Stephanie, just as we missed Katie when she flew the coop and landed in Manhattan. However, things are just as they're supposed to be. What's the point in having wings if you never use them? Katie and Justin are doing just what they were raised to do - take a chance, chase and discover life - and sometimes, you have to chase life to different states, toward foreign shores and a few of us have even been known to chase it on sailboats that get mixed up in tropical storms. You just do it!

We're proud of all of them and we expect great results.