Archive for August, 2005

Bit of a scare

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Had a lovely and delicious pizza party with last night, and fell sound asleep after she left. But then at 4 AM, some guy knocked on our bedroom window. He was either drunk, drugged, or deranged — or a combination thereof. Anyway, two squad cars circled the block and the alley for the next 30-40 minutes, shining their spotlights alongside the house, but it didn’t seem like they came up with anything.

Needless to say, Karsten and I were both a little wound up, and we’re not feeling very well rested this morning.

I just sent a message to my coworkers to let them know I’m coming in, but I’m moving a little slowly this morning and will be in late.

Sheesh. Like I need something else to worry about.

Cancelling the cruise

Tuesday, August 30th, 2005

I’m cancelling the cruise. I had to ask a whole bunch of coworkers if anyone had any PTO to donate to cover my time away with my parents, and even if everything were crystal clear by the end of September, it would still feel really wrong to use someone else’s PTO while I’m on a cruise.

But the good news is, quite a few people responded to the request for PTO, and I should be free to spend as much time as needed in Park Forest. People can be so generous when the occasion demands, and I’m always glad to see that side of people. It was tough to ask, but I’m glad I did.

I plan to leave Thursday morning to head back up to Park Forest, and will likely be there for a few weeks.

Hardest writing assignment of my life

Tuesday, August 30th, 2005

I completed the hardest writing task of my life on Saturday. After my dad asked me on Friday morning to help him write thank you notes, I went out and bought the cards, and then all through the afternoon, I tried to find a moment when he seemed energetic and coherent enough to start writing them. It wasn’t until Saturday morning, though, right before I planned to leave, that we had our first opportunity. He seemed ready, but I tried asking him probably 50 different ways what he wanted to say, and he was silent each time. But his face said volumes, and so I gently suggested that I write the notes from my perspective, sitting at his bedside, and let the recipients know what I think he’s trying to tell them. He liked that idea, so I came up with a basic formula and ran it by him, and got a teary-eyed nod of approval.

I tweaked and customized it for different recipients, but the basic formula went like this:

Dear (recipient)

Yesterday morning, my father asked me to help him write a thank you note to you.

This morning, I sat down with him to transcribe his message, and that proved a harder task than imagined. I am writing to you from his bedside, and what I see in his face as he struggles to find the words is gratitude. What he seems to want to say is thank you for everything - your support, your kindness, your prayers, and most of all, your love.

I hope you know the importance you’ve had in my father’s life, and how much he appreciates you. And for that, our whole family appreciates you, too.

(signed by me and by my dad)

I hope it does the job.

Things you never thought you’d be doing, #2781

Friday, August 26th, 2005

I found myself at Target this afternoon buying “thank you” cards. And not just any thank you cards: thank you cards that can be sent from my dad to his friends as a sort of final thank you for all they’ve done for him.

Believe it or not, Hallmark doesn’t really have a card exactly for that.

In fact, most of the thank you cards are sort of light and fluffy. Nothing with the seriousness and weight deserved by a card being sent on such an occasion.

This all started this morning when my dad told me he wanted to get some things down on paper, so I grabbed a notebook and pen and sat down to dictate. It took him 15-20 minutes to get out that he wanted to send thank you cards (which he mistakenly called sympathy cards at first before correcting himself) and listed the people to whom he wanted to send them. I told him I’d get the cards and help him write the message and he could sign them, and that was that. So what else did he want to get down on paper? He was silent for a really long time, and I kept prodding and prompting him for what else, and finally I suggested we come back to it after he rested for a bit, and he nodded.

I got the cards. I have no idea how we’re going to manage to put a message together for all these people. I’m going to have to fill in the blanks, I imagine.

No one said this would be easy.

Going up to Park Forest

Saturday, August 20th, 2005

Mom called this morning, and she sounded strained. I had asked her last week to tell me if she started to think I should come to visit before Labor Day. She told me this morning I should come whenever I can.

Dad’s not eating — at all — and he’s getting weaker (no surprise, since he’s not eating) and sicker. Mom seems concerned that he might not make it until Labor Day.

So I’ve sent my email to my coworkers and management, turned on my out of office message, and am beginning to pack. We’ll leave tomorrow morning.

I’ll post updates as I start to get a feel for how things are.

Heard of the “Jennings effect”?

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

Apparently, smoking cessation programs all across the USA are experiencing higher than normal volumes of phone calls and involvement from people who want to quit smoking in the wake of Peter Jennings’ death from lung cancer.

Yes, we’re obsessed with celebrities, and yes, it’s kind of eye-rollingly silly that it takes someone like Peter Jennings dying from a smoking-related disease to kick off this trend, but hey, whatever works, I’m absolutely for it.

Personally, in the eight-and-a-half years since I kicked the habit of smoking cigarettes, I’ve probably smoked about twenty cigarettes at parties and in other social contexts, but I’m determined to make it a far smaller quantity over the next eight-and-a-half years. The fewer, the better.

How about any of you? Still smoking? Thinking of quitting? There’s no time like the present.

What I can tell you is this: quitting won’t be easy — nowhere near as easy as lighting up. And you may fail the first few times you try to quit. I certainly did. It took me 12 attempts to really kick the daily habit. But with each failed attempt, the key is to determine what made you fail, and figure out how to counteract that the next time you try to quit. For me, most of the obstacles were routines in which I was very comfortable and in which smoking played a relaxing part. But once I made a conscious effort to find alternatives (munching baby carrots as I walked to work, for example) or to avoid the obstacles altogether for a while (staying out of coffee shops late at night, where I would drink coffee and smoke cigarettes for hours), I began to find the cravings much easier to overcome.

You will, too.

I can also tell you this: they say healing begins right away, but some things take time. Although I could run and play sports just fine while I was smoking, for several years after I quit smoking, I had a terrible time breathing while playing sports or running. I had very little endurance whatsoever. That must have been my lungs really putting an effort into healing themselves, because now I’m a stronger runner than ever, and I can run for hours without feeling winded.

You can get through it, too.

If you’re ready, please give it a try. If you’re smoking now, you’ll be through the worst of it and ready to enjoy your new, smoke-free life within weeks or maybe a few months. Imagine the Christmas season (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Solstice or whatever you’ll celebrate) this year, when you’re feeling healthier than ever, and knowing that you’re well on your way to reducing your risks of coronary disease and lung cancer.

Wouldn’t that be a nice gift to give yourself?

Better Home and Garden

Monday, August 1st, 2005

I’m becoming a gardener! Or at least you’d think so by the number of gardening books I have out from the library and the staggering amount of time I’m spending with my hands in the dirt.

For example, I spent about 10 hours on Saturday in our front yard, mostly ripping out weeds and transplanting. We’re about to have some major plumbing work done on the north corner of the front of the house, where apparently the house has partly settled onto the service line and has been causing minor flooding when I run the clothes washer. In order to do that plumbing work, the plumbers have to bring in a backhoe and dig up the yard near the house.

So I wanted to transplant as many of the plants in that side of the yard as possible before they do it. We had four tufty patches of monkey grass that we wanted to use along the front of the yard sort of like a hedge, so I dug the holes, and, with Karsten’s help, dug up the monkey grass for transplanting, carried each one to its new location (they’re HEAVY!), planted them, spread mulch around them (thanks to my neighbor who offered his mulch), and watered them.

Now all we have left on that side of the yard are one gold-and-green euonymus shrub and two dark green shrubs I haven’t identified yet. (You can see them toward the back center of this photo, to the right of and slightly behind the euonymus shrub. I may try to get some better pictures in the next few days and see if anyone can help me identify them.)

Karsten and I also went to the farmers market and picked out two 6″ pots of echinacea purpurea, which I planted just behind the newly-transplanted tufts of monkey grass.

I really need a picture of all this.

Anyway, while I was weeding, Karsten took the metal bars down from all the windows on the front and south sides of the house (we had our security system turned on last week). Talk about an eyesore! We’re so relieved to see those go.

After the plumbing is done, we’re looking at having an electrician see if he can relocate or rework the wiring on the outside of the north-front downstairs window. After that, we’re going to have the front of the house painted (it’ll be a wash of red paint mixed 50/50 with water), and then Karsten will work on the lintels (the “eyebrows”) above the front windows. We wanted to replace the wood with stone, but we’ve been told it would be very expensive and very risky to the brick. A guy from the historical commission suggested cutting fiberboard to fit over the lintels and painting the fiberboard a light gray to look as much like stone as possible. It looks like that will be do-able, so that’ll happen after the painting is done.

And we’re hoping this will all be done by October, when the Historic Germantown neighborhood has its Oktoberfest celebration, and we want to have it looking good for that.