Monday, April 29, 2013

Going Viral

The Friday before last, the little guy I babysit had a runny nose.  And so this past Friday when I woke up with a runny nose I thought oh jeeze, here we go.  So I packed some tissues and got on with my life.  Until now, that is.  My preceptor took one look at me tonight at clinical and said, "I hope you haven't gone anywhere near your patient," - I hadn't - "Why are you here?!" - because making up clinical hours is insanely difficult and calling in sick is deeply frowned upon - and, "GO HOME!"

So I'm in bed, with Lucy curled up under the covers with me and every time I pause the crappy television I'm watching online I'm surprised by how loud I'm wheezing.  Fun times.  How does a runny nose on an 18-month-old turn into a hacking cough, pounding headache, throbbing sinuses, body aches, and wheezing cold on me?

Class tomorrow is going to be awesome.  Don't worry, I'll sit in the back and wear a mask.

Okay, enough complaining.  I took some pictures this past week.  Spring has finally come to Connecticut!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

For those who no longer can

There is something that I think about sometimes when I'm running or otherwise working out and I'm feeling cranky and tired and like I want to give up.  It goes like this:

Tonight, in the spin class I was taking, we were almost done.  We were almost done, and I was exhausted, and the final song came on and my (now favorite) instructor said to us, "I'm going to ask you to sprint through a lot of this song.  It's going to hurt and it's not going to be pleasant.  But I'm asking you to do this for all of the people who can no longer do this.  Who lost their lives or their limbs last week and would give anything to be where you are right now.  So let's go."

I have never seen forty people work as hard as I did tonight.  The sweat was flying.  I could hear people gasping for air around me and my own lungs started to wheeze and there were spots on my vision and a lump was still rising in my throat.  Images from last week flashed through my mind as I pushed myself to my very limit in honor of those who no longer can.

I know that this tiny and insignificant gesture and effort does not impact the lives of those affected by the bombing and the ensuing manhunt.  I know that, and yet I still hope that Boston knows that all over the world, little waves of love and support are still being sent and will be for a long, long time.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Questions and Answers

In the watery light of 6:15 AM on Thursday, I hesitated before getting into my car.  I looked at the patch of dirt where I had planted some pea seeds a couple of weeks ago and saw the same nothing growing that I've seen every day since then.  In my scrubs, with my bag and my coffee and my ID badge and my supposedly grown-up grad school self, I started to cry.  My eyes filled and my chin quivered and I felt small and five years old again.  It felt like how every time you are disappointed as a child, it hits you and you go down.  Like falling from the monkey bars and the ground knocks the wind out of you so fast that you lay paralyzed on the dusty grass, waiting for your body to breathe again.

I've been twenty-five for a couple of months now.  I'm twenty-five, and sometimes I feel like my life is over.  Then, sometimes I feel like my life hasn't even begun and I look around in a bewildered panic, wondering how I got here and what the hell am I doing.  It's less about the difference between what I'm actually doing and what I thought I'd be doing, and more about the fact that I just really, really thought I'd have it all figured out by now.  Whatever "it" was, my five- and twelve- and eighteen-year-old self was positive that by now, I'd have the answers.  Apparently the Adult Answer Book fairy was laid off before February, because I never got my copy.

I can remember being twelve or fourteen and feeling like I was splitting in two, trying to figure out what and how and who to be.  I so very missed being little and wild and naked in barn boots chasing chickens and picking tomatoes.  I simultaneously wanted to be self-assured and athletic and capable and mature and I ached with the effort of my often futile attempts.  Adolescence, right?  Typical.  Except that I still feel that way.  All the time.  And I miss my family, and my old house, and my college friends, and some mythical moment way, way back in my life where I've convinced myself that either I had it all figured out or I didn't yet know how much I didn't know.

And then I feel like this for long enough and I want to shake myself like a rag doll and tell myself to build a bridge and get over it.  So I'm twenty-five.  And tomorrow I'm going to wake up and be fifty and I still won't have all the answers and by then the questions will have changed anyway.

But man, maybe I was onto something with chasing chickens naked in my barn boots.  Maybe that's the answer.

About that age.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Marathon Monday

I woke up early that day, because I had to take the T to work out in Newton when I usually drove.  Commonwealth Ave was closed for the marathon and it would have taken me twice as long to reroute my commute by car than it would to take public transportation to my suburban nanny job.  As I waited for the train in the cool underground at Central Square, I saw my first marathoner, in his bib and shoes and high-tech warmup jacket already unzipped, 80 degrees and rising on that sunny April day.  I giddily wished him luck and he acknowledged me with a brief nod, far too zoned in to care.

A couple hours later, with the mercury pushing 90 now, I arduously wrestled two five-month-olds into their double stroller, and set off.  Newton residents rally for the marathoners with ferocity, since their town heralds Heartbreak Hill, the Boston marathon's notorious soul-crushing ascent at mile 20 when the glycogen is gone and you want to die more than you ever have before.  By the time I had walked the mile and a half to where the runners were streaming by, I was drenched in sweat and so were my cranky charges.  I squinted through my cheap sunglasses as I wrangled the enormous stroller through the crowd until we could get some visibility (shade was long since gone).  And then I saw them.  I saw the runners, faces purple and eyes with a look of mingled desperation, fear, and wild determination, some of them dripping in sweat and some - terrifyingly - dry.  I heard people around me ringing cowbells and shouting, and my heart swelled and something in me rose fighting to the surface and spoke in a small, quiet voice, What if you could do that?

What if, indeed.

I periodically checked on the twins for the next thirty minutes we stayed, but my heart was in the street, with those who were limping by.  It looked horrible, it looked painful, it looked impossible, but something in me thought, hey what if.

I eventually dragged myself away from the sidelines and hefted the babies back home.  The day went on with lunch and naps and a long ride home on the packed green line.  Weeks and months followed, and I struggled with food and eating enough to survive and not eating enough to get sick and I moved to New Haven and finally, one day, I answered that little voice inside that asked What if.  And on that day, I went out for a run.

Yesterday, when I finally collapsed on the couch after clinical and glanced at a few of the images from yesterday's horror and H. updated me on the body count and all that had happened, I started to cry.  I remembered the sight of those people - nay, heroes - running last year and how it changed something in me and how much that meant to me.  I remembered Boston, and how even though I only lived there eight months, it became home to me and I grew territorial and protective over its quirks and charms.  And I thought of how hard last weekend was, at only half of that impossible distance and how much it hurt and how much I wanted to die but also - that I did it, and that I was proud, and that I would (probably) do it again.  I thought of all of that and then I thought of every person affected by the bombings and I thought, How can someone want to attack something so good and so pure as the greatest footrace in the world?

And I don't have an answer for that one.

But tonight, when I get home from school, I will walk down the street and pick up the dog.  I will put on my sneakers and I will go for a run.  And my foot still twinges from last week, and my hip flexors are achy and sore, but so what.  The miles keep going, and maybe, someday, enough of them will build up that I'll get a crazy idea and I'll run enough marathons to qualify for Boston and I'll go back to the city I love, and I will ask myself what the hell was I thinking as I cruise through Newton towards Heartbreak Hill.  Maybe.  And certainly, what if.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


I find avocados to be strangely comforting.  They are delicious, yes.  Avocados are like bacon for vegetarians.  They're like the yoga pants of the food world - everyone likes them and they look good (and taste good) on every single solitary thing.  This is not why I find them comforting.

I find avocados comforting because every time I buy avocados at the grocery store, hard as a rock and so unpromising - my fingers twitch as I put their sorry selves into my cart - every single time, I doubt them.  It's true.  I doubt that they will ripen, that they will ripen well, and that in only a few short days I will be enjoying them on a black bean and sweet potato quesadilla.  And every single time, the avocados come through for me.  They are the epitome of predictability and relief.  They always ripen and they are always delicious.  A ripe avocado cannot NOT taste good.  I challenge you to think of another type of fresh produce that you can buy in a profound state of unripened-ness, leave on your counter unattended for however long it takes, and slice it open with confidence after only a gentle squeeze, and reveal perfectly delicious, untarnished perfection.  No fruit flies.  No second-guessing the right time to cut it open.  And certainly you should never be staring at a ripe avocado thinking, "Gosh, what am I going to do with this avocado?  I am fresh out of ideas!"  TRY HARDER.

There's your little fruit and vegetable PSA of the day, folks.

* * *

Briefly, in other news around these parts...
1.  I put the space heaters away in the basement today.  I will make winter be over by simply refusing for it to continue.
2.  I ran the half marathon last weekend.  Running is hard.  For now, 5k's are starting to sound super duper fun.  A post with pictures will follow, hopefully soon.
3.  We got a coffee table!  It's wood, and it's pretty, and it has cubby holes for the cats.

Enjoying the spring air.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

So Many Good Things

Three months old, she has never left the hospital.  There is a hole in her heart and that is the least of her problems.  Her kidneys look like Swiss cheese and her esophagus has scarred from the surgery to close the hole that connected it to her trachea.  So they cut a tiny incision in her belly and snake a gastrostomy tube into her stomach and feed her from the outside.  She is three months old, she has just learned to smile but will only really do it for her mom, and when she cries, she makes no noise.  Her tracheostomy  is hooked up to oxygen twenty-four hours a day, it bypasses her larynx and so when she wails, all that comes out is a breathy wheeze and the insistent beep-beep-beep of her monitors that tick out her escalating heart rate - 148, 162, 210.  All she does is fight.  She doesn't know how to do anything else, and so I change her diapers and learn how to suction, and research her condition.

He is 85 years old, and his health is failing quickly.  He still speaks clearly and articulately, though he takes a breath every few words.  He has lived long and well and he tells me that his trusty body is giving out and that that's okay.  I sit by him and I'm supposed to be asking questions but all I can do is listen, rapt, while he tells me that this is the greatest country there is and that I should never forget that and that I should use my skills and be an achiever and a lone tear slides down his cheek as he tells me that his wife of sixty years, who died one year ago, was a magnificent woman, and a woman of great wisdom.  He tells me his children are the best thing that ever happened to him and he tells me that I should have a plan, but that I should always remember, there are so many good things.  I shake his son's hand when he comes to visit and I bring him more ice water and a new stack of paper cups.

I bounce my neighbor's baby on my hip tonight, in the seventy degree evening air.  We're chatting and laughing, there are four of us on the porch and there are families walking down the sidewalk and I have soup on the stove in my little yellow house across the street and the baby is drooling and so unremarkably healthy that I feel as if the world is splintering in my hands when he blows a bubble.  The horizon slides away and then springs back against my eyes as they fill with tears and I want to lay down in the street and sob because there are so many good things and even though things are so good they can still be so hard and what is hard for a baby who can't make noise or eat or breathe on her own?  And what is hard for a man who is dying with his mind fully intact?

I lay in my bed, the window is cracked and the spring air comes in and I soak my pillow with tears for them all, and still in my head I can hear him saying, There are so many good things.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Eight Months In

It's supposed to be great weather for your race on Sunday, he says.
Right?  Sixties, I think.  It's like thirty out right now, though.

He dumps leftover Thai food into two bowls and I take a sip from each of the two half-full water glasses, in an attempt to figure out which one is mine.  He makes a face at me, Yuck.  I dump out both cups and fill them fresh, rotate the bowls in the microwave and backwards hop my butt up onto the tiny counter while I dig another marshmallow out of the open bag in his cupboard.  He turns around in time to see me wrist-deep in the bag and I dutifully hand him one too.  

I miss summer, I say.  Can we make s'mores sometime?
Sure.  He grabs my bare feet in his warm hands and squeezes, my runner toes popping and cracking and I laugh as he says, Maybe in July these popsicles will thaw.
Yeah, dream on.

The couch is finally warm beneath our mishmashed forms, he tells me no, he doesn't want any blanket so I pile more of it over my bare legs and popsicle feet and we watch episode after episode of New Girl.  I tell him Zooey Deschanel is cute because I can be that girl that is fine if her boyfriend thinks other girls are cute, it doesn't mean he doesn't love me and if I say it first then it's okay if he says it, right, and he looks at me like I'm crazy and tells me he wouldn't know because she's not me, so why would he care and another tiny scar on my heart heals over, smooth and red and shiny and whole.

I heave myself up from the couch to follow him into the kitchen, empty dinner bowls in hand.  He tells me to keep out, he's busy, go sit back down and so I slide the dishes through the door and don't look, used to his surprises by now.  Five minutes later, he's back with a plate and a smile.  Look.  So you don't have to wait till summer.

Four ooey gooey s'mores, perfectly constructed.  For all I know, he toasted the marshmallows with a butane lighter but I don't care because I'm already taking a bite and he's giving me a chocolatey kiss and asks me, Good? and I say, So good and Thank you and I love you and we each eat two and I doze off listening to his heart, slow and steady and reassuring and whole.