Tag Archives: kindness

Lessons Learned

I learned a long time ago that minor surgery is when they do the operation on someone else, not you. ~ Bill Walton

I met with my surgeon and my physical therapy team for the last time yesterday. After nearly 7 long months, 2 hand surgeries, 48 physical therapy visits, and a fair mountain of medical bills (and a grateful heart for the insurance which covered them), I have been released back into the wild world of my life. Kicked from the nest of medical care, sent out to fly on my own with my mended wing.

If you’ve been visiting the blog a while, then you’ve followed some of my adventures during this time — the original incident while baking for Easter, my progression of casts, the up-and-down swings of news and progress, the second surgery, and now, finally, a finale.

I am free. Of appointments with doctors and surgeons. Of physical therapy sessions of 1-1/2 to 2 hours each, ranging from 2 to 5 times per week. Of casts and bandages, sleeves and splints, stitches and needles, ultrasounds and electric currents. They have done their jobs, these things. They have healed me, given me back my finger, my hand. And all the things that I can once again do. I am grateful beyond words for that reality.

But in that moment, in all the joy that comes with that freedom, there’s also a moment of wistfulness, of reflection, thinking about the lessons I have learned. Not only about myself, but of medical care and insurance in general, of life and health, love and friendship. So I thought I’d share some of my reflections, my lessons learned about this experience…..

  • Medicine and the medical community is amazing.  That I lucked into having a nationally-recognized hand surgeon on-call at the emergency room the night of my injury is pretty darn close to a miracle for me.  His office runs a “Hand Center of Excellence,” which allowed me phenomenal care and access not only to his medical team and surgical facility but to a physical therapy team that included two specialists in hand tendon injuries.  The bills are high, their work expensive.  But I have use of my finger and hand because of their excellent care.  And I already miss them, especially my two primary therapists.  We’ve had 7 months of sharing and caring, of time becoming friends.  Each member of the crew I worked with was nice, but those two became good friends who shared endless hours of time and support and stories.
  • How can people possibly be expected to survive without insurance?  I supported universal health care before, but I will champion it forever after this.  Yes, the healthcare system needs reform.  Immense reform.  But without access to insurance, we would never have survived financially from what is –in reality– a minor event.  No car wreck, no major traumatic injuries.  No months of hospital stays.  And still major bills.  How do people who oppose access to insurance expect people to pay for access to quality medical care?  It would be impossible.
  • Friends and family help the healing faster than any drug on the market.  We could not have come through the past seven months without our wonderful family and friends.  Those who jumped in and drove me to appointments, took my husband to work.  Those who arrived with an evening’s dinner or meals for the freezer.  Those who sent cards, flowers, and fruit, sent email, asked questions, and sent prayers.  Being on the receiving end of such kindness makes me think a lot harder about how I can be a better friend in the future. Katrina Kittle did a wonderful blog post about “Friends who teach you to be better friends,” and her points are so true — there are some who ask, and some that do.  I hope to be a better friend because of my experience.
  • Attitude is important.  In myself and in others.  There were hard days.  Very hard days.  Sometimes made harder by side effects of medication or days where I was just tired of being sick and tired.  But somewhere there was always a speck of light, a rainbow of ideas, a pair of huggable arms.  Something or someone that cheered me up, even if sometimes I had to do it myself.  Sometimes that came from unexpected places and people.  Sometimes I didn’t think it would come again.  But it always did.  Amazingly, awe-inspiringly so.
  • Accept help when it’s offered.  I don’t get sick often, knock on wood.  And I’m not necessarily known for accepting or asking for help easily anyway.  But many times during this experience I didn’t have a choice.  And you know what?  Help made things better.  An extra set of hands, legs, ears, and eyes now and then proved quite welcome, offering assistance on multiple levels and in ways I never expected, predicted or even thought possible.  For all of that help and so much more, I am indebted and grateful to many.
  • Not everything has to get done. With missing nearly 17 weeks of work and not being able to knock things off my to-do list at work or home, my inner perfectionist was on a forced time-out. There were things that simply were not going to get done. Some I panicked about, some I worried incessantly about not completing. All were thought about. But the things that needed doing were accomplished, by me or by someone else. Things that should be done sometimes were, sometimes weren’t. And some things just didn’t get finished. I learned to be (mostly) okay with that, and hopefully I can continue that habit.

There are more lessons twirling about my head as I become accustomed to my now-naked right hand.  It feels weird having a breeze on my fingers, feeling sensations on my finger and palm.  Of typing for as long as I want, rather than in 20 minute spurts.

Mixed in among these and so many other lessons I have learned is something simple and easy:  be very, very careful with glass bakeware in the kitchen!  My kitchen is slowly becoming one of metal and silicone bakeware, of no more glass coffee carafe, or baking dishes.   The pan I purchased to replace my beloved 9×13 Pyrex casserole dish is metal.  Not my preference taste-wise, but now it is for safety.  I even handle my wine glasses with exceptional care these days.

A portion of my 2010 cookie baking

So as the holidays approach, please be careful in the kitchen.  I’m free to bake and cook like a madwoman again, but fair warning — I’m not sure I’ll tackle all my traditional holiday baking this year.

I’ll see how it goes.

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Reasons to be Happy

It will take a journey unlike any other to remind Hannah of who she really is, and to begin to get that girl back. Reasons to Be Happy is about standing up for all the things you love—including yourself. ~ Katrina Kittle, Reasons To Be Happy

Although released at the beginning of October, Katrina Kittle’s newest book, Reasons To Be Happy, had its official launch last night at Books & Co. at The Greene in Dayton. (You can see photos from the signing here – number 22 is me getting my book signed!) Her earlier books, Traveling Light, Two Truths and a Lie, The Kindness of Strangers, and The Blessings of the Animals, each offer an intense look at a significant social topic. Reasons To Be Happy is Kittle’s first foray into the young adult market, yet the book is rich with all the characters and characteristics which make her previous books so vibrant and memorable. Most notably, Kittle does not shy away from descriptive reality, nor does she sugar-coat the angst and experiences of modern middle-school life. When she asked the audience how many would want to relive those middle-school days, the still-awkward laughs and absence of raised hands gave testimony to how those years affect us all, even years later.

If you haven’t read any of Kittle’s work, give her a try. I won’t guarantee that the stories are easy, because the topics she chooses to deal with are anything but. But they are about life, especially difficulties in modern life, and her works reflect a social awareness as well as a literary talent for reaching into the heart of the matter and bringing it to light via unforgettable characters. You can sample some of her work via her website, including the opening chapters of Reasons To Be Happy. As part of the celebration of her new book, Kittle has also embarked on a year-long celebration of her reasons to be happy, offering one reason per day for a year on her blog. She is at #105 today.

So as we set off into a hopefully beautiful fall weekend, I’ll leave you with my current top 5 reasons to be happy:

1. Sharing my life with my best friend and the love of my life.
2. Dear friends, who understand that friendship is about being close at heart even if not close at hand.
3. An abundance of good books.
4. Fall, autumn, harvest and all the pleasures it brings.
5. Health insurance, to pay for excellent medical care.

What are your reasons to be happy?

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Time, Well Spent

“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” ~ Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

Today is our anniversary. When I wrote those words last year, this blog was only a few weeks old. It was our 13th anniversary, and I optimistically called the post, “Lucky Number 13.” Little did I know or suspect the happenings of the year which followed that post.

Both of us suffered at least one major medical issue. As noted in those early posts, my husband had a serious infection in his leg in August and September. He followed that up with a double retinal hemorrhage in December, which required surgery in January and several weeks off work. And if you’ve followed the blog for bit, you know of my “fun” in April of this year, when I severed both tendons in my right-hand ring finger, which required surgery, two months off work, and several months of intense physical therapy. There were a few other challenges as well, but those certainly seemed the focus of our attention.

Life went on around and by us, though. Good friends came through with anything and everything we needed, from rides to food to simple acts of kindness and friendship which brought no end of cheer to those rough days. Work continued with days both easy and difficult.

We’ve learned to make some changes in our lives, do things a bit differently, either by necessity or choice. And, to be honest, we are (or will be) the better for them. Doesn’t make them easier, though.

But “Lucky Number 13” I can’t say was all that lucky.

Except, that it was.

The health issues can and are being dealt with, as my husband continues to receive periodic shots in his eye to help the healing. (Yes, you read that right — shots *in* his eye. He’s the bravest man I know!) I’m gearing up for a second hand surgery, and I’ll find out in few weeks when that will be. We both have jobs, with excellent insurance, and in this economy, that trumps nearly anything else. And for all these things and so much more, we are truly lucky.

But most of all, especially in a year like the one just past, we have each other. We both consider ourselves very lucky to have married our best friend, the person we most enjoy spending time with, the person each of us would move heaven and earth to make happy.

So lucky or not, our year together was time well spent. And today, of all days, I know just how very lucky I am to be able to say “Happy Anniversary” to the love of my life.

Here’s to a calmer 14th…..

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Something

You know when you have found your prince because you not only have a smile on your face but in your heart as well.  ~Author Unknown

How could you not love that face? If you’ve noodled your way around my blog, you’ve read some about my family. But I’ve neglected introducing one of its most important members, and there is no better time to correct that omission than on his birthday. So, I’d like to indulge for a bit and introduce you to the love of my life – my husband, Patrick.

That’s him, up there, as a little sprite. But those big blue eyes and cheeky grin are two of the many reasons I fell in love with him. Plus he’s intelligent, charming, sweet, and –as my mother would say– an all-around good egg. He’s far and away the kindest person I’ve ever met.

As I’ve gone through another round of family photographs, I’ve found a mix of pictures of him, so I thought I’d share some here, with his permission, of course, to celebrate his birthday.

And to round out the week of McCartney/Beatle references…. there’s just something in the way he moves……

*soft sigh*

In front of his house before heading off to school
Happy 14th Birthday!
His first computer, a Commodore 64….
Rocking the hat – Welcome to the ’80s!
With his kid sister, Joanne.
With Joanne on her wedding day
We surprised him with a party on his 40th birthday!

The birthday man and his mother

He’s a Mac guy from way back, so the chance to get a “Mac & PC” picture was irresistible!
Letting ladybugs loose in the hydroponic gardens during the “Behind the Seeds” tour at Epcot’s The Land.
One of my favorite recent pictures, just before dinner out with some good friends.
At one of his favorite places, with the Mouse in Charge!

Happy Birthday, Handsome Man!

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Imagine

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Flight to Arras, 1942

I’ve been known to have the occasional flight of fancy, the odd notion every now and again. But lately, I seem to have been plagued with untethered ideas, an imagination spurred by recent events, both personal and public, about how the world could (and really should) be a better place.

Perhaps it is the swirl of negativity on the news, with reports of American lives lost in a too-long war, of American politics being more about “winning” than about “governing” or helping out the people they are supposed to be governing. Of a worldwide economy in crisis. Perhaps it is the spate of reality TV, talk TV, and just plain TV, where yelling and meanness are played as more important than their opposites. Where creatures of all sorts –human and not– are in danger from starvation, violence, or abuse. Where one of the most historical cities in Europe explodes in fire and violence.

Or, perhaps, it is how that meanness and rude behavior plays out everywhere I look in the spaces around me: littering, dangerous driving, snide comments, rude emails, and a general “me-first” mentality that seems to drive people’s actions more and more.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know there is good. I see that, too, everyday. The kindness that some people still generate and believe in. But the proportion is slipping, changing in the wrong direction.

And to me, that’s a sad thing.

So today, I’ll play John Lennon for a while and do as he suggests:

Imagine

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

I’m guessing I’m not the only one….. so what’s the world you imagine?

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