Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is almost my favorite holiday. There are comforting traditions that involve food and loved ones. I get to gather with my family and friends for no other reason than to share traditions and give thanks. We always get to meet others who are far from home and come to share some of their life with us. I love having a reminder to think of all the things I am grateful for, and there is no need to sink into all kinds of commercial merchandising to make it through the holiday.
Favorite Thanksgiving traditions - gather at Mom's house with as many family members who can make it, help cook old family recipes, play touch football, have old movies playing in the background, listen to guests share their traditions, take turns saying what we are most grateful for this year, let everyone help clean up.
Favorite Thanksgiving menu - turkey, mashed yukon gold potatoes, candied yams, Mom's amazing stuffing and homemade cranberry sauce, wonderful salad, and Mom's homemade rolls, then pumpkin pie and Mike's pecan pie.
Favorite Thanksgiving leftovers - turkey cranberry sandwiches on homemade rolls.
What am I most grateful for this year - for miracles and that Mike will be sitting next to me, very much alive and gradually healing.
Have a safe and wonderful weekend.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ya Think?!

Mike is doing better. He was able to come home from the hospital after 2 days. He is not one who likes limiting his activity. He is one who is used to getting up by 5:30 in the morning so he can enjoy a beautiful sunrise before he charges into the day.
Only 2 months ago, he was very considerately helping me recover from surgery, reminding me to be patient and give myself time to heal. When I was discouraged, he was very kind and helpful. Now he is trying to let me encourage him to be patient.
Yeah, that's going well.
He has been deeply touched by all the kindnesses shown by so many people. And he is very anxious to return to all his work, service and recreational activities. He went on a hike a few days after the accident, he has been doing the home therapy exercises very consistently, he rode his bike on the indoor trainer within a week. We saw the osteopath last week. He said, with Mike being a non-smoker, non-drinker, no medical condition, good health and attitude, he could expect 98% recovery. When Mike glared at him, he quickly said, "Okay, you could probably get 100% recovery." Mike is going for 110%.
Unfortunately, he seems to think he should be at 110% by the end of the week.
As he so kindly reminded me last month, recovery is not always steady. It tends to go up and down like a roller coaster. One of the ways it does that is when one kind of pain seems to improve, another takes over and knocks you flat. Mike is finding out the many ways broken ribs and shoulder can hurt. He seems to be learning creative ways to find all the levels of the pain of healing, and get through them quickly.
Early Sunday morning, since he couldn't sleep, he got up very early, dressed in his suit, called for a ride, went to his early church leadership meetings, met me for choir practice before church, tried for three hours to find a comfortable way of sitting through church, went to a meeting after, and when he was finally home, let me put ice on his back and feed him painkillers. I had been trying for hours not to drag him back home and force him to rest. As he sat there, wincing in agony, he said, "I don't get it. I have this very sharp pain starting at my neck and shooting across my shoulder down my arm."
Any semblance of Florence Nightingale went out the window.
"Well, maybe, just maybe you have this pain because you broke your shoulder and ribs and just got out of the hospital!"
So anyway, Mike is progressing. Not sure I am.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Wall Came tumbling Down

20 years ago this week, November 9th to be exact, the Wall came down. It was an emotional time for me anyway. My daughters were 3 and 1, and I was emotional about anything that showed a better world for their future. Okay, so I am still and always have been emotional about anything that suggests a better world for anyone. I cry during Hallmark commercials (so do many of you so don't try to hide it).
But the fall of the Wall was especially important to me. I had grown up very aware of the iron curtain, the cold war, the arms race, participating in nuclear attack drills at school, seeing commercials and debates about how to deal with the evil menace, seeing many forms of pop culture that satirized life on both sides of the Wall.
I gained a whole new perspective in 1981 when I was able to visit the Soviet Union with a student group. I met students, professionals, soldiers, laborers, children, religious leaders, seniors, even members of the old guard. What I saw - they were all very much like people anywhere. They were doing the best with what they had, they loved their families, they cared about their children's future, they had individual strong opinions, they were willing to sacrifice in hope of a better tomorrow, they were very friendly and helpful, and they loved anything from the west. It was rare to see anyone behave harshly, or abusing their position of power.
One day we visited a school for advanced students from 3 to 16 years old. The teenagers were like any I had known growing up, and we had a great time visiting with them. When we were getting ready to leave, our group gathered in the foyer waiting for the bus. Some of the younger students were also getting ready to go home. It was cold outside, and I noticed a man in a soldier uniform helping his little boy bundle up in his sweater, coat and scarf. The man stuck the boy's small mittens on his own little finger while he was carefully buttoning up the coat, then he tenderly held the little boy next to him, out of the way of the crowd, talking softly to him until we had moved outside and they could leave without getting bumped around. The love and tenderness was so evident. I knew this man would do anything to protect his son.
No one can force anyone to change, even when the change seems to be better. But if any part of a forceful action seems to threaten children, people will die before giving in.
I realized the Wall could never successfully come down by force. Military force and intimidation has never successfully changed a civilization.
That same year - 1981 - my father started an organization called Food for Poland (That story is another blog). Its purpose was to send food to the striking workers' Solidarity union in Poland so they could resist the severe government control. It was one of many ways that people behind the Wall refused to continue without freedom. As they built civil resistance movements, and received help from many groups in the west, the old regime began to fail. For years we had spoken with Solidarity leaders, hearing of their hardships and loss, and determination to create a new government.
So on November 9th, while rocking my 1 year old to sleep, I wept as I watched the live news feed of people pouring through the gate, helping each other on both sides climb up and dance on top of the wall. Then, with their own hands and simple tools, they tore down the Wall. No guns, no tanks, no bombs. People on both sides had decided the wall was no longer needed, and no one could stop them.
One Wall down. How many more to go?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hawaii Can Wait

We got the tickets back in August, and Mike has been packing and planning for a week in Maui ever since. Every once in a while he would grin and do his "We're going to Maui" dance (No, I will not post a picture of that).
Wednesday morning he rode his bike to work. Less than a mile from his office he has to cross some old railroad tracks. He was going 25 miles an hour, and the last thing he remembers is swerving so he could cross the tracks at a 90 degree angle. After that, he has glimpses of someone standing over him as he lay on the ground, being in an ambulance in a neck brace strapped to a hard board, then in the ER, me next to the bed, then our bishop there giving him a blessing. After that, he became much more coherent, and all his circuits started firing. I had barely been holding my panic at bay until then. When his eyes started looking normal, and he started connecting the dots I let myself believe he would be okay. Shortly after that the doctor checked him, they removed the brace and board.
For a while it turned into a "Men Are From Mars" thing going on in the Emergency Room. One of his nurses was a big time biker as well, and he and Mike started exchanging road warrior stories. He looked at Mike's smashed and cracked helmet and said he had all of his totaled-by-an-accident helmets hanging in his garage like trophies. They were talking about the brand of bikes they rode, and comparing the size of their equipment, and I was fine with all that because it was distracting Mike from the trauma, and me from the drama. Then we were told he was being admitted to the hospital, and they brought a hospital gown for him. It was cold that morning, so Mike had several layers of biking shorts, jerseys and leggings. While I was concerned about the possible damage done to his brain and neck, he was worrying about damage to his favorite jersey and new bib shorts. His left shoulder was obviously damaged because he could not move or lift his arm, but he wanted me to try to lift his jerseys over his head. They had just given him some major pain killer, so he was willing to have me move his arm around for him. It was agony for him to get the first jersey off, and I said I would cut the second one off down the back so I could sew it back together. I went and asked the biker nurse for scissors to cut the jersey. He said, "Oh no, that would be tragic." He came in and worked with me to save the jersey. Mike was in pain but happy with the results. A non-biker would not have hesitated to sacrifice the shirt and save Mike from intense pain and an unintentional bone adjustment. I have not been able to penetrate the mysteries of the die-hard biker mind.
The most painful moment for Mike was when I said the words out loud, "We will not be going to Hawaii on Monday." He didn't seem to hear the next part - "It's all right, we will go another time. Hawaii will still be there. I am just glad you will be okay."
Actually, I am beyond glad. I was able to talk to the people who saw the accident and helped Mike. As soon as he got to the tracks, his bike tire caught on something, was yanked to the side and Mike went flying. He hit the ground with his head and left shoulder. There was no rolling or skidding. The initial impact was the full impact. One helper, whose friend will never be the same because of head trauma, thought Mike had the same kind of damage. When I talked to him Wednesday night he was amazed Mike's head and neck CT scans showed no injury. He was not surprised to hear about all the broken bones.
We can't always choose how miracles and healing come into our lives, but I know I will miss out if I am not willing to see it however it comes. So even though Mike has been in the hospital for 2 days, and he has 6 broken ribs, and 4 detached ribs, a 2 lung contusions, and a severely fractured scapula, and road rash on his head, shoulder, hip, knee, elbow and knuckles, and his pain is bad enough to cause his muscles to spasm, and he has to try to breathe deep and cough so he can expel the fluid from his bruised lungs... he also has a fully functioning brain, and is coherent, and more aware each moment of how fortunate he is to be alive.
So Hawaii can wait. We are busy enough creating healing and profound gratitude. So thank you for the people who stopped and helped, and the EMTs, and the great medical care, and great medicine, and the good insurance, and the blessings, the neighbors who walked Sam, the meals of comfort food from friends, the visits, the ice cream, the calls and messages, the thoughts and countless prayers, the love, and most of all, the miracles. Thank You for the miracles.