With Nana and Papa

With Nana and Papa
Family Times at Flathead Lake

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thoughts on Detention

I took my head out of my derriere at the end of last week and stopped cycling over my knee and sleep issues long enough to take a look at an art exhibit at Museo de las Americas on Santa Fe. They're hosting an exhibit on immigrant detention done by the artist collective Sin Huellas (without fingerprints). The name, Sin Huellas, refers to a common practice of removing fingerprints through chemical burns, so the individual cannot be tracked or identified. Often, these undocumented persons vanish without a trace.

The exhibit contains videos, letters from detainees to their families, statistics, and visuals of figures in mylar blankets lying on narrow cots. The stories wrench at heartstrings: an inmate fell off his bunk and hit his head, creating an open wound that was not treated for six months. A teenage girl who moved to the US at age two was arrested and threatened with deportation to a country where she didn't know the language or a single soul.

The detention centers are run by a private company - the GEO Group - which makes between $150 and $200 per detainee per night. GEO and other private prison companies lobbied the US Government to institute a 34,000 bed-per-night-minimum, which means they can detain and hold that number of individuals each night without question. Since crossing our border without papers is a civil offense (at least on the first crossing), detainees are not provided with the due process and representation afforded to persons who have committed a crime. It's a heinous thing that we're doing.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Elbowing Out the Pain and Worry

Since I last ruminated over the keyboard the sun has come out and tree branches have rebounded to wave over the piles of pink petals that drift like confetti over still-snowy lawns. The chiropractor used a warm laser to restore 80% of my knee. Daniel has slept in the hallway instead of his room but at least refrained from waking anyone else, and we got a new black kitty who rumbles around William's room like he owns the place. Stirrings of hope and gratitude are elbowing out the pain and worry.

Even prior to the miracle of the chiropractor's laser I had been reviewing my notes on resiliency and mental health: exercise, be grateful, stay positive, stop ruminating over troubles, reach out to friends and family.  In April of 2016 I add to this list: don't watch or read the news of presidential elections, refrain from arguing with the kids, keep away from the pity party.

My good friend says there are two roads through life - the happy road and the sad road - and they don't take turns but run in parallel. So we mourn the loss of Prince but smile at the new Mumford & Sons South African single. We tremble at the news of yet another record-breaking warm month but exult in the proliferation of solar panels, weep over health struggles of good friends but delight in the birth of healthy babies.

Happy Earth Day - may the happy road today be a bit more full than the sad one.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Pride Goeth Before . . .

Reviewing my last two entries about - first - pride in my body's ability to perform, and second - dismay over the failure of my hip and knee to work together, a familiar phrase comes to mind. It goes somewhat like this: pride goeth before you trip and landeth on your ass.  I still sport a bump like a "third knee" on the left side of my left leg - like a third nipple and just about as welcome. The constant ache has taken its toll on my sleep and my temper and I'm constantly juggling the options of the chiropractor, the PT and the orthopedist. It doesn't help that we have new insurance and I don't know which options are best, i.e. least expensive.

In other ironic news, we turned on our solar panels just before a walloping spring snowstorm dumped eighteen inches of the white stuff on our roof. A representative from Solar City called and left an urgent voicemail asking me to check the inverter and call him to ascertain why the panels were not producing energy. When this was followed by an even more urgent email I broke down and called the guy back to explain that our panels were covered in heavy spring snow. Apparently Californians hadn't heard that was a possibility in April.  The young man paused and said, "Well, yes, that would do it. Why don't you call back when it melts." Indeed.

As I drive carpools and errand routes this week I mourn the loss of tree branches, spring flowers, and landscaping.The resilience of some of the trees and a few hardy tulips should be my focus; the  metaphor of bouncing back and moving on should be at the top of mind. Instead I feel weighted by what was broken and lost - the heavy limbs that will be carted away by city maintenance workers and the hard work remaining to the maimed trees. I am a maimed tree, myself, unsure of what work to do to fix my lagging branch or of when it's going to bounce back.

Monday, April 18, 2016

From Peak to Valley

I got a bit ahead of myself in the last post ("Not Bad for an Aging Bod").  Somewhere in the last week my hips got out of whack, my IT band spasmed up, and my left patellar tendon yanked further to the left. Basically, I dislocated my kneecap - twice. So I've been hobbling around the house in pain, wrapped in ice packs or ace bandages, eating sugar out of stress and desperately rolling on the foam roller and soft ball.

The leg is a mess, and though one trip to the chiropractor helped a lot, I sat wrong on the coach on Saturday during family movie night and I was right back in the valley of pain and frustration. My sleepless night was further broken up by Daniel, who has barely slept through the night in the past six months. He's been mostly going to William's room to sleep, but lately has disrupted William too much so began to come into our room.

I risk being seen as severely lacking in compassion but I'll say it anyway - I hate having the kids come into our room at night. Our door is shut to keep the cat out, and when Daniel turns the doorknob and busts his way in he always wakes us up. That's a big no-no.  Rob ordered a radio for him that will play the Disney channel and we're hoping (with waning strength) that the radio will help him stay put.  Threats, rewards/bribes, logic, rearranging the room,etc - nothing has worked.

So here we are in a little bit of a valley - pretty typical to slide downhill any time life has brought you up for a brief, triumphant look around. Sometimes you make a plan, work the plan and still don't move forward. Here's hoping that Daniel and I both make progress this week.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Not Bad for An Aging Bod

I swam in the Colorado state Masters meet a week or so ago, wiggling into a borrowed "fast" suit and testing my shoulders on a dive from the blocks.  I swam the fifty free next to a nationally known freestyler (who specializes in distance swimming) and tied her in a time that came close to my routine high school results. Not the shaved-and-tapered times, but the casual I'm-worn-down-mid-season times.

When I looked to the scoreboard and saw my result I felt a balloon of lightness lift from my chest and float into the air, releasing a big grin on the way. Not bad for a forty-five-year-old! The kids and Rob came to watch me swim the 100 backstroke the next day, which was obviously longer and more difficult. I ran out of breath, blowing snot and spray from my nose after every airless flip turn, but kept thinking of the kids watching and tried to kick my way to the wall. I was delighted when I saw my time and realized that I could have qualified for high school's Centennial A Leagues.

Racing within shouting distance of my high school times released me from feeling 'less than,' a feeling that I've held subconsciously since my serious illness a few years ago. Returning to racing after ten years also reminded me that I won't be able to touch my best times now, that the "kid times" as we call them in the Masters world, are not the goal. The goal is to stay healthy and active and have fun.  That should have been the goal all along, but hey, better late than never.

Only one problem: the meet and enthusiastic workouts following (I was so excited to return to training) shredded my shoulders, which kept me awake several nights with muscle spasms and throbbing. My body reminding me of its age and use kept me out of the pool for the past week. So I plot my return today with new balance, my plan just to keep everything in working order, enjoying what capabilities I have left and no longer feeling at all sick.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Mental Restart

I hate restarting my computer, if only because I dislike opening Chrome and pulling up all of the sites I typically scan during the day.  Clicking a few extra buttons? Not hard. Remembering what I thought was important? Extremely difficult.  Though I suppose the restart is necessary for my brain as well as my computer - I rely too much on the ease of eternally open windows, Siri's driving directions, one-click purchases on Amazon.

So perhaps it's good that some of us are hitting the road again to that most cherished of water polo tournament destinations - Albuquerque. The packing, cleaning, pet arrangements and school excuses keep me running like Rex would run from a rat. Hopefully the extra activity will rinse my mental synapses and clear the plaque that builds up from daily routine.

Lovely and easy though routine may be, it's apparently bad for our brains. A friend relayed that the key to a healthy brain was "changing it up" - going to a new place or to an old place by a new direction, learning a language, meeting new people, "doing one thing every day that scares you" as Eleanor Roosevelt suggested.

If that's the case then all of our hustle and bustle is keeping my brain finely tuned - at least until it bursts a gasket, springs a leak, or heads for the hills.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Squeezed

Quiet.  Space.  Time.  The kids go back to school today after nearly twelve days off.  Over the course of two snow days and spring break I flew to Montana, drove to northern California with my parents, visited with my brother and his family, flew home, hosted Rob's parents,and participated in a Masters swim meet for the first time in ten years. I am tired. I am squeezed out - a tube of toothpaste rolled to the top with the sides cracking so that pale green paste oozes.

The hours in the car with my parents were golden moments of conversation and laughter and shared concerns - mostly over my father's battle with Parkinson's. When at first we couldn't find the lengthy book on tape (11 disks!), Mom and I just talked. Amazingly, our conversation continued more or less unabated through nine hours of driving, punctuated only by rest stops, periodic struggles to fasten seat belts, and lunch breaks at McDonald's. Fish sandwiches on Good Friday for the folks, chicken salad without cheese for me.

So I did enjoy the drive, despite the spare tire placed around my middle by too much sitting and scads of Easter chocolate. And I enjoyed Bill and Connie's visit immensely, heading downtown for Molly Brown's house, having lunch at the new Union Station and seeing Rob's new prime office location only a block away. They drove their own 18 - hour trip (x2) to spend a few days with us, and the kids were delighted to play solitaire, visit the pet store, watch movies, and play ping-pong with their grandparents.

Good stuff, but draining. I'm worried about my youngest, whose anxiety over school and activities has barely diminished throughout this school year. Yesterday, he took off on his bike without telling anyone and was nearly hit by a car speeding up the hill toward our house. (I didn't witness this, since Aden and I were walking, but our neighbors did, and provided the report and showed the skid marks to prove it.)

I want to care for my youngest and my older two, want to make sure to support Rob in his new job, that Mom and Dad settle into their new home safely and enjoyably, and that Bill and Connie journey towards retirement with enthusiasm and some degree of contentment. I read that parents of middle schoolers are the most stressed of any age group, and I believe it. How  love and gratitude can sit with the duty and responsibility and worry, I don't know, but I need a few days "off" to reconcile the mix.