…but don’t you quit

September 11, 2021

Reader beware:

My rose-colored glasses have gotten all fogged up; this post may be rather more raw than my usual style.

Twelve days ago I made a few phone calls, shopping insurance prices, as I periodically worry about the precarious position we are in. The last few years, though, have made me question my old ideas of insurance and stability; when in between coverage, we realized that we had managed to keep ourselves so healthy that we weren’t sure the cost of coverage was worth it when we had no ongoing health expenses. But I work in healthcare, and part of what I do is make insurance calls on behalf of patients; so I started to poke around, clarifying that we really only needed it in case of something “catastrophic.” Too late for that, eh?

I should say “it could be worse.” 

I should be reassured by the surgeon’s report that it went well. But my mind fastens onto the word “think,” when he was predicting the success of the reattachment.

I should be relieved that Peter is now healing from the surgery. But I cannot push away the fear of the process ahead of us, and the worry that it will not work—that the finger will be lost.

I should rest in the comfort of the fact that we are together, that we are safe. But I find it easy to drift into overwhelm.

I should …

This morning I went for a long walk with a friend. As we talked, I heard the words coming out of my mouth, and I realized that this experience is bringing up the anger I feel about the systems in place. I think of the way this country approaches care for the elderly. I think of the way healthcare expenses make proper care not only difficult to get, but truly inaccessible for some. It just feels so wrong. And I don’t know what to do about it. 

When I was young, I inadvertently memorized a poem that hung on the wall in my Oma’s dining room. The author was not listed, so I would imagine it to be the anonymous doing of one of my aunts or uncles. Later in life, however, I saw the same poem in different places…though I suppose that does not necessarily preclude the penmanship possibility 😉 

It was not so much my love of the poem itself that drew me to it; even back then my literary sensibilities found it questionable. I also didn’t understand why grownups, with all their apparent ability to do it all, and take care of everything, could feel like that.

I get it now.

When things go wrong as they sometimes will.

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill.

When the funds are low and the debts are high.

And you want to smile but you have to sigh.

When care is pressing you down a bit, rest if you must …

right

September 10, 2021

So today I was in clinic, on a happily calmer day than the past few weeks have been. I was still the only assistant, but today only one doctor was seeing patients, so my job was pleasantly focused. A few cancellations allowed me to work on the doctor’s tasks in my inbox. Two referrals. One was easy enough, to a compression consultant I’ve worked with already and knew how to contact, and how to go about the necessary paperwork. The next one, though, was rather more complicated, as I needed to call each potential E.N.T physician in the area, asking if they accept the patient’s insurance before I go about the referral process. While searching our files for previous E.N.T physicians, I found various other specialties instead. I noticed “orthopedic,” and gave myself a quick mental quiz to see if I remembered what that referred to . . .

Around noon I got a text from my husband. “Can I call?” “Just a minute, I text back. Taking advantage of the lunch hour calm, I stepped outside. “Hey, so I had an accident . . .”My heart dropped.

Turns out he was, by that point, about to be discharged from the E.R., and given a referral to an orthopedic surgeon. He was given a prescription for an antibiotic and pain meds at a nearby pharmacy. He called the orthopedic clinic, while walking to the pharmacy to buy his meds. While the clinic was trying to schedule him an appointment he asked if he could just walk in and be seen.

That is where he was when I walked in, still on the phone with him, asking “Where exactly are you?” Oh—did I mention that he was at the hospital down the road from my clinic?

I knocked on one door, recognizing the voice I’d heard in the background while on the phone with Peter. The gentleman on the exam table looked at me with come confusion, while the physician speaking to him turned to ask me, “Do you know this man?” I don’t think I even responded, in my frazzled state of mind — just turned around and closed the door behind me. 

When I did successfully enter Peter’s room, I ended up crying at the sight of him. The PA tried to reassure me and I blurted out, “I’m fine . . . just mad!” After a bit, we were joking about the irony of the fact that I am quite accustomed to wound care. He said, “You’re going to love this!” I raised my eyebrow in good librarian-turned-healthcare-worker fashion.

Soon afterwards we were walking out, surgery preparation papers in hand, to await the call from the scheduler. Tomorrow morning a surgeon will reattach the tendon on his pinkie. He has it in for his right hand, I suppose (remembering a similar ER even a few years back). Surgery scheduled for tomorrow morning. Once that call had come in, he was calm enough to lay now—if not exactly sleeping. I took another call shortly after he had done so, from the surgery billing office. With insurance company logistics, I’m not even sure if being uninsured is going to make it all that much worse than if we did still have insurance. But time will tell on that front.

For now, we sit on our couch in relative comfort. His hand wrapped and resting on his chest, periodically raised above his head, upon doctors (and nurse-wife’s) orders  🙂

lifeblood

September 4, 2021

The past few weeks have been a wild ride in my world. Our already short-staffed clinic has been hit by Covid quarantines, so that those of us who remain are covering for others in addition to our own roles. Stress levels have been through the roof, tempers short, and I’ve questioned the point of it all, when caring for others feels devoid of actual care . . . we are all so weary that our hearts can’t even break any more.

Today was supposed to be a lighter day, so I was placed as the sole assistant to the doctor seeing patients. But emergencies don’t follow appointment schedules. I found myself alone in a room, gloved hands pressed down to provide pressure for an open wound on a woman’s chest, while the doctor went to get surgical supplies. I felt the rhythm of her pulse as I watched it beat on her neck, and the only sound in the room was that of her breath. After a few minutes it occurred to me that maybe I should say something soothing, but she was so calm it didn’t seem necessary—accustomed, I suppose, to the sorts of medical trials that go along with end-stage renal disease. Her marked calm remained throughout the procedure, and, once stitched and bandaged, she started to get up on her own, hesitating a moment before accepting my outstretched arm. We were alone again, the doctor rushing on out as soon as the bandage was secure. “Have a good weekend,” I offered, questioningly. “You too,” she smiled. And with that, it was on to the next bit of the business of the day.

First though, I paused. I breathed a prayer of gratitude for the lifeblood that pulses through us all; I felt its fragile power.

*while this post is a departure from my recent series of Afgh@nistan memories, it seems fitting to use a photo from that season of my life. A vibrant red of another sort of grounding loveliness: my discovery of the roses of K@bul.

freedom

September 1, 2021

Tuesday’s tale . . . poignant to me, on this day of significance so far as news headlines go. I don’t know what to think of it, in the fog of my work weary brain; but I feel it.

freedom

Though it was done on impulse, I was aware of the irony of it as soon as I had begun shouting “Freedom!” during my mad dash through the back yard. We were playing the most normal sort of childhood games: “Capture the Flag.” Only it lost a bit of its normalcy; we were thoroughly involved in, and enjoying it, but I kept feeling the strangeness of it here, now.
At one point the children’s mother poked her head out the back door and, visibly relieved, commented, “Oh, it’s just a game.” The 2 boys had been in jail with me and were calling out for help. I had almost told them not to call out, actually, but had reconsidered. For one, I thought, this was non-teacher time: the last thing the kids needed was for their library teacher to be “Shushing” them at their own home, on a Friday night. Secondly, I had displayed my own fair share of goofiness, so it would have been a bit hypocritical for me to call them out on it. And finally, I was quite simply relishing the joy of child-like pleasures while we played.
I also braved the same slide that had re-fractured my foot back in the spring. A bit reckless of me, perhaps. But sometimes a little bit of recklessness is healthy, I think . . . necessary at certain times in any given life.
One more note of the day [no pun intended]: as she checked out her library book, one of the 2nd graders asked me if she could write a note on my stick note pad. Sure, I said. Later, as I looked at what she had written, I smiled and thought Me too. “I love your Mama” is what she wrote :-)

this is our dot

August 29, 2021

Sunday’s story . . .

this is our dot

I get pretty jazzed about opportunities to get children excited about other kids around the world. Maybe because of my own upbringing, to a certain extent; but regardless, I think it’s important for children of any nationality to understand that others around the world have different cultures, languages, and backgrounds, but the same basic experience of a human life.
As such, this has been an exciting week in the library, since I’ve been using it to prepare for, and participate in International Dot Day. We came up with a simple song and have been singing it, with a bit of an acting routine to go along with it. The most exciting part is getting to tell the kids that the video we made of them is going to join acts from all over the world with the day is celebrated, on the 15th.
Incidentally, when marking the date this morning, I had a bit of a shock when I wrote 9/11. It is a striking thing to be here, now, on this day. Striking anywhere but I feel it particularly intensely since living here . . .

still here

August 26, 2021

Thursday’s thoughts . . .

still here

Oh, to have a spirit like that of Mother Theresa! I have been reading her biography, Come be my light lately, mulling over the intensity of her life . . . of her love. I long to have such a faith, and such a life. I long to be able to admit openly one’s own darkness of the soul, and to carry right on with selfless service in the midst of it. To wonder, as she writes, “what J will take from me for them since He has already taken all for the sisters. I am ready to accept whatever He gives and to take whatever He takes with a big smile.”
I have nothing of the sort. I have finger-tapping, jittery impatience when it comes to what seems right to me: the work I need to get done, the place I need to be . . . the person I need to be, ironically enough. I long to be saintly in my service, and yet I am infuriatingly impatient in that desire!
So tonight I wanted to be where it seemed right to be. How could it be wrong to want to be singing me heart out in praise? But, once again, the place in which I live makes that a not-to-be longing. I am home. Glad to be finished with a tiring work day, but wishing to be somewhere I am not.
If I had the soul of a Mother Theresa, I would be grateful for the fullness of the day.
I would be content in the little 3-year-olds I had to contort into “criss cross applesauce” positions because they did not speak a lick of English and just smiled broadly and nodded when I attempted any sort of instruction.
I would be thankful for the 7-year olds who got to see themselves today–the completed video of their International Dot Day performance–and who were so clearly ecstatic at the sight of their own singing selves.
I would be glad that I got to dance with a roomful of beautiful women, joining together in a place of refuge from the hardships of life as we know it . . .
So maybe, just maybe, I am glad: the truth is that I relished the escape of that hour, appreciating it intensely for the “dance therapy” that it was for the restless state of my soul. And I couldn’t help but notice that same kite I saw a week ago when, in the same position as today, I was wanting to be somewhere I was not.
That kite is still there, still hanging on. And, Lord willing, so am I.

filmed

August 24, 2021

Tuesday’s tale

. . .

filmed

I think I may need to be careful what I say. Last night one of the new teachers here was commenting on how she hadn’t seen any dust storms. I piped up and said that I remembered them, frequently, last year but that no, we hadn’t seemed to have any so far this year.
This afternoon I was talking to my housemates and abruptly got up and started closing doors and windows. One asked how I knew that there was a dust storm and then stopped in mid-sentence, seeing the swirls as they came in and covered out belongings and ourselves in a fine film of grit.
I decided I wanted to try to capture it, and this is about the best I could do: here you can see the wind-blown trees, the haze covering the horizon, and the lack-of-mountains where normally one would see the line of them.
And yes, in deciding to capture the storm on film, I got myself nicely “filmed” as well :-)

freeze

August 23, 2021

Monday’s memory

. . .

one

FREEZE!
I said that word to one group of 1st graders this morning, in one of the eight class periods of this one of seven days of the week. And now, the day [and week] done, I find myself musing on how that word encapsulates how I feel about this week in its entirety. How do you make sense of a life when so many pivotal moments happen, one right smack dab after the next?
How do you stop in the middle and hold tight to the meaning of one of those moments when you know that two moments later you will be stressed out with logistics and lost to any sentimentality you may have felt those two moments prior?
At one point, I looked up from the textbook I was reading from to answer a question from one teen? Used to battling the adolescent boys, I was shocked to find my heart so full with delight at his response that I grew literally teary-eyed. If it had been remotely culturally appropriate, I would have hugged him. Instead, I shook my head to dry the tears, nodded demurely, and moved on to the next point.
In another period, I photographed a 6 year old boy as he recited his version of the “I have a dream . . .” speech–so heartbreakingly appropriate for this country at this time that those of us expats in the room sucked in our breath and wondered if we were trespassing some sort of imaginary boundaries.
In another, after-school event, I danced with a room full of young ladies. Heads were uncovered, arms were blatantly bared, sweat rolled down smiling faces . . . and no one cared. The care that so rudely awakens women here was gone, because it was just us in that room. Just us girls. And it was good.

consider the lilies

August 22, 2021

Another memory . . .

consider the lilies

Consider the lilies . . . or, as the case may be, the tulips and the crocuses. That is what I was considering. Focusing on rather intently, as K and I balanced the bouquets on our laps, as gingerly as possible considering the fact that we were bumping along the decidedly unfriendly dirt roads. On our way back from the morning small group meeting, we had been entrusted with the delivery of flowers for the afternoon’s engagement party.
We chatted in snippets, between conversations with the driver about others needing to be fetched, and texts to coworkers about party logistics. It seemed ironic to me that I was sitting with one newly-engaged couple, on our way to celebrate with another. And it seemed fitting that our momentary existence, in the midst of grand-scale issues, was caught up with momentary concerns and ultimately insignificant frustrations. At one point I asked K about one aspect of her plans for next year. When she hesitated, I quickly added that she of course did not have to answer me. She laughed and said she didn’t mind answering at all–she had simply been focusing for a few moments there on keeping the flowers steady as we bounced over some larger potholes. So we continued to talk, and to muse on life as we are leading it as well as on the discussion we had just had, about the lilies of the field and the birds in the air . . . and the worries that we so easily allow to crowd out the truth of His provision, and of His providence. “Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
Yesterday we held a Student Art Show, celebrating the talented youth that we have here, and the work this school’s art program has encouraged them to create. Yet another in the series of “this is why I am here” moments for me, to be sure. Yet another privilege, to be able to participate in such a rare and lovely event for this land and culture. They displayed works of darkness and of war-embittered souls. But they also displayed works of hope that challenged our misconceived notions .” . . . yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are”

cycling through

August 20, 2021

Another day, another memory . . .

cycling through

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly life cycles through periods of upheaval and periods of normality, seamlessly sliding from one to the next. So it was that today there was little trace of the great fear that was all around us even as recently as yesterday.
Today there was a level of comforting reassurance in the most mundane tasks of my day. Even the frustrations held a certain level of sweetness: I snuck a muttered note of sarcasm into a response to one of my troublemaker students, enjoying my private joke over his incessant excuses. I puzzled over a Trigonometry problem for a while, then shrugged and looked it up in the answer key so the students could figure it out by working backwards. I complained about the hassle of trying to get groceries when under restriction, then remembered that I have never liked shopping anyhow! I slipped and fell on the ice then smiled at how much more graceful this fall was than my last :-)
Yes, we are still on a high level of alert. But the great thing about working with children is that you simply cannot dwell for long on the uncertainties. You just have to keep on with life as usual, even if you have no idea whatsoever how long “usual” will last.
After classes ended, I joined a couple upper school students in the painting of a backdrop for the upcoming play. And I marveled at how this same space in which we have huddled together to wait out the alarm threat is now taken up with creative endeavors.
Would that we could do the same with all that mis-placed and mis-used energy, directing it towards projects of peace.