Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Count Your Blessings...

Name them one by one," (all together now) "Count your many blessings see what God has done." For those of you not raised in the old-school Southern Baptist tradition, you probably have no idea what I was singing. For those of you who were, you can thank me for putting that brain worm into your head later.

Even if you've never heard the song, you know the message. In this life we all have troubles, but we also all have blessings. I spent yesterday at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital with my six-year-old daughter who had to have surgery. So today, dear readers, today I am counting my blessings.

My daughter has come to an age where I feel like I should no longer freely share her medical issues with every person I meet. If you've known me for any length of time, however, you probably know all about them. But since they are a little embarrassing for her, I feel like I should no longer tell all her business. Suffice it to say, we were there for a minor procedure to try and help with a "quality of life" issue for her.

She has had several procedures at Vanderbilt through the years, and if I know anything at all, I know this: there is always someone who has a problem bigger than yours, ALWAYS. One of her doctors shares a waiting room with the Neurology Department. If you are ever having a bad day, dear reader, I suggest you head on over to the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital Neurology Department waiting room. It will humble you. It will make you ashamed of complaining about your problems. It will make you thankful for the problems you have if that means you don't have to have those other BIG, LIFE-ALTERING problems.

Yesterday her procedure lasted for about 45 minutes, so of course we were there for six hours counting pre-op, post-op and simply waiting our turn through the cases that had gotten backlogged. When I saw her surgeon before her case, I could tell he was a little weary. He said that he had just gotten in the night before from doing several days of surgery in Guatemala with a medical missions group. He had not fully recovered, yet. Oh he was in fine condition to do her surgery, I just mean he was still shell-shocked from being home. I could tell he was still counting all of our collective blessings and that he was thankful for the facility, equipment, medicine, and staff he had to work with -- so was I.

He told me that he did surgery 14 hours a day for four days and there were will still hundreds of patients waiting. He figures there are 11 surgeons in Nashville who can handle pediatric urology cases for a population that is around one million. (This includes adults and children, not just children, but since Vanderbilt has a larger scope than just Nashville, we'll call it a million.) The entire country of Guatemala has (I believe he said) 14 million, seven million of whom are children. And I'm pretty sure he said there are 16 surgeons for those seven million children.

This is not the venue to debate socialized medicine, but I will tell you, dear readers, it scares me to death. I am sure that my daughter would not be able to have a surgery in July and then another one in September if we lived in a country with socialized medicine. I know that medical costs are astronomical for those who do not have good insurance, and I do know that many things about our system need fixing. I know for a fact we spent $5,000 on one test this year for our daughter that was a CYA test. There was probably about a one percent chance she had an issue with her spine, but her surgeon had to order the test. If he hadn't have ordered the test, and ten years later we figured out she did fall into that one percent, we could have sued him. This is madness and it needs to be fixed. But, my prayer is that we do not scrap the good things about our system -- the excellent surgeons and hospitals like those at Vanderbilt -- while we try to fix what is broken. 'Nuf said.

I have a deep respect and fondness for my daughter's surgeon. He has been an excellent doctor for her and is a good man. I truly feel that God has guided his hands while he has operated on her. And the fact that he was doing medical missions does not surprise me. Although my daughter's case is not what I would call complex, there is no easy fix. She is missing some muscle in her body due to a birth defect, and her surgeon, not being God, cannot make muscle. So, he's doing what he can to help fill in the gaps. This is the second time he has done this procedure, but this time he did something a little different to see if it would work better. Today I am finding the results are not great. Last time we saw very good results in the days after the procedure, but after about two weeks, things went back to the way they were before. So maybe this time the results will be mediocre in the short term, but remain steady. That would be progress.

So part of me wants to cry and wants to yell and wants to rail against the fact that six years later we are still dealing with this same issue. The other part of me remembers the mom who was in the waiting room with me waiting for her 17-month-old baby to come out of a one-hour surgery, five hours later. We had a language barrier, but I caught the gist of what she was there for. A week ago her daughter had had an organ transplant from her brother. At first I thought it was the kidney, but now I think it may be the liver? It wasn't working yet, but the doctor said he was giving it a little more time. The night before, a line (I'm guessing to put medicine in) had broken inside her daughter and she was supposed to be in surgery for one hour to fix it. Five hours later, her mother was still waiting. I saw her after I had gotten Langley out of post-operative care. She was crying and distraught and going into the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) where the sickest of children are brought. I knew that we couldn't communicate well enough to ask her what was wrong, so I just told her that I would pray for her and her precious Amelia, and thankfully she understood.

So yeah, Langley's procedure may not have worked as well as I'd hoped. And yes as the Psalmist says, I will continue to "wait on the Lord." But I am waiting on a quality of life issue -- not a life-or-death issue -- of that I am well aware. So yeah, today I'm content to wait. And while I wait, you can find me over here counting my blessings.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Book Signings and S*E*X

Warning: The S*E*X word will be used and briefly talked about in this post. Not in graphic or personal detail, dear readers, but if you are squeamish, look away. You have been forewarned!

So most nights are pretty routine. I cook (or fix) something for dinner, make sure my son does his homework no matter how much he gripes, and run around like a headless chicken trying to get to my three children to football/cheerleading/Cub Scouts/Girl Scouts/fill in the blank with any number of activity choices.

But last night, dear readers, I actually got to feel like a real 'literary' adult. I went to a book signing with one of my favorite authors, Diana Gabaldon. I've been reading her now for a little over 13 years. I'm pretty sure I found out about her the summer I got married and devoured two or three of her five pound books shortly there after. In fact, I remember waiting for eight hours for the movers to show up while I was reading one the books in her Outlander series. Although irritated at their not showing, I was not in the least upset about getting to read all day long! And as luck would have it, a month or two after we moved to Nashville I found out she was coming to Green Hills to do a book signing. Since I didn't have children to worry about and had a husband who worked late quite a bit, I was there early and got a seat up towards the front on a lovely wooden bench. She spoke and did a reading and I just loved her in a very, "oh, she's a great storyteller, and wow isn't she so interesting, and oh my, she's a published author and oh so famous" sort of way.

Contrast this to last night. I had to cook dinner before 5:00, when I had to pick up my son from performing arts club, then get all three of them back home, fed and properly attired for football/cheerleading practice at 6:00. My husband, who is working on a project north of town, had to slog through rush hour traffic to try to get home in time for said practice and for me to make it to Green Hills by 6:30. This was the plan, but as I'm sure you all can guess, it wasn't quite executed. I got my kids ready, but not myself. My hubby got home about 5 minutes after 6:00 (when they were supposed to be at practice), and I still didn't have my books rounded up for her to sign. I made it out of the house at 6:13, only to have to return at 6:16 to get my camera. Needless to say, I showed up about 10 minutes before she spoke at 7:00 and got a really crappy seat in the back.

Just to set the stage, this woman has a cult-like following now. It wasn't no 1996, that's for sure. People came out of the woodwork (some of them came out of some very strange woodwork) to see her. I sat in front of a woman who had brought her six-year-old son with her. I found this mildly interesting at the time because Diana is far from a children's author. In fact, she is the opposite of a children's author. If you have not read her, dear readers, she has what one might call "a gift" for sex scenes. I'm not saying they are graphic, but they are, hmmm, how shall I put it? Vivid, descriptive, erotic? Yep, that about sums it up. Anyway, when I saw her back in '96, she told us that husbands of her readers fall into two camps, a.) they hate her because their wife gets a new book and disappears for a week to read all leventy-hundred pages of it and ignores him, or b.) they love her because they never get as much sex as when their wife is reading her books.

Needless to say, a children's author she is not. So, she talked for about 20 minutes, telling us how she wrote her first "practice" book (which is Outlander) that was not going to be read by anyone when she was 35 and was working two jobs and had three kids under six. *Okay, now I feel like a slug, and I can never use the "I have small children at home" excuse again.* And then she answered our questions. I asked her what time of day she wrote since she did have three small children, and she was just lovely and very encouraging to me and I felt so special until some crazy lady interupted her to ask another question while she was still answering mine, rude! And then she began her reading.

Well, I knew as soon as Claire (the main character) saw Jamie (her husband, the other main character) taking his spring bath in a creek and she followed him up a path in the mountains what was, er, coming AND I WANTED TO DIE!!! In my brain I am scream whispering the whole time, "She is not reading a sex scene. She is not. She can't be. We're in a book store. In public. IN THE SOUTH! She's going to stop before things go too far and not read an actual SEX SCENE in public." But oh, dear readers, she pretty much did. They didn't do 'the deed,' but Claire was doing something worse to Jamie than the actual deed when it comes to reading it outloud!

And here's the kicker. Remember, there was A SIX-YEAR-OLD LITTLE BOY SITTING DIRECLTY BEHIND ME! I promise you it was all I could do not to turn around, clamp my hands over his pretty little ears and sing the Lalala's to him myself. His momma was all ga ga and fainting over being in the same room with Diana, so I'm pretty sure she didn't have the good sense to do it herself. Did I mention I wanted to die from embarrassment. Even if the little boy had not been there -- and in her defense, there is no way she could have seen him in the way back sitting behind all the grown ups -- I think I would have been embarrassed.

Now don't get me wrong, dear readers, I am working on a book, and I am sure there will be a S*E*X scene or two in there. And frankly, I think there is nothing wrong with me reading or writing about "naughty married people stuff" as Joshilyn Jackson, another of my favorite authors, calls her sex scenes. But I cannot ever even fathom reading it outloud to a group at the Green Hills Mall where unsuspecting patrons are eating dinner at the cafe' next to us, unless I was drunk. And frankly I think an author showing up to a book signing intoxicated would be bad form.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe my Southern Baptist Roots are showing, but Have Mercy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

I might be falling in love

I am contemplating an affair. No dear readers, not THAT kind of affair. I'm contemplating cheating on a relationship that has been around much longer than my marriage -- my relationship with hot tea.

I've been faithful to tea since I was but a tween. It probably began when the Japanese restaurant moved to the town we frequented when I was about 12. They served hot green tea in cute little cups with no handles that I slurped up with abandon. It moved to steeping Lipton tea bags in hot water at home when I was a teen. Then in college on a class trip off campus to watch an international video that never materialized due to technical difficulties, I met Earl. Since we were meeting off campus and many professors were attending, we lowly college students were treated to a bagels and muffins breakfast complete with coffee and tea. My dear, sweet, precious friend Mary was there and offered me some Earl Grey. "What's that?" I asked genuinely ignorant. Being the sweet, precious friend she was, she tried to hide her shock and embarrassment for me and replied sweetly, "It's a kind of hot tea."

*Dear readers, have I mentioned that I grew up in a little town in East Tennessee that was "Country" with a capital "C"? Yes, I have mentioned this more than once? Oh, okay. Just wanted you to know.* Growing up in my house if you asked for some tea, you got a big old glass of iced tea that was so sweet your teeth would ache. My whole family loves iced tea. But hot tea? My parents still wonder why on earth you would want to ruin tea by drinking it hot and putting milk in it for goodness sakes. Needless to say, my knowledge of tea (and pretty much anything culinary that could not be eaten at a 'meat and three') was limited.

Trying to shake off my embarrassment, I agreed to give Earl a try. And we've been together ever since. Earl is my go-to guy. Yes, I love a good strong black tea in the morning such as English or Irish Breakfast, but at "tea time" in the afternoon an hour before my kids get off the bus and while my little one is still napping, give me a big old cup of Earl to drink with any carbohydrate, and I am a happy woman. If that carb happens to be freshly baked scones or little tea sandwiches, I am in heaven on earth!

My love of tea and "tea time" runs deep, so I am sure that Earl and his fellow teas will be a part of my life forever. But even though I love Earl, I'm having a hard time remaining faithful. I've started a flirtation with Lattes. *Everybody is drinking lattes, you say? I'm about 10 years late to this party, you say? Yes, dear readers I know. I am slow to change and have not wanted to jump on the java bandwagon. But have mercy, I cannot seem to help myself.*

I mentioned earlier that I have never been a coffee fan. I blame my mother. (Love you mom!) My mother is one of those women who drinks a scalding hot cup of coffee in the middle of a heat wave in July. To say she is a coffee addict would be a gross understatement. Coffee is not a drink to her, it is a way of life. And frankly, her coffee way of life is a slow one. I cannot count the number of dinners I endured as a child where I had to "sit still" while mom drank her after-dinner coffee. Then there were the afternoons she would spend at Miss Jane's house, the two of them drinking cup after cup of coffee while I was sent to another room "to play." I associate coffee with my mother so much so that one of my fondest pictures of her was taken at Miss Jane's house with a cup of coffee in hand.

So to me coffee was a stinky drink that was so much a part of my mother that I could never consider it to be part of me. Or if it was going to be part of me, it would be me when I was "old" and a mother. When I went off to college, I was told that after the first semester I would love both beer and coffee. While I did acquire a taste for a good margarita and vodka mixed with any fruit juice (in moderation, of course!), I never did acquire a taste for coffee. I got my caffeine from hot tea and iced cold Coca-Cola.

Even when Starbucks hit the scene in the South, I could not be swayed. Spend five bucks on coffee? Are you crazy? I'll pass on the grande mocha locha soy chai whatever it is you are serving at Starbucks and go with the $1.50 32 oz. Coke from McD's. But then Sonic started making lattes for $2.50 and gave a few of them away for free in the beginning. One of my first attempts at drinking coffee was basically a coffee milkshake from Sonic. After drinking two or three of those in one week while my husband was working out of town for the entire summer, I realized that if I kept it up, I'd weigh 300+ pounds when he got home and that probably wasn't a good idea.

So I moved on to Sonic's iced lattes, and every now and then a hot latte. Besides the chocolate and caramel syrup and whipped cream that make it so heavenly, I think what I love most is the JOLT of caffeine that I get. Having been a Coke and tea drinker my whole life, I am just not used to the massive amount of pep I get from the caffeine in a latte. It is amazing. It makes me feel like I can accomplish twice as much in my day. Why oh why haven't I been drinking this stuff for years! *Hi, my name is Lori, and I'm a caffeine addict.*

So I've been drinking an occasional latte at Sonic and yes, even Starbucks, for the last year or so. But on Wednesday, I took the plunge into real coffee. I went to my Bible study in the pouring rain and then sat shivering in the big air conditioned room like a drowned rat. The lovely ladies sponsoring this study had muffins and sweet bread and coffee for us all. I was freezing and a cup of hot anything sounded good. I contemplated drinking this "regular" coffee and then noticed they had hazelnut and regular creamer. I poured half a cup of coffee and then dumped in almost as much of both creamers. And it was drinkable, almost even good. Good enough in fact for me to drink two more cups. Did I mention I was wet and freezing? So now I realize that given enough creamer and sugar, I can even drink "regular" coffee.

The funny thing about my coffee drinking is that I still don't have to reconcile the fact that "I am becoming my mother." My mother, the woman who has coffee running through her veins, hates all things latte and Starbucksy. She thinks Starbucks makes the worst coffee on the planet. To her it is entirely too strong and she will drink her plain McD's coffee with a splash of milk, thank you very much. I find this comforting. Coffee is and always will be my mother's drink, not mine. But lattes, or a facsimile thereof, I think I'm falling love.