Friday, July 31, 2009

July's Addictions

July seemed to fly by and drag at the same time.
Here's what kept me company in July:

July's Addictions:

1) Tomatoes! What's better in the summer than garden fresh tomatoes?

2) My water bottle. I did the whole switch from plastic to aluminum this month. I will admit that it keeps the water colder and I'm drinking more. But I do feel like there's a slightly metalic taste to the water. Like old school canteens from girl scouts.

3) Breakfast Smoothies: I've tried banana, strawberry, blueberry, mango, raspberry, and melon. I love em. My blender's been working hard this month.

4) My Giant UNCW sweatshirt! Remember being in camp when you were little and there was that sweatshirt you loved? The one that was about 6 sizes too big and super comfortable? The one you would sit around a bonfire and pull your knees and feet inside the sweatshirt? The one that always smelled like summer? I got one of those. It's been cool and rainy this summer. Good for sweatshirts.

5) Movie Nights! Again, the cool rainy weather. Good weather to hang out with your best buds and watch the entire Harry Potter collection in preparation for the new one.

As always, thanks to Brazen for the addictions idea.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


It's funny how sometimes when you start thinking about something, it pops up everywhere. Maybe these things are always there, but you just don't notice them until you start noticing, ya know?

On my last post, I talked about all the stuff in my grandfather's house that were packaged up and never used.

Strangely, last week, I was talking to a friend of mine who told me a story about a home care patient that she had. This poor lady slept in a giant, threadbare tee shirt every day. "It was more like a rag than a shirt" my friend said. So my friend went out and bought her a nice, pretty, comfortable nightgown for this lady. When she brought it to her, the woman said "Oh, how beautiful! Could you put it in the dresser in the spare bedroom?" When my friend went to the spare bedroom, she found a dresser FILLED with brand new, unworn nightgowns while the woman continued to wear the old tee shirt.

I think we all tend to do this to some degree. We have the "good china" that we only use when company is over, the special occasion outfits that we wear once or twice a year, the good champagne that sits around waiting for something fitting enough to warrant it's opening.

With me, it's homemade soaps and fancy body lotion. I have tons. I've acquired them as gifts or at craft fairs over the years. And they sit under the sink or in fancy baskets on the shelves in the bathroom while I use on-sale body wash and unscented lotion.

Last week, as I moved to the bathroom for decluttering, I tackled this problem head on. It kind of helped that I ran out of a lot of things this week -- I used the last of the shampoo, body wash, mouthwash, toothpaste, and lotion all within two days. All the previous decluttering in the bathroom has left me with a better idea of what I actually have. So instead of going out to the store and picking up more on-sale toiletries, I busted into the "special occasion" stuff. (exactly what special occasion warrants the opening of handmade soap, I have no idea)

July 20: Went through the under sink area and took out all products from "multiples" packaging (you know, when you buy three tubes of toothpaste and it comes in a giant box for all three?) For some reason, I had been keeping everything in the big boxes. I removed all the boxes (recycling) and opened up alot of space down there.

July 21: Went through a basket and put some hair clips I haven't used in a while to the goodwill bag.

July 22: Busted into the soaps! The lotions! The new toothbrushes! And even though technically didn't get rid of something, I prevented myself from bringing more into the house, so I'm gonna let this count.

July 23: Finished a book and put it in the book donation bag.

July 24: Laundry day! Put a tank top in the goodwill bag.

July 25: I have a little zip up bag with perfume samples (how this came into my possession, I have no idea). I put them aside to give to my niece. I will never use them, but she can use them when her friends play beauty shop.

July 26: tossed some sunscreen that was over a year old.

Next week, I 'm moving on to the entry way.

Monday, July 27, 2009

a lifetime of stuff

For the past few weeks I have been struggling a bit with the decluttering goal. I was losing steam, and then becoming a bit exhausted as I forced myself to attend to long over decisions about clutter. It was chugging along, but feeling very forced and difficult.

Today I saw first hand why my whole decluttering goal is worthwhile and important.

I spent the better part of the day with several others going through the stuff in my grandfather's house.

My grandfather was a saver. He was also a nester; one of those people who feel more comfortable when they create a little haven -- a nest -- of all their stuff. You could see his favorite place to sit on the sofa and a semi-circle of necessities around it. Beyond this little semi-circle was possible every single item he has ever owned in his long, interesting life.

It's difficult to go through somebody else's stuff and determine what goes and where. What is trash? What is donatable? What should be kept aside for family and friends? There's always that lingering thought in the back of your mind: I have to be respectful of his stuff.

I found a drawer with 23 pairs of eyeglasses in it. From the style of frames and increasingly thickening lenses, I concluded that he had saved every pair of glasses since at least the 1950's. In another drawer was a pile of glasses cases. I was able to put all the glasses in cases and put them in a bag to donate to the Lions' Club, which gives the glasses to people in need. I found sheets in every imaginable size and pattern. (I'm not sure why he had twin, full, and king sized sheets when his bed was queen sized. ) And he had more wallets and leather gloves than I would ever have imagined.

Then were the things that were so HIM. His art supplies, which were packed up for my artist-uncle. His large assortment of beautiful house plants that will go to my aunt. His framed black and white photographs. His paintings. His charcoal sketches. His collection of short stories was put aside for me. (I'm thinking of scanning them into the computer and printing out some bound copies for Christmas presents this year.) It's funny how many of his traits were reflected in future generations.

I kept wondering though, if things may have been more comfortable if there was less stuff for him to have to negotiate around. If he had just the important things like the paintings and the photos and the stories, but not as many gloves or shoes. It sort of made me sad that a lot of his important things were buried beneath the not-so-important things. And it also made me sad that he had so many things that he had never used.

But then again, I'm happy that in the center of his nest were a lot of well used things: his journal, a pile of books, a stack of DVDs, a popcorn bowl, and his coffee cup.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

draining weekend

Hi all!

It's been an exhausting weekend, both physically and emotionally. I went to a pilates mat certification class which was fantastic, and now my entire body feels like it's stretched just a little too tight. I can feel exactly where every one of my core muscles originates and ends. And it sort of feels good, sort of feels like I want to cry.

I saw my neice and nephew this weekend and that's always fun. It's amazing how they can be so cute and so terrifying within seconds. My nephew told me a story about how the bunny in the yard had a birthday party with a chipmunk, a mouse, a squirrel, and the cast of "Madagascar". And then my neice had a melt down the likes of which I have never personally witnessed. It rivaled anything I've ever seen on "Supernanny". It lasted over an hour. But when all was said and done and she was on the sofa, red, puffy eyed, and completely spent, she just wanted to know if I still loved her even though she was naughty. I said no.

I'm kidding! The poor thing looked so concerned that I actually might not love her anymore, it made me want to cry.

And then, this weekend, I did cry.

My grandfather passed away on Saturday night. He died peacefully. He was able to stay at home on his own terms until the very end. He lived a good life. I tell myself these things, but I'm still crying.

Much like my neice, I am completely spent.

And still, life goes marching on.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

funky versus giddy

Well, after my post about the deep blue funk, I read MamaKat's weekly writing prompts. And I figured that maybe I would just blog my way out of this funk. By answering the question: "What are you giddy about?" Mr. Funk, meet Little Miss Giddy Pants!


Mr. Funk: It's pouring rain again. And it's cold. The weather this summer sucks!
Miss Giddy: But look at how green everything is! And it's good sleeping weather. And you can't hear the rooster as much when his crowing is drowned out by the sound of rain!

THE WINNER: Deep Blue Funk



Funkadelic: Nerd is moving.
Giddy Girl: He's going to grad school! At an amazing university. You're happy for him and you know it. Besides, tomorrow night, you have a hot date...with a two year old! (We're going to do dinner and dancing)

THE WINNER: Little Miss Giddy Pie



Funkenstein: Hi-ho, hi-ho; it's off to work I go. Forever and ever with no forseeable end in sight. No matter how great or how uninspired I feel. There will always be a giant wait list of more and more patients to see, piling up with never a break. And don't forget the paperwork!

Giddy-Up: But you WERE inspired today! And you discharged two people earlier than you thought, because they got better faster. And you're going to a pilates certification class tomorrow. More opportunities. ANd you can always go back to traveling.




Funky Town: I've been slacking on my workouts. I seem to have lost that excitement about triathlons and marathons. Eating doritos seems just as good an option and running.

Giddy: Um, pilates certification? Three days of non-stop working out ahead. Plus...another person at work is doing the same olympic tri as me, and three other people have a team. The hospital is getting us cool max shirts and we are now officially the "TEAM". How fun is that?

THE WINNER: Little Miss Giddy !


Oh, look, I'm giddy after all!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

a deep blue funk

I have been trying to post a little more often, and with a little more material than rote listings of crap I've thrown away. (Really? It seemed like such a good idea in January!)

I could comment on last week's pathetic weight loss (.5 lbs) and then go on to justify why it was so low. (It took my crazy triathlete friend 5 months to drop 12 pounds, so I shouldn't feel bad. But then again, she's doing Lake Placid this week with hopes of qualifying for Kona and I drank myself into a whirling dervish of stupidity last weekend)

I could do any number of things.

But....sigh...I don't feel like it.

Sometime over the past week I slipped into something that's not quite depression, buy almost. I call it a deep blue funk. It's generally a stranger is summer months. But nonetheless, it's here now. In the house with me. Sitting next to me in the jeep. Looking over my shoulder at work. Perched on the treadmill next to me at the gym. Mr. Deep Blue Funk.

He makes me remember things like -- why I moved away from here in the first place all those years ago. And forget things like -- why I moved back. I glaze over occurrences like-- laughing until both J and I were prone on the floor, yelling scathing but funny comments at the drivel that was parading in front of us in the form of a movie. And yet I obsess over things like how we have such different ideas of where we want our lives to go from here and sometimes that makes me feel like we don't know each other at all.

The rain continues to fall outside and I don't have any feelings either way. Except that maybe it's good sleeping weather.

And Nerd's officially moving out of state. Good-bye.

Sigh. Maybe I should just end this post. Mr. Deep Blue Funk is waiting to chat.

Monday, July 20, 2009

cutting down on paperwork

After last week's strategy of attacking the most difficult thing first, I decided to continue in that vein this week. I was focusing on the office area, since that area has looked quite messy lately. And the messiest of it all? Papers.

July 13: Earlier in the year, I had made it a goal to consolidate all the old retirement plans from previous jobs that were just sitting there in old accounts. I finally got that taken care of, and yet I still have the monthly statements from who-knows-how-long in my files. Today, I went through and pulled out the old statements from closed accounts and shredded them. To put into the recycling bin.

July 14: Under the laptop, I had papers with passwords from various accounts written down. I got rid of all the old accounts and passwords and whittled it down to one index card.

July 15: Went through the pile of CD's on the side of the desk and got them all uploaded onto my iTunes account to put on my ipod. Put all those away in the CD case. Maybe at some point I need to go through the CD case and get rid of some unwanted CD's?

July 16: Like maybe today! I put 3 CD's away aside to send to Isabella. I think she'd like em.

July 17: I also put a book aside to send to Isabella.

July 18: While neatening the books on the bookshelf, I saw a few letters sticking out of my address book. I had written them, but neglected to send them (probably ran out of stamps or something) So I addressed and stamped them, as well as writing out 3 more cards for people. (getting through the card pile, as well)

July 19: Took a box from the supply in the storage area to pack up and send Isabella's stuff.

So....much less paper clutter, one less flute. What is the next big thing I've been avoiding?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Problem with Nicholas Sparks

One of the drawbacks to Netflix is that movies tend to go into the queue in categories. For instance, you may get four Russel Crowe movies in a row or three movies about vampires in a row. Unless you periodically go onto the website and rearrange the queue (which I don't) the category phenomenon happens quite a bit.

After the past few movie selections that have appeared in my mailbox, I am left with one question: Is Nicholas Sparks a chick? After seeing The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, and Nights in Rodanthe all in a row, I suspect that maybe Mr. Sparks had his Y chromosomes surgically removed.

I think I have more testosterone coursing through my veins than Nicholas Sparks! But his movies are good for a night of rolling on the floor in fits of laughter with your best friend.

Oh, and is it wrong that I felt more empathy toward the little computerized claymation guy from UP than I did for any of the characters in Nicholas Sparks' movies?

Please say yes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

tuesday's bad dates: Marv

Last night, I was talking to a friend I haven't seen in a while. I asked her about they guy she's been dating. And the story she told me made me actually quite grateful for the bad dates I've experienced.

Barb met her guy, Merv, at a tai chi class at her gym. He seemed to be a perfect match for her; he was into tai chi and yoga, he was taking a transcendental meditation class. At the same time, he was into rock climbing and drove a Harley. Plus, he loved middle eastern food and musical theater, just like her. They seemed like a match made in heaven.

Then came the night that he took her to see Rent. They went to an early show and then out to dinner. Afterward, they were strolling through the public gardens and talking. (so far, so good) At this point, a homeless person came up to them and asked for money. They declined. He kept asking for money. They told him they didn't have any. He again asked them to check: maybe they had just one dollar.

Marv, at this point, reached into his jacket and pulled out -- no, not his wallet -- he reached in and pulled out A GUN!

A GUN! Who the hell pulls a gun on a homeless person? It's not like he held them up at knife point and demanded all their money. It's not like he attacked them. He was just being an annoying homeless person begging for money.

The strange part of this little tale is that the homeless guy just shrugged and walked away, completely unfazed.

Not so with Barb. "What the hell was that?" she screamed at Marv.

"Relax" he said. "It wasn't loaded."

Needless to say, that was their last date.

Looks like Marv needs a few hundred more of those meditation classes.

Monday, July 13, 2009

the elephant in the room

Ok, first this: For the love of Pete! After drinking more water, recording food intake, cutting out the processed snacks, and increasing fruit and veggie intake; not to mention swimming a mile, biking 24 miles, and running 6 miles back to back, you would think I'd drop more than ONE STINKING POUND in a week! I mean, yes, it's in the right direction, and no, I don't expect those ridiculous "Biggest Loser" losses in a week, but is TWO too much to ask?????

Just had to get that out of my system. I guess I'll take the one pound. (That plus last week is the two pounds I put on last month.) It was just so much easier to put them on than to take them off! This week, since I seem to get the night time munchies, I am instituting the "cup of herbal tea after dinner" rule. Maybe that'll get me another 2 ounces. Or something.

And now this:

Now that it's July, I'm more than half way into the "one thing a day for a year" plan for decluttering. And I found myself back in the bedroom. And while last week I successfully dodged the one area I really needed to be focusing on, this week, I took the opposite approach.

Of course, some things were easy, no-brainers. Like going through the pile of socks without matches and throwing out the socks that have been there for a long enough period (July 6). Some things took a little bit of thought and effort, like going through some binders from courses I took and weeding out papers that I don't need. (Recycling bin. July 7) Or taking some paints out of a box with craft supplies and putting them aside to give to my nieces. (July 8) Some things are part a bigger project, like finishing a book and putting it in a donation bag (July 9) or finishing the video course and putting the videos in the donation bag, as well (July 10), or putting a pair of socks in the other donation bag on laundry day (July 11).

Then there's the big elephant in the corner. Or, in my case, the wooden flute in the corner. M gave me that flute when we were still together. He was a pretty good musician. He was the reason I started playing guitar. He also had a thing for Native American music and handmade flutes. He had 3 or 4 of them; he got me one at a festival along with an instruction pamphlet. The flute was a bit harder for me to pick up than the guitar, but I still practiced it, imagining of the two of us playing together.

After we broke up, I never had the desire to play the flute again.

For a while, I agonized over what I was going to do with it. I asked every musician-type person I knew. Nobody was interested in it. My friends had other ideas: "Let's burn it!", "Let's smash it", "Let's bury it in a pile of manure!" While I could see where the emotions behind those suggestions came from, I couldn't bring myself to destroy a musical instrument, and a handmade one, at that. (I inwardly cringe when I see old footage of The Who smashing their guitars onstage) In the end, the flute became a non-object. Though it was in the bedroom, my eyes passed right over it and I ceased to see it. It simply sat in the corner and gathered dust.

That's the thing about this decluttering goal: I'm forced to look at those non-objects and see them as objects. Objects I need to make a decision about.

And last week, I decided to send the flute back to M.

Even though that decision may re-open wounds that have healed or open up a whole other can of worms that I haven't even anticipated.

The bottom line is, when I really had to decide what I wanted to do with this one object I had been avoiding, I decided I wanted to send it where it would be used and appreciated. And he is the only person I know who would use and appreciate it.

Strange...I haven't even SEEN the flute for months. But now that it's gone, I look into the corner and miss it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

summer weekends

I love looking around my apartment on Sunday night, I seeing summer strewn all about.


1) Your shower has three bathing suits and a wetsuit hanging in it.

2) There are no clean towels in the house.

3) The front entryway has two pairs of sneakers, flip flops, tevas, and a dressy pair of shoes in a heap.

4) The car key has been pulled off the keychain for ease of carrying.

5) There is a lingering scent of sunscreen in the air.

6) There is a fine layer of beach sand on the floor.

7) There are two sweatshirts in the laundry basket: one smells like campfire smoke, the other is covered with sticky goo from the movie theater seats.

8) Your quads are on fire.

9) You have earned a new nickname over the weekend.

10) Your quads are on fire and you feel justified in eating as much ice cream as you want on Sunday night.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

camping advice

Since it looks like the rain is going to take a much needed break this weekend, J and K are going to go camping with the little one. Though camping is pretty much my most favorite activity on earth, I will not be accompanying J and K. I have a wedding to go to on Saturday evening and a race to compete in bright and early Sunday morning.

Instead of participating in the camping trip, I decided I would participate in spirit by writing on this week's prompt by MamaKat about camping!

When we were in our 20's, our little circle of friends went camping almost every weekend from May to September. Sometimes they were planned trips up to New Hampshire or Maine and sometimes they were impromptu pass out sessions on the beach or in the state forest. As we have gotten older and pretty much everyone in the world except me married off and had children, the meaning of "camping" has changed dramatically. While I fully understand that toddlers need more stuff than drunk adults, I think our little circle needs to sit down and have a little pow wow about what is and is not acceptable "camping" etiquette.

For example:

5 things NEVER to bring on a camping adventure:

1) A portable DVD player: Two years ago, on our trip to the Saco River in Maine, we had a couple who stayed in the tent, watching Goodfellas instead of watching the lightening storm. That's just wrong! (and sadly, I may be the only one who didn't think bringing the DVD player was a good idea)

2) A dustbuster I understand taking shoes off before entering the tent. But a dustbuster? NO.

3) A full sized gas grill from your back deck Does anyone see a pattern developing here?

4) Four pair of Uggs They are just impractical. In any number.

5) Bean Dip. For everyone's sake

Five things ALWAYS to bring on a camping trip

1) The tent poles Though I think I deserve an honorary degree in engineering for rigging up the rope and stick contraption over a tree branch to hold the tent up. It just wasn't as rain proof as I would have hoped

2) M & M's They're the only thing anyone eats out of the trail mix anyway, so just save a few steps

3) Handi-wipes I once washed my entire body with ONE handi-wipe ripped into eight sections.

4) A sleeping Pad Especially if temperatures are supposed to dip below freezing

5) Somebody to aggravate in the middle of the night Though I have gone on (and loved) countless solo adventures, lets face it: bugging the crap out of somebody at 2:30 am in a tent is what camping is all about!

Get the heck out and do something nice this weekend, y'all!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Today's date got me thinking of one of the few clean, kid friendly jokes I know:

"Why is six afraid of seven? Because seven-ate-nine."

It's funny: I have no shortage of dirty, inappropriate for kiddies jokes. They are HILARIOUS! But take out the swears, the double entendres, the all out smut, and jokes seem to fall flat. Jokes that I can tell children or more conservative adult friends, I can count on one hand.

Case in point:

1) "If Mississippi wore Missouri's New Jersey, what would Delaware? Idaho, Alaska!"

2) "Where do hotdogs and hamburgers go when they want to dance? To the meatball"

3) "What did the zero say to the eight? Nice belt."

And I'm drawing a blank right now for more adult jokes that aren't about the Pythagorean theory, the theory of relativity, chemistry, or anatomy. I'd share those with y'all, because --hello, bloggie land --- you guys are probably bigger nerd than I am. But they tend to be long and rambling.

Why is it that the "Wedding Crasher", "Knocked Up", "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" style jokes are so abundant, but the "Grumpy Old Men", "Uncle Buck" kind of jokes are so rare?

Anybody know any good, clean jokes? Share em with me!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Losing It

Last week found me back in the kitchen, starting all over from the beginning with the decluttering routine. Last week also found me trying to lose extra "clutter" of a different sort: the four pounds I put on over the last 2 months. Since the slow and steady approach seems to be working just swimmingly for the decluttering process, I figured the same approach may work for weight loss. So last week, I set out to: 1) drink more water 2) record my food intake and 3) cut out the processed snacks at work (like the snackwells and frozen yogurt in the afternoon).

I am happy to report that even after the July 4th weekend debauchery (6 beers this weekend, anyone?) I still managed to lose 1#. Not great. But in light of the festivities, not bad, either. (at least I'm going in the right direction)

In the kitchen, I noticed as the week ended, that there's one place I'm avoiding (much like the dreaded storage closet). Under the sink! Next time around, I'll definitely have to devote the entire kitchen week to UNDER THE SINK. But this post isn't about next time. It's about this time. ANd this time around, I got rid of:

June 29: Went through all the papers posted on the fridge and weeded out the outdated notices. Put all that in the recycling bin.

June 30: Gathered all the plastic spoons, forks, and knives in the utensel drawer for recycling.

July 1: Today I finished a book and put it in the book donation bag.

July 2: I had been using a plastic container that had once contained cottage cheese for a storage container. This is not the smartest thing I've ever done. They are not microwave safe and apparently they leach toxins or something. So rather than giving myself a nice, slow cancerous tumor, I put the container in the recycling bin.

July 3: Threw away an old, disgusting cleaning rag that really has served its purpose well.

July 4: Took the top off the Jeep! And remembered that my toolbox had cracked and fallen to pieces when I put the hard top on last fall. I made a mental note to get a new toolbox and forgot. But, in the kitchen I had a nifty little square container with lots of compartments. Perfect for repurposing!

July 5: Laundry day! Got rid of a T-shirt.

Next week, onto the bedroom. And...eating at least 5 fruits and veggies per day, rather than the convenient "fake nutrition" food I've come to rely on (like protein shakes and power bars).

Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 4th Weekend

Memorial Day is the traditional "start of summer" holiday, but around here, this past holiday weekend always seems more like summer's beginning. July 4th weekend is the big holiday that all the summer people come back. Even if they no longer spend the summer in their cottages, or even get down for weekends, everyone always manages to be here for July 4th weekend.

Even more important than July 4th is July 3rd. July 3rd is the night for bonfires on the beach, illegal fireworks that somebody brought back from a trip to South Carolina, and reconnecting with people you haven't seen in a year (and won't see again for another year). July 3rd is the day for getting rid of all the dead tree limbs littering up the yard, or possibly all the scrap lumber for those who built a new deck. In our younger days, July 3rd was one long epic adventure, hauling loads of wood to the beach, finding a center pole, grabbing sub sandwiches for lunch, and sneaking two liter bottles of wine cooler down to the sand via elaborate paths through the overgrown bluffs. As we got older, we relinquished the fire building duties to the teenage crowd and showed up for the pyrotechnics at dusk.

This year, the sheer number of June storms had wreaked havoc on the beach. So much sand has been washed away that at high tide, the water comes right up to the retaining wall. Hence, very little room for bonfires this year. On top of that, darkness falls around 9:00 pm, and high tide comes at 9:30. Very little time for pyrotechnics this year. As we walked along the narrow strip of sand, looking at the tiny pyres going out from the incoming waves, it felt different. Like a grand tradition had changed irrevocably.

The teenagers no longer seemed so earnest in their efforts to make July 3rd unforgettable. They sat on the jetty, texting their friends and ignoring the chaos around them. Old friends sat on porches, rather than the beach. People checked their watches and started for home before it was even dark.

I wondered if the teenagers would have such fond memories of July 3rd as I do. Where was the epic adventure? Where were the truckloads of wood, the solemn goodbyes to the porches and picket fences we had grown up with? Where were the endless treks up and down the beach, looking for the couple of friends that had somehow gotten separated from the group?

And just as I was thinking that everything had changed, Jay F showed up and started yelling at all the kids before getting into an argument with the cops. Oh, I had forgotten about Jay F! Jay F was always yelling at us when we were 17, chasing us through the trees on the curving paths to the sand. Jay F was always trying to take control of the bonfire and insisting he was the only person who knew how to light a fire. And every year, Jay F would get into a huge argument with the police before storming home, grumbling and swearing the whole way. This year was no different.

As I watched Jay F stomp off toward home, I realized that everything about July 3rd hadn't changed. Some years there's more sand, some years there's less. Some years the fires are roaring and some years they are small. All we can do is ride out the waves and search our own small stretch of sand in for any treasures the tides have left us.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Top Dog


Last week, I had the privilege of meeting a really great guy. He was a patient who I thought was going to be a very easy, straightforward evaluation -- rotator cuff repair.

When he came in, though, I noticed that though his "past medical history" form was essentially blank, he was wearing an eye patch. (the glasses with a dark lens kind, not the Captain Jack Sparrow kind) When I inquired about this, he visibly tensed, took a careful breath and spoke.

"Eight years ago, my wife and I were both diagnosed with cancer on the same day." It seems he had a very rare type of cancer; a tumor in the tear duct of his right eye. They were able to eradicate the cancer, but to do so, they had to take his eye, tear ducts, optic nerve, and part of his skull. (Hence the eye patch) His wife was not so fortunate. "Two years ago, she died of liver cancer. They just weren't able to save her."

"I'm so sorry" I said to him.

"It's OK" he said. "I'm doing better and I'm healing. But now, I need to focus on healing my shoulder."

We went on to do the rest of the eval and then we got to my favorite part of any evaluation: "What do you love to do that you're unable to do right now? What do we need to get you back doing?" I asked.

"I'm not sure what you're asking" he said.

"Well, do you like to work in the garden or golf? Do you like to paint? Do you need a strong shoulder to hold the leash while you walk your dog on the beach?"

He started crying then. "I'm sorry," he said. "My dog died 6 weeks ago. She was all I had left after my wife died and now she's gone. I feel like I have nothing. Body was my best friend. Losing her was almost worse than losing my wife. Please...don't think I'm a terrible person for saying that."

By now, I was almost crying myself. "I don't think you're a terrible person. I know what you're trying to say. It must have been so very hard to lose your wife. But you got through it because you had your dog to get up and walk and feed every day. And now, it must feel like you're losing your dog and your wife all over again at the same time."

"Yes!" he said. "That's exactly what it feels like. You hit the nail right on the head. But I shouldn't be getting all emotional when we're supposed to be concentrating on my shoulder."

"You have the right to get emotional any time" I said. Then I told him how 3 months after my dad's dog died, I saw a man walking a yellow lab in the snow and I cried in my car all the way from Massachusetts to New Jersey. "It's OK to let it out if you need to" I said.

We pulled ourselves together and finished the eval. I sent him on his way. Then I ran and got my secret weapon: the hospital social worker. I told her about this guy and she was able to magically conjure up something just perfect for him.

Later that day, I called and left a message on his machine about a men's bereavement group on Cape Cod. It's a group of men who have all lost their wives and meet weekly. But instead of sitting around talking about their feelings, they go fishing. Or bowling. Or eat vast quantities of MEAT. You know, MANLY things.

I wasn't sure if he would even be interested, but I needed to do something for this guy. You know, so that I could feel free to enjoy the exactly 2.3 hours of beach weather we had over the weekend.

This week, when he came in for therapy, he looked...different. To say he had a spring in his step would be overstating things. But when he walked in, he didn't look like he had a black cloud over his head and a 200 pound weight on his shoulders. He almost looked content.

"How are you feeling?" I asked.

"I am feeling better than I have in months!" he said. "My shoulder doesn't hurt nearly as much as before. You are the best physical therapist I've ever had!"

"But," I stammered, "I haven't done anything yet!"

"Yes, you did" he said. "You listened to me last week. You let me say what I needed to say and didn't tell me how I should be feeling. Then, you let me know that you cared when you called me later on that day."

"Oh, that's OK" I said. "It's really the social worker we should be thanking."

"No, " he said. "I knew about that group, but I never wanted to go. But since you cared enough to call, I contacted them and went out this weekend with the guys."

"Oh, that's great," I said.

"You know, I don't feel so alone anymore" he said. "I even got to meet our group's mascot, Buddy the labradoodle."

If I had a tail, I'd be wagging it right now.