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Slow Down

August 31st, 2011 Stacey No comments

Never under estimate the power of the number 115. Particularly not when staring down a temperature gauge.

Had I recognized its intensity, I might not have found myself doing point-ballet from my car to my front door after walking outside barefoot musing, “How bad could it be?”

Rushing toward the minivan’s shadow, eyes on my burning toes, I danced over a resting butterfly. Despite its attempts to flutter away, it barely hovered over the steaming cement.

My heels fell to the ground as I stooped to lift the delicate creature from where it lay nearly paralyzed.

In the cool of our air conditioner, we sat for a while. Drop by drop, it drank from my palm.

Until, finally, it had its fill. And found its peace.

I carried the lightly quivering soul to a flower pot in my garden. Separating the blossoming leaves, I laid it down to rest.

“Slow down,” I almost heard it whisper.

“Slow down. Life is too short for you to be racing.

“Slow down. You are too young to be aching.

“Slow down.”

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Through the trees, the grass really IS greener

January 28th, 2011 Stacey No comments

Some paths we choose.   Others are less clear and forced upon us.

Photography via Michael Smith

Regardless of if your new adventure was what you wanted or if it was beyond your control, there is that pivotal moment where you actually have to say goodbye to what was and walk into what will be.  Creating a path to the unknown is .. well .. scary as fuck.  I know; I’ve been there.

Many of my friends are making that big step today.  As as they do, I encourage them to hold their heads high.  Be thankful for the opportunities you’ve had.  Proud of the company you are unfortunately leaving.  Grateful for the professionals you have met and grown with.

And remember that even through the most unmarked paths, the grass really IS greener on the other side.

Categories: Life Tags:

Ambiguous Truths

January 9th, 2011 Stacey No comments

“What do you do?”  It’s a question we all get.  A lot.

When I worked a full-time-with-routine-paychecks-and-benefits job, I thought that answer was difficult enough.

Me: “I work in advertising.”

Them: “Oh!  What commercials have you written?”

Me: “I’m not a copywriter.  I’m a media planner.  It’s my job to make sure you see the ads.”

One of two things would happen: they either looked confused; or they realized that I just told them I’m somehow responsible for interrupting their TV shows (and looked angry).

As awkward as I always found that conversation, at least my answer was always the same.  Since going independent, I’ve noticed that my answer changes depending on who asks me.

To fellow moms, in the middle of a week day: “I stay at home with my kids.”

If they catch me on a call while taking my daughter to gymnastics, going to the grocery store, or my other mom-tasks I also add: “… and I do consulting.” or  “I work from home.  And I have kids.”

I have always prided myself in not bending to appease others’ perceptions of me, so have been a bit perplexed by how shady my answer has become.  While all variations of the truth, I certainly wouldn’t call it “straightforward.”

Maybe I should just start answering, “I’m a juggler,” and be done with it.

Categories: Advertising, Life Tags:

Letting Go

October 1st, 2010 Stacey No comments

It starts with a cough. A runny nose. A warm forehead.

My pulse rises. I wipe water from my eyes.

Will that be it? Are we headed back to the hospital? Will an ambulance be involved?

I make a call. We pack a bag.

How long has she been like this? Are you giving her any medicine? How has her eating been?

The barrage of questions I know are coming play through my head as we head toward the doctor’s office. I break a sweat, wondering if the low weight displayed on the scale will bring the words “failure to thrive” up again.

That’s the way it’s been. For almost three years. Living at the mercy of my daughter’s rushed trips to the doctor’s office.

A couple months ago, it was a minor ear infection that brought us back to him. “You’re going to have to get over this,” my doctor lowered his glasses; a sign that he was serious. “Kids get sick. They’re going to get sick. She is going to get sick.”

Somehow, that advice finally sunk in.

She coughed again the other day.

She ran a low fever.

I made the call.

We left the house.

It wasn’t until we were on our way home that I even realized: I hadn’t packed a bag.

The sick season has started, but it’s not going to bring us down.

The worst is over.

Categories: Life Tags:

Hi. .. Remember me? It’s Twitty Bird.

August 31st, 2010 Stacey No comments

It’s been a while. Again. I would apologize, but I know you don’t need it. You’ve been busy, too. .. Thanks for taking your time to listen.

I’ve tried to update this space several times since my last post, but have found it (exceptionally) hard. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. Perhaps it’s that I’ve had too much on my mind.

I went home last month. For most people, perhaps that’s not such a big deal; it happens every couple months, or at least within a year (or few). .. It’d been almost 13 years since I was back to the place where I grew up.

You’ve heard the expression, “You can never go home again.” I was caught somewhere between that, and an overwhelming love for the few people from my past that remained. At the end of only a few short days, I found myself walking away, my chest overwhelmed with things that I couldn’t change or wouldn’t be.

Thirteen years. So much had changed: my childhood home was neglected; weeds were deeply rooted in cracked concrete where I met some of my oldest and best friends; hangouts and places that held so many memories were demolished or abandoned (and likely awaiting a similar fate).

What remained weren’t the streets themselves, but something beneath the surface that still threads a group of us together. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I read a post that hit straight to the heart of the connection that remained so strong.

“Social Media,” we call it these days. It’s the newest trend, so hot it’s making positions like Chief Listening Officers start to pop up. (Weren’t we supposed to be doing that, anyway?)

Back when I was in junior high, I called it a BBS (Bulletin Board System). T.R.E.X. (The Relationship EXchange), to be specific. As my title suggests, my first username was Twitty Bird.

To me, it wasn’t “Media”. It had no resemblance to where I sang along with the latest releases, mocked headlines, anticipated series finales, or sat on the edge of my seat for commercial breaks to end.

It was where I went to connect, share and be honest. With people that understood me. Because all we could do was “listen” as we typed and shared our stories well into the night.

Despite how we refer to it today, has that changed? Will calling it “Media” make it any more a palatable platform for advertising to be consumed by a product/brand’s potential purchaser?

We can want things to be whatever we choose to name them: “Home” .. “Media” .. But that doesn’t necessarily make it so.

Categories: Advertising, Life, Social Networking Tags:

“Let It Be Me”

July 15th, 2010 Stacey No comments

As kids, we’re taught to be independent. We learn how to look both ways before we cross the street, not only so that we know to be safe, but so that we can do it alone.

Sometime along the way, most people begin to struggle to ask for help when they really do need it. I know I’m not alone when I say that it’s hard for me. So difficult that I never asked for help when I needed it the most: not even from my mother; not even when she pleaded with me to let her.

Today, I’m in my 30’s.  I’m just learning how to ask for help.

I’m also a parent, facing my own desires to push my kids towards becoming their own people. At times, I forget to focus my teachings on encouraging them to ask for help when they need it, too.

It’s okay to ask for help. It’s natural to need it. We can’t, and shouldn’t, always stand alone.

As Ray LeMontagne says in his (most beautiful IMHO) song, Let It Be Me:

“There comes a time

A time in everyone’s life

Where nothing seems to go your way

Where nothing seems to turn out right

There may come a time

You just can’t seem to find your place

For every door you open

Seems like you get two slammed in your face

That’s when you need someone

Someone that you, you can call

When all your faith is gone

It feels like you can’t go on

Let it be me

If it’s a friend that you need

Let it be me”

Please note: The lyrics are not as quoted online, but as I hear them.  Perhaps I am incorrect.  Perhaps I am not.  Listen and judge for yourself.

Categories: Life Tags: , ,

Mutterings

July 10th, 2010 Stacey No comments

There are two things that I find acceptable to mutter under my breath out of frustration in my household.

One is to my husband. The other is to my kids.

See if you can match which mutter applies to which family member:

A) “Son of a bitch”

B) “Mother fucker”

Hint: I think it’s okay, because I’m really just insulting myself.

Categories: Life Tags: ,

Hope from luck

July 8th, 2010 Stacey 2 comments

The DMV is a nasty place, full of excruciatingly long lines; people waiting impatiently to hand over money they don’t want to pay; and topped off with rude clerks.  It’s hardly the place that I thought I would find a little hope, and maybe even a little good luck.

Particularly not since it took me no less than FOUR trips there to get two cars registered.  ..I won’t spoil this post with the details behind that headache.  Rather, I mention it because I’d noticed the guy perched outside the door, begging for petition signatures, for two days in a row.  Finally leaving with plates in hand, able to cross something off my to-do list and still on a kidless-high from leaving the munchkins with the sitter, I didn’t wait for my time to be requested before I approached him.

After accusing me of hitting on him, I found my flirtatious new friend telling me not only about the politician he was trying to get on the ballot, but of his own personal struggles.  (Please remember.. I’ve been practicing getting strangers to open their hearts to me within five minutes for a while, now.)

“I’m not much of a reader,” he slipped in, trying to quickly move past his words.

I stopped signing my name long enough that he made eye contact.  “That’s an interesting statement.”

“I can read sentences.. but not all together.  They stop making sense after the first or second one.  I’m just.. not much of a reader.  I’m more a ‘common sense’ kind of guy.”

After gently pushing a bit further, he told me a little about being epileptic.  Unable to drive.  Without a”real” job.

My breath was sucked from my chest as he went on to share his dream to bring joy to our local Children’s Mercy Hospital, where both he and my own daughter have spent some dark times.

Pulling his wallet from his back pocket, he picked through it carefully as we spoke.  A look of finality on his face, “Here,” he said, pressing a carefully laminated heart into my palm.  I looked down.

My lucky heart

My lucky heart

“Where did you find this?” I demanded, skeptical of the four-leaf clover I held.

“I just.. look down,” he replied, looking down, digging a half dozen more samples out to show me.  After sharing his collection, he demanded, “And what do they stand for?”

“Luck,” I stammered back.

“Exactly.  Those little things have given me luck.  Luck in health.  Luck in life.  And now.. It will bring you and your kids the same.”

The directness of his words and the heart pressed not really in laminate, but as he admitted, in packing tape, struck me in the center of my chest.  I’m not sure quite how I managed to walk away from that conversation, just as I’m still uncertain how to end this post.

Equally, I have no idea what tomorrow will bring.  Will the four leaves bring me luck?  Or will it wind up being just another superstition?

We shall see.

Categories: Life Tags:

Living life with pain

July 2nd, 2010 Stacey No comments

I’m fed up.  More so than usual.  So, I’m coming out of the closet.

I’m one of the 9% of adults in the U.S. that suffer from chronic pain.  If you’ve met me in person, this may not surprise you.  You’ve perhaps noticed the limp, heard my knees and hips pop, or seen me struggle to straighten my back.

The earliest contributor to my condition is EBV.  Basically (for me; not for most), it’s mono that reoccurs in my body.  It doesn’t lay dormant like it normally does after running its course through a correctly-functioning immune system (which mine, apparently, is not).  The virus flares up when I am sick with a cold/flu/sinus infection/etc; if I don’t sleep enough; if I don’t eat enough (tricky little bug, since it makes you not hungry); sometimes, even if I’m just carrying too much stress.

One big side-effect of EBV is the fatigue.  Fatigue that doesn’t make me feel unable to focus, but like I’m unable to support my body or lift my arms.  When living through a flare-up, I take baths rather than showers.  I sit while I brush my teeth.  When I can get away with it, I don’t brush my hair at all.  (Not.worth.the.effort..)  I fall a lot, because my legs lose the ability to support my small frame.  (Ever wonder why I’m always in pants?  I’m hiding bruises.)  Once I’m down, I question whether I have the strength to pull myself back up.

There’s a weird pain associated with EBV, particularly in the early days of flare ups (when evening fevers are also most common; in the first 10-14 days).  I’ve heard it described as muscle aching, but it feels deeper than that.  It feels like my bone-marrow is pushing through it’s barrier and seeping into my muscles, as if turned to lava.  The dull, fiery pain pushes between my ribs; under my knee caps; in my arms and legs; behind my eye lids.  (Yes. I know there’s no marrow in my eye lid – it’s just the same pain.)

Then, there was September 29, 1999.  The accident.

Apparently, I resemble a mailbox and am invisible through a chain-link fence when I’m on a bike, wearing a white t-shirt, in broad-daylight.

Excerpt from the police report
Excerpt from the police report

In respect to the man that hit me, I must add that he was 76 years old and had a stroke while he was driving.  I think he ended up with the short end of the deal.  I heard that he died months later.

RIP, old man.  Perhaps we’ll share a beer in heaven (whatever that is; I’m not really a “religious” person) and laugh over your reaction some day.  “What were you doing in the middle of the street?  I never let my kids ride their bikes in the street for exactly this reason!”

I was 20 years old and on my way home from an undergrad class.

>blinkblink<  … I think that was pretty much my response to him.  I had no idea what was going on at that point.  One minute I was cruising home, the next I was sitting on the curb wondering what had happened after I yelled, “FUCK!!!” (after I realized he was starting to accelerate rather than stop at his two-way stop sign. I had the right of way/no sign.)

Even though I stood up without a broken bone and carried myself to the curb to sit down, that one left me with several pain-related issues.

My back and shoulders never stop hurting.  Never.

I’m not sure which is the primary cause of my limp: my knees, or my hips.

The accident then led to a simple sinus infection going misdiagnosed for nearly four years.  Insert the now incurable (without invasive surgery) migraine-esque headaches that cause light sensitivity, as the sinus cavity in my forehead pushed into my retina.

If you’ve ever wondered why I almost always wear my People Magazine hat: it’s proven the best at cutting out the most painful lights directly above me while giving me relief through tightening it against a pressure point in my forehead.  (That’s why I’m always adjusting/re-tightening it.)

Once an active person, I went to the gym, enjoyed running and biking, and enjoyed hiking and bouldering in Phoenix.

Today, I struggle to walk and stay standing long enough to fill my kids’ glasses full of juice.  Prescription bottles are even difficult to open, with my under-used muscles’ premature weakening.

There’s shame in chronic pain.

But there’s also isolation after years of pushing people away, rather than admit to what I’m dealing with.

So, I recently made reservations to spend a weekend among people that I grew up with, and go to a place that I haven’t been since this whole thing started.  I haven’t been home in a dozen years.

I found myself on the phone with an old friend today, forewarning him with what I feel he’s about to see: the shell of the person that he once knew.  His reply?  “I don’t judge.”

I hope you don’t either.

Categories: Life Tags: , ,

This might get a little gross

June 18th, 2010 Stacey No comments

Random crap happens to me.  Random, pain-inducing things.  Like getting run over by a car on my bike.  Or getting bit in the face by a brown recluse.  Or simply slipping in my kitchen, wearing fuzzy socks and winding up with a broken foot. … I could go on, but this gets long enough.

Some are my fault.  (Never hold on to the back of a moving car while riding a skateboard.  Sure, Michael J. Fox made it look easy in “Back to the Future,” but even at a lowly 20mph, it’s just not a good idea when there are pebbles on public streets that can make you lose your balance.  Jumping off and trying to run to catch yourself will result in a face-slide and perhaps a somersault or two, so don’t try that, either.)

Others really are random acts of injury.

Carrying laundry upstairs the other day, I reached the top landing and heard a very loud, “POP!”  Dropping the basket and cussing the kids in my head, I looked down to search for the toy I must have stepped on, only to find carpet.

“What the…” I sat on the floor, grabbing my foot.  My second and third toes were locked in a rigid “V” position with what felt like the worst foot-cramp I’d ever experienced.  Rolling it over, I found a nickle-sized ball forming in the ball of my foot, centered below the two toes.

“Well… This is new,” I muttered.  Pushing the laundry to my room on my knees, my kids followed, barking behind me.  (They thought that was a very fun game, playing “Bolt” with Mommy.)

Asking the kids to give me a minute (I don’t like them to see me express pain), I closed the door and pulled myself up with my bed.  I tried to put pressure on the “cramp,” but the pain was a bit too much.  Figuring it’d just have to work itself out, I attempted a few ways of walking around my bed (where I’ve learned I can comfortably fall).  Every angle that I tried to place my foot to take a step left me with shooting, burning pain and face-planted in my comforter.

“Unacceptable.  I have things to do today.”  I crawled to the bathroom and pulled out an ace-bandage.  Clenching my teeth, I wrapped it and re-wrapped it even tighter, until the gap between my toes was nearly closed.  With a deep breath, I pulled myself up using the door frame.  Triumphantly, I was able to hobble on my heel across the room and back to the bustle of the kids and the pets in the house.

Passing Luc’s room, he saw my bandage instantly and raced to investigate.  “Oh no, Mommy!  Did you hurt yourself?”

“Yes, but I’m okay.” I rustled his hair.

“Mommy?  Can I please have some juice please?”  He didn’t mention it again as I limped after him, fulfilling juice and snack and car and Dora and shoes and outside and sprinkler and bubble requests throughout the day.

The next morning, without a bandage, my toes had only a small gap between them.  The bump showed signs of bruising on the ball of my foot, but was smaller than the day before.  “Progress.”  The bandage was only on a few hours that day before I was comfortable enough to hobble on my heel or side of my foot without it.

The following day, my limp began to subside.

Yesterday, however, I woke up with a change.  I didn’t even notice it at first, since I thought it was improving enough that I was over inspecting it.  It was feeling good enough, in fact, that I found myself pacing my room on what was supposed to be the first of several business-related calls I made that day.  It wound up being my last, as I started to lose feeling in my toes.  A cold sensation changed to tingling, as if my extremities were falling asleep.  As it crept deeper into my foot, I felt my palms begin to sweat as my heart-rate elevated in a panic.  Luckily already on the last leg of the conversation, I was able to amicably part ways rather than lose-my-shit on a business call.

Dropping to the floor, I finally took a close look at the oddly injured area.  A new bruise ran like a stripe on the inside of my second toe.  Rolling my foot over, I found a large, fresh, purple blotch in the center of my foot, about an inch below the original, diminished knot.

“What. The. FUCK?!?!”  With now a complete loss of feeling in three toes and the tingling sensation even deeper in my foot, I fled my room and raced to the phone.  The fact that it didn’t hurt (other than the prickling feeling that’s associated with losing circulation) made the sweat start to bead under my shirt and on my face as my panic attack escalated.

“I think I have, like, a blood clot or something,” my voice shook as I concluded my saga to the poor woman who picked up the phone at the appointment-desk.  “Or maybe my foot is dying.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t have any appointments available today.”

“I don’t care that you don’t have any appointments available!” I shrieked.  “Call Kettler.  I’ll send him an email.  I’ll drive to his house!  Don’t make me do that!!”

“Let me have you talk to a triage nurse, hold on.”

After rattling off my story to her, I was in.  Could I be there in 50 minutes?  Hell yes, I could.

I threw my plans for the day out the window as I raced toward my doctor’s office.

My husband met me to keep the kids occupied with reading and videos, rather than my touting them around the office.  I, on the other hand, limped after test-orders, from room to xrays to room.

Once the morning was successfully beaten, I got the answer I was … well … not really waiting to hear at all.

Apparently, I had a cyst.

A big, funky cyst that attached itself to a tendon in my foot.

When I walked upstairs, barefoot, with a measly load of laundry, it popped. And all hell broke loose in my foot.

Seriously.

My agony.  My swelling.  My bruising.  My gimpified limp.  All for a cyst.

Ew.

At the end of this, I’ve decided not to post any pictures.  Sorry for the long-winded verbiage with absolutely no benefit to the time you spent to get here.  But I thought everyone should know that you can get a cyst in your foot.  And it can f* you up.

The reason, per the doc?  “They just happen.”

The cure?  “Stay off it, and use ice.”

Awesome.  That’s what I was doing before I dropped a co-pay.

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