Ya gotta have heart…

A heart rate of 40 beats per minute is generally considered a bit low to sustain life.  Even trained endurance athletes don’t quite go that low.  That’s why a heart rate of 40 beats per minute in the body of an 81 year old woman should be pretty alarming.

Nope.  Not to my mother.  Returning from a fun, but chaotic, family reunion last weekend, she was getting settled in at home Sunday night.  Her normal evening routine involves checking her blood pressure and pulse rate – and she noticed that the heart rate was down.  Rather than let someone know?  She sucked it up and decided to tough it out.

She didn’t want to bother anyone.  Knew that folks were tired from the weekend.  She didn’t sleep much, but kept track of her heart rate.  Even in the morning, she still felt like crap, but waited til noon to call my niece, DQ.  The cardiologist had mentioned that low heart rate is pretty damn serious, so DQ called for an ambulance, and got Mom in for cardiac assessment Monday afternoon.  About fifteen hours after she first noted the low heart rate.

She was immediately taken to the intensive care unit, the docs said she’d need a pacemaker installed.  Procedure was scheduled for noon on Tuesday.  i cleared my morning calendar to join my sister, S, and niece at the hospital.  Routine stuff, and likely to immediately make Mom feel better. 

She was really lucky - and i mean really fucking lucky- that her cardio-circuits didn’t fry while we spent the weekend in a remote ‘holler’ down in Kentucky.  We were 30 minutes from the main road, and probably at least an hour from skilled medical care…

i had coordinated logistics for Tuesday with S and DQ.  The Park is about an hour from my office, and i had a meeting at 3:30pm – an interview panel, which had already been rescheduled 3 times.  i headed down first thing in the morning.  So long as i left the hospital by 2:00 pm, it was possible to meet my work obligation.  Given that things were reasonably under control, Mom was in no imminent danger, and S wasn’t shitting herself in a panic like she did last time, i figured it would be ok to plan to head to work after the procedure. 

Mom was prepped for the procedure, and they allowed us to come back and join her.  Some inconsiderate motherfucker having a heart attack had the balls to take the cardiologist away, so Mom’s procedure was delayed til around 1:30pm.  We explained this to Mom.  My sister  told her “daisyfae has to go back to work at 2:00pm”…. followed immediately by “But I’m not going to leave you!  You’re the only reason I ever take off work.  It’s more important for me to be here with you than to go to work…” 

(sigh)

On the bright side?  At least this time she didn’t break down in tears, or start with the “I’m not ready for you to die” routine…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The good news?  Mom’s doing great – she was pretty pasty-white when they took her back to install Ticker Helper.  She returned a healthy shade of pink.  Downside?  They’re keeping her for at least another night – pulmonary hypertension.  Will know more tomorrow… and still need to get back to writing up all the happenings – new and past history – covered over the weekend…

Bitter Black Hole

Mom tends toward the bitter and crusty.  Until i spent some time with her sister, my Aunt Helen?  i thought Momma had cornered the “cranky-assed old broads” market.

Holy fucking mother of god spanking an ice skating monkey*. Aunt Helen makes my mother look like a cross between Richard Simmons and Shirley Temple, without the cranial pubic hair. 

With Aunt Helen approaching 83 years old, her daughter thought it would be worth some extra logistical trouble to get another cousin to collect her en route and deliver her to the reunion last weekend at a lakefront resort in Kentucky. 

The eldest of the three sisters, Aunt Helen always seemed to be independent and opinionated.  Our clan lived almost three hours away from Mom’s family homestead where her two sisters remained.  Growing up, we really never got to know our extended family.  Visiting at Easter and sometimes in the summer, we’d average two brief visits a year.

Aunt Helen’s husband was diagnosed schizophrenic, and somewhere in the late 1960′s, he stopped showing up at family gatherings.  Institutionalized for the rest of his life, he died in the 1980′s. 

They had three children.  When i was little, i would hear news from “down home” through Mom.  Reports were usually along the lines of “Aunt Helen’s kids won’t speak to her again”… Mom thought they were angry because their mother had abandoned their father.  All i really knew was that there was a perpetual rift in their family**. 

From the time Aunt Helen arrived on Friday evening, she was a hurricane of negativity, raining darkness and spitting venom.  The food wasn’t what she wanted.   Too many people at once.  No one talking to her.  Too many people talking to her.  Noisy children.  Uncomfortable bed.  And on, and on, and on…  She was so bitchy to one of her own grandaughters, the young woman was reduced to tears.   

The cousin who stepped up to the transportation challenge?  Perpetually cheerful, quiet and smart.  Even she was daunted by the endless firehose of gloom.  During the three hour drive, she’d played a game – “I’ll turn whatever she says into something positive”.  Not an easy challenge, even for our familial optimist.

After sitting with her sister for the morning on Saturday, Mom caught me in the kitchen and said “Man, she’s bringing me down!”  My brother lasted about fifteen minutes.  i’d try to engage her periodically, but got barked at as well, so mostly i stuck to feeding her, bringing her drinks and asking her if she needed anything. 

Aunt Helen’s eldest daughter told me that it had always been that way.  To manage the negativity, my cousin simply reminded herself that her mother had provided food, shelter and clothing, and that is more than some children get… “She has no joy.  And I’ll be damned if I’ll let her take mine… because she won’t use it!”

Before i left the group Saturday night, i tried once more to engage my only living aunt…

daisyfae:  Aunt Helen, it was wonderful to see you.  i know it’s been very stressful, but i hope you enjoyed the visit.

Aunt Helen:  It was terrible!  I’ll never do this again.  This is my last reunion, I wish you all had just left me alone.  I hope I’m dead before the next one.

daisyfae:  [blink, blink] Well, we’ll all have to come visit you then, won’t we?

small-n-bitter

image sourced here

* tribute to kyknoord, merciful and hysterically funny king of recreational blasphemy…

** As a young child, i remember thinking “Wow!  Their family is a mess!  Our family would never be like that…”.  Retro-*snort*…

Respite Care, Celtic Style

i left stealthily, waking at 7:00 am, slipping my gear and guitar into the car, then getting on my way home by 7:10 am.  Like the Baltimore Colts, packing up while everyone slept, i went without much noise.  Only 36 hours, but it was enough.  For quite some time.

A family reunion, with my “semi-lost” cousins – the children and other progeny of my mother and her two sisters.  We reconnected recently, and decided to get Mom together with her only living sister before it was too late.  Choosing a location reasonably equidistant from the majority of the cousins, we descended upon a gorgeous Kentucky lakefront resort for the weekend, renting two waterfront homes to accommodate all the cousins, second cousins and affiliated family members who could find the time to make the trek.

It was pretty damn wonderful to spend time with my cousins, getting to know them (again) and their children over a fairly relaxed weekend.  The entourage from my Trailer Park attended as well, except for my sister, T, who lives much farther away. 

As a result of the weekend with my clan, i have perhaps enough blog-fodder for the next year.  Or two.  Covering the 260 miles of the return trip at warp speed this morning, i spent the time alone in the car trying to process all that transpired… and having had only a few hours sleep over the prior two days, decided to put it in the “Fuck It” bucket for now and start poking my way through it after rest and reflection.

My family never ceases to amaze me.  For better and for worse.  But they’re mine… All mine.  Fucking deathbed promises

So instead of getting busy contemplating my familial navel, i spent the afternoon otherwise deployed… Round one?  Getting in touch with my inner Celtic Cougar, falling madly in lust with admiring the guitarist for a delightful irish jam band, Scythian.  He sproinged merrily about the stage, slammin’ gypsy rhythms on his accoustic until i was on the verge of scamming my way backstage for a personal guitar lesson… Or two…

wants me - doesn't know it yet

After an hour of getting used to being the oldest woman in the mosh pit in front of the stage, Round Two began.  i settled in for another hour of reckless musical abandon with Gaelic Storm.  These kids have never failed to deliver joy to my old, crusty soul…  And while i find the guitarist for this musical tribe to be supremely crush-worthy, it’s the drummer who must be stalked.  This young man shall marry my daughter.  He’s going to agree, he just doesn’t know it yet. 

 More on the family dealings to come.  But i’m momentarily speechless… and that ain’t a regular occurrence. 

“Me and the moon stayed up all night.  I brought the whiskey, he brought the light…”

The Diva Doesn’t Do Dance…

Community theater is just chock full of human drama… who the hell knew?

We’re two weeks into rehearsals for the show.  Done with basic blocking, sing-throughs of almost all songs, and had our second choreography session last night.  My character is one of three trailer park women who serve as narrators throughout the show.  It’s me, The Diva (who got the role i wanted) and AU – a charming, adorable and smart 21 year old math education major at a local university. 

We tell the story through snarky commentary, challenging harmonies and complex rhythms, tossed lightly with some doo-wop girl dance moves!  Big, big fun!

The choreographer is good – creative and uses our bodies to tell the story, without being overly lame and cheesy.  She is also a good teacher, given that the three of us are not trained dancers, that’s pretty important!  On the first song we were learning last night, she had us doing some cool ‘doo wop’ girl stuff, shaking our butts and flapping our hands behind us - what AU called “the fart fan”). 

AU and i were having fun with it, trying to synchronize the hips and hands and see if we could get it working right at tempo.  The Diva?  Wasn’t even trying to get it.  She was just standing there, obviously irritated, the choreographer gave up, taking things down a bit – “forget the hands, let’s just do the hips…” 

After learning the first routine, our Diva bitched all the way through the break.  “This is hard”, “I can’t remember all this!”, “I was misinformed – I didn’t know there’d be this much dancing, i thought it was all music….” on and on and on…  My favorite?  “Why can’t we just stand and sing?”  The choreographer reminded her “that would be boring!”   The Diva said “I wouldn’t be bored!”  A smiling choreographer, holding her ground, said  “What about the audience?”  HA!

We made it through the two new dance routines, and since the one we’d learned last week was pretty complicated, we wanted to run it again.  AU and i were able to muddle through much of it.  We had been doing this crazy thing on our own time.  It’s called “practice”.  We had worked on the rough segments, one particularly vexing series of moves that have to take place really fast.  So we were able to actually DO that part last night! 

The Diva watched this, and became damn near inconsolable  “But I can’t even remember what we did last time!  I can’t practice it if I can’t remember it?”  [AU and daisyfae staring, blinking...]

So we went through the entire song again.  AU and i got most of it down.  The Diva picked up a few things, but got very frustrated and stopped trying.  Just stood there, completely pissed off.  Unable to take it any more, She blurted out “I can’t do these dances!  I wasn’t informed that this show would be so complicated – it was supposed to be just music!” 

AU told me later that little puffs of steam were coming out of my ears, and my jaw was locked and grinding. We then spent about 20 minutes reassuring Her that She could do it, that these were the tough songs, that She’d be fine, that muscle memory is what is required, that it’s only been two rehearsals and we’ve got lots of time to keep working on it and blah, blah, fucking blah, blah…

i felt compelled to say the following – which may have been the best acting performance of my life:  “Diva, i have absolutely no doubt You can do this, and You’re going to be fantastic!  i’ve seen You do amazing things, and there’s nothing here You can’t do!”

No.  i didn’t vomit.  Not even a little bit…

The mollycoddle session ended when The Diva left, nearly in tears.  The Director mentioned that he’s seen Her do this before.  “Everything comes so easily for Her.  EVERYTHING in Her life.  She’s not used to working for it…”.  Yep.  She’s married to a successful attorney, five lovely adult children, a ‘hobby’ job to keep Her busy…

On the way to the parking lot, AU said “wanna drink?”  Ummmm, let me think about that for a nanosecond… i introduced AU to my favorite biker bar, which just happens to be across the street from the theater.   Four cans of $1 beer and 4 cigarettes later?  We felt better.  Spleens vented, serious bonding over life, the universe – and our shared “trailer park” family histories….  

We’re going to have a blast with this show.  i’m working really hard on the choreography. Ain’t no doubt,  i’m kickin’ some freakin’ Diva Ass in the dance department…

No parenting awards for 2009 either…

The Girl is splitting her time between her apartment and my condo while she explores future employment opportunities. When i got home from work tonight, she was busily texting her friend TW as they worked logistics for another friends bachelorette party this weekend.

The Girl: Hey, Mom? Do you have a penis mold? Something we could use for making chocolate party favors?

daisyfae: [gets up, walks into kitchen, produces penis mold] Like this?

The Girl: Exactly!

daisyfae: Well, i’ll need it back – i use that for making jello shots for parties…

The Girl: God! I can’t believe i can just ask my Mom for a penis mold… How strange is that? I’m going to let TW know that we don’t have to go out and buy one!  She was dreading that.

daisyfae: (sighing) But it’s important to be open and honest… i swear, i don’t think there’s anything the three of us could say to each other that would be a complete surprise…

The Girl: Oh, I bet The Boy probably has a few surprises up his sleeve…

daisyfae: i don’t wanna think about that…

The Girl: [laughing] TW wrote back – says she doesn’t find it the least bit surprising that you have a penis mold…

daisyfae: (sigh)

Something in the water?

It’s been just a bit over a month in the new job.  Overall?  i’m deliriously happy – mostly because i’m not in my old job.  In fact, i think i could spend my day mucking out horse stalls, feeding suppositories to geriatrics or putting cigarettes out in my own eyeballs and be deliriously happy that i’m not in my old job…

That’s not to say that my new freak squad colleagues aren’t going to be able to get on my tits….

Trapped in my office last week by a very nice man who was seeking program advice, i couldn’t help but notice the rather impressive length of his nose hair.  By the communal coffee pot this morning, i was struck by the ample nasal fur sported by two of my colleagues in the midst of a heated exchange regarding analog-to-digital conversion.  Maybe it was just visible because of the flaring nostrils as they engaged in combat.  This afternoon?  Another fellow stopped by to see how i was adjusting to the new office – standing in my doorway at just the right angle, forcing me to stare right up his booger-holes into a forest of nose bristle…

There are some disadvantages to being surrounded by a fleet of middle-aged men, especially those who pay damn near zero attention to the finer points of personal grooming…

i’m bringing in the jungle bushwhacking gear…  Blechhhh….

zegra

Wrong Side of The Tracks

i enjoyed a delightful surprise this week – an old friend tracked me down and invited me to a birthday party for her amazing mother!  Logistics for the party – pulled together on remarkably short notice – changed a few times, but the final venue was at the house of friends in a rural village about 60 miles from my home.

Arrived around 7pm.  It was a blast – old friends, new friends and after a gentle arm twist* (and the appearance of a borrowed guitar), an old fashioned hippie sing along!  Tremendous fun, and i stayed much later than i had planned.

Leaving shortly after midnight, i plugged in the iPod for the drive home, listening to the soundtrack of my current show in an attempt to learn the music.  Tooling along rural roads, singing loudly late at night, it was a good drive and i was still jazzed from the great party.  As i meandered through a small town, attempting to follow signage to get me back to the interstate, i followed a ramp across railroad tracks on a dark stretch of road.

My car slammed across the tracks, and i quickly realized that i’d turned too far to the right on the ramp and had managed to land squarely atop an active set of railroad tracks.  Slammed it into reverse, left front tire spinning (fuck the front wheel drive…).  Immediately realized that i was stuck, had the iPod off, flashers on and was out of the car looking for trains while dialing for emergency help…  Not the most pleasant 10 seconds of my life, to be sure.

Speaking with the dispatcher, he notified local police of the situation and hung up to contact the railroad to stop any inbound trains.  Comforting to a degree, but it was dark, no traffic around and my fucking car was dangling on train tracks.  It was perhaps only two minutes before the police car arrived – two “kids” who looked no more than 15 years old, swimming in their uniforms.  Flashing lights made me feel even a little better.

They took a quick look at the automotive predicament, and after a futile attempt to dislodge the car, decided we’d need a tow truck.  “Fuck.  Gonna take awhile…” ran through my head.  i mentioned that i’m normally a pretty decent driver… and they calmly said “Oh, this happens here about once a month…”.

While one of the young officers went back to the cruiser to call for additional help, a large truck pulls up behind us.  Out pops a middle-aged man and his scrawny 14 year old son.  Just out and about at 1am on a Friday night.  Offered to hook up their tow strap to see if they could pull me off the tracks.

No more than two minutes later, the car was cleared, the tires were miraculously unflattened, i shook their hands and thanked them saying “i LOVE this state!” and was on my way home.  Total time elapsed from getting hung up on the railroad tracks to being back on my way?  About 15 minutes.  Wow…  Workin’ men rock!

Save me, SAVE ME!

Save me, SAVE ME!

* “daisyfae, meant to ask you to bring your guitar… if we can find one for you, will you play?”  “Oh, no i really couldn’t, i’m terribly out of practice… so what do you want to hear?  i’m taking requests! Enjoy the show, ladies and gentlemen!  Try the grilled shrimp, and be sure to tip your waitress…”

Potential

Magic.  Anything is still possible in the 12-year old brain. The perfectly timed intersection of “knowledge” and “naiveté”, they genuinely believe the future is wide open….

With delight, i accepted an offer to teach a little geekery to a group of 40 “Science Campers”.  They were beautiful – a hyperspectral rainbow of excitement and energy, hungry to know something cool… ANYTHING geeky.   Yeah.  i’m guessing they were enjoying a week of not getting beat up after school for a change…

They pinged me with questions, a little shy at first, gaining confidence as they got comfortable with my style.  “How does that plate change photons into electrons?” to “Are there any sensors that can really see through clothes?” (giggles all around).
 
Was i like that at twelve years old?  Seems that i’ve always been a crunchy and jaded cynic.  Spending a morning with them took me back. 

Forty years ago this month, i was an androgynous, amorphous and routinely dirt-encrusted seven year old.  When Neil Armstrong was about to take his first steps on the moon, Dad dragged us out of bed. The entire family watched grainy, shaky images on the black and white console in the living room. 

Wasn’t really sure what was going on, but i knew it was important. At least to my Dad.

Over the next several years, he and i tracked the Apollo program closely. To say that it sparked me was an understatement. i didn’t just want to be an astronaut, I was going to be an astronaut.  He didn’t encourage me in a patronizing way, simply pointed out the things i’d have to do to get there.

We took a family vacation to the Huntsville Alabama Space and Missile center when i was 10 years old.  In hindsight, i  know it was his way of feeding my dream, because Mom and my sister, T, whined the entire trip.  In 1972, the Space Shuttle was in development, and we had the opportunity to muck around in a full scale prototype.  i was fascinated to discover my first space urinal – a nicely penis-shaped hole, attached to a vacuum system.

10 year old daisyfae to tour guide: “Where will the women go to the bathroom?”

i was given no acceptable answer. And it pissed me the fuck off….

In addition to the chance to teach Science Camp this week, i was also tagged to attend a technology exposition at a regional convention center. One of the keynote speakers was an astronaut. A woman who had worked in my organization when she was a baby engineer. About seven years younger than me, she’s now about 40.

Her presentation covered two prior space missions, as well as her current training for a lengthy stint on the international space station.  From underwater living in a deep-sea habitrail, to a few months in Antarctica to learning Russian, Japanese and German while working with her international colleagues to learn the jobs to be performed in space….  An endless stream of adventure, intellectual and physical challenges as she prepares to live in space.

She was clearly still full of the wonder of a 12-year old, grateful to have the best job in the world, if not the universe. And i was mesmerized.  Could i have done it?  Well, she wasn’t married and wasn’t saddled with kids…  Lots more time to focus on your own dreams when you don’t have people depending on you to take out the trash and review homework!

Oh.  That’d be a photo of her husband and small child.  Um… right.  There goes that excuse.  She’s definitely had a bit of good fortune, but luck and timing only take you so far.  She is the real thing.  Hard work, persistence, focus, drive and passion… Sacrifice.  Sleep deprivation.  Giving up time with her family to do what it takes to hit the goal…

i’ve been pretty damn lucky myself, following my own dream – allowing for some dilution along the way – i’ve managed to have the geek-a-rific career i desired.  And more.  Following a path that parallels the aerospace industry, i’ve also had the fortune to get to know a few astronauts along the way, allowing me a glimpse “behind the capsule door” from time to time.

But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.  As a minimum, i need to get my doughy ass to the gym.  She’s only 7 years younger and can squeeze into a Russian rocket capsule, torquing her body to perform Herculean Amazonian tasks.  i should at least be able to do a few more push ups…

potential

What’s that room for again?

It’s not that i can’t cook.  It’s just that i don’t.  Managing my caloric intake aggressively since January* further reduces the amount of time i spend in my kitchen.  My offspring are used to this, having encountered the empty pantry on more than one occasion. 

While i was out of town last weekend, there were two disasters at the homestead.  The first was an electrical short in an exterior electrical outlet.  That was pretty serious, and the servicing electrician suggested that it could have led to a major garage fire.  Got that fixed earlier this week.  Oh, and replaced all of the batteries in the smoke detectors just in case…

The second issue was the unexpected demise of the microwave oven.  i was relaxed and happy upon return from my second vacation in as many weeks, and wasn’t particularly worried about it.  Especially considering that the house didn’t burn down due to “Near Disaster #1″.  Replacing the microwave wasn’t at the top of my priority list.

Yesterday afternoon, however, i realized just how handicapped i am without that magical invention.  The simple process of making jello shots?  Requires boiling water.  Since the microwave was deader than a stump, i had to resort to figuring out how to turn on my stove and boil water.  In a pan?   Disruptive to my “jello shot fabrication process” to say the least… 

With both of the offspring camping out here this weekend, they were just as lost in the kitchen.  My position was that since there was absolutely nothing edible, nor cookable, in the house, it didn’t matter anyway.  Sound logic, i thought.  But The Girl picked up a cheap microwave while out running errands.  Should hold us over until i get the in-wall unit replaced… eventually. 

After putzing around a bit, she and i later dashed off to the grocery to pick up a few things**.  Unloading our purchases, we managed to restock the fridge, freezer and pantry – even throwing out the expired eggs and a few unrecognizable, shriveled green things mutating aggressively in the nether-fridge. 

The Boy emerged from The Man Cave and was astonished to find activity in the kitchen.  “What?  There’s not only food, but something to cook it with?  Have I emerged into a parallel universe?”

Duuuuude! Stay out of my CD collection....

Duuuuude! Stay out of my CD collection....

*25 pounds gone, 20 more to vaporize…

** She has been given the task of creating a “signature cocktail” for the upcoming wedding of a friend, and needed liquor, fruit and juices for experimentation… In the end?  A concoction of Chambord, Amaretto, Crown Royal and Cranberry Juice – spritzed with club soda – won the competition!  Two drinks later?  i’m thinking we should name it “Fuck Cooking!  Kitchens are for Distillation”, but that’s too long for the name of a drink…

Honeymoon Interruptus…

Spent an hour this morning with JA, the guy i replaced when i took the new job.  He’s a wicked smart, snarky and politically savvy technologist – with a delicious streak of darkness in his soul.  We get along quite nicely…

i’m now the Tech Advisor for an exploratory device* research group.  Having just left an extraordinarily dysfunctional collection of researchtards, i was under no delusions that things would be perfectly peachy in my new job.  Quite the contrary, i knew there were challenges, and that was one of the reasons i wanted this job. 

After our first group meeting this week, the degree of “broken scientific humanity” within my new team is becoming apparent.  As we made fun of discussed the unique attributes of each member of the technical staff, i commented on how delighted i was with the energy of one particular researcher, AB – an attractive, middle-aged man of Eastern European origins – who’d given me an impassioned summary of his work and impressed me with his fundamental technical knowledge.

JA rolled his eyes, then explained the back story… regarding his hiring.  Seems a prior Director met AB at a conference, and offered him a position on the spot…

daisyfae:  What?  The Director can do that?

JA:  He’s on a “Hispanic Preference” position…

daisyfae:  But AB is a fucking Romanian…

JA:  Yeah, but the Director thought he was Hispanic…  

daisyfae:  You’ve got to be shitting me?  Brown with an accent is brown with an accent?  Holy shit…

He then went on to let me know much, much more about AB.  Things i really didn’t want to know… “Be sure to ask about AB’s mother.  She’s in a coma.  He keeps her in his basement..”.

daisyfae:  So… i’m thinking i don’t wanna fuck him…

JA:  Well… It’d be loud, if nothing else….

Welcome to the Freak Geek Show!

Welcome to the Geek Freak Show!

* i said “device”…. not “toys”… you bunch of pervs….