Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Mistakes and consequences

When I was in grade school, I belonged to a dance group called the Continentals. It was a fun extension of gym glass. Our performance costumes were wide skirts made of felt (mine was light blue) and white blouses. The boys wore black slacks and a white shirt. (Yeah, we were stylin'.)

In eighth grade, our final performance at the school was shortly before a we were going to perform at a festival in downtown Chicago. For some reason, I was under the impression that our group's attendance at the festival was dependent on our doing very well at our own school. So when I made a big blunder I was devastated. When the dance was finished I ran to the bathroom and cried hysterically. I thought I had blown it for the entire group. I was mistaken, of course. Our group was always going to go to the festival. The real consequences of my mistake were minor, but my reaction - based on a false understanding of the consequences - was so dramatic I remember it all these years later.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I made a mistake at work that had actual serious consequences. Two clicks of the mouse and a project plan that belonged to a group in another part of the company was erased. Deleted. That's right...GONE. Forever.

When I made that blunder at the dance performance, it was in front of hundreds of people. My error yesterday was completely anonymous (if you don't count the barrage of self-directed profanity that unfortunately was verbalized and not just in my head). After I calmed down (and a coworker told me to watch my language) I called the head of the group whose project I had erased and confessed immediately.

It was simply the right thing to do. And I knew that the faster I dealt with the situation, the better it would be for everyone. Those people in the group whose file I had deleted were going to suffer the consequences whether I confessed or not. But they could start dealing with it sooner and maybe minimize the damage. The elapsed time from that devastating mouse click to having the right person on the phone was about two minutes.

I used to think that once I was "grown up" I wouldn't make stupid mistakes, but I was mistaken. What happens as we grow up is we learn from our mistakes. We learn to assess the damage and take appropriate action. And we learn to accept the consequences.

I haven't heard the last of yesterday's blunder, but I know I will live through it and do better next time. If they let me back in the system, that is.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Some GOOD news from Iraq

Not having a TV, I get most of my news from the radio and internet. And the only news stories that seem to make it to me from Iraq are the bad ones. And what all the politicians say in an election year has to be taken with a grain of salt - because they need each need to slant what they say to fit their own agenda.

But here's one source of good news about Iraq - Operation Iraqi Children.

This organization, founded by actor Gary Sinise (Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump) and author Laura Hillenbrand (Seabiscuit: An American Legend), developed a program to send school supplies to Iraqi children. Look at these faces!

(from the Operation Iraqi Children web site) Posted by Hello

What is so touching to me about this picture is knowing that girls were not allowed to go to school just a short time ago.

This is a good cause that deserves our support.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Fired up

Yesterday we started Sunday School at our church. For the first time in a couple of decades I am teaching. Not teaching, exactly, but leading. The high school and above age group has decided they want to do some serious studying of the Bible, specifically, how it is relevant to their daily lives.

We are going to take a topic, study it thoroughly, and move onto the next topic when we feel we have exhausted the subject. Our first topic is money - which we decided on based on yesterday's Lesson and Gospel readings.

What does the world say about money, and how does it differ from what the Bible says about money? There are several Bible passages on this subject that have always confused me.

I am really looking forward to this!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Introducing Mr. Wonderful

Wow, have I been busy since I got back from my last business trip? No, just distracted. But I promised you an introduction to my new special friend, so here he is...

...Mr. Wonderful!

Here is W helping me pack. Posted by Hello

Before we went to the hotel, we stopped at the lake to visit friends and have a Labor Day cold one. Posted by Hello

Of course he slept on the know we're not married!  Posted by Hello

On this trip I found out that a love of coffee is one of the things we have in common! Posted by Hello

Here is W troubleshooting some problems with my computer. Posted by Hello

W loves sports...especially a good "pickup" game. Here he is after somebody picked him up and dunked him. Posted by Hello

Mr. Wonderful does say a lot of the things women love to hear. Now only if he would say "Honey, my new job pays 250 grand a year so you won't have to work", I might fall in love!

Just kidding...I'm not that materialistic. One hundred grand will do.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

On the road again...but not alone

I'm traveling again for business, but this trip is different because I have a companion. His name is Mr. Wonderful.

Not this one. This one.

I'll post some photos of our trip when I get home.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Saturday, September 04, 2004

The story of August 31st - Part IV

Read Part I
Read Part II
Read Part III

In addition to the deaths of my husband and my father, the serious illness of my father-in-law and the employment problems, 2001 also brought the death of Daniel's beloved Aunt Anne (two days after his), the death of our cat Stanley (a week after my Dad) and a health issue of my own (brought on by the stress of all of the above). And oh, we all had September 11th.

If I were writing this story for television and included all that happened in 2001, it would never make it to the screen. The producer would dismiss it as being too over-the-top to be believable. I must say there were more dramatic twists packed into those months than you would find on two entire seasons of of Dynasty.

2001 was a horrible year, but things slowly got better. My father-in-law experienced waves of progress and setbacks, but today is back to being his unique self and enjoying life. I stayed in Chicago and basically just showed up to claim the job I wanted in my company. My work is fun and challenging, and so are the people I work with. The house in Michigan has been leased for two years and the sale will finally close next month. My family is healthy. My nieces and nephews keep growing and learning and it's fascinating to watch. I'm active in my church, and am even taking the plunge this year and teaching Sunday School (which I have not done for over twenty years).

In May of 2002 I flew to Buffalo, New York for a church bowling tournament; not to bowl myself, but just to be with a large group of our friends on what would have been Daniel's 41st birthday. I was missing him more acutely that weekend because this event was one of his favorites. At the end of mass on Sunday morning, the woman sitting next to me - a total stranger - leaned over and told me that she felt compelled to tell me something. She said that God wanted me to know that He loved me and everything was going to be alright. She was right.

Is my life perfect? Of course not...far from it. But I am surrounded by love, and I have that peace I wished for.

There is a passage in Romans that tells us that God takes everything that happens and makes it work for the good of those who love Him. Sometimes it is very hard to see what possible good could come of a tragic situation. As for Daniel, maybe he would have faced some serious suffering later in life, and his early death was God's mercy. We don't know, and we are not meant to.

All we can do is walk in faith, one step at a time, and know that God loves us even though He lets us suffer. Remember, He also lets us experience the good stuff - joy, happiness, love, prosperity and beauty. I had all those things with Daniel, and I have all those things now.

Friday, September 03, 2004

The story of August 31st - Part III

Read Part I
Read Part II

Many of the details of those days between Friday the 31st and the day of the funeral on September 6th have faded, as memories do. During a time like that so much of what you are doing is forced by the necessity of decision making. As a professional-league procrastinator, it was a shock to my already-shocked system to have to make so many serious decisions in such a short time.

The morning after Daniel died, we went back to the house and picked out clothes for him. Fortunately, we had bought him a nice jacket for a wedding the previous autumn and it still fit (and it was in Chicago, not back in Michigan where the house was still on the market and still contained lots of our stuff). We picked out a pair of graves. We went to the funeral home and picked out everything else you have to pick out. I think we even picked out flowers that day, but that might have been another day.

I say "we" because in this whole process I never had to be alone. My two sisters helped with everything. And my brother would be my rock on the day of the funeral. Countless other friends and relatives contributed in a variety of ways. I cannot even imagine going through something like this alone, which some people are forced to do.

One of the many phone calls on Saturday the 1st was from the funeral home, who relayed the autopsy results: pulmonary embolism. A blood clot (several probably) had formed somewhere in his veins and traveled to his lungs, which was the cause of his shortness of breath. Part of the clot stopped his heart. (This is the same condition that would cause the death of NBC reporter David Bloom in Iraq in April of 2003.)

We'll never know exactly what caused the clots in the first place. Daniel never exhibited most of the many symptoms of blood clots. If he had pain in his legs or abdomen in the days before his breathing problems started, he never told me and he never told the emergency room doctors. Daniel was the kind of guy who shrugged off pain. Long before we were married he attempted to "walk off" a knee injury that ended up being a completely severed tendon.

I have not spent much time with "what ifs" in the sense that his death could have been prevented. My "what if" ponderings tended towards how it could have been worse. It could have happened in front of me. It could have happened in the hospital, where because they did not know what was wrong he would have died anyway. It could have happened while he was driving, putting other people in danger (most especially my nephew C, who drove with him on our last trip back from Michigan).

As it was, Daniel died alone. Maybe in his sleep, maybe not. I have been told by doctors that it would have been very fast. The last face he saw was mine (if you don't count the cat). Yes, I was hot and grouchy that morning, and I didn't kiss him goodbye. But he knew I loved him.

The night before he died as we sat together watching the lightning, we talked about all the things we had been through, and what we might be facing if his health did not improve. He asked me what I wished for. I told him that all I wanted was some peace...I wanted both of us to be well, for the house to finally sell, for my job situation to get have even one month without a major drama.

I would eventually get my wish for peace, but not the way I wanted it.


Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The story of August 31st - Part II

Read Part I

You may be surprised to learn that the foremost thought in my head at that very moment was...

...I really have to pee.

I actually stood at that doorway and contemplated making my way to the bathroom with my eyes shut, and looking for Daniel afterwards. The thing is, if what I suspected had happened, it had happened hours ago and another minute was not going to make a difference. I didn't shut my eyes but did walk toward the bathroom. The sight of his feet at the end of the sofa bed drove all thoughts of the bathroom out of my mind. No time to pee...I was too busy screaming.

He was just lying there in his pajama bottoms. He looked fine, like he was sleeping. Except that he never slept on his back. I shook him several times, knowing the truth but of course not believing it. I called 911 and headed out the door and across the parking lot to the cemetery office, where I knew my friend T was working. I don't remember exactly what I said to T, but I screamed it. I walked back outside and called my little sister and screamed. I was finally catching my breath and returning to relative calm when the ambulance drove by.

The house is small, set back from the road and located in between two cemeteries and next to a church and very near the outer border of Chicago. The first thing the paramedic said to me (after he turned around and found the place) was "you're not in Chicago". Excuse me, I AM in Chicago and, oh yeah, MY HUSBAND IS DEAD.

Let me interject something here. Life is not like the TV show "ER". On ER, the doctors and paramedics are always rushing and yelling things like "stat" and "gunshot wound" and "MVA" and such. Our emergency room visit the day before and my experience with the paramedics was a whole different thing. All the doctors and nurses and EMTs in the real world are certainly as dedicated and heroic as the actors portray them. The difference is they are just a lot more calm. They have to be, for good of the patient and the loved ones and themselves. If they weren't, they would all die of anxiety before their student loans were paid off.

Anyway, the paramedic listened to my story as we walked into the house. He checked for a pulse and felt his skin temperature and confirmed my diagnosis. They did an EKG as required for the record. They asked me all kinds of questions and before long the police arrived, and they asked me all kinds of questions. Right after the police informed me that there would have to be an autopsy (no kidding), the shock wore off my bladder and I finally got to pee.

More people calls were made...some people left. (Later I would be briefly embarassed thinking about how many people saw the condition of the house - horribly messy with moving boxes everywhere, dirty laundry on the floor and such. Oh well, live like a slob...) I packed a bag. The funeral planning began. My friend L agreed to take our cat Stella for a while. Poor Stella had been hiding in the basement since the first scream.

Within an hour of his body being loaded into the paddy wagon I was on my way to live with my big sister.