Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Mystery Monster Bin

Since I'm currently working 20 hours a week while job hunting, I've got some time on my hands to tackle some of those pesky home projects that irritate and annoy me, but are never high enough on my priority list to take on.

Like the closets.

We have a closet under our basement stairs that is overflowing with...well, crap. It's where we store our suitcases (frequently accessed), wrapping paper and other gifting accouterments (also frequently accessed), paint supplies (never accessed) and scrapbooking supplies (why did I spend all that money on that stuff again?).

And, of course, the mystery box.

The mystery box is a huge green plastic bin that is so monstrous that in order to get it out of the closet, you have to empty the closet. Which, of course, never happens.

Until this past week.

I dragged every last little plastic container, suitcase, scrapbook supply and paint brush out to get to the monster box, only to find a trip down memory lane when I opened it.

Back when my girls were super little and their drawers overflowing with clothes because they were growing so quickly, I had stored away summer clothes for both of the girls, thinking that perhaps one or the other would fit into them yet the following summer. Then the next summer I wondered where all the clothes had gone, but couldn't find the clothes in any of the normal storage places (obviously forgetting about the monster bin). I had to buy Marissa new clothes anyway because she was practically wearing the same size as Lindsey anyways, and I promptly forgot about the missing clothes.

It seemed like only a couple of years ago that I was wondering where those clothes went, but by the size 3T and 4T clothing in the bin, it was clearly longer ago than a few years.

Snippets of summer lifted out of the box, a piece at a time, of warm summer days, ice cream cones and painting projects.

I was going to take some pictures of the clothes, but it's not the clothes that are important, it's what my kids did in them that make them memorable.
Marissa watering the tree.

Lindsey squishing I don't know what. 
Marissa playing with water. (Always with the water, that one.)
Lindsey posing in front of gifts for her cousin Nicole's bridal shower.
Lindsey reading and and Marissa playing footsie...with her own feet.
Every single outfit in every one of these photos was in that box, in such adorable littleness that I hadn't even folded them, they were so tiny.

I took them all out and smiled at them. Marissa was home the day I was looking through them, and she remembered certain favorite dresses, skirts and tops. We enjoyed the memories for a while, then we let them go.

I sorted through them all into two piles -- one for consignment and one to donate. I was able to consign 39 pieces of clothing, pretty impressive considering how they reject anything with stains or rips. Those must've been the clothes that only Lindsey wore, because if they had ever made their way to Marissa they would definitely be in the donate pile.

What the consignment shop didn't accept went back into the monster bin, and the entire thing went to Goodwill. There were four garbage bags of kids clothing still in the bin when it went to Goodwill, just to give you an idea of how big this bin was.

It felt so good to get rid of that huge bin, to purge ourselves of the stuff we don't need.  We will never lose the memories, even though the clothes themselves are gone.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Feminists Do WHAT, You Say?

Our wedding day, Sept. 1995. We paid extra for that vignette effect on this print. 
The other evening, while my eldest and I were waiting in a Starbucks when the youngest daughter was at tutoring, I overheard an interesting conversation.

A couple were discussing their marriage with another individual. At first I thought the person they were talking with was perhaps a wedding planner, but it soon became clear that he would be officiating the ceremony.

They worked out how they were going to seat people (no ushers, no assigned seats), how they would like the processional to go, and what the order of the ceremony would be. I tried not to listen, but it's difficult when you're only one seat away from the lively discussion.

At one point the person officiating asked, "Now how would you like to be introduced at the end of the ceremony?"

The couple seemed confused by his question, so he gave examples.

"Do you want to be introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Johnson? Or Becky and Ray Johnson?"

"Oh! That's what you mean. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson is perfect, that's what we want," the bride said confidently.

And then the person officiating went on to say how some people -- women in particular -- did not like to be introduced as "Mr. and Mrs."

"Some feminists don't like it," he went on, "Some ultra feminists don't even take their husband's last names."

The bride and groom made the expected "tsk tsk" noises and agreed how terrible that is for women to not change their last names upon marriage.


I had a hard time restraining myself from going over there and educating these people.

For one thing, the definition of a feminist is "someone who believes that men and women should have equal rights." I would take that to mean that both genders enjoy the right to vote, the right to work, the right to be paid equally for said work, to not be denied housing on the basis of gender...I could go on. Oh wait, I think I already did.

So what exactly is an ultra feminist? Someone who believes that women should have more rights than men, like the right to not change their name when they get married? Well, I guess that would be just an equal right, because men don't have to change their names when they get married. So they're equal in that regard.

This visual effect was even more unique and expensive. 
This fall Wayne and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Twenty years. Women choosing to keep their given names upon marriage is not a new concept. Had I chosen to change my last name, I would have to be married for another four years before I would have a married name longer than I had my given name.

My kids don't wonder if I'm their mother. Sure, when they were younger they had questions, and, being girls, they could relate when I talked to them about it.

"Imagine," I said, "that one day you met your prince, the love of your life. You decide to get married. And this prince's name is Joe Smith. So do you decide to become Lindsey Smith? Or do you decide to be Lindsey Horsman? There's no right or wrong, but you have the choice."

They also go to a school where classmates have hyphenated last names that combine both the mother and father's last names, or two parents of the same gender with different last names, or stepparents and half brothers and sisters from other unions.

By the way, I am not alone in my choice. I have met many women in my life who did not change their names, several on my street alone, for no other reason than they wanted to exercise that right.

Guess that makes us a bunch of ultra feminists. I think there are worse things to be.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Another bizarre dream.

I dreamt that I was a passenger in a school bus. The driver was going way too fast, and was driving around a cloverleaf, a ramp that was elevated in the air. The sign said 20 mph but the driver was clearly going faster than this. At one point two wheels of the bus lifted up, and everyone lurched over to the right, lurching nearly over the edge of the curving, inclining road. The bus slammed back down again, and everyone on the bus screamed. Someone yelled "You're going too fast! Slow down!" But that only seemed to make the driver go faster.

Finally, it happened. On the next curve, the left wheels of the bus left the roadway and the bus went over the railing. We were falling, falling, falling.

It was dead silent.

No one screamed. No one spoke a word. All I could hear was the rush of the air going by, not even the roar of the engine. In my dream I closed my eyes and I felt peace. I knew that everything would be all right. We would deal with whatever happened when we landed on the ground; we would be fine. And if we weren't fine, then that was meant to be, too.

I awoke and took a deep breath. Everything is going to turn out.

I am job hunting again.

You would think I had the perfect set-up: working out of my house. No commute. No make up. I could play my own music for anyone to hear. Yoga pants every day! I enjoyed working with my team (many of whom worked out of their homes also) and my boss. I was able to get my kids to school in the morning and was home when they got off the bus in the afternoon. I traveled a little bit, just enough to break up the time in the office, but not so much that it cut into family time.

Yet I was unhappy with the job itself. I thought, "Am I looking a gift horse in the mouth? I am well-paid with the perfect set up, ideal work/life balance; why am I not fulfilled?"

I expected to be challenged by my new role, but not in the ways I was challenged. I don't need to go into details, except to say that I began to doubt my abilities. After a while I finally realized it wasn't me or my skillset, it was just not the right fit.

In late January, the company restructured and many of my co-workers' positions were eliminated. I saw my opportunity and took it.

I quit.

In the week after, as I transitioned knowledge and know-how and notes to those who had just transferred it to me six months ago, I knew this was the right decision. I felt my shoulders begin to ease, my head to clear.

I had the satisfaction of putting hundreds of emails that I never fully understood straight into the trash, instead of gingerly and carefully sorting through them to file, in case that information would be needed at some point in the future.

For me there would be no "some point in the future" at this place. I was done.

I loved working with my clients; their missions moved me greatly, and, as I've found elsewhere, they are some of the most amazing people you'll ever meet. But my family and own career satisfaction comes first -- no one will put it first if I don't. I am so incredibly blessed that I had the option of leaving, of taking the time that I need to find something else that is more fulfilling.

I've said this my whole career and I will say it again: Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life.

Time for me to find something I love doing.

And now...what's next.

My password for my last week of work. Seemed appropriate.
I'm not sure. What I do know is that the nonprofit that I've been volunteering for for three years is excited to have me work on a short-term part-time basis to help them get their donation processing set up and documented, so that when they hire an admin assistant the process will be easy to follow. I'm thrilled to help them out, too, and am loving my time with them.

I know that my heart lies in the nonprofit world, in changing people's lives, helping others, making a difference.

I know that I am fascinated by and passionate about social media and the way that channel has changed the way people connect to others, how it has created political change in countries previously oppressed and has brought together people in ways once unimaginable. It has changed the way nonprofits engage with their donors and how retailers think about customer service. Amazing. What will it do next? What will I do next?

I have the luxury of taking the time to find out.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Don't Take Sh*t for Granted

I love books by Anne Rice, the New Orleans author most well-known for "Interview With a Vampire." One of my favorite books of hers is "The Tale of the Body Thief," when the vampire Lestat is tricked into trading his preternatural body with a mortal, who then decides not to trade bodies back.

In the first hours after Lestat becomes mortal, he is seized by a sensation that he doesn't understand. He suddenly feels a pain in his abdomen, something he hasn't felt in hundreds of years of vampiric living.

He finally realizes what the pressure is that he is feeling: he has to poop.

He makes it to the toilet in time, and feels the relief of voiding his body of the nutrients it didn't need.

What a bizarre little element of life for Anne to write about, how we as living beings eat and poop. It's part of living that truly, most of us take for granted. That is, until we can't. And then it becomes the central focus of our lives.

My dad has been battling colon cancer since he was first diagnosed with it in 2007. During a routine colonoscopy when he was 62, they found a significant sized tumor that required colon resection. He was declared cancer free and did not need chemotherapy or radiation.

The cancer recurred along the suture line in 2011. Doctors told him that this kind of recurrence rarely ever happens. He had radiation, chemotherapy, and another colon resection which left him with a very short colon.

Life since 2011 has not been pleasant for my dad. His shortened colon means that when he first feels like he may need to go, his colon is already full and has often has voided without his controlling it.  He gets up in the middle of the night several times to deal with this problem, not just a quick tinkle like many of us do. It means that indulging in particularly fatty or rich foods makes it impossible for him to leave the house for 24 hours or more.

He used to love to take road trips, and would often drive north to Minnesota and east to Michigan from there to visit family. He hasn't been able to make many of those trips, and when he does, they take infinitely longer due to the number of stops along the way.

His quality of life hasn't been the same since 2011. Then, this summer he was told that the cancer has recurred once again.

Chemotherapy was ordered -- no more radiation as he has had a lifetime worth of radiation already. The hope was to shrink the tumor and then do a colostomy, which would remove his colon altogether and he would void into a bag instead.

This was real hope for him.

He would finally have control of his body. More importantly, it would no longer control him. He had to go to Little Rock, about 3 hours from his home, for the surgery, because the surgery would be tricky due to the amount of scar tissue in the area from his prior surgeries.

He had surgery on January 15th. We are hoping that he will be discharged from the hospital tomorrow, February 9th, nearly a month after his surgery. This was much longer than the 5-7 days of post-surgical care that the doctors told him he should expect.

A few days after surgery he had a bowel obstruction, resulting in him throwing up even the smallest amounts of water that he could drink. They finally got the obstruction to flush out, after nearly 48 hours of the most incredible pain he says he has ever experienced. (Up to that point, that is.)

He developed an abscess. He had crazy amounts of discharge coming from the surgical site and other unnamed orifices, so much so that he became severely dehydrated.

Once the abscess resolved, they discovered he had a fistula, which is when two organs that aren't supposed to be connected together get connected. Part of his intestines had healed incorrectly.

The only way to treat this fistula is for him to stop using his gastrointestinal system, so that it can heal itself. That means no food by mouth. For weeks. He is getting nutrients intravenously and will do so for several weeks more after he leaves the hospital.

He'll be going home with an IV for nutrients, bags for the still unhealed stoma, and strict instructions to not eat or drink anything until he gets the doctor's okay. Once the fistula heals, he will finally -- finally! -- be able to eat and drink, though cautiously.

I believe those instructions are my dad's version of hell, the man who enjoys the gustatory pleasure of eating.

I will be flying down to Arkansas this coming weekend to visit. My sister and I had planned this trip together, thinking that he would have been home healing for several weeks by this time. Instead, Kristi flew down on a one-way ticket nearly two weeks ago to help with his care, and will be accompanying him back to his house from the hospital and ensuring that they have everything set up for his continued care.

He is surrounded by the most loving, amazing, supportive family members in my stepfamily and sister. He has friends and other relatives who call and write, wishing him a speedy recovery and good health.

All of the love and prayers help.

What would also help is for every person reading this to be screened, to get a colonoscopy so that others do not have to go through this.

Don't take shit for granted.