Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Final Goodbye

Coach Thomas praying with his team before the West Marshall game 2008 - the first game after an EF-5 tornado destroyed much of Parkersburg a year ago, including the high school and Coach's home.

Today our community said goodbye to Coach Thomas. Not just our community - friends, former students, and former athletes from all over the country. College coaches. Local farmers. A US Senator and our Governor. The tiny town of Parkersburg, Iowa was transformed into a grieving sea of people from all walks of life.

Ron Burgundy, Rick Coleman, and I stood in line for 3 1/2 hours last night to pay our respects to the family. The visitation was supposed to be from 3:30 to 8. We went at 7:00 and the line snaked through the tiny town of P'burg. Around 8:15 a friend of the family wandered to the end of the line and said "The family will stay until you have all been through. They want to speak to each of you." We got home at 11:45 pm.

The Thomas family literally held up every one of those mourners as they went through the line. Only God could give them that strength.

We're talking thousands of people here, folks. People from every walk of life. People from every demographic. People of every race, creed, and color. Those are the people Ed touched. Most of them were not football players.

While we waited in line, we saw old friends and shared funny stories. It was impressive to see the players who played for Coach and are now in the NFL come back to honor him as pall bearers. The chatter became more somber as we neared the church, and the sight as we entered was breathtaking. Flowers, plants, photographs, and memorabilia everywhere. Coach's life flashing in front of our eyes.

As we stood by the casket, the largest of two strong, burly, kick-boxing men I was with was reduced to tears. Sobbing, shoulder-shaking tears. I always carry Kleenex, and Rick didn't have his man-bag.

Ed's wife hugged my two companions who had been a part of Ed's life like she would never let them go. Like she couldn't let them go. Their lives had been intertwined for many years. The church is quite small, and only family and close friends were given invitations to sit in the church for the funeral. The family asked
Ron and Rick to be among them. The overflow would be in the community center and available via video feed.

Not wanting to take seats away from family, these two humble men hemmed and hawed, but the family insisted.

As we walked the 6 blocks back to the car, Ronnie said to me "I don't think I've ever been so honored by anything in my life." That's saying a lot. After all, this guy has a key to the city and had a street named after him, among other things. All of those things paled in comparison.

Because this honor was all about relationships. And love. And God.

And a relationship with a loving God.

They had that in common more than anything.

At the service today, Ed's eldest son said "
You can be sad the rest of the day, but come tomorrow, once you wake up, it’s time to get going ... There’s a lot of work to be done in this town.” That's what his dad would have wanted him to say.

You can read more stores and memories about Coach here.

I still don't understand, but after listening to Pete Wilson's final "Q" series tonight, I was l left refreshed by a couple of Pete's comments:

"There are simply some questions that don't have answers."

"Sometimes I think that the most powerful learning that we have in our lives doesn't come from the answers; it comes from the pursuit of the question."

"It's possible I may not get answers to some of my questions this side of heaven."

Ron put together his final tribute to Coach Thomas tonight. You owe it to yourself to watch.

let's get going. Coach would want us to.

Tea tonight: green with acai

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I Just Don't Understand

This little blog post will go buried in the searches on ESPN.com, CNN.com, and FoxNews.com, but I'm feeling a need to let my own heart grieve through my keyboard.

A year ago I posted here and here about a small town just a few miles from us that suffered devastating loss of life and possessions from an F-5 tornado. There were so many hurting people, and the Cedar Valley rallied around them in support.

In the midst of the rebuilding, the local football coach showed his exquisite leadership as he led his team in the reconstruction, vowing to have the football field ready for the first home game, despite the fact his own home and the school had been leveled. Football has been the cornerstone of
this small Iowa town, and what better way to acknowledge recovery than to have their champion team back on the field, fondly known as the "Sacred Acre," with the entire town in the stands on that September Friday night celebrating their survival of a natural disaster.

Today, Coach Ed Thomas was shot and killed by one of his former players.

This man was a legendary football coach, the 2005 NFL High School Coach of the Year, he shepherded 4 players who currently play the NFL, and was above all, a man of God. A deacon in his church and a mentor to thousands over his 34 years of coaching and teaching in Parkersburg, his goal was to make sure his studen
ts and athletes were the best young men and women they could be.

It was well known that his priorities were
1. Faith
2. Family
3. Football

He never put those in any other order.

I knew Coach Thomas as "the formidable opposition" when my boys played football. When I took the leap to be a high school tennis coach, he was an encouraging and inspiring teacher in my coaching certification class. Coaching and mentoring young people was his passion. But he was an inspiration to this non-traditional student as well.

Tonight my heart aches in so many directions. Like my daughter told me tonight, God knew this was the plan long before it happened. I know I will find more comfort in those words as time passes.

The father of the young man who shot Coach T serves as a deacon in the same church as Coach and is a friend of the family. He played on Coach's first football team in Parkersburg in 1975. The accused's younger brother is a senior on the A-P
football team this fall. Coach and the shooter's father often prayed together for the life of turmoil this young man was leading. The collateral damage of this troubled young man's actions is unmeasurable - the ripples go far beyond this small Iowa town of 3,000 and extend across our nation because of the number of lives he has touched over the years.

In a news conference today, Coach Thomas' son Aaron so eloquently asked for prayer for his family, as well as a request to keep the shooter's family in our prayers. And Ron Burgundy put his whole heart into this tribute to Coach Thomas.

I just don't understand. But I have faith that someday I will. Tonight
I will wrestle with either Jerry Bridges or Harold Kushner as I try to put some perspective on this.

But for now, I just don't understand. And I think God's OK with that, because it literally brings me to my knees - again.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Waiter, There's a Fly Man in My Soup Room

I don't surprise easily - I'm always so keenly aware of my surroundings and all. Or at least I thought I was until the fall of '99.

Since the early 90's I've been an active member of a national professional organization - not because I had so much to offer, but because I had so much to learn. I talked about it in my Keepsake Moment post here. Every year I've gone to the annual meeting, and this particular year I was asked to speak, which coincided with the same year I was selected as a Fellow in the organization.

So one day I wake up and someone thinks I'm kind of a big deal. Huh?? I was so humbled, because other Fellows before me were the very same ones whose brains I had picked for years. I'm certain this was a product of 1) the element of time (I've been in this field a long time) and 2) inquiring minds (mine) want to know - and ask until they get answers.

Ron Burgundy wanted to come along for the trip and to see the presentation (a piece of paper), but I said no. It would be too expensive for him to fly out there, and frankly, I enjoyed the time with old friends and a few days away from him. (You all know that's normal - don't judge me!) Four days of lectures, meetings, and breakouts, juggling PowerPoints, flash drives, laptops, and taking notes. So why in the world would he want to go there? Just to see me get a certificate with a dozen other people? I had effectively discouraged him. Whew.

The new Fellows are honored at the banquet, which is the highlight of the week with 1500 in attendance. Really important and famous physicians, nurses, exercise physiologists, and researchers (in this professional circle) had other more prestigious awards bestowed upon them and my friends and I always sit toward the front so we can rub elbows with them. It's a nice formal dinner, with tuxed waiters and the whole nine yards. And it's a time when we Iowa folk need to be on our best city behavior for a change. But now and then we still throw food.

The waiter assigned to my side of the table was a disaster - and he really creeped me out. From the time I sat down, he would brush up against my back, tousle my hair, and even get real close behind me so I could feel his breath on my neck. He would touch my shoulder, sprinkle water from the pitcher on my back, and in general be way too touchy-feely. Ugh. I mentioned it to the friends on either side of me, and at one point after he breathed on my neck I made the comment to my friend Janie that I was "afraid this creep is going to be in my hotel room tonight." Early on, I made it a point to not make any eye contact with him. I certainly didn't want to egg him on. He was always behind me, which made me squirm even more.

About 30 minutes into the dinner,
the creepy dude not only slopped water on me again, but proceeded to trip and fall on his face behind me as he stumbled into me and my chair. Glancing at the legs and torso, sprawled on his belly, I just wanted to crawl in a hole. This guy was sick. I was feeling stalked and starting to get a little paranoid. I couldn't wait to call Ron Burgundy when I got back to my room and tell him of the experience.

The head waiter then approached me and said that my waiter was new, and if he was offending me or causing me any trouble he would ask him to leave and assign me a different one. Then I felt terrible. Here this guy's probably working for minimum wage and just got the job - how could I possibly have him kicked to the curb? I told him not to worry about it - it would be fine, and I would just continue to ignore his aggressive, inappropriate behavior. I could be civil about it without making a scene.

My entree arrives. There was some massive plate shuffling and I waited patiently as my waiter placed my plate in front of me, but the plate just sort of hovers in my face. I glanced up at him and....



Yep, there he was, Ron Burgundy, in the flesh.

My waiter.

My shock and awe could not be contained, as captured in the video below. He was obviously having the time of his life, constantly hamming it up for the camera like it was his job. Well, I guess in reality, it is his job.

This was a one hour video, condensed down to a couple of minutes so you can't see me pick the food out of my teeth, or snort uncontrollably at the jokes coming from across the table. Note the hysterical restrained laughter of my friends, who were all in on the prank, as were the other waiters. RB even went to a pre-dinner waiter meeting, got fitted for his waiter tux, and conspired with the head dude. Then he planted his video camera behind a fake fig tree and had it on autopilot whole time.

Note how gracefully surprised I am, and how inconspicuous I was in the room when I realized what was happening.

I was right, that "creepy waiter" ended up in my hotel room that night, then promptly flew back to Iowa the next morning. The lengths that silly boy won't go to in order to pull off a surprise.

To this day, when I attend the annual meeting, the first thing people say to me isn't "How is the sucking up lobbying going?" or "What's your committee up to?" People just point to me and say "You're the one whose husband dressed up as the waiter in Phoenix..."

Yes, I'm famous in that circle - famous for making a fool of myself in front 1500 of my esteemed colleagues.

But wasn't that the sweetest thing in the world? It is one of his proudest moments!

Tea today: Genmaicha

Monday, June 22, 2009

Praying on Wheels

It was one of those days - I felt like I was the complaint department, a procrastinator, and a whipping post, all rolled into one. I started out the day with a delightful to-do list, and by 5:00, a half-hour after alleged quitting time, I multitasked quickly, eating my leftover yogurt, berries, and granola leftover from lunch at my desk. And stared blankly at the list with not one thing crossed off.

I apparently got paid to work a day for which I had nothing to show except a few satisfied people. So in reality, I worked with all my heart.
It had to be good enough, because I could work no longer.

I needed a bike ride -
badly. Quiet time, away from my phone, my computer, and out in the beautiful sun that kept peeking through the window of the exercise lab while all the patients moaned "how dad-gum hot it is out there."

Grabbing my stuff, I hopped in my car. This was going to be one cool ride.
Surely a bike ride would be better than the first 10 minutes in a car that was probably 120 degrees, because this is what my thermometer said it was like outside. It was only a few months ago that same thermometer read -21 degrees! For certain, I had not had enough water yet today.

I hit the bike trail and listened to
Louie Giglio, then Fee, then a little Andy Stanley. And I rode up to my favorite place, the labyrinth. I love walking through there and praying, and recalled how many times I've done that in the past few years, and trying to recall what was weighing on my heart at the time. Whatever it was, it had passed.

It was usually one of the kids. It's always at least one of the kids. Because you never stop worrying about them and you pray for them incessantly.

Other than the rocks in my bike sandals, it's such a peaceful place to be. One foot in front of the other.

Time escaped me, as it often does when I'm lost in prayer, song, and scripture lessons. I headed
back a little later than I had intended. The darkness doesn't scare me, but an empty water bottle and feeling like I had a blood sugar of about 30 does. My yogurt wasn't sticking to my ribs much at this point. And yes, it was very, very HOT.

I pulled into our neighborhood weak, tired, dehydrated, but feeling much more peaceful than when I left home. Sometimes I pray very hard for people in my life to see things the way I think that God wants them to see. Or maybe for them to just view circumstances with another set of eyes. To have faith in God's vision for their lives rather than their own vision. To let go of the plans they have and to submit to His plan. And in the process to stop and thank Him for a sunset that you might have missed if you hadn't been paying attention.

How many sunsets have you missed without paying attention to them? He painted them just for you, you know.

Tea tonight: are you kidding me?? Water, water, banana, shower, and bed! No tea for me!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day, Chuckie

Copping out with an old Father's Day post. Because nothing has changed between you and me since then. Except I'm drinking cheap tea today.

I miss you, Dad!

Forgot to tell you about my Father's Day present - Ron Burgundy bought me a new camera - a Canon something-or-other. Need to read the instructions yet. I just love it! Perhaps my slamming the old one against the wall too many times gave him the hint. Hopefully you'll notice fewer blurry photos and a bit more color. Woo Hoo! I told him he could use it as his Father's Day present, too.

Tea today: Green with lemongrass and spearmint

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Beautiful Saturday

I thought this weekend would never get here and finally the sun's out after an entire week of rain! Lots of lists to get to, but started out the day picking the lettuce that has been going crazy in my salad garden because of the cool temps and all the rain. It will take me all day to soak and clean this, and there's at least that much left out there to pick!

After pulling
a few weeds and arranging a few pond plants, I made a late breakfast. Just wasn't into toast and fruit today, but thanks to Katdish and her Twitterhea, I decided to make some oatmeal with goji berries, almonds, coconut and a drizzle of honey. It will stick to my ribs for a very long time. Oatmeal fills me up for half a day.

Now it's back out to the yard, errands to run, but had to leave you with a parting
shot of my fishies who are apparently in school today at the bottom of the pond. The water is crystal clear after Ron Burgundy cleaned it all out yesterday. There was no way to stop that beautiful reflection of the Hawthorne tree! And my creeping "whatevers" look better than ever this year,as does "Stella."

Isn't God just the greatest artist ever?

I spent some time with the neighbor boys who thought I needed ONE MORE FROG that he found down by the creek. Didn't have the heart to tell him he probably came from our pond to begin with. Then we had a little lesson on Lucky's grave, why and when puppies die and that it's all a part of the plan.

And then I wanted to have a little frog-catching, puppy-loving boy living at my house again. And a frog-loathing girl.... {sigh}

Tomorrow I will post about the best Father's Day present I ever got. Bet you can't guess what it is!

Tea today: Young hyson with some of the chocolate mint that is taking over the pond!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Moving On: The last Lucky post (perhaps)

My friends, (including the bloggy "imaginary" ones), coworkers, family and extended family have been totally awesome as I have spent a fitful, sleep-deprived, starving week of missing my precious Lucky. This will be my last post about him, as I am determined to live with the wonderful memories and not dwell in misery.

Move on.

I never thought I would miss him so much, particularly since his last few days he was
struggling so. But with Ron Burgundy always working evenings, it has been Lucky and me, just the two of us, all the time for nearly 15 years. In his able years, evenings were our walk time, snuggle in bed time, discipline time, bite realtors in the crotch bark at the doorbell time. Remember, he was terrified of people who wore sunglasses.

These last few months it was simply nurse and patient. Loving, palliative care given by former. Looks and gestures of sincere appreciation by latter.

It was a bond that was all too familiar, as so many of these interactions conjured up thoughts of my dad as he lived out his final years in the throes of Alzheimers. I think my dad always knew more than he was able to communicate. I could see it in his eyes.

There were some real God moments that got me through this week.

Lucky put his head back and looked me straight in the eye as his pupils dilated,
his heart thumped its last beat, and he crossed to the Rainbow Bridge. That puddle of pee was probably his final hurrah for me, too. But in that moment, his cataract-covered eyes became that deep chocolate brown again and appeared instantly healed. I didn't think much of it at the time. It was probably just a physical change that was occurring as life left his frail body. I was too selfishly distraught at that time to cry out to God and thank him for eternal healing of those beautiful expressive eyes.

We bundled Lucky up like a baby in one of the boys' old bedspreads to bring him home to his resting place. The vets and their staff, all teary and compassionate, ushered us out the back door to the truck. When we got in, Ron Burgundy's lip trembled a bit as he recollected what a loyal friend Lucky had been. I slowly uncovered Lucky's precious face and held him like a baby. "The tumor on his nose seems like it's hardly there," I offered. I'm not sure RB was paying attention. I stroked Lucky's ears and nose all the way home, and we proceeded to dig his final place of rest.

RB went back to the garage to get a different shovel, and sitting beside the lifeless bundle, I lifted the bedspread back one more time. His face was so perfect. I stroked his ears. His open brown eyes did not freak me out in the least. They were clear and beautiful.

And then I stroked his nose. His perfect nose.

I swear, as God is my witness, there was no tumor there.

I didn't say anything to RB and we proceeded with the burial, but the vision of that perfect nose will forever stay with me. A few hours later when talking to my son's girlfriend, I told her. Good ole Rachel, she got to be the first one to bear the brunt of my post-mortem meltdown crazies. I hesitantly told her about the tumor being gone.

"He's healed now," she said. And she didn't think I was crazy at all.

Yesterday, a letter arrived from my mom who is up at her trailer on the river summer home in Wisconsin. She had run across a disposable camera with expired film that she decided to get developed last week. She included three pictures that were on that film.

We have no idea when they were taken, at least a year ago, but what a bittersweet thing to receive them. Just another God thing - she never really wanted to waste film on the dog.

Wasn't he beautiful? Look how his ears are perked up! That was his healthy self.

Almost as healthy as he is now as he is perfectly healed.

No. More. Tears.

Tea tonight: Genmaicha

Monday, June 8, 2009

Love from LuckyPuppy at the Bridge

Dear Mom and Dad,

I'm at the Rainbow Bridge now. It's so beautiful here - I know you are very sad and your tears feel like the soft, gentle rain that fell while you were burying me this morning, swaddled snugly in the boys' old bedspread. Please know I'm running and playing like a puppy again. I have no pain. I don't limp or fall and the rabbits actually let me catch them up here! But I just play with them, because up here, they are special, too. All of God's creatures are free to run and play without fear. And I am no longer afraid of people with sunglasses.

My nearly 15 years of being a part of our family were the best any puppy could have had. I remember well the day Mom and KT came to pick me up after my birth mom was killed by a car and I had to fight my brothers and sisters for food in that barn. Yes, I was the runt, but KT knew right away I was meant for our family. She and the boys loved me so much; they never turned away my kisses. I always hated it when you sniffed my feet though. I never understood why you thought my feet smelled like Fritos.

Dad, the time we spent together was precious. Like sleeping very late, especially on cold winter mornings. And playing in the yard while you worked so hard to get the pond in tip-top shape for Mom. It's fitting that I should be physically buried in a place we all love so much. I loved laying under the crab apple tree and just feeling the cool grass on my tummy. (And while you were digging today, I heard you say you felt like Tony Soprano. Stop it, Dad, - not even close)!

I'm really sorry for the "stink bomb" I left on your new suit that day you took me along when you interviewed President Rawlings, just because I was a new puppy and you simply didn't want to leave me alone. And for all the "pupkiss" I left on the windows of your truck (except I agree with Mom - you never really noticed it). I just wasn't a very good traveler, but I sure loved being with you! I loved boat rides! And that present I left in your truck on our way up to Dr. Taylor's today? That was one last special gift to you!

Mom, you were the one who always walked and walked me. Wasn't that fun? I never got tired! Oh, the places we'd go! And when I got a little lame, you so gently carried me home, even though at almost 60 pounds, I know I was a bit heavy for you. But you just kept saying
"You're not heavy, I'm your mother!" Remember when I ate the entire WonderRoast chicken you bought for Dad, bones and all? And how about when I ate all of Ben's graduation mints while you guys were at church - and threw them up all over the carpet just before the party? And yet I always felt forgiven, loved, and pampered. Especially these last few months when you made me chicken and vegetable stew since I couldn't eat my dog food. Not too many puppies have a personal chef. Those sweet potatoes were my favorite!

Yes, you are the best family any puppy could ask for.

You will hear my tags jingle, even now that I'm gone. You are not imagining it. I'm shaking them for you, just to tell you I love you, and to keep your chin up. I know you miss me terribly, and I miss you, too, but really, I am at peace and romping just like I did in this beautiful video Dad made in my honor.

Thank you for all of the gentle, loving care. A puppy was never loved as much as I was.

My paws are together in prayer; we will meet again.
Tea today: Green with lemongrass

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Hummus Among Us

I've had precious little time to cook this week, and seemingly even less time to eat. Lunch meetings, on the road, tons of little things to do that challenge my ability to pay attention to anything for a prolonged period of time. Which means, I don't think we sat down for a meal once this week. Lots of salads, nuts, beans - all the stuff the most carnivorous husbands don't like much.

Especially mine. Don't get me wrong, he'll eat anything. It's just that he likes himself a little meat and p
otatoes now and again. Last night I thawed and sliced a frozen grilled chicken breast and threw it on his salad. "There's your meat for the week, honey."

Today he's at a meet
ing, I've been pin-balling amongst my to-do list items of Craigslist and eBay item listings, correspondence that is long overdue, and cleaning out the pantry and freezer, trying hard to ignore the banter and hype and lust of the Palm Pre that bombarded me from the moment I woke up today from my bloggy and Twitter friends.

Because I really, really want one.

But I really don't need one.

I do need to eat, however, so the good Lord provided a distraction when I found an overstock of garbanzos that literally cried out "Pulse me, blend me, any way you want me..." I've been eating hummus all week since it's a quick and dirty way to eat, so why not continue? No dishes, no prep (well, once, quickly), easy to eat in the car.

Wednesday it was spinach artichoke. I think it's my very favorite. I munched on it the rest of the week.

And after today, I may need a new food processor. (But I still want a Pre).

By noon I had made a yummy chipotle hummus, a fresh lemon hummus, and a roasted pepper/sundried tomato/pine nut hummus masterpiece. I cleaned out the freezer of my
frozen pitas and made a boatload of whole wheat and oat bran pita chips. There are neatly labeled containers filling the fridge with four kinds of hummus, two drawers of fresh veggies, and not one smidgen of meat.

When Ron Burgundy returns tonight, he will open the delightfully full fridge and say "Don't we have anything to eat?"

And on the Eighth Day, God created the Pre hummus.

Tea today: Genmaicha
(Photo: Photobucket, but a Pre would have taken a nice one)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My Keepsake Moment

Alix at Casa Hice gave me this precious award last week. Be sure to swing by her blog and check out some of the others on whom she bestowed this “Keepsake Moment” honor! If you haven't visited her lately you might not recognize her - she is a mere shadow of her former self and deserves a pat on her skinny little butt. Nicely, of course.

Now that I have allegedly bagged this award, I must I'm supposed to follow these rules:
  1. Post a funny or sweet keepsake that tells something about myself.
  2. Pass the award on to 10 other bloggers that I think are keepers.
I'm all about rules. Or not. I have so many blogs in my reader that many days that go unread. There. I said it. Sorry, friends - just being honest.

My charge is to write about someone or something that will forever be kept in my memory. It wasn’t hard to come up with one that totally blew me away.

Actually I came up with several ideas, but now I have some blog fodder. And boy, do I need prompts. Instead of being a Proverbs 31-type wife and writing about Ron Burgundy like I did here, or being supermom and writing something sweet about my children like I did here and here and here, or being the doting daughter and writing about my mom or dad like I did here and here, today, it's all about me.

Sort of.

It took a very long time for me to figure out what I do at my job. I mean, I know what to do, but as soon as I get good at it, things change. Since I’m in health care, the only thing that remains constant is change. Things like blood and vomit and pee are pretty constant, and fortunately, I only spent a few years dealing with that. Or rather, getting paid to deal with that.

And heck, you don’t even need to know how to make a “hospital corner” on a bed anymore. Nursing students today have no idea how bloody those fingertips can get if that quarter just doesn’t bounce high enough off that bed.

Because now they have fitted sheets. Whaaat??? (Here's where I start showing my age).

My current job landed in my life about 20 years ago by default. That’s politically correct terminology for “We’ve eliminated your position and you can take this other one or leave it, thankyouverymuch.” They didn’t want to pay that “high nurses salary” (ahem) to run a health promotion and wellness program and keep people from actually getting sick. So they put me in charge of the cardiac rehabilitation program. They apparently thought I was trainable. Or a sucker. A trainable sucker.

I leaped from teaching healthy people how to prevent heart disease by eating nuts and twigs and exercising to a 33 1/3 rpm vinyl album featuring Jane Fonda in bad legwarmers with a matching sweatband, to teaching people how to take 18 different over-priced medicines, pry themselves from the Lazy-Boy, while living with the #1 killer in the United States that was going to blindside them on a Monday morning and kill them anyway.

It felt like I was being pushed off a ledge. Or choosing to leap before I was pushed.

Did I mention I was a wife, mom of 3 elementary school kids, working part-time, and going to grad school? Details. I was kind of busy. And stressed. And feeling very inadequate.

This was a paradigm shift, to be certain. The scary part was that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. (Here’s where you pause, Reader, and say “Praise the Lord I wasn’t her patient back then…”)

I did what any good nurse does – I panicked (but on the inside only - iced saline in those veins). Then I proceeded to the local University library to research every article I could find about the clinical practice, but not reading the articles. Back then a young Al Gore was just getting started with the internet in his garage and “google” was something you did on the beach at some ridiculously immodest person in a badly crocheted bikini.

I gathered piles of research articles. I immediately went to the back of each article and perused the researchers/authors names in the reference lists. After several articles, I had compiled a list of people who were obviously in-the-know.

The Big Kahunas.

The Really Important People in the Specialty Who Were All That.

The “Published.”

And I called them. Yep. On the phone. Long distance. Land line. Five cents a minute. Zach Morris’ cell phone wasn’t even in beta then.

The first two calls got me through to assistants of assistants and I was unable to talk to the actual person, who was either a physician or an exercise physiologist. Twice I got “I’ll have him call you back.” Uh huh. Then I called the office of Dr. Pollock, one of the foremost pioneers in the field. His name was on nearly every article I'd collected. The phone rang twice, and then this lilting friendly male voice said “Hi, this is Mike.”

Wrong number? I stumbled and stuttered. I had expected “Department of Cardiology, may I help you?”

“My name is…uh.. and…uh… I… would…uh...like to talk to Dr. Pollock for a few minutes about some basic clinical cardiac rehab questions. Would you be so kind to help me arrange a brief phone conference?”

“This is Mike Pollock, Candy. What can I help you with?”


“Oh my gosh, Dr. Pollock, I didn’t expect you to answer the phone! (Talk speed, 0-60 in 3 seconds)…. You see, I have this new job in cardiac rehab and I have no idea what I’m doing but I am a nurse and I think a pretty good one and I have always loved exercise and I’m taking exercise physiology in grad school and I see you've done lots of research and written a dozen books and now I’m told I have this job in cardiac rehab and I have absolutely no clue where to start and what to do with all TWO of these patients but we’re hoping there will be more someday but….”

“Whoa, Candy. Slow down! Let’s start from the beginning!”

I always wondered what he really thought. After all, I wasn't the ditzy college co-ed I was acting like. I was a mature non-traditional student with a family, having a panic attack. On the phone. With a renown researcher and professor.

He was so calm and patient. He recommended several “How To” resources and told me where to get them cheap. He gave me a list of the things I needed to know about now and things I need to research eventually, like diagnosis codes and reimbursement and Medicare regulations and involvement in professional organizations that support my impending career and on and on... It was a clean, neat list of where my professional life would be headed for the next 20 years.

I just didn’t know it at the time.

I was writing fast and furiously, my questions became more sensible and hopefully I sounded less panicky as the conversation went on. Wow, I had a good start. A plan. Some goals. And a mentor. Several mentors, actually. He dropped some names for me and said to “tell them I gave you their name.”

As our conversation was coming to a close, he asked “Would it be helpful if I came to Iowa to speak with the physicians in your hospital to help you support this?” Long story short, he came to Iowa from Florida in the middle of winter. And he charged for his expenses only.

As he hung up he said “Call me anytime - you’re going to love this job!”

I had my doubts. I felt like an old dog and this trick was horribly new.

Over the years, I studied, practiced on my patients (did I really say that?), graduated (again), took additional certification exams and clawed my way up the cardiac rehab food chain. There really is no top, no end to the learning process, never an end to the advancements in the treatment for heart disease. I know so much less than most of my colleagues, but the important thing is that I now know them, have fostered some incredible personal and professional relationships, and I know they are merely a phone call away. Some of them are pretty darned snarky (as in blog-like snark), have no idea I dabble in blogging, and have threatened to publish my emails. I really should be more careful.

All because a brilliant, famous, but mostly humble and gentle man with a big heart said “What can I help you with?”

And he never forgot my name.

It was a "Keepsake Moment" to learn that you should never be afraid to ask questions that you think may make you look ignorant or foolish. There just might be a brilliant scientist on the other end of the phone who would love to answer and even come to visit you in Iowa in the middle of winter.

Mike died unexpectedly about four years after I met him as he was preparing to give one of his infamous lectures. Rest in Peace, Mike. You were the best.

And you were right, I love my job.

This post will be continued one day with “Iowa Girl Goes to Arizona and Turns into a Fellow.” It will be a fun one, but Ron Burgundy has some serious video editing to do in order to appreciate it fully.

Who am I passing this on to? Rules, I hate rules! I have a terrible sense of obligating people! Look at my followers list and if you're there, I like you, too! As well as a heckuva lot more of you that I follow.

If you've stopped by on a whim and would like to share a "Keepsake Moment" kindly lift this award for your blog and don't forget to leave a comment! I'll stop and visit!

Tea tonight: Young hyson

Monday, June 1, 2009

Our Waterfront, er, back Property

After many years of family boating and spending day after day on the water, it was always in the back of our mind that someday we wanted some waterfront property. When we built our home back in 1996, it came to pass. Sort of.

All I really wanted was the sound of running water outside our bedroom bay window on a cool evening, relaxing me to slumber. Little did I realize how much that sound conjures up the urge to get up every hour and pee.

With the house, I no longer had the passion for another place to keep up. What about a small pond with maybe a fountain and a couple of fish? Puh-leeez???

We had our landscaper plot out the pond and estimate the cost. Ouch. $4K for the sound of running water in my sleep was a bit too steep. So we borrowed the blueprints and said we'd think about it.

Ron Burgundy doesn't do anything small. Or easy. Or quickly. Bless his heart. The gradual hill that lingered in our back yard provided a vision that was not to be squelched. "How about we just build it into the hill a little? And have a little waterfall?"

"It's just a hole in the ground. I can dig it." Always the optimist, that boy. But dig it, he did.

The curious neighbors would come over and say "You're digging that with a shovel? Most people use a backhoe! Or at least a bigger shovel!" He'd smile and sweat and say "Almost done" while mumbling "It really needs to be deeper."

And deeper it got. When one waterfall didn't seem like it captured the corner of the yard quite right, he decided on two. He went around the neighborhood collecting huge rocks from lots that were being dug for construction. And he made a trip to Stone City for limestone, loading and hauling 2 ton of rock in a 1 ton truck, pulling a trailer.

All. By. Himself.

Our pond as an infant.

And at its midsummer best.

We added lots of plants, including carpet roses that have looked worse each year, I had one little corner for an herb garden (which has moved to patio pots except for the chives and spearmint I can't kill) and we bought two Koi and a baby fantail goldfish. Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. Fish have to have names, and these fish had personalities. You knew who was whom.

It took about 3 weeks for the disciples to follow, and after that, well, you know The Story.
Literally thousands of followers. Including frogs.

Mary, and Joseph made it about 6 years - pretty remarkable considering our -20 degree Iowa winters (the temp below the frost line is a constant 50 degrees - so glad RB kept digging)! Jesus lived on, and after that we went with just fantailed goldfish - they were 19 cents a piece as compared to $30 each for the Koi. Only a few bit the dust by getting sucked up in the pump. But Jesus' legacy of thousands of fishes prevails. Haven't seen any loaves, yet.

Last year R
B did a major overhaul when the liner tore and we lost most of our water, but amazingly, very few fish perished. So we he started over. He put in a bottom drain, new liner, new pumps, and restructured all the stone, including adding stone edging. It's a teenager now (like the bags of mulch?), full of fish (take some, please), thousands of tadpoles, and more chocolate mint than you can shake a weed-whacker at. Whew, that smells so good, especially when grows in the rocks by the falls. You can smell it all over the yard. You can come take all you want of that, too. But like a growing child, this project needs some serious discipline.

My obligatory Lantanas, the unknown plant in Luke's old football shoe for old times sake, and a new variegated sweet potato vine are about all we added. Other than a truckload of mulch. It will take a few weeks for the switchgrass to grow up, but my favorite part is the thornless hawthorne tree at the top. It has a unique clumped trunk and a perfect shape for shade.

This all puts my salad garden to shame - a simple two-foot strip behind the garage
with mesclun, banana peppers, jalapenos, 2 heirloom tomatoes and one Better Boy.They usually don't make it to a state of ripeness because of my insatiable passion for fried green tomatoes. But we will have salad all summer for a 59 cent pack of seed. It's all we need.

Well, other than my herb pots! Can't live a summer without fresh Italian parsley (half of which I've already used so it better grow fast), cilantro (my favorite herb-crack), rosemary, oregano, thyme, chives, and of course basil to help flavor my favorites - wheat berry salad and barley-mushroom salad on grilled asparagus.

Tonight, I'm blessed with the lingering presence of LuckyPuppy, who is probably spending his last summer laying under the crabapple tree. With sweet potato still on his nose from lunch.

He's a little embarrassed to have his picture taken, b
eing he's in such a morbid state. But despite the tumor on his schnoz, lack of meat on his bones, spring in his step, and sparkle in his eye, he knows he's loved. And he knows that once again tonight Mom chopped and peeled and stewed his vegetables for his wonderful homemade chicken soup. He even closes his eyes when you ask him to look at you, because then he thinks you can't see him.

And no doubt he's muttering "Why did I have to wait nearly 15 years and be so near death for her to feed me table food?"

And the two of us sit out there, listening to the waterfalls and think there is no more perfect refuge in the world today. There's no more perfect place to pray. Maybe that's why he has his eyes closed.

While his veggies were stewing, I slammed down half a Zola acai juice and I took a quick bike ride. On my
way home, the sun was slipping behind the clouds, and I caught beautiful reminders of the One who gave me all of this exhilarating place I live. My legs were shot - I had not one smidgen of glycogen left by the time I hit the last hill for home, so it was a quick smoothie made with vanilla yogurt, blackberries, the other half of my Zola and a little ice. I guess that was supper. But these views, and returning to the sound of my running water made it all worth it.

Is this heaven? Pretty darned close. It's Iowa,

Tea tonight: Jasmine