07 April 2013

Movin' on up...

So...I am too lazy to figure out what to do with this blog, and not being able to post photos makes me less likely to post at all. So I've moved over to Wordpress, to see what I can see. C'mon over and visit, why don't you? It's lovely over there. http://jenniferslanguishing.wordpress.com/

16 February 2013

A poem for today, for Myra and Janice

To the Women I Love Who Turn Seventy This Year

You were girls, of course, before you were mothers,
in saddle shoes and crinoline, singing along with the radio.
But motherhood suited you.
Though we're all past thirty now,
you still call us babies: remember braiding our hair,
teaching us the alphabet,
how to eat our vegetables and love one another.
Between you, you've mothered every child in town,
every child you ever met.

1943 must've been
an especially good year
for baby girls.

Yet you have both lost so much:
your parents, your husbands,
your brothers and sisters and friends.
There is much and more to mourn.
And seventy year old bodies complain
more than you expected,
as young strong-armed mothers,
or teen-aged Minnesota girls
dreaming of Minnesota boys.

You both still plant your gardens,
and reap what you sow, richer
in flowers and friendships both.

As you begin your eighth decade, we are so glad
to have this time with you. We will share
your cold beer in the Minnesota summertime,
while you dance with your grandchildren
in these gardens full of love.

04 February 2013

It is not the same.

This is a long post, months in the writing. Bear with me, y'all.

Back in December, Shaun was sick again.

A week and a day after Thanksgiving, I took the girl to school, and came home to my beloved in a literal pool of vomit on the sofa. I pushed a towel under him, handed him the bucket (which he already had beside him), and started making arrangements to miss work. It is not a good time for me to miss work: essentially the day before finals week for me, I had 8 conferences scheduled. But there was no other option.

By 10 am he agreed we needed to go to ER. I helped him into his chair, and helped him get dressed. We pulled into the ambulance bay at 11, and they wheeled him into the back. I sat in the waiting room and called Myra to pick V up from school.  I hoped they would admit him, but if they didn't, V didn't need to see him this sick.
When I was 12, my father had a massive stroke. I was in the seventh grade, and when Carol, our school secretary, stopped by the gym to tell me during laps in phy-ed that he was in the ICU, I felt the earth fall from beneath me. My childhood ended on January 10, 1986. The first time I saw him after the stroke was 2 days later. Riding the elevator up to Shaun's room, I kept thinking of that day, of walking down that cold hallway in St. Ansgar's, of turning the corner into his room and seeing him, my giant, my daddy, hemipeligic and in one of those awful hospital gowns.

This is not the same as that, I said to myself, over and over.

As the elevator opened on his floor, I crumpled up the slip with his room number and shoved it in my pocket, and went straight to the Nurses' Desk. "I'm Shaun Languishing's wife," I said (except, you know, that's not our real last name), "and I need to see his nurse." After a few minutes, she ambled up to me, and smiled. I took a deep breath. "So, okay, I don't know if you know this, but his vomiting is not really viral or bacterial. It's mental and anxiety-driven, and you should stay on top of his Xanax or whatever he's allowed to have here. And I am available if you have questions, but his therapist is leaving on vacation tonight, so maybe you should do a psych consult, but I don't know how he'd respond to that. And also, I don't think he wants to see me, but I brought his CPAP machine and this NintendoDS and the new issue of Sports Illustrated that came today, in case he wants those. So can you bring these to him and tell him I'm here if he wants to see me?" (When Shaun's in the hospital, he tends to throw up at the sight of me.) Her smile had faded some at "viral or bacterial," but she took what I gave her and nodded. "I'll be in the waiting room," I said.

I'm sure I seemed like the craziest wife on earth, because he'd only been admitted an hour earlier, and for all his poor nurse knew he just had a bad case of the stomach flu. But to her credit, she listened carefully, and when she came to the waiting room to tell me that indeed, he did not want to see me right now, she answered all my questions patiently with no discernible eye rolling. His heart is fine; he's on a constant EKG-type monitor to make sure. His admitting diagnosis is dehydration. They have a script for Xanax three times a day, and they'll give it that often.

V was at Grandma's for the night. I had no where to be. In my family of origin, when someone's in the hospital, you go to them, hold their hand, watch lame cable tv alongside them. I sat in the waiting room and cried.
After Dad's stroke, his brother and both sisters came straight to the hospital, from Hendrum and White Bear Lake and Arizona. They rented a spare room down the hall, and slept in shifts, so Mom could be home with us at night and Dad wouldn't be alone. My mom's brothers and sisters came too, and bought us ice cream from the vending machines downstairs, and asked us about school. I felt surrounded by love and completely terrified at the same time. In the first few days, a handsome doctor told us Dad would surely walk again, and would probably speak just fine after some rehabilitation. He's young, the doctor said, and very strong.
After a lonely night with the dog & Big Bang Theory reruns, I stopped by the hospital mid-morning, and the nurse said Shaun would see me. I was so scared, but I missed him, and kissed his face when it was clear he wouldn't vomit at the sight of me. We talked about how he felt, how the nurses were treating him. He was still sick, hooked up to machines and an IV, feeling very weak, but I stayed for 45 minutes. I told him how lonesome I was, and he said V and I could come for awhile the next day, if we wanted to. This was huge progress over his last hospitalization, where he couldn't see us for days.

In the elevator on the way down, I thought, "See? This is not the same."
A week after the stroke, maybe a little less, Dad fell asleep and the nurses couldn't wake him. At least, that's what they told Jess and me. After a day and a half, it was clear he was in a coma. "He's so young," the handsome doctor said, "his brain hasn't shrunk like an old person's, and there's no room in his skull for the swelling. We'll try to bring the swelling down, and then he should wake up." A day and a half later, he did. We were so glad to have him back, or the part of him, anyway, that the stroke had left behind.

He never walked on his own again, and he never spoke clear words beyond "yes" and "no." He lived for another fifteen years, though, and I was glad for almost every single day.
V and I went to visit Shaun on Sunday. We bought him a silly smiling helium balloon in the gift shop, and the shop lady gave V a sucker and me a sample of hand lotion. We walked to the elevators hand in hand, and rode up with several nurses and doctors. V skipped up the hallway, and climbed up beside Shaun in bed, minding the tubes and wires.  We talked about how much we missed each other, and how much fun V had at Grandma's, and when Daddy might get to come home. She looked out of the window of his 5th floor hospital room in awe. He put his arms around her and they watched a little Spongebob and laughed at the silly balloon.

When we left, I asked V what she was thinking of, and if anything worried her. She said "I get worried that you'll get too tired taking care of me by yourself." Oh, sweet girl. I promised her that if I got tired, I'd get Grandma or Auntie Jess to help, and we would be okay. Besides, Dad would come home in  few days, and we'd all go back to normal.

It is not the same as it was when I was a girl. It is not the same.

Tuesday evening, after I talked to Shaun on the phone and we figured he'd be coming home on Wednesday, I was folding laundry and thinking of how relieved I was for him to come home. How good it would be to be back in our little family routine.  How thankful I was that he was feeling better. How glad I am that his anxiety is not the same as my father's stroke.

Except it is.

Shaun's not paralyzed, and doesn't have aphasia. Hopefully V will never have to help him dress, and will never need to know how to fold up a wheelchair & slide it into the trunk of our car. But Shaun's anxiety, his profound, crippling anxiety, is a part of him, as much as that injured brain was a part of my dad. Shaun has learned to manage it better, in the last few years, and he continues to work to manage it, every day. But if I'm really honest? It will never go away. He will miss social engagements that I really want him not to miss. He may lose jobs because of it. I will need to clean up his vomit again. Sometimes, V and I will have to go to the hospital to see him, incapacitated. Sometimes we will be lonesome for him because this illness keeps him from being the kind of father and husband he wants to be.

It was a awful realization. For thirteen years I've been telling myself it's not that bad. For thirteen years I thought if we just went to more therapy, if we just got him on better medications....but in the end, his diagnosis is as permanent as a stroke. He may recover, in bits and pieces. But it is a part of him, and so a part of us. It had been two years since the last breakdown, and almost 6 years since the last hospitalization. It's chronic, but not usually acute. But it is the same.

In a strange way, after it really sank in, I felt better. It sucks. I wish it weren't true. But pretending isn't going to make it go away. I will gather my mom and sister closer to me, and his family, too, and our dear friends, and together they will help me, and V, and Shaun. I will try, for all of us, to be glad for every single day.

15 January 2013

The Church of Facebook

I grew up in a good Lutheran church. Well, really in a little house four blocks away, but you know what I mean. It was the church where my parents were baptized and married. We went almost every week, and I could count my non-Lutheran classmates on one hand throughout elementary school (hello, Shannon Welch, you crazy Catholic girl). For the most part it was a good place, for community building and taking care of one another. Often prayers during church were the first place we would learn that someone was sick, and it was through church that help, in the form of hotdishes or snow removal or visits to the hospital or whathaveyou, was most often organized.

But I have, as an adult, left the church. There are many reasons, and that's not really what this post is about;  my mom is still active, and it provides her with lots of necessary community and spiritual goodness, most of the time. I no longer believe in an all-knowing or all-loving god, or any higher spiritual being at all, so it seems disingenuous to spend much time in church.

So for me, in all honesty, the community of Facebook has replaced church.

I'll let that sink in for a moment. Some of you, no doubt, are thinking me a blasphemer. I'm okay with that.

For me, Facebook provides a central place where I can interact with many of my favorite people. I have, according to my Facebook profile page, 183 friends. I find that number startling, really. (My mom's church only has 50 active members, now). Many are people who never post anything, and may well never even log in, for all I know. And I've blocked some people, and unfriended some people, because I just didn't need their particular vibe in my life at one particular time or another. Kind of like sitting in a different pew at church, if you will, or leaving the narthex early to avoid running into someone you're tired of, perhaps.

My friend Tenessa, who probably has 8 million Facebook friends, is very good at moderating conflict and getting disparate sides to come together civilly (she really should be the president. Of the United States, not Facebook. Though if Facebook needs a president, she'd do that well too). I am not so good at that. I tend to call bullshit when I see it, and then sometimes scream and gnash my teeth, and sometimes leap before I look, and so I'm certain that I have, at one time or another, had more than 183 friends, but I have alienated them, and they blocked or deleted me. That's okay too. I didn't want to sit in their pew anyway.

I try not to overuse Facebook. There are times when I should be playing cards with V instead of perusing articles posted by my Aunt Shirley, or I should be vacuuming the carpet instead of playing MonsterWorld or GnomeTown. It's not always easy. But when I log in after I drop V off for the first day of school, and see my friends who are parents posting their kids' first day of school photos, it warms my heart. When I sit down after V's bedtime and see photos of my cousins' dogs, who live in Seattle, I feel less lonesome. When I need advice on who to call in this town for after-hours plumbing, I get five to ten responses, often in conversation with one another, within thirty minutes.

Just in the last 24 hours, these are the conversations in which I participated:

  • Red Delicious Apples Desperately Need Renaming, with which I concurred.
  • Ultra-sound and sex determination, in which I shared our experience with fetal V.
  • Gone With the Wind vs. Game of Thrones, in terms of reading over holiday break, and how much war each book contains.
  • A flow chart about the Prince song "When Doves Cry."
Other important social duties I performed or information I gleaned today:
  • I wished my friend Chad Smart, with whom I grew up, a very happy birthday.
  • I discovered that my friend Debbie, who grew up in England, just learned who Mr. Rogers is this month
  • I found out $haun shares a birthday with Lou Ferrigno. 
  • I tried to help Tenessa deal with some nasty vertigo (I suggested she pretend she's on an ocean cruise, because it's sort of like seasickness)
I also enjoyed my friend Terry's weekly tribute Garbage Day; updates from sites to which I subscribe, like NPR and mental_floss and Planned Parenthood and the Plains Art Museum; and an article from the New Yorker reposted by Terry of Garbage Day fame. I was invited to two different events this weekendThere were many other things, too, in my feed today, including some I would like to spend more time on but I decided to write this post instead. 

And sometimes Facebook has direct, tangible benefits. When Shaun was sick, in the past, I could put a notice out on Facebook that I needed help with childcare, and often more than three options would quickly be offered. When Sarah and Robby were fighting the flood in their backyard in '09, we used Facebook to coordinate meals and support. When my washer died on Christmas Eve two years ago, I posted it on Facebook as a "hey, this is what sucks in my life today," more than anything. Charlotte in West Fargo offered up their extra set if we'd come pick them up (and I love them still, Charlotte!). Just this week, I lamented my lack of a Bedazzler (tm) and my Aunt Shirley told me she had something similar just waiting to come to live with me. It seems like magic, doesn't it??

It's not a perfect church, the church of Facebook. But I've found what feels to me a good balance, with people who are loving and funny and bright and good, most of the time. Many of them are people I haven't seen in years and years (more than ten, in some cases), or people who live so far away (like Seattle, or London) that I just can't physically see them at all. And sometimes, it makes reunions weird: we had less to talk about at our 20 year high school reunion, because we all friended each other on Facebook before hand, so there was a lot of "So, anything going on you haven't posted on Facebook? No? Huh." I don't agree with all my friends on all things, and if I were a better person I'd weather even more conflict and grow and learn from it. But right now, Facebook provides me with a community that is supportive and smart and and often hilarious. I like it a lot.

And I don't even have to sit in one of those uncomfortable pews. 

19 December 2012

Languishing's Annual Holiday Gift Post

I know I can't include photos right now, but I can't bear to let you all face the holidays without Languishing's wisdom. I stand by most of my suggestions from years past, and in fact they offer many good ideas if you're stumped. Seriously. Who doesn't love pudding? (Oh, lactose intolerant people, I'm sorry). But perhaps you want STILL MORE Languid goodness. If so, here you go. Some bigger ticket items for the bigger ticket folk on your list.

1. A Hoover Windtunnel T-Series. I am not a brand-specific girl when it comes to most things. I take what I can get for free, and I use it until it falls apart. But last year for Christmas, Myra bought both Jess' house and my house new Hoover Windtunnels, because Consumer Reports rated it as high as a Dyson. That's right. A Dyson. And this model costs less than $100.

Our house only has one room with carpet, but it's the room in which we spend most of waking hours. Our old Dirt Devil did what I asked of it, on the rare occasions I asked it to, or so I thought. But once I opened the Windtunnel, I knew I'd never go back. It glides like an angel, is remarkably quiet, and picks up dirt that's been there, I assume, since before we moved in. I'm embarrassed to tell you how many times I had to empty the canister the first time I used it. But with such joy! What's not to love about a quiet, easy to use appliance that makes your house cleaner than you ever thought possible? I've totally drunk the good vacuum kool-aid, and it inspires me to clean other things. Really. I just love it so.

2. A Costco membership. Now, this doesn't make sense if there's no Costco in, say, a 75 mile radius of your home. But if there is, and if your recipient doesn't live alone or as a simply as a monk, consider a gift membership to this particular wholesale club. One just opened in West Fargo, and I love it very much. I also love the Costco business model, which pays employees a fairer wage than Sam's Club, offers much better health benefits, and their CEO makes what strikes me as a reasonable (but not obscene) amount of money. Costco offers great savings on electronics, fair savings on gas, milk, and bread, and things like an entire case of dried seaweed. You know, in case you're into that. Also, you can order your own casket, if'n you want. (Let me be clear: I am not advocating purchasing a casket for a holiday gift. That's even beyond Languishing's Code of Appropriateness).

3. An X-Box. My sister as a Wii, and I suppose she'd disagree with this, but I tell you, our X-Box is one of the most powerful electronics in our home. The one I've linked to is the Star Wars model (which we don't have, but V and I covet. A lot), but you could go simpler. You can run Netflix through it, play video games, listen to Pandora or Rhapsody, and we have a Kinect, which opens up the possibility of actually getting off our duffs and moving around.

4. V says I need to include a toy on this list. "All toys are good," she says. But she especially likes this Baby Alive, the brunette, "because she's brown and has brown hair." She's also a fan of the Lalaloopsy cult, er dolls. Just lots of love for toys in general here, I guess, is what we're getting at.

Well my loves, that's what I have for you. What's your favorite gift you've ever received? Or given?  How do you feel about your vacuum cleaner? Or about Baby Alive?

23 November 2012

I'm not just a slacker, hey.

So I know I'm slacking here. I know it.

But it's not because I don't love you. And now, believe it or not, after nearly seven years, Google is telling me I've run out of space. Seven years of our life apparently equals 1 Gig of photo storage, which is the exact amount Blogger allows for free. This is a generous amount, and I swear I'm not complaining. I can expand this for $2.49/month, but, you know, part of the charm of this blog has always been that it's free. 

So...I'm working on it. Maybe I'll wander over to WordPress, or some other free blog service. In another seven years, maybe I'll even feel comfortable paying for a blog space of my own. (Oh, Virginia Woolf, how things have changed, and how they've stayed the same...)

I welcome your advice and thoughts, gentle readers. I'll keep you posted. Though without photos, for the time being, I guess. 

04 November 2012

Drinking the kool-aid.

Our trusty old Verizon Vortex cell phone had finally worn out its battery: it couldn't stay charged long enough for me talk to anyone for more than ten minutes. Luckily, we were almost 3 months past our renewal date, so I wandered in to our neighborhood Verizon store to see what they would give me for free.
snuggled up with sky

 I know nothing's ever free, really, but we don't have much to invest in our cell phone package right now. I had been really happy with the Vortex, but Shaun said it had irritated him (we share one cell phone. I know. We're such Luddites). The two phones that were free at Ye Olde Verizon Shoppe the day I ambled in were the big brother to the Vortex, now with Lightning Fast 4G! Or an iPhone 4.
in the backseat of the Scion xb
We were, for many years, a Apple family. My first desktop was a Mac (before the iMac), and I loved it long past its prime. When my work started issuing laptops, I came to speak Microsoft, grudgingly. Now that we rely on the work laptop for all of our computing needs, I guess we no longer qualify as an Apple family.
Dewey's slides, labeled in his handwriting. 
But my sister, she's got an iPad and an iPod and probably some other lowercase i's I'm forgetting. V and I both enjoy the Karstens' family electronics. Besides, free iPhone! I've never had an iPhone, but I'm hep. I know what the kids are into these days.

Yes, it's an iPhone 4, which is already outdated twice over, I hear. But man, I like it a lot. It's no slower than the Vortex (though it doesn't have Lightning Fast 4G!), and the app possibilities are fascinating, and I only allow myself to look at the free ones. Aaah! So many choices! It's intuitive and beautiful and I'm preaching to the choir, I know, because the whole world is aware of this. But it feels like home. Is that strange, that a certain technology should feel like home? Well it does. I'm so excited.

The photos above are from the iPhone's camera, through the Instagram program, which is a cool little social media thing that lets you apply a variety of finishes to the pictures you've just taken. You should follow me there, if you're on it. I'm jenlanguishes. I'll follow you too, once I figure out how.

How do you feel about your cell phone, folks? Do you have iTechnology? Do you not? Wherefore art thou, gentle readers?