Monday, February 27, 2012

Squeeze the Juice Out of Every Day

It seems that life is a constant series of transitions. As someone who enjoys change, this has always been exciting and refreshing for me. It's not that I have an attention problem, I believe it has everything to do with wanting to sample everything life has to offer in this very small frame of time we have on this earth. Squeeze the juice out of every day.

My latest endeavor has been the addition of Roller Derby to my repertoire. This has shocked many. Just this weekend I was approached by a business associate and friend and was asked, "You're still doing that roller derby thing? I thought your need for it would be gone by now." Hmmph. At first I was insulted, then I was mad, then... I laughed. How odd it must be for an outsider to completely encompass what roller derby means, and has meant, to me.

As a child I would skate for hours on the handicap ramp of the St. Marys Baptist Church or in the playground at the neighboring elementary school. My first pair of skates were metal clamp ons and I wore the key on a red piece of yarn like a badge of honor around my neck. As I grew older I looked forward with anticipation to church events at the roller rink, and later would enjoy weekends with my best friend Ann Wilson at the Cavalier Roller Rink in Parkersburg.

Going off to college, I busied myself with studies (and parties) but never lost the love of skating. Finding my old white rink skates with purple wheels and pom poms, I would put them on and skate up and down the street whenever I had the chance.

Marriage, kids, work... decades would go by. I would still get that anxious excited feeling when the girls would be invited to the roller rink for a birthday party. My old white rinkers, long gone, it was necessary to rent skates at the rink now. Waiting in line I would get the familiar feeling of exhilaration to get those wheels on my feet and start moving. I couldn't lace them up fast enough.

At the parties, my kids were thrilled that their mom would skate with them, some parents were thrilled that they didn't have to go on the floor and drag their child around the floor in endless circles. Me... I was thrilled just to get the opportunity to skate again.

I have skated my whole life.

So here I am, 43 years old, one of the oldest ladies on the Hades Ladies Roller Derby team. Do I love it? Absolutely yes. Does it hurt sometimes? Hell yeah. Does it challenge me physically and mentally? You bet.

For a short period of time every week I can change into Mad Lids, leave work and worries behind and just enjoy skating. The real estate broker, on-the-go mom, board member, youth choir director, children's church teacher... all of the responsible, dutiful positions can go away... for just a little while... and I can let go.

Transition is key in life. Take something you love, transform it into something that changes with you as you move through your journey. It's old, but it's new.

Squeeze the juice. You only have today.

Friday, October 21, 2011

It is done.

The words echoed in my head as I stood beside my father's bed after his last breath. It was 3:46am, September 21, 2011. It was the end of a long struggle for my father and the turmoil he has lived with the past 5 months of this horrible affliction that finally overcame him. The last week was the most trying for him, and witnessing his journey out of this world and into the next has changed me forever.

There were many moments of time shared with just the two of us. Most of "our time" time was in the wee hours of the night as I took "night duty" with Dad and stayed with him at the hospital. I watched his labored breathing progress, his food intake lessen, his body weaken, he was shutting down. He would have such terrible, restless nights of uncomfortableness, confusion and frustration. Sometimes he would wake and look at me and say "Well Lydi, I didn't know you worked at the hospital!". I would just smile and ask what I could do for him.

The night they moved him to the 4th floor was the realization that he would be leaving us. With all of the confusion and miscommunication with many of the Med One doctors we had experienced, we were finally blessed with Dr. Patel. A young, energetic and forthright physician, and the only doctor who sat us down and told us he was dying. Had it not been for Dr. Patel, my father would not have been able to die the way he wished. At home with his family.

That night I sat by his bedside and watched the heart monitor screens outside the door for any changes in his activity. My eyes were drawn to a lovely artist's print of an angel on the wall in the nurses' station. A perfect print for the nurses of that department. Angels, every one of them. During the night my Dad awoke and was very upset that the lighting was too bright in the room. There was only one light on, which was indirect lighting on the wall behind the bed and could not be dimmed just a switch On or Off. Try as I might, I could not get the lighting to be dimmed. I turned all the lights off and turned the bathroom light on and cracked the door. Dimmer, but darker. Dad said it would not do. Back on with the indirect lights again. 5 minutes later.... the bulbs on the left side of the fixture flickered and burnt out. Poof. "Ahhhh. Much better..." my Dad says.

Yes, there are angels everywhere.

The next morning we made arrangements to get Dad home. The next 36 hours were a mixture of emotion. Laughter when he looked at my brother at the end of a serious family prayer he had just spoken and said "Nice hat", uncontrollable crying as I wondered how much more suffering he could take, heartache as he clutched my mother with all the strength he could muster and tell her he didn't want to leave her, love as I watched my wonderful nephew Zach play his ukulele for his grandad at his bedside, happiness at rememberances of times together, fear when he was shouting out in the night reliving his time in the war and demanding the dirt be dug in front of the tank he was driving and giving military commands, compassion as my mother and I took turns playing hymns on the piano and singing trying to comfort him, worry as his body went through the stages of preparing for death, so many ups and downs. I am thankful for the time that we had all together as a family to be with Dad right to the end. I am thankful I got to tell him how much he meant to me and how much I love him.

Throughout the last hours he kept seeing a door and asking for the door to be opened. We all were wondering... is this the door to heaven he is asking about? If it was, at 3:46am he stepped through that door to walk with the Lord and have all of the questions he spent his life learning and researching about.... answered.

"And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely"

I miss you Dad.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Night Watchman

I've experienced all kinds of snores in my lifetime, but tonight was one of the most soul touching snore nights of all time. I am in the medical surgical unit at the hospital keeping watch over Dad through the night. Needing to stretch my legs, I walk out into the hallway and decide to walk the hall. It is 3am. As I pass each room I hear snores, along with a tv playing, or radio, or beeping drips and monitors. Passing each room I think about the patient lying in the bed, and their families with them, some on cots, some curled up in chairs, some awake sitting on the end of their loved one's bed. I pass the room of my dear friend Jolee's mother and I can see the faint shadow of Jolee's blond braid draped over the hospital chair next to her Mother's bed in the dim light. They are sleeping. Mother and daughter. My heart breaks for her. She told me tonight that Hospice care begins tomorrow.

My Dad is finally snoring soundly. After a night of fitful sleep, forceful coughing, UTI discomfort, labored breathing and multiple nurse stops, he sleeps. The catheter will help him stay comfortable and asleep for longer periods of rest. I've never been so happy to hear a snore in my life.

It made me realize that on the Second Floor, snoring is a good thing. It means deep restful slumber at last. No pain, no suffering, no uncomfortableness, no interruptions, no frustrations... Just wonderful deep snoring sleep.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I woke up wide awake at 4am this morning. I can't get my father off my mind. Walking around the house I see the pictures of him in the frames on my living room shelves. A big strapping man with an even bigger smile, full of life and action. Remembering our talkative drives together after school for so many years for piano lessons in Williamstown, I think about his sharp mind and incredible intelligence. Looking at the finely detailed wooden spoons and dollhouse furniture he made for me on those same shelves, I think about his wonderful hands. Hands that worked with wood, hands that wrote sermons, hands that played the piano, hands that held others. He can barely use his hands now.

This horrible affliction has completely taken him over. His mind, his body and now his spirit. He is bedfast, unable to move much if at all. I am very worried that he has given up. I can see it in my tired mother's eyes, she is worried too. My heart aches for them.

These past couple of weeks his condition has worsened drastically. I was so hoping that the infusion treatments would help, but he isn't responding to them. He doesn't want to exercise his muscles, he doesn't want to eat, he doesn't want to do anything. His longtime pastor friends have visited and called and counseled. There is no change. I fear that he has been overcome.

Psalm 121:

I lift up my eyes to the hills- Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip -
He who watches over you will not slumber;
Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you
The LORD is your shade at your right hand;
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm -
He will watch over your life;
The LORD will watch over your coming and going
Both now and forevermore.

I read this over and over. And keep hope.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Other Side of the Glass Door

It's Wednesday afternoon and I am attending to Dad at their home while my Mom gets a much needed break with her lady friends at knitting club. They have planned a nice birthday "party" surprise for her today. Having friends like that makes me so happy for her that she has a bright spot in her days. While she desperately wanted to go, the anxiety of leaving Dad's side scared her to death. I likened her to a new mother leaving her baby with a babysitter alone for the first time as she nervously showed me all the supplies, medications (with full instructions) and food directions for Dad. Within minutes of her departure Dad was settled in his recliner and telling me he wanted a nap before eating his lunch.

Looking at him relaxed in his chair in his fresh, clean pjs with notes from Mom about this or that surrounding him, side table with his books carefully stacked and water jug iced down, he is in restful slumber.

We have a family tradition in the Harris family. When we are leaving from one another's house, we will stand and wave until the leaving party is out of sight. A new tradition my mother and I started a few years back was blowing a kiss to each other and waving as I would back out and leave her driveway. Today, as I stood at her back patio door and blew her a kiss as she rode away with Lena down the driveway, it occured to me that this had never happened before. I, standing at her door blowing a kiss to her as she was leaving. I stare at the empty driveway. Feeling and living her world on the other side of the glass door.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Patience is a virtue...

Patience has never been my strong suit. I look back on my younger days and how impatient I was with drivers who were too slow, people who took too long in the check out line, waiting for food to be ready, long car rides to a destination, computers that took too long to boot up. Little did I know at the age of 23 that by 42 all of those "important time stealers" would mean very little to me anymore. Hurry does not work well with patience. Why does it seem everyone is in such a hurry? What are we in a rush to finish? Do we rush and rush, only to be at the same place at the same time if we just would have been patient and let it happen naturally?

I pondered this theory when driving with my kids this past week to the mountains. Going up the last of the straight stretches at Alpena we were following a huge flatbed with a gigantic propeller wing for one of the windmills they were installing in Davis. We had followed the truck from Elkins. We were traveling at about 8 miles an hour. It was obvious by the flailing arms and "mouthed" expletives from the driver in the car behind me that he "was in a hurry". Risking life and limb, the driver swerved around us and gunned it to barely make it past the truck just before the road drastically curved to the left. He about lost it in the ditch, but made it past. The truck and I continued on our slow journey over the mountain and as we approached the gas station at the top of Laurel Mountain, we were met by a road construction crew... controlling traffic down to one lane. Guess who was there waiting in line? Mr. Speedypants. Same place, same time. Was his risk worth it? I'd like to think not.

Patience is something I'm constantly working on. My patience level took a drastic change when I got married, again when I took on each of my pets, it changed dramatically when I had my children and now, I am learning a whole new level of patience with my parents. I'm getting there, I'm just a slow learner.

I've spent my whole life being in a hurry. I'm tired.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Power of Music

Anyone who knows me, knows I love music. All kinds of music. From the head-banging notes of The Violent Femmes to Chopin's soothing and melancholy Nocturnes and everything in between. One of the best things about music is that no matter what your mood, there is a song for it. And even when there might not be just the right song for it, you can make one up.

Music is the international language and bridges so many cultural divides. It heals, soothes and educates. Even when our oldest daughter Elena had her horse, it always amazed me that Leona (the horse) would respond to the type of music we played for her. Slow, calming songs when we groomed her, and then snappy songs for riding. Her natural rhythm would follow the beat of the songs. Different steps and patterns for different songs and rhythms.

Music expresses emotion. It builds us up. It calms us down. It evokes memories. It makes memories.

Music is educational! Math was never my forte, but had it not been for beats per measure, time signature, scoring and my faithful friend the metronome, I may have been lost about the fundamentals of music and mathematics. Music is a valuable teacher.

Recently music has been my motivator. Beginning the second mile of my morning walk uphill and breathing hard, if it weren't for Taio Cruz and "Higher" I don't think I could make it. My drive to work right now usually involves the old dance tune "Knock Knock Knock on Wood" to get me revved up for the day. I apologize to anyone reading this blog if you pull up next to me at the light in town. That's right. I'm the crazy woman who always plays her music too loud. If the doors are thumpin', the music is pumpin'! Even with the windows rolled up I know I have to be breaking a sound ordinance somewhere. If something happened to my iPod I think I might have a nervous breakdown.

Finally, and most importantly, music is from God. No other music touches me more than the old hymns I grew up with in church. When I sing them now on Sunday mornings I can't help but get choked up with emotion. It touches something deep inside me. I think the newer contemporary songs are great too, but they don't have what the hymns of yesteryear have. Even at Vacation Bible School I miss the old standards like "Deep and Wide" and "I've Got the Joy Joy Joy Joy Down in My Heart", they have been replaced with "hip", rockin' tunes with video. While some of these newer songs can certainly bring tears to your eyes, it's the old standards that work for me.

There is one song above all others that encompasses everything that music is to me. I cry uncontrollably upon singing it, playing it and even thinking about it. Blessed Assurance. Written by a blind hymn writer visiting her friend who was getting a new organ back in 1873. It was a jam session for the two of them. The song is now 138 years old and means just as much now as it did then, if not more. That's the power of music.