Monday, September 27, 2010

You Just Never Know What People Are Struggling With

Tonight started like any other night at work. Later, it would change in a direction I never expected.

I heard the story on the news about a man in Siren, Wisconsin, who was killed after shooting at people randomly, wounding 3 people, including a sherriff's deputy who was shot in the arm and ended up firing on the suspect. The suspect was shot in the throat and died on the way to the hospital. The full story is here at this link:

When I heard this story on the news, I thought, "What the hell is going on in this world?" I was glad to hear that nobody else was killed or seriously hurt. Then you think, "What on Earth could be so bad that you have to start shooting at people because they are there? There had to be something really wrong with that person (the suspect) for them to just go out shooting like that."

For the people who were shot at, it had to be terrifying. I can't imagine what they must have gone through, especially the van with a family and children in the vehicle.

I feel sad for the family who lost their loved one in such a manner, wondering what could have been done to help them. What were they going through that was so terrible? Did they just lose their job? Did they break up with a significant other? Did someone they care about recently pass away suddenly? You just never know what people are struggling with, which is why it's best to try and be kind to people, even if they aren't very kind to you.

Mike Ritchie was someone I only knew a few short weeks at my new job. He was a set-up tech, and was usually the first one in with the start ups and a smile. He usually brought us Jolly Rancher candies or butterscotches and was happy to tell us stories about Siren, Wisconsin, where he drove home to every day from work, and then drove back to work each day to Anoka, Minnesota. I knew he liked to hunt because he talked about deer hunting and bear hunting.

The last day I saw him, he looked like he was upset about something. He didn't smile and joke like he did before. He didn't say anything. He just came in with some paperwork and then turned around and left. Not like him at all. I remembered him saying his cat had died, and he was upset about that, but I didn't know if that was troubling him or if there was something else. I didn't know much about him.

I didn't ask.

It was none of my business.

I just chalked it up to he was having a bad day and thought, "He'll work it out for himself."

Nobody but Mike and God know what was going through his mind on Sunday morning at 11:45 a.m. when he began shooting randomly at people in Siren, Wisconsin. No autopsy in the world will be able to rerun the last thoughts going through his brain. It will say if he was on drugs, alcohol or under the influence of some other substance. But for his family and his friends, the question will still be, "Why?"

Mike, I hope you find peace, wherever you are. And I'm sorry I didn't ask what was bothering you. I don't know if it would have made a difference or not in what happened on Sunday. I'll never know.

My prayers go out to those people Mike shot at. I hope you all can overcome this terrifying incident and can still find the good in people.

Please, everyone, be kind to one another. And if you see someone is not acting the way they usually do, please, ask them if they need to talk, or if there is something they need. Sometimes people just need to vent and sometimes just knowing somebody acknowledges they are there means the difference between triumph or tragedy.

But if someone is depressed and in trouble, make it your business, especially if they are a friend or a relative. You may save more than one life just by asking a simple question, "Are you ok?"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cooler Weather, Fall Cleaning and Chicken Feet

Fall is my favorite time of year, always has been, always will be. I used to look forward to shopping for school supplies, new clothes, and new shoes and the changing colors of the leaves on the trees. The weather here is considerably cooler than it was 2 or 3 weeks ago and I am welcoming it with open arms. Soon I will be cooking and canning and preparing what I can for the winter to come. There is a sense of accomplishment, love and pride when you look at all those jars, big and small sealed and full of something spicy or sweet.

The funny thing is, when I was younger, I hated helping my mother with canning. Now, I think it's the greatest thing!

The last couple of weeks have been really out of control and I've done what I can to cope. I can't control what's happening around me to the ones I love or what will happen later on down the road for them, but I can control my own environment. Fall Cleaning Bug has hit me hard, not just at home, but at work as well. Out with the clutter, and the stuff that is just collecting dust and taking up space. I'm beginning to feel a lot better, better than I have in a really long time.

I keep asking, "Why the hell did I hang on this? What the hell was I thinking?" The answer is simple. I wasn't thinking. I was impulsively buying stuff I didn't need or stuffing crap in boxes or tubs or containers and stuffing them under my bed or my closets. I still feel a bit guilty for throwing things away, but most of the stuff I have I know I can take to Goodwill or the Salvation Army and it can be put to good use by someone else. I just have to stop and live with the empty spaces. No matter how uncomfortable it feels at first. I know I can't let things clutter up like I have in the past. It's not healthy to hang on to things you don't use or love anymore. I have to learn to let go. It's hard, because I've lost so much in my life, and using the stuff to fill the voids was comforting for a while, but now, it's annoying me, and I realize it's rather sad. I don't want to live like this anymore.

And I really don't want to end up on the next episode of "Hoarders."

It was during my lastest cleaning binge this weekend that I had one of the most humorous moments in the last month. It was Sunday, and the weather was beautiful, so I had the windows and the doors wide open. I'm on my hands and knees scrubbing my bathroom floor, and I got up to shake out my rugs and sweep and mop the kitchen and the entryway. I came into the kitchen and saw a spot of red behind my kitchen chair. I looked under the table. Guess what I saw?


My neighbor has chickens and they have been spotted roaming around the road and the driveway. I don't really know they are around, but that morning, the rooster made his presence known under my open bedroom window. After a few "choice words" I heard the window shut and I went back to sleep. And now, here I am looking at Mr. Rooster's feet under my kitchen table!

Alex was sitting in front of the computer with his headphones on, watching a movie, so he was oblivious to what was going on. I got his attention, and asked him to help me get the chicken out of the house.

We tried to shoo the rooster out of the doors, but he ended up going behind my couch, then under the end table. Finally, he found his way out behind the recliner. All the while I'm trying to whistle, coo, click and wondering, "What the hell do you say to a chicken to get their attention?" I'm a country girl at heart, but I've never had any experience with farm fowl, so I was improvising the best I could.

He finally exited and I shut both the doors.

It's too bad I didn't have the camera going. It would have been hilarious on YouTube!

I hope you all have a good week!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Good News-Times Four!

Here are the updates on the family. It's all good news (I'm an optimist)!

The update on my Dad: The test results came in on Friday. He did have cancer. The mass was contained in the section removed from his colon. Only one (1) lymph node out of twenty-seven (27) showed cancer cells. This means the cancer hasn't spread to any other organs and he will have to go through treatment once he recovers from surgery. I can't tell you how lucky he is, or how lucky we are this is how things turned out. Now we just need to get him to cooperate with what the doctors want him to do, like no heavy lifting, following instructions, etc. He may be coming home on Tuesday.

The update on Virgil: QH's brother came through his quadruple bypass on Wednesday and may be home on Tuesday as well.

The update on Alex: The pins were removed from his right hand on Tuesday (the same day as Dad's surgery). He's continuing with hand therapy and still on work restrictions, but the doctor is pleased with his progress so far. He may have to have a second surgery to straighten out his fingers. We'll have to wait and see.

The update on Jesse & Patrice: On Friday, September 10, they welcomed Lillian Mary Milless into the world. We visited her and her parents on Saturday. She is beautiful and healthy and is going to be well loved, like her big sister, Ava Jeanne.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers, well wishes, and good thoughts. We all appreciate your love and support. Now I can't wait to go back to my regular schedule, with a few improvements. But I feel like we won the lottery the last couple of months. Things could've been so much worse, but I am so grateful they turned out the way they did. Now to put this all behind us and keep moving forward.

Have a great week and remember to count your blessings!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Goal for Today: Live

This Labor Day weekend didn't pan out like we wanted. I'm telling all of this here for my family and friends, so they will know what happened.

Saturday afternoon, my mother called to tell me my father was in the hospital. I was shocked, but not surprised. Dad hasn't been feeling well for months. He has had digestion issues, and twice that I know of, he's been suffering from bowel obstructions. This time he had one again, and he surrendered and let Mom take him to North Memorial in Maple Grove to the Emergency Room.

Sunday, Mom called to say Dad would be having surgery. She added, "Your Dad has colon cancer." I felt the blood drain down to my feet. His sister, Colleen, had colon cancer. She lived with a colostomy bag for the rest of her life, which ended way too soon last year in August. I got ready and Alex and I went to the hospital to see him.

Dad didn't look good. He was in pain, and still trying to pass the obstruction. The doctors had a large bottle of clear liquid with some pineapple flavoring that he was supposed to drink by the end of the day to help things along. We didn't stay long so Dad could rest. My brother, Andy, and his lovely wife, Lisa, drove all the way to Minnesota from Oklahoma and arrived on Monday.

Monday, Dad was scheduled for surgery, but it was post-poned to Tuesday. We saw Dad at the hospital and he was looking better than I'd seen him in months. He was smiling, drinking coffee and sitting on the edge of the hospital bed. I was hopeful, this might actually turn out okay. Please God, let this turn out okay.

Tuesday, surgery day, I called my very understanding employer and told them what was going on, and that I would not be in and why. I was there with Mom, Kelley, Andy, Lisa and Alex. Alex and I had a busy day already because Tuesday was the day his pins came out of his hand. He called it a "declawing" and now I can't call him "Wolverine" anymore. It was a relief, for both of us.

The surgeon, Dr. Kern, was a striking resemblence to my cousin, Nick, Jr. He explained in plain English what he was going to do and how, and what his goals were, best case and worst case. I imagined him in a uniform as a military surgeon, like he just got home from Iraq or Afghanistan and walked right back into performing surgery on civilians. Dr. G.I.Joe.

Mom all through this was shaking, all the time. She wasn't going to be distracted by anything or anyone. She couldn't take her mind off of what was happening. Neither could I. I don't think anyone of us has slept right or eaten right or paid much attention to anything the last few days.

The surgery started around 2:10 p.m. and it was over when Dr. Kern walked out at 3:40 p.m. to explain how things went. Better than expected. Dad was able to keep his spleen, no colostomy bag, and Dr. Kern was able to sew together both pieces of his colon and he took the mass they found, and a few lymph nodes to send for testing for cancer. We should hear by Friday, September 10th, what the results are. As he left, and walked out of the lobby, Mom collapsed into tears.

"It's over, it's over, it's finally over," she sobbed into her hands. We all gathered around Mom, hugging her and crying.

Before Dad went to surgery that day, I looked at his board. It tells his name, the date, the name of his doctor, etc. Down a little lower, it reads: "Goal for Today".

Dad wrote: "Live."

Mission Accomplished, Dad. Mission Accomplished.

Those of you out there reading this, please, if you are not feeling yourself, or if you have a high risk of colon cancer or prostate cancer in your family history, don't let economics get in the way of your health. If you have to beg, borrow or steal, or sell a few things, please, get your colonoscopy exam after age 50. Get your mammograms and your pap smears. Don't die of embarrassment or because you think you can't afford it.

Goal for Today: Live.