Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Maine Vignette No. 2

The Sound and the Sulfury

Two picturesque cottages, very small, each with a bedroom/living room and a small kitchen, and that's about it. Across the street from the only sand beach in the area, beautiful view. Available for the week of the wedding, so we get them, taking one of the cottages for ourselves and leaving the other one for another couple up for the wedding. The fact that dogs are allowed lets us bring Nora and Junebug with us, something they would certainly enjoy.

The night before we head north, I work out the details of our arrival with the owner's son, at which point he informs me that the well water isn't drinkable, and that as a courtesy he's sticking a couple of gallons of bottled water in each refrigerator. It doesn't fully sink in what that means until we arrive. The word of the week is Spartan, as in, we have Spartan accommodations. The water reeks of sulfur, and the iron in it causes it to be brown sometimes. Kathy reluctantly showers in it, and despises that we have to wash Emelia's bottles in it. We don't cook with it, partly due to health fears, but equally because the tiny kitchen isn't meant for cooking. It allows for little more than heating frozen pizzas. Among other defects, the sink is very shallow, and leaks around its edges. The cottages are in a beautiful location, to be sure, and hanging out on the deck or by the fire pit is quite lovely. All the same, the interior makes for a trying week.

Word to the wise -- never rent a place that doesn't show its interior among the photos. And a request for anyone who rents out a house -- you really should disclose in your ad if your accommodations don't provide drinkable water.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Maine Vignette No. 1

A Long Night

Tom and Anna's wedding is Friday morning at 10:30am, and Anna has asked Kathy to come over around 9. Emelia woke up crying Thursday evening at 11pm, saying "Poopy" over and over again. Her stomach hurts, and there's nothing we can do for her except comfort her. Kathy does this for a few hours, but as time passes the intensity of Emelia's cries increases, to the point that as the waves of pain hit her, she's screaming "Poopy Poopy Poopy!" and writhing on the bed next to Kathy, grabbing her crotch in extreme distress. We have no medication for stomach aches, no house phone, no signal for our cell phones, and no hospital or emergency clinic within 30 minutes of us. At 2am, Kathy says we have to do something, so we get dressed and go out to the car, in the wind and moderately fierce rain, and drive several minutes until we get a cell signal. I pull over and call my father, the retired pediatrician, seeking his advice. He says to go to the emergency room, because if she's constipated, they'll be able to help. We drive into the nearest real town, searching for a hospital, not at all sure where one might be located. We go past the pharmacy and grocery store, where we hoped to find some sort of medication to provide relief, but they're both closed. Meanwhile, Emelia seems to be doing ok, her cries have evaporated and we consider simply driving back. Dad calls and says that if she's constipated, the problem will return unless we get it removed. So we follow the blue signs with the "H" until, on the far side of town, we find a hospital.

I'm struck by the contrast of my trip to the emergency room, not even four weeks earlier -- the emptiness of the facility, and the immediate response to our arrival. An intake receptionist gets our insurance info. As soon as she's done that, a nurse gets Emelia's vital signs and asks for a description. She then escorts us to a room, and five minutes later, a doctor arrives and examines Emelia. He feels her stomach and declares that Emelia has a lot of gas, and orders X-rays to confirm his diagnosis. Within minutes we head to radiology, which shortly thereafter confirms the doctor's diagnosis that Emelia has a lot of gas. The doctor sends us home with suppositories. Emelia falls asleep on the drive back, and she doesn't awake when we get back to our cottage -- thus, she doesn't even get her medicine. It's 5am, and we climb back in bed, determined to get a couple of hours of sleep before the day begins.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In the Wake of the FISA Rollover

Is it really any wonder that Congress is polling at its lowest levels ever, with Democrats rating it lower than Republicans despite both the House and Senate being in the control of the Democrats?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Long Overdue Experience

Kathy and I have been together for over ten years (married over nine), and never in that time had we gone camping together. About six years ago we even bought a tent, having the best of intentions. About three years ago, we made tentative plans to go camping with friends, but it didn't happen. Tom and Anna have asked us a few times to join them, and we never had. Finally this past weekend, we went camping with a group of beer-loving folk in the general area.

Initially we had planned to bring the dogs with us, but given all that we'd be bringing, we decided there really wasn't space for them in the car, so we reluctantly decided to leave them home (the fact that we're bringing them on a one-week vacation starting this upcoming weekend made it an easier decision to make).

We shared a site with our friends Margie and Chris, two veteran campers who drove up from around Raleigh to hang with us for the weekend. They tended to the fire, but otherwise I think we carried our weight at the site. We didn't need them to help set up our tent or anything, and in fact we pretty much took care of our stuff just fine. We didn't do anything too adventurous with the food, but hey -- it was our first time. At least we got a better sense of what would work and what wouldn't.

Emelia had a good time even though she was the only kid there. She enjoyed a nature show on owls (when the ranger asked what she was holding, before the ranger called on one of the kids with their hands up, Emelia called out, "Owl"), and we had to caution her not to go up to the multitude of deer at the campground. Many of the adults we were with were happy to engage Emelia in conversation, and she was delighted with all the attention. Our one hike with her was when we were leaving today -- we learned about a 1.6-mile hike that would take us to a great mountain view. Good thing we sought a short hike, because Emelia wasn't interested in walking any. Kathy carried Emelia on her back for about 2/3 of the way, and I carried her all but about 50 feet of the rest of the way. Getting Emelia to walk even that far was a rather arduous process, largely because she was overtired.

For the weekend, she slept way less than she normally does, and we spent too much time trying to get her to sleep. She finally went down around 11pm on Friday night, compared with her roughly 7:15 bedtime at home (tonight she was asleep before 7 given how tired she is). Between all the stimulation, the altogether new environment, and being asked to sleep in a tent for the first time, I suppose it's no surprise she had trouble. Saturday she fell asleep for her nap while being carried on Kathy's back, but even then it was only for about an hour (compared with 2+ at home). That night she got to sleep at around 9pm, after screaming herself beyond exhaustion. The people across from us (not in our group) said we reminded them of themselves twenty years earlier when their kids would do the same thing. They learned to let the kids stay up while camping, that they'd eventually exhaust themselves and in the meantime, the adults shouldn't ruin their time worrying about the kids getting enough sleep. I think it's advice we might follow next time.

And yes, I said next time -- both Kathy and I enjoyed ourselves enough that we'd like to go camping again, even regularly. I'm not sure we'll reach "regularly," but I feel confident that the next time will be sooner than ten years from now.

* * * * *

Before I end this post, I just wanted to comment on the obvious, that the birth of Emelia has made travel quite a bit more complicated. There are so many things that go into planning and prepping a trip with a small child that aren't an issue when the travelers are self-sufficient adults. Despite this change, my trip planning essentially hasn't changed a bit -- I take care of myself, and leave Kathy with having to take care of Emelia as well as herself. Part of this is due to the fact that Kathy is home with Emelia on Thursday and Friday, when most trip prep happens, but it's also because I'm lazy about this aspect of parenting. Kathy occasionally grumbles about this (justifiably), but generally does it graciously, and always does it splendidly. So I wanted to take this corner of this blogpost to publicly acknowledge all she does to make travel great. The fact that she's mostly a homebody who'd just as soon hang out at home for leisure, while I'm the one who would travel more if time and money allowed it, makes what she does all the more wonderful. This is just one more reason why I consider myself a very lucky man. Thank you Kathy.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Confronting Fear

Gonna stand my ground, won't be turned around
and I'll keep this world from draggin' me down
gonna stand my ground and I won't back down
-- Tom Petty, "I Won't Back Down"

I get knocked down
But I get up again
You're never going to keep me down
-- Chumbawamba, "Tub Thumping"

I went out to a beer tasting last night, back in Takoma Park. I didn't drive, because I haven't gotten my replacement license yet since the last one was stolen. So I took the Metro, which meant I walked home alone across Capitol Hill at 11:30 at night. It was a walk I'd taken many times before, but it has at least a small element of risk, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't anxious covering that ground at night for the first time post-mugging. Even as I set out at the start of the evening, I kept thinking about the late-night walk that would be there for me at the end. I felt that the walk was necessary, to put myself back into what I consider a normal part of life -- life's too short to live in fear.

Two songs kept running through my head as I took the 20-minute walk, along with memories of my pounding heart in that pitch dark garden in Prague.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Just a Number

Today Emelia turned 20 months, while I hit a milestone 24 times that. It's funny to think of it in those terms, that I'm exactly 24 times older than my daughter, so that if I have lived the equivalent of a day in some epochal scale, she's been here for only an hour of it.

Our nanny is taking the week off, and today I have the joy of being the one to stay home with Emelia. I think it's the first time I've done so since I was on paternity leave, in what seems like a lifetime ago. Right now she's upstairs supposed to be taking a nap. She's certainly tired enough, but stubbornness seems to be prevailing.

It's been over a week since the attack. I'm off the pain meds and antibiotics. Feeling has started to return in the area of my mouth that was numb, and I can eat most things at this point, so long as I do the bulk of the chewing on the right side of my mouth. My elbow turned out to have a foreign body in it. When I accidentally banged it yet again on Wednesday evening, the scab came off and whatever was in there (gravel?) came out as well -- only a small scab is there now, and there's no swelling or pain. My face still has some black and purple around the eye, but there too the swelling is gone. The bad guys are still being held, and I have learned that at the time of my attack, one of them had been awaiting a trial for a shooting. It makes me glad that I went down with only one hit.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tuesday Update

First off, I want to say thanks to everyone who's offered their support while this has been going on. It means a lot to me that so many people have commented or written to me. Other than that:
  • The swelling has gone down in my face, which means that I look somewhat better than I did in this photo, taken yesterday evening.

  • I went to the oral surgeon yesterday. He examined me, and said that my face should heal ok without any surgery. I asked him about the fact that I can't feel the upper left quadrant of my teeth, and was told that it could take up to three months before feeling is fully restored, but that it's very likely that it will in fact come back. Beyond that he recommended soft food for the next couple of weeks (given how much chewing hurts right now, I was able to figure that one out on my own).
  • I had a nasty scrape on my left elbow that the ER doctors didn't even give a second glance. Now it's swollen, red, very tender, and warm, so I made an appointment for tomorrow to see an orthopedic surgeon.
  • Yesterday the suspects made their initial appearance in court. The U.S. Attorney's Office was going to ask that bail be denied, but I have yet to hear what happened.
  • I went into work today, and though I got a bit tired at times, I made it though the whole day, and didn't feel strained in doing so.
  • Several people have asked about my mental state after this. One person assumed that I was terrified in the wake of what happened, but I'm not. I'm not sure why I haven't gotten freaked out by this, maybe it's because I hardly experienced the event. One painful hit, and I was out. All I've been left with is the aftermath, which is at times painful and always a PITA, but not really frightening. Mostly, my emotional state has been that of relief -- relief that witnesses passed by at the right time and called 911, relief that my injuries aren't life threatening and don't appear to be permanent or even particularly serious, and relief that they only got my wallet when my car and various other possessions were ready for the taking. All the same, it's been less than 72 hours since I was attacked, so it's possible my take on what happened will change. As of now, however, the only thing that makes me a little frightened is the fact that the suspects have my name and address.