Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lots of things on my mind tonight - numerous posts :)

Tonight I was trying to set coffee with a friend - I had a thing already established, but another friend I haven't seen for a while wanted to get some time in too. I realized that I have plans every day this week - and not just little stop off for an hour or so for a chat, which is always nice, but substantial outings and events - I'm feeling like I'm in demand! For my main event this evening I had a choice between the Microsoft/X-Box game release party and a fire show up in Vysehrad... after I finished my beer with my friend (who forgot to bring my signed first edition copy of his book!) I stopped at a few shops and mentally mapped out the rest of my night - here, at home with Coral, cooking dinner and watching Community.

I spent a fully occupied and exhausting weekend running around and missing various things I forgot I'd RSVP'd to - yet during the course of my crazed chicken mode I managed to meet/re-meet 3 really interesting people. Three. I hope you got that... you've no idea how lucky I feel to meet not just one, not two, but three people I connect with. Actually, there were more, but these three stand out probably due to the extensive conversations we shared - or laughter... both can be intoxicating. After my weekend adventures I realized that I needed to sleep - I've still not caught up, but I'm working on it. I also realized that I enjoy being at home with my kid. And in another 2 months or so she'll be back in the US for the summer - and I'll miss her terribly.

However - this time I'm much more established and prepared for her departure... I know that even without her here I won't be alone unless I choose that for myself. I've made so many wonderful friends and have found a certain comfortable groove... it's easy to just be, just be me and I find that in the midst of the chaos of the calls here and there, living in a land where sometimes it feels like people don't smile, and as tired as I may get at times - I can be me, just how and who I am, whatever it is that I'm feeling at the moment, and I'm happier and probably sane-r than I've been in a while. A long while.

I need to get back in to reiki, strengthen that connection. That's a priority for the next while - if you're local and interested and want to connect over that let me know.

you know how really you want something until you get it?

Yeah... this time, I didn't get it, I merely got the opportunity to get it, and it was enough. Now, I don't want it any more. I can still appreciate it, from a distance, but the desire is gone. Crisis averted ! :)

ring ring ring goes the trolley

Let's make that the tram, actually. They've been ringing like crazy lately! It's been making me a bit nervous, to tell the truth, and my touch of anxiety is not unfounded... last week I was in a tram when it crashed in to and ripped the front off a car. Driver fail!!! - on both accounts!!!!

It was so disconcerting - felt like when we ran over the front pieces of the car we popped out of the tracks and tilted for a bit before we settled back into the ruts. The driver and passenger were moving in slow motion, mouths agape, eyes straight from Van Gogh, leaning forward over the dash, looking around, flopping back in their seats - and leaning forward again...rinse and repeat and rinse and repeat.

We nearly crashed again today - stopped so hard people not only lost their footing and were grasping for the bars but a few fell over and bags flew through the air - nearly smacked my head on the pole! I'm starting to wonder whether the auto drivers have gotten worse or the tram drivers more aggressive... either one, the whole thing is giving me new appreciation for the metro - and my feet!

How do you say hello? which leads to - who are you?

When I started working here I was called Paní učitelka, Mrs. Teacher. Young private students call me Jennifer by my request, and high school students call me Mrs. Jennifer by their school policy. Non-native English speaking uni students address me in writing as Dear Miss Jennifer or Dear Miss (for speech drop the Dear), American students almost always go straight to Jen, and my local work colleagues call me Jennifer unless we're friendly and then it's Jen. (Their emails will start off either Dear Jen(nifer) or Hi Jen(nifer) or Jen(nifer).)

I'm dealing more and more with British people, and I don't know if the ones I'm dealing with in particular are a bit more Americanized, or if the whole country has suddenly gone informal, but it's been pretty funny this past week watching the evolution/deterioration of their chosen form of address... Keep in mind these are all strangers, they work together at a uni, and I close all correspondence with my full first name.

Dear Mrs XXX, Dear Jennifer, Dear Jenny, Dear Jen, Hi Jenny, Hi Jen, Hey Jen, Hiya!, and then a complete lack of salutation all together.

I participate in it in a different arena... if I meet you through work it's Jennifer. If I meet someone I don't really want to know - bad energy, horrible reputation, off putting personality, my own foul mood or discomfort with the dynamics - I introduce myself as Jennifer, if I've just come from work and haven't mentally switched yet or am otherwise distracted, it's Jennifer - but if I've met someone and they're friendly and friends with my friends, it's Jen, right away. Usually the transition takes place with a level of familiarity, but I guess the introduction in my chosen name rather than my given name can also be considered an invitation to familiarity. Now don't go try to analyze how I introduced myself to you when we met. I'm too moody for you to get anywhere with that!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

wishing for crickets

As a counterbalance - I hate it when you don't want a bit of news, you're reluctant to open your email, you're hoping to lose the phone, you're hiding in your office dreading the knock on the door - and for some reason you're the most popular person at work that day. I hate feeling hounded by forces unknown...

Fortunately all that ended last week. Or, rather, I hope.

Monday, April 26, 2010

crickets, darn it, just crickets

I hate it when you're hoping to hear from someone - someone you really want to talk to - and you've done your part and it's their turn and you're waiting and waiting and eventually - days later - you realize that the phone call, sms and email just won't be coming... and then you kick yourself for the anxiousness you felt each time the phone rang, an sms chirped and an email hit your inbox. I really hate it. Right now, there are a few people whose voices I'd prefer to be listening to over the sound of these darn crickets.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ever changing selves

This morning Google popped up an article about swimming and sexual abuse. I grew up as a team swimmer, still love the sport, and maintain an interest in that world - while reading I nearly spewed tea all over my laptop (thanks Mom and Dad, glad I didn't destroy this one too!). The impetus for the article and review of the numbers of coaches who've received life-time coaching bans due to their sexual misconduct was this guy I've known since I was toddling around. There are pictures from my childhood playing Star Wars with him in the sandbox in the back yard - back when I had long raven hair and he was a moppy little tow head. We ended up swimming for the same club team and graduated high school together. Today, while still a good looking guy - in high school he was deemed super cute and quite popular - I didn't immediately recognize the photo accompanying the article.

I've know this guy for years, we've spent endless swim meets sitting in tents playing cards, talking, critiquing his shaving technique (swimmers, remember- boys and dry shaving before races - it happens) and being kids. Not only would I not recognize him standing in front of me, I wouldn't recognize who he's become.

The physical part isn't so shocking - we age and mature and gain - and possibly lose - laugh lines and weight, our carriage and gate will reflect whatever challenges our body has been through and what emotional heft we may be carrying around. My hair has naturally lost the black lustre and turned dark brown (and I'll be honest there's a smattering of silver in there too) and the brilliant blue little girl eyes have turned green - he is no longer the towhead with the bright shiny eyes. The lack of physical recognition doesn't bother me. What I don't care for is the lack of recognition in the person. His actions, his grooming of the victim, his lack of accountability for events prior to the consummation of his crime - his contemplation of the crime, and offhand indifference in the police transcripts - there is nothing of the guy I knew in any of that. I'm fairly confident his wife is feeling the same way.

It got me thinking - how much people change. I don't know that the high school me would look upon the today me and see anything that the "then me" would have expected from the "me today". But at the same time, while the dreams and goals of the younger me have diverged in to unforeseen - and at the time unimaginable - directions, it doesn't mean that my core values have changed. They've evolved most definitely, I've grown and developed and been able to refine what is of true value to me, and while the ultimate truths I had then may not have the same priority in my life, they still remain as part of the essence of me.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

why are painkillers always the solution?

I used to think that most of you reading this know me well and are familiar with my personal challenges... based upon the numbers and location of my readers now I'm not so sure.

So super brief recap - stupid accident a long time ago, misdiagnosis, worsened condition, lots of pain medication -codeine, vicodin, valium, oxycodone, oxycontin, neurontin, morphine, methadone... on a very, very long term basis. I was a barely walking zombie, falling asleep in conversations and unable to care for myself. I fought the morphine implant and the life-long narcotic treatment, refused to accept the sentences imposed by the every changing array of diagnoses and have found a way to live drug free and regain my mental faculties, independence, and my life. This struggle took over 10 years of my life.

My condition hasn't really changed - I can still walk back in to the doctor and ask for most of what I've had before, ask for the therapies they've prescribed, and medically it would be as appropriate now as it was then. What's changed is the way I choose to live my life - the way I choose to handle things - the fact that I see a choice.... that's what's changed.

That's what led me to Prague - a challenge of my own choosing, one where I would be forced to make my own way and stretch myself in living... not surviving as an automaton, but living out a fully flushed life.

And now I have this lung thing. I've been sick with a version of it on and off for a year and a half. It's aggravating. I started testing last summer and have finished it up this week. The results? Yes, I've had pneumonia - a few times, have developed asthma and any number of respiratory and sinus infections, my acute bronchitis - while still experiencing it in an acute phase - is now considered to be chronic bronchitis.... and the weeks and weeks on antibiotics have killed whatever nasty germs were inside me - and the good ones too. Am I better? Not really. Why?

It's the freakin air! The air here is making me sick. That's it. The pollution. My lungs don't like it. I cough a lot and they hurt, constantly. And now they're hurting from coughing. So - the solution? Codeine. It's a cough suppressant. I'm supposed to start a daily regimen of codeine and spend some time in the salt caves, try to get outside of the city on the weekends and visit the sea side. Until any of the change of location stuff takes place, and until the pain goes away and I can breathe freely, I'm to continue with the codeine.

Quite honestly this has brought me to tears. I am so frustrated right now, I can't begin to describe it. I feel like I've fought and fought to get healthy and find myself - a happy awake and aware version of myself, able to participate in the world around me - and now, based upon where I've chosen to be, I'm not healthy, again. It's not pain, it's not my body deteriorating in the same way, I don't have tremors, I'm not losing my vision... it's my breathing. This one isn't something to mess about with - I can do without use of an arm or sensation in half my body, but I can't really do without my lungs and I'd really rather not jeopardize their health. (I'm struggling to breathe as I write this.)

That - and I hate the fact that the most effective cough suppressant is a pain killer. Seriously? It really feels like a FML moment. In so many ways, I'm none too pleased.

Sparta v Slavia and a slightly distracted Mom

I spent most of the day out at the hospital, again, and left with less resolution than I'd hoped for. Taking that bit of unsettledness I headed in to school to take care of some of the many things hanging over me... it was during this state of exhaustion/distraction that I received a text from my young'un asking to go to a football match with her friend who is moving away from Prague after having spent the last few years here - his father's diplomatic mission has come to an end and so they're leaving this week.

Without really thinking about the implications of the request I agreed - she's a good kid and I don't worry about her actions.

A few hours later I realized she was headed to the Sparta v Slavia game - think Giants/Dodgers if they were living in the same town... or take a look back to the East Coast where there are 2 dueling teams. And then add in European football hooliganism. Genius Mom move!

So, I sat at home and stressed and texted her a reminder to be careful, rabid fans, etc... and she told me they were safe in the neutral zone and not exposed to that sort of nonsense, but I still wasn't relaxed. I know the police presence in the metros and on the streets after a football match when it's not a major rivalry and have experienced it once, last year, when Sparta and Slavia played - even though my metro was peaceful I found the whole experience very intimidating.

So Coral gets home and we start talking... she expressed her frustration with Sparta setting up so many awesome shots and waiting too long to take them... with Sparta always moving the ball in to the corner and allowing themselves to get blocked in... with Sparta - you get the idea and can figure out who she was rooting for. They lost. Slavia scored in the first ten minutes with a penalty kick and it was the only score of the game.

Then she threw in how safe they were - behind the goal. I freaked a little inside as that's not typically a mellow spot, but she said they were in an area reserved for teenagers and it was a neutral zone. Then she mentioned how they were across from the Sparta fans and that they were a little crazy... I guess they set 3 fires during the course of the match. Shock and horror and incredulity were my reactions - and so Coral finds it appropriate to throw in that above them was the small section containing the Slavia fans - and they set about 6 fires - and one of those fires fell off of their level and started a fire on another level below.


As she was going to sleep she sorta added this one too... "It was pretty cold out and part of me was wishing someone would start a fire near us so I could warm up a bit."

Next time, in about 10 years when she's accompanied by bodyguards and equipped with a fire extinguisher, next time, I'm sending her with a blanket.

AND finally - she discovered she'd been "tagged" on her way home - someone slapped a TORPEDO HOOLIGANS sticker on the back of her sweatshirt. I'm unfamiliar with them, so some insight in to the Torpedo Hooligans would be appreciated.

This has been one of the more stressful parenting episodes yet. Maybe I should stop watching Elijah Wood movies.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

welcome to the rodeo!

Text received from Coral, Tuesday, April 13, 7:10 pm:

I just let someone in full cowboy gear, including spurs, out of our building.

If you have seen this guy please let me know... I don't know that I've ever seen anyone in full cowboy gear - including spurs - that wasn't on a horse, chasing a bull... definitely never in the center of a city.

I wish she'd had a camera.

Monday, April 12, 2010

when life carries on

When you move away from all you know and love, you know that life carries on. Now, when I think of that statement - life carries on - I think of life continuing to move forward, the sun will rise and set, work will be work, taxes will be paid, people will fall in and out of love, gardens will grow, babies will be born, possibly even people will marry... things like that.

What you don't think about is that friends will die. You forget that death is also a part of life. It's what happens when a life has been carried out.

Since moving here a number of people I know, with varying degrees of intimacy, have died. Earlier today I found out about a few more guys I knew when I was young - they were troubled and had short, difficult lives. It was surprising but not shocking - and it made me pause a moment to reflect upon my own mortality. But, in the few hours that have passed my story has changed.

Today, right now, this very minute, I am mourning the loss of another woman, one whom mattered more to me than she knew, Lucy Thomas. She was the mother/mother-in-law/grandmother of our friends - a three generation family living together back home. She was in many ways like another grandmother to Coral. She was kind and funny, thoughtful, strong willed and intelligent - and she cared deeply for those around her. We are lucky to have been included in her love's sphere.

It's a little hard to envision the household without her. My heart and prayers and love are all headed back to her family. I love you all so much, and I miss you, right this moment, more than I ever imagined possible.

hoping third times the charm

Late last night I realized that for the past few weeks, the past few Mondays, I've had early morning doctor appointments - and have been sent home with an ever expanding load of prescriptions and directions to stay home, rest, and not work.

I realized that because I was facing another early morning appointment and not anxious for a repeat - really hoping to be declared "improving" rather than sent back for further medication experimentation - although, based upon the quality of my breathing and the pain in my lungs I was rather doubting it... and even considered rescheduling my appointment in order to get some work in before hearing another directive to stay home.

Well - I was and was not right. I did go to the doctor, I did not get declared healthy, but I did not get another prescription pad of medication.... No, no, instead I was sent to the hospital. She briefly considered a pulmonary specialist, but after listening to me breathe said it was off to the hospital directly.

I followed her directions to the "T" and ended up on the far side of the city, visiting the same foreigners department I had become oh so familiar with this past summer. Fun. However - this time they didn't send me to the Zlin clinin, no - not to pneumonology for me, not to according to my doctor's letter - it was off to infectious diseases.

I'm sure if you're ready this and have seen me in the past few weeks you're thinking.... great Jen, thanks ever so much for infecting me with your infectiousness!

Don't you fret - that's not the case. After 4 rounds of 4 types of antibiotics whatever infection could have possibly been inside of me is now gone. Infectious diseases were lovely - the staff was sweet and friendly and the doctor very kind - but they then sent me down to pneumonology... and there I met the same nurses who helped me last summer - or maybe it would be more accurate to say I met the same nurses who tolerated me last summer, existed in the same room as me with only a mild expression of disdain.

Yay pneumonology! More spirometer stuff (hey, my breathing, while not yet normal, is still greatly improved over when I first went last summer) and x-rays and stuff like that.... fun fun fun. Another prescription, but only one, and no more anti-biotics... what's the point, at this point?

Despite the admonition to go home, stay inside, don't walk around, I did go to work for a bit. Not too much, just long enough to get out what was absolutely necessary for tomorrow. And now I'm home again. And getting ready for bed and some sleep. Right after I make dinner.

I go back on Thursday. Hopefully then things will have calmed down a bit more and the new tests will more accurately reflect my true breathing abilities instead of my the heavy struggling stuff I'm experiencing now.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

lost in... was that a translation?

I've been trying to give Becky examples of how sometimes English is incorporated in to an otherwise undecipherable (for those lacking familiarity) language.... some words are "Czechified" with a "u" or an "ova" or some other combination. And you can find some regular English words sometimes in the ads.

I used an example in the metro for a film festival being hosted by a movie theater - Kino Atlas. It said something like Kino Atlas hostu filmovy ameturistke festivalu - OK I just butchered it, but it was from a poor recollection and for illustrative purposes only - it is enough for you to get the idea of what the article was about even though you don't know Czech. So, we talked a bit and she laughed and I pointed out a few more things and the day went on... her last day in town.

A Letna adventure, bocce balls, absynthe, slivovice, beckerovka, and so many beers later I am walking Becky home ( her consumption, most definitely NOT mine!)... and we're headed down the street and pass a few hernas - which are covered in large lettering that read
plus some other stuff I can't remember right now. And Becky turns to me with a little quizzical expression on her face and asks, "So Jen, what does non-stop mean here?"
The answer - NON STOP.

And for some reason we laughed the whole way home.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Post-Easter glow... or shimmer - or is that just sweat?

So, we went to Vienna. I slept on the train, in the hostel, napped a few times each day, and slept on the train back. We did step foot out of the room and had quite a jolly time. However, even with the beautiful places we saw and the abundance of laughter we shared while out and about nothing, and I truly mean nothing will be such a lasting and laughable memory as our roommate.

The three of us girls shared a hostel room meant for four. We though we might be lucky and not have a fourth, but we were wrong. Just as Becky said something about there only being 3 pillows in the room in walks an Australian... guy. He was pretty cool, and along with this other guy we'd met on the metro, we all shared a few drinks (age and health appropriate ones) downstairs and played some foosball and shot pool before the healthy adults went out to a club - the kid and I retired to our room.

Before I go any further I must let you know that the Australian who shall forever be known as Vegemite laughingly, and in passing, mentioned to me that he used to sleepwalk, talk in his sleep, and sometimes get up and do things while he slept. In the past. Right. Wrong.

After safely returning to the hostel intact and unharmed Becky and Vegemite went to sleep - I was still awake as the stupid combination of opiate/amphetamine medication hadn't quite worked its way out of my system. I did manage to doze off however and was truly grateful for the rest... which lasted about an hour and a half.

At that point, Boy Wonder from Down Under fell out of his top bunk. In his sleep. Not being familiar with sleepwalkers, especially ones who claim to no longer sleep walk, I didn't understand the situation... and when he stumbled the few steps and sat down on the foot of my bed, doubled over, in what I perceived to be pain, I had no reason to think that in his mind he had just walked the distance from his bed to his bathroom. No reason at all until there was the sound of liquid steaming on to a hard surface.... actually, even then I didn't quite grasp the situation - I thought he was bleeding for an instant - but only an instant. I tried to reach out, find a light, check what was going on, etc, yet Becky warned me to be careful since he was still asleep - apparently she has a lot more experience with sleepwalkers than I have. We talked at him but he just mumbled at us to shut up, shut up, shut up without ever hearing us...

After he finished tinkling he stood up, stumbled back in to the lockers, knocked the fan across the room, threw open the bedroom door and started pacing the hostel hallway, mumbling to himself, until he finally turned in his tracks and disappeared.

A few moments went by with the three of us in a state of shock. It was all quite a bit surreal. And then we got up, not the youngster, she stayed safely tucked in bed, and surveyed the damage... the edge of my duvet was damp, the Kid's shoes were wet, a strap on our large pack, and a giant puddle of sterilized beer was on the floor. At about this point Vegemite walked back in, climbed back in to his bunk, and was out - again.

This time, since he was no longer walking/talking/peeing we woke him and explained what had happened.... he seemed a little unclear about the extent of it all, however, and buried himself in his pillow, quite clearly expressing he just wanted to die at that exact moment. We found his towel to clean up, I stripped my bedding and switched it out for his dry stuff, and after he promised to buy her new shoes and us all breakfast we all went back to bed.

Well, when we woke up he had to have it all explained to him all over again as he'd jumbled it up in his head and wasn't quite sure it had happened... he was quite rightfully mortified but carried it off like a champ - finished dealing with his mess, and even though he forgot about treating us all to breakfast, we did in fact all eat together - actually he spent the day with us, rested in the later afternoon, and then joined us for a dinner out, too.

Before he left he did give the Kid 50 Euros for new shoes - but being the honest and frugal person she is she gave him 20 Euros back, telling him that since the shops were closed both Sunday and Monday she'd have to buy her shoes in Prague and she could get what she wanted for 30.

We went to some palaces, took lots of goofy pictures, took lots of naps, saw some amazing places, walked over the Danube, and came back home. I'm still sick, still on a ridiculous amounts of stuff, and being treated, again, for pneumonia. I have to wait another week for more breathing tests as the doctor wants a better baseline to work with - right now I'm too asthmatic for anything useful. I'm super glad I went - the air was a bit cleaner and a little easier to breathe in Austria - and the company was excellent. The Kid is a champ and Becky is.... well, Beckomo. Vienna is beautiful.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

random sightings

Today I saw a lot of people who'd been punched in the face. I don't know why. I mean I don't know why they'd been punched in the face, I don't know why I saw so many, and I don't know why it was all clustered around today... but I did. I wasn't out much either - pretty much went to the doctor, the lekarna, the market, home and then later on to school for a quick moment in the evening.

Which is when I saw all the riot police out with their horses on Namesti Miru. It was unsettling. I'd already seen so many punched in faces I didn't feel quite comfortable being in the midst of a crown and the horse-backed ANTI-KONFLIKTNI team. Turns out Sparta was playing Slavia and the police were there merely to assure that they wouldn't actually be needed. The funny thing is - just before, during, and after the game - I didn't see anyone else with a punched in face.

opiates and amphetamines - not only are they not good for you, they just plain old don't mix

Well the doctor did warn me that one of my new medications was an opiate and the pharmacist warned me one acted like an amphetamine, and I've taken them all as directed but guess I forgot that there was a point where I take both.

Yes, that point would be bedtime.

It's 4:35 am and I'm still wide awake. I'd really like to go to sleep now. Can't say that I've been bored, but it's a little old. Maybe some cheese would help.

Good thing I was already going to call her in the morning - I'm not doing another night like this one... something's got to change.

Beckomo and my sick lungs

So for months now we've had a trip planned to Vienna with my friend who it traveling from the US for her birthday and Easter. She arrives tomorrow and our train tickets are for Saturday, returning on Monday.

Here's the dilemma - I'm sick. Not fever sick, or caught the flu sick, but sick as in my lungs are sick and I've got something going on coupled with this crazy asthma stuff. I'm tired and working to breathe. Been taking antibiotics and other stuff for a bit and have minimal improvement... just got home from my 2nd doctor appointment this week and may have another tomorrow... definitely one on Tuesday.

Her advice - she'd prefer I stay home and rest - I'd like to rest in my room in Vienna, ideally. She wanted me to get familiar with the emergency number and ambulance services as all private doctors are closed for the holiday and she's concerned that my breathing may get worse, in which case I must take an ambulance to the hospital, per her instruction.

I don't think I'm getting any worse - I know I'm getting somewhat better. The approach here is so different than the US - when I got sick last year I got antibiotics plus the Vicodin cough suppressant, plus some other stuff and was told to rest a few days till my fever went down. Here - antibiotics, steroids for my lungs, decongestant, cough stuff and homeopathic support stuff and at least 10 days at home. Cost wise - these 2 doctors visits plus the different Rxs (I just switched antiobiotics, so 2 full treatments of 2 different kinds, plus all the other stuff) - all the stuff that I've had here - including my extra co-pay for translations services - all of it is less than the cost of the antibiotics in the US, far less than the cost of a single trip to to the doctor.

I just want to feel better and go on my little trip, even if I just sleep it away in the hotel! I have to call her tomorrow and let her know how I'm feeling. BLERGH!